Doctor Who: Panic Moon Ch. 13


'What's your name, recruit?' He said in a low voice, face impassive to avoid telegraphing his next move.

'I'll tell you if you beat me, old man.'

'I'm your superior officer,' The knife twitched in his hand.

'Fine,' She sighed. 'I'm Ren, and this really is the best way for me to get to know you, boss man. You're handling that thing pretty well, so I hope I don't stab you too badly. It'd be a pity if our first meeting ended with your blood all over the floor. It'd remind me of too many first dates,' She grinned terribly.

Jae blinked. He was beginning to think he might have acted impulsively here, and dived into an increasingly deadly situation without thinking.

'Hirasawa, take Kasuga to the med bay. Alright new blood, let's see what you can do,' Jae said, expression solid and unmoving as he and Ren circled each other slowly, weapons at the ready.

'You think you can handle me, old man?'

'I'm thirty-one,' Jae snipped. 'Not old.'

'Yeah, well, I'm still younger than you,' Ren had the kind of grin sharks got, the kind that was just a byproduct of an opening maw, generally to bite something. 'Not that you'd ask a lady her age, yes?'

'Something tells me you're no lady,' Jae chuckled. 'That's an interesting stance you've got there. Who trained you?'

'Nobody did,' Ren shrugged.

'Oh, that makes sense,' Jae said, grunting. 'At least, it explains why nobody can predict what the fuck you're going to do next. You fight like a cornered animal, not a soldier. Why did they send you to me?'

'Something about a fresh perspective?' Ren said. 'But I think it's mainly because I can punch through a human sternum with my fist.'

Jae made a pained noise in the back of his throat, sort of a sigh crossed with a nervous laugh.

From the edge of the arena, set back at a safe distance, Saki squinted, 'Are they... talking?'

In the ring, her captain and the new recruit danced around the center, close in to each other. Their knives glittered as they arced through the air, almost blurring with the speed of the blows. Metal clanged against metal, punctuated by the occasional grunt or snarl of exertion as one or the other fighter blocked an incoming blow with a bare hand. The two of them were really going at it, redirecting momentum, attacking and defending with expert precision. But in the moments of stillness, as they circled, it was easy to see that, yes, they were talking to each other. And smiling.

'Man, those two are inhuman,' Itazu shook his head sadly. 'Her more than most...'

'Oh, it's funny because she's a Half!' Saki rolled her eyes. 'Don't be racist, not when she's taking on the captain and winning.'

'Trust me, I know,' He rolled his shoulder with the pronounced click of bone, and a wince. 'That halfbreed bitch hurts.'

Jae threw his weight into a vicious downward slash, growling in irritation as Ren flowed around the flashing silver blade, stabbing up at him with her own. He stumbled backwards, almost tripping over his own feet as the tip of the intimidating knife grazed his throat. Way too close. His palm flew upward, catching her wrist and squeezing, causing her to cry out in pain. He pulled her in close, their faces mere inches apart; he could feel the heat of her breath as she panted with exertion.

'You're fantastic! Are you sure you didn't train?' Jae grinned, heart pounding in his chest, adrenaline coursing through him. He had put up a good fight so far, but even he had to admit that it was entirely possible he would lose, and end up like Kasuga. More times than he cared to think about, Ren's blade had come close to slicing him open, and even her regular punches contained more force than Jae was used to seeing in bullets.

'Are you sure you did?' Ren quipped back, dropping her knife from her captured hand and catching it quickly in the other, a snaking, sinuous movement that took Jae completely by surprise. He dived backwards as the blade was brought up toward his ribs, twisting as he fell and throwing up his own knife hand in a clumsy deflection. Ren's blade hit the handle of his knife, twisting down and laying a deep gash into his wrist. Jae grunted in pain as his blood dripped to the floor.

'Ooh, watch out, Sir! Almost got you there!' Ren laughed savagely, tossing her knife back to her dominant hand, raising a sneaker clad foot and bringing it down hard on Jae. He rolled out of the way, driving his knife into the toe of her shoe, probably missing flesh, but effectively pinning Ren in place, affording him valuable time to scrabble to his feet. Of course, It also left him unarmed...

