Ken’s Dream

Kenomeh’s death began with a phone call.

Curious, that instead of laying mangled on the hotel bed with green blood soaking through the pressed sheets, the cyborg had been schmoozing only a handful of hours before.

She had had a rendezvous with a mediator that had secured her a vocation. Now on her deathbed, her black turtleneck was shredded to a wreath around her neck to expose an empty chest cavity, the clockwork heart removed and smashed with obvious force against the ceiling. Though earlier, the fine feline had been filling the curves of a smart business attire. Her jet black hair was sheared edgily short, instead of strewn in a bloody mass. One might say that she had aged quite gracefully; the mutations that had once lacerated her body had faded over time. More rather- they had been purposefully “sucked into” her body. It was much more efficient to perform her line of work without glowing like a neon sign, alerting everyone within a 12 mile radius to her location. Now her mutations only glowed on the inside, so when she spoke her tongue glowed between her sharp, upward jutting teeth. There were only trace amounts of mutation remaining on her sleek, black fur, like old scabs.

Kenomeh was like a black panther, only remarkably tall. While her metal cogs still churned her blood earlier that day, she could stare down her soon to be business partner across the fancy tinsel ware and linen, a feathered man so black he appeared like a well groomed shadow. His name was known simply as; Ludric. She was well of aware of his employer- Mr. Raidor, and that she couldn’t afford to miss out on this job.

“You have really impressive resume,” Ludric professed, leaning back in the chair. They were overlooking the metropolis in large view windows, surrounded by the chatter of social butterflies and business meetings. This was no petty business meeting however. The man before Kenomeh bore no papers; the transaction would be vocal. The fine pressed shirt that he donned for this particular ‘dinner date’ was only a disguise for the horrific jobs he hired out. It was the same concept in which Kenomeh’s polished physique was only a disguise for the machinery and metallic brain that pulsed underneath.

Everyone wore a mask.

“We could go for… cheaper alternatives, but I’m sure that you will get us a job well done without any brouhaha or strings attached.”

Ken’s made a face, the one with slightly arched eyebrows and head tilted at a slightly downward angle. She’d learned that with this facial expression she could make most men take a second glance, and sometimes a second glance was all that she required.

He was watching her, with eyes trained on her every movement, even as she thumbed the lip of her wine glass. It was easy to tell by his slightly reclined posture that he was trying to contain his interest, but the way he orientated his avian legs gave away his absorption in the conversation.

“Two hundred grand should cover everything,” he said smoothly. By the tilt of his head upward she knew this statement was actually a suggestion.

“No,” she thrummed in her deep voice. It was marked with some exoticism and a touch of huskiness that ensured that she projected a ‘masculine’ enough presence to be trusted by other men.

“Your client is a political man, and his popularity will ensure that his death will not go unnoticed by the FBI; for that I will require 300 grand. I’m sure that your company will cover the cost; after all, you are matched only by one other competitor. Which is also, I assure you, one of the highest bidders to the pension of my field.” Ludric let out a low whistle, but he eventually resigned to her terms.

They always did.

In her suite she assembled her equipment and clothes for the next day. She spent her time checking, oiling, polishing, re-checking, and re-loading. The entire process was frustratingly meticulous.
Other mercenaries for hire envied Kenomeh for her track record, and in fact she had become their main target to eliminate. Competition was fierce, where the others where amateur, she was an Olympian. She was always on time, her equipment never defaulted, and she knew exactly where her targets would be at exactly what time. Sometimes she thought could calculate the exact alignment angle of the cross hairs in her sniper rifle before she fired.
Kenomeh Venezio was a optimum killing machine. Only once had she failed on a killing mission. Her routine was flawless even if it went horribly wrong, but that night, her plans for laying out blueprints for the dispatch were interrupted by a loud, electric whir of a phone.

The noise was too loud for the small room; she had not expected it. She knew of no one who would possibly want to talk to her over a phone, certainly not her temporary boss; Mr. Raidor. She had made it clear: no contact after the deal had been made; she couldn’t risk being traced. Her location had not even been disclosed to her family; it ensured their protection as well as hers.

Surely it was the front desk?

Ken pulled the receiver to her ear.

“Kenomeh?” came the anxious voice from the other end.

“Who is this?” she demanded, and there was a pause at the other end. She did not register at the front desk with the name Kenomeh, she had used another alias.

“This is Manglev…”

Her jaw clenched. Those sharp metal teeth, painted over with some off-white coloring, interlocked with skull-fracturing force.

“How did you get this number?”

“I saw you at the- look, it doesn’t matter. I’ve got to talk to you…”

“I will not speak with you.” said Kenomeh sharply. “This call is traceable.”

“Shut up for a second–this has to do with the Doctor.” Ken did shut up for a second; the subject was not entirely unexpected. A few decades or so before, the Doctor’s name was the one thing that tied her and Manglev together. They had met up periodically over a long time to reminisce about the “good old times.” But after a while, Ken began to feel that those engagements where pointless. She found that Manglev’s demeanor was increasingly degrading. Their relationship hit its rockiest point six years ago. Why he was calling her she didn’t care, nor have the patience for.

“I think he’s returned.”

“Who has returned?”

“The doctor.”

“That’s impossible.” she said curtly. “You and I both know it.”

“I saw him. He paid me a visit. Dammit Ken- why would I lie to you? You think it gets me off?”

“Excuse me–?”

“–and he said he was going to kill you.”

Ken was not sure whether or not to subject Manglev to snide laughter or to just hang up. If she hung up, he might call back, so she snorted.

“Dr. Molckenhoff has been dead for over fifty years.” She articulated herself slowly so that his slightly decomposed brain could register those words with every ounce of sarcasm she could smatter them with. “Tell me how he could have possibly visited you if his fifty year old ashes are scattered all over Germany?”

“In a dream.”

Ken laughed again, only this time she really was amused. She had never understood the concepts of dreams; they occurred naturally in normal brains, but her brain wasn’t like most. She hadn’t had a single dream in her entire life.

