Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!
The body hit the ground with a thud.
Heye watched as it rolled across the ground, teetering to a stop not far from him. Its eyes poised upward, completely and totally black.
A more concious part of him could tell that the fact that Floop was fully knocked out like Heye, and not screaming in agony like all the other Sokotians Heye had watched this happen to, was somewhat significant.
But most of him couldn’t even focus on the relief of disabling him, as the excact mechanism by which his foe was disabled was the one that swirled, like a swarm of maggots crawling over eachother at the front of his head.
He stood, surveying the room. The carnage was abundant, from the glass that lay in a terrifying pile where the bots had broken in, two the abundance of broken levers and dials that lay in a graveyard among the dashboard. They had somehow destroyed a screen in the struggle, it’s dangling wire cackling with loose electricity above the smashed monitor that lay in pieces against the ground.
I’ve won. Excactly as planned.
His blood now lay dark and dry in swirls apon his top and trousers, the icy night wind rippling against it as it flooded in through the window in the gap left by the swarm Floop had summoned.
And Heye surveyed the dashboard.
It wasn’t too late, right? Surely all the evidence he needed that it couldn’t be too late for the Sokotians had to just be himself?
He scanned the dashboard, and found it easily enough. The very same button Floop had pressed to change the nanobots on the Sokotians out of Scan mode to Terraform mode.
He daren’t attempt to press the button in reverse, for that was not remotely a concept.
It had taken hours for the machines to even complete scanning…. hand’t it? Assuming the actual terraforming of the brains was a completely autonomous process like Floop had described and it could continue excactly as planned in his absence, half an hour hadn’t even passed since Floop had begun the phase. That gave him at least another half hour until it took affect in earnest, until it would be too late to disable it.
He daulded the tiny remote idly in his hands, flipping it over in the process and revealing an illuminated bar. Green at the bottom, red at the top.
Ah, and just as Heye had predicted, it’s indicator lay approximately three quaters of the way through. Halfway through the second phase.
As its butotn was completely, irreversably depressed, he pocketed the indicator.
He looked around the room, his eyes resting once again apon Floop.
You, you idiot!
A part of his brain could very clearly tell something was inadequate about how he had left him there, in stasis from the nanobots, while he tried to figure out how to disable the nanobots…
Whatever he did, he had to to first make sure that Floop wasn’t immediately freed when he did so.
But where to keep him?
Heye made his way back over to the console and began to prod the most harmless-seeming switches.
Another screen descended from the sky, the sound of another piston firing outside of his field of vision…
The final button had caused two large transparent cylinders to emerge from the ground, each with a small hole through the middle.
I’ve won. Excactly as planned.
He went over to Floop, dragging the body and depositing it into the chamber. He dried to deposit it as gently as possible, but it still crashed with a slippery thud against the bottom. He sealed the top tightly…
Heye had no idea what to do. He removed the remote from his pocket once more. On hte back was nothing but the LED display of progress, and the front was nothing more than the depressed button and an antenna. Would he… did he have to..?
Ah! The cost benefit in his head returned positive.
He cringed, sealing his teeth as he brought his finger toward the depressed button and lowerd it down…
Nothing. It didn’t budge in the slightest, and nor did the sensation of a hundred flies crawling just behind his forehead change in the slightest.
His heart began to pick up. No… surely not…
He tore back over to the console, the bots writhing about within his brain…
And his scan returned nothing. Between the fight and just now, he had tried almost every button that he could make himself believe was safe to the amount that he remotely required, and who knew what pressing any others could do?
Ah! Was this it? Was he now doomed to rot away in Floop’s tower, even after neutralising him, the very person who had caused the bots to attack them then?
That’s the thing about leverage, isn’t it? The more it’s leverage the more it works when you go. Allow me to demonstrate.
And he couldn’t even wake up Floop and force him, ask him, beg *him to turn it off, because he had no way to turn off the nanobots that were disabling *him.
There was no one….
And the information was locked in Floop’s brain. Right there!
Wait a second…
Heye felt a tremendous sense of de ja vu. Where had he experienced this excact scenario before, but from the other perspective…?
Oh of course of course of course!
He ran over to the counter, grabbing the cream box he had decisevely seen earlier. A hole had been borne within Floop’s chamber, and Heye reached in, threading through a thick cream tube. He fastened the helmet at the end of it apon Floop’s lifeless head, begging he had deduced it correctly.
