Royce analyzed the passage with great interest, his eyes dry and unblinking as he finished the woman’s last report.
“Made camp. Trapped by cultists, ambushed them out and suppressed. Five casualties, one runaway. Last survivor, Rick, myself trapped by unknowns. Spent several hours hiding, Rick befriended survivor. Traveling with us.
“Unknowns matched behaviour and descriptions of my attacker. Way more than one. Our traveller is female, named Cat. Displays rapid healing and increased resistance to environment. Any idea why?”
Oh, so many ideas. So very many ideas, Royce thought to himself. Reviewing his notes, he took stock of the information he had, and consolidated it into a cohesive whole on a wall sized monitor, a tapestry of icons and data. It was beautiful. A work of art through research. As his program stitched together relevant data into new and wonderful forms, he sat back and watched his work assemble. He had spent hours accumulating this kaleidoscope of colours, and he congratulated himself for a job well done.
After a few minutes, the dance of data stopped, and the picture solidified. Royce finished his coffee, relishing the taste of sweet coffee on his tongue. It seemed so clear now, even with some missing links in the information. Why did the CBI have such a vested interest in the old city, more or less universally known to be a horrible place to live? What attacked the woman? Why send down the perfect marriage of human and machine, on her own, with a hunter?
“Oh no, no this simply won’t do.” He put down his coffee and scribbled some notes on a sheet of paper, just as a knocking came on his door.
A screen flicked to life, showing two extremely well equipped men with guns at his door. “Doctor Camrata, you’ve been summoned to the head office. Open the door and come with us.”
“Oh, please, do come in. I’m not quite done yet, you see. I might be a moment.” Royce finished scribbling, and stuffed the notes in his pocket. The men on the screen were asking their head office on what they should do. He figured he had about fifteen seconds to do what he needed to do. He encrypted and coded the data cloud, and send it to the woman. She and the hunter could figure out how they were being played for themselves. Then he grabbed his latest project, and mounted it on his left arm.
It looked like a brace, but featured smooth interlocking plates. Royce pushed a couple of buttons, and the machine sprung to life. The metal plates slammed into place, puncturing his arm and driving neural interfaces throughout his arm, as well as tubes that jumbled with his veins, creating an interlocking network of nervous and sanguine systems between himself and his creation.
He screamed, loudly, shocking the policemen who had just entered his office. Royce fell to the floor. His mind screamed bloody pain, waves of fresh, sharp sensation providing new definitions for the word excruciating. The pain eventually dulled, and Royce realized that he, curled up on the floor in a ball cradling his new arm like a child, was surrounded by the two guards that towered over him with their guns. They were tense, he realized. Ready to shoot at the merest glance of movement.
“Gentlemen,” he reassured, “I apologize. Quite sorry, really. I’m getting up now, so please don’t do anything. I promise everything about me is quite safe.” He pushed himself up using his right arm. Haven’t tested the other arm yet, he thought, quite dangerous but time forced me. Quite dangerous.
He raised his hands deliberately, testing the neural circuitry he had developed. His left arm felt fine, great even. A well oiled machine, both literally and figuratively, he joked inwardly. He wiggled the fingers on his cyborg hand, the movement feeling as natural as before.
“See, nothing different or weird. Shall we?” He smiled, genuinely happy with his accomplishment. The pain was insignificant compare to the genuine leap in scientific accomplishment he’d achieved over the past few weeks. The woman and her perfect prostheses, and now this. He relaxed his arm, the sleeve of his coat covering the now metal plated arm he wore. The plates slipped across each other smoothly, causing no sound. Today truly was a day of miracles.
Royce was escorted at gunpoint out of his office, and marched through the sterile corridors of the CBI building. Royce pondered what exactly he would do, now that everything was in motion.
By the end of the day, he expected, the CBI would change dramatically, shattering the current power structure. A complete shift in priorities. Finally, Royce thought, he could create the world which he wanted to live in, one managed, maintained, and purified through the surest of means. He flexed his arm, marveling in his success.
They reached the head office, and Royce entered without trepidation. It was spacious, covering the greater half of the floor. As one of the few tall building in the new city, the CBI offices had a spectacular view of the surrounding area. The polluted bloat that was once lake Ontario extended in the distance, it’s greenish tinge creating a strange and altogether alien landscape. Royce had never seen anything like this before, having never been up here in the past. He’d have to get used to it, he resolved.
“Doctor Camrata. Thank you for joining us.” A man in a white suit jacket stood up out of a magnificent chair behind a lavish desk in the left corner of the room. “Guards, you’ll be needed momentarily but Doctor Camrata and I have something private of which we must speak.”
