A Night to Remember: Part Six (by Simon Petrie)
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The one positive aspect, Gordon decided, was that Claudia Iyzowt was still alive. Albeit for a given value of ‘alive’ that involved the short, grey-haired heiress’s apparent sedation and confinement, by the medium of a set of depressingly secure-looking straps, to a disconcertingly medical-looking and unnervingly technological trolley with an unnecessarily extensive collection of blade- and sensor-wielding robotic limbs poised thirty centimetres or so above Claudia’s.
The negative aspects, aside from those already identified, would be that Gordon was similarly fastened, alert but immobile, to a second medgurney with an even more comprehensive array of knife-equipped arms and telescopic eyestalks; that the armour-clad Gunther Haier—aka Sir Tin Death—was now advancing with purpose, towards Gordon, from across the freight-tower’s basement, holding a small, bright and shiny circular saw that seemed to whirr with an enthusiasm which Gordon found quite inappropriate in the circumstances; and that his precious handheld, lying discarded on the basement floor, was still switched ‘on’ and was steadily losing power. It might well be dead before he was.
And, for all that envy in the circumstances seemed the slightest bit inappropriate, he couldn’t help but notice that the knifey attachments on Claudia’s medgurney were about five centimetres further above her face than were those on Gordon’s.
At least he now knew what had been in the two mysterious crates that he’d seen in the basement, when he’d come through here before ascent’s commencement just a few short hours ago.
“Isn’t this the point,” said Haier, revving the motor on his little surgical powersaw with, in Gordon’s view, altogether too much glee and joie de vivre, “where you assure me I’ll never get away with it?”
Gordon twisted his head as far towards Haier as was permitted by the medgurney’s straps across his torso, looked the other straight in the visor, and said “For pity’s sake, Haier, let Mrs Iyzowt go. I get that you’ve got a beef with me, revenge and all that, but why drag her into this as well?”
Haier laughed, in a way that evoked the direct antithesis of humour. “Doesn’t work that way, Modicum.”
“Mamon,” replied Gordon. “Why doesn’t it?”
“Because she’s got something I want. Because it would be a crime to let all this planning go to waste.” Haier paused in his slow advance and made an expansive gesture with his arms. “And because I need you both for this to work.”
Something tells me, Gordon thought, that not letting all the planning go to waste would also be a crime …
“What is this ‘this’?”
“What d’you think I am, Mutton?” asked Haier, as the basement’s lights flickered momentarily.
“Mamon,” said Gordon, before continuing, mindful of the sharpness of the power tool in Haier’s metal-gloved hand, “I think you’re a—er, a highly experienced career criminal with a speciality in—”
“In tying up loose ends?”
“I’d have put it differently.” Gordon swallowed a lump of unease, or maybe it was reflux. “But yes, close enough. Still. it’s never too late to change.”
“Oh, I quite agree, never too late to change,” said Haier. “But not in the sense you mean. You two are my ticket out of here. Do you know the hit-man’s greatest enemy?”
“Interpol? Prison? Price hikes in ammunition?”
“Mamon,” said Gordon. “Unless that was just a cheap shot … but what you say, I guess that would explain your fetish for disguise.”
“I don’t have a … well, maybe I do. But that’s by-the-by. And if you’re referring to the armour, it’s not just a disguise. It’s a full-body environment suit. Not that there’s any ‘body’ left, really, to speak of.”
“You’ve cyborged yourself?” asked Gordon, sharp-voiced, wishing he could do something about the sweat starting to adhere to his brow. But his arms, like the rest of him from the neck down, were pinioned by the medgurney’s straps.
The lights flickered again. (Very atmospheric, of course, but also somewhat perturbing. And there was already more than enough ‘pertubing’ around to be going on with, thank you very much …)
“I prefer to think of it as a maximum-impact makeover,” said Haier. “My brain, me, transplanted into an enduring, adaptable, near-indestructible metal body.”
“But you were—”
“In jail? Yes. But it’s surprising what you can achieve in a weekend’s bereavement release. I haven’t looked back since. And until you try it for yourself, I don’t think you can properly appreciate how liberating it can be, to have all your needs met by a small electrobiochemical processing device within a super-strong metal frame. Veins replaced by electrical circuitry, muscles by battery-powered servoes, immunity from every disease known to man. Plus, of course, with all my needs met through artificial power sources, I no longer need to eat.”
“If you gathered us here just to gloat—”
“Oh, far from it, Maelstrom.”
“Whatever. Gloat? No, I have very special plans for you and the heiress here.” Haier started moving closer again. “Heh. Just thought of something. Bit late now, of course, but it is a pity you never cyborged yourself. It’d be a very useful feature, a detective who never needed to eat.”
“I don’t follow,” said Gordon, who didn’t like the way Haier had sniggered.
“I mean,” said Haier, “you could have called yourself ‘no-shit Sherlock’.” There were a few seconds of stony silence. “Somebody should write that one down.”
“If you’ll allow Claudia and me to live,” suggested Gordon, “I’ll make sure to pass it on to the Skytop cops for you.”
“No can do. And I think I’d better wrap this up now.” Haier, now just a couple of metres from Gordon’s medgurney, thumbed the surgical powersaw’s controls so it gave a piercing, rising whine as its blade rotated.
