Anima Ex Machina [R]
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January 14th, 2009 (11:57 AM). Edited March 18th, 2009 by JX Valentine.
Your aquatic overlord
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Harassing Bill
In many places, no lights shone. The street lamps flickered or failed to light at all, and the buildings were completely dark. Overhead, the nearly full moon provided most of the light, with the rest coming from the lights at the base of the monument. Otherwise, the city was dark and still. It was late, but how late, Bill couldn't tell.
The crowd left soon after Thompson was guided away. None of them wanted to face the creature chained to the monument, so one by one, they filtered away until only Jenny was left, standing guard in front of the memorial. Even she could hardly count; every attempt to strike up a conversation resulted in awkward silence.
Although he awoke hours ago, Bill found that he had no chance to fall asleep. The night air felt cold, and the position he was in – sitting again, on a slab of hard stone and metal – was far too uncomfortable to let him doze. A dull ache radiated from his lower back, but he did his best to ignore it. Instead, he sat awake with his eyes on Jenny's back.
He opened his mouth for the umpteenth time. For a moment, he tried to think of something to say, but realizing he'd receive no response, he closed it again and sighed. Closing his eyes, he tried to sleep, though he knew no matter what he did, he most likely wouldn't get a minute of it.
A quick tapping filtered into his ears. Opening his eyes, he lifted his head slowly to see a pair of shadows moving quickly towards the monument. Jenny tensed, her gloved hand drifting towards the gun at her hip.
"It's okay," Nurse Joy called as she drew closer.
Jenny relaxed. "What're you doing here? It's late." She paused, glancing at the smaller shadow walking beside Joy. "Shouldn't she be in bed?"
"She followed me out," Joy replied. "Besides, I can't leave her alone in the center."
The two came into the light. Bill craned his neck to gaze around Jenny and study the girl's face again. She refused to look at him. Instead, she held Nurse Joy's hand and stared into the darkness to the side.
"How's Thompson?" Jenny asked.
Joy sighed. "Stitches in both hands. The cuts were nearly to the bone, but we treated him quickly enough. He should be fine." She glanced around Jenny to Bill. "I can't blame it, though. It didn't do anything wrong. Mr. Thompson was the one who was threatening it… It was only trying to defend itself."
Bill stiffened. His face felt hot, and he clenched his teeth in response to the way she spoke about him. Mustering up his voice, he responded before Jenny could.
"I have a gender," he murmured. "I'm not an it."
Joy jumped as her blue eyes widened. Jenny glanced over her shoulder while her friend stepped forward cautiously.
"I'm sorry," the nurse said. "Don't be offended."
Bill watched her approach. She carried a plastic box in one hand. Tilting his head, he watched her kneel beside him and undo the latch.
"I didn't mean to. I didn't know I could hurt someone like that," he whispered.
Joy looked up sharply. "What do you mean you didn't know?"
Bill shook his head. "I haven't been like this all my life. In fact, I've only been like this for only a day, if we don't count the time that I've been unconscious. I don't know much about… my situation."
Joy rested her hands on the cooler. Jenny turned completely to face him, and the little girl crept closer to the police officer. Bill glanced at all three and shifted uncomfortably.
"Why is that so shocking?" he asked.
Joy tilted her head. "What's your name?"
Bill sighed. "My name is Bill. I'm a pokémon researcher from Kanto, and I—"
"Kanto?" Jenny asked.
Joy and Jenny exchanged glances. Bill noticed and struggled to stand again. He winced as the letters on the monument scraped against his back to produce a high-pitched screech, but otherwise, he did his best to keep it from preventing him from answering.
"Yes," he said. "I was taken from there today."
Jenny raised her eyebrows. "The epidemic's spread to Kanto?"
Hesitating for a moment, Bill cast his glance to the side and frowned. "No. Not exactly. It's… it's a long story."
The women were silent for a long while. Bill lifted his head, glancing at each of them cautiously. He couldn't tell if they believed him. For that reason, he shifted uncomfortably, feeling the chains against his body.
"Why is this necessary?" he asked, almost absentmindedly as he stared at the chains. "I promise you, I won't hurt any of you."
