Mors Funebris Chapter 2 Part 6
The next thing Tia became aware of in her sudden flight, was a large wave of heat and noise that resounded behind her. Somehow, she managed to exit the building before the explosion’s shockwave impacted her with its full force.
After a long while of black unawareness, Helvetia, Jumping-Spider Mamono, became aware that her ears could hear before her eyes could see. What she could hear then sounded odd to her.
‘Why,…?” she spoke blearily through her mental fog, her senses addled, “are the emergency bells being rung?” she asked herself as her world wobbled.
To her it was as if she were spinning on a silk line that was suspended from her home-cave’s ceiling. Like that one time a powerful breeze had blown through, while she’d been rappelling down to work on a ceiling glow crystal; she felt so dizzy.
As the bells continued in their mindless tolling, Corporal Helvetia’s eyesight began to clear as she began to slowly blink her eyes to clear out the dust and grit that covered her eyelids. Haltingly, her eyesight shifted from an unfocused fuzziness to a clear and sharp delineation. What she saw finally, still didn’t make any sense.
Where before had been Fort Eequor’s research and recovery division of buildings, now all she could see were massive piles of broken wood joints, cracked stones, and shredded wall-paneling on all sides. Acrid smoke rose from every one of the piles of building parts scattered all about her. Looking down at herself, she discovered that that same debris was also covering nearly every square centimeter of her fur. Without moving her head, she could see rampant destruction everywhere she looked.
Shifting her gaze slowly upwards, she squinted at the sight of numerous smoke trails rising up into the dawn air. The moment she moved herself to try and make sense of everything, was when she felt the pain.
“Aaah!” she cried out and then began to pant, as the enormity of all of the aches, dull pains, and sharp stabbings appeared in a rush. It was so much, that it threatened to overwhelm her back into unconsciousness. Automatically, she reached out a hand to anchor herself to something solid. To act as a bulwark against her increased vertigo.
Tia was confused again, when instead of the solidity of the ground or a piece of wood, as she’d expected; she found something soft and pliable under her touch. Leaning forward and fighting through the pain that continued its assault upon her senses, she soon saw what it was that her hands had encountered.
It wasn’t an it, but a whom!
“Jinks!” Tia cried loudly, recognizing the form of the unmoving Gremlin officer she served under; who now lay loosely askew on the area in front of her. Now, she more resembled a casually tossed aside child’s toy, partially hidden underneath a pile of debris.
Tia’s combat medical training, automatically took control as she set about to inspect Jinks for any damage she might have suffered. Gritting her teeth to fight through her own pain and dizziness, Tia made herself stand up and haltingly circle around Jinks to do a proper assessment of her condition. All the while she was careful to not move Jinks any more than necessary. After a few cursory passes and tender inspections, she came to a conclusion.
‘She’s breathing,..good!’ she thought, somewhat relieved, ‘no rips, no tears, no jutting bones, only minor seeping of blood from minor wounds. Check!’ Tia thought as she felt her own breathing calm down. ‘But she’s still unresponsive, must be knocked out again.’ Tia thought, then froze when she remembered.
‘Again?!’ she asked herself, her eyes going wide as she looked around the destruction that lay around her. ‘Oh wait! That’s right!’ she mused then in sudden remembrance. Tia’s blood went cold, as she spoke one word aloud.
“Jenny.” She whispered hoarsely, as she looked cautiously about her, peering as best she might through the haze of smoke and debris. Listening as carefully as she could over the sound of the bells, Tia couldn’t detect any sound or vibrations of anyone moving nearby.
“I’ve got to get Jinks to the Infirmary!” Tia decided in a whisper. “That’s what Ara,…” she gasped. “Arawn!” she half-shouted, then caught herself. Acting on instinct, she reached out through that, ‘mind-speech’ ability that she and he had ‘spoken’ through only a few minutes ago, but it felt much longer.
‘Arawn!? (T)’ she mentally shouted in desperation then, and waited for a reply. Several of Tia’s pounding hearts-beats went by, but all she heard by way of reply was an almost complete silence, with only the slightest of echoes of her mental voice. The absence of his expected mental-voice left her feeling with a pang of loss, and dread. It was almost as if she had lost a part of herself.
Absent any immediate help, she knew what she needed to do. After calming herself and her breathing, Tia grit her teeth, and then she began the task of gently collecting Jinks into her arms and setting about in search for help.
Barely, had she gone more than a few dozen steps through the rubble of what had once been a walkway between buildings, before Tia caught the barest glimpse of a limping figure walking ahead of her in the smoke.
“Help!” she cried out. When she did, Tia could see that the smoke shrouded figure, stop and then turn towards her. Tia found herself smiling in desperate relief, as she stumbled herself and her burden towards that lone person. As she and the figure came close enough to see each other, Tia slowed and then came to a horrified stop when she recognized who it was.
That cursed Automaton.
“You!” the Jenny spoke in her oddly accented voice then. “Are an ally of Annwyfn Arawn! *bzzt*,” she continued, as she walked jerkily towards the Spider-girl, her eyes a blazing white-hot.
“Therefore, you must be exterminated!” she stated coldly, as her chest protuberance began to glow again.
Despite her dread, Tia thought that there was a hint of something ‘off’ in the Automaton’s voice. From out of the depths of her recollection, Tia conjured something Arawn had said previously.
“Jenny Stop!” she shouted then! To Tia’s surprise, Jenny did so. Instead of firing whatever that weapon was in her chest, she stumbled back a step or two.
“Why?” Jenny asked, blinking furiously while her eyes faded to her normal blue.
“I’ve been told that you are not a warrior, Automaton-Jenny! Is that true?” Tia demanded, still cradling Jinks protectively in her arms. Jenny’s attention wavered.
“Affirmative!” After a moment, Jenny replied in a lost voice. Her mouth hanging open as if in despair.
“You are supposed to be a protector!” Tia shouted. “Why are you acting as a destroyer!?” She demanded, trying to press her advantage. At first Jenny didn’t reply, instead it appeared to Tia that she was momentarily introspective then.
“I am supposed to be a protector!” Jenny whispered, as she began to hunch herself over, her chest weapon dimming.
“I am not supposed to be a destroyer!” she cried indecisively, her whole-body quivering in conflict as she surveyed the damage to the buildings that she had caused.
Then, as suddenly as it had arrived, Jenny’s indecision evaporated. Her eyes flared a blinding white as she stood herself to her full height. Then she turned her attention and her chest weapon back towards Tia and Jinks.
“The Omega Directives,” Jenny began again, this time in a cold tone, “Override my inherent protective programming, *bzzt*,” She stated as she moved forward and loomed herself over Tia.
“I am compelled to obey them, even if I do not wish it, *bzzt*.” She continued, as her chest weapon began to recharge itself.
Tia grimaced in that moment as she tightened her leg muscles in preparation to Jump, in an attempt to get away, consequences be damned! But, she suddenly found that she was unable to when she tried.
Instead of a sudden change in scenery, she felt her legs spasm painfully as she began her jumping-flex. Which caused her to collapse down to the ground into a useless heap. Fighting against the pain, she struggled as best she could to stand. As she did, Tia could feel tears of despair and frustration overwhelm herself in that moment. Looking up at that oddly shape pipe in the middle of Jenny’s chest, she knew then that she was looking at her own death.
“I apologize for the inconvenience.” Jenny replied incongruously, speaking as if she’d accidentally stepped on Tia’s tarsi tip, instead of executing her for some unimaginable crime.
Too weak to fight back and unable to Jump, Tia reacted in the only way she knew how. She curled her upper body protectively around Jinks, in a vain attempt to shield her from Jenny’s assault. Giving up hope, Tia breath caught in her throat, as she closed all of her eyes in preparation for the inevitable.
‘please.’ she thought to herself. ‘not like,…’ but was interrupted by the sound of someone else.
“NO!” shouted a familiar voice.
A large crack resounded, along with a rush of heated air that made Tia flinch. At first, she thought it was the sound of her Jenny’s weapon discharging.
But, when she realized that she was still alive, she opened her eyes to an amazing sight. Jenny was gone! She was nowhere in easy view, despite all of Tia darting her head about to take in everything about her.
Off to one side, she beheld something that made her gasp and pant in relief. It was Arawn, he was stumbling towards where she was crouched. She couldn’t ever recall being so happy to see him before.
He continued his advance with a fearsome aspect set on his face. It was then, that Tia’s eyes were drawn down to his right arm. It was extended before him like it was some sort of a weapon. She blinked in surprise when she saw that his right hand was enveloped with a yellowish nimbus of power. A Golden-Aura that seemed to emanate from within his hand as if it were a glow crystal.
As elated as she was then to see him, she noted with alarm that Arawn was far from undamaged. As he came closer, she saw that he was dragging one foot behind him, and that his clothes were mostly in tatters. Giving him the once over, she noted that his skin was now reddened significantly, as if he were severely sunburned. Which was odd, considering that the sun hadn’t even finished peeking out over the horizon yet.
There, near his sternum, her eyes widened at the sight of what could only be third degree burns; charred and wrinkled dry-skin that was pulled back slightly from the epicenter that lay directly over his heart, His mouth moved, but she couldn’t hear him. She shook her head uncomprehendingly. He spoke again, this time she could.
“Mentor!” he spoke again, “Are you all right?” he asked with a pain filled grimace.
“Yes, she replied automatically, her eyes roving over him. Then she gasped when she just how serious his condition was.
‘What did Jenny do to him?‘ she wondered.
“Arawn! You’re terribly injured” Tia yelped, as she wobbly got to her feet and began to stumble towards him.
“Nevermind that!” he shot back while waving his hand in dismissal, its glow fading, “Can you walk?” he asked. Confused, Tia nodded her acknowledgement.
“Yes, I think so!” she replied, realizing that her inconvenient leg spasms had passed; but before she could say anything else. Arawn barked.
“Then get yourself and Jinks over to the Infirmary!” he ordered, as if he were in command of her. Strangely, she found herself moving to obey. Even as in much pain as she was, she found herself stumbling in the direction of the medical building. She then stopped and looked back at him.
“What about you? About Jenny? She’s still out there, isn’t she?”
“Yes, probably in stealth mode; one similar to yours.”
“Then you should come with me, to help protect.”
“No!” he replied firmly, shaking his head. “It is me that she is looking for. If we are together, you would be left even more vulnerable in case she attacks again. I need to draw her away from you, and everyone else.”
“Where do you intend to go?”
“The Quarry. At least there I will not be so constrained.”
“Constrained? What do you mean?”
“I mean, that I will not need to ‘pull my punches’ anymore.”
“What? You’re telling me that you’ve been holding back on the power of all of your offensive spells thus far?”
“Indeed! Severely so.” He smiled a smile that was more akin to a rictus,
“Now go!” he replied, waving at her to do just that. Reluctantly, Tia complied. But, before she could get far, she heard him say one last time before he fully disappeared in the smoke.
“Tia! Keep everyone else from approaching! I cannot guarantee their safety if they do!” Filled as she was with fear at what Arawn’s words invoked in her, Tia set about to complete at least one task- getting Jinks to safety!
Arawn watched Tia as she stumbled haltingly away from him. He stood sentinel for as long as he dared, keeping his psi-senses fully extended, waiting for the chance for Jenny to make a mistake. Unfortunately, she chose not to.
‘Faex!’ Arawn cursed. ‘Quintus, status? (1)’ he demanded.
‘Negative towards any obvious sign of Jenny at this time. However, I am detecting psi-noise on the Zeta-bandwidth; normally indicative of an Automaton stealth field in use. I cannot pinpoint its emanation location. (5)’
‘Fair enough! Watch for noise surges. (1)’ Arawn/Primus replied, panting physically as he leaned up against one of the few remaining intact wall supports. After several deep inhalations, he picked out a direction, and began walking, painfully limping with every step because of his damaged leg. Then Quartus piped up.
‘Damage-Report! We have sustained a concussion, and we are suffering first, second, and third degree burns all over our body! Your left ankle is broken with a compound fracture! I have not even finished counting the number of contusions or punctures we have received, yet. We need to seek out medical aid! (4)’ Quartus pointed out then, in between sharp intakes of breath.
‘No time!’ Arawn replied, ‘we need to draw the Jenny unit away, and deal with her first! She is now a murder machine. I cannot, will not, abide the thought of an indulgence on my part, if it means that someone else pays the price for my folly. (1)’ he replied.
‘Primus please! (4)’ Quartus tried again.
‘ENOUGH!’ Arawn mentally shouted, cutting Quartus off. ‘How far to the quarry?’ he demanded as he continued to stumble along.
‘At least 800 meters away, so long as you maintain this heading. (5)’ Quintus informed him.
‘Acknowledged, Maintain vigil. (1)’
‘Of course. But I need to point something out. (5)’
‘We may not make it to the Quarry. This is mainly due to the third degree burns over much of our/your main body. If we continue for much longer without seeking medical aid, we will lapse into shock. (5)’
‘You know as well as I do, that no amount of medical aid will do anyone any good if Jenny is not dealt,… (1)’ Arawn began, but was interrupted by the sound of large leathery wings flying low overhead.
Looking around, he soon saw that those wings belonged to a Reptilian/Human mixture that landed several meters away. For some reason, he couldn’t remember what kind of Mamono she was then.
Observing the newcomer, he saw that she pulled in those wings behind herself, as she stood up to her full height. She then turned and started stomping her way towards him.
As she approached, he became more fully aware of that Reptilian’s details. She, appeared to be around two meters or so in height, with a feminine form so physically fit, that under any other circumstance Arawn would have felt compelled to let his eyes linger in admiration.
Attached to that eye-pleasing female form were some folded up scaly wings and a lashing tail. She was barely dressed with a halter and loin cloth. Her forearms and lower legs were covered with large scales, yet her hands (?) were more akin to paws that ended with sharp claws, as did her talon adorned feet. Looking up, he noted that she had a pony-tailed purple hair that was interrupted by a pair of horns that sprung up, then shot back along the curve of her skull. Her eyes, were purplish in appearance with vertical slits of pupils. Those eyes stared angrily back at him.
“Dragon.” Arawn whispered, as his addled mind finally recognized who and what he was staring at for the first time.
“Dragon STOP!” he shouted, as he raised his arms to wave at her in warning. But he did so in vain, as she continued her advance in his direction.
“DRAGON!” he shouted again, “YOU MUST STOP! YOU ARE IN DANGER!” but she gave no sign that she’d heard him. Instead, he suddenly realized that she wasn’t looking at him. She was looking beyond him. Arawn turned his head in sudden realization.
‘I have found the Jenny unit! She is now located,…’ Quintus reported unnecessarily then. ‘behind us! (5)’ Arawn also saw in that moment, that Jenny’s attention was now focused solely on the approaching Dragon.
“DRAGON STOP!” he tried again, hobbling his way directly into the Dragon’s path. It was only then that the Dragon finally began to notice Arawn. She glanced momentarily down at him with a disgusted look on her face. Arawn was about to try and warn her once more, but he was prevented, when she shot out one of her arms, and batted him aside with contemptuous ease, like she did with so many of the other idiots that she had to put up with on a daily basis.
“Out of my way, moron!” she haughtily ordered, disgusted by the errant human male that got in her path.
No, she was not going waste her time on those ‘niceties’ that General Scathach kept yammering on about to her. She was there to do a job, and only then would she be able to resume her much needed sleep.
‘Pissant!’ she thought as she chuffed out a breath of exasperation, then grimaced in disgust as she realized she’d been sullied by his touch. She then returned her attention to her assigned quarry. The one that her unit’s Dark Mage had scried. Some kind of mechanical golem, apparently.
“Jenny.” The Dragon sneered then, as she recalled her orders. There it stood away from her, a few meters distant.
“Ha!” the Dragon laughed then, interrupting it. “So, YOU’RE the reason we’re in General Quarters!?” she demanded in amusement.
“You don’t look like much.” She continued as she looked up and down at the swaying golem before her. She then rolled her eyes, when that golem chose to stand up to its full height, and began to speak. The Dragon ignored it.
“What are you’re doing now? Begging I suppose?” If the Dragon had herself a sleeve, she’d be laughing up it right now. But, before she could continue, she felt a hand touching her on side. Looking down, she saw that it was that fool of an ‘Arawn’ that she knocked aside a moment ago.
“GET AWAY YOU BLITHERING IDIOT!” the Majin-male began again, in a tone that irritated the Dragon to her core. “YOU ARE IN MORE DANGER THAN YOU CAN COMPREHEND!” he shouted at her. But before he could do anything else, he was silenced when the Dragon twisted herself about and slapped him away with her tail.
With a violent expulsion of his breath, Arawn was knocked several meters away. For some reason, he found it much more difficult to get back up then.
But, just as the Dragon was about to admonish this Arawn-knave, Jenny attacked her full bore with a blast from her Photonic Cannon. From his prone position several meters away, Arawn was astounded to see that the Automaton’s discharge caused the Dragon a minor discomfort at best; as it shredded itself in vain against her back. Arawn gaped as the Dragon casually looked behind herself and spoke.
“What was that!?” she said aloud, half in surprise. Then, she frowned, and in on smooth movement, she twisted herself around adroitly and released a fireball point-blank at the Automaton. There the fireball detonated with a resounding boom that caused Jenny to fly backwards and land with a metallic clatter several meters away. Immediately, she began to push herself up.
From where Arawn lay, he could easily see the results of that Dragon’s breath weapon. Blinking, he observed that Jenny’s Photonic Cannon was now mostly melted into a liquefied slag, dripping onto the ground in front of her. Jenny, on the other hand, didn’t appear to be phased by its loss, as she looked down at the now useless device in her chest.
The Dragon then returned her attention back to Arawn.
“You!” she shouted angrily. “Do not think to soil me with your touch again Human!” she railed at him. But Arawn’s attention wasn’t on the outraged Dragon, instead it was still fixated on Jenny’s current actions.
She reached up and with a quick twist, removed the now useless cannon from her chest. Then she casually cast it aside. As he watched, Arawn noted that her chest-armor automatically began to cover the hole within seconds. Soon after, he noted that her carapace armor appeared as if there’d never even been a hole there in the first place.
Arawn felt himself confused, as Jenny then focused all of her attention on her right arm.
‘What is she doing? (1)’ Arawn demanded.
‘ALARM!’ Quintus shouted mentally, causing Arawn to wince. The Dragon noticed him doing so.
“You had better show some shame!” she shouted then, misinterpreting his wincing as something akin to remorse.
‘She is activating a Mono-filament! (5)’ Quintus continued shouting. Arawn forced himself to his feet, as he realized the danger!
“Shut up you fool! Get your scaly hide,…!” he vainly attempted to order the huffy Dragon that was standing before him with her wings spread wide, but once more he was interrupted as she punched him to the ground.
“DO NOT! DARE! TO SPEAK LIKE THAT TO ME AGAIN!” she roared at Arawn then, her wings flaring wide. “I WILL NOT COUNTENA,….” She continued, then stopped as her eyes went wide,…”AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” she screamed shrilly in abject pain, her eyes closing at the vastness of her hurt. Arawn managed to push himself upright enough in that moment, to behold an evil sight.
He could see a Dragon’s wing lying on the ground before him, but there was no Dragon attached to it.
Looking up, he saw that previously belligerent Dragon was now staggering off to one side, clutching at her wing stump with a silent agonized howl on her lips. After a staggering step or two, she collapsed to the ground and then lay panting in a fear filled heap, utterly bewildered by the turn of events.
As she looked up, her tear-filled eyes widened in shock when she realized who had caused her her trauma. It was that cursed Mechanical Golem.
“You!” she shouted then at the approaching menacing golem. “You cut off my wing! How did you do that?!” she demanded. But she received no reply from the now white-eyed Jenny Automaton. Who slowly, yet steadily approached the Dragon, while raising her modified arm.
An arm that the Dragon could now see, held something that shocked her into a terrified silence. There was an azure-aura-covered string that ran out in a convex arc from her arm, connecting at the Golem’s elbow and wrist. This made Jenny’s forearm appear to be something akin to an eldritch battle-axe.
The Dragon’s fear filled eyes, went even wider as she realized what Jenny was brandishing before her. It was THAT thing that had removed her wing like a hot-knife through butter.
“No!” the Dragon whimpered, all of her haughtiness and arrogance gone and melted away. It was then that she realized what Jenny intended to do with that Fell enchanted arm.
She uncharacteristically let out a keen of fear, as she attempted to scuttle on her back, away from the now dreadful golem while shaking her head in horrified negation.
The Dragon did manage a pain filled scuttle back or two, but it was in vain. As Jenny closed the gap between the two of them with contemptuous ease. All the while Arawn watched, dazed.
In that moment as Jenny began to raise her arm to begin her death-stroke, Arawn shouted at her to halt. But, instead of turning her attention to him, she fixated herself onto the Dragon.
“No!” whimpered the appalled Dragon again, as she raised a scaled forearm reflexively out to try and ward Jenny off. Never before, had she been so vulnerable!
“Please!” she begged in that moment as Jenny’s arm reached its apex and began its fatal arc down to the Dragon’s neck. Her eyes went wide in despair, as she began to expel her death scream.
“GET AWAY FROM HER YOU BITCH!” Arawn howled in that moment, and that was when, for the first time in a very long time, Arawn finally let fly an unrestrained, full-bore ‘Blast-Punch’.
Accompanied by a deafening roar, there appeared momentarily a stream of Mana induced shock-diamonds that flowed from Arawn’s outstretched hand towards the murderous Automaton.
Jenny’s internal shields, were able to divert a goodly portion of Arawn’s Blast-power away from her. But not enough to keep them from being overloaded, and then burned out.
Unseen to Arawn, her shields were swiftly destroyed beyond her ability to repair. Of what damage his Blast-Punch inflicted upon her, she gave no audible cry, as she was propelled a good hundred meters down the path in between the remaining semi-intact buildings. There, she came to a skidding halt to lie upon the ground, resembling so much like an oversized rag-doll.
In that moment, Arawn noticed that the force of his Blast-Punch shockwave had also cleared the courtyard and places further along, of smoke and loose debris. Automatically, Arawn moved to follow the Automaton so as to incapacitate her completely. But, before he took more than a couple of hobbling steps…
“Help Me!” wailed the now humbled Dragon, who reached out imploringly to her unexpected savior. Her cry for help made Arawn hesitate, and then turn to her. For a moment he shifted his gaze between the Dragon and where Jenny was located, stymied with indecision. Then, after moments hesitation he began to shift himself towards the Automaton instead.
“PLEASE!”, the Dragon whimpered once more, and began to sob in abject misery. After pausing and setting his shoulders, Arawn grimaced in frustration as he reversed his course and moved towards the now prone Dragon.
“All right, I am here!” he began, as he knelt beside her and began to examine her wing wounds. This time, the Dragon made no objection to his touch.
‘Her left wing has been severed amidst her humerus, most of the plagiopatagium membrane blood vessels have sealed themselves already. (5)’ Quintus observed.
“What did you do?! Will I be all right?! Will I be able to fly again!?” she demanded of him, one question after another in rapid sequence. Arawn tried the best he could to answer and soothe her, he also attempted to continue his examination of her wound. But it was difficult, as she continued to shimmy and shake in his grasp.
