Leave A Good Looking Corpse By Kismet
Chapter 5: Rock and Roll
Doctor Alexandre Resnouf held a disk in his hand. The enormous implications of the small object were mind boggling. He seriously considered not telling Kelly of its existence, but she was David's wife and needed to be told. Alexandre still hesitated as he reached for the phone and dialed her mobile, damning himself for his morals.
Gino smiled in triumph. She had found out who was in Sylvia's photo. Rick Godard. Gino had been going over all the news footage associated with Kelly Stubbing and had spotted the unknown man by chance, in a background shot at a funeral Kelly had attended. The man had been escorting Zene's grieving mother to her car.
Some delicate probing around the more media friendly of Zene's associates and some well placed bribes had gained Gino the information she needed. Rick had been Zene's best friend at work.
Gino briefly toyed with the idea of telling Sylvia and Nick but quickly dismissed it. Gino needed to get at Rick Godard and Kelly Stubbing first, before Nick got control of the situation and condemned Gino to an eternity as a woman.
Thinking it over, Gino was surprised that Kelly had shacked up with Rick. If what she understood of the McGraw rampage was correct, then Rick should hate Kelly. There was obviously more going on here than there appeared. Either Kelly and Rick had planned Zene's downfall or something else had happened.
It was another piece of the strange puzzle which didn't seem to fit in anywhere.
The nanotechnology complicated everything. Kelly or Rick could be who they appeared to be or other people entirely. Gino considered Kelly's amnesia. 'Was it real and what really caused it?' Gino mused
Gino tried to imagine what might have happened but the whole thing was beyond her. The enigmatic pieces which she clutched did not fit anywhere. She did not have enough information and resolved to find out what had happened for herself. 'You never got anywhere if you don't gamble everything once in a while,' she reasoned, walking confidently from restaurant.
Zene hung up the phone.
"That was Dr. Resnouf. He wanted to talk to me about some disks of David's which he found. I need to know what's on those disks so I'm going to meet him. You'll have to stay here, I don't want anyone linking you to me."
"It may be a trap. Kelly could be luring you in, just to get his hands on the stuff you have." Rick replied, "I should come too."
"No your not coming. Call it intuition but it doesn't feel like a trap. Besides I'm sure that it wasn't Kelly's voice on the phone. Resnouf was sincere, calm and in control."
Zene went into her room and returned with a bag some time later. "If it is an ambush I don't want to endanger you. I've called Sergeant Baxter and he has agreed to meet me there," Zene said, "besides I won't be going in completely unprepared," in explanation she produced an automatic pistol. It was quite heavy in her slight hand
Rick groaned in irritation. "Be careful," he said, then hesitated, wanting to say more to Zene. She nodded, gathering her stuff to leave when Rick stopped her. "We need to talk. About us... I think we should just be friends."
Zene looked at Rick in disappointment, trying to rationalise the surge of emotions which assaulted her. "We are, aren't we?"
"Yes but I can't keep sleeping with you. It wouldn't be fair on you or me. I'd feel like I was taking advantage of you, and ... um, you need to sort yourself out before you rashly jump into something permanent. I do love you, but just as a friend and that isn't the type of love a healthy relationship can be based on. We're best friends, and we shouldn't go on like we have been."
Zene nodded, absorbing what he said.
"I'm sorry if I took advantage of you," Rick offered.
Smiling grimly, Zene picked up her bag and left.
Gino sat in her car outside the front of Rick's residence, debating what to do. She didn't know whether force was needed or subtlety. Her thoughts were interrupted when a short haired lady carrying a bag walked from the house.
This woman was small, slim and busty, with finely crafted features. 'Kelly Stubbing,' Gino noted. 'Very attractive,' Gino's thoughts started to explore familiar male avenues as she watched Zene's breasts bounce and her shapely legs glide. Zene climbed into a blue BMW and drove off.
Gino followed at a safe distance. This time Zene was not trying to lose anyone and it was an easy tail.
During the drive to see Alexandre Resnouf, Zene went over her feelings for Rick. She loved him as a friend, but somehow as a woman that love had changed. She knew him so well, his likes, dilikes, strengths and foibles. Rick knew her just as well if not better. They were great friends. Why couldn't they be more? What had she done wrong?
As she dwelled upon it, Zene knew that the rejection had hurt more than she wanted to admit.
Rick was her lifeline to her past life. The only person who knew her, what she had gone through and what she had become. She had to keep links to her old life. Zene knew that she couldn't survive in this emotional and social vacuum, but Rick wasn't going to provide the support she needed.
She had to mend the severed ties to her past life. The first step would have to be her family. She would make them listen, make them beleive, no matter what they thought. It was going to be complicated, but she was strong enough to make it work.
Zene laughed to heself, imagining her fathers face when it dawned on him that his son was now a woman and would be one for ever. Then uneasiness krept into her mind. Families are static things. They don't take change favourably. Parents don't readily accept their children growing up. How would they cope with their son reincarnated as a woman?
Thinking about it, Zene realised that her parents, though not swift to adapt, would be forced to. They would want her in their life, no matter what she did. She was blameless for the way she was. This had just happened, she hadn't asked for it. If she could deal with it then so could they. Her brother as well.
"Ah, boss?" Otto asked Nick.
Sylvia was sitting at the office desk, wracking her brain as she stared at the photo. 'Who was this man. A friend of Zene's. Rick G ... something. Godfrey. Gonad. Gordon. God...' Sylvia brainstormed, knowing she was so close to remembering.
"What." Nick asked.
"I can't find Gino. He's gone," Otto said, shifting uncomfortably, afraid that her volatile boss might loose his temper.
"That's because Gino is a she now," Nick said in amusement.
"No Gino has gone. Left."
Nick nodded, dismissing Otto, watching her saunter away gracefully and sit down beside Miles, amazed that one of his men could sink so easily into the role of a woman, the sexual exploits of her and Miles having come to his attention.
Sylvia listened to the conversation with growing consternation. Things were falling apart. Gino had left, and soon Miles and Otto would not want to change back, giving her no leverage over them. Sylvia focused on the photo, probing her faulty memory. 'Godley, Godar?' She wondered. It sounded close. 'Godard? Yes!! Godard.' She smiled in victory. The 'Kelly' aspect of her personality making her feel omnipotent. 'I'm going to win,' she congratulated herself as she reached for the telephone directory.
"Nick, call the boys. We need some muscle," Sylvia ordered, not even realising that she sounded like a fool.
"All right." Nick took the order from Sylvia with thinly veiled good grace. He was a patient man, reasoning that once he had control of the technology, he could dispose of this deluded skirt.
Miles raised his eyebrow in question to Nicks cavalier response. Otto shrugged then glanced speculatively at Sylvia, doubting that the unstable, would be usurper could hold things together much longer. Otto did not really care, she just hoped that she and Miles made it out of this alive.
