Read Broken People Online

Authors: Ioana Visan

Tags: #espionage, #science fiction, #genetic engineering, #cyberpunk, #heist, #world war, #circus, #genes, #prosthetics

Broken People (22 page)

BOOK: Broken People
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The Golden Lady pursed her lips and
exchanged a glance with Nicholas but stayed put.

 

44

Renard went ahead to lead the way to the
upper floor, but Dale remained behind, close to Cole. He eyed the
grand staircase with concern, worried it might turn into a
challenge for the transporter. The multi-joint legs were not
designed to climb steps. A tank would have made it easier, but
Spinner disagreed.

Cole’s whole body wobbled when he touched
the first step. He took in a deep breath and tried again. One step
after another, the command system connected to the nerves in his
spine had him advancing with increasing speed. Perhaps this would
work after all, even if he sometimes forgot to coordinate the free
legs and they dragged uselessly behind him.

On the first floor, they slowly moved along
the corridor. Dale made no sound. Cole was reasonably quiet,
considering the sheer size of his machine. The knife throwers were
unexpectedly loud, each heavy step landing with a thud. The devices
inside their shoulders and upper arms let out a low hum that wasn’t
normally audible, but these weren’t normal circumstances.

Several meters ahead, Renard went in and out
of sight, signaling them when to advance and when to stop. They had
the surveillance system under control, but there were also human
guards patrolling the castle. Twice, Renard threw out his hand:
Wait
! If there was anyone in the adjacent corridors, Dale
didn’t see them when they passed.

Rake unlocked the door leading to the
Parliament wing, and they squeezed through to the other side. This
part of the castle was closed to the public at night, so they could
relax some. The southwest tower was just around the corner.

After another set of heavy doors, they
reached the vault room. Renard waited in the corridor, keeping an
eye on what was happening outside. Dale walked with Cole to the
round, metal door.

“This is it,” he said. “Can you open
it?”

Cole blinked once, his eyes fixated on the
simple, round metal door. The collar that supported his jaw made
nodding impossible.

Dale clenched his teeth. They should have
attached a speaking device to his vocal cords, something similar to
what they had done to the Swan, but there had been no time, and
speech wasn’t mandatory for his job. The mobile arms helped some;
too bad he didn’t have better control to use them instead of his
real ones.

Rake opened one side of the transporter and
pulled out a drawer loaded with tools. He nodded at Spinner.

“Okay, here we go…,” Spinner murmured. He
fussed over the cases that protected Cole’s arms, checked the
dials, and pressed a pair of buttons.

The cases opened simultaneously, the top
covers sliding to the side, revealing Cole’s arms. Under the yellow
gel covering them, the skin hadn’t regenerated yet, but the exposed
flesh showed no more burn marks.

He didn’t move, not even a finger twitched.
Dale frowned. Something had gone wrong. They had come all this way
for nothing. Or had they? Spinner gave Cole a shot, and Cole
groaned as the anesthesia quickly wore off. He needed a clear head
and total control over what was left of his nerves and muscles to
perform the job.

The metal arms picked up the device offered
by Rake and inserted it into the keyhole on the side of the vault
door. He handled the instrument with care, taking his time
maneuvering it, while the metrics read by the scanner were recorded
and he did all of the calculations. The old vault still needed a
key, but not just any key, so Cole assembled a workbench in front
of him on the transporter and set himself to work.

Meanwhile, Rake and Spinner installed two
bright spotlights to provide perfect working conditions.

Dale paced the floor. He didn’t hear the
fireworks exploding anymore, nor the Robot Girl’s theatrics. Soon,
people would tire of the cold and get bored of the circus acts, no
matter how much the performers insisted on getting their attention,
and they would return inside. The menzataxor would keep them
distracted for a while, but it wouldn’t take long until someone
noticed the transporter’s absence. Then they would become aware
more people were missing and start asking questions. There wasn’t
much time, and Cole was moving in slow motion.

“How’s it going?” Dale asked, checking the
time again.

Cole ignored him.

“Don’t rush him,” Spinner said, the lines of
his mouth twisted in an unhappy grimace. With a piece of fabric, he
wiped the perspiration off Cole’s forehead.