Joy looked up, offering a sad glance. "I'm sorry, but it's a precaution. We don't know…"
When Joy trailed off, Bill furrowed his eyebrows. "You don't know what?"
"What you'll do," Jenny said.
Bill looked up, glancing at Jenny's face. Her expression wasn't as hard and cold as he expected. Instead, it was distant, almost forlorn.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
Joy frowned. "This is Mauville City, the very heart of the Hoenn Region. In order to go south to Slateport, west to Fortree and Lilycove – essentially anywhere – you'd have to pass through here. Unfortunately, because of that, we don't have protection against outside forces. Or, at least, we don't have protection that's as strong as we need."
Inside, Bill began to feel cold. "Is that so?"
"Yes," Joy replied with a nod. "But… that's not all. Sometimes, we get ixodida here. Not all of them come to the city, and the little parasites avoid us altogether. There's not enough food for them in the cities, but they still come because we block their way to the fields to the east and west." She looked at him. "Every time they've come here, they've destroyed part of the city."
"They take some of us to be infected, and the ones that they capture but can't use, they kill off," Jenny continued. "There's less than thirty of us left because of that."
Her voice was flat. Monotone. Although what she said was chilling enough, the tone was what sent a shiver down Bill's spine.
He forced himself to speak, but his voice barely rose above a whisper. "I didn't realize… but I… I promise you I won't."
Jenny stared at him with her coffee-colored eyes. She said nothing in response, and Bill couldn't quite read her expression to tell what she was thinking. In the meantime, Joy drew a plastic pouch from the cooler. At a glance, Bill took it to be a hot water bottle from the shape until Joy unscrewed the cap at the top. Right after, Bill caught scent of a familiar odor – the same one he detected from the cup Oak had given him a day ago. Pressing himself against the monument, he trembled.
"What is that?" he whispered.
Joy approached him, offering the bottle. "Donated blood. It's okay. We have too few pokémon in the city to need what we have. If we keep it, the other ixodida might find it."
Bill cringed and turned his head away. "I… I can't accept that."
Withdrawing slightly, Joy tilted her head. "It's okay. Really. As ironic as it sounds, it's not helping anyone. If the ixodida knew we had this much because we can't use it—"
"It's not that," Bill said. His voice rose a notch, and as soon as he realized it had, he hesitated and blushed. Then, looking away, he spoke in a softer tone. "I-I just can't drink pokémon blood, donated or otherwise." He closed his eyes. "I can't."
Joy's shoulders fell as she frowned slightly. "Why not?"
"Because pokémon are my life!" Bill hissed. "Drinking the blood that came from one – even without considering that I'm taking blood that could be used to help another one – I…" He shook his head. "I can't. It's pokémon blood."
By then, he was shaking. The chains clicked against him as he tried to keep the others from seeing his face. He knew he shouldn't have been breaking down, that he should have been slightly stronger and calmer, but he couldn't resist the flood of emotions. On one level, he felt disgust and anger – towards what, he couldn't quite define. Beneath that, however, was the unshakable feeling of fear. He was terrified of what he was, what it meant, and what might happen to him in the future.
Jenny furrowed her eyebrows at this display. "If you don't feed, you'll die. If you die, the parasite will lay eggs in your body, and—"
"Officer Jenny!" Joy snapped as she threw a glare at the other woman.
At once, Jenny recoiled and looked away. "Sorry."
Joy didn't respond. Instead, her expression softened, and she turned her glance back to Bill. She was hardly surprised to find him staring wide-eyed at the two of them, but it was slightly more of a surprise to her to find tears trickling down his cheeks. Studying his face carefully, she couldn't help but offer a reassuring smile.
"She's right, though," she said. "You need to drink – if not for us, for yourself." She stopped to screw the cap back on the bottle. "Let's make a deal. If you agree to drink this, we'll take the chains off."
Jenny turned a sharp glance towards her. "What?!"
Ignoring her, Joy continued. "Just think of it as tomato soup. It'll be okay. I promise. What do you say?"
