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“Fortress City qualifies as a mega-city. It was built to harbor the population of the entire western seaboard at maximum capacity.

“It is nowhere near maximum capacity.

“It’s Odd Summer’s fault of course. Plenty of terrible things occur to curb population growth. I’m not just talking about bad triggers or plain old-fashioned murderers either. One might be quick to blame supers for the body count, but the reality is that new supers are also the hardest hit demographic. One in three new supers don’t live past their first week, let alone their first summer. Think about that if you happen to get ‘lucky’.”

-Mr. K

 

 

Hellion’s Henchmen

 

“It’s the containment facility next to the highschool,” said Socket.

“Are you serious? How the hell would they not have noticed that?” asked Viper.

“Haven’t been any bad triggers at the school lately,” answered Rattleback, “And the school’s closed now anyway. Probably unmanned for the summer.”

“You’d think they’d at least hire a security guard to sit his ass there.”

“Those facilities all have automatic security systems,” said Socket with a shrug. “Our rat musta found a hole in the security.”

“Assuming he’s actually using it and not just under it,” said Rattleback. “If he’s inside then this could get a whole lot more complicated.”

“Imp is talking with Hellion right now," said Sandra, "he’ll let us know how she wants this handled."

 

The group collectively turned to watch Imp talking on his phone. They were still in the cafeteria, gathered around the table Tofu’s friend had been sitting at. The Tinker Tot had been sent to bed, and now it was only employees of HH in the cafeteria. Imp was a bit off to the side, pacing back and forth as he talked to their boss on the phone, and around the group of lieutenants was a gathering crowd of minions at the tables. No one had called the gathering together, most of them weren’t even on the clock, but everyone could tell that something was about to happen. Imp wasn’t saying much, and he was holding his phone farther and farther from his ear as the voice on the other end rose in volume.

 

Which meant they’d probably have orders soon.

 

The lieutenants quietly watched Imp pace for a minute longer. Then when his arm was almost fully extended away from his face, Hellion’s voice was interrupted by a large bang and crackle of static, and the call cut off.

 

Imp took a deep breath and sighed, then teleported his phone away, and turned to the table with his fellow lieutenants.

 

“Well. Hellion’s pissed.”

“No shit,” said Viper.

“I’ll order a new desk tomorrow,” added Rattleback.

 

Imp approached the group and leaned over the table, glancing at the map of likely locations. Then he addressed the group.

 

“Two things. First is the kidnap victims. They’ll of course be priority. Do we have any idea where they are?”

“They should be around here,” answered Socket, pointing at the likely hideout. “Tofu’s little friend helped narrow it down. Smack dab under a holding facility, or maybe even inside it.”

“Huh, kinda clever. C’s wouldn’t think to look there.”

“We could tip the heroes off ourselves, let them handle it,” suggested Sandra.

“No, not this time. This rat bastard has been targeting mutants, in Hellion’s territory, not a week after the city watched us wipe the Espada off the map. That needs to be answered, so we’ll be handling this ourselves. Whoever this person is they don’t get to walk away. Hellion’s orders.”

 

No one had any problems with that.

 

They began hashing out possible plans of approach. There were essentially three main details that needed to be accounted for: the hostages, the security system that might still be active, and the army of zombie horrors.

 

Sneak the hostages out? No, they didn’t have time to case the joint, and accidently being discovered partway through the operation would result in a super brawl with civies in the mix.

 

Frontal assault? Not likely. They had enough boneheads to handle the zombies, but that big eel thing Imp had fought would be too much for them. Sandra wouldn’t authorize it unless they had someone with the right powerset.

 

Bribe Turbo into pulling the hostages out while letting the villain ‘disappear’? No, if he didn’t go for it then they’d have alerted the heroes for no reason.

 

Let Hellion burn the zombie army down?

“Nope.”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Eff that.”

The lieutenants immediately discarded that suggestion. Way too much potential for collateral damage. Hellion was usually pretty good about controlling herself, but this issue had hit just a bit too close to home for their boss, so she was currently barricaded in her office until her temper cooled enough to be safe. Hellion had a lot of strengths, but subtlety and precision weren’t part of them.

 

Eventually they determined the plan with the highest chance of success would simply be to let Imp infiltrate and take the target out of the picture. The only potential downside was if the zombies didn’t fall over once their creator bit the dust. They needed one more infiltrator to go in with him and cover the hostages, preferably someone who wouldn’t risk tripping a sensor, and who could hold their own against the zombies until the boneheads arrived to even the odds.

