Around the 'Sphere in Seven Biomes
by Michael Bard and Quentin "Cubist" Long
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The Sun was setting. Michael and Mary-Anne made their cautious
way through the grasslands, using only the fading sunlight that
made its way through the dome roof for light. Their experience
and tutelage under Mal had trained them to always be observant,
and they avoided the traps of a more conventional nature. As for
the local wildlife, the only threatening ones were a pride of
lions, who were primarily nocturnal. Mary-Anne was confident as
she knew how the great cats thought -- and Michael was leading
just in case.
It was an hour's walk to the checkpoint. As they moved, the dry wind blew their hair and Mary-Anne's tail, flooding their noses with the scent of wild animals, the rich old musk of lions, the nervous scent of antelope, the dry brittle scent of the dry grass, and the aerosol suspension of mutagen in the air. They were silent for most of the trek, but when they could see the lights of the checkpoint ahead of them in the dimming sunlight, Michael started to ask Mary-Anne about Mal.
Mary-Anne shushed him. Although she said that this night was for them, she knew it was really all for herself.
The checkpoint consisted of a large open-framed building of light wood and grass lit by torches. Cooked meats were available and Mary-Anne let Michael offer her some, but there were no vegetables that Michael could eat so he just watched Mary-Anne, disbelieving that a wonderful girl like her could actually care for him.As the moon rose, with just a single drop of grease still on her muzzle, Mary-Anne held Michael's hand and first let him take the token and hang it around her neck, and then she led him into a corner of the building where a bubbling, brightly lit hot tub was waiting for the contestants to relax. As Michael held her paw, Mary-Anne could see his pupils deform, starting to stretch vertically, and she smiled. Yes, her big horsie was in love.
SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur
Mal watched dispassionately as Michael helped the vixen climb
into the hot tub, then severed the connection to the video feed,
his action as coolly mechanical as if he were still half-robot.
He did not allow himself to feel anything that might affect his
concentration for the worse. He knew he wouldn't be able to stifle
his emotions forever; but then, he didn't need to. All he needed
was another 22 hours 53 minutes.
Mary-Anne had managed to control one single cameraman, but after Mal had discovered exactly what hold she had on the man, the hacker became his true owner. Mal sent a signal which destroyed the information Mary-Anne had on the cameraman, and then another to the man himself, telling him the passwords to access a certain Swiss bank account and giving him the most vitriolic and offensive "letter of resignation" Mal could compose, to be sent on to Mary-Anne. Not that she ever got any use out of the guy, but she's a control freak. The mere fact that he acted against her will at all, to any degree, should seriously rattle her tiny little mind. No, erase that -- she's not stupid, I can't afford to underestimate her -- she's the most dangerous person I've ever met.
Mal knew he'd be doing some unauthorized formshifting later in the evening, so his next pair of messages went to his cameramen in Manhattan and to the BioSphere network. Just as much as when he'd changed to the combat form earlier in the day, he had to blind the BioSphere's all-seeing eyes, which these messages did. His slaves would ensure that no cameras recorded the actual transformation, and the other message would prevent the BioSphere network from taking note of his altered genetic structure, as it ordinarily did through the subcutaneous implants all SurviFurs had to accept as a condition of taking part in the game.
SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur
For a while, Mary-Anne and Michael just lay in the hot tub looking
into each other's eyes. Mary-Anne saw by his fully-slitted pupils
just how strongly the pheromones had already hit the satyr. It
seemed that the actual emotion of love was at least partially
responsible for the effect and that would make it easier. Suddenly,
Mary-Anne reached over and violently clenched Michael to her,
pushing him so that they were both submerged with her on top.
Then it was time for a kiss, a bite on his lips, and then a burst
of blown bubbles before she let him back up to breathe.
And she smiled. Michael's eyes were wide and completely unaware of his surroundings; fur, white fur, was sprouting around them. He was gasping for breath and a drop of blood had formed on his lower lip. Slowly, daintily, Mary-Anne leaned over and licked the blood off, sucking to get it all, and then exhaling into Michael's face.
"Er, Mary-Anne. Is this safe? I mean... well..."
Mary-Anne could now feel the mutagen working in her own body, starting with her tail which she could feel changing. The clock was ticking, and already she was more aroused than she'd been in years. A virgin, and he's all mine! And this vulpine body only makes it better! "Michael, dear, trust me. Would I do anything that could possibly hurt you?" And then she kissed him again.
