Table of Contents
THE FACE OF THE ENEMY
I brought up the scanner and looked under the skin and muscle where the components were clustered, a network of nodes and hair-thin filaments where the spinal cord met the brain. An amber squiggle of light jumped across the scanner’s display before snapping into a single waveform—the revivor’s heart signature. I processed the signal and pulled the identification. The lot number wasn’t on file, so it wasn’t sold legitimately. Someone had this one made to order.
In the mirror, I could see its eyes staring downward. Its well-preserved porcelain skin made it look like a doll or wax figure. Whoever she had been, she didn’t look like a local. A tourist maybe? Someone who wandered down the wrong street?
“Someone’s probably still looking for you,” I said. I said it to myself, but it answered.
I had intended to use a small, directed electromagnetic pulse to short out the components and put it down before leaving the room, but I didn’t. The girl kept looking up at me, still without expression. I hated revivors; I hated everything about them. I hated them for what they were and for what they had done to me, what they had taken away. When the time came to put it down, I had thought I would enjoy it.
“Stay here,” I said instead. “Don’t move, and don’t say anything. Do you understand?”
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First Printing, February 2010
Copyright © James Knapp, 2010
eISBN : 978-1-101-18477-6
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I would like to acknowledge:
Richard Tappan for fostering a love of writing.
Greg and Christine for showing me what was possible.
Mom and Dad for believing in me.
Jack and Jessica for rolling the dice on me.
Kim for being there, always.
DecayNico Wachalowski—Goicoechea Plaza
Everyone thinks they know what a revivor is, but the truth is the only ones who really know are the revivors themselves. The first time I ever saw one was during my initial tour in the grinder, where even at night it was like a furnace, and when a hot breeze blew through the brush, I could smell them. When that first one moved into the moonlight where I could see it, I was scared. I had never been as scared about anything else before. People argue about what goes on in their heads, but I couldn’t tell what it was thinking, or whether it was thinking at all. All I can really say is that no one who has seen a revivor face-to-face would ever choose to become one. That was why I was in the elevator of that building the night that it all started.
Heading up to the eighty-second floor, I watched the numbers flip and tried to calm my heart. Assistant Director Noakes had put me on the case because of my prior experience with revivors, but I would have volunteered. Those things belong in the ground, but short of that, they belong on the other side of the world, not on mine.
The car ground to a stop and the doors opened into a barely lit corridor. I stepped out into the shadows and moved toward the door at the far end. Everything I saw was recorded and then transmitted to the men below through the implant wired near the base of my skull. They monitored the visual feed and even my vital signs as they waited for my signal. I opened the secure communications circuit and sent them confirmation.
The words floated in front of me, then faded as I moved down the hall. Like a lot of properties in the area, most of the offices were empty; there were a few businesses scraping by, but past the sixtieth floor the place was vacant, except for one. The office I was visiting supposedly bought and sold small-scale third-party processing components, which was a nice touch. I had no doubt that front even made a little extra money on the side.
I made my way past the locked rooms and dark offices until I came to the one I was looking for. The door was closed and unmarked, with a black buzzer next to it. I pushed the button and waited.
They’d be watching me; I couldn’t see it, but somewhere a camera was checking me out to make sure I was someone they were expecting. A few seconds later there was a heavy snap from inside the door. I opened it and went inside.
It was the first time I’d actually seen the place, and it was pretty much what I expected. The lobby was stripped bare, with nothing on the walls and no place to sit. What would have been the reception area was set up with a terminal and was being used as a workspace with wires trailing across the dusty floor. Tai and two of his men were waiting there for me.
“Right on time,” Tai said. “I’m glad you decided to show.”
Tai was a dark-skinned Asian with long hair and a long face. The two guys with him were tattooed, tough-looking types I didn’t recognize.
“Check him out.”
I raised my hands to shoulder height as the two men approached me. One of them swept an electronic wand up and down the front and back of me while the other took a more hands-on approach and patted me down. The one with the wand nodded at Tai, and he dismissed them.
“You ready?” Tai asked.
“They’re back there,” he said, gesturing to a door behind him. “You were looking for ten?”
“Ten if I can use them,” I said. “More if they work out.”
“You can see them for yourself and decide,” he said. “I’ve got one set up if you want to sample it. Last door on the left.”
“No rough stuff.”
“How long do I have?” I asked.
“I’ll give you five minutes to do whatever you’re going to do,” he said. “After that I’ll show you the others, and we can talk about price.”
“Assuming they’re acceptable.”
“They will be.”
I headed through the door and it closed behind me. The hallway beyond was quiet except for the hum of multiple terminals and a heating unit, with stacks of cardboard and some wooden pallets leaning against the walls. Just above the white noise, I could make out the sound of movement.
I blinked, activating the heads-up display that shone back onto my retinas. The connection with the men waiting downstairs was open, and everything was being recorded. Using a backscatter filter, I could see tiny hidden cameras standing out in sharp relief just behind the drywall, watching me as I made my way down. Cooling thermal signatures across the floor indicated people had been back there recently. I followed them to the last door on the left.
I could feel my heart pounding as I pushed open the door and the smell of urine drifted out. The door opened into a restroom, where the stall doors hung open and most of the toilets were covered with plastic wrap. The floor had traces of half-wiped-away blood, and there was some spattered across the wall where the sinks were. Someone had met with bad news there, but my attention was drawn to the middle of the room. There, standing barefoot on the filthy tiles with its knees together and its hands clutched by its sides, was the revivor.
The old fear took me a little by surprise. Despite the fact that it was a female and practically a girl, I had to force myself to move closer to it.
It stood maybe five foot six, a head or so shorter than me, with thin arms and legs and long, straight black hair that partly covered its face. From behind the strands two large eyes looked out at me, the irises a pale silver color, just barely illuminated with a glow that reminded me of moonlight. They followed me as I approached.
It was an improvement over the ones I’d encountered during my tour. The skin was well preserved, and its porcelain tone made the revivor look like a doll or wax figure. The synthetic blood they were using now made some of the veins stand out darkly, but some clientele actually liked that. The cosmetic surgeries had been well-done, too, with almost no scarring. The large, augmented breasts looked out of place on such a thin body, but otherwise might almost have been the originals. The small nipples pointed forward like bullets.