Cassidy Barnes skated through the ashes of a long dead world, humming a tune she'd heard on a phonograph as a little girl. It was a sad song but she smiled as she hummed, which seemed appropriate given the circumstances.
She looked down at her wrist computer, checking that she was heading towards the right coordinates. Feeling her back, she felt her fist wrap around the cold steel of her Winchester .308, firmly secured to her tactical vest.
So little life left and here she was going to destroy some of it. Still, if she didn't then someone else would. And the Duke was giving her good money. She could buy a really nice pattern with it or maybe a couple of alright ones to try out just for fun.
She felt like her own pattern was pretty nice. There was a kind of pretty and melancholic quality to her world, an intertwining of beauty and death which characterized her everyday reality. She could probably make some money if she saved up to get a brain scan and licensed it. But she didn't like the idea of some doctor rooting around in her head. She had heard nasty things about what neurodocs could get up to when they put you under, how they could do more than just extract a world-pattern but would sometimes implant things too, subtle things, make little changes that added up to a lot. She had seen some nasty things too.
And she liked her own pattern. A change of pace was nice every once and awhile, but she didn't wanna lose it. She especially didn't want anyone messing with it against her will. She had had one friend, Lucas, and well she didn't like to think about him. It made her want to curl up into a ball and die, thinking back to him all made-up and kitted out in fishnets, serving as a neurodoc's footstool. The smile on his face, so blank and empty, certainly upset her. She didn't like how it made her feel. She didn't like it. She didn't.
No, there was something beautiful and romantic and attractive about her own world-pattern. It was sad to think that she was living in a dying world and she was contributing to it dying, but it was realistic and it had a poetry to it and she certainly didn't want to lose it. She certainly didn't. Not at all. Certainly not to be some oblivious cocksleeve for a skeezy neurodoc. She didn't want that at all. No, she didn't.
Skating ahead, she slid to a halt by the side of a building, peaking around the corner, gun drawn, to check for sleepers. Her thermovision goggles would pick out a normie in a heartbeat, but sleepers had a very low body heat, being effectively in a kind of hibernation, meaning she could spot them even through the dense dust clouds that covered the surface but just barely.
Cassidy tightened her mask just in case. She had double-checked it before leaving the bunker, but being reminded of the toxic dust and thinking of Lucas had made her paranoid. As bad as some sleaze with a brainwashing device might be they would (presumably) leave you somewhat recognizably human, while a sleeper was very much not. Hell, they were barely even alive. A sleeper was little more than walking meat, was what he had told her the first time they went out on a scavenging run together.
He never would take missions like this. His world-pattern included an ethic. Hers was merely aesthetic. That was what he had told her one night, when he was drunk and strange and desperate. She had yelled back what a self-righteous loser he was, that he was just inventing excuses to be miserable, to isolate himself from others, so that he could claim some ownership over it, instead of just acknowledging that his life sucked and everybody hated him. That was the last time they had talked. So she had some guilt, understandably. So much for her not having an ethic, she thought.
Still, she was skating out here, under cover of dust, to assassinate some crazy idiot who was probably just going to get herself killed anyway. That is, if the story the Duke had told her was even slightly true. She fully believed there were people who were just so broken by existence that they would go out there and let themselves get turned and that some of them were unable to admit that was what they were doing, since it was so obviously stupid and went against their survival instincts (that animal tendency to want to live even when the rational brain is screaming for death), so they made up little stories, like that they had magical powers to "control" the sleepers and that they were going to use them to take over (what was left of) the world rather than just becoming another sleeper.
But those people would obviously end up as sleepers soon enough, no need for a Duke to offer such a handsome sum to have a crack sharpshooter take them out. The Duke was probably just paranoid, she reflected as she headed down a slope, rifle in hand, to the overlook above the grove where this "preacher" had been seen by the sole survivor of a trading caravan unlucky enough to cross paths with her, and was throwing away money at any rumor of a threat. Probably he had been hurt before.
