His Eyes Were Human

by Xaositect

The refuse littered basketball court was perfect. It had been hemmed in by two massive, recently constructed concrete apartment flats, hiding it from the bustle of the streets less than one hundred meters away. The only light was a lonely flicker from an ancient fluorescent bulb, handing forlornly twenty meters above my head. The faint faux-happy sounds of the Joyous Delights drifted hopelessly from an open window invisible in the gloom beyond the single light. The insufferably cheerful beats were depressing in these derelict surroundings.

Next to me was my tough, Maelcum. Like all toughs, he had grafts[1], but his already massive physique needed little help. Biomoniters and threat-assessment softs in the eyes and brain and a full compliment of durasteel subdermal implants were all he needed to become the angel of death, a skilled and unstoppable purveyor of blood and destruction. One massive hand held his weapon, a magnum auto-pistol; the other held a small blue container that resembled a child's lunch box. His stance broadcasted to all around him his deadliness. He was my only friend.

Against the flat to my left was a long ago forgotten trash dumpster, overflowing with rotting garbage and swarming with big, black buzzing flies. The stench was overpowering, but in a place like this, you get used to such stenches. Maelcum and I waited for our client of the night in the dim, filthy gloom of the back alley. Overhead, the music stopped and the buzzing of the black flies became louder. Two more minutes, and we were gone. No second chances for losers.

"He is here," Maelcum drawled in his rumbling Southern basso. "Him and two others."

The first thing I saw were his two meat-puppets. The first was of indeterminate sex. The poor soul's body was encased head to toe in expensive armor, black, shiny, and slick looking. The only flesh exposed was the chin, and even that flesh was thick with wires and circuits and other signs of extreme augmentation. The thing's eyes were two massive red- glowing discs, high-grade vision enhancers. The damn thing could see a cockroach in pitch black at a hundred meters. The glowing eyes and slick carapace made it look like a giant bipedal insect. In its hands rested a nasty looking submachine gun.

The second puppet was clearly a man. His augmentations were not so extreme. Probably a more recent acquisition. A suit of high-density plastic tactical armor and a helmet with simple optical readouts hanging over his face. Not cheap, but not as exotic as the full body exo-skeleton armor. He held a large automatic shotgun in his hands.

Our quarry himself was last. A small man, in his late middle age. He radiated a sense of fatherliness, enhanced by the anachronistic gold- rimmed glasses and simple black smock. He smiled broadly, revealing perfectly aligned teeth. In the dirty light, it was impossible to tell whether they were perfectly white or rotten yellow. One, however, was neither: it was covered in a miniature circuit board pattern. It was impossible to tell whether the tooth was a functioning device or if it was purely for looks. "Ah," he exclaimed in a cheerful voice that in every way contrasted with our dreary surroundings, "We are all here."

The voice seemed more than normal. It was a voice genetically designed to evoke visions in the listeners' minds of fond childhood memories, even if such memories never existed. It was the perfect voice. Flawless. "I do hope," he continued, "that we all have what we agreed to bring?"

It was a warm, inviting voice of a perfectly normal and happy suburban father of four. But only the truly sick and twisted used meat- puppets…

Meat-puppets are the street name for a new brand of slave labor. Random people picked off the street and submitted for surgery to install cut out switches into brains, with the intent to halt all high level operations while keeping sub-conscious operation unchanged. The result was a fearless, mindlessly loyal, and thus extremely dangerous robot-human superwarrior. But the cut out switches have been known to fail, and they have no affect on the victim's memories during their servitude…

I studied the little man for a few moments. No apparent weapon, but with his two puppets, he wouldn't need one. No obvious grafts, except for the possible one in the tooth. He seemed perfectly ordinary in every way, but his companions proved otherwise. "Yes," I said, "I have brought what you needed." I gestured towards Maelcum.

He lifted the small box and opened the lid. Contained within were five twenty-tab rolls of a rare and fatally powerful amphetamine. It was worth more money than I had ever seen and the work I went to get them was stressful, to say the least, but I needed what the little man had more than I needed money.

The man's eyes widened and a grin spread across his face, revealing the odd tooth again. He rubbed his hands together and said, "Good good good, everything is in its right place. Lovely, just lovely." His left eye had developed a twitch and he had suddenly developed an entire suite of nervous mannerisms. Rubbing his eye, fiddling the hem of his smock, rubbing his hair, adjusting his glasses, he looked like a nervous wreck. He was a doper whose carefully prepared façade was crumbling to pieces. His voice was slipping away from the silky beauty it had earlier into something more desperate.

