Faint bubbling from the tubes in Carly’s nose was the only sound in the care home room. Helen stroked her sisters’ hair and gazed out the window at the city street. Magnetic Levitation, or MagLev, orbs zipped along the Admanium metal road, their drivers scrolling dataslates or talking into the screens built into their arms. Brilliant white buildings stood tall on the other side of it, advertisements projected onto their smooth surfaces in garish colours. One for a new protein square flashed up and Helen looked away, swallowed her anger at the fact thousands would be compelled to rush out and buy it right now. Her grey eyes flicked to the scar between Carly’s ribs, visible where her gown had fallen open on a breeze from the ajar window. Sweet scents drifted in with it, pumped from fans on the street, several levels below.
“I thought there would be a sense of relief,” Helen said, “having finally told someone. I was expecting a weight to be lifted. Amazing how naïve I can still be after all this time.”
Carly sat silently staring. Did she even understand what was being said at this point? A line of drool dripped from her slack jaw onto the floor. Helen dabbed it away with a cloth and took her sister’s crooked hands in her own.
“I know the professional in you probably disagrees with it. You’re still a woman of law. They might have taken your title, but they can’t change who you are inside. I’m running out of time though, my influence growing less every day, and sometimes sacrifice is necessary. Still, I’m not sure I agree with it myself.”
The dataslate on the table next to them lit up. Helen snatched it up, but not before the angular face of Olivia Clarke was projected into the room. Carly’s vacant eyes went wide, sudden focus in them, and she began grunting rapidly, her body convulsing in the small shudders which were all she could manage since the overdose. The projection of Olivia sneered, the lines of her face conveying disgust and mockery at once.
“Bad timing, Helen?” she asked.
Helen jumped up, the dataslate shaking in her hands, and turned her back on Carly to form a barrier between her and the woman responsible for her condition.
“How dare you call me here,” Helen hissed, “after everything you did to Carly.”
Olivia flashed white teeth, filed to points in line with current trends amongst the upper class.
“Me? I didn’t force her to sleep with a member of the jury. Or do you suggest I injected her with Heroin myself?”
“We both know my sister didn’t have control of those actions. She was manipulated, all to protect you. Everything that happened is on all of your heads!”
“Hmm. Interesting theory, but if that was the case then wouldn’t you be responsible? It is, after all, your technology. Biotech is, sorry, was, your company, your baby.” She winced dramatically and laughed. “My apologies, terrible choice of word there, I know how sensitive you are about it still.”
Behind Helen, Carly was still rocking and grunting, though she was less frantic now Olivia wasn’t visible to her. Helen gritted her teeth, felt a cold calm settle over her mind, at odds with the burning fury in her heart.
“What do you want, Olivia?”
Olivia tucked her fringe behind an ear, revealing the augmented eye which had been Biotech’s flagship technology before the advent of Admanium organs.
“Unfortunately we require your presence, immediately. We await you in the board room.”
Helen tapped the dataslate and the projection of Olivia disappeared. She went to Carly and knelt before her, took her in an embrace and held on, rocking gently, until her sisters convulsions ceased and her body became still. She drew back and gazed into those once more vacant eyes.
“My dear sister, I lied. I do agree with it.”
The great oak doors stood implacable and unmovable, a relic to times long past. Lines covered their surface in wandering patterns; a surface, seemingly simple, which disguised a much more intricate system at work. Gavin drew himself out of the hypnotic lines and wiped perspiration from his brow. The dataslate in his hands trembled. This moment had been a long time coming. The Perspex screen built into his forearm lit up and Chelsea’s face projected in front of him.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” he asked.
She smiled. “Nothing at all. I just wanted to wish you luck before you go in. Passing a law of this magnitude…these moments only come once a lifetime.”
The doors before him hissed as their locking seals released from within. He exhaled sharply.
“Relax,” Chelsea said, “We don’t want that new heart of yours giving out. Oh, by the way I found your black tie down the side of the bed; I assume you went with something less funereal?”
“I don’t have a black…” Gavin swallowed, “I mean, yeah, I went with the blue one. Sorry, honey, I’ve got to go in.”
