Moon Knight 2099UGR #4, Volume 2

Moon Knight 2099UGR Volume 2, #4 - August 2006



Moon Knight 2099UGR

Issue #4, Volume 2

"Deuce Ex Machina"

Written by Jason McDonald

Chief Edits: David Ellis


Marq (Edward Somerset)
Moon Knight

Lachryma

Amanda Devereaux

Takayashi Martin

Emmanuel


 


Helplessness.

Probably one of the most terrifying of emotions people suffer through.

A tingling weightlessness in the chest. A quickening of the pulse; a surging of nerve endings. That hollow, uneasy taste in the back of the throat.

We’ve all felt helpless at some point.

We are born helpless.

As newborns, we are born blind – or at least incapable of understanding what we see – and totally ignorant of the world around us. We are wholly dependent on our parents to guide our way and protect us from harm. To clothe us; to give us food and shelter. To comfort us. To keep us company. To make us feel loved. To empower us so that one day, we might understand and be able to navigate the world around us.

As children, we walk and run and talk and scream and cry and yell with reckless abandon. We can stand on our own two feet, worm our way into the cookie cupboards, or chase the family dog around the table. We start to move and think on our own, and yet at this tender age, we remain helpless against the judgment of our parents. Disobey, and we end up in bed without supper. Speak out of turn, and our VR game privileges are revoked. As we grow and learn to fend for ourselves, we are helpless before the stern visage of our parents. We are helpless before their final say.

Even as teenagers evolving into the disturbingly bizarre realm of adulthood, we still feel the stinging pangs of helplessness. Helpless to stop the changes in our bodies. Helpless before the overflows of emotion flooding our psyche – the rupturing of a dam with a genetic time bomb affixed firmly to the side. New passions. Hidden desires. A re-shuffling of personal priorities as hormones rush through our systems unabated.

And through it all, parents try as they might to instill in us a wisdom of years we are not ready to learn, or willing to listen to. Punishment with motives we can’t quite comprehend. Often because we are too inexperienced to predict any other outcomes to our actions that those we imagine in our wildest daydreams, or raunchiest wet dreams.

We feel helpless against what we don’t understand. We suffer through this feeling; this utter lack of control of our surroundings, in the hope that one day we may be freed. That we will be totally in-control of our lives.

That we never need feel helpless again.

But with adulthood, come brand new reasons to feel out of control of our lives.

Brand new reasons that this hope we hold out in youth is a false one.

Brand new ways for our lives to come crashing down around us.

And brand new ways to be helpless against it all…



A high-pitched squeal bellowed effortlessly from deep within her furry breast. She screeched the animal screech across the night sky, a powerful screech just above the human range of hearing, while climbing the winds with graceful leather wings.

The sound waves leapt in arcs from the epicenter of sound emanating from her throat, carrying her song in echoes across the starry skyline. The sounds bounced off every solid object in the immediate vicinity and funneled right back into her large domed ears, giving the fanged creature gliding the winds a clear idea of what not to fly into.

Echolocation.

The next best thing to visual sight when you’re blind as a bat. Or a vampire bat, to be more precise.

The vampire Lachryma soared purposefully above the dark, lonely brick husks. She sniffed her way through sparkling wisps of water vapor hanging loose in the sky, dead-set on following the dissipating trail of her quarry.

The White Knight.

He’d thoroughly kicked her ass despite the exhausting blood loss from the vampire’s bite she’d given him. Naturally, the man had some kind of rapid regenerative ability, much like her own, but different somehow. Mechanical, instead of natural. Fabricated by nano-technology, instead of passed down through the vampiric race. And when she’d tasted his blood….even that had carried the taint. A coppery taste of a different kind; almost like licking at the circuitry inside a computer.

It was this fleeting scent she was following now, through the whistling wind of the night before this trail of breadcrumbs – the flakes of skin, of sweat, of body odor that tasted as much man as they did machine – was scattered throughout the skies; the map rendered useless by the nature of the night.