“Look, Ken, please.” Manglev’s voice was quieter now, ignoring her mocking laughs. “You’ve changed a lot since fifty years ago. You haven’t aged a bit. I know that you have been able move on and start a new life. I know you’ve probably forgotten what happened in the past in the sanctum…”

“On the contrary,” Ken interrupted, her voice not losing her edge. “I can remember every detail.”

“I’m just saying that I’m not like you. I’d like to live the rest of my life like you, but unfortunately I am stuck in the past. I can’t hide my scars as easily as you do and I have to live through every day with the little ‘gifts’ that were given to me. It’s ruined my life Ken, and I’ve turned into a bitter man. Maybe that’s why we don’t see eye to eye anymore. Still, you are the only one I can talk to about this. Everyone else has long since disappeared off the grid.”

“Disappeared?”

“Yeah. They’re all gone, or dead, at least to my knowledge. No more little group therapy sessions.” Ken was listening now, her ear brushed up against the receiver.

“Personally… I think someone has been picking them off all of this time. I think it was /him/. I can’t prove it, but I /feel/ as if it where him. You and your mom and I, we are the only ones left from that crazy regime. You’re the only one I can talk to about this, and your mom is nearing the end of her days now. I don’t want to lose you too; I don’t want to be alone.”

“Why would he want to kill us?”

“I don’t know. Because he wants to destroy everything he created? Because he is a fucking twisted bastard?” His voice had become raspy again. “I don’t know. Maybe you’re right, maybe he isn’t back from the grave but something else is. I think he must have invented something to hunt us all down. I want you to be safe… can you promise that you’re going to play it safe?”

“… I … promise.”

Silence.

“I’m sorry about your kid… Nox. I read one of obituaries the other day. I knew him for a while; he was a good man. Fucking stupid, but good.”

After a moment of listening to the dull drone of dial tone, Ken replaced the receiver, and just she stared at it until her gaze drifted to the perfect congregation line of weapons, ammunition and clothes, like a miniature war front. The cyborg went back to her work, but her dutiful actions were slower and less methodical.

The last time she had seen Manglev, or spoken to him, had been six years ago.

It had been raining cats and dogs, and telephone poles, dog houses and trees that wouldn’t say tethered to the ground.

There where little to no cars on the highway. The aqueducts were flooded and muddy gray water turned crop fields into swamps and streets into black rivers. Navigating down one of these black rivers was a small Volkswagen, sending up frantic spouts behind its tires. The driver was a puma; she would glance up into her rear view mirror with white eyes, as if expecting to see a pair of headlights streaming hungrily through the raindrops.

She knew what danger she was in, and it wasn’t due to the fact that she was waterplaning around every turn of the road.

Navuta- or as she was known elsewhere, Lusia Kuin, had tried to see her grandchildren.

She had been entertaining the idea of seeing the twins for a long time. It had been fifteen years since she knew that they had been born. Finally, fantasizing the idea just wasn’t going to satisfy her anymore. She was now paying the price for her curiosity.

She knew it wasn’t her fault that her daughter, Kenomeh, had grown up with no emotional map. It was the way that the cyborg had been assembled, the way all of her daughters had been. They had been taught, or rather programmed, to believe philosophies that held neither rhyme nor reason. One of those was an enemy of the womb.

The cyborg’s name was pronounced Ken-gnome -eh. At school she had had been the object of estrangement because of the glowing green mutations on her face. She had even earned the nick name “Klingon Ken,” but the snide remarks and stares went completely unregistered, as did the growing aura of fear that began to surround her as she matured.

Navuta found herself weary to return home from work, passing her daughter who sat with perfect posture and gloved hands resting in her lap. They had to keep her hands covered in order to disguise a glinting hand prosthetic.

“Mother, I have something to tell you,” Ken said once, assuming her usual position on the couch with those jaded eyes that the puma had grown to quite dislike. They were beautiful, but they had no ounce of emotion. It wasn’t until age fourteen that she would learn to mimic feelings, and then the game would become very dangerous.

“What is it?” asked Navuta. She had slipped her keys on the counter. Those where the years where she didn’t have to worry about sharp objects with her daughter.

“I think I killed someone today.”

Silence.

“You’re not trying to gauge my response are you?” Navuta had to be careful, she knew that her daughter had killed before, but that had been a complicated and very different situation. Past killings were not something that Navuta could change, only something she could try and prevent. She had to constantly remind Ken that family “pets,” nor neighbors, were targets to take violence out upon. Perhaps, thought Navuta, it would have been better if she had fled while she had had the chance. Yet her daughter was a part of her, in fact, she was so much a part of Navuta that she couldn’t bear to let her go until the final step was taken. There were times where Kenomeh seemed almost “normal,” and those were the moments Navuta remembered the most. Ken would seem kindhearted, loving even. What where those rare, wide eyed instances- snippets of random code that made up her emotional codex? Or was she just masking them because she bored and wanted to toy with those around her- like a common sociopath.

Navuta put her faith in the former, at least until she had to institutionalize Ken for attacking her on her 16th birthday. Ken, her clever little daughter escaped the rehabilitation center that she had been placed in and was never heard of by the authorities again. Navuta was well versed, and decided to drop off the radar herself. As long as Kenomeh was free, she was never safe herself.

From then on, she knew of her grandchildren only at a distance. Manglev, a trusted friend, was in contact with her daughter. Long ago, Manglev and Navuta would take leisurely strolls in the woods, and he told her of her daughters exploits while they regaled their philosophies and drew strength from their shared past. Yet, as the years slipped by they went their separate ways and the vague updates became few and far between. Eventually they stopped altogether, and Navuta was left alone in her little wooden house until the loneliness became too much for her to bear. One rainy week in autumn she purchased a plane ticket and flew away from her humble little birds nest.

But her daughter spotted her in the sky before she had even landed.

