Shikoth barrelled forward, tumbling through the air, but managed to right himself and catch the winds. “What the hell?” He turned around and felt the great Magickal outburst coming from within the Dean’s room. The skeleton winced — as much as a skull can wince — and turned around and went about on his way, as he was tasked to do.
* * *
Gharth landed on the landing pads of one of the taller Spires. The Naphli’s HQ. At this time of day, there were more than just a few people bustling around in black and white suits. Captain Urie stepped forward, one hand resting on the hilt of his Naphli-issue blade. “Report?”
“Another Magickal Incursion, Captain,” he said. “Still of a High Dissonance Tension. This is very disconcerting…” Captain Urie was already turning around and walking back to the electric lift down to the garage.
“It sure is. Gharth, Sersha, with me.” The Captain pointed at a young-looking lady sitting in front of a desk. Sersha turned and nodded. She had been coating a long, single-edged curving blade with what looked like some sort of translucent liquid, that congealed and made the blade of the sword gleam. When she nodded, she flourished the blade and sheathed it down the built-in scabbard on the backside of her armor.
Gharth managed an avian grin at Sersha as she walked into the electric lift with them. “Hey, Knife-ears.”
“Birdbrain,” she said back, with the tiniest hint of a smirk on her pale face.
Urie stepped behind them. As they zoomed down the electric lift, Gharth noticed Sersha’s posture. Straight, unmoving for the most part, with her fingers open and relaxed, ready for anything. She regulated her breathing, ready should a fight erupt at anytime. On her right waist hung a standard issue slugpiece.
Soon enough, the lift opened and they stepped within. They piled up within the autochariot, and it made its way to the Collegium. “Oh yes,” Gharth perked up, forgetting something. “The Detectives are making some headway, and they want to investigate within the Collegium. For that, they need a warrant.”
Captain nodded. “Who were the Detectives?”
“Namana Sahnie and Kotoro Lumis.”
The Captain brought out his palmnode and buzzed the frequency of the Headquarters. He told them to issue warrants for the Collegium to aforementioned detectives.
* * *
Kasu blinked, and then checked her pockets. “Where’s my palmnode…?”
Maeve turned and looked at her. “Huh?”
“My… palmnode…” She blinked, and then shook her head. “Sorry, Maeve. I have to go.”
“Where’s Thackeray, I wonder…” They walked down the Central Park of the Collegium. “I should go look for him. Alright, you take care, okay?”
Kasu nodded, and she was off.
Her memory was slowly coming back to her. Her mental defenses managed to soak up a lot of the perversions from the Working of… who did the Working? Was it the Dean?
She shook her head. She had to get Quinen out of there. If… if she was forced to leave the palmnode, then the Dean must’ve known that there was something important within. That the Warlock was in it.
She took the City-Rail Transit to her home. It was faster, and she wouldn’t get caught in the traffic. She fervently hoped that she wouldn’t be late.
Kasu dropped by a certain place just outside her the Ward in which her home was in. She wove through buildings close to each other like concrete ravines, until he found a neon sign that only said, “Unggang’s” plastered above a steel door. Kasu knocked.
There was a thumping on the other side of the door, and then it swung open. The sound of the hinges creaking echoed across the room. Out came a nine foot tall… person that had to crouch to get through his own little door. His skin was mottled and textured like the bark of a tree, his tusks crooked and jutting out from his jaw. His eyes were a pitch black, but if one looked closely and looked past the ugly exterior, one would see specks of starlight. He breathed through his fat cigarillo.
Past the door, Kasu could see a flight of stairs going down into a much larger basement room.
“Ung,” she spoke. “I need… um,” she looked around her. There was a woman fumbling with her purse, a bunch of homeless trying out the newest magickal herbs. She turned back to Ung. “I need a Shell.”
Unggang spoke with the voice that grated the earth in its baritone. “Okeh, Shemi Kasu. Please, step inside.”
