"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?"
"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
But there was nothing there.
"You heard that too, didn't you?" Sam asked.
"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
"Oh, very well. You're no fun at all, Ghost, whenever someone
mentions Global Envirotech."
"Forgive me for being business-oriented."
"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
"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
* * * * *
"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?"
"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
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."
"There can be no hesitation! Do it now, completely."
* * * * *
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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