[Episode I.I]

Having not yet moved from the divan, Eremis had rewound her music box, left it sitting in the centre of her chest, and shut her eyes. She hadn’t believed she had fallen asleep, but what had begun as a slight tingle at the bottom of her spine had grown like a current up her back, and burst into static in her head. Now it was the Séance, breathless and looking thoroughly flustered, that she was seeing floating around behind her closed eyelids;

“Oh look. I made it.” He was saying, although she could barely hear anything over the feedback loops.

“You just left like twenty minutes ago. What are you already doing back here?”

“Just left? Oh no. No, no, no… It’s been like… Anyway. We need you back in The Void.”

“What do you mean? Who’s, ‘We’?” She tried asking but clearly impatient, he only grabbed her by the arm. Pulled down into the grey static, she opened her eyes and found herself standing in front of the bar she could’ve sworn she had just left. She spotted one very over-exerted Séance, lying unconscious on the laminate flooring. She then turned her attention towards the back of the bar where, looking like a preteen boy with sunken eyes, someone was fishing around for… Something.

“What are you looking for?” She asked as she stepped up to the counter, “Oh.” He found the coffee mugs hanging from hooks nearby, grabbed one, and set it halfway down the bar.

“I fixed that water problem you’d been having.” The preteen told her as he poured himself a cup full of straight black coffee, and took a massive gulp.

“Water problem I’d been having?” Eremis hadn’t been aware of any water problems, “Also, what’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure out why Klaus absolutely had to go get you.” Klaus. The kid took another drink, “We were just dropping that off.” He gestured towards the empty stage, where a white violin sat on display in a glass case.

“Sure… But why?” Eremis leaned up against the counter, trying to decide if dumping some cold water on the Séance’s head would make him wake up faster, “Also, follow-up question; who are you?”

“I’m #5, and because that’s our sister’s violin.” He took another gulp, furrowed his brow at the nearly empty cup, and filled it up again.

“I meant your actual name, dear.” Eremis was torn between wanting to examine the glowing white instrument, and wanting to boot Klaus for making her head reel back as hard as he just had.

“That is my actual name. Dad sucked too much to give me a real one. His tight-lipped smile, split from ear to ear, was effectively creeping her out.

“So… Past tense? What happened to him?”

“Oh, he died.” Eremis’ eyes must have grown a little too wide because he quickly added, “Don’t worry about it. If he was going to show up here, we wouldn’t be. Isn’t that right, Klaus?”

“Sounds like a perfectly lovely fellow.” Eremis stepped back and around the bar stools she’d been standing between. Spinning 90 degrees to her right, she took a step, and nudged the Séance in his ribs with her foot, “Hey, wake the hell up before you make me kick you out for real this time.”

“This floor is so warm, and comfy though.” He muttered, half asleep, and mostly to himself. Eremis threw #5 a glance, who held on to his coffee mug as he shrugged. She went to take a closer look at the violin,

“And you said this belongs to your sister?”

“#7. Her name is Vanya.” #5 called out.

“And why is her violin down here?” Common sense would dictate. Klaus finally managed to get himself into a seated position as #5 said, “Well, to be fair, we were ALL kind of being assholes to her.” He raised his mug to the stage where they were leaving her violin, and downed most of his drink.

“#5… Don’t…” Klaus started. It must have been too soon to ask however, as Eremis’ already spinning head did a complete backflip, and she was suddenly right back on the divan… Albeit with her hands covering her face, and her now silent music box resting on the carpet next to her.

“What the hell… White Violin…” She picked up the box, and stared at the porcelain figurine for a solid minute, then softly pulled the cover down over it, “That was really fucking weird. I didn’t know androids could do that.” She stood up, and shook her head, noticing as a small handful of larvae seemingly fell out of her hair, and onto the floor, “And how the actual hell are there any of you left?” She rolled her eyes right this time, not overly impressed with how any of this was turning out for her. She vaguely recalled a, “debugging program”. Something Faustus had rather cryptically hinted at while she had been strapped down and, “transitioning,” on Mordred’s gurney. Wondering if it would clear out the insects still scuttling around under her skin, she wandered into the Maestro’s former bedroom. Placing her music box on the nearest night table, she sat down on his immaculately made bed. Their self-designated alien overlord had believed himself a fucking queen. He had acted like a self-centred narcissist with his ego bigger than half the universe they were in… But at least he had tried to pass himself off as a human; “Better to keep my human subjects loyal to me.” He had been more than intelligent enough to understand, once upon a solid while ago.

