Scavenged, Part Two
Read Scavenged, Part One first!
Orion’s eyes snapped open again. He’d been squeezing them tightly shut against the onslaught of freakish words and images bounding through his wearied mind. When he cried out in shock, the sound now had a raspy, metallic edge: an artificial note that bastardized the cadence of his teenage voice. His vision cleared, coming into focus: the beings were clustered around him, staring down, bordering his view of the smooth, sterile ceiling above.
The Greys. What mind could fathom the unearthly secrets within those glabrous, orbicular heads? What bizarre perplexities had those passionless, inky eyes studied? Even now, his second time in their clutches, they seemed somehow less than truly alive. Aloof and disinterested, coolly gazing, they regarded him silently as he wondered at what they had done to him, wondered if he was now less than truly alive as well.
His final stertorous breath had been drawn some time ago. His torso no longer rose and fell with suspiration, and many of the organs within had been replaced with their alien contrivances. Of this he was certain. He felt dried blood matted near his left temple, but the hole in his skull was presumably restored somehow from where they’d drilled into it. He struggled to sit upright, feeling the tautness of the restraints loosen and then release.
The aliens retreated by one or two paces, giving him room to swing his aching legs over the edge of the table and hop down to the lustrous metal deck. He still had to lean against the operating slab, but was surprised at how vigorous he actually felt. After only a few moments, he was able to take a couple of unsteady paces. Again, the aliens moved to allow him a berth.
Silence reigned in the spacious cabin. Stillness echoed after his tentative steps. Regaining his surefootedness, he found his way to an open door, and passed into the corridor beyond unmolested.
The hallway was dim, and pulsed with low, ambient light. It curved gently to the left as he walked, suggesting the contour of the alien craft he was on board. There were viewing bays to the left and right as he walked, massive windows looking into operating rooms like the one he had just left. The first two were empty and dark. The third was a scene of horrendous revulsion.
A human man was restrained on the slab, fully conscious as the cosmic outsiders administered freakish violations to his writhing body. Gore-drenched utensils were nimbly employed with callous objectivity; the blood pooled and oozed into troughs along the sides of the table, and drained into canisters at the floor. Orion’s eyes flicked over the modifications to the tortured man’s form: twisted appendages sprouted at sickening angles from the victim’s chest and sides. Metal tentacles squirmed around him, flailing and grasping at nothing, indifferent to the panicked shrieks that reached Orion only as muffled crescendos, a grisly soundtrack to the twitching spider’s dance of the wretched experimental subject.
Orion turned away, shuddering, and cringed again sharply as a new, sickening tableau greeted him: the next viewing bay showcased a pair of Greys bending over a restrained female. Her head was shaved smooth and bald, lending her a faint air of similarity to the hairless alien captors. One of them had both hands firmly on the sides of her face, holding her still, while the other drew a spinning rotary saw in a straight line around the top of her cranium. Deft and careful movements removed the dripping dome, exposing the brain. The alien that was holding the subject’s head stared knowingly into Orion’s eyes, its mouth a thin straight line upon a blank, emotionless face.
Orion stumbled backwards, away from the viewing bay, and rested one hand on the sleek bulkhead. Meagerly throbbing luminescence revealed that he was not alone in the corridor: several Greys were shuffling toward him from the direction he had come. Repulsed, he continued along the hallway. Up ahead, there were more sticklike silhouettes, eerily backlit, shambling forward. A side door was open and he ducked into it, wondering how long he could aimlessly wander this peregrine craft, avoiding the inevitable schemes of his unflappable captors. This room was shadowed and bare; as he turned back, the door slid shut with a menacing hiss, trapping him inside.
Pale, teardrop-shaped faces with giant, glistening black eyes regarded him silently through the viewing bay. The panic began to well up in him again, manifesting as a jittery tingling that prickled the patches of skin between his cybernetic grafts. The whispering in his head returned from the edge of consciousness, from where it had left him in a fitful slumber on the operating table.
“You may not be familiar with the concept of Action Potentials,” the psionic man breathed, “so allow me to explain your latest gift.”
“Who are you?” the teenager spoke aloud.
“A humble servant of the Greys. I am what is called a Noble—a human with the ability to communicate directly with these higher beings. You see, although they comprehend the vulgar system of spoken words that we use, the human mind is not capable of receiving thoughts from their heightened faculties. Not without aid, anyway.”
This time Orion consciously projected the words. “The chip they implanted in my brain.”
“Excellent. You’re learning quickly.” The serene voice was pleased.
