Tell Me Something
By Black Waltz 0
"Just as a hypothetical," Yasty began, sitting at the helm of a great eldan terminal as her fingers danced across the screen, "what would you do if we found a way to put you into another body?"
Below her, many miles underground and deep within the heart of some forgotten exo-lab Formaldehyde took the sudden, metal-plated punch to the jaw like a champ even as it went through his holo-commlink chirping away in the background. The eldan protector was old and dust and cobwebs lined its gleaming outer casing like a burial shroud, but it could still pack quite a wallop. Mal recovered and took a step back, wiping dark blood from a split lip off his chin. "What do you mean?" He asked, crouching as he prepared his counter-attack.
Yasty looked over her shoulder briefly for the potential approach of enemies, klaxons far down the hall and at the other end of the monitoring station blaring for assistance. The holo-commlink transmitter implanted into her skull was usually convenient and rendered the need for a headset obsolete, but man it could be annoying trying to focus on a physical screen situated beyond the immaterial one projected before her eyes. Once she saw that she was still safe Yasty returned to her work. "Well, say that someday we come across a piece of eldan technology that can take you out of your body and place you into a different one. What would you do?"
Mal's claws slid out with silken ease and he leapt upon the mechanical construct with nary a sound other than a soft grunt, extending his arms and burying all six blades of his weapon deep into the gold-trimmed chassis. He felt through the vibrations of the metal up into his knuckles that he had pierced something humming with power and he braced himself with his heels as he ripped them out again, hopping backwards onto stable floor and safety.
The protector staggered, sparks flaring. Formaldehyde touched one ear more out of habit than necessity – he'd been around in the Black Hoods back when earpieces had been standard issue and the involuntary motion had stayed. "Are you sure this is a good time for this?" He responded. "And how is Malysh managing?"
The aurin at the controls glanced under the console. She'd had her knees raised with her ankles crossed over one another to make room, but ever so often her long white tail involuntarily brushed up against the trembling pile of rotting pink muscle and scientist hiding away. Yasty made a sympathetic, almost motherly sound with her lips and reached down to pat her mordesh colleague's synthetic turquoise hair. "Not very well. Combat situations frighten him. He shouldn't have come." She said, smiling. "But I can handle this on my own, no problem! Captain Chapo's men are sweeping out the administration area as we speak!"
"Hey there honey, who're you calling a man?" An angry yet distinctly feminine voice accused from a different commlink, tapping into the party chat channel from afar. Indecipherable growling and snarling followed after as an augmented girrok attempted to tear off a huge piece of the woman's cheek, but she was one hundred percent bona-fide rock instead of puny flesh and she laughed as she ran the animal through with the point of her blade.
The voice of their ill-equipped and last-minute pilot spoke from a fourth commlink, where his quick breathing and the rapid pelt of gunfire nearly drowned out his words. "Olivine love, could you quit your bitching for just one second and lend me a bleedin' hand here? I can only kite them for so long!"
"Aw, poor 'lil spellslinger needs a-"
Yasty muted them both. As long as they kept the augmented from running up the hallway that was all she really needed from them. The young aurin narrowed her eyes as she worked, using her hard-won clearance through some tricky cracking to redirect resources and wheedle access into the rest of the facility, one small victory at a time. "So, what do you think, Maldy?" She pressed. "Next door is open to you."
True to her word the lock holding the doorway closed flashed green and right as his vanquished foe crashed into a heap, body parts twitching, the entranceway slid open with a hiss of smooth hydraulics. Stale, millennia-old air rushed out to meet the solitary stalker, but like Malysh hiding under his partner's legs Formaldehyde's sense of smell had deteriorated into nothing many decades ago. He bent into a crouch and let the cool, mercurial feeling of his nanoskin slither over his clothing and flesh, fading out of sense and vision until, for only a moment, his dark and deadly smile was left behind.
A furious, hoarse shriek cut through the exo-lab as he disappeared from view, but the tall mordesh had already assumed by now that it was not because of his actions. The world flashed bright red around him, then off again, and then red again. "I don't think the Caretaker approves of your acquisition of his administration abilities." He pointed out in solemn amusement.
