Tag Archives: Henry

Scene 221 – Effugere

EFFUGERE

ELIZABETH

TWO DAYS AGO

I grinned. “The Paladins have left the city.”

The ‘sarian torturer, Doctor Henry, frowned at me. He did that a lot—he didn’t like how little sense my anatomy made to him. Stupid backwoods yokel. “What? How could you possibly know that?”

“I can sense them,” I explained casually, enjoying the shock on his face. I couldn’t tell if the shock was from what I was telling him or just that I was telling him anything at all, though. “Anyone who has heard the Song can sense the general presence of anyone else who has heard the Song.” I shrugged as best I could, considering I was strapped to the steel wall of the warcage. “Range is a hundred miles and some spare change.”

He opened his mouth for some snappy retort, before closing it thoughtfully. “…a hundred miles and change. Domina City is a hundred miles in diameter.”

“Plus Whitecap Bay,” I noted. “Which is why I avoided the place.”

“That’s why you chose Domina? So you’d always be able to sense the screamers and the speakers anywhere on the island?”

“Well… yes and no.”

He waited for me to continue.

It’s always so delicious when you have something someone wants, and they have to actually come out and ask for it.

He bit the inside of his cheek before he managed to get the words out. “…what exactly do you mean by that? Is that not why you chose this city?”

I did my little half shrug again. “Kinda. More specifically, it’s the reason we built this city.”

“That’s impossible. You’re not even twenty.”

I laughed out loud. “Oh come on! You’re not going to seriously make the mistake of trying to gauge an immortal’s age by her face, are you?”

The doctor cursed under his breath. “Fine. Thirty years ago, you had Domina City built to provide the perfect playground for you and the Paladins, where you could sense each other from anywhere on the island.”

I nodded… then frowned. “Okay, no, that’s my mistake. Kind of… misleading word choice. Composers can sense anyone who has heard the Song within a one-mile radius. Directors can only sense chorus and conductors.”

“You mean speakers, screamers, and singers.”

“Call them whatever you like. I don’t care.”

The Necessarian selected a few tools from a rack. One was a very interesting device that looked like a cross between a blowtorch and a small hose. The hose probably spit out liquid nitrogen; he wanted to see how I dealt with fire and ice at the same time.

I didn’t flinch as he brought the torture implement closer—it would hurt, but it wouldn’t kill me, so I really did have nothing to fear—but he paused before switching it on.

“You didn’t build this city to be your playground,” he said slowly. “You’ve been far too restrained for the past twenty years or so for that. The screamers and the Paladins… they were an experiment.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, yes, congratulations, go get a cookie. But the interesting part is this:” I leaned in as close as I could, considering my position. “What is the experiment?”

He met my gaze without fear—which just proved he was an idiot. “I suppose you’re going to tell me?”

Pulling back, I snorted derisively. “Hardly. Not like I even know. Something about… something. And stuff. I dunno, there were some rules I had to follow and a bunch of stupid stuff like that. I stopped asking questions a couple centuries back.”

“So there is someone pulling your strings.”

Duh. Do you think this stupid city would still be in one piece if I was allowed to do whatever the hell I wanted?”

“And you want me to figure out their goals for you.”

I laughed again. “What gave you that idea?” I chuckled, and shook my head to throw a lock of hair out of my eyes. “No, no, I don’t care what their goals are. Knowing her, it’s something stupid, anyway.”

Henry had put the nitrogen/blowtorch thing down, and had a genuinely confused expression on his face. “Then why are you telling me all this? What’s the point?”

That made me grin as wide as possible, baring my too-sharp teeth. “Isn’t that obvious? It’s so much more fun to kill people when they know they have information their friends need.”

He realized how close he had gotten to me, and slowly started backing towards the door.

Yes,” I hissed, still grinning like a cannibal. “That’s the look I wanted to see, good doctor. The look of the cow at the slaughterhouse, who has realized why he’s been fattened up.”

“All your Blackguards are dead,” he muttered in a shaky voice. He clearly didn’t believe it.

“You’re right,” I admitted, to his surprise. I sighed in mock disappointment. “Every single one I gathered over the years is dead and gone. I overplayed my hand recently. Let too many of them get within sword range of Akiyama.” I grimaced. “Strategy has never really been my strong suit.”

