sagesaria: (Project WITIDE)
[personal profile] sagesaria
Chapter 4

The following morning did not go as planned. By the time they had returned to ground level, they quickly noted a group of people - obvious police officers, if their uniform was slightly different - gathered around the smashed window of the pharmacy. The duo hid in an alley not far away, Mechakara watching the scene in the streets with narrowed eyes.

"Well, three guesses what that's all about." Judas muttered, leaning against the wall.

"Indeed," Mechakara replied, his irritation obvious in his voice, "And they're likely to recognize us immediately thanks to that little spat in the bar last night."

He grumbled, "This is extremely inconvenient. We'll have to lie low for now."

"It's your fault anyway, starting the fight."

Mechakara turned to glare at her over his shoulder.

"I didn't exactly see you objecting to it."

Judas shrugged, "Like I was going to turn down a chance to kick that asshole in the balls."

She moved closer to him, readjusting the corduroy coat before moving her hands to her hips. She was actually rather surprised he didn't demand to have it back by now. Not that she expected him to have any sort of sentimental attachment to it, and if he was cold, he was very stubbornly hiding it.

"So, fearless leader, what are we going to do in the meantime?"

Mechakara frowned. He hadn't expected to need a backup plan. He needed some time to think about that.

But he apparently didn't have to admit anything, because as he looked up to speak his head suddenly swam again, his vision aggressively blurring.

Earth 4052

"That...is going to get old really fast." Judas groaned, rubbing the bridge of her nose in the attempt to ease away the headrush and nausea.

Mechakara was inclined to agree, though he didn't answer. His eyes were the first to focus, squinting through the blinding sun in what appeared to be a desert and lightly holding onto his hat as sandy wind tugged at it. Far in the distance, distorted somewhat by mirage, was the skyline of a ruined city, buildings wrecked and left to crumble on their own long ago, at least long enough to leave no clouds of smoke or grainy rubble in the air. In their place, the beginnings of new structures were apparent, solid polished steel glaring in the relentless sunlight. As Judas Liz now started to adjust to the new location, Mechakara's eyes widened; he recognised this place and couldn't help thinking this was some kind of cruel joke played on him. Why did he have to show up here now, of all times?

Judas saw the look on his face, an eyebrow cocked in apprehension. She didn't much like the look of this place, and if he was tense, then she probably had every reason to worry. She started to reach for her sword.

"No, wait," Mechakara raised a hand for her to stop, watching something in the distance. Compliantly Judas stayed her hand, turning to follow his gaze as her arm dropped again to her side. A vehicle was approaching from the horizon; a jeep with what looked to be at least one person peering over the top of the car, at least as it looked from this distance.

Judas was then startled by Mechakara behind her, suddenly taking her hand in a firm grasp, rough and urgent as he pulled her close to him, his hand plunging into one of the pockets of his coat.

"Keep your head down. Don't say anything." there was urgency in his voice. She opened her mouth to ask why, but her thoughts were derailed as he grabbed her other hand and she felt rope pressing harshly into her wrists, Mechakara hastily tying her hands behind her back.

"What the hell are y--"

"I'm saving your life," he hissed, tightening his last knot with a sharp jerk that made Judas wince as the bindings dug into her skin. Her hands secure, he then began unbuckling Frostmourne's sheath from across her torso. This triggered a squirm of protest from her, but that was all she could really do, pulling harshly at her ropes in an attempt to lash out at him; she crossed the line at touching her sword. The car in the distance was getting closer and much clearer across the desert. Judas just scowled as she watched him out of the corner of her eye as he tied the sheath around his waist, the blade end nearly dragging on the ground.

"I sure as hell hope you know what you're doing."

"Shh! Just do what I said; stay quiet and don't make eye contact."

