dinsdag 10 juni 2014

Prelude/intro and Chapter Two.

Had some more time, so I worked on this thing again. It's taking longer than I like, but it's a lot of fun.
I'm really enjoying working in this world, creating it, populating it with characters.

Anyway, I'v got a first draft for chapter two and the intro. 

Rework and expand on augments, climate change, energy and androids should use contact-based stun weapons along side martial arts.
Prelude to paradise.

29th of October, 1969. the birth of the Internet. A small project, leading to great things.
Cloud computing became viable for the public around 2008, opening up more computing power and storage to more people than ever before.
2014 was the year that the FDA approved advanced prostheses. A year later the first lab-grown organ, a liver, was implanted into a patient.
New and ground breaking advances in medication created ways to sustain and prolong life.

As with all new things, it was a plaything for the rich. The general public demanded a longer, healthier life and it did not take long until prices dropped. Medication to slow genetic decay, delaying old age, became as universally used as caffeine.

In a short 30 years the world had changed. Cheap and clean power was the norm, worldwide. Solar power, tidal generators and thorium-based nuclear power provided humanity with more energy than ever. The climate began to stabilize as chemical fuel was phased out on a grand scale. Cities were still drowned, despite all these efforts. Water levels rose several feet, flooding many coastal regions.

Hundreds of thousands died. Many more evacuated, creating the largest human migration in millennia.
The influx of people into drier regions sparked riots and wars. It wasn't until a stable supply of food had been regained that the world began to stabilize. Vertical farms, up to a kilometer high, were constructed in every city and beyond.

Space-based mining became the new gold rush. Vast stores of rare minerals like gold, titanium and lithium, to name a few, were beginning to be harvested.

An age of boundless plenty was emerging. Emerging, but not quite there.
Huge slums surrounded most major cities around the world. The surge of refugees had abated, but was still crashing on the new shores. It would take a decades to build enough new homes.
And with slums comes crime.

To combat this new threat, governments began to use and re-purpose military drones and androids to keep the peace. Complex networks of sensors and cameras were installed to detect crimes in progress. The shockwave of a gunshot, a scream, fighting. All the information gathered by these sensors was fed into a single system that analyzed and prioritized any incident. Some were sent to police officers to evaluate, others were dealt with automatically.
The system grew quickly, before long needing a more complex intellect to keep track and cope with all the information. VI's, Virtual Intelligences, were created for this purpose. Not self-aware but highly capable, they made the new world considerably safer. Many counties introduced a very low tolerance for crime.
In most cases, people were arrested by either androids with drone-support or by human officers escorted by androids and drones.
Personal weapons had become rare and illegal for the most part. Any gun-related violence was dealt with by androids. Shooting at police or police equipment or threatening the safety of civilians often resulted in the perpetrator having broken bones, as androids beat them into submission or a quick, bloody death as drones, androids and officers returned fire. While the action required was mostly decided by the VI's, they still often ended with police calling a coroner.

As the new world formed, new economics emerged. Food barely cost a thing, water was practically free. The costs of living were tied up in augmentations, longevity medication and housing. Payments for augs could easily overwhelm people, driving them into criminality, prostitution or simply giving up their augments.
Slums were filled with people who, quite literally, didn't have a leg to stand on.

The cities proper were beacons of health, prosperity, art and every kind of pleasure that was considered legal.
Lights beamed down, multicolored lights twinkled in the streets, stars above. Metal, glass, marble. Shiny, new, clean, happy, free, content. Those who could live in the cities were surrounded by magical displays of holograms and lights. Personal androids, looking almost human, did whatever their owners told them to do. Cyborgs and humans, augs and fleshies. They were free to do what they wanted to do. The rebirth of the human race.

By 2040, the world was cooling, most people had enough to eat and drink and a roof over their heads. 60% of the world's population had augmentations to some degree and 80% of the world was ingesting anti-aging medication and receiving organ replacements. A new age was being born. The remains of the old were left rotting, like a tumor. One on the surface and one deep within.
Chapter One.

2059. A decade short of 2069, Andre thought with a slight snicker. He was working on a mod for his left arm. He had it replaced years ago, before the Crowe-act that restricted the replacement of organs and limbs with artificial ones. Even augments were severely restricted.
After the tech to replace parts of your body had become mainstream, people began to fear. A growing number of augs had become involved in crime. And using their augs, the result were often....messy.

Many people had, in the 20 years since the tech had become reliable, replaced huge sections of their organic body by choice. Either because they performed better or because of some fashion trend. If you could type or work 5 or even 20 times faster as an aug, most businesses preferred augs.
Glowing eyes, color-changing skin or even modded sexual organs were popular trends.

Andre did not get his augs because he wanted to. He had been all for augments before. He had seen the benefits they had over organics. He had not felt comfortable with the idea of cutting off his arms because the augs looks cooler.
But a close encounter with pavement at over 200 km/h had made the decision for him. Most of his arms and legs had been shredded when his bike went haywire and he lost control.
A freak accident that left him a perfect reflection of it. What was left of him needed massive surgery to even have a chance of survival.
He had hated the augs. It took him a few years to fully accept what had happened. Andre lost more than parts of his body. He had lost many of his friends and girlfriend. He had pushed them away.
And now he was reveling in tinkering with his still hated augs.

