"You don't seriously
expect me to put that in my mouth?"
"Would you prefer a suppository?"
Clive asked, arching his brow and pressing the bug closer
to Dashiel's face.
Dashiel took the six-inch
long glass capsule, turning it round and round and studying
the bug within. It resembled a grasshopper, with extra tentacles
hanging from the thorax. Six eyes, and fine hair all along
the exoskeleton. The mutant spawn of a long dead, haphazardly
It clicked and chirped.
"I can't believe you
think I'm going to eat this fucking hell beast,"
Dashiel said. He shook his head definitively and tossed the
vial back to Clive.
Clive nearly fell backwards
out of his chair trying to catch the vial. The small gaggle
of biohazard suited scientists looked up from their projects.
"I'm quite serious,"
Clive said, handing the bug back. "The actual insect
in question lives within this larger one. That one there is
called a Mandicular Theraton. I like to call it Pandora, myself."
"Very cute," Dashiel
"We genetically engineered
Pandora specifically to support the Monad-Symbiote. Of course,
the Monad acts more as a parasite with the Theraton, but
"Right, right, right,"
Dashiel said. "I get it. So I have to chew up this horrid
thing so that the other horrid little insect inside
of it can
what, swim into my brain?"
"That's fairly accurate,"
Clive said. "Think of Pandora as an egg, incubating the
Monad until it is digested by your stomach acid and absorbed
through your digestive system. The Monad will then, in a sense,
smell the hormone I injected you with earlier, and swim through
your circulatory system until it finds its proper home right
around the Sylvian fissure in your brain. Then
"Don't you have some
protein gel you could have used instead?"
"We're actively trying
to streamline the process at the moment," Clive said.
He waved his hand to the silent team of technicians and droids
puttering around them. "This is the Beta Brood, and unfortunately,
the best we can offer at the moment. But no, we do not have
any kind of protein goo sufficiently complex enough to incubate
"Well you're always going
on about my prized 'multi-lateral consciousness'. Maybe my
protein goo is sufficiently complex enough? Eh?" Dashiel
said, his head arched forward, eyebrows jumping up and down.
"I got plenty of protein goo for you!" He leaned
forward and grinned, keeping the vial closed in his palm while
he waited for Clive to crack a smile.
"Honestly, I can't even
comprehend how you, of the three billion humans on the planet,
have a multi-lateral consciousness
"I'm the anti-Buddha,
man," Dashiel said. "It's impossible for my mind
to exist on one boring, ethereal plane. I'm like
"What you are is an extremely
rare form of human being, so rare, in fact, that you are the
only one in the world who happened to also have the
chops to be a P.M.C. Elite Agent. You're one in a million,
Dashiel Word, but what I'm still trying to figure out is if
you're the next step in human evolution, or just a mutant.
And right now you're making my job very difficult."
"Oh, fucking lighten
up and stop pretending to be the super scientist all the time,"
Dashiel said, leaning back and clapping Clive on his shoulder.
"Very well, as long as
you quit being a baby, and start acting like an Elite and
just swallow the damned Pandora! Remember, Dashiel, in order
for this to work, I need to eat one as well. If I can handle
it, surely you
Dashiel rolled his eyes, waved
his hand dismissively at Clive, and flicked the vial open.
The Pandora looked up at him, mandibles twitching, legs flicking
back and forth, tentacles writhing
Oh Christ, Dashiel
thought. He closed his eyes and jammed the vial into his mouth.
The glass nearly chipped his front teeth. The Pandora began
violently fighting against his tongue, biting and scratching,
before Dashiel's elite teeth crushed it into a crunchy mess.
Clive winked. His eyebrows
arched, then began pushing together. For a moment Dashiel
thought Clive's face was on fire. Dash leapt to his feet.
Clive's face melted into a fleshy putty, then collapsed into
a central vortex, like wet sand pouring into a tunnel.
"Woah, wait a second,
what's going on here?" Dashiel said. "Is this some
kind of freaky side effect?"
