Four

Oct. 31st, 2012 06:38 pm
keaalu: (Default)
[personal profile] keaalu posting in [community profile] good_as_gold
(Original post date: November 05, 2008, 22:00. This is the ACTUAL chapter 4...)

NB: ...it's really hard to just write "deception" and not "Decepticon" some days. *froths*

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     Mirii had hoped that the longer she sat on her own, the calmer she’d feel, but it didn’t seem to be working as she’d hoped. To start with, not knowing what was going on just made her more edgy. Anyone could be sneaking up on her! They could be preparing to do all manner of unpleasant things to her, and she’d have no inkling of it until they did it…! She had to find somewhere safer to hide, or at least somewhere safer to guard her back…

     She engaged in a very slow, careful orbit of the room, working out the overall dimensions, using her feet and her nose to assess for obstacles and objects. It was a slow process, occasionally painful when she kicked at unseen objects on the floor, but eventually she had a mental map of the area. The room was fairly small, only five strides in any direction, floored with slightly scratchy old carpet, and with what felt like a narrow bed just off-centre and a soft chair in the corner facing the door, and nothing else. She couldn’t tell if there were any windows – all the walls were equally cold, and smooth, so if there were any portholes, they were flush with the wall itself – she wouldn’t even have known where the door was, had she not been rudely thrown in through it.

     She tucked herself down into the corner alongside the bed, feeling only very vaguely comforted by having solid walls behind and beside her. They may be watching my every move, but at least no-one can creep up on me, she told herself. All I have to do is keep myself away from harm, until my friends can rescue me.

     I hope my poor Sei is all right, she added, glumly, tucking her knees up to her chest and resting her nose down on them.

0o0o0o0o0

     Kolek was feeling particularly tired and grumpy, today. He’d done a fantastic and beautifully efficient job at snagging both those two damned mechanical budgies, and what thanks did he get from the Boss? Nothing. Just the insinuation he’d done a sloppy, lazy job, and the scold that it was a damn good job no-one had seen! Pah.

     The sullen Nyen was busy getting his well-earned supper from the ship’s galley when the Boss finally elected to turn up. Even then, he was late – Kolek had heard the shuttle dock with the larger ship a good half hour or so ago, and it didn’t take that long to get through the pressure locks. Ergo, if the Boss wanted to keep him waiting, he’d keep the Boss waiting. No big deal. Besides, he could always feign stupid innocence if the bossy Eumin called him out on it, it was what harts were good at. Right?

     “I wish, one of these days, you would do something worth my congratulating,” the Boss drawled, dryly, from somewhere behind. “Why does it take you so long to perform such a simple task? Almost three days, you were there! To capture one man!”

     “Yeah, well. It would have helped if we’d not been short on equipment. We had to divide it among us,” Kolek explained, absently, chasing rye-bread around the soup bowl with the back of his spoon, and shrugged. “You want the work done quicker, give us enough crap to do it with.”

     “Remind me exactly why you were short of equipment,” the Boss said, testingly.

     Kolek looked up, at last, and spread his hands. “Well, you didn’t tell us there was two of ’em. We had to ‘divide and conquer’, I guess.”

     “…two?”

     The Nyen didn’t appear to notice his Boss’ confusion. “Yeah, you know. One big one, and one littler one. I’m guessing the little one is a girl? Anyway, whatever. There was definitely two of ’em, together.”

     “You’re sure you didn’t just attack a Kiravai pair?” the Boss warned, actually sounding somewhat nervous.

     “C’mon, Boss. They’re silly colours. No budgie I know is stupid colours except mechanical ones.”

     The Boss visibly relaxed, settling into the chair opposite his operative. “The other one must have been his partner,” he mused, folding one pair of arms across the table and lacing the fingers of the other pair under his chin. “Quite a lucky find. I may yet have a use for her. Is the male secure? That one in particular I do not want escaping.”

     Kolek wiped his bowl clean, and nodded. “Yeah. We got him all tidily tucked away down in the tertiary hold, figured we’d wait until you got here to wake him up and let him out.”