The knight had proven himself severely dangerous, knocking her out cold in thirty seconds flat on the rooftop earlier. But when he did it, he’d seemed…perhaps, to move differently…

Before, when he’d accidentally stumbled into her trap and she’d fed on his tasty fluids in her thirst-fever, he’d seemed to move slower. He’d been more mistake-prone and predictable; clumsy even, in that alleyway. But on the roof after he’d healed from her supping…there was a speed and grace to his movements that defied reason. His speed, his reflexes suddenly and inexplicably had far outmatched her own. When she was at the top of her game after making him her meal and the knight should have been exhausted, anemic and dizzy at the very least for the next day or two ahead from her supping – and he had taken her down without breaking a sweat.

When she drank from him, she’d tried to keep the vampiric virus from transmitting into his blood from the bite. Such is the ability of all vampires of her breed to control which victims join the bloodline, and which do not. Another thing Lachryma had learned from Sister Lucia. But Lachryma had been exhausted, almost delirious. What if she failed in her control?

What if, combined with the mysterious nanotech that seemed to permeate the white knight’s entire body, she’d unwittingly created some super-vampire? Something far stronger, faster and deadlier than her own breed of vampire, now running amok in Downtown New York? A new species?

If that was the case, she had to get to him before he caused any more damage. Before he claimed any lives.

Whatever he was, he had to be taken down before anyone got hurt…or turned…

Lachryma was suddenly jarred out of her train of thought when she realized that the line of his scent has stopped. She stopped dead in her tracks and circled into a holding pattern; flapping leathery wings and flying in slowly-increasing arcs to take in the world around her.

Scents of water vapor suspended in the air. The smell of tar mixed with body oils and dander. She smelled the bitter stenches of cigarette smoke blended in with dirt and urine, wafting across the breeze. She smelled all the normal smells, taking the whole scene in with all her senses save her eyesight, and finally found that lingering quality of metallic sweat she’d been searching for.

Only, the scent was too scattered; too widespread and fluid, too vague. The molecules danced around her furry frame, carrying their taunts in fading echoes along the breeze, giving her a thousand different directions to follow and promising her a thousand separate wild goose chases. And with the faintest change of the wind, the possible directions changed again, and the scents themselves seemed to begin fading away altogether. The tiniest specks of breadcrumbs were still scattered amongst the winds, yes – but the trail itself was long gone.

Lachryma tightened her circle, retracing her flight plan over and over. She stopped her screech, echolocation dying with her silence. She was truly blind…but no longer was she distracted. She began to listen to every sound carried up to her ears from the depths of the world. Every yelp in the night, every streetcar engine choking on its ancient fumes, every shouted prayer and silenced gunshot within the few blocks she was able to listen to. Between the sweet screams of lovers on rooftops and the lonely echo of children on the street making music with a metal trashcan, she searched madly for the specifics – for the footfalls of silky boots on rooftop, the ruffling of a heavy cape on the winter’s breeze, for the quiet sounds of a human body slicing through the wild tapestry of air currents surrounding her.

She listened to it all, and she heard nothing.

A last resort and a long shot; she melted and folded her vampire bat’s frame back into human form, save for the wide leather wings keeping her aloft. She ignored the slightly-discomforting nerve impulse radiating from muscles lengthening and moving about under her skin, and scanned the area with eyes that were no longer blind. But her night-vision only confirmed what her vampire bat senses had told her…

The White Knight was long gone.

And she had no way to find him again.

She clenched her fangs and sighed, feeling a sense of pity for those below her. He’d escaped, and by the time she could gain any sense of where he had actually gone, it would probably already be too late for some poor soul down there. And that’s if she ever saw him again. For all she knew, he was on his way to Jersey City by now.

She turned back the way she’d come when a sadly-familiar sound traveled down toward her hyper-sensitive ears. Faint, far above her, but unmistakable.

A shriek. A yelp of absolute terror. But not from an adult, or even a young child.

…it sounded very much like the terrified sounds of a newborn baby, about to be murdered by parents would didn’t want or couldn’t support their newest bundle of joy. It was a sound that happened too often in the Downtown squalor.