Dear God, is this what I think it is? Could she love me? It looks, but, this feeling, the power... Is it safe? How can something this wonderful be wrong? How can a girl this sweet, this lovely, this... this... Michael's thoughts were becoming confused. Oh God, thank you for this gift. I've been so lonely. Michael began to feel a burning in his body, a need, an urgency. It was centred in his manhood, but it flowed throughout his body, in waves of pleasure and need from his legs to the tips of his ears. He was feverish, but instead of feeling sick it was as though he had all the power of the superheroes he used to read. He could hardly speak, but he forced himself to whisper, "Thank you."
Oh my horsie, I've just begun to show you what can be done. Enjoy it while you can, for the anticipation is all that you shall get. Already Mary-Anne felt herself bursting to a first orgasm, and even this first little one was greater, more pleasurable, than any she'd had in years. She barely noticed the Mutopia-wrought changes that accompanied it. Great Mother, thank you for this gift, for this virgin! And she couldn't help but let out a faint squeal of joy. Why didn't I become a vixen years ago! This body, this wonderful, sensual body!
Mary-Anne took a deep breath and ducked her head under the steaming water to take her horse's manhood into her mouth, clasping her clawed arms around him and tearing through the skin on his back. She'd done this before, but it was never like this. The key was to bring her horsie ever closer, but never quite over the top. Keep him waiting with warming, growing anticipation. She licked his manhood as it stretched ever longer, and she could feel the barbs appear on it as the mutagen continued to work. Then, grasping his waist she started to move her mouth in and out along it, feeling it getting longer and stronger. And then a puff of bubbles through her mouth, and a sharp nip to keep it from getting too ready, before she released it and she screamed out the rest of her air as a second orgasm rippled through her. Only her experience allowed her to stay in control as her fully leonine head broke the surface of the bloody water.
Michael couldn't believe this. His body was on fire. He felt himself changing, warping. The light in the tent grew brighter in his eyes, and a long tail grew behind him. He felt his hooves soften and change to paws, and felt fur grow along his chest. I don't care! The pleasure, the warmth, the joy -- oh God, thank you for this! He was there, almost there, but then there was a burst of sharp pain, a shyness. Still the need, the desperation, continued to grow.
Mary-Anne surfaced so that her muzzle was lying on top of the water. She looked up at her horsie, who now had an entirely feline head. His fur was as white as what he'd had as a centaur, accented with blood from the water and his back, and his eyes were wide and distant as he panted for breath. Mary-Anne smiled. Dinner is served! She stood up in the hot tub, the bloody water dribbling from her feline hide. She moved her muzzle beside her horsie's head and nipped his ear, letting a delicate trickle of blood stain his mane. "Oh, Michael... I have so much to tell you..."
Michael couldn't speak. He was on the edge, he had to release, but he couldn't. He was burning with need, but the sweet pain kept him from going over the edge. And then her voice, whispering, caressing...
"Oh Michael, Mal was telling the truth. I'm the enemy."
What? But how -- and then another wave of need, of urgency, flowed through him, and Michael found himself helpless as Mary-Anne clasped his manhood in her paw, alternately squeezing and clawing it. The pleasure and the pain kept Michael in need, hot, desperate, and helpless.
"Oh yes, my big horsie. I did send Norman to kill Mal. I could have saved him, but I pleasured in his death." Mary-Anne's last word changed into a loud growl as another orgasm, greater than any she had experienced, swept through her. Oh Great Mother, I thank you for this gift!
Michael was barely coherent, unable to comprehend his love's words. Oh God, let this end. Give me release from this torture, this ascending pyramid of pleasure! Oh Mary-Anne, Mary-Anne. So what if you controlled Norman. I don't care -- I care only for you!
She knew that the sorrow and the horror hadn't entered her horsie yet. Time for the next bite. Another, smaller orgasm swept through her as her tail twisted and bent in anticipation. "And Mal was right about you. I own you, just like I own Furrtive Pleasures. And I thank you for the gift you gave me."
Michael could barely think straight as the need, the desperation, the pleasure and the pain, all rippled through his body. Did Mary-Anne say something about a gift, about Norman?