'Captain!' Hirasawa's voice echoed through the large room as Ren lifted her pinned foot with relative ease, actually raising it over her head so fast that the knife came spinning away, embedding itself in the wall opposite. Holy shit.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jae could see Hirasawa, returned with a medical crew for Kasuga, throwing something glinting and sleek to Itazu, before raising another of his own.

'Alright bitch, let's see how good you are now!' Hirasawa yelled, pistol pointed at the new recruit. Jae threw himself forward as he and Itazu opened fire on the young woman.

'Damn it, no!' Jae shouted, knocking Ren to the floor and collapsing on top of her, shrinking inwards as the first rounds collided with the wall behind them. He sought to make their profile small enough to be missed entirely. 'Ceasefire!'

In the silence that followed, Jae pulled himself up onto his elbows, staring down into the wide, mismatched eyes of the recruit. Something flickered there, beyond the outer surprise at his being on top of her. Something unknowable and ancient, yet young and somehow empty. Devoid of experience in a world too large.

'Are you okay?' He asked breathlessly, looking her over for wounds. For a moment, Ren stayed silent, staring at him, wide eyed and motionless. She seemed almost to recoil, as though the sudden physical contact was jarring, and she didn't know what to do about it.

She soon figured it out, features twisting with rage, 'Get off me!' She snarled, throwing him away with unnatural strength and jumping to her feet. Her eyes burned as she faced her attackers, staring right down the barrels of their guns, 'Hit me again. Come on, shoot at me again, cowards. I fucking dare you.'

And they fired. For all the good it did them.

'Live rounds, huh? You were really trying to kill me, then,' Ren said in a voice dripping with hate, distorted and made metallic by the featureless, convex helmet that had... Had... Grown out of the black suit under her clothes. In the time it had taken for the bullets to reach her, countless iridescent, sunset orange tendrils had knitted together around her, becoming a sinuous, curving metal hardsuit, a high-tech suit of armor.

'What the hell?' Jae murmured, looking up and down the imposing figure in front of him. Of course, he knew about hardsuits, in theory; like a robot you could wear, protecting you from harm and adding insane strength and tactical awareness to the average soldier. The only problem was, it was impossible; the forces required to make a suit that had sufficient strength to compensate for the enormous weight of all that tech would tear the wearer apart in moments. He had seen the after-action reports on the tests.

They weren't pretty.

'We were having a good old time beating the hell out of each other, and you assholes decide to raise the stakes like this?' Ren's voice filtered out through the speakers inset into the collar of her suit. The whole rig began to move, armor plates rippling almost like liquid as Ren stepped forward. 'Unluckily for you, I'm playing a whole different game.'

Do I get to kill them, Ren?

She had named the being implanted in her body Shichi, the Japanese word for seven. She had learned quite quickly that, to the Research Division that had conducted the experiments on her, she was Subject Seven, nothing more. God knows they had done enough to her, regardless of how much it had hurt.

... But damn, did this suit ever feel good...

'Just hurt 'em,' Ren thought to the alien. 'Technically they're on our side.'

They attacked us, Ren!

The suit swung forward, taking Ren with it. The armor flowed, twisting like a living thing; the plates on her forearms roiling as the artificial musculature beneath grew. As it leapt, gauntleted fingers sharpened into claws, glinting in the light. Ren's attackers backed up quickly under the mass of living metal and angered Half bearing down on them. The suit landed heavily between them, the impact great enough to crack the concrete beneath.

Inside the helmet, Ren gritted her teeth, 'No! Damn it, Shichi!'

The Research Division could call this whatever they wanted, use words like "implantation," and "molecular regeneration," but the truth was, nobody had any idea what was really going on, during this process. The truth, was that they had found a piece of living alien metal in a meteor that had crashed just outside the capital, and had spent the past four years splitting it endlessly and allowing it to regenerate, just to experiment on it. Discovering that it was sentient, and could pass that trait onto each individual fragment didn't even slow them down. And when they had found it could attach itself to a host body, with a variety of interesting side effects, well...

Ren's half-human biology had allowed the creature to adapt itself to her with remarkable ease, producing a highly effective soldier, just... Not without side effects. As Ren's arm raised itself, armored plates growing scything, bladed tentacles, that fact became horribly clear. Her teeth almost creaked with the force of her bite, as Ren growled with effort, wrenching her arm back down; her fist slammed into the ground, sending thin cracks and fissures across the hard concrete. A few feet away, Hirasawa's eye twitched.

