I didn’t much care for the Imperial Institute of Science on my first tour. Even on this auspicious day, I didn’t much care for the place. Ok, so I made sure to bring Qiang along with me, as usual. She’s still clingy, but this time I had something in mind. We talked about it beforehand. She doesn’t know much, but she knows I haven’t hurt her like she was told would happen to her. Instead, I cook for her, I’ve given her a nice place to stay and warm bed, and I don’t mind when she wants to practice her hiding. I think she’s impressed I can find her so easily, and I like the fact that a tiny person who likes owning a knife enjoys hiding around the place, so long as she’s my tiny person.
We’ve compromised on that. I’ve taught her some knifeplay, including safety, and she asks me before carrying around a knife with her. I think it and I both make her feel safe. Not so fond of waking up in bed with the blade near my crotch, though. She can hug onto me all she wants, but I don’t want to get an accidental circumcision because she had a bad dream about snakes.
Things have been fairly smooth so far between myself and Qiang, and I think it helps that I don’t give a crap about some of the messes and we have a pair of maids. I don’t even think I’m that bad to them. I cook for myself. I don’t puke all over the place. Hell, I haven’t even been taking them up on the offers to bathe me or sing me to sleep. It’s not that I dislike sex or anything, but sex with unwilling partners brings back bad memories. I don’t trust them to be making those offers of their own volition, given my situation here.
If these goose-stepping fuckbots ever decide to have me assassinated, I’d rather the people in what amounts to my household don’t have any extra reasons to help them.
And I do expect assassination. If I had to guess, they’ll watch me while I make bombs until they know enough to recreate them, then off me. I’m considered something of an untrustworthy person, I believe.
That’s why I was incredibly suspicious of the special underground route to the Imperial Institute of Science. The second time around wasn’t much better, but it was an important day. The day to get my species back, when I could start working over Russia and the Ukraine. I also had something in mind with Qiang, which is why I made sure to bring her, knife and all.
I had been ushered down to the underground maglev line for the event, the servant not arguing with me bringing a knife-wielding little girl with me. Huh. Didn’t I have some other little girl following me at some point? Pale, long black hair, all that? Or am I thinking about the tall, thin guy in the suit with the weird arms and no face? It’s hard to keep track of these things.
It was also hard to gauge the route to the Institute of Science. Between the speed, the turns, and the various giant doors that blocked off regular intervals of the track, they didn’t want anybody know how to get from point A to point B. Those doors were a big problem for me. All it would take is one of them “malfunctioning” and I’d be nothing more but a pretty splat.
The arrival platform was gleaming white. Seriously, how many people does the Claw force to work in janitorial around here? Everything’s clean, and there’s way too much white.
We walked between a pair of arching stone arms that rose up to hold a sword in one and an atom in the other. The room appeared to narrow, but not as a trick of perspective; it actually narrowed to a single metal door that held an elevator. This time, the assistant didn’t take me down to the Experimental Warfare labs, which was all about lateral thinking in warfare. I was impressed by their suicide drone bombers. I can see all kinds of handy situations for those.
This time, we went down to Soldier Enhancement. The door opened, leading to a long corridor. This is the part where you’d expect windows showing cyborgs and genetic experiments and all, but this was one of those cases where the Claw chose practicality over theatricality. I’d been told on the first trip this is where they did that kind of thing, but I hadn’t been down here myself.
The assistant led us down, then took a right at the crossroads. When the door opened, it looked like some mixture of an emergency room and quarantine. Think one huge semi-private room, with some sort of thick plastic cubes with decontamination showers outside each of the doors. They weren’t perfectly clear, so at least the people inside had a tiny bit of privacy.
We were greeted by a man in close-fitting purple and blue power armor with a lab coat, a smile across his exposed face. “Psycho Gecko, how wonderful to see you again!”
“Technolutionary, you’re here,” I said. Power armor notwithstanding, he’d long been studying the merging of man and machine. My ability to do so naturally turned him into something of a stalker for me. I worked with him to save the Earth from alien invasion. We came up with a process to turn humans into my species, homo machina. When Master Academy saved my life but rendered me human, it wasn’t a surprise to learn he’d been part of it. Now, time to render unto Emperor Gecko that which is Emperor Gecko’s.
“The dynamic, devilish duo, together again at last!” exclaimed my former stalker.
“Word,” I said. “I’ve certainly been waiting a long time for this meeting.”