Cassidy slowed to a stop in front of an overturned Cadillac, putting one hand against it to steady herself as she made her way over to the front, peeking over to see the trademark lime green fog which surrounded groves. "New dust," they called it, fresh from the source, a sign that a crater of toxic ooze was nearby.
Keeping low, rifle at the ready, eyes flittering about and head turning like a bird's to take in her surroundings, Cassidy dashed along into the fog, reminding herself that she was wearing a properly maintained and secured face mask and undergarments (the dust could easily penetrate any opening and infect the body. Even a wide cut could lead to turning, something she was all too viscerally aware of. She recalled Mar begging her to slit their throat and tried to steady her grip).
Below her the barren landscape seemed to turn to rotting, putrid life. Bright green and orange vegetation covered in spikes and leaking orifices surrounded her, growing more and more dense as she approached the crater. She shivered again, skating for as long as she could before turning to awkwardly tramping through the landscape, careful not to get caught up in any vines. If she tripped into a bed of spikes, she would be a goner.
She reminded herself that, even if she wouldn't be able to retire after this job, she could at least take a nice long break from the wastes. It would give her time to reflect, to collect herself, to decide what she really wanted out of life, to process a lot of things that had happened, like what her relationship with Lucas had really been. He had been her friend, her mentor. Had she loved him? It was too painful to think about now, after what had happened to him. She thought that she had, maybe. But how could she admit it? It would just make it too painful, having seen him like that, happily guzzling a con artist's cum and calling him, "Daddy."
Cassidy stopped to steady herself again. She punched herself in the face, as hard as she could without falling over, six times. This was no time to be thinking about that. She had a fucking job to do! Jesus fucking Christ! This was life or death! She needed to focus!
"You don't need to do anything…" came a whisper on the wind.
She winced, wanting to shout back, but knowing that if she was just hearing things she would've gotten herself killed for nothing. Hell, even if she wasn't just hearing things shouting back might get herself killed. Even if someone knew she was here, they might not know quite where she was unless…
Cassidy looked down, body filling with anxiety as she saw the cracked bone underneath her. The dust grass was growing out of a corpse and she had stepped on it.
She looked around, trying to find moving bodies among the dust grass (sleepers and dust grass had about the same heat level, making sleepers even harder to spot and making the whole area just a little warmer than the surrounding wastes), before letting out an "Oof!" as she fell back, curling up to protect her head and letting her hands fall in front of her to catch herself as she felt a hand wrap around her foot. Her rifle fell to the ground.
Heart rate rising, chest pounding, stomach sinking, she pulled her foot away, snapping the hand off as she stepped forward, rising back to her feet but looking down again to see the "corpse" below her stirring to half-life.
"Eek!" she screeched, turning around and stamping its head with her foot, causing the sleeper to explode into a snot yellow pus.
She breathed a deep sigh of relief. Reaching down, she picked up her rifle.
But looking around her, Cassidy saw more bodies rising. An ambush! She had never known sleepers to act this intelligently before… Had the Duke's paranoid delusions been correct?
She tried her best to shoot as many of them as she could, spinning around rapidly to blow their heads off before they could get too close. But any hope of catching this preacher off-guard had been lost a long time ago, if she had ever had one. How had this freak known that she was coming?
Giving up on the job, those damned survival instincts kicking in, Cassidy began skating back out of the grove's area of effect, towards the comfortable orange dust clouds where everything was nice and dead and she could think romantic thoughts about death instead of being surrounded by active decay trying to claim her.
With a yelp she hit the ground again, another hand grabbing her foot and sending her tumbling to the ground, her head smacking against some vines. A thin clear liquid coated the back of her head.
Cassidy tried to pull herself away again, but found this grip to be stronger, superhumanly strong, in fact. Sweat dripped from her brow as she found herself being dragged up, her entire body dangling from one hand as this incredibly strong sleeper raised itself to its feet, turning her over to let the blood rush to her head.
