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Lost In Your Eyes
by Darrell Whitney


"So, do you think I've got a chance with her?"

Albrecht Grade, security guard at a Global Envirotech research facility, looked at his partner in disbelief.

"Sam, don't be stupid. She's one of Dr. Marne's top assistants. What makes you think Lili's going to have eyes for you?"

Sam shrugged.

"Hey, some smart, classy girls like them big and dumb."

Al looked at his partner, wondering if the man's headgear was on too tight or something. It was difficult to choose from the wide variety of possible snide replies that presented themselves.

"Well, by saying that, you certainly qualify. What, you want to be some chick's meat puppet? That's like one step up from being a flipping street thrill, only you don't get paid."

"Hey, Lili's hot enough to cook my--"

"Don't go there. Please, don't go there," Al groaned. "Besides, as long as you're dreaming, why not set your sights on the project director? She's twice the babe Lili is."

"Are you nuts?" Sam yelped. "That witch is scary! If she said she wanted me for my body, I wouldn't know if she meant in bed or on a dissection table! I don't know how she managed to get some guy to give her a kid."

A hissing whisper cut through the conversation to catch both men's attention. They spun, raising their Inverness combat shotguns, facing down the hall. The installation's corridors were narrow; nothing could escape the concentrated spray of flechettes the two guns could fire down them.

But there was nothing there.

"You heard that too, didn't you?" Sam asked.

"Yeah."

"P-probably just one of the water pipes, right? I mean, even ultramod buildings like this can have squeaky plumbing, right?"

Al's eyes narrowed.

"Maybe, but I didn't think it sounded like the plumbing."

"Come on, it's gotta be something like that. What else...what else could it be?"

"The spirit of one who suffered at your hands, torturers!"

The grill covering the air vent above cannoned down with tremendous force, smashing into the side of Sam's head and knocking the guard over. Al spun and watched in horror as a creature dropped from a shaft that was too narrow for a Palman to pass through.

The thing was basically humanoid, with thin, spindly limbs and torso. Its sexless form was covered head to toe with blue fur, and membraneous wings linked arms, legs, and body. Its head was monstrous, like a giant bat's, with huge ears, a pushed-in snout of a nose, and a fanged maw. Each finger and toe ended in a hooked, saber-like claw.

It was fast, too, faster than the guard could have believed. Even as Al's finger was closing on the trigger, one of the monster's clawed hands seized the shotgun barrel, wrenching the gun out of his grip. Its other hand reached up and coolly ripped out the guard's throat.

The monster then turned to Sam, grabbing his head between its hands. Still dazed, he could only look up, pleadingly, before it drove its thumb talons through his eyes and into his brain.

*     *     *     *     *

It was always the eyes, Ghost thought, green and shining like poison. They haunted her at night, came to her every time she heard Global Envirotech mentioned on the news or when she saw one of their ads. She couldn't drive them out, no matter how hard she tried. They were why she was so eager to work any job that took on G-Tech, gave her any excuse to brutalize its corporate bottom line and the soulless employees that took its tainted meseta.

The fixers that gave her those jobs soon learned of her hatred for Palm's leading biotech corp. They always kept an ear open and an eye out for personal rivalries, because they could twist them to their financial advantage. The fixers knew that because of her hunger for revenge, she would take on Global for less than the going market rate.

Ghost didn't mind. All it meant was that more jobs against G-Tech would come her way, because the clients could get them done more cheaply by her than by a hunter of equal ability who didn't have an axe to grind. Good for the customer, and good for her.

"Look, Carmen, how about you cut to the chase?" Ghost prompted her current fixer, who seemed lost behind a wall of small talk. "At this rate, New Year's will come and it'll be 1265 before you're done."

Carmen sighed and tossed her mane of shining, silver-highlit sapphire hair.

"Oh, very well. You're no fun at all, Ghost, whenever someone mentions Global Envirotech."

"Forgive me for being business-oriented."

Carmen laughed.

"Business? No way, Ghost. When it comes to G-Tech, you're more like a rabid dog in a butcher shop. With these people, it isn't business, it's a damned holy war." She looked around herself, turning her head. Ghost got a hint of Carmen's reflection in some of the store windows. Some fixers liked to meet in bars, others in restaurants, some on-line, and at least one in a private limousine. Carmen met on the open streets, among the anonymity of the masses.

Rain hissed and pooled on the sidewalk, little circles spreading from the impact of each drop into the water already there.

