Strange Bastard looked around, eyes locking on Ptolemy. In that odd, mellifluous voice, he said - 'Apparently, Two-Seven-Two is the smarter one.'
That made Ptolemy's eyes narrow. He looked at Nicholas, who was standing near his seat, and pursed his lips. He was so bland, so unremarkable, that it hurt
. Handsome Bastard spoke, now - Mentioning associates, making a mockery of the other candidates, indicating the Lieutenant, Elsen. The name rang a bell - Ptolemy couldn't quite pinpoint where he'd heard it - But there was an air of familiarity about it. That could mean two things - Either Elsen was an outstanding, shining paragon of servitude and morality, or; he was a right bastard and deserved nothing but a noose. Probably the latter, Ptolemy mused, as he watched the man salute. His hand, his talon
, was of high quality. That was interesting.
Ptolemy continued drumming his fingers against the bench. Strange Bastard said something particularly morose, pointing his fingers to two of the candidates - One-Eye and Lazy Bastard - And intoned that he thought the unworthy. The Intelligence Officer - Was he still an Intelligence Officer? - Swung his head around, a grin parting those soft, cherry-red lips, and met the yellow eyes of Strange Bastard. It was somewhat disconcerting, but Ptolemy matched his stare, the grin never leaving his face.
That was when the hissing begun, almost too quiet to hear. Ptolemy sniffed - An acrid stench clinging to the inside of his nostrils, and let out a low, mournful growl. Purple gas, flecked with golds and greens, was rising from the floor, enshrouding the other candidates. Yet, Ptolemy and Strange Bastard kept staring, intense as a firefight, as their limbs grew heavy and unresponsive, their vision blurred into darkness. The last thing Ptolemy saw, as he slumped over, was those strange, malign eyes, boring into his own.
When he awoke, he was surrounded by thick, murky water. No, not water - It was blue
. Water wasn't blue, was it? There was a figure before him, through a barrier of glass, robed and hunched. Even though it was crouched over, examining something on the floor, it was big
- Larger than a man, faceless and fearsome. Behind it, a pack of similar creatures - For they could not
be human - Were running towards an exit, nothing more but a distant glimmer of light. The figure before him snapped its head upwards, tilted it in curiosity, and then turned, bolting after the others.
He could not remember his name, his age, his occupation - He was an object
, an enigma. His head hurt- Oh, God-Emperor, it hurt
. His whole body was aflame, crisscrossed with pale, near-invisible scars. Thick wires, throbbing with power, were plugged into his flesh, and they hurt, too. Everything hurt, everything was crying out in agony, begging for release.
He rammed his fist into the glass. Muscles, large and defined and handsome, bulged along his arm. His punch was sluggish, like a drunkard's, and did no damage on the thick door - At least, he believed it was a door. Twice more he lashed out, and twice more he found his efforts accumulated to naught. He was trapped, stabbed with wires and burning within. Only the breathing apparatus, a crude grille, which was attached to his face, kept him alive. The liquid started draining after his third punch, slow, too slow. It ran from his head, passed his eyes, draining away with a gurgle. When his head was clear, he lifted his hands and tore the breathing device free, gasping for air. Thick, blood-dappled phlegm dripped from the corners of his mouth, his lungs emptying an untold amounts worth of slime. He tried to talk, but his tongue felt swollen and numb.
He was being born again. The glass panel lifted, red light and the keening of alarms filling his ears, his eyes, his head. He attempted a step forwards and fell, landing on sore knees and palms, coughing rheumy fluid. Wires disconnected from his pale flesh, dripping with viscous blood and other, stranger liquids. Everything stank of disinfectant, blood and oil. What was this place? Where am I?
A number - One-Two-Eight - Was carved into his solar plexus. He scratched it, and decided in that red-bathed room, that One-Two-Eight was his name. What was he? Was he a beast, a genetic throwback, something altogether fouler? No, he realised. He was muscled immensely, built like an athlete - Bigger, stronger. He looked like a statue. His flesh was cold and hard.
One-Two-Eight stood, unsteadily, and surveyed his surroundings. There were others with him, abominable servitors and other tall, strong figures. A robe, plain and rough, was lowered over him by one of the milky-eyed servitors, after a spray down of tepid liquids. Down below, curled up in pathetic death-poses, were bodies. Some were clad in scarlet, others in white. Flesh-artisans, scientists and murderers and creatures that did not deserve the title of Humanity. One-Two-Eight made his way towards these, limping as blood flowed back into stiff, unsteady limbs.
The one marked with Two-Seven-Two was beginning to formulate a plan. One-Two-Eight listened to him halfheartedly; agreeing with some points, disagreeing with others. He needed a weapon, something to defend himself with, and the only likely option, was one of the dead.
He pressed his foot onto one of the red-robed corpses, rolled it over, and crouched down. His hands pressed against the robes, slipped beneath them. He had to be armed, he had
'Whilst you lot stand around and bitch,' One-Two-Eight spat, as he searched. 'I'm going to get out of here. Follow me, if you like,' He turned his eyes to Two-Seven-Two. They glittered hungrily, like a frost-lion's. 'Or don't. But, I'm not staying. This is a mausoleum.'