Human

Human

 A Braeden Wolf Short Story

They were waiting for her when Annabelle Chan emerged from her apartment, out onto the balcony that led to the stairs down to the ground floor below, six men who had lurked out of the view of the security devices she had installed for just such an occasion.  The door locked shut behind her at a whispered command across wireless cybernetic links just as they stepped out of the shadows.  The first indication of any trouble came when they spoke.

“What has boiled up ‘ere, then, cob?  A wind-up doll?”  The voice that spoke sounded not just mocking, but offended as well.  Worse than that, it sounded revolted, as if sickened by her presence.  Annabelle turned towards them.  The six of them were big men, looming over her small frame.  All were human; two white, one black and three Asian, like herself, though of Japanese extract and not Chinese.

A quick sub-vocalisation kicked her tin eyes over into thermographic mode and the world swan into a field of shades of colours that read the heat given off of everything, checking the men out.  She knew it was hardly necessary to confirm her hunch.  Cybernetics ran cooler than the bodies they were attached to and as a result stood out via thermographics.  None of the six bore any, a sure sign that they were Humanists.

Just their tone of voice and comments had been enough for her to pick up on that, as well as their repugnance as they looked her over.  Her cyberware was apparent; she made no effort to hide it, and saw no need to.

“Ya know what we do with dolls, don’t ya?  Play with them until they break and discard them in the trash.  That’s what you were built for, wasn’t it, little doll?”

Annabelle looked around as the six closed in on her, seeking a way out.  They were big, shaven headed and fit; not normal Humanists.  Then again most Humanists weren’t normal to start with, nor adhered to a commonality, except for one crucial element.  Trolls, vamps, demons, aos si and all the rest, them they had no trouble with.  Their beef lay with technology, and more to the point, the augmentation of the body with metal and plastic, of cybernetic limbs, eyes and all the rest.

For them, the body was a temple not to be desecrated in such a manner.  Some were neo-luddites, who eschewed tech in all its forms, others weren’t anti-tech, just anti-augmentation.  While many were atheistic in their outlook, others were religious zealots, ranging from pagans to the more traditional religions.

The lot before her bore none of the hallmarks of the religious, but appeared to be of one of the extreme fringe groups, even for the Humanists, one which believed that while metal and plastic and chrome were anathema, bio-genetic and pharmaceuticals boosts were right; after all, that was merely expounding on what was natural in their minds, encouraging the body towards its evolutionary peak.

That made them far more dangerous that the average Humanist, most of whom wouldn’t risk a confrontation like this, not out in the open.  Sure, they would hassle a person who openly displayed augments, given half a chance, and Annabelle had had more than her share of that, but an open assault was rare.

Of course, when they did attack, they didn’t see their victims as humans, but simply as machines or toys to be broken.  She had heard stories; what occurred, especially to women, was not pretty.  The body and mind could only take so much before they broke, and an icy touch of fear shivered across her spine.

The leader of the pack appeared to be the black man, taller than the rest and heavier across the shoulders and chest.  “Before we play with ya, little doll, ya are gunna tell us all ’bout your trips through the silicon hell.”

Annabelle blinked.  They wanted to know about the forays into the virtual reality of the datasphere, where avatars flew at the speed of thought?  Humanists for the most hated the very thought of the place.  To ask about such a thing came from way out of left field, unless they were after some specific information, and that worried her even more than before.

One of white men, dark hair shaven very close to the scalp, thrust out a page with a printed image on it before her.  The image showed a dataspehre avatar, in this case of a silvered metallic angel, one unfamiliar to her.  Whoever he, or she, was, the Humanists were gunning for them hard.

Annabelle shrank back from them, so as to give the impression that she was intimidated by them.  It didn’t require a lot of acting.  She didn’t have the answers they required, and even though they weren’t aware of exactly what she was capable of, there was always the chance that it wouldn’t be enough.

They may have thought they were human perfection, but she was the upgraded thing, augmented and wired, and above all ready for such eventualities.  It took but a moment’s thought to link up with her car via the cybernetic wireless link that had been built into it.  A quick command trigged the security system.