"Nuts to him," Yasty muttered, filtering through the information on the screen at an impressive pace, "it's not my fault he's got his tail all twisted. Keep going; we need the access codes to the terraformer right away!"
"Right." Mal agreed and sprinted for the door, unaware of the eldan protector's shaking, spasming hand reaching blindly for his cloaked ankle as the mordesh slipped away. He made it through in the nick of time, honestly, as the very moment he squeezed past the threshold and into the next corridor Yasty's permissions were revoked and the door slammed closed like a guillotine behind him – missing him by mere inches.
He surveyed his new environment thoughtfully as he touched his ear again. "Assuming I was excised from this temple of corruption housing my spirit, which I'm rather certain isn't possible, but if we're in the avenue of the hypothetical then I'm curious where you would put me. Certainly I would not have the ability to send myself anywhere, as I would just be disembodied information."
"Weeeell…" Yasty slowly drew out, trying to bring up a map of the next few rooms in the lab, "another mordesh body would be out of the question, but we could always put you in a different body, like an aurin body! We're completely immune to your contagion after all! And watch out; I think the room might be booby trapped."
She was proven correct as Formaldehyde took a step forward and three dozen bright red beams barred the way. He did not sigh or seem dismayed by this development; he just stared at them as if somehow he had already known this was what he was going to have to do.
"Yasty, lasers." It was all he needed to say.
The aurin nodded and opened up another green holographic window. The fighting nearby seemed to be getting louder, as though it were drawing closer, and Malysh moaned somewhere under the table as he heard. "My clearance won't let me shut off all of them, but I can remove a few. Maybe five. I can see them over the security systems so tell me which ones you want gone."
Mal studied the obstacle course before him a little harder. It would be significantly easier for an aurin or a human to slip on through, but his species had a few feet of height over the both of them. He would have to handle the handicap if he could. "Disable the two intercrossing beams within the very centre of this mess and then the final two at the far end. Lastly, remove the vertical beam approximately three paces from where I am standing now."
"Maldy, you're still cloaked. I can't see where you're standing." Yasty pointed out, smiling wryly.
His nanoskin immediately dissolved and he obediently shimmered back into view for her sake. He seemed a little sheepish for a brief second, although he could not detect the security cameras his lover was hijacking so he didn't have anywhere in particular to direct the expression at. "Why would you suggest an aurin body?" He asked, stretching his neck muscles and rolling his shoulders in preparation for the athletics challenge that was about to come next. "Wouldn't a human's body fit my form better? Comparatively, I must add."
Yasty bit her lip as she battled with the terminal for dominance. The Caretaker wasn't making this easy for her today. She very much preferred the green one a whole lot better. "Yeah, but… aurins are good. I'm an aurin. We could be aurins together." She confessed.
Far away the mordesh smiled at that – a rare show of warmth in a tense environment. "I suppose that makes sense." He said.
The aurin scientist blushed red across her dusky cheeks but fell back to the matter at hand. Half a dozen more keystrokes and several of the red laser beams faded away, turning the deadly blockade from an impossibility to merely a contortionist's nightmare. "Just keep moving, okay? I don't know how long they'll stay down and I don't want to watch my zombie get chopped in half." She urged.
Being called a 'zombie' would have come off as a grave insult were the words uttered by anyone else on the planet, but Formaldehyde already knew it was supposed to be sort of a simple term of endearment from someone he thought too sweet to be capable of real cruelty or spite, so he didn't mind it much. He almost sort of liked it when it came sandwiched between his aurin's giggles and hugs. She was making a good point too, and he was all limbered up now. Time to begin.
Ordinarily he would not have been able to clear the trap under his own fleeting graces, but he was a stalker now. It had been many years since he had signed away his life to the Black Hoods in exchange for an assured source of high-quality vitalus and he had welcomed the infusion of nanites into his body, accelerating motor function, reflex, and at times even thought process. It was not his own talent – the product of tiny machines come out of a syringe – but that was all he needed, so…
Formaldehyde fell into the lasers at once.
To be continued...