He swallowed; he knew better than to relax. “Then you can’t escape.”

“Oh? Tell me, good doctor… didn’t you ever notice that I have some of the same powers as the Paladins?”

He frowned, thought for a moment, then opened his mouth to answer.

“I have some of my Blackguards’, as well.”

Then I placed my bare palm on the steel wall, and felt it rust away beneath my touch.

Doctor Henry tried to run.
I love it when they try to run.

Behind the Scenes (scene 221)

I debated for a long time whether to include this one or not. In the end, I decided that it does fit, despite being short.

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Scene 161 – Aeterna

AETERNA

LAURA

“She can’t be immortal,” MC insisted from one of the wall speakers.

“Rejecting the evidence in front of you is not science, it’s politics,” I warned.

“And rejecting the Laws of Thermodynamics isn’t science, it’s witchcraft!” she nearly shrieked.

“You’ve been dealing with our powers for months.” I waved my hand. “Derek can create shields out of nothing—how much energy would that take? More than contained in the human body, I’m sure. And that’s just one. Akane might technically be a time traveler, depending on how exactly her power works.”

“Yes, but surely that power comes from somewhere. That has to be what those reservoirs are. The connection to whatever power source is generating the energy to do these things.”

I nodded. I had heard this before. “Right, of course. What I’m saying is…why are you complaining about immortality, when it’s actually simpler than shields and so on?”

The human body isn’t really that complicated, all things considered. Lots of scientists and transhumanists have ideas on how to achieve immortality. Sure, most of them aren’t anywhere close to actually making it work, but it’s within the laws of physics as we understand them.

Solid-state energy shields that appear out of thin air, and can either just float in defiance of gravity or be moved like a real shield, depending on the creator’s whim? Yeah, not so much.

“The immortality isn’t the problem. It’s more than that. Her regeneration is perfect, and she doesn’t even need to eat or drink or breathe. It feels like she’s not just immortal, she’s…eternal.”

“MC, this isn’t like you. Focusing on feelings rather than hard facts. What’s going on?”

She sighed through the speakers. “You’re right, you’re right. We just don’t have any data. It’s like playing darts in a dark room. At some point, you just have to start throwing stuff around.”

I sipped at a cup of coffee while I glanced over a pad. “That’s basically what I’m doing at this point.”

“I noticed that when you pulled out the woodchipper.”

I tried and failed to quash a smile. “Hey, that was far from random! Short of throwing her in a volcano, it was the most severe trauma I could think of. It was only a logical test.”

“Really?” she asked incredulously.

I shrugged. “And I wanted to throw her through a woodchipper.” I grinned. “I enjoyed it much more than I should have.”

There was a knock on the metal door. Before I could answer, it squealed open and Doctor Henry walked in.

I glared at him. “Hey, I don’t use a shipping container for an office because I like visitors.” Mostly, it was because I needed a place close to the warcage. At first, I had used one of Henry’s offices, but that had proven problematic.

The man shrugged and closed the door behind him. “Maybe if you locked the door, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

With a snort, I turned back to my work. Last time I had locked the door, he had knocked for ten minutes until I gave up and let him in.

“Anyway, I thought you might want to know we finally managed to get a CAT scan done.” He plopped a pad on my desk. “It’s not a particularly good picture, but it’s something.”

“Hm.” I picked up the pad and started paging through it until I found what I was looking for. “A high-powered flash scan. It can’t be used normally, because it would kill the subject, but when your subject is immortal…”

How we did it is far from the most important part,” he insisted. “Look closer.”

I tapped through the files. “I’m not seeing anything new. Heart with some extra bits, weird spine, her kidneys are undersized…” I shook my head. “If there’s anything else here, I don’t have the training to see it.”

“Well, Chao did say the circulatory system seems a bit odd, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Trust me, just look closer, and you’ll be surprised you didn’t see it in the first place.”

I turned back to the images. Okay, something someone with minimal training would be able to spot easily…weird bone structure? No that looked normal, as far as I could tell. Extra organs? Other than the extra tubes on the heart, there was nothing I could see. What was he—

Oh. Yeah. That was a big one.

“This has to be a mistake,” I insisted. “The violent nature of the scan must have—”

“We checked,” he insisted. “She was wide awake throughout the entire procedure, howling curses at us.”