The guards nodded and left the room, securing the door from the outside. If Royce wanted to leave, he’d need to have permission from the man in the white suit. Which, if he understood correctly, was unlikely to happen.
“Hello Royce. I’ve been hearing disturbing things about your work of late.” The man gestured towards a chair on the opposite side of the desk: comfortable but nowhere near as grand as the chair he sat in.
“No, thanks. I would like to stand. I won’t be here long I’m supposing.” Royce smiled pleasantly as the man opposite him laughed deeply.
“You’d suppose correctly, Doctor Camrata.” He moved around the desk and sat on its edge, crossing his legs contentedly. A position of confidence and control. “You were a fool to think we didn’t notice your tampering and nosing around. We gave you a simple task and yet…’ The man drifted off, as if whatever it was required no further explanation.
“And yet.” Royce moved towards the center of the room, and faced the man squarely. In a rare glimpse, the sun had begun to set, filling the room in rare golden light that struck the man across the chest. “Yes, I had begun to do a task outside my given parameters, which were incredibly small to begin with. Yes, small, very very small. He flexed his left arm, and a ray of light dazzled of the shiny metal coating of his hand.
“Astronomically small. Sir, I was assigned to dirt analysis and vegetable matter. Tedious work, I assure you, when my work,” he gazed at his new arm, “when my work was so much more important. When I was assigned the task of dealing with the woman, I saw an opportunity to do so much more.”
“Your job was simple, doctor.” The man spoke curtly, trying to regain control of the conversation. Royce would have none of that, not in this moment.
“Yes, it was. Repair the woman, give her the ability to go back to the undercity, and report, indirectly, on the health of our ‘subjects’ down below. I equipped her to do so much more.” He felt pride swelling from within, warm and powerful. “She is a beautiful marriage between machine and the human being, a prototype for a brand new species where machines can help us rebuild our world”
“That is what we are trying to do, Doctor.” The man seemed to inflate from anger, his chiseled face now a distinctly red shade. “Our work in genetics-”
“Has a tendency to create monsters. Let me show you.” Royce flipped up his arm and opened his palm towards the wall. A light projected onto the wall, showing columns of data, reports, and decades of work on genetics. “What you see here are all the reports from the biologists being sent down to the undercity to work on your various projects. From trying to revive dead plant species to creating a new breed of super resilient super humans, you believe your work to be flawless. Without error. Natural.”
He closed his hand, the light dying away and making room for the now bright orange light of the first real sun set the new city had seen since the war. “It has failed. The monsters run amok, your few successes outweighed by a deluge of horrible defects, rejects, and might I say, sloppy science. Completely sloppy.”
Royce felt his arm hum with energy, and suddenly Royce could see the world in a new light. The orange light of the sun was now replaced with the blue green light of the cybernetic, his arm processing the information and energy his eyes received in a brand new way he could barely understand. Still, he found what he was looking for; the pacemaker in the man’s chest glowed blue as it clicked silently, a digital clock for the man’s heart.
“I’ve done my research, mister director. I have seen the good that you’ve done for the new city and Canada, but I think you pay much too highly for it. That human lives are spent making progress is one thing, I will not argue that point.” He flicked his wrist at the man’s pacemaker, and suddenly the glow vanished. “But you do pay much too highly for it.”
The man bent over, clutching at his chest as if his heart had suddenly gone missing; and in a sense, Royce thought, it had. Turned off like a wireless light switch. In seconds, the man fell on the floor, unconscious. He would be dead within the minute.
Royce made his way to the director’s computer, and turned on his arm processors. Again, he could see the world in a way that showed the effects computers and technology had. He could see electricity and circuitry, and manipulate it. He put his hand on the computer, and it came to life. Royce immediately changed all of the directors powers over to himself, locked it, and triple locked the changes. The system was now his, and he had complete power over it should he choose. He could see, process, and access anything in the system now.
“In short,” he smiled, “I am the master of this house. Now, for a change of decor.”
Robotics bays long dormant whirred to life, a surge in energy marking the first time these factories had been used to this degree in years. Machines sped to work, placing chips within components, components within parts, and parts into a whole. Several new designs had been entered into the system, but they were simple enough that any robotics bay within the network could build any of them. Some of the machines were small, simple things. Others were larger, clearly built for rougher work. Built from plastics and garbage, there was a near limitless supply of materials to create the designs requested.
The machines, no matter their size, no matter their purpose, moved as one. All of them moved to the will of a central unit.
Royce grinned as, suddenly, he could change the world. The banging on the doors outside his new office stopped abruptly as the guards screamed in agony, their bodies being disassembled. They were an unfortunate part of the cost to make the undercity cleaner and safe, and Royce felt little remorse as he consolidate his new army.
End of Part 17