I do so hate these heroes and their drama. I’m back in my cell again, for now. They brought in one of the other meddlesome mindflayers to play with me. It’s all rough, not quite as lubricated as when Psychsaur would slip into my head. The one who looked into me while I worked on my armor machine and designs for a cape did not have it easy just because it was his first time there. That’s how I wound up back in the cell.
Venus is arguing to Mender that helping out and loosening my restrictions is screwing up any chance of rehabilitating me or otherwise containing the danger I represent. Before they tossed me back down here, I let Mender know what I found out. That’ll help. I’m like his own personal CIA, but without the better dental plan than the FBI. Eh, it has given me time to heal up somewhat. They don’t want me touching nanites.
Besides, they need me. Making myself indispensable, or the lesser of two evils, has always been a good way to avoid getting dispensed with for good. I expected to hear something about all that when the door opened and Mender rolled in. I glimpsed Minotaur and Triclops outside at the door.
Heh. It just then struck me. Minotaur, Triclops, and Venus. Plus, a scaly reptilian woman who can paralyze people with a look, though it’s telepathic or telekinetic instead.
“Hey there, Vicky. Who puts you in those suits, by the way? Is there a student who you have bathe and dress you or-” I didn’t get a chance to finish. A barrel on a swivel mount arose as I mentioned a student and then it felt like getting hit by lightning. Not many people can personally vouch for that, but I’m one of them. I sat there, having inexplicably landed in some sort of puddle, head bobbing a bit even after my sight returned to me.
Mender’s digitized voice maintained its usual calm monotone despite what he said next. “You do not talk about my students like that. Do not suggest anything. They are the only reason you don’t sit in this tiny room with a thousand pounds of weights strapped to you while you eat and excrete through a tube. I would make a deal with the devil to protect them. I have captured one in you.” He paused, the lack of inflection not making it clear at first that he’d finished.
I raised a finger. “So… just to clarify… the same tube, or-”
And again with the electricity! By the time I got my senses again, he’d left. They didn’t put me in those weights. That was a good sign.
Some hours later, another visitor showed up. I don’t know if it was the middle of the night or not, but Psychsaur looked like she had just woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Her feathers were ruffled and messed up. And she appeared to be alone.
I raised an eyebrow but stayed seated against the wall. I felt her in my head again, so much better of a fit than the others at the academy. It didn’t even itch anymore. “Please don’t say anything,” she said. Tough request. I instantly felt the urge to go ahead and make a stupid comment. Which would be predictable, and I’ve also been getting hit a lot lately. I was in my little isolated cell in part because I’d been making no concessions to basic niceties. And I’d gone out of my way to murder a gangster’s wife. I think it sent a good message, but apparently I’m the bad guy. Then again, I am the bad guy.
I nodded and leaned my head back against the wall. She closed the door and sat down against the wall next to it, across from me. We sat like that for a couple minutes. I was curious, but just waited. She finally obliged. “It’s not easy touching your mind. I mean, it’s easy now. It gets easier and easier. I started feeling your thoughts without really trying that much.”
I considered that for a moment and concentrated on myself for a moment. The one I’d been forced to tap into all too often over the past couple of years as I moved from entropy to order. The me underneath. Don’t act surprised. That time with the truth serum forced that bit of me into the light without my say-so, but it was there. I looked her in the eye. “I’m sorry. Nobody should have to put up with this but me.”
“No one should at all,” she said.
“Aww, how sweet of you. Do they teach a course on those platitudes here?” I asked, legitimately. All of me wondered that one. “I only ask because I know what I’ve been like and I know how much you have to hate me. There’s no need to pretend you don’t for my sake.”
“I do, but I understand you too. You dream about it,” she said. She shifted a bit.
I winced. “You shouldn’t be here. They should give you a break from me. But I suppose that’s on me, too. I haven’t played very nicely. Thing is, I can’t even remember those dreams. Most people don’t remember most dreams. I even had a dream about… well, you don’t need that image in your head. It was definitely something you wouldn’t like.” I imagined Scooby Doo and Shaggy instead of giving her the heads-up on that one.
She was quiet again for a moment. I put a hand to my head as I spoke, “You shouldn’t have had me inflicted on you. Another poor corrupted soul, to verge into religious language. I push and I keep at it relentlessly. That’s the key. It’s so hard for people to resist forever. There’s always some give. It’s even a philosophical concept, that it’s better to bend than to break. I bend. I bent. Or did I break? Can you be both broken and bent at the same time? No, I think I bent. Regardless, there are some things worth breaking for instead. I am not one of them. Do not break for me. And pardon all the overly loquacious vocabulary. Deep down, I’m a bit of a wordy douche.”