Another hand reached down and began grabbing at her hair, roughly at first, but then more gently, caressing it, and despite herself Cassidy found herself relaxing a little bit.
Blinking, she willed herself back into a panic and started clawing as best she could at the hand stroking her, only for it to slap her away.
"Bad girl!" came a husky voice and Cassidy shrunk, her hands clutching her chest protectively.
The scratching of her scalp promptly resumed. They were deep, long, comforting scratches. Cassidy felt a tension being released and she wanted to moan but she had just the barest semblance of self-control.
The hand moved behind her ear and Cassidy's chest softened and her hands fell by her side and she just sighed a little under her breath.
"Now there's a good girl…" the voice said and Cassidy's cheeks turned red.
"W- who are you?" she muttered at last.
"Oh, I am nobody now," she cooed, "And who I was is as irrelevant as who you are now. What I am is a function, that of speaking for the dreamers in the waking world."
Cassidy stammered, her body twitching to life again, "W- what? You mean, you are…?"
"Those fools said I seemed to be 'preaching' to the 'sleepers,' but that is ridiculous. I only channel the dust, as we all do, but in a way that those who are painfully awake can hear it. If I 'preach' to anyone it is you, my little pet. I am a kind of missionary to your world."
"O- okay." There was an internal logic to what this crazy woman was saying. She had a very strange world-pattern, but it was consistent with itself. The only question was why the sleepers hadn't turned her yet. And how she was able to lift Cassidy with one slender arm…
"I'm sure you've been through a lot. Everyone has. Trauma and strife, it is part of our existence. Especially now, as your world falls apart to make way for the new one… And I can assure you, it feels very nice to sleep, to dream…"
Cassidy gulped. "You mean, you're going to turn me into one of them!"
The woman giggled. "Ah, you're so very sweet, kitten! So scared… You understand you're just a little toy to me, don't you? Something for me to play with, something for me to use…"
"Well, um…" Cassidy's cheeks were getting more and more flushed. "I just wanna know your plans… So that I can, um, escape them?" Had her defenses been penetrated? Maybe she had gotten a cut she didn't realize. Confusion and lightheadedness she had seen from Mar, before they turned… Was that what was happening? But Mar had been anxious and upset, a nervous wreck… And as much as she hated to admit it, a woman holding her upside down and stroking her hair, her face, her chin… It was very relaxing. And, um, a little exciting…
The woman pressed Cassidy against her, moving her one hand down and the other up to hold her against her chest, leaving Cassidy's legs dangling over the woman's shoulders. Maybe she could wrap herself around this lunatic's neck, choke her out and end things… But she would easily have time to pull off Cassidy's mask, meaning she was going to get turned either way… And this was certainly a far more pleasant way for things to end, if she had to go…
She had always called herself a romantic pessimistic or a romantic stoic, so why not enjoy herself before that final sleep?
The woman carried Cassidy, rubbing her back and cooing as she brought her down some distance, presumably into the crater, rocking the tired girl into a state of deep relaxation. "There, there…" she murmured. "Such a good girl…"
Cassidy shut her eyes and purred.
The woman let out another giggle. "Such a good little kitty…"
Cassidy felt her head going fuzzier and fuzzier, overwhelmed by praise.
The woman stopped. Cassidy heard something bubbling. "You really have been through a lot, haven't you, kitten?" the woman said.
Cassidy nodded. "Yeah…"
"It's okay now, sweetie…" The woman dropped her softly down into the comforting embrace of the dust grass, which grew without spikes here, so close to the dust vents, and intertwined with each other to form a kind of springy mattress for Cassidy to lay on. "You're going to sleep now, for a long, long time… And there'll be nothing to trouble you anymore…"
Cassidy blinked. She tensed up slightly. "Yeah…"
The woman leaned down. It was clear from her heat signature that she really was a sleeper, but you wouldn't know to look at her. Her long, black hair looked healthy and strong. She was a bit skinny maybe, but her skin was dark brown instead of a sickly gray-green. "Good girl," she muttered, smiling as she patted Cassidy softly on the head.