Otto was unsure whether she truly wanted to return to her male body and knew that Miles was starting to think the same thoughts. Otto then considered Nick, her boss. The proud, chauvinistic gangster would not accept her in his ranks as anything more then feminine company and the newly endowed woman was unwilling to become any mans plaything. This prompted Otto to realise that her days in the mob were inevitably over.
The buxom blonde sighed, watching the crime boss as he started making calls, collecting on old debts. She was effectively an outsider now, cut off from the machinations of Nick's nefarious organisation.
'Probably just as well,' she thought, as Sylvia handed Nick Rick Godard's address.
Melbourne University was a messy conglomeration of buildings, a haphazard growth of structures which had sprung up over time without any conscious plan. Zene drove through the buildings, down narrow paved lanes and parked her blue car in a staff car park. The pavement bricks were slick and shiny with rain, so she stepped carefully from the car.
Gino watched Zene climb out of her car from around the corner. Zene turned around and glanced up the street, causing Gino to duck into a sheltered entrance, out of Zene's sight. Gino observed Zene make her way cautiously into the building where she was met by two men.
"Hello Mrs. Stubbing. How are you?" Resnouf asked. He led Zene down a corridor towards his lab.
"Fine." Zene answered. "Thanks a lot for coming Sergeant. I owe you a big favour."
"It's a pleasure." Baxter smiled.
"I found a pile of CD ROM's, close to six hundred in all, piled in a crate David had left with me for storage. I nearly threw them out but I was curious. These disks comprise one huge computer program." Sergeant Baxter, Zene and Resnouf reached Resnouf's lab.
"Baxter could you wait outside please? Keep an eye out. I still don't feel safe." Zene asked, smiling. Sergeant Baxter shrugged. He had always been a sucker for an attractive face.
Gino made her way into the building, careful that the bird did not see her. She followed the trio down the corridor silently. When Zene and Resnouf entered the lab, leaving Baxter as guard, Gino backtracked until she found a high window that looked into the room. She grabbed a chair and climbed on top of it, allowing her a clear view of the lab. She could not hear much, just useless fragments of the conversation.
"You really have to see this. It's remarkable." Dr. Resnouf commented excitedly. There was a huge computer that dominated the room. "Say hello David."
"Hello." Speakers on the computer said in a synthesised voice. "Kelly. Good see you. David think." The voice sounded like staccato shots and was not even remotely human.
"You can speak to him. It really is David, most of him anyway." Resnouf encouraged. "He can hear you through microphones and see you through a camera." Dr. Resnouf expected a lot of reactions . He was surprised with Zene's comments though.
"What kind of idiot dupes his mind onto a computer. David I have to tell you that your nanotechnology blows dogs balls. You might be brilliant but you have absolutely no idea the mess you have helped create." Zene realised that she was probably flying off the handle but she could not help blaming David for her current predicament.
"I sad. I think. I thought Kelly glad speak David." David's voice was subhuman.
Zene understood now why Kelly had killed David. He didn't need him alive. Kelly had a copy, or he knew he would eventually gain control of a copy, making David completely disposable.
"Look there are some things you need to know. Dr. Resnouf should as well I guess." Zene explained what had happened with Kelly and herself, the rampage, everything. She did not mention Rick though.
Resnouf laughed at the end. "That is fantastic. Storing a mind in a computer is one thing. Changing bodies is another. And into an animal? That's absurd."
"Possible but insane. Kelly expect David believe story." David stated nonsensically.
Resnouf sat back stunned. "David, wait. Just before Zene shot you, the last word you uttered was 'Kelly' and it has plagued me since. I took it to be a rhetorical question, that you could not believe your wife would cheat on you."
"Know of indiscretions. Kelly still love David." David said, his voice quite eerie.
"But now I think about it, you were asking your wife 'why?', why she would want to kill you."
Zene nodded assent, her mobile ringing. "Excuse me." She held the phone to her ear. "Hello?" Colour drained slowly from her face. "Kelly I'll kill you." Zene threw the phone at the ground. "Bitch!"
"What wrong." David stated. It was strange to hear a voice that was so completely alien.
"Kelly has kidnapped a friend of mine. She wants all of the disks that make up David and all the stuff I got in the will." Zene raged. She shook her head angrily, clenching her hands which became the focus of her stress. As she thought about the breif conversation with Kell though, something struck her as odd. The woman had not sounded much like Kelly. Zene thought about the possible effects of a second exchange. Kelly might not be 'Kelly' anymore.
"David not believe Kelly."
"Unless you can read my mind you'll just have to trust me."
"David can. Read mind with nanobot."
Zene considered the offer. "Can you help me?"
"If Kelly now Zene David punish Kelly."
"How can you help?"
"Modifications programs better customized. Only generic programs on disk. Strength, reflex, coordination, eyesight, hearing, regeneration help." Resnouf watched in wonder. He had not known about any of these things. He had been totally amazed at a mans mind stored in a computer. What else was possible?
"Will this damage my mind?"
"Can I ask how you feel David?" She wanted to know if there was a human in the machine.
"Feel. Nothing." David replied, now nothing more than a huge computer program.
"Will you promise not to move or erase my mind."
Zene briefly considered what was being offered. A modification program that would increase her physical abilities. It would give her a badly needed edge.
At the same time she wondered what these changes would do to her mind. She realised that body and mind were not two separate entities as Kelly treated them. They were intrinsically bound parts of a person. To make changes in one resulted in dramatic changes in the other. She understood that much from her experiences. For all of David's miraculous technology, Zene knew that he could not begin to predict what would happen to her mind.
But Zene owed Rick, and even if he didn't want her, she felt responsible for his situation. He was a friend, had risked himself for her and she could not turn her back on him.
"Can you do this without changing my physical appearance?" She needed to be able to approach Kelly without her noticing a difference.
"Yes. David read Kelly mind."
Zene reached into her bag and pulled out a flask of nanobots, drinking it.
Zene felt a slight nausea as the alien mind of David touched and prodded her memories. She could vaguely recall everything as it had happened, the transfer, rape, beating, shooting, funeral, Rick then now.
"I see that you are telling the truth. My apologies. I'll initiate the alterations," David said through his speakers, his voice suddenly human.
Zene had no time to consider the changed state of David's voice as she doubled over, starting to feel quite unhealthy. Her vision became blurry, then she could see nothing. Her muscles and bones ached. Worst of all she felt incredibly hungry and thirsty. "Food. Water." She gasped. Feeling weak, she collapsed to the ground.