He tapped the screen and his wife’s face shrank back into it.
He walked into the cavernous house of law, surrounded by rafters rising into the ceiling, so high their occupiers were invisible at the uppermost levels. The podium stood empty, waiting for him. Chattering noise died down as he climbed the steps to it. Gavin forced himself to relax. This was his moment. Chelsea was right; everything was going to be fine.
“Giants of technology,” he announced to the room, “have improved our life beyond measure; Filterpur gave us clean water, BurningEye secured us with surveillance and response, Biotech,” he rapped knuckles on his chest and earned a few chuckles, “increased our lifespan with Admanium organs, while their sister company Armtech manufactured a new police force.”
He paused to look around at the faces transfixed on him.
“But, we have sacrificed integral things in exchange. Regulation. Accountability. Transparency.”
Gavin heard assent and dissent in equal measure. The lights were incredibly bright above him. Had they been so bright when he walked in?
“Now is the time,” he continued, “to implement laws that will…” he coughed into his hand, “that will shine a light on these companies, reveal any malpractice and allow us to course correct, to… to…”
A burning sensation within Gavin forced him to pause. He raised a hand to his chest where it emanated from. It felt like a fire bubbling up, threatening to burst forth, and he looked down just in time to see it do exactly that. His chest cavity exploded outwards, the hand atop it ripped clean off and into the air. A fountain of blood followed it, like soda shaken up and released. Ribs, snapped like twigs, jutted at hideous angles around the hole where his heart had been seconds before, the ragged tatters of lungs hung wetly in the space. Gavin’s body crumpled to the floor, his eyes rolling lifelessly. His severed hand slapped onto the floor of the house of law, and his blood painted it red.
The police building should have been a hive of activity. Death of a prominent politician in such a dramatic fashion, it had ‘ensuing chaos’ written all over it. But when John entered the whitewashed office nobody seemed to be aware Gavin Russel’s heart had exploded out his chest mere hours before. Fellow detectives sat at workstations, quietly tapping away on their holo-screens. His boss, Daria Parks, patrolled the room with a neutral expression – where were the flushed cheeks, as red as her hair, and popping temple vein indicative of a high pressure case? He shook off his jacket and draped it over a humanoid police drone standing to attention.
“What in the name of fuck is all this?” He asked the room, spreading his palms. “Where’s the panic and confusion we all love so much?”
Daria swept up in front of him. She hissed and jerked her head towards the glass walled office at the back of the room. Two women and a man, clad in skin tight pastel suits were hunched over a desk, inspecting a projected data feed. The man John recognised instantly, Harold Overturn, the chief of police. The woman on his left looked familiar, though he couldn’t place her. The one on the right he was certain he had never seen, he would have remembered that angular face and those teeth, flashing points as she shot a smirk at Harold.
“Daria, what’s going on here?”
“Did you not bother your arse to read the case notes when you minced in here?” she asked.
“As a matter of fact, I did not.”
Daria dragged a hand across her face and steered John by his arm to the side of the room.
“The chief brought in two of his fellow Biotech board members this morning. Apparently a routine check on the drones,” she gestured to the police robot still acting as Johns coat rack, “Though it doesn’t feel particularly routine. He also brought a completely perfect end to the Gavin Russel investigation, basically before it had even begun.”
“Maybe. I don’t know. It adds up, and the evidence is there. According to them Russel was a victim of his own ignorance. He disregarded the system he worked to promote and had a black market heart transplant, and paid the price.”
“He wouldn’t,” John said.
Daria narrowed her eyes. “How would you know what he would or wouldn’t do?”
John shook his head. “That doesn’t matter. Daria, this is bad. I shared a ward with Gavin when he was recovering from his heart transplant, in the general hospital. Whatever heart he got came from within the hospital, not some back alley organ grinder.”
“Shit indeed. The chief is lying.”
Daria sank into a chair and rubbed at her temple. “They were able to analyse fragments of the heart. It has no serial number. It’s not one of Biotech’s.”