Lachryma thrust up into the sky, toward the source of the cries.

She morphed her form subtly, becoming sleeker and more aerodynamic in shape than before, playing for as much speed as was possible. The wind bellowed around her smooth wings as the buildings became little more than blurs in her ascent.

Somehow, she flew faster. She didn’t have much time.



“Time to wake up, Amanda.”

Amanda Devereaux groaned and shuffled about, trying to blink away the haze hanging inside her skull. She felt like she’d been asleep for days. A week, even. Her whole body seemed to tingle, as if the limbs themselves were still asleep.

Must have been some night she’d had.

“….wha--?” Amanda managed to slur out.

“Hello, Amanda. This is Takayashi Martin. You remember me, right?”

Takayashi? What was he doing in her apartment…?

Amanda opened her eyes – straining eyelids heavy with crust and muscles just beginning their journey to atrophy – only to have her vision flooded with an endless, tunneling brightness that etched itself deep into her mind. She winced instinctively, pulling her head back from the source of the light and hitting her skull against something metal. The blow, coupled with the intermittent spots of white and yellow blinking in and out in front of her – despite her closed eyelids – sent her already confused brain into a tailspin. She was suddenly very dizzy.

“…what the…what….Mr. Martinnn….what are you doing….here…?” She mumbled, barely coherent.

“Why, I work here, of course. As did you.”

Work here? Did he mean her apartment? Why the hell would--? Waitaminute…

Metal. She’d hit her head on something metal.

Wasn’t a bed. Couldn’t be a bed she was laying on. It didn’t feel soft or warm like a bed should…

Amanda blinked hard at her eyes again. Something wasn’t right. It shouldn’t have been this hard to think…

Her eyes slowly fluttered open again, squinting against the harsh brightness of the room. She drew in a long, slow breath while gazing at the ceiling; trying hard to distinguish something – anything – that could help her figure out just what the shock was going on.

“Forgive me, Ms. Devereaux. I keep forgetting how frightfully medicated you’ve been. This must be something of a shock.”

“Shock? What….medicated…? I’ve been….you…where am I….?

“You’re in a laboratory, Ms. Devereaux. In the Stark-Fujikawa building. Remember? Your previous place of employment?”

Stark-Fujikawa. Of course.

Her job as an Executive Surveillance Technician – fancy name for a member of a branch of corporate security answering directly to CEO Hikaru Takeshi himself.

Correction: She was about to be crowned Chief Executive Surveillance Technician. Leader of the pack. Ever since security dragged off Steven Rogerson, Amanda knew his old position was hers. In fact, she’d gone out partying the night it happened.

Higher salary. No more bills cluttering up her cyberspace e-mails. No more repo men to evade. Just many more days of luxury, excess, wealth, and spending. Spending, spending, spending!

An image of a Persian-style rug floated into her mind – the one with the pleasure-center-stimulators built right into the fabric. She decided that would be the first thing to pick up when she got home.

Hold on. Hold on a second. Why…why was she on a metal table in a laboratory, then? Why couldn’t she move her arms?

Amanda batted her eyes again, not quite as blinded now by the headlights above her. She began looking around the room – the laboratory – glancing from shape to blurry shape, trying to make sense of the whole mess. She eyed the machines above her – stainless steel monstrosities that loomed over her body like vultures looming over a dying prairie dog.

As Amanda saw the glint of light reflecting off the shiny devices above her, Amanda realized that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

The closest of the shapes began speaking.

“Ah. There. I see you are a bit more alert now. Allow me, first off to congratulate you, my dear. That was quite the ruse you nearly pulled off.”

Ruse? What ruse?

Damn. She couldn’t move her legs either. And she was beginning to feel cold. Very, very cold inside.

“….what…r’you talking…?”

“I’m talking about the ruse you nearly pulled over on the corporation. The one in which you hacked into our private databases using Steven Rogerson’s log-in and tried to frame him for corporate espionage and sabotage.”

He knows. Oh God, he knows.

