Cybergast: Bioringer III

Oct 13, 2021 | Short Stories

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Bioringer Ether Chain’s story continues with part III, Cybergast. She must infiltrate a government transport to earn the remaining SCs she rightfully deserves from the previous gig. This is her first time attempting to make DNA Shifts, which can cause permanent damage if they’re not mixed right. Add that to the pile of risks related to this mission. Ether’s in for one hell of a ride.

Enjoy the story in written form, the artwork, and audio through the podcast with improv music.


Ether Chain’s hands shake slightly, holding the glass vial. There’s a stutter in her exhale which are are signs of nervousness and frustration. She can’t push the new setup with her employer out of her mind. The bastard strongarmed her into doing another bioring gig before giving her the damn social credits she earned. This is all her former partner’s fault.

Yes, she misses Var, and her gut twists at the thought of what she did to him to save her own skin. It turns out his ghost is now haunting her, for he had never explained their relationship with Blockchain. All Ether did was work her ass off bioringing and got paid. Now that Var is gone – no thanks to Ether Chain’s merciless choice – she’s learning how complicated bioringing really is. For example, right now, she’s attempting to prepare a DNA Shift to infiltrate a transport device and steal a valuable package for Blockchain. Her last two DNA Shift samples failed, so she’s off to a good start.

Bioringing isn’t for everyone. It requires plenty of stamina within the mind and body. Quite literally, you are rearranging your DNA on a molecular level. The Genetic Injection Dose, or GID, is the crucial element that mutates a body from one physical makeup to another. Of course, there are plenty of other usages for GID. The Society transcended humanity by entering the infamous CHIT era due to it. It’s old news, and no one needs to overthink the past because this is now the real world, and there is no going back. The amusing part is if you asked any historian about life before the CHIT era a century ago, they would have all told you the world was crumbling and a solution was needed. Now, look at humanity. No one presumed bioengineering would become so influential, effortless to produce, and end with deadly results of separating humans from post-humans.

So as mentioned, bioringing isn’t for everyone. For Ether Chain, one of the many rejects whose DNA simply doesn’t work with the transhumanism solution, you have to make SCs from somewhere. Bioringing is her skill, end of the story.

Ether Chain is cutting off a small sample of the hair strand Blockchain gave her with a surgical knife. She needs to create the right formula that will temporarily convert her into the sample’s individual. If you don’t get the right mixture of DNA and GID, you will permanently shift into the person, damage your own DNA, or nothing will happen at all. All would have severe consequences on Ether Chain’s life and this mission. Var was the one who prepared the DNA Shift injections, and now she feels like a fool for not watching him more closely over the years. Oh well, just like the pre-CHIT era, there is no going back.

She curses under her breath, sitting in the dingy small studio apartment that she rents from some pimp who sells cyborgs to lonely Johns. Injecting swine with GID solutions, mixed with cyber parts can create compelling toys. None of that matters to Ether, for this is just a cheap place to rent where no one will look for her in the underbelly of the Society.

Var’s familiar hov-box is here, serving as a haunting reminder of how she fed him to the Society’s biomechs. Thankfully, she won’t be needing the hov-box for this mission. So, the storage bot rests, turned off, at the dark corner under a desk full of weapons and ammo. Two of the arms she’ll be bringing: a laser-tipped blade and her pistol.

How did Var make the DNA Shifts so accurately? She has equipment here. She has the DNA sample, the GID solution, and the nano builders. All three are the holy grail to becoming an effective bioringer. Yet, she is clueless as she uses a tweezer to drop the hair strand sample into one vial filled with protease to destroy the cell walls. Then comes the removal of the proteins. The hair dissolves into an orange-brown liquid within the vial, letting her mixing it with the transparent GID solution in another. Instantly, the two liquids clash and create a neon blue. Still, she has little knowledge of what is happening.

The bright digital interface projects from her wrist cuff, rendering documents provided by Blockchain when they met at the bar. It’s a profile of a man about Ether’s age, the source of the hair strand. She’ll be bioringing as him. She’s never had to swap her birth gender. Apparently, it hurts like hell. Looks like there’s a first time for anything.

The document appears to be an internal staff profiling from the government. Specifically, their transportation and shipment facilities that are located in the underbelly. The man’s name is Robby Cord, he lives with his wife and two kids. His facial features are imperfect, the eyes aren’t balanced, and his chin is weak. Clearly, he has a genetic disposition towards the Society’s transhumanism solution. Noteworthy, for it explains why this transport device functions in the underbelly. Turns out you can still make SCs by working for the Society and not be part of their paradise. You’re just a bottom feeder, no different than Ether.

