The following is an excerpt from Upgrading: a novel by Blake Crouch.
Get the book
Upgrading: A Novel by Blake Crouch
We found Henrik Soren in a wine bar in the international terminal, thirty minutes from boarding a hyperjet for Tokyo.
Before tonight, I had only seen him in INTERPOL photos and CCTV footage. In the flesh he was less impressive – five and a half feet in his artificially distressed Saint Laurent sneakers with a designer hoodie hiding most of his face. He was sitting at the end of the bar with a book and a bottle of Krug.
I commandeered the stool next to him and placed my badge between us. He wore the insignia of a bald eagle whose wings wrapped around the double helix of a DNA molecule. For a long moment, nothing happened. I wasn’t even sure he saw it shining under the hanging orb lights, but then he turned his head and looked at me.
I sketched a smile.
He closed his book. If he was nervous, he didn’t show it. I just looked at myself through Scandinavian blue eyes.
“Hi, Henrik,” I said. “I’m Agent Ramsay. I work for the GPA.
“What am I supposed to have done?” »
He was born thirty-three years ago in Oslo but was educated in London, where his mother was a diplomat. I could hear this city on the edges of his voice.
“Why don’t we talk about it somewhere else?”
The bartender was watching us now, having timed my badge. Probably worried about getting the bill paid.
“My flight is about to board,” Soren said.
“You’re not going to Tokyo. Not this evening.”
The muscles in his jaw twitched and something flashed in his eyes. He tucked his chin-length blonde hair behind his ears and glanced around the wine bar. And then beyond, to travelers moving through the lobby.
“See the woman sitting on top behind us?” I asked. “Long blonde hair. Navy windbreaker. That’s my partner, Officer Nettmann. Airport police are waiting backstage. Look, I can drag you out of here or you can get out on your own It’s your decision, but you must decide now.
I didn’t think he would run. Soren must have known the impossible odds of evading capture in an airport teeming with security and surveillance. But desperate people do desperate things.
He looked around once more, then came back to me. With a sigh, he drained his glass of champagne and lifted his satchel from the floor.
Read Blake Crouch’s ‘Upgrade’ with SciFri Book Club
We drove back to town, with Nadine Nettmann driving the modified Edison Company and the nearly empty I-70 at this time of night.
Soren had been installed behind the passenger seat, his wrists tied behind his back. I’d searched his carry-on—a Gucci satchel—but the only interesting item was a laptop, which we’d need a federal warrant to break into.
“You are Logan Ramsay, right? Soren asked, his first words since we escorted him out of the airport.
“Son of Miriam Ramsay?”
“Yes.” I tried to keep a neutral tone. It wasn’t the first time a suspect had made this connection. He didn’t say anything else. I could feel Nadine watching me.
I looked out the window. We were on the outskirts of downtown, doing 120 mph. The two electric motors were nearly silent. Through the enveloping NightShade glass, I saw one of the new GPA billboards pass by, as part of the latest public awareness campaign.
In black letters on a white background:
GENE EDITING IS A FEDERAL CRIME
Downtown Denver loomed in the distance.
The megatall Half-Mile Tower rose into the sky – a spire of light.
It was one in the morning here, which meant it was three in DC
I thought of my family, sleeping peacefully in our home in Arlington.
My wife Beth.
Our teenage daughter, Ava.
If all goes well tonight, I’ll be back in time for dinner tomorrow night. We had planned a weekend in the Shenandoah Valley to see the fall colors from Skyline Drive.
We passed another billboard:
ONLY ONE ERROR CAUSED
THE GREAT HUNGER
I had seen this one before, and the pain hit me – a sore in the back of my throat. The guilt for what we had done never failed to hit home.
I didn’t deny it or try to push it away.
Let it be until it is gone.
The Gene Protection Agency’s Denver field office was located in an unremarkable office park in Lakewood, and to call it a field office was generous.
It was one floor of a building with light administrative support, a holding cell, a maintenance room, a mol-bio lab, and an armory. The GPA didn’t have field offices in most major cities, but since Denver was the West’s main hyperloop hub, it made sense to have a dedicated base of operations here.
We were a young but rapidly growing agency, with five hundred employees compared to forty thousand for the FBI. There were only fifty special agents like me and Nadine, and we were all based in the DC area, ready to parachute to where our intelligence division suspected the existence of a dark gene lab.
Nadine walked around the back of the low-rise building and through the elevator service entrance. She parked behind an armored vehicle, where four bio-SWAT officers had their gear spread out on the concrete, carrying out last-minute weapons checks for what was hoped to be a pre-dawn raid based on the information we were about to extract from Soren.
I helped our suspect out of the back of the car, and the three of us went up to the third floor.
Once inside the interrogation room, I cut the zip ties and sat Soren at a metal table with a D-bolt welded to the surface for less docile suspects.
Nadine went to have a coffee.
I took a seat opposite him.
“Aren’t you supposed to read me my rights or something?” He asked.
“Under the Gene Protection Act, we can detain you for seventy-two hours just because.”
I shrugged. He wasn’t entirely wrong.
I put Soren’s book on the table, hoping for a reaction.
“A big fan of Camus? I asked.
“Yeah. I collect rare editions of his work.
It was an old hardback copy of the stranger. I flipped through the pages carefully.
“It’s clean,” Soren said.
Want to keep reading? Thanks to our friends at Ballantine Books, SciFri fans can download the rest of Blake Crouch’s Chapter 1 Upgrade.
Extract of Upgrade by Blake Crouch Copyright © 2022 by Blake Crouch. Retrieved with permission from Ballantine Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without the written permission of the publisher.
Meet the writer
About Blake Crouch
Blake Crouch is the author of Black matter and Upgrade. He is based in Chicago, Illinois.