“All men are slaves to their genes. Either through the efforts those genes have made over the course of the ages, or through the suspicions others have regarding genes that belong to groups other than their own.
— Church of the Holy Genome, Cardinal Anthony Thomas, 2154 AD
“Sir, it’s back.” He had his back to the door looking out over the city from our new office window.
Part of the city was blacked out again, and I knew when I walked into the captain’s office, I was making trouble for myself. I might have been safer walking the beat in that blacked out part of town. He didn’t say anything at first. His chair showed him in a partial profile, his angular face, craggy, tight, his hair in a crew cut, his police dress blues still on from the funeral earlier today. He didn’t need any more bad news.
I figured I would try again tomorrow. I almost got the door closed when I heard, “Wait. What’s back?”
I came back into his office and closed the door behind me. “Remap, sir. I think it’s back on the street. I saw the meme-map in the downtown quarter last night.”
“Did you run it?” He almost looked as if he were interested so I gauged my next words carefully. If he was too interested, he might give it to someone senior and they would get the case. If I made it too small, he may decide it was just another false flag since we hadn’t had an outbreak of Remap in over ten years.
“Yes, I Q-Red it and I got a hit immediately. But whatever they were running on their end saw my police coder and decided to shut it down and scramble. All I got was a partial.”
“Listen Bernsen, the last thing we need is a real outbreak of Remap. I want you to follow up and at the first sign of real trouble, you call for backup. We are stretched thin…Take no risk you don’t have to. Are you current on all your genomic blockers and vac-serums?”
I went down to G-medical this morning and updated all of my blocks in the hopes of getting this case, but he didn’t need to know that. “Yessir, I was due, especially with the flesh-cutter bug released last week.” Out here, rival syndicates attack using genetically enhanced viruses, designed to disable genetically-enhanced humans, hence making baseline humans, in the only way they could be, valuable because they didn’t possesses any enhanced markers.
“The baseline district has been without power for over three hours, predictive engines indicate the probability of a food riot. They haven’t had a shipment to that section for two weeks. I need you there right now. Get another G2, re-arm, call for drone support and the two of you hit the streets. I need you to restore order while I talk to the mayor and Gene-seed Six to explain why we aren’t getting food shipments right now.” He’s was back in control of his emotions, giving orders again. Good, maybe that would hold him for a while. Maybe he would be able to use his rage to forget about Danny for a minute.
“I am going to take Chang-Wu, she is familiar with baseline physiology and is used to using restraint protocols.”
He turned back to the window, moved his hands and several windows popped up on the corner of his display system. “There it is. A 3102 is now in progress. I will run your drone cover until you hit the streets. Get the hell out of my office.”
“Okay, dad. But if you need me…”
“What part of out did you not understand?”
I closed the door behind me, got to my desk and picked up my P-108 multi-pistol, two reload forms, checked my suit charge and saw Chang-Wu already on her way to me. We nodded and proceeded to the flight deck. I put on my wing harness and spun up the gravitic propellers. Their spin-up sound reached their resonance frequency and became absolutely quiet. The flight techs thumbed us and opened the launch window. The air was bitter and foul, I sealed my helmet because it would be worse near the ground. We ran together and jumped out the window. We could hear the snap as they shut the windows closed behind us.
Chang-Wu spun and oriented facing me, then simultaneously we snapped our wings out and peeled away from the building. Four police drones followed at a discreet distance. They were fully loaded, their combat blisters flickering in the light of the still lit districts below us.
“Don’t you dare die,” came through my private vox. There was no ID code but I knew who it was.
But if Remap was on the street, I simply couldn’t guarantee that. I was too young for the first outbreak over twenty years ago but it was a level one controlled substance, whose use, possession or trafficking would result in execution. A substance so controlled, we weren’t even allowed to learn why it was forbidden.
We flew low and turned on our meta-material cloaks. Our helmets were polarized and multifrequency, so we could see each other, but no one could see us. What we saw was the standard signs of a food riot, common among the baselines. Their physical energy requirements were higher than the G1s or G2s so they needed food and it needed to be a consistent and high energy variety.
New Varda had a significant number of baselines since we were near a transit hub where lots of manual labor was still used. With the advent of G-Uplift, work became very specialized, either you had the cognitive ability of a genetically enhanced worker or you didn’t. The G1 upgrade was not usable by everyone and even if you could use it, you had to be able to afford it.
If you couldn’t, then you ended up in places like New Varda, shitholes where baselines scrambled to pay their food bills, lived in relative squalor and hoped they eventually made enough money to buy the G1 upgrade and migrate to another local city or off-world to a better colony, someplace where there were better jobs than mining or food production for slave wages.
“Reese, wake up. You know I can feel you, right?” Chang-Wu’s voice was rich with emotion. It was one of the reasons I liked working with her. When she G2ed, she didn’t become a machine, she became more real, more emotional, more human, whatever that means anymore. A small number of the G2 upgrades caused this reaction and those operatives became more valuable because of their low-level empathic sensitivity.