"Well," Carmen allowed, "it really isn't business weather."

"So what," Ghost insisted, "is the job?"

Carmen's exotic spike-heeled boots made tiny splashes as they walked along.

"My client is a research scientist who was somewhat summarily dismissed following a discussion with management about his personal expense reports. He feels that he was wrongfully treated, as his knowledge of their current project is irreplaceable. Of course, the corporation's position was that the results of his labors are theirs by right, as he was their employee. He disagrees."

"So what do you want from me?"

Ghost's palms were beginning to itch. That was not a good sign. It was the phrase "research scientist" that had done it, started her thinking about that one.

*     *     *     *     *

"It's not working!"

"Clearly, we aren't stimulating her cells sufficiently."

That cool, inhumanly assessing voice.

"Doctor, any more...she could die!"

Those eyes, blank pools of green, no iris, no pupil, just twin ovals of lambent emerald, fixed on her own.

"There's hardly a point to doing this at all if we're unwilling to initiate the process, is there?"

Still, those eyes held her, as the world dissolved in pain.

*     *     *     *     *

Ghost panted for breath, her naked body slicked with sweat from the stress of the transformation. She reached for the corpse of the second guard she'd killed, since the first one's blood was all over the front of his uniform. That was useless to her.

She stripped the carbonsuit from the man, noting as she did so that it was a Global uniform. Most of G-Tech's facilities were guarded by Argus Protective Services; the corp didn't spend much on building up in-house security. That they didn't want to risk letting outsiders in on the potential secrets of the place marked it as important.

There had been Global Envirotech guards at Nuala-VI, too.

*     *     *     *     *

The silentshot's paralysis bolt only grazed her hip, but it was enough. She lost control of her voluntary movements in midleap, crashing to the ground.

"We got her," said the guard, relief in his voice.

Those eyes looked down at her.

"Good," the doctor replied. "Make a note that Subject C1-L's adrenaline levels are to be kept within the parameters outlined in my previous memorandum on the subject. Find out who was responsible for the error and dismiss them."

She could only stare helplessly, could not even close her eyes to shut the green orbs out.

"Take her back to containment. Subject C1-L requires retraining."

*     *     *     *     *

"My client," Carmen explained, "wants to make a clear and direct statement to corporate management of their errors. I have here a datachip containing a virus program that will purge all of his contributions to the project, including any backup information they try to upload. I find that it has a certain poetic justice."

"It sounds like a gridrider's job," Ghost said. Her boots were becoming slicked by the falling rain.

"Not in this case. The project's mainframe is kept offline, isolated from the datanet due to security concerns."

"Then...this is important to Global." Ghost couldn't keep the eagerness out of her voice.

"Apparently so. You will need to penetrate the research facility's security, access the computer, and upload the virus."

A sudden tremor passed through her.

"You want me to get inside the lab?"

"Yes," Carmen said, a bit petulantly. "That is the point of the whole job, Ghost."

"It's...it's not Nuala, is it?"

"What?"

"The lab. It's not Nuala-VI, is it?" The tremors were running through her entire body now.

Carmen turned to her, flexed her knees so she could bend down and look into Ghost's downturned face.

"Hey, are you all right?" Her face was worried as their gazes met. Ghost couldn't help it. She jerked her head away, breaking the eye contact. Heaven knew what Carmen thought of her, probably that she was high on something.

"It's not anywhere near Nuala," the fixer said soothingly. "It's Eppi-II, just outside the city. Not even forty miles from where we're standing."

Relief was like a tidal wave cascading through her.

*     *     *     *     *

The clawed thing that had been her hand twitched. She arched her back, tugging at the restraints as if she could somehow pull away from it, leave the thing behind.

"That is a good beginning, but you must not hesitate. Look at me."

She whimpered in protest.

"Look at me!" That voice, so cold and insistent. She could not resist, turning her head until their eyes met. They filled her world, did those hypnotic green pools.

"Now, focus. You must bring the change on quickly and efficiently."

It hurts!

"There can be no hesitation! Do it now, completely."

She screamed.

*     *     *     *     *

The uniform didn't fit Ghost properly, but she hadn't expected it to. Luckily, the utilitarian outfits weren't precisely tailored in any case, so that with a little divine mercy, no one would notice. Ghost didn't expect it to stand up to close examination, anyway. She didn't have the necessary false identification to make it through a security checkpoint by subterfuge, anyway.

No, the uniform was camouflage, to get her to where she needed to go.