Clive answered, his head now
nothing more than a giant fleshy worm protruding from a lab
coat. No face, just a maw of jagged teeth and countless wiggling
tongues. The face of a scripe.
"No, no Dashiel, not
a side effect," Clive said. "I think this is a memory,
and I think it's breaking apart. My diagnosis," he said.
He paused, his face nothing more than a mouth of clicking
jagged teeth. "My diagnosis is that you're in some kind
of shock, and this is all a protective thought layer, courtesy
of your deliciously multilateral consciousness. A highly detailed
and accurate protective thought shell, I must say. Your interpretation
of your memory of what I really am is quite impressive. Unfortunately,
I suspect it's about to cave in on itself."
moaned, dropping his head into his hands. "And then?"
He looked up through his fingers.
"I imagine you're about
to wake up into a world of horrific pain and, most probably,
* * *
Dashiel Word awoke to darkness,
and blinding pain. Again. But seriously, blinding pain. His
right eye was being pulled from his skull, pierced on the
tip of the Tower Rat's blade. As the sinews stretched to their
breaking point, he struggled to maintain his grip on the Rat's
throat, crushing, crushing for all the life in him.
All around, a maelstrom of
tentacles and gnashing teeth. Wailing, screaming, hisses in
the dark. He saw something red and beautiful, rousing from
"Emma," he groaned.
The Tower Rat's throat finally
collapsed completely, sending a tiny spurt of blood to mix
with the healthy pour from Dashiel's face. As it fell to the
ground, its death grip on the knife pulled Dashiel's face
farther down, threatening to rip the entire eye cord from
his skull. He pushed himself forward, straining against the
Terriatic scripe's tentacle tongues. They pulsed in anger,
squeezing his armor against his flesh.
Everything threatening to
burst. Black pulses on the edge of his double vision. Sickness.
Heat. He can hear Emma, fighting for her own survival, and
the guttural screams of the Tower Rats who met her wrath.
Suddenly, the tentacle tongues
loosened. Just enough, enough for Dashiel to wriggle free.
He collapsed onto the dirt, breaking his fall on his self-dislocated
shoulder. Hidden in darkness, confusion, and pain, he groped
for the knife. Found the Tower Rat's dead hand, warm, dry
like sand paper. He pried the fingers apart, lying on his
belly, licking his lips.
"Come on, you dirty little
shits," he hissed, rolling to his back and pushing himself
away from the scripe pit with his feet. His head darted wildly
in the darkness, waiting for the other Tower Rats to leap
to the attack. Nothing.
My eye! the voice in
his head screamed. It was his voice, but not his scream. Not
his pain. My god, I'm blind! They cut out my eye! he
thought. No, I'm not blind, Clive, Dashiel thought.
I know you THINK you're feeling this, but please SHUT THE
FUCK UP. I'M THE ONE WHO GOT STABBED. Let me concentrate!
You start feeding me some kind of plan to get out of here,
Dashiel thought. You with me here?
The Elite Agent Dashiel Word
rose to his feet, jamming his shoulder back into the socket,
gripping the knife that once skewered his eye like an olive,
the eye itself now hanging from a thread. It bounced gently
from his cheek as he moved his head, felt like a microwaved
His famous multi-lateral consciousness
kicked into high gear, separating Clive's thought transmissions
from his own, his pain related thoughts relegated to another
layer, and yet another layer for the visual data still squeaking
through his ravaged right eye. It came through in starts and
stops, flashes of pulsing red. Ignore it, he told himself.
Of course Agent Emma Kessler
didn't need a stitch of saving, being one of the premiere
agents of the Xerxes Private Military Company. Dashiel finally
got it together just to see her breaking the last Tower Rat's
neck. She was hunched over it, her slender fingers still dug
deep into the Rat's neck.
"Hey," Dashiel said.
He grinned. "So that's why it was so quiet. Did you leave
any for me?"
