|Added On: ||January 10, 2013 8:58 pm|
|Community Series: ||MOTU Modern|
Written by: M. Lawson Humble
2. The Madman: Kill Switch
“Kronis!” shouted the machinist. “Kronis! Stay with me, damn you!”
The machinist dragged the bloodied warrior by the leg up a steel ramp and into the belly of a waiting transport. He sat beside the broken cybernetic man for many excruciating hours as the transport made its way through hostile territory toward the Mountain of Snakes.
The cybernetic man- the mad warrior- Kronis continuously screamed metallic and wheezed gear-grinding wheezes as they travelled. “What… happened? Trydor?” he grunted in a rare, though frantic moment of clarity. “It… hurts…”
The machinist frowned, examining his fellow warrior’s state with his own wondrous artificial eyes. “Sword,” he said simply. “Power Sword. He nearly took off your arm.”
“The big one. The useful one.”
“Why… why does my chest… hurt?”
“The cat. His cat. Nearly ate you. But…” Trydor’s visor spun around with a whirr and a hiss of compressed air, allowing him to examine Kronis’ remaining organic internal organs. “It spit you out. Couldn’t chew through the metal.”
“He… he got me though, didn’t he?”
Trydor nodded. “Ripped you to shreds. You’ll live, but I’ll have to replace that lung. And…” He paused, examining deeper. “Maybe your stomach. It’s been breached as well. You’ll be poisoned by your own waste if I don’t drain you and close you back up soon.” The machinist mused quietly aloud to himself. “Although you may just need a patch. Doubtful though.” Kronis screamed again and the machinist looked down into his pleading, mad eyes. “Don’t worry. We’re almost there. Stay with me.”
They arrived at the Mountain of Snakes and Kronis was swiftly moved to the sterile, well-lit workshop of the machinist.
“Leave us,” said Trydor to the large, barely-sentient, lumbering oafs who carried the compact, but deceivingly heavy mad warrior. They dropped him unceremoniously upon a table and obeyed the machinist, grunting and cursing in strange, savage languages all the while.
The metal and meat body of Kronis then began to twitch and jerk with great violence. Trydor tightened thick leather straps around his wrist and legs. For the big arm, he used metal clamps. But still, with violent spasms, Kronis strained against them, threatening to break free.
“I… can’t… stop…” spat out Kronis as he seized.
“Then I must shut you down,” said Trydor in an emotionless monotone. He frowned. “Events are progressing at an unexpected and… alarming rate. I have no other choice.”
“So… bad. It hurts! So bad! Just… do… it!”
“When I have achieved success- when the operation is complete,” said the machinist with confidence, “I will bring you back online.” Trydor then forcefully stabbed an eight inch long needle into the madman’s neck and quickly pushed down the plunger of the syringe. He left the needle in for a moment, and then pulled it out. He threw the syringe away and started placing several polished, sharp instruments with great care on a white cloth that covered a stainless steel tray beside the cold, stainless steel table. “And one more thing,” he said. The spark in the eyes of Kronis began to fade as the machinist flipped oily switches and turned bloody dials within a pried-open cavity in his fellow warrior’s gory chest. “You may experience some unpleasant visions. Dreams. This anesthesia I’m using is beyond powerful.” He paused. “And it is not known for its… desirable side effects.”
Kronis did not hear. He sighed and his body deflated as the metal jaw that was connected to his putrid, rotten face parted, revealing his filed, gray teeth and his segmented copper tongue. And then, as the machinist operated, Kronis dreamed. He dreamed and remembered.
A voice laughed and Kronis bit his tongue as his face was smashed into the electrified bars of his new prison home. The guards opened the door and threw him in. Blood poured from his mouth. He spit out a tooth and opened his eyes. The evil laugh- the manic cackle continued, louder this time.
“Welcome, my old friend. Welcome, Kronis! It is you, isn’t it?” The pitch of the cackle was unbearable.