“So what is an Action Potential?”
“When a neuron ‘fires,’ sending a signal through a nerve, the membrane of the cell begins by rising sharply in voltage. It does this by opening gated channels in the cell wall to allow an influx of positive ions. As more channels open, the voltage spikes and transmits an electrical signal to the axon terminal, where it in turn signals other neurons. The channels close when the influx is completed, preventing the signal from travelling back the way it came. This is the process that results in the majority of neurological functions, such as moving the muscles of your arm, or interpreting your sense of touch. These short-lived electrical events are known as ‘Action Potentials.’
“You’re probably aware that all living things survive due to bioelectrical impulses. The electric current innate to your body makes your heart beat, for example, and allows your brain to send commands throughout the body. But suppose that your body’s circulatory and neural systems were modified by the use of nanoconductors, amplifying your bioelectrical impulses by tens of thousands of times what it was before.”
“The machines they put in place of my internal organs—they create and dispatch trillions of microscopic robots, conducting the electricity of each Action Potential as if it were an electric synapse, and making it faster and stronger.” Orion was in disbelief.
“There you are. Your mind is working faster already. And that’s just the beginning.”
A sharp, alarming hiss cut through the dark chamber. Orion’s adrenaline surged instantly—he wheeled around, facing the far wall, opposite the viewing bay, where a previously unseen doorway bled feeble illumination into the tenebrous shroud. The unmistakable silhouette of a bipedal reptilian beast staggered through, and the portal hissed shut again.
Half crouching in a combat stance, empty fingers splayed, Orion cursed, fighting despair. No weapons, no aid, no escape. He was locked in this room, unarmed, with a murderous Lacerta, while those manipulative freaks watched outside.
Hooked claws chattered with staccato clicks on the metal floor. The lizardlike tail whipped violently. Then it charged, crossing the chamber in three giant bounds. Teeth and claws flying at him like a storm of glittering daggers, Orion sprang aside, narrowly dodging the Lacerta just before it collided against the bulkhead. The impact didn’t faze it, though, and it whirled around, pushing off the wall to pounce again. This time he couldn’t get out of the way fast enough and the jaws locked onto his left forearm—the one that was mostly metal, housing the cybercomputer that was built into his flesh. Its teeth squealed against the alloy; he felt pressure, but no pain. With his right fist he hooked flurries of hard punches against the tough hide of its neck and head, doing minimal damage but succeeding in making the Lacerta flinch away, its mouth opening to release his metal arm.
Orion leapt backwards, instinctively avoiding a further melee, but knowing that there were no environmental advantages offered in this empty room. The reptilian beast seemed to be sizing him up as well, temporarily taken aback by this bizarre unchewable foe. Its maw was still hanging open as it panted, and he saw jagged, broken teeth. His frame tingled with the hormones released by battle and fear; he felt the fuzzy ionization of static electricity all around him.
The beast didn’t charge again, maintaining the distance of about ten feet that was between them. Instead, the open mouth began to gurgle hungrily. Orion had experienced this before, and braced himself for the impending lethargy and fatigue. Instead, though, he continued to feel the crackle of energy and adrenaline building to a crescendo, begging for release—his own feral monster within crying out for a victim.
Orion pounced on the monster, shrieking aloud. Sparks flew as his fingertips contacted scaly skin. The Lacerta was poised to strike, to eviscerate him before throwing him off, but its form seized and went rigid. The scavenger’s hands found purchase on its shoulders and chest, hot current buzzing from them into the reptilian body. Electric convulsions jerked and twitched through it, but his grip tightened with fury. The alien’s jaw locked down, its broken teeth grinding together, splintering into ruined shards. Its flesh scorched, cooking with an eye-watering stench. The yellow eyes rolled back in their sockets and then burst into thick pus that dribbled down the sides of the paralyzed visage. By the time the charred carcass fell away from his arcing fingertips, smoke curled through the air in a lazy dance.
“They’ve made you a superior combatant. The Lacertas may be capable of damping the bioelectric impulses of living organisms, but yours are now off the charts. You’ll find that you react more quickly and can survive harsher environments—in addition to the more dramatic potency that you’ve just displayed.”
Surveying the blackened corpse, Orion felt a vista of realization spawning in his heightened thoughts. “The Greys want me to kill Lacertas.”
“You’re certainly equipped to do so,” the Noble answered. “Use your aptitudes and your gifts.”