 

Luckily, Imp knew just the minion.

 


 

The basement room was brightly lit. Extra lamps had been brought in and set up around the room to provide maximum visibility. Sturdy metal tables had also been dragged in to provide surfaces to work on, twelve total.

 

On each one was a corpse. Most of them mutant humans.

 

“Maybe add a few extra kidneys? Would that help the filtration?”

 

The voice came from a man sitting on a wheeled office chair next to one of the tables. A receding hairline, glasses, a striped button-up shirt and wrinkled slacks, not quite overweight, but definitely out of shape; the man was a picture of ordinary. In his hand was a book on biology, highschool level. He currently had it open to a page that detailed human organs.

 

The man turned away from the opened corpse in front of him and rolled his chair to the next table, where a fresh corpse with elongated arms and a scaled head waited. Then he had to wheel back briefly to grab the tool he forgot. The first incision went from stomach to sternum, cutting open the corpse with practiced movements (if somewhat imprecise). Then his phone rang, interrupting him. He sighed and wiped his hands on a towel before answering.

 

“Hey honey, what’s up?... Oh jeez it’s already so late, I didn’t notice... No no, nothing super important, just finishing up entering some final grades for the semester. The school closing early threw everything into chaos, you know how it is… Sure I can pick up milk on the way home, anything else while I’m at it?... Uh huh… sure… You made meatloaf? I’ll need to hurry this up then… Love you too, see you in, oh, an hour or so? Kiss kiss.”

 

The man hung up his phone, and quickly got back to cutting open the corpse, whistling as he did so. His good mood at learning about the meatloaf quickly faded though, quickly turning to frustration.

 

“Does this guy NOT have kidneys? What the hell. Goddamn mutants…” He grumbled as he searched for the elusive organs. Unfortunately he was interrupted again, this time by the sound of footsteps and scuffling.

 

There was only one door to the room, propped open with a stool, which allowed the approaching rat-hybrid to drag its catch into the room without fumbling with the latch. This particular specimen was mostly human-looking, except the head which had been borrowed from a rat, and hands which had been replaced with nessie tentacles. One of the resulting tentacle clusters was wrapped around the arm of a young human, about sixteen-seventeen, who had eyes with slit pupils, but was otherwise normal. The youth struggled to get himself free, but the rat-hybrid was stronger than it looked.

 

The rat-stitcher paused his work and sighed, “Like I’ve said over a dozen times now, don’t bring them to me, put them in the cells. I swear, even the eel is smarter than you damn rats.”

 

The creature began dragging away the boy, but not before he could ask, “Who are you? Do you control these things? Why are you doing this?”

 

“And this is why I want them brought to the cells…” muttered the rat-stitcher. “It’s nothing personal kid.”

 

“So it’s a job? You’re killing people for money?” The boy asked. He seemed somewhat out of it, asking questions in a deadpan voice that belied his situation. Understandable, considering what he had likely been through before arriving in the rat-stitcher’s lair.

 

“...Wait,” commanded the rat-stitcher. The rat-creature stopped, and the rat-stitcher turned to the boy with an exasperated sigh. “No, I’m not doing this for money. I wouldn’t kill this many people over something so frivolous as money. When I said it’s not personal, I meant it’s not personal between me and you.”

“Who is it between then?”

“My, you’re just full of questions. If only all my students had been the same.”

“You’re a teacher?”

 

The rat-stitcher ignored that question, and sat quietly before asking, “Which parent was the mutant?”

 

“What?”

“Your eyes. I’m just guessing of course, maybe you mutated yourself? If it were both parents I’d think you’d have something a bit more... dramatic.”

“...My father.”

“Mhm.” The rat-stitcher turned back to the corpse he had been digging through, gesturing at it with his hand. “Did you know mutavus inflicted mutations always become the dominant trait? It changes your very DNA you know. If a trait doesn’t get passed down it’s only because the other parent gave a better one. Peh, as if a virus knows what’s ‘better’ for a person. Someday it might only be mutants. Can’t let that happen.”

“That’s what this is about?”

 

The rat-stitcher gave the kid a sideways glance before looking away, seeming lost in thought. Finally, he spoke.

 

“...My daughter, she was a senior in highschool at the time. Her boyfriend was a mutant…. they weren’t careful enough, she got pregnant, there was a... complication. I’d never thought about the subject much, not until then…”

 

The rat-stitcher continued staring into the middle distance and waved them away, the rat-hybrid quickly dragging the boy off to the cells. After another minute he snapped out of whatever trance had gripped him, and looked around the room, taking in the mess.

 

“Better clean this up, I’m going to be late as it is.”

 

He started cleaning up his tools, sometimes grumbling about the missing kidneys. When the work was almost done though, a ringtone interrupted yet again.

 

Now what? The meatloaf’s going to get cold at this rate,” he said, reaching for his phone. But then he became confused when he saw the screen was still off, and the ringtone went off again, coming from somewhere else.

 

“Sorry, it’s my phone,” I replied.

 

The rat-stitcher jumped in fright, not expecting the ‘corpse’ I had disguised myself as to speak. I took advantage of his confusion to reach out and clamp a hand over his mouth, wrapping my elongated fingers around his head to keep a tight grip on him. He tried to scream and struggled, but couldn’t dislodge my makeshift gag. I waited, watching the door for any stitch-rat minions that might be coming.

 

Nothing came. It seemed the rat-hybrid creations really were controlled by verbal commands. That meant I had time.

 

I reached inside my crudely opened chest cavity, and withdrew my phone from the fleshy pocket it was hidden in. Seems Tim was giving me a call. I answered it.

 

“Hello Tim.”

“Hey Tofu. Hope I’m not calling too late.”

“You’re not. I’m actually at work anyways, I’ve got the late shift at the warehouse.”

“Oh, well I can call back tomorrow if you’re working.”

“It’s fine, I’ve got a moment. What’s up?”

“I was going to go part hunting at Cedric’s Hardware tomorrow and I wanted to know if you’d be interested in tagging along.”

“Hmm, I would, but I’m helping a friend of mine move into her new place tomorrow. I don’t know if I’ll have the time to -oof

The rat-stitcher tried to pull himself free with a sudden burst of action, yanking so hard he pulled me halfway off the table. I anchored my feet to the floor, using traction claws to get a good grip. He wasn’t going anywhere.

“You alright?” asked Tim.

“Yeah, I just lost my grip on a box. Anyways I’m not sure if I’ll have time tomorrow, but we could do something Wednesday?”

“Oh, I won’t be in-sector Wednesday. My family and I are going up to NE7 to visit my aunt for a few days. She had a bad scare, and my mother wants us to keep her company.”

“I see. Well we can do something when you get back. Just give me a call.”

“Alright. Later then.”

 

I ended the call, and stuck my phone back in its ‘pocket’ under my ribcage. The rat-stitcher had done quite a number on the internal ‘organs’ I had formed specially to maintain my disguise. A skeleton, a circulatory system, musculature, and a nerve network were of course necessary, but the other organs could be much more freeform. Lungs to speed oxygen absorption, vocal cords, sensory organs, a stomach to store food in while I dismantled it, and however many hearts I needed to speed up micro-unit distribution. Oh, and a brain to run Human.exe. Those organs were important for daily use, but could be discarded as necessary. All the other organs, like liver and intestines, were superfluous, and I had formed them specifically to perfect my disguise.

 

And the rat-stitcher had dug through it with all the grace of a blunt shovel. Stitcher would be disappointed. I was too. It had taken a lot of effort to maintain the disguise while he was digging through it.

 

I reached out and pulled away the stool propping the door open. Then I looked over his tools and grabbed some of the better ones for myself (scalpels made wonderful shivs).

 

I turned my attention to the rat-stitcher. He was pale and had fallen to the floor, his hands wrapped around my wrist as he uselessly tried to pry me off.

 

“So. Tell me more about this… meatloaf.”

 


 

It took a little while to finish up with the rat-stitcher. I had a lot of questions, and when I got my answers I still needed to make a ‘message’ out of him as Imp put it. Hopefully I did it right.

 

The rat-stitcher had made several mistakes in how he operated. First was pissing off Hellion, that was obvious. Then came how sloppily he executed his plan. He should have ‘laid low’ for longer, and built up a larger force in secret, taking advantage of the organisms in the sewers. If he hadn’t hit such attention grabbing targets, he could have built up a real army (not that it helped him in the end. Not a single guard while he worked? Seriously?). The only good thing he did was targeting already mutated people, which meant he didn’t have to work around potential trigger events or mutations.

 

One detail he might have considered though, is that if you nullify their power, an already triggered human works just as well as a mutant for experimentation. Performing my own experiment, I was able to observe exactly how much brain matter a human needs to stay alive. This matched up with how much was required to run Human.exe at a minimum, so it was nice to know that Human.exe wasn’t just being finicky with me whenever I tried to reduce dedicated processing power.

 

I sent a message to Imp that the rat-stitcher was dead, and then left the room, not bothering to switch back to my regular disguise just yet (though I did put my mask on).

 

The plan to get inside the rat-stitcher’s lair had been simple enough. I disguised myself as a mutant corpse, used a decoy scent near the lair to get the rats’ attention, and then let them bring me in themselves. Imp followed the safe route using markers I dropped along the path, and then we were both inside. Whichever one of us found the rat-stitcher first would kill him, and the other would find the hostages and wait for the stitch-rats to fall over.

 

Normally I wouldn’t have volunteered for such a dangerous role in the plan, but the rat-stitcher’s powers were a known quantity, and I had been supplied with tools for safety. A heavy-duty location tracker, a tazer, a bundle of volatile material that would explode under the right conditions (legally not a grenade), several military grade energy bars, and an extra cell phone that had its signal boosted. By using the cell phone’s camera to broadcast footage to Imp, he’d be able to teleport right to my location in an emergency (and I noted the fact that he needed knowledge of his destination to teleport). None of which had come into play of course; the rat-stitcher hadn’t been up to defending against a real attacker. Disappointing in almost all aspects.

 

I will admit that I was surprised he resisted my questioning. He’d answered most of my queries, but when I asked why humans like rectangles so much, he refused to give me a solid answer. Oh well, I’d figure it out eventually. Questioning the rat-stitcher wasn’t why I accepted this job anyways.

 

I made my way down the hallway, keeping an eye out for any rogue rat-hybrids. The first one I came across was reassuringly dead, as was the second, but the third one was still twitching. It had been randomly dragging itself back and forth along the hall leaving a trail of blood, and then collapsed against the wall. This one was less modified than the previous two, with a rat as its base component, so I suppose there had been enough unmodified systems for it to live past the rat-stitcher’s power disappearing. I killed it quickly and moved on.

 

I made my way down the halls of the containment facility, following the directions the rat-stitcher had given me. The cells that were being used to hold the hostages were actually in the opposite direction, but they weren’t my real goal. No, my main goal was the ‘storage’ room, which was more of a cave the rats had carved out under the facility. Apparently the rats had infested the building long before the rat-stitcher had triggered, and once he did, his creations had led him to the perfect lair. A shame he wasted the opportunity.

 

Speaking of opportunity…

 

Analysis results: blood 100%, muscle 77%, carapace 35%.

 

The data I recovered from my brief interaction with Nicole’s cell structures was informative, but frustratingly incomplete. I was already using the blood modifications (hers had a much better oxygen transfer rate), but if I tried to apply the muscle improvements I’d wind up pulling my own skeleton apart. This was why I preferred complete samples; ligament attachment points, blood flow capacity, cellular regeneration patterns, wear-and-tear rates from repeated motions, and thousands of other small details were all needed to make a working biological system. You couldn’t just slap things together, especially not when some of the parts had such a higher performance output.

 

I kicked a rat-hybrid corpse out of a doorway. It had fallen apart at the seams when the threads keeping its large legs attached had snapped, unable to handle the pull of the powerful muscles without the rat-stitcher’s power to help. Case in point.

 

The hallway eventually gave way to a rough-hewn tunnel, teeth marks making it obvious how the tunnel was constructed. A short jaunt down said lightless tunnel, and I emerged into a semi-constructed cavern. It had originally been part of the sewer, so there was evidence of human construction, but most of it was recently carved from the cement foundations of the city. Dead bodies were everywhere, both creations and civilians, kept only semi-fresh by the icy air gushing from a busted pipe in the ceiling.

 

Laying in the center of it all was the giant will-o-wisp. Not dead. Scarfing down corpse after corpse (many of which fell back out of the holes Imp had blasted in its side).

 

Annoying. Impressive, but annoying. One of the heads that had been attached to it was ripped off, and it was moving sluggishly in the extreme, but most of the arms sewn around its mouth to act as teeth were still there, and it was eating everything it could grab. I didn’t see what I came for among the bodies it hadn’t eaten, but I did see a large bulge in its gut, bloating a large section midway down its length. Seems I’d have to work for my prize.

