Jake crouched atop a large pipe, peering through the binoculars he held with one hand. Snipers patrolled the building across the street, a weapons manufacturer that thought it could compete with Black Fire. Job was simple: in, plant explosives, out, detonate. Private security and automatic turrets would provide the challenge.
He stowed the binoculars and sighted his grappling hook launcher at the highest point on the building, a water tower. The hook flew across the gap and locked on, magnets securing it in addition to the clamp. Jake hooked the launcher onto the railing he stood behind and clipped his handlebar onto the metal wire, which stretched taut above the road below.
A single push-off sent him skimming across the distance, gripping the handlebar tightly until he was over the other building, then releasing it and dropping the few feet to the roof. The rough surface scraped against him as he rolled, but the sturdy material of his body suit kept him from feeling it. When he was on his feet again, his katana was in his hand, the energy coating on the blade humming to life and giving off a faint blue light. He sliced through the padlock on the entrance, swiftly pulling open the door and locating the alarm panel.
The code Ann had given him worked; the alarm system was disarmed, and he unlocked the doors at the back of the building. He punched the timer on his wristwatch as he went inside. In one minute and ten seconds, he would meet up with the rest of his team in a maintenance shaft. As he moved swiftly and silently down the corridors, he drew the S&W 500 from its holster. It had a heavy, solid feel to it, and he held it ahead of him as he navigated around the corners.
Footsteps sounded off to his left. He threw himself against a wall, the gun held to his chest. A guard walked around the corner, his rifle held low; he was paying little attention to his job. Jake clubbed the back of his head with his revolver, and the guard went down with barely a grunt. He hauled the body behind a convenient pipe and resumed moving towards the rendezvous point.
He had previously plotted out a path through the corridor that would keep him from encountering any of the building’s automatic defenses, so he met up with his teammates exactly on time. Ann flashed him a grin. “Nice work, Jacob.” She handed him his portion of the explosives. “You know where you need to plant these?”
“Of course.” He slung the bag over his shoulder, returning her grin. “See you in five minutes.”
They scattered, moving throughout the building and planting the explosives on key systems. As Jacob placed his last explosive, her frowned. There had been no opposition whatsoever. It was too easy.
A hissing sound, followed by a loud click, came from behind him. He whirled, and saw that the door to the room had sealed behind him. He rushed to it and tried to force it open, but it resisted. After glancing at his watch and seeing that he had only thirty seconds before the bombs detonated, he pulled the shotgun off his back and fired on the door, trying to blow open the latch and free himself.
When both the clip of shells and the battery for the energy shots were exhausted, he drew his pistol, hoping that the large, high-power slugs might succeed where buckshot had failed. The door was merely dented. He holstered the pistol and drew his katana, trying to slide the blade through the door and the frame and cut it open, but it was too tight. Another glance at his watch: ten seconds.
He moved to the farthest corner of the room and pushed over the heavy desk and filing cabinet, laying behind them. His watched ticked down the last three seconds. Two. One.
A deafening boom, and the desk was flung against the wall, crushing Jake’s lower body. The fire washed over him, searing him through his combat suit. He lay there, barely conscious, as the fire died down. His vision was dim and blurry, and his ears were totally filled with a loud ringing.
Vaguely, as though from a distance, he heard Ann’s voice over his headset. He couldn’t tell what she was saying. Gradually, mercifully, he blacked out.
“Jacob, come in!” Ann swore as she pulled a small palm computer out of a pouch. “Did either of you see him come out?”
“No, ma’am,” one of them said.
“I noticed the building locking down just after I made it out,”
She plugged into the device, and her eyes went unfocused as she looked at her heads-up display. Three small lights close together, that was Ann and the other two operatives. That one light, still in the building… “Bloody fool.” Ann sprinted back into the building, her cyborg legs sending her flying over the burning rubble, leaping from solid patch to solid patch, then landed in front of the door that had trapped Jacob. After a quick scan of the door, she punched the latch hard, snapping it, then pulled it open quickly. Jake was crumpled against a wall, pinned by a desk that still smoldered.
“Help me get him out of here.” The other two cyborgs pulled the desk away and Ann picked up his broken body and quickly carried him to the hover copter that they had flown there. It took them less than five minutes to get back to Black Fire Corporation’s headquarters, and another two to transfer Jacob’s body to the medical ward.
The doctors looked him over. “There’s nothing we can do to save this body,” one of them said. “But he’s on the list for cybernetic recreation, so we’ll save his mind.”
Ann watched, her robotic eyes unblinking, as the doctors determined what of Jacob could be saved. They put him on life support to sustain him while they transferred his life from a human shell to one that was primarily machine. With a smoothness that spoke of a great deal of experience, the doctors removed his legs, his right arm at the shoulder, and the right side of his face.
As they finished removing the damaged body parts, Ann frowned slightly. “Do you have the right parts for him?
“He was scanned during his physical. We made a complete set of cyborg parts for him the day he started working for Black Fire.” The doctor who said this opened a cabinet, revealing the aforementioned set of parts. They took everything they needed and began merging metal and flesh, bonding the human part of Jacob to his new cyborg parts.
A faint smirk crossed Ann’s lips. He had been good before. Now he would be the best.
When Jacob came to, the first thing he noticed was that he didn’t hurt. After what he’d been through, that was inexplicable. He opened his eyes and noticed something else. Everything looked different. A few moments of contemplation let him realize he was seeing things partially in infrared vision, and he seemed to somehow have a minimal heads-up display.
That wasn’t the half of it, though. He slowly sat up and felt that his right arm was harder, stronger. Almost unwillingly, he turned to look at it. Metal. Mechanical. A quick glance showed that his legs were metal as well, and he felt his face with his left, still human, hand. Also metal.
Jake flopped back onto the pillows. Sure, they had told him that they would turn him into a cyborg if he lost limbs, but reality is something altogether entirely different from what you hear someone says.
His flop must have made more noise than he thought, because Ann came quickly into the room. “You’re awake.” She smiled. “How do you feel?”
“How do you think?” He sat up again and moved to the edge of the bed, getting used to how the new body felt. It responded just the same as his old body had; that was something. “All right, I suppose. How long does it take to get used to?”
Ann sat on the bed beside him. “About a week. Though, only the first day is really awkward.”
Jake slowly stood, feeling like a child just learning to walk. The legs were high-quality, though, and carried him well. Once he got the feel of them, he walked back and forth in the room, testing them. He shot Ann a grin. “How do I look?”
She grinned. “Handsome and powerful. Everything an agent should be. And you seem well-adapted to it, too.”
He shifted from leg to leg. “Indeed. Let’s go train.” They walked down the hall together, heading for the training room.
Jake grinned. This was going to be fun.