Word of the Psychic Bug:
Chapter Two

by Victor Giannini
forum: Word of the Psychic Bug: Chapter Two
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Word of the Psychic Bug
Chapter Two



          Dashiel Word felt a spider web slip into the delicate space between his skull and hair. It tightened. His brain compressed. Gray matter swelled and pulsed through the web, distended and engorged with blood. His eyes bulged in their sockets, forced open, forced to confront the unending blackness. He tried to wipe his eyes but found himself restrained. He pulled in the darkness, feeling cold steel bite into his wrists and ankles.

          Oh shit, he thought. I thought I escaped. I thought they saved me. That girl from Xerxes. She saved me. No, wait… I don't need saving. I'm an Elite Agent for… for something.

          A form approached. A swaying shadow, an hourglass shade.

          Emma? Dashiel licked his lips. They were dry and chapped. The sound of his swollen tongue sliding across his lips echoed in the darkness. I died in the shuttle, he thought. Now I must pay for my sins. Punish me, Emma. Make me pay for all those lives I took. Balance the world out. Let's make a baby for every life we stole on this Earth.

          The woman leaned forward, her face inches from his. It was not Emma Kessler. Her hair was long and black. Her eyes were yellow, distant. Like old marbles resting at the ends of tunnels. Her skin looked like pink sand paper. She smelled of onions. Her lips, full and wet like worms, brushed against his forehead. Dashiel braced himself.

          It started with licks and lashes, biting whips and spit. Gradually, the sensation changed. His veins began to sing out, a harmony of short, sharp, irritations. Dashiel could feel his entire circulatory system throbbing like a neon sign under dirt.

          I'd feel a lot better if I could hold the back of her hand. Trace her nails.

          But his hands were numb, dying from the restraints. The numbness spread down his limbs, condensing in his chest.

          He focused on her breasts instead, bouncing slowly above him. Each bounce left an after image, causing a kaleidoscope of breasts. He smiled. Endless breasts bobbing in the dark.

          Suddenly, Dashiel was not sure which way was up. I might be spinning, he thought. Twirling endlessly in space, never resting, never settled. I can't… can't finish like this. I have to be grounded. Is there no ground in hell?

          The mere possibility that he might be spinning endlessly in the void while a beautiful woman rode and bit him, invisible chains cutting the circulation to his hands and feet, made his heart swell up with such panic that he began to convulse. He focused on her breasts again. Her nipples looked odd. Hard and purple. They changed. They split open, revealing blue eyes. They looked directly at him, while the yellow eyes in her face rolled back.

          Oh Jesus, he tried to cry out. He found his mouth was filled with mucus. She spit on him. He tried to gag, to make himself vomit.

          The devil woman grabbed his throat and turned his head to face her dual set of eyes. With her other hand, she punched him in the stomach. He didn't feel it. She punched again, and again. Harder and harder. As the rhythm increased, Dashiel felt his abdominal wall swelling, then splitting. She forced her hand in, twisting her bony fingers around his intestines. She squeezed them like a water balloon. Something burst.


          "What the hell is wrong with you?"

          Dashiel opened his eyes. Bright blue lenses were shining inches from his face. A yellow bar slid back and forth between the lenses, flashing lights into his eyes. Spots of red and black throbbed in the corners of his vision. His skin was caked with dried sweat. A symphony of electronic bells and whistles filled the air, the squeals of small machines pouring attention all over his broken body. The dominatrix was gone, lost to strands of dream and fancy. Reality filled his lungs. A trauma-tube. I am traumatized.

          "Dashiel, you were humping the air," the voice said. "They had to start the operation over because you wouldn't stop moving. Hey! Are you listening to me?"

          Dashiel hung in the trauma-tube like a fly in a spider's web. Vulnerable, limbs splayed in every direction.

          The front of the tube was open, allowing countless tiny metal fingers to stitch and sew at his exposed flesh. Each limb strapped to an array of mechanical arms, each arm stuffed with canisters, each canister flowering into a network of tubes and wires that dug deep into his skin. Huge chunks of machinery that Dashiel could not even name whirred around his head, scanning his heart, his pulse. Clamps on his wrists, needles in his biceps, potentiators under his ribs, tyrozomes against his chest.