He needed money. Like most people, his insurance only covered a small part of the ludicrous cost of his POS augs.
He figured that since he had no one left to hurt, he might as well put these fucking things to work.
“After all,” he said to the cold metal lying on the workbench. “you've done nothing else good for me, have you?”
Andre Cormac. He was an artist once. But he had always had a good insight into mechanics and engineering. He made himself an familiar with the tech in the last year or so. He wanted to make his augs better. And he couldn't craft art anymore. That part of him was cut off somewhere with the giblets that were his body.

He had a reserve that had lasted him so far and might be enough for about half a year of food, rent, debt...
“Fuck it.” he said to his workbench. “I almost died once. I refuse to work myself to death just to make a living!”
Andre re-attached his arm and plugged it into his computer. He had to upload some new code to his arm. Any tampering with the hard- or software would result in a system shutdown. He didn't have the funds to pay a fine, let alone enough to buy a new arm.
He had to be quick. The arm was already entering its diagnostics mode. He ran a program he'd gotten from a “friend'. A hacker who would write aug-code for a price. It had cost him $5000. fucking ripoff, but since that asshole was the only guy he knew that could write the code he needed, he Andre didn't really have much choice.

The code worked, as he'd hoped it would. His arm came to life. Motor functions, sensory input and his custom mods. “I can't wait to play with these!” He looked at his arms and legs and was feeling very pleased with himself.
His limbs were much stronger than they had been previously. He estimated he was around 12 times stronger than an average organic. That meant he was faster, more resilient. Hell, robbing an armored truck was going to be easy.
Of course, he wasn't stupid. Adding that much power to just his limbs would rip what was left of him apart. Thankfully, his remaining body had already been modified to support his new extremities.
All he had to do was tinker with them, buff them up. The worst part of all this was that his skull was still the original. For now, he'd have to rely on a helmet and body armor. Once he had enough cash, he could think about adding some sub-dermal armor , replacing his skull even.
He looked at the old digital clock hanging on his wall. It was an old matrix-type clock. Several of the LED's had died a while ago, but it still worked good enough.
Good, still an hour left. Might as well get going.” he thought. He grabbed his gear. Helmet, faceplate, body armor. He didn't have a gun yet. Screw would provide those. He'd told Andre not to worry about that. Screw would get them some nice little toys. The way he'd said that, Andre was expecting to find Screw drowning in RPG's and Gauss-rifles.

Andre shoved all his junk in a big dufflebag and swung it over his right shoulder. All of it combined must have weighed in at over 100 kg, but it was easy. He laughed at the ease. Loud and hard. He was starting to like these “new” augs.

About 30 minutes later he arrived at Screw's Lair. Screw lived up to his name. He was insane. He also knew how to get the parts and equipment Andre needed.
Andre got off the train and walked about 10 minutes, through busy streets, filled with people. Most of them had augs to some degree. Some had ocular enhancement, others had limbs. They passed him by in all shapes and size. From absolute trash to hightech showpieces. Some had holograms projected over them, flowing colors and images, pulsating. Others were covered in shame.

He walked down another street and went into an alley.”It always has to be a shitty alley.” Andre never liked this alley. It looked even worse than the rest of this rotten neighborhood. He always expecting to find a corpse or a rape or something horrible down here. He'd only been here four times so far and each time he was kind surprised he didn't find something dead or dying. The worst he'd actually seen here was a dead rat. “Although that doesn't mean worse doesn't happen here.”He pounded the door, leaving sizable dents in the rusted, old metal. Normally a slide would open, like in those old cliched movies. The guy behind the door was cursing as he tried to open it. “The fuck you do to my door, man? Fuck'n asshole! ANDRE!, is that you?”
“Yeah, it's me.”
“Shit man, you owe me fuck'n door, ya fuck.”
The door opened, a lot less smoothly. Andre did feel like a bit of a dick but he couldn't stop himself from grinning.

With some effort Screw slammed the door closed and used around 10 different locks and bolts to lock it.
“Right, you son'a bitch...” he paused, looking and admiring the work Andre had done. “...lets see what all my hard work and effort got me.”
Andre tossed his duffel bag on Screw's couch. The couch didn't approve of that and protested by cracking and folding in half. “DUDE, the fuck man! That was my fuck'n BED! Goddamnit. Well, shit...I suppose it does show that shit's working” he said, while pointing at the modded augs.
“Nice fuck'n job on those. And nice fuck'n job on the couch. So what about your legs?”
A little reluctantly, Andre dropped his pants.
“Damn sexy work, man. Hmm, I could look at those all day.”
“Shut up. Can we get on with this? I still need to test most of this stuff. Open up the shooting range, would ya?”
Screw went over to the wall in the back and flipped a broken looking light switch.
A metallic clink followed and a section of the wall slid down.
“Can't have a Lair with a secret door, now can I?” Screw burst out in to laughter, wiping tears out of his eyes.
“I know about the door, Screw. You show it each I come here. You know that right?”
“Hehe, yeah. But I still love it. Makes me feel like an old movie villain or something. Right, in we go. Time to show you what Santa got all the good little robbers this year. HAHA!”
Still laughing at his own jokes, Screw went into the shooting range. It was nothing more than an abandoned building that he'd sound-proofed so his customers could test their purchase without letting every cop in the city know where they were. Even if cameras or microphones didn't pick anything up, other sensors and drones would pick up the gunshot all the same.
Drones of every shape and size would be on the scene in less than 2 minutes. Actual cops would usually arrive shortly after.