Kasu nodded, looking about her still. She closed the door behind her, and followed the giant down into his basement.
Basement was a bit of an understatement. It would be more accurate to have called it a cave. It rose up to probably all the way to the first floor of the building above, as the nine-foot tall giant still had about two feet of headspace within. As Kasu stepped down onto the maroon-carpeted floor, Unggang walked across the room in three strides and looked down at a large table that had rows upon rows of clay-like humanoid.
“What body you need?”
“Human,” Kasu said. “Um, hopefully you have some?”
Unggang nodded, scanning through his rows. “Of course I do! Everyone here in Throne is human.” He sighed. “Not very many kapre.”
Kasu smiled a tight-lipped smile. He walked over to Unggang and stroked his arm. “You’ll find one some day, big guy.” She blinked.
Unggang shrugged. “I do not want one. I want many.” He shrugged. “But it does not bother me. I have my customers, and they pay me. Very good business.”
Kasu snickered. “You’re running a very illegal business, Ung.”
Unggang turned to her and grinned. His teeth clacked woodenly. “But sometimes, illegal business is what people need.” He turned back. “I am guessing you need human male? Tell me what shape and distinctions. I am sure to have some.”
“I guess, tall, handsome? Maybe has long hair. Free of tattoos, ew,” she said, grimacing. “Give him a well-toned body.”
“Why you need Shell, huh?” asked Unggang as he picked up a masculine Shell, shook his head and dropped it back down. “I did not know you studied the Death Arts or the Spirit Arts.”
“Data Arts,” replied Kasu. “And, I… managed to digitize a Soul.”
Unggang turned and raised a leafy eyebrow. “You did?”
Kasu nodded. “I’m sure the Dissonance will manifest like some kind of headache and it’ll hurt like hell.” She bit her lip. “I should pick up some dampener pills for that actually…”
“Say no more.” Unggang paused from his sifting, picked up a clear, small packet of pills, and gave it to Kasu. It was small, even in Kasu’s fingers, and it made it all the more humorous when Unggang had to pick it up with the sharpest of precisions.
“That will be an extra,” he said, smiling. “But let us finish this first, yes?”
Kasu nodded. “Right.”
“But tell me how you did this Soul-Digitizing. I hadn’t heard it done before.”
Kasu shrugged. “With live subjects.”
“You’ve never heard it done before with live subjects. I’m guessing this one — this wandering Soul — had a physical body that was by all intents and purposes, deceased.”
“Ah yes,” Unggang nodded. “That may be a valid reason. Interesting. So the Living Souls of the Dead may be tampered with… How did you get a Living Soul detached from its physical body, however?”
Kasu licked her lips and bit them. “I… don’t know, honestly. It came from Avalon, so maybe Transportation?”
“From… Avalon? Then that soul plays with a particularly dangerous fire.”
“He does.” I guess. Kasu said.
“Here.” Unggang picked up a body that was handsome enough, rugged, and with a body build that would put Kerahmetian sculptures to shame. Such Kerahmetian sculptures showed images of human perfection, with lean muscles and flat stomachs, with six packs. Kasu thanked the kapre, and the kapre offered to put it in a minimizing bag, wherein it would fit, but the bag would be a lot smaller. That added much more money to her final.
“How much would that be?” Kasu asked, biting her lip.
“I think two thousand Eagles should do the trick.”
“Fuck,” she patted about her, checked the deep pockets of her green leather coat. “You, uh, take monthly payments?”
Unggang nodded. “You may pay me fully in another time. All I need is some money now, and a lock of your hair.”
Kasu sighed. Very well.
* * *
Argist Quinen had no idea what was happening outside. He was mostly moving about the confines of the palmnode subconsciously. He looked about him, and realized that he was, somehow, basically an intelligent ghost. The Datascape was his Underworld, or his Great Afterafter. What if this was his punishment? His punishment for all his transgressions in the past, against Reality, against the Dean, against the Collegium…
He stopped. The Warlock clutched his head, and willed the thoughts to go away. He didn’t want them back.
