Look at how much time we’ve wasted! Look how much we’ve both stagnated!
Heye barely knew what to remotely attempt to process first.
Number one, he was bleeding. The soft part beneath his knee had been sliced open, as problem number two had come careening at him.
Problem two was the steward.
Problem three was the nanobot in his brain.
It seemed between them that there was no part of his body that wasn’t exploding in pain, from the jarring, overwhelming crashing of his head aganist a each portruding nail and spike as the machine danced dizzying quickly over the metal, dragging the boy along — to the the other worldy terror of feeling something duplicate inside of his head, something oh so foreign, something that wanted him to be so very different — to the searing pain at an open wound in his leg, leaving a trail of blood along each section of floor they passed, painting the boy’s shirt in a crimson swirls as he too came tumbling over.
In the flurry of movement his head crashed upwards, and dowsed in the bright light he caught sign of it — it seemed to almost to be a cocophany of knives, plastered together with metal tentacles making up its being, culmnanessing in a hideous metallic torso donning two beady red eyes Heye had so thoroughly ignored before.
”Agh!” he growled, and swivelled his leg as he made to free himself of the drone. His echoing screams rebounded off the walls as the steward only dug its knives deeper into the boys leg, the sensation of a blade slicing into his skin all too visceral.
He drew in a sharp breath as his vision flickered.
Where was it taking him?
Floop’s words rang in his head, like a bell inside a head.
All that’s left for you is to be fixed, or to stay out of my hair, permanantly.
Floop had been pretty explicit with what was left for Heye from his perspective.
Which was more likely? That the killer robot was taking him to a chamber for the operation that was starting in his head to be carried out undisturbed, or to his grave?
Could he really afford to find out?
They slipped through the windy corridors of the tower with a terrible speed, the clank of the knives against the metallic floor rhythmic in their relentless speed and indifference.
There was nothing he hated more than indifference. This was something that had always made (what was essentially) Phineas and Ferb’s spinoff show, Milo Murphy’s Law, a chore to watch for Heye: Zack. Always dripping with condecension, always disconnected from the stakes and from the joy of caring about things.
And Floop wasn’t quite there — but was the fact that Heye now was very much undeniably thinking of Zack not proof that Floop had reminded him of him?
How dare he not care?
You gave the fake tip. You derailed the whole investigation and… and worst of all, you made me doubt myself
And Heye had come to him with excactly what he had asked for — reasoned with him on excactly the level he had tried to be convincing — and he hadn’t cared!
The pounding of his heartbeat seemed to shift within him, from an adrenaline pumped frenzy to… fury….
Did… did Floop not care because he didn’t have to care?
Was the entire conversation just a boring game to him? Knowing if Heye had taken a step at any point the steward which now dragged him to his demise would erupt from the shadows and “take him out of his hair”?
But also… wasn’t he right? Was Heye not now thoroughly and completely Floop’s? His nanobots rooting around his brain — everything he was — and the steward with total dominion over his material body?
What more did he have left? Was there any part of him that wasn’t completely under this man’s domain?
He heart bubbled, his face shifting under the change of lights as the pair scuttled through the buildings.
”AGH!” he jerked out his leg, desperate to knock the machine, but the steward merely tightened its grip, and as Heye brought it only slightly upwards it sent two tentacles ending in knives slicing downwards to the ground, crumbling the stone as it pierced through. It contracted, bringing Heye’s leg smashing against the ground as a terrifying pain richocheted through, and coupled with the blood dripping down the front of his knee, he went dizzy.
And in the space bewteen the darkness, he managed to spot… an irony.
This was not normal.
Maybe when he first arrived he could have gotten away with saying that the alien planet’s culture could have been different.
But this was not normal.
He felt another split inside himself, his brain compress by another millimetre as another nanobot the size of a grain of rice manifested within his skull…
None of the Sokotians were anything like this, would do anything like this.
So what right did Floop have to tell Heye he was the broken one?
To make him believe it?
Heye’s side burned with the unfalting friction of being dragged against the floor for so long. But just as he noticed this new flavour of aching, he bumped against another nail and was spun onto his back. The lights that had been an indescant blue now grew red.