Short-lived electrical events…
“That’s what my life is to you, now: an Action Potential. Something that can be fired off, activated, to fulfill a command. Are you… giving me instructions?”
A glassy chuckle. “Of course not. While they can achieve some mild neurological manipulation—lowering heart rate, or spiking adrenaline, for example—‘mind control’ is far beyond the scope of actual science. You maintain your free will… although I’d say that ignoring the purpose for which you are so obviously well adapted would be a crime against nature.”
Orion regarded the computer interface grafted into his left forearm. “Nature? That’s a sick joke.”
Inscrutable faces still lined the window. “I assure you that no one here is joking,” the Noble replied.
“Let me get my hands around one of their scrawny necks.” The fuzzy, static feeling was returning again.
“You won’t get the chance,” came the reply. “They’re returning you to the surface, in the street where they found you. The people there will experience what’s known as ‘lost time,’ but only you will remember the Grey spaceship overhead.”
“What am I supposed to—“
There was a blinding flash, a moment of disorientation and vertigo, and Orion was in the causeway once more, transplanted into the middle of a scene that was already unfolding. As he’d feared, he was standing on the outer fringes of the AAF demonstrators that had been present before. It appeared that on the outside of the group, near the shade of a building, no one had actually witnessed his instantaneous return… but heads turned at the movement, focusing on the strange newcomer, giving him no chance to conceal himself.
Angry shouts and insults filled the air. Orion looked down at himself, knowing what they saw: a dirty, tattered jacket and tank top not fully covering the mechanical supplementations to his wiry teenage frame. The Anti-Augmented Foundation was often hungry for just such a scapegoat during one of their potentially violent demonstrations. Did he even have a chance to convince an angry mob that he wasn’t in fact some sort of agenda-laced spy, following orders from the Greys? Could he, in truth, even make such an argument to himself?
“Look at him! See his arm?”
“He’s modded, you can see it plain as day!”
Orion backpedaled, preparing to run, but coarse hands were already seizing him from the sides. Squirming, twisting, he was dragged farther into the street, his protests drowned out in a bedlam of accusations. He’d always been careful not to run afoul of these zealots, and the injustice of being made a sudden target for their unthinking hatred was maddening. He’d be denounced and shot in a matter of minutes, and the Protectorate would do what they did best—pretend it had all never happened. Orion had the insane thought that the aliens in the colossal disc floating above, with their gruesome vivisections and their sterile, callous designs, actually had more respect for life than the human race of which he was now only marginally a part.
Tanned, oval faces regarded him hatefully with leering eyes. An unwashed brute curled up a meaty fist and drove it into his stomach—then drew back, howling, cradling his broken hand. Someone behind him smashed a splintering piece of wood over his shoulders, staggering the youth and exploding a burst of white pain through his bones and muscles. Orion’s pulse intensified, growing sonorous and more rhythmic. Hormones flooded into his system, prickling the patches of skin between his cybernetic grafts. Oh, no. No… He tried to steady his nerves somehow, failing, unable to utilize the old standby of taking deep breaths because his mechanized body would no longer do such a thing.
He wrenched free of his captors just as a massive torrent of voltage was unleashed. A crackling flash ignited the air in a shockwave that tossed members of the crowd in all directions, arms and legs akimbo. His metallic voice croaked; an awful sound that cut the pained, echoing cries of men colliding roughly with walls, with cobblestones, with each other. For several slow, amaranthine seconds he was at the epicenter of a deadly flower of destruction. Forks of current branched from him to nearby fallen bodies, vellicating them with a fervor that belied their helpless, lifeless postures. Flesh sizzled and scorched. He was the king of a world of pain, standing tall and supreme among his writhing, groveling victims.
Then it ended. His eyes were seared with visions of horrid white death. Gradually the color returned to his reality: things that he had broken and ruined lay scattered all about.
Short-lived electrical events.
Weirdly, he was thinking of how to somehow mitigate the damage he’d done. Could a human life, hopelessly mangled, be repaired? For the entire fifteen years he’d spent in the badlands, his skills had been so well attuned to taking something old, broken, and cast aside, and restoring it… perhaps even improving upon the original.
And then the Greys had come, to improve upon his own original form. To cast his prior existence aside and replace it with a new purpose.