          His stomach was almost numb, but he felt the robot hands at work. Cold metal extensions, each ending in numerous fingers that cut, cauterized, stitched, rent, tore, sutured, and soothed. Warm chemicals flushing over his torn veins, stimulating growth, muscle fibers spun and knit into place.

          All the while, a galaxy of pleasure fluids pumped directly into the base of his skull, making him accept the artificial miracle work the robot spider spun him through.

          A huge glass wall rested before his swollen eyes. Through it, he could see the faint image of the city miles below, slowly burning beneath Arcturus Command. As the air fortress turned, a torrent of sunlight poured in.

          "Definitely not your smoothest operation," the voice said.

          Dashiel reflexively tried to turn and look, but felt countless needles and wires tugging at his flesh. He let his head hang limp. The man who spoke walked around to the front of the trauma-tube. He was tall and emaciated. The kind of body that constantly created, yet never worked on itself. And a complete lack of style. A disheveled lab coat, ill-fitting green pants, and inexpensive glasses hovering just in front of gray eyes. His pumpkin shaped head was covered with short, needle-like black hairs extending in every direction. A gaunt face. Big, chapped lips. His head rested back on his neck, as if he were constantly looking down at everyone.

          "Hiya, Clive," Dashiel said. "How's it going?"

          "Well enough, all things considered," Clive said, still looking down at a PDA sphere that hovered over his palm.

          "How do you like not having your guts drip down your legs? Is it nice? I bet it's nice."

          "It's very nice, Dashiel," Clive said. He put his hand on Dashiel's shoulder and bent down to look him in the eye. "What isn't nice is your little performance anomaly. What isn't nice is the astronomical costs of your failure. What isn't nice is that our division is under review because you needed an agent from a rival PMC to bail you out. Believe me Dashiel, if you didn't have that impressive resume backing you up, you'd be in the incinerator right now. Instead of piecing you back together, I'd be harvesting your brain to salvage something useful for your replacement."

          Dashiel winked. "I love you, Clive."

          "I know," Clive said. He sighed and slipped the PDA sphere into his coat pocket. "You really scared the hell out of us today, buddy."

          Clive reflexively pushed his glasses up his nose. They immediately hovered back into the correct position. He turned around, hands behind his back, and stared out the massive glass wall at the city below.

          "Well it's nice to know I've got pros like you backing me up," Dashiel said.

          "What's not nice is the mission Mr. Damascus is about to send you on. I've heard rumors. Something big."

          "Another mission already?" Dashiel sneered. "I'm not exactly in prime condition right now. I think a little R and R is in order. Got to let these wounds heal properly."

          "There will be time to heal. They actually requested specifically that you and I take some down time together," Clive said.

          "They want us to bond?"

          "I think it's more like they want me to go over just how and why you're sitting here with a hole in your abdomen, and an entire building that you were merely supposed to infiltrate is being declared a terrorist zone," Clive said. "So no more Musical Offering for your, buddy."

          "What? No, unacceptable," Dashiel said. He twisted in the machine. "I love that song. You know it gets my gears rolling! Shit, I'm Arcane's god-damned Elite! They can't…"

          "Yes, you're multilateral consciousness is fascinating, and there's no doubt whatever that song does to you, makes you perform better. But that's exactly what got you stuck in this trauma-tube to begin with."


          "Plus, we're going to need some time to acclimate you to the new tech you're guinea-pigging."

          "New tech?" Dashiel said. He licked his lips. "Some kind of a new gun? Tell me it's a disintegrator. Or a jetpack! Did you finally make a working jetpack? Clive, tell me you finally built a jetpack!"

          "As always, your sense of humor is appreciated," Clive said. "But no, it's a little crazier than that, and yet a little more practical. I've had my team slaving on it for months. It's been designed especially for your… unique… abilities."

