rebooting…system error… … … …

… … … retry? y/n…

system er!

gyroscopic stabilizers offline

base locomotion systems not detected

critical error! primary bioacclimation nanites not detected… …

secondary bioacclimation nanite system activating…

critical error!

secondary bioacclimation nanites not detected

!activating emergency cranial bio-support systems

!emergency bio support systems active! linked command line: satellite linked beacon

activating emergency location beacon

beacon active

external main aural systems online at limited functionality… … … …

implanted cochlear feedback system activating… … … …

implanted cochlear feedback system active

Julien Jardsel let out a sigh. At least he could hear again. It had only taken a total of 379 seconds since regaining consciousness to make that much progress according to his internal clock, which was the only thing that seemed fully functional at this point. Even his ears, now that they were back online were experiencing strange feedback that sounded like it was coming from somewhere in the room, not that he could tell what or where because his optical systems had yet to come back online. Any minute now, any minute now.

… … … …

error

error critical error

Not the most heartening thing to have scrolling across his HUD, which aside from the strings of ellipsis and errors, was entirely blank.

ocular systems failed to reboot

retry? y/n?

Yes! Yes already! He would have yelled if that had been an option, but that set of systems was pretty far down the line.

Why was it bringing up all these prompts? Every decent system, and his was one of the best his parent's money, of which there was plenty, had been able to buy, was supposed to do that sort of shit automatically. It, and the state of-the-art Cybrid body that housed it, had been a going away present before he left for university and he'd put it to good use during the semester. He'd also put it to good use on spring break, especially its chemo and bio filtration/stabilization systems.

If the clock on the HUD was accurate, and he had no reason to believe that it wasn't, it was late afternoon. That meant that he'd been out for nearly a whole day. That meant that it was late afternoon on the third day of spring break when he should have been out with his buddies having a wild time. Up until whatever had happened they had been having a wild time.

He and some guys from university had decided to go slumming and, in a bout of chemically induced bravado, had decided to take the 'Beer Street World Tour', hitting every bar on the infamous street. The drinks tasted like filtered piss, but harassing the local 'borgs and mutants was fun. Their tech was all shit compared to what he and his friends had going on, so no one gave them too much trouble and breaking heads added to the excitement.

Getting drunk and raising hell was what university was all about and they'd been doing a good job of it. They'd made it about half way down Beer Street to a bar with no visible name, just a neon sign depicting a woman spreading her legs to show off a rose. A real classy establishment as far as the bars on the street went and Mackenzie had caught sight of a pool table through the dirty plex-screen of the window. Mackenzie had a thing about pool and as the only girl in the group she tended to get her way more often than not. The fact that her body, faggy androgynous frame that it was, was lightly modded for combat helped. Playing pool and fucking up mutants were her big reasons for taking the 'Tour'.

Inside the nameless dive Mackenzie went to the pool table and the rest of them went to the bar. She was still half sober and she played a fairly good game, more interesting than whatever blood sport show they had playing on the one functional vid-screen behind the bar, but less interesting than the Cybrid chick on the far end of the bar, who was as interesting as a skimmer crash. She was a real hack job, visible synthetic components where the metal wasn't even coated. He could even see ports of unknown function on her exposed skin and the majority of what skin she had was exposed. It wasn't the way she was dressed that had first drawn his attention to her, that had been her electric green mohawk, but the amount of skin she was showing helped keep his attention. Of course it was more morbid fascination than anything else. Her lips and nails were painted the same hideous green as her hair and her synthetic parts were adorned with little lights, also green, flashing in lurid and suggestive patterns.

When she realized that he was looking at her the lights started flashing in a new pattern, a series of arrows on her stomach pointing downwards to advertise her wares, poorly made as they likely were. His friends and several other bar patrons noticed this as well and started egging him on. That put him on the spot and, though he wasn't interested, he went over to see what she was offering other than the all too obvious.

He'd had something witty planned to say, but he'd had enough to drink, piss weak as it might have been, that he wasn't thinking too quickly. Instead of putting her in her place with some scathing comment he ended up staring at the blinking lights on her chest. Some parts of her were well made at least.

"You're from Milvallen aren't ya?" she cooed in a high, slightly synthetic sounding voice, "'Cause no one here can afford a bod like that. Ya got some real high quality equipment, doncha?"