     “No no, leave it in the tank until we get to our destination. I want it as amenable as possible.”

     “…boss? Y’know, I’m not sure sensory deprivation will work on a machine…”

     “Hn. To be blunt, I agree with you. But. I would prefer that we try and it does not affect it, rather than vice versa. Come on, Stinger, you call yourself a scientist, and you are afraid to experiment?”

     Kolek shrugged, again. He was in fact a scientist, and quite a good one, in spite of his thuggish build and scruffy looks, but no amount of scientific excellence would change his species, and no-one seemed to want to hire a Nyen. Since wallpapering his old home with rejection letters, he’d discovered that this line of work paid a whole lot better than being a scientist no-one wanted to hire. “I prefer not to waste time on things that ain’t gonna work,” he argued. “We caught him and got him locked away for you. Didn’t feel inclined to add torture to my list of charges, you know?”

     “Hm, well, that’s as maybe. What of the female?”

     “She’s tucked away nice and cosy, yeah. We’ve left her in the empty staff quarters by the hold, for now, still wearing the equipment to keep her quiet.” Kolek swigged back his cheem. “Mind you, I don’t think she’s gonna be inclined to try any sort of escape.”

     “Although I pay you to get me answers, not to have opinions-”

     “Sorry, boss-”

     “Will you at least be polite and let me finish a sentence? Although I do not pay you to have opinions, I should be interested to know why you believe this to be the case.”

     “Well, y’know-… for such a big bird, she seems to be afraid of us.”

     “And pray tell, exactly what did you do to her during her capture?!”

     “That’s just it, sir. We did-… well, almost nothing, I figure? We just grabbed her up! We ain’t harmed her, if that’s what you’re wondering-…”

     “All right. Take me to see them. I want to check on your handiwork.”

0o0o0o0o0

     For several long heartbeats, the Boss stared up at the insensate creature. It had been carefully tucked away in the hold, wrapped in protective layers so it didn’t damage itself trying to escape, and looked in perfect condition. There was just one tiny problem.

     Kolek shifted uncomfortably – his employer didn’t look too happy. “Er… everything oka-”

     “This is the wrong one,” the Boss interrupted, grimly.

     “…boss?” Kolek blinked. He had followed his Boss’ instructions to the letter, how could it be ‘the wrong one’? “I don’t get it.”

     “This is the wrong one!” The Boss turned to glare darkly at his underling, who shied away from the scowl. “I give you just one thing to do, and you do it wrong!”

     “Hey, hey, don’t yell at me!” Kolek defended himself, backing off. “I just did what you told me, they were-”

     “Did the fact it is green not suggest to you that perhaps it was not the one I wanted?!”

     Kolek opened his mouth to protest, and no words came out for a full few seconds. “…you didn’t specify a freaking colour, boss! You just said, and I can pretty much quote, go fetch the Synth!”

     “It is supposed to be the black one, you little moron!” the Boss interrupted, waving his arms. “The one I have personal history with! This one is… is just… argh! This is not the right one!” He growled inarticulately, rubbed his face and the back of his neck, and tried to get his fists to unclench. “All right. All right, perhaps I can work this in my favour, if I think hard about it. This one might be utilisable as bait.”

     Kolek stifled a sigh of relief; if the Boss was peeved enough, he might not have paid him.

     “I know it is unwise for me to ask, because I will only be disappointed, but what of the other job I gave you? Did you succeed at that?” the Boss prompted.

     “…other job, sir?”

     “Of destroying the vessel, remember? Heavens, do I have to spell everything out to you? You were to have left sufficient explosives on board the vessel to comprehensively disintegrate it, so any friends the machine had would be assured any occupants were dead.”

     “Well, it was a partial success,” Kolek scratched his head, awkwardly, and sleeked his feelers down. “My guys were kinda sparing on the explosives. I think they wanted to use a bit on another job, you know? Look, what I mean is, there would have been no question over whether or not they were dead, but the detonation itself was, uh… incomplete.”

