Nothing about this morning was different and that was just fine — Axy wasn’t a very exciting person. He stared blankly at vending machine before him, prodding the touch screen to deliver his usual order. Axys’ only concern in the world was his younger brother, Inci; who, as usual, had his nose buried in his tattered research notes.
Inci was wheelchair bound, allowing him to carry on with his work on the daily commute; while Axy pushed and enjoyed the walk.
The two men were uniformed and equipped for their work; Axy was cleanly shaven and presentable — for he was a doctor thoroughly engaged with the bio-mechantronic public. Inci, on the other hand, was a scruffy, bearded researcher of material science and cybernetics; confined to secret offices, heaving with vast collections of vaguely organised files, each brimming with experiment results and data.
They were queuing in a very old café in the outer city of Velo, the only place that served caffeine in the ground bean form Axy enjoyed. Large self service machines lined the back of the room; since there were no windows, every available inch of wall was used to display various 21st century antiques and adverts.
Fellow early risers nursed personalised caffeinated drinks at the tables; a faint chatter filled the steamy air.
‘A glacier could recede. Imagine that!’ Inci exclaimed, rising from his notes, ‘huge chunks of ice leaping from the sea and attaching themselves to the sheer cliff.’
He was insistently energetic in the mornings; he would talk faster than his older brother could process.
‘Like, rewinding a movie?’ Axy hazarded carefully.
He was barely conscious at these early hours, and wasn’t keen on too much sustained conversation.
‘Exactly! Anything that obeys the laws of physics is possible, even if you put them in reverse,’ Inci stated, while referring to the notes resting on his lap.
Axy stood swaying groggily at the counter to confirm his order, while Inci sat in his wheelchair and used him as a wall for his mental tennis practice.
Pressing the accept button, Axy grimaced as the machine before him loudly stewed, steamed and squirted. ‘So, while time travel is improbable,’ Inci continued on, ‘time reversal should be possible.’ he finished, with certainty.
‘All the while, the real world tenaciously thwarts your theories.’ Axy mumbled as he watched his cup fill.
‘At least I have theories,’ Inci retorted sharply, ‘I don’t understand why you’re more interested in brewing coffee than studying reality,’
Inci wasn’t usually one to complain, but today was a huge day for his project, and he was ready to take on the world.
‘Why do we have come here every day?’ he jabbed, ‘you’re augmented, like me; you can synthesise the caffeine directly in your brain,’
Axy’s heart sank — he was now aware of other patrons of the café shooting nasty glares their way; while Inci continued his pitch, obliviously.
’Your bloods’ nano-machinery is automatically controlled by your eye phone to keep you topped up all day.’
‘I am aware of that, Inci,’ he hissed quietly, ‘we work for the same corporation.’
Their mutual employer, the Pulchra Sanguinem, was the only legal provider of these cybernetic augments. They pioneered and controlled the laws governing the manufacture of synthetic limbs and organs; even the surgery required to install them was under their strict control.
This was to prevent any criminal perversion of the technology, however, eye phones were commonly installed into the eyeballs of young children; against their will and knowledge, usually by parental request.
‘Why don’t you use your eye phone properly?’ Inci probed, ‘the first cybernetic augmentation that the public happily accepted and you’re still doing everything manually,’
Inci had twisted around in his chair to face his brother,
’It cleans, protects and strengthens your body; maximising your life span. I fail to see this as a bad thing,’
Axy sighed as Inci turned back around.
‘Today is the day I improve that system.’ Inci muttered to himself smugly. He had been working on a secret project for years, and yet, for all the secrecy he demanded; he liked to remind Axy about it daily.
Axy collected his hot drink, handed it to Inci, and hastily wheeled him out of the coffee shop. He carefully avoided eye contact with the other customers; their conversation had made them very unwelcome.
Manoeuvring his brother’s chair out onto the pitch black city street; he felt the pressure of menacing eyes recede. Inci handed the obsolete drink back to his brother as they prepared to move forward into the total darkness.
There were no street lights in the city of Velo, so the pair switched on their eye phones’ night vision and watched the darkness of morning fade into detailed shades of green.