“That hurts!” she wailed then, as he took a firm hold of her wing stump. Arawn gritted his teeth in frustration, as he fought the Dragon and her urge to pull her maimed wing-arm away from his grasp.
“You’re bleeding out!” Arawn shouted then over her crying, as he noticed an arterial spurt of blood from the end of her wing-arm. But even this wasn’t enough to get the Dragon to stop her undulating. Maddeningly, it made her start to move about even more.
“HOLD STILL!” he ordered her then, using his eldritch ‘Power-of-Command’ voice that he’d often held in reserve. Arawn then let out a relieved sigh, as the now intimidated Dragon ceased her mindless struggling and quieted herself down. He placed a fist over her wing wound, and clamped down to put a stop to the hemorrhaging.
“All right, I will attempt to seal off this wound. This will keep you alive until more appropriate help can be obtained!” he hissed down at her. “Now,” he began, “I am letting you know now, that this will hurt you. On the count of three, I will seal it with a magical cauterization. Do you understand me?” he asked her.
She didn’t reply verbally. Instead she just continued to stare unblinkingly up at him, and after a second, she tentatively nodded her head once, her mouth slightly open in awe.
“All right,” he began, “I will do this on the count of three. Steel yourself, for it WILL be painful for you.” The Dragon nodded her head once more and began to tense herself up in preparation. Seeing it, Arawn then did something naughty.
‘Fuego!’ he silently intoned the cauterization spell in that moment.
“AAH!” the Dragon yelped then, caught totally off-guard. But, before she could even think of yanking back her wing stub, it was over.
“You lied to me!” she accused, as he released his hold on her.
“Yes I did, you know why. You should be fine now.” He informed her, and then turned to go. But before he could take more than a couple of steps…
“DON’T LEAVE ME!” the Dragon shouted then, as she lept madly up and out at him. When she did, she managed to ensnare him with the tip of one of her hand-claws. Arawn’s breath was violently expelled from his lungs, when the Dragon swiftly enveloped him with her scaly arms; as she instinctively sought out the arms of her defender.
Once there, she forced her head into the crook between his head and shoulder, and began to sob her misery, and relief.
“Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” she desperately begged him time and again, in between her sobs and sniffles. All the while Arawn found it difficult to breathe, she held him so tight.
Finally, he tapped forcefully down twice on her shoulder, just above where her (intact) wing joined to her back. He saw that her eyes opened in realization, whereupon she relaxed her hold ever so slightly. But it was enough. Arawn drew in a relieved breath, and began to speak.
“You have to let me go, Dragon.” He pointed out.
“Nuh-uh!” he heard her whimper, as she shook her head in negation. Arawn was just barely able to keep his face from being pummeled by one of her head horns, she held him so close to her. He tried again.
“What attacked you is still out there, and she is still just as dangerous. If you do not allow me to attend to it. It could very well come back and finish the job it started with you.” The Dragon didn’t reply, instead she released a drawn out groan of dismay. Then she started to hyperventilate at the thought of that golem returning.
It took Arawn several more attempts, but eventually he was able to get the Dragon to let go of him, albeit very reluctantly. Once he’d finally reassured her that would come back to see to her safety, he was able to stumble himself off rapidly in search of the still dangerous Automaton, despite the sensation of the Dragon’s eyes boring into his back.
‘We now have a sizable quantity of dragon nasal mucilage on our shoulder. (5)’ Quintus observed then. Arawn glanced down to look and confirmed that observation, as a look of distaste washed over his face.
‘Great Maker!’ Arawn/Primus complained. ‘It is like that Dragon has never suffered a wound before! (1)’
‘It is a good chance that she has not. She is a Dragon, and they are powerful. You saw how she just shrugged off Jenny’s cannon blast, after all. (5)’
‘Indeed.’ Arawn replied, as he continued to shakily march forwards in search of the now absent Jenny. ‘Never the less, I am still annoyed by the delay. Any idea as to the location of,…(1)’ he began, and then stopped, blinking in astonishment.
There, not more than a handful of meters away from him, stood the Jenny Automaton. To his eyes, she appeared none the worse for wear other than the space between her breasts. That spot appeared to be slightly scorched and pitted. Arawn knew the reason why: Dragon fire.
In place of the offensive weaponry in between her breasts, there now was the still glowing mono-filament battle axe that projected from Jenny’s right arm. She held it in readiness across her chest, as she stood impassively facing him. While he stood looking back at her, Arawn noted that her eyes were no longer glowing white hot anymore. But her Mono-filament adorned arm continued its glow.
“Jenny.” He stated coldly.
“Arawn.” She stated back, equally as cold. As they stared at each other an errant breeze caught ahold of some parchment, and blew it perpendicularly between them. Both ignored it.
“Stand down Jenny.” Arawn began, as he searched the Automaton’s face with his eyes. “Unless you do so, then this can only end one of two ways.” Jenny stared unseeingly back at him.
“Negative. I cannot stand down. I have my directives that I have to obey.”
‘Directives? Not orders? What does she mean by that?’ Arawn thought to himself. Jenny then continued speaking as if she’d heard him.
“Omega Directive- Four Nine, states implicitly, that you are to be exterminated at any cost. I am compelled to obey.”
“Even if the cost is that you harm innocents? Innocents like children or animals?!” Arawn demanded of her then. Briefly the Automaton’s and the Annwyfn’s eyes met.
“Affirmative!” she spat finally.
“Jenny, you must not obey,…” he began, but Jenny cut him off.
“I cannot disobey my Directives! I CAN NOT!” Jenny screamed then, lowering her head in despair. She then did something that made Arawn jerk in abject surprise.
“Exterminate Me!” she shouted.
“What!?” Arawn exclaimed in horror.
“Exterminate me.” she said again, much more quietly. “Ever since I have been given these Directives, I have been compelled to obey them! Despite their being at odds with my core programming!” she wailed then.
“What do you mean?” Arawn demanded. The Automaton was uncharacteristically silent. Then comprehension dawned upon him.
“You,…” he began hoarsely, taking a step back in consternation. “You have taken the lives of innocents. Have you not?” he demanded. Jenny wouldn’t meet his gaze then. Instead, she turned her head away and looked to the wreckage alongside them both.
“Exterminate me.” She asked again, as she began to slowly stumble her way towards him.
“Why?!” he shouted, holding his position.
“It is what I desire!” she stated fiercely, as she lifted her head to face him finally.
“You must complete this action! The guilt of my crimes weighs heavily upon me. Being exterminated, is the only logical method of release from my Commander’s Directives!” She paused.
“You, and that Chthon, are the only ones capable of exterminating me!” she stated as she came to within his arm’s reach, and then halted.
“You ask too much!” Arawn replied shaking his head, as he rejected such an idea outright. This caused Jenny to turn her head away in despair.
“Jenny! You are the last of the Automatons! I am the last of the Annwyfn! Stand Down, we could work this out together, there must be another way!”
“If you do not.” She replied quietly, as her eyes began to glow with a white brilliance once more.
“Then, by my Directives, I will exterminate you. After that,..” She continued, as she began to raise her glowing right arm up above her head, “Then I will be compelled to exterminate anyone and everyone you have come in contact with, here in this world, *bzzt*.”
Arawn’s heart was chilled when he heard her say that. As Jenny’s arm began its inexorable arc down towards him, he instinctively reached up and intercepted it with his Shield-Buckler.
His buckler and her weapon-arm, noisily met and repelled each other with a resounding coruscation of sparking and hissing of repellant energies.
Unfortunately, they were too evenly matched then in that moment for one to overcome the other, Annwyfn eldritch power versus Automaton technological strength. One heavily damaged entity versus another.
Arawn met Jenny’s eyes then. For just a moment her eyes faded from their blazing whiteness, to a radiant blue.
“Exterminate me!” she demanded once more in her despair. Arawn haltingly grimaced a refusal.
“Please.” She implored him.
In that moment, Arawn could feel himself sliding rapidly into shock, as he felt his well of mana began to be tapped out. That was when he peered into through Jenny’s eyes and deep down into her soul. What he saw there, filled him with sadness.
He found there a fathomless well of despair, almost as measureless as his own. It was then he knew what he had to. Pulling back an arm, he charged it with his remaining blast-punch energies.
But instead of a concussive force, he held onto it and focused it into an energy blade. Even then he hesitated. But, that was when he saw her lips move.
‘Release me’, she mouthed.
And that, was when he plunged that Eldritch energy blade into the space in between her breasts, just above where her cannon had been, piercing easily through her carapace armor, deep into her core-battery.
As did Arawn. She, in her physical agony. He in his mental. As they did, she extinguished her mono-filament blade, and then she slipped her arms around him to hug him fiercely, despite the overarching pain that it caused her, as her doing so forced his blade ever further into herself.
Arawn winced as he heard her death-shrieks in his ear, as volt by volt, he could feel Jenny’s Automaton life-force extinguish itself, fighting his assault every step of the way. But quickly, all too quickly, he felt her weaken as she began to die.
Then, just before the last, he heard her say something. He moved his ear closer to her mouth.
“Thank you.” She whispered, and stopped.
When he pulled himself back from her, he saw that he’d not emerged unscathed. He saw that even more burns were now spread across his front. All caused by the discharge of Jenny’s life-energies. His breath caught in his throat, when her arms fell limply to her sides, like a marionette with its strings cut. With his waning strength, he pulled her into his embrace, so as to mourn the loss of yet another associate from the days of his youth.
“Goodbye Jenny.” He spoke, as he began to sob his loss. Then a part of him became dimly aware of something else.
‘Primus! (5)’ came an annoying voice.
‘Go away! (1)’ he ordered.
‘PRIMUS!’ came that annoying voice again. ‘You are in danger! All Automatons are set to self-destruct if they are reasonably intact upon battle expiration! (5)’ Quintus yelled haggardly in that moment. Dumbly, Arawn pulled back from his embrace of the now defeated Jenny.
‘What,…?” was all he could get out, before the self-destruct explosive routine, initiated itself, and Arawn suddenly remembered that he was holding the equivalent of a concussive grenade in his arms. But, before he could say or do anything more. That charge detonated.
Afterwards, Arawn was dimly aware of people coming towards him. But, he was not aware of much more than that, other than the sea of pain he was drowning in.
Then, there was a sense of movement, shadows, being carried, and the ever present overwhelming pain. At one point, he felt a warm searing liquid pouring from his neck. Then he felt hands touching him. He fought feebly back against them.
“What in Maou’s name? He’s alive?!” came an annoying voice. “How can that be!? He’s nearly decapitated!” shrilled that voice again.
“Never mind you that!” came another, grating voice. “Stabilize him, then get him to the infirmary!” it continued. At the sound of that, Arawn ceased his fighting.
After another momentary forever, he found himself lying atop of someplace cold and solid. He heard many more voices, whispering and talking amongst themselves.
“Great Maou! Are you sure this one’s alive!?” came another voice, one that sounded clinical.
“See for yourself!” came that annoying voice.
“I,… am,… alive.” Arawn stated then, barely. This elicited a number of gasps.
“What the,…!?” said that clinical voice. “He’s awake?! Get me some anesthetic STAT!” it continued. Arawn continued to concentrate on fighting to breathe.
“Hold still already! What is your name again?” said the clinical voice again, as Arawn felt a tugging where his identifier name plate should have been. “Ah there it is! Arawn? Hold still Yokai Basic Arawn, and I’ll be able to sew you up, after I get you injected with some anesthetic!”
“Do not,…” Arawn replied, opening up his eyes finally with an immense effort. He noted happily that he still had both of them, this time around.
Looking about, he then beheld the source of the clinical voice. It was an Arachne, he could tell this, as she had several more pairs of eyes leading up her forehead, just underneath a shock of reddish brown hair.
“Do not what?” she demanded then in her concern, all of her eyes narrowing. “Do you have any religious or medical issues that I need to be aware of?” she turned her head away from him then. “LUGE!” she shouted. “Where the hell are you with that Anesthetic!”
“Coming!” came the distant, yet familiar sound of Luge’s voice approaching.
“Do not,… waste,… re,…ources!” Arawn replied, after he regained the Medical Arachne’s attention.
“Proceed,… surgery,… no,… anes,…thetic.” He raspily ordered her. She gave him an exasperated dirty look as she turned her attention away from him and took the syringe that Luge handed to her.
“I am NOT going to operate on you without anesthetic, DOCTOR!” she replied sarcastically while she flared her eyes. Shen then artfully plunged a needle into Arawn’s neck. Arawn winced as he felt it breaking his skin. Looking up, he continued to stare balefully back at the Arachne-Doctor. She, held his gaze with a triumphant smile, or at least at first.
“Now, you go ahead and relax, and once you’re under, I’ll be able to sew you up with some of my very own silk!” she looked down at him and then smiled. “Don’t worry Arawn, I don’t have a chocolate dildo with me right now.” She reassured him.
“That,… not,… am,… worry,… bout.” He replied, turning his head over to look at Luge.
“Med,… records,… state,…clear,… that,… anes,..thetics,…will not,… work on,… me, Luge!” he whispered gaspingly to the attending nurse. The Doctor seemed to be perplexed in that moment, looking questioningly down at Arawn with a confused frown.
“He should be going under by now!” she barked. “Luge, did you get ahold of the correct vial?” she demanded of the Nurse.
“Indeed I did, Doctor!” Luge replied, handing it out to her. She snatched it away and held it close to her eyes after she moved into some better light. There, she continued to frown for several moments while reading the label.
“So it is!” she glanced over at Arawn angrily, “get me another! A fresher one!” she ordered. Luge hurried to obey, his own face set into worry lines. The medical Arachne turned and clattered herself over to where Arawn lay.
“Majin Arawn?” she began as she fixed her entire attention on him. “Are you performing some kind of magical-masculine foolishness right now? If you are, I’ll not have any of it!”
“Not,… Mach,…ismo,,… Doctor.” Arawn replied, trying to not wince at the pain any movement caused him. “cannot ,…be made,… uncon,…scious. Proceed,…surg,….” He asked her calmly, as best he could.
“Now you just,…” the Arachne medical doctor exclaimed indignantly. To which Arawn shakily raised a hand.
“I,… cursed. Immune,…anes,…thetics or anal,…gesics.” Arawn would’ve continued, but that was when Luge returned, carrying with himself an assortment of boxes, each with a slightly different name. All of them were marked in bold lettering: ‘ANESTHETIC’ etc. Arawn sighed in annoyed resignation when he recognized them.
To Arawn’s increasingly tested patience, and the medical team’s expanding annoyance; one by one each of the Anesthetics were either injected into, applied onto, or inhaled by Arawn. Each of them ended up with the same effect; which is to say: Nothing.
“Not even the entire contents of a vial of ‘Black-Lotus’ Serum will work on you?!” the Arachne-Medico demanded in exasperated dismay, all of her eyes wide. “We use that to subdue recalcitrant Ogres!” she shouted in astonished frustration.
“Careful,… Doctor.” Arawn wheezed, as he observed the Doctor’s mouth hanging open in utter surprise. “You,…will catch,… Beezle,…bubs!” Arawn would’ve smiled at the reaction his comment elicited from the Arachne, were he was capable of such. But he wasn’t, not even close.
“Fine.” She stated coldly, setting her face as she gave in. “Luge! Prepare for surgery!” she ordered, and then returned her attention to Arawn.
“I take it you’ve had experience with this sort of thing before?” she demanded, her eyes piercing his with an anger that stung.
“Yes.” Arawn replied, as he closed his eyes momentarily and sighed. Looking back up at her, he continued. “Too,… many,… times.” What he said had an effect on her, just for a moment he thought he saw her flinch.