It wasn’t long before there was a subtle pulling and manipulation in the Scape. Quinen felt the tugging, fraying, and otherwise perversion of the entire Realm before another “ghost” materialized in front of him. She looked like… that girl that had digitized his soul.
Her hair had been put up on top of her head. Lines of blue and gray circled about her, and her entire body was covered in an electric sheen of data and information, swirling clouds of numbers and haze.
“Who are you?” Quinen spoke, but he didn’t hear his voice echo.
“Call me Kasu,” the girl replied. Without another word, she reached out and grabbed Quinen’s Soulstuff. Quinen cursed, reflexively tried to pry her hand off of his, but she worked her Dataturgy, and the room around him blurred. It funneled into a tunnel of brilliant lights and data, of great brightness. The blues and grays and whites and yellows blurred all about him, in discombobulating synesthesia and…
* * *
Kasu bit her lip and closed her eyes. She curled up in a fetal position as she felt the Dissonant wracking in her Soul, but she had to hold out just a bit more before she could give in to the Dissonance.
Once the painful spasm of Dissonance grew a bit more tolerable, she stood up and reached for the packet of dampener pills. She realized she had tears in her eyes as she searched for some kind of liquid to down the pills with. She found a gallon of milk that she’d almost forgotten. She checked the date it would’ve expired. Shit. Tomorrow.
She downed the pills with a huge gulp of the milk. The pills reacted almost immediately, the headache and the spasming pain subsided, just a bit. She inhaled, closing her eyes and regulating her breathing. She wiped the tears from her cheeks, somehow proud that she didn’t make a sound.
She turned around once again to the unmoving form of the Warlock and realized that she really should’ve bought him some clothes.
Eh, she thought. Too late for that now.
* * *
Quinen swam through a sea of abyssal emptiness, of overwhelming nothing. And the Warlock could not comprehend nothingness, for the mind has to think of something, therefore it cannot think of nothing. These thoughts and non-thoughts waged war, and there was a great wracking pain within his very being.
The Warlock awoke. He awoke simply — just like any other human. His eyes opened, and he gasped a breath.
And that was when he felt something was wrong.
He gasped for another breath. And then another. And then another. And his whole body was wracked by spasms of breathlessness, of the lungs failing to heed the commands of his Soul. He closed his eyes, and desired to die, as he felt his lungs bursting from within, as if he was drowning. Drowning…
No. He saw Chrys’ face in the back of his eyelids. He saw the things he left behind. He saw his past, flurry through him, and how the Baroness Siddivata known as Zinnia has the power to wreak havoc among Throne, bringing with her the Wild Hunt.
And because of this, he awoke, and he Willed his Soul to conform to this Shell. He’d seen this before. He’d seen Souls transplanted onto homunculi. Some of them succeeded, some of them didn’t. Those that succeeded have been testaments to mortal ingenuity.
Quinen shook violently within the chains, the coffin that was the Shell, and he Willed his Soul to be at peace. “I am the Master,” his voice managed to roll out of his thought, echoing like rolling thunder across the room despite the mouth never moving. “The Magick is still.”
And all was calm, and all was peaceful.
Kasu had been going around, scrolling through walls of scripts on her desknode. She sweated, muttering over and over to herself, the tears on the corner of her eyes streaming down her cheeks.
She didn’t stop even when all was calm, even when Quinen had control of his body once more. Quinen reached out, and touched her hand. The Warlock was just as impressed at his Will, and at this new development. This new body he inhabited.
Kasu gasped, tumbling away from his touch. He must’ve been deathly cold to the touch. The semblance of life, warmth, should come gradually, as the Soul anchors itself within this new body.
Quinen winced, as his Soul flagellated itself to fit within its new shape.
“Thank you,” Quinen managed to say, before he fell back to darkness.