The world had changed so much since they were children, and it showed no interest in slowing down to let the public catch up.
‘Inci, I know you’re excited about showing me your new product today,’ Axy started, in reference to his brothers’ behaviour, ’but you have to keep the augment talk to yourself while we’re in the outer city,’
Inci didn’t care about public opinion; even as they passed the signs of an unhealthy society.
‘Some people are hostile towards augments. That’s their problem, not mine,’ Inci scoffed.
Some people, their problem. Axy reeled at the comment — for how intelligent his brother was, he was seriously lacking in any tact or common sense. Commuters in earshot gave funny looks; while the more destitute solemnly avoided their gaze.
‘Nano machines are already in the next generations’ blood; and eye phones are now a human right. With them, everyone can maintain and manage their bodies with ease,’ Inci implored.
He was determined to change his brothers hypocritical behaviour towards augmentation,
‘Eye phone software can detect signs of illness instantly. Cancers and disease are now a thing of the past!’
‘Of course. I know that, Inci.’ Axy pressed back firmly. ‘But, consider the people who can’t afford the transfusions needed to replace the old mechanical blood. If they’re not careful they’ll be stuck with rust,’
Inci paused while Axy pressed on.
‘What about people who still need to eat? Since food and drink became obsolete, there’s no longer any regulation on hygiene,’ Axy was clearly getting fed up with society, ‘sure, food is cheaper now, but no one cares about keeping it safe or clean.’
Manual consumption of food was considered unfashionable, unhygienic, and uncivilised. However; Axy still loved good food and drink, like many good people. Eating was a pleasure Axy relished, and with his mind occupied reminiscing of the sweets he enjoyed as a child, Inci was able to continue his argument.
‘That coffee shop only maintains business by sale of its’ pure caffeine to our companies’ material research,’ Inci explained; unaware of his brothers’ face turning sour behind him.
‘I know you enjoy manual chemistry, so; with no protest I’m brought to these run down shops every morning,’ Inci bargained, ‘can we agree to disagree? Today is our big day! I don’t want to fight.’
Axy held back a shot of white hot rage — he really wanted to point out that Inci had been the one instigating such ugly conversation, but he managed to repress the urge swiftly. He needed to change the topic, and fast; else it was going to be a very tedious walk to work.
Grasping for a new subject, he remembered how the city had saved colossal amounts of energy by ceasing wasteful light production. This had forced citizens use night vision technology, or move out. For all the social upheaval this had caused; one positive result was the return of beautiful starry nights.
His mind continued to note how this had helped amateur astronomers.
‘Say; last night I had time to star gaze.’ Axy ventured.
‘Find anything new?’ scoffed Inci.
‘No… but; I could have sworn I saw a mysterious, ghostly figure floating across the sky,’ Axy baited, ‘could have been alien.’
Axy knew just what to say to distract his brother. Inci’s posture visibly lifted as he launched into his well rehearsed theory, of how ghosts and aliens could be the same thing.
‘It could have been a satellite,’ Inci pondered, ‘but spirits seem unaffected by time and space; just like alien spacecraft,’
He lectured as they crossed the usual bridge towards the moated inner city.
The end of the bridge was walled and gated; only those with the eye phone could provide identity sufficient to enter.
Inci continued to bore into Axy’s mind with paranormal speculations as they were cleared for entry.
Only a few things ever made it into Axy’s short term memory, to eventually fall into his long term thoughts, but given this particular lectures’ frequency; he had remembered a few pieces of the whole.
Axy always thought of his brothers’ mind as something special, to be sure; but the increasing number of confusing half-truths and lack of evidence made him wonder if he was making things up.
‘Stories of furious spirits or dutiful apparitions are most common,’ pondered Inci. ‘the brain is densely complex and surging with electromagnetism; this could leave a mark on our world that one could detect,’
Inci continued; explaining details of how a mind could live forever in data.
‘Of course; digitally transferring a consciousness is impractical. It may be impossible. My plan is t-’ Inci stopped suspiciously as he dived into his notes silently. Axy took his final swig of coffee, put his cup back into his bag, and welcomed the brief quiet.
