“What are you doing here, Sullivan? People like you come to Chiba; they don’t come out. Or maybe they do, but they come out different. Dead.”

Hojima’s threat was back-alley standard, all flash. Annie had noticed the shotgun, a boxy Garin Riot-Burst model, hidden behind some boxes of gauzeplast, but there was no way the spidery, gray-haired street doc could get to it. Not before Annie could take out her taser, at least. Months in the Perkins Corporation’s security-training holo made sure of that.

“You stand to profit from this. No reason for you to go shifty.” She spoke without emotion, her eyes covered by her mirrorshades.

“Talk, then.”

“I know what you did back in the war. I know about Aegis Battalion. The grafting. The black-ops med work. You work out here like a street cutter, but you can do things nobody else can. I’ve got something for you.”


“There’s a kid. Sprawl kid. Army brass’s daughter. Biowar virus attack fried her nerves out at 19 months. She can’t see or hear, can barely vocalize. She’s been to specialists everywhere. Everywhere legal. But nothing worked.”

“My heart goes out,” Hojima spat, “but what the hell does that have to do with me?”

“You’re going to splice Helen’s nerves back, Colonel. Let her see the sun again, hear music.”

The street doc laughed, a dry-throated rattle. He reached into his pocket for a Yeheyuan filter and lit it with a scowl.

“Even if you could pay me enough, I wouldn’t be able to. Look at this place. This shack. You see what I’m working with?” Hojima lifted a Russian military-issue bone saw. It was ugly and dirty and it made his point.

“I’ve planned for that. You and I are going to meet Helen, and we’re going to make a little unannounced visit to the Maas Biotech labs. Tonight. And you’d better bring that shotgun.”