Emma Kessler turned to see
her temporary partner standing there covered in blood, his
eye hanging from his face like a dog's tongue, knife in hand,
grinning like an idiot.
he said. You mean her work, right? Clive asked inside
his head. Yeah Clive, of course. A real pro.
"You're a mess,"
Emma said. She strode over and grabbed his chin, turning his
head left and right. "What are we going to do about that
"Forget the eye, what
are we going to do about the mission? We still have to extract
"How very by the book
of you, Agent Word. But you're useless to me without that
wound tended. Field maintenance first," Emma said.
Her words were clinical, clinking through her teeth. She took
the knife from Dashiel's hand and held it up. She cupped his
eye and draped the cord over the edge.
Dashiel gritted his teeth,
forcing a smile. Veins in his neck bulging, fingers clenched
so tight they could break bones.
"When this is all over,
you should come by my place," he said. "I have this
incredibly old recording and
"Quiet," Emma said.
Dashiel stood stoicly, happily
waiting for Emma to sever his dangling eyeball.
"Trust me, you gotta
hear this song. It's called 'Baby It's Cold Outside',"
he said. The words came rapidly, tripping over his tongue.
"It's super old, we're talking Pre-Panic World here,
and it, well, it basically destroyed the old world. This old
song is actually the precursor to the Terror Legacy and I
have one of the only
Hang on, Clive, you're
not going to like this, Dashiel thought. What? Why
what's going on? Dashiel's jaw nearly burst from the tension.
Just remember, you only think you're feeling it.
Fade to black.
* * *
"Ok Dash, now pay attention
because I don't want to go through this again. Ok?"
Dash nodded and sighed.
"Right now you and I
have a microscopic Monad Symbiote lodged within our brains.
They are identical clones, and they'll only be able to live
for five hours and thirty two minutes before they expire."
"This is so fucking gross.
I really wish you had made a jet pack or something instead
of this stupid psychic bug."
"Thank you," Clive
said. "Although this psychic bug, as you so succinctly
put it, is perhaps the first step toward true telepathy in
human history. Right now, you and I are making history, Dashiel."
"Ok, ok, go on. I have
to be out of here by eight."
"What? Mr. Damascus has
not authorized you for
"Hey, an Elite Agent's
got needs, buddy. Not to mention, a hot date. You can't expect
me to retain all this intense training without the proper
R and R to
uh, digest it all."
"We haven't even started
your training yet!"
"Well then get on with
it already! Jeez!"
"As I was saying,
our Monads are clones," Clive continued. "When you
have a deliberately narrated thought, the Monad will be stimulated
by your neurons and synapses firing."
"Only a deliberately
yes. As I was saying, it will then in turn send signals to
my Monad, which will reflexively fire the identical
neurons in my brain."
Dash said, throwing his arms out and leaning back.
"Almost. The problem
is, you'll be hearing my 'thoughts' in your own head with
your own voice, as if a puppet master were pulling your strings
and controlling your mind."
"It's going to take a
lot of practice before you're able to deal with the intrusiveness
of communicating in such an odd manner. We'll begin as soon
as I turn this damping field off," Clive said. He reached
for the controls beside his desk. "Are you ready? Once
I turn this field off, the monads are coming out of stasis."
"So you think something,
the bug sends it over to my brain, and I think I'm thinking
"And this is every narrated
"More or less. Not the
subconscious ones, but every primary level self actualized
"And because I have this
incredibly awesome multilateral consciousness, I can compartmentalize
my sent and received thoughts like I usually do with all our
mission data, while I'm kicking ass, right?"
"With the right training,
which you are currently delaying
Yes. We're basically
setting up radio stations in our brains," Clive said,
his hand hovering over the controls for the damping field.
Dashiel leaned forward and
put his hand top of Clive's, just over the damping control
switch. "Are you ok with this? Is this going to drive
Clive bit his lip. "No,
it shouldn't. But this training is as much for me, as it is
"Does this bug transmit
really know. This is all pretty much theoretical at this point.
