Lights out. You’re hoping you’re the only one here with military-grade opticals. Unlikely; hence the freezer virus. Your boots barely squeak as you sprint down the sterile corridor, dashing in between staff and patients frozen like white statues. You try not to bowl them over.

“Freezer holding up?” you say through your comms-net.

“Complete lockdown on all cyber-neural units in this wing. Sure ’bout this? Our objective is an expert in cyber-neural infiltration.”

Either way, you don’t have much time. The active neural shields will destroy the freezer virus in mere minutes. And this is a rare opportunity to take out the psycho. He’s ruined enough minds and eluded justice long enough. Up ahead are the words you wanna see: CYBER-NEUROLOGY.

You stop at the corner and peek, your assault rifle up. Just immobilized people. You scan, searching for that cyber-neural profile. You know he’s here. Police brought him in after being caught in some gang-related firefight, not knowing it’s him.

You peer into Room 301: a geriatric. Then 302: two guys with gunshot wounds. Then 303: a braincase and spinal assembly held up by tubes. Must have been some firefight. Cyber-neural profile scan: no match.

“Anything on the search virus?” you ask.


Admittedly, he won’t be so easily pinned down with a location hack. Still, need to continue. Room 304: nothing. Then—


You rush forward. You grab the woman in a nurse’s uniform and spin her around, her earpiece falling to the floor. You run your scans as you bore into her wide eyes.

“No cybernetics?” you say.

She shakes her head. “All natural, just… just an external comms-net unit,” she mutters, glancing down at the earpiece.

Asking her about your target will no doubt get her killed so you switch your rifle to stun and fire. You catch her and gently lay her down on the floor.

A ping echoes through your comms-net as a blinking dot on a plan overlay appears in your vision: the OR. You run to the door, the light above the lintel glowing red.

You swipe your hacking keycard across the lock. Green light. The door slides open with a hiss. You step inside, the surgical team perfectly still and the trauma field containing a dented cranium and wrangled spine, its red eyes trained on you.

You smirk and raise your weapon—

Your arm cramps.

“The gangsters and police were easily manipulated. But you special forces… Well, thanks for keeping everyone’s neural shields busy. Made my hacks much easier.”

You try to move… something, anything. But can’t.

“Can’t hack your type or naturals but I will stop you hunting me.”

The surgical team staggers toward you with implements in their hands.


“CYchopath” was shortlisted for The Gibson Bigend Award at Needle In The Hay, July 2015.

This short story is also set in the same fictional universe as “Love Thy Ministers”, first published at Aphelion, March 2016.