cw: mature subject matter, violence
The most dangerous weapons to the world are the ones that live and breathe.
Welding sparks flew off Kang Choi-ri’s skin. A wire surgeon worked to fuse a speaker into his shoulder, binding the device against Kang’s steel-laced bones. He replaced patches of skin with pale-colored plates, switched to a solder, and wired the speaker into his muscle system.
A radio played century-old rap music throughout the basement. Neon-lit posters on the wall showed men with mechanical arms, and women with color-changing lips. Oil and bloodstained rags lined an automatic sink.
“Last one, man,” the wire surgeon said. He shut off the solder and lifted his mask. His eyes—enhanced and optimized—clicked as they zoomed out, dials on his iris turning clockwise. “Any more and your blood won’t pump.”
Kang stood and brushed off steel filings. He tensed his right shoulder. A shock ran through his central battery system—a new cybernetic running for the first time. Plates over his shoulder blade split open and revealed a compact speaker. Small, but it’d be loud enough to get the job done.
“You want to test it out?” the wire surgeon asked.
He ignored the question, throwing him a card loaded with cryptocurrency.
“What are you doing with a speaker, anyways, man?” The wire surgeon pushed the card aside and brought out a cigarette. “I mean, you’re loaded with cybernetics. Bionic lungs, a blade in your arm, a dozen other illegal parts. You shouldn’t be able to stand, and you risk it for some music? Why?”
“Watch the news tomorrow,” Kang said.
“Alright,” he exhaled a cloud of smoke, “whatever happens, you don’t know me. Leave through the back door.”
He stepped out onto the midnight streets of downtown Seoul. His cybernetic eyes, smuggled in from China, adjusted to the darkness in an instant. The eyes outlined figures lying against the alleyway walls. One brought an inhaler up to their mouth and huffed in a breath full of hallucinogens. Another stood, swept dirt from his sides, then entered the wire surgeon's clinic, the building masked as an auto-shop.
South Korea’s worldwide bullet train sped by above. A gust of wind followed its blur. Kang’s eyes read the speed, typing it out in the corner of his vision as 1,207.008 kilometers per hour and increasing. Streetlights emitted a blue glow.
He walked for hours into the countryside, to an abandoned mine that served as a tunnel system to Pakyong, North Korea. Kang climbed down into the caverns—he’d led many North Korean defectors through them to safety and knew them well.
He was going back to his country for the last time.
On the opposite side, he climbed up into the ruins of Pakyong. Burnt to the ground, the people either sent to live out their lives in labor camps or sentenced to death by firing squads. All for practicing Christianity. The destruction a country-wide reminder from their dictator that no religion could take place—other than worshiping him.
A 162.64 kilometer distance separated Pakyong from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
Kang started running.
Biomechanical connective tissue supported his leg muscles, allowing long strides to be as easy as breathing. His bionic lungs, built of artificial tissue fibers, filtered air throughout his body. Blood vessels lined with nanofibers circulated blood flow. An adrenaline injector in his circulatory system prevented him from tiring. He could run for days at a time.
Storm clouds amassed. He passed by labor camps, shut off with high concrete walls, topped with claret red laser wire. The wire glowed in the night, waiting to burn anyone who’d attempt to escape. Machinery worked to build another.
No matter how many people Kang freed, no matter how many camps he shut down, there would always be more. Prisoners being starved and tortured. Eating rotting food that pigs wouldn’t touch. Hunting and chewing on snakes and rats dwelling in the prison fields.
It had been him once.
Being picked apart by flies as he slept. Guard dogs ripping apart the other children. His mother forced to stand the entire night, or she’d get beaten.
He would free all of them for good.
5 kilometers. The toll gates to Pyongyang lay ahead, patrolled by soldiers with poor cybernetic enhancements. Years behind their competitors. Airborne drones outfitted with automatic weapons hovered, buzzing. Kang charged them. He raised his left elbow and flexed his bicep. One guard shouted and aimed his rifle.
Plates clicked and split open beneath Kang’s triceps—a steel tube extending out, coated in a mix of nano-weaved blood vessels and wiring, widening to the size of a baseball. A laser sight along the tube ticked, aimed at the North Korean’s feet. Before he could fire his rifle, Kang launched a rocket from his projectile system. The toll gates exploded into rubble. The remains of drone parts rained down.
He sprinted into the outskirts of Pyongyang, a city of tall buildings and propaganda. Daily military parades, and people brainwashed by a malevolent dictator. Empty, lifeless streets. Homes without power.
Watch your words or it’s life in prison.
