tagErotic HorrorMind Games Ch. 05

Mind Games Ch. 05

byDragonCobolt©

The elevator door opened on gold and gilt and blood. I stepped out, shotgun in hand and looked around the corporate section of Virgil station, my lip curling slightly. I wasn't sure what disgusted me more: The gaudy art-deco designs of the walls, with angelic figures holding aloft the ceiling by upthrust palms, like recreations of Atlas...or the bodies. It looked as if a good fifteen people had been caught by the Tesc and flayed against the walls, their bodies spread out, their skin stretched. Nails had been driven through palms and ankles, but their faces were turned away from me, as if ashamed of themselves.

The floor itself was covered in maroon carpet. I hoped it had started maroon.

But I doubt it.

"Testing, testing," Jules said, his voice crackling from a speaker mounted above me. It sounded tinny and distant - much less clear than Lucas' pure brogue. I wondered if corporate had worse speakers than the rest of the station. Or maybe being splattered in someone's head blood really fucked up a speaker's sound quality. Either or.

"I can hear you, Jules," I said, walking cautiously past the flayed bodies and through the double doors that led away from the elevator lobby and into the first area of corporate. Since this was where visiting bigwigs came first, it was designed to be just as impressive as the elevator lobby. A curving wood panel desk that had clearly been made to be staffed by concierges, like at a massive hotel, bisected the room, while huge, vaulted windows showed space, and Earth beyond. Except now, the light of the sun had shifted and the clouds had moved, and I could see that the ground wasn't green and brown, as i might have expected.

Rather, the planet was wreathed in red. What I had mistaken as a hurricane was in truth a firestorm the size of a continent, sweeping slowly across that hellish landscape. I shook my head slowly and turned away from the windows. The rest of the room lacked the gory decorations of the lobby, but a stranger thing started to nag at me.

"Where are the statues?" I muttered.

"What?" Jules asked, his voice coming from a nearby speaker. "We're not getting any of the security footage. Lucas, have you?"

Lucas - his voice pure as an angel - chuckled. "If I had, laddie, I'd have sung out."

I shook my head and walked over to one of the gaping holes in the decoration that had clearly once held one of those art-deco abominations. It didn't look as if the statue had simply torn itself free and marched off (not that impossible, not here.) Rather, I could see a few dozen massive gouges that had been left on the wall, and a series of deep furrows on the ground. I knelt down, tracing parallel lines, trying to do some guessing. I held up my palm, to compare the lines to my fingers.

Whatever had left this track had to be either five buzz-saws moving in perfect unison.

Or, alternatively, it had to be the biggest goddamn Tesc on the station. If they had captured the middle of the station, then spread outwards, Corporate would have been the least well defended areas. The people here were white collar assholes, not security. They'd fall fast. So, the Tesc would have had plenty of time to...work...

"What do we know about the Tesc...ecology?" I asked. "For lack of better word?"

"Almost nothing," Jules said. "They don't have the concept of linear time in their dimension. I'm not sure if we could even say they have ecologies. Or evolution. Or any kind of interactions that we could recognize. But, well, I was...under the telepath's control for some time. I made...some observations."

"You don't need to-" I started, wincing at the pain that roared over that crackly speaker.

"Lassie, do you want to die?" Lucas asked, his voice pragmatic. "Seems ta me that not knowing shite is a great way to end up in some."

"Lucas, you asshole," I muttered as I hopped over the counter. Checking behind, I found a few key-rings, each one with a glittering golden key on it. Ostentatious dickheads. I took each key, shoving them into my pack as I crawled along the ground. My knees rasped on the carpet as Jules sighed and started to speak - narrating over me checking drawers, rummaging through cash registers, picking through anything that might be of some use.

"The Tesc take human bodies and manipulate them," he said. "I don't know how, but that much is obvious. Certain human females are turned into Brood Mothers. They are able to...birth...through some kind of dimensional process the Brood. Broodlings assist them. Likely, the combination of modified human tissue and Broodling structure allows for more complex support 'machinery'. If you can call it that." He sounded sick. "With that support, they can make Worker Brood, which make more complex human hybrids and Warrior Brood. The question is, where do Telepaths and anything more complex come from?"

I grinned. "Jackpot."

