Act of Will – Sample

Chapter One

Luis Harker was not a particularly emotional man, but he was crying now. Big, racking sobs convulsed his body, straining his bound hands against the back of the chair he was tied to, the cuffs digging into his wrists. When the man had first put the restraints on him, Luis found himself, lucid through the fear for a brief moment, wondering if they were the new electromagnetic cuffs that all the Security guys were talking about at work. It had been a long time since he had been able to think about anything like that.

He barely even noticed the room he was in, on the face of it a tiny anonymous box, like every other apartment he had seen. But a closer look showed the room for what it was missing — there was no storage area, no zapper for heating food. Just a stained mattress, a door that Luis might have guessed led to the lav had he been able to think about it. And the chair. All of Luis’ attention was riveted to the chair in the middle of the room.

It was a typical metal chair, the kind you would find in the waiting room of an upgrade salon or a cheap food booth. There was nothing remarkable about it, other than the fact that Luis had been tied to it for what felt like an eternity, bound by thick polymer rope that seemed to get tighter the more he struggled. He had stopped struggling a long time ago; now the uncontrollable movement of his body as he sobbed was the only tension against his restraints.

• • •

When the man had first grabbed him, Luis had put up a fight. He had been leaving work, the sky already dark but the lights of the city bright enough that he felt he should have seen the man crouching in the small alleyway. But while Luis was walking to the train stop, he was going online after a long day at work, checking his messages and scanning the news boards. He had made that walk 260 days a year for three years and he barely even watched where he was going any more. With his display overlaid on his vision, he could see just enough to avoid the other commuters while he surfed the boards and answered mail, but that had always been enough before.

Luis was in the middle of reading an article about a new brand of food bars which promised increased mental acuity and focus as well as the usual nutritional supplements, when he felt the wind go out of him. He was dazed, but he could still see through the words and images on his display and he saw a figure duck in front of him and take what looked like a small metal box from a pocket. Luis had no idea what was happening, but instinct told him it was not a good thing, so he tried to knock the box from the other person’s hand.

Even though he worked in the physical upgrade industry and wore the body of a fashionable young man about town, Luis had never been all that interested in physical things. Like many people, he lived his recreational life online, in the virtual world Marionette City which he accessed through his neural implants. So, he was completely unprepared for the pain and loss of balance that came when his hand made contact with the metal box and in the moment of his confusion, the other person found an opening. The box swung up and Luis felt rather than saw an arc of electricity shoot from the box toward his face. Everything slowly faded to gray and Luis felt himself fall to the ground. He felt hands holding his wrists together and binding them with the lightweight restraints that his addled mind incongruously focussed on. Then he was out.

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