“Alright, lemme open mah toybox” Screw said with a fanatical grin that sent a cold shiver down Andre's spine. While he marveled at the engineering and power involved with weapons, Screw mostly loved what they were meant to do.
“Oh hooo, you're gonna love this one, man!” It took him some effort to lift the massive weapon out of the crate, his black thick dreads trembling like excited tentacles of some angry seagod.
“This, my friend” a loud thumb and rattle of a metal table followed “is a brand new military-grade Gauss-rifle.”
Andre was shocked. He had thought Screw would like this monster, but never had he actually believed he'd be able to get his hands on one, let alone whatever else might be in that crate. Andre's normally nonchalance fractured and crumbled. He was in awe of the weapon in front of him. It was an masterpiece of destruction, he knew. Capable of accelerating a small piece of metal to hypersonic speeds in a fraction of a second. The impact on target was comparable to a small bomb. And this thing was fully automatic.
“Shiny, ain't she?” Screw was actually drooling a bit. There was a hunger in his eyes. The chill was back, multiplied. He loathed that he needed this psychopath.
“300 rounds per minute, no cooling needed. Just a recharge every now and then.”
Andre was starting to come out of the shock of seeing a gun like this.

“Just how insane are you, Screw?” he shouted at the grinning man in front of him, looking every bit the cartoon villain he might as well have been.
“The plan was to rob an armored truck, you goddamned lunatic. Not liquify it and who ever is inside or even close. Fucking hell..what the fuck did you think I was gonna do with this thing, huh? I told you to get something non-FUCKING-lethal and you.... ” Andre had to regain some breath. He was livid.

“Hahaha!” Screw pounded the table and slapped the gun. Andre looked at him, angry and slightly confused. “what the fuck is wrong this guy?” Screw looked him in the eye and said”I just wanted to see how you'd react. Most of the cunts I show my gun to freak out and panic. It's too big! is the usual line.”
Screw looked over Andre. His insane eyes took on a calculating aspect.”But not you. You've got a goal and you want the tools for it. The monster doesn't scare you. You know how to tame it. You understand it.”
Andre was getting annoyed with the madman in front of him. Of course, he still had that big fucking gun, so he thought it'd be unwise to insult Screw outright.
“Enough with the poetic nonsense, Screw. I know how this thing works, yea. Now, do you have anything that I can actually use for this little endeavor of ours? Something that wont reduce the truck or guards to a messy puddle?”
Screw was laughing again. He was enjoying his little show.
“Sure man. I got what you need.” He dove back into the crate and took out a far smaller gun. It looked like a bulky assault rifle, angular and aggressive. Not the huge metal beast previous.
“This is a lot less fun, though.” The excitement had left Screw's eyes. “This thing still packs a nice punch against most fleshies. Augs less so.” He charged the gun, turned suddenly and let off a few rounds. Blue streaks cracked through the air. Bursts of lightning sparked the far wall.
“Should drop any fool with one hit. You can reach out and touch em at about 200 meters.”
“And you call this a stungun? The last one of those I saw was in an old series. Copper wires carried the charge.”
“Ah,” Screw said enthused “but this thing fires actual bullets! They carry a charge for about 5 second, release it all on impact. And it looks totally space!”
Well, there is that, I suppose.” Andre had to agree with Screw. The looked pretty cool and even better when it fired.
“So what's the plan, Screw? You said you'd done this kind of thing before.”
“Oh yea, don't worry. I have. Couple a times. They never paid off though, HA!”
“Are you kidding me, Screw? You mind telling me what happened?”
Screw stopped laughing. Instead he showed a toothy grin that would have been perfect for a wolf about the eat its prey.
“Couple months back, right after Nugget did the intro, I thought I might try this little venture with you. So I called a couple....acquaintances of mine. We loaded up on gear and headed out. We hit the truck, killed the guards...mighta blown one up...We bagged the goods, ducked into the sewers and BOOM! Gone, BABY!”
Andre vaguely remembered hearing or reading something about that. He didn't really care as long as no-one was involved that he knew.
“We forgot about one tiny little detail that fucked us...well, the other guys, right up their asses. The money was tagged. As soon as we left the sewers, they got us. I picked up a transmission. Drones headed in, armed ones. Next thing I knew, the place was a fucking shootin' gallery. Ooh, I never seen such gore. That carnage....hmm”
Screw looked like he had just seen the most beautiful girl on the planet, naked, begging for him to come over. Goosebumps and terror. That was what Andre felt. What the hell was wrong with this maniac? If Andre told him he was having severe second, third, fourth thoughts, Screw would probably kill him for the hell of it. And to get his hardware back. “Shit!”
“As soon as round and parts of my crew started flying, I jumped back in the sewers. Money's nice, but only if you're alive t spend it, ya know?”
“So how'd you survive? I'm assuming those drones were targeting all of you. And by the sound of it, they had some pretty decent guns on them.”
“I was wearing thermal-cloaking. Messes with the sensors on those flying drones. The walkers didn't show up 'till after I was gone. I told m to wear cloak. Fuckers ignored me. Called me paranoid. Even if we did get caught, they'd stun us and arrest us. Not so famous last words. 'Course the media wasn't fed that last bit of the story. News said we got arrested, money was found and justice would be served.”
Andre looked skeptical. He never really trusted the news 100%. But to cover something like this up...It was beyond anything he'd heard of. Even in the wildest conspiracy theories.
“Sure. You got any evidence to back this up?”
Walking to a small desk in the corner, on top of which was a shrine of some sort, Screw opened a drawer. He took out a small case, the size of a small, narrow shoebox.
He presented the box to Andre.
And slowly opened the lid.
Inside was piece of an arm. Shot to hell, covered in blood and preserved in some weird goo.
“What the hell is that?!”
“What's left of my acquaintances. Not much, is it? It was floating next to me in the sewers. Must have been blown off as I started runnin'.”
“Christ....take that thing away. I feel sick... Why would you keep that?”
Screw closed the lid of the ornate little box. The detail and trimming were macabre but beautifully crafted. Andre could appreciate a piece like that, if he didn't feel like screaming and throwing up all over the damned thing.
Placing the box, with a delicate touch, back in its drawer, Screw returned to the matter at hand. He looked more subdued, as though the arm had taken his madness and tamed it. For how ever long that might last.
“We were playing with toys, weren't we?”
“Ugh...” Not feeling any better, Andre's thoughts snapped back to why he had seen that arm to begin with. “No, you were telling me what happened to your previous crew. And while you're at it, you mind explaining how we'll avoid ending up like that?”
“Aww, you spoil all the fun.” The insanity hadn't been gone long. “Well, I analyzed everything that happened. That's why I needed you to armor up. These new arms and legs will be able to take whatever they dish out.” Screw admired the work Andre had done. The look made Andre feel uneasy.
“Unless you don't bother with the rest of yer armor, that is. And yeah, I know what went wrong last fuckin' time! Ever here of a Faraday cage, brotha? Blocks EM waves. Means radio cant get through. The rebar and all the crap, heh crap...kept the tags from alerting anyone to our position. As soon as we left that pretty cage, we were fucked.”
“So we need a way to kill those tags, before they kill us? You got an idea on how to do that? EMP? Microwave?”
“yup, microwave. Imma cook the little fuckers, HA!”
“Alright then. So what's the est of the plan? Might as well tell me now, since we're on the subject.”
It was only now that Andre noticed Screw's artificial eyes. The lit up for a brief second. They almost seemd to glow, if only for a second.
Screw's predatory grin appeared again.
“Heh. Might as well. Plan's pretty simple, really. Bit different from last time. Mostly because we got you. You can rip off the doors, smash the windows. No need for anything goes boom! Sadly.”
“So, what? I just walk up to the truck, open it up and we take whatever we can carry?”
“Pretty much. The hard part was to find a truck that would be alone, no escort and big fuckin' payoff!”
Andre looked doubtful. If things sound too good to be true...
“It cant be that that easy, that's absurd. There's gotta be something you're not telling me.”
Screw looked pissed. “You doubting my brilliance? They ain't got enough men to cover all the trucks. I got a man on the inside, let's me know that kind of shit. And by man I mean worm.”
“You bugged them? One of the biggest security firms in the country?”
“YES I FUCKIN' DID!” Screw reached back and had a gun to Andre's head in the next second.
Andre froze. Screw started laughing maniacally. Anger surged up in Andre.
“The fuck man!” he grunted through clenched teeth.
“HAHAHAha...heh...” The gun lowered. “you ain't got any combat software, DO ya?!”
“What? NO! How the fuck am I supposed to get shit like that?”
Screw looked twisted, something a mad god would make.
“Gonna have to fix that, brotha. Follow me.”