He looked down and noticed Qiang, who hid against my leg. “And who is this?”
“This is my daughter, Qiang,” I said. I felt her grip around my leg tighten.
“I didn’t know you had a daughter. I didn’t know you would bring little Qiang to watch her daddy’s transformation.” He looked up at me. “I have everything ready to get started.”
“What about the homo machina DNA? That’s still good to go?” I asked.
He nodded enthusiastically. “Oh yes. The Buzzkills from Korea have all the samples we would ever need, you dog you.” He pointed to a wall, where fuzzy black carapace floated in a jar. Buzzkills, insectoid bee people I used as my minions for a little bit, mostly related to the alien thing. Their queen, Beetrice, had something of a crush on me for some reason. Strange bee reasons, and I think because I’d been such an important presence in her life. While bigger and stronger than me, I’m not opposed to the bee look or the Amazonian stuff, so I did eventually go for some snoo snoo with her. So now I guess I have lots of kids. Not sure how I feel about whatever put one in a jar for all this.
“There is an additional concern I have,” I said. As near as I can tell, Qiang has no understanding of English. She can tell when she’s being addressed and called, but that tends to involve her name, too. “Do not look at her, but I would like her to be altered as well.”
His head cocked slightly. “She isn’t homo machina?”
I shook my head. “In fact, we might need to replace an X chromosome of hers.
He thought it over for a moment, eyes looking upward. “She’s not really your daughter, is she?”
I grabbed his chin and looked him in the eyes. “Yes, she is.”
I settled into my quarantine square. Qiang insisted on holding my hand and staying with me, which would make my plans for her easier. I spoke to her in her language. “I am getting back my powers, but they have to treat me and I might get sick. You may get sick too. The man I spoke to said we will be stuck in here for at least a day, and you will have to stay with me, ok?”
“How will we eat?” she asked.
“They’ll bring us food,” I said.
The process had supposedly been made safer, but it still felt like shit. I was loaded up with regenerative nanites to keep myself running and to help spread a retrovirus that went in and inserted the correct DNA where it needed to go, while helping accelerate growth so I don’t have to wait until everything gets replaced. Hell, some parts of the human body would take far too long for that.
I got achy, tired, weak. They certainly suspected the range of options to trigger the dead man’s switch I bragged about having connected myself to my bomb. Anything to keep my heart from stopping, though. I recognized a strange smell at one point, soon accompanied by a little dulling of the senses. Qiang, in a chair next to my bed, fell right to sleep without ever dropping my hand.
Some of Technolutionary’s team came in, immediately prepping a little bed to set as closely next to mine as they could. By the time she woke up, I was there to hold her hand and tell her she had gotten sick like I said might happen. Things got a bit messy there. She threw up. While cleaning her up, I threw up. That prompted her to throw up some more. She started crying, so I held her and told her she’d be just fine, all the while grinding puke into us both.
And it was. We were fine the next day, and they let us shower thoroughly.
Technolutionary was there to greet us as we came out, all clean. “How are we feeling today?”
Qiang doesn’t understand English, but from the glare on her face, she didn’t appreciate his cheerfulness. I concurred, I just didn’t show it so well. “I feel more like myself.”
“You want to test it out?” he asked.
Five minutes later, he showed us into one of the Soldier Enhancement labs that had its own firing range. “Here is where we test our weapons,” he said, showing off a gun that featured no trigger. “And that is Hyuk. He was a prisoner of war, but he is useful and cooperative, so he has been put to work here.” He nodded toward a guy cleaning standing out on the range, messing with something hanging from the ceiling.
“Cool,” I said, grabbing the gun and grinning wide as I felt my body reach out and connect to it. I could feel the system inside and find the simplistic program to fire it. I raised my arm and the gun. “At last, my arm is complete!” Lovely musical, though not the best quote for the situation in retrospect. I turned and fired, shooting some bright blue ball projectile, hitting Hyuk in the hip and collapsing him. Then I noticed he’d hung a target up for me. I’d just assumed, him being a prisoner and all.
“He’s not the target!” Technolutionary called out.
I shrugged and pulled away, removing my hand a bit too soon. It’s been awhile. “You’re right, I need to work on my aim. Was trying to hit him in the dick. Hey, you still got a dick, right?!” I then turned to Qiang, who was looking back and forth between the gun and Hyuk. “Want to play too?”
So now my Qiang is homo machina, like me.