After a slew of revisions using input from both sides of my brain, CPs, betas, and even a pair of agents, this is the [current] opening for FREEBORN.
Katia shuffled down the busy sidewalk in her geriatric shoes. Shoulders and sharp elbows rocked the old woman as the mindless clones around her scurried to some appointment or another. The pulse in Katia’s temples thumped four times faster than the clacking of her copper cane. Wary of the surveillance cameras, even in the crowd, she slowed to a stop and adjusted the scarf securing her gray wig. Though her granny disguise was fake, her Infection was all too real.
Every face that passed wore a government-issued prevention mask. Every set of eyes above those masks posed a threat to Katia’s dangerous ruse. Even though she had taken every precaution—done every prescribed step to prevent it—the dreaded sickness had wormed its way into her blood. Red-hot fear and a hungry, deadly parasite now squirmed together in her gut.
She chanced a peek at the pair of militant Doctors blocking her direct route to the building. Their chrome assault rifles glinted in the sun like surgical blades. Katia had seen the Doctors in action many times: kicking the infected, mocking them, toying with the victims before dragging them kicking and begging to a quarantine center. A single prick from one of the detectors clipped to their belts would immediately unravel her disguise.
Her status would instantly downgrade from a harmless, healthy clone to a diseased punching bag.
Katia hunched extra low. Her lungs burned with stale, recycled breath as she worked her way through the masses and shambled along behind the Doctors. Their gruff laughter bounced off her humped back as she passed. Caught up in some dirty joke, they paid no mind to the rickety, old granny mounting the steps to the ten-story structure.
The woman in Suite 940 held Katia’s last scrap of hope. While the pirate forums referred to the woman as a witch, Katia didn’t believe in such things. The mysterious Ilythia, supposedly, possessed the secret knowledge needed to help the infected survive the horrific final stages of the Infection. With the world slathered in deception, it could be a trap. But Katia’s symptoms intensified with every passing day. Her stomach was already visibly swollen with the bastard parasite eating her alive from the inside out. Soon, she would no longer be able to hide her sickness from the ever-watching eyes.
Fear jabbed her insides as she approached the GeneTag scanner. ID cards, fingerprints, and retina scans were obsolete. This new technology now guarded entry to any building. Katia thought the method suspicious. Stupid, really. With the airborne virus so contagious, why had the idiots in the skyscrapers designed an ID system that required removal of the protective masks?
She slid hers off.
A couple exited the building, swinging wide around the threat of her exposed face. Katia stuck out her tongue and confronted the polished steel panel inset in the wall. Her ragged, fake-old-lady reflection disappeared as the door slid upward and out of sight, revealing the angry mechanized armature. It was like a cyborg’s arm severed from its body, all the flesh boiled away. Clinical and demanding. Rods, hinges and tubing with a singular, selfish mission: to prick.
The hoses plumped, and the hydraulic arm emerged from the wall. Bent at the elbow, wrist maneuvering into position, it aimed itself at Katia’s open mouth like a cobra ready to strike. But it didn’t have a pair of fangs; it only had one—a four inch needle looming shiny and sharp.
Katia squeezed her eyes shut to brace against the coming pain. With a sickening pop she couldn’t get used to, the needle plunged into her tongue. Pain erupted. Hot serum injected. Tangy. Bittersweet. Like molten glass flooding her mouth. The siphon engaged, reversing the flow, and the syringe sucked its rancid fluid back out.
Sirens blared. Strobes flashed.
Infection Detected! Infection Detected! Infection Detected!