Kronis covered his ears with trembling hands while he struggled to find his feet. After a time, he succeeded. He stared at his new cellmate. The man who laughed was old. Crumpled in the corner of his small bunk, atop filthy linens, he appeared to be no more than a skeleton. His wasted body was covered with spotted, loose skin, roughly the same color as Kronis’ own- turquoise. The old man convulsed and his laugh soon turned into a horrible and strained coughing fit.
“Karak,” sighed Kronis wearily, shaking his head. “What have I done to deserve such company?”
The old man spat a green glob on the grated floor. Both men stared as the glob slid between the metal and into the cell below, plopping with a wet slap upon a sleeping inmate’s face. The inmate woke with a start and began screaming curses. When he realized that the disgusting surprise came from above, however, he held his tongue and nervously feigned sleep.
“Grates on the floor?” asked Kronis.
The old man shrugged a bony shrug. “We have no waste pots here. We are all stacked up,” he smiled a toothless smile, “and it pays to have a high cell.”
“And ours?” Kronis looked up.
“The highest.” Karak frowned and chuckled darkly. “But they starve us for the most part, so a waste pot would hardly be useful, don’t you think?” He began to giggle. Then cry.
“You’re mad, Karak,” said Kronis slowly. You always were, but now…” “I am,” said the old man through his shameless tears, “but they fear me, do they not?”
Kronis looked down at the inmate in the cell directly below them who pretended not to hear their conversation. “It appears so.”
“Tell me, old friend…” Karak was done with tears and he hopped down from his bunk with surprising agility and stood facing Kronis. The old man was naked, save for a soiled, patchy fur loincloth and he looked as if a stray gust of wind could knock him over. He was as bald as a skull and his darting emerald eyes seemed to glow from within. His eyes were frighteningly alive. They were also runny, bulbous, and unquestionably insane. “Tell me,” he continued, “you asked what you had done to deserve my company.”
A long, uncomfortable silence hung heavily between them. Finally, Kronis spoke. “Yeah?”
“So… what did you do to deserve me? On the outside? What did you do?”
“Oh.” Kronis sat down on his unused, but still-filthy bunk and replied while probing the wet electrical burns and swollen bruises on his gaunt, unattractive face with his fingers. “The usual. Assassination. Robbery… Cold-blooded murder.”
Karak exhaled sadly. “How disappointing. How… commonplace.”
“We can’t all be mad, Karak.”
The unbearable shrieking cackle began again. “We shall see! We shall see! We shall see!”
Kronis lay down with a groan and covered his ears again. He tried his best to endure as Karak repeated those three words with ever-increasing giddy insanity for what must have been hours. Finally, the old man collapsed where he stood, due to exhaustion, upon the cold, metal floor. Kronis uncovered his ears and noticed blood on his own palms.
The silence was strange after the relentless cacophony. Kronis leaned over in his bunk and looked down into the darkness. The cells below stretched as far as he could see. A few pairs of desperate, fearful eyes glanced upward, catching his gaze, but they soon turned away. Or closed. All was quiet. Occasionally, the metal floor in a cell below would squeak as an inmate waked the short distance from one end of their cage to another, but otherwise, silence reigned.
“At least I’m on the top. My fame and notoriety counted for something else besides getting me captured so easily, I guess.” Kronis’ grin turned into a grimace as the wet, slapping sounds of organic waste falling from cells below offended his bleeding ears. On rare occasion, sharp volleys of foul oaths cut through their echoing, metallic world, but before long, as before, all was silent.
Days passed. Weeks. Without food and with precious little water, Kronis grew as thin as his cellmate. And though not nearly as mad, he was well on his way. But Kronis tried to keep hold of his sanity. Many times throughout the long, unbearable days and endless nights, Kronis looked out of the small porthole in his cell- no more than a few inches in diameter to the stars beyond. As their satellite prison orbited the hostile, volcanic planet below, much to his delight, the scenery always changed. This small thing came to mean the world to Kronis.
But then, one day, after dozing for no more than a handful of minutes, Kronis woke to find the porthole sealed. Kronis held his tongue. He did not cry. He did not beg.
