The tortured groan that escaped my broken jaw could have made a self-immolation suicide think they’d taken the easy way out. I collapsed in a writhing heap. The pain in my face, my shoulder and everything from a thousand tiny aches and pains I couldn’t even remember ran riot through my mind like irate Canadians after an ice hockey game.
Kiru burst out laughing. Not your clichéd wicked witch cackle, drinking in the cruel agony of my pain, this was the kind of spontaneous, full-bellied laugh that’s normally accompanied by a pointing finger.
“<Do you like it? I had some boys back home whip it up for me. I knew you had to be using some kind of pain redirection hardware, otherwise you couldn’t possibly have lasted this long in your condition.>”
Kiru walked around to my side and knelt down beside me. She grabbed me by the fabric of my hood, forcing me to look her in the visor while she gloated. “<One of my boys tracked down the hardware you were using, something about your time in the army and what model they’d have used back then. I really didn’t think you’d just hand me the chance to use it like that. I thought I was going to have to kill you.>”
Kiru let go of me and I hit the floor like a discarded coke can. I gasped and panted for breath. The cold floor tiles against my cheek were a welcome relief. The fallout of all my pain receptors flaring up at once felt worse than fresh sun burn.
Kiru reached down and undid the Velcro on my hood, before peeling the whole thing off my head.
“<Awww.>” Kiru exclaimed. “<Look at all this blood, you’ve been through a lot haven’t you?>”
Then I felt Kiru’s naked fingers brushing through my hair. Like she was patting a dog. Suddenly the dull burn was replaced with a deep chill.
“<There, there. It’s all right.>” She cooed. “<I’m going to take very good care of you. All I’ll need from you in return is to tell my sister that you’re coming with me. If she ever wants to see you again, she knows where to go.>”
“Oh I know where you can go.” Tachi’s voice called out from the other side of the room. “What’s more I can help you get there.”
Kiru looked over her shoulder at the voice. Tachi stood at the end of our row of server towers, his Designated Marksman’s Rifle trained on Kiru’s back. Either he didn’t consider his sister a lady or he’d rethought that whole ‘gentleman’ life-goal of his.
[Are you all right Dust?] Tachi cyped me.
[No.] I whimpered.
“<Get away from him.>”
Kiru slowly stood up, never once taking her eyes off her ‘sister’.
“<Good.>” Tachi said, lowering his rifle. “<Now get out of my sight.>”
“<No.>” Kiru said and pushed one of her heels onto the side of my head. “<Drop your weapon. Or I’ll crush his skull like an egg.>”
Tachi narrowed his eyes at her.
Kiru shifted a little more weight onto that foot. I groaned as fresh pain flashed in my head.
“<All right.>” Tachi said.
Kiru, thankfully, took the weight off. But she held the heel against my neck, just in case.
Tachi let go of his rifle’s grip and held it out by the fore-end. “<I’ll come with you, unarmed and without a struggle, but you have to let him go.>”
Kiru snorted angrily. “<Ugh, you really do love him don’t you?>”
“<Call it whatever you like.>” Tachi growled. “<Just do it.>”
Kiru took her time coming to a decision. Or at least it felt that way from where I was lying.
Finally she removed her heel from my neck and stepped out of my reach. She needn’t have bothered. I was far too busy curling into a foetal position and trying to cry quietly.
She stepped into a fighting stance, her fingers spread wide beside her.
“<Now put the gun down.>” Kiru commanded.
Tachi gently lowered the rifle to the ground and stepped away from it.
Kiru nodded. “<Come with me…> Aneki.”
Tachi grimaced at her. But he complied.
I listened to their footfalls as they walked away. Listened to them grow distant and quiet.
I closed my eyes and let go.
A screeching, metallic whine, like Godzilla dragging his irradiated claws down a chalkboard the size of Tokyo tower woke me with a jolt. That jolt burned through my whole body, neatly flashing on every little ache and pain on the way like the lights on an old computer when it boots up.
I tried to lie still. Hoped my pain would fade away. But the high-pitched whine only drilled further down my ear.
I opened my bleary eyes, burning them in the bright light, and turned them towards that awful noise.
A couple of PR’s techs had brought the angle-grinders out here. That burning light that hurt my eyes were the sparks showering off the big Texan’s torso plate. They were carefully cutting away the outer armour to get at the biopod underneath. The headless body flinched and tried to struggle, but reams of heavy, industrial chain held him to the floor.
Another ear-splitting grind-inferno later and the chest-plate was off. With the underbelly exposed the angle-grinders were put down and the socket-wrenches came out.
The headless Texan thrashed around desperately when he felt the socket wrench start to work on his bolts. He strained against the chains, but they held. The technician started working on the next bolt.
I closed my eyes and turned away. I did not want to know what they going to do with the biopod.
Want to read the whole thing now? Buy it here