Home > Necrotech

Necrotech
Author: K. C. Alexander


 

1


I plunged into brutal consciousness.

The light searing through the thin barrier of my eyelids did its best to fry my already scrambled brains, leaving me groaning as I threw an arm over my aching eye sockets. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, glued by a gummy layer of what felt like mange. Given the taste, something furry had crawled inside my mouth and spawned a litter.

That would explain the three-legged tango my guts were attempting, and possibly the incessant drone flattening all the wrinkles in my brain. Whatever chemical slank I’d gotten into last night, it wrecked me. Hard.

Keeping my eyes squeezed shut, I managed to work up enough foul-tasting saliva to rasp a groan. “Who do I have to fuck to turn that light off?” My voice, ruined by the mother of all hangovers, graveled.

I didn’t get an answer.

“Nanji?” Nothing.

I tried again, too hoarse to inject it with my usual impatient demand. “Lucky?”

Still nothing.

I cracked an eye from under my arm. Shafts of light branded my retinas. My vision went supernova despite the shade, and what was left of my brain dried into a crusted scab. Groaning, I squeezed my eyes shut again and desperately tried not to throw up all over myself.

Not my finest hangover. Not my first, either. I had a habit of waking up in places I couldn’t remember blacking out in. Some called it one of my better traits – usually because it involved at least two of us fucked up and naked.

The problem here was that I wasn’t supposed to be doing that anymore. I’d promised my girlfriend I’d tone it down, at least when she wasn’t with me. What little I could glean here made it clear Nanji was definitely not with me.

Goosebumps rippled up the skin of my calves. I shuddered, which only drew my attention to the feel of my bare ass plastered against equally bare metal—both made colder by the frigid temperature of the room.

I’d gotten the fucked up and naked parts down okay, but where? The air smelled way too clean for a hostel. I couldn’t pin the scent. It wasn’t perfume or even that so-called refreshing crap the average air scrubber spat out to mask the usual nasal mugging. I’d never gotten olfactory analyzers installed, so while I knew mercs who could list off every molecule in a fifty-meter radius, I couldn’t make it past clean.

That alone was enough to tell me I wasn’t anywhere near my squat. Nothing short of an industrial air filter would make that ratfest smell good. I wasn’t even sure what good smelled like. Not this.

This smelled like nothing. Sanitized, sterile.

Breathing took effort; it tasted like I was licking something’s fecal afterbirth with every swallow. The dull bass beat pounding in my skull was either my chipset shorting out or the aftereffects of whatever I ate, drank, smoked, shot or snorted last night at the self-congratulatory hey, we screwed the pooch and didn’t die revel. Hell if I could remember what I’d ingested, how much and with who. Knowing me, it could be anything, anyone, anywhere.

All I remembered was the club. Lights, skin. Sweat. I was fresh off Lucky’s chopshop miracle table, celebrating the life I almost wasted on a job gone bad, and then...

Nothing. I’d blacked out.

All the pins and needles streaking through my body made sure I knew how pissed they were, at least. Crashing on bare metal hadn’t done me any favors. It was freezing beneath my ass, slick, and creepy as necro-balls to wake up on.

I shifted my arm aside.

The overhead light boiled. Yeah, still sucked. Swearing, I rolled to my left, raising my right hand to shield my sensitive eyes as the afterburn of six circular bulbs popped like sparklers in my vision. The sharp clank of metal on metal spiked through my mental diatribe as my left arm screeched across the surface of the table, almost pitching me right off it.

I hunched, shivering, a blur of bleached hair sliding over one eye as I struggled to suck in air. The table didn’t even shake. Bolted, maybe.

The pressure sensors on my cybernetic limb sent all the right impulses to my brain, which told me that the chipset installed in the base of my skull wasn’t completely fried. Relief. Quickly buried when the rest of my brain caught up and decided by the way, today’s gonna be a shit day for that arm you don’t have.

I hissed out what air I managed to inhale as pins and needles gave way to a crashing surge of white hot pain. It rolled up through the reinforced enhancements woven into my left biceps, streaked into my shoulder so high and tight I seized until I could crest it.

That I remembered.

It hurt like a son of a bitch. Not the sharp burn from a shank, or even that teeth-gritting shock of a broken bone. This went deeper than bone; an ache that settles so far under the surface, there isn’t a biological name for it. How do you classify something only your soul misses?

Cybernetic limbs don’t hurt, not within the synthetic parts. They don’t process pain or pleasure, like or dislike. They process facts. In the corner of my left eye, a series of values flickered rapidly, fainter than usual. They told me the temperature of the table under my hand, its surface tension – and other miscellaneous information I didn’t understand and mostly ignored – calculated a variance and estimated that I propped my synthetic elbow on aluminum.

There was no setting for today, I will feel like shit. That was all me and my fleshbag brain, which hadn’t yet figured out how to let go of the limb I’d already lost.

Probably a good sign. It meant I was still human enough to know what I was missing. If I were approaching my tech threshold, that point where the human body wasn’t advanced enough hardware for the tech it housed, phantom pains and overcompensating muscle would be the least of my problems. I could count myself lucky on that score.

I cradled my arm with my other hand – a useless gesture that only served to remind me that a plated hunk of nanofactory diamond steel wasn’t supposed to be hurting as bad as it did – and tried to think through the slurry my brain had become.

Unknown location. Definitely not my bed. Probably not the kinked-out pleasure palace of a seriously freaktastic fuckup, either – which only sort of worked out for me, but I’d deal with that part later. My girlfriend would understand. Maybe.

If she ever talked to me again.

The room boasted white panels for walls, the kind of seamed decorative choice you’d get from a mental institution but with none of the padding. The circular lamp over the table was fuckingly bright. The tile underneath the table was the cleanest I’d ever seen in my life, and the slab I perched on looked too much like an autopsy table for me to be comfortable staying on it.

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