Andre stood frozen, gasping and sweating. He'd never had a gun to his head before. “Was this a test? Is Screw testing me? Is he toying with me?” Questions raced though his head, until the spell of fear was broken by Screw yelling at him to come over.
“Shit your broken ass down! NOW!”
“What are going to do to me? You know you cant kill me. You need me for this.”
Glancing over his shoulder, Screw's eyes were cold.
“Oh, this is such a cliché moment. If I wanted you dead I could killed you already and then more of those lines. No, fuckwit, imma make you better!”

The chair was an old medical device, the ones they used to calibrate augmentations in new patients or customers. Every point of contact had sensors, plugs, wires, status indicators. But this one looked old and beaten. It looked robust. Screw had made a lot of changes to the Chair. It looked to have more capabilities than the ones Andre knew.

“Well? Have a seat, Your Highness!”
Andre could have killed Screw or ran faster than was humanly possible. The problem was that killing Screw would have repercussions. If he even could kill someone. Running wasn't much of an option either. He'd end up not only dead but hunted. By Screw and whatever SOBs he had lurking around.
He took a seat.

“Right...this is gonna hurt!”
A sharp jab in the back of his head, crunching and breaking bone. Andre couldn't move. He was paralyzed, but he could feel everything. His eyes cried and screamed. Screw came into view. A view that become covered in a red blanket. The red shifted into black.

“Oh, good. You're awake. Now don't fuck'n move. I still got shit to do to ya and I need you awake for this part.”
“Aah...fuck...the hell did you do, motherfucker?” “I can move again. That's a plus. Fucking hell that shit hurt. The fuck...”“Yea yea, I could have knocked you out, but that would have spoiled my fun. The look in your eyes was...hmmm...delicious...”
Screw kicked a pedal on the Chair, shoving Anre upright.
“Here ya go!” A needle suddenly stuck in Andre's neck, near the base of his skull.
“AAH! What the fuck man?!”
“Stop crying! I need as direct a feed as I can get. Unless you wanna rip yourself to pieces.”
Fighting back tears of pain and actual terror, Andre felt the back of his head. He could feel a large scab, maybe 2 cm across. It felt very round and sore. A slight pain radiated away from it, throbbing less and less each heartbeat.