It worked well, too. She quickly moved through the halls and corridors of the G-Tech facility, passing more than one white-coated scientist who either ignored her completely or nodded in passing. In less than two minutes, she stood at her goal, the broad security door of the auxiliary computer center.

As expected, it required a key tube to bypass security. That was standard for Global Envirotech, which was why nearly a year ago Ghost had expended a share of her meager savings to obtain a master key, a tube which acted as a passkey on all but the most complex locks. She wore it on a chain around her neck, so she could bring it with her even in her transformed state, which gave her strength, power, and agility that was more than a match for an ordinary person's.

The gifts that one had given her. All it had cost was months of painful torture, needles piercing, current run through her body, chemicals that felt like acid in her blood, and slavery to a heartless will.

Ghost had no memory of her previous life. She might have been anyone. Or possibly no one. In her worst moments, she awoke trembling in the night, her mind filled by a vision of brilliant green eyes and her heart wracked by the fear that she wasn't a person at all but a test subject grown from nothing in the depths of Global Envirotech's biosystems lab in Nuala.

She slipped the chain over her head and slotted the tube in the door. There was a soft hum as the access port and the passkey's electronics talked to one another, and then the door slid open with a hiss.

Ghost retrieved her passkey, slipped it back over her head, and stepped through the door. There was a beep, and the steel-and-titan plate slid back shut with the unmistakable clunk of locking bars engaging. From every possible place of concealment, armed guards rose, equipped with silentshots. She sprang at one, but without the change there was no way she could defeat them all. Ghost spun one into the path of a second's shot, letting him feel the effects of the neural paralysis, then crashed an elbow into the bridge of a third man's nose, drawing blood. Then she was hit, and hit again, frozen in place. Hurriedly, the guards secured her in plasmarings, bands that not only inhibited movement but suppressed the power to call upon techniques.

"This is Rushton," a guard spoke into a commlink. "We have the target secured."

Not more than a minute later, the door slid open.

There was no mistaking it. It was her. White lab coat, brilliant green hair, and those matching green eyes. The eyes of a woman so obsessed with scientific knowledge that she would experiment even on herself.

"Ah, yes, C1-L," she said, surveying Ghost. "You look healthy enough. That's good; I'm very interested in some of the details of your life these past two years. It could yield data which would make my dragon viable."

She rubbed her temple.

"Take her to Lab Complex A and put her in a specimen cell." Her eyes fastened on Ghost's, holding her gaze pinned like a snake stalking a bird. "We have a great deal of work ahead of us."

*     *     *     *     *

PROJECT FILE: "Were"/SUBJECT: C1-L/ENTRY#0378/10.26.64

The strategy indicated in the previous entry to this file has resulted in the recapture of Subject C1-L. As noted, subject's intense resentment towards Global Envirotech had resulted in the attention of our corporate intelligence division being drawn to her and a routine check of possible motives for her disenchantment. Discovering that subject did not possess an imagined or disproportionate grudge but was in fact valuable corporate property prompted the planting of a false job with a reputable "fixer" known to associate with the subject for the purposes of luring subject onto corporate property.

[cc to Security Division, Captain Trent]Use of corporate resources adjuster Herron in further Eppi-based recruitment is disadvised due to the potential that the false story resulting in the capture of Subject C1-L may cause distrust among the hunter community. [end cc]

Subject C1-L has apparently prospered over two years spent outside of laboratory conditions, suggesting that preliminary data concerning the stability of subject's spontaneous genetic alteration capacity was accurate. Success in inducing transformation designate "were bat" represents the highest level of achievement thus far.

Full medical analysis in both transformed and base states of being are recommended, with the results to be designated as a field test. As previously noted, the purpose of this project is to create a bio-engineered soldier through genetic alteration therapy. The conditions of operating as a "hunter" for two years are sufficiently analogous to military operations for test results to possess a high level of validity. [Link appended: Security Division profile of hunter designated "Ghost"/identification with Subject C1-L now confirmed]

It is hoped that finalization of subject's testing will yield new breakthroughs in the Spontaneous Genetic Alteration program which will permit the creation of a functional prototype in the E-series ("Dragon") subject line. Furthermore, it is also my hope that the test results on the interface between C1-L's natural and induced genetic states will produce a viable method of accelerating the adaptation of artificially introduced stable genetic material into a subject's overall biology, with particular reference to the Neo-Esper project. [file reference: "Laya"]

ENTRY LOGGED BY DOCTOR MARLENA LE CILLE

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