It’s like there’s two of me. The “public” me with all the chaos, rebelliousness, and juvenile jokes, and the inner me that calculates and thinks and actually has a concept of shame. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. God and Dog, for fans of Fallout. “I couldn’t handle what was going on around me. I did something to make it work instead.” I smiled at her. “I don’t recommend it.”
“This is a better you. You’re the version that didn’t like finding out you weren’t really a good guy,” she said. What can I say? She knows me. “Can’t you stay like this?” Or maybe not.
I shook my head. “It takes a lot of effort to keep myself this way.”
“How can I avoid that?”
“I dunno. I’m not exactly the expert. Just the victim. If I knew how to avoid being a victim, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
Then she said a curious thing. “I can fix you.”
I winced. “Oooh, that’s almost certainly not going to end well. I suppose I don’t have a well-thought-out reason why, given the conventional solution being mind-altering drugs or therapy that involves zapping my grey matter. I guess probably the most pragmatic reason is that you’d be touching more of what I am than ever before. You don’t want that, and I just don’t think it can be done.”
“You don’t want to believe you can change like this,” she observed, sounding way too much like Venus.
“Why exactly did you come down here?” Subject change powers, activate! Form of an elephant in the room! “You’re here and it’s not just oyo wax poetic. You wanted to let me know what I’m doing to you. I’m sorry about that.”
“I wanted to know for sure that you knew who and what you were. I thought I’d give you a chance. I know you better than anyone else now. Tonight, I’m going to take the first step in giving you a chance to be a better person.”
“You’re going to do something stupid,” I said. I felt her get a grip on something in my brain. “Don’t fix me. It’ll end badly, and that’s from both sides of me. You won’t like me when I’m of one mind about something. The Fluidics certainly didn’t. Real fucking bad idea…” My eyes widened and I smiled. I jumped up. “Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits!”
Except I got a thought. I turned to Psychsaur. “Fuck, you’re locking me in this room again, aren’t you?”
She stood up and brushed her head feathers. Her smile was much sharper, but surprisingly warm. “I’m not. Come on, there’s still food up in the refectory. Just be careful eating. You wouldn’t want to hurt someone accidentally.” She opened up the door.
Hearing that I even could accidentally hurt these people made me so happy, I thought about that dream I had of Psychsaur. She closed her eyes and raised her hands to massage her temples. “Please, no. No, no, no.”
“Can’t blame a guy for being happy.”
And happy I was. Because there’s my own personal stupidity. When limits were imposed on me from without, I took every opportunity to fight, no matter how big or how small. Sure, now I can slaughter everyone around, but it’s my choice not to. That means so much.
After a refreshing dinner, I gathered up my armor and disabled the machine I used to help build it. I had everything I needed to run off, right with the heroes gathered in the common room to figure out patrols and so on.
Yep, just leave them all to their own inevitable fate, with this whole back-and-forth with militias and protestors and so on. And I was of two minds again. The “fun” part of me figured it would sure be a shame to leave without confirming for sure who it was who put me into this situation in the first place, by using a copy of my mind in a giant robot to nearly kill me. The other part of me remembered that some of these students and heroes had sheltered me. They may have done it for the wrong reasons, but they did it all the same. It would be a shame if I didn’t at least do a little bit for them.
So instead of jumping out of the grounds, I turned around and walked back in. I headed toward the common room in my armor and tried to make my voice sound as nonthreatening as possible.
“I’m going out of my frelling mind without being able to help,” I told the assembled masked faces, who all turned in my direction. Mender shifted his chair to look at Psychsaur in what I figured was supposed to be a glare. I wondered if he knew what she did to me. If any of them knew, actually. “Please,” I followed up with, “let me help. Some of it’s the mystery of the thing. I want to know what’s going on and how everything fits together. And part of it is that I owe a debt. Every little bit helps, so give me a shot again. Something big, something little. And trust me, even the smallest, most insignificant events can have a huge impact.”
So let’s clear out those objectives I had in there before about not cussing, poisoning, physical violence. Wipe them all away.
1. Finish my work and figure out how the fuck these Ukrainians are involved with the people targetting Master Academy, and maybe find out what happened to Michelangelo in the process.
2. Figure out who kept the copy of me around and sent them after me.
3. Get revenge.
Think of it as a good New Year’s Resolution. Cue the cheesy inspirational music!