Resnouf ran to a cupboard in the small kitchen and grabbed a full tin of biscuits. He brought them to Zene, removing the lid and putting them in her puffy hands. She started to feed herself, shoveling the food into her mouth rapidly. He filled a jug with water and by the time he returned she had finished the biscuits. He went to the fridge and grabbed all the food he could, there was a lot there and it took him a number of trips. Zene ate all of the food whilst Resnouf refilled the jug.
After the sixth jug of water and all the food in the fridge Zene seemed sated. Resnouf now had the luxury to watch the incredible process.
Zene's skin had become incredibly swollen and her stomach distended. Her clothes had actually been torn by the expansions of her body. Muscles bulged and shifted subtly under the surface of her skin, Resnouf noted in fascination. Zene's eyes, blind and blinking, were a strange milky yellow colour. Even her ears seemed to move and twitch.
Looking at her body, Resnouf imagined maggots writhing under the smoothness of her skin. He gagged, then ran for the toilet. He coughed and spat bile from his mouth, but he did not throw up.
When Resnouf returned, Zene seemed to have lost a lot of the bulk which she had gained and Resnouf could no longer see the added mass. He could not begin to imagine where all the food and water had gone.
Zene breathed heavily, watching warily as her body slowly resumed its previous shape. After a minute the only sign of her radical internal changes was her torn clothing.
Zene stood, moving with an exotic precision, feeling light and energetic, realising that she was no longer quite human. 'It's the price I have to pay to save my friend. I should never have dragged Rick into this.' She gazed around the building, experimenting with her new eyesight. She could slip her vision from normal sight, to an incredibly detailed black and white view of the room. 'Night vision,' she realised, it taking her a moment to discover that her peripheral vision was greatly extended also.
"Your eyes. They've suddenly turned yellow," Resnouf said. Zene returned to 'regular' vision. "They're normal again. It's like you have a retractable film of skin over your eyes. It's quite disconcerting."
Zene snorted in mirth, determining that her sense of smell was also more keen. She could distinguish previously unknown smells.
She closed her eyes and spun on the tip of her toe, balancing like a ballerina, humming at an ultra sonic pitch. The room came into extremely blocky resolution in her mind, physical objects having a rough and somewhat imprecise image. She now possessed a rudimentary, but extraordinary form of radar
Opening her eyes again she spun cartwheels around the lab. "Incredible." Resnouf said awed. He realised that the extra mass had been condensed into incredibly compact and powerful muscle tissue. Zene probably weighed ten or fifteen kilo's more than before the transformation but none of it showed until she had moved.
The young woman's movements were incredibly fast and dizzily coordinated. To Zene, it all felt astoundingly natural, her actions almost instinctive, her body operating on reflex alone.
As she concentrated on her movements, Zene could detect slight inexplicable variations around her. She could somehow sense Resnouf and the power lines wending through the complex machinery in the room. She knew that she had some kind of cognition which picked up deviations in electric fields. Judging by the way she was aware of densities and distortions in the rooms field, it was more refined than her sonar.
Struggling with the sensory overload her altered senses provided, Zene realised she was now preternaturally perceptive and that she had to figure out the nuances of these senses before she attempted to rescue Rick.
"That's much better, isn't it?" David said through his speakers.
Zene paused in her play. "How-
"Come I sound normal now? I'm running part of my thought processes through your mind. It's a lot better than binary. This was how I created the programs to begin with, working my mind in tandem with the computer. I hope you don't mind, but I won't use your mind for very long.
"You've already figured out most of the changes. One of the least obvious but most important is that your body is now resistant to alteration. Only custom programs can alter it, and they have to be keyed to a code I've hidden on your genetic matrix. I did the same thing to my body, to prevent any unfortunate changes. It didn't protect me from Kelly though... I'm just amazed that Kelly experimented on people. I hadn't even tested any of the programs on humans, just animals," David said, sounding much more normal.
Zene could sense David using parts of her mind and was experiencing surges of emotion which were not her own.
"Anyway I've added tags to all the programs, alterations which the nanobots will carry out on anyone modified. From now on, anyone who uses the nanobots will have a pheromone signature attached to them. This will indicate the type of transformation that they have had. Anyone modified to be attuned to these scents should be able to discover what has happened, and hopefully establish which bodies have been stolen or duplicated or modified.
"Unfortunately these tags are not retrospective, so you won't find Kelly with them.
Gino watched the alteration and the effects it had on Zene, deciding that she wanted to possess similar physical strength and power. She climbed down from the seat, drawing her gun.
"Shit." Zene swore, realising that David had been reading her mind. "Could you get the fuck out of my mind!!"
David continued to talk, unconcerned with her irritation. "The resistance to alteration should protect you from Kelly-" David stopped.
Zene sensed a presence at the door, which was swinging open. Baxter stood there with another person, an unknown woman who held a gun casually against Baxter's head.
"Please, come in," Zene said sarcastically, her voice sounding different to her ears for the second time in her life. It was odd but her voice was fundamentally the same, it just sounded much more textured and complex.
Gino entered the lab, pushing Baxter ahead of her. Baxter was carefully watching Gino out of the corner of his eye, with the hopes that he could jump her. Dsitracted as he was he did not notice Zene's torn clothing.
Resnouf looked at the intruder. She was attractive, curvaceous, lean and refined, at the same time she had the harshness of a hunting hawk, the cold gray eyes of a bird of prey.
"Kelly Stubbing. I need your help." Gino began. "My name is Gino."
"More like Gina," Resnouf said, laughing. It was a bad mistake.
Gino clubbed Sergeant Baxter with her gun on the side of the neak and he fell forward, unconscious. Anger transformed Gino's usually controlled features as she lost her self restraint, shooting Resnouf in the middle of his face. Alexandre crumpled to the ground, his face collapsing, his nose becoming a ragged hole, his brains decorating the wall immediately behind his twitching body.
Zene was now angry as well. She sniffed the air and could smell burned flesh and the acrid aroma of feces. At the moment she wished she did not have such acute senses. She could visualise perfectly the deceased mans bowel muscles loosening as he shat his pants. Zene was fed up with people that used weapons instead of rational discourse.
"You can take her Zene, you're quick enough," David said.
"Who is that?" Gino asked, looking carefully around. "I'll tell you now that no one is quicker than a speeding bullet. Not even supergirl here." Gino turned to Zene, pointing the gun at her head. "The nanotechnology. Give it to me or you die."
Zene stood for a moment in fear. 'Regeneration or not, there won't be anything left of my mind if I take a bullet in the head.' A flood of new hormones flowed through her body, making her aggressive and cocky. She smiled. 'Maybe I should just call her bluff?'
Zene walked slowly forward putting her forehead against the gun, her hands raised in surrender, moving slowly around Gino, lowering her head a fraction.
'Gutsy chick,' Gino thought. 'Fuck her. She's only a woman. I can find the nanotechnology without her.' Gino pulled the trigger, expecting to see Zene's arrogant face explode backwards in a burst of bone and gore.