“Sorry about that. I’ll stay on task. Command, can we get an overhead sweep, map and an estimate of the numbers?”
“Already completed, you will not be able to contain this. There are over six hundred. They are attacking a food depot where they think stockpiles are kept. I need you to reach the center of the conflict and find me some known ringleaders. I will begin with a gas run along the periphery, pinning down and holding down the casualties. No lethal force. Identify, mark, and track.”
“Understood, command.” We hurtled into the darkness. The night sky in New Varda had an unobstructed view of the Core, so corelight lit the streets well enough for us to see by even without our G2 enhancements.
When we reached the depot, we hesitated as the heat signatures of the people near the center were off. They were seven to ten degrees higher than normal. These people were all Remaps. If I had any doubts, the bodies of the local G-zero police forces were scattered around the scene and their drones were crushed by blows of superhuman capacity. Only a mech or a G3 could put that much power into a physical blow. There were only a limited number of mechs on New Varda and they were all part of the company’s XM unit. The warehouse doors had been peeled back as if they were little more than cardboard. “Command, priority call. Temperature spikes. Baseline’s exhibiting G3 strength levels. There are at least fifty. And sir, there was some food in the facility, they are passing it out. Advise.”
“Can you see the G3-level baselines, they will have the most genetic damage. It should be easy to detect.”
“No, Command, the people outside are all low level users, their g-form changes are minor and likely temporary.”
“The drones are nearly finished with the outer parts of the riots. I will have them sweep your area and then you can contain the remnants immune to the gas.”
“Understood. Standing by.” We landed on a nearby rooftop but we didn’t spin down our gravitic harnesses. It would take too long to spin them back up and when they fell out of resonance, they would make noise. We still had plenty of power and if the drones did their job, we should be back before too long.
The drones showed up on my helmet display circling our position and then came into the central part of the district. This area during the light of day served as a central shopping district, so the looting had included storefronts as well.
Chang was looking down at the faces of the local cops and her face recognition software relayed their names. There were still six or seven missing. There was no local chatter either, which made this even more problematic since we depended on them knowing the locals to diffuse issues before they started. The drones crossed through the center of the town interrupting the activity as the gas settled over the baseline humans. It was a fast acting paralytic. It would last for hours with no long lasting effects other than a headache. In a few seconds the area was quiet except for the warehouse across the street. I could still see flashlights moving around.
Then they all went out. Chang nodded to me and dropped off the roof landing soundlessly below. I followed a second later, with equal precision. My multi-pistol found its way into my hand, though I was loathed to use it unless it was necessary. The company paid handsomely for each baseline here so the fewer we damaged permanently, the better. My pistol was set to launch flechettes with a more powerful neural paralytic, different from the gas. These left their targets with a loss of voluntary muscular control that lasted for a few days and the mother of all migraines. But they’ll live.
We both sidestepped, half bouncing and half flying until the warehouse entrance was in front of us.
There was nothing there. I quickly swept through every visible spectrum available to me. Nothing. No heat, no radiation, no light, no sound.
Chang signed to me to head back up. She signed to me “something’s wrong”. Before she could ascend, I saw her helmet explode into shards of metal and plastic, crumpled by an invisible fist. She shot backward and vanished into the darkness.
Skipping a half a step to the left was the only reason I still had a head. The blow glanced off my helmet but rocked me with a strength I had never felt before. Though I dodged the full-on punch even the glancing blow snapped my head backward and without a proper orientation, my flight-pack dropped me to the ground. Without my G2 physiology, that punch would have snapped my neck. I pulled myself together, shaking off the stars in my eyes . I looked up and then three Remaps simply appeared right out of a shimmer in front of me. But it was like no metamaterial I had ever seen.
They were grotesquely misshapen, their bodies swollen, their musculature a caricature of baseline physiology. Their eyes lit up catching every drop of the core light and reflecting it to me. Their eyes shone cat-like. My cracked helmet tried to run a face recognition, but between the damage it had suffered and the distortions of their faces, it was having a hard time.
“You were right boss, they never knew what hit them.”
“Shut up, you idiot. Young lady. I recognized you, that’s the only reason you don’t look like your friend over there.” I knew that voice. It was the foreman of the mining group. But he was one of the people who helped keep order here. Why would he be leading this?
“Our benefactors tell us today would be a very good day to claim New Varda for our own. Don’t take this personally. Tell your father to surrender or we will tear your headquarters up around you.” My face recognition software pinged with the confirmation of Der Namiag’s identity. “He has just one hour to surrender. Ask him what happened the last time Remap came to New Varda. He never saw it coming.”
The people in the courtyard stood up, their bodies twitching in the core-light, and with nary a word, each vanished right before my eyes. No sensor sweep could touch them and I tried them all. Then it was just me and Chang left.
Der Namiag and his lieutenants leered and stood over me. “One hour. We could be anywhere. Remember that. Let him know I appreciate the drones.” He gestured and the support drones flew south, away from HQ.
Namiag and company disappeared leaving me to cradle Chang’s still body. My vox was silent.
Of Genes and Men © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved