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Concept Model (Prototype x Rings of the Master)

Discussion in 'Scribblings' started by PuzzleRaven, April 3, 2019.

By PuzzleRaven on April 3, 2019 at 2:50 PM
  1. PuzzleRaven

    PuzzleRaven Member

    Summary: Consuming his prey in a New York alley, a cannibalistic shapeshifter becomes aware of a new and terrifying threat to the city. For once it isn't him.

    Spoiler Warning: Major spoilers for Prototype 1 and Rings of the Master.

    Notes: Crossing Prototype with The Vulture from Jack L. Chalker's "Rings of the Master" series (1987), purely because Mercer and Vulture are very similar. They both shapeshift, they both gain memories by eating people. Mercer's the better combatant, Vulture's the better infiltrator. Mercer rarely talks, Vulture doesn't like silence. Blackwatch would have trouble handling something that can emulate DNA perfectly and was designed to fool scanners and science a lot more advanced than theirs.

    (Four segments written and four more planned. This isn't a long story.)


Discussion in 'Scribblings' started by PuzzleRaven, April 3, 2019.

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    1. PuzzleRaven
      Chapter 1: Doppelganger

      In a back alley in New York, he finished absorbing his latest victim and opened new eyes. Tetrachromia, he noted with pleasure as the new ability sank in, quite the advantage for a sniper to see outside the spectrum. It made it much easier to hide his own abilities. He stepped away from the mess left by his meal, peeling some of the gunk off his feet as the new centre of balance took him a second to adjust to. The memories took no real time to settle, so he trawled the man's recent history, looking for details about what the marine had been doing.

      Ah, shit. Ground Zero for a terrorist attack at New York. That explained all the troops but, as the stolen memories fell into place, it was irritating to learn they were already looking for a shapeshifter. That would not be a real problem. There was nothing on this earth that could manage his level of impersonation, down to the base level of the DNA. A minute with the right person and he could just walk out or, he grinned inhumanly, even have the people searching for him escort him out unknowing. That never got old.

      Settling into his new persona, slinging the marine's pack onto his back with the ease of long practice, he considered the bioterrorists. Tracking down one of the people behind the attack and eating them for the data was tempting. Military conspiracies didn't last long when he got serious. He finished toying with the idea and discarded it as tempting but impractical. The terrorist's form would make acquiring his next target more difficult, what with all the guns and bullets and marines. They were still at large, so a useful distraction but no real threat. No human-made bioweapon could affect him, and natural viruses did not stand a chance, so it wasn't his problem. His problem was getting off the island.

      Happy he had the feel of the new musculature, picking up the marine's discarded rifle, he began the long walk back to the base. Lt. John Anders had been deserting, but with his squad wiped out there was no one to report him. The lone survivor would return heroically, report the horrific event, and get an officer alone for long enough for a truly indepth meeting. Buried under the borrowed personality, he let himself drift. He'd done the man a favour really. After all, no one lived forever unless he ate them.

      Two blocks later, he was cursing human walking speed. This was going to take forever, or at least days he didn't have patience for. He listened hard, turning until he heard a tank's engine and grinned as his pace picked up. If they didn't give him a lift they would have a working radio, or even better a careless crewman they'd take their eyes off. Almost stalking, he rounded the corner. He came into view at just the wrong time.

      Inhuman reflexes kicked in, shattering the mask of humanity he wore as he threw himself out of the way. The tank landed where he had been, rolling, as its turret rotated still firing at something which landed on it, tore the armour open like a tin can. Screams rose. He slid behind a dumpster, concealed himself back in the trash, and watched as the thing with all the tentacles dragged a screaming soldier back inside and the man's body broke down into something obscene. The monster crawled out, onto the top of the tank, reforming as it did: jeans, a grey hoodie, a leather jacket, a human look. Then it jumped, weight slamming the tank into the ground as it took off.

      In the alley, Vulture narrowed his eyes, watching the figure run up the side of the skyscraper and away. His plans to leave went abruptly on hold. There was something here he needed to get to the bottom of, and unraveling conspiracies was his thing. It was, after all, what he had been made for.
    2. PuzzleRaven
      Chapter 2: Mistaken Identity

      "Hi, Boss." Oh shit, this would be awkward. Grabbing for the gun was stupid, but it was what McMullen would do. Vulture stumbled, the chair flying aside, as he reeled back from Mercer and fell ungracefully on his backside.