He then drew another tube from the box. He climbed inside the transparent cyclinder, threading the tube through, tightening the lid above him.
And another remote appeared for usage solely of the box.
Heye shut his yes.
He briefly considered the possibilty that he had done it completely incorrectly, and that he would immediately fry both of their brains the second he pushed the “Enter” button.
He shrugged, smiling.
”Well, you know what they say!”
He shut his eyes and pressed the button, as he prepared to enter the memories of Floop.
Heye’s eyes rolled backwards, far deeper into his head then he knew they were able to go. He let out a gasp as his creaks and aches seem to fade away, something… all of him… rising out of his body, deterthing from any physical sensation… further and furhter…
And with a jolt it all collapsed back, snapping him down into something that felt like his body, but not quite. He opened his eyes and flexed his hands, certaintly moving his fingers but not quite feeling them as he did…
He looked around.
He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting. He knew that if we was to retrieve the deactivation mechanism for the nanobots out of Floop’s mind, his memory reader would have to be thorough. But Heye remembered how Floop had effortlessly conversed with his half-formed thought fragments… he didn’t much doubt the software would be sufficient.
But as he peered around the environment, he realised he had no idea how thorough it really was.
He did not feel fully truly there but he was, planted in a town. The cobblestone floor paved below him, with dozens of short, blue people bustling in the viscinity.
It was standad enough, but something was off.
Heye could feel something, but in a way far different than normal, like he’d been given an extra sense.
It felt almost as though he could smell, fear?
No, not fear.
But a sickenginly sweet sensation danced into him from afar, and his eyes snapped onto it as he realised the source: hobbling over the stones not far from him was a carriage, sealed all over. What was he supposed to do?
Follow the scent of course. It drew closer and Heye stole toward the side of the road. Yes - as the carriage drew closer the scent only sharpened. He averted the gaze of the Sokotian managing the vehicle, and hitched onto the back of the distored machine. But the scent was still distant… as though it was being blocked by something…
Heye noticed his hands felt strange as they were planted against the planks separating the inside of the cart from the outside. He gasped as he realised they were in fact phasing through… he slipped through the material and tumbled into what was almost the equivalent of a bus, though clearly of a time long passed. The muffled sounds of talking became clear, and Heye looked up to see, dotted around the bus, seven small blue people, chatting happily and laughing loudly among the seats.
But something was different about these Sokotians… their wrinkles were so much more shallow… no. They were barely even there.
They looked almost like… teenagers?
Wait a second.
Heye scanned the group, and with a flicker in his chest spotted the only one of them he had ever seen before, light blue skin plastered onto an attentive face.
Heye watched Floop as Floop watched the rest of the group.
”Yes, but that’s the thing about watches, isn’t it?” said one boy loudly, the smile on his face as wide as the rest of them as they listened. “The more you use them to dissaseemble your recompense, the more it hurts when they go.”
A smile broken out apon Heye’s face, as he realised where the boy was going a microsecond before his partner got there for him.
”All me to demonstrate!” said the other, barely getting through the line before the group erupted into a puddle of laughter.
Heye sniggered along with them.
”Ah!” said another Sokotian, wagging a finger and raising an eyebrow. “But we have access—”
—to a huge manufacting complex! mouthed Heye, finishing the quote with the alien’s near perfect rendition of the voice of the Robot Santa from Futurama.
And within the gaggle of laughter Heye beamed too, a type of smile that was not merely communicatory, but that spread an inalienable warmth thorughout every part of him.
This is what his time on Sokotia could have been like. What it should have been like. It it wasn’t for…
A scent was suddenly sharp again.
Heye looked towards mini-Floop as the gaggle laughed and saw his eye twitch, his mouth in a hard line.
One of the girls began to speak, and Heye resolved to track Floop as closely as he could. “If we’re gonna play ‘huge manufacturing complex’,” Heye sniggered as he realised where the girl was going, but maintained his focus apon Floop. Floop’s eyes creased as he paid an absurd amount of attention to the girl, the scent being one of analysis. She finished, “We’re gonna NEED a HUGE MANUFACTURING COMPLEX!”
Floop’s ears twitched as one of the girls began to speak. “If we’re gonna play ‘huge manufacturing complex’,” Heye sniggered as he realised where she was going, but Floop’s shoulders sharply braced up, as though he was embracing for physical damage. “We’re gonna NEED a HUGE MANUFACTURING COMPLEX!” His eyes screwed up as the bus exploaded in laughter, a curious pejorative scent mixed with a thousand far more delicate feelings eminating off him.