          "Chick repellant," Dashiel said.

          Clive turned to face Dashiel. The sunlight cast him in dark shadow. A scarecrow, framed in brilliant red light. Dashiel felt strangely afraid of his friend.

          "It will address the problem that your insistence on that old song brought about today."

          "And what exactly was that problem?"

          A loud hiss echoed behind them. A cold, artificial air swirled through the sun-drenched chamber. A man in a black suit strode in. It tapered down around his legs. The suit rose into a thick collar that stretched around the helmet like a cobra's hood. Buttoned up to one side, it gave the impression of a military surgeon. His entire head was covered by a silver helmet. It reflected the elegant surgical chamber, giving no hint of the man that lay beneath.

          "Dashiel my boy, you really screwed the pooch this time," the man said. His voice was amplified through the helmet, echoing through the chamber as if the walls themselves spoke.

          Dashiel winced. Hearing this voice was like listening to shattered glass echo off concrete.

          "Mr. Damascus," Clive said, bowing his head slightly and taking a step back.

          "Good day, Dr. Gohinn," Damascus said, nodding. He turned to Dashiel and folded his hands in front of him. "Dashiel, Dashiel, Dashiel."

          Damascus reached out and cupped Dashiel's chin, turning it toward him. Dashiel smiled.

          "Pay cut?" he asked.

          "Something like that," Damascus said. "Listen, we know everyone makes mistakes. And for someone handling such sensitive and risky things, sometimes those mistakes are…"

          Damascus stood back and shrugged. He turned and walked to the window wall.

          "Today wasn't the first time things haven't gone according to plan. But Arcane Industries has a certain reputation to consider," he continued.

          "Sir, you understand that—" Clive began.

          "Oh boo hoo," Dashiel said. "So I blew up a building full of people we were probably going to kill anyway. Let's not forget that they shot me! I didn't just waltz in there and say to myself, hey, you know what? Screw the mission! I feel like blowing the place up!"

          "This was the first time Arcane has had to turn to another PMC to bail us out," Damascus hissed. He strode back to the trauma-tube, placing both of his hands on Dashiel's shoulders. He shook him slightly. "And I'm afraid that even the payroll of an Elite Agent cannot recoup the cost of such a thing."

          "Xerxes is a second rate PMC," Dashiel said. "They should be grateful they got to work hand in hand with Arcane."

          "Xerxes did not work hand in hand with Arcane!" Damascus shouted. "They rescued our top agent from a disaster!"

          Damascus stepped back and cleared his throat. Clive took another step back.

          "That was not a standard op. Agent Kessler is Xerxes' Elite Agent," Damascus said. "And now we owe them. I do not like owing anybody anything. Thankfully, it is you who are indebted to them, not me. And as displeased as we are, we're not about to waste the considerable investment we've made in your talents."

          "Fantastic," Dashiel mumbled. "If it's not too much trouble, I could really use a drink. Sir."

          "Of course," Damascus said. He pressed his cufflink.

          The door to the chamber hissed open again. A woman walked through. Another perfect model for humanity, long blonde hair, emerald eyes.

          "Clairice," Dashiel said. He tilted his head to the side as much as the trauma tube would allow. He smiled.

          "How are you feeling, Mr. Word?" Clairice asked.

          "Oh, you know, I'm hanging in there," Dashiel said.

          "Agent Word would like a drink," Damascus said.

          "Of course. What would you like?"

          "I'm not sure yet," Dashiel said. "How about we figure it out tonight. Let's say, eight PM. Something strong and splashy. My treat."

          Clairice blushed. She looked at Damascus briefly.

          "Agent Word will not be available for social calls this evening," Damascus said. "Or any other for the foreseeable future. Water will be fine, Clairice. Throw in a slice of lemon if you must."

          Clairice nodded. She glanced at Dashiel who was still grinning. Damascus cleared his throat. Clairice stepped out.

          "Cute," Damascus said.

          "Hell yeah," Dashiel said.