The term R & D used was "rampancy."

Ren just called it going batshit loco.

Inside the armor, her entire body shuddered with the effort of not moving. Shichi wasn't just the suit, it was in her body, inhabiting her flesh; she felt as though her bones were trying to tear through her, like her entire physical form was trying to wrench itself into motion despite her best efforts.

Her fist slammed into the ground, again and again; a desperate attempt to redirect the sheer violent energy Shichi was attempting to bring to bear on her squad mates, 'No, no, no! Shichi, stop it!'

She started up an increasingly vehement series of curses, screaming into her faceplate as her skin began to burn, every atom of her body subject to Shichi's clawing, rabid desires. The alien had the mind of a child, and right now every affronted, simply wrathful part of it was focused on sending its host to tear apart the two highly trained soldiers that were slowly backing away. The depression in the floor was quickly deepening under Ren's fist. Outside the suit, aimless, whipping tendrils of gleaming orange metal sprang at random from her back and limbs, slicing at the air in a desperate attempt to reach Hirasawa and Itazu.

Ren! Ren, please!

Shichi's voice took on a whining, pleading tone as the host began to regain control of herself. The suit froze, went limp for a moment as, inside, Ren growled through the last mental push, getting Shichi back under control. Laboriously, she manipulated the slowly reforming armor, pulling herself to her feet as alarms burst to life, klaxons blaring, filling the room.

'Oh good,' Ren sighed, almost tripping over the feet of her hardsuit as she struggled to keep the damn thing stable. Dimly, she was aware of a warm, organic pressure on one shoulder; looking over, she could see Jae attempting to support her. She would soon regain her full strength, but in the moments immediately following a period of rampancy it was reassuring to have someone at her side. Even if she didn't entirely trust him.

Ren, I'm sorry. I'm still not used to having a body. To... To talking. I didn't mean it, Ren.

'Just shut up, Shichi. Stay quiet,' Ren ground out through clenched teeth, as the tiny voice in her head began to sound ashamed of its actions.

'What the fuck is going on here?' Hirasawa scratched the back of his head. Alarms weren't terribly strange here, being that Installation 01 had many emergency drills, and the more frequent than anyone cared to admit legitimate emergency because... Well, things sometimes exploded. But this specific tone he hadn't heard before, and that unfamiliarity was only compounded by the seven or eight flying drones that swerved around the corridor and into the room, quickly moving to surround Ren and, by extension, Jae.

Hirasawa and Itazu took a few steps back, out of harm's way. Loyalty to one's boss was one thing. Getting killed by robots was another.

'Fuck me,' Ren snarled breathlessly, still only barely in control of her hardsuit. The audio sensors that coated the armor, a million tiny ears built into every atom, caught the faint buzz of a charging particle beam. 'God fucking damn it! You see what you did, Shichi?'

Bolts of orange fire lanced from apertures set low on the drones' angular, metal-plated bodies, lighting the room like a powerful sunset. Ren's gauntleted hand was on Jae's collar immediately. He grunted, a violent, wordless exhalation of surprise as Ren jumped, bearing him aloft by the back of the neck, up and over the superheated air produced by the beams. They scorched black lines in the already punished floor where their targets once were. Moments after the beams shut off, Ren and Jae hit the ground, the latter stumbling slightly, having only just gotten used to being airborne.

'Shichi, harden the armor, as much as you can without restricting movement. How long do you think you can make us stand up to a particle beam?' Ren whispered to herself as she touched down, watching the drones encircle her again, waiting for an appropriate opening to push Jae out of the way.

Two seconds. Four, if it's not sustained fire and we get time to cool down. Do I get to kill these ones, Ren?

Shichi had been undeniably eager then, a thrill of adrenaline rushing through her system as her internal hitchhiker bounced up and down on its metaphorical feet. She almost grinned, 'Yeah. Yeah, we do, Shichi, and what the fuck are you doing, Cappy?'

She turned her head, allowing her visor to alight on Jae, back to back with her, glaring out at the drones as they slowly circled overhead, fast enough to make it difficult to keep track of them, as their main weapons recharged. She caught the curved edge of his smile as he looked back.