“Then it’s a statistical anomaly. It happens. It just captured the wrong millisecond—”

Without saying a word, Henry reached forward and tapped at the pad, bringing up the other nine scans, all of which showed the exact same thing.

But that shouldn’t be possible.

According to this scan, most of Elizabeth’s brain was simply not functional.

Not ‘not functional’ as in not showing the expected level of activity. ‘Not functional’ as in NO activity. The only electricity in her brain was in her brain stem. In medical terminology, that’s generally referred to as brain dead.

And yet she was wide awake and howling curses at us.

I touched my necklace. “A trillion questions and not a single answer.”

“Sorry,” Henry apologized as he took the pad back. “I know this entire thing is annoying. Nothing about this girl makes any sense.”

“Maybe this is more proof of the theory that she’s using a remote-piloted body?” MC suggested. “If the brain stem could act as an antenna—”

“We’ll deal with all that in morning,” I muttered. “I’m going to sleep now.”

Henry started. “I thought you would want to do one more run on Elizabeth first.”

“Too tired. I’d end up doing something stupid and getting myself killed.” I yawned, stumbling over to the cot I had set up in the corner of the shipping container, not even bothering to make sure the doctor left. “Wake me at dawn.”

Behind the Scenes (scene 161)

Almost all of this is going to be important later, but I know right now it seems sort of random.

Scene 153 – Dissecare

DISSECARE

LAURA

“She has three spinal cords,” I muttered, tapping the picture MC had drawn for me. We hadn’t bothered trying to wrestle Elizabeth into an x-ray machine, since it would give her a chance to escape and clue her into our motives, but I had vivisected her enough to give us a pretty clear picture on what we were dealing with.

Doctor Henry peered closely at the drawing. We were in one of his offices, about ten minutes’ walk from the warcage where Elizabeth was still trapped. “Looks like one to me.”

I rolled my eyes. “What grade did you get in your anatomy class?”

“None. I got my doctorate in engineering.”

Well, that explained why he couldn’t read it. MC had drawn it like an x-ray, so it was a little tough for someone without the proper training to decipher it.

I pointed to the part where it was most obvious. “See, here?”

He nodded. “Right. The spine.”

“No, not her spinal column, her spinal cord. Look, that braid.”

The doctor blinked. “She has three spinal cords braided together? What’s the point of that?”

“Stability, I’d imagine,” I muttered. I wasn’t exactly a biologist myself, so I was a little out of my depth here. “And speaking of the spine, she has thirty-five vertebrae.” I peered closer. “It looks like they’re all articulating…which fits. I thought she was a little bendier than she should be, and I guess that explains it.”

“Normal is thirty-three,” Henry noted, mostly to himself. “Twenty…four? Twenty-four articulating.”

“Yeah, that sounds right.” I shuffled to another printout, showing a more detailed view of the individual vertebrae. “And they’re shaped wrong. Only barely, but you can see here—”

“Yeah, they’re more fragile. Provide less protection to the spinal braid.” He frowned, pulling the paper closer. “You know, if this were a monster—something modified by the toy maker—I’d say that this spine is designed for speed.”

I nodded. I had been thinking the same thing. “If she’s fast enough to never get hit, she doesn’t have to worry about a weak spine.”

The doctor drummed his fingers on the table in frustration. “But you said you didn’t find any brushstrokes or anything else that would indicate she’s ever used the toy maker.”

“They could have just done a good job on her,” I said, not really believing it myself. The amount of modification she had should have left some evidence behind, some mistake by whoever engineered her.

“The tissue samples will be back soon. We’ll know for sure then.”

I leaned back in my chair and sighed. “I doubt we’ll know anything. Every time we learn something new, we get ten more questions to go with it.” I plopped the printout onto the table haphazardly. “All we know for sure is that bits cut off don’t return to her body if they’re frozen, and throwing her through a woodchipper just pisses her off.” We had lost two guards in the three seconds when she had a single arm free.

Henry waved his hand. “Let’s just…let’s just keep going. We still have some info.” He pulled out another sheaf of paper. “She’s got an extra aorta and ventricle on her heart. The purpose of that is obvious.”

“More blood flow…” I frowned at another page. “Am I reading this right? No appendix, no tonsils?”