"Don't you think you've been through enough?" she continued, "Suffered enough? Lost enough? And for what? All just to survive, to live a bare life, a life of pain, a life hardly worth living, and all to bring you to me… Are you really going to try to evade destiny at the final moment?"
"What?" Cassidy shrunk, while the woman leaned down further, wrapping her up in her arms again.
"Has it all been for nothing? Day after day, like some feeble insect, working so hard just to keep going, just for a little taste of escape? Don't you want out? And death is not a way out. It is just an end. It leads nowhere. I am offering you something. And that something is to be nothing." She stroked Cassidy's hair lovingly. "But a meaningful nothing, a useful nothing, a happy nothing… You'll be so blank and empty and happy, when I'm done with you…"
Cassidy blinked again. "I still don't…" she started to say, before the woman squeezed her tighter and she shut her eyes and her head slumped forward and she purred again and the woman just kept patting her on the back and saying "Good girl, good girl, good girl…" over and over, until Cassidy started to drift off.
"Nothing to think about, nothing to worry about, nothing to fear… No stress or anxiety… Knowing only purpose, only pleasure, only obedience…" the woman muttered, slowly pushing Cassidy over the lip of some kind of crevice. Bubbles of cold liquid seemed to float up, tickling the smaller woman's back and making her giggle.
It was so nice, feeling small and safe and held… She couldn't remember the last time she was held…
Looking up one last time, Cassidy saw the woman's smile was truly warm, wonderful, loving… There was no doubt in her mind that this woman was genuine and Cassidy felt tears forming as she slipped down and felt herself covered in pale green liquid, surrounding her and beginning to penetrate her, soaking in through her pores, melting her clothing but somehow not her flesh.
The liquid destroyed the strap on her mask, leaving it to float away and freeing her nose and mouth to soak in as much of it as she could (it tasted incredible, so wonderfully sweet, and she seemed to have no trouble breathing in it). Her protective undergarments similarly snapped and came loose, allowing it to soak into her vagina and ass and be absorbed, working through her body and transforming her internally, sending nice little tingles as different parts of her body seemed to shut down and sleep, ordinary bodily sensations becoming dulled at the same time as an intense pleasure overcame her, leaving her convulsing and moaning as she tried to take in more of the delicious ichor.
All the time her eyes stayed locked with those of her mysterious benefactor, her savior and prophet, the vessel of the divine ooze which was filling her and emptying her out. Her body hummed with pleasure as her mind went blank. The missionary woman reached down with a small bucket and the thing that had been Cassidy was confused for a second until she started retching and hacking on something and a thick red jelly dripped from her mouth until she finally coughed up a gory mess of bile and guts.
The thing giggled as the missionary woman wiped her mouth clean. "Such a good girl…" the woman murmured again, grinning.
She spasmed in ecstasy, splashing about in the liquid before falling back down to drink in more and more, as much as she could before the woman scooped her wrists together and pulled her up with one hand, leaving her wiggling and giggling, head exploding and melting, full of pleasure and little else…
The woman reached down and began playing gently with the thing's vagina, leading her into another spell of convulsions, legs squirming as she was pleasured until finally the tension eased up and a new wave of heat went through her, leaving her nice and relaxed and satisfied for a while.
A crowd of sleepers began to form around the two and the missionary woman released her to the horde, licking the juices off of her hand as the still dazed and happy sleeper girl sat there and was used, all of her holes and her hands being made good use of as she just giggled and smiled and occasionally choked or spat up some remaining bits of her discarded human anatomy until she was left completely exhausted, abandoned and lying there covered in a variety of fluids, head lolling back and body filled with pleasure and the satisfaction of a job well done, her benefactor watching over her serenely, already making plans for what to do next with her new plaything…