'Backing you up,' He said. 'What are we dealing with, here?'

'Fucking Blackwatch security drones!' Ren growled. 'They're sent out automatically to take me out if I get... out of control. Your asshole squad-fuckers ticked me off and set them off!'

'Those are Hackett Industries drones, yeah?' Jae had a light chuckle in his voice, though it was anything but mirthful. 'Weak recharge cycle.'

'Why are you still here? These things are after me, if you step away, they won't follow you.'

'Because you're on my squad now, these things aren't,' Jae said simply. 'Our highest task to protect Emperor Sagara, and that means I need something like you alive.'

'Something, huh?' Ren grinned inside her helmet, finding it hard to argue. She clenched one hand before pressing it into Jae's, concentrating hard. Slowly, her palm filled, 'Here, take this.'

Jae's eyes widened, and he lifted his hand, bringing up a slender gun, made of the same orange metal his back was pressed against. He made a little strangled noise in the back of his throat; this technology was too fucking much.

'Okay, fine...' His brows rose helplessly.

'Aim for the firing apertures or the propulsion systems. They're no threat without those,' Ren slammed a metal shod fist into a metal shod palm. 'Let's get to work then, partner.'

Jae didn't have the first clue what Ren was or how she could do what she did, but damn was it effective. She leapt from drone to drone, shrugging off multiple hits with a weapon that would shear a hole in Jae's chest in seconds. Each drone she actually made contact with went down in a hail of twisted and shrieking metal on roughly the same amount of time. It was a little intimidating.

Meanwhile, Jae himself laid in with the worryingly powerful gun his new recruit had... had made for him. The thing had almost no kick, but sliced through metal like nothing else. Disturbingly, it was warm to the touch in a weird, organic way, and soft enough for his fingers to sink into if he gripped too hard. Once, he swore he could feel a heartbeat.

What the fuck was going on in Shikishima?

'And that makes eight!' Ren whooped, hefting the wreck of the last Blackwatch drone into the wall hatefully. 'Fuck you, security measures!'

'Seriously. What... The fuck,' Hirasawa twitched in his corner, looking out over the scorched and cracked surfaces of the once pristine training room floor. A rather vicious looking bruise had formed over one eye, and his mind still echoed with the blow that had caused it. He was feeling rather... forgotten.

'Well that was... interesting,' Jae deadpanned. 'Ren, was it? You need to tell me what's going on, right now.'

'Actually, right now, I'm going to get in contact with the monitoring hub, to have the hit on me called off, yeah?' Ren's head cocked to one side as her hardsuit slid away, plates retracting into one another, drawing back into the skin of her right arm like it was nothing. Jae could see her face for the first time since this had begun, and she was smiling at him. It was almost attractive, in a dangerous sort of way, 'But... We'll talk later. Captain.'

She added the last word after a slight pause, inclining her head and pronouncing it in such a way as to imply it was a big deal, coming from her. There was respect there, buried under a thick layer of sarcasm and humor, but it was unmistakable. She bounded away, skipping lightly over the wreckage of the security drones, turning back at the last moment to call to him over her shoulder.

'Word to the wise,' She said. 'You may want to get yourself decontaminated. I'm not, y'know, contagious or anything, but my handlers definitely saw you touching me, and doing it voluntarily will look good.'

And with that, she was gone. And Jae narrowed his eyes, because he had seen something in hers that he recognized. He often saw it, in soldiers he ended up kicking out of his unit, recommending for dishonorable discharge, because they were the kind who ended up firing on civilians and claiming it was hard to differentiate between civvies and the enemy in the heat of battle. The psychopaths and opportunistic killers who had come to the military because a war was on and they had an itch that it could scratch, without consequences.

In Ren's eyes, he had seen the glittering glee of a killer fresh from the fight. That radiant glow that came from breaking something with bare hands. He had seen wrath in her eyes, only barely kept in check. And whatever had been done to her, whatever had given her those extraordinary gifts? That was making it worse. He knew.

Ren? She was one to watch. Carefully.


Shikishima Team 01 mission log: 08

Team: C.O Captain Jae Hoshikuji, Subject Seven (Ren Syfte)

Mission status: Success, all objectives.

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