The creaky, grungy hotel room's windows were covered. The curtains (which looked like they hadn't been cleaned since 2035) hung limply over the glass, blotting out any light or, more importantly, eyes from entering or leaving. It was on the third floor; high enough that it would be difficult to get to from the outside, low enough that it wouldn't be impossible to drop from. It was in what could charitably be called the "undercity" of Night City; a dim, labyrinthine network of alleys and narrow streets running haphazardly between the foundations of the skyscrapers. A city existing between the bones of another, out of any wealthy individual or corporation's lines of sight.
If one were to enter the door without being prepared, a wave of musty odors would assault them. Old food, cheap alcohol, and mold. The floorboards and stairs would creak as they ascended, and the door's hinges would squeal like pigs in pain. Then they would see a young woman, seated on a rickety desk, holding a small penlight in her mouth as she twisted at a wrench connecting to a scuffed-up black and silver cybernetic leg on the table. They might see one segment of her hip, where the thigh usually connected, covered in titanium, with a large data terminal post in the center. It was incongruous looking, robbed of its usual occupant. They may hear the strained grunts of the woman as she adjusted a particularly fiddly connection socket. They might see the expression on her face, an expression of concentration to the exclusion of all else, a tongue tip sticking comically out from between her pale lips.
None of this was visible to anybody, though, as Sariya had made very sure to keep her door locked exceedingly tightly, as she'd always been directed. Danger can come from anybody, anywhere.
The seedy-looking doorman of the hotel might have been holding a gun underneath his unwashed uniform. One could never know. A small dossier labeled BIOTECHNICA
lay on the desk before her. Even in this day and age, there was still sometimes—though rarely—information more sensitive than digitizing would allow. Any number of hackers and deckers could access something on a chip, no matter how well safeguarded. Occasionally, low-tech was the best tech.
The night wore on as she continued her maintenance. Soon, she would be called for whatever job her superiors had managed to land her at Biotechnica. Then, once that was over, she'd be able to go back home to Russia, at least for a few days.
She spared a glance at the window, almost wishing for a moment that the curtains were lifted and she could see outside. Then again,
she thought, crushing that line of questioning and remembering what the street outside looked like, even with all of their natural resources, the Americans have still managed to ruin their cities.
Eventually, she finished the last of her leg's tuneup. Her face an impassive mask, she lifted the leg off of the table, positioning the hole in the top of the thigh against the jack on her pelvis. With a single deep breath, she "plugged" the cybernetic in. The breath came out fast and she tightened her teeth until she felt they might shatter like sugar glass. The electrical signals racing up and down her nerves shot off a million tiny pain signals, and she hugged the leg to her lightly-clothed chest, sweat streaks rapidly running down the tanktop as she gasped in breath after jagged breath for what seemed like hours.
When the pain finally abated, she let the newly-installed leg fall to the ground, staring at it in some form of detachment. Then, with a sigh still clinging to remnants of pain, she pivoted out of the chair and fell down into the ragged, poorly-made bed. Her foggy eyes shut, and she felt a slight sting behind them as the optic transmitter went quiet.
One more sighing breath, and she was asleep.
Sariya's awareness and paranoia were ratcheted all the way up.
Her eyes narrowed as she recalled the past hour of her life:
Pale, foggy blue eyes snapped open in silence. With a quick, sharp movement, Sariya slid out of bed, contemplating the infernally loud telephone of her seedy hotel room for a few seconds with something that might have been irritation. She slid her hand left hand around the cool black object that might once have been glossy, lifting it up to her ear.
"Who is it," she asked tonelessly. She was answered with a garbled, staticky sound that barely resembled the voice it might have been. She wasn't sure if there was some sort of voice-altering software involved, or if the ancient, wired phone was just that bad.
Her body suddenly tensed up and she began edging towards the window before the voice continued: "I thought so. You're probably just about to throw yourself out the window, aren't you? No, don't do that. I have some information that you might find...interesting. If you want to learn more, come to the large red building by the central dock within the next hour." The voice turned suddenly flippant, continuing on. "Or don't, it's really no skin off my back whether or not you come. It's all for your benefit, my dear. Bye now."
Before Sariya could respond, the line went dead. She stared at it for a moment before grasping the dossier that still lay on the desk and walking out of her room. The floorboards and stairs creaked under her considerable weight as she ghosted down two flights, sliding out of the lobby almost before she could be noticed. An impressive feat for a woman of six feet with nearly white hair made halfway of metal and carbon fiber.
With a thought, she lowered the visor of blue glass in front of her eyes. Central dock, she thought, and a dinging sound resonated through her inner ear. A blue line showed up, superimposed over her view of reality, and she began moving through the streets. She ran, taking to the tops of the low roofs when she could to avoid unwanted attention as her metal legs worked smoothly and powerfully, launching her into thirty-foot long jumps with ease.
After perhaps twenty minutes, she came to a large upward-slanting ramp. Nodding to herself, she peeled off of the roofs, making her way down into the sparse crowd. As she continued, this time at a more modulated pace, she heard a voice in her ear. It wasn't the voice of a superior, coming straight from her aural implants. No, this was an extension of her visor, a generic, emotionless female voice. "Uroven' modamerizol v'krovi neadekvaten. Nachinayetsya in'yektsiya." She continued without reacting. Now that she thought about it, it had been some time since she'd had an injection of modamerizol, the drug used by the Russians to combat cyberpsychosis. As she thought that, she felt a sting in her shoulder where her cybernetic arm joined tissue as a hypodermic needle unloaded its payload into her bloodstream.
By the time the sting faded, she had departed the undercity of Night City and had reached the relatively wealthy area. While it wasn't quite rich compared to the really affluent sections, it was certainly better than where she'd been staying. Perhaps if my superiors had seen fit to provide me with more money for this, I would've been able to stay here instead, she thought as close to acidly as she could come, passing an unremarkable, but pleasant enough, hotel.
A few minutes later, and she'd arrived at the dock. The waves slapped against the side of the concrete and steel structure, and the smell of salt was heavy in the air. Her nose twitched, and in the distance, she clearly made out a bright red warehouse, undoubtedly filled with shipping containers. Taking heavy breaths of the salty air, she began jogging towards it.
And that had brought her to where she was now; about to dart through the open door in the side of the building. She wasn't a fool; she knew that once inside, escaping something would be far more difficult. Yet...information was information, and she was confident in her abilities to evade anything that might pose a threat to her. Her eyes flicked to the corner of her visor, where an unobtrusive 4/4
was displayed next to a simplified depiction of a bullet. Nodding to herself, she entered the darkened warehouse, releasing a single phrase:
"I am Arcturus. What do you want with me?
(For those interested, the Russian translates roughly to "blood levels of modamerizol inadequate. Injection beginning.)