      Eating McMullen had seemed like such a bright idea. Better than those hunters and marines his voracious grandchild kept using as snacks, and dammit when he got the chance the boy was going on a diet, and a chance to get to the root of it all. It had seemed even better when the kid somehow got himself captured, and getting his incapacitated grandson shipped to him for a heart-to-heart about not getting caught, instead of the kid ending up on some vivisectionist's table, felt like a master-stroke. Except he'd miscalculated.

      Facing off against an enraged Blacklight from two inches away made that pretty clear.

      "That is a foolish thing to do," Mercer gravelled. 'McMullen' backed up fast, still pointing the useless gun pathetically at the advancing virus and praying his grandchild didn't decide to try to eat him. That wouldn't go the way Blacklight expected, and there were questions Vulture really wasn't ready to answer.

      "You know who I am, and you know what I do," Mercer growled, inches in front of his face. He stayed down, against the wall, sheltering his head until thankfully the virus stepped back. Vulture took an entirely unnecessary breath. If Blacklight didn't take this well then all that would be left of the kid would be a new set of memories in his head, and then Blackwatch would be shooting at him instead. Not useful.

      "You were always so smart, ready to give up all our secrets," he stalled, trying to decide what to do. This had backfired spectacularly. The kid had planned this out, gone to the lengths of taking a fall to get to McMullen. Vulture had just eaten his way up the chain of command, using Blackwatch's belief that viral detectors and bloodtox actually worked. He was beginning to regret beating Mercer to it.

      "So you infected me?" His grandchild had begun to pace as he spoke. It was hard not to feel vaguely fond of the kid as it stalked back and forth, all predatory and menacing. He'd even learned to play dead at three weeks old. Vulture suppressed a certain family feeling. It wasn't helping.

      "No, no. Are you insane?" How the hell to tell him the truth? The kid wouldn't take it well. In close quarters, provoking a lethal reaction from the utterly lethal Blacklight wasn't a good idea. Putting the kid through the wall would start a painful fight he could only win if he ate Mercer, and he wasn't ready for that.

      "But you always were a lateral thinker. Plans within plans." The faint praise in his voice was genuine. Mercer paused, his face impassive, but something flickered in his eyes. The original Mercer's memories might be in there somewhere, and if they were his grandchild might reach the truth without him needing to say anything. Vulture envied him. Even his own creator had forgotten who Vulture had been originally, just a nameless involuntary subject, mind and personality erased by drugs and machines because Clayben claimed it was the only ethical way to make a monster, as if there was any ethical way, and fed political prisoners to keep him alive for experiments. After living through exactly what Raymond McMullen had planned for Mercer, Vulture felt no guilt at all about killing the man.

      The flicker of memory passed as Mercer turned, pacing furiously. If he had only just realised what his creator had done, the kid would be hurting and confused. If he hated the original Mercer as much as Vulture hated Clayben, his mind would be a mess. Vulture could only stress the distinction, that Blacklight wasn't Mercer, and hope the kid moved passed it.

      "Alex Mercer died. He died threatening to release the most deadly virus in history on the people of New York," he said, quickly. The reaction was near-blank, the words triggering nothing. He sighed. No memories yet then, but maybe later. "You died in Penn Station but the virus found its way into your bloodstream. And here you are, filling in the blanks." He actually found himself feeling proud of the boy. In such a short time, Mercer had developed basic ethics, a certain low cunning, and evolved a truly brutal drive for revenge on his creators. Vulture grimaced, finally figuring a way out. This would be painful, but Mercer didn't leave bodies, so that was one loose end pre-tied. Meanwhile he kept talking.

      "We were trying to figure it out. You just wanted to bring it all down. But this isn't what you came for is it? You want to know what happened at Hope Idaho. You want the truth." No, Mercer didn't, even if he thought he did. But then McMullen hadn't known it either, too busy being Randall's mushroom to even know where Pariah was kept.

