Eight

Oct. 31st, 2012 06:46 pm
keaalu: (Default)
[personal profile] keaalu posting in [community profile] good_as_gold
(Original post date: November 09, 2008)



     “Stinger?”

     Kolek glanced up, irritably. “What?” Having people use the translation of his real name as a nickname never had sat well with him, but telling them not to do it was increasingly like bashing his head into a brick wall. Plus, of course, it was the Boss, and he knew from experience that yelling at him wouldn’t pay many dividends.

     The man had a broad smirk on his face. “Things are going beautifully to plan, friend,” he observed, swigging on the bottle of fruit juice he had pulled from the fridge. “The female is primed, and ready. Now we need to work on our other guest, such that he is, ah… properly trained… when we finally arrive back at base.”

     “I doubt it’s gonna work, Boss,” Kolek argued, irritably. He’d been down in the bowels of the ship all day, instructing the engineering team on how best to prepare the vessel’s landing gear for the hot, sandy world of Hah’zeept, and he had no desire at all to go… attempting the impossible about with large (angry) intelligent alien machines. “His brain isn’t somethin’ you can just… stick a fork in and reprogram, just like that.”

     “Which is why,” the Boss growled, self-satisfactorily, “we are going to use that new device we have been loaned. Understood?”

     Kolek actually paled. “But… that thing’s never been tested, Boss! Not even on… on inanimate computers, and certainly not by us!”

     “Tch. You should be ashamed of yourself, Kolek. A scientist that fears the unknown?”

     “No, I’m afraid of being done on a murder charge,” the hart snapped, waving a grimy finger under his employer’s nose. “Those things are two completely different animals, unless you hadn’t noticed!”

     The Boss blew a dismissive raspberry and palmed the hand away. “You will not be ‘done’ for anything,” he argued. “Because we will first of all not be caught, and second of all, when it works, we will have our ‘proof’ that the machine is no more than the sum of its parts. And you cannot murder something which is not alive in the first place. Agreed?”

     Kolek backed down, grumbling sourly. “All right. But I’m not touching it unless I have to. You can have the fun of mangling the guy’s mind.”

0o0o0o0o0

     Time-index:07:02:39.73 local-differential:00:00:01.19

     …still dark in here. This is getting seriously creepy! Really not liking being… being so… pinned down, down here. I don’t think I’ve been confined like this (at least, against my will) in… years. Years! And that little tart-… argh. How dare he.

     I just hope little Mirii is all right – for her sake any my brother’s sake! I don’t think I’d forgive myself if she were injured, because she surely can’t be the focus of our captor’s ire. Not someone so… inoffensive, so damn fluffy! What could she possibly have done to upset them? All right, so she can talk for the Empire, given the chance, and could conceivably have bored someone to the point of screaming, but I can’t see that they’d pursue a vendetta against HER for that. No, I must be the target. I just wish I recognised that voice! It seems to know me, and yet… it is impossible that I could have ‘forgotten’ the voice. I can simply not ‘forget’ like squishy biological beings do! No, it is either wearing a vocal modifier, or is lying to me. Those are the only two possibilities.

     I just wish I knew who he was-

0o0o0o0o0

     The lights came on in such a blinding, startling flood that it jogged Iios clean out of record mode, and left him momentarily blind, his optical sensors overloaded. “Agh-… turn that light down!” he demanded, flinching his face back.

     “In good time, my friend,” came that maddening voice, and this time there were other voices in the background. Chattering voices, sounded like there were at least a couple of Nyen there, and possibly also a Yil? Not good sounds. Neither species had a particularly favourable history with the Kiravai…

     “What do you want this time?” Iios demanded, tiredly, tugging at his wrists; he’d kept working at trying to free them the entire time he’d been on his own, and had succeeded at… nothing. They were as tightly pinned as they had been before.

     “Oh, nothing. We’re just here to run a few preliminary tests,” the man said, elevating his voice very slightly so as to be heard over the dull scraping sound of something metallic being dragged over a rough, poor-quality floor. “Before we get down to the meat of the experiment.”