She then let out a shrill giggle that was more than slightly grating.

"Better than anything you've ever seen," he sneered. In the background his friends jeered, encouraging him to keep going, "Not that you'll ever get to see it."

"I'm available," she pouted, reaching out, but stopping just short of actually touching him.

He smacked her hand away, prompting angry shouts from several of the bar's patrons, "You'd have to pay me."

"I got some nice parts too, mods that rich girls wouldn't never think of getting," she ran her hands over her chest and then lower, which only served to draw attention to the several open ports on her stomach, "I can do stuff that'll make ya beg."

"I bet," he rolled his eyes, "Probably to put a shirt on."

"Met any rich girls that got the tech to do a hard override of your refractionary clock settings?" She brought a finger to her lips. Her nails were the exact same green as the lights and they were glowing as well. Real classy.

"You're bullshitting," he laughed in her face. He'd heard of drugs and nanites that did that sort of thing, but nothing that the likes of her could afford. That shit was expensive and dangerous.

"Wanna try me?" she pulled a wire out of somewhere, though where she'd been hiding it considering her outfit, was something he didn't want to give too much thought to. Winking at him she plugged the wire into one of the ports on her stomach and swung it in a lazy circle.

Even if she was lying it would make for a great story to tell the guys back at university.

error unknown error

… …

ocular system status unknown

attempt reboot anyway? y/n?

He'd answered that one already hadn't he?

So they'd gone upstairs. Apparently she did this often enough that there was a room above the bar reserved for her to use for this sort of thing. She'd pulled out a few more wires, plugged them into herself and motioned for him to come over. He'd complied, opening the corresponding access ports for her to plug into, wondering when they'd move on and get to the good stuff. He expected that there would at least be a little old fashioned, manual stimulation. Instead she stood there dialing in China, to use an Archaic Anglish expression whose actual meaning he wasn't really that sure of. He'd heard it once in one of his history classes once though and it fit with what she was doing with her chest. Something was happening, little strings of code were scrolling across his HUD, the occasional line showing up in red proof that she was getting into systems she shouldn't have been able to. That much was promising, as well as the occasional jolt he received. It wasn't exactly pleasant, at least not in the way he'd expected, especially not in terms of where it was centered. Rather than the localized sensation he'd expected it was more diffuse, throughout his whole body. Maybe she wasn't kidding about that hard override.

Yeah, there was something to it and it did feel kind of good.

The lines of red code were becoming longer and more frequent and the strange feeling was building in intensity. Now, despite the fact that it remained spread throughout his entire body, the feeling was almost familiar. It was crazy, like every nerve connection was keyed into pleasure.

She'd been telling the truth.

This was unreal!

Instead of stopping it kept rising up and up, well past the point where a cutoff should have triggered bringing an end to it all.

An error message appeared on his HUD, warning him that a number of vital reset functions weren't activating. Several other error messages followed in a cascade, but he was lost in the sensations threatening to overwhelm him. It had started to cross the line from pleasant to he wasn't sure what. Every nerve felt raw, overused, but it still felt good. There was pain, but even those signals were getting crossed, adding to how good it felt.

"S-stop!" he stammered, attempting to grab for the wires connecting them.

Then everything had gone white.

activating ocular systems at unknown functionality

… … …

ocular systems active

Unknown functionality was an understatement. The autofocus was offline and he had to manually refocus his eyes. The first thing he saw was a body. Picked clean of all its major systems and practically skeletonized he couldn't even tell what model it might have been. The next thing he noticed was that the light was all wrong, far too bright for the bar's dim lights. It looked almost like…he was outside.

Yes, the body was sitting amid piles of trash.

He couldn't turn his head to get a better look at anything, but he felt a growing sense of dread. He was trapped, paralyzed in an alley in the slums.

And that body…

Even the frame looked much better than anything he'd seen on the locals, far too well proportioned, nothing like the stupidly over build designs used by the locals with the cash to afford it. In fact if he had to guess, and he was forced to since he couldn't pull up any frame of reference for distance and proportion in his ocular systems, it was roughly the size and shape of a Swangee Systems Model: Variant 9.35M.

Shit!

His parents were going to kill him.

Once the retrieval drone came and got him he was fucking dead. He hadn't even had that body for a whole year and it was totaled.