Chapter 5: Do the voices in my head disturb you?
I didn’t really wake up, but I did regain consciousness. I only make the distinction because you can’t really call it waking up when all you do is swap thoughtless oblivion for drifting in an endless void.
Optimist that I am I choose not to interpret this to mean I had bled to death on the street.
The empty silence that followed suggested otherwise.
Suddenly the darkness engulfing me vanished in an assault of light, sound and imagery. It took me a moment to realise this was actually normal stimulus as my brain interpreted the stimulus to tell me I was in a doctor’s clinic. I was just waking up.
For some reason I was sitting high up on the wall watching the doctor bend over the patient he was operating on.
It took me another moment to realise that the lack of image resolution meant that I had been patched into the video feed for the operating theatre’s cameras.
The doctor’s assistant looked up as if she had noticed something. Her expression melted away into the thousand yard stare of someone running complex operations through their Neupro, then she brightened again as she returned her attention to the real world.
A second later Tachi’s voice appeared in my head.
[Good Afternoon Dust. The nurse said you were able-minded again. How are you feeling?]
I was about to respond with some glib remark from the archives when another voice entered my mind.
[I’m so glad you’re safe Dust. The doctor said he wasn’t sure you’d live].
It was Atom’s voice.
[Tachi, how is Atom hooked up to my mind?]
[It isn’t. I hooked it up to mine. We’ve been waiting for you to wake up before adding you to the conversation.]
I could have throttled Tachi. [Please tell me you’ve disabled your wireless network?]
[Of course I have. After I found Noodles’ remains I’ve only ever turned it on to call you.]
[Oh thank God.] I would have breathed a loud sigh of relief if I could have. For someone whose body is mechanical and itself contains several small computers Tachi knows nothing about them. It was bad enough that he had hooked himself up to Atom directly, if Atom had the slightest idea how to program a computer virus it was a safe bet we were now both infected. I reached into my apps menu and ran my anti-virus software.
[What do you mean?] Atom asked. [What about noodle remains?]
[That reminds me.] Tachi said. [How much have you told him about us?]
[Because I’ve never heard that story about the heavy-loader.]
[Okay more than a little.]
Atom excitedly piped up. [Dust told me heaps about the Austral-Indo war, about living on his uncle’s farm in Cairns, even operating as an independent.]
[Alright, first of all.] Began my vain attempt to dig out of this. [Cairns is a proper city, my uncle’s ‘farm’ is just a big property he had on the outskirts. ‘The farm’ was our pet-name for it.]
Thankfully Tachi interjected before I could make any more of an arse of myself. [If I may be so bold as to bring us back to the reason why we’re here: Our enemies have captured Noodles and almost destroyed you. We need a new plan of attack.]
[How bad am I?]
[You’ll be out of action for a while. Right now the good doctor is reinforcing your skull, after that he will begin to replace the skin on your back with sheet from the gene bank. The sheet is a close match but the pigmentation is off. You’ve looked better my friend.]
The sound of a small power saw caught my attention. I looked back towards the Doc just in time to see some pieces of bloodied bone hit the table.
I tracked the camera away to something else. Thankfully the doctor’s assistant was still in the room.
She was dressed properly for surgery so there wasn’t anything to really ogle at, but being a man I could make do.
[So how did they pick up Noodles?]
[I do not know exactly but I have some educated guesses. Noodles went to hide out in Syria, living on a diet of Halal cooking and their underground net access. Sound enough theory, hide from a major multinational corporation by embedding himself in fundamentalist territory. Trouble is the hacker community in Syria is small and inherently suspicious. Noodles most likely fell afoul of the town Judas.]
[That doesn’t surprise me. Damn it! I liked Noodles.]
[Well he’s in their custody now and given the state he’s in, I’d say completely at their mercy as well. Noodles will give them everything he has on us.]
[By ‘them’ you mean your old bosses, don’t you?]
I’d been waiting to drop that bomb since this conversation began. Tachi didn’t reply for the longest of times.
[What do you mean?] Atom asked. [Tachi used to work for Roxorgh?]
[Not Roxorgh, I used to be part of the family Roxorgh has contracted to recover you.]
[They hired a family? You mean like a criminal organisation?]
[They’re not just a family in the figurative sense.] I interrupted. [Righteous Chrome Fist are unique in Bõryokudan circles because many of their key members are also blood relatives.]
[Righteous Chrome Fist?] Atom asked.
[They’re a Yakuza gang.] I explained.
[Not really.] Tachi replied. [Yakuza gangs operate openly and see themselves as part of the community. They avoid engaging in covert activity to maintain this belief. Righteous Chrome Fist on the other hand operates exclusively from the shadows. They don’t work territory, peddle goods or run rackets, instead they offer a range of covert surveillance, extraction and assassination services.]
[And in their spare time they obsessively leaf-through cybernetics catalogues going ‘Oooh’ and ‘Aaaah’ and ‘Hey I don’t have that.’]
[Crude. But not actually that far from the truth.] Tachi said. [They’re transhumanists. Even compared to the average upper-middle class Japanese their augmentations are extensive. They attribute their rise to prominence in the space of a generation as evidence of the superiority of metal over meat.]
[The goon whose head I mooshed under a car says otherwise.]
[But at what cost Dust? If you’d been augmented…]
[I’d still have won, we’d just be talking about replacing a fifty thousand nuyen prosthetic body not a ten grand facial reconstruction.]
[Really? You think you would be happy with a cheap cyberbody? Let me assure you, you know not whereof you speak.]
[So if Righteous Chrome Fist are after you and Tachi is a former member of this ‘family’ is their mission a personal vendetta?]
That never failed to weird me out about Atom. He had the vocabulary of an English teacher but the voice of a kindergartner.
[Unlikely] Tachi replied. [If it were personal the agent sent against us would have been from further up the food chain. No, I would say RCF were contracted for this job for the same reason Dust and myself were for ours. We are the best at what we do.]