Jennifer sat with her head down, the side of her face pressed against the surface of her workdesk. She watched a drop of Quafe slowly form on the lip if a tipped over bottle. As the purple bulge grew and quivered, she thought "What a waste... I need
A thin, slick black tendril snaked into her vision. Jennifer sat up, adrenaline hammering through her body, causing her to blink owlishly. She shook her head, and the tendril was gone.
She reached for another bottle and popped the seal. She quickly gulped down the contents, grimacing at the taste and the memories it brought. She dropped the bottle on the floor, where it clattered among it kin. She blinked her eyes and tried to focus, once again, on her Neocom. Anything to occupy her brain.
Jennifer sat with her head down, the side of her face pressed against the surface of her workdesk. She watch the light diffract and scintillate off the white powder in its crystalline box. The glittering play of the light promised a rush, a sharpness incomparable outside the Cartel. She thought, "Don't want to waste it... not yet."
A sharp, searing heat snaked across the back of Jennifer's neck. Jennifer jumped from her chair, adrenaline pumping, causing her skin to itch. Her foot landed on one of the myriad bottles scattered across the floor. Jennifer lost her footing and crashed to the floor, stunning her momentarily and sending bottles clattering like so many bones. Jennifer felt at her neck, fingers searching for the burning tendrils, finding nothing, not even blistered skin. Only the cool metal of her neural sockets.
She reached for the last bottle and popped the seal. She quickly gulped down the contents, no longer grimacy, her tongue inured taste, her memories a fog. With some ceremony, befitting the last of its kind, she dropped the bottle to the floor, allowing it to at last join its spent kin. She rubbed her red, hollow eyes and stared at her Neocom, willing it to allow her to stave of boredom and sleep once again.
Jennifer sat with her head down, the side of her face pressed against the surface of her workdesk. She stared at nothing, the emptiness mere meters beyond the seen. The emptiness promising oblivion if she only gave in. "What a waste you are."
She saw the slick black tendril moments before it struck, their searing tips burning across her cheek as they sought the sockets at the back of her neck. She grabbed the tentacle with her right hand, halting it's lunch, mere inches from her neck. She slammed the tentacle against her workdesk, the pain lancing through it, numbing it. The instinct of countless drills took over, and she grabbed her combat knife and lashed out at the tentacle where it emerged from her left forearm. The incoherent scream of a terrified and injured child tore from her throat, and at last, she willing succumbed to the black oblivion.
An acrid, piercing smell invaded the cocoon of her unconsciousness. Stephen's concerned, almost angry face swam into view.
Her mouth felt like cotton, and it was an effort to form words "Giff me a stimbulant. Can't sleep..."
Stephen sat back, satisfied that his friend and employer was conscious. He made a last check of the smart bandage's progress on stopping the flow of blood from her lacerated arm. Satisfied he started packing up the medkit.
"No, Jenna. I will get you help."
She struggled to sit up, but her body weak from blood loss, her hand slid on the congealing blood, her blood, smeared across the floor. "No, leave me be! No one will want to help me."
Stephen's expression softened. "You know that's not true, kirjuun."
Tears started to flow down Jennifer's cheeks as she triggered a well-used neural pathway and activated the communications circuit of her implants. "Bel... help me... please."
Stephen sat back, relieved. He had found her just in time in a pool of her own blood, flowing from a deep cut in her arm, almost as if she had been trying to cut it off. He hoped Bel would offer his friend the comfort she clearly needed. All he could do was wait and see.