Hello, world! No, I am not dead; I've just been recovering from surgery! Woohoo. Anyway.
Don't torture crazy people, kids. Electroshock's no fun, and even the voices in our heads have feelings. Also, 1 apparently doesn't know all that much about electroshock. He just skimmed through an article or something. He gets an 'F' on his research paper. But, hey, I also get an 'F' for my research on the effect of metal in microwaves. Scientific facts, I choose to ignore you!!!
Magical quote of the day: Much learning doth make thee mad! ~Billy the Bard
Totally works for 6. The poor woobie.
Songs to listen to while reading this chapter:
Soundtrack of Dragonheart
The Execution by Paul Cantelon
Hello by Evanescence.
Chorale IV- (Alame Oo Ya) by Adiemus
8 carried him, kicking and thrashing, to the elevator and climbed in, 1 following. The giant kept a firm grip on 6's mouth, clamping it shut, other huge arm wrapped tightly around the small body in a mockery of an embrace. The bucket began to lower. 6 writhed desperately, trying to leap free, or at least call out, and 1 scolded him like a misbehaving child.
"Stop that, you little fool. Don't you understand; we're trying to help!" The leader lashed out with his staff, catching the petrified recluse's shoulder. "This won't hurt a bit. Just keep still and quiet and you'll feel better."
With a thunk, the lift hit the bottom of the cathedral. The stitchpunks disembarked and headed for a white box on the ground, the captive still struggling in 8's grasp. He twisted his head around to see their destination. The white box was shiny and about one foot wide and one foot deep. The front of it was a black, semi-transparent door, with numbers along the side and strange words like "defrost" and "timer" and "thaw" embossed on buttons. Somehow, he knew then what was about to happen to him, and he screamed into 8's hand, begging wordlessly. The behemoth paid no heed, and with one swift movement he opened the door and tossed the small being in to land heavily on the glass plate inside. The door slammed shut before 6 had a chance to even get up. He pounded on the dark glass, clawed at it with his jagged fingers, picked at the seams, but the prison did not give.
"No!" He pleaded with them, terrified in the helpless knowledge of what awaited him. "No! Please!"
1 took a step forward, ignoring him, and began to press buttons.
5 tightened the final bolt and stepped back. "I think…yeah, the telescope's done." He gave the instrument a pat.
"Wonderful!" 2 stepped out from the small shelter he'd been constructing and wiped his hands on a bit of cloth. "It looks perfect! I've just finished the last modifications on the rigging system, so…we're done!" He glanced around appraisingly. "Excellent. This is certainly a beginning; now we can keep an eye out at all times without having to leave. Shall we head downstairs? I have some preliminary plans for our next project, and I'm sure 6 will want to see you."
"Sure." The younger architect smiled at the thought. "Oh, and he told me he has some more drawings for you."
"Smashing!" (I had to do it.) The inventor began to haul on the line of the elevator. "They're so fascinating, aren't they? I've been wondering about that stranger he drew; do you suppose-" he paused, out of breath from pulling the rope. "Whoof. The lift must be all the way down. Lend me a hand, will you?"
5 hurried over and helped his mentor, slowly heaving the bucket up. At last, it bumped into the platform below and they dropped into it. "Wonder why it was down so low?"
"Maybe 7 and the devious duo have returned from their scouting mission." 2 chuckled. "We may have stolen their ride from them."
The apprentice laughed as they began their descent. "7 won't be too pleased with us."
The elevator came to a halt at the 'main' level, and 5 hopped out. "I'll be right back. I wanna get 6. I think maybe a little fresh air would help him, and I want him to see the tower."
"Alright. I'll wait here." 2 sat down, smiling good-naturedly.
"Be just a sec," 5 assured him, turning and scurrying off toward the small room that the artist liked to sit in. "6!" He ducked into the den, grinning, then halted and frowned slowly. The striped stitchpunk was nowhere to be seen. Only his scattered drawings filled the small chamber. 5 shrugged. Maybe he's gone downstairs to meet 7 and the twins…or maybe he went to find me. He started to leave, one hand on the doorframe, when he felt the indentations. He peered at the wall and saw that someone had gouged four deep scores in the wood, like claw marks. Like someone being dragged out against their will. He looked down and saw the second set of scratches that led out the door, toward the elevator. "Oh, no."
A cry came echoing up the tower, an inarticulate roar of rage and shock. 5 bolted, going back to the lift as fast as his heavy wooden feet would take him.
"What was that? It sounded like 7-" 2 was cut off by his apprentice, who leapt into the bucket and released the pulley so quickly that they plummeted.
5 pulled them to a halt just above the hard ground and shot out, landing heavily on his knees. He got to his feet and gasped in dismay at the tableau of horror before him.