          "I was referring to your nonchalance in the face of all this," Damascus said. "Listen, son. We pamper you, it's true. And up until today, it's been worth it. Worth it enough to allow you a chance to rectify this problem. You will pay back the services of Agent Kessler by going on a mission for Xerxes next week. Pro bono, of course."

          Damascus waited for Dashiel to laugh.

          "Is she still here?" Dashiel asked.

          "Kessler? She left as soon as we got you in the medical bay," Clive said. It wouldn't be company policy to allow a competing agent to tour our facilities."

          Damascus sighed. "Thank you, Dr. Gohinn. I'd like to think Agent Word is well versed in Arcane's official policies."

          "Well, sir, that's all well and good," Dashiel said. "I'd be happy to repay the efforts of my most prestigious employer."

          Damascus walked over and slipped his arm through the delicate array of mechanical arms that were stuck in Dashiel's flesh. He looped his arm around Dashiel's neck and leaned in close. Dashiel's breath condensed on Damascus' mask.

          "It's so nice to hear you speak like that," Damascus said. "Your mission has already been agreed upon. You're going to locate and rescue an operative for them."

          "Solo op?"

          "Of course not. Naturally, Xerxes will provide an escort, seeing as it's their interests at stake."

          "Is it Agent Kessler?"

          "Possibly. That's not your concern. You'll be briefed in full once you've recovered and Clive has you properly trained with the new tech."

          "Great. I can't wait."

          Damascus' cold reflective helmet stared blankly at Dashiel. For a full minute he did not move, did not even seem to breathe. Clive shifted uncomfortably in the background.

          "What? What is it?" Dashiel demanded. He looked down at his stomach. Only a bit of tender red was showing. The trauma tube was nearly finished reconstructing his abdominal wall.

          "You're going to the Tower," Damascus said.

          "What?" Dashiel choked out.

          "The Tower?" Clive asked, eyes wide. He composed himself, pushed his glasses up his nose, and folded his arms. Looking down, he spoke to himself, "Of course. That's why they pushed development on the bug so hard."

          "Why would they even have an operative in the Tower? No, I'm sorry sir, no way, I'm not doing it," Dashiel said. "That's insanity. There's absolutely nothing worthwhile down there. I won't be able to communicate with Arcturus Command at all! Guns don't even work down there! There's no way their guy is still alive anyway! It's a waste of time."

          Damascus leaned in close once more. He pressed his hand against Dashiel's stomach. Dashiel's flesh twitched and sucked in reflexively. Damascus kept stroking the new flesh. Slowly, using the back of his hand like wiping a newborn's face.

          "Dashiel, my dear boy," Damascus said, his voice echoing around the chamber. He ran his fingers around the small opening that was all that was left of Dashiel's terrible stomach wound. He pressed the tip of his index and middle finger against the exposed muscle. "Even dead agents have their uses."
Dashiel winced and looked away. Damascus cupped his chin and turned his face back.

          "Agent Word, you are a tool. A very expensive tool, with many fancy settings, but a tool nonetheless. Do not forget who you are, why you are here, and what we can do to you when you become more trouble than you're worth."

          Damascus pushed his fingers into the wound. Dashiel felt the freshly healed muscle fibers begin splitting apart. Damascus pushed further. Blood ran down the sides of his fingers, pooling in the cracks of his fist. Dashiel bit his tongue. His neck was shaking.

          "Yes, sir."

          "You'd be dead right now if not for us."

          "Yes, sir."

          "You won't die if you refuse this mission. Not at first. There is nothing in the Tower worse than what can happen here."

          Damascus pushed his fingers in to the second knuckle. He could hear Dashiel's teeth grinding.

          Damascus slid his fingers out. He playfully slapped Dashiel in the cheek with his bloody hand. Without looking back he motioned for Clive to approach. When Clive was standing beside him, he reached out and wiped his hand on Clive's lab coat. Still looking at Dashiel, he took a step back, spun on his heels and walked to the window.

          "It's good to know we can rely on you whenever we need to kill hundreds of people," Damascus said. "But in the future, when you're on recon, keep it recon."