Now the vixen's change had reached the point that she could no longer be mounted frontally, so she slowly let Michael's ear slide away from her mouth after giving it another bite with her fangs. Red is such a lovely colour! She spun around and let herself stand in the hot tub on all fours, raising her tail and feeling the pheromones from her own body enticing Michael to enter her. She felt him drop on top of her on all fours, and she took his right forepaw in her mouth, daintily biting down on it before letting it go.
Michael knew he'd become a lion, and a need, a quest to show that he owned this female swept though him, stoking the heat and the desire. She was ready, he could see her and he could scent her. Carefully, slowly, he lowered himself onto her, oblivious to the blood dripping from his mangled ear down his cheek. She was his and she loved him -- nothing else mattered. His manhood was hot and ready, and he slowly guided it into her, oblivious to her bite on his leg, and the burning of the chlorine in the water on his wounds.
Mary-Anne felt her horsie's spiky manhood enter her and she knew he was ready. She could feel it pulsing, and knew that he couldn't wait, but she had the key from earlier today. "Michael, you murdered Norman."
Michael was barely aware of Mary-Anne's voice, but there was something -- that word, 'murder' -- his ears pricked forward and a chill swept across his need as he thrust his manhood into his lover's waiting form.
"I controlled you and you gave me Norman to play with. A gift that I destroyed." Mary-Anne fought to speak over another orgasm (and wave of change) that swept through her as her muscles clamped down and squeezed her horsie's manhood. "You murrrderrred him by giving him to me!"
Murder? This is my mate, my lioness. What is murder, what it matter? And yet that word, whatever it meant, chilled him. It sank into his mind and cooled him enough to listen to what Mary-Anne said.
"Oh yes, I drugged you, made you love me. I drugged you and made you give me Norman. So that I could control him and turn him against Malcolm." She could feel her horsie's manhood starting to shrink, but the spines were trying to keep them locked together. She could feel the shudders of fear and terror as her horsie's eroding mind began to realize what was happening. Another orgasm, greater than any she'd ever had, swept through her. A virgin for me to break, a virgin to be broken and kept a virgin! "Oh Great Mother!"
Murder is wrong. But how could my mate -- but she not wrong -- I can't have murder... Michael felt his manhood shrinking, felt the barbs tearing at his lioness drawing blood. Wrong! All wrong! I not murder, not kill...
"Oh Michael, thank you, thank you! I've neverrr had a virrrginnn beforrre!" And then Mary-Anne let a growling laugh billow from her throat and across the Savannah. She could feel another orgasm building, and she knew that now (while she could still speak) was the time. "I nnnev'rrr loved you, I j'ssst used you! I lied to ussse you to mmm'rrrd'rrr Norrrmmm'nnn!"
Michael just collapsed into the bloody water, what was left of his mind reeling. Mate not love me? She use me, she lie?! Dear God, what she do? What I do?! Michael collapsed into the bloody water as Mary-Anne turned to face him, her eyes wide as a final orgasm swept through her, oblivious to the blood dripping from her torn vagina. She looked only at Michael, still a virgin, as her hot and hungry eyes watched the crumbling of his sanity.
SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur
Mal was just about to enter the subway when a blood-curdling
sound reached him from the direction of the Savannah. It was something
like a lion's roar, but not much, for a roar was the cause of
terror, not the result. This was a sound to rip at the soul; the
sound of somebody realizing that their entire life had turned
to ash. The last cry of a human spirit descending to hell.
Here and now, there was only one reason for a tortured cry like that. Stoic, Mal only thought, She worked faster than I anticipated.
He had to see. Had to know. Waiting on the platform for the next subway car, Mal found the video feed for Michael and Mary-Anne, and then just stared. The picture showed a mated pair of white lions in a bloody hot tub, the ivory fur of the male liberally splattered with crimson. Mal just watched as the male let out another cry of terror and horror and betrayal before it leapt out of the water and fled. The female, with blood on her fangs and lips, just stood in the water. Her cry was a growling, obscene parody of laughter. And around her neck was one of the medallions.
She did it. Damn her to the deepest circle of Hell. And all the while the cameras just kept rolling. Why bother stopping it? We all signed waivers, so SurviFur Inc. is untouchable regardless. And that kind of footage carries a hefty profit on pay-per-view. Bad business to let a little thing like human compassion get in the way of gigabuck-level gross income.