Zene was no longer there, the bullet hitting the mains power box behind where she had carefully positioned herself, plunging the room into darkness.
'How the fuck?' Gino thought.
"Now you will tell me what I want to know." Gino fired two shots in the direction Zene's voice had come from. The muzzle flash showed a small menacing figure moving towards her at incredible speed. Gino experienced real fear as she tried to shoot again but the gun was plucked painfully from her hand.
'No one can move that quick, can they?' Gino thought.
"Faster than a speeding bullet." Gino turned to face the voice as an almost silent brush of air blew in front of her. "Gino, obviously born of good Catholic parents, a nice boy, sadly turned to evil ways." Zene's derisive voice was now coming from Gino's right.
"Poor man caught in a female body. His male ego, the centre of his life, disintegrating as woman's thoughts and needs overcame it." The voice was behind Gino now.
Zene was laughing inwardly, goading Gino viciously, taunting as she closed in for the kill. "Run, cow, run."
Then Zene stopped. She could see fear, hurt and anger on Gino's face. 'That's enough, maybe too much,' she thought, sighing. She had never been sadistic before, but taunting Gino had felt good. Zene felt superior in every way to this pitiful killer and realised that her greatest weakness was that she felt invulnerable, godlike.
Gino started to edge towards the door. Zene moved quickly, landing in front of Gino and knocking her senseless, the assassin hitting the ground like a sack of spuds.
The adrenaline in her body slowly ebbed, bring Zene back to her senses. She looked down at her body, amazed at what she had done. She was much quicker than she imagined possible. And reflexes! She had seen the hammer dropping on the gun and been able to move before it landed. Every time. In the intensity of the moment, Zene had been aware of everything. Herself, her quarry, Baxter breathing, a fire, Resnouf. Everything. The actions had flowed from her without conscious thought, her body knowing exactlty what to do.
Zene absorbed the mess in the room, fearful of what may have happened. Baxter was down but almost conscious. He may have seen something but he would suspect the accuracy of his senses.
Resnouf was dead.
Zene looked at where the stray bullets had impacted. Both had had hit the large computer, which smoked alarmingly as a small fire spread. Using an extinguisher, Zene put out the fire, inspecting the damage. The CD ROM stacker had been hit and a large number of CD's had been destroyed, melting to indistinguishable lumps of plastic. To the best of her knowledge, David was now dead.
'Better concentrate on the living,' she thought. "Baxter are you O.K.?" Zene asked, shaking the semi-conscious officer.
"Yeah... What happened?" His eyes searched for her in the dark.
"Well, after the woman clubbed you she shot Dr. Resnouf. Than she tried to kill me but missed and hit the mains power instead, taking out the lights. I managed to grab the gun and over power her."
"Really?" He had distantly heard Zene taunting Gino and knew that more had happened than what she had told him. Something had been moving inhumanly fast. Maybe the blow to his head...
"Yeah," Zene said, watching his face in the dark.
"Hmmm," the officer scratched his chin, considering. "I guess that's how I'll have to write it up." Baxter had not become a Sergeant because he was stupid. He thought that he had seen something impossible but he had decided to convince himself otherwise.
Zene looked at the clock on the wall, already counting the time. From experience she knew that the police inquiry that she would have to sit through would keep her too long. She had to rescue Rick before Kelly lost patience and did something irrational.
Bound and tied, Rick watched the Asian woman nervously. He knew she was more unstable than Kelly had ever been and tried not to think how dangerous that made her. He knew that she was not really in charge, but she still made him nervous. Compared to the quiet and deadly Nick, Kelly was nothing.
Rick had been forcibly taken to Nick Ratorallis' penthouse apartment, a spacious and opulently furnished abode located on the top floor of the Crown Casino complex. Six men had entered his home armed with automatic pistols and kindly asked him to accompany them. Being an intelligently accomadating fellow, Rick had obliged their request. He currently sat trussed on the couch, trying to figure out what to do.
The whole thing stunk. Rick knew that Kelly had stolen the Asian woman's body, making Swiss cheese of his/her mind and memories in the process. The adulterated copy of Kelly had also obviously managed to appropriate a position of power in the underworld, but there was a strange hierarchy which seemed to include 'Kelly' in token only, the real power resting with Nick.
How much real control Kelly exercised was not readily clear. Rick surmised that Kelly did not have a lot, because Nick's heavies acted insolently towards her, and Nick had not seen fit to discipline the breach. Otto seemed to be something of an outcast, keeping to himself and not participating with the thugs conversation. Rick could not figure out where the attractive bottle blonde fit into the big scheme of things, but he was trying too.
Looking out the panoramic window onto the Yarra and Flinders Street station, slightly blurred through the pouring rain, Rick hoped that Zene would not come. If Kelly got her hands on Zene, she would take out her schizophrenic anger on Zene's mind and body in god knew what manner.
At the same time Rick avoided thinking about what would happen to him. Kelly would probably be most creative and cruel no matter what. She had already asked him if he wanted to be a hermaphrodite, joking that she was 'itching to play god'.
'These police interrogations are becoming monotonous,' Zene thought. An officer had politely provided Zene with a jacket to cover her torn shirt and she was currently at the police station trying to explain what had happened. Fortunately Zene had Baxter with her and he could support the bulk of her story.
The police were still trying to figure out who the mystery woman killer was. They had little to work with at the moment, apart from her name. Gino, or Gina as she now claimed to be, had asked for a lawyer immediately.
Whilst Gina was being dealt with, Captain Roger's was collecting a complete statement from Zene. "Can you tell us why you went to visit Dr. Resnouf and why you wanted Baxter to come along?"
"Dr. Resnouf said that he had something of my husbands and that I might want to see it. As to why I wanted Baxter along, well, I still don't feel safe. Since being held hostage I've been suffering anxiety attacks and I don't like to go out alone. Fortunately Sergeant Baxter was considerate enough to humour me. I can't understand why this woman wanted to kill Resnouf or myself. Maybe she blamed me for Zene's death, maybe she wanted to kill Resnouf or maybe she saw all the stuff on television and... Well I just don't understand it. With my amnesia I can't even remember if I've ever met her." The lies rolled smoothly and convincingly.
"How did your clothes get so damaged?" Roger's asked.
"Well..." Zene struggled to explain, "in the scuffle with that woman. She tore my top and I slipped on the floor, tearing my pants." This part of her story sounded weak to her ears and she knew that the lie might contradict Baxter's account of the events. Zene was hoping the blow that Baxter had received would be able to substantiate any discrepancies in their accounts. Maybe Baxter wouldn't even remember that Zene's clothing had been torn when he had entered the room at gun point.