      Vulture spread McMullen's arms out, to get Mercer's guard down. The gun was heavy in his hands, useless against the virus. "I know the secret." Mercer stopped pacing, confronted him. His last chance, and only one way out. Sorry, kid.

      "Listen, there's nothing you can do to hurt me..." Mercer began, just as Vulture put the gun under his chin and pulled the trigger. Mercer reached out abortively, too slow. Vulture fixed McMullen's eyes open, remembered to slump over, and stopped the body's heart. The look on his grandchild's face made him feel almost guilty, but the kid would get over it. Better than having to eat him.

      As Mercer cursed and ran, Vulture lay still and waited. There was the sound of running boots, someone who heard the shot coming to check on him. Shame to lose McMullen's authority, but the kid would get suspicious if the scientist was up and around after watching him shoot himself. So, Marine or morgue attendant, which to wear next?

      "Director!" And he had his answer.
    3. PuzzleRaven
      Chapter 3: Dead Ringer

      The Blackwatch officer slid casually over the front of one of the crashed planes, jumping easily over the shattered fuselage and landing lightly on his feet as he prowled across the carrier's wrecked and deserted flight deck. The evacuation sirens were still blaring, the remaining crew piling into the boats on the sides, but he wasn't paying much attention to the noise as they hit the water. His target was just ahead, and after the last four weeks he was damned if he was coming out of this empty-handed. Without effort he shoved a jeep aside to reveal the body of the monster, torn and twisted. Good.

      "Come on, get up." He kicked the tattered corpse with a foot unsympathetically. The light from the nuke was fading, but the blast and sound still echoed, making him raise his voice to be heard over it. "You expect me to believe that a blade to the head would stop you?" The ruin stirred, limply, feebly, helplessly. He chuckled in amused exasperation and prodded it with a finger. "You came back from a puddle!" It wavered a little. Vulture moved instantly, blurring back, as the claws tore into the deck where he had stood. He landed, smirked.

      "Careful. I'd appreciate you not ruining this rag I have on." The creature growled, standing toweringly tall, and he shook his head, chiding it. "You're the only change of clothes around and, believe me, you don't want me moving in." It hesitated, perhaps more intelligent than it looked without a head, but still mainly hungry. He grabbed one of the bodies by the ankle and slung it one-handed across the twenty feet to the creature. "You're cancer, not a virus. Eat the corpses." Warily, almost animalistic, it impaled the body, plunging the claws of its remaining arm into it. The flesh flowed into something red and warped, as its head swelled back into existance. It took a step towards him, intention obvious, and he sighed.

      He really didn't want to eat the creature. His involuntary daughter had been eaten by his unexpected grandson before Vulture got the chance, said grandson had then blown himself up with a nuke and if he survived might be washed up anywhere along the coast, and this creature was the last chance he had to get anything out of all his work. More practically, that much biomass would take hours to settle into a human form, and once he'd extracted a body that worked the left-overs wouldn't putrify quickly enough to cover his tracks.

      "I was here to eat your mother," he said, his real, inhuman, voice grating uncomfortably in his borrowed throat. The creature baulked, backed off. Keeping his voice human, he threw it another body before it could decide to run. "Here. Fix yourself up." Claws impaled the flung corpse on reflex. It was getting braver, absorbed this faster, and then moved, never taking its sunken, tiny, eyes off him. Loping sideways, it swiped the nearby corpses and absorbed them as its body rebuilt. He tried not to feel jealous: that effortless casual shift-and-absorb was beyond him. Fully healed it crouched, growling something that might have been a word, the clawed arm sweeping the deck in front of it in blatant threat. Lightning-fast, it lashed out, knocked his weapon aside. If he'd been human, his hand would have been pulped. The M-16 shattered. He dropped it, uncaring and unharmed. There were spares all over the place.

      "Yeah, very good. Now would you take the form with the working vocal cords?" Vulture tapped his neck with two fingers. He hoped it took the hint, or this was going to be a very one-sided conversation. It wasn't that smart, actually lumbering forward ready to charge. This wasn't how he had wanted things to go, but then at two weeks old he'd been eating anyone that Clayben locked in with him. Ethics came later: it was impossible not to develop empathy, and an utter distrust of authority, with all those human memories.

