Dyson’s Angel – Portfolio Sample

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She was falling towards the ruined city, the buildings outlined and tagged in garish colors, thermal traces smeared across her view like daubs of multicolored paint. Moira swiveled her head, scanning for the bright patches that might indicate the presence of human or drone combatants laying in wait amid the wreckage below.

“Keep your eyes open,” Moira said. “This is too easy.”

“Speak for yourself,” Zau/Heraxo replied. Their voice crackled out through both the general address speakers in the cockpit and Moira’s implants. It was annoying habit that Moira and Zau/Heraxo had discussed on many occasions, and which Zau had promised to curtail, but Heraxo still persisted in it whenever Zau slipped from dominance. “You can only see one perspective because your pitiful mammalian brain cannot assimilate multiple perspectives. We have already integrated all of the data from our remoras. They are mapping a six block radius as we speak.”

Zau/Heraxo tweaked their grav drive and slowed their flight across the ruined city. The sudden motion threw Moira against her restraints. She blinked twice, dropping out of the simulated view of their surroundings to find herself strapped into the command chair on Zau/Heraxo’s flight deck. Skeletons of twisted metal and shattered concrete scrolled past on the view screens. The destruction give testament to a city which had thrived once, before the local government had attempted to break away from Covington proper. Vehicles of all sorts, from personal ground transports to crashed intra-zone transport ships, crowded the streets, most of them pockmarked by bullet holes or partially melted from the passing bolts of energy lances.

“If you know so gorram much, then maybe I should just drop out of visual and let you handle everything,” Moira glowered, calling up the composite map of the area as a ghost image in the lower third of her vision. “I could have stayed in Covington and let you handle this on your own.”

“{Fine with us if/you wouldn’t} do that,” the Zau/ Heraxo replied, their response coming out in a garbled stream of syllables as the ship’s conflicted core intellect struggled to assemble a coherent thought. Moira recognize the words, barely, owing to her long practice discerning between the tones of voice which the ship tended to use when one personality or the other assumed dominance. After a second it continued in a mediated tone that suggested the personalities were cooperating, “You would be bored.”

“Screw you.”

“We could say that you are doing that now. All this hunting has got us pretty excited and you are…” the Zau/ Heraxo’s voice dissolved into static so intense that even Moira could not comprehend it.

Moira felt an angry flush creep up her neck. She ought to have guessed that a computationally intensive task like scanning and modeling several city blocks from multiple input sources would push Heraxo into the fore. “If you could get back to the matter at hand,” she snarled.

“As you wish,” Zau/Heraxo whispered into her ear. The voice was the same, but it drifted into Moira’s consciousness through her auditory implant, rather than echoing through the corridors of the ship, suggesting that Zau had reasserted herself. “The remoras have located a group of humans two kilometers azimuthal of our position. They appear to be primarily baseline in form, with only standard medical and communication enhancements.”

“So no walking tanks?”

“Not that we can detect without employing active scans,” the ship replied, its voice transitioning into the mediated tone again.

“Thanks, Zau. Take us as close as you can without being spotted and set down in the street. I’ll go on foot from there.”

“Our pleasure, {sweet/bitch},” Zau/Heraxo whispered in her ear.

Zau/Heraxo reconfigured their internal power matrix, momentarily reducing the readiness of the primary energy lance mounted on the tip of their flexing metasomal structure as they shunted additional power into the energy shields surrounding them. Whatever they thought of Moira, Zau/Heraxo had no desire to be destroyed by an errant gravmine or improvised ground to air missile. The ship skittered between the shattered glass and twisted steel of two abandoned office towers, then dropped to skim along the cracked street just below the rooftops of the decrepit retail buildings. Here, away from the governmental and manufacturing hubs of the city, the damage was less extensive.

Trusting the vastly superior sensory capabilities of Zau/Heraxo’s processing cores to identify any threat, Moira tried to focus her mind on the operation which lay ahead, clearing away everything that did not directly relate to the mission, but she found herself drifting. She wished that Zau would assert herself more frequently, as much as it hurt to hear the ship speaking in her familiar phrases. There was no way for Moira to be certain that Zau had emerged just then, she suspected that Heraxo sometimes imitated phrases from human culture just to irritate her, but she still clung to those rare moments when Zau’s personality emerged.