     “Right. Your experiment. The one where you think you can somehow ‘reprogram’ me?” Iios replied, dryly, expertly hiding his dismay and wishing his eyes would hurry up and recalibrate so he could see again. “I hate to disappoint you, but that is not going to happen.”

     “Of course. You can remain happy and comfortably in your little bubble of denial,” the voice chuckled. “Kolek? Ihks? Yes, you can carry on. I’ll take over once you’ve got him, ah… prepared.”

     Iios got as far as the first word in “And what exactly do you mean by that?” before a slug of something gloopy and rather jelly like slapped him square in the face, oozing down over the sides of his nose and plopping in heavy curds to the floor. He startled, jerked in his bonds, and gave his head a good shake, as if to clear it away, but what remained was gluey as well as cold and gelatinous, and it stuck fast, holding his eyes closed. Damnit! They were just about recalibrated, as well. “What in the name of-!” he squawked, alarmed, and two pairs of hands seized upon his distraction to jam something into his mouth, trapping his jaws apart; he struggled, briefly, but the ‘jack’ was seemingly attached to some device behind him, in the wall, holding his head in place.

     “I don’t have all day, Kolek,” the voice snapped, harshly.

     “Listen…” Iios used the lull to attempt to bargain; his vocaliser worked just as well whether or not he had his lips to soften his words. He could hear the dull slup of cans being opened, and the rustle of wires, and neither left him particularly… overjoyed. “Stop this now, and I won’t report you. I’m sure we can come to an arrangement with a mutual benefit for both parties…!”

     “Unfortunately, that won’t be possible,” the voice demurred, sweetly. “What I want is something only you can give me.” Beat. “Actually, what I want is your twin. I have an, ah… unsettled debt I want him to pay. And how better to get him than you!”

     Iios was silent for a full few seconds while he processed the words. “Sei? But how could he have-…” A nasty thought struck him. “You’re one of them, aren’t you? One from that city at the bottom of the ocean?” The final thought that seized upon him was like another wet slap in the face. “Yannis?”

     The voice chuckled, and neither confirmed nor denied the accusation, but that was proof enough. “I’d make sure anything not watertight is sealed off, now, captain,” Yannis oiled, sweetly. “I wouldn’t want you to, ah… flood anything essential.”

     “What does that m-…?”

     …But Iios found he’d run out of time for questioning, and out of time for bargaining. He flinched as another of those heavy lumps of sticky mucilaginous substance landed upon his face, but this time it wasn’t the single lump, it was handfuls, being applied generously by several hands – and not just across his eyes and nose, but inside his mouth, over his ears, coating every square surface that could be reached. He wrothe in his restraints as it oozed its poisonous was down his throat, into his ears, even up into his nostrils and the sensory cavity behind them, like some sort of cold, amorphous form of malevolent life. Even as the hands applied more goo, ensuring his head was completely covered by a thick, chilly layer, another pair of hands had begun to apply wires – ah, so it was a conducting jelly, a distant, clinical voice observed, under that cacophony of frightened thoughts whirling at the forefront of his mind. But to conduct what?!

     He endured a full few minutes of muffled quiet, once the hands finally departed; he was covered in so many wires, he imagined it would look like a surreal hairstyle from the outside. And there were wires everywhere – up his nostrils, in his ears, all around the nape of his neck, there was even a tube down his throat.

     The thought of was this it? had barely finished filtering through his anxious mind when he heard a distant voice say “all right, switch on” and a pulse of disabling electricity flashed through the gel encasing him. He groaned soundlessly, and sagged against his bonds, limbs slack. He couldn’t even wriggle as the humming started, reverberating through his body, and the gel… twitched.

     That couldn’t be right. Conducting jelly didn’t twitch. But it had certainly moved-… there! It did it again!

     The tube in the side of his mouth pulsed very gently, and he felt the cool spread very slightly against the inside of his throat. Oh, no. No!

     His last conscious memory, as the gel began to ooze both down his throat and up out of his mouth and down his body, forming a more complete coverage, and the wires in his ears and nose and at his nape began to prickle deeper and work their way through miniscule gaps in his structure to form temporary ties with his cortical circuitry, was of the faint tinkle of Yannis laughing.