     “Define exactly what you mean by ‘incomplete’,” the Boss growled, and his hooded brows gave him the look of an angry bull just needing a little more provocation to charge. “If you mean it was still recognisable as a ship, I will not only have you removed from my employment but also removed from the living.”

     “No, no! No, it was definitely reduced to debris!” Kolek stuttered, staggering backwards to the door, just in case he had to make a run for it. “A real shame, because it was a nice little ship! It just-… it wasn’t completely vaporised. The core didn’t go off.”

     Thankfully, the Boss looked mollified. “Well, at least we may be able to salvage something from this situation,” he allowed, ungraciously. “With any luck, the explosion will have caught His attention, piqued His curiosity.”

     “Begging your pardon… who?”

     “Never you mind. With any luck, I can kill all three wretched mechanical birds with one stone.”

0o0o0o0o0

     It was dark, when Iios finally shook off the electrical destability and began to stir. Or rather, it was dark around him; he himself was caught in a little pool of light, just wide enough to illuminate his torso and head, and his sleek, outstretched arms to the elbows. Hm, that was odd. Outstretched? He frowned, and tugged on his wrist, but nothing happened. Something soft and conforming pressed down around his fingers; he glared and tugged harder, but still no joy. Trapped. Pinioned. What the deuce? Someone had-… abducted him? From a public shopping precinct? Sweet Ii, that just wasn’t fair! On duty would have been forgivable, but to jump him on his day off?!

     “Please,” a sweet, unfamiliar male voice spoke up, from somewhere outside the pool of light. “Don’t exert yourself. You cannot get free, and I should not like you to damage yourself trying.”

     Iios pursed his thin lips, grimly. He couldn’t see anything – not even after augmenting his eyesight to see into the infra-red. Which only meant there was some sort of baffle in place, blocking all electromagnetic radiation. So someone didn’t want to be seen… “Who are you?” he demanded. How dare some little biological nitwit do this to him! “Show yourself!”

     “You do not need to see me just yet.”

     “I think it should be my decision as to whether I want to see the face of my abductor, don’t you?” Iios tested his feet, surreptitiously – it wouldn’t be the first time his hands had been confined and his captor foolishly forgot to do the same with his feet. His long toes and backward-pointing “foot thumb” hallux gave his feet a comparable dexterity to his hands, and he could be just as lethal with them. No such luck – the same squashy, conforming material kept his ankles pinned back against the wall, his hallux squashed into an uncomfortable, folded position.

     “Perhaps,” the voice agreed. “Rest assured, you will see my face soon enough. Whether you remain alive – or at least, thinking sapient thoughts – for long afterwards is another matter entirely.”

     Iios narrowed his eyes. “My personal experience dictates that those who make the most threats are some of the least likely to carry them out,” he asserted. “If you can cow someone into line verbally, it saves the personal risk in actually attacking someone larger, stronger, and smarter. Am I right?”

     There was a definite hesitation before the voice answered, and Iios was sure he could hear the way the speaker’s lips must be twitching, angrily. “Perhaps,” the voice said, at long last. “Or maybe – just maybe – they want you to hang there and stew for a little longer. Alone. Afraid. Scared of what exactly might happen to you once you are finally released. Of course, you are quite right that nothing may happen, but now I have given you that little doubt, correct? And little doubts can grow up into bigger doubts, and it would be so gratifying to see you crawling in fear by the time we reach our destination.” A laugh. “Fear not, my mighty Kiravai-”

     “Kirasiinu.”

     “Semantics are irrelevant. I was about to say, we have no plans to break you just yet. We have… a proposition for you. A scientific experiment we would like your participation in!”

     “I would say I regret that you will not have my permission,” Iios deadpanned, drolly. “Except that I do not regret it.”

     Another of those maddening chuckles. “Your permission is neither desired nor needed. You will be participating whether you like it or not, as the saying goes.”