“We are approaching our optimal landing zone,” Zau/Heraxo said, speaking through both Moira’s implants and the speakers at once. It might have been only her emotions toying with her, but Moira thought she heard a slight difference of inflection between the two competing channels of audio. “We recommend that you prepare to {move/die} quickly. The remoras report increased agitation from the humans in the target area.”

“Agitation?” Moira asked as she unstrapped herself from the command chair.

“We {don’t appreciate/are being}…” the voice cracked, splintering and trailing off like a particularly hormonal teen, then returned as Moira strode off the command deck, out through the blast doors, and into the port thoracic corridor. “Agitating. Stirring. Disturbing. Moving.”

“Thanks for the tactical specificity.”

Moira palmed open the arms locker beside the port thoracic airlock and pulled out a kinetic slug rifle. She took a moment to admire the viciously beautiful lines of it, enjoying the heft of the weapon in her muscled arms. She grabbed a mass magazine, hefted it, and slotted it into the top mounted receiver. She held the weapon to her shoulder and sighted down the corridor, adjusting herself to the new balance imparted by three kilograms of depleted uranium mass in the magazine slot. She had heard of experimental weapons which fired pure raw, but that seemed like overkill when this bit of handheld hardware could put a slug through half a meter of armor plating.

“We doubt that you will need that kind of firepower on this mission, Moira. After all, doesn’t the contract specify alive?”

Moira lowered the rifle and shrugged. “We get paid more if the bastard is alive, but we’ll be making a killing either way.”

“Significantly more.”

“Which is why I need enough firepower to scare the drek out of anyone who tried to get in my way,” Moira said. She grabbed two stun grenades from the locker and snugged them into her utility harness. “Don’t worry. I’ll try not to kill too many of them.”

“We would like to remind you that you are licensed to capture escaped felons and defend yourself against aggressors, not carry out summary justice upon anyone whose existence offends you.”

“Lucky for you.”

Moira slammed the locker shut and stepped into the port thoracic airlock. “Am I clear out there?”

“No signs of activity for two blocks. Remoras have located the target and we have marked him on your map.”

“Keep him in sight. Wait for my order, then be ready to come in hard for the pickup.”

Moira stepped out into the blasted street. A hot wind whipped around her, carrying a fine dust that scoured across her cheeks and skittered noisily against her goggles and rifle. She pulled her maroon scarf up over her mouth and wrapped an extra layer of the colorful metamaterial around her nose, hoping that the Covington forces had not deployed combat midges in this region. It seemed unlikely, but those bastards had destroyed an entire city merely because its citizens had tried to declare independence from their ruling corp.

She hefted the rifle, then crouched and ran down the street towards the gang hideout.

As Moira moved along the street, Zau/Heraxo piped an annotated model of the city into her virtual vision, causing the image to appear as an isometric projection, floating in the near distance before her. The ship tagged known locations of gang members in red on the map, throwing anticipated cones of vision out around them. After a moment, additional marks appeared on the map, tagged in yellow.

“What are those?” Moira asked the ship, sending the message through her mesh rather than speaking aloud.

“Possible noncombatants. We have located at least five registered prostitutes, two known drug synthesists, and an experiential emcee known as B8Z,” the ship replied, pronouncing each symbol of the emcee’s name individually in a tone dripping with distain.

“Here?” Moira said. She’d experienced one of B8Z’s sets at an off club several cycles before. He had been pretty good.

“That is what the facial matches tell us. Not that we need computers to identify the emcee. We tapped into the public feed he’s spewing. {Make sure you don’t/be sure to} connect to his mesh. The wetcode he’s pushing appears designed to have some rather fascinating effects on human inhibitions.”

“I thought you said that the gang was getting agitated.” “Agitated. Excited. Moving about vigorously.”

Moira set her jaw and told herself not to swear at Zau/Heraxo. If she aggravated either element of the personality construct now she risked it being even less forthcoming with data, and the last thing she needed in the middle of an operation was a full blown synthetic intelligence breakdown.

“Can you be sure they are unarmed?”


“Keep them tagged in yellow for me, but tell the remoras to include them in the takedown. I’m not taking any risks in this.”