“A tease,” teased mad Karak with a giggle that sounded like boiling water. “They do that trick to all the new… residents. Open the porthole. Close the porthole. Open the porthole. Close the porthole.”
Kronis attempted to drown the words of his cellmate out by covering his ears, rocking back and forth, and screaming his own mantra over and over again. “Madness! Madness! Madness!”
Many more days passed. And then, on a day that started out like all others, The Feast was upon them.
“What is this?” asked Kronis to Karak.
Plate after place of tempting food was pushed into their cell. Below them, prisoners cheered, cracking open casks of wine, bottles of beer and spirits, downing the contents in ravenous fury.
“The Feast,” replied the old man. He was chewing on the plump, steaming leg muscle of some nameless beast, and his words flew from his mouth followed by a spray of hot grease and bits of pink flesh. “Once a month do we have The Feast. It’s cruel torture, to be sure, but few scarcely care. I certainly don’t. Now leave me alone. I want to enjoy this.”
Kronis furrowed his heavy brow and sampled a bubbling pie, breaking the golden crust with his finger and poking it into the glorious gift. He removed it warily, sniffed it, and then licked the thick gravy from his finger. It was indeed glorious. He was powerless to resist. He ate the entire pie in seconds. Of course he vomited soon thereafter, but by then, like the others, he did not care. He began to eat again. They all continued to eat- all of the prisoners, gorging themselves, heedless of the inevitable consequences.
And the consequences came. Hours later, drunken inmates, covered in the vile excretions of their neighbors, began to rage. They began to fight. They began to kill. That day, as was expected on every Feast Day, one half of the prison population died. On the very next day, fresh new inmates were introduced into the floating hell that was the Satellite Cellblock.
But neither Kronis nor Karak lost their lives on that Feast Day. Nor any other Feast Day thereafter, for Karak, although wiry and swift, was too mad, feeble, and simply too old to challenge Kronis. And Kronis, for his part, was still not yet mad enough.
And then one day, he was.
Starving, hopeless, and desperate, no longer aware of his surroundings, Kronis woke one eternal night in a fitful fever. He climbed onto the bunk of the old man and bit into the diseased flesh that covered Karak’s thin neck like a loose, spotted scarf, ripping open his throat. Karak immediately cried out in agony, and moaned wordlessly for a day, but soon, all sounds and all blood left his ruined body.
In an irrational state of panic, Kronis spent a week on his belly, sharpening his blunt, gray teeth by gnawing on the metal floor. And filled with a sense of pride, when his project was completed, Kronis rose from the floor and clacked his jaw, testing the points of his new predatory teeth with his tongue, drawing his own blood. He was pleased. And he cried joyous tears of happiness while devouring the rancid meat that was once mad Karak.
The electrified door to the cell opened a year later. Still unchanged and wearing the face of his birth, the alchemist stepped inside. His clever, suspicious eyes drank deep of the horrific sights laid bare before him. Instead of a look of disgust though, the expression that played about his handsome face was an expression of mild confusion. He spoke. “I have searched many dimensions to find one worthy of my company. In Eternia and Despondos, my search has bore fruit, yes, but rotten fruit, truth be told. But here, in Infinitia, to my great pleasure, I have discovered that none live who can match the …” he paused, searching for a word, “sheer… depravity of mad Karak. And my search has led me here. My search ends here. Long have I yearned to have words with mad Karak. But now, I find, “he paused again, looking at the pile of maggot-covered bones upon the steaming bunk before turning his eyes upon Kronis, “that you are not he.” Kronis clacked and snapped his teeth together, but did not reply. The alchemist pondered the man’s dead eyes. “Why did you eat him?” he asked.
Kronis blinked several times, noticed the stranger, and began to cultivate a low laugh. He shrugged. “Why else? He tasted good.”
“Come with me,” smiled the alchemist.
As they stepped over the corpses of the guards outside of the cell, the alchemist stole one backward glance at the pile of bones. The sickly, greenish, artificial light that illuminated the cell shone down on the bones, giving them an eerie, glowing aura. “Such a waste,” he whispered.
Kronis served the alchemist well. He was ruthless. Vicious. But he was also steady. Loyal.
Until one day, he wasn’t.
He paid for his betrayal though. The alchemist, with his evil magic and ingenious, sharp tools of torture, robbed Kronis of his legs, an arm, a hand, his tongue, and finally, his lower jaw. The latter, the alchemist ripped off with his own powerful, long-nailed hands.
And due perhaps to the cruel skill of the alchemist, Kronis lived. Now nothing more than a lump of a creature, immobile, moaning in agony, and writhing in madness, he was imprisoned once again, deep within the Mountain of Snakes where the alchemist called home.
And then, he was forgotten. For years, he was simply forgotten. Living on the slime that he awkwardly and inefficiently sucked off of the stone walls, Kronis dwelled in silence and in the dark. If he was not mad before, he certainly was now. Time stretched. Time stretched so thin that it ceased to have any meaning.
But then, on a day that was not a day, or perhaps a night that was not a night, the comforting, familiar silence was broken by a bored, emotionless and clinical voice. It rang in the dark and came from beyond the tiny hole that was the entire world to Kronis. “You are needed,” it said. “Come with me.”
Mad Kronis spent several minutes attempting to force his destroyed half-mouth to make a reply. Finally, a reply came. “I…” He spoke thickly and stupidly, for he had no tongue. “I… can’t muh. Muh. Mooove.”
An annoyed sighing exhalation came from the man with the cold voice. The sigh accompanied the creak of the prison’s iron door. It opened, cracking a crust of rust that had formed around its hinges. The shards of rust fell slowly, like flakes of dangerous snow. "There we go,” said the man. “Pick him up. See that— Ah.” He sighed again as he took in the sight of the pitiful lump. “If I knew what work lay before me, I would never have agreed.” He turned away. “Bring him.”
And within the hole, as Kronis blinked dumbly, a huge beast of shadow entered. After the shadowbeast picked up the immobile madman’s wasted, abused, and disgusting legless, armless and handless body, it followed the cold man with the cold voice. They soon entered a painfully illuminated workshop.
“Who… you?” slobbered Kronis as he landed with a solid slap upon a sterile operating table.
The man, who saw the world through a robotic rotating visor that covered what used to be his eyes, encircling his face like a masked helmet, answered without looking into the mad eyes of Kronis. “Be quiet. This will hurt, but you must remain awake. Scream if you like, but I will not relent.”
Kronis did scream, and true to his word, the man did not relent.
“Why… wuh… why now?”
Again, the machinist answered without looking up. “The master of the mountain commands it. He is in need of new warriors. He must be desperate.
“Must… muh. Must be. If he… whu. Wha. Wants me.”
The man laughed without humor, and Kronis screamed as another deep incision spilled slick, diseased guts and rotten yellow fat upon the table, setting his nervous system afire.
“Stay with me,” ordered the man. Kronis struggled and the machinist smiled, this time with a hint of warmth. “Good. Good. Maybe there is something to you after all.”
Kronis smiled a panic-stricken smile, but then he began to scream. Bloody, bubbling froth erupted from his jawless, sharp-toothed mouth as his unwashed turquoise skin was peeled back, and his bones were painfully exposed and agonizingly fused with boiling, liquid metal to beautiful and fearsome cold, polished cybernetic components.
This torture- this horror continued for nearly a day until finally, Kronis the criminal- Kronis the madman- Kronis the prisoner was recreated. Kronis the warrior was given a new left hand, two incredibly heavy, though powerful legs, and a new right arm that was equipped with never-before-seen advanced weapons technology. The wondrous arm brought a half-smile to the half-face of Kronis, even as he suffered, cursing and spitting, struggling through the awful agony of the eternal ordeal.
But the eternal ordeal was nearly over. For now, the machinist revealed to Kronis his masterpiece. Dryly, he said, “This took me many months to complete. I have never before attempted to create something so… sophisticated. Beautiful.”