Good. Ether will bioring as Robby Cord and navigate through the transport device and . . . she swipes the projected hologram moving Robby Cord’s profile out of view and showing the following file. It’s a photograph of an encased glass pod within a metal shipping crate within a storage area. There’s a naked woman in the specimen pod. The Society commonly uses these pods to move their experimental subjects around to further understand the human genetic makeup.

Based on the floor plans of the transport vehicle, the pod will be in the back storage of the vehicle. The sleeping woman in the pod has had her hair shaven like most specimens. The photo has a title below it, saying: Emi Array. Handwritten words beside the photo from Blockchain say: HANDLE WITH CARE.

Interesting, Ether Chain thinks. Blockchain mentioned nothing about a person. It was just a device to steal. A specimen pod is a large item to sneak out of a transport unit. Blockchain sure is going through a lot of trouble to have Ether Chain infiltrate the transport unit and obtain this person. Is Emi his partner? Relative? Impossible to know. Blockchain isn’t even his real name, believe it or not.

Regardless, this is her mission. She’ll get the specimen pod out of the transport unit and get the rest of those SCs she rightfully deserves. Blockchain is a damn dirty businessman. What can she do, though? She has no other option other than to obey. She doesn’t even know where to find more work. Besides, she must learn how to bioring on her own at some point. Now is as good as any time, starting with making DNA Shifts.

“Here we go,” Ether whispers under her breath while adding a couple of droplets of the light grey nano builder liquid from a syringe into the vial. The little biobots behave as glue, so the DNA Shift sticks to the target DNA. Fingers crossed that this third mixture works.

She takes the completed vial and an empty syringe and carefully fills it, finds her vein, and takes a deep breath. On the exhale, she injects the needle and pushes the solution into her system. She keeps exhaling until there’s no more air, feeling the adrenaline move through the body due to the uncertainty of what she has created. Making DNA Shifts is kind of like cooking, easy to add elements, but you can never take it away. Hence her previous two were duds.

Several moments go by with deep, steady breathing. Her heartbeat is the timer, keeping track of when she injected herself with the DNA Shift solution. Her muscles twitch, the heart rate picks up on her cuff screen. Sweat beads on her skin. Yes, the solution is working. Unlike previous shifts, now she feels the muscles grow far larger, her bones are aching, her legs tremble, and she seizes up, sliding off the stool. Her body slams onto the floor and enters a fetal position.

She lets out an agonizing groan, knowing there was indeed enough DNA in this dose. There’s no going back now. Ether exhales in deep heavy breaths, spewing saliva with each puff out, enduring the shift from Ether Chain into Robby Cord. The heart punches inside her chest. Blood visually pulses throughout her whole system underneath the skin. The muscles grow and the bones extend, shrink, and mutate ever so slightly. They adjust her jaw, hips, legs, creating growing pains she hasn’t felt since she was a kid.

Hair. Lots of hair. Whiskers cover her upper and lower lip and most of her neck. The hair shifts into a coppery tinge. Her stomach twists around as her innards burn . . . hot like she’s ignited from within. Slowly the mutations ease their intensity, and she can breathe at a steady pace. The DNA Shift is complete, and she uses her shaky, sweaty arm to push herself up. She’s weak and oddly hungry.

Ether Chain stumbles to the bathroom, almost crashing into her weapons table, to see herself in the mirror. Only she is no longer there, and she is looking at Robby Cord, the transport device employee. Well, mostly him. There’s a few small traces of Ether left, such as the lips are narrower than Robby’s and the fingers are more delicate. Still, the resemblance to the real Robby Cord is uncanny. And no, her junk didn’t reform for the dosage wasn’t strong enough – she checked. Relief rushes through Ether; she did it! Ether made a DNA Shift and will be ready for the bioring gig tomorrow morning.

A third time the charm is accurate, and the solution reverts after several hours as Ether reviews the documents Blockchain gave her. The shift back is more gradual and takes about half an hour. Like the initial transformation, it’s an awful experience. DNA Shifts shouldn’t last longer than three hours. If they do, you’ll create permanent damage to the DNA and never return to your original self. Her last mission with Var, as Lia Catcher, made her fearful. This DNA Shift made her . . . angry. It must be the man’s metabolism. It made her think faster, flooding her brain with useless mind chatter. She has far more vigour too. If only she could keep some of this energy. It certainly would give her an upper hand bioringing. But she can’t stay like him forever. Eventually, she has to go back to being Ether Chain because she doesn’t need this man’s family to find her, thinking she’s Robby Cord. Nor does she want to kill the real Robby Cord and take his identity. Killing is the last option, kind of like what happened with Var. It was her or him.