Navuta sent a garbled voice message to Manglev at the airport. She was barely able to tell him where she was when she heard the first gunshots, and the payphone she was talking into exploded into twisted flack. In the confusion of the boiling crowd she had managed to hoist a rent-a-car and drove blindly out of the airport, spinning into whirlpools and dodging near catastrophic accidents at red light intersections. It was a godsend that there weren’t any cops to stop her; they were all likely heading towards the airport to where the terminal was now on lockdown.

Now the little rent-a-car was hopelessly swamped in the middle of a vacant, flooded highway. Navuta had nowhere to go but forward, the gas needle slowly counting down her cars life expectancy- and she couldn’t help but imagine that it was her own life meter.

It had been quiet except for the frantic squeak of the wipers, and her heart. Ker-whump ker-whump ker-whump. Just keep driving; it’ll be ok. She checked the mirror again, down that long stretch of rain-disfigured road, but the phantom vehicle she kept imagining she saw there simply wasn’t.

There was a stop light ahead and instead of running it over she slowed down, coming to a halt at a four way stop. She took her hands off the wheel where they had made greasy little prints and ran a sweaty palm through her greying hair, whispering something to reassure herself. The light turned green and she let her foot off the brake pedal–

–and that’s when she heard the dull roar; it turned into a deafening boom before she could even register that it was the sound of a revved engine. Navuta was halfway across the road when she saw what looked like a train looming out of the gloom. A brilliant light streamed into the small car and there was a squeal of tires as Navuta jerked the steering wheel.

A hot feeling gushed into the car before impact. Maybe it was an adrenaline rush or perhaps it was the heat of the engine of the other car as it ripped through the ceiling. Asphalt, grey, car seat flashed by in a whirlwind then Navuta’s skull cracked against the windshield and her vision went black.

When Ken was finished with her work she settled into bed fully dressed. She stared at the ceiling and reflected about that night that she had failed only one mission, when she had last seen Manglev.

All those years ago, a younger Kenomeh had taken a step out of her vehicle and into the rain. Her large car had easily tanked the Volkswagen, which now lay in a ditch on the side of the road, pits and pieces leading the way, some of them still spinning like tops. Black smoke drooled out from the wreckage, their volumes poked by raindrops.

“Good to see you mom,” she called as she approached. Her mom might be dead already. Still, Ken didn’t let anything go to chance. She slipped down the hill. Her boots sunk into the massive slick of runoff so she had to wade her way forward. A quarter of the vehicle was partially submerged in the muck.

The figure of her mother was hanging over the dashboard by her seat belt. Ken ripped off the drivers door as easily as if she were ripping off a piece of bread. She tossed it aside on the embankment where it lay like a broken wing, a few tendons of machinery clinging to where it was once attached.

She unbuckled the limp body, brushing off pieces of glass. She was incredibly small and light, and once she was able to regain her balance, Ken was able to hoist her up and carry her over her shoulder. Once free of the muck, she laid the woman’s body down flat on the road. There she felt her pulse under neck, and found it steady and beating.

Her soft, graying hair swam about her mother’s head like a halo, turning almost black in the puddle. There were facial markings that mimicked the ones that where on Ken’s face; dark brown fur marks that stained the corner of her eyes and converged on her lower lip, which was split and bleeding. As Ken watched, the small cut clotted and slowly zipped itself up.

Healing properties were what made her mother live so long and retain her youth. She was decades older than what she appeared. Yet today she would give her mother a wound that she wouldn’t be able to heal.

Ken often wondered about why she wished to kill her mother, though never spoke of it. It wasn’t like the way her husband, Mira, had killed his parents. He had done it out of spite and jealousy, two emotions that she didn’t feel nor comprehend. Ken might even go as far to say that she liked her mother; after all, Navuta had raised the perfect child and had passed her flawless genes to Kenomeh. Her own two children’s genetics had lined up perfectly, and Kenomeh would have it no other way. Wouldn’t Navuta be proud of her?

Ken unhitched her handgun from its holster and firmly planted it between the two, dark brown eyespots on her mothers crown. Water was collecting on her whiskers like minuscule glass beads. She watched the woman’s chest rise and fall gently under her wet shirt. Kenomeh was filled with a gentle zen that her actions, though unexplainable, were justifiable in some way. She smiled as she tightened her grip on the gun–

A loud voice boomed out her name and resounded in her ears. As she snapped her head around to see a figure loping towards her; water was flying under pounding feet. She recognized the twisted horns bobbing toward her, and then came those wild eyes.

Ken jerked her aim up to fire at her new opponent, and she was able to pump off about three rounds before he was upon her. She flung herself to avoid being hit full on but he caught her with a heavy, sweeping movement of an arm. She was flying feet into the air; her arms flailed, unable to orient herself in the right direction before crash landing heavily into the asphalt. She had bit her tongue so hard that it had punctured a hole, and glowing green blood hissed between her teeth. Her gun lay in shambles across the road where it had been knocked from her grasp, a smaller version of her mother’s wrecked car.

She pulled herself up, feeling the cogs in her back crack themselves into place. If she had regular anatomy she would surely have four broken ribs by now. She ripped off the glove of her right hand, the hand that had been torn down to the legumes all those many years ago and then replaced. The blades concealed there unsheathed themselves like thick butcher knives.

In the distance, Manglev doubled over her mother like a beast. The long, serrated spikes on his back pointed skyward like the points of a hell gate. They were yellowed ivory, slightly bloody where they had erupted unforgivingly from the skin of his back and through his ruined brown jacket. The dark green feline had grown a plentiful mane; it hung from his face, obscuring almost everything but his crimson nose. When he looked up to regard Ken, a single yellow and blue eye bored out from between those shades of hair. His lips curled back into what looked like a snarl, but no sound came out. Ken could not mistake that emotion; it was the look of rage.