How does he know?

How the HELL does he know?

“Although, I must thank you for setting up Steven like you did. Reasonable doubt alone gave Hikaru the perfect reason to fire his annoying little ass, with prejudice.” Takayashi added, licking his lips in jubilation. “But, I know Steven. As much as I don’t want to, I know him. He’s utterly incapable of something so stupid as spying on the corporation for Alchemax. The little pit-stain was practically a Stark-Fujikawa cheerleader for crying out loud. All he needed was some pom-poms and pigtails. So when the other sections of security traced the system breach back to your computer terminal, I wasn’t at all surprised. Lucky for us, Hikaru thought your life would be much better served as a test animal for our laboratories.”

Amanda furrowed her brow at Takayashi’s words, a fleeting glimpse of memory calling out to her from the blurry, shimmering void of her drug-addled brain. Stumbling home from the bar, splitting her high-heel on the sidewalk. Limping to the gold-plated elevator of her apartment building, useless shoe in shaky hand. Holding back vomit while searching the buttons through blurry vision for her floor. Watching the elevator doors slide open…

Seeing the repo men already taking most of the furniture from her apartment. Seeing business suits and Watchdog policemen clustered around her door like a barricade.

Feeling a pinprick of something in her chest; seeing a Watchdog she missed holding what must have been a tranq gun.

There wasn’t much after that.

“…you….abducted me…..why…?”

“Silly saboteur,” Takayashi grinned, stroking Amanda’s cheek with the utmost condescension. “The Watchdogs took you into custody and I asked you be transferred to my department. And you are going to pay for letting my property escape and for making the entirety of Spectre Division look like utter fools.”

Amanda could see, for the first time, the fire burning in his eyes. She could see Takayashi’s hate for her, his great desire to cause her harm. She could almost feel the anger beneath his seemingly pleasant countenance ebbing into her freezing body.

Gods, why the hell was she so cold?

“…what….” She stammered, terrified, “are you…going to do with me…?”

“You’re my new pet project.” He smiled dispassionately, burrowing his gaze very nearly into the depths of her soul, “And you’re going to make up for all the trouble you’ve caused.”

He circled her metal prison, running a tense index finger along the edges. “Hikaru Takeshi is quite angry with the project, thanks to you. The project, in his escapee, managed to dishonor one of Hikaru’s prized Specialists. So much so, that seppuku was the only way to redeem himself. And now, Mr. Somerset will be killed on-sight. An act of honorable vengeance. And none of our labs will be able to lay claim to the body.”

Takayashi suddenly brought his hand to her throat, bringing his clenched teeth just inches from her lips. “I…want Mr. Somerset. A killing machine like that should not be laid to waste and disposed of. He has proven his potential worth to Spectre Division and I will not have him slaughtered. I will not let all those months of hard research and application go to waste. My labtechs are eager to finish their research on his genetic structure, eager to make him a valuable asset once again. Once he’s ours, he can be surgically altered. The old man will never have to know. But none of that will happen IF HE’S DEAD!

Tears trickled effortlessly down Amanda’s cheeks in salty waterfalls. She shook and trembled, paralyzed with terror under his hateful stare.

Takayashi removed his hand from her throat, satisfied. He put on a smile.

“You are going to make up for your slights against me, and my Division. In spades, my dear.”

The sadist walked out of view for a moment. Amanda began sobbing to herself, quivering in fear as she thought about her old life. Her life of luxury as a highly-paid member of the corporate establishment. She began to mourn. Pining for the future she’d thrown away, and trembling at the options laid out before her now.

Then, a sudden pinprick.

“It’s a hallucinogenic.” Amanda trembled at the sound of Takayashi’s voice, “A nasty concoction. The labtechs tell me it will do no lasting harm. They also tell me it gives nasty, psychosis-inducing hallucinations for hours on end. But don’t worry; you’ll probably pass out from the pain before then. And when you wake up, I’ll leave you to the Benedicts’ tender mercies.”

The Benedicts? Jeanine and Arnhold Benedict? Thor help her…

“Good night, my dear.”