Mal's resolve was shaken, just for a moment, before he lowered the iron mask back into place over his jagged emotions. Alright. She looks to be at least 80% lioness now, and she'll be more so before she reaches the border. Very little human brain left. She wasn't stupid enough to do this without giving herself an escape hatch; probably a post-hypnotic suggestion to get herself restored. Most likely option is Furrtive Moments, one touch and she's a vixen again, no need to think or pay money.
But first, she's got to get there.
He composed and sent a message to all his cameraslaves: [Mary-Anne has become a savage animal, and she's a literal man-eater (see attached screenshots). As soon as you see a white lioness, warn everyone! The beast has killed one man already, and it's got the blood on its fur to prove it. Make sure it doesn't get into the subway system!] There. SurviFur Inc. couldn't care less when contestants die, but the unions will rape the company if they allow employees to get mauled. [If you are off-duty, or if you can get off-duty within next 3 hours: Assemble all available weapons and hunt the beast. KILL IT IF YOU CAN.] Too obvious, Sly may notice something's up. So what? Beating the bitch takes precedence. With no subway access, hunter teams scrambled to take her out, and Musfah's tripods on the loose, that should slow the bitch down quite a bit. One more layer of obstacles will do for now... Mal hacked into the Manhattan municipal computers; when he was done, the local authorities were on priority-alpha alert to locate and contain a man-eating beast, complete with choice screen captures that displayed the blood on her fur to its best advantage. And there was one more option he hadn't explored. Musfah hasn't been communicative, and I don't know if I can enlist its aid anyway, but it's worth a try.
And then the subway arrived. Mal got on, and, after a few taps at his palmtop, he was pleasantly surprised when his "request for communications" signal got a response.
Greetings to Mal.
The hacker would have responded, but Musfah continued: I have been observing your current actions. As well, I have compiled data from which I have deduced certain of your past actions. It is clear that the manner in which you interface with other systems is highly distinct from the manner in which you interface with me. Can you explain this discrepancy?
Interesting, Mal thought. This might be a challenge...
SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur
The beast ran. She ran, even though all she wanted was to eat
and sleep and fuck. Something in the beast's head made her keep
moving, close to the ground, loping along to... her lair? Where
was her lair? The beast had a memory, going down into a cave with
lights. That seemed right. But when the beast got close to the
cave the air was thick with man-stink! Fresh man-stink, not old.
Fresh! The mans were in the cave now! And the beast's nose caught
other scents, too, scents that she didn't like. Something in the
beast's head told her those scents could bring hurt and death.
Anyway, the beast knew her lair wasn't a cave. Not a cave! So
why go into a cave?
The beast was confused. Tired, hungry, and confused. But the beast had something in her head, like a buzzing little thing that would not go away and she couldn't swat it! Like a man-voice in the beast's head, telling her to keep moving. The beast fell on one side, scraping her head against the ground. Then the ground hurt, and blood got in the beast's eye, so she stopped. The beast didn't want to hear the voice in her head. The beast wanted to go back to the grass-place, to eat and sleep and fuck, but the voice wouldn't let her. The voice got bad when the beast went towards the grass-place, shrill and loud and very annoying. The voice got better when she was moving away from the grass-place, hunting for her lair that wasn't a cave --
The beast knew that sound. That sound wasn't in her head. The beast knew she had to go away from that sound. The beast had seen it: Things that didn't go away from that sound got shiny. And then they weren't the same thing they had been. They got shiny, and then they were the thing which made that sound. The beast didn't want to get shiny.
The beast went away from the thing which made that sound.
And then the voice again! The voice told the beast to go to 'Manhattan', to hurry. The beast knew Manhattan was a place -- she just didn't know where. The beast had a memory of going into a cave with lights, but where was Manhattan?
The beast stopped, shaking her head, but the voice got bad. Frustrated, the beast screamed out a roar. The voice got worse, like a big swarm of buzzing little things in her head. The beast scraped her head against the ground. She only got more hurt. Screaming again, the beast started loping towards the nearest clump of man-stink.
SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur
Mal's conversation with Musfah had not been fruitful. The hacker
was halfway to Manhattan before the AI was satisfied with his
explanation of the difference between it and a non-sentient machine,
and after that, Musfah just didn't see why it should concentrate
on eliminating any one SurviFur in specific. Oh, well. He's right, though; given the continuing exponential
increase in the robot population around here, she'll soon be taken
down anyway. Still, it was worth a try.