The floor had changed subtly before him, from stitched together raw metal to stone. He looked around, and realised the steward had taken him to a section of the tower decisevely alien to anything else.
Alien to everyone.
Except — me!
He knew where they were going.
The room he had passed over so nonchantly earlier, if you could even call it a room.
Heye knew with a terrible drop in his belly that he was being dragged at a horrific speed toward a hole that spiralled deeper than anything Heye had experienced before.
To his death.
The walls had been diagonal, caving inwards. He jutted his arms out — not even realising they had been cut in the journey until he felt the stinging beneath his armpits — but his hands dragged frictionless against the stone.
He was going to die.
Because of Floop.
The man who he had wasted so much time… so many tears… listening to… hating himself…
Heye had enough.
But it was too late.
He could feel the icy winds of the hole worsen as they drew closer, and he curled his fingers, his knuckles searing at the excertion of it.
He could feel the skin tearing off his fingers, the mechanical rinigng of a thousand knives dancing over stone, mercilessly dragging the schoolboy in their wake, faster and faster, approaching with a dizzying speed towards—
And it stopped.
And a terrible chilly ice wafted below him.
Caught in the central depths in the middle of the tallest tower, was a boy and a squid, or a steward, whatever you preferred to call it — a machine built of knives and red eyes.
Two of its legs were fully extended, knives at the tip crushing the stone that made up the wall.
It was only a relief to the boy that he could not make out any similar indentations.
But it was not enough to quell the boys cartwheeling stomach, as his legs dangled, held by the two other legs of the metal octupus. His only tether to life his fingers, gripping with an unbearable ache against the slightest of ledges lining the end of the passage.
And the machine pulled.
It burned, as his torso was stretched far beyond what it was ever meant to.
And the machine tugged again, planting itself deeper into the wall, the falling stones around the point of indentation never crashing with a bump as they freefalled down the cavern…
And in the absurdity of it all, Heye had almost forgotten who the bot was.
Dangling him off a fall to his death was Floop.
The man who had told him he was wrong. Not just one of his beliefs, not just a trait, but him.
And a bubbling anger inside of Heye erupted.
He spun his legs around in the air, the two tentacles attatched to his legs slicing through eachother. His legs exploded as the metal sliced into them, but he grunted as he he heard the clink of a knife crashing against the wall and slipping through the air…
The bots beady eyes spun onto Heye.
It recoiled, leaving Heye dangling by his finger tips. He quickly pulled himself up, the machine launching at him from it’s position at the wall.
But this time Heye was ready.
He plugged his hand through his jumper and grabbed at the creature where it had sliced through itself, taking out the culmination of knifes through the jumper, searing out in pain as it’s razors sliced all along his other exposed arm.
Suddenly he found his neck pinned to the ground with a cold, hand-like amalgomation of razors, his head crashing brutally against the surface as he was pinned. But Heye brought the other hand slicing round as he spun against the cold ground, straight through the final arm of the machine.
And a lesser man would have felt bad for it, as it shuddered.
But Heye had had enough.
He rose, pinning the base of the monster down with his foot, and roared as he brought his hands crashing down with the knife. The Steward exploded in an electric cackle, scarring Heye’s shirt and clothes.
But he wasn’t done.
He pulled the knife back through and sent it crashing back into the black mess at the core of his being, and again, and again.
It fizzled, blue sparks collating around him.
And finally Heye stilled himself, feeling the grains of rice swirl in the front of his brain.
He stepped over the creased tentacles of the demonic machine.
Then brought his foot back, and kicked the corpse, his cuts erupting in a ferocious frenzy of stings as he did so—
And he watched the array of tentacles as it whistled into the darkness, the sound of of metal scraping against stone as it clanged against the walls.
Bloody, bruised, the boy’s voice croaked downward, echoing through the icy caverns.
”See ya real soon!”
It was the last thing Floop was expecting.
His door slid open, revealing not a foot high steward, but a boy twice his height, his clothes torn and ragged, his eyes swolen and exhausted, dripping with blood and bruises, barely standing steady as he stood in the doorway.
And it spoke.
”I’ve been wanting to ask you something for a while.”