Bill's eyes fell on the bottle again. He bit his lip as he turned over his options. The scent of the blood still hung on his nose, and he couldn't ignore the feeling of hunger. Already, he felt weak as he shifted slightly and hung his head.
"Okay," he whispered.
Joy glanced at Jenny, who hesitated on the spot.
"You can't be serious about this," she said.
"Of course I am," Joy responded. "Look at him."
Jenny looked. All she saw was a trembling creature, something she would compare to a kicked puppy if the rest of the ixodida race was a pack of mightyena. She narrowed her eyes, looking for any sign that this could have been a trick. Instead, she found drying tears.
With a frown, she shook her head.
"No. No! I don't care what you say, Nurse Joy. That thing can kill off the rest of us if we let it go."
Joy shook her head and reached a pale hand towards Jenny's arm. "Officer Jenny, please! Just listen to him! He sounds human! We can't do this to him! Besides…" She looked back at Bill. "He didn't attack Rose and me when he had a chance. In that alley. Remember?"
Jenny jolted and stared at Joy. She was caught off guard by Joy's comment, but she couldn't argue against that point.
With a sigh, she unclipped a set of keys from her waist and walked around to the back of the monument. Bill twisted, trying to keep an eye on her until he lost sight of her completely. A few moments later, he heard her footsteps stop somewhere behind him, followed by a jingle and a click. Immediately, the chains fell to the ground with a clatter. Bill exhaled in relief and rubbed his arms.
Joy smiled and held out the bottle for him, but before it could be passed between them, a sharp shriek came from the throat of the previously quiet Rose. With a small cry of her own, Joy jolted as she felt Rose's hands pull on the back of her coat. The small girl had buried her face in the cloth and refused to look up as Joy tried to turn to face her.
"Oh! Rose!" she breathed. "No, no. Don't worry. Look at me."
The girl shook her head vigorously. With a sigh, Joy handed the bottle to Bill and turned completely around to place both hands on her shoulders. Jenny stormed to the front of the monument just in time to see Bill stumbling back against it.
"What's going on?!" Jenny demanded.
"It's Rose," Joy said with a sigh.
For a moment, Bill stared at Joy and Rose with a tilted head. The woman bent over the girl, who slumped to her knees with a shaking sob. Rose's arms were wrapped around Joy's legs, and her face was obscured by Joy's body. Jenny stepped back and crossed her arms.
"Poor kid," she muttered.
Bill glanced at her with a startled expression. This child was certainly not the amiable little girl he remembered. She was a mouse, a trembling, traumatized little girl, and it was obvious to him she wouldn't have lasted on her own, what with the way she clung to Joy and demanded her comfort.
"How did she come here?" he murmured.
Jenny shrugged. "She's a coordinator, from what we can tell. We found the Verdanturf Ribbon and a couple of pokémon with her. She must've been between here and there when the epidemic started, though. Probably thought she could've taken care of herself. Couldn't tell you how long she's been out there, but we found her on the outskirts in the southwest about a month ago. Joy's been looking after her ever since." She glared at him. "Aren't you going to drink that?"
At once, Bill's eyes fell on the bottle, and for a long moment, he stared at it as Rose's whimpering quieted down. Part of him had no desire to even touch the contents of the bottle. The other, stronger feeling told him he didn't have much of a choice. With a trembling hand, he brought the bottle to his lips. The aroma of blood dispersed through the air, and he felt something warm enter his chest. Swallowing hard, he took the first sip, shuddered, and brought his eyes back to Joy, who was murmuring something to Rose in a hushed tone. Already, questions formed in his mind about the presence of the girl.
"Why hasn't anyone evacuated?" he asked.
," Jenny snapped. "We
. No one goes in, and no one goes out. No one except the NDF. And you, apparently, but I doubt you'll be getting back
Bill looked at the ground. He listened to Rose's whimpering and Joy's hushed whisper for a moment, and all of a sudden, a rush of guilt flooded him. Clenching his teeth, he walked around the other side of the memorial. An instant later, he heard Jenny's feet rap against the cement.
"Where do you think you're going?" she hissed.
