The Crawler

“...and this is what we brought you in for,” Lucia finished as they stepped into the small room. It was part of the laboratories, alright, but clearly one of the more neglected parts of it. The desks were pristine, but one wall was a mess of shelves stacked with various apparatuses and there was a yellowish tinge to the light here.

“If you brought me here t’clean you ain’t seen my old apartment,” Sy quipped, looking in over Lucia’s shoulder. She wobbled on the transporter and quickly ceased her attempts to look past the olive-skinned woman. “Leave me alone in there and it’ll be like a Marsquake in 30 flat, guaranteed.”

Lucia turned to her and lifted an eyebrow. “Leaving you alone anywhere in these labs would be an exceedingly poor plan, I’d say.”

Sy began to protest. “Hey, c’mon, I ain’t that untrustworthy am I? You-” She stopped when she saw the glint in Lucia’s eyes. “Are you honestly fuckin’ ribbin’ me right now?” she said, half bemused, half incredulous, at which Lucia responded with an amused smile.

She walked further into the room, making room for Sy to glide in after her. “Just because my social interaction is limited does not mean I don’t know how it’s done,” she said with a tone of admonishment so subtle Sy wasn’t sure whether or not she was mocking her. She made the point moot with a dismissive gesture. “Let’s get to business.”

She walked over to the shelves and pulled out a sealed crate, setting it between them on a desk. She wiped a finger on the blue DNA lock and opened the lid. Fog came pouring out of the case, billowed across the surface of the desk and floated to the ground. Inside was a tube filled with something that looked like thin, fibrous strands, with a blue organic structure in the middle. “Sy, meet the Crawler,” Lucia said.

“What is it?” she asked breathlessly. “It looks like a nervous system in a tube!”

Lucia nodded appreciatively. “Close, actually. It was designed as an organic nervous system enhancement that would allow for biotechnical interfacing with the Grid. In other words-”

“You makin’ people into Grid receptors an’ circumventin’ the Sevo implants?” Sy interrupted. Her hands felt clammy, even though the temperature of the desk she was leaning on had dropped significantly.

Lucia nodded. “That… was the theory, anyway. And we got close. But we couldn’t figure out the last steps, bridging the gap between the biotech data and the Grid.” She looked at the contents of the case with a look of regret. “Obviously, this would have been a direct assault on Sevo, and Veritas to a lesser degree. Between the secrecy and lack of in-house expertise, the project got shelved and we moved on to other ideas.” She closed the case and locked eyes with Sy.

“Until your case became known to us.”

Sy stared at her for a few moments before understanding dawned on her. “You talkin’ ‘bout Heimdall.”

“I didn’t learn of its name, just what it does. Though I appreciate your choice of mythological reference,” Lucia said with a faint smile. “But yes. We think your work may be exactly the piece we’re missing. Ordinarily, your skill set would make you an asset for Sevo more than for us…” She smiled wryly as Sy made a disgusted face at the suggestion. “...but we are encroaching on Sevo territory with this, so the cooperation makes sense. Any questions?”

“I dunno a thing ‘bout biotech,” Sy said a little doubtfully. “Sure y’wanna go with me on this?”

Lucia nodded curtly. “I’ll oversee the biotech, and you will work from the Grid side. We’ll be two sides of a bridge and work toward each other. When we line up in the middle…” She meshed the fingers of her hands together and gave Sy a meaningful look.

Sy smirked. She still felt a little doubtful about the whole endeavour, but she also felt exceptionally intrigued. And if she could pull it off, equip this thing and get a leg up on Logos, it might give her a new shot at finding her father without leaving herself exposed.

“Aight,” she nodded. “When do we start?”

“Tomorrow,” Lucia said, closing the case and re-engaging the lock. “I start at 7 sharp. I expect you to do the same. Where are you currently housed?”

Sy winced “7? Ya killin’ me, girl…” She ran a hand across her head. She was not used to the sensation of not feeling her dreads run through her fingers yet. “They puttin’ me up in the condos above, I think. They said somethin’ about a Grid-shielded wing. Don’ want me to connect to the Grid ‘cause of Logos ‘n all.”

Lucia nodded in understanding. “In that case, it appears we are well met... neighbor.”

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