Ether has prepared a good three additional DNA Shift syringes for the mission. With any luck, she won’t have to be on the transport device for that long. It’s better to overprepare as missions can go south. She memorizes the floorplans of the transport device to know precisely where Emi Array’s specimen pod is and deems herself ready. It’s game time.

She leaves the apartment complex in the morning to catch the transport unit before it leaves. Ether heads down the dark streets lit by the radiant glow of the ceiling tunnels dividing the underbelly and the Society. Vertical highways are leading to and from the utopia. Vehicles come and go past the dividing gate, watched by biomech guards. None of that is of interest, for the pickup location is located on the far end of the underbelly.

Ether got up early to prepare for the long hike towards the station through narrow alleyways and streets lit with dim blue and yellow neon signs of stores at the base of skyscraper buildings connecting to the ceiling. The pillar-like buildings form a maze of endless grunge, poverty, and shady dealings at every corner. People are just trying to survive down here, no different than Ether.

It would be unwise of her to use a cab or personal vehicle to get to the location. They can easily be tracked. The escape will be a different story. She’s kept her cuff on a closed network, disconnecting it from the leading web of the Society and the underbelly. She can’t risk being traced by any means.

The station is obvious to spot a vertical level down and a few blocks away. The gunmetal transport vehicle, the size of her entire apartment complex, is currently being loaded with metal crates. Each crate has its own interface with thumbprint activation. That makes this DNA Shift quite handy, presuming the fingerprints are fully converted. Her fingers . . . they were still too close to her own. That’s a detail she can worry about later. The only thing Ether is missing is the uniform. She has to find Robby Cord. His shift should be starting soon.

Ether rolls up her sleeve and injects the DNA Shift. She’s prepared for the hideously uncomfortable mutation, and the rush of chemicals runs through her veins. The bones ache like before. Her limbs tremble, and she falls to her knees. Eventually, the agony ends, and she can get up, covered in sweat. She looks in the reflection from her cuff to see she has entirely transformed into the ginger man. Now for that uniform.

The newly formed Robby Cord sets a timer on his cuff, keeping track of the estimated DNA Shift expiry. He exits the street and heads down a flight of stairs leading to the lower level. He crosses a bridge, moving over a steep fall into blackness. If anyone was stupid enough to jump over, they’d learn how many levels there are in the underbelly, and Ether isn’t going to find out.

Across the bridge, she makes it to the station. She walks calmly, heading for the first glass doors leading into the building. The doors automatically slide away, letting the bioringer into the chrome lobby, complete with dim yellow lighting. Robby Cord should be in the back room preparing to start his day. If only he knew what was coming.

No one bats an eye as Ether confidently moves through the lobby, heading for the back room. It’s past the black etched steel counter where two lobbyists work, and she passes them, placing her thumb against the DNA check to unlock the back door.

Come on . . .  she thinks. That fingerprint better work.

The DNA Shift wasn’t fully accurate. They’re going to know. I have my gun. I’ll fuck these fuckers up. There’s no way they’re taking me hostage.

Ether is sweating.

Come on. Don’t overthink this. It’s just mind chatter. It isn’t me.

The green light beams from the scanner run along the thumb, identifying her. Another second passes, and the door beeps. Success. Robby Cord has officially entered the station.

Go. Go. Go.

She navigates down the bright white hall and passes a middle-aged man dressed in the blue conductor uniform buttoned from neck to trouser. He smiles, clearly recognizing her. “Morning Robby,” he says in a bold voice.

“Morning,” Ether says, voice deeper. The harsh change of testosterone in her system is working.

Keep going.

Ether makes it to the break room where the lockers are kept. Voices are heard further in the room. One feminine, the others masculine. There must be three or four of them back there. Ether cautiously approaches, knowing that she may run into the real Robby Cord. She takes each step slowly, reaching the locker room and keeping her head low as a couple more employees walk by.

Around the corner, the first row of lockers is clear. There’s a door at the far end, presumably a supply closet. She creeps up to the second row, where two men and a woman change, getting ready for their workday. One of the men is Ether’s height with coppery red hair, bingo, Robby Cord. Their chat is all small talk and laughs as if nothing is abnormal. Little do they know that around the corner is a second Robby Cord, looking right at the real one buttoning up his blue uniform.

Robby Cord finishes dressing by putting on the military-styled deep blue coat and buttoning it up. He says, “see you on the transport device.” His pitch is eerily identical to Ether’s.

He heads for the exit, towards Ether. She reaches for the leather handle of the laser-tipped blade under her armpit. Unsheathing the weapon activates the light red laser highlighting the chrome metal’s edge. She presses her back against the locker as the footsteps reverb louder and louder from the approaching man.