Amanda’s pulse began to quicken. She began shrieking and sobbing; her echoes rang out across the now-vacant laboratory.

She was their slave. Their dirty, hated little plaything.

Now, and forever.



“A hero, Marq. You will be a hero to the masses. Parents everywhere will learn to buy up those corporate life insurance plans for their children right from the cradle. Never again will parents leave their children uninsured – unprotected…in such a…dangerous world.”

Marq could see the gleam of insanity shining off the eyes of Emmanuel’s digital avatar as Marq felt his body pluck an innocent child from its crib.

Cordelia Mendez. An infant whose parents are behind on her life insurance payments.

Lachryma’s vampire bite had triggered a “test program” in Marq’s suit. An artificial intelligence engine designed to train him to be a corporate assassin. It was currently in full control of Marq’s motor functions – and its first target was the baby infant now screaming in Marq’s tensed arms.

Emmanuel smiled at him, the interactive digital manual casually glancing at the screaming Cordelia.

“YOU SON OF A BITCH!” Marq screamed above the cries of the child in his arms, “SHUT OFF THIS PROGRAM NOW!

“Ah ah, Marq.” Emmanuel beamed, “Such language. In front of a child, no less. Heroes certainly should act better than that.”

“I will not let you kill an innocent child, you sonuvabitch. I will fight!” His eyes were puffed from tears and bloodshot with the strain of helpless rage. He tensed his lips and trembled angrily against the programmed urge to strangle the infant.

“You will lose.” Emmanuel calmly explained. “This program was designed to defend itself against the…misguided morality of an unwilling host such as yourself. But don’t fret, specimen. This program will correct that skewed system of values of yours soon enough.”

“Rrrrn….stop this you sonuva—“

“Oh Marq, such a broken record. Always so valiant – so willing to do the ‘right thing’.”

Marq fought to keep his thumb from squeezing at Cordelia’s carotid artery.

“Never considering how, exactly, you know something’s the right thing to do. I mean, how long has it been since you woke up with no memory of your previous life? Of your previous decisions, judgments, values. Just what are you basing your thoughts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ on anyway, my friend?”

“Sh…shock you...”

“How moral was the great ‘Edward Somerset’, anyway? I mean…you don’t even like being called by your real name. What does that tell you, about how you regard yourself?”

“….don’t…know anything about me... you sick piece of shit…”

“Don’t I?”

Marq’s heart skipped a beat as his left hand tightened its grip on the screaming infant’s neck.

“You can’t win, specimen.” Emmanuel image leaned in toward Marq’s field of vision, his wide smile blocking out the world behind him. “You’re going to be a hero – whether you like it, or not.”

Blood trickled down from Marq’s gums. A lion’s growl sounded from his lungs - summoned from some dark, ancient place deep within his very soul. He screamed loud enough to split the heavens, loud enough to be heard through the ages over the din of an ancient battlefield. A primal scream. One borne of desperation and fear. Just shy of being a death cry.

A promise to fight to the death.

He screamed and shouted, grunted and growled, summoning every last ounce of his strength. His body froze, murderous actions halted for an instant. Every ounce of his being fought to stop his thumbs from crushing the child’s larynx. Cordelia’s shouts of confusion and fear were a baptism. Her screams, wordless wails for a mother long since unconscious, were a call to arms. They filled him with purpose and hope.

As long as Cordelia could cry, she was safe.

But even Marq’s rage couldn’t hold out forever.

Marq’s teeth grinded against one another. Cordelia’s sobs echoed through the bedroom. And Emmanuel’s twisted, sadistic voice began to rise over the crescendo. His message of obedience and bottom-line logic sounded triumphantly over Marq’s shouts of rage and the galloping heartbeat endlessly pounding in his ears - an endless lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub pulsing, drowning out the world.

“You will be rewarded for this, Marq. Remember that. You will be rewarded. You will be loved.

“Rewarded.”

“...shut…up…”

LUB-DUB.

“Loved.”