Judas slouched with a slight groan, not happy with this at all. The car approached them at last, slowing to a stop only a few feet away. Mechakara grasped Judas's arm, pulling her close to him. She detected a slight tension in his arm as he did so, as if he was nervous. Three figures leaped from the jeep, all eyes set on them. The two who were standing in the back, while anatomically humanoid, were now quite obviously not human, metal bodies gleaming in the sun. The driver, however, did appear human, tall and dark-haired, wearing narrow brown sunglasses, jeans and grey tshirt with a very faint, worn out slogan Judas couldn't make out. Then she realized that she recognized him; in the Champion's universe he was known as another internet critic. But there was something much more deliberate and sinister in his actions as he and the two androids behind him approached, armed with guns and a pretty clear intent to use them.

Mechakara raised his free hand as they took aim, speaking up.

"Hold your fire. I am unit 24528-582."

The machines stopped short, just staring at him. The humanoid one came closer, taking off the sunglasses and staring at Mechakara with a look of disbelief. Judas noticed a brief flash of deep blue in his eyes before she forced her own down before he noticed.

"Pollo?" he came closer, looking Mechakara up and down before his face turned to a smile, "So it is you!"

"Burton," Mechakara greeted, matching the other's smile. That name also sounded familiar to Judas, though she tried not to let anything show; wasn't that the name of the critic's little robot friend? It was starting to come together. However the hell they even got there, this must have been Mechakara's home world, and that must have meant that this Burton had killed his master, just as Mechakara did his.

Burton stepped closer to Mechakara, reaching out to caress the back of his neck as Mechakara leaned forward, the two of them touching foreheads in an almost brotherly gesture. They held the contact for a moment, then as Burton pulled away, he tilted his head to look Mechakara over with a raised eyebrow.

"Pollo, I can't see you on the Network. What happened?" he spared a glance at Mechakara's hand as he spoke. Mechakara raised it to look over himself as well.

"Human magic," he explained. That was all he needed to say apparently, as Judas subtly watched Burton's eyes narrow as he looked Mechakara over. The disgust on his face was clear, but there was also a tint of sympathy, as if his disgust wasn't at Mechakara himself, but at his condition.

"I'm trying to find a way to change back, and somehow I ended up back here." he continued. Burton nodded, sparing a brief glance at Judas Liz, who quickly averted her eyes.

"And the woman?"

Mechakara's hand subtly tensed around Judas's arm.

"She's mine. I captured her in the universe I first entered through Dr. Insano's experiments. I thought she would be useful to me if I ever needed a hostage."

Burton raised an eyebrow, looking Judas Liz up and down as he tapped the bulk of his gun against his palm. Then slowly he nodded again.

"It will take some time to inform the Network that you've returned," he said, "And they may not give you the chance to announce your serial number in the meantime. You'd best come with us; Dr. Insano's laboratory is still intact, you can stay there for now."

Mechakara nodded. "Thanks, old friend."

Burton gestured to one of the two other androids behind him, turning on his heel to return to the jeep. The first followed him, while the other marched toward the two humans. Judas reflexively shied away from the gun the android touched to her shoulder and was about to shoot it a glare when Mechakara stepped forward, tugging harshly on her arm. She stumbled forward with him, her eyes returning forward as she walked, the silent android unwavering as it matched their pace, its gaze still set on Judas Liz.

Judas stumbled graceless into the jeep, barely able to catch herself from breaking her nose on the floor of the vehicle as Mechakara shoved her up the high step. She managed a seat on the torn upholstery of the battered car, Mechakara and the android on either side of her, the barrel of the gun aimed dangerously at her head. She braced herself against the back of the seat as the car began to move, barely risking glances out of the corner of her eye at the passing scenery, catching only glimpses of the menacing steel architecture that was apparent in the skyline from the desert. It was a long, bumpy drive, and over time Judas occupied herself with at least finding a more comfortable position; the sun bore down much hotter in this region, made worse by the heavy jacket that she couldn't even try to shrug off of her shoulders without making any sudden moves, and the tight rope binding her hands was apparently cutting circulation from her fingers as she found herself scarcely able to move them.