8 and 7 were locked in a struggle of clashing blades and fists as the massive guardian warded her away from the white plastic cube behind them. The warrior bellowed again, voicing her fury at the injustice and cruelty taking place. Their constantly-moving bodies were silhouetted by the irregular, crackling voltage that rampaged about inside the box. Through the sparks and pops of light, 5 made out a convulsing figure, writhing with each pulse of energy. He recognized the seizing form, and his mechanical heart seemed to stop.
The monoptic stitchpunk raced past 8, who was too intently focused on the fight to notice him, and slammed his palms against the glass. "6!"
The creature inside the chamber didn't respond; probably couldn't. His mouth was flung wide in an agonized scream, but the door muffled it and he couldn't be heard over the crackle of electricity. 5 frantically hammered at the box, willing it to open, then spun around to look for something to pry it with and caught sight of 1.
The leader was sprawled on the dirt floor as if he'd been knocked back by some great force. He seemed frozen, a look of stunned terror on his face, his optics locked onto the tormented 6 in immobile, horrified fascination. 5 ran over to him and grabbed him by the shoulders, yelling into his face.
"How do you turn it off?!"
"I-I-" the stitchpunk elder could barely form words. "It-it wasn't supposed to…I- it's- I don't…I didn't intend…" His optics stared right through the younger being, riveted on the silently howling prisoner.
5 shook 1, his anger fueling him to be bolder than he'd ever dared. "How do you open it?! Tell me!" He was furious; the rage pumped through his system like fire. "TELL ME!"
1 was mute, still in shock. 5 screamed, as 7 had, desperate sorrow creeping into his voice, and turned away.
He looked up; 2 had picked up 1's scepter where it had fallen. The inventor thrust the staff into the door of the cell, wedging it firmly but unable to get it open. 5 scrambled over and threw his weight against the metal stick, every rod and gear taut and straining.
There was a wrenching, drawn-out groan, and suddenly 5 was tumbling to the ground as the door swung open and, with a final pop!, the sparks ceased.
5 jumped to his feet and entered the plastic prison. "6!"
The artist lay motionless on the chipped, scorched glass plate, curled in on himself. His claw-like fingers were dug deep into the fabric of his arms. Smoke rose from his body in slow, hazy lines, weaving away toward the ceiling. A strange green light hung as fine as mist above their heads.
"6? Can you – are you – s-say something," 5 gently grasped a striped shoulder and rolled the smaller being onto his back, then flinched as if he'd been burned. 6's optics were open as wide as they could go, but they lacked the faint glow of life. All his face held was a terrible, gear-stopping emptiness. "6, wake up." 5's voice broke and he fell to his knees. "C'mon. I'm here, I'm –" He felt as though the bottomless holes that were 6's optics were sucking his soul out, leaving him hollow. "Please," he whispered, "No." He heard a choked breath behind him and realized, dimly, that the others had gathered at the doorway. He didn't care. He cradled 6's ink-stained head between his hands, bent his neck, and sobbed into the crook of the cooling shoulder he'd rested his head on just the night before. No tears came out, but he wept all the same, grief and loss pouring from him. "6, please. Please, don't leave me, 6, don't leave me…"
"5…" 2's voice seemed distant and faded.
"No." The one-eyed stitchpunk repeated stubbornly, refusing to lift his head.
"5," 7 said, more insistently, "look."
He glanced up, gasped, and sat back. The green glow that had been clinging to the top of the box had moved as if of its own volition, forming a corkscrew down to 6's head. The very tip of the spiral touched down, and suddenly the phosphorescent fog was pulled down into those vacant, mismatched sockets like water into a drain. The other stitchpunks were silent in awe and anticipation as the final remnant of light disappeared into the lifeless form. 5 felt as if a weight were pressing on his chest; he couldn't breath, couldn't speak.
The emerald radiance left the air at the exact moment that a tremor shot through 6's body. His fingers clenched, unclenched. His optics shuttered open and closed spasmodically. Finally, a gasp issued from his mouth. He lifted his head weakly and focused dazedly on the being crouched over him.
"6?" 5 asked faintly.
The artist frowned, looked down at his black and white self, and nodded once.
"Oh, 6!" 5 dove forward and threw his arms around the smaller creature. 6 responded slowly, as if he were still waking up from a long sleep, then suddenly shoved the bigger stitchpunk backward and crawled away a few paces, a look of fear and confusion on his face. 5 sat up. "What's wrong? D-did I hurt you? What is it?"
The frantic being opened his mouth to speak, but only a strange static sound came out. "Shhhhkshhhhx." He grabbed at his abdomen in pain, still mouthing warped words.
"His voice box!" 2 realized, stepping into the cube. "It must have melted."
"Ca-can we fix it?" 5's attention didn't stray from the frightened creature.
"I think so, but we may need to go outside to get a new one."