“This is already an expensive mission, Moira. Would it not be best to…”

“It would be best to come out of it alive. Just hold off on the takedown until we’re sure if we need it.”

“As we intended from the beginning.”

Moira ignored the implied insult and continued towards the decrepit department store that served as home base for the Azi Zoo. One of the more vicious gangs to crop up on the outskirts of Covington in recent years, the Azi Zoo had pulled off a string of heists, both physical and virtual, which had inevitably brought them to the attention of Covington Domestic Security. Unable to secure the trans-corporate mandate for a tactical strike, CDS had instead posted an escalating bounty for known members of the gang, the highest bounty being offered for Bosami Haupt, the leader of the Azi Zoo. Despite the exorbitant reward for Haupt’s capture, few bounty hunters had even attempted striking at the heart of the gang’s territory.

But few bounty hunters had tactical support from an exo scout ship and a small fleet of remoras.

Moira slowed her approach, placing her feet carefully to minimize noise as she approached the final intersection. The isometric projection showed two red human shapes outlined against the wall of the destroyed department store just around the corner. Moira leaned against the cracked bricks of a corner pharmacy and whispered to Zau/Heraxo, “Can you get me a visual on those two?”

A flat panel appeared over the map in her virtual vision, showing two armed men standing guard, one on either side of the rotating door that led into the department store. Shattered glass from the display windows on either side of the door had been swept into piles in the middle of the street and the openings had been covered over in sloppily applied sheets of corrugated metal. One of the guards was dressed in an assortment of green, tan, and blue camouflage scavenged from the various mercenaries he had killed over the years. The other wore a baggy suit of stuttering active camouflage, which continually flashed with random patterns and distorted, over saturated images of their surroundings. Worthless as cover, but still highly illegal for civilians to posses in Covington proper. Moira guessed that he had stolen the suit from whatever CDS guards had been unfortunate enough to pull duty on a convoy that the Azi Zoo had hit.

“Those the only guards?”

“Situational analysis suggests a ninety-five percent probability that no other individuals are watching these doors,” Zau/Heraxo replied, whispering in to Moira’s ear in a sultry voice. “And before you ask, there is no bounty on either of those individuals. They are too low in the organization.”

“Take those two with nonlethals. I’ll hide the bodies.” “Done.”
Above the rooftop of the building across the street from the department store, a drone the size of a large cat darted up over the parapet and fired a dart each into the necks of the guards. Both men had only the time to open their mouths and twitch their hands upwards before the powerful benzodiazepine derivative ripped through their GABA receptors and dropped them both to the sidewalk.

“You’ll want to get them both out of sight. We can’t guarantee one of the {partygoers/degenerate apes} won’t come wandering out.”

“Already on it.”

She crouched low and stalked along the sidewalk, placing each quick, light step carefully to avoid broken glass as she held her rifle at the ready. Reaching the doorway, Moira slung her rifle over her back and grabbed the first guard under his arms, then stood and swung him over her shoulder. He was lighter than she had expected, but that shouldn’t have surprised her. Out here, beyond even the fringes of Covington, it was entirely possible for someone to die of starvation, if they didn’t have the right contacts. She had figured that the gang would own a matter recompiled or two, but perhaps they were all tied up producing drugs and weapons.

“We have moved the remora to street level and can now see into the former department store,” Zau/Heraxo said.

Moira shoved the limp guard through the blasted out window of the pharmacy and turned to retrieve the second body. She spotted the remora crouching in the shadow of a wrecked pickup truck. “Any threats?”

“You might be best served taking a more {stealthy/ murderous} approach,” Zau/Heraxo replied, sending this message as a string of text that appeared in Moira’s virtual vision for several seconds before fading away.

“You mean?” Moira hissed. She assumed that the more bloodthirsty variant of the comment had come from Heraxo, both because the syntellect had little use for human beings beside herself, and because this would not have been the first time that Heraxo had attempted to get her killed in roundabout ways.

“That human is about your size.”

Moira scowled and glanced through the rotating door. Within the ruined department store, only a few shafts of sunlight reached through the shuttered windows and skylights. Shadows dominated, pierced occasionally by competing flashes of strobe, laser, and holographic light that leaked around the corners of the retail displays. “Drek,” Moira breathed. “Where is the party? Can’t I just go around them?”