Heye looked at him with confusion.
After the laughter pass, Floop reoped his eyes and looked out the window. Heye couldn’t help but grow a little tense.He felt himself almost split as he realised that what he was watching was not what he had came for.
There was no point trying to resist. He made his way over to the seat directly in front of Floop, and watched the pattern of expression dance over his face, trying to read as much as he could.
Floop didn’t seem to be making much of an effort to give the impression of paying attention to the gang, a lot more than a hint of his unease rather visible as his right eye twitched wildy.
Heye picked up a sense of wanting to leave, a milisecond long fluttering of the heart as the idea manifested itself.
But then it sunk back down, even lower than it was before.
Heye couldn’t tell what they were on the bus for, but it was clear he had to be there.
The alien continued to stare solemly out the window, Heye absolutely transfixed by his minute change in expressions…
Floop’s eyes widened, transfixed apon nothing as the natural decore sizzed by. His expression softened and his heart lightened…
Heye did his best to decode the tremendous shades of complexity in the feelings he was receiving….
The Sokotian began to slowly turn his head, staring at the children who he had surely known for years as though he was looking at them for the very first time…
The carriage hit a bump, Heye raising his hands to steady himself in the process. But just as he did, the carriage slipped straight through him, barrelling into the sunset at a robotic rate. The Sokotians aorund him began to slip by in terrifying blurs—
He stopped moving his hands.
The whole thing stopped.
Ah. So that’s how he navigates through the memories.
It was sensitive, but far from unusable. Heye drew both arms parallel, elbows pointing upward. As he stood alone in the night air, Floop and his friends far off in the distance towards whever the cariage had taken them, he remembered what he had come here for: he needed the memory of how to disable Operation Pulltoy. Everything else was superfluous.
He pulled one arm over the other, a small resistance in the movement telling him he was doing it right. The world sped up again, and Heye blinked in awe as the corners went white, travelling downwards as everything flickered by…
Heye paused his arms suddenly.
He found himself in a dark building, punctuated only by moonlight that trickled in throught the skylights. The floor was tiled and grimy, the walls bare stone.
Heye shook his head. He was getting distracted.
But that feeling…
A sharp sensation of something had penetrated the nothingness.
Around the corner turned a gaggle of children, Heye noting that they were slightly older than the ones he had met before. They laughed and giggled as they passed, and Heye took a ghostly step towards them.
”…I watch them,” one of them continued, as they passed within earshot of Heye to a door to his right. “Sometimes from a chair, sometimes from a closet. Almost always dressed as superman.” The group laughed, and not hearing the beginning of the joke, Heye couldn’t join in. He watched attentively as the scent drew closer, and trailing behind the children was a pale blue teenager, his heart thundering as his face stole with determination.
The class sat, the teacher not yet entered, and they continued to joke. And as they did so, Heye noticed a curious feeling eminating off of Floop. One of… determination? But even more specific than that. Of repition. As though he was repeating… a mantra? Or a…
Heye realised what was happening.
”And now, it’s going to emerge, and nothing can stop it, and we’ll all be shattered!” said one of them. Heye felt whiplash as he focused once again on the easy, relaxed energy of the group.
He felt a tug in his heart.
Before it started thundering, in time with Floop’s.
”You’re—” the class turned slowly to look at the boy who had spoken, who hadn’t uttered anything thus far. He quickly gulped. “You’re a very smart guy but you’ve made a single—”
”DUMBASS!” yelled another boy in the room. Heye recognised the quote, the incredibly specific way it was yelled like a foghorn, for precisely the correct amount of pause on each of the syllables. Heye didn’t have a doubt inside of him that the Sokotian had been saying it ironically…
But Floop shook.
None of the Sokotians in the classroom him any attention to him as he quivered in the background.
The teacher walked into the classroom.
”Welcome back my friends to the lesson on the normal distribution that never ends!”
Heye had seen enough.
He made to raise his hands to continue travelling to the memory he came for, but they seemed to carry an even greater weight.
You, you idiot! Don’t you realise you’re destroying your own mind too?
Ah, of course.
He wasn’t watching as Floop rose and marched out of the classroom.
He lugged up his arms, the front of his head pounding with pain in the process, and span.
The world became white once more, an almost-digital pattern tiling itself within the sky, juttering downward.
And Heye continued, not stopping for anything.
Not stopping until the Sokotians were free.