The Humanist thugs flinched at the sudden blaring sound that blasted the neighbourhood, while the lights began to blink on and off.  The wailing set off dogs howling in the distance.

That moment of distraction and the flicker of eyes way from her was all the time that Annabelle needed.  The cybernetic augments wired through her body kicked into gear, an electric surge that sparked reflexes into overdrive, resulting in a speed of movement and reaction that no Humanist could match.

Blades popped out from her cybernetic right hand, slipping from between knuckles, chromed to match the look of Wolverine’s claws.  They were a popular augment amongst the razor gangs, though very much a black market one.  She had more than mere claws at her disposal though.  Her whole right arm had been replaced with a cybernetic one, and included a lightweight pop up gun built into it.  It only fired 5mm rounds which against any form of armour were pretty much useless, but her Humanist assailants, whether they were cocky or merely inept, lacked such protection.

The gun sprung up, a targeting display blinking on in the view of her tin eye.  The gun popped as she triggered it by thought, the sound drowned out by the blare of the car alarm.  It only carried six rounds, and she couldn’t target them all, not the way they were staggered in their positions.  Two went down as the rounds took them, and a third was left standing and bleeding.

“Bloody bitch,” he snarled in a pained and outranged voice.  He lunged at her.  The claws came up swiftly to meet him, slicing through flesh, and then he went down, bleeding profusely.

Of the three left standing, two pulled out knives, hanging back as they stared pitilessly at her.  The third, the black man simply smiled coldly and raised a hand to point at her, about which the psychic energy of an incantation began to crackle.  Annabelle cursed as the incantation surge from him, too swift to avoid, slamming into her mind.  Her thoughts were reduced to a kaleidoscope of confusion as it lanced through her brain, stripping away all control of her being, her awareness, leaving her dazed and confused.

The two others, awaiting such an opening, leapt at her.  Groggy thoughts barely reacted as the instinct of self-preservation fought to defend her, but not even juiced up augmented reflexes could compensate for the effect of the incantation.  The knives descended upon her.  One struck her chromed armed, glancing off the metallic surface and leaving a deep scratch across it.

The other struck her in the chest, right above her heart.  The blade forced it way through the armoured shirt she wore beneath her jacket, striking the synthweave below.  Her skin had been hardened by a polymer alloy woven through it, designed with just such attacks in mind.  It held, but even so the force of the blow shook her and brought blood welling up from a cut left behind.

The mental fog that clouded her thoughts began to lift as the knives were drawn back ready for a second strike.  Jacked up reflexes running hot and once more in control of her actions, Annabelle swayed aside, her arms batting aside the blows, just as her training had taught her to do, and in reply unleashed a couple of lighting jabs of her own, in the blink of an eye.

The claws of her hand plunged home and both men went down with bubbling chest wounds, blood dripping from her blades.  She lifted them to point at the only one left standing, the Incanter.

His once cold, mocking smile morphed into something else, one of abject loathing.  “We are gunna break ya slow, little doll,” he promised, raising both hands, crackling with the energy of an incantation ready to be unleashed.

A loud boom and a flash of light erupted from behind him.  The incantation sputtered out and the Incanter staggered forward a couple of steps, his arms dropping.  He made to speak but all that emerged was a trickle of blood.

Then he collapsed to the ground.

A man stood behind him, tall and dark of hair, with stubble growth and pale eyes, holding a large calibre handgun, one that still smoked from a shot fired.

“What is it with you and man trouble, Tink?” he asked, flashing a roguish smile her way.

Annabelle – or Tinkerbelle as the man called her, Tink for short – laughed.  “I like trouble, Wolfie.  What sees you boil up in my neck of the woods?”

Braeden Wolf lowered his gun, slotting it back into a shoulder holster underneath his jacket.  “Need your help, Tink.  Got me some mighty dangerous information that needs a look-see at, and you are just the girl to help.”

“You know all the right things to say.”

Braeden smiled as he slipped a datachip out of his pocket, holding it up.  “Don’t I always?  Now, are you up for some danger?”

Annabelle took the offered datachip from his hand.  “Always.”


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