"Perhaps I should be somewhere she can't see me," Bill replied. "Behind here. That's all."
He moved to place the monument between himself and Joy. Jenny continued to follow him, but her footsteps grew softer. When the two of them were on the other side, Bill took another drink. He refused to look at Jenny for fear he'd meet just another glare.
"What did you mean, 'your brother'?" she asked.
Blinking, he looked at Jenny cautiously from the corner of his eye. "What?"
"Earlier tonight," she said as she crossed her arms again. "What did you mean when you said you're Rose's brother?"
Bill tilted his head again. "I meant it literally."
Jenny quirked an eyebrow. "Literally?"
He swallowed another sip. "Well, yes. I don't know how to explain it other than that. We have the same parents, the same surname, we even have some remote family resemblance…"
"Is that so?" Jenny's voice dripped with skepticism.
Bill sighed and looked at her. "Yes. Is it such a surprise to you that I have a family?"
"In a nutshell, yeah," Jenny replied.
Jenny frowned. For a long moment, she could only pause and look at the stranger, standing next to her with a bottle in his claws. The only real semblance of humanity in him was his face; the scales stopped at the sides of the neck to leave the head almost untouched save for the horns, the wire hair, and the fangs. Other than that, he was, in her eyes, every way a monster.
Sighing, Bill opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, he was interrupted by the sound of an explosion. Looking up, he remained still. Jenny had her gun in her hand the instant she heard the noise, and already, she was moving around to the other side of the monument. Bill followed a beat later, stumbling around the monument until something else followed the blast.
A pair of screams rose into the air. Bill froze, a shiver running down his spine as he listened to them. For several seconds, the high-pitched shrieks filled the hush of the streets before dying down into silence. A cold feeling crept into Bill's heart. It felt familiar to him, though he knew it wasn't human. Worse off, he almost felt compelled to
. Once he realized that, he let the bottle slip through his hands, and he scrambled the last few steps around to the front of the monument.
There, he found Jenny standing with her gun pointed towards the buildings straight ahead of her. Next to her, Joy stood with her wide, blue eyes on the buildings and Rose wrapped tightly in her arms.
"What is that?" Bill whispered.
Joy gasped in surprise, followed shortly by Rose's whimper. Jenny glanced at him through the corner of her eye.
"Don't you know?" she asked. "That's what a pair of ixodida sound like."
Bill stiffened. His breathing quickened as he felt his heart beat with panic.
"Ixodida?" he gasped.
"You didn't bring them here, did you?" Jenny hissed.
"Officer Jenny!" Joy snapped. "Now isn't the time for this! We need to get inside!"
Jenny frowned. "With this thing? We don't even know if he has something to do with them!"
"I didn't," Bill said. "Honestly. I would never—"
"Please!" Joy turned her head sharply towards the both of them. "We need shelter before they come!"
Immediately, Bill cringed, then relaxed. He glanced at Jenny with a small frown.
"She's right," he said. "If they are as dangerous as you claim, then we can't be in the open."
Jenny narrowed her eyes. "Where do we go, then?"
"The pokémon center isn't too far from here," Joy replied. "We can go there."
Relaxing her aim slightly, Jenny glanced from the nurse to the stranger and back. She considered the idea for a bit until another crash rose from not far away. Then, she holstered her weapon and glared at her three charges.
"Fine," she said. "Let's go."
The city seemed darker when the group reached the center. Somewhere along the way, the power had been cut, leaving the streets in utter darkness. No stars appeared overhead, and shadows loomed between each building. The air hung cold around them as they approached the small building, its face unlit in the lack of electricity.
Although neither of them could see their way, Jenny and Joy knew the city well enough to walk the way from the monument to the center blindfolded. Hence, the women huddled around the girl, hurrying her to the pokémon center with no light and minds full of wariness and fear for the possibility that an ixodida would appear from the darkness at any moment.
Bill, meanwhile, was preoccupied with yet another new discovery. He followed the women a short distance away, but his eyes drifted to the world around him. Although he knew it was quite possibly pitch black, he could see the way as if the streetlamps were still on. Everything appeared in monochrome, but the details were still sharp and vivid. Brick walls, garbage cans, even the cracks in the cement – he could see everything.