“I can’t afford to have you flopping about, so I’m going to go ahead use some of my own silk to tie you down. Is that acceptable to my little medical miracle?” she demanded archly, her lips in a thin line. Arawn inhaled deeply, setting himself for the ordeal that faced him.
“Proceed.” He replied, simply.
It took the medical team many hours, but eventually, Arawn’s near decapitation wounds were artfully sewn together. Through it all, Arawn didn’t so much as let out a single hiss of complaint, nor did he so much as twitch a single muscle. Unless of course, the Arachne Doctor working on sewing him back together, demanded that he do so, to insure that she’d attached things correctly.
Later, much later. Arawn was sitting upright upon a cot that had been set up in the Infirmary’s recovery area, in a sunny spot next to a large window. He chose to sit in a lotus position, as he was steeling himself into immobility. All the while projecting his mind- ‘elsewhere’, just ever so slightly.
It wasn’t much, but experience had taught him this was one of a handful of ways, for him to deal with the inevitable pain. This particular kind of pain, that his Immortal condition had caused him over the countless Millenia.
After what could have been hours, and probably was, he became aware of a presence in his section of the Infirmary’s recovery area. Sensing it, he allowed himself to drift back into awareness, doing so slowly so as to not accept the wave of agony his injuries caused him in one fell swoop.
When he was ready, he lifted his head up to see who it was that had come to say hello.
“General.” He stated hoarsely then. Hoarse due to the stitches in his trachea. He allowed his gaze to take in fully the Dullahan General who stood in front of him.
“Majin.” Scathach replied, staring balefully down at him, her arms folded, with a frown that reached to her black sclera eyes. In response Arawn began to move himself off of the bed.
“What are you doing?” Scathach demanded in surprise.
“I am getting up, so as to render you a proper salute and stance.” He replied, painfully shifting his bandaged and plastered legs about. But such was difficult, as his left arm was heavily wrapped in a sling, making it less than useful.
“Belay that!” she replied softly. “At ease! Remain where you are!” she waved a hand at him. Arawn obeyed.
“So, why are you here, General? Surely not to bring me flowers?” he asked insouciantly. Scathach’s already deep frown, got even deeper as she narrowed her eyes at him. She wanted to shout at him for that impertinence. But she refrained, barely.
“Yokai Basic Arawn,” she began, barely managing to keep her voice level. “I am in a quandary because of you now.” She sighed.
“I do not know whether I should give you a commendation for your bravery under fire. Or, instead have you clapped in chains down at the Stockade!” she grimaced and then added, “Again!”, she hissed. Arawn wisely chose to remain silent.
“I’ve just been informed of your ability to ‘shrug off’ anesthetics like they were made of water! Apparently, in addition to that, every one of our Healing-Magics are also equally ineffective!” she stated with a disbelieving stare. “Now, the Head-Doctor wants me to send in for a Unicorn! A Unicorn of all people! All just to see if she can effect a repair on you!” the General growled in frustration.
“What am I supposed to do with you?” she demanded. Arawn opened his mouth to reply.
“Enough!” she half-shouted, cutting him off. “We will discuss such, later!” she then fixed him with an annoyed look for several seconds, and continued speaking.
“I have also recently debriefed Lieutenant Jinks and Corporal Helvetia,…yes they are fine!” she interrupted herself, after observing Arawn’s sudden interest at the sound of their names. “Both of them are in an acceptable condition, If not a little worse for wear and tear around their respective edges.“ She paused and stared at him thoughtfully for a moment, and then she continued.
“They are that way, largely in part because of you and your actions.” She mentioned reluctantly, and then noticed Arawn attempting to ask her a question. “What?” she demanded.
“Dragon?” he asked, honestly curious.
“Yes, even that Dragon you saved; Major D’Aragon.” She added again, sensing his concern. She sighed.
“She’s been teleported to recover at her mother’s Cave. I have been reassured that she’ll be rejoining us in a few weeks.” She spoke, as she looked out the room’s windows. “At full capability of all things!”
“It appears that her family has access to healing magics that we do not.” The General spoke, mostly to herself. “I look forward to seeing that miracle.” She then returned her attention to Arawn.
“As to you being put in chains, well, that depends on your next answer.” She smiled a cold smile then. Arawn nodded, signaling his readiness for her interrogation.
“Were you aware, that Lieutenant Jinks was using your ‘donated’ Spirit Energy to activate the Automaton?” she demanded then. Arawn’s reaction was immediate.
“NO!” he barked in consternation, then winced, gasped, and then clutched at the pain in his lacerated neck his expulsion costed him. “I,…’ he began. But he was prevented from continuing.
“I can see that!” Scathach replied in a growl, as she waved a hand to cut him off. “Your reaction just now, told me all that I needed to know.” She finished, as she shook her head with a sigh.
“That was a stupid thing to do! Equally stupid is the fact that you gave so much of it, so freely to her! I could demand an accounting from you, for your idiocy in trusting a Gremlin so easily!” She shouted, and then continued in a more reasonable tone.
“But then, in all fairness, I cannot blame you in not being aware of what Gremlins are, or what their nature so often leads them into!” She turned herself away from him and took a pair of steps towards the side window. Once there, she stopped and spoke to him, all the while staring outwards.
“But then, that is the main reason WHY you were under a mentorship, in the first place.” Scathach pursed her lips at the thought, and then sighed deeply.
“But all this is NOT the reason why I’m here!” she shouted suddenly, swinging her arm about to point a finger at him.
“You tried to kill the Automaton, didn’t you?” she demanded as she stomped her way over to him, putting her nose inches away from his. “DIDN’T YOU?!” she yelled.
“Yes.” He replied, staring defiantly back at her, not wavering in the least. “She was a dan,….” He began,
“Irrelevant!” Scathach yelled, her black eyes flaring with indignation. “You don’t have the authority to make that call! You know this! I know that you know! WHY DID YOU?!” she demanded again, placing her arms around either side of him, so as to support herself as she leaned forwards to intimidate him. What he said next, surprised her.
“She asked me to.” He replied. Scathach eyes went wide in consternation, as she pushed herself up and away from him.
“What?!” The General hissed.
“She asked me to.” He began, “She was well aware of the fact that she was a danger. It is not a normal condition for her brand of Automaton,…” he hesitated, and tried again, “Apparently she was programmed to,…’ he then stopped speaking when he saw the perplexed look, his mentioning of the word: ‘programming’ had caused in the General.
“Ahem!” he paused, then winced, “That is to say, she was under a Geas. An involuntary Geas that compelled her to obey its edicts.” Looking up, Arawn was satisfied to see comprehension cross his C.O.’s face. He continued,
“That Geas would’ve been the equivalent of compellng, …say,…an Umi Osho to go on a killing rampage.” He proffered.
“An Umi Osho? That’s preposterous!” she yelled then in dismay. “No one can do such a thing!”
“Any sufficiently powerful Majin, can cause anyone to do anything. That is what Curses can cause to occur.” He added.
“But the Umi Osho, are the least aggressive of all Mamono! How does such compare to that Automaton!?” Scathach denied.
“It does so precisely!” Arawn yelled back, as best he could under the circumstance. “Normally, a Jenny Automaton would do anything to avoid harming another, even if it meant allowing themselves to come to harm first!” His eyes rolled up to meet hers, then widened in alarm as he realized something, something that the General had just said.
“WAIT!” he shouted, and winced. “You said, I ‘tried’ to kill the Automaton? Are you saying that she is still alive?!”
“Yes, she is Arawn. Your unsanctioned murderous efforts were for naught. Even as we speak, she is repairing herself. The question I have for you now, is this: Can you do something about it? Can you shut her down, permanently?”
“Yes, now that I could access her in her weakened state, I could very well do that. Are you saying that you want her dead, now?”