He was a destroyer now—a walking catastrophe, strewing carnage in his wake. Could he regain control of what he was? An Action Potential could not return back the way it came…
After narrowly avoiding the Protectorate, Orion had traversed the deepest reaches of the unknown alleys in the metropolis. A rank, rotten honeycomb at the core of Glitter City, these twisting urban mazes were rife with criminals and thugs—but he was left alone, the hard, weathered faces turning down to scowl at filthy, beaten shoes and steaming sewer grates. Holostacks like those advertising businesses on the Thoroughfare were absent here, and he’d searched for asylum using the faded signs above rusty, ramshackle doors.
His luck had seemed to hold. An unassuming hostel booked him using the credits he’d stolen from the supernet terminal yesterday and only a feeble mimicry of registration. He’d discarded his tattered rags in favor of a black long-sleeved sweater and loose-fitting cargo pants. These garments were now slung over a scarred wooden chair nearby while he soaked in a four-legged brass bathtub in the tiny washroom down the hall from his rented room.
A single naked, fly-specked bulb swung from the ceiling like a noose. The water had been comfortable, but was now growing cool. In contrast to the technological marvels abundant in the more upscale regions of the city, here in the brick-and-mortar core of the metropolis, working amenities could be uncommon.
“Hot water?” It was a gentle female voice, spoken aloud, that seemed to read his thoughts—not the persuasive, clouded speech of the Noble that had so far remained silent in his mind. He twisted to look at the doorway, cracked open a few inches: a raven-haired teenage girl wearing a yellow flowered kimono held a dented metal bucket by a hand towel wrapped around the handle. Steam wafted from the liquid within, curling into light, misty curtains in the air.
He smiled, nodding but not wanting to speak, not wanting this lovely creature to hear his freakish voice. She nudged the door open further and smoothly cascaded the water into the tub with him, raising the temperature back to pleasant warmth. He expected her to demurely retreat with the empty pail, but instead she hovered nearby. The kimono had slipped down to reveal one slender white shoulder.
“I can help you relax,” she said.
Orion’s lips parted, but he couldn’t exhale, couldn’t think of anything to say. He felt that he had better not speak—but instead of interpreting his silence as refusal, the girl tossed the yellow kimono over the wooden chair and lithely hurdled into the tub with him. She cradled herself under his left arm, not flinching at his bionic grafts. Water sloshed. The perfumed steam was dizzying.
“You have money, right? It’s five thousand,” came the gentle purr.
Conflicted, he nodded, trying to stay completely still. Something stirred in his blood, a hesitant arousal, a contradictory excitement. She rested against his shoulder, tracing designs on his chest, trailing narrow fingers across the pale, raised disfigurements latticing his body. The palm of her hand found his thumping heart. He was sweating from the hot bath and from the wired, anxious sensation that was wrapping around him, ghostly and intangible, like a kimono.
“No,” he croaked discordantly.
She was taken aback by the sudden, raspy flexure of his voice, but regrouped. “Shhh, it’s okay. Don’t talk.”
“No. No,” his pulse was rising, as were the hairs on his arms. “No, don’t,” he murmured.
The girl’s body snapped rigid, her eyes locked, her teeth clinched. Shuddering hideously, grimacing, she was imprisoned in an immobile dance of death. Orion couldn’t extricate himself, couldn’t disengage their tangled limbs, couldn’t scrabble out of the slick, smoothly burnished brass tub. Steam wafted from the liquid within, curling into heavy, funereal shrouds in the air.
When it was over, he stood in splotchy puddles upon the aged linoleum, studying the blue forks in her sizzled skin. The black hair was delicately arrayed out in the water, floating in gauzy clouds. He draped the silken robe over the slender, lifeless body before recovering the baggy sweater and cargo pants, pulling them on hastily, and fleeing down the hallway to the gloomy, claustrophobic staircase.
Orion exited to the street once more, not knowing where he was headed, feeling the dying rays of the sunset yawning behind him. Trash was piled in the alleys and gutters, discarded remnants of people’s lives. Husks of things that were contrived, made to be useful for a time, and then consumed. He had to scavenge his own life back from the Greys, salvage some kind of existence out of what they had appointed for him.
Shuffling though the landfill of human lives, one face fired a sudden spark in his mind as it passed. He pushed against the throng, turning, breaking into a run. Catching up to the retreating figure, he reached with one outstretched hand, resting it on the shoulder, turning the individual to confront him.
The familiar face was that of a young woman, blinking at him in surprise and then in swift recognition. Circumnavigating her newly shaved head, in a full and perfect revolution, was a puffy pink scar.
Source: Creepy Pasta
23 Nov, 2015
Scavenged, Part Two
Posted in Ghost Tales and tagged Ghost Stories by cnkguy with no comments yet.