By AP Miller
copyright 2004 AP Miller
The multimeter's LED screen flickered as the probes connected with delicate circuitry. As the device detected abnormalities, hand tools were applied, cleaning, replacing, restoring. And making the functional the exceptional. Finally, the probes were withdrawn; the tool put away, the cover plate reinserted. I admired its streamlined form, its promise of swift justice, my lips curved in a slight smile of appreciation. Then, as the smile faded, I popped off my right hand and snapped the gun into its place.
Being a cyborg has its advantages.
But sometimes the price seems a little high.
I rose from my workbench, in my armory, where I kept my tools, and the tools that kept those tools functioning. My guns. My missiles. My armor. Oh, my armor. My lovely, lonely suit of armor. My refuge, against all that would hurt me. Few have ever seen me without it.
I paid a high price for the armor, too.
I traced one finger along the contours of the suit, the rounded, almost organic curves of the surface, designed to deflect attacks by denying them an even striking plane, running my fingertip over the sealed joints, which retained flexibility while ensuring a maximum of protection against not only weapons, but hostile environments as well. My finger reached the button to open the suit, to raise it's visored helm and bulky breastplate. Then I climbed in, relishing the smell of sweat, excitement, and fear, soaked in too deeply to ever be washed clean, and the feeling of being surrounded by the metal, plastic, and energy. The feeling of being wrapped in the protective embrace of a cherished friend, one who had never let me down and never would.
Once my suit had finished its automated warm up sequence, I made my way down to the holding pen. Although I usually preferred my prey killed rather than captured, the bounty on this one was just too good to pass up. I passed through the portal to the bare room, its center dominated by a few cages, one of bars of the hardest metal ever to be used for the purpose, one of delicate circuitry that would form an energy barrier around my quarry rather than metal, and one of flexible airtight polymers. No matter what my bounty's abilities, I had a cage that could hold it, at least long enough to reach the proper authorities.
My prey huddled in the metal cage, his arms and legs shackled to the center but just enough chain to give him the freedom to stretch his limbs. Not enough to so much as touch the bars of his cage. I wasn't about to take any chances with this scum.
Call me paranoid.
He glanced up as I entered the pen, and his teeth shone in a dazzling smile. His eyes danced with delight at my approach. Every inch of him screamed delight at my presence.
"Feeding time, scum," I told him, as I tossed him a couple of ration bars through the cage, along with a liter squeeze packet of water. He caught the water deftly, despite his chains, and raised his drink in a toast. "Thank you, fair lady," he said, with the voice of a dear friend, a lover, a father...
I raised my gun. "Knock it off," I told him. His smile froze momentarily, before he nodded cheerfully, his good vibes toned down a notch.
"You'll forgive me if I maintain a LITTLE charm..." he cocked one eyebrow. "Simply in the interest of providing good company, oh hostess." I regarded him warily.
"Be pleasant if you wish," I retorted, "but I'll forfeit the bonus for a live bounty before I let you charm me into freeing you."
Call me forthright.