“What did you do?”
“Aside from some satisfaction, I ripped out some of the crap they shoved into your brain. Don't look so puzzled. You know how these toys work. They need imput from your brain to do anything. Fucked up part is, every civie implant comes with a fuckton of locks and shit.”
“Ugh...” Andre inhaled sharply. “Locks?”
“Neural Input/Output Inhibitors, but who can be arsed to say that? That system is part of every single implant in the world, except military-grade. And it's all very secret. So don't tell!”
“But why? I don't get it.”
“Remember the Crowe-act? That limited more than just replacement and shit. It put limits on every single aug since. Any civie with an aug that came in for maintenance after that had locks put in! They fuck'n neutered us! We should've been GODS!”
“Gods? What are you talking about?”
“Fucksake...lemme give you a history lesson. About 40 years ago, we invented tech to replace limbs. Couple years after that, organs were easily grown and replaced. About 20 years ago, we unlocked the key to fuck'n immortality! But they kept that a secret from genpop. It's asecret little toys for the rich and powers that be. Heh, fuck'n brilliant plan, that was. Use the law to keep everyone in check and keep the good shit for a few. You getting' the picture?”
Andre couldn't believe it. This was even too much for a nutcase like Screw.

“Are you serious? Do you hear yourself? Immortality? A mass conspiracy? Come on...”
“You callin' me crazy? Then watch this...”

The world lit up. Andre could see everything, hear anything. He felt as if he was more.

“Judging by the look on your face, I'd say the locks are gone. Welcome...to the real world...heh.”
Andre looked around. He was having some trouble focusing. He noticed had had a HUD, all of a sudden. Different settings he could go through to filter his vision. He never knew he could do any of this. Not only that, but his power output had tripled.
“Nice, ain't it? All that power, just by removing a lock. Oh, and I may have swapped out your eyeballs.”
“You WHAT?”
“Don't have a cow. I ripped out your old ones, added some augs to them and out em back in. that's why they's healed already. The connection to your brain was made by some new tech I invented. Automatic connection to the right part of the neural hub.”
“You should have fucking asked.”
Even though he loved the new vision, he still felt sort of violated.
“What, and risk you saying no? Bitch, please. Besides, you'll need these eyes to See.”
“I wasn't blind before, you moron.”
“DON'T....piss me off, kid! The locks also blocked all the sensors you have. The HUD will overlay the data they provide you with so you can See. Hazard alerts, GPS....augmented FUCK'N reality!”

The more he heard, the more everything this madman told him started making sense. Was he becoming as insane as him? Maybe he needed that for the insanity of what he needed to do. He'd known there would be massive changes to himself, but he had never expected anything to this level. Not even close.
“Global conspiracies, secret government deals...and how does Screw know? How would a lunatic like him know all this and even care about?”“Heh, I can see that you have fuckload of questions, brotha. I'll get right round to answerin' them.
First though, I need you to run some diagnostics. Make sure you ain't gonna die on me. I mean, wouldn't want ya to form an aneurysm, now would we?
“Great, so no matter what I do, I might still die today? Fucking marvelous. I wonder why people don't use that word more often?”“Yeah, that sounds really encouraging. You know, you might want to do something about your bedside manner, Screw. Ugh...You got a diagnostics-terminal around here?”

Screw pointed like Death himself over to a corner. Covered by an old stained blanket was the terminal he needed. It was brand new. Not a scratch on the thing.
“How the hell does he get all this shit? Brand new augs, tech I've never seen before. Shiny new terminals...You'd thing someone would notice this thing being gone. I mean, it's not exactly small....”
The terminal was the size of a small car. A smooth white plastic box, containing anything and everything needed to make sure a patient was taking to their augs. While the tech was decades old, rejection still happened. It was rare, but if it did occur and went unnoticed, it was still often fatal.

Andre took a seat in front of the device. It registered the patient sitting in front of it. Several robotic arms carrying different medical tools and sensors unfolded from the seamless box.
Andre tried to relax. The first time this whole day that he'd even considered relaxing. He tried to recall a happier place. Somewhere far away from this filthy, decrepit warehouse. This building of torture, death and insanity. Andre was convinced more than a few people had died here. To what extent Screw was involved, he tried not to think about. After all, the man had been inside his brain.

The machine worked fast. It performed neurological scans, X-rays, biofeedback exams and basic vital system checks. It would gather all this data in less than a minute and perform a rudimentary analysis. Normally a doctor would verify the results. It chimed, signaling it had completed its job.
Screw came over, waved his hand near the surface of the box. A cover depressed into the box a few millimeters and slid up. A display came forward to take its place, producing a full render of its results.

“You ain't dyin' today, kid.”
“Hmm” “If you say so. The day hasn't ended.”“Cheer the fuck up. Means the plan is good to go. And we still got over a week before the next transport shows up.”
“So what now?”
“You go home. I ain't giving you any toys yet. You don't need em anyway. Just practice, get used to your new body. Try out the weapons in your arms. I recommend you either leave town or come back here to do so.”
“Leaving town sounds like a plan.”
No goddamned way I'm coming back here if I can help it.”Andre was beat. He'd never been this tired. He looked like he hadn't slept in at least 2 days.