Taking a shaking breath, he nearly walked completely past the group when they stopped. Jolting to a halt, he glanced at the façade of the building: the metal P on the round sign above the door, the glass windows in the brick face, even a few chairs and tables just beyond the window.
"The power may be out," Joy said. "The doors won't—"
Before she could finish, she approached the door. She lifted a hand, fully intending on resting it on glass. Instead, it passed through to the interior easily. Drawing in a breath, she glanced at her companions worriedly. Behind her, the three shadows stopped and said nothing.
Cautiously, she turned and stepped through the hole and into the center. Her shoes crunched against broken glass with each step she took further inside.
"Nurse Joy!" Jenny hissed. "Get back here!"
Joy continued into the darkness, completely ignoring Jenny's warning. Jenny kept her hands on Rose as the girl cringed against the officer. Bill glanced at the both of them and then at Joy's back, drifting further into the darkness. With a deep breath, he followed her inside. It was either that or stand in the open, and even beyond that, he hardly wanted her to be alone. His eyes fixed straight ahead, at the reception desk at the opposite end of the room and the door to another room behind it.
He took no more than four steps into the room, across the broken glass, when he realized something was wrong. The air inside the building was heavy with the bitter scent of ammonia, but overpowering that was a scent that was already familiar to him by then.
"Blood," he whispered.
Joy turned her head. "What?"
He glanced at her. "I can smell blood. It's straight ahead."
She hesitated for a moment, then walked back towards the door. "Let me turn on the lights."
Whirling around, he faced her. "Don't. Something may be here."
Stopping halfway to the wall, she turned and looked at him. He could see her wide eyes, her curious expression as she studied him.
"Whose blood is it?" she asked.
Pausing, Bill closed his eyes. He drew in another breath through his nose, and with that breath came not only the scent of ammonia and blood but also something else. Something familiar. Turning, he followed the scent to its source, behind the desk. Without a word, he worked his way around it until he felt something slippery beneath his feet. Opening his eyes, he glanced at the object on the ground, and immediately, he froze.
At his feet, he could see the black-and-white image of a chansey. Rather, he could see what was
of a chansey. Her face was frozen in an expression of terror, staring at the ceiling with unseeing eyes. The egg in her pouch was smashed, coating half her body and her fine, pink fur with a slick, whitish film. All over her body, chunks of flesh were partly ripped out, but very little blood save for a few drops around her body remained. Otherwise, she was drained. Her skin puckered with lack of moisture, and the exposed muscles, even for monochrome vision, appeared oddly pale.
Drawing in a gasp, Bill stumbled backwards. His chest heaved in a pant, but he couldn't tear his wide eyes away from the dead chansey. Although Joy couldn't see him, she could hear the scuffle of his claws against the hard floor and his gasps. With a frown, she stepped forward, closer to the desk.
"Bill?" she asked. "Who is it?"
Turning his eyes towards Joy, he took a deep breath and prepared to choke out a response. Before he could, something else caught his eye. Behind Joy, a creature stalked forward. She looked almost human with the face of a young woman. Besides that, she appeared to be covered in spikes, spines jutting out of every bare patch of skin except her face. Her horns jutted out of her head, surrounded by long spines that rose slightly as she drew closer. Behind her, a tail, tipped with a stinger dripping with poison, swayed with each step.
Immediately, Bill reacted before he thought about it.
"Run!" he screamed as he darted forward.
Immediately, the other ixodida leapt towards Joy with fangs bared and a hiss ripping from her throat. One clawed hand drew back and took on an eerie, purple glow. Joy turned her head when the room lit up with the attack, and when her blue eyes fell on the face, she instantly shrieked. The noise caused Bill to stumble into a flinch. In the corner of his eye, he saw Joy turn away and the hand lash towards her. The claws slashed across her shoulder, spraying drops of blood onto the floor as poison leaked into the wound.