“What… isss. It?”
“A device. Essentially, a cybernetic head. Chances are, you won’t survive the grafting, but…” He tilted his own head and shrugged. “Only one way to find out.”
The pain the madman had endured thus far was nothing compared to the inconceivable sensations that now swallowed him whole. But still, he remained conscious. He remained strong.
The machinist cut into the skull of Kronis with a buzzing, ugly saw. The smell of burnt hair and cooking flesh perfectly complimented the wordless screams that threatened to bring down the very mountain itself.
And then, after many more hours, the screams of a man became the screams of a machine.
“What. What happened?” gasped Kronis, surprised by his own voice. Panting, with tears running down the emaciated hollows of his cheeks and into the strange red metal that now made up the bottom half of his face, he said, “I… can speak.”
“Huh,” said the machinist with his back turned away from his patient as he held a laser-scalpel up to a blinding light, considering the sharpness of its edge. “The tongue of copper took. The body hasn’t rejected it. Yet,” he added.
“My jaw.” Kronis clacked his self-sharpened top teeth against his new lower, jagged metal ones. He opened and closed his mouth, shaking his head from side to side. The sound of gears assaulted his new technologically enhanced senses. He cried aloud.
“You’ll get used to it.” The man smiled a self-satisfied smile as he picked up stainless steel tray and showed Kronis his own reflection.
Long moments passed before the madman slammed his teeth- both new and old together with a snap. “Nice. I owe you one. But… why is my face green?”
The machinist sat the tray back down. “Rot. Your face rotted in that stinking hole. The rot was beginning to spread down your neck to the rest of your body, but I put a stop to it. Cosmetically though, the damage is done.”
In truth, the face of the madman was a combination of pale, bloated, cream-colored flesh, and the green color of mold. The color of death.
“So… Will I live?” asked Kronis.
The man shrugged noncommittally. “Until the master is done with you.”
Kronis gingerly stepped down from the table. He tested the weight and balance of his new body. “The master? Him? No…” he cycled through the wicked instruments of murder that emerged from his new cybernetic right arm and said in a black machine-voice, “I think I may need to pay him a little visit soon.”
“Suit yourself. If you want to die, that’s up to you. My work is done.”
“What do you mean?” asked Kronis as the machinist began to clean and organize his tools.
“Kill switch. Implanted in your brain. Step out of line…”
“Lights out,” growled the madman.
“Lights out,” agreed the man.
“Oh well.” Kronis smiled a metallic smile. “Oh well.” He laughed. Then he began to giggle. And howl.
“Control your madness, dog!” snapped the machinist. “Control yourself or leave my workshop!”
Kronis giggled quietly for a moment longer, gulped, inhaled luxuriously, and nodded. “Alright… alright.” The madman then noticed, for perhaps the first time, the strange artificial eyes that the man used to see. “Why do you wear that? What happened?” The machinist did not answer. “Fine. What’s your name, at least? I said I owe you, and so I owe you. Tell me who I owe… Please.”
“Trydor,” replied Trydor. He turned to face the madman, appraising him as a scientific creation rather than a living creature.
“I’m Kronis,” offered Kronis.
“No. You are nothing.”
The rank smell of the beast had forced Kronis from his awful memory-dream.
“Stop squirming, Kronis, or we’re all dead.”
“I can’t help it. Gods! His smell… Go! Go, baboon… Leave before I leap from this table and skin you. Then I will wear your flesh and fur as a cloak. Although… I will be sure to wash it first. Several times, I should think. Or Maybe I’ll twitch my arm and blow us all up so I don’t have to look at your ugly face any more.”
“I need to remember to close my door,” said Trydor after he and Kronis drove the beast from his workshop. They laughed.
“So once again, you’ve saved my life,” said Kronis after a moment.
Trydor hung up his sword and shrugged. His mind was elsewhere. Though he did not fear him, the beast troubled him. “What do you think he wanted?”