      "Now, before you try to eat me-" The monster crouched, but Vulture kept smiling, spread his arms to pretend he was harmless, and for balance if he needed to dodge. "-you could try. Your virus would invade these cells easily, slip into the DNA and start to break it down. And then it would start doing other things, and you'd find impulses in your head, thoughts you thought you thought and know that you didn't. Normally that's when they try to scream, but by then I already have control, and our bodies are melding. If you're lucky you're looking away and don't have to see your body dissolve, but you'll feel each moment as you melt and sooner or later you won't be thinking your thoughts at all. I will.

      "It takes about fifteen minutes to half an hour, but I replicate everything down to individual gut bacteria and resident viruses." He saw realisation click in its head. The monster's step back was a give-away. "As you have your own replenishment methods to restore your cells, I could wear you for quite some years, if I wanted to have to dodge viral detectors and have weaknesses to fire and electricity. I don't." He added the last two words quickly. The last thing he wanted it to do was run, and it seemed on the edge. "Now, vocal chords?"

      Almost suspiciously it shapeshifted, form flowing red in an easy change, and reforming into a grey-haired Captain. It began to pace, circling him at a safe distance, easily loping over the wrecks and craters in its path. Vulture grinned, not bothering to turn and face it. "Better." There was a silence for a while as he let it move, tracking it by sound until it was finally willing to prove it could speak.

      "What are you?" It sounded human, the inflection cautious as hell. Bright one, this.

      "Me? Family. Your..." He thought about it and scowled. "Your great-grandfather." That made him feel old. He hadn't even had a grandchild until last month. It was still circling, still watching for his guard to go down.

      "You look human."

      "I'm good at that." Vulture smirked. "You're not." The creature bridled, and he laughed outright. No poker face at all, but then the kid was all of two weeks old. He shook his head, still smiling. "Kid, you think they don't notice that the clothes come attached? Focus on what's under it, shift into that, and grab something off the dead guys." Humans also noticed when clothes weren't bullet-proof and skin was, but there would be time for the advanced lessons later.

      "Who are you?"

      "Vulture. What do I call you?" The answer came a second later, the delay notable.


      "Not your borrowed name. Your own name." The creature paused mid-step. Vulture had already guessed it would not have one, creators never liked their bioweapons to be people. As the delay stretched he knew it was thinking. Good. If it was going to use the form of a presumed dead/AWOL spec ops soldier that would present its own problems, and sticking with the name would get confusing when it shifted. They'd both be finding new faces along the way.

      "Parasite." It was painfully generic, but at least it wasn't Hunter. Otherwise he would have had to eat his way through Blackwatch until he found out who assigned these daft codenames and fill out whatever paperwork was needed to get them changed. His first choices of 'light snacks' and 'damn nuisance' might not be accepted. "And what'd you want with me?" He turned, jumped casually next to the suspicious creature.

      "Oh, remove a few classified files, burn down some buildings, destroy any records you ever existed." The Captain's stolen face moved minutely, in what he hoped was the beginning of a smile. "See if you can vanish as well as I did." It seemed to like that idea.

      "And then what?" it said, the borrowed tones neutral.

      "If we're not going our own ways? I was thinking roadtrip." He slung an arm round its shoulders, ready to shrug off a claw to the gut. It didn't happen. "Family time, up the coast, see the sights, take in the landmarks, overnight at a few Columbian cartel compounds?" Finally the creature relaxed. It was the first time he had heard it laugh.

      "Sounds good," it conceded.

      "Great!" Vulture said, as he began to walk the pair of them towards the edge of the deck. "So before we hit the road, how'd you feel about stopping at the Red Crown buffet?"
    4. PuzzleRaven
      Interlude: Clonal Decompression

      It was small, weak, so much less than it was. Without its skills it, like any Chanchukian male, could only depend on the protection of its three wives to direct and protect it and in return make what use of it they wished. Outside he was submissive, flirtatious, coy, everything a male of its species was supposed to be. Inside it was too broken to hate anymore, but too strong to accept.

      With what was left of its old self it had arranged things, engineered their absence for a two-day, long enough to clear its head and take its only way out. Only for Bute to return early, right before it could...do something, the little male's head was fuzzy on that point, but they had enjoyed each other one last time and then his wife had sent him here, to the heart of everything.