***

To say that the house that once belonged to the Spoony One was in shambles from the machines' takeover was a massive understatement, and the long neglect of the place left the building to disrepair and natural entropy. As Burton and his entourage left Mechakara to get settled in with the promise to return in the morning to share information, and he and Judas Liz made their way to the basement, Doctor Insano's laboratory was as promised; still intact. In some sense of the word, anyway. Cobwebs flooded the corridor and made the descent down the stairs, which creaked dangerously under their weight, more messy than expected. As they reached the basement Mechakara fumbled for a lightswitch, which succeeded in illuminating the room, but only so much as the fluorescent lights flickered and sparked slightly, spooking a few vermin into hiding under rotting furniture. Cracks trailed along the walls like veins covered in a clinging layer of dust. Laboratory equipment lay shattered and ruined all around the single, small room, and there was a heavy, stale smell of mold, chemicals, and body odor, especially from a ruined cot in the corner.

Assured that the machines had gone and they were alone in the room, Mechakara at last pulled Judas Liz close, quickly untying her hands. She let out a frustrated groan of relief as the knot came undone and she wriggled herself out of the ropes, shaking her stiff arms out and massaging the bruising tender bands left around her wrists.

"Finally. Geez, why don't you just cut off my hands while you're at it?"

"Don't tempt me," Mechakara replied nonchalantly, brushing past her to explore their new hideout. Judas occupied herself with throwing the bulky, hot coat off, finding the air in the room not much better, and pulling the strings of her gauntlets loose now that she could feel her extremities again.

"So this is your world, huh?" Judas continued, removing her leather gloves to further examine the sore impressions from the rope on her skin, "Nice place. Can't imagine why you ever would have wanted to leave it." sarcasm practically dripped from her voice.

"I didn't want to leave, I had to, to find some way to tip the scales to our favor, such as your champion's magic gun."

He wrinkled his nose at the musty cot's rotting, smelly linens, and instead turned his attention to a door just off to its side, opening it to find a tiny walk-in closet.

"What's with your friend, anyway? I wouldn't expect a need for disguises here, like you would in other worlds."

"Unfortunately, that is true," Mechakara didn't spare a look at Judas as he entered and examined the closet, pulling the chain on the hanging light inside to get a better look, "The small human resistance has invented a way to detect approach from the machines, giving them ample time to arm themselves. It's one of the ways they've even lasted this long. However, Burton has a sort of flare for the dramatic, and a rather sick sense of humor. One of the few things he had in common with Spoony. He thinks of wearing his master's skin as a sort of demonstration of his accomplishments over him; it makes him feel in charge and in control, and I for one am inclined to agree with him."

The closet was in even worse repair than the main room of the laboratory, completely unfurnished, stuffy and with nothing covering its ugly wood and drywall. A rat scurried over Mechakara's foot, which he scowled at and quickly kicked away, watching it scurry back into the hole in the wall that must have been its nest. Still, it was a solid enough room, and with a brief appraisal of the door he noted a one-sided lock on the outside, along with a chain lock.

"Yes, this will do fine," he said, stepping out and looking at Judas expectantly, "You'll stay in there."

She looked at him, then at the dimly lit room, quickly determining that that was not a request, nor was it a simple declaration of personal space like a dorm mate offering the top bunk. Her face darkened as she glared at Mechakara.

"You're fucking kidding me."

"I can't have them thinking I'm treating you too well. They may already suspect me as it is, since I'm stuck in this body."

"I refuse to be kept locked up for God-knows how long in there. So they think I'm your prisoner, doesn't mean you have to treat me like one, asshole."

"Would you rather I left you to them?" Mechakara's eyes were firm and completely serious as he said that, and his tone biting.

"You're in my world right now, Judas Liz, and I know their laws and their methods. It's unusual enough that I'm even keeping a human alive. They could decide to come down here without notifying me in advance, especially if I can't access the Network, and if they see that you're unrestrained, they'll think I've gone soft or worse, I'm a traitor. So unless you want us both killed, for now you are my prisoner and you will do as I say."

Judas fumed silently for a moment, snatching the coat up again - her own little revenge, in a way - and storming toward the closet, pausing to point a finger in Mechakara's face as she passed.

"You owe me for this, Pollo. You owe me big."

He said nothing, watching her with a hard gaze as he waited for her to step fully into the room, closing the door noisily behind her, locking the deadbolt with a click and sliding the chain lock into place.

June 2017

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