Having reached the Manhattan station's platform, Mal paused and checked other things. How nice. Sly's got a realtime tracer on the bitch's implant -- something else I didn't think I'd need to do. Hmmm. She's 2 miles away from Manhattan, and getting farther? Interesting. And her path after leaving the Savannah checkpoint is a tangled and confused mess. Does she even know the physical location of Manhattan? Don't think so. She's always taken the subway, barely looked at the map, always had someone else sweat the details for her. I'll bet the bitch doesn't have clue one how to get there on foot. So she's lost, and she has to dodge hunters and tripods along the way. And when she does reach Manhattan, the cops are on alert for her. Animal Control, too. Good. Gives me more time to work.
Mal set up a tiny program to run in the background, a little piece of code that monitored the realtime tracer on the bitch, and would warn him when she got within 500 yards of the Manhattan border. He didn't think anything more was needed; in her current condition the only danger she presented was that of claw and fang. Until her own brain got cleaned up, the bitch wasn't going to be washing anyone else's.
Mal checked his email one last time before getting down to business. Good, my boys are prepped and in position. He left the subway station and went to a particular alley, one which just happened to be laid out in such a way that most of it was within only one camera's field of view. And by no chance whatsoever, that camera just happened to be manned by one of Mal's slaves. He shifted over to his combat form, and then ran for Furrtive Moments, heedless of who or what might be watching.
He made it in record time. Once there, he stayed back in the shadows and put his binoculars' image processing to good use looking for plumes of the telltale signatures, carbon dioxide and hot air and so on, that would indicate possible means of entry... Got it. Up topside, 93% probability that it's an air conditioning duct. Also an 82% probability of the place not being empty. Damn. Just have to deal with it.
One running high jump later, Mal was on the roof of Furrtive Moments. He'd noticed an odd sensation in some isolated parts of his armored hide. Feathers? Right, must've stepped on pigeon shit while I ran. Irrelevant. They're going away in about 2 minutes. The duct he sought was round, only seven inches across and had no protection he could detect -- no alarms, no tripwires, nothing. Just a screen to keep wind-blown dirt and leaves and rain from getting in through this outlet. He used a claw to undo the screws which held the screen in place, then silently laid the screen off to one side of the duct. He closed his eyes, crossed himself, and offered a soundless prayer. Okay. Time to make it happen.
Mal shifted again, using another of the Mutopia formulas stored in his purifier. This one was the stealth form which he'd designed for covert intrusions like this. In gross physical terms it was a 40-foot-long snake with a pair of slim, dexterous arms, and it could fit through openings as small as 6 inches across. Its skin had color-shifting qualities normally found in cephalopods, allowing him to camouflage himself against any background, and with temperature-control adaptations taken from the arctic fox, his camouflage could extend into the infrared part of the spectrum (a trick he couldn't keep up for long before the internal buildup of heat got dangerous). The stealth form literally did have eyes in the back of its head, and IR-sensing pits to complement the UV-sensitive retinas in its eyes. It even had knockout venom, albeit only enough to put one large man to sleep for 10 minutes or so.
Mal's harness was of course completely unsuitable to this form. He reworked it, quickly converting it to one wide, multi-pocketed band of ballistic nylon that was held close against his elongated body by several straps. That 7-inch access hole would be a tight fit after taking the pockets into account, but it was doable. Fortunately, the interior ducting was much wider than the exterior hole, looking to be about 15 inches. The last thing he did before entering the hole was dismount his staff into three 2-foot segments, clipping each one individually to his reworked harness. I only hope I don't run into any bends that're too sharp for even the smaller segments to fit. And then he was in the ventilation system.
Slithering in silence, Mal spent the next half-hour looking through air-duct screens, taking notes on his palmtop and building a mental picture of what was where.
SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur
Man-stink and more man-stink! The beast had found a lot of it,
but none of it was Manhattan. The beast tried to remember where
she was, where she had been. The voice got better when the beast
remembered. It was hard to remember, but the voice got better
when she did. There were words, the voice gave her words, for
the places she'd been since she left the grass-place. 'Savannah'
was the word for the grass-place. The beast wanted to go there,
to eat and sleep and fuck, but if she did that, the voice would
get bad again. 'Again'. That was a word for something happening
twice. The voice got better, and the beast didn't know why. Savannah,
that was the word for where the beast had been. And 'Mountains'.