Right now, we're about to be the first two people to ever
Dash leapt to his feet. "You
haven't tested this on lab rats or anything?"
"I already told you we're
How could we? There'd be no way to tell if it was
working with anything other than live human subjects, and
believe it or not, you're just about the only one we've ever
encountered that could even theoretically handle it!"
"You could have had me
round up some prisoners to test it on first
what do you think I'm here for? Leave that damping field on
for a minute. I'll go down to civilian level and round some
Clive motioned for Dashiel
to leave the lab and enter the training sphere. Dashiel got
up like a man going to the guillotine, shoulders slumped,
head hanging. The sphere hissed open, and Dash entered the
pure bland empty light.
"Ok now, here's what's
going to happen," Clive said over the loudspeaker. The
walls hummed with his voice, much like how Damascus has every
wall of Arcturus Command wired to amplify his voice.
"This is booooooring,"
Dashiel said, tapping his foot.
"You stand in the center
of the chamber. When I activate the training program, a series
of beams are going to come flying at you. You won't be able
to see them until the last second, but I have the schematics
for the entire pattern here in front of me. I'm going to transmit
the information to you in rapid fire succession."
"So I hear you tell me
where and when to move so I can get through the obstacle course?
Simple," Dash said.
"I'm not finished,"
Clive said, waving his finger. "While that's going on,
I'm going to have my computer play a series of increasingly
difficult riddles over the loudspeaker. You need to answer
these riddles within thirty seconds, or the charge on the
energy beams will get progressively stronger."
"Hold on a sec,"
Dash said. He crossed his arms. "Who designed this freaking
"So we're clear? Create
a mind layer for my thoughts about the laser pattern. Use
your super elite agent physical whatever to dodge the laser
beams. It won't be easy. This is class Alpha Plus training."
"Also, create a layer
of thought to listen to and solve the riddles. Think the answers
on the same layer that you receive my thoughts so I
can keep the laser beams from charging up."
"How's that work?"
"Well, I don't actually
know what the riddles or the solutions are. I'm just going
to type in the answer you transmit to me, and hope you got
"Fucking A," Dash
said rolling his head back. "Anything else?"
"There's a slight chance
the Monad symbiote could cause mild schizophrenia, or worst
case scenario, a massive, fatal, stroke."
"Yup. Trust me, Dash,
you'll be infinitely grateful for this bio-tech once you're
shit deep in the Toxic Tower."
He's right about that, Dashiel
thought. Of course I am, he thought. What the fuck, he thought.
See, I told you this would be disorienting, he thought.
"You should have warned
me before you turned off that damned damping
Ok, Clive, let's get started!" Dashiel shouted. He sighed,
cracked his neck, rolled his shoulders. He stepped into the
center of the palely luminescent training chamber, waiting
for the red beams to come flying at him. Imagining one handed
back hand springs, rolling, round offs, flips, split second
decisions. Elite shit. "Hey, Clive?"
Yes, Dashiel heard himself
think. Oh, Dashiel thought. It felt like the center of his
skull slightly burned. How strong do these beams get if I
answer the riddle wrong? He waited for his answer. Finally,
he heard Clive answer, his own voice echoing the words in
his mind. Get three answers wrong, and they could be potentially
"What the fuck!"
Dashiel shouted to the empty chamber. He spun around, but
he'd already been sealed in.
Hey, now, Dash, just relax.
You are an Elite, and Arcane's got no use for anything
less. Right, Dash thought. I am an Elite. Alpha Plus. Wonder
if Emma could handle this?
The loudspeaker crackled again.
* * *
Dashiel Word awakens yet
again, to pain, yes, but to a strong embrace. He looks up
to see the stern, yet mildly concerned face of Emma Kessler
staring down at him.
"What's the matter, Elite?
Arcane didn't give you enough pain resistance training?"