"What did you find?" Lucas asked.

I stood from behind the counter, holding up another one of those PDAs - similar to the one I had found back in the Weaponized Tesseract labs. I tapped through it and found that it had a recording as well. The recording crackled on and holographic recreations of two women appeared, standing and sitting at the countertop. One had her rump resting on the countertop, and the other was putting her feet up. The holographic display was fuzzier than the old PDA, making it way harder to tell faces, but their voices were clear enough.

"Huh, it's recording," the girl sitting with her rump on the counter, who I decided to mentally name Rump Down, said. "Got anything you want to say for posterity?" She giggled.

Feet Up sighed and rolled her head back so that it hung over the edge of her chair. "Ugh. I'm so freaking bored."

Rump Down shrugged. "Be glad we're not getting more work. I hear that there was another freak out down in cryonics."

"What?" Feet Up put her feet down, sitting up, and thus ruined her nickname. "You're kidding. That's the third this week. Do you know what it was?"

"Corporate keeps that shit hush hu-" Rump Down sprang to her feet as a recorded harrumph rang out. She turned around and a vague-half shape appeared at the edge of the projector, clearly at the outer range of its recording capacities. That figure remained at that distance, but despite being a blurry mass of pixels and random geometric images created by the holographic display, it still managed to somehow seem to be disapproving.

"Miss Murdoch, Miss Loesser," the disapproving figure said. "I want you both to get ready. A new high roller is coming through for the SDP project, and I want her to be impressed."

The vague shape vanished away.

"Dickless there doesn't remember that the P in SDP stands for project, does he?" Rump Down whispered - but then the holographic display faded away. As it vanished, I frowned, then thumbed through some of the non-holographic recordings on the PDA. I found the name for the last person that had come into the station. It was, shock of shocks...my name.

###

The actual offices beyond the main lobby were all well appointed and rife with ancient paperwork. That actually struck me as somewhat odd - in a space station, with nanotechnology and artificial gravity, why the fuck would you use paper. But it became clear the instant I picked one of the papers up. It was written in a strange series of runic letters that ran together quite unintelligibly, not English at all. With that cipher, and the fact that paper was utterly unhackable no matter how good you were at computers, then all the records in all these offices were safe.

But there were more pressing things to worry about than my own frustration at not finding any hints about my past, present, or future. For instance, the narrow corridors bore scratches and abrasions that spoke of something large and long writhing through them. The carpet was mulched by claw-marks. A few paintings had once hung on the walls, the slightly pale rectangles giving testiment to where the artwork had remained. They had been snatched away, leaving behind tattered wall paper and shattered wood panels.

Something big had stolen every fucking thing that shone or glittered or gleamed.

I checked my shotgun power supply and summoned a tiny sparkle of lightning along my palm. Both worked.

The offices gave way to large meeting rooms. These had been just as pillaged as the lobbies, with paintings and statues and even gold gilt scraped away. The first of the meeting rooms had held a large mahogany table, and it had been crushed in half by some errant footstep. The ceiling lamp that hung over the room was knocked askew, but still provided enough illumination for me to spy another one of those holographic recording PDAs. I snatched it up, then tensed. My ears heard nothing but the faint rumble of the air recycling systems - grown slightly louder the further that I moved away from the elevators and the need for a good impression grew less and less important.

The PDA tapped on and fuzzy figures appeared, several seated at the now destroyed table, their arms resting on nothingness.

"So, Miss Montenegro," a voice - Dickless, I recognized him despite the fact he was no longer a growling collection of geometric shapes and fuzzy pixels. There wasn't enough definition on the recording to show his expression, though I did get a faint sense that he was a slender man, not heavily built or fat. "That's the basic program."

"I...still cannot quite believe it," my own voice came from the figure at the other end of the table. Her hands held up some glowing rectangles. The way they wobbled, I realized they were papers. No, not papers. They were slightly too stiff for the papers I had seen scattered around this place. What were they? My old self put the papers down. "Immortality..." she chuckled.

"And more," Dickless said, gesturing to the side.

One of the other glowing figures held out their hand. A glowing haze of pixels appeared around their palm and the recording device dutifully replayed the resounding crash of a lightning bolt going off.

"Oh..." my old self said. "Oh yes. I can see why you call it...ah..."

