Strings of Retaliation – 21b – iDo It Again

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I didn’t know Saskia enough to tell if she was lying or genuinely took everything I told her in strides. Lorelei had buckled so hard against the truth, it was uncanny that someone built on a similar mold didn’t. Between her flirtatious remarks, she asked a few questions to clarify the tech-speak, but that was it. I had pulled a chair and crossed my hands on my lap in an attempt to hide my unease. Nothing about this tracked with what Gabriel told me of the quibble between Saskia and Lorelei at the prison; Saskia should be a bitch.
“How about you get me out of these restraints?” she asked. “I’ve been tied up a lot lately.” Her frown turned into a shy smile, a picture of meek that rang a whole bunch of alarms in my head.
“Wolf in sheep’s clothing,” I retorted.
She shrugged off her pretend fragility. “Can’t blame a girl.”
I half-smiled, unsure what to do next. There was no use diving into the details of her upcoming surgery if she was just biding for time.
“You’re the one who told Nightshade,” she said. Her confident affirmation, close to Djeb’s assurance, made me wonder if my thoughts were too transparent for my own good. “She had a hissy fit, therefore I should too,” she continued. Lorelei had read me like this before, but I thought it came from getting me through my addiction and harboring me in her basement for months.
Apparently not.
Saskia’s crooked smile told me she had picked up on my surprise and general mood. Damn, MerriTech had wired her good. The files I had mostly detailed the hardware, but if they could tune fighters to micro-expressions, the software had to be awesomesauce.
Shocking me further, Saskia shifted her gaze away from my face and toward the ceiling. “I guess I would have if it wasn’t for two things.” She let an uneasy silence fill the room, controlling the conversation even as she waited for me to bite. I would never have noticed the manipulation if I hadn’t known Lorelei for over a year.
“Let’s not do this,” I countered.
Saskia chuckled. “Not a doormat,” she said without looking at me. “First, I downed a very enhanced champion in a cage fight.” My breath caught and my stomach clenched. Even at her tech-induced height, Lorelei might not have been able to pull that off. No normal human, even trained, could have pulled that off. The padlocked restraints might not hold Saskia if she set her mind to escape. “Second, I snapped in an out of consciousness before you hacked me back to reality. You had to ask Lorelei out ‘cause she panicked when I started jiving.”
If my stomach hadn’t been weighted down by fear after her first statement, I would have puked at the horror of the second. Several weeks of unstable neurological connection, the needle stuck in her eye being the only barrier keeping her body from a complete shutdown. For a second, the pain of having no control over my body while the tech by-products exited my system jerked my muscles and memory. How was she still sane?
“Your story actually explains a lot.” Her scoffing wrenched my empathy-powered speechlessness. “So… what’s the plan to get back at these bastards?”
I shook my thought back to their normal processing speed. “Lorelei will tell you about that. My job is to see you through the tech-withdrawal.”
“Good one! You’re not taking my tech.”
“What part of ‘can’t trust your mind’ didn’t compute?”Sure, I felt for her, but the self-assurance-bordering-on-arrogance was really annoying.
“What part of ‘remote controlled behaviors’ did you forget?” She barked back, effectively stunning me into silence. She couldn’t possibly mean — “You’ve studied the central controls’ program, no? Bake it into a chip that allows me to consciously control my tech and we’re peachy.”
She meant it.
“You want more tech so you can keep the one that was forced onto you before birth, made you into a killer and almost killed you?” Lorelei had been sickened by the very thought she had nanobots in her, retching and almost passing out as our conversation went on. Her body even shut down at one point as the nanobots’ way of saying: “stop threatening us!” Saskia had taken it in stride and was asking for more? Maybe that whole ‘same mold’ assumption was a load of poo poo logic.
“It doesn’t tickle my nether region, but yes.”
It made sense for her to keep herself strong to defeat the enemy. Lorelei would have made that choice if she could have. Instead, I de-teched her, re-teched her, and then kept her from jumping off a cliff. Were the later SSW generations more balanced?
Eyes fixed on my face, Saskia took in my hesitation and smiled. She tugged on her restraints. And then again, the sound of metal-on-metal making a haunting beat as she steadily repeated the movement.
“In the right corner,” she said, pitching her voice low, “the juggernaut from hell, the technocratic demon, the perverter of the innocents, ladies and gentleman give it up for your champion: Merrilyn Technologies!”
“Stop —”
“— In the left corner,” she screamed to cover my protest, “the hunk with a brain, the righteous hacker, the savior of the wronged, ladies and gentleman, your contender: Vexx!”
I tapped my foot, which drew a wide smile on her face.
“Will he throw the towel or use the champion’s strength to drop him to the mat?” Saskia kept tugging as our eyes met in what I knew to be a battle of will.
I could do it, I thought.
I didn’t have the equipment to produce nanobots, but I could probably recreate a version of MerriTech’s central processor as a chip. I had all the code from Saskia’s initial remote control. I would have to separate the tasks that should run on their own from the hormone secretion she could trigger on demand. Even with half the job done for me, devising this thought-to-metabolism interface was far more challenging than nerve impulse-to-tech or even thought-to-tech.
Saskia laughed and I realized my gaze had drifted up and to the right.
“Already working out the kinks?” She teased.
I disliked not knowing if I was being played or if she really was on board with all this. None of my thousand scenarios for this conversation came close to her reaction. “I hate you,” I mumbled.
“But I’m such a great project!”

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

6 responses to “Strings of Retaliation – 21b – iDo It Again

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