At the inventor's words, 7's head snapped up. "Outside – in the eastern ruins…there's – there's a monster. A beast, some kind of machine. It's new. I think…I think it was built to hunt us."
"What?" 2 turned to her, brow furrowed. "What did it look like?"
The warrior's normally rakish expression had been replaced by a look of bitter recognition. "Exactly like the thing he drew." She nodded at 6's curled form. "We only saw it from a distance, but there was no mistaking it."
5 wasn't really paying attention to what 7 and 2 were saying; he shuffled forward on his knees, extending an arm. "6, c'mon. It's okay, come with me. We're gonna get you fixed, alright?"
6 didn't respond, only sat there mumbling the same words over and over in his eerie, crackling voice. "Shhhhkshhhhx."
5 gingerly set a hand on 6's shoulder, scooting closer until he was able to slide his arms under the fragile manikin's body and lift him. Cradling him tenderly, 5 carried 6 out of the plastic cell, past the onlookers, and over to the elevator. The others were hushed as he set his burden down on one of the seats and began to pull the bucket upward. When they were some two meters up, 2 broke the silence.
"Wait…where are 3 and 4?" He glanced around for the twins, who were nowhere to be seen.
7 turned, slowly, to face him, and the raw grief in her expression answered him before her words did.
"They're gone, 2."
"What?" The elder's optics grew wide. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, they're gone," she said flatly. "They came back with me, to warn you all about the monster, and then we saw – we saw what he was doing to 6," she jabbed a finger at the still-mute 1. "We saw, and I ran to help 6, and they were just so scared, and they turned and ran. They – they're so little, they shouldn't have seen that, and I-I wanted to go after them, but I was already fighting him," she pointed to 8, who was only just then getting back to his feet. "And I couldn't get to them, I couldn't do anything! They're gone." With those words like an epitaph, she turned and faded back into the grey melancholy of the outside world.
After a long moment of heavy reticence, 2 spoke again, addressing 1. "What were you thinking?" His voice held no judgment or anger, only sorrow and soul-deep exhaustion.
1 looked back at him, but had no answer.
5 ever-so-gently laid his friend down on the makeshift bed in the corner of the hospice.
"Just hang on, 6. I know we've got a spare voice box here…" He hastily dug through the accumulated mound of wires and rods that 2 kept around, casting a worried glance over his shoulder every few seconds, as if making sure that 6 would not spontaneously evaporate. "Got it!" He held up the small metal item victoriously.
"Shhhhkshhhhx," 6 replied, sitting up and drawing his knees to his chest.
The one-eyed stitchpunk hurried back over to the bed and placed one hand on 6's shoulder. "Okay, 6," his voice shook slightly but he tried to sound calm. "I'm gonna have to…open you up, so I can replace your voice box. I'll try to do it quick, like your arm, okay?"
The artist gave no indication that he understood, but his legs lowered and he glanced up at 5 in stifled pain and consternation. His fingers moved restlessly on the cot, sketching invisible designs.
"Alright." 5 lifted the blade of a scalpel and drew it down the seam of 6's midsection, tiny threads parting and revealing the complex metal innards that still gave off wisps of smoke. The striped being held himself rigid as the larger stitchpunk gingerly pulled the fabric open and ever-so-hesitantly reached in. 5 wasn't quite sure where 6's voice box was; it seemed that none of the stitchpunks had been built quite the same, so he had to gently feel around for the melted component. His fingers slid lightly down a thick rope of wiring, skittered over something round and smooth and warm, brushed a loop of spring and suddenly realized that 6's fingers were wrapped so tightly around his wrist that he couldn't feel his fingertips. The smaller stitchpunk's mouth was flung wide again as he panted, his optics burning into 5's with an intensity that could have lit a fire. Uncomprehending, 5 tried to move his hand and inadvertently bumped the wiring again, making 6 gasp aloud and shudder.
"What's wrong? What did I-" Realization dawned on the older being – 6 wasn't gasping in pain; quite the opposite. Experimentally, 5 flexed his fingers once more, wrapping them around the steel spring. The reaction was immediate; 6 writhed and clutched at him, lost in sensation, then fell back, dazed. Carefully, 5 inserted his other hand, located the smoldering remnants of the voice box and detached it. While his patient was still preoccupied, he swiftly replaced it with the new part. He stepped back a bit and looked down at 6, who was still recovering. "Okay, 6, that should work. Can you, uh, say something?"
6 blinked slowly, seeming to clear his head, and his brow furrowed. "Shhksssssk," he said uncertainly.
"Hmm…" Delicately, 5 reached back inside and adjusted the tuning, careful not to touch anything else. "How 'bout now?"
Another adjustment. "Now?" He met 6's gaze as the black and white stitchpunk's mouth opened again, this time clearly enunciating.