“The revelry appears concentrated at the second level of the structure. The remoras have yet to locate our target, but he has not been spotted leaving this location and human behavioral modeling suggests…”

“Enough! I’ll go in.”

Moira lifted the second guard, then carried him quickly back to the corner pharmacy. As she moved, Zau/Heraxo rotated the isometric map to show each possible entrance to the department store. It said, “The remoras have located additional ingress points on the roof and at the rear of the store. Unfortunately, the gang has removed all external access ladders to the roof and there is something of a crowd at the rear loading dock. They appear to be engaging in a {primitive ritual/martial arts display} for over a dozen observers.”

“Fine, I’ll try to blend in.” Moira dumped the guard on the sidewalk and began stripping the baggy active camouflage from him. The damaged material stuttered and swirled with patterns that vaguely resembled the charred bricks beneath the guard, but were rendered in wildly inappropriate colors. “This feels like a bad idea.”

“Hiding in plain sight, {darling/dimwit}.”

“I prefer to hide in the shadows.”

“Not a lot of them, we’re afraid. Not since the enclosure.”

Moira glanced at the projected map, confirming that none of the gang members were about to come up on her, then stepped into the baggy legs of the active suit. She pulled it up to her waist, held it there with one hand while she tightened the leg closures around her boots, then shrugged the stiff material over her shoulders, covering the rifle on her back. Pulling the hood over her head, Moira zipped the face closed, only to find the world in front of her transformed into a psychedelic landscape of neon lines and twisted shades that dived into stomach churning fractals. Clearly the suit’s entire distributed image processing system was damaged. There would be no covering her face.

“Leave the face open and keep the hood up. Put some swagger in your step and you’ll blend in with the crowd.” “Swagger,” Moira muttered, shaking her head. She unzipped the face of the suit and pulled the front of the hood down so the top of the opening hung just above her eyes. Zau/Heraxo projected an image from the remora across the street into her vision and Moira allowed the kuring hybrid intelligence a little credit. If she slouched her shoulders and walked with a rolling, carefree gait, she might actually look like she belonged in the Azi Zoo hideout.

Assuming that she did not run into anyone who knew the owner of the suit.

She helped herself to the unconscious guard’s sidearm, a battered flechette thrower with seven cartridges remaining the magazine, then dumped his body through the window of the pharmacy. The weapon she slipped into a baggy utility pocket on the outside of the suit.

“Walk in the front like you own the place. Perhaps the {gang members/pitiful humans} within will mistake you for their {friend/homie}, from a distance at least.”

“I still think I should have just snuck in, but we’ll do it your way,” Moira muttered. “And please never say ‘homie’ again.”

She pushed through the rotating door at the front of the department store and found herself standing in a dimly lit, cavernous space. All of the merchandise had long since been looted and the various mobile walls, display cases, and racks had been rearranged to form a low-walled maze of sorts on the ground floor. Or perhaps it was intended as a series of barricades behind which gang members could hide if ever a firefight broke out in their hideaway. The walls, barricades, and even the floor were covered in a brightly colored, intertwining and overlapping array of art, some of which glowed with a faint chemiluminescence. At the center of the space a pair of crossed escalators rose up to the second level. A wispy fog of stage smoke rolled down both escalators, shot through with stuttering lines of laser light and occasionally flashing to opaque as strobes blasted white light down the escalators.

To Moira’s left, a remora flitted past her shoulder, shot up to the ceiling, and skimmed across the space just below the level of the battered, sagging composite tiles. An instant later three new yellow tags appeared on the projected map.

“Three humans are on this level. One is relieving herself in the back left corner, where rudimentary toilet facilities have been established. {You/we} humans can truly be filthy creatures.”

“You said three?”

“Two more are closer to your present location.” The map pulled in on two tagged outlines, seemingly laying side by side on the floor beside the elevators, their shaved scalps joined by tangles of glowing white wire. “We believe them to be asleep, likely in a a shared dream state, probably under the influence of one or more of the drugs being synthesized at this location.”


“Searching the second floor. You should be able to blend into the crowd until we locate him.”

Moira glanced down at her suit, which was now seizing in time to the flashes of light from the escalators, and shook her head. “Blend in. Right.”

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