The ship’s corridors had the smell of cheap spirits and too much ozone without enough air cyclers to pump it out into the smog of the harbour. Not that anyone on board would care. Six years the ship had been moored here, in what was left of Manhattan, and the only people crazy enough to call it home wouldn’t do anything as organic as breath oxygen through fleshy lungs.
Kate pushed through the bazaar that had born from the remnants, growing like a fungus until every passageway secreted salesman hawking their latest bioware, the hatches now so packed the ship would never be watertight again. She had to stop herself, every pod and hypo a violation of the laws, something her corporate backers paid her to police. You could put a price on selling out to the pharma techs, but it seems you couldn’t put a price on selling out your humanity.
“Those eyes look tired girl, caff-back, will keep your body pumping caffeine 24/7.”
“You cold? Look at this, latest in thermals. Like a frog in winter.”
“Yo girl. You wanna be a guy?”
She shook her head, pushed through, and entered the belly of the beast. The carrier had belonged to the Navy, abandoned and stripped within a hairs breath of each other, until only the bulkheads remained. The huge hanger was endless, strings of pearl lights criss-crossing from the ceiling and running out the open hanger doors that looked out across the city and it’s endless sky-tunnels.
“Didn’t think I’d see you again.”
The voice came from the back of a particularly shady corner, only a single sign written in the same pearlescent metafluid as the lights above announcing the name of both store and owner.
“Needle,” she said into the darkness. “I thought you got hobbled by Iodine.”
The face swam forwards from the black, jaw full of rotting teeth, three eyes flashing through the colour spectrums and into the infrareds as he looked at her and through her in one. She fought the urge to stop the blush, knowing he’d detect it either way and hiding it made her look more guilty. She’d caught himself once or twice, pedalling something her employer didn’t want peddled, but she normally just took his stock and left it at that. Middlemen were for the junior biodecs to chase down. She wanted the man pulling the strings.
“They try and hobble me. But they forget see. I take the lizard and I run.”
He slid a foot forwards, the skin still raw and fresh where it had regrown from the knee down. His old flesh still bore the marks of where it had been hacked at. Self-inflicted or judicial didn’t really come into it.
“I want him Needle,” she said. “I want the Doctor.”
Air whistled through the gap in Needle’s teeth and he retreated into the abyss.
“No man see the Doctor. That’s how he likes it. Kid gets nosy, likely to lose it.”
“I got a scrip. From Levern and Teller Inc both.”
“You crazy. Those big boys don’t want nothing to do with each other. No, you be doing this personal. That’s why you don’t come in shooting. You want this on the hush-hush sister.”
Again the blush and again the whistle as Needle laughed. A long finger appeared, a single tablet delicately balanced.
“This is to help you find him,” Needle said, by way of explanation. “And this,” he said, another finger unrolling to reveal a single strip of black gossamer, “is to help you find yourself.”
Kate took the tablet but paused over the silken strip.
“It ain’t gonna stick,” Needle said. “Twenty four hours, then it’ll unzip from your genes and you’ll be you again.”
The Sun had dipped below the horizon by the time Kate stepped off the jury-rigged gangway and felt firm ground under her feet. So why was she still so shaky? She held the tablet up, letting the bioluminescent light play off the icon stamped into the powder.
The pill was in gut before she could think, unfolding, unravelling, doing it’s thing. Preloaded blueprints rushed through her body, crossed the blood-brain barrier and started dumping genetic memories into her skull. And like the thread in a hem, one piece frayed, she tugged on it and found the knowledge pouring into her consciousness as if it had always been there. She knew the Doctor. Had met him. Everyone he worked with and everywhere he lived.
It was more than enough to find him.
And then, with a pang of guilt, she held up the silk. It had been a long time. Bad times. Bad memories. But none from when she was on the stuff. Regret didn’t enter the mind. Kate placed the thread on her tongue and closed her eyes. When they opened again the thread was gone. Along with it doubt and fear and anxiety and remorse and everything else that made a human weak and erring.
It was more than enough to kill him.
Prompt originally posted by Lorix_In_Oz on reddit and received 16 upvotes.