Friday, August 29, 2008

Chapter 1

"Identification." No answer from the stranger. "Identify." She ignores the security desk as she walks across the lobby. Her steps echo in the empty white dome. "Intruder. Who do you think you are?" The night guard puts his knuckles on the desk and rises to his full height. An animated tattoo of a snake crawling through a skull loops on his muscular forearm. It is his business to appear menacing. He has practiced this face in front of the mirror. He puts on his hat and authoritative tone. "This is your first warning. If you take another step you should know that I’m authorized to-"

Jana Berrin turns and gives him a brief glance. His hat is instantly under his arm as he looks straight ahead. His body becomes rigid like a soldier being inspected and his tone shifts to apologetic. "I didn't realize you'd be here so late Executive Berrin."

"I'm not here. I refuse to work late. Connect the executive lift." She watches as he nervously reaches for the switch. He realizes that he has summoned it too late. He should have recognized her, the instant she arrived. Now he has wasted precious seconds of an Executive’s time. She stands still and watches him. Does he dare proceed with regulations? He is painfully aware of each inefficient passing second in the large, soundless lobby.

“Memento mori.” The night guard’s mind snaps frantically into action to craft a response. Unfortunately its only conclusion is that he should say something relevant and clever immediately. Mercifully, she points to the snake slithering through the skull on his arm.
“My tattoo?” He asks. She smiles,
“A reminder that we are mortal?”
“Oh. No, it means I was wounded in action. From my time in the service. My unit’s retirement gift.”
“Were you regen’d by OrMod?”
“Yes Executive, by an OrMod joint project with Build.” She whistles respectfully as she inspects his body. They share a smile.
“Your hand? This arm?”
“My face.”
“No...” Fascinated, she moves closer to appreciate the detailed wrinkles on the cheekbone, the hair follicles on his upper lip, and the light web of blood vessels in the eye.
“Yes. It wasn’t a consumer procedure.” He adds with pride. “It ranked as the first 99 restoration.” She nods with an expert’s understanding of the significance. Berrin had pushed for OrMod to prioritize their development of facial reconstruction while the general market was still focused on skin pigments.
“To think they could have sculpted you any face and you wanted this ugly one back.” She winks, he laughs.
“If you think this is bad you should have seen me after the blast. All this meat was split open and peeled back-” He catches himself. “Forgive me, Executive Berrin, my manners…” She raises a hand in polite dismissal. He has heard about Jana Berrin from the other night shift staff. He didn’t believe that they had actually spoken to an Executive. Yet now he sees for himself the friendly person behind the pretentious regal portraits.
The elevator arrives; she nods and turns to leave.

"Executive Berrin, since it’s after hours and since we're supposed to be on high alert. I'll need a full sample." She turns and he immediately realizes his mistake. Her face carries the cold indifference of the powerful. He becomes aware that he’s risking his employment. Greater still, his entire consumer relationship with OrMod is being weighed in that look.

Then she smiles, amused at being slowed down by these common measures. They know that the building’s automated Sentinel is actively archiving both of them. The floor is measuring their weight, and a myriad of hidden scanners are correlating bone length, capillary maps, and registered eyeprints. Nonetheless, she offers her arm.

He approaches but hesitates to touch her skin. She is Executive class. Jana Berrin takes the cylinder from his hand without any sign of frustration and injects herself. Then she inserts the sample into the terminal. Immediately the reading announces a 94% match. She smiles and walks toward the elevator.

“Your cloak. That’s why I didn’t recognize you. You’re wearing a new cloak.”
“Perceptive.” The lift door closes.

The night guard sits at his desk and relives the experience. His mind practices the story, deciding what parts his co-workers need not hear. Across the city, Jana Berrin is sleeping. At the top of the OrMod tower, a figure with Jana Berrin’s body, Rei Kent’s eyes, and Daria-Zeh Motema’s memories moves proficiently through security and into the core office.


m. said...

as are you!
i'm excited.
are there any others who've posted as of yet?

Sam Jackson said...

oooohhhh , intriguing- let me read more

lfar said...

I love it and can't wait for more! Have you ever read artemis fowl? I love techno future worlds!