“Yeah, that looks right. I spotted that on the original pictures.” Much of what we were looking at now was pieced together from photos I had taken. I had made sure to only do it while Elizabeth’s head was paste, to make sure she didn’t realize what we were doing. “That’s no big deal, though.”

In theory, he was right. Most people in this city—myself included—didn’t have appendices or tonsils. The process was just so easy with the toy maker, that it was smarter than waiting for them to get infected. Researchers had eventually discovered that there were some benefits to having those in your body, but a few cheap toys took care of that problem as well.

“That’s not what I mean. Look. There’s no place for the appendix. Nothing was removed—it looks like there was never anything there.”

“That’s…” he rubbed his forehead. “Men and monsters, we need a break. At least let me call in some relief—”

“No,” I said firmly. “We need to minimize the number of people involved.”

He laughed. “What, the fifty ‘sarian guards outside—”

“They don’t know what’s going on. If Elizabeth gets free and starts a revenge trip, she won’t target them.”

“That’s a lie and you know it. She’ll kill anyone in her way without a moment’s hesitation.”

I looked away. “Maybe. But for now, it’s best that we keep the actual information limited to you, me, MC, and Miss Lingshen.”

“Speaking of Miss Lingshen,” a pleasant female voice announced, heralding the presence of the Henry’s lab tech, Chao Lingshen. “I have those blood tests you were waiting on.”

Chinese girls were a bit on the rare side in Domina—China sent most of their criminals to the Reiner Gamma colony before it was destroyed, rather than to us—but there were a few of them scattered around. Chao was actually first generation. She had come here herself, willingly, from Lemuria.

So clearly, she was insane.

Insane or not, Henry loved her like a daughter, and smiled wen she entered the room. “Perfect timing! What’s the verdict?”

She bit her tongue. “The verdict is…weird.” She handed me a pad.

I scrolled through the file being displayed with a frown. “All right, I think we have officially ruled out the toy maker causing her modifications.”

Henry pulled the pad away from me. “Let me see…” He blinked. “Wait, what?”

“Thirty pairs of chromosomes,” I read aloud. “Twenty-eight pairs of autosomes and two pairs of sex chromosomes. Sixty total.” I put the pad down. “Humans have twenty-two and one, for forty-six total.”

Chromosomes, along with DNA, could be modified by the toy maker. While it’s not exactly easy, it’s far from impossible. But on this scale…

Trying to use the toy maker for that purpose was like trying to render a high-definition photograph using fingerpaint on rocks. We could make minor edits and alterations—skin, hair, and eye color, little things like that. Even the fey, the undisputed masters of genetic modification, couldn’t do something this advanced.

The only way for someone to have sixty chromosomes would be to be born that way.

“She’s not human,” Henry muttered.

“No,” I admitted. “Not even a little.”

Behind the Scenes (scene 153)

Lots of talking, but very important talking.

Scene 70 – Identifico

IDENTIFICO

LAURA

I rubbed my forehead. Today was not going well. I had chosen to simply skip my classes in order to get more time for working with Clarke, but we weren’t making much progress. The others were in a nearby room, mostly in case I needed help restraining a sleeper, but also so that Derek could yell at Ling. She had given us all a scare, disappearing like that. Now, of course, she was taking full advantage of Derek’s attentions to drape herself all over him. That might change fast, though. He could get scary in full tongue-lashing mode.

Robyn handed me a coffee, and I thanked her with a nod. I really didn’t have time to think about stupid Derek’s love life. Everyone was alive, that was all that was important. Now on to the matter at hand.

The sleeper who had started the whole mess, Horace Warfield, was dead. We had a few other prisoners, but they weren’t much more helpful than the corpse, since none of them remembered anything.

I glanced around and frowned. “Where’d your dad go?”

Robyn shrugged. “He said he had an idea for the heart and ran off. I don’t think he’ll be much more use on this project today.”

I sighed. Honestly, it was a miracle he had stayed this long. That man had the attention span of a goldfish.

At least he had left me one of his assistants. “Henry, tell them to bring in the next sleeper.” The tech nodded and walked out of the lab, past the room with Derek and the rest.

“Didn’t they find a way to identify sleeper agents before?” Robyn asked, sipping her coffee. “When Malcanthet’s started popping up, I mean.”