Now Kronis shrugged a metal shoulder. “Don’t ask me. Why do you care?”
“I don’t. But he just seemed more… unstable than usual. I feel that way about all of us. Ask yourself: With all of us forced into service, trapped here, how long before someone snaps? How long before something gives?”
Kronis did not answer, for at that moment, he fell to his knees, cracking the floor. His prolonged scream clipped out and turned to white noise.
Trydor ran over and helped him up. “What is it?”
Kronis rose. “The boss,” he exhaled. “I’m summoned.”
“Be strong,” Trydor clapped his cybernetic creation on the back in a rare brotherly gesture, “my friend.”
“Yeah,” replied the madman gloomily.
Kronis walked form the welcoming, brightly-illuminated workshop out into the dreadful dark corridors that twisted, bore, and turned throughout the Mountain of Snakes. With heavy metal head hung low, and with his gaze trained on the feet that were not his, Kronis made his way to the throne room of the boss- the master of the mountain- the alchemist.
Kronis entered the drafty cavern. The air that circled around was hot, and the echoes were strange in that place. Sometimes, noted Kronis with unease, echoes seemed to spring from no source.
The alchemist was speaking to the witch. The madman was sane enough to know when to remain silent. He pressed his back against the stone wall and tried to melt into the deep shadows.
The witch began to scream at the alchemist. Her silhouette moved with the jumping lights of the torches as she passionately cursed the master of the mountain. Or pleaded. Kronis wasn’t sure.
But the alchemist remained unmoved and unmoving. He sat silently, with expressionless death-white face gleaming underneath the hood of his deep-purple royal cloak, upon his throne of the polished bones of heroes.
“Is she… crying?” asked the madman to himself. He strained to hear. Even with his enhanced senses, the echoes of the throne room washed out the words of their conversation. He did, however, hear her when she screamed.
“…cruelty knows no bounds!” shrieked the witch. Then her voice was lost. Then it exploded again, like a volcano. “…why don’t you allow me to leave?”
The witch stopped moving. She stood before the alchemist and, like a rag doll, suddenly collapsed onto all fours. “Yes,” thought Kronis. “She is crying.” Her racking sobs were punctuated by rasping intakes of breath that throbbed in the cavern like the beat of a heart. And then she was still. Silent. Her helm had fallen from her head, revealing the brilliant moon-silver color of her short-cropped, angular hair. In her desperate fury, she had torn and ripped her own outer dress. It fell from her soft yellow shoulders and hung around her small waist like a black flag, forsaken by the wind.
Kronis did not breathe. Nor could he avert his eyes form the defeated and tragic half-silhouetted figure of the witch.
And then, all sound retreated from the throne room- making way for the words of the alchemist. The words were loud and they resonated long. They hung in the swirling air and burrowed into the core of the madman’s metal and meat body.”
The witch cried angrily, “Say my name!”
“No,” was the reply of the alchemist. Coldly, he added, “Witch.”
And the witch left. She caught the eyes of Kronis as she ran from the throne of bones. She hastily pulled her torn dress up to her chest and shot him a look of exquisite hate before she was swallowed by the shadows.
The madman inhaled deeply and slowly stepped forward.
“You,” said the alchemist. “Stand before me.”
Kronis obeyed. Upon one knee, with head bowed, he said in a metallic voice that masked his great fear, “Boss.”
The alchemist stood suddenly and kicked Kronis in his rotten face with a blacked-clawed bare foot. Kronis flew backward and landed hard, twisting the wires and tendons in his neck. Before the cybernetic madman could blink, the alchemist stood over him, pressing down upon his chest with his other foot.
And then, anxiety took hold. Kronis lost his tenuous grasp of reality. He screamed and cried in his harsh, gear-grinding voice like a baby as his body was flooded with raw panic. Disgusted, the alchemist began to stomp.
Finally, Kronis ceased his undignified wailing and lay silent, ashamed, but still shaking and rattling in fear.
“Have you finished?” asked the alchemist.