Fortunately the conclusions which the officers could draw from the situation were limited. After standing through a barrage of questions and confiscating her weapon, they decided to let Zene go. The police were far from satisfied but it was abundantly clear that Zene had not murdered anyone. However, the officers were becoming increasingly suspicious of Zene, especially the way trouble followed her around. They made their suspicions very obvious to her.
Captain Roger's offered to drive her home but Zene politely refused. "I'm a bit shook up, but I can drive. I'm almost getting used to these life traumas."
"O.K. but we will need to contact you further. You'll also have to come to the trial, as you seem to be our only reliable material witness to the murder..."
Sylvia cursed silently. She had thought that Zene would come immediately but obviously she had fatally misjudged Zene. Sylvia fearfully realised she had lost too much of her mind, lost her edge. She looked at the bound form of Rick. The captive would have to be killed if Zene did not turn up. She also noted that Rick would have to be killed if Zene did show. A part of her shuddered at the thought, wondering how she had come to this, but this was quelled.
The Asian woman looked longingly at her bag. 'Maybe just one more hit,' one part of her thought.
"I don't get it, what's up with Otto? He's acting like he doesn't even know us," Carl said to his friend. They were out on the balcony having a smoke and looking out over the inky black Yarra. The bright neon from the casino made their faces look cold and lifeless.
Vince pulled back on his ciggarette, thinking over his reply. He nodded, blowing smoke and mist from his mouth. "Yeah, and Sylvia is acting strange. Half the time she has this ferral light in her eyes. And the boss, he doesn't treat his floozies like he's treating her," Vince stood silently for a moment. "Agarpe and Falafel think that there is something up as well."
"Hmmm," Carl responded.
"Christ it's cold enough to freeze the nuts off a brass monkey. I'm going inside," Vince said, flicking his lit butt over the balcony and exiting in a swirl of smoke.
Carl watched the red ember fall the twenty odd stories to the ground. "Shit it is cold," he said. He felt moistness on his face and looked up. It was going to rain again. He pulled the door closed behind him and wandered through the master bed room back to where his friends waited.
Parked in the back streets of South Melbourne, under the large concrete overpass of the Westgate access, Zene readied herself, focussing on the dilemma of rescuing Rick. She looked at the nanobot production equipment and vowed not to let Kelly get a hold of it. Instead she manufactured six vials worth of solution, waiting the half hour it took. The only disks she took were the ones she was certain Kelly already had. She decided that she could blame Gino for all of the missing equipment and manufacturing nanobots.
Marching along the rivers edge, she passed the glitzy restaurants that lent the Casino an air of quality and culture. This facade was only skin deep, a placebo layer over a decayed and rancorous core. Harlequins and buskers entertained passersby in festive medieval fashion, the coming inquisition simmering menacingly as jets of fire burst brightly into the night, marking a cadence of diminishing time, building to a searing crescendo.
She passed through the diverse crowd where social stratas mingled, the desperate mixing with the sanguine. To Zene it looked as though they were all freshly washed up detritus from Melbourne's upside down river. Zene stopped her musings, focusing on the foreboding tower that imprisoned her friend, the cruel lifeless monolith of reflective glass and alluminium.
Aware that people were staring at her torn clothing, Zene decided that she needed suitable attire. She strode purposefully towards the Versaci shop, the high-priced boutique trying to attract a big winner intoxicated by his wealth. 'If I'm going to die, it may as well be in style.'
Zene came out of the store wearing a black, body hugging wool top, with a rolled up neck. She also wore black pants. She did not look overly sophisticated, nor was the incredible amount of money she had spent obvious, the clothing intended to help her move better at night, not advertise her wealth. She deposited her torn clothes in a bin, along with the tags from her new clothing.
Zene walked resolutely towards the hotel block, ready to gamble her life for a friend.
It was going to rain again soon, she could smell it. The breeze was cold but she did not feel the biting chill of the wind as it blew from the water. Her body was now insulated from the cold. Striding through the wind she felt like tempered steel. Hard and sharp, soft and flexible.
"Boss, that woman is here," one of Otto's five hoods alerted Nick.
"Excellent," Nick said, walking past the couch and smiling cruelly at Rick, successfully unnerving his hostage. Nick then opened the door to Sylvia's room, surveying the occupant with disgust. "Sylvia. Kelly Stubbing is here."
Sylvia smiled sluggishly, putting away her works, a warm glow ebbing through her veins. She looked at the mirror and adjusted her top at the collar. She walked into the room in a feral and drugged state, a dreamy Cheshire grin etched on her face.
Zene stood in the entry with a bag. "Hello again, it's a pleasure to finally meet you. You're not what I was expecting though," Zene said caustically.
"Touché. I like what you've done with my hair. Most butch. That new look really suits you. So have you figured out whether you're Arthur or Martha yet Quickdraw?" Sylvia teased, her slurred words laden with innuendo.
Zene experienced some confusion, unsure if this attractive Asian woman was Kelly. The voice was quite different in tone and intonation, garbled somehow. If it was Kelly, then she had lost a lot of herself.
Using her enhanced senses, Zene scanned the room. Her main concern at this stage was the eight toughs in the room and the other woman. One of the hoods had a weapon out and the others held their hands within casual reach of their guns.
"I hope you have what I asked for girl," Sylvia said as menacingly as she could, sounding like an angry lush.
Otto, sensitive to the undertones of the by-play, was beginning to piece together what had happened, suspecting that an exchange had occurred between the original Kelly and the man who occupied her body, and that somehow Kelly had stolen Sylvia's body. 'The man must have been Zene McGraw,' Otto realised, in a flash of uncanny insight.
Otto appraised Zene. 'She's come to the aid of a friend, making her a decent person in my books. Self sacrifice is hardly the act of a crazed killer. Kelly on the other hand... she must have gone on the rampage in Zene's body and Zene was blamed. It makes sense, if anything can in this insanity.'
"I have the robots but not the scientist or the manufacturing equipment," Zene held up the bag, "some crazy broad calling herself Gina ambushed me and shot him, stealing the rest." Zene was trying to keep the conversation as far as possible from the bizarre truth, whilst telling Kelly half truths.
"Pass that here," Sylvia ordered, unconcerned in her drugged state that the disks with David on them had been lost and that the production equipment was not forthcoming.
"First free Rick," Zene ordered. "I'm not negotiating."
Bob, the hood with the gun took a bead on Zene's chest and the others drew their guns, Carl, Vince, Falafel, Humus and Agarpe, everyone except for Nick and Miles. Zene noted that Miles was moving to the side of the blonde woman, whilst Nick moved close to Kelly to watch what she did.
"It would be a shame to waste a perfectly good piece of arse such as yourself," Bob stated. "Do as you're told good looking and you might survive."
Zene considered the situation whilst entering the room, closing the door with her foot. It was bad, but she now had a few tricks that would even the odds. Holding her hands high in submission she passed the bag to the Asian woman, waiting to see what her nemesis' move would be.