Dashiel laughed weakly. "Damascus
specializes in that. Looks like I tricked you. Just wanted
to see if you'd catch me."
"Right," Emma said.
She released her grip, and Dashiel crumpled to the dirt. "Pull
yourself together. We still need to find Agent Conrad, and
there's that to deal with."
She pointed over her shoulder,
where the mass of hanging tonguetacles of the Terriatic scripe
were starting to stir once more. Dashiel got up on one knee
"God damn, I wish our
nanotech worked down here," Emma said. "Or any tech."
"I got something up my
sleeve," Dashiel said, breathing heavily. "Bio-tech.
"What is it?" Emma
I can't remember.
How exactly did we get caught?"
"What?" Emma said.
He voice rose in pitch with her disbelief.
"Was it my fault,
or yours?" He looked up, hands on his knees, eyes rolled
toward her perfect frame.
It was your fault, Clive thought
to him. You were checking out her ass, and tripped over one
of the ledges, right into a Tower Rat main encampment. Dashiel
Emma turned her back and walked
to the edge of the pit where they had been hanging, stepping
over the dead Rats. She grabbed one of the tonguetacles and
tugged. The hanging mass suddenly became wild, like worms
on speed, as the scripe bellowed in pain.
"What are we going to
do about this?" Emma said. Her back to Dashiel, she waited
for his answer. "Well?" She turned. Dashiel looked
like he was in intense concentration. "You ok?"
He looked up. A grin crossed
his face as he rose to his feet.
"Just getting the plan."
"We're going to ride
that motherfucker right out of here," he said, pointing
up into the darkness.
"Don't worry, I'm getting
instructions right now. I'll be a master scripe wrangler in
fed how? No technology works in the Toxic Tower!"
Dashiel waved his finger disapprovingly.
"Tsk, tsk," he said.
He tapped his head. "Trade secrets."
Emma eyed him, for the first
time, with a bit of interest, and dare we say it, respect?
Dashiel kept smilingly, listening
intently to Clive's secret mind instructions, savoring the
warm trickle of blood flowing from his empty eye socket down
to his lips.
"Hey, wait a second Clive,
"What did you just say?"
Emma asked. "Are you getting delirious? Are you going
into shock again?"
"What happened to my
Emma smiled. Dashiel nearly
fell to her knees. The grim enchantress, deigning to show
a bit of pleasure. She patted her breast pocket.
"A keepsake," she
said. "To remember this fun little excursion. That is,
if we make it out of here alive."
"Fair enough, Emma. We
are getting out of here alive," Dashiel said, striding
over to the pit. "I got this under control. Ahab's going
to ride his white whale right out of the abyss."
He motioned for her to hand
the knife over. Then, blade in hand, he wrapped his arm around
a thick clump of the scripes's tonguetacles.
Dash looked at her, smiled,
and then pulled as hard as he could. The scripe roared. Dashiel
squeezed tighter, then began sawing into the thick cords of
flesh. The scripe screamed once more, and finally, the earth
shook, the Toxic Tower shuddered, and the massive Terriatic
scripe came hurtling down from the shadows, ten thousand teeth
gleaming with rage.
Emma leapt back just in time
to see thirty feet of bulging, mutant flesh come rocketing
out of the darkness. Without a word, Dashiel hopped forward,
right into the path of the great scripe's gaping maw.
Emma reached out, felt her
throat tighten, and blinked. Before she could even process
the long dead emotion, the scripe had swallowed Dashiel, plummeting
deeper into the abyss.
NEXT TIME ON WORD OF THE PSYCHIC
Ahab the anti-Buddha wrangles a massive mutant!
Agent Kessler opens her three eyes!
They're not out of the
fire yet, folks.
The Toxic Tower is deep and terrible,
And there's still Agent Conrad to save!
Will our newly cyclopean hero will prevail?
Will Emma come stop by to hear an ancient, chart-topping hit?
Will Dashiel get some?
Tune in next time, for
Part 5 of Word of the Psychic Bug!!!