They call him Commander.
The first thing he notices, once they are "appropriately dressed", is how ill fitting everyone else's outfit is. He can't even remember if he's seen pigmasks with dogs before, but if they do own any, they're probably much bigger than Boney, with the way the mask hangs awkwardly on his head. He can even see him curling his ears to make it stay straight, and he would have smiled if the place wasn't giving him chills. Kumatora is too short for the average uniform, and that in itself wouldn't really be remarkable except her shoulders are also narrow and the sleeves flop off on the start of her forearms (he sees her raging and rests a discreet hand on her arm. They can't afford to make these people suspicious). As for Duster, he's got the right build for military life, but he's too tall, not as much as that gigantic soldier in Club Titiboo but still towering over most, and they have to find two separate pairs of shoes for him.
Lucas's uniform fits perfectly.
It's, to his surprise, comfortable and practical. He can move however he wants and the fabric will just acomodate it, the jacket's cut compensating for its rigidity. The quality is good, too, nothing like the cheap uniforms they give trainees in Tazmilly. Nothing too surprising for a commander, but the way it doesn't follow the army's general theme and the way it seems to be made for him nudge at the edge of his mind.
Slipping inside the Commander's skin is easier than he expected.
Maybe it's because his existance is so surprising in itself. If people can actually confuse them, it means they are alike not only in height, but probably in build and age. A gifted child? Their leader's son? He isn't sure, but soon enough the pieces fall into place. He pictures being in the middle of this army, those men. Keep your distance from the bad ones, avoid being too friendly with the nice ones to dodge claims of favouritism. He gets flustered presents—reachable but not approachable, then. What he gathers the most from those soldiers is admiration—positive or fearful, and sometimes both—or even worship. Sometimes even unwanted—the light in the eyes of some of these man makes him uncomfortable.
The uniform is probably part of it.
Even in their dangerous situation it gives him a feeling of assurance. He walks forward, and gradually his voice, his way of holding himself change. By the time they've reached the exit of the factory, Kumatora and Duster fall in naturally behind him instead of awkwardly hanging at his sides.
It takes until they crash their pork bean and the horned giant's interruption for someone to really notice.
He doesn't smell right—of course he doesn't, he smells of wool and herbs and wood sap, of carefully cooked food—and this man... this soldier—he isn't sure whether he is a man anymore—this soldier flies into a rage and bears down on them with vindicative strength.
It must be nice, part of him thinks as they board the new bean after the battle. Having so many people care about you.
He learns to walk like someone to whom things are due. It makes not talking easier; people try to anticipate his needs, and thus he takes fewer risks, doesn't have to reveal his voice. When another soldier picks them up to bring them to the tower—the tower that is already starting to leave a bitter, acid feeling in his throat—he doesn't pull back, doesn't hesitate. Just nods, detachedly. That's all he's supposed to do, after all.
Boney pushes discretely against his hand. His arm breaks character and scratches him absently, even as his face remains blank.
The tower feels alive, he notices while Kumatora uses the revitalising device. Noisy, moving, pulsing with something. Gurgling water like a stomach somewhere, and the incessant beeping he hears in the distance. It's buzzing with energy, and he could nearly feel it like he feels people's bodies but it's just out of his reach somehow.
It shouldn't be... the way the edge of his skin is reaching out tells him he should feel this, should make one with the lightning running through the walls and the cables on the floor.
The network of people and machine is impressive, and would be daunting, but he is the Commander, and something is calling him forward. Cold anger, need to escape, pull of the lightning strikes, he doesn't know. He talks to these people again, learns so much without even asking questions. He isn't even scared when a soldier sees through his mask. He is beyond fear now, and all he does is go forward.
They get interrupted again.
Pork Trooper; that's his name, he learns by listening to people. The more time he spends in this tower, the less he doubts that this man really isn't one—at least anymore. These people have machines on their side, techniques that go beyond psi, and his piglike features remind him of the hybrid creatures in the forest.
A man with the strength of a bull, the horns of an ox, and the nose of a pig. But most importantly: the weaknesses of a man. Beating him is easier than it should be; he is too easy to distract, enrage, put off balance. If they were trying to make the perfect warrior, leaving room for that kind of veneration or obsession was a mistake. He is too human, perhaps even more than his masked subordinates.
The clothes go. They don't need them anymore, now that their identity has been discovered. They fall to the floor in a disrespectful pile, and his natural dislike for messes makes him frown, but they need to move, climb before someone catches them.
The room is useless, overdone, too filled with things that scream of bored, bored, bored. No child would have time enough to play with all of this accumulated pile of toys, not with work to be done and sheep to help keep and the outside to explore. Something catches at the edge of his psi, and he reaches for that lone yo-yo in its case.
When they beat the robot girl, he wonders why these people are so intent on making human what is not, and taking humanity away from those who are.
They climb, again, and again. To where, he isn't sure, but something is calling him, and these clothes he isn't wearing anymore are still pushing him forward. Electricity is all around him, now, buzzing nearly on time with the beats of his heart (maybe it's the other way around).
The lightning strike leaves him frozen, muscles locked, breath broken, eyes unseeing.
He gasps into void for a second, two, until Duster hits his back and his psi rises to heal the damage. He starts to breathe again, and with it he can see more clearly, think more clearly. A bit more human, a little less soldier, even though he can feel that the lightning is part of him now, weaved into the psi that rose to defend him. He tries to set it free, and casts a blinding flash of light that paints the tower's insides in blacks and whites. His psi, his blood resonate with the hum of the generator above their heads, and with something weaker, further away but getting closer.
He stands up and starts climbing again.
When the generator is nothing but a sizzling, sputtering mess of metal behind them and they find themselves caught between the tower's rod and Fassad, he turns his head to the sky. It's endless and blue, a reminder that the world is much, much bigger than the little corner he's lived in all his life. And Fassad can't contain them, not with all this blue around them and the rumble of something coming through the sky behind them.
He slips and falls, and they jump from the crumbling tower into the sky, flying with their arms clamped around each other and Rope Snake's mouth their only link to the world.
Lucas's psi stands up at the nape of his neck, crinckles. Answers the old pull like a magnet. His eyes catch sight of clothes like those he left behind, like those who took Lucas and turned him into a different person, someone all strength and goal and blankness.
He looks up.