“I thought we settled this shit twelve years ago.” He growled as he pulled himself up to his feet. Ken could see that he was bulkier then when she had last seen him, no longer the whip of starved insanity that she had faced all of those years ago. He had once been so depraved of all goodness that the Rage lashed out into everything that got into his way. Fighting him had been like engaging in a ravenous dance.

Over the years, he had settled into what was a normal life. However the Rage was still in him; Ken could easily detect it through his aggressive body language. Manglev had often complained that no one could relate to him. If it wasn’t for Hyson Sable’s “homemade medicine,” he would still be in tragic shape.

Ken tilted her head.

This soft waste of a man just stood between her and her mother as if he still commanded respect. People without a purpose didn’t deserve to breathe… and Manglev, she thought, was without any sense of direction in life.

“Stand aside.” Her voice was low as she strode towards him. “I will warn you only once.”

Manglev snorted, moisture flew from his whiskers.

“If you make one move I’ll tear off your other arm.” He began to pull himself upright, but it was obvious that he had become arthritic to some degree, and he grimaced.

Ken was about ten feet away when she charged. It would have been better to attack at close range but she knew from past experience that Manglev was unpredictable and thus it was advantageous to have a running start, plot out her trajectory and amend it along the way.

The trick was to first get rid of those venomous spines.

He lowered his body, aiming to bowl her over. Kenomeh launched herself in the air, and Manglev’s lowered head became a stepping stone for her boot heel. She pushed herself up while Manglev was stumbling forward, she aimed the edges of her bladed hand to the hilt of the many spikes on his back. Her blades were reinforced with tungsten alloy; it was like slicing through butter.

There was a roar and a clatter where Manglev’s spikes rained down on the road, fresh blood and poison pouring from the hollowed ends. His backside screamed with fresh red.

Ken had landed squatting, but before she could turn she felt Manglev spin around, so as to avoid an assault she ducked and rolled, and assumed a position where she could move into a quick leg sweep- something she had learned in capoeira martial arts. She forced her entire, massive weight unto one fore limb, her entire kinetic force flowing up from her hand, down her arm, through her neck and chest… through her twisting, muscular stomach and down her thighs until the entire kinetic force of the kick met the point of her foot, where if found it’s home in Manglev’s jaw.

KER-RACK

His face was jerked to the side, and while he was still occupied with swallowing his own teeth, Ken sprung upright and swiped towards his face with her metallic knives, this time she caught one of his horns and it came tumbling off. But this time Manglev caught this offending hand and held it fast, and before Ken was able to react he had pulled her close and snatched at her wind pipe. Her free hand flew to her neck as she gurgled venomously.

She kicked him in the balls, where his grip lessened on her for long enough for her to twist around and pull his wrist to the side with a three finger torque. She punched him in the Adam’s apple, which made him gag and he doubled over.

She flew forward this time with both hands outstretched; she grabbed him behind the ears and pulled him violently downward so his chest would meet his knee and she would be able to have a good aim at his neck to slice open, to expose those tendons to the wind and rain…

…but as always, he surprised her.

He grabbed her in a single leg takedown by pulling her upcoming leg forward and out from under her so that she was set off balance. Before she could counter with a sprawl, she was falling backwards with Manglev on top of her. Seconds later her face was being hammered in with a million fists.

Many women where clueless as to how to get out of these “pinned” situations, and that is why most of them ended up getting raped or worse. Ken was well learned; she jerked her attacker forward and close so that their faces nearly met and that their whiskers tangled. But before she made her move she spoke into his bleeding, angry face…

“You have remained the same. You have not bothered to proliferate yourself in life, you live a meaningless, meandering destiny and for that I shall not allow you to live.”

The edge of her bladed hand met his neck, and he jerked himself away before she could slice, rolling himself off into the rain. He threw back his head and let our a roar of cacophonous laughter.

“So you think you’re any different than me? Your scars may have healed; you may have gotten enough plastic surgery or something to hide your mutations but I know the truth. You’re no more enlightened than a computer chip.”

She was thundering forward again, but he was dancing backwards; the spring in his step was returning. He met her blows with defensive blocks, and he continued his monologue, as if not out of breath at all though his lungs rattled like a native drum. He looked like hell; his mouth was bleeding, and his hair was full of blood with one horn sawed off. His pruned spikes were like raw, bloody stumps.

“Tip the scales a little and your perfect little world is going to come crashing down on you. And you know what sweetheart? It’ll kill ya too. One little thing is going to upset your plans in and you’ll go haywire… I know this because I’ve seen you do it. Does your husband know how fucked up you are?”

“My husband loves me!!” Kenomeh spat. She was corralling him towards her own vehicle; maybe if she could keep him talking she would be able to lock his body in the trunk of her car.

“Yeah but you don’t even know what that even means!” Manglev howled again. “I would almost feel sorry for you if I knew that meant anything. What must your children go through with you as a parent? I can’t wait to see what fuckers they’ll grow into.” He must have realized that he was being cornered, because he scrambled onto the hood of the car and the roof. He peered down at the fuming cyborg. How dare you. My children are perfect you bastard. I would have terminated them otherwise. Manglev arched his tail, as if ready to pounce, so she dodged forward, ripped her car door open and slid inside. She popped open the console and grabbed a fully loaded gun, far more practical then the first one that she had used. She always kept a full arsenal on trips such as these, and she knew that this one would have more than enough bullets to finish the job.

But before she could get out of the car, a rhino sized dent appeared in the ceiling above her. The air bag went off, crushing Ken into the seat before she managed to pop it. The horn blasted miserably- and when she tried to open her door she found that it had locked tight. The dent above her head was sinking deeper and deeper. She pointed her weapon skyward and heard a roar accompany the tinny sounding rounds that she pumped off. Manglev tumbled off of the roof, cracking the windshield as he rolled off the front of the car, rivers of blood streaming his descent. Ken struggled to free herself and managed to shatter the windshield, pulling herself through the broken space.