He then lifted the bulky case he had been carrying. In the dim light of the lamp above our heads, I could barely make out strange writing on the aluminum sides. He flipped a latch and opened the lid. Inside were six small gold colored squares nestled in thick foam padding, with the same writing on them as on the box. He grinned and winked.

"Finnish ICE[2] breakers. Military grade, so new, the UN Soft-Reg[3] hasn't even heard of them yet. These things, they are primo. Rumor says that they can cut through AI generated ICE like a red hot knife through butter." His voice had changed. Now it was the sleazy drawl of a long time doper. His desire for the drugs Maelcum had had completely destroyed his earlier, false personality.

I gaped. This was more than I had even dreamed of. I had asked for second-rate South American stuff, which in itself was leagues ahead of the local stuff I used. "Are they real? Or are you going to burn me?"

The little man grinned even wider. "Oh, no, I would never do that. You are a good guy. I don't screw good guys. Now, how about a switch? Same time, so there's no funny business?"

I nodded and held my hand out for the box Maelcum held. He placed it gently into my open palm. The little man held his box out. I did likewise. With practiced expertise, each box slipped effortlessly into their new owners' hands. Not a second after they both switched hands, a blinding light lit the entire basketball court and a voice that seemed a thousand times louder than anything I've ever heard before boomed and echoed between the buildings. I fell to the ground whimpering. "DISCONTINUE THIS ILLEGAL TRANSACTION IMMEDIATELY. YOU ARE UNDER ARREST. DROP ALL WEAPONS AND YOU WILL NOT BE FIRED UPON. REPEAT, DISCONTINUE THIS ILLEGAL…"

I knew instantly that we were all screwed. Metacop…

Metacops were the cruelest of the cruel, the most brutal of the brutal thugs in any mobster's stable. They tracked their quarry for weeks and months, through both the meat world and the interface matrix[4] world, gathering evidence and weaknesses. They struck at the least expected times with overwhelming force and terror. Most victims of the metacops were "inadvertently killed in persuit…"

Without thinking I was on my feet and running for the door that Maelcum and I both designated as the escape route. My vision funneled; all I could see was the rotting yellow wood of the door. A tingling numb sensation crept vaguely around my conscious. Thank God for the stun field blocks I had installed…

Maelcum flew past me, his massive legs pounding powerfully against the pavement. The stun field was closing its grasp on my consciousness. My legs slowed, my mind began to scramble. It was only twenty meters away a half-hour ago…

Maelcum whipped around, grabbed my arm and gave me a powerful yank. I realized that I had stopped running completely. The blocks I had installed were not as good as advertised. He pulled me through the door into the musty interior of the flat and slammed it behind me. The stun field's special effect on me was already setting in. With a deep dangerous rumble, Maelcum pulled his magnum from his holster. He was in a very bad mood. I pulled my small Executive pistol from underneath my jacket and closed my eyes. Oh no, it thought. It's starting. Now I was barely able to stand up. Strange sounds assaulted the echoing drums of my ears. Maelcum was talking to me, his mouth was moving, but I couldn't hear. Just echoes bouncing on the inside of my infinitely large head…

Outside I could hear the loud, booming echoes of gunfire. The singing quality of the bullets from the metacop's plasma rifle were recognizable even in my delirious state. Slowly, I began to fall backwards, onto a cloud, away from the hell of the metacop and the doper and the festering pit people call a city…

I barely perceived Maelcum reaching into a small bag on his belt, and retrieved a small derm[5] with official medical marks on them. My fall backwards was completed. The moldy floor of the flat was invitingly warm and soft, like a teddy bear fresh from the dryer. I closed my eyes, to sleep, to die…

Seconds later I opened them to the big, brown face of Maelcum. "You'll be fine, good guy." He was grinning as he peeled the empty derm from my forearm. "Your brain can't handle the stun fields, remember? I brought a preventive." He waved the derm around in the air. "The metacop's icing the doper as we speak, but we're next, so we better help out."

When he said that I became suddenly aware of the gunshots outside the ancient door. The prattle of the submachine gun and the whistling songs of the metacop's rifle skittered and sang their way up and down the musty hallway we were in. I pulled myself up and picked up my tiny pistol from the floor where I had dropped it. I nodded to Maelcum and he threw the door open and jumped through, pistol leading the way. Somewhat less aggressively, I followed him.

