Happy Friday, and a snippet from Intersection
Well, it’s the end of the work, and for most folks who observe Christmas the holidays will probably kick into high gear this weekend. Since the bulk of my decorating is now done, I thought I would celebrate with a teaser from Intersection. Some background: after finding out that her first love Ben Drake was still alive and being held at a Gold Rush-themed adventure park, Evie Contreras rescues him with the help of a mysterious organization that has been manipulating her academic and work career. Now held by them, she learns that cyborgs exist and Ben has been turned into one during his time at the park. She steals a security badge from one of the base officers to break into medbay and get the truth from Ben. Enjoy!
This time, the medbay doors opened obediently at her approach. Evie had been afraid that the base AI might stop her. Apparently her stolen RFID clip was enough to lull the AI into a sense of complacency.
Not after this, though. If Ballardie didn’t tell Lilith to check facial recognition against RFID codes from that point on, Evie would eat her tablet. She had one chance to see Ben, and she wasn’t about to waste it.
Pretend like you belong. That was easy enough; straight spine, a slightly bored but alert expression. She grabbed a pile of sheets from a pile on a small cart and carried them as a prop. The hallway ended at a round station manned by a very handsome, very bored man in red scrubs. His curly black hair had been cut short, and he needed a shave judging by the heavy five o’clock shadow, but his celadon eyes lit up when he saw her.
“Hel-lo,” he said in a drawled accent. “Did someone finally hear my plea for more help?”
“That’s what I was told,” Evie said brightly. “I’m Ally. Where do you need me?”
“Oh, my.” The man gave her a slow up and down that was lascivious and amusing at the same time. “Don’t ask me questions like that, love. I’m still on call for two more hours.”
She snorted, glancing at the ancient whiteboard propped up on the station’s counter. It had to be a list of patient rooms. “I bet you say that to all the new volunteers.”
“Only the ones who’ve stolen my heart.” He plunked his hand over his breastbone. “Promise me I’ll see you later, Ally. It may be the only thing that gets me through this deathly dull shift.”
She allowed herself a brief, amused grin. This one was a charmer, which made things easier and harder at the same time. Easier because he’d let her slide past. Harder because he’d definitely check out her ass as she walked away. “No promises…”
“Samir. Dr. Samir Haddad.” Something on his console beeped and he grimaced. “Oh, damn. Duty calls, love. I’ll catch you later?”
“You can try.” She turned and walked around the station, resisting the urge to hurry.
The station sat at the crosspoint of four corridors like a bull’s eye. Luck and left-to-right reading habits were with her and B corridor was opposite the one from the entrance. She headed down there, counting rooms until she came to B4.
The board had Drake, B printed neatly next to the B4 slot. Licking dry lips, she grabbed the door handle. The worst they would do was kick her out, maybe yell at her for boosting Rob’s RFID wand. She’d take that and much worse to be able to talk to Ben, her Ben, not some tarted up artificial persona that someone had programmed onto a chip.
She opened the door, ready to smile.
Her first thought was that she’d gotten the rooms mixed up somehow. Because the thing on the bed, it looked like Ben, yes, but it was missing both arms and everything from the middle of its chest on down. The holes in the body had been sealed neatly with glistening gelatinous caps, and a variety of tubes and wires ran from them to a mix of equipment arranged around the bed. Some of the tech she recognized from her own work, equipment regularly used in cybertech. The rest looked more like it belonged in a hospital room, with a person.
Not here. Not with this … mockery.
He really was an android, something in the back of her mind whispered. They lied to you, they all lied to you—
The Ben-thing opened its eyes. And looked at her with the most hesitant, heartbreaking smile. “Evie?”
She shook her head. Why was it lying to her? Why did it have to use Ben’s voice?
It glanced down, craning its neck. Blue eyes went wide, filling with horror. “No. Oh, God, no!”
She choked back a sob, shaking her head.
He looked up. Color flooded his face, making his eyes seem to glow as he stared at her. And then the horror disappeared, replaced by incandescent fury. “Get out!” he shouted, raising his head off the bed far enough to jostle some of the wires and tubes. Somewhere an alarm began to bleep. “Goddamn you, Evie, get out! Don’t look at me!”
She didn’t want to. She didn’t want to see any of this. Screwing her eyes shut, she fumbled for the door handle behind her.
There it was. She stepped backwards, away from the impossibility on the bed. Away from the last, final hope she’d allowed herself to have.
She backed into someone. Turning, she looked up into Samir’s now-grim face.
He grabbed her arm, his grip not ungentle but impossible to escape. “I think we need to have a chat,” he drawled. “Don’t you agree, Ally?”