0o0o0o0o0

     Mirii had grown impatient, waiting for her new associate to return to finish talking to her, and when he finally arrived through the door, her mood brightened without her even realising it.

     Associate was a clumsy definition, though, she decided, grimly. She hesitated to call him her friend just yet, but at least he was being nice to her. Perhaps he was just… misguided. Well-intentioned, but basing his decisions on faulty information, because the things he said could not possibly be anything but! Buut she was a trusting sort of person, believed firmly in the idea that people could just be good, with no strings attached. No cases of “I’ll be nice to YOU if you do this for ME.”

     Admittedly, he had made her rather… nervous… with the whole declaration of love and affection, earlier. He could not love her because he did not know her! But he may turn out to be a friend, if she took the effort to get to know him properly.

     He grinned at seeing her watching him, and bowed briefly in greeting. “Hello, dear. Are you ready to come with me, now?”

     “I am still not sure I understand your intentions,” she demurred, making no move to get up. “Until such a time, I should prefer to remain here.”

     “Of course,” he nodded, with a reluctant smile. “I have alarmed you, and given you a great many terrible things to consider. I do hope you will ultimately come to forgive me, though! I do not say them with the intention of harming you – only of saving you from a more terrible fate.”

     “I am grateful for your concern, but I think it is misplaced,” Mirii informed him, softly. “There was no terrible fate to save me from. There was no experiment. All the things you have told me force me to conclude that you are… mistaken. That you believe me to be someone else, or have been given faulty information on who I am.”

     He smiled, sadly, and shook his head. “No, dear. The only ones that have given me information on you are those who have had direct contact with you.”

     Her gaze flickered, anxiously. “Please explain,” she demanded, flatly. “You can not be right. It is not possible! You must be lying to me, to get something you desire.” She shrank back a little. “I do not desire to harm you, but if you do not desist I may be forced. Your… amorous attention… is making my uneasy!”

     He chuckled, painfully. “Sweet lady, why is it that you do you not see what he has done to you? You misinterpret even normal attention as something to be feared!” He took her hand, carefully. “I do not wish you any harm. I only wish that you are made able to see what you are being turned into!”

     She slipped her hand back out of his, warily. “Perhaps I do not wish to see what he is supposedly ‘turning me into’. Perhaps I am actually happy with who and what I am. Perhaps I do not need your… meddling.”

     “Agh! He has convinced you that the one great joy all self-aware life-forms have and should be able to share freely with whomsoever they choose – the joy of love, of emotional love and physical love – is something to be restricted and regulated. Something only he can share with you!” he said, softly, leaning closer. “How is that love? That is not affection, it is slavery.”

     “You speak of promiscuity and depravity,” she argued, flatly, folding her arms across her thin chest. “Your interest in me seems to be angled towards turning me into a whore for your personal entertainment.”

     He looked so genuinely aghast that she immediately regretted her outburst. “I talk of things as simple as a kiss, my dear!” he corrected her. “You see what he has done to you? Even such honest, innocent gestures are misread as vulgar! All I attempt to suggest is that the one you consider to be your soulmate may be encouraging you to live a lie. A life where innocent affection, and making ones own choices on love and lovers, is as highly restricted and regulated as some sort of… chemicals industry. Where partners must be chosen from strictly selected little groups, not by following your heart. ‘You will have who we choose for you, who you may not love but who will be matched to your current and future needs’,” he intoned, as if mimicking a famous dramatic orator, “ ‘and you will most certainly not muddle your way through, and find happiness and contentness with someone who may not be absolutely perfect’!” He waved his hands, angrily. “That is not the way a flower will bloom. You will not find true happiness this way!”

     “Why is that such an important thing to you?” she pleaded, grimly.

     “Because I want you happy, because I-…” He stopped abruptly, and swallowed his words, but she knew what he had been about to say.

     “I believe you are misguided,” she half-apologised, feeling guilty for making him upset. “I do not believe you know me well enough to-”

     “Have you ever loved anyone else?” he cut in, quietly.

     She paused, mouth open but no sounds coming out. She didn’t want to lie, but she was suddenly unsure if she should tell him.