Manglev lay on his back near her mother, but he wasn’t dead or unconscious. His bloodied stomach hitched as he laughed louder and louder the closer she came to him. She still had plenty of bullets for both him and mom. She mentally crossed off the rounds that she had already fired and was sure of it.

She didn’t waste time for “final last words.” She cocked the muzzle right at the maniac’s laughing face, and squeezed the trigger.

Nothing happened. Manglev’s laughter was pouring down all around her as she inspected the gun. She opened up the side–there were no cartridges left… no bullets? That was impossible. She knew how many bullets she was supposed to have, she never counted wrong.

Manglev’s jaws gaped wide, there was a fang missing or his mouth was too bloodied to even see his teeth. The corners of his lips were splitting he was opening his mouth so largely, and Ken actually paused a moment to regard him as his laugh blurred into a cry of sorts, a sort of explosive cry of pain, as if he were suddenly giving birth.

Then she realized it was precisely because of that.

Stupid.
STUPID.
How could she forget?

Manglev had something inside of him, parasites of nearly supernatural origin. Their purpose was to protect their only inhabitable host. The last time that she had encountered them they had poured from his mouth by the hundreds, like tiny small snakes. They writhed and sought her flesh like lampreys, but something told her that something different was crawling up Manglev’s throat. It was something large and horrid that had been festering inside of her old rival. She watched as his jaws gaped, and his neck thrust forward, the muscles strained as something pushed up its inner walls, breached the inside of his mouth and spilled out.

It was black and bloody and gigantic like an anaconda. It had a slick, segmented body, and as it turned to face Ken, it peeled open its four mouth parts that were fitted with lecherous teeth. It snaked towards its foe with alarming speed, emitting a loud hiss as the last of its horrid body left its home.

Ken squared herself against this new opponent. The giant snake reared its front half from the ground, dripping as it swayed side to side with that impressive set of jaws. Ken heard a noise and glanced over her shoulder to see Manglev lumbering away, and in his arms he carried the limp body of her mother.

“NO!” She began to roar, but the parasitic thing had latched on to her shoulder and its entire mass strangled her, pushing her arms to her side. She gasped, muscling her way upward; it took terrific effort just to free one hand. Finally… finally, she was able to severe its massive, biting head. She was spattered with acid and her own fluids, but the constricting coils laxed. Not bothering to clean up her mess, Ken thundered down the road in the direction she had seen her victims flee.

After an hour of searching and the sky becoming so dark it became impossible to see except for the talls of lightning, she realized that her efforts were futile.

That had been the only mission she had failed.

Before Ken went home that night she changed her clothes and showered the blood from her fur. The car that she had rented for the day under a false name was taken to a dump yard where it would be cubed. There was far too much evidence to risk it being found. She rolled into the garage smoothly in the BMW M3 Saloon that she had left in a parking garage in a city, far far away.

Her family wouldn’t be home until quarter after seven, and she told them that they shouldn’t expect her to arrive until the next morning at least. She had some time to unwind, to recap, and re-think her strategies.

She knew full well that this opportunity would never arise for her again.

It was dark inside the house, and quiet. She brushed her short hair until it was dry and pulled up the sleeve of her turtleneck checked the progress of her wound where Manglev’s “parasite” had bitten her. She had enough skill to stitch it up to go unnoticed. She could have just as well tripped and cut her shoulder on an old metal filing cabinet.

Yet as she weaved her needle through her skin, she kept replaying her battle with Manglev. How did those bullets vanish? She checked the cabinet in the garage and found no extras; she had taken them all this morning. They had been absent sometime after she had packed her gear and before she left. The thought was provoking; it upset her terribly. She should have been able to do everything today if it weren’t for that mishap.

She dug through the refrigerator and uncorked a bottle. When she shut the door she was confronted with a series of photographs tacked down with old magnets on the fridge. Ken paused to overlook the pictures of her daughter Kate in all of her feminine prowess. She seemed glare playfully at the photographer with her sultry, rich lips pulled up into a smile, a mop of teased, blonde hair falling over half of her face.

Aside from her hair and glorious, larger than life tail, many people thought that she was a spitting image of Ken herself. Ken knew better, Kate was far more fair, and her heart swelled with pride. Kate was enriching herself in model career, and was by far he most promising element in the family.

As she turned away, a small paper came loose and came to a rest against her toe. Upon examination, she found that it was an old crayon picture that Nox had drawn when he was quite young. It was a cat with wings- with triangle- bat-like ears. She remembered telling Nox to stop talking about his ‘imaginary friend’ after it had ceased to be socially acceptable. He never mentioned her again, but the night terrors continued.

Ken crumpled the old picture and pitched it, carrying her glass of wine and a biography of Ted Bundy under the crook of her arm. She flipped to the current page and curled into a chair.

“I didn’t know what made things tick,” spoke the voice of Ted Bundy, as he desperately tried to save his arse from death row. “I didn’t know what made people want to be friends. I didn’t know what made people attractive to one another. I didn’t know what underlay social interactions…”

“You’re home early,” cut in a voice from directly behind her. The room was suddenly illuminated with green. Kenomeh jumped out of her chair with book a-flying.

It was her son; he had been sitting on the couch behind her. Usually if Nox was around, his glow was a clear sign to a presence, but not tonight. A pair of dark eyes bore from his shocking green face.

“Oh child,” she said, feigning a smile and placing a hand over her heart. “I didn’t see you. When did you learn to control your luminescence?” She set her wine glass down and paused. Nox was sitting strangely, perfectly postured with his hands in his lap. Ken was having what one might call a “deja vu” moment, for it was the same posture that she had once conveyed when she had sat waiting for her mother to come home from work. The day she told her that she had killed someone.

“Where is your father and sister?”

“I got a lift. Dad and Kate got stuck in the storm,” he said shortly. “They won’t be home for hours yet.” Ken opened her mouth to speak but was cut off

“I have something to tell you.” The deja-vu congruity just increased tenfold. Nox was completely unmoved and unemotional. Ken found it was harder and harder to react to him because he was not giving any road map of emotion to play off of, not even a twitch on his face.

