“Are you ready for the day, Xian?” Nuo said.
Xian’s circuits were coming alive as she checked the large faceplate on his helmet. Wires from his back began to glow and the lit cords curved over his shoulder until reaching his face. There a thin black circle illuminated blue. Xian’s mouth started to twitch.
“I hear you. Where am I? What is going on?” His voice was scratchy and dry. Nuo pulled a small tube from her belt and started to unscrew the cap.
“We are hunting, Xian. The others, like you.” She took the tube and started to dab it on Xian’s lips, moistening them. The machine breathed and sucked his lips into his mouth. “Do you need more water?”
“Yes, please,” he said.
Nuo undid the cap further and gave him a few ounces of water. He swallowed them quickly. She knew he was mostly machine, but she and the rest of the agents didn’t know what his organic parts needed to survive. She was glad she was prepared.
“Not so much,” she said. “Do you need something to eat?”
“I will,” he said. She pulled out a small ration bar and fed him. After a few bites he asked, “What do you mean, like me?”
Nuo glanced over the machine. He had been heavily damaged in his capture. Below the waist his body had been blown off. The part-organic part-wires spine hung freely amidst bandages that stopped up tubes and clogged natural blood vessels alike. They had worried the shock would have killed him but he seemed to have adapted. The rest of his torso and arms were covered in heavily armored plates attached to powerful weapons. To disable those, they had removed the shock gun out of his left arm and affixed a block of quick plascrete over the right cannon. Finally, they had him hanging in a chain lattice that could be easily cut from the outside but would be problematic for a damage frame like him to break free from.
“Other agents, like you. I know the Outlanders have hired a multitude of mercenaries but we want to know about anyone as advanced as you were.”
Xian smiled. “There isn’t. The Outlanders can barely afford to field their little militia. Those aren’t mercenaries. They’re your citizens.”
Nuo heard a chime in her ears. She nodded slightly and pulled a small canister from her belt. She pressed it to Xian’s flesh near his spine and toggled it. Xian screamed, and the smell of burnt flesh filled the air.
“I am sorry for this, but we must know about the others.”
“There aren’t, you bitch” Xian said. He screamed again as she triggered the can at another spot closer to his spine.
“Utterly unnecessary. That was for being rude. Now for your lie,” she said, and triggered the can again. “We know there are others. You weren’t alone when we captured you. The others already talked. Being far more flesh and less machine they didn’t last long. It is a pity for you that you are not like us.”
“If you know about them, why do you need me?” Xian said. Blood came out of his mouth as he spoke. Nuo dabbed at it with a piece of cloth from her belt.
“Because,” Nuo said with a smile, “We needed you to confirm them. Thank you.”
She took a step back from the machine and frowned at the bleeding that had started near the remains of his waist.
“Turn him back off, we will have need of him later.”
“What shall we do with him until?” another Nuo said as she approached with the control console they had linked to Xian’s matrix.
“If he can, let him dream. It will be the only happy times in the remainder of his life.”
The inspiration from this piece bubbled at the top of Deviantart today like many of the paintings I use for inspiration. What’s interesting to me is that it’s a piece from 2011 without any new comments. I’m not sure why older items spring up like that for me but I’m glad they do. There’s a lot of treasures out there from different artists and I love finding something that deserves some love.