Punctuality was an unspoken law with the corporation; as was pressure to perform and produce. Axy never had a knack for creating new products like his brother, but when given the instructions he could build anything.
He liked to keep his life simple, but this desire was constantly exasperated by his complex patients; a doctor in this city is always on a steep learning curve against a never ending tide of broken cyborgs.
Even in the inner city streets he could see many in need of his services, and as they pushed deeper into the centre he noticed many of the fellow commuters’ outdated and inoperable limbs that they could no longer repair; due to the discontinuation of parts.
Many could only wait as they saved up money for replacement, which was something Axy secretly suspected Inci of doing. It was his spine that was damaged, so any upgrade to put him back on his feet would be a massive project that would chain him to a lifetime working off debt; when asked about it, Inci would assure everyone that he was fine with his wheels.
One could always find cheaper, yet illegal, parts and repair; chop shops popped up like weeds and black market dealers were always one step ahead of control. This was considered a serious concern for society these days.
One particular group, known as the Battle Scars, plagued the city skylines with headlines of vigilantism and unauthorised cybernetic repair and installation.
Axy forced himself not to dwell on it, and it wasn’t for the fact that he’d ever consider joining a vigilante syndicate; but that even thinking about such things was enough to raise suspicion. Information criminals could steal P.I.N.s just by listening to you think about them.
He had to be more cautious that most, as he couldn’t lose his job; his brother needed him right were he was. Although usually last to sleep, he always brought Inci in early, for the sake of his grand designs. They always arrived at their company work place before the sun peeked between the monolithic archipelago of skyscrapers.
The latin words Pulchra Sanguinem were boldly displayed across both the white front doors, in deep red. The building was wider and taller than most, extending deep underground. The corporation employed doctors and researchers under the goal of improving humanities’ lot in life.
The brothers passed through the extensive front gardens to the entrance, and approached the front desk to collect their lab keys. The hall was large and sterile; minimally decorated with gleaming white and pastel red.
[Good morning, Professor Dent,] said the auto receptionist, [Please, validate your key card for the day.]
Inci swiped his card and checked his room privileges.
‘We’ve got private access to the power core today.’ stated Inci, smiling ear to ear as Axy moved forward to book himself in.
[Good Morning, Doctor Dent. Please val-] Axy swiped his card before the auto could finish.
‘Right, I’ll see you down there this afternoon then. You booked out exo-legs, right?’ Axy concerned, as he walked them further into the central hall towards the lifts. Exo-legs helped the disabled walk again by eternal supports; but their use was restricted to the workplace.
‘I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks — I have the booking right here,’ Inci snapped, ‘the Dent brothers are going to make history today!’
Inci’s exclamation trailed off as he wheeled himself into a lift, closing the doors before Axy could reply. For all his obnoxious rudeness; Inci was still just a kid in Axy’s eyes.
He shrugged, and headed towards his ground floor office. He found his mind had revved up enough by his arrival to get a head start to his day filling in miscellaneous orders for drugs, oils and gauze.
His shared office was modestly sized, and decorated with many novelty items and posters Axy had nothing to do with. The desks were organised into cubicles for the privacy to vanish into ones’ work; until it was time to perform surgery in the practice next door.
Patients needn’t traipse through his office, as the ground floor surgery was quite large, with multiple entrances; they dealt with the repair and installation of all physical upgrades available to the public; things only turned sour when Axy was forced to remind patients that they were not an accident and emergency.
Soon enough, colleagues started appearing in the office with the usual; ‘mornin’’, ’hullo’ and, ‘alright, mate?’ before vanishing into their cubicles.
Axy didn’t bother to respond much. It wasn’t that his colleagues weren’t worth talking to; it was that they were too worth talking to. What could he possibly know that they didn’t already?
‘Hoy, Axe!’ came an inquiring voice. ‘How’s the day today? Same muck, different shovel?’
‘Huh? Oh, yeah. You?‘ Axy managed.
‘Living the dream,’ he replied sarcastically; Axy was struck by how much that response implied about the man.
‘I hear your brothers’ super secret project is to be revealed today, eh?’ said what’s his name.
