Serialized: Fragmented

She’d always enjoyed the energy at the airport. To her, it represented both a jumping off point to new adventures, and a place of joyful reunion. As she casually leaned against the ubiquitous half-wall of frosted glass and polished wood in the arrivals lounge, she almost unconsciously let one or two of the agency-provided bioenhancements activate, and luxuriated in the ripple of pure, unfiltered joy exuded from weary travellers as they were reunited with beloved friends and family members. It was creamy white, with a slightly golden tinge.

She never talked about the colour of emotion, or how it affected her. She never talked about anything personal, really, except when a story or circumstance from her past life came in handy on an assignment. Affinity and common ground could be used in almost infinite ways, she knew from experience. Still, she was careful to keep a barrier between those narratives and her own centre. She used these stories as tools, just one of the many weapons in her arsenal. The only difference was, this weapon didn’t come from the agency.

She scanned the rapidly thinning stream of people pouring through the almost impossibly clear glass double doors, and let a thin sigh escape from between her lips. All of this technology, all of this augmentation of everyday life, and we still can’t fucking make the transports run on time, she thought. Well, it wasn’t like she had anything better to do. The start of a new assignment always caused a feeling of frenzied impatience that was uncharacteristic for someone whose job it was to have a seemingly unlimited supply of patience. Her keen eyes flicked yet again over the arrivals board. SubOrb Flight 527, arriving in ten minutes.

There was nothing overly remarkable in her appearance, aside from a peculiar attentiveness in the eyes. She took care to ensure this. Partly because it was the agency’s standard operating procedure, partly because she didn’t want to become too familiar to the few languid airport employees who had the energy to lift their eyes from their drudgery and examine individuals straying through the endless boil of the crowd. Ubiquity and normalcy were the ultimate in stealth, and the enhancements that the agency provided allowed her to subtly modify her body structure, facial features, hair colour, and skin tone with nothing more than a simple thought. But the reason for secrecy ran deeper than agency mandate or idle curiosity. The airport was more than a place to begin assignments. It was one of the few places in Flor where she could feel somewhat connected to others. One of the exceedingly rare locations where she permitted herself to feel anything at all. Where she enjoyed emotion as it related to herself, and not to one of her assignments.

A rolling grey fog of fatigue punctuated by green-brown lances of self-loathing marked the arrival of a jaded businessman, a Lifer, from the look of it. She quickly disconnected. People like that made her exhausted. Eight more minutes until arrival.

Blunting her receptor bioenhancements to block the emotional funnel cloud of the businessman allowed her thoughts to return to the impending assignment. In her mind, she pulled up the case file for one last quick scan, although there was nothing new to be found. Of course. She always took care to internalize every bit, practically every pixel of information the agency allowed her to know about her newest target. Almost imperceptibly, she shook her head. No. “Target” was the wrong word. She tried to think of each of these people as something closer to a co-worker and temporary soul mate. Temporary being the operative word. And not her soul mate. It was her job to become theirs.

A curious mixture of nervousness, determination, and timorous joy in the face of another traveller caught her gaze, and she allowed her receptors to reactivate. A wave of crackling bright green, with roiling undertones of white-grey anxiety. Ah, another newcomer to Flor. A young woman setting out on her first solo adventure. Doubtlessly, this woman had been wooed by the idea of the “big city,” and the intoxicating illusion of freedom that came with being on her own. She noted that the girl was slightly wincing with every step as her flesh accommodated the bite of brand-new shoes, almost certainly bought especially for the trip. Within a year, it was exceedingly likely that this young woman would succumb to the fathomless depths of muddy grey depression as the brutal requirements of city living became clear. Flor did that to a lot of people. Still, she always enjoyed the colours of innocence as long as they lasted. She found herself wishing the young woman luck. Five more minutes until arrival.

She dismissed the case file, which had remained open as she considered the girl, but the data remained plainly accessible in her subconscious. One of the agency’s “gifts” was an enhanced memory, giving her the ability to store and recall data more quickly and completely than any of her bionormal human counterparts. She knew, from experiences both painful and sweet, what a useful tool an excellent memory could be. Hell, even before the agency’s bioenhancements, her recall and quick thinking had gotten her out of a lot of tough situations.

Enhancing her mind and installing the subtle complement of bioenhancements had been a simple procedure. The standard human is so malleable. Learning how to effectively to wield and control these enhancements was decidedly not easy. Still, she learned. She had to.

She was Ren Amaya, a Chimera, an agent of Optimae, and a skilled extractor of hidden secrets.

A secret smile curled her lips as the status of SubOrb 527 flipped to “arrived.”


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