One Lunchtime at Stratagem

by Tim Dedopulos

"Good afternoon, Operative. Welcome to Stratagem - 'We're Building Tomorrow With Today's Technology'. How may I be of assistance?"
"Are you Mr. Galliard?"
"Yes, sonny."
"I'm not 'sonny'! My SCL is 6A. Yours is 11. I'm also 14 years older than you are. Your choices are 'Mr. Wilson', 'Operative Wilson', or 'Sir'!"
"And I'm PROFESSOR Galliard, alright?"
"Mr. Galliard, you are not a Professor. It's an academic title. You're not an academic. You're a researcher at Stratagem, not a lecturer at Meny. I'm very sorry to break it to you, but y..."
"I could have been an academic if I had wanted to be. I was brilliant. I was the best. It was them. They laughed at me. They said I..."
"Professor Galliard?"
"How can I help you, Operative Wilson?"
"Did you release a mechanically modified Karma tiger into Pentreth Sector this morning?"
"Mmm. She's a beauty, isn't she? All the primal instincts of the ancient hunters, still intact despite the gene-splicing and modifications. Did you notice the way that we coloured the enhancements red, to add to her natural colour scheme?"
"So you did do it?"
"What? Aren't you listening to me? Of course I did. Her name is Kelly, after an old girlfriend of mine. She's a real man-eater! Ha! Ha!"
"_Professor_ Galliard, your tiger has killed more than 140 Suburbians in the last three hours."
"She has? I knew it! She's trying to revert to type, but the drugs are pushing her into totally psychosis! Perfect!"
"What drugs?"
"It's a stroke of genius, even if I say so myself! We spliced a Blaze-producing node into her hypothalamus. Every time she feels any stimulus at all - pain, cold, hunger - it will release the drug direct into her system. She'll go absolutely insane. The really clever part is that we've modified her endorphins to include a response to code massive doses of KickStart Plus. She effectively regenerates all non-lethal damage in seconds. She's obviously adjusting nicely to her tracking systems too."
"Blaze and Kick Start? For fuck's... Um, hold on a moment. What do you mean tracking systems?"
"It's a new patent I developed; we've hard-wired a radar input into her optic nerve. She can literally see radar. With the stun-enhancements in her major fang teeth, and the teflon coating on all exterior natural weapons, she should be able to take down a powersuit. We're looking at mass-production for Charlie's Point and Dante."
"Are you telling me that you've engineered a tiger for WAR-WORLD use?"
"It's brilliant, don't you think!"
"It's fucking stupid! Can your tiger stand up to a direct hit from heavy artillery?"
"No, of course not. We experimented with armouring, but anything heavier than the Crackshot equivalent used was just too weighty, and slowed her down. We settled for high-impact sub-dermal plating. She's a tiger, not a tank."
"So she'll be dead in 15 minutes on Dante then."
"Surely those statistics are exagerrated."
"Look, just recall or deactivate the damn thing before I blow your fucking head off."
"Temper! Anyway, I can't. An enemy might discover codes, so she doesn't have any automatic controls. It would be a weakness. She's simply conditioned to attack any human shape she comes across once she's released."
"Are you out of your mind?"
"We thought that we'd see how long she lasted. That's why we released her in Suburbia - its safer for her. We didn't want her running up against manchines, carrien packs or Ops. We'll save that for next time."
"There won't be a next time, you fucking maniac! You've killed hundreds!"
"They gave their lives in the noblest way possible - the advancement of science. Anyway, they weren't important."
"So what are you going to do if she comes back here, then?"
"What? Fuck! I never considered that. Mike? MIKE! Lock the gates RIGHT NOW! Hurry up, man! What about the back? Good. Okay. We're safe now. Thanks for the suggestion though, Operative Wilson."
"Come in, Barker. Barker? This is Wilson. You're not going to believe this shit. Whatever you do, don't close with the damn thing. It's better armoured than a fucking APC. If it approaches, run like hell. Try to get people out of the way. A school? Oh, _fuck_. We're going to get it in the fucking neck. I'll come back, but in the mean time, try to find someone with a 17mm Rifle..."