“What is it child?”

At the best of times he sounded monotone, like chalk or sandpaper. Ken had once tried teaching him how to accentuate his voice. Ken always thought that displaying emotions was like wearing a mask. She usually gauged the tone of others to select the appropriate response, and over the years she became a master at it. If her son had the same inadequacy as herself, she thought it would be a simple task to teach him.

But she was wrong. It was her son, Nox, who wore an unemotional mask in front of her. Without an emotional codex to follow, when in company of only him, she found that she was reverting more and more to her obdurate self. She was sure that her son felt emotions yet he suppressed them, which baffled Ken. Why should he choose to appear emotionless when she had spent a lifetime learning how to mimic them in order to avoid social stigma?

“I’m going away next year.”

That was unexpected. Ken wasn’t sure how to react at first, because she had been sure for some reason that Nox was going to say I killed a man today. She would have preferred that he had said that, instead of what he had said next.

“I’m going with Dan. We are going to attend the police academy together, but we want to transfer out early to the city. I meant to tell you this morning, because legally it’s required, but you left too early.” Ken’s mind was reeling. Away? Police? With Dan? Her mind seized up.

Nox had extended his hand, resting in the palm there was a metallic glint.

“You went out to find gran didn’t you?” he remarked quietly.

Bullets.

Ken was hit with a thrilling realization. That glint of metal in her son’s hands were the bullets from her gun, the one she had tried to kill Manglev with that afternoon. The bullets had just been in the loading chambers of the gun only that morning, and if her plan had been carried out successfully, they should have been lodged in the brains of Manglev and her mother. She knew she didn’t misplace them. Nox had taken them that morning.

WHY?

Ken felt an onslaught of adrenaline rise up from the soles of her feet; for a moment she was unable to move, like an old computer processing a demand.

“I am going to be a cop.” Her son growled. “I’ll make sure you can’t hurt anyone ever again. And if dad tries to do anything stupid I’ll put him in the locker too.” His eyes burned black holes into her face; it was like staring into the face of a menacing shark.

Through her practiced grace, it was hard to detect that Ken’s anatomy consisted of mainly metal components with only a thin layer of fleshy coating and fur, and it made her remarkably heavy. In a few breathtaking moments she was crushing her son into the sofa by squandering her entire weight upon him. He wasn’t even able to react before there was a loud, strange ripping noise.

For the first time her son’s face changed, the calm and placid features shattered into something that she recognized: fear. His eyes where still inky, but now entirely childlike; they lit up like pinball machines, full of fear of his psychopathic mother.

“Give me a reason, child.”

“Wh-what?”

“Give me a reason why I shouldn’t kill you.”

Nox’s chest was heaving. She had cut him with her hand blade; a vivid red mark crossed his right breast up near his neck. It wasn’t deep, but such an awkward wound was sure to leave him a scar for the rest of his life.

“You have intruded upon my work. I cannot allow this to happen again; my components eliminate any possible threat to my well being. Since you are my son, this would cancel out my own action, but only because you are from my direct lineage. And yet you tell me that you do not have the instincts for procreation. Therefore, my son, you are no longer of any use to me. If you continue to endanger my life and encumber my chances to proliferate my bloodline, why should you even exist?”

Nox could do nothing but stare.

“You would kill me just because of that?” he whispered.

“Perhaps not at this point in time.” She considered. “I would have to face repercussions from my family. They would not understand the logic behind my thesis. I shall standby until further notice on your permanent decision.”

Nox paused, his face had become calm again. He settled back into the sofa, he took slow, shallow breaths under the crushing grip on his shoulders.

“I promise- promise not to arrest you. I was wrong to say that. Furthermore, the social world that orbits around a physical need that I am not collective to, and thus I’m unable to interact on certain levels that rely on venereal venues.” Damn. He almost sounded exactly like her with that monotone tone he had adopted “Perhaps I have not have matured enough to understand- and it has caused me to act in this manner… but now I will try to understand mother… for you.”

“It is no trouble,” she said as she slid off of him, standing back off the couch. “That trait you have reposed from my lineage and so I am partially to blame. I hoped that you would have taken after your father or sister; my other disappointments with you renders that insignificant.” Her voice trailed as she noticed that her son was eying her blankly. She had to remember that she had just attacked him, and he was probably still in a state of shock.

“Come here.” She spread her arms; he responded apprehensively

“You require comfort, come here.” She beckoned again. “I shall re-iterate my earlier statement that I shall not hurt you until you have made your final life decision.”

He padded cautiously forward and embraced his mother as if he might be snuggling a barrel of explosive material. She stroked his head softly and felt the metallic “bumps” of his horns growing through his skull.

“Now we must clean your wound so that it is unnoticeable- and if prompted you shall make some clever excuse as to how you got it. I shall prepare dinner for tonight and cook your favorite dessert.” She lifted his face with a finger and kissed the top of his forehead, but his face was still unchanged: silent, distant. How could he even dream of being a cop? He was so air headed.

When Kate and Mira returned she would greet her husband with a long and passionate kiss and declare how she had been worried about their safety on the trip home and profess of how glad she was that they didn’t speed into a ditch. She would ask her excitable daughter an endless list of questions about how her meeting with the modeling industry went.

And her son just sat at the dinner table, calm and imperceptibly cool. Even if he were under a magnifying glass, no one would be able to identify if anything out of the ordinary had occurred that evening… except for that his hand reached up and gently touched the wound on his breast that burned under his sweatshirt.

Many years later, a more sophisticated looking Kenomeh was glowering neon daggers at the ceiling fan.

Why was that night so significant to her now? She could not find the reason as to why her thoughts alighted upon this old memento, replaying it over and over like a broken record, unable to focus on anything relevant. Perhaps it was the phone call that had disturbed her memory of it.