John crouched down so he was at eye level. “Then how did it get in the hospital inventory? They been buying shady organs to keep costs down? Hell, if that’s the case my liver could explode next. And how did the chief get all this before us?”
John turned and eyed the trio of board members. They were leaving the office now, eyes scanning the room. Overturn lent in and whispered in the familiar looking woman’s ear and she raised a hand to cover a laugh, touching his elbow with her other hand.
“It stinks to high heaven,” John said and rose.
“I agree,” Daria said, “By god I don’t want to, but I do.” She also rose and brushed down her standard issue black suit. “Go do some digging at the hospital. If it was me I’d track down the surgeon responsible for fitting the heart, provided no one else has already.”
“You sure about this? We’re already on thin ice here and I know what the job is to you.”
“It is literally all I have, but if I’m not going to do it right then what’s the point? That said; please do not fuck it up for me.”
“Daria,” he said, a smile spreading across his face, “This is me we’re talking about.”
“John, I’m serious, we don’t know what we’re dealing with yet, and if Biotech are involved… they’re powerful. I don’t want your bullishness putting anything on us, not again.”
The smile slipped from John’s face. “Why did you need to bring that up?”
“I’m not stupid, I see the resemblance, it’s uncanny, but this politician isn’t David.”
Johns eyes clouded over, “You don’t know him.”
He span on his heel and almost walked into Police Chief Overturn. The woman with pointed teeth leered at John from over the Chiefs shoulder.
“I didn’t know you let standards slip so low here,” she drawled, pointing a filed nail at Johns shirt, hanging open under his black jacket where a tie should have been.
“Indeed. Where’s your tie detective?” Overturn boomed.
“Sir. I lost it during, um, an evening out,” John forced some level of respect into his voice.
“Well go get one from stores then! Detective Inspector Parks, make sure this man does not leave this office without a black tie on.”
“Yes, sir.” Daria said. She turned to John. “Go, detective, you have work to do, but make sure you sort yourself out first.”
John nodded once and retreated from the office, stopping only to pluck his jacket from the police drone by the door.
The old MagLev orb that was John’s designated vehicle hovered into a parking dock outside the hospital. He retrieved the Shock gun from the storage compartment and sat cradling it, chewing his lip.
“To hell with it,” he muttered, threw the pistol onto the passenger seat and climbed out.
Inside the hospital he was met by a brittle attitude and regurgitation of the patient confidentiality line, but then he hadn’t really expected to get anywhere with questions alone. The addition of a large number of individuals in suits, whom looked suspiciously like Biotech lackeys, probably wasn’t helping. Of course they would be carrying out their own investigation. Or at least ensuring their story held. John had, however, managed to keep a Dr David Davies arguing with him long enough to pull the surgery records from his forearm screen using a sweeper device. It was unbelievable people had actually bought in to those damned things, who the hell wanted a data slate fused into their body?
And that was how John came to recognise the surgeon responsible for Gavin’s transplant, one Jakob Mustovic, walking hurriedly down a corridor, keeping his head down and face covered by twitchy hands. John waited by a storage room for the surgeon to pass and, as he did, grabbed him and bundled him inside.
“Hey, hey! What the fuck you want?” Jakob spat, grabbing at John.
“You might want to keep your voice down, Jakob. You don’t really want to draw attention to yourself right now do you?”
He let go of him and the surgeon pulled his top straight. His eyes were slits in a puffy face as he regarded John. “Who are you?”
“Detective John Braker.” John pulled out his datachip ID. “And I already know who you are, and why you’re sneaking about like a rat. I guess you heard the news.”
“What you want, cop? You want statement; you need speak to my lawyer.”
John shook his head, “No I don’t want a statement, not now anyway. We don’t have time. What I want is evidence. I know the hospital is buying black market organs. I need you to corroborate that. You wouldn’t be culpable; you give me what I need and this can shake out like you had no idea you were fitting dodgy organs.”
Jakob grunted. “I don’t know what you talk about. Every organ I handle has Biotech serial number intact.”