 

I watched the will-o-wisp for a while, analyzing its movements, and noting the state of the corpses that fell out of it, before throwing a decoy scent-bulb at one of the corpses near its head. It instantly reacted and ate that corpse, but I didn’t see anywhere near the amount of power or speed it displayed when it last attacked. It was dying, but slowly. Too slowly for my purposes. I needed to get back to Imp and the other minions eventually.

 

I considered using the explosive package that Rattleback gave me, but ultimately decided against it. The will-o-wisp already had two holes blown into it, and I didn’t think a third would do much more than put it on its guard. Plus, I would rather not damage any important samples.

 

I watched the will-o-wisp for another minute, throwing out a few scent-bulbs on nearby corpses to see how it reacted and moved. Once I was satisfied I had a near-complete comprehension of its abilities, I approached and lay down near its head, releasing decoy scent as I did so.

 

It swallowed me up immediately.

 

Substandard intelligence.

 

As soon as I was in its throat I extended traction claws. It screamed and tried to dislodge me, thrashing against the walls of the room when it couldn’t simply spit me out, but it didn’t have the ability to crush me inside its own throat, and my tendrils were extending into it and anchoring me further. After that I treated it like a harvesting procedure, dumping micro units to dissolve tough tissue structures and absorb materials to build even more micro units. Soon enough the organic structures that had held its neck together were sufficiently dissolved, and its large head simply fell off.

 

To its credit, the head didn’t die immediately, the arm-teeth attached to its mouth twitching as they tried to find purchase on anything around it. I was definitely looking forward to analyzing the inner workings of its head (once it was truly dead of course).

 

“Well, that was disturbing.”

 

I froze, then looked at the entrance to the cave, where Imp was standing. The eyes of his mask gleamed in the dark cave as his helmet compensated for the darkness. He must have arrived while I was inside the will-o-wisp. I withdrew myself from the stump of the will-o-wisp’s neck, and pulled myself back into the shape of my regular disguise.

 

“Hello Imp. Did everything go okay with the hostages?”

“Went just peachy, all the zombies fell right over. Boneheads have it handled, so I decided to see what trouble you were getting into this time.”

“I haven’t had any trouble so far.”

“Right, no trouble he says…” said Imp, his head turning as he scanned the cave.“I have to say Tofu, I’m impressed with how well you’ve taken to the job. Especially some of the more unpleasant aspects. Most teens wouldn’t have the stomach for wet work.”

“Wet work?”

 

He pointed down at the will-o-wisp, where a large pool of blood had formed between the severed pieces, soaking into the surrounding bodies.

 

Ah, ‘wet work’.

 

“I’m surprised you haven’t heard the term,” continued Imp, “You seem quite experienced at it. Makes me wonder what your story is. Where did you say you were from again?”

“I’ve never mentioned where I’m from.”

“That’s right. That’s right you haven’t. Mind telling me your story? I’m mighty curious.”

 

Something was off. Imp didn’t normally talk like this, and… his hand was casually resting on the butt of his pistol. To anyone else his stance might have seemed relaxed, but someone who could teleport his weapons into his hands wouldn’t develop that kind of posture, nor did it match his normally slouched pose. He was doing it on purpose… it was a warning.

 

“I’d rather not talk about myself Imp.”

“You sure? Cause after what I’ve seen today I’m thinking I’d like some context. You do realize it’s not normal for a teenager to be completely fine with... this,” he gestured at the body pantry around us. “Your friend Nicole’s reaction was much more believable, and from what I can tell she’s seen some shit. Add that to the fact I’ve seen you ripped in half without flinching, and stabbed by a power that knocked freaking Pebbles out, and maybe you can understand why I’m a bit concerned about who I hired.”

“...I thought HH policy was that employees need not reveal personal details?”

“I’m not asking for your social security number here. I’m asking to be convinced that you aren’t some plant. Or a mercenary. Or a vigilante.”

“I’m not any of those things Imp.”

“Yes well, considering you’re a shapeshifter, I could stand here all day guessing and never narrow it down. I’m not asking who you aren’t, I’m asking who you are.”

 

I didn’t really know how to answer that. But…

 

Use of word who, not what.

 

He still thought I was human. My disguise wasn’t compromised just yet. But I wasn’t sure what I could tell him without revealing myself.