Hovering ten meters in the air only a few meters from us was the metacop, mini-fusion lift pack flashing blue and white soundlessly. He was taking potshots at the doper and his one remaining puppet, the insect. Both were crouched behind the partially melted remains of the dumpster. The other puppet, the man, was crumpled on the pavement with a smoking hole in his expensive plastic armor.

The metacop didn't bother to evade the doper's bullets. The submachine gun rounds bounced harmlessly off the thick blue-gray overcoat, the uniform of the metacop. The doper's weapon, a tiny pistol that looked even less threatening than the one that I held, did even less damage.

I raised my joke of a weapon and aimed for what I thought a weak spot: the lift-pack. I didn't aim for anything in particular on the bulky construct. I knew firing would be enough to say I tried to make a difference. It was live or die, and the prospects of living were slim indeed…

With an almost comical ping, the bullet hit the pack, which elicited a high-pitched squealing protest. A lucky shot. The metacop stopped firing and reached toward a small control pack on his harness. With alarming suddenness, the metacop flew at high speed towards a near wall, one of the older ones. Apparently out of control, he smashed into the wall with sickening force. Bricks and pieces of concrete fell to the ground with the plasma rifle, which hit the ground with an undistinguished clatter. Before I or anyone else could react to the first impact, the metacop flew across the basketball court again, smashing pack first into one of the newer flats. The force of the impact crushed the lift pack and the metacop fell almost ten meters to the ground. He landed on his feet, then fell forward onto his face.

Maelcum, Doper, and I all stared at the motionless metacop with identical expressions of shock on our face. The meat-puppet stood motionless, gun aimed at the point where I had originally shot the metacop's pack. None of us moved for several long moments. After the rage of the battle, the silence was deafening.

Maelcum was the first to move. He stepped towards the stricken metacop and crouched over it. I followed, crouching next to him. The doper came last, moving erratically. I could see his hands were shaking violently. With one motion, Maelcum flipped the metacop over, revealing the face beneath a cracked and useless faceplate. The badge he wore had bent down the middle in one of the violent impacts.

Carefully, I removed the ruined high-density plastic of the faceplate, revealing an eerie face that resembled a human, but there was something wrong in the minute features. Manikin, I thought. The skin was a bluish gray, a shade similar to his uniform. "Never seen one so close before," mumbled the doper, to himself.

Almost systematically, we searched the body of the fallen metacop. No part of him was free from the most extreme mechanical augmentations the three of us had ever seen. His legs had been replaced with metal and plastic mechanical pistons. They in no way resembled human legs. His arms had been replaced by plastic and metal gripping claws. Only the hands had the blue faux-flesh over the thickly layered tubes and wires that made up the metacop's body.

I removed the helmet. Tossing the heavy plastic armor aside revealed a bald scalp that extended over the dome of his skull. The gray flesh ended in ragged scraps on the top of the skull. Beyond that was a tangle of wires, tubes, blinking LED readouts, and circuit boards. Maelcum breathed in sharply. "Are these things, are they human? What would do that to a man?" he said.

I had nothing to say to him. Neither did the doper, who was rocking back and forth on his heels, eyes closed and mouth mumbling. His pale, bony hands gripped the small blue box tightly. I let my gaze fall upon the strange face of the metacop; let it stare at the man's closed eyes. With a slight start, the metacop's closed eyes opened and stared, unblinking, at me. They were, like the rest of this death machine, gray with tinges of blue and were thickly lined with circuits. Even the eyes weren't free from the mechanical grafts that covered the rest of his body. But I could see that his eyes, past all the miniature circuits and genetic discoloration and mechanical augmentation, were human. Human, underneath the mechanical horrors that had replaced the rest of the body. While we all stared at the unblinking eyes, the metacop's lips moved, slightly. They whispered.

"Help," the metacop pleaded.

The End

----------------------- [1] External augmentations surgically implanted into the recipient's body.

[2] Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics. Software designed to prevent hackers from breaking into private computer systems.

[3] The Soft-Reg Board was created to regulate the flurry of new intrusion, counterintrusion, virus, and other software that flood the electronic world.

[4] The evolved world of the internet: a place where information takes on a visual representation.

[5] High-tech drug injection patches used by hospital and EMTs for stopgap treatment of various ailments.