Erin’s head made an echoing thud as it hit the top of the altar at the Basilica of St. Hyacinth. Remo could feel the impact inside Erin’s mind, even though he couldn’t feel her presence there. Her fight with the hit team had gone wrong. Very wrong. Remo reached out to the Matrix and found only a gun camera pointed into darkness, as if the gun were holstered and concealed.
A bishop, in full vestments and mitre, took a step back from Erins body and gestured as if to present her as an offering. “Elders, we offer this vessel for inhabitation. It will serve you well as an instrument of your will.” The bishop spread a dark, greasy ointment around the edges of the altar and finally across Samantha’s forehead as tendrils of unnatural darkness surrounded her from below. The tendrils wrapped around Samantha’s body and then shot into her nose and mouth toward her brain. As the tendrils vanished into her, a cold wind howled through the sanctuary.
Remo reached back into the gun camera’s memory as another person might flip through a paper file. He found what he hated to see: an hour ago, this gun had shot Erin in the back. Remo screamed as if no one could hear him.
But the abyss answered back. “This vessel is ours now. We will use it to bring this world to its knees.”
Remo screamed at the voice. “She is not an ‘it’! You will pay for what you have done to her!”
The voice laughed from the abyss, and Remo felt himself ejected from Erin’s mind. The resonance link between Erin and himself was severed.
Erin stood upon the altar, now a silent guardian of the corruption that had taken the church.
Remo reached out for something, anything, in the noise of the Matrix within the Chicago Containment Zone. He found a dead guy’s PAN, grabbed on, and sliced through the firewall. Inside, he found cameras for a smartgun and a pair of cybereyes. Through the cybereyes he saw a body without a head and in the corner of the smartgun camera he saw a head without a body. This was the last guy Erik Dreyfus had carved up before being shot.
He also found some files in the commlink and began to do what data sprites do best: process and search for more data. Within minutes, Remo had reassembled the man’s life. According to his SIN, this was Victor Bilson, a ‘corporate security liaison’ for a company called Jaguar Technologies. So Aztechtology took Erin, Remo thought. But what’s been done to Erin is not normal corporate behavior.
Victor Bilson had access to a slush fund, no doubt to finance certain deniable assets. “What an interesting idea, Mr. Bilson,” Remo whispered into the Matrix. “I believe I shall have to assimilate it into my own code.” Calling up locations of Erin’s contacts, he transferred a small amount of money to Bilson’s personal account for later retrieval. He uploaded a portion to a fake SIN he’d helped create a few months ago. The SIN wouldn’t hold up long under scrutiny, but Remo hoped it would hold long enough. The rest he transferred to the account of a man nearby he knew would care about what had happened to Erin because he had cared before: Andre de Vries.
Your plane skids to a stop on a narrow runway of Bolingbrook’s Clow International Airport, fishtailing as the pilot fights against the wind and the water-covered runway. Andre looks out the window at the dark clouds boiling across the sky.
“Looks like we hit the tail of the storm,” Andre says, gathering up his bags. “Let’s get rolling. The sooner we find this thing, the sooner we can get the hell out of here.”
It would appear as if their stay in the windy city by the lake will be filled with rain. Hard rain. There’s no lightning—yet—but thunder rolls almost continuously.
Andre’s ringing commlink jolts him out of his thoughts.
The caller ID says “Eric Dreyfus.”
“Hello. This is not Eric Dreyfus.” The voice over the commlink pauses between each word, as if Dreyfus were auditioning for a Shakespearean play. "My name is … "
In mid-sentence the voice switches from Eric Dreyfus to something more obviously artificial. " … Remo. I have a job for you."
Remo’s speech assumes a normal talking pace as he gives up using Dreyfus’ recorded words. “Something is wrong with my friend, Erin, and I have need of your special skills to correct her problem. Last night, she was ambushed by a team, and a second team stepped in to take down all of us. My resonance link with Erin was severed shortly after that, when her mind was hacked.” He pauses, as if searching for something.
“No, not quite hacked, but what people call ‘being possessed.’ I need you to remove the hacker from her mind and save her if possible. In the short time since her hacking, I have done some research. I understand it may not be possible to save her, but she is dangerous and needs to be stopped before she does something terrible against her will. I know you will require compensation for this tasking and I believe I have acquired an appropriate funding source. One of the first ambush team members was named Victor Bilson, he was employed by Jaguar Technologies as a corporate security liaison, and he had access to a fund for deniable assets. I decided I would incorporate that portion of his code into my own and employ some assets to do what I cannot. I can compensate your team for the amount of forty thousand nuyen. Will you assist Erin?”