“So when do we meet?”
“I'll let you know. Get back here ASAP when I send you the phrase...GET THE FUCK BACK HERE, HAH!”
Screw was laughing so much, he cried. He was almost rolling over the floor.
“Hehehe...alright, get the fuck out. Sleep, rest, eat, jerk off, do whatever you gotta do. Oh, before I forget, today's Tuesday.”
Andre must have misheard. He came here on Sunday. He'd been here for three days?
“Are you serious? Three days? Wha-”
“Haha, relax, brotha. I'm fucki'n what ya. You've been here about 12 hours. Now get the fuck out and shut the door. Leave the bag. No sense in lugging that armor back again, risk getting caught.”
“Yeah, right.”
Andre walked out of the warehouse and towards the old metal door he'd come in through. As he opened it, he damn near ripped it off it's hinges. Whether because of his new strength or the age and corrosion of the door, he was unsure. As he slammed the door, sparks flew pas as it scraped back into place.
“Right, strength then...”He smiled. He walked back through the night of the city. It was never dark in this town, except in the places you didn't want to be. Andre had to be careful, he realized. It'd be really easy to injure or even kill someone.
Taking care not to touch any one, pushing buttons with a feather touch, he went back home.
He opened his fridge, found what he was looking for. Pizza he'd ordered the day before but never ate. He'd been too nervous to eat then. Now, the pizza was gone in minutes.
Reaching for a glass and a bottle of booze, he crushed both. “Shit....that stuff was good.”The second try went better. He drank until he couldn't keep awake. Dragging himself into his bed, he dreamed about the murderous villain who'd played God with his body and brain. He cried in his sleep.
“What options do I have?”It was the last thought he could recall. No other dreams bothered him. Maybe one...

Chapter Two

A single beam of light hit Andre. It's warmth waking him like a gentle kiss.
“Jessica?” Blurred eyes opened, focused.
“Oh yeah...she left....”Getting up had been a much more pleasant proposal when Jessica had still been there, 5 seconds ago.
“Ugh...stupid brain...why do you do this to me?” he said, throat still dry and rough with sleep.

Reaching out to his alarm clock, he remembered too late what had happened the previous day. The alarm clock made a noise it had never made before. It was also its last.
“Shit...well....guess I need to train myself in not killing random shit. Or people.”

Careful not to wreck anything else in his crummy apartment, he made breakfast, watched some news and some cartoons. It wasn't as is he needed to be anywhere.
With a fresh cup of coffee, that took him a lot longer to make and drink than before, he sat down on his couch. The workbench was behind him. Kitchen and living room were basically the same room. The only other room was his bedroom. He had enough space to be comfortable. Not enough to call spacious.

Alright, what do I need to do? I should probably not look this up on the web. Maybe the DeepWeb, but what can you trust on there? I should look this up on an outside system. Maybe a bar or library. Make sure not to be recognized.”He wasn't paranoid in wanting to look up how to train superpowered augs on a separate computer. Most internet traffic was monitored. A search like that would draw attention. The city's VI would be on him in less than an hour.
Andre had very little choice in the matter. Trying to train this on his own, without any information, would take weeks. And Screw never opened his door when he wasn't expecting anyone. Hell, he'd probably not set foot in that hole of a lair until right before the job.

Andre put on some clothes. When he had just modded his augs, he'd ripped up a shirt he wanted to put on. The arms hardly fit his coat. The poor shirt never stood a chance. As a result, he had cut off the sleeves of all his shirts. At least he could wear them this way.
Looking in a mirror, sleeveless shirt, black cargo pants and combat boots, he looked like an asshole.
“Oh man, I look like a goddamn hipster asshole.” he thought with a smile.
Reaching for his jacket, he walked out the door and closed it gently behind him.

The library was a large building in the middle of the city. It was lit by holographic displays of historical and fictional events, but still held on to its stately appearance.
People could read anything online, but most homes did not have holo-suites. People could literally step inside a book. They could play in them, follow the story or mess it up anyway they wanted. Holograms were still just projections. No actual physical contact could be made. And any inappropriate behavior meant a permanent ban from the library. That happened more often than they would admit. But the perma-ban was usually only enforced for about a year, max. the library could not afford to lose its clients.
Thousands of books, pieces of art, public records, architectural plans and city planning. It was all housed within the library. It was still possible to lend a book there as well, of course.
But most people came for the silence, holo-suites and art.

Taking care not to attract attention or bum into anyone, Andre made his wave through the impressive building, towards the public computers. He looked for a desk that had a reinforced seat. He might not look it, but because of all his hardware and mods, he weighed almost 200 kg. While most new augs used superlight highstrenght materials, older models were still made out of steel or some other solid alloy.
He found what he was looking for. A chair rated to support over 300 kg. Not only were older augs heavy, obesity was also still a problem.
“Easier to solve global hunger, war, energy problems than getting people to eat less...”

The computer was already on and a browser popped up. The display was a curved holographic projection. A backplate made sure nobody could watch what you were doing, even if it was still fairly easy to obtain that information, anyway.

A quick download and install of some software that would grant access to the Deep Web, Andre hurried to try and find the information he needed. Problem was, he wasn't sure it even existed. He found a lot of other things. Most of which was disturbing to say the least.
Videos of animal torture, child pornography, people asking and offering to kill people....the world might look like a wonderland, but people were still as sick and twisted as they ever were.

It was almost half an hour into his search and he had come up empty handed. He was getting nervous. The VI must have picked up the unusual traffic from the library by now. He didn't have much time. There had to be something he could use. Some kind of old manual, someone who had done what he had done and written about it, anything!
If he couldn't find anything in the next 15 minutes, he'd leave. “Dont get caught by being a dumbass!”
And then, suddenly, he found what he was looking for. Maybe. It looked like some kind of diary of a guy who, some 20 years ago, had done what he had done.
This was too good to be true. He downloaded the document on a clean drive. He had to make sure it didn't contain some kind of tracking program, piggybacking on the document.