Mountains was another place. 'Forest' and 'River'. They were all
places. The beast had been in all of those places. The beast remembered,
none of those places were --
The beast knew a shiny thing made that sound. It was near. It would make her shiny. The beast didn't want to be shiny. The beast ran away from the shiny thing which made that sound.
SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur SurviFur
Thanks to the curfew that had been instituted to protect citizens
from the tripods, the place was closed. It wasn't empty, however.
Three vixens, asleep in their quarters. Two armed guards -- not
sure what they're packing, don't want to find out the hard way.
Just have to take 'em all out without them firing back. Fortunately, the stored DNA sequences in Mal's purifier included
some that would be very useful indeed. Throat, legs, arms, and eyes, in that order. That should keep
'em out of my way.
Mal slithered through the air ducts to the room where the vixens slept peacefully. He'd already considered and discarded the notion of vixenating himself; the heightened libido was a liability he simply couldn't afford. He got a mouthful of water from one of the bottles he'd been carrying in his pockets, adjusted the settings on his purifier tube, stuck one end of it through the open-meshwork faceplate which was this air duct's cover, and spat a couple of ounces of water through the tube onto each of the three foxes.
The Mutopia he'd just spitballed them with was designed to replace the victim's neck with the 'neck' of a dolphin, and when it was done, they'd all be completely mute, with their heads fixed in an upward-looking position. Mal didn't wait for that to happen; instead, he reset the purifier and spat again. This second dose of mutagen would eliminate the victims' legs, replacing them with the slimy 'foot' of a snail covering much of their ventral surface. As Mal again reset his weapon, one of the vixens stirred in her sleep, but did not wake up. A third dose of mutagen, this one to replace arms with flippers. The fourth and final round of spitballs replaced their eyes with those of albino cave fish, which is to say 'none whatsoever'.
In all, it had taken 26 seconds for Mal to hit his targets with all four mutagens. Not good enough -- got to work on that, he thought as the vixens' bodies rippled with changes. Now leave a surprise for whoever discovers this one. It took less than a minute more for Mal dampen the bedclothes with a four-Mutopia cocktail that would do no good whatsoever to whoever was foolish enough to touch a damp spot.
Three down, two to go... Mal went hunting for the guards. He was silent; he attacked from ambush, and then only when the designated victim was alone; he was victorious. The guards never knew what hit them.
With no effective opposition left, Mal broke one of the duct system's faceplates and slithered down to the floor. He took off his harness and shifted to the combat form, relieved the guards of their uniforms and equipment, and finally threw them into the vixens' bedroom. He used one of the guards' keys to lock that room's single door, broke the key off inside the lock, and sealed the broken key in place with duct tape from the roll he'd been carrying all along.
Done. Doesn't matter if the vixens' touch can erase what I did to them. If it can't, I'm clear; otherwise, it's gonna take at least a half-hour for any two of them to get close enough for physical contact, after which they have to figure out how to escape from a sealed room. Plenty of time for me to do what I came for.
Mal reworked his harness for a humanoid body; reassembled his staff; used the staff's stored Mutopia to resume his baseline human form; put on his silicone gloves; then got down to business. The first item on his agenda involved what he'd visited the Savannah for: The nectar of a giant Sundew plant. This nectar contained a very special mutagen. No matter how much of the stuff a victim swallowed or got smeared on himself, it wouldn't do anything -- not until the victim did get some other Mutopia on him, it wouldn't. At that point, the inactive components in the sundew nectar would copy the instructions of the active mutagen and go to work, in effect multiplying the effect of the active mutagen. The result would affect double or triple the normal percentage of the victim's body, perhaps even more, depending on how much nectar he'd been exposed to. And Mal had fed several ounces of Sundew nectar into his purifier, whose nano-assemblers now could generate as much of the stuff as he wanted.
He added concentrated Sundew to every liqueur and syrup in the wet bar which had flavor and/or sugar enough to conceal the nectar's presence, after which he did likewise to the supplies Furrtive Moments had stored in their back room.