          "I got the plans," Dashiel mumbled.

          Clive was taken aback.

          Damascus turned around. "Excuse me?"

          "I got them. Before they set me up. Before they blew a chunk out of me."

          "Where are they?"

          Dashiel flicked his wrist as best he could in the restraints. Damascus strode over. He grabbed Dashiel's hand, began turning it over and prodding it.

          "Fingernail," Dashiel said. "Ring finger."

          Damascus grabbed Dashiel's ring finger. He picked at the fingernail. Gently, like a first lover, he tried to decipher how the much-lauded plans were contained therein. He applied pressure to the base of the nail, pushed down, and pulled up at the tip. It took a moment. There was a sound like burned meat being pried from a grill. The root of the nail slid out from the skin.

          Damascus held the fingernail up above himself, examining it like a rare diamond. Dashiel was panting. Damascus held the fingernail out behind him, waiting for Clive to take it.

          "Get this down to your lab and extract the data immediately," Damascus said. "And set the trauma tube to grow Agent Word a new nail."

          "Yes, sir," Clive said. He took the fingernail and nodded his head.

          "I am an Elite," Dashiel said, his head hanging toward the floor.

          Damascus, still looking toward the exit, patted Dashiel on the shoulder, then left. As soon as he walked out, Dashiel let out a huge breath.

          "That guy is a major dick," Dashiel said.

          "He certainly rules with conviction," Clive said. "But you have to admit, slaving under him is better than being a citizen."

          Dashiel was silent. Something danced on his eyelids. Some old memory of another life, another soul renting the same body. "Way better," he said. "You know I heard he doesn't even have a head under there. Just a brain in some fluid with tons of wires and shit."

          Clive stared at his friend's rust stained fingernail resting in his palm.

          "Looks pretty painful," he said.

          "I've been through worse," Dashiel said, nodding down at his stomach.

          "At least they didn't aim a little lower."

          "Oh god, yeah," Dashiel said.

          "This is the closest you've come to not coming back," Clive said.

          Dashiel laughed. "I'll never stop coming."

          Clive shook his head. "Honestly, I can't begin to comprehend how you pull off the things you do."

          "Well, one day when I don't come back, you can dissect my head and find out."

          Clive pulled out his PDA sphere again and began fidgeting with it.

          "Where the hell is Clairice? I'm really thirsty," Dashiel said.

          "I'll get her," Clive said as he walked towards the doors, still playing with the PDA. "I'll get them to pipe the Musical Offering in here, too."

          "Thanks!" Dashiel called out. "Hey, when I get out of this thing, come by my place. I'll show you more of that old music I got from…"

          He heard the doors hiss open and close.

          Alone now, he finally relaxed. He hadn't realized how tense and rigid he'd been in front of the others. The tubes and needles pulled at his skin as he sunk deeper. The Tower, he thought. I'm going to prove just how great I am. I'll be the first Agent to complete a mission in the Tower.

          A chill crossed over his flesh, jumping from bead of sweat to bead of sweat. He thought of barbeques and warm grass. Shoreline kisses and silent planes in the sky. Bombs. Hamburgers.

          The last red wisps of sunlight danced around the chamber. He watched the pink and orange clouds float by as the trauma-tube made him whole.


Consequences of the Terror Legacy!
Mastering the Multilateral Consciousness!
Descent Into the Toxic Tower!
Birth of the Psychic Bug!



copyright 2007 Victor Giannini

Victor Giannini is not starving to death or going mad, but he's found time to pencil both into his schedule. A recursive artist and reluctant cannibal, much of his artwork and comics can be seen at

Victor TG has been lucky enough to see his work published in Silverthought: Ignition, Other Magazine, Italics Mine, 5-0 Skatezine, Thrash Compactor, Focus Skatemag, Beach Plums, Poor Choice, The East
Hampton Star, and The Literary Bone. The jerk also self publishes a comic book called "Skeightfast Dyephun", and recently designed a boardgame for Planet Toys, based on a major undisclosed property.