‘Yeah, it’s been a big deal for a while now.’ Axy said, as he wondered what this guy wanted. He was more concerned with what his name was. Bob? Bill? Ben?
’How’s his material research facility doing? Heard they’ve been working on the next big thing in military armour,’
Brian? …Bill. No, Brad. B- Br…
‘I heard Fiona was applying to move back over there soon; beats the monotonous surgery. She only ended up here after talking smack about the company over her eye phone,’
Brady! Bernard. Bernie? B… B-something!
‘I heard, she was demoted while on holiday with her fiancé,’
Axy nodded blankly, he’d tried so hard to remember the guys’ name that he’d forgotten what they were talking about.
‘What’s your bros’ project on?’ inquired B-something, revealing the reason for the forced conversation, ‘he’s rumoured to be nominated for promotion to the head facility; producing the clean energy for the world.’
‘No idea, it’s all a big secret to me too,’ Axy deflected, ‘I’ll be out of the office in a few hours to help him finish it… whatever it is.’
‘Huh, sure,’ B-something snorted, ‘it’s probably just some alien bullshit, or whatever.’
B-something finished the small talk with that, making wobbly gestures with his hands and as he shuffled off to sit at his desk.
Another, more familiar colleague arrived through the practice doors.
‘Good mornin’ Axy!’ greeted Dr. Watshernam cheerfully, before turning to greet B-something. ‘Mornin’ Keith, how are you today?’
‘Living the dream.’ He replied, sarcastically.
Axy wasn’t sure of anyone or anything outside his department; he’d meet colleagues and patients, fill out paperwork in his office, then move on to perform numerous minor surgeries in Dr. Watshernams’ practice next door. This would then lead to even more paper work; all day, every day.
Coffee breaks and lunch times cease to exist if society prefers not to consume manually; so Axy would need to sneak meals in between meetings. One day, a confiscated lunch forced him to try and remember the password for his blood sugar regulation app.
He’d plainly forgotten, and was left chewing pencils after reaching security questions; he’d also forgotten to remember his mother’s maiden name.
Axy withdrew from his paper work for a moment to savour a biscuit; then sat back as the sugar sank in.
‘Today’s the big day,’ Axy hummed to himself. ‘Just a few more hours and we’ll be out of here. If Inci’s onto something…’
‘Yeah; big if.’ B-something interrupted as he wandered past.
‘How long have you been listening to me?’ Axy jumped.
‘It’s not my fault you talk to yourself,’ B-something retorted, ‘I can’t switch my ears off, pal.’
‘Yes, you can! You have ear phones installed.’ Axy at least knew one thing about the guy.
‘Oh yeah, I can get radio on these things; if I remember right.’ B-something gawked, as he stuck his finger in his ear and turned it; grimacing as he tuned his head to the loudest and most popular sounds.
Just a few more hours, thought Axy; just a few more hours, and his brother Inci would reveal the project that would end their lives of drudgery. Those few more hours inched by quite painfully until, finally, it was time to make his way down to his brother in the power core.
‘Hey, Inci. All clear for me to head over?’ Axy called, ‘the Dent brothers making history today?’
‘Axy,’ Inci sounded cold, ‘head down now. Can’t talk.’ He hung up.
‘What, nothing else? What do I bring with me?’ said Axy, exasperated, ‘He better have everything I need…’
He got up from his desk and surveyed what he might take with him, while a slight panic began to sink in.
’It’s nothing, just dramatic amounts of paperwork, I’m sure,’ muttering to himself as he recalled Inci dragging him into his finishing his accounts numerous times. He decided to grab his pen and that was that, he moved from his desk toward the door.
’See ya, B-’ said Axy, nearly calling his colleague B-something out loud, ‘-uh, later.’
‘Hoy, see you later Axe-man; and tell Inci I said hi.’ Axy was glad for the conclusive small talk.
‘Good luck, Axy!’ called Dr. Watshernam from the practice, ‘You need anything, give us a call!’
‘Will do!’ responded Axy as he headed towards the lifts outside; he would have felt much better if she was to supervise his surgery as she always did, but Inci insisted on keeping it in the family.