Underneath Cole’s once skilled fingers, the
key took shape little by little, piece by piece. Spinner helped him
with the welding machine when two parts needed to be welded
together, and then he brought out the ice container to cool the
metal off. Attaching the mobile parts took longer as they were
small and delicate, and got stuck to the gel coating Cole’s
fingers. He winced each time Spinner used tweezers to pry them off.
To some degree, sensitivity must have returned to his hands. That
was a good sign for the future, although a bother at the
present.

“Will it take much longer?” Renard asked
from the doorway. “The guards should patrol past this area
soon.”

No one answered. If the guards came near,
they’d have to stop. Security checks had revealed the vault room
wasn’t inspected, but it was still a close call and, if nothing
else, time they couldn’t afford.

A huff had Rake and Spinner stepping away,
and Cole turned the transporter sideways to get closer to the
vault. He held the key up for Spinner to spray a white substance on
it that evaporated, taking away any trace of gel. With a steady
hand, Cole inserted the key into the lock.

Dale held his breath, and even Renard turned
to watch.

Cole’s wrist rotated at an odd angle, the
motion bringing tension to his face as it twisted the mechanism
that controlled the various parts of the key.

With each click, they watched more intently
as if their concentration could somehow influence the outcome.

When no more clicks followed, Spinner asked,
“Is it done? Is it open?”

Cole’s shoulders dropped. He pulled out the
complex device he’d built to use as key. A deformed, tiny wheel
dangled from a wire. By the look of it, some pieces might have
still remained stuck inside.

“No…” Horror spread over Spinner’s face.
“It’s broken!”

A collective sigh of disappointment echoed
inside the room.

“Can you fix it?” Dale asked.

Cole answered with a slow blink but, other
than that, didn’t move.

“What?”

Since it wasn’t a yes or no question, there
was no blink either way. This was stupid. It wasn’t going to
work.

“Does anyone have a pen?” Dale asked.

Three pairs of shoulders shrugged.

Dale stifled a groan and scrambled his brain
for a way to make the dialogue work. “You
can
fix it,
but…?”

Yes.

So, there was a but. “Are you in pain?”

A small hesitation.
Yes.

“Too much to handle it?”

No.
No hesitation this time.

So the pain wasn’t the problem. What then?
“Will it not work?”

Yes. No.

That part was confusing. “Will
you
not be able to make it work?”

Yes.

Ah, discouragement after the failure. Some
fine motor skill loss was expected after all he’d been through.
“That’s all right. We’ll try again until it works.”

No.
With obvious effort, Cole held up
two fingers.

“We only get two tries?” Dale frowned.

Yes.

“And you’re sure you can’t get it right the
second time.” That wasn’t a question.

Yes.
Cole showed his hands, then made
a gesture as if trying to get closer to the vault.

“Because you can’t reach it properly.” Dale
groaned. The transporter was getting in the way. They hadn’t
considered that. He rubbed his forehead. This was turning into a
nightmare. “Can you take him off the transporter?” he asked Rake.
“We can bring a chair …”

“Not in a reasonable amount of time,” Rake
said, as calm as ever. “It would take over an hour to disconnect
his spine from the transporter’s control system. If we unplug him,
it will kill him.”

“Fuck!” Dale turned to Renard. “Can you blow
up the door?”

The magician tilted his head as he eyed the
vault. “No. It’s too taxing, and even if I did, the blast would
destroy everything inside the vault and this room, including
us.”

“What about the lock?”

Renard shook his head. “Sorry. I have no
idea what’s inside. The door’s too thick. If I go in blind, I’ll
only break it, make it unusable. The way it is now, you’ve still
got one shot.”

“But if he’s sure he can’t open it,” Rake
said, “maybe it’s wiser not to waste it. If only two tries are
allowed and we fail, someone’s bound to notice next time they try
to open the vault. If we leave it like this, you can return later
with another specialist or when he recovers enough to do it
right.”

“There’s no one else able to do this within
a five thousand kilometer radius,” Dale said. “And if I don’t get
it in seventy-two hours, there won’t be another time in...” He
shook his head. Too long. And too many lives would be lost in
between.

They stared at each other then, one by one,
heads lowered.