 

“Tell you what,” he said, “Since you don’t want to tell me one of your stories, I’ll tell you one of mine. Nearly twenty years ago... damn, makes me feel old to say it that way. Anyways, twenty years ago, I was running with some shit gang here in E13. More just a group of people that did their crime together really. We’d scrape together the barest living like rats, eventually get broken up or absorbed by another gang, and the cycle would repeat. E13 was a pretty shit place back then. I hated it. I wanted out.

“Then one particular Odd Summer comes along. I trigger. Holy shit do I trigger. Do you have any idea how easy it is to steal things when no one can stop you leaving? Suddenly my life was easy street. I could take whatever I wanted and just, bounce. Started living with actual capital in my bank, started dealing in higher stakes robberies, but to be honest I was still stuck. Still going through the same daily scraping cycle.

“Then I get an offer from some high rollers. One of the big time gangs from out of the sector moving in, with even bigger plans. They were gonna use their connections to change a few laws in E13, set it up for what would eventually become the Red Zone. All they wanted was some powered muscle, so they’d been snapping up all the new talents from that summer. That’s when I met Hellion.

“Things were great at first. The high rollers pointed and we jumped, then we got paid, then we got all the things we thought we wanted. Money, power, recognition, or at least what felt like recognition. Hell, all us young folk even felt like a team, for what it was worth. I was satisfied, but I hadn’t realized yet that I was still in that fucking cycle. I was still just a rat, even if I was a well fed one. When things began to sour I didn’t recognize it. Hellion did. The people that set up the Red Zone weren't interested in building up E13 you see. All the wealth it generated left the sector, used to fund their escapades in other areas of the city. The people who were useful to the gang ate a bit better, but those on the bottom were in worse straits than ever before, what passed for E13’s government basically being part of the gang. If it weren’t for the heroes that stuck it out at the time, the sector might have been truly fucked...

“So, Hellion gathered some like-minded individuals who also didn’t like the way things were heading, performed a coup, formed Hellion’s Henchmen, and we all lived happily ever after. The End.”

 

...What?

 

“Imp, I believe there is more to your story than that.”

“Heh, annoying isn’t it? Not knowing the full story?” He tilted his head towards me. I couldn’t see his expression, but I got it.

“Anyways,” continued Imp, “The point of this story is that it took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get E13 and Hellion’s Henchmen into the shape they’re in today, and if you think I’d let ‘company policy’ stop me from defending what we’ve built here, you’re more naive than I thought possible. So. I told you my story, now it’s your turn. I insist,” he shrugged, “Or you’re fired.”

 

That was a relief. I had been worried he would try to kill me. My bullet-resistant suit was currently folded around my core, but teleportation made fighting him unpredictable. He used guns, but there was nothing stopping him from just teleporting a live grenade into my face. I would have had to run and hope he didn’t follow me deep into the sewers. It was nice to know I had the option of walking away instead of revealing myself, although it would mean leaving behind what I’d built here. An unpleasant outcome. I also liked what I’d built.

 

I looked around the room and pointed at one of the less-modified hybrid bodies, “I used to call rats grey-furs, before I knew their name.” I turned back to Imp. “I fought them almost daily, along with yellow-furs and brown-furs. It was part of combat testing. If I succeeded, I got to eat what I killed. Otherwise I received only nutrient slurry. There was also puzzle and survival testing. All testing occurred in a thirty-by-thirty foot concrete room, adjacent to the room I slept in. Up until I escaped these were the only two rooms I had ever been inside as far as I remember.

“Then when a yellow-fur triggered at the start of Odd Summer, I was able to use the event to escape. In the city I met Jasper, went to E13, and signed up with Hellion’s Henchmen. The End.”



Imp was silent, just staring at me. Then he tilted his head, “Well Sandra? Does his story check out?”

I heard a note of static, before Sandra’s voice came in over our helmets, “...Every word. Damn it Imp, I work in HR to prevent this kind of thing! I do NOT appreciate being used to dig through someone’s persona-” *Click*

 

The sound cut out as Imp turned off the channel.

“Ugh, I’m gonna pay for that one later. Sorry about the third degree Tofu. I had to be sure.”

“I understand. So I’m not fired?”

“Nah you’re fine. And I know it might not mean much coming from me, but I’ll be discreet about your background. It’s your story to tell.”

 

I shrugged. If he and Sandra accepted my backstory, then there wasn’t much cause for concern if others learned it.

