Matthias opened his eyes. Stacey was pacing the kitchen nearby, speaking to someone on the phone. ‘..well he’s out cold. Do you want to pick him up now? … My apartment. 2320.’
She caught sight of Matthias staring at her and faltered. ‘He’s just woken up. Okay. Thanks.’
Her face drew into a picture of concern as she approached him on the couch.
‘Are you okay?’
‘Why did you do that?’ his voice was steady and neutral, his eyes studying her body’s reactions. Her pulse rose.
‘I know, it was probably a bit too soon, but.. jesus, are you alright? I was just trying to call somebody, you just passed out. I’ll get you a glass of water..’
She turned back for the kitchen.
‘Stacey. Take a seat.’
She paused, looking at him, appearing bewildered and moved to take a seat beside him. Her body was directed towards his, their knees almost touching.
‘There’s a large electromagnetic pulse generator sitting beneath me.’
‘You have the trigger in your left-hand pocket.’
‘I have my code generator..’ She pulled out a small device, a single button placed beside a tiny display. ‘Two-factor security for my accounts.’
He blinked, unsmiling. ‘Do you really want me to get up and pull it out?’
She didn’t answer.
‘I can sense it. What were you trying to do?’
‘I don’t know what you’re accusing me of, but.. just, what the hell?’
Matthias took to his feet, bent down, reached beneath the couch and slid the device out onto the carpet. It was a square steel box with vents in each side, a handle-lock was built into a hatch in the cover.
‘This,’ he said.
Stacey was silent. Her eyes were on the box. ‘I don’t know what that is.’
Her manner changed, calm eyes studying him. She crossed her legs and clasped her hands in her lap.
‘If I tell you, will you promise to hear me out?’
‘I work for a security team for a large organisation.’
‘They.. heard about your arm,’ she looked away as she said it. ‘They want to help.’
‘What do you mean “help”?’
‘You can’t trust Natural Robotics! As soon as they figure out what you are.’
‘And what am I?’
‘A.. you tell me!’ she exclaimed. ‘You’re “heavily modified.” They’ve never seen anything like it. They’re willing to pay a lot to take a look at your augmentations.’
Matthias began walking to the teleporter.
‘I’m only trying to help,’ Stacey called.
Matthias punched his home number into the dial on her teleporter. ‘By neutralising me?’ he muttered.
She hurried to catch him as he stepped inside. ‘This was just a test. I was ordered.. to see how you’d react. They’ll pay you. You need their protection.’
‘I don’t need protection.’
The teleporter activated, surrounding him in a haze of light. A few moments and he was gone.
‘Shit!’ Stacey turned, pacing the room. Thumbing her earlobe, she stopped in the centre of the room. ‘Jameson.’
She waited while the line was opened. ‘Hey. I lost him. I can keep trying but, I’m not sure he’s going to trust me.’
She listened as a voice spoke on the other line. ‘Yeah,’ she sighed. ‘Alright.’
Matthias stepped out into his apartment.
A few steps into the apartment and the lights weren’t functioning. He couldn’t sense any electricity. He raised the receptivity of his artificial photoreceptors, enabling a would-be nightvision. Stepping into the lounge, he looked towards the couch.
A pair of hands grabbed him from behind, locking his arms behind his back.
‘Who is that? Let me go!’
He attempted to pull forwards but was caught at his feet, and fell to his knees. A tumultous drone overtook his senses, a whirring which came close to the right side of his head, gravitating to just above his right ear. Pressed against his skull, his senses were disabled. He fell to the ground, conscious but blind to reality.
A voice spoke in the darkness: ‘I have the package.’