A group of soldiers kneeled ahead, aiming down their rifles. More rushed into position. Riot shields—almost holographic—beamed with a vibrating red light, sturdy enough to protect them from another rocket. His eyes counted out eight of them.
Kang bent his knees, letting his enhanced ankles build up a charge, and leaped twenty feet into the air. High-powered rifles rang out. Bullets scraped skin off his face, arms, and legs, only denting the titanium layering beneath.
He landed in the middle of them. The gunfire ceased. The soldiers jabbed their stun batons, fluctuating with red electricity, meant to shut down his cybernetics. They struck his chest; the inductors wired into his nervous system absorbed the shock and routed it through his central battery.
A curved blade shot out from his forearm. He decapitated the first soldier with one quick swing—the micro-rotors lining his bones allowing him to strike at break-neck speeds. The second, third, and fourth soldiers dropped before they could cry out, arms cut off at their shoulders, their helmets rolling down the asphalt roads.
Riot shields approached him. The soldiers behind them trembled, yelling for him to surrender.
Kang’s adrenaline injector pumped his glands full of the hormone. He brought back his left arm, the rotors in his shoulder charging up, and punched.
The weights embedded into his knuckles shattered the glowing shield into shards. His blade arm, a blur, ripped the soldier’s head off his neck. The others backed up. Helicopters thrummed overhead, snipers taking their mark. His ears pinpointed more North Korean soldiers a block away.
Kang ran to the closest high-rise apartment, running up the side of the structure, the Grip Spikes in his feet shooting out and puncturing the concrete to keep him stable. Steam blew out from his feet with each step.
A sniper shot at him from aboard a helicopter.
His cybernetic eyes, Shanghai MK4s, detected the bullet, moving at a speed of 306.04 meters per second. The Reflex Tuner wired into his nervous system, an illegal piece from the South Korean city of Daegu, took over. Kang’s body twisted—micro-rotors whirring within. His blade arm raised. The sniper bullet deflected off the steel and broke his weapon in two. The shattered part fell to the ground below.
He jumped from the side of the building, tensing his left hand, plates over the backside opening to reveal a thin luminescent wire. He aimed his wrist at the helicopter and flexed. The wire shot, untangled, flew, and hooked onto the helicopter’s underside, acting as a grappling hook. Kang swung beneath. He gained momentum and flew forward.
Soldiers below shot at him. The pain resistors in his body numbed the impact of each bullet. Hover tanks in the streets worked to line up shells, uncaring of the collateral damage it would cause.
Sniper shots sounded. Kang’s Reflex Tuner took control, spinning him midair, dodging the bullets. His vision blackened at the edges. His breaths drew short, nausea clouding his thoughts. He lost control of his arms and legs, free falling into a fifty-foot drop.
His heart gave out.
The frail human heart.
It would’ve happened, eventually.
His central battery system powered his second, mechanical, heart. He blinked, and his vision returned. Kang aimed his grappling hook at the nearest apartment. He latched to the side, his Grip Spikes breaking into the concrete. Drones fired gas-filled pellets, and Kang ran up through the clouds of smoke—the Detoxifier in his lungs rendering him immune to the poison.
He reached the top, running, leaping from one building to the next. The Mansu Hill Grand Monument came into sight. Three tall bronze statues. A center of worship for three men who ruled as gods. Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il, and Kim-Jong Un. Bow and pray or face execution.
Rain pelted his skin.
Kang hit the ground, his reinforced tendons absorbing the fall. He ran over a stone walkway, up steps, and stood before the three statues as North Korean soldiers amassed behind him.
He raised his elbow, switched the ordinance in his projectile system from rockets to an experimental breaching explosive, and shot it at the statue’s base.
It’d blow the landmark to ruins. The Царь Бомба Мини - Tsar Bomba mini, the Russians called it. He bought it from their black market.
It stuck to the bronze feet of Kim-Jong Il. A blue light on it blinked on and off. Kang held the detonator in his hand—he raised it high for the snipers, helicopters, and enhanced soldiers to see.
“Drop the device!” An officer called. “Your family is in our custody!”
A bluff. They had killed his family long ago.
Kang tensed his right shoulder. A shock ran through his battery system—his cybernetics struggling in the rain. Plates over his shoulder blade split open to reveal a compact speaker.
The United States National Anthem, glitching, played out.
He stood in the downpour as the anthem played. They would believe the Americans sent him, and it would spark a war that should’ve happened a century ago.
He would liberate his people by any means necessary.
Kang Choi-ri hit the detonator.