“Just…shut up!”

LUB-DUB.

“Rewarded.”

“Sick piece of…”

LUB-DUB.

“Loved.”

“Stop…this! For the love of Thor, st—!”

LUB-DUB.

“The perfect assassin.”

“You will be…”

“STOP THIS!!”

LUB-DUB.

LUB-DUB.

“…perfect assassin…”

“Nothing can stop this.”

“Nothing can stop you.”

“I won’t give in! You cant—“

LUB-DUB.

LUB-DUB.

LUB-DUB….

“…your destiny….”

“Don’t make me—“

“….what you were designed for…”

“…sick sunuva—“

“…this is your-- “

“My fingers! They won’t stop…they’re not…”

LUB-DUB!

LUB-DUB!

LUB-DUB!

LUB…

“NNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!”



CRASH!



His head darted toward the window, machine and man tensing as the glass exploded inward. A figure dropped down to the carpet, trailing shattered glass across the floor. The woman rose her head up, meeting his shocked gaze.

She stared at him with eyes of golden steel -- cleaving into his very soul.

“Drop the baby now, or I’ll rip out your shocking jugular.”

A tear cascaded down his cheek. He wanted to let her go. He’d tried so hard. He’d tried so goddamn hard.

His voice was hoarse, tortured. Pitiful and desperate. A sobbing scream of helplessness.

“I…I can’t do that!”



Lachryma felt helpless against the super-vampire before her. She was standing only feet away from the armored lunatic clutching the infant in his arms.

Wait…wasn’t his costume white before? Not black?

‘Not important at the moment,’ she chided herself. What was important, was that his left hand was at the infant’s throat. One squeeze and it would all be over.

If she tried to rush him, however quick she might be…there was a chance he would be quicker. Whether or not he would murder the child or simply feast, Lachryma knew she had to get the child away – fast. Especially considering how tortured and strained his voice sounded. It seemed like perhaps he wasn’t in control of himself anymore. No telling what he would be capable of.

She had to act. She might not get another chance.

She tensed leg muscles already healed from the wounds she’d suffered diving through the window, when the knight began to scream in that agonized voice of his.

“I…can’t…control myself…my suit…programmed to kill the baby….” Every word, every syllable was laborious. “…you have to….stop me. Have to….save….herrrr…”

Lachryma was stunned, blinking in awe at the man. But only for a second.

“Can’t…hold it for long…hurry…..”

She could see him straining to stay still; straining to keep from hurting the girl. Lachryma charged forward, a wisp of motion as she struck her fist up into his midsection. He doubled over, wheezing in pain as he released the child. Lachryma was a blur, scooping little Cordelia out of the air and quickly placing the screaming girl safely back in her crib.

Lachryma saw a blur of motion, instinctively performing a backflip and narrowly avoiding the leg sweep as she landed behind the still-wheezing knight. Whatever it was that controlled him was lethal, even while he was injured.

Her pale hands lengthened quickly into dense claws. She galloped toward her writhing foe, making as much noise as was possible.

She leaped to avoid the inevitable swipe, digging her fingertips into both of the knight’s shoulderblades, tearing at muscle and scraping against his collarbone. She landed to the sound of his screams.

Turning around, she took a defensive stance; fangs bared, her voice a low growl. “I don’t wanna hurt you. But I can’t let you hurt anyone else. You got me?”

The black knight staggered to his feet. “Do…what you can—WATCH OUT…!”

Lachryma gasped in surprise as the severely-injured man suddenly leapt towards her. She tried to dodge far too late as he dived into her, tossing them both out the window toward a rooftop several dozen feet below.

Struggling against his weight and grip, Lachryma tried to morph bat wings to stop her descent. A swift headbutt from the knight broke her train of thought before the other wing could form, sending them both twirling uncontrollably toward the roof below, her unbalanced wing suddenly a deadly hindrance.


WHOOSH-WHOOSH!

WHOOSH-WHOOSH!

WHOOSH-WHOOSH!

They spun around for long seconds; hands bared at each others throats until…


KA-THUNK!