He entered the lift and descended from the ground floor to the subterranean laboratories, mulling over his basic training to try and prepare for the mystery procedure.
Inci had been frustratingly vague, even when Axy argued that, as a surgeon, he needed to know what part of whose body he’d be perusing; denial of such serious information had led Axy to worry that his brothers’ faith in his abilities would leave him woefully unprepared.
The lift stopped to bear a few more passengers on it’s way down, only to unload them very soon after; the ride down to Inci was a long way and he was left alone on his journey deep underground.
The descent finally ended and he stepped out of the mirrored lift as quickly as the doors opened. The corridor he entered into was slightly curved, spiralling clockwise downwards, and was darker than he was expecting; he was almost tempted to turn on his night vision.
He continued carefully down the corridor into a deeper darkness; there was nothing to landmark his path or to show his progress. Eventually, he reached the only other door positioned on the inward curve of the corridor. Bolted and secure, he called Inci to let him in.
‘Am I on the right floor? It’s just a long, dark corridor here.’ Axy wasn’t comfortable being so deep under the city; he had heard many stories of strange creatures down here.
‘The door is open,’ Inci’s voice seemed very off, ‘get in here now.’ He hung up, again.
Whatever he wanted to show him in there had better be worth all the flack he was taking today. He pushed the door open and felt a resistance as warm air was violently sucked through into the cold, blue room before him; howling down the corridor behind him.
The whole room was inside a large sphere, with the grated flooring cutting it horizontally in half. Axy saw what appeared to be tree roots hanging from the ceiling, cradling a bright source of light. The metallic pen Axy had brought with him grew hot in his pocket by the cores’ electromagnetism.
Thick and thin pipes lined the walls on every inch, and seemed to converge above and below. A thick, tree like, trunk of pipes shafted the room vertically; meeting the light drenched roots above.
Inci stood silhouetted before it and behind him, attached to the trunk, above what looked like an electric chair, was a six eyed helmet. Three eyes lined up vertically on each side of the face.
Inci greeted his brother, but he looked different. He had shaved his head, and made numerous marks on oddly precise points across his cranium. Wearing exo-legs he was able to walk freely towards his brother.
‘I guess you’ve never seen this part of the facility,’ Inci guessed correctly, ‘this is the main power line connecting us to the head facility in the atlantic ocean.’ He said as he gestured down below them.
Axy didn’t know what to say, it wasn’t something he felt qualified to comment on; but was more distracted by Incis’ baldness.
‘It’s impressive,’ Axy hesitated, but quickly launched into every question trying to burst out of his mouth. Questions like; ‘How on earth did we get access to all this? Where is this place anyway? What are you up to? Why am I here? Who else is involved?’
Inci stiffened as he guarded his information by force of habit, but he realised how heavy all his secrets had become. He looked lost, then found; then he was lost all over again. Axy wasn’t much help with his distrustful look.
Inci decided to start at the very beginning.
‘As soon as we started working here I’d had my eye on this place,’ Inci began, ‘it’s taken me all this time to get private access to it,’
‘You needed lots of power for your project,’ Axy assumed, ‘what for?’
‘Allow me explain properly and I’ll get to that detail soon enough,’ Inci gestured for them to sit upon a large pipe extruding across the floor and up the central trunk. As they settled down, Inci gazed silently upon the mysterious helmet in the rooms’ centre for a moment.
‘I had an idea, a while ago; an idea to get my legs back,’ he looked back to Axy, ‘but not like these things,’ he said patting the exo-legs. Axy wanted to interrupt again, but thought best to let Inci explain himself thoroughly.
‘If my upgrade procedure meant replacing my entire lower half and spine; then why stop there?’ Inci asked rhetorically, ‘with my idea, I could achieve immortality,’
Axy was a little disturbed by this comment, but maintained his tactical silence to prompt Inci to continue.
‘I’ve developed the idea for a very long time,’ he assured, ‘I’m not about to do anything dangerous. I’ve developed the theory to near fact, and only need prove it works.’
‘Prove what works?’ Axy inquired, breaking his silence.