Confident that the situation was in control, the hoods sheathed their weapons with the exception of Bob. Deciding to have some fun, Bob pulled a second gun from his holster and laid it on the table, directly in front of Rick, all the while aiming a gun at the bound mans head, enjoying the difficult situation which he had placed the captive in. The sadististic hood made the mistake of ignoring Zene, preoccupied with his cruel game.
Zene smiled at her good fortune, noting that if she removed Bob, Rick was capable of reaching the gun. She closed her eyes and hummed ulra-sonically and determined that there was no one in the other rooms.
Sylvia turned on her computer typing in her passwords, with Nick watching from nearby. She then removed one of the nanobot vials Zene had provided and drank half, giving the remainder to Otto. "Miles take that to Kelly," she ordered, taking a perverse pleasure in using the wrong name for Zene and Otto. Otto did as she was told, now almost certain who 'Kelly' really was.
"Now drink it," Sylvia ordered Zene.
Zene looked at the solution fearfully, deciding to drink it before the Asian girl found out that her enhanced body was still saturated with nanobots.
Rick watched in horror. He knew that a mental transfer would effectively erase Kelly as did Zene. But Rick also knew that an exchange would cause Zene to lose half of herself. Zene would no longer be herself any longer if Kelly swapped with her. "You can't swap! You'll die Kelly or Sylvia or whatever the hell your name is."
"What you think I'm stupid?" she asked Rick, then turned to Zene. "Neat trick, changing the references. It won't help you now though. I'm wise to your little games," Sylvia said, in the grip of an induced euphoria, convinced she had just uncovered Zene's plot.
Zene hesitated for a moment, perplexed, until realisation dawned. Kelly had discovered her original tampering. Zene had actually forgotten about this tampering but decided to act as though she had been depending on it.
"Damn you," Zene snarled as vehemenantly as she could, hoping that her forced chagrin would convince Kelly that a plot had been uncovered. "Get on with it bitch," Zene said tersely.
Sylvia tried to figure out what to do now, her dual personalities trying to cope with the situation. She did not want to risk a mind transfer with Zene, afraid of loosing her persona and melding with her victim. Instead Sylvia opted for a body transformation or transfer between herself and Zene. The woman reasoned that she would get Kelly's familiar and attractive younger body, possession of the nanobot patents and a cure for her drug addiction. This would leave Zene as a drug addicted Asian prostitute.
The Asian woman decided that this was the best course of action. She quickly accessed the correct program routines and started the body transformation process.
Seeing that Kelly was preoccupied, Zene turned to the thugs. "Any of you can leave now and I will not hold what you have done against you. If you do stay I'll take no responsibility for my actions," Zene promised.
The hoods looked at Zene incredulously, starting to laugh. Miles and Otto looked at each other. Otto, suspecting that Zene had an ace up her sleeve, whispered. "I trust this new lady more than 'Sylvia' and Nick. Stay close, things could get a little crazy."
Miles gave her a skeptical look, then nodded. Zene surreptitiously noted the conversation. Everyone had chosen sides.
Sylvia screamed, everyone turning to watch in amazement as her body started to puff and warp before their eyes. Everyone but Zene. A number of the hoods drew their guns and aimed them at Sylvia in fear. Zene, immune to the nanobots, had no reaction, her altered body refusing the Nanobots manipulations.
"Food, god I need food," Sylvia gasped through swollen lips, her tongue thick. Her body had started to become a duplicate of Zene's powerfully dense frame, but she lacked the extra mass required. Sylvia desperately needed material to add to her changing body, but no one moved to aid her. Everyone was stupefied by what was happening to Sylvia's body.
Seeing the henchmen were distracted Zene decided it was time to make her move. She bunched herself into a compact crouch and then bounded across the room towards Bob, an incredibly fast action. Her hands were outstretched for a body tackle but she had misjudged her speed. She knew that she was going to take out Bob and hit the wall, which would injure her as well.
Twisting her feet underneath her she somehow managed to move to his side, grabbing Bob by the opposite shoulder and pivoting. Bob screamed in pain and Zene could feel his shoulder dislocate and hear bones snap as she used her grip on him as the fulcrum for her momentum. She easily pulled Bob off his feet and threw him backwards whilst bringing herself to a rest on her knees.
Regaining her footing like a trained acrobat, Zene had already started mental preparations to take out another hood. It was as though time had slowed. Bob spun head over heals into the nearby wall. The Asian woman yelled something. One of the hoods was just now turning to face her. Humus. Zene could feel what she had to do. Her body knew how to do it, she just had to let the motions flow through her.
Then everything happened at once. Bob impacted loudly, a sickening sound of breaking bones and crushed flesh which attracted the full attention of the other stupefied thugs. Zene leaped at Humus just as Bob bounced to the ground, both of his legs bent at wrong angles.
In the air Zene twisted and spun like a cat, landing feet first on Humus' chest, kicking off him at the same time, coming down in a finely coordinated roll. Humus felt like he had been hit by a freight train as he flew backwards into Miles. The railroaded hood landed on top of Miles and spasmed in shock for a moment, then passed out, having suffered extensive internal damage from the impact. Miles was also knocked out.
The four remaining hoods realised that they had guns in their hands and they haphazardly tried to bring their weapons to bear on their unexpected assailant. Bullets were fired chaotically at Zene as she rolled and bounded for cover. Again time slowed. She contorted then leaped, narrowly missing a volley of bullets.
Zene could literally sense each of the men madly trying to get a bead on her, the element of surprise working against them as they rushed their attack. Knowing that time was running against her and that she was surviving by sheer luck, Zene decided that she had to retreat and regain her bearings.
A shot nicked her flank just before Zene dropped behind the scant protection of a richly upholstered chair.
There was a cocky laugh from Carl as the hood realised that they had her cornered. There was nowhere for her to go. There was no other cover. Carl looked at his pals, dropping a clip and cassually reloading his gun. No way was this girl going to dodge them now.
Zene stretched her senses to their limits, looking at the ominous wall before her, crouching low, gripping the thick carpet in both her fists, waiting for the final volley of bullets. She could hear the slide of metal as Carl pulled his trigger.
Gritiing her teethe in fear, Zene kicked back at the chair with both her feet, lashing out and upwards, grabbing the shag carpet in a vicelike grip, bringing her feet back under her. The chair flew away from her position towards Carl, bowling him over as it was torn by lead missiles, giving Zene a moments distraction. It was all she needed.
Where moments before Zene had crouched, there was open space. Zene had jumped in the direction which none of the hoods had anticipated. She had thrown herself at the sheer barrier of the wall, hoping she had judged her strength correctly.