Spinner hesitantly raised one finger. “We
have the knowledge. We only need a pair of hands he can control.”
His eyes turned to Rake, and he shuddered.

“It can be done,” Rake said, shifting his
weight from foot to foot.

“I don’t follow,” Dale said.

“The Golden Lady…” Spinner said.

“You want to remove her arms?” The situation
was desperate, but this was too extreme, even for Dale.

“No, no. God, no! Big Dino would have our
heads if we touched her.” Spinner made an unhappy face and
swallowed with difficulty.

“Then what?”

“I’m just thinking about delegating command
for a short while, that’s all,” Spinner said and looked at Rake,
pleadingly.

“It can be done,” Rake said.

“Here? Now?” Dale asked.

“Yes,” the knife throwers said.

“I’m not sure hurting Miss Aurore is—”
Renard started.

“It won’t hurt her,” Spinner said. “I just
don’t know how we can convince her to do it …”

“She’ll do it. She wants what’s inside badly
enough.” Dale rushed to the door. “Get everything ready. I’ll bring
her.”

“I’ll go with you.” Renard followed him.

 

45

Dale stopped at the bottom of the grand
staircase. For a soldier used to the horrors of war, the amount of
smiling faces in the main hall was overwhelming. Rosie’s happy
giggles echoed across the hall as she ran after the menzataxor, who
was jumping from one person’s arms to another, purring like a small
turbo engine.

“We could end the war with this,” he
said.

“If it worked on machines, yes.” Renard took
off on the path left by the laughter, heading to its source.

“Are you sure there are no lasting side
effects?” Dale walked in line with him, looking for a glitter of
gold. Where was she?

“We never lost anyone, but I wouldn’t know.”
Renard wiggled his gloved fingers. “I never touched it. I can’t
afford to be happy.” He frowned and added, almost like an
afterthought, “I’ve got a circus to run.”

Something in that statement didn’t sound
right, but Dale didn’t have time to analyze it. A vault waited to
be opened and a world to be saved. He didn’t find the gold, but
spotted the sequins on Cielo’s costume. Once he took a couple of
steps closer to the exit, he saw them all, Cielo, the Swan, and the
tall aerialist, forming a triangle. From behind the swirling silver
and obsidian that formed her mask, the Swan’s dark eyes followed
their approach. She still stood frozen in place, like Cielo’s mask.
The aerialist watched them all, helpless and a little lost.

Renard walked up to the ballerina and ran a
hand on her waist. Dale couldn’t hear the whisper but read the
words on the moving lips.
Everything okay
?

The Swan’s anguished eyes returned the
question tenfold. No, everything wasn’t okay.

Dale shook his head and asked Cielo,
“Where’s Aurore?”

“You called?” Someone tapped his
shoulder.

Dale spun around. He hadn’t heard her
approach. “We need your hands,” he blurted out. The pressure
obviously affected his reason. There had to be a more tactful way
to present his request.

Aurore glanced at her hands, then looked up
at him. Instead of asking why, she asked, “How?”

“He can’t do it, but they think you can
help.” Dale took her by the arm to pull her after him, and his hand
landed on the uncovered part of her prosthetic arm. Once again, he
marveled at how real it felt, except the color was wrong. He shook
his head to clear it. He couldn’t get distracted. “Come.”

The urgency in his voice must have worked
because Aurore’s body stopped resisting. They hurried towards the
stairs.

“How’s Cole?” Cielo’s voice came from behind
him.

“He’s fine,” Dale said over his shoulder
without looking back. She clearly didn’t believe him since she came
after them.

“Watch the kid!” Renard told the
aerialist.

The four of them rushed across the upper
floor.

When no more visitors were in sight, Cielo
stopped and ripped her mask open with both hands. The abused pieces
of golden tissue curled up like crumpled paper and retreated
beneath her hairline. “Oh, much better…” She gasped for air. “I was
suffocating. I’m never doing that again.”

Renard gave her a concerned look, but Dale
burst into a run. No time. No time.

Aurore easily kept up with him, as he wasn’t
pushing his strength to the limit. Still, her prosthetics held.
Renard stayed close to Cielo, who was slower because of her
limp.

BOOK: Broken People
8.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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