      It swam through the tunnel, up onto the entrance of the refuge. Lined with artificial sponge, never as comfortable as the original, it still took the water off his oily fur nicely as he rolled on it. Inside, the habitat was well-prepared, even if this planet had never hosted his species before, and the food was pleasant. It ate swiftly, free of the ever-present need to draw the action out to present a pleasant demeanor and erotic enticement for his protectors, and began to think. Something inside it remembered when food had been a chore, when it had fed bi-annually on meals that thrashed and screamed. The memories brought both guilt and longing, but it made no difference to him, the male had been ordered not to cause trouble, and so he decided he should sleep until the pheromon- until someone told him what to do. The large brown eyes, designed for vision in the underwater deeps, closed.

      As it slept, a panel opened in the wall, previously indistinguishable from the rock around it. Lights scanned over the sleeping body in waves, eventually settling into a single monitoring grid that overlaid the entire form. Two further arms adjusted the limbs on the unconscious Chanchukian, allowing the table beneath the sand to rise, the sponge surface retracting into microscopic holes the floor as the habitat adjusted to became a laboratory. A single robotic arm stretched out from the wall, twisting until the circlet at its end was round the creature's head, above the tiny depressions of the ear holes. It twitched in its sleep as the metal tightened. Contact was made.

      "The hell?" It’s words weren't characteristic of the small Chanchukian male, but even if it was still Cho's form, it wasn't his mind that found itself lying on sands that stretched to the horizon.

      "Hello, Vulture." It turned as fast as the bow-legged body could on land, otter-like tail flared for balance. It knew the voice.

      "China?" The small Chinese woman looked good, bright blue eyes locked on him, rational and svelte and - she wasn't pregnant. "You fixed yourself," he said, with genuine delight at her success.

      "No." She shook her head sharply once. "This is a digital world. Master System has created it so that we can talk. With regard to yourself." She gestured at him and for the first time in years the world flooded with colour, coming fully into focus. He simply stared for a long moment, admiring the yellow sand, threaded with greens of grassy clumps and the blue of the waves. It was the thing he had missed most from his involuntary transformation, that Chanchukian eyes saw only sepia and that near-sightedly. He reached out to run fingers through the grass at his feet. They were long. Unwebbed. Human.

      Unsteadily he straightened from the bow-legged crouch he'd worn for years, and found himself standing on two human feet. He was slightly taller than China, but he'd been that in every human form he'd taken. It was the swarthy skin, and dark curled hair made an unsettled chill creep over him as fragmented memories began to stir. He had lost so much of himself, but not that name.

      "Sabatini?" he asked.

      "It is the body I am most familiar with you wearing." No apologies, but then China had chosen the form and she was Sabatini's most notorious victim. She had horrible reasons to know that body intimately, and standing here in the form of her rapist made him oddly self-conscious.

      "I'm glad I killed him." The words were from the heart.

      "So am I." The cold delight on her face was as close as China came to cheering. "But that is the past." That was a relief to hear. Had she been out for vengeance, he was not sure he could have survived the human-melded mind of the Master System even with all his old skills. The silence stretched awkwardly. He scuffed at the ground, enjoying the feel of sand between unwebbed toes even if he knew it was artificial.

      "So why am I here?" It was a shock when she bowed, holding the position as long as she could. When she straightened, she lowered her arms to her sides, standing as tall as her short height allowed.

      "I am sorry. I did not know they were so scared of technology they would not bring you here." He did not know what to answer. There was only one reason to bring him here, but for the first time in many years he was afraid to hope. There was only one group that could fulfil the role of 'they', who would prevent him coming, who would benefit from it. Not his wives knowingly, but if not then those who controlled communications to them.

      "They only had one male," he said, and knew she caught the exact implications.

      "I had sent Vals," she said, "but when Bute returned before they arrived, I instructed her to send you here personally."

      "Why?" Native caution surfaced at the mention of the Vals, Master System's AI police force, even if it felt that his thoughts were swimming through mud compared to what he vaguely remembered they had been. How did post-humans live with it, or solely because they knew nothing else?

