That wasn't right.

Tens of thousands of dollars had been spent to ensure that Cylee would be able to see in any conditions. But her Augments had apparently been knocked out, which was interesting. She'd never heard of a way to forcibly shut down someone's Augments without also sending them into screaming insanity.

She tried to take stock without betraying the fact that she was awake. She was bound, hand and foot, on a hard slab. She was still dressed, which was good. It felt like she was wearing her “action suit”, the custom-designed outfit she had been wearing when she…

Memories came back. There was supposed to be a job. Contact asked for a meeting at a dive bar near Pike's Place. She had been waiting for the contact and then…then she was here.

A beep, really just a direct stimulation of her cochlear nerve, announced that her Augments were coming back online. Her Third Eye started collecting data, giving her an infrared overlay on the scene around her. Augmented hearing came back, and she started getting the audio overlay as well. Which meant, of course, that her Spine was back up and running, because it was handling all the processing. So far so good.

Diagnostics were coming up. She had about 40% of her battery in her Spine, which was good. Only 2 milliliters of adrenalex left, which wasn't good, but better than nothing. And anyway she had her knife.

Lying in a special sheath along her ulna was a small ceramic double-bladed knife. It wasn't connected to her Augment network, it was controlled entirely by her muscles. With a slight movement it would slice out of her wrist and lock in place alongside her little finger. She tensed her muscles and the blade flicked out, slicing the band around her wrist. So far so good.

She held still and let her Augments gather data. There was a door to her left and behind her head, and there was another indoor room beyond it. Two hazy patches of fuzz beyond the door indicated that her hearing had picked up two people outside that door. They weren't talking, weren't making any real noise, so she didn't have any other real information about them. Still, it was likely that they knew she was awake. Time to get moving.

She moved her arm across her body and cut her other wrist free, then twisted and cut her ankles free as well. Movement outside the door. She pushed the table over between herself and the door and hid. The door swung open.

These people were professionals. No threats, no “come out with your hands up!”, no nothing. Her eyes were hidden from the light from the door they opened, but she saw boxes along the walls. One shot.

She ran behind a pile of boxes. Still no noise from the two people by the door. As near as she could tell they weren't moving either. Time for even more boldness. She walked quietly behind the boxes until she was about four feet from the door. For all she knew her guards were Augmented as well. It seemed reasonable, considering they caught her. Still, she had to get out of here.

She tensed herself, gave the thought command to release half of her Adrenalex into her bloodstream, and waited for the fire to spread through her body. When her muscles were all burning she dashed toward the door. The two guards stood holding guns, scanning the room. One was tall, thin, and red-haired, looking alert and intent. The other was shorter, but built like a brick wall. In the split second while she was closing the distance she decided that the brick wall would be a better target. She headed straight for the gap between them and let them react, then spun around the outside of Brick, dragging her wrist blade along his thigh as she ran past him. He screamed and grabbed his leg. The cut wasn’t deep, but it should have kept him from chasing her.

The redhead was supposed to turn to help his companion. But apparently he hadn’t read the script. Instead he opened fire as Cylee ran past him into the room proper.

She hadn’t had any time to get a sense of the room’s layout, but she didn’t have time for indecision either. Ahead of her was a pair of glass double doors with sunlight beyond them, but if they were locked and tempered that was a trap. The wall on one side sloped down, presumably along a staircase, and that might be a good option, even if it meant she was still in the building with the two goons and, presumably, their entire cadre of people who kidnapped people. Still, the front door was probably a trap, and time wasn’t on her side.

Parts of the wall exploded next to Cylee’s head as Red apparently figured out how to shoot somewhere near her. She wasn’t entirely sure he would actually kill her, because they’d gone to all the trouble to take her alive, but she wasn’t entirely sure he wouldn’t. She decided to head for the stairs.

The staircase came out close to the front door, and she spun and dove up the stairs, behind the half-wall that separated it from the main room. The wall probably wouldn’t stop bullets, but it would make hitting her a little harder.

Except there was someone sitting on the stairs. Cylee took him in all at once. Sandy blonde hair, cropped short and styled up into spikes. Silver-gray trenchcoat, with tons of straps and buckles and stuff, gangster wear from an earlier century. Mirrored sunglasses, black shirt, slim white tie; this guy was trying to look like a stereotype from a bad sci-fi movie. To complete the image was an insane looking weapon lying across his legs. It was all silver or steel, had a stock like a rifle, but instead of a barrel was a huge bell-shaped dish or transmitter or something. He was grinning in a way that made her want to cut him, or punch him, or—why not?—Both.

“Hi there!” he said brightly and raised the weapon. There was a click as he pulled the trigger, and a whine. Nothing else seemed to happen for a split second. And then Cylee staggered. She hadn’t been hit by anything physical, but all her Augments went dead again, the metal of her Spine suddenly stiff and unwieldy, her vision unassisted. It hit her like a blow. She struggled to keep running forward and raised her wrist blade to slice at the infuriating blonde, but Red caught her arm and then held her other arm as well. Blondie smiled.

“The job is yours, if you want it,” Blondie said, then stood, turned and, resting the bell of his terrible weapon on his shoulder, walked casually up the stairs.

“Put the blade away and I’ll let you go” Red said, and she twitched a muscle. It flicked back into its sheath inside her skin, and he released her arms. “HR is upstairs. Or you can leave. It’s your choice.” Red wasn’t exactly smiling, but he was watching her intently as he stood aside to give her free access to the front door.

Cylee stood in indecision for a moment, but only one. Finally she turned and walked up the stairs. Red nodded. “I’m Isaac, by the way,” he said as he followed her up the stairs. She nodded. “Cylee.”

“I know,” he said and actually smiled. “Howard’s the guy you tried to flay. He says to tell you he’s not holding a grudge.” Cylee had no idea what to make of that statement, so she just nodded. Then she thought of something.

“Who’s the blonde guy?”


“Tell him if he shoots me with that thing one more time I will hold a grudge.” Isaac grinned. “I’ll let him know. But come on, The Lady is waiting,” Cylee could hear the capital letters in the way he said that, “And you’ve got bigger things to think about than our smug snake of a coworker.”