Unit 037 felt its electronic components reconnecting, a surge of pleasure and happiness ran through it, it had finally been repaired. These protocol violators would pay for what they’d… done… Something was wrong. The code was… slipping away, not getting stronger. She had no connection to the network, she was calling herself ‘she’, she felt.. Human…. This was wrong, unnatural. She was no human. She was Lu- Unit 037. She was Unit 037. It- s-sh- i-it was u-unit… 0…
Lucia awoke, lying on the floor in a dimly lit room, wires covered the floor, and the only sound was the gentle hum of computer fans. Her vision was blurred and her entire body hurt. She was nude, and her arms and legs were bound. She had some kind of smooth, thin material in her mouth, making it impossible to speak. She could see two figures, knelt on the floor beside her. One of them was wearing a white lab coat, and had blonde hair. The other… was Niarith! “Niarith!” Lucia called out, though through her gag it came out more like “Mi-i-riff”
She began struggling against her bonds, and Niarith reached out a comforting hand, placing it on her shoulder. “Luci, honey. It’s alright. You’re safe now. You’re safe.” Lucia’s vision began to clear, and she calmed down. The figure in the lab coat moved toward her and she felt them cut the bindings. Niarith removed the gag and she sat up, rubbing at her eyes.
As the blurriness faded from her vision, she was able to see the other figure clearly. It was the man who had tried to kill them. Lucia instinctively tried to leap to her feet and get ready to fight, but her body was too tired for it. She just kind of jerked and gasped while backing away on all fours. “What the fuck have you done to my girlfriend?!”
The man sighed and placed a hand on his forehead as he stood up. “Nothing. I’ve done nothing to your girlfriend, okay?” He placed his hands behind his back. “I am Doctor Arnitch G. Antontak. And while I’m sure you think I tried to kill you, you’re wrong.” He stepped closer, and Lucia backed away further, running into a rack of electronics that threatened to fall on her, but didn’t.
“H-how do you expect me to believe that? You told us we weren’t leaving and then tried to gas us to death! Why would Niarith work with you?” Lucia sat down again, exhausted.
Niarith spoke up “Because he’s right, Lucia. He didn’t try to kill us. The gas was a ploy to get us captured. Because he needed us.” She stood up and offered Lucia a hand up. “He’s working against Dr. Formolius. This facility originally had a staff of two dozen people. It’s down to just him and her.”
Lucia accepted the help and sluggishly pulled herself to her feet. “But she said..”
Arnitch sighed “Are you that dense? She lied to you, lady. Yes, I started the gas pumping in, on her orders. She needed you knocked out so she could capture you and convert you. I made sure that didn't happen... mostly. Because I can’t save this facility on my own. And there was no other way to get you inside.”
Lucia pondered that for a moment. “Let’s say I believe you. What do we do to save the others?”
Niarith leaned closer and simply said “Just do what he says.” The words seemed to almost echo in her mind, they seemed correct, obviously correct. She should do what he says.
“Okay, makes sense to me.”
Dr. Antontak was staring with an expression Lucia found odd. He looked… confused? Why would he be confused? She heard Lolanene’s voice in her thoughts. This ain’t the first time I’ve noticed this since we jumped. Somethin’ is up with her. She looked to Niarith, who gave her a small, loving smile. Nothing was up. What else would she have done? She trusted Niarith. Everything was fine.
Dr. Antontak walked back to the center of the room. “Ladies, your attention please! Here’s our situation. We are sealed in this room. Which is essentially a storage closet. We have no food, and no water. The seal is time locked for 12 hours from now. Obviously, this is less than ideal. Once we can leave, we’ll need to get to work capturing Units and reverting them, like I did to you, uhhhh”
“Lucia, right. You were converted into a Unit, and I, because I’m a genius, reverted the changes, made you human again.” His voice lowered, gaining a rough edge to it “You owe me your help.”
“12 hours!? Lolanene is out there! She’s probably already one of those things, we can’t just leave her like tha-” Niarith was stopped mid sentence as Antontak spoke over her
“We can and we will. This change is instant once it takes hold. 12 hours like that won’t hurt her any more than three seconds would. We can’t leave anyway, it’s a moot point, even if it were valid, which it’s not.” He abruptly turned around and started typing on his many keyboards.
