WARNINGS: Contains graphic violence and cannibalism.
Roland watched the three AIs as they hastily made their preparations to leave. Almost everyone they walked by gave them looks. Looks of doubt and suspicion. He didn't blame them - they were outsiders. They weren't human. They had demons.
He couldn't help but notice that those looks were fairly similar to the ones his men gave him daily. Roland pretended to not notice or not care, but he was always distinctly aware of them. He knew they talked behind his back and rather loudly at that. He suspected that the only reason he han't been ousted as Lokapala's leader was that nobody else wanted the godforsaken job. Everyone talked shit about him, but at the same time, no one thought they could do a better job. Maybe keeping him as the leader was their way of punishing him for being so pathetic. He was fine with that.
When a computer program tells you off, you know you've sunk very low. And Roland knew he had hit rock bottom when he saw that Fred preferred cannibalistic demon AIs to him. Cannibalistic demon AIs he had only known for what, a day? And during the meeting, Roland could have sworn it was not Gale, but Greg who was snarling at him. It was then he decided to stop being pathetic. He'll get up off his drunken ass and give a damn. Once the AIs had entered the underground cable, he told Adil to put his bottles away and left the room.
There are perks to being the leader. Like having access to dangerous, life changing viruses. Roland briefly questioned both his sanity and his sobriety, deciding that yes, he was both very sane and very sober at the moment. God knows that if he was either crazy or drunk he wouldn't have done it.
"Cheers," he chirped, and proceeded to infect himself with the virus. And no sooner had the process finished did Adil appear and tell him that there was trouble in the supposedly "secret" passage to Karma City.
For a prison cell, it wasn't bad. However, that probably had to do with the fact that it wasn't exactly a prison cell. "Repurposed living space" was a much more accurate way to describe it. The strong, reinforced door and the sealed up window said as much. But after having gone so long without a single captive, it saw use as a storage room. There were a few boxes of medical supplies stacked in the corner by the door, rendering it impossible to open the door all the way. Crates of ammunition were piled in another. It may, perhaps, seem like a bad idea to keep a prisoner with the ammunition, but they didn't have anywhere else to put either the ammo or the captive. They took away his gun and made sure there were no firearms accessible to him, so that made it okay, right?
Adil hadn't agreed with him, but when he asked Adil if he had any better ideas, the man fell silent. He did not. Not that he himself was a fountain of creativity. That shitty novel he started five years ago and hadn't touched in three was a testament to that.
The fourth AI, Cielo, lay on the only piece of furniture in the room, an old bed, and Roland guessed that he must be asleep. Made sense. What else was the guy going to do? But when Roland got closer, his eyes opened and he looked up at him, asking a silent question.
"Get up," Roland said, holding out Cielo's submachine gun with his right hand and jerked his left thumb towards the open door. Cielo's eyes widened slightly when he saw the Lightning Bolt tattoo branded on his hand and the splash of orange on his sleeve. "We're going outside."
As the two of them exited the cell, Adil shook his head. The way he saw it, Roland had just made a pact with the devil - power in exchange for his humanity. And at the same time, he was proud of him. For it was the first time in years that he saw the man get off his useless ass and actually do something. He could only rally up the rest of the Lokapala for backup and hope that this was the right choice to make.
Cielo was hungry. All this time, he had been putting his efforts into enduring it and keeping control of himself for as long as possible. Roland asked him if it was because he was afraid of his demon and the answer he got back was no.
It was because he wanted to see his comrades again.
Cielo wasted no time. As soon as they were in the Underground Cable, he was off like a rocket, quickly and quietly scouting the area. When he returned, he gave a report that he spotted a pair of Karma Society soldiers not too far from their position and if they moved right nowand moved quietly, they could probably get the jump on them. Underneath that cheerful exterior was a combat AI after all.
The two of them found the soldiers all right, and it was time for that moment. The moment where Roland would learn what it means to have a demon. Still undetected, with some prodding from Cielo, Roland transformed. It was a rough, terrible process, and he could only hope that it got easier over time.
Roland was overwhelmed. He initially panicked when he realized he couldn't see. But that was soon forgotten with the sensory overload. He could easily hear the soldiers' footsteps, even tell which ones belonged to what soldier. His sense of smell had been amplified and he identified Cielo by his scent and tracked his movements using a combination of everything at his disposal. Who needs eyes when you have all this? When you can detect movement just by feelingchanges in the air?
When he infected himself. A name echoed through his head. Indra.And he instinctively knew this was the name of his demon.
No, not just his demon. Indra was another name for himself. Roland was Indra, and he would answer to that name.
Indra - or maybe it was Roland himself - growled, catching the attention of the Karma Society soldiers. There went their advantage of surprise.
The original idea was to get Roland used to his demon, to get him to understand what it means to fight as one, but even as one soldier raised his gun, it was pretty clear that wasn't happening. Roland simply stood there, as if he were in a trance. Cielo could wait no more and he charged at the soldier. When he was close enough, he jumped and transformed in midair. Clawed feet hit the soldier square in the chest, knocking him over and Cielo shifted, placing one foot on the soldiers neck.
And then he raked his claws across it, slicing the soldier's neck open. Blood splashed over the demon's feet, but Cielo didn't seem to notice at all and roared.
By now, Roland had snapped out of whatever had taken hold of him and rushed the other soldier, who was in the middle of transforming. The soldier never got a chance to finish, as Roland was upon him and mercilessly dismembered him, devouring through the soldier's screams.
Cielo merely waited for him to finish. He had no memory of it, but he knows this is what he was like the first time he got the virus. But he was right by his side when fifteen minutes later, Roland was hunched over a storm drain vomiting the partially digested meat back up.
"Is it always like this?" Roland asked, downing a flask (filled with water) to get rid of the rancid taste in his mouth.
"Ja, always like this in the beginning," Cielo answered, leaning against him in a gesture of comfort that Roland found...well, not unpleasant, but he wasn't sure he was down with this 'intimiate physical contact with another guy' thing. The AI scrunched his face slightly at his own memories of being horribly ill. "You get used to it."
"I better get used to it soon," Roland replied, standing up. Cielo hopped right to his feet, still brimming with energy. "We need to keep going. Your comrades shouldn't be too far ahead."
"You mean our comrades," Cielo corrected him.
Roland paused. And he stared at him for a moment. And then he shook his head.
"Right. Our comrades."