Joy fell. Bill twisted himself, lashing an arm outward to grab the wounded nurse. Kneeling, he stared with wide eyes towards the other ixodida, who stooped and hissed as her arms swung beneath her.
"Please," he whispered. "Please, if you and I are the same… Please, you must…"
She can't hear you.
Bill froze at the sound of the voice. He felt a warmth and someone's stare, as if he was being watched from the inside.
Its host is asleep. She can do nothing to fight against it.
As if to prove the voice right, the other ixodida lashed out, one of her clawed hands swinging towards Joy's crumpled body. Joy flinched, ready to take a fatal blow, when on instinct, she heard the screech of nails on metal. Glancing up, she saw Bill blocking the creature's strike with his arm. He clenched his teeth, feeling the claws dent his armor and the poison roll harmlessly off his skin. Before he could pull away, however, the hand flicked to curl around his arm as the female's eyes narrowed into a glare.
Before he could do anything else, he found himself sailing through the air, only to come crashing down across the room and skidding into a wall. He hadn't even felt the female throw him. Shaking his head, he forced himself to his hands and knees and glanced towards Joy. The ixodida stood over her with quills rising in preparation. He could hear Joy's soft cries, the quiet sobbing of pain. Slowly, the ixodida lifted a hand above her head, spreading her claws as each one took on another purple glow.
With a bang, a bullet took out two of the glowing claws. The ixodida shrieked and whipped her hand downward to hold it in front of her with her other hand. Turning her head, she narrowed her eyes angrily at the door. Bill followed her glance to see Officer Jenny standing in the doorway with a gun pointed towards the purple glow.
She can't see her enemy.
Bill stood cautiously as he listened carefully to the voice. His heart felt like it was clenching, and he couldn't decide if that was because of the parasite or because he knew the voice was right.
She will be killed.
"Killed?" Bill whispered.
Yes. So will the others.
The ixodida growled and turned. Her wounded hand dripped black blood as she held it out to her side, and her good hand spread its claws as she held it in a similar position. Her back hunched, and she crept closer to Jenny, who simply stood in the doorway, unaware of the approaching threat.
You must move. You must move, or they will die.
Bill's voice caught in his throat. He opened his mouth, but his voice came out as nothing more than a hoarse whisper.
The voice in his head didn't seem amused.
You must fight if you wish to save them.
Bill shook his head and trembled. The claws of his right hand flexed, spreading as the jewel in the palm began to glow with a silver color. Glancing down at it, he realized in horror that he could no longer feel it – or, rather, that he could, but it felt foreign, like it was no longer his hand. The numb sensation ran up his arm and spread to the rest of his body like an electric current until he could feel nothing at all. He felt his mind being pulled back, and though he could watch himself, he knew he was slipping to the darkness.
You will watch, then, and
No. No! Please, let me go!
The ixodida lunged towards Officer Jenny. At once, Bill's body launched forward, running in a dash towards the ixodida. He missed most of her, but his hands wrapped around her long tail. Jenny stumbled backwards as a gasp of shock caught in her throat at the sight of the ixodida's claws swinging towards her face but missing by just a short distance.
Instead, the female was flung through the air by her tail, back into the darkness of the center. Releasing her, Bill's partner let her fly through the air and slam into the floor. A shriek tore from her throat before she crashed, and the sound lingered long after the shock of impact as the ixodida rose to her feet. Lifting her arms in front of her face, she forced the quills running from her wrists to her elbows to rise.
In the meantime, Bill watched his hands spread again. The parasite pulled energy from his body, and he felt an electric sensation running down his arms. His claws took on a bright, silver glow just as the quills on the other ixodida turned white. Before he could react, pins shot from the female's arms.
Bill knew that had he been in control, the pins would have struck him in the face. For that reason, he couldn't quite decide whether or not it was a blessing he wasn't. He could only stare in a mixture of wonder and horror as his body acted on its own, flicking its glowing hands in front of him. The pins ricocheted off his claws with metallic pinks as he raced forward, closer to the female.