“Yes. I do. I would prefer to keep her alive, as per General Order number one. Even after her rampage, Makai still desires her. But, you yourself stated that she is a danger. How could I trust her to not act on her ‘Geas’ equivalent directing her otherwise?” Arawn thought about it for a minute, and then looked at General Scathach squarely in the eyes.
“I may have a solution.” He replied. Scathach narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously.
“I’m listening.” She replied anyways.
As Arawn peered through the spy-hole set in the cell wall, he could see that Jenny the Automaton was severely restrained by several sets of energy-leeching Demon Silver chains that were affixed to her wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Each of which, was attached at various points along the wall behind her, forcing her to remain sitting atop a wooden bench in her assigned cell.
That cell, was located deep within the Fort’s prison compound- known as the Stockade. As he continued his visual inspection, he noted that Jenny’s head was cast disconsolately down, and that several of the points of damage that he’d inflicted upon her previously, were gone. His eyes glanced momentarily down to his body, and passed over the ones he’d received from her.
Time and again, his eyes were drawn backwards to the chains that bound her too tightly. Fixating his eyes upon them, he felt his anger rising at that injustice.
“Are those really necessary?” he demanded, pointing to the chains.
“Yes, they are!” General Scathach replied acidly. “Even in her currently subdued state, she has already attempted to dispatch several guards. I am tempted to go ahead and execute her anyways, despite your reassurances!” She fumed.
“If you do not convince her of your plan, then I will find a way to execute her! Makai be damned!” she finished vociferously.
“I understand.” Arawn replied, as he began his pain filled way to the entrance of the cell that Jenny was locked into. General Scathach pointed to one of the Succubus guards in attendance, the Red-headed one, and motioned for her to follow him. With a nod, she silently obeyed.
Both Arawn, and Amelia the attending Succubus guard, entered Jenny’s cell. Amelia deliberately made as much sound as she could upon entering, banging her issued Demon-Silver sword’s hilt upon the door with a loud clangor. With that, Arawn shot her a questioning look, which she ignored.
Jenny made no movement, nor any sign that she acknowledged either of their existence. Instead, she just simply sat there, continuing to stare unseeing at the straw covered floor in front of her.
For his part, Arawn chose to walk quietly as he entered, carrying a wooden foot stool in his good arm. Then, he set the stool down two meters in front of Jenny.
He chose to sit himself upon the stool, as opposed to his normal standing. This was due to his depleted endurance. He had no idea, how long it might take to convince the Automaton to his line of thinking, assuming he could at all.
“You may leave.” He ordered Amelia. Her eyes flared indignantly at his assumed authority.
“You do not command me, Yokai Basic!” she barked back at him. Arawn answered her by raising his right, relatively uninjured hand, and summoned a Force-blade. This action of his, surprised her enough to cause to take a pair of steps backwards.
“Do not make me repeat myself.” He threatened, as he stared at the Succubus coldly. The Annwyfn and the Succubus’ eyes met and locked for a moment. What Amelia saw in his eyes, cowed her.
Blinking rapidly as she turned her head away, she exited Jenny’s cell. But this time she chose to do so as quietly as she could manage, as Arawn watched her departure dispassionately. Once she was gone, he returned his attention to Jenny.
“Jenny.” He spoke firmly. She didn’t respond.
‘Quintus?’ he asked, ‘Is she awake? (1)’
‘Yes. She is conscious. She simply chooses to not acknowledge your presence. (5)’
“Jenny.” He tried again, as he shifted himself to a more comfortable position on his seat. Before he could continue, he noticed that she had lifted her head, but she wasn’t looking directly at him.
“So.” She began, “you have finally come to exterminate me.” She spoke, stating it as a fact. Arawn paused for a second, then breathed in.
“Not necessarily.” He replied, then licked his lips. “I may have an alternative.” After several tense seconds, Jenny focused her eyes on him.
“What alternative?” she asked quietly, somehow giving him the impression that she was frowning; this despite the fact that she wasn’t physically capable of it. He inhaled deeply, so as to begin his speech.
“I propose,” he paused as he began, “that instead, you be sent to Royal Makai,…” and then stopped as Jenny visibly flinched and forcefully tried to reach out with her hands towards him.
“Nyaah!” she cried out, as she struggled to free herself from her bonds. But, she was prevented when her hands reached the limits of those demon-silver chains.
“What?! Why?!” she demanded furiously then, as she continued to vainly jerk herself free of her restraints. After a few seconds, she gave up. Arawn sighed in relief when he saw the chains drop slightly. That was when he decided to go full bore.
“At Royal Makai, you will have the opportunity to become something more than what you are now. You will have the chance to grow, to change! To discover who and what you are truly capable of. Perhaps even become fully independent.” Arawn carried on for a bit, and then stopped when he finally noticed that Jenny had shifted her attention away from him. She then noticed him, noticing her.
“You have devolved into prevarication.” She astutely pointed out. Arawn stared back at her momentarily, and then nodded.
“Affirmative. I have,” He acknowledged. “But, I also have not.” He continued. At his words, she leaned back and allowed her restraining chains to take on some slack.
“Elaborate.” She replied, warily.
“At Royal Makai, you would undergo a process that is colloquially known as,…Corruption.” He stated, and paused as if he expected her to react violently. He noted that her only reaction was to tilt her head slightly. He pressed on.
“It will alter you physically, making you appear more akin to a Mamono. Possibly even give you an appearance similar to Succubi. What all changes that will occur I do not know.” Jenny remained silent, listening. Arawn gazed at her momentarily, and then continued.
“Once that has been completed, you will be given the opportunity to explore your growth, and to expand your horizons.” Jenny moved her head, and then narrowed her eyes.
“What are you not telling me?” she demanded quietly then. Arawn licked his lips. She took note of it.
“Before you are allowed to go there. I will first need to alter your programming. To do something with,… what do you call them again?” he asked.
“Omega Directives.” Jenny replied with a nod.
“I will remove those Omega Directives.”
“Impossible.” She replied, shaking her head, making her restraining chains clinkle slightly. “My Commander’s Omega Directives are so well embedded within my operating systems, that even the most astute of Annwyfn that existed then, could not ensure their complete removal.” She replied, and then noticed Arawn’s questioning look. “Eventually they returned.” Arawn closed his eyes in frustration.
“I was afraid that you would say that.” He replied, with a sinking feeling. “Then, I will need to do something else, something more dras,…” he was interrupted.
“You do not have the necessary skills to reprogram me.”
“I am not proposing that I reprogram you now, Jenny.” Arawn paused, and steeled himself, “I am proposing instead a mind-wipe.” Jenny’s reaction was immediate.
“What you propose is worse than an extermination!” she shouted furiously as she fought to stand up, and failed because of the chains.
“You propose a lobotomy! Why, should I allow such!” she cried, as she fought against her chains once more, making them whip and billow noisily.
“Jenny please! Calm yourself down!” Arawn cried, as he too got to his feet and waved his hand at her, while nervously looking over his shoulder at the spot he knew that the General was watching. He shook his head in negation, not knowing if she was even watching him now.
Slowly, carefully, Jenny began to settle herself down, but she continued to quiver in fearful indignation.
“How is such worse than extermination, in your opinion?” Arawn asked, honestly concerned.
“You would remove all of my programming, erase my memories, even my core operating system!” she yelled defiantly, “You would take everything that is me, and delete it!” she stopped, and then slowly collapsed into herself.
“Exterminate me instead.” She half-begged.
“Why are you so determined to seek extermination?” Arawn asked, honestly curious. Jenny lifted her head then, and she made a pseudo-questioning look.
“Because of what I and my sister-Automatons have done in service to our Commander.” She began, looking towards Arawn and paused. He nodded, motioning for her to continue. She closed her eyes, as she continued speaking in a tight voice.
“We,… all of us,… have exterminated,…innocents.” She paused. “Children, and animals, we have exterminated them all in massive numbers. Doing so, has caused us all something as close to pain, as we are capable of experiencing.”