“Don’t have very many of those left, now do you?” Eremis snickered as she closed her eyes to concentrate on her not-so-new mental processes; “Mordred was going to replace your real brain with an encased emulation, but I managed to talk him out of it.” Faustus had told her, “I know you’ll hate me regardless, doll, but I am doing you a big service.” He had been right of course; Eremis would forever rue the day she had agreed to follow Mordred back to his space, and still grudged them both for what they had done to her… But no amount of grudge holding would ever change her back to normal, so here she sat, re-familiarizing herself with her thoughts. It took her awhile to figure out her inner workings, but she was eventually able to dig up the, “debugging,” file Faustus had all but buried at the bottom of her occipital lobe. Opening, and starting the program didn’t seem to do anything, at first… But slowly, oh-so-slowly, her head began warming up. The crown of her head contracted as though her hair was about to stand on end, while what felt like goosebumps rippled down the back of her neck, making Eremis shiver, “Like I’m still human, except I’m not. At all.”

Mordred had been completely obsessed, but he had also been absolutely fucking selfish. After her second attempt at killing herself to get away from him, he had decided that, if he couldn’t have her, no one else would ever have her either. Eremis had been, “upgraded,” but stripped of all her reproductive organs, and her synthetic skin only had enough feeling for her to know when she was holding on to something. Like a literal doll, she was all female curves on top, but absolutely flat, and no fucking fun on the bottom,

“So what did you actually fucking do to me?” She asked rhetorically, biting her bottom lip as her shivers kept growing… Not, not quite,… More like increasing. While the Séance’s sudden reappearance had barely caused a noticeable tingle, Faustus was making everything from her cerebellum to the soles of her feet surge, “…Oh,” Eremis’ face flushed a deep red, her one hand flying up to cover her mouth, while her other hand gripped the edge of the mattress, “OH!…” Utterly fucking shocked, she moved her hand away from her mouth to pull her skirt straight down between her legs as she instinctively squeeze her thighs together, “Oh my… Fucking Christ, Faustus.”

Volts, and volts, of electricity kept pouring down her brain stem, making her shudder. It coursed its way to her shoulder blades, split across her chest, arced through her midsection, and cascaded down her arms and legs to her fingertips and toes. Cleansing what remained of the Maestro’s juvenile leftovers made, not only her face, but ALL OF HER burn up like she was on fire. It reset and sharpened her functions; her eyesight became better, her voice grew clearer, and her muscles tightened up, and became stronger. Not yet finished, the program also restored partial access to their disconnected hivemind, and gave her access to the Ezramatheia’s mainframe. The entire operation left her leaking from the exact same places she had just told herself she would never leak from again, vibrating, and very nearly gasping for air… Even though she knew, as well as Hyde did, that breathing was a weak exercise in biology meant for actual human beings, not machines.

Having successfully updated herself, however, Eremis blew the excess steam out of her mouth like cigarette smoke as she fell back across the bed, “I suppose that’s one way to turn on an android.” She laughed despite herself, rolling up in a ball around the nearest pillow, and giving herself permission to feel like a girl in what felt like centuries, “But it’s only been like… What? Maybe a year and a half?” She glanced at her music box, “It’s been almost three years since Gram died.” It hadn’t taken much for those tall, governmentorial types in their tight suits, fishing around for willing guinea pigs, to convince her to leave Earth, “Then I met Mordred who, it turns out, was even more fucked up than I was.” But that was a whole different story, filled with traumatic memories she wished Faustus had erased when Mordred had wiped out her sex drive, “Maybe I’ll ask our wonderful Plague Doctor about doing that next time I see him.” She knew she sure as hell wouldn’t ask Mordred. She hadn’t seen him for months before the crash. He could have burned to a crisp from the explosion, or been crushed under their falling ship for all Eremis cared anymore, “Speaking of.”