With a gasp, the female realized her target had deflected her attack. Flinging her arms to the sides, she channeled her energy once again until her claws took on a purple glow. She swung her poison-tipped claws upward, slashing Bill's face. Bill could feel the claws, the sting of sharpness ripping across his cheek and the warm blood trickling down to the corner of his lips. His body turned away with a hiss as his claws gently rose to touch the blood and the venom running down the side of his face.
The female seemed indifferent to the wounds of her opponent. Raising her right hand again, she bared her teeth as her claws took on a purple glow once more. A growl rumbled from Bill's throat as another electric sensation ran down his spine. His body crouched as his tail stiffened behind him. At once, he recognized the attack.
Iron Tail. Metal Claw. I can… I can attack like a pokémon?
Inside, he heard a chuckle.
No. But I can.
Bill's body sprang into the air and twisted. A scream blasted from his throat, and at once, his mind froze. The sound possessed an unsettling quality, like the howl of an animal. He had a strange feeling about what was about to happen, but he could do nothing to stop it.
His opponent reached forward with her glowing claws to deflect the attack, but like a blade, his tail sliced cleanly through her hands. The arrowhead tip, meanwhile, cut halfway into her skull, gliding through the thick bone and soft tissue underneath.
She didn't even scream. Instead, she merely slumped onto the linoleum, blood pouring out of her half-cut head. Bill's body landed with a clatter onto the tiled floor. Immediately, he dropped to his hands and knees and crept closer. His tongue ran across the top row of his sharp teeth as his heart began to beat faster at the scent of blood.
What are you doing?
She may be, but there's something else here that isn't.
Bill's hands flipped the body onto its back. Claws drifted up the smooth arms – first the left one and then the right one. Red light pulsed quietly on the right arm, just before the arm met the shoulder. It bulged out of the side, and for a moment, Bill couldn't recall why he'd missed it before.
The hand stopped on it. Bill could feel its smoothness as he watched his hand spread over it.
What are you doing?
The other voice didn't answer. Instead, he let Bill watch.
Claws dug into the flesh of the shoulder and pierced through the mesh of tentacles at the base of the female's parasite. Then, with a quick yank, Bill's hand wrenched the parasite from the shoulder. The tiny beast screeched as its upper body was severed from its legs and mouth, and from its bulbous form, glowing, green fluid splattered onto the wound.
What are you doing?!
His body brought the thing to his mouth. It was still alive, and it flashed with an angry, red light as the remnants of tentacles at the base of its body thrashed. A grin spread across his mouth, flashing white fangs just before his jaws parted.
Only when he bit the thing in half did it stop screaming.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!
Ignoring him completely, his body devoured the rest of the parasite. He could taste the blood and acid on his tongue. He could feel his teeth crunching on the hard shell. He could detect it dissolve into a warm liquid that trickled down his throat. All the while, his mind was blanking.
Relax. It's the only way we can be sure.
Only when the last of the parasite was gone, his body stood, towering over the dead female. His eyes narrowed as he stared at the wound.
For a long moment, there was only silence. Bill mentally whimpered, but his body made no audible sound. Instead, it turned its head towards first the door behind the counter, then the one leading to the street. There, Rose stood, trembling in the doorway – and, even worse, alone.
Rosie. What is she doing here?
Suddenly, the room flooded with light. Bill's body flinched and hissed before shielding his eyes with an arm. His lips curled back in a snarl as his tail twitched in aggravation over the sudden blindness. Squinting, he saw Officer Jenny, pale-faced and still with a gloved hand still on the light switch a short distance from the front door. Her brown eyes widened at the sight of not only Bill's blood-stained claws and face but also the two bodies – one of the ixodida and the other of Nurse Joy – lying oddly still between them.
"What did you do?" she whispered.
Inside, Bill recoiled.
I didn't mean to! This isn't me!
His body turned to face Jenny. Her hand trembled, but she stood stiffly where she was. For a moment, Bill thought it was because of the sight of him, but then, he heard a low growl rumble behind him. Whirling around, his body faced another figure creeping behind him. He could only get a glimpse of a second quill-covered creature before glowing, purple claws smashed into the side of his head. His body stumbled to the side and crashed to the floor as his vision blurred in a dazed haze.