“Jakob, my friend, why are you lying?” John tutted and edged the storage room door open a crack to peer out. A flow of bodies in scrubs moved up and down the corridor, but amongst them stood two suited men. One spoke into a dataslate while the other looked around, searching. John moved Jakob to the door. “You see those two goons there; they’re looking for you, Jakob. When they find you they’re going to ask you the same questions I am, only they’re not quite as friendly as me, not by half.“
The surgeon retreated from the door. “More cops?”
John shook his head. “Hired muscle, most likely. The kind of people that would find it poetic to remove a surgeons hands in order to make him talk. And if my gut is right, then they’re on the payroll of some very powerful people with a lot to lose. I don’t like to think how far they would be willing to go to protect their interests.”
Breath hissed through Jakob’s teeth. “I know this type of people. That woman, she has fucked me.”
“What woman?” John asked.
Jakob paced a slow circle in the room, hands twitching at his face again.
“You will get me out of here?” he asked, “past those, how you call them, goons?”
“Well that all depends on what you’re about to tell me. But yes, I can get you past them.”
“And protection once out?”
“Protective custody is off the cards. The people I believe are looking for you… there’s no guarantee you’d be safe, but I know a few places you could hole up while I kick the hornets’ nest.”
“I do not know what you mean, hornets’ nest, but you can keep me safe?”
John bit the inside of his cheek. Probably not, he thought. “Yes,” he said
Jakob nodded slowly and drew up close to John.
“I mean what I say, I know nothing of black market organ.”
“You put the heart that exploded in Gavin Russell. So don’t try telling me you’ve never handled an organ without a serial number.”
“Ah, without serial number, yes. But no black market. That fucking woman. She come one day and find me. She tell me she has special job, but it has to be quiet. She will pay me lot of money for it. I tell her fuck off, kurwa. So then she tell me I will do it. If I do not, she will make sure I lose job, that I not work again. She knows about my Grandpapa, his sickness. Health Insurance so expensive, I need job. And I know her. I know she can do what she says.”
“Who?” John asked, “Who was the woman?”
“The Wetherby woman. Helen Wetherby.”
“Bullshit,” John spat, “The head of Biotech? I don’t believe you. Why?”
Jakob shook his head and laughed once before breaking down into a coughing fit.
“I think that is known now, no? I did not know at time. I did not ask.”
John reached out a hand and gripped Jakob’s top.
“If you are lying to me, Polak” he hissed.
“It is truth,” Jakob said, “She brought heart. Had me swap with stock heart on day of operation. I do not need to lie now. I need to get out, so I tell you.”
John released his grip and bent over, hands on knees. The head of Biotech hand delivers a bomb disguised as a heart and forces a surgeon to plant it in Gavin, to detonate at the precise moment it did. The risks were astronomical for her. There was only one reason. Gavin’s law. The privacy that allowed her to pull this off was about to be ripped away. Did she hope to stop it? He straightened and faced Jakob.
“How can you be sure it was her?” he asked.
“Everyone know her, from TV, internet. She look older, thinner, but it was her.”
“Did you ever see her again, in person?”
Jakob nodded. “One time, after surgery. She call and tell me to meet at old storage facility. We not talk long, she just want to know job is done.”
John threw a dataslate into his lap.
“Show me. Now.”
It was as the surgeon said, an old storage facility. It appeared abandoned, but a faint light from a single window suggested otherwise. John slipped behind a MagLev lorry, skewed across the Admanium road beside the facility. There was a locked door of an old design in the wall there. He picked it with relative ease and crept inside, up and down corridors lit by hanging lights. At the end of one corridor was a door at odds with its surroundings. It appeared the same as every other door in this relic of a facility, but the key lock was filled, just a prop. That meant an electric lock, maybe even a DNA lock. Rapid tapping, faint but audible, came from the other side of the door. Somebody was using a touchpad in there. It had to be her. John drew his shock pistol and set it to charge. The pistol began to gather electric energy at its tip, the crackling mass of blue light growing larger. He discharged it into the door, sending blue lines jagging across it, and it hissed open. Like liquid he swept through and lined up Helen Wetherby.