 

“Alright,” said Imp, “I’m gonna go snoop around and see if I can find anything useful. Catch up with the other minions when you’re done with the eel thing I guess.” He gave a brief wave and teleported away, leaving me alone in the corpse pantry.

 

I took a moment to assess my situation before getting back to what I was doing. This was the closest I had come to disaster in a while, although this was the first time a simple question could have been my undoing. I couldn’t beat Imp in a fight, and I was sure now that Sandra had some way of detecting lies. One wrong word and it could have all been over...

 

Sometimes humans are just terrifying.

 

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A note from Gogglesbear

And some wonderful artwork of Tofu by Sage Thrasher I forgot to add yesterday because I was tired (my bad!).

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Gogglesbear

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zLuckySe7en ago

And now comes the pity part and misunderstandings regarding Tofu's "background"! I LOVE IT

    yellingbrian2 ago

    Honestly tho the only misunderstanding is they still think Tofu is a Human child.

    Which tecnicaly MIGHT be true. It's unclear what creature Tofu's shapeshifting biology comes from, could explain why he has Human.exe.

      Waterbuck71 ago

      I thought it was pretty obvious that human.exe was the result of him triggering.

      Ninja010 ago

      It was made pretty clear Tofu isn't human and I doubt he even had any human parts used in his creation. The main material seems to have been a unique mutant animal.

      Sparg ago

      Hard disagree, given the descriptors I posit his biological parts are just a pile of mutavus

      Ninja010 ago

      Technically yes. But they got the mutavus off mutant animals. Particularly a certain specimen.

      The weapons company ran a lot of wildlife suppression work out in the wilds past Fortress City’s walls, and on one of the forays had recovered a very unique mutant animal sample. Of course New Dawn’s first idea had been to make a weapon out of it

      Ch 29 Brewing

      Pete ago

      Yeah his back ground is quite dark (though he wasn't always this smart which would make it more acceptable to people), just his reactions are different than others who think him human woul expect.

      zLuckySe7en ago

      Yeah, I mean, I had always taken his trigger to be human.exe considering how mutavus works and how it was the one thing he 'needed' at that time

      Ninja010 ago

      Actually the guy said that triggers give you what you want while mutavus gives you what you need. While that is obviously an oversimplification it implies Tofu back then actually wanted to be like a human which is pretty interesting.

      yellingbrian2 ago

      What I'm saying is that is unclear what that Mutant Animal actualy WAS, a suffifently transformed human would be indistinguashable from an animal, especialy to scientists that don't care about morals.

      Oopalick ago

      Maybe a Slime Monster? They're usually shapeshifters

      zLuckySe7en ago

      I'm pretty he's not any animal

      "Tofu: Myself. Fusion of bio-mechanical core unit with organic cell structures. Micro units provide variability of form." - Glossary

      In my imagination, Tofu had always been a machine - considering his core - but with artificially created organic parts mixed with mutavus

      Nightmaretree ago

      You guys are forgetting he had to accept the Human.exe. This wasnt a mutation or a trigger, someone sent it to the unit that would become Tofu and that unit, despite hesitating, determined that running it was its only chance for survival because its default self couldnt maintain against the constant battles.

      This points to Human.exe being pretty much a program run on his core+brain. Also it should be rather noteworthy that Tofu's brain size actually has an effect on his logic and thinking, he has to have one of a minimal size to run Human.exe even if he can survive as only a core.

      So in a way, tofu is a symbiote. He is both the machine trying to fufil its programming to survive (like a human, with a few extra clauses left off) and the organic parts that run Human.exe. Thats where we get the personality and quirkyness of Tofu combined with the machinelike analysis and an ironclad desire to survive.

Ironbeagle ago

Thanks for the chapter!

Melted ago

Thanks for the chapter

neufeldr1 ago

Thank you for the chapter! Missed this story.

Trucksaw ago

Thank you for the chapter. I'm always excited to see when you post a new chapter.

Premium

Killashard ago

Thanks for the chapter!

ShadeMage ago

Thinking about children locked in a war department test rooms not even taught to speak and made to eat rats and whatever yellow and brown furs are is going to deprive Imp from plenty of sleep time.

Alexrerder ago

Ah. It is time for misunderstanding to come! Can't wait.

Banarok Lionrage ago

I Think this was a record long wait, it was a good chapter but I look forward to the next one quite a bit.

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