The piece of him within N3t, that shard, was called Rook. Surveying his surroundings, it was ran down. Sleeping mats were everywhere, along with some tattered pillows. Matteresses laid haphazardly along the floor.
Lumps of flesh that were other group members were cocooned into their warm blankets. Some of the more animalistic ones were curled up into themselves, tails covering up their varied faces. One unusual case had what looked like a firebird sleeping next to the heater. He or she, he couldn,t tell which. Was on fire. It generated no smoke. The wonderous nature of spirit flames.
Another was a fae nestled in the pendulum case of an old grandfather clock lying on the floor. The clock arms were bent out of shape, it,s metal rusted. The fae itself had grey hair and slightly pointed ears. Out of the entire clump of creatures, it was the most human looking. Resting on its stomach, its wings flopped out of the case.
Rook stared at each and every one of them, memorizing every single detail of them. The isolation program surrounding him ensured that he could not send any of what he learned back to his main personality. Rook was alone to fend for himself at the moment.
He continued onto his survey of the surroundings.
Paint was flecking off the walls. Creating a dingy environment. The shelves were ramshackle. Beside him, on another mattress, a young bat morph snored soundly. A tag on her ear indicated that she was from Brazil, he noted. The body that he was stealthly inhabiting was hooked up to a life support system. The only thing in the room that was not falling apart.
It gleamed in the lighting from the status meters of Net,s body. A maintence schedule told anyone who read it that it was maintained daily at the same hour. Three am.
The digital readout on n3t,s visual interface indicated 2:45 am. Maintence would be up soon. The bat next to him shifted in her sleep and rolled over, silently cuddling up to N3t. attracted by the warmth generated by his cybernetic body.
The rook shard glanced down at her uneasily. Noting any possible disturbances. N3t,s unconscious mind automatically put an arm over the young bat and pulled her close. She nuzzled in. rook stared into the darkness.
When he was joined back into his main personality, he would have to bring back these...children into his city. And into his care.
By force if necessary. After all, little ones should be taken care of and not be roaming in packs where they could get hurt.
His heart ached.
Fifteen minutes later.
A hidden panel built into the wall slid open. Neia slid out of the wall and pressed a remote to close it shut. She sighed and looked around the room. The Pit of Suicides, they jokingly called it or the nest of new recruits.
Most were rescues, half of them had never been conscripted or had been born out into the wild. She wondered how long they would make it.
Lord Rook withdrew into the back of N3t,s mind when the dragoness slipped out of the hidden panel, padding around the floor on all fours. Fascinating. She was small. Not like the long grand creatures of his kingdom.
Her pale coloring indicated that she was not healthy. Quite young. She got close to N3t, sleeping body, his artificial lungs rising and falling. She changed his tubes and put in fresh nutrient packets into the life support machine. Lord Rook thought about this. Primitive human technology. There were portable life support systems in his kingdom, perhaps he could provide them in exchange for service.
The one that they called N3t had potential, he would make a good apprentice. He even tried to archive Lord Rook,s information gathering, a simple memory wipe got rid of that. He needed N3t to believe he was a simple program nothing more. The master of communications got to work on building a false program to hid behind in once N3t would try to delete him and building a decoy to fool the internet shaman.
By week,s end, he swore to himself that he would be back in his original body.
No, a day.
After Neia put together more tubes to replace the old ones that had to be cleaned, she hovered over N3t, quietly shaking his shoulder. Before this, she lifted up her arm and cradled the bat to another matteress. It snuggled up to a crocodiled faced recruit. Her wings wrapped around it.
She always thought that it was odd that the bat slept like a human both in pose and in schedule. Then again, they all had their shared ancestry despite most of their eldritch looks.
"N3t wake up."
N3t stirred. His eyes blinking themselves back into awareness. He pushed himself up with his arms up, grimacing at the pain shooting up into his arms.
"What is it?"
Neia unhooked the life support machine from the wall. It was small about three feet tall but still heavy enough to be a problem in the field. An internal battery kept it running. She lifted it into her back, shifting into a more humanoid form. Organic nanites comprised most of her form, unlike most other Cloaked who can shift, she embraced her otherness.
She pushed back memories of being called a monster.
She picked up N3t off the mattress, taking care not to hurt him, "I,ll tell you in the other room."
Cradling her friend in her arms, she strode through the panel. And closed it.
Lord Rook took it all in. And the new recruits slept peacefully throughout the night.
Morgue sat down on his bed, it was feathery. The feathers came from angels slaughtered over the years. And demons as well. Some were trying to convert. Peacefully. But morgue killed them anyway. Afterall, the populace was too scared to refuse. Others were more forceful. Those were tortured.
And devoured. N3t torn out whatever scavenable knowledge he had on them while Neia kept them alive for the harvesting process. Out of their pitiful brains. Most of them were an odd mix of spirit and flesh, but n3t could always work his magic. Morgue dealt in fleshdrives for the Masqued. In high demand, the number of conscripts were falling as the Eldritch became more careful with their rogue souls.
It wasn,t a good situation, but unlike the humans who harness the Cloaked Incarnates to fight for them., the dead fleshdrives were not conscious. The sentience left upon death, that spark of life. But the knowledge and memories remained. Even some of the power in the more complete ones.