‘This augmented skull to replace my own,’ he got up, turned to the six eyed helmet proudly, ‘I call it the Head Case.’
‘You’re a head case!’ Axy was in disbelief, ‘you want to put your brain in there?’
‘Sort of, yes,’ Inci was clearly used to the madness of this idea, ‘you need only install the helmet around my head and supervise the process.’
He didn’t flinch when Axy began berating his stupidity.
‘Why are we in the power core? We need to be in a sterile surgery for this kind of thing.’ Axy was ready to report this madness to his superiors, but upon seeing Incis’ solemnity he opted to hear more.
‘The reason we’re here is so no-one finds out about this,’ Inci explained, ‘the power levels here can hide our thoughts and actions.’
‘How illegal is this?’ Axy gasped, ‘and how are you going to explain this when it works?’
‘‘’When it works”,’ Inci echoed conclusively, ‘you believe in me.’
‘I-‘ Axy stuttered, caught out by his own words, ‘you can’t bet your life on my ability to perform brain surgery.’
‘Yes, I can,’ Inci boasted, ‘you are better than you know, I’ve even heard Dr. Watshernam compliment your skills.’
Axy shied, he had always respected her, and he was even more proud to hear her compliment from Inci. His brother was one of the most respected researchers in the companies’ employ, and if Dr. Watshernam and Inci believed in him…
‘Okay… explain to me, very carefully, what I have to do…’
The procedure wasn’t complex, but the helmets’ inner workings were too much for Axy to take in. Brain surgery is one thing, but with the technology involved he may as well be involved with rocket science — rocket surgery, he invented.
With the equipment in place and with Inci sat before the power core, Axy was stood before the scariest thing he had ever had to face; and he had preformed countless full organ transplants. If he messed this up he could say goodbye to everything he had ever known.
‘Don’t think about it,’ Inci assured, ‘you’ll be fine. I’ve set this up for minimal input; the helmet will dissolve my skull and leave my brain in place,’
Axy felt sick; Inci was too calm before this visceral concept.
‘All you have to do is make sure my head stays in the right place, keep me from lashing out and whatever you do, don’t look away. You must keep my head stable and connected to the power cable.’
‘Will it hurt you?’ Axy concerned.
‘Yes, it’s going to be agonising and I’ll probably be screaming for you to stop it,’ Inci looked severe; he’d been preparing himself for this for years, ‘don’t listen to me, I’ll bargain and beg, but you continue. Do not take your eyes off me for even a second. Promise me?’
‘You’re insane.’ Axy concluded.
‘I suppose I am,’ Inci smiled, ‘promise me?’
‘I- I-‘ Axy stammered.
‘Promise me.’ Inci demanded.
Axy stood up and tried shaking off the intensity, as he let out a frustrated groan and walked circles; his stomach was flipping and his heart felt like it had stopped.
‘If you die,’ Axy stopped and stared, ‘I’ll lose everything.’
‘I know,’ Inci said, standing up. His awareness of the situation was sickeningly cold and concise, ‘this is our only chance. If the company finds out what I’ve created with their materials…’ he shuddered.
Axy let out the last of his frustration in a shout as he turned to his brother, already in position beneath the helmet. He restrained him with the thick belts attached to the arms and legs of the chair, seized the helmet and considered it, as Inci had.
This was to be his brother’s new face, the thought as the six eyes stared back blankly. It was quite heavy and made of a dark, foreign material he had never felt before. It reflected smooth, yet was matte to touch; the deep black stole the heat from his hands.
Axy opened the casing from its’ anterior central line. The interior of the helmet was lined with painfully sharp and short cannula needles ready to plunge into Inci’s skull. An iron maiden that would grant immortality to the brain.
Dr. Dents’ delicacy was put to the test as he carefully retracted and lined the needles to their correct entry points, he tensed as he noted the deadly saw bladed collar. He secured the power cable and took a long time referring to the instructions Inci had prepared for him.
After ensuring everything was surgically sound; he slipped the blueprints into his inner pockets.
‘Here we go,’ Axy felt strange again, ‘I love you, Inci.’
‘See you on the other side, brother.’ Inci closed his eyes.