Kronis nodded. “Yeah… Boss. Sorry. I… just can’t help it. Things get so… strange. From time to time. To time. To time. Reality… breaks. It—“
“Get up.” Again, Kronis obeyed. “What happened out there?”
“There? The… the battle?” The alchemist nodded slowly, never breaking eye contact. “We… we lost, Boss.”
“I. Know. That. But how?”
“The… the beast. He gave away our position.”
“Of that, I am also aware. And he has been punished for his failure. But we’re not talking about him. Why did you fail?”
“I… I…” The stuttering of Kronis sounded like the skipping of a record needle, thick with static. “I was fighting the ram… and then I turned… and the brother of the man-at-arms laid me low with that freakish hand of his.”
“Then, well then, Boss, when I came to, most of my artificial systems were offline… and I stood to fight again…”
“I could hardly stand, Boss. And then… Then he came.”
“Yeah. And then,” Kronis made a slicing gesture across his body, starting from his neck to his stomach with his normal-sized robotic left hand, “Power Sword.”
“Power Sword,” repeated the alchemist. He looked at the freshly sewn-up wounds on the bare turquoise chest of the mad warrior. “And am I to assume that his cat had his way with you as well?”
“Uh…” replied Kronis. “Yeah. G… good thing I… uh… don’t taste very good, huh, Boss?”
The alchemist sighed theatrically and rubbed the hollow sockets of where his beautiful, magnetic eyes once were. “Incompetence. I should have left you to die. I should have never allowed Trydor to repair you.”
“S… sorry, Boss.”
“You are, Kronis. You are indeed. How you ever found the courage- the guts to kill- to eat mad Karak, I’ll never know. You should have died in the Satellite Cellblock so long ago. Why did I free you? I should have snapped your neck the moment I laid eyes upon you.” The alchemist sighed again. “No matter. You stand before me now. Alive. But know this: I hold your worthless life in my hands.” He raised a hand and torchlight illuminated white skeletal fingers. “Displease me again, and I will shut you down.”
“The… kill switch, Boss?”
“The. Kill. Switch.”
Kronis stood facing his master for many long moments, twitching his head nervously, while steam hissed from the vents of the hydraulic components of his deadly right arm. He then slammed his jaw together suddenly, and the madness that was never far below the surface of his natural and synthetic skin began to take hold. It was not fear that fueled the madness this time, though. It was anger. It was hate and bile. The madman breathed hard and slammed his jaw together once more.
“Careful, Kronis,” warned the alchemist. “Careful.”
“Are we done here?” The words dripped with oil and murder.
The alchemist laughed his high, mirthless laugh. “No, Kronis. No.” He paused. “You are showing a bit of backbone now. I like that. Listen to me.” Kronis listened. “Just now, as I stand here, wasting time talking to you, my powers of knowing inform me that there is trouble brewing in my happy household. And guess what? Lucky you. I nominate you to deal with it.”
“Apparently, the frog has gone insane. Go. Go to the lake. Subdue him. Bring him to me.”
“Or what?” The hateful tone remained in the voice of the madman.
The alchemist laughed again. “Need I say it?”
Kronis growled. His gears ground. “The kill switch,” he whispered.
“The kill switch.”
And then Kronis left the throne room.
He dealt with the frog, returned swiftly to his master, threw the slimy creature at the foot of the throne, and exited the cavern without a word.
The alchemist chuckled darkly to himself as he looked down upon the squirming, dehydrating body of the gasping frog.
“I will kill him,” said Kronis aloud as he walked back through the lonely corridors of the Mountain of Snakes. “But I can’t. He’ll… turn me off before I get close enough to gut him… He—”
“And what if your kill switch was disabled?” resonated a rocky voice in his head.
Kronis stumbled. He did not know whether the voice was real, or if he was descending further into madness. Either way, he quickly decided, he did not care. He answered the disembodied voice. “Then I will kill him.”
“I thought as such,” said the voice with a cruel snort. “Very well. It is disabled. Go. Kill.”
End of Part Two.