Andre grabbed his things, closed the browser, removed the software he'd installed and shutdown the computer. In his hurry to do so, he cracked the mouse he was using. The computers here had gesture interface, but he preferred the physical interaction.
“Shit! Not good!” He looked up. People had heard the cracking of the mouse. He was drawing attention to himself, precisely what he didn't want to have happen.

“Is everything alright, sir?” A tall, slender man stood next to the desk he was using. Andre started to feel himself sweat, heart pumping faster. “Shit shit shit shit...”
“Yea-..yes, everything is fine, tha..”
“It seems as though you've managed to damage this poor old mouse, sir.”
Looking very guilty, Andre was speechless in his panic. “Shit, what do I do?”
“Haha, not to worry, sir. These mice are old. This one must be over 15 years old. We have a policy here not to replace items until they are broken. See? The plastic had gone brittle.”
“These things were never meant to be used this long or by augmented individuals like yourself. The metal of you hand is simply too hard for this poor old thing. Not to worry, sir. These things happen.”
Andre looked stunned.
“No need to worry about damages either, sir. As I've said, these things happen. Were it a malicious act, it would another matter entirely.”

“I-...I'm glad to hear that.”
The tall man gave him a fatherly smile.
“No need to look so guilty, sir. By the look on your face, I'd say you had no choice in the matter of receiving your augmentations. I understand the position that puts you in.”
The tall man tapped his left leg.
“Unfortunate accident. I rather wish I still had my own leg. I do suppose it works rather better than a wooden pegleg, wouldn't you agree?”
The slight smile came back. Andre couldn't help but like the man and smile back.
“Yea-..yes.Thank you.”
“Quite alright, sir.”
With a slight nod, the tall man walked away, silently. Andre noticed several other people roaming the halls, helping patrons finding what they were looking for.
“Fucking hell...that was too goddamn close. I can't believe my luck. Luck? No such thing. I gotta leave! Now!”The slender man went over to a console, logged the loss of the mouse and thought to himself how sad that poor man was he had just met.

Andre moved quickly, but not too quickly. He could very easily outrun a horse, or so he thought, but with no control worth mentioning....
He was wary of everyone. It had taken him nearly an hour to find the data he had hoped existed. An hour was a long time for a VI.
Moving through the crowds, he was thankful for the ocular augs he'd gotten unwillingly from Screw. Camera's, sensors, police, drones, whatever he wanted to be highlighted, he got.
A subtle yellow outline surrounded them all. He even saw a probable field of view. Not being seen had never been this easy, although that in itself might attract attention. If he was too overt in his camera-dodging, the VI's pattern recognition would pick him up as an anomaly. Or so he would imagine. He had no way of knowing for certain, but he wasn't going to risk getting caught because he was trying to be clever.
Shielding his face as best he could from the hundreds of sensors became exhausting and almost impossible. The busy commercial center where the library was located had a park nearby.
“Might be less of...well..everything in there.”The park was looked like it was designed while under the influence of some potent drugs. Colors were everywhere. Trees had glowing mock vines, holographic projectors created images of all kinds of animals, real and otherwise.
It was dark out, and the park was a rainbow.

Andre gasped. He had never seen colors like this before. He could see more of them, more detail, contrast, shades. A tear crept into his eyes.
He stumbled deeper into the park, through shrubs and trees, until he fell to his knees. His eyes swam in an ocean of pain and grief. Everything that had happened since the accident burst out like a volcano.

He tried to smother his crying, hurting his throat.
He felt powerless, forced into a life he never wanted. Forced to do things to himself and to others he hated.
The ground shook as his metal fists came thundering down. Again and again. Two small craters, vapor rising from them, were in front of him as he opened his eyes.

He trembled, looking at his clenched fists. Slowing opening them, he turned them over.
“Nothing...not even a scratch in the fucking paint.”
Andre brushed the dirt from his hands as best he could. Some had gotten into the exterior joints and various creases that ran across the surface.

There was a large pond in the middle of the park. Making his way over to it, taking care to avoid any people and surveillance, he bent down. Washing his hands, he almost flinched, expecting them to hurt after beating up the planet.
Tears were washed away, the sleeves of his coat doing their best to dry his face.

He got up and slowly walked through the park, mind blank.

The ride home was uneventful. Once home, he nearly crushed the doorhandle to his apartment. Dented, but still better of than the poor mouse, he walked inside.
The door fell shut behind him.

“I need a drink. A lot of drinks.”He had some beer and some a bottle with whatever. He didn't care, as long as it was alcoholic.
“Well, at least I don't need a bottle opener anymore.”A smile briefly crossed his face.
Popping off the cap on a cold beer, he sat down on his couch. It sounded like it wanted to die, the weight it now carried never being what it was meant to endure.
A small sip, followed by long thirsty gulps. The beer was gone fat too quickly.
The bottle of Whatever was next. It was vile. Whiskey. He hated whiskey. He'd gotten the bottle after for a birthday years ago. It had been gathering dust on a kitchen cabinet.
“Fuck it, cheers! To a goddamned blackout!”

The first swig burned.
Andre nearly threw up, the smell an taste not agreeing with him in the slightest.
As he went on, ignoring the protests his stomach was shouting, the taste became less and less noticeable.

“I fucking hate this...”Something was hurting. His head. His head hurt.
There was a cause, something outside. He couldn't figure it out. It went away. Sleep.

Screeching, pounding, throbbing. He was getting annoyed and angry. Ringing, something loud.
Slowly, Andre woke up, despite his best efforts not to. Somewhere he knw what he would remember if he did wake up.