That task complete, Mal used the guards' keys to get into the manager's office. The bitch hadn't been carrying anything; therefore, she had to have stored it somewhere, and this was the most likely place. He smeared a purifier-made four-mutagen cocktail on the outside doorknob, just in case any of the five other people in the building managed to escape the box they were in. He brought out his binoculars, hoping that the image analysis routines would reveal something interesting that was invisible to the naked eye; no such luck. Let's see if the purifier's chemical analysis can pick up anything; depending on what drugs the bitch uses, there might be detectable residues. He started blowing air through the purifier, moving around to sample the air in various locations, giving up after a few solid minutes of negative results. Enough. Table that. Even as cheap a dive as this has computers hooked up to the net, so let's see what they got.
Two minutes of hacking later, Mal was in. The Furrtive Moments machines were protected by a firewall that might have been the best money could buy in 1999... but it was barely a joke today. Scanning the drives, Mal found that less than 8% of the files had been backed up in the past four years, and those were just graphics documents, apparently advertising fliers that had been copied onto Zip cartridges for printout at a different location.
Mal did not smile. He merely installed a logic bomb, a chunk of code that would wait to receive the proper signal, after which it would obliterate every application, every document, every bit of data in the machine's hard drive and firmware -- and it would start with the most vital bits first.
More hacking, this time into the machines of the companies that supplied Furrtive Moments with its water, power, and other utilities. Leave the phone in place for now; everything else goes. When he was through, the topless bar was over 14 months in arrears with all of its suppliers. Right on cue, the lights went dark, there was a 'kachunka' noise from the basement, and the lights lit up again. I see; the place has its own generator. I'll have to make sure of its fuel supply before I go. It won't take 'em long to straighten this out in the morning -- it's just a simple concatenation of data-corruption glitches -- but this is only a mindgame. It'll piss off the bitch no end, and she won't need any evidence to blame it all on me. So far, so good.
Next, check the Med Center. I'll be needing them, she knows it, and she's had plenty of opportunity to set up unpleasant surprises for me. Of course, if she has set up anything, that would imply she's gotten at the management there, too. Time for more social engineering...
Having previously recorded a number of samples of the bitch's voice, Mal now gave his palmtop some samples of his own voice. A few seconds of FFT signal analysis later, the machine was able to digitally manipulate his voice to where it was indistinguishable from the bitch's. He used his palmtop's audio input and output, rather than risk touching the handset, and called the Med Center. If I'm right about this, it won't matter that it's 9 in the evening.
"Manhattan Med Center. What is the nature of your emergency?"
"Ooooh! Hello there, dear. This is Mary-Anne, and if you could just let me talk to the man in charge, I'd be ever so grateful." While counterfeiting the bitch's voice, Mal got into the Med Center's publicly available information.
There was a momentary pause, then, "Please hold for a moment."
It was less than 40 seconds, and the next voice on the line said, "Hello, Mother."
Mal blinked. That's interesting. But no matter what it sounded like, the number he was connected to was indeed that of Joseph Korrin, the Med Center's Director of Operations, the man who held ultimate authority over everything that was done in the Med Center. And Korrin went on: "What can I do for you tonight?"
"Oh, you darling boy! You can tell me what we're going to do to that nasty man, Mal, if he ever dares to show his face. I just love to hear a story with a happy ending!"
"Of course, Mother. When your pet cat comes in for removal of mutation, we'll only take away what's obvious from the outside, and we'll leave all of his internal changes untouched. As well, we'll rewire his brain to cut his IQ down to 90, cripple his linguistic abilities, and render him schizophrenic."
Mal nodded. So I'm her pet? Never mind. That's about what I figured. She's been a busy little bitch, has our Mary-Anne. "You are such a good boy! But I'm afraid Mother has some bad news for you. You see, I've changed my mind about what should be done with Mal, and that means we're going to go with a different plan. Please, can you forgive Mother for making you throw away all that hard work you've already done?"
"Of course I can, Mother! You know I can't be angry with you for anything! Just tell me what you want now, and you can be sure that we'll be ready to make it happen when the time comes."
"I am so proud of you, Joseph! What I want you to do now is... nothing. If he does come in for restoration, don't do anything special; just fix him, the same way you would anyone else. And be sure not to hurt his brain." Mal adopted an intimate, purring tone before continuing: "You see, now Mother has better plans for her big, black cat. Much, much, much better plans."
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