“Wrap what up?” Gordon asked, speaking loudly and quickly.
Haier paused again. “See, there’s only one drawback to this all-metal getup. It’s too perfect.”
“How d’you mean?” The lights flickered again, and a desparate hope occurred to Gordon. The longer he could keep Haier talking …
“Every time I pull an impossible hit, they know it’s me,” replied the hitman. “Because none of the other pros … they’re all too fond of the meat, know what I mean? Which means there’s ten or eleven take-outs I’ve performed over the last few months, and I mean real class performances, no trace whatsoever … but just because of the way they’ve been done, nobody else on Earth could’ve pulled them, so the cops, they know it’s me. Even though I left, like I say. no trace. I ask you, does that seem fair?”
“So it’s pretty useful, I guess, that I don’t need to sleep no more, because you get the cops of eleven or twelve different countries on your trail, comparing notes, they’re not going to sleep on the case, either. They’ve been relentless, absolutely relentless. Clueless, too, for the most part, but that’s not going to last. So I need to pull something special, to throw them off the trail. Took me long enough to figure out how to do that. Now, if you don’t mind—”
“Wait!” called Gordon, struggling once more in futility against the straps. “You still haven’t said—”
“It’s maybe one of those things that’s easier to demonstrate to explain,” explained Haier, closing to stand beside
Gordon’s medgurney. “Only that won’t work too well, in your case.” He lifted the powersaw above Gordon’s head.
“Brain surgery!” Gordon yelled, in desperation, and then felt his insides turn to jelly—metaphorical jelly—while the lights extinguished themselves for a good one-and-a-half seconds. (And just in case you’re wondering, a one-and-a-half-second burst of darkness is, I can assure you, a considerable duration to be lying strapped to a trolley while a ruthless killer holds a lethal powertool only centimetres above your cranium.) “I’m right, aren’t I, Haier? You’re going to pull a brain transplant, aren’t you?”
“Two brain transplants,” said Haier. “One for practice, so the medgurneys get a feel for what’s involved. And one brain left over, out in the cold. Yours.”
“I don’t follow.”
“OK, it goes like this,” said Haier, in an easy conversational style which, in other circumstances might have seemed relaxing. “First, the gurneys hack out your brain, prep your body for its new brain. It’ll be a bit rough, but they pick up skills very quickly, if the brochures are to be believed. Then, they’ll remove old lady Iyzowt’s grey matter, handle it carefully, prep her body for its new brain, and transfer her brain to your body, rewiring it so she retains the mental ability of a two-year-old. Probably not much change there, far as your body’s concerned.”
As though at the mention of her name, the heiress finally stirred, and tried to mumble something as she struggled against her confines.
“Excellent,” said Haier. “I need her to be conscious. So, once the medgurneys have practised on her-brain-into-your-head, they’ll wait fifteen minutes, check that the transplant has taken, and then push through with my-brain-into-her-head. It’s perfect. It’s foolproof. Purely a temporary arrangement, just for a few years until the heat is well-and-truly off. I mean, it’s a pity to have to give up all this, but Iyzowt’s not that old, and she’s rich as. And nobody in the worlds is going to look at her, to look at me, and think of Gunther Haier.”
“That is the most depraved, sadistic, ruthless …” Gordon let the adjectives dwindle on his lips.
“But if the medgurneys can do all this,” protested Gordon, while Haier pulled out a felt-tipped pen and drew what felt like a dotted line across the detective’s forehead, “why the powersaw?”
“I’m a hitman,” said Haier. “I prefer the hands-on approach.”
“You’ll never get away with this!”
“There, I told you you were just waiting to say that. Better now?”
“In the circumstances,” replied Gordon, “no. But you were saying?”
“Don’t think I was,” said Haier, as the illumination briefly zeroed once more. “Bloody faulty lamps. You got a light?”
It’s not a fault in the lights, Gordon told himself. “There’s no smoking on any Skyw—uh, no. But if you’re looking for a battery-powered light source, my handheld, on the floor over there, has an illumination function.”
“Right,” said Haier, and moved off to retrieve the handheld. As if on cue, there was another brief flicker of darkness.
Gordon turned to face Claudia Iyzowt. She didn’t look fully aware, but there was no help for it. “Mrs Iyzowt. Claudia,” he said, quietly but urgently. “Be brave. I’m hoping you’ll survive this, one way or another. Looks like I won’t. Please, tell the cops at Skytop what’s happened, because they need to know. And tell them to pass on a message to Belle, for me.”
“Belle?” asked Iyzowt, trying to sit up and failing. “Who’s Belle?”
“Too long to explain,” said Gordon. “But they’ll know.”
“What’s this message? And why am I tied up?”
“Tell them, to tell her—”
But Haier was back again, with the handheld, and the surgical saw, and a distressing degree of enthusiasm.
The powertool in Haier’s hand, just centimetres above Gordon’s forehead, whirred into full speed, its clinical whine deafening at this distance. Then the hitman twitched, and the lights flickered off again.
- A Night to Remember: Part Six (by Simon Petrie) (deberelene.wordpress.com)
- The state of play … (deberelene.wordpress.com)