      "I require you. I have melded my mind with Master System. There are few capable of such actions. The others I have tried to add to the system abused their power or tried to take the system from me. I had taken precautions." This was China Nightingale, so he gave no odds any had survived. She wasn't one to give second chances.

      "Why contact me?" Despite him gaining the rebels three of the rings, he had known one could never be his. He was not human enough, and he had never trusted himself with that power. The pathetic body he was trapped in now could never supplant China, so perhaps he was what she considered a safe alternative.

      "I will not live forever. There are few I would trust with this control." She did not have to remind him that many sought it. Two previous groups had reached Master System with the rings before theirs and if either had taken control humanity would be under worse tyranny. Her father had been one of them, a man so narcissistic he could mutilate his wife and daughter and tell them to their faces he was the one making the sacrifice. "Should I digitise fully I shall inevitably lose connection with humanity and suffer the risk of conflicting directives that drove the AIs insane before. I require a fallback."

      "I can't do what you do, and the body-" It was the body, Cho's body, not his body even if he lived in it, and it would remain so forever in his mind. "-won't live forever."

      "No. I would need you to resume your old abilities."

      "That isn't possible." The small Chanchukian body was not highly intelligent, Vulture's own skills and abilities erased casually by the Master System along with many of his memories, but this was one thing he was certain of. Clayben, his creator, had been unable to restore him and Hawk and the others were not even sure of what the transmuter had done. China was smiling faintly.

      "If not, then I would not have called you. You have choices. You may complete what you were about when I requested you. You may go back to your family unchanged. You may digitise your mind and stay here and I will tell them you died. Or you can be returned to what you were and I shall either fake the completion of your death, or you may return to your loving family and explain exactly the situation." His lips twitched, his emotional control reduced along with his other skills. A chance to go back to being the Vulture, to getting back what was lost. It would also inflict him on the galaxy again, with the eternal choice of murdering the innocent or making scum immortal. After all this time trapped in one unchosen form, unable to think, he was selfish enough not to care.

      "But even then - China, I am not going to eat you." It seemed his brain was still painfully slow, thoughts generated inside the inadequate Chanchukian head instead of his distributed form.

      "A shame," she said as if she were discussing the weather, not her own agonising death. "But I would suggest an alternative." An image flashed into existence in the air, a woman in prisoner garb, hair cut short. He recognised the cell: Melchior.

      "This is Soon Lu Si. She is a serial killer convicted on multiple counts. Additionally she was a Melchior researcher. She has been sentenced and is due for execution. Instead Master System has requistioned her. She will be placed in a mindprinter, mind and personality erased, and then overprinted with a full copy of my mind. Then you will devour her."

      "The clone may object." The objection felt faint, more from habit than emotion. His morals were drifting, towards what they had been before he was trapped in one body. She sniffed dismissively.

      "Do you think I would not die for my cause? I know my own mind, no matter the body it wears." That hurt. He had begin to lose himself to the sensual and submissive nature of the form he was trapped in. China had stayed true to herself, even when effectively lobotomised by her bastard parent, and his own maker. "It would not matter that you ate others after, my skills would be preserved."

      "But I would need my old skills back." He shuddered. "China, I remember some of that, the early days on Melchior when they...made me. It was horrific. I can't go through that again."

      "This would be faster and take hours, not months," she said. "It was not a standard transmuter that converted you to this. A standard machine could never have touched the Vulture. Backups were taken. Data was stored." Hope hurt, and he crushed it deliberately.

      "I can't transmute again. It would kill me."

      "A second transmute would damage human cells whether original or posthuman beyond recovery it is true." She looked at him as if he should know the answer.

      "And I am posthuman."

      "Your life processes aren't cells," she snapped irritably. "A corrective transmute followed by an immediate chance to renew yourself would have given you sufficient resources to revive."

      "Then why didn't Clayben-" he stopped. If his creator had worked it out, would he ever had told Vulture, or was the chance to neuter his independently-minded creation too great to pass up? Or the man simply hadn't known. China was orders of magnitude more intelligent, and she had the resources of the whole galaxy-spanning Master System at her disposal.