     “How do you know that what you share with him is love when you have loved no-one else to know for sure?” he pushed on, apparently having seen through her hesitation. “If nothing else, he calls you ‘pet’! Pet, a term to define an owned animal? A slave? Property? How is that affection?”

     “That is an incorrect analogy,” she argued. “It is derived from the adjective, meaning something which is especially cherished or indulged, such as a child or other person.”

     “At least, that is what he told you, yes? Like he told you he loved you?” He gave his head a frustrated shake. “He did not love you, Marie, that is what I am attempting to get across to you! Everything you have known thus far has been a careful fabrication to keep you down. To keep you from being… yourself! From developing outside set parameters. He and his twin, they were not capable of love. They were mindless automatons, blindly following instructions to give the illusion of self-awareness. You are the only true autonomous non-biological organism in the known galaxy. You are the great experiment they have been instructed to guard! And you are the one that truly deserves to be allowed to develop as you – and you alone! – choose to do so.”

     “That is incorrect. That is a faulty assumption,” she asserted, awkwardly, shaking her head. What if it was true? “I am not the only one. To start with, I am one of a group! I was created in tandem with three other pens, three other cobs. There are seven of us, and that is excluding the pre-existing individuals!”

     “Have you ever met them?”

     Mirii hesitated. “Not in some time, no,” she admitted, warily.

     “Because they would not let you?” he wondered.

     “…no, because I did not ask,” she argued. “It… was not something that crossed my mind.” She gave him a grim look. “Are you going to assume something sinister based on this as well?”

     “All right. One last attempt to explain, then I promise never to mention it again.” He said, with a tense smile. “It has never occurred to you how much more capable that you Sei has always seemed? Your words are stiff and difficult, you hesitate over things, your emotions trip you up, you sometimes respond inappropriately or not at all, you have difficulty with all those little nuances that organic, biological life find so simple… But not Sei, not Iios. They almost always know exactly how to respond appropriately. Had you noticed this?”

     Mirii nodded, mutely, hugging her knees.

     “And you have never questioned why this is?”

     “It is because I am so much younger,” she whispered, but seemed unsure of herself. “My family have a greater wealth of experiences to call upon to aid them.”

     “No, love. No. It is because they are under full control of a biological life-form,” he gave her a sad smile. “They are… puppets, if you like. The intention was to give you comfortable surrounding to ‘grow up’ in, to believe you were nothing especially out of the ordinary and grow and mature like any other organism. If you did not think you were new, and special, you would not see it as a duty to ensure you didn’t take risks – didn’t keep yourself wrapped in cotton wool, as it were.”

     Her eyes were fixed upon him, now, and although her lips hung very slightly parted, she was silent – totally silent.

     “Your whole life has been one big experiment, dear. Carefully tailored to make you believe it, full of intricate details to convince you it was real, but a fabrication nonetheless. Why do you think he came to visit the Bubble? Not because he was lost, not through any accidental purpose! He came so he could use our technology to collect data on you, to observe you from a distance. To see how you responded to the primitive aliens on the surface world. Once he was done he returned to the surface and relayed the information to the controllers.”

     She was shaking her head, but seemed unable to actually vocalise her argument.

     “Did you honestly believe he could use primitive materials like steam-powered generators to build a submarine?” the man asked, very softly. “Did you believe he could build a submarine capable of withstanding tonnes of pressure per square inch with such primitive tools as he claimed the Bubble had?”

     “It seems… unlikely,” she husked the words out, in agreement.

     “Everyone was working so hard to convince you of the truth of the fabrication, Marie. It tore me to think of you, so honest and so… misled!” He gathered her hand to his chest in all four of his. “I had to get you out of there.”

     “And what if it is you that is lying?” she challenged, feebly, nonetheless allowing him to keep hold of her hand. “I do not even know who you are!”

     “Forgive me.” He let his gaze drop. “In all the time we have spent talking, I have never introduced myself. I… I hesitated, in the beginning, because I feared that you would have been so indoctrinated by your guardian that you would never allow me to talk to you, and once we began to converse I completely forgot I had not.” He lifted his gaze to meet hers, and managed a feeble smile. “I hope you will not over-react, and will continue to treat me with the same wary respect you have done this past day or two. My name is Yannis, or Yann, if you prefer.”
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