As she played the scenes back once more, she remembered that she and Mira made love the night she had attacked his son. No pleasure ever came from that sort of thing, she was rendered incapable of that sensation. Yet, the sense of security that her lover reciprocated was enough to assure her that he was mentally stable enough to perform his parental duties. The following day she had all but completely forgotten the ordeal with her son, but she remembered it now.

There was something wrong, she thought. There was something that she missed. Something important that was overlooked… an error.

Her systems where shutting down into sleep mode.

The chill of the laboratory had not raised a single hair on Kenomeh’s skin for decades, but now she was breathing in the sulfuric stench of the underground factory in Germany. The incessant pulse of gigantic cogs and wheels were not present; it was silent and abandoned. She was like a ghost in this place.

It was a dream.

Once more, she glanced at the memo she had received for her assassination assignment. With a Spring K52 Sniper Rifle balanced in her arm, she waited for the target to arrive in the open space below. Ken was hiding along the perimeter of a large chamber with a high ceiling and rows upon rows of stunted columns that gave off a reverberating hum. She knew from memory that these were the containment chambers where her sisters grew entombed in a nutrient agar to speedily age. The doctor had no use for younglings; he took them away from their exhausted mother as soon as they were born.

“Hello . . . ?”

That was the cue. She pressed her eye to the faux scope

“Where are you?”

There he was now: he was walking in through one of the side entrances, looking around the abandoned facility… looking for her. Her son. He appeared as a child right now, but he had to be dealt with before he was allowed to grow into a threat. The laser from her weapon darted, tried to catch the hotspot on the nape of his neck. He wouldn’t die right away by a simple head-shot; his skull was too thick, reinforced by steel. She knew Nox well, his weakness would be in the neck if she could hit it just right.

She couldn’t get a lock on him however. He kept weaving in between the containment chambers, and she couldn’t afford hitting one of those. It would set off a streamline of explosions, her sisters would become awakened and chaos would ensue. She had to get it right the first time.

But where was-?
She’d lost him!

Ken looked up from the scope and swept the room with her gaze before she found him again. He was standing on the balcony below her as if enjoying the view. His back was turned to her so she had the perfect shot. Yet as she gazed through the scope, he was gone once again. Ken couldn’t believe it. When she looked up again she was confounded that he was no longer standing a moment before.

A shadow sauntered in her corner vision. Across the way was an observatory window. She quickly focused in with the scope, laser beam jumping around at first with her accelerated breathing, and found him. He was sitting in a chair; she could observe his profile perfectly from the strands of hair to the tiny pulse on his neck. Her finger tightened around the trigger. His face riveted onto her, peering right back through the scope and down to her rusted soul, and smiled. That was the first time she’d ever seen him smile in front of her–

A raucous crack shattered the silence. A few rats that had been making friends with her scurried off with startled squeaks. She didn’t move from her spot. Hinged, she was ready to fire another shot if she’d missed her mark. She needn’t have worried. Even without magnification, the splatter of blood on the wall of the observatory room was evidence of success. The cyborg let out a sigh of relief, and pulled back from her weapon and let her shoulders relax. Her arm, the one that still had skin, bone and nerve endings, was trembling, something that normally didn’t occur on normal missions. Slowly, Ken pulled herself to her feet… and then felt something shockingly warm wrap delicately around her stomach. Everything suddenly became electrically charged with adrenaline. With a bellow she spun around, knocking her gun off the ramp and lashing out to what had touched her. The smaller form shrank back, as if frightened.

Panting heavily and with hips cocked in a boxing stance, Ken at first mistook the child for her own, but that was impossible. Smooth, black hair flowed over those thin arms- and only a sliver of white could be seen between the combed sheets. A single black eye stared from that maskmaskmask, as cold as a blob of ink… her son’s eyes, but that was certainly not her son.

“Why don’t you love me?” the little child asked, raising her arms.

“Love you?” Sheets of whetted blade projected from her metal fingers. “It would be pointless to resume loving you when you are clearly no longer my child.” The little girl looked up and her hair slid back; red tears had streaked the porcelain mask underneath. She was listening attentively- sadly.

“There has been a parasite living inside of you, and by destroying you, I also destroy it. You are like Manglev, with a beast inside that grows and festers. I spared your life earlier, but you have crossed me and now I will no longer face repercussions with your death.” The cyborg waited for the little girl to accept her indisputable logic, and finally the girl reluctantly bowed her head.

“I knew you would understand.” This was closer contact than she had wanted, but she could make sure the job was done correctly this time. The head would be severed from right to left in one clean sweep like severing the parasitic head of the snake that had been growing inside Manglev.

“I wish it didn’t come to this.” She raised her arm.

She should have been prepared for what happened next. The creature grabbed her raised arm and completely fractured the metal fingers, melting the blades. With a force Ken could have never expected, the girl smashed her mother against the rail.

“I love you.” For some reason, a flare rose up in Ken’s throat. She had never felt such an intense energy raging inside her body since she was quite young. What was strange was that the machine part could feel it too. It vibrated and cracked under the heat the heat this creature was enforcing, melting and short circuiting.

“I want to give you a gift.”

And it was it was in this moment that her machine mind cracked apart. Her emotions, so many, so plentiful, repressed for decades came bursting through the ravines that where split open like old wounds.

Kenomeh screamed so loud that it was the only thing she could hear. Her neck was thrown back, her fangs were exposed like the frightened whites of eyes. She screamed forever and ever, it rocked her entire body, her machine foundations crumbled under her, her biotic investments took over, seizing the forgotten threshold of her brain while the machine crashed into flames. Her heart was being torn right in two as she screamed and screamed and screamed, uncontrollably, like the vomiting that never ended.

Spots of color burst before her eyes, she saw her children running along the beach and wrestling. Kate’s hair was golden in the sun and her fur was full of sand. She had smiled up at her and cuddled into her arms, warmth pooled into her heart at the thought of this beautiful child would grow up to be so ultimately perfect. She also realized that she enjoyed the flaws as well.