"An unbeatable deal?" Dickless said, voice pure sugar. "If you sign there, there, and there, we can take you right to the SDP Project rooms and we can begin with the work."

My old self bent forward and started to sign. They stood and the holographic recording shut off - but not before I saw that they were heading to the left. My heart sprang into my throat and I hurried towards the doorway, shotgun at the ready. I saw nothing but two curving corridors - one head towards the SDP and the other one headed for the Lounge. From the direction of the Lounge, I could hear that sound. That low, rumbling, grinding sound. My ears perked up and I felt goosebumps slide along my arms.

"That's...not the air recyclers, isn't it?"

"What, lassie?" Lucas asked.

"Have either of you gotten the fucking cameras on? And it's Beatrice, Lucas," I whispered, aiming my shotgun towards the curving corner leading towards the Lounge. That slow, steady, in and out rumble continued. The sound of breathing. Now that I was attuned to the idea of it, I realized I could feel a moist heat sliding down the corridor. Something moist and hot clung to my face and cheeks and I felt my cheeks turn red with the sticky heat. It was like being breathed on by a lover and a jungle, all at once. That faintly sweet scent - so close to decay and fruit that it made me simultaneously nauseous and hungry - filled my nostrils. Thick. Cloying. I shook my head and backed towards the SDP rooms.

"Nay, lassie," Lucas said.

"Jules?" I whispered.

He didn't respond.

I frowned. I hoped that the Tesc hadn't come on where they had been working. He was just taking a piss. That thought was nice. Comforting. Not that I wanted to have him piss on me or anything. But it was just something normal here, in this timeless hell surrounded by fucking abominations. I felt my own bladder twinge and my cheeks turned red as I realized I hadn't done anything normal in far too long. At least I had gotten a few snatches of a bite to eat while working on the collar.

My thumb touched the button as my collar buzzed - giving me an idea of how long I had been rummaging around this place. An hour. I nodded and then came to the SDP room.

"Ah, there you are," Jules said, his voice coming from a speaker that hung from the corner of the room. My brow furrowed as I looked around the place, my lips turning down slightly. The SDP room was a fusion of the art-deco of the rest of the Corporate section with a bit of the antiseptic futurism of the technical research levels of the station. There were six large seats, three on one side of the room and three on the other. They looked a bit like the kind of seats you might see at a dentist's office, with a head rest and arm rests. But attached to their backs were gilt and wood paneled domes that were mounted on boom arms. I walked over and took hold of one of the domes, flipping it over - and hissed.

The inside of the dome, concealed by position, were an array of thick spines and needles that looked as if they were able to pierce through human skin and bone with ease. My thumb accidentally found a small switch on the outer edge of the dome. The needles thrust forward with a loud snick. I jerked away.

"What the fucking fuck!?" I snarled.

"What, what is it?" Jules asked, voice alarmed - ringing from the speaker.

I looked at it. "It's a fucking hairdresser's salon with fucking iron maiden helmets!"

"What?"

That was Tracy's voice. She sounded muffled and far away - and then came closer, a crackling sound filling the speaker, like her thumb was rubbing the microphone. Her voice was focused and hard: "Bea, there should be a switch on the edge of the helmet. Is there?"

"Yeah," I said, frowning. "And it makes the needles stab inwards."

"Fuck. Fuck," Tracy hissed.

"What? What is it?" I asked.

"They're Ryan-DeWitt Quantum Induction machines," she said.

"And the fuck are those?" I hissed, trying to keep my voice from raising into a screech.

"They..." Tracy paused. "They scan memories. Personalities. Souls, I guess. So they can be uploaded onto computers."

She was silent for a moment longer.

"Or clones."

The low, steady sound of distant breathing was eclipsed in the background of my hearing by a roaring in my ears. Like the sea, crashing on the surface. I shook my head, slowly. My back thumped into the side of the wall and my knees gave way. I sank down, breathing slowly in and out, in and out, in and out. Focus, Beatrice. Focus. Drag in one breath. Let it go. Drag in. Let go. My eyes started to close. I slammed my head into the wall. Slammed it again and again and again, feeling pain surge through me. But pain was better than the alternative. A cry I didn't know I could make escaped from between clenched teeth as I shuddered, convulsively. I wanted to be sick. But I didn't have enough in me to let it out.