“Already tried something like that,” I grumbled. “However these are being controlled, it’s not through any drugs we can detect. That’s how she always did it, so it’s easier to test.” I suppose I could run some tests for a few masking agents just in case, but I wasn’t sure it was worth the effort.

If she had another idea, I never heard it, because we were interrupted by Jasmine Hannesdottir barging into the room.

Jasmine was the can ambassador, and one of the only—perhaps the only—can anthro in the city. There weren’t very many cans in general, since people didn’t really care about crabs all that much, so Jasmine was leader in all but name.

She was covered in an orange shell, thick and spiked, that hugged her body like a second skin. Her right hand was shelled, like she was wearing a gauntlet, but her left was replaced with a massive claw. Her lips were obscured by a collection of small mandibles, and two extra eyes on stalks slowly scanned the room.

“I’m sorry, madam dames,” Henry apologized. “I couldn’t stop her.” No doubt. He was completely baseline, and she was known for using that claw to snap people’s heads off.

“Where is Butler?” the kemo demanded in a surprisingly human voice, supporting my theory that she still had her normal lips hidden under all the crab parts. “I need to speak with him immediately.”

“Calm down,” I said slowly. “He’s resting. Can I help you with anything?”

She looked me up and down in obvious disdain. Her main eyes were still normal, and thus easy to read. She tried to shove me aside in disdain with her mostly-human hand.

I ground my teeth, resisting the urge to scream. I am not good with physical contact, creepy toys notwithstanding. “What do you need?

The kemo realized she needed to actually pay attention to me. “And who are you supposed to be?”

“I’m Laura,” I explained with all the patience I could muster. “One of the Paladins.”

The crab woman seemed to calm a little. “You’ll do. I am here to speak about my father.”

“Knight Michael Johnsson has been sent back to his clan for a funeral,” I said, thankful that I had been forced to personally sign away his body after all. It had been an annoyance, but at least now I knew for sure what had happened. “I’m sure you can make any necessary arrangements with them.”

She spat on the ground. “Hinir dauðu eru dauðir. No, I want to know who killed him.”

“Also dead.”

Jasmine narrowed her eyes. “Convenient.”

I chuckled. “Far from it. He had information we needed.” I shrugged. “But there was an air strike. A lot of people are dead.”

She pounded on a table with her claw. It split in half under the impact, dumping lab papers and glassware to the ground. That was going to be a bitch to clean up. “Stop mocking me! I want retribution! Who killed my father? I’ll—”

“You’ll what?” I asked. “Kill his family? His clan? His culture?” I stepped closer. “That’s exactly what the Composer wants, you know. He chose the perfect moment to start a civil war.”

Her mandibles clicked furiously, and she stepped forward angrily. “Don’t patronize me, little girl.”

I held my ground. “You’re not much older than me. And clearly less intelligent. You’re a diplomat, you know this is a bad idea.”

She snapped her claw dangerously close to my face. I ignored it. It was grandstanding, nothing more. Like a captured monster that knew it was caught. “Life for life, baseline!”

“And that code has been satisfied,” I pointed out. “The man who killed your father is dead. Now you get to carry on their legacy.”

Jasmine backed up, her mandibles waving slowly. A gesture of confusion. “Wait…their legacy?”

“The legacy your father and his murderer shared,” I said gently. “They both wanted peace and cooperation between the cultures.”

The can roared forward. “THEN WHY DID HE KILL HIM!?”

Exactly the response I was hoping for. I didn’t flinch. “He was hypnotized.”

She blinked. “What?”

“The Composer has some power to control people. To program them, like sleeper agents. During the battle five percent—exactly five percent—turned on their allies at the exact same moment.”

She stepped back again. “That means—”

“It could mean many things. Right now, it means we lost a battle. But we haven’t lost the war.”

She looked around, swallowed any complaints, and nodded. “What do you need me to do?”

“If you have any scientists in your entourage, send them over,” I said. “Other than that, just let us work.”

The can anthro nodded very slowly and headed back the way she came without another word. Henry and Robyn stared at her as she left, then turned to me, mouths agape.

I sat down heavily in a stool, since my shaking legs wouldn’t support me. “Henry, tell them to bring in the next sleeper.”

Behind the Scenes (scene 70)

Jasmine’s stalk-eyes don’t actually work. Oh, they transmit sight information to her brain sure enough, but its only the haziest of images. Like seeing with a good blindfold on.