Her son came into her mind, in the form of frightened, oily eyes, staring up at her innocent and unknowing. She had almost killed her baby… but it didn’t matter anymore where his destiny led… he was dead. His metal bones where probably picked clean at the bottom of the ocean like the metal skeleton of a sunken boat.

Mira too now, her husband. The sheet-tangling, sweat-drenched, gasping memories, the quiet glances, the moments of peace and tranquility in nature, the thoughts that never once meant anything to her, suddenly she understood their significance, and her hair prickled down her arched spine. Years overdue, she comprehended the compassion lost. She screamed as the old mutations that had taken years to destroy clawed to the surface of her skin, overtaking her beautiful black fur. She was reverting into what she had always been…

A monster.

Mom.

Haunted faces of fear stared back at her through the eyes of her ambivalent mother. Kenomeh’s own heart struggled at each pound of how much she loved her. Loved her, and how she wanted to tell her that she didn’t want to kill her at all, that it was all a big mistake. Kenomeh was the mistake. She was an error of a life form.
Manglev had been right all along, and how she pined to tell him so. Would he not forgive her?

Flashes of memory returned… she felt the pain of bullet wounds assault her frame from countless enemies thirsting for her blood. The hours of time she spent stitching her wretched frame back together only to have it blown apart again… the countless missions where she had tried to find meaning in her existence. She realized now that the meaning had always been with her family. She was happiest when she was younger, resting under the mottled red shade of the Acer rebrum, watching the sunspots flicker off her fur. She was happiest pushing a strand of blonde hair away from her daughter’s face and kissing her on her perfect little nose and tickling her whiskers. She realized how she loved making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cutting off the crusts for a picnic. She loved swaying under the soft, low lights of the Takuna, with the translucent waves gently breaking ashore, she would slip a conch shell into her lovers hand and whisper something unbidden into his ear.

If only she could hold them all and tell them… tell them… tellthemtellthemtellthemtellthem

And then the screams came, a million screams all at one time. The wrath of every soul that she had mercilessly reaped came crashing down upon her with endless thunder. How many young men, woman and children had she slaughtered without a second thought? The sorrow of friends, and the pain of their families shot down the last semblance of her sanity and their terrible outcry grew until she realized that the terrible noise wasn’t just occurring in her head.

When she looked over her shoulder, she saw hundreds of her clone sisters erupting out of their metal cocoons like larvae. Glowing green plasma splattered everywhere. They dragged themselves upright like naked, mechanical zombies. A sea of green, blazing eyes upturned to their murderous sister. Their weapons were drawn, and they slipped in their own embryonic fluid as they awaited her fall.

And that was when she felt it for the first time in her life.

Fear.

She didn’t want to die.

When she looked back, the face that stared back at her was skullish, the skin had sunken back so far. Ken tried to speak, but for once in her life words failed her. Her silver tongue had saved her from so many imminent deaths, yet she couldn’t cheat herself out of this one.

“I wear my emotions on my face,” said the Thing. It looked vaguely sad.

“Please, please let me live,” she fought to speak. “You have given me a gift; it is all I have ever wanted. I know you should never stoop so low to forgive this monster before you… but I promise that I will take an oath, to cease to kill and I will make things right, I will… promise…” Her statements came out in ragged jumps.

… and the Thing began to sing very softly… a soft chant that seemed reminiscent of ancient Aztec rituals, to calm the small animals before they were to be sacrificed to their bloodthirsty deity. She sang in a forgotten, gibberish language, but Ken thought that she somehow understood her guttural tongue. It didn’t rhyme, its harmony was chugging and strange.

You are a demon of twisted metal and smoke
We tried once before, we will try again
Will you what you have always sought
You’re inside looking out not in- your evil locked behind our gates keep
CRY! LAUGH! REJOICE! DESPAIR!
For only now. It is a dream of truth and lies.
We will slip through your grasp just as your children and sanity have
As the raven says; nevermore.
So rip it out. Your heart is the cancer- wrought of evil and metal. It poisons you.

The words struck Keneomeh more forcibly than any physical blow she had been dealt. She found logic and pathos in this seemingly illogical song, as it was chanted over and over again by the fanged warriors below her. Kenomeh had two sides that she couldn’t live without: a biological part and a mechanical part. It was her mechanical side that blocked her from feeling true emotion, and sadly she realized she wouldn’t be able to purge that from her system. Her biological side was too weak to establish herself, and she had allowed the machine to take control over the years- turning her more into an android than a cyborg. She was only able to comprehend her self-awareness because of this… dream. Once she awoke and the Thing went away, she would continue to live in ignorance.

Tears screamed down her face as this fact weighed so heavy; she was being crushed under it.

And then the Thing spoke quietly into her silent, grave face, the words that Ken herself had lectured shortly before.

“I knew you would understand.”

“Is there no way to redeem myself before I expire?” Ken asked, her voice quiet.

“What a selfish thing to ask,” said the strange skeleton, her head had tilted to the side. “Don’t worry child–you are man’s plaything, and machines do not have souls.

“You are in the land of ignorance- you may never know your family fate. No one will ever know of our meeting. Your son will still hate you. Every shadow that your mother comes across will remind her of you. In time- your husband and daughter with scorn your memory.”

Kenomeh could have never felt any more suffering than in this very pinnacle moment, and when hopelessness had surrounded her to the fullest extent, she closed her eyes and a tear slicked down the glowing green grooves in her face.

“But I forgive you fellow sister, because we are not unlike, you and I.” Soft lips brushed against her lacerated, ugly face. She imagined, perhaps, that they belonged to an old friend. Her sharp underfangs were bared in a silent grimmace of relief as cobwebs of hair enveloped her.

“I will carry your weak, dying soul with mine,” crooned the Thing. “And when my own hymn is sung, I shall roar your bloodsoaked anthem that all of the world shall hear.

“Including your son… for he is very much alive.”

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~ by komicks on February 27, 2011.

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