Corporate Synergies is a modestly epic 14-part space opera of questionable ethics and dubious morality centred on the ongoing conflict between two mega-corporations and their quest to dominate the retail landscape of Earth’s ever-expanding colonial reach.
The return to consciousness was slow, like she was fighting against some internal programming that wanted her to remain asleep for just a little bit longer, but Molly managed to battle past it and bit by bit regain some semblance of awareness.
There were voices, first. Despite her mind awakening more with each passing minute, she was having trouble getting her eyes to open – for the moment, her world was entirely based on sound.
None of the voices sounded familiar, but that wasn’t much of a concern for Molly. Given how much she’d traveled over the past… her mind frowned as she realised she couldn’t remember how long it had been since signing up with UniRe… but regardless, she’d met so many new people, it was small surprise that she now found herself surrounded by unfamiliar voices.
She managed to open her eyes a crack and had she been able to utter any sound – she hadn’t gotten that far along the process yet – she would have gasped. The bright white lights… actually didn’t bother her eyes at all. Her reaction was more out of instinct than any real physical discomfort – her irises had immediately adjusted and Molly had felt nothing.
As she took in her surroundings, she realised two things. First, with its clean white walls and Spartan décor, she was clearly in some sort of hospital complex. Had she been hurt somehow? Maybe injured in the line of duty? Had GCon mounted a second attack while the [redacted] Red Roosters had been waiting for Frog and Katzena to return?
There was a TV screen mounted on one wall, playing some kind of monster movie – a massive glowing creature was wreaking havoc on an Earth colony.
“…no idea where the creature came from,” the newswoman was saying breathlessly. “But the colony of New Walton has been decimated. Reports are very preliminary, but we’re hearing that half the population may be dead.”
Molly watched for a moment, waiting for the movie to cut to a scene of the heroes doing something heroic, but the reporter just droned on.
“Similar creatures have been spotted on nine different colonies. We’re told…,” she paused, glancing at something off-screen. “I’m sorry, we’ve just had unconfirmed report that one of the creatures has been sighted in the skies above the Incorporated States of America on Earth…”
Molly frowned. Little bits were coming back to her from events on [redacted] Biccaneus, something about Frog finding eggs and… was it something about dragon eggs? Like dragons were a real thing?
She glanced back at the TV.
“Yes, it’s real,” said Rushworth, causing Molly to twitch in surprise. She hadn’t realised there was anyone else in the room.
“It’s happening all over,” she continued. “We discovered the truth too late to do anything about it, but we’re redeploying the EMD to try to deal with it now.”
Still not entirely sure what was happening, Molly just nodded. She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out.
“Oh, sorry,” said Rushworth, tapping a command into her tablet. Molly realised the woman had a small pistol tucked into her waistband. “There, you should be able to talk now.”
“Where am I?,” said Molly, her voice sounding slightly hollow. “I can’t really feel anything.”
“You’re at the UniRe advanced cybernetics lab on Procyon Station. Do you remember what happened to you on Biccaneus?”
“I remember being attacked,” said Molly. “But… wait. Didn’t I step on a mine? Did I explode?”
“Yes, you essentially died. Thankfully your brain wasn’t damaged, so what was left of you as put immediately into cryo-storage and brought here. You were by far the most promising of the group I’d marked as possible Public Relations recruits – I didn’t want to lose you so quickly.”
Molly looked down at herself, immobile in the bed, covered by a thin sheet. From what she could see, she looked to be intact.
“We rebuilt you,” said Rushworth, clearly seeing where this was heading. “You were in very rough shape – we managed to save your brain and your face, but the rest had to be built from scratch.”
“Cybernetics. You’re now a cyborg – you have a human brain and your original face, but everything else is mechanical. Very, very high-end, but still mechanical. We’re just waiting on your synthetic skin to set,” said Rushworth. “The team had to remove a portion of your brain to incorporate the necessary electronics, but the part they removed won’t affect your new role in any way.”
As with Cam, the removed portion was the part that dealt with ethics. Surprisingly, not a standard surgery for UniRe employees. Doesn’t have to be – humans naturally deactivate that portion of their brains on a regular basis – but with Molly, it was the only way to fit in all the controls for her robotic body.
“Okay,” said Molly. “So I work for you now?”
Rushworth smiled and shook her head.
“Replacing me. I’m retiring.”
She glanced at the TV screen, which was showing a freeze-frame of the translucent blue dragon flying over another colony – Paduacca, she thought, based on the pagodas.
“My big break in the company was designing a marketing plan to turn what everyone thought of as a waste product into a viable commercial venture,” she said. “Our mining operations kept finding these glowing orbs. We were spending millions just trucking them out and disposing of them, so I came up with the plan to brand them Star Crystals and sell them. Hugely successful. You have no idea the obscene amount of money I’ve made off stock options alone since then. My plan put Star Crystals in the homes of the wealthy and faux-wealthy on every colony Earth has ever established.”
She smiled at the creature’s image, then turned to Molly.
“The dragons are actually quite beautiful,” she said. “Anyway, good luck in your new role, Molly.”
And then she drew her pistol, placed the muzzle against her temple and pulled the trigger, splattering her brains in a long arc across the otherwise pristine white wall.
The next several minutes was a rush of people and doctors and medics and fellow PR flunkies and they were all asking if Molly was all right.
“Do I get her office now?,” she asked.
More or less.
Hey, thanks for taking a spin with me through this little world of horrible people, or, as I kept saying while writing it, going to space with assholes. Hope you enjoyed it. Hoped you liked getting it for free. Hoped you liked it enough to check out my full-length novel, Radko’s War — available in print from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and not-print (aka eBook) from pretty much everywhere.