It was a poison, that thought. That horrible realization.

I wasn't Beatrice Montenegro.

I was...

I could see, without the need of holographic display, a hazy half-imagined ghost that sat down on the chair. Except I was seeing it from the perspective of that ghost while also viewing it from the outside, like an alien observer. Bifocal realities. I saw the smiling face of the corporate ghoul looking down at me, and a doctor. The doctor was checking a PDA, tapping off readouts that she was looking at. The ghoul - Dickless - looked at me.

"Don't worry," his echo said. "You won't feel a thing. And then you don't need to think about it back on the yacht."

"Will I...will it remember this?"

"Oh no," Dickless said. "There will only be dreams..."

The images fuzzed away and I clenched my jaw. "Jules," I whispered, raggedly. "What does SDP stand for?"

"I don't know!" He said, his voice tight.

I shoved myself to my feet. "F-Fuck this. Fuck this fucking station, fuck that fucking bitch!" I snarled, staggering past the seats, leaving my shotgun behind at the doorway. Discarded. I started to root through the room, searching for the computer I needed. "I'm getting the computer, then I'm heading right fucking back. There'd need to be a good computer here, right?" I asked.

"Well, the scanners are-"

"Yes or fucking no, Tracy!" I shouted - not caring about stealth at the moment.

Tracy's subdued voice came from the speaker. "Yes."

"Lassie-" Lucas started, whispering quietly in my ear. I hung my head forward, my forehead pressing to the metal surface of the wall above the computer alcove. There was a computer component inside, but I didn't know if it was powerful enough. Lucas started again. "Beatrice."

"Yeah?" I asked.

"You actually could kick Beatrice's ass,' he said. "The fake on."

"And why do you think she's fake?" I asked.

"I like you more," Lucas said. "Wouldn't it feel good to just headbutt her unconscious?"

I breathed in. I remembered, earlier - what felt like weeks earlier - that I had said that the station might have gone to hell, but I sure wasn't. For a moment, I imagined doing a fuck of a lot more than just headbutting the woman who had gotten me into this mess. Who had created me, for immortality and magical powers. I imagined her mouth, bleeding and toothless, forced to fellate my shotgun. I imagined pulling the trigger, and rather than recoiling from the mental image, I felt my clit harden and my sex moisten.

I grabbed onto the sides of the cabinet, then slammed my head into the wall again. The impact sent a flash of white pain through my eyes and I reeled backwards. I sprawled on the floor, gasping, and felt the pain subside only in a slow, sullen way.

"Lassie?!" Lucas asked.

"Don't...ah...encourage...my...darker...impulses, Lucas..." I snarled, pushing myself to my feet. "I'm going to stay myself. I don't know what...that is...but I'm going to stay it." I shook my head, then called out. "Jules. Fuck." I winced, my head ringing. "Jules, is a G65-43-34-2 cybernetic intelligence unit good enough for the portal?"

"Two of them would be," Jules said.

I closed my eyes.

"Great."

###

I stepped slowly towards the lounge. The breathing became louder and louder. I knew that going slowly would only make the waiting harder and more painful for me - but I couldn't stop myself. I didn't want to see. I didn't want to know what new horror this fucking station had to show me. But the claw marks were more regular here, and I saw that the doorway - the double doorway - into the lounge had been torn off its hinges. The walls had been compressed and hammered outwards, creating a mouth of a cave, not an entrance to a corporate hack's idea of a rest and relaxation room for the megawealthy. Steam hissed out of it and the stink of heat and jungle moistness and sweetness was almost overpowering. Sweat dripped down my face and I forced myself to lean my head around the corner.

And saw.

The lounge had been demolished. Comfortable couches splintered, pool tables upended, their balls sent scattered. But rather than being cleared away, the center of the room - a large pit of an area, with a raised walkway surrounding it - had become heaped with treasure. Golden statues had been crumbled into chunks, while paintings had been set here and there. Some of the statues had been so completely turned to rubble that they simply looked like gold painted rocks and marble. Others remained - an art-deco head looking out into the air, a single arm reaching out from the rubble, reaching for some kind of release. For a moment, I could only see the rubble.

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