      "You have never thought with your brain. Had Clayben been right that your cells were fully overwritten instead of crippled, it would have been Cho that came out of the transmute, not you." It made horrible sense, and explained how his memories and personality had survived the molecular transmute when they were not stored in physical patterns the transmuter could replicate. He changed tack.

      "You can't revert the others?"

      "No. Or I would have cured myself." Another reason why the rebels might not have sent him: setting a precedent that the transmuter could be reversed would give too many false hope.

      "I'm not human. Master System won't accept-"

      "I have root access. Who do you think sets the accepted administrators?" she said, infuriated with his idiocy. Linking to the computer hadn’t changed her at all, just made her more herself and less another child victim of Melchior. It decided him.

      As for his family, he wouldn't harm them. They didn't mean anything to him, any more than any of the family and friends of his past bodies, but he didn't hold any real grudge. Clayben must have engineered him not to take things personally, for self-protection from his creation quite justifiably eating him. The scientist shouldn't have bothered. Vulture would sooner self-immolate than have that monster's thoughts in his head. As for his loving family, if he bothered at all, a few years of the weakness he had felt would be reasonable return and it wouldn't take much effort to engineer.

      "Fix me." China nodded and the world dissolved around them.


      On the bench the body twitched in its sleep as the mindprinter began its work. A full neural copy of the brain was taken, followed by an indepth scan of every component of the little Chanchukian body, seeking the parts of Vulture still trapped in each cell, digging out memories to store. Once complete, it withdrew so the more destructive methods could be deployed. A copy of the mindprint was taken to work on, secondary skills added for spaceflight, piloting, lockpicking, combat, and other skills known to be lost. Finally it added salvaged mindprint records from those of Vulture's past hosts who had them.

      A deep tissue scan identified the transmuter's signature in each cell of the body, finding the tiny chemical machines manipulating the mitochdrion that were Vulture and not its host. Burning the cells, the bacteria and viruses that hosted it, away carefully, the sub-atomic components that comprised the machines were isolated. The damage was assessed, corrected at the gross level with retroviral additions before galaxy-spanning processing power focused on combining unrecoverable material into working devices and manually rebuilding the sub-atomic components that created the machines at against the stored records. Less than a thousandth of a percent of the results were viable. It was enough. The salvaged mass was transfered carefully into a cultured solution. The rest, nothing now but scraps of dying flesh, was flushed into the incinerator.

      The unconscious mind-wiped body placed on the neighbouring table was a human male, already prepared with temporary immunosuppressants. Its cells had been brought as close to Clayben's records as China could arrange without violating what remained of her ethics. Had Vulture not agreed, it would have been the basis for a new iteration of the entity, to consume her clone once it was appropriately conditioned. A known quantity was to be prefered. She had no illusions hers would be the last mind subsumed by such a creature. Vulture had developed a sense of ethics no matter the body or mind he wore. A new entity gave no such guarantees.

      The mindprinter ran, overwriting the blank brain with the upgraded imprint of Vulture's. The Vulture itself could not be mindprinted, but this work around should restore much of what it had lost. No human brain could hold that amount of data for long, but it would not need to. Finally the cultured surviving Vulture sample was injected, the long needle piercing the liver, chosen for its high cellular regeneration rate. For long, tense, minutes nothing happened before slowly, painfully, the body began to plasticise.

      It was slow, taking hours instead of minutes, but the Vulture was not merely renewing itself. The monitoring recorded the new material it was generating from the treated cells as it converted the material into more of itself, spreading slowly through the body as flesh dissolved into plastic-like goo and began to rebuild. The figure began to take form, at first little more than a plasticine doll. Almost mperceptibly slowly, details came in: hair, eyelashes, the lines on the hands and even the smallest scars across the torso and even the needlemark, until it was indistinguishable from what had laid there before. As if a switch was flipped, life rushed into it, and it sat up, eyes opening.

      He stretched, blinking and swung his legs over the side of the lab table, the remains of the pink goo putrifying as he pulled away from it. Standing unsteadily he reached down to pull the remaining mess of goo from his sides as a man picked flashing from a model, and smiled as skills and memories flooded his mind.

      "I'm back."
    5. skye
      Did you write any more of this?
    6. PuzzleRaven

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