Interlude 1

A perfect tragedy is the noblest production of human nature.
Joseph Addison

At a secluded government resaerch lab in Arizona…

Two men looked out over a sealed operating theatre as several white-clad surgeons labored over the limbless trunk of a man. They worked in relative silence, the loudest sound the rhythmic sigh of the respirator. The audience of two, however, were talking, their tone converational. One was definatly the senior, salt and pepper hair thinning near the top, his face craggy and swarthy. He sat almost lazily, looking over the scene with the air of a man who was bored, but required to be interested. His companion, younger, more animated in both manner and voice, was constantly looking from the operation to the other while speaking.

"As you can see, we have refined the process. The entire opetration has been broken into 3 six-hour steps–setup, neural stimulation and then implantation. The total chance of rejection has dropped to 30 percent."

The older man nodded, then paused to take a drag on his cigarette before crushing it out. "And what about the human element, Dupree… the man you merge with the machine?" He looked over at the younger, lab-coated man and waited.

Dupree blinked, taken off-guard by the question. "Well, um… Dr. Rachinda is the specalist in the psychological area of the experiment, and she is somewhat involved at the moment. But," he added quickly when he saw the old man's face darken, "she has briefed me. You see, the early men were volunteers, eager but not sure what they were getting into, Special Forces types… macho and emotionally stunted… also very body proud. They couldn't take losing that, even in exchange for power. Loyalty wasn't enough."

"So we lose 2 men to suicide as well 10 security personnel bringing down the third before he went public… and in response to this you bring in a crippled freelancer as our next subject?" The man spoke in a flat voice, pausing to light another cigarette. "What's the hold on this one?"

"Well… you see, Dr. Rachinda believes that giving the subject a choice was the mistake, that we needed to find someone with nothing to lose… who would in fact welcome the power. This man had nothing to look forward to but a life as a cripple. He has years of combat experience and the will to survive, Mr. Clark."

Another pause. "He's also a freelancer–what keeps him on our leash?" Clark looked expectantly at the scientist.

"Well… two facets. Psychologically, a feeling of indebtedness… the subject is unusually honorable for his kind, and we will be his saviors. Dr. Rachinda herself saw to the conditioning."

Clark chuckled. "And if he finds out we're also the ones who arranged for his incapcitation?"

The scientist shrugged. "As a side effect of the new anti-rejection process, the cyborg operative is morbidly addicted to the treatment drugs… as I said before… lack of choice."

Clark turned back to the operation. "I hope so, Dupree, for your sake…"