Wednesday 8th March, 2051
Candyman stood with his back to his office, looking out over the sprawling slums of the Night City district known as The Gray. Out there, the sun was slowly beginning to sink towards the ocean after a sunny day in the mid-sixties, with a mild breeze dispelling most of the smog and pollution that usually hung over the city. In the well-appointed office of the Desiderium Cartel’s leader, atop the hi-rise former prison he had made his headquarters, the atmosphere was considerably more gloomy. Without turning, he spoke to his friends and former Lazarus team-mates. “Saxby, Elsbeth and Bianca have done their best, but Able is still dying slowly. When Mac and Pacoy jammed the communications chip integrated with Able’s Janissary cyberware, they set in motion a biochemical chain of consequences implanted by Rossum when they made Able what he is. Elsbeth?” Candy turned away from the window and gestured for his sometime-lover, Dr. Elsbeth Vano, to explain further.
The tall and willowy Vano, resident specialist in human augmentation at Hartnell general Hospital, consulted her datapad for a moment, then cleared her throat. “During one of his augment surgeries, nanosacs of a neurotransmitter inhibitor were bonded to Able’s brain neurons. Unknown to him, he has been given a complex peptide chain in his food once a month which prevents the inhibitor taking effect. Should he miss a dose, for instance by deserting his masters or by being kidnapped for an extended period, the communications chip sends a signal to the Janissary bioware that then releases an enzyme.”
Vano looked up, “That enzyme has caused the nanosacs to begin release their contents and inhibit his motor neurons. Usually, the progress of neuron deterioration would be fairly swift, as far as we can see. It would begin with muscle tremors and twitches, which would become full on spastic episodes accompanied by extreme nerve pain, then finally progress to complete quadraplegia and perhaps even death with a month.”
There was an extended heavy silence in the room, then her new colleague took up the narrative – Bianca Klieber, a gifted gene-geneer and member of the 23 Enigma rebellion which Candy had allied himself with after quitting Lazarus.
“There’s some good news, although not much.” On the big office main screen, a live feed of Able in a medical bed surrounded by monitoring equipment sprang up. "We’ve analyzed the neurotoxin that Rossum put in the vesicles in Able’s brain and while we have not as yet found a way to neutralize it, we have a cocktail of anti-agents that seem to be retarding its effects somewhat. Moreover, the toxin itself has a unique genetic signature on it, a proprietary ‘brand-mark’ if you will, that identifies it as being out of Umbra’s laboratories in Switzerland.
As it stands, we think we’ve managed to delay the degenerative effects considerably, meaning Able will still progress through the stages of poisoning but at only half or maybe even a third the intended rate. We have a window of opportunity. Saxby?"
The third member of Candyman’s team, lounging in a bucket chair with his customary scotch on the rocks to hands, tossed his blonde hair like a model. “Uh yeah. What Bianca means is I can’t touch the central Janissary programming at all, much as I hate to admit it.” He grinned wryly, “Able’s still sorta Rossum’s creation with the personality they gave him, but we opened up his head and fritzed the communications chip with a laser pulse. He isn’t whoever he used to be before they got their hands on him, but he isn’t exactly their poodle any more either. As long as they can’t give him direct instructions, voice to voice, his free will should exert itself in whatever personality happens to be living in his head at the time. You’ve got some time to track down some of the quacks who worked on him and get them to give up their secrets, and he’ll be able to come with you..” Saxby finishes by laughing at his own pun.
Candy had the last word. “We’ll keep Able here for now, my friends, while Elsbeth and Bianca see if they can improve on their work so far, or at least stay any further damage to Able until you are ready. You know, I hope, that I’m covering all their expenses, and I may be able to help with other expenses or with my contacts too. Don’t hesitate to ask. Find these scientists, find which ones are vulnerable, and go squeeze them until they give up their secrets.”
Saturday 18th March, 2051
It had been over a week since the meeting in Candy’s office, and Mac had been pouring over computer -retrieved news clippings and rumors almost day and night since, assisted by his sister Siri and by Pacoy when the latter was available. Now, he made a gesture and dozens of little pictures and icons appeared in the air above the Lazarus office’s big holo-desk terminal – disparate items, often with tenuous connections, but in there lay the answer he sought!
Siri, the android who had become a vessel for at least some of the A.I. personality that had created Mac, leaned her head against his shoulder. “Thanks for not mentioning me and Mother to the Candyman friend just yet, brother. I know he is an ally of the remnants of Mother’s network, perhaps even a member of that network by now…but I need some time to get used to how big and wide and empty but full my head feels now…”
Mac reached up absently and patted his sister’s cheek, “Don’t worry your gorgeous mop about it, Sis. take all the time you need. Now hush, I think I can….”
Mac’s voice trailed off as he entered a fugue state, the obvious symptom of the higher-level processing he’d discovered his artificial mind was capable of since he’d had the astonishing revelation that he himself was an artificial person, an android.
Then suddenly his fingers were a flurry of motion, dismissing some icons while making others larger, connecting them in a constellation of analysis as…
“Guys, get over here!” Mac almost shouted over the Lazarus teams general communications channel; waking Able in his medical bed, making Pacoy drop his cards just as he hit a possible flush, and rousing Pitbull from a drunken stupor in a flea-dive bar near the airport. the only one who didn’t hear was the absent Wormwood, well out of range somewhere. “I think I hit pay-dirt!”
Within an hour, all were gathered in the office as the geometric pattern of connections hovered in kid-air and Mac reported his findings.
“I tracked down most of the scientists from Umbra and Rossum who could know enough about either the Janissary implant or this neurotoxin in Able’s brain to be able to deactivate or cure either. Most work and live in secure arcologies run by their corporations, we’d need an army to assault even one of those places let alone two or more. But yesterday I found a snippet from a trade journal that mentioned one Rossum big-name brain and one Umbra one getting an award from the U.S. government for being the project heads on the Janissary program they’d started with brainwiped felons in Chi-Pits, and then I ran down both’s whereabouts and security since then and…”
“Professor Phillipa Barton from Umbra’s bio-engineering development labs and Rossum’s Doctor Luther Wahlen, head of Rossum’s neurological programming research, are working together again, as project heads on some job for British Biotech Invention Incorporated. It’s a partnership between the two corporations and the British government, based near Nottingham, England . There’s no sign of an arcology associated with it or of housing on site so both must be living nearby.”
“Gentlemen, we’re going to England!”