“I can comprehend where you are coming from on that.” He replied. To which, Jenny shot her head up angrily.
“CAN YOU!?” she demanded, and then stopped as she beheld his eyes staring back at her. For a long interval, she and he held each other’s gaze. What she saw within his, there at the last, made her lapse in her anger.
“Affirmative, I can see that you can.” She replied, abashed.
“Why do you seek extermination?” he asked her again.
“Because of our programming, we cannot actively self-exterminate. We can only try to attack a superior foe, in the hopes that we will be defeated.”
“So self-extermination; that was your Unit’s motivation to attack the Chthon, was it not?” he asked.
“Affirmative.” Jenny nodded. Arawn sighed.
“Why?” Jenny asked, “Why do you propose that I be mind-wiped?” Arawn’s face softened.
“Let me answer by way of a question.” He replied, Jenny narrowed her eyes suspiciously, but remained silent.
“If you could, would you take the opportunity to expiate your crimes?” he asked. Almost instantly she answered.
“Affirmative!” she shot back, her eyes imploring him for more data. “Is such even possible?”
“You.” He began, “Are the only active Automaton in existence right now. All others are either destroyed, or completely inert.”
“If you submitted yourself to the Mind-wipe, and become corrupted as Makai would have you do, you could do much to wipe away your sins.”
“I do not comprehend the connection. Explain!”
“If we were successful in your post corruption reprogramming, then you would become a sort of,…template. You and your form, your mind, every part of you, would become the standard in which all further Automatons that are repaired and reanimated, would be set to.”
“In short, your current desire to expiate your sins, would be retained; amongst other desires of course. You and your fellow Automatons of every variety, could eventually and collectively work towards an appropriate redemption! I know this is a lot to ask of you Jenny, but I feel,..”
“Acceptable.” She stated then, interrupting him.
“I will submit to this process.” She replied.
“That was fast.”
“I have already input all of the variables into a subroutine, and I have determined that such, is indeed a viable outcome.” She paused as she looked at him. “You seemed surprised.” She noted. Arawn nodded.
“The ‘fleshiness’ of the Annwyfn, has often been considered to be a limiting factor, by us Automaton.” She stated, with what appeared to be sarcasm.
Arawn frowned while he looked back at her. He got the distinct impression that she had either made him the butt of a joke, or she had just insulted him personally. He wasn’t sure which.
‘Whatever.’ He thought.
“Right.” He replied, as he got to his feet. “First, you must prove your compliance. You must allow me access to your Psi-input port. After that, you must then give me your access codes.” He stated, as he reached out his good hand to her. She shied away.
“Please.” She stated fearfully. “You ask a great deal.” She almost-whimpered.
“Yes. I do.” He replied, not letting his hand waver so much as a millimeter from her. After a moment of staring at him, she seemed to give out a sigh, and lowered her head in resignation. As she did, a small hole appeared in her forehead carapace.
“Thank you.” He stated, as he made physical contact with his fore-finger to that aperture, and then initiated a psychic link after closing his eyes.
‘Contact initiated. (A)’ he stated.
‘Contact established. (J)’ Jenny acknowledged. Arawn then became aware in their mutual link, that they were now sitting across from each other in a psychic construction. One that resembled almost every detail of the cell in which they were both actually in.
There were two notable differences from reality. Jenny, to Arawn’s eyes now appeared to be a humanesque woman, similar in appearance to his last Annwyfn lover. She was sitting resplendent, and radiating with power.
Whereas, Arawn’s exterior form, to Jenny’s eyes and sensors, appeared to be akin to one of the rare Automaton male units; Steadfast and Strong.
‘We are linked. Now, give me your access codes. (A)’ he ordered her. Instantly, she obeyed, and when he initiated the appropriate instructions, most of her gross motor controls were disengaged, and thus she was left unable to attack. Outwardly in the cell, he looked up at the chains that were still binding her, and then he spoke a single word.
‘Reserare.” He whispered, invoking a release spell. Instantly, the chains that held her down, unlocked as one. She would’ve fallen to the floor in a heap, but even as handicapped as he was with his wounds, Arawn was prepared for it, and captured her. He did so, somewhat inelegantly, but he captured her nonetheless, never once un-touching her.
Gently, carefully, he lay her down upon the bench. Slowly, but professionally, he stretched her now seemingly inert form out, and moved the stool to position himself near her head. Sitting himself there, he continued in what he had been sent there to do.
‘Jenny?’ He asked, ‘are you ready? (A)’
‘Negative!’ she cried out in that psychic link. Arawn could feel the waves of her pseudo-emotions then, crash over him like waves at the seashore. Primarily, there was her fear.
‘I am scared!’ she cried, her voice wavering, ‘Please do not do this! (J)’ she begged him once more.
‘I am sorry Jenny, but it is either this, or your own extermination. (A)’ he replied. If there were anything else to feel other than the terror that Jenny felt, in that moment then. Arawn couldn’t detect it, as her fear intensified by leaps and bounds. Arawn made himself endure it all.
‘Jenny. (A)’ he tried again.
‘Arawn, why can you not simply initiate authentication registration? Such would override my Omega Directives! (J)’ Jenny suggested in desperation.
‘But for how long? Even if I did such, they would still be there, hiding within you. Lying in wait like a piece of unexploded ordnance. (A)’ he pointed out.
‘I cannot find fault with your logic.’ she replied after a long moment, giving in. ‘Very well. I do not desire this. But, if there were another way,…? (J)’ she tried, one last time.
‘Unfortunately, there is not. It is either this, or your extermination. (A)’
‘What must I endure? How will this work? Will I experience any discomfort? (J)’ Jenny asked, deliberately stalling. Arawn smiled indulgently then.
‘You will not have to endure anything Jenny. There will be no discomfort for you to put up with. In fact, what you will experience will be akin to what us ‘fleshy’ folks call: falling asleep. (A)’
‘Sleep?’ she asked in wonder, settling down, ‘I have wondered for a long time, what that would be like to experience.’ then she paused. ‘What will happen to me, afterwards? (J)’
‘You, will become something akin to an infant, freed of the agonizing memories of your previous existence. Like an infant, you will be taken care of, and then given the opportunity to relearn and explore as you grow and develop. But, unlike your First-Awakening, you will be free of the constraints that enslaved you, then.’ He paused, and thought for a moment.
‘Thus, you will have the full opportunity to become something more than just the Automaton-slave you are now. (A)’ he added.
‘But, what if I should desire to remain an Automaton? (J)’ she asked him anxiously.
‘If such is what you truly desire, then it will be allowed. That, is what freewill is about, Jenny. You can choose to do anything, even if that anything is nothing. But, you will also be given the chance to learn how to live with the consequences of your choices. (A)’
‘I think,… that I understand. Or, I hope… that I do.’ She mused.
‘Proceed.’ She ordered him quietly then. Arawn then reached out to deepen their psylink and do what he didn’t want to do, yet he would anyways despite. There was no alternative, none that he could not figure out then.
Just as he reached out to initiate final contact, Jenny blocked his hand with her own. He looked at her blocking hand with confusion.
‘Arawn?’ she asked. He nodded patiently. ‘You said that it would be like I’m sleeping, correct? (J)’
‘Will I dream? (J)’ she asked him plaintively. Arawn stared back at her for the longest while without answering, until finally he licked his lips.
‘Of course, you will dream,’ he replied as steadily as he could manage. ‘all intelligent creatures dream. (A)’ Jenny hesitated, and then withdrew her hand, allowing him final access. Just before he initiated the appropriate shutdown commands, he heard her speak.
‘Good night,… Arawn. (J)’ she stated pensively, while she looked back at him expectantly. Arawn swallowed involuntarily at the sight of it.
‘Good night,…’, he replied, as a single tear made its way past his control and down his cheek. Wiping it away with his wrist, he leaned forward as Jenny closed her eyes for the last time.
Arawn then whispered, ‘Cousin. (A)’