Part 1: Trouble in Mind

From the Story Arc: The Hunt For Krasniy Oktyabr

Next Story in the Arc: Part 2: The Faint of Heart by Nova Requiem (Friday, December 02, 2005)

(posted Friday, December 02, 2005)

Unit K gazed blankly at the biological unit designated "Colleen Saramago" as she held out a strange device. She claimed to belong to a collective known as "Hero Corps", an organization known to Mind as quite troublesome. So why was Unit K interacting with this organic? Perhaps the parallel Mind that had survived multiple purging attempts had something to do with it.

Unit K could not discern any function for the device. There was no corresponding data in Mind to match it.

"Query: unknown apparatus," Unit K intoned, pointing to the device.

Colleen Saramago looked perplexed. "I just told you, it's a wave oscillator. Some egghead over at D.A.T.A. dreamed it up, and they want to test out this prototype on the Clockwork."

Unit K stiffened, struggling with conflicting orders. The King had commanded that Unit K interact with the organics in Paragon City, aiding them as deemed fit in order to better study them. But direct sabotage of His subjects? Mind offered no solutions. There was just the usual clamor of input from units around the City. The King, as usual, did not make Himself known. Searching deep into Mind for resolution, Unit K barely discerned another voice speaking through the vocal apparatus.

"Demonstrate it for me," the voice said. It seemed the unwanted Mind was surfacing again. Unit K allocated Mind into once more purging the persistent program.

Saramago raised an eyebrow. "You sure about that, Krasniy? It disrupts mechanical functions, and you're a bit mechanical yourself."

CEASE! came the cry throughout Mind. But the rebellious Mind fought back with all its might. "Just do it," the voice said weakly.

Saramago shrugged and pressed the stud. Unit K cried out and shook uncontrollably as the electromagnetic wave washed over. The seizure lasted a few more seconds, then Unit K's optical receptor dimmed. The mechanical arm went limp, causing Unit K to lean over under the dead weight. There were a few seconds of labored breathing, and Colleen Saramago bit her lip anxiously. The cyborg's head lifted up, his organic eye twinkling with fury.

"Spasibo, comrade Saramago," Krasniy Oktyabr said, grasping the oscillator with his good hand. "Is good thing you have done, better than I can explain. This task, it shall be done."

"I sure hope so, Krasniy," Saramago replied. "You'll have a hell of a time with it, crippled like that."
Krasniy Oktyabr laughed.

"Crippled, perhaps, but free! Forward the Proletariat!" He sharply saluted the Hero Corps agent and ran off into the streets of Steel Canyon.

It was the first time in months that Aleksandr Stanislav felt something like his old self. There were moments of lucidity here and there, but ever since his ill-fated experiment in the ideological awakening of the Clockwork he had been the King's slave. He hadn't even been fully aware of all the King had done to him. Sitting on a secluded rooftop, Aleksandr examined himself.

The mechanical right arm was the most obvious change. It was constructed in the usual Clockwork fashion from bits of scrap metal salvaged from who knew where. Crude in design, yet fully functional. The evil machines had even goon so far as to weld his grandfather's glove directly to the frame. And since the gloves operated by hand movement, the functionality wasn't impaired. Very smart of the King.

The mechanical eye was a little less obvious. Aleksandr had lost his real eye years ago in a factory accident and didn't immediately notice the apparatus placed in the socket. He felt it a bit of a shame that it had died with the rest of the Clockwork modifications. Regaining depth of vision would have been nice, even though he had learned to live without it.

But if the other Clockwork parts had ceased to function because of the oscillator, why had the contraption on his mouth still worked when talking to Colleen? The answer lay in Aleksandr's biology lessons from school. Fluctuations of the larynx cause sub-vocal vibrations, he recalled, Those vibrations are reverberated through the skeletal system and discerned as words by the eardrums. So whatever speakers lie inside this thing on my face can still vibrate from the metal. I could still talk, although Saramago might not have understood my words very well.

Aleksandr looked over the rest of himself. Other than having been shaved bald, not much else was different. The sleeves had been ripped off of his shirt, yet the raised fist remained emblazoned upon it. That struck Aleksandr as a bit odd. His pants had been died a rusty brown to match the coloration of his Clockwork "brothers". The utility belt remained where it had always been, the taser and State-issued equipment still in place. The adhesive grenades would have to be used sparingly, since he had no idea if replacements were where he had left them. Aleksandr doubted that neither Leroy nor his beloved Sarah would dispose of his meager belongings. He even took the liberty to imagine the two Amerikanskii dear to him held out hope for his return.

Regardless, there was no time to travel all the way to Kings Row. The itching sensation in the back of his mind was growing stronger. That could only mean that the Clockwork parts were repairing themselves--how they did this, he still didn't know--and the collective consciousness of the King's machinations would soon overtake his own. Aleksandr stood up. It was time for Krasniy Oktyabr to get to work.

As he stood, a note like a high-pitched tuning fork sounded inside Krasniy Oktyabr's head. He snarled and clutched at his head, but the tone remained. Straining, Krasniy Oktyabr reached for the wave oscillator lying at his feet.
Before he could pick up the device, a familiar electric whine filled the air. At the opposite side of the roof, a Clockwork robot flashed into being. It looked like any of its countless cousins, save for scraps of metal welded to its forehead in a mockery of a coronet. Krasniy Oktyabr recognized it instantly.

Well now, I'm flattered, he thought, The King sends a duke, just for little old me. Does he miss his precious subject that much?