One step, two steps, three steps. Now! Robby appears around the corner, coming face to face with an exact copy of himself. He freezes, mouth dangling open at the mirror in front of him. Ether lunges forward, snagging the man by the collar and pulling him over to the first row of lockers. She presses the tip of the blade on his neck, causing the skin to sizzle. His eyes are wide, but he says nothing. He may have no knowledge of what a bioringer is by the look on his face. Either way, he is spooked and is now breathing heavily.

Ether slowly brings the knife back and places her index finger on her lip, indicating he should keep quiet. He remains submissive as she drags him to the far end of the room. Wonderful. She raises the blade and slams the butt end of the weapon against his head, knocking him hard. He goes limp as blood begins to seep from his nose. Shit, Ether underestimated this man’s strength.

She grabs Robby with both arms, carefully dragging him to the closed door. He’s not nearly as heavy as she expected, this new strength is handy. Ether opens the door to find a storage room and pulls him into it, closes the door, and drops the man.

Wasting no time, she unbuttons the man’s uniform until he is left in his boxers. She ditches her tattered clothes and dresses into Robby’s, dropping hers onto the man’s face. She checks her cuff to see that she still has plenty of time with the DNA Shift. Only fifteen minutes have gone by.

Fully changed, Ether exits the storage room and checks the knob to see if she can lock it. Unfortunately no, it can’t be. She goes back into the storage and uses her scraps of clothes to tie the man’s wrists up. Next is his mouth so he doesn’t cry for help. Ether tears her shirt, stuffing the scraps in his mouth and ties him up. That’s as good as it’ll get.

Ether casually leaves the storage room and marches down the hall heading for the hangar bay. A group of five other employees are also heading in this direction, letting her blend in with the workers. They move to the end of the winding hall and are met with a set of automatic doors. They slide clear, letting the employees exit the building and out into the open space of the hangar.

The view makes Ether almost miss the group of employees dissipating, marching towards their own tasks. She can’t stand aimlessly out in the open. It’s time to blend in with the other employees. Some are directing, while others are cleaning the dark gunmetal exterior of the transport unit. Based on those tasks, there’s plenty of time before the vehicle leaves. She starts casually walking towards the transport unit, knowing the back room is where Emi Array is presumed to be.

Along the bay are twelve of those wretched biomech guards. They’re everywhere with that iconic neutral blue and grey steel as if the passive colouring scheme reduces the hideousness of their naked torsos fused to circuitry. The plated deep blue digitigrade legs make them look like some kind of chimera terror. Then there’s the pulse cannon arms, all in all, they’re a pure menace to anyone who opposes them. The mere sight of the twelve patrolling the perimeter sends a shiver down Ether’s back, reminding her of the last bioringing gig. No time to reflect on the past.

I fed Var to them, she thinks. It’s my fault. No. Keep focused.

One of the biomechs marches towards her as she approaches the transport unit. They’re crossing paths, causing Ether’s muscles to tense up. The mechanical legs slam onto the concrete with each step, ending with a hiss as the hydraulics adjust. Its lifeless blue irises look forward, utterly unfazed by Ether Chain – Robby Cord – who keeps walking at a steady pace.

Don’t act unusual. Blend in . . . blend in, she thinks. Those pieces of shit took Var. No. It’s my fault. I fed him. No. Stop thinking and just go. Wait, those eyes . . .

Ether turns to face the biomech as it passes by. The lean, pale white torso is well-formed, and portions of the skin are red due to the irritation against the circuits and metal bolts along the waist and shoulders. Further up, the worn grizzly face gazes ahead, not blinking.

“No,” Ether mutters, recognizing the biomech. The blue irises and the rough face are clear reminders to her. It’s her former partner Var. His long hair is gone, completely shaven and replaced with a metal dome, just like all the other biomechs.

Ether’s skin goes cold, and she stops, watching the biomech walk away. The sweat along her back and arms add to the chill. She was sure the Society mangles caught criminals for organ harvesting. Clearly not, for they have converted Var into one of their obedient units.

How much of Var is even in there? His face is so dead. He’s a biomech, not Var. It shifts her blood hot as she clenches her fists. No. She can’t get emotional. Ether needs to keep rational thinking. Var is more machine than man now. The questions and anger are not Ether Chain. That comes from Robby Cord, the employee of the Society. She is Ether Chain who must blend in and not be captured by the Society. If she is, she’ll suffer the same fate as her former partner.

Cybergast: Bioringer III by Konn Lavery
Author Konn Lavery

About Konn Lavery

Konn Lavery is a Canadian author whose work has been recognized by Edmonton’s top five bestseller charts and by reviewers such as Readers’ Favorite, and Literary Titan.

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