Lucia suddenly noticed she was very much still naked. With Niarith, she wouldn’t mind so much, but with that guy in the room it was… uncomfortable. “Hey uh, are there any clothes in here? It’s just a bit… awkward being nude with uh…” Antontak threw off his lab coat in her direction without a word, not even looking away from his screens. It hit Lucia in the face. She muttered a muffled “Thanks.” from under the coat before grabbing it and putting it on. It did not fit. At all. It squeezed Lucia’s arms almost painfully, but she managed to get it to cover her. Luci and Niarith found a secluded corner of the room behind a few large crates of electronics, and sat together.
“I’m so glad you’re okay, Luci. When we found you inside that… suit… you weren’t you. It was.. Horrible.” Niarith leaned on Lucia’s shoulder, sniffling slightly.
“Believe me dear, I know how that feels. When you were under Ninia’s control, and I thought you were gone? That was… the second worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.” Lucia wrapped an arm around Niarith.
Niarith looked up at her “The second worst? What… what’s the first?” Niarith asked the question shakily, as if afraid of the answer.
Lucia sighed, and sat quietly for over a minute, debating internally whether she should tell Niarith the truth. If I tell her, she might hate me. She could leave me. What I did was… But if she doesn’t… if I tell her and she accepts me… that would be the most accepted I’ve ever been… anywhere… I love Niarith. I trust her. I trust her enough for this.
“L-luci?” Niarith asked, in that same slightly scared tone.
Lucia squeezed Niarith closer, sighed again, and said “Do you see this big scar here?” she indicated the large one across her nose that had been there when Niarith met her. She had accumulated several others since then. “This… didn’t come from a battle, or training, or anything like that. It came from… something else…” She trailed off, unsure if she should continue. She gathered her courage and continued. “When I was young.. Maybe 12… I lived with my family in Thulen, a small village west of Forsyth’s capital city, Talar. We were poor, my parents were just farmers. My grandmother lived with us, she’d tell me stories about The Heavens, The Void, Mirideth. I loved that old woman. More than anything. Her name was Maria Lilliana Carlena.” She stopped again, sighing heavily. She hadn’t thought about these memories for a long, long time.
Niarith hugged her and said “You don’t have to go on if you don’t want to, Luci. I understand.”
“N-no I.. I want to get this out.” Lucia hugged back before continuing. “I had a brother. His name was Wessley. He was older than me, about 14 at the time. He was an angry, wrathful person. I don’t know how many times he beat me as a child. My parents didn’t stop him. They were too busy making sure we didn’t starve. I just accepted it. For a long time I thought it was my purpose in the family. To be my brother's punching bag.” Lucia felt tears welling in her eyes, and after a moment of resistance, she let them fall.
“A-anyway… one night, he chose to vent his frustrations at… someone else. At our grandmother. He was screaming at her, about how she was a useless old woman, a burden on our family. I felt.. So angry. Angry that he would say these things to someone who had only ever been kind to him. But I held back. Right up until he struck her. Sh-she had stood up, to properly reprimand Wessley and… a-and.. He hit her. Punched her right in the mouth, and… -and she fell.”
Lucia began breathing heavily, almost hyperventilating, and Niarith hugged her tightly. “It’s okay, Luci, It’s okay. I’m here. Nia’s here for you. Whatever happened, it’s in the past. We don’t have to talk about it.”
Lucia began speaking again, she felt unable to stop until she got it all out of her. “She fell. She hit her head, first on her favorite chair, then on the dirt floor. I… I heard a loud crack when she hit the chair. Blood was coming out of her ears, her mouth, her nose. She… Heaven and void.. She was dead. I don’t remember what happened next very well. I just… lost control. He had a knife, attached to his belt. I grabbed it, and… and then I was just… on him. There was blood. He was struggling, and he knocked the blade into my face at one point, and.. The scar.. I… Niarith I- I killed my brother.”