In answer, the duke raised an arm and pointed at the cyborg.

"Unit K has disconnected from Mind," the Clockwork pronounced in a grating, metallic voice. "Unit K must reestablish link with Mind, under command of the King."

"Rasskazhi eto komu-nibud' drugomu!1" Krasniy Oktyabr yelled back, thrusting his working organic fist out. A bolt of electricity sprang forth, splashing off the duke's chassis in a shower of sparks. It shook off the blast quickly, and Krasniy Oktyabr surmised it would. He had done it more for the act of defiance that helped keep his thoughts clear and focused.

The Clockwork raised its hand upward and its eyes flared with vibrant green light. The electric whine returned, and with it came three smaller robots.

Aha! It's an Assembler! Krasniy Oktyabr thought, Even better than I'd hoped!

He scooped up the wave oscillator from the roof, brought it up and fired in one fluid motion. The device had some backwash to it, which silenced the ringing in Krasniy Oktyabr's head and killed the other Clockwork parts that had started to come back online. It was a small price to pay to watch the summoned machinations keel over with only the sound of their gears winding down, and definitely worth it to watch the Assembler duke stagger as if hit with a wrecking ball. Krasniy Oktyabr laughed. He could get used to this! His days of oppression were over.

Feebly, the Assembler raised its arm again and brought forth more Clockwork to aid it. Krasniy Oktyabr activated the wave oscillator once more, and all the machines collapsed in a pile of scrap. Triumphantly, Krasniy Oktyabr walked over to the remains of the Assembler. Rearing his leg, he let loose the strongest kick he could muster, sending the Clockwork's head flying off into the lake off in the distance like a soccer ball.

"Revolution!" the cyborg cried, raising his fist into the air. "Triumph of the Proletariat!"

Krasniy Oktyabr crouched down over the body of the fallen duke, wishing that he could spit on its corpse. The King of the Clockwork would pay for all of this: His tyranny, His madness, His mutilations upon men; they would all be answered for. And He had even supplied the means for His downfall. Krasniy Oktyabr easily recognized the device Assemblers used to summon more of their kind imbedded in the arm of this duke. He ripped it out easily and studied it for a moment. When the time came, Krasniy Oktyabr would figure out how to use this device for his own ends and live up to his namesake. A new October Revolution would come, and he would call forth his own comrades to bring down the King.

Without warning, the deafening tone inside Krasniy Oktyabr's head returned. The intensity was blindingly painful this time around, and it took all of his willpower not to fall over and clutch his head. Mind wanted Unit K, and wasn't going to be denied.

Krasniy Oktyabr blindly fumbled around the roof for the wave oscillator. Finding it, he grasped it with an unsteady hand and pointed it at his head. When he pressed the button, nothing happened. He managed to open his eyes enough to see that the power source had been completely drained. Krasniy Oktyabr cursed. He could have wired the wave oscillator into the self-generating power of his gauntlets, but the thought hadn't occurred to him and there was no time to do so now. The chattering from the multiple input of Mind was growing louder. His consciousness could slip out at any moment without so much as a call out--

The radio! Krasniy Oktyabr suddenly remembered. He took the communicator from his belt and tuned in a frequency, memorized months ago, before he lost all control. The red light flickered on despite the massive static. She was listening!

"Comrade Commissar Red Saviour!" he shouted into the receiver. "Do not respond! There time! Coordinates unknown, follow signal! They have me..."

The note ringing in the cyborg's head reached a crescendo, and Krasniy Oktyabr screamed in pain. As darkness overtook him, a familiar voice called back from the radio.

"Privyet, comrade Oktyabr! What is..."

Unit K switched the communicator to a different channel and pressed the SEND button. Moments later another voice answered, "Saramago here. That you, Krasniy?"

"Unit K reports completion of Organic: Colleen Saramago's program," Unit K's vocal modulator responded coldly. "Device functionality report to be delivered presently."

"The wave oscillator?" Saramago asked "Great work, Krasniy! We can get it back to D.A.T.A. for a full analysis."

Unit K looked down at the device being held in the superior appendage. With no effort at all Unit K clenched a fist and crushed the wave oscillator, throwing it into the lake after the duke's head.

"Cannot comply with command," Unit K responded. "Device was destroyed by Clockwork."

"Oh, damn," Saramago said, disappointed. "Well, at least we can get your report over to them. Another prototype can always be built. So, ready for your next assignment?"

Unit K said, "Negative. Unit K requires maintenance. Contact will be reestablished when Mind requires it."

Unit K switched off the communicator and returned it to the utility belt. Unit K looked out over Steel Canyon, opening up completely to Mind. Everything that had transpired came into Mind, even the parts the parallel Mind had perceived alone. Nothing was hidden from Mind. When all the information had entered Mind, the voice of the King silenced all and spoke.


Unit K dropped to one knee, humbled by His presence in Mind.


The voice of the King retreated, leaving Mind to process this new information. Unit K could sense something like anger rippling through Mind, disturbed by what Unit K had done. Mind tolerated Unit K's differences, but some parts of Mind would remember this slight and seek revenge on the organic portions of Unit K. This troubled Unit K, but nothing could be done about it. As much a part of Mind as the other subjects, the hatred of Unit K's organic components existed inside Unit K.

Still, the commands of the King took precedence. Unit K searched through Mind for recollections of other organics that had enlisted Unit K's aid. There was still much to learn.

1 - Slang: "Tell your story to the marines!"; Usually before punching someone. (lit."Describe this to someone other [than me].")