     “I promise you, this will not stand!” Iios snapped, finally letting his irritation show. “Regardless of the fact I am an Aramus captain! Abducting people is just not done in polite society, and you will be hunted down by the law.”

     “Oh, indeed, I am quite sure your colleagues in the Aramus fleet will be looking for you,” the voice agreed. “Unfortunately, they will not find you. At least, not until I am good and ready for it. To start with, they already believe you to be dead, after the quantity of explosives we placed aboard your yacht-”

     “ You blew up my ship?!”

     “-and in the event that they work out the deception,” the voice went on, maddeningly calmly, “you can be sure that they will not find you so easily, given that we have already moved you off-station and between vessels twice.”

     “The law will find you,” Iios repeated, more softly. “That is something you should be sure of. I will see to it that you are charged with a list of offences as long as your arm.”

     “Oh, come come. The most my associates and I could be charged with,” the voice smirked, “is handling stolen property.”

     Iios bristled, visibly, perking his ears forwards. “How dare you insinuate-”

     “I do not insinuate, captain. I simply… state the facts, as it were. And the fact is, they have had to give you and your kind a whole category of organism all of your own, because they couldn’t decide whether you were or were not a living being. Correct?”

     “If you know as much as you think you do,” Iios hissed, “you will know that the Council of Rights have given their absolute decree over how ‘my kind’ are to be treated by Coalition Member Worlds.”

     “The Council of Rights is far too busy with ensuring they are seen to be politically correct to be worrying over such trivial things as scientific logic,” the voice disagreed, scornfully. “They would happily reassign ‘black’ and ‘white’ as shades of grey if it meant they did not have to worry about offending one or the other. And regardless of how you are treated by Coalition worlds – or even your own biological kindred, over the border – I intend to prove for once and for all that you are nothing more than the sum of your parts. Just a computer. Just a sophisticated adding machine, all dials and clockwork, and all ripe to be reprogrammed into something… useful.”

     “You can not reprogram synthoids.” Iios felt cold fingers go up his spine, anyway. What if this strange voice had found a way to do just that? “Our brains are too technologically advanced for your crude methods.”

     “Ahh, see, my dear dear Siinu, that is where you are extrapolating from unknowns. You do not know me, You do not know my kind. So who are you to assume that my methods are crude?”

     “You are not Kiravai. That is all I need to know.”

     “Your species’ arrogance, and your comfortable belief in your own superiority, will be your downfall, sir. That I may not be Kiravai? Perhaps. That I may possess the technology to strip every obnoxious thought from your processors and replace them with something obedient, and docile, and useful?” There was the soft sound of footsteps across the floor, and another chuckle. “I shall permit you the space to think it over. Sweet dreams, friend.”

     There was a hiss as a door opened, but the baffle prevented even the slightest suggestion of a silhouette from reaching Iios’ straining eyes. Then the door closed, and the light went off.

     Iios stared out into nothing for a very, very long time. What was most galling was that the damnable voice was actually right. It – he? – had seeded doubts into his imagination, and now he had nothing to distract himself from them. The only solution was to let himself dip back into dormancy, actually offline his processors altogether – but that wouldn’t help him puzzle a way out of here.

     A tug at his ankles reminded him that he wasn’t going to be going anywhere anyway, however. Not… swaddled in soft materials, like some sort of delicate infant. He bared his teeth and squirmed, wishing he could just break something, but the materials just yielded to the force. He felt like some sort of giant larva, trapped inside a chrysalis that just wouldn’t break.

     And-… oh, damn, damn! Where was Mirii? Had she escaped? The last he’d seen was of her staggering blindly back towards the precinct, a leather contraption over her head, crushing her ears, blinding her, like dome sort of vicious, slightly sexualised piece of falconry equipment. Had she made it away?

     “Mirii?” he asked the darkness, anxiously. “Mirii, are you there?”

     There was no response – it should have felt reassuring, but he could only wish he could think it was because she had escaped…

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February 2013

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