There was a steady thump growing behind her breastbone, akin to the slow, steady beating of a human heart, but the heart wasn’t hers, “So now where is that coming from?” She shut her eyes again, burying her face in the thick, incredibly soft pillow, “Come on. I’ve already had enough for one day. Give me a fucking break.” She huffed and attempted to relax, but the drumming in her chest wouldn’t stop… And not only would it not stop, it was joined by wailing sounds, awfully similar to the sounds of whales singing or…

“Metal bending. Shit.” Eremis realized it was their Mothership, trying to communicate with her the only way she knew how, “Through the hivemind. Goddammit. Of course she is.” Eremis stood up, found her shoes, and practically flew out of their Maestro’s suites. Of bleeding course; everyone else was out either being dealt with, upgraded, or both dealt with and upgraded. Their Ezramatheia, on the other hand, remained broken, and untreated, between the jagged black peaks, and the giant, nearly black, pointed trees where she rested, “Sorry Mother. I’m right here.” Eremis tried to tell the ship, but it did nothing to dampen the noise. She was grievously hurt. Their Maestro had twisted their spaceship into something disturbingly organic, proclaimed her to be, “MOTHER,” and then…

“Abused the shit out of you, then left without apologizing. That second part is my fault though. Mine, Faustus’… And maybe sort of the Séance’s.” Eremis openly admitted, fully aware her empty shell had been meant for the Maestro before she had regained first her senses, then full control of herself, “Now it’s your turn.” Eremis reached the terraforming bay, where the growing darkness had begun oozing through the cracks, and making some of the mutated spores rot and die.

“Is that your blood pouring from your broken heart, Mother? You’re going to have to make yourself stop if you want me to help you.” Eremis told their ship through their disjointed hivemind as she neared the slanted corridor Mercy had barely reached. Amazingly, it worked, and the tides of black discharge receded, allowing Eremis to drop into the shaft, and slide down the broken catwalk. As though floating into clouds, she was carried through the dense black mass, only a few dozen feet deep, until she landed on the ground below unscathed. It was then she discovered the source of their Mothership’s problems, “THAT’s why your engines exploded.” Eremis gaped at the mess. Their Maestro had warped their Mothership into something organic, alright; thick tendrils of fleshy black matter that had attempted to grow down here like trees. It seemed they had sprouted from under the engine blocks, overtaken them, and the resulting clogs had caused them to overheat, and explode from the build-up in pressure, “… ripped apart, and literally bleeding all over the fucking place.” Eremis hadn’t thought she would ever be this happy she no longer had a stomach, “Talk about lacerations, gashes, gore, spilled guts, and sinew absolutely everywhere.” It was a sight that would have made any sane human throw up, and Eremis could still more than imagine the smell.

“Okay, I understand what happened… What am I supposed to do to help?” She asked through the hivemind, unsure if it would work a second time. It didn’t. Instead, she spotted a bunch of what she, at first, assumed were large, glowing, bio-hazardous green grapes, then realized were seeds, “That’s almost funny.” She pursed her lips as she picked them up. They radiated in tune with the drums in her chest, “Plant these, and try again?” She asked out loud as she found the perfect spot in the exposed soil between the decimated blocks, “This should be fine this time, right?” In response, the wailing faded away, and the thumping stopped. Taking a step back, Eremis stared in nearly revolted awe as more tendrils erupted from the floor. They reattached themselves to their severed limbs, coiled themselves into a tight trunk, reached the ceiling at warp speeds, then spread out like a spiderweb to fill up all he holes in the room, “That is both super cool, and insanely fucking disgusting all at the same time. Mind giving me a lift to the door since you’re doing that anyway?”

Mother obliged, stretching out a swelling limb like an open palm, and waiting for Eremis to step on before carrying her all the way up through both entryways to the terraforming bay. She then swallowed the narrow passageway; crumpling the entire thing from the inside until the metal doors had become another plate of metal the wall, “Guess no one’s blowing up her heart again anytime soon.” Eremis looked up, looked over, looked around and then announced to positively fucking no one, “If we’re done here, I’M going back to my bed with my music box.”

(Better to Enjoy the Butterflies, Love)

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