Curled into a tight ball, Zene impacted gracelessly against the nearby wall, crushing through the plaster boarding, grazing herself on one of the internal studds. Trailed by electrical wire and entangled in itchy, abrasive insulation, she battered through the other side. Zene lay sprawled in the master bed room, plaster dust showering down on her, looking through a recently created hole in the wall. She heard angry and amazed swearing on the other side of the gap.
Rick had watched in stunned amazement as Zene leaped across the room. He had to shake his head and blink to convince himself that Zene had just thrown Bob single handed into the wall, in the next instant launching herself at another thug. When all had seemed lost she had jumped through a wall! Snapping himself out of his stupor, Rick reached for the pistol and sank to the ground, taking cover behind the couch.
Rick cowered there, the gun pressed under him, forgotten by the criminals in their fear of Zene. He slowly sat, trying to hide the fact that he held a weapon while looking nervously around the room.
"What the hell was that," Carl asked. The three other toughs were aiming their automatics at the hole in the wall, lips tight with fear.
"I don't know, but kill it," Nick ordered, collecting the nanobots, disks and Sylvia's computer, preparing to flee. A cracking sound of breaking glass from the master bedroom distracted him for a moment.
Falafel crept slowly towards the hole, nervously aiming his gun at it. The light on the other side had just been extinguished. "She or it has just taken out the lights. Boss I think we should go," Falafel said.
"I said kill her. She's still only a skirt," Nick said, "you aren't going to disobey me, are you...?"
Vince went to the door and turned on the light to the bedroom. It didn't work, the globe had been smashed. Vince could not see anyone, shivering as a cold draft caressed his skin, not wanting to enter. Looking over his shoulder at nick, he knew he had no choice.
"Cover me would you?" Vince said to Agarpe and Carl with false bravado as he inched into the room, pressing his back into the wall near the door. "Come in, I'll cover you," he said
Falafel stepped in cautiously and crossed to another strip of wall.
Agarpe and Carl entered the room after Vince and Falafel, carrying out a slow and thorough search of the room with Falafel and Vince providing watchful guard. Then they decided to check the balcony.
Nick finished packing and sprinted to the door. As he opened it, Rick considered firing at the fleeing crime boss but realised that he could not aim well and that the noise would draw the attention of the four remaining gangsters.
The door slammed with a threatening finality as Nick escaped.
Kelly lay on the ground, hunger wracking her contorting and undulating body. She looked around for nearby food. All she saw was the unconscious body of Humus. She crawled towards him, reason lost to a hunger which burned inside her like a furnace. She grabbed Humus' leg and started to eat, chewing through his pants, holding him still as his muscles twitched in reflex from the pain.
('Tastes like chick peas, tahini, garlic and lemon...' a small part of her mind noted.)
Rick watched in disgust as Kelly began to ravenously eat the henchman. He briefly considered shooting her, but fear stopped him again. She looked like she was assuming Zene's form and if Kelly could move as quickly as Zene then he reasoned that there would be no hope for him.
Otto shook the prone figure of Miles who groaned in irritation. She assumed that Miles was a tad bruised but otherwise all right. Otto decided that she had put up with Sylvia for long enough. She would rather be female than serve the needs of this piece of filth eating one of her friends.
Picking up the gun which Humus had held, Otto shot Kelly in the head, her back crawling in fear as the wound began to heal. Otto shot again and Kelly's head bounced on the ground from the impact, then started to regenerate, again. Otto pulled the trigger again, gore and small skull fragments exploding outwards, the hair catching on fire. Kelly drooled on the carpet her eyes glassy.
The cells in Kelly's brain started to disintegrate as the nanobots vainly forced her head to reform. Otto continued to shoot Kelly, the healing becoming slower and less complete, malformations and lumps appearing as the skull healed improperly. After seven bullets the nanobots breached the point where they could be of use and the wound did not heal. Kelly's body stopped transforming remaining a lifeless mass.
Vince moved cautiously towards the glass sliding doors, a cold wind blowing into his worry lined face. He could not see properly onto the balcony, the flapping window shades obscurring his view. The doors were slightly ajar, letting the wind in. The girl could be out there. Or this could be a trap.
The room was dark, but the casino light outside was bright. He hated this half light, the movement of the thin vertical blinds causing light and shadows to ripple through the room, blinding him for a moment then plunging him into darkness. He reached for the blinds fearfully, keeping his gun aimed at the doors, the other hoods covering him. At least he had backup.
Sudden gun shots from the other room caused him to pause and look quickly over his shoulder. There was a scratching noise and the shadows moved. Vince fired his gun in fright, the glass shattering in a spray of glistening beads. The strong wind gusted into the room blowing the curtains towards Vince like whips, the floor peppered with small cubes of safety glass. There was the silhouette of a woman against the bright outside light.
Zene grabbed onto Vince's gun arm and pulled with all her strength. There was a painful shock in his shoulder as he was thrown through the blinds. Vince then felt weightless, cold wind and rain brushing his face. He stupidly realised that he was falling.
'Isn't the penthouse is on the twenty fifth floor?' was his thought as the ground rushed to meet him. He was brought to a sudden stop when something bit into his right ankle very painfully, ending his downward momentum and swinging him brutally into the building face. Falling glass bounced of his suspended body as he swayed upside down like a pendulum, supported by a very thin curtain draw string.
Falafel turned and sprinted from the room to see what was happening, what the gunfire was all about. Carl and Agarpe prepared to follow when they heard Vince fire and glass shattering. They turned to see him dissapearing through the blinds. Carl and Agarpe opened fire on the window, the bullets making the curtains writhe and twitch as though they were alive. They both stood for a moment as it dawned on them that half of their number had been incapacitated by a girl without a weapon. Presumably she had a gun now. "I'm getting out of here." Carl said. He spun and sprinted for the bedroom door.
"I'm with yo-" Agarpe was cut short. Carl turned around to see Agarpe flat on his back in the middle of the room, bleeding from a harsh blow to the back of the head. Gunshots continued to sound from the other room.
Falafel entered the room, to see the buxom form of Otto standing warily over the butchered body of Sylvia, a gun in her hand. Otto was shooting Sylvia at regular intervals. Falafel watched as the skull seemed to move and reform under the barrage.
Rick watched the death of Kelly with mixed emotions. She was an abomination, but murder was not something that he could condone. Then again it wasn't a real person in there, just a poor copy. Rick waited to see what Otto or Miles did. When Otto put down her gun and went to help Miles, Rick was wracked with indecision. From what he had seen, Zene could take care of herself, but four killers may be too much for her. He looked across and realised that one of the gunmen had returned to the room.
The gangster was aiming his weapon at Otto, a sneer on his face. Without thinking Rick pulled his gun from hiding and opened fire, his shots way off but distracting Falafel from his intended target. His eyes focused on Rick.
