His eyes glazed over and Tachi slapped a strip of gaffa tap over his mouth while I bound his ankles. That’d keep him quiet and out of our hair ’til the next patrol showed up. Unless Night Watch’s management were complete arse-holes he should keep his job.
[All clear.] PR announced when we’d finished trussing him up. [He tried to sound the alarm but I dismissed it at this end. Don’t look like anybody noticed.]
[Good work.] I said, watching as the colour returned to his face and he woke up. He took one look at us and unleashed a string of outraged murmurs while he tried to wriggle free.
Tachi put his pistol up to the guard’s face. “Still.” He commanded. “We’re going to get what we came for and be gone before the next patrol gets here. You sit tight and be quiet and you get to live.”
For good measure we cable tied his hands to the base of his chair and his feet to the leg of his desk, just to keep him from getting up.
[Guard has been neutralised.]
Moe-Moe replied. [Taking over radio transmissions].
An additional security protocol was that the security guard answered a radio check every half an hour. Secreted within the system, Atom had been recording the guard’s transmissions and would replay them as needed.
I looked around for the silhouette of the night shift nurse. She was still sitting at her station, from her posture it looked like she was using her own Neupro. If anything had in any way jostled her, it didn’t show.
[All right Atom.] Tachi said. [Please direct us to Noodles’ suite.]
Another painted line materialised on the floor and like dutiful little drones we followed it.
Noodles’ suite was on the third floor of the cybersurgery labs. A wide strip of tempered glass cut a line through the middle of the far wall, letting in the moonlight. Through the shades of green and black I made out a large LED monitor above a computer console. Crowned on top with a biopod, webcam and microphone.
Tachi turned to cover the front door while I woke up the computer. The screen above it glowed into life, I turned off my night vision so I could make out the colours. Noodles’ Shinjuku street urchin avatar appeared on screen, he looked up from his feet with a mischievous grin. “Have I been a bad boy again mistress?” Noodles and I froze and stared at each other at the exact same moment. Noodles’ face was a frame of horror, mine of incredulity.
Tachi turned away from the door and smirked. “I don’t know lad. Have you?”
“Tachi?” Noodles asked, the faintest slither of hope creeping into his terrified voice.
“Explain yourself.” I growled.
Noodles looked back to me. “Dust? What are you guys doing here?”
“Having second thoughts about rescuing you.” I said. “Now explain yourself.”
“You don’t understand Dust, you don’t know what they’ve been doing.”
“Which would be why I asked. Now stop pussyfooting around and answer the fucking question.”
“Alright, alright.” Noodles said, his hands up as if I were about to punch the screen.
I was thinking about it.
“Tachi’s old crew, Righteous Chrome Fist caught up with me in Syria…”
“Thank you Noodles, but I saw the last episode, fast forward to the bit where you answer the phone with ‘Yes Mistress?”
“It’s Kiru no Yubi, she’s been in control of my treatment since they caught me. I told you already about the wire in my brain didn’t I? Weren’t you with Kitty?”
“Well, she’s… At first she was just interrogating me. She wanted details on the two of you, info her hacker could use to track you down. I could gauge how well you were doing by how much frustration she took out on me when she came back for another session. I’m sorry to say it Dust, but I’ve never wanted you to fail so much in my life.”
“Yeah, it’s been a picnic for me too.” I pulled back the sleeve on my fatigues to show him the external splint. Underneath the sleeve it had looked like I was packing one of those parkour cops’ taser gauntlets. “She snapped my arm IN HALF.”
“You think that’s bad?” Noodles shot back at me. “That’s nothing compared to what she’s put me through. Did you know you CAN feel pain in the matrix? If you install the right kind of software you can feel damn near anything.”
Noodles was on the verge of tears, he clenched his hands by his side and sniffed.
“You know that intense cold burn you get when you bump your elbow real hard. She made me feel that all over my body. She would put me in that state for what felt like hours. And when she wasn’t doing that they’d take everything away from me completely. They stripped out my OS, leaving me in a flat, featureless plain with only the clock and scientific calculator. I’d stay alone in there for days if they didn’t need me. When they gave me the chance to fight Kitty, I took it. Anything was better than crippling agony or endless void. Then, the night I told Kiru you were heading to Seattle.” Noodles took a sharp breath. “She… she came onto me. Our roles didn’t change much, just our interaction.”
[Hot.] Kitty said.
“The two of you have similar tastes, actually Kitty. Your avatar’s Catwoman, hers is a human-panther.”
[She’s a furry?] Moe-Moe exclaimed. [Ewww.]
[Different strokes dear.] Kitty said.
[Ladies. We’re at work now.] I said. Then I stabbed a finger at Noodles’ avatar. [And you! Playtime with the enemy is over, we’re getting you out.]
“No! Dust. Wait!”
Tachi pricked his ears up. “Now this had better be good.”
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