She sat behind a large oak desk, a translucent computer monitor rising from the middle of it, her fingers on the touchpad sending symbols scrawling across the image of an unfamiliar insect –a computer chip with wriggling legs that sent shudders from Johns gut out across his body.
“Detective Braker,” Helen said without looking up, “Welcome to my humble bolt hole. Please, come in and make yourself comfortable.”
John noted how unwell the founder of Biotech looked. Her skin was pallid, eyes deep set and pinched, a skeletal frame buried beneath a baggy brown cardigan. The smell of damp and must clogged his nostrils.
He stepped closer, shock gun still raised. The room appeared empty save for Helen and the desk. The wall on his left, a series of interlocking Admanium doors, drew his eyes.
“Don’t worry about that,” Helen’s voice whipped at him, snapping his attention back to her.
“What’s behind it?” John asked, levelling the pistol.
She turned to look at John for the first time and he was stripped naked below her piercing glare.
“Contingency.” She turned back to the monitor and her hands resumed their fluttering taps. “So go on, ask your questions. I won’t lie to you.”
John’s eyes flicked to the insect on screen again. There was something inherently wrong with it; he could almost feel those skittering legs inside of him, crawling over his insides. But that’s not why he was here. He tried to calm himself against the unease and anger churning within.
“You killed Gavin?”
“Well technically his replacement heart did that…” The crackle of John’s shock pistol charging filled the room. “But,” she waved a hand, “Yes. I made sure he died how he did, when he did.”
“You might be an old woman, but you better have a damn good reason or I’ll disintegrate your wrinkly ass right here.”
Helen snorted and the hint of a smile danced across her face. “I had the best possible reason. The preservation of freedom, or at least what little we have left.”
“Did I tread in shit or is that smell just what tumbled out your mouth? Gavin’s law would have brought increased transparency, it would have crippled your business. You killed him to stop it; for profit, greed, power.”
Helen shook her head and sighed. “His death, at the hands of the technology he sought to scrutinise, on the day his law was to pass… it should have made him a martyr; accelerated the process, magnified it even.”
“But that didn’t happen, did it?!”
“No,” she said, “that didn’t happen. The board’s reach was too great, their grip on society too strong.”
“The Board? What have they got to do with this?”
She looked at him like he was simple and John felt some obvious truth in the space above his head, just out of reach.
“My dear detective, you think I control Biotech?” She laughed, a sound like dry leaves crunching. “I have had no power there for a long time. It was wrestled from me after a… disagreement, on the direction the company should take.”
And like that, the truth crashed into John.
“You killed him for revenge!? To strip them of the power they took from you?!” Black dots clouded his vision, the edges taking on a red hue. “That’s what his life was worth? It was just a chip to you, to be tossed away in some elitist game for our fucking utopia.”
Tears burned tracks down his cheeks, the gun pointed at Helen trembled in his hand. She rose slowly from her chair.
“So much emotion… You loved him, didn’t you?” she asked. “Or you were romantically involved at least.”
John wiped the tears with his sleeve. His throat was choked with rage, stopping the words from passing.
“But he had a wife. A daughter.”
John screamed, a grating bark, and the words came.
“I loved my husband, and the world robbed me of him, only to return him in Gavin. And you murdered him, just to hurt the people who hurt you!”
“No!” Helen slammed her hands onto her desk. “To burn them to the ground, and the company with them. To reduce it all to rubble and ensure no one touches their technology ever again. Cleanse with fire. It’s the only way to stop their plan.”
“What plan!? The plan to save millions with replacement organs?”
“THE PLAN TO CONTROL MILLIONS WITH THOSE ORGANS!”
There was fury in Helen to match John’s now, and it rocked him. She flipped the monitor so it faced him. The insects legs skittered and a shudder passed through him.
“You know this thing, don’t you, John?”
He shook his head and jabbed the pistol at her, fresh tears springing forth.
“You do, you know it, like a tickling at the back of your mind, a rippling of unease throughout your body. It’s a Nanobot. A microscopic, insectile, piece of technology, and thousands of them are inside you, crawling through your bloodstream, altering you as we speak.”
“No,” John spat, spittle spraying from the one word he could manage.
“Yes,” she insisted, “I know you can feel it.”