Grinning predaciously, Falafel slowly aimed his weapon at Rick, unperturbed by the handcuffed mans attempts to hit him. Suddenly spinning around, Falafel fell to the ground as he was shot by Otto. Disbelief that a woman had shot him registered on his face and he gave a small laugh as he crumpled.
Zene crouched on the other side of the room, her eyes a startling yellow colour. "You can leave, if you never tell anyone about what you have seen. We were never here and you never saw me."
"Screw you." Carl raised his gun and opened fire. Zene sprang sideways and the bullets impacted into the wall. "You're gonna die you freak-"
Anger transformed Zene's face and she bunched her whip-like muscles for a leap, springing incredibly fast at her foe, a light but extremely compact missile. She was hurtling towards Carl before he could finish his raving but the hood somehow managed to bring his gun in line at the last moment and fired.
Zene could feel a searing pain as the bullet tore into her chest and exited out her back. The highly dense nature of her muscles worked against her, slowing the bullet and absorbing more of the energy, doing greater internal injury than to a normal human.
The leap was perfect but Zene's impact was clumsy, due to her intense pain. Carl was knocked back as she collided into him and they tumbled together in a mass of flailing limbs, hitting the ground heavily. Though stunned, the hood retained the presence of mind to fire two more times, the bullets lifting Zene of him slightly, exiting smoothly from her back, missing the injured woman's more heavily muscled regions. Zene was in absolute agony and lashed out blindly in anger and pain, again and again. She lost herself in a black rage of agony.
When she returned to awareness she sat for a moment, uncertain where she was. She reached her hand up to her forehead in a daze, noting with surprise that it was red and wet. Looking down with growing horror she saw what was left of Carl.
Zene felt an empty despair wash over her.
Carl' skull was shattered like an egg, gray matter and bone scattered in a disgusting puddle around the ruins of his head. She had mashed the life from a man with her bare hands. Hands which were now stained with blood.
Zene looked up to see Rick cautiously enter the doorway. He blanched as he saw the dead man that Zene straddled, unconsciously bringing the gun in front of himself. Zene could see it in an instant. Rick feared her. With a twich at the side of her mouth, Zene looked down at the man beneath her, burning the image into her mind. She needed to face this head on. The day she took someones life.
Every little detail became etched in her mind. She stretched her senses, absorbing the magnitude of her actions. It had been so easy to loose control. As she looked at the man, she knew that necessaity had driven her hand. He was the one with the gun. He had made his choice.She examined her actions. Given the same circumstances she would have done it again.
Zene shook her head at the waste, determined not to dwell on the matter. She would have done the same thing as a man. Her integrity of self was retained.
"You didn't kill all of them did you?" Rick asked, breaking her from her stare.
Zene looked up, unsure how much time had passed. Rick stood beside her now. "I don't think so. God I hope not," she coughed painfully, wiping a lump of flesh from her cheek, leaving a red smear there instead.
She was becoming acutely aware of the holes in her chest but they were hardy bleeding. Far from well, she was a lot healthier than she would have been if she had been shot without her alterations. Alterations which had saved her life and Rick's. She had to look at the postive side of this situation and not dwell on the negative.
"Yeah, funny that." Rick said hollowly, looking everywhere but at the mess Zene had made of the hood she sat on.
Zene moved painfully off Carl's dead body, staggering to the balcony. She breathed heavily, the icy air jolting her alert. She began the agonising job of hauling Vince onto the balcony. It took an eternity and when Vince was pulled over the railing he looked the worse for wear. His face was blue and streaked in blood. He hemorrhaged heavily from where the shade cord had cut into his ankle, and blood oozed all the way down his body, dripping from his forehead. Zene looked at him clinically and decided that he would probably survive, unlike Carl.
Standing Zene swayed on her feet. Seeing the obvious pain that Zene was in Rick moved over to her and leant her his shoulder. He was surprised at how heavy the young woman had become. Zene limped into the lounge leaning heavily on Rick, every movement excruciating, but she could still move.
Miles and Otto watched her warily. "Who are you?" Miles asked in an fearful voice. "What are you?"
"Me," Zene wheezed, looking around the room. She briefly examined Kelly's body, making sure it was dead. There was no pulse and the electrical activity in Kelly's brain was non-existent. Zene could not feel any emotion for Kelly except an empty sadness. For someone who had raped, beaten and tortured her, both mentally and physically, Zene could not even manage to summon hate, let alone righteous indignation.
In the end, this person whom she had cowered in fear from had expired in a pathetic and wretched manner. It seemed fitting.
Zene turned back to Miles and Otto. "Where did that other guy go? What happened to the nanobots I brought?"
"Nick got away with them. He watched Kelly use them, so he knows what to do with them. Is that bad?" Rick asked.
"Well it isn't good. It sort off puts us back where we started. At least he only has five vials of nanobots..." Zene kept quiet about what else she knew, not trusting Otto or Miles.
"Were you guys transformed or were your minds switched?" Zene asked
"Sylvia switched our minds," Otto said, "but she transformed Gino."
"You should know that the mental exchanges can only be done once safely. Any more and you end up like her." Zene pointed at the mess that had been Kelly. Zene coughed and spat a gob of blood onto the carpet. "Transformations can be made once every three of four years, although I'm not ready to trust that myself. I wish I could do one now but... Nick has all the stuff now. Even if I had the nanobots I'd have reservations, as you can't alter your mind. You probably appreciate how much a 'switch' changes you."
Miles and Otto sat in silence looking at each other.
"Can I ask a question? Do you want to change back?" Zene asked.
"We're not sure..." Miles began and Otto nodded. "The new bodies sort of grow on you, funny as it may seem."
"Good luck then." Zene paused at the door, still troubled. "Do me a favour. Keep those guys away from me if you can. I went easy on most of them, but next time... Well I guess you could say that I don't know my own strength." She looked at her hands, hands that she had just killed a human being.
"O.K. We'll try Quick Draw," Otto said, indicating that she knew who Zene was. "But I think we're both out of this stuff now. There isn't much call for female thugs built like me and Miles isn't really interested in my old job."
"Take care then." Smiling wryly, Zene nodded at them both then left with Rick's assistance.
As they waited for the elevator at the end of corridor Zene turned to Rick. He had been supporting her but had been unnaturally quiet. "Don't worry. It's still me, the Zene you've always known." Rick relaxed a little but still eyed Zene in concern. The elevator arrived.
They stepped into the lift and there was a long silence.
Finally Rick sighed. "You've changed again," he noted, unspoken was the fact that she had just killed someone.
"Just on the outside Rick," Zene said squeezing his arm, "and I'm as happy about it as you are." She was feeling a little better as she limped out on the ground floor, as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Though she was not proud about it, she knew that she could deal with the circumstances around her killing someone. Given time she knew that she could move on with her life.