Someone was ringing his doorbell and knocking on the door. It sounded amplified.
“Ugh..go away...”
A muffled voice said something. He couldn't make it out.
“Oh for fuck's sake!”Stumbling to his feet, knocking over empty bottles and dropping his sheet on the floor in the process, Andre woke up.
What had happened yesterday and all the days since this nightmare began came crashing down. His head felt like it would explode, painting his walls red.
“Who is it?” he said with a painful throat. He could barely hear it himself.

The doorbell was ringing again, followed by three short knocks. The muffled voice said something again.
“Alright, hang on!”
Andre was angry, sore. His head throbbed, his throat was dry. “I hate today...”
As he shuffled to the door, he counted the bottles of beer he'd had. 9 in total. He noticed the almost empty bottle of whiskey, spilling its remaining guts on his floor. He also saw a bottle of vodka, neck sheared clean off, about half empty. It was standing on the floor, near his bed.
“When did I get that...?”

Looking through the peephole, he saw his neighbor, Mrs Flannigan. She was a superstitious old woman, bitter and a pain.

He put his head against the door, feeling even more tired. She must have heard the thump. “Mr Cormac? I heard you! I know you're there! Open this door, this instant”
“Fuck you, you old bitch!”
He grimaced. The last thing he wanted was listening to the bullshit this fossil had to say.
More banging. It reverberated through his head. He grimaced more.
“Mr Cormac? Open the door!”
With a quick pull, the door swung open, towards Andre. He looked pleased as she stood there, with one hand ready to knock again.
“Must not have expected me to actually open.”He looked the old woman in the eye. Eyes that were full of loathing. She was a devout Christian and according to her and whatever church she belonged to, augs were an affront to God.
“What do you want? It isn't Sunday. Bit early for you weekly death damnation speech, isn't it?”
He coughed. His head did not approve.

“Mister Cormac. You know quite well that there is to be no noise after 23.00 hours.”
She looked fearful, bur resolute. “The fuck did I do last night?”“You slammed your door and 1 hour later, I heard shouting and loud noises! /that might be an acceptable hour for a heathen like you, but there are good Christian families living here and they go to bed at decent hours, mister Cormac!”
She seemed to puff up but not seeing a reaction in Andre made he shrink back down almost as fast.
“Wow...I'm just a heathen today?”
“A heathen does not even..”
“Lady...shut up. I've got a hangover that's an even bigger bitch than you, I've had a fucked up week and the last thing I want is your bullshit whining! There is no fucking way you could have heard anything from my apartment, as you fucking goddamn well know! All these rooms are soundproofed! Hell, after you started your bitching, I even doubled up on the soundproofing because spending a couple hundred creds is worth it if it means I don't have to see you goddamn face anymore that I have to!”

Mrs Flanningan looked stunned. He smiled.”never had anyone talk back to you in a while, have ya?”“So now, if you don't fucking mind, leave me the fuck alone!”

Andre slammed the door with more force than he had intended. The wind blew Mrs Flanningan's wig off. Sadly, Andre didn't see. She stood there, for a moment, then wobbled back to her own apartment. Wide-eyed and shocked that this sinful aug would dare speak to her that way.

He leaned against his door. He'd heard it crack. It was busted, he knew that. His eyes were fixed on a spot in the floor. He closed his eyes, put his head against the door. Gravity felt like it went nuts.
Opening his eyes, he saw the rest of his room.
His workbench was trashed, his couch was flipped up-side-down and slumped against a wall, its spine broken. Holes in plaster walls, dents in the concrete.
“Fuuuck me...”

The bag he'd packed had everything he could need. Clothes, computer, food. “I need a tent...”He moved quickly to make sure he didn't run in to anyone. He hardly felt like having to explain what had happened last night. Mrs Flannigan couldn't have been the only one to hear what had happened.
“Heh, I do feel kind of like an asshole”A satisfied smile crossed his face as he stepped into the train. He went to a shopping center and bought a tent, sleepingbag, everything he needed to camp out for a week.

Leaving the city wasn't as easy. It was almost like leaving a country. While outside the city, people couldn't be tracked a easily. A log was kept of who left when and came back with what.
Andre showed the guard his ID-card. “Oh shit, what if the implants changed my retina?”He got nervous as he moved his head to the scanner.
It beeped, the security gate opened and the guard handed him his ID-card.
Relieved, he walked through and to the public transportation hub. He took a bus to the middle-of-nowhere.

A speck on a map was his destination. As soon as he got there, Andre casually walked on, towards the woods. When he was out of sight of the town and its few cameras, he started to run.
“Let's see how fast I can go!”
It took him less than half an hour to run the 30-ish kilometers to the most isolated part of the forest.
“Holy shit, YEAH!”
He'd said that almost every other minutes since he took off.

It took Andre around 2 weeks to get used to his increased strength and speed. He also noticed the AR interface becoming more intuitive and responsive. Switching between modes took half a thought, knowing what the different readouts meant proved to be less of an issue with just about every hour that went by.

“I hate to admit it,” he said to a tree he'd used as a punching-bag “but I'm starting to like you guys.”
Looking at the augs, the worst damage they'd suffered was some chipped paint. “Goddamn..even an armored truck isn't gonna hurt these things. What the fuck are they made of?”

“No fucking way this is some kind of titanium alloy. Screw...what the fuck did you get me?”

Heading back into town, he stepped into a bar, looking like a drifter. He didn't even want to know what he smelled like.
“Hi there. You got a shower I can use?”

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