The gun in John’s hand dipped. Insects crawled across his brain.
“The… the liver,” he whispered.
“A birthing sack for them,” Helen said, “a release pod, if you will.”
A cold spread over John, drained him, and he doubled over and heaved. She was telling the truth. He could feel it.
“Everyone’s?” he gasped, “all Biotech organs?”
“For the past six years, yes.”
“Christ, all those people, what will they do to them?”
“What they always do. Control. Manipulate. The Nanobots allow them to trigger emotional responses through hormone release. Increase sale of certain products, make sure decisions are made in their favour. Imagine being able to motivate the prime minister to engage in war through a series of emotional responses she has no control over.”
“Armtech, Biotechs sister company… they would make millions.”
“Billions,” Helen corrected.
The scratching of insect legs was deafening in his head now. No. Not in his head. John turned to see where it was coming from. The metal plated wall.
“What…” he began and took a step towards it. As he did the world span as the overload of information swirled around his mind, and he fell to the floor, arms outstretched. The shock pistol hit the ground first, still gripped in his hand, and went off. A bolt of blue electricity smashed into the wall, jagged lines of light danced across it. The plates hissed and slid back to reveal a huge, glass container.
John gaped up from where he was on the floor. Naked bodies pressed themselves against the glass, writhing and clawing at its smooth surface with nails that peeled back in bloody curls. Their faces were gaunt, their desperate eyes arrested him. All bore an identical scar on the left of their stomach. He twisted his neck to look back at Helen.
“What are you?” He whispered. He staggered to his feet and brought the pistol to bear. “What the fuck ARE YOU?!”
Helen smiled from behind her desk, and if John could have seen through the pulsing red waves in his vision he would have seen that smile contained a lifetime of sadness.
“I am a necessity,” she said, and tapped a key on the touchpad.
The red filling John’s vision wiped to black and he collapsed at Helens feet. An old leather wallet, the kind of which Helen had not seen for years, fell from the detectives’ jacket pocket and slid across the floor. She leant down and retrieved it, flipped it open. There was a photograph of a man; dark brown hair, even darker eyes. He bore a striking resemblance to the politician, Russel. On the reverse of it, hand written, were the words ‘My David, my husband, my world. Justice failed you, as did I.’
Helen looked from the photograph to John, unconscious on the floor.
“Oh my dear detective,” she muttered, “You think you lost him twice. I am truly sorry.”
Low moans dragged John out of a dark pit filled with scrabbling people the size of insects. They fell from his body as he rose up into consciousness. He was in a dark room, filled with naked people pushing at the walls and groaning. Was he in the tank with them? No, the walls were metal sheeting, not glass. He checked himself and found he had been stripped of his clothes, and there was a fresh scar on his stomach that matched those on all the others. He forced himself up and grabbed the nearest person.
“Do you know where we are?” he asked.
The young man shook his head. “We just woke up here.”
Several clawed feebly at the walls. Others just sat and rocked. John shook his head and began working around the room on his hands and knees. In the middle of the smallest wall he found what he was looking for. A catch lock, and it was unlocked. An icy chill filled the room. Something was wrong here, beyond the obvious being naked and having been cut open while unconscious. There was commotion outside and the sweet, artificial scent of the city. John threw the door up and bright light blinded him. He raised his hands against it and squinted, staggered out of the room and felt a metal road beneath his feet. The group of people with him followed suit, their feet slapping down on cold metal. Slowly, the scene came into focus, and fear rose within him. Giant spotlights suspended from drones surrounded the group as they limped into a street lined with tall, white buildings. A semi-circle of police droids surrounded them, forming a ring ten or twenty metres away. Their weapons were drawn. John looked back and saw the room they had stepped from was in fact the back of the truck from outside the storage facility.
“John?!” A voice he recognised came projected on the air from behind the droids. “What are you doing here?”
He could just about make out a shock of red hair, but his eyes were still adjusting. He tried to call back, but his voice cracked and came out a whisper. What the hell was happening? He shuffled forward and the droids raised their weapons, stopping him in his tracks. His boss came into focus, foremost of a group of officers behind the ring of droids.