It was more ethical. He was merely providing weaponry to a trampled down populace.
But this fleshdrive, the one he held in his hand, turning it over and over with his fingers. It was his. Once tormented by flashbacks and personality shifts, Morgue had N3t split it from him and upload it to this small device that he occasionally plugged into the back of his neck.
Then he would black out.
He never remembered what happened during those times. The other Suicides were never around, he made sure of that.
After all, it was always horrifying to wake up to being coated in blood.
Even if it was the blood of the Eldritch.
The panel slid shut after Neia crawled through it. The older recruits had a separate room from the younger ones. The more sensitive equipment was kept here. Right now, they were in Morgue,s quarters. Neia,s medical wing was right next to his along with the Recycler and the Vats.
The lighting was dark as usual. Morgue liked his darkness for dramatic effect. And I can,t see in bright lights anyway.
This fleshdrive...I have not been able to unlock it. All uses end up in me blacking out with my prey torn to shreds and my body falling apart.
Unlike the deaddrives we procure and sell to the populace, this one is conscious.
An interesting mystery indeed, it has resisted all efforts to open it and to communicate with it. The main reason why I rescued N3t when he was dying. He used up so many valuable bodies. But he is indeed getting better, but the constant attacks from the creatures he deals with are wearing down on him.
It is wearing on all of us. If it were not for my rotting façade, I would most likely have been captured and treated like some pet for either side. Or a weapon for humanity. Ah, the blessings to be ugly.
Here is n3t and neia. I know something is inside of n3t. I have not told my old friend because I fear retribution from the invader.
Neia knows of my concerns. N3t has agreed to get rid of the quarantined program. We will isolate it. Destroy it.
Some things are not meant to be sold.
Ah, Neia has come in to my room. Her pearl skin encased in the darkness, with N3t,s being cradled in her scaly arms.
"Morgue, N3t isn,t doing that well. He blacked out after he screamed and his eyes rolled back."
We speak in code.
"Perhaps some meat will do him some good."
N3t was asleep again. I know your in there, silently watching.
Neia turned him off.
Lord Rook dwelled on this, in the blackness of N3t,s mind. Code surrounding him. Meat? Obivously some kind of code.
Or maybe they were going to feed him.
But why would they need to turn him off to feed him?
Something was not right.
N3t,s mind was uploaded to a computer, was small like most Incarnate tech. It consisted of holo keyboard and a holoscreen. The hard drive and projector being the only physical parts. Ports in it allowed fleshdrives to be uploaded and then have the files manipulated on screen. It was too dangerous to transmit them wirelessly. Some invisible entity could then steal the information as its frequencies traveled through the air.
Memories could be deleted or added, falsified, entire personalities rewritten to suit the needs of the client. Fleshdrive shells could also be altered, the nanites changing the Masque wearer,s body to reflect the fleshdrives, original body template.
These were the deaddrives. Living drives are a whole other story. They resist any measure to rewrite them and a lot more capable of causing the computers to crash while escaping into the spirit nets.
And back to the real realm. Morgue dared not to risk it. He didn,t need what he once was rampaging through out the Aethyr.
Meanwhile his body was hooked up to its usually life support system. Which neia had set down after she had brung n3t into the room.
The quarantined program was removed and uploaded to a deaddrive.
Inside of N3t, Lord Rook allowed himself a small smile. He had already switched himself out with the decoy program that was now in the deaddrive. His shard was now attached to N3t,s mind and he shot himself back into the Spirit Nets, leaving a probe in its place.
Rejoining his body.
He had full footage of the base, along with indepth pictures of the new recruits, copies of files from their holocomputer, information from their past, everything. He even had a full copy of N3t,s mind.
N3t might have been built from an amalgalm of advanced human tech and spiritual counterparts, but he was primitive compared to Lord Rook,s level of technology, refined over thousands and thousands of years.
Mere child,s play...
He couldn,t wait to add this new information to his archives. This group had such full potential. Now he merely had to bring it out of them.
Morgue stared at the screen. N3t, holographic face stared back at him in confusion and irritation.
"The quarantined program? It,s gone. It left a decoy in it,s place. Morgue, we,re fucked. Whoever this was, it was beyond my scope of comphrension. And I suspect we have a probe left in me."
Morgue merely lifted an eyebrow and sighed. He beckoned for Neia come over with a rotting hand. And looked at her in the eyes and gestured. They both knew what they had to do.
This wasn,t the first time, something like this happened. The Suicide Kings and Queens were always prepared.
Neia clicked her thumbs. The holocomputer responded.
N3t,s mind was wiped clean. Again.
Morgue face palmed.
"Neia reboot him with this morning,s copy and then inform N3t what happened. The recopy the new N3t, just in case."
This was going to be a long night. The probe might have been gone, but whatever invaded N3t might have collected who know,s what information on them.
"Also, Neia. It,s time to move to another base. I,ll wake up the new recruits." Morgue got up from his sleeping mat, lain over several crates with hay underneath. His tattered wings stretched into the air as he yawned, leaving oily ink trails as his pinions reached onto the ceiling.
And people wondered why he didn,t digitalize the rest of his home. It simply wasn,t safe.