Growling, Bill's body slowly flipped onto his stomach and twisted to look at his opponent. His vision resolved, and he saw towering above him the other ixodida. This one, he'd determined, was male, judging by the lack of female curves. He otherwise looked remarkably like the female, with purple skin and purple quills with toxic-green tips running up his back, arms, and scalp.
The other ixodida raised his arms, and the quills stood on end. Moments later, the quills took on an eerie, white glow, all-too similar to one of the female's attacks. Yet, this one wasn't aimed at Bill.
His body glanced at Officer Jenny, directly in the path of the male's Poison Sting attack. Her gloved hands reached towards the gun at her hip, and she crouched to aim. Glancing from her to the male, Bill's body sprang to his feet. Although Bill wasn't the one coming up with a plan for attack, he could sense the parasite forming one for him. It forced his body to dart between the human and the ixodida, with his back towards the male's Poison Sting. Seemingly unaware of this new barrier, the male fired, and the quills shot spurts of energy in the form of venomous needles. Each one struck Bill's armored back and ricocheted backwards, onto the tiled floor.
A roar erupted behind him as Bill's hand reached downward and prepared another Metal Claw attack. Energy began to flow into his claws, but before he could focus his attack, the male seized his arm and yanked him off his feet. Without letting Bill resist, the other ixodida sent him flying through the air and hard into the wall behind him. Seconds later, he was on the floor, and his vision blurred and spun as his head, which he was sure had struck the wall, throbbed with an intense ache. The warmth and electric sensations receded, and numbly, Bill realized he could move his hands by himself again.
In the meantime, the male turned towards Officer Jenny again, but before he could launch another attack, three gunshots rang out. Blood splattered from the male's forehead, and he flinched and stumbled backwards for a few steps. Seconds later, he collapsed onto the floor next to his mate. The pool of blood around them spread.
Bill felt himself fading. He squinted, trying to force his blurred vision to focus. Eventually, he realized he was losing his sense of time. One moment, Jenny was on the other side of the room, and the next she was kneeling next to Nurse Joy. She seemed to spend an eternity by the nurse's side, but as soon as Bill blinked, she moved to his. A hand rested on his shoulder before drifting to the back of his head.
"Are you okay?" she asked. Her voice sounded distant, like it was at the other end of a long and empty hallway.
His lips moved. A second later, he forced his voice from his throat in a low whisper.
He closed his eyes, and a moment later, he fell into the darkness.
In a different kind of darkness, the Committee convened. The leader at the center, First, cleared his throat. To his right and left were Second and Third, respectively, and at the ends sat Fourth and Fifth. All of them studied the papers on the table in front of them as they waited for someone to begin.
"We've just now collected new data from Adam," Second finally said. "His power is not the strongest we've ever recorded."
"Likewise," Third added, "his mind seems to be severed from the parasite's."
Fifth nodded. "How curious. He's nothing like anything else we've recorded."
On the right end, Fourth shook her head. "It's a shame the National Defense Forces insisted on his quarantine. We can't use him, and it's far too late to remove the device and choose a new subject. If only we had been a bit more discreet about his presence. He would be far more useful in the Institute where we can study XP-494's physiological arsenal."
Second glanced at Fourth. "Perhaps, but we find that this second personality in Adam renders him far too dangerous for captivity. Both personalities controlling that body leave him unpredictable. We couldn't possibly keep him with our scientists. If we attempt to control the alien in him, we become inhumane to his human self. If we treat his human self as an equal, we risk leaving our scientists vulnerable to his alien side. It's a blessing that the NDF intervened."
"Then what should we do?" Third asked.
First straightened. "We leave him in Hoenn. We have already obtained fascinating information from him. He can provide us with more, regardless of inaccuracies regarding his psychological state."
"I agree," Fifth replied. "Besides, this turn of events may allow us to see XP-494 at its full potential."
First nodded. "Perhaps."
Professional ninja. May or may not actually be back. Here for the snark and banter at most.
Need some light reading?
Anima Ex Machina
(Chapter 20 now available)
The Leaf Green Incident
(SWC 2012 winner)
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