Lachryma had landed atop the Black Knight – tarmac cracked under the pressure of their unceremonious landing. She could still feel a faint rise and fall in the chest of the man beneath her through her badly-wrench spine. She coughed, bruised lungs aching with the effort, straining to recapture the air had been completely knocked out of them by the fall. Instead, she got a lungful of dust and chalky-tasting debris kicked up by the impact. She coughed until her throat was on fire.

Eventually, she got a lungful of something useful and batted her eyelashes. Wincing, she slowly raised herself from the ground, feeling the weight of the badly-injured leather wing she was sitting on tugging at the muscles above her shoulder blade. The wing popped and made all sorts of very painful squishing sounds as she rolled off of her quarry onto the shattered tarmac beneath them both.

Shaking the pain from her mind, she brought herself to a kneel above the knight’s head. She watched the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, keeping her guard up. His arms were draped useless above his body, his head resting on the ground. He looked unconscious, but she couldn’t be sure. And even if he was out, he could still be dangerous.

“What the hell…m’I gonna do with you?” She mumbled to herself.

She felt a sharp throb in her ribcage. Lachryma instinctively winced, taking just a second to nurse her wound. When she looked back at the man, she instead found herself eyeing the business end of his metallic bo staff, crackling with fiery blue energy.

Shock it! He had her!

She fell back on her bottom, watching the electric blue surge at the tip.

There was a sudden flash.

When the surge of light faded, the Black Knight’s body was in the process of seizing and quaking uncontrollably. The blue energy was swallowed by the tip of the bo staff and seemed to travel back down his arm and spread all across his entire black frame. His suit bubbled and oozed, thin bursts of blue flame popping out haphazardly across his entire body from beneath the silky darkness of the suit. Azure energy sizzled and popped out of his pores. His body writhed in a seizure of energy. His eyes glowed bright cerulean and flashed for one endless moment before fading back to black.

His body stopped shaking and sunk back into the tarmac, the black suit melting into his pores in malfunctioning spurts.

She sat there on the rooftop, agape at the naked man before her.

“….th-thankyouuuu….”

She jumped back, claws and fangs sharp and at the ready, a guttural hiss emanating from her tense belly. His weak voice continued on.

“…managed to…clog the porous barrel…of the bo staff…feedback….knocked out the armor…shut it down. Dunno f’r…howlong….but I think we…have a little while…before it…reboots….”

Lachryma relaxed her defenses, but kept her eyes centered on the barely-conscious man before her. “What the shock happened back there? Who are you?”

“…nanotech…still…stilldanger still…need to get back to the Docs need someone….someone who can turn off the test program someone…can help me….someone….”

“Hold on,” Lachryma perked up, “Do you mean this was all some kind of …nanotech program glitch in that suit of yours?”

“….yesss….dormant….till you bit me…”

Lachryma slumped her shoulders, eyeing the man sullenly, “So all this…all this is my fault.”

“…..not all of it…” he choked out.

“You need a doctor.”

“….first….need the program…turned off…can’t risk it coming back…don’t think I can…put up much of a fight….after that….little stunt…Jenny…maybe Jenny can…”

Lachryma stopped listening to his exhausted whispers for a moment, pausing to think as she remembered something from her warm life. Something to do with ‘nanotech programming’.

She parted her lips.

"I think I have an idea...”




CONCLUDED IN TWO MORE LUNAR CYCLES!


Next Issue:

Marq and Lachryma have earned themselves something of a reprieve. But the knight’s only hope for a normal life is to de-bug the test program. Now. Before it overtakes him again.

But can they manage to get him de-bugged?

Is there anywhere they can turn for help?

Or is Marq doomed to kill as a puppet to the corrupt system?

And even if they manage to stop the insanity swarming under the surface of his pirated genome, will Marq have a home to go back to?

This horrific, long, harsh, brutal mess of a night Marq’s endured will come to a close in two weeks, with the heavy-hitting “Training Manual”.

See you then.

Jason McDonald
08.27.06


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