“Daria!” He managed to croak out, “What’s happening? Why are they aiming their weapons at us?”
A projection of Helen Wetherby, three times her normal size, bloomed between them.
“I believe I can help with that, John,” She said. “I called in a bomb threat on this lorry.”
“Why the fuck would you do that!?”
“Because it’s the truth. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to address these people over here.”
Holo-Helen turned her back on John and faced the collection of police, bystanders, and news casters.
“You trusted us blindly with your health, more fool you. Our organs gave you life, and in return we exacted a price. Your freedom. Those of you with Biotech organs, search yourselves now and you will know the truth of what I am about to say.”
On news channels around the world, the holographic projection of Helen spoke, and people watching subconsciously moved their hands to the scars of surgery they bore.
“The organs are carriers, loaded with Nanobots. These Nanobots have the potential to fight illness and disease, to repair failing body parts and injuries, but that is not what we use them for. Control. Control is power. We at Biotech have the ability to control all of you through these microscopic infiltrators.”
She held out a giant hand and the insectile nanobot John had seen in her bolt hole appeared there.
“Gavin Russel. His death was no accident. His heart was licensed Biotech. We murdered him, to stop his law. But it wasn’t enough. That is why we demonstrate our power here, now.”
Panic gripped John. He ran through the hologram of Helen towards the circle of droids and people hemming them in, but pulled up as a chorus of clicks from weapons being loaded met him. He span and faced Helen.
“What are you doing!?” he hissed. “How will this help you? Just expose them, this board of yours!”
The giant, translucent Helen, smiled and shook her head. “There was another way, perhaps, but it required more time. Once you started to expose my actions you burned that bridge. You left only one option.” She raised her hands into the air. “Bear witness now to our names, and note them. We are the new world power.”
The image of the balding chief of police appeared next to her.
“Harold Overturn,” she said, and a woman in the huddle of naked people screamed as her liver erupted out of her.
“Stop!” John screamed, “Don’t do this!”
He could hear Daria’s voice over the megaphone, shouting commands, but Helen paid no attention. The image of Harold disappeared and was replaced with the angular faced woman with pointed teeth.
“Oliva Clark,” Helen said.
A man with wild, green eyes stumbled forward clutching his stomach. He dropped to one knee and tried to say something, but as he opened his mouth a fountain of blood and innards burst forth. He fell to his side, head clanging off the metal road.
Another man died, disintegrating entirely.
The huddle of naked people were running in every direction now, shrieking and flailing, in the throes of pure terror, but every way they went they were forced back by the police droids and their weapons. A woman hurled herself towards them and was cut down in a staccato of gunfire. To them she was just a breathing bomb.
The list went on, and with every name another death. John watched it all, helpless, until he was the only one left. The road beneath his feet was a river of blood, a red road paving Helens way to hell. She spoke the final name on her list.
She looked down at John. He thought she looked apologetic, but it was hard to tell with the fire rising inside of him, the pain erupting within. And then he was gone.
Helen sat behind her oak desk, staring at the feed on her monitor. She pushed the touchpad away and sniffed. It was done. It was almost too much, even for her, but it would be enough now. It had to be.
She retrieved a dataslate from her drawer and opened it to the info log she had compiled. Every correspondence regarding the nanotech and its illegal uses, every email she had intercepted, every conversation she had secretly recorded. She also retrieved a pistol and placed both on the desk. Now she just had to hope the police got to her first. Her sister, Carolyn, stared out at her from a photograph. In it she was beaming, standing upright in her newly earned judge’s robe. Helen kissed her fingers and touched them to the picture.
As if on cue, footsteps slapped down the corridor. They sounded heavy, but were they heavy enough to be police droids? She laid a hand over the gun. The footsteps stopped outside her door. The frame of it burned into her retinas in hyper focus. Her breath caught in her throat. Then the frame splintered and the metal bodies of police droids barrelled through. A red shock of hair atop a pale face followed them in, the woman clutching a signal tracker in her hand. Helen let out the breath she didn’t know she had been holding and raised her hands.