The helmet was in place, resting open behind his head. Axy considered the last moment of normality in his life, and with the passing of the thought he closed the helmet around Inci’s face.
He screwed all of its’ bolts carefully; attaching all the prepared tubes linked to syringes of various intravenous fluids. With his well practiced surgical precision; he delicately pressed each needle sharp cannula into place across the skull.
Inci winced at each entry, but gave his designated signal that he was still conscious. With everything correctly installed and confirmed; Axy activated the Head Cases’ power.
There was nothing, at first; but then he heard it. A sound he would never, ever, forget. Crunching, sucking and screaming blasted forth from within the helmet.
Axy started to panic, had he done it all right? Inci’s whole body began to spasm as his knuckles blazed white and his veins pulsed violently. The eyes of the helmet glowed yellow through the black metal; as his body writhed and struggled against the restraints.
‘Oh, what have you done, Inci?’ Axy whined, ‘what on earth have I done?’
Axy considered pulling the helmet off before Inci started screaming for him to; but what if he was to hurt him more? Inci was spasmodic, slamming his whole body back and forth against the chair.
The nausea returned viciously, bringing Axys’ meagre lunch with it. Before it welled out of his throat, he turned away from the chair and heaved through the grated floor. Once his stomach was empty, his body was forced to wretch again, and again. A sensation so foul, so violent and real, it consumed Axy’s awareness.
‘Aack-‘ he heard from behind him, ‘Aah-Ksee…!’
He heard the singing of a saw; a sickening snapping and then a steady pouring of liquid. His entire being ran cold with dread — he had looked away, the one thing he wasn’t to do.
Turning to a sight worse than his mind could ever have prepared him for; every nightmare he had ever experienced seemed like a joke in comparison.
Inci’s body was limp and leaning forward; he had been separated from his head, and his open, cleanly cut neck was pumping a steady, beating torrent of dark red blood. It echoed as it fell and pooled at the bottom of the cores’ sphere.
The nano-particles in the fluid began to desperately heal the wound, narrowing the squirting as the neck closed up; spraying Axy with gore.
The helmet dangled from its’ wires, bouncing lightly. The power cable was taking all of the weight and wasn’t taking it well. Axy leapt forward to catch his brothers’ head from falling; getting drenched in the warm fluid as he did so. ’Aah- Ksee,’ Inci’s voice protruded through speakers ringing inside the helmet, ‘I- did- it?’
‘Inci…?’ Axy asked delicately, as he cradled his brothers’ mind, ‘are you…?’
He was amazed his brother could still talk.
‘We-,‘ the six eyes dimmed, ‘did- i-‘
His voice disappeared; the amazement drained into terror.
‘In- Inci?’ he daren’t move, ‘Inci!?’
The eyes flickered lightly, before diving down into the deepest darkness; dragging Axy’s sanity with it.
He was found much later, cradling his brother’s lifeless head, covered in blood and weeping. As soon as Incis’ allocated time was up, fellows of the company burst into the scene.
Many researchers’ would go on to receive therapy for what they saw; but not Axy. They arrested him as the culprit of the crime, quickly summoning a judge and assembling a jury. The process was swift and airtight; brought to a close within a few hours.
‘You are to be stripped of all association to us,’ explained the judge, ‘if you wish to continue living; you are to be exiled from the inner city.’
Axy was not responding, but he acknowledged; sitting before the court room pathetic and silent. Everything was taken in the proceedings; his family, friends, and his title.
The court ruled to seize his brother’s remains for research purposes; explaining that the technology Inci had developed was to be examined extensively for potential public release. Should Axy try to enforce his copyright and patent, they would see him erased; seeming more disappointed of Inci’s results than condemning.
It was desperate for its’ next breakthrough achievement, and Inci had just given it to them. This service to their cause, however underhanded, was to be rewarded with the sparing of Axy’s life.
With nothing but the clothes he stood in Axy was hauled through the pristine inner city doors, dragged across the bridge and thrown to the floor of the outer city.
‘One more thing,’ the city guard loomed over Axy brandishing a deeply curved knife, ‘we’ll be taking your eye phone.’