Nico Wachalowski—Goicoechea Plaza
Everyone thinks they know what a revivor is, but the truth is the only ones who really know are the revivors themselves. The first time I ever saw one was during my initial tour in the grinder, where even at night it was like a furnace, and when a hot breeze blew through the brush, I could smell them. When that first one moved into the moonlight where I could see it, I was scared. I was never as scared about anything else before that. People argue about what goes on in their heads, but I couldn't tell what it was thinking, or whether it was thinking at all. All I can really say is that no one who has seen a revivor face-to-face would ever choose to become one. That was why I was in the elevator of that building the night that it all started.
Heading up to the eighty-second floor, I watched the numbers flip and tried to calm my heart. Assistant Director Noakes had put me on the case because of my prior experience with revivors, but I would have volunteered. Those things belong in the ground, but short of that, they belong on the other side of the world, not on mine.
The car ground to a stop and the doors opened into a barely lit corridor. I stepped out into the shadows and moved toward the door at the far end. Everything I saw was recorded and then transmitted to the men below through the implant wired near the base of my skull. They monitored the visual feed and even my vital signs as they waited for my signal. I opened the secure communications circuit and sent them confirmation.
The words floated in front of me, then faded as I moved down the hall. Like a lot of properties in the area, most of the offices were empty; there were a few businesses scraping by, but past the sixtieth floor the place was vacant, except for one. The office I was visiting supposedly bought and sold small-scale third-party processing components, which was a nice touch. I had no doubt that front even made a little extra money on the side.
I made my way past the locked rooms and dark offices until I came to the one I was looking for. The door was closed and unmarked, with a black buzzer next to it. I pushed the button and waited.
They'd be watching me; I couldn't see it, but somewhere a camera was checking me out to make sure I was someone they were expecting. A few seconds later there was a heavy snap from inside the door. I opened it and went inside.
It was the first time I'd actually seen the place, and it was pretty much what I expected. The lobby was stripped bare, with nothing on the walls and no place to sit. What would have been the reception area was set up with a terminal and was being used as a workspace with wires trailing across the dusty floor. Tai and two of his men were waiting there for me.
"Right on time," Tai said. "I'm glad you decided to show."
Tai was a dark-skinned Asian with long hair and a long face. The two guys with him were tattooed, tough-looking types I didn't recognize.
"Check him out."
I raised my hands to shoulder height as the two men approached me. One of them swept an electronic wand up and down the front and back of me while the other took a more hands-on approach and patted me down. The one with the wand nodded at Tai, and he dismissed them.
"You ready?" Tai asked.
"They're back there," he said, gesturing to a door behind him. "You were looking for ten?"
"Ten if I can use them," I said, "more if they work out."
"You can see them for yourself and decide," he said. "I've got one set up if you want to sample it. Last door on the left."
"No rough stuff."
"How long do I have?" I asked.
"I'll give you five minutes to do whatever you're going to do," he said. "After that I'll show you the others, and we can talk about price."
"Assuming they're acceptable."
"They will be."
I headed through the door and it closed behind me. The hallway beyond was quiet except for the hum of multiple terminals and a heating unit, with stacks of cardboard and some wooden pallets leaning against the walls. Just above the white noise, I could make out the sound of movement.
I blinked, activating the heads-up display that shone back onto my retinas. The connection with the men waiting downstairs was open, and everything was being recorded. Using a backscatter filter, I could see tiny hidden cameras standing out in sharp relief just behind the drywall, watching me as I made my way down. Cooling thermal signatures across the floor indicated people had been back there recently. I followed them to the last door on the left.
I could feel my heart pounding as I pushed open the door and the smell of urine drifted out. The door opened into a restroom, where the stall doors hung open and most of the toilets were covered with plastic wrap. The floor had traces of half-wiped-away blood, and there was some spattered across the wall where the sinks were. Someone had met with bad news there, but my attention was drawn to the middle of the room. There, standing barefoot on the filthy tiles with its knees together and its hands clutched by its sides, was the revivor.
The old fear took me a little by surprise. Despite the fact that it was a female and practically a girl, I had to force myself to move closer to it.
It stood maybe five-foot-six, a head or so shorter than me, with thin arms and legs and long, straight black hair that partly covered its face. From behind the strands two large eyes looked out at me, the irises a pale silver color, just barely illuminated with a glow that reminded me of moonlight. They followed me as I approached.
It was an improvement over the ones I'd encountered during my tour. The skin was well preserved, and its porcelain tone made the revivor look like a doll or wax figure. The synthetic blood they were using now made some of the veins stand out darkly, but some clientele actually liked that. The cosmetic surgeries had been well-done, too, with almost no scarring. The large, augmented breasts looked out of place on such a thin body, but otherwise might almost have been the originals. The small nipples pointed forward like bullets.
"Stand over there," I told it, pointing to one of the sinks that were covered in plastic.
It did, so it understood English. Its expression didn't change as its bare feet padded across the dirty floor and it stood in front of the sink, its back to the mirror.
It did, gripping the sides of the sink through the plastic wrapping and bending over slightly in a movement that looked practiced. I focused on the back of its neck, just beneath the skull.
I brought up the scanner and looked under the skin and muscle where the components were clustered, a network of nodes and hair-thin filaments around the spot where the spinal cord met the brain. An amber squiggle of light jumped across a circular screen, hovering to one side of the display before snapping into a single waveform—the revivor's heart signature. I processed the signal and pulled the identification. The lot number wasn't on file, so it wasn't sold legitimately. Someone had had this one made to order.
In the mirror, I could see its eyes staring downward as it waited to be violated. My investigations had suggested that Tai had the pleasure models smuggled from Korea, but whoever the woman had been, she didn't look like a Korean local. A tourist, maybe? Someone who wandered down the wrong street?
I focused on the revivor's face in the mirror as it stared through its dark hair, so that the men below could see it.
You getting this? I asked.
I had three of Tai's five minutes left, assuming he stuck to his word.
"You can turn around now," I told it.
It turned, standing with its back toward the sink and staring up at me blankly.
"Someone's probably still looking for you," I said. I said it to myself, but it answered.
I had intended to use a small, directed electromagnetic pulse to short out the components and put it down before leaving the room, but I didn't. It continued to stare into my eyes, expressionless.
Wachalowski, deactivate it.
I was well aware that everyone involved was watching this unfold in real time. Later, I would be questioned about why I did what I did. I had been picked for the operation on the assumption that I knew what a revivor was and wouldn't be prone to hesitation. If anything went wrong, I would be held accountable.
"What did you say?" I asked. Its eyes didn't betray any sadness, or any feeling at all as it answered.
"He'll never stop looking."
An uneasy feeling sank into my gut.
Wachalowski, deactivate it.
I hated revivors. I hated everything about them. They were the worst symptom of a sick arms race that had gotten out of control a long time ago. I'd shipped off for my tour thinking I understood what they were. The day I learned I was wrong came close to being my last day on earth.
The girl looked up at me. When the time came to put it down, I thought I would enjoy it.
Instead I said, "Stay here. Don't move, and don't say anything. Do you understand?"
"If things go bad, hide behind whatever you can, and keep your head down."
I left the bathroom and moved down the corridor. A door to the left was locked, but the next one on the right opened, and I looked in to see a group of figures sitting at desks arranged in rows. Each desk had a small light that lit its surface in the otherwise dark room. Many pairs of silvery eyes floated in the darkness, turning toward me as the door opened. It looked like they were assembling some kind of electronics.
Can you make them out? I asked.
One of them spoke in an Asian dialect, turning its attention from the desk. The translator scrolled its words across th...