Chapter 15 The Drinker's Curse

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The intense weakening of his body started again as Ishan made his way back to the main lab from his quarters. He took the time to use the terminal in the room to send a message to the Emperor. The terminal controlled a system within the Stratosphere designed by the Empire. It was supposed to be the only device that could communicate with the outside world and was restricted to only send direct messages to the Emperor himself. Of course, Ishan's kind had been smart and resourceful enough to build their own means of communication. Now that his message was sent, he needed to find Kato and make arrangements for the new security measures that were now obviously going to be essential for reconstruction.

When he arrived in the main lab, he glowered at its emptiness. So many years of hard work wasted in a single night. The animal within wanted Peter and his followers to attack at that moment. But his sense of reason told him he was in no condition to fight and what was left of his operation could not likely survive another hit so soon. Besides, it was nearing dawn now and most of the others were asleep. Kato came out of one of the sub-labs to the right of Ishan and looked at him expectantly.

"Has the backup process been initiated?" Ishan began walking toward him and felt a sudden jerk in his legs.

"Master, are you all right?"

Ishan couldn't understand why he was unable to make out Kato's face. Everything darkened and went out of focus. He felt himself crash against the floor like a feather. All of his senses seemed to be slowing down until...

Darkness.

* * *

Kato watched as his master collapsed to the floor. He had enough medical and biological research background that he was probably the best person for Ishan to be with. He raced to the small man's side and put his ear to Ishan's forehead. He listened with his enhanced sense of hearing for the telltale sound he had become accustomed to for determining if a subject was alive. It only took a moment before he heard the synapses still firing. It would be so much easier and require less anticipation if their hearts could only beat or they had a pulse, but that would be too easy. He reached his arms under the frail body he knew, if animated, could turn him into dust with proper motivation. He carried Ishan down the opposite hall from where Ishan's quarters were. He followed the hall down until he passed another slanted x-shaped four way.

About a hundred feet ahead, he arrived at the end of the hall to an unmarked door. He held Ishan with his left arm as he used his right hand to dial in his access code in the key pad. A second later, the door unlatched with a loud metallic click and opened for him. He resumed carrying Ishan with both arms, turning in order to bring him in head first. Inside, he took Ishan to the first available bed, the second bed closest to the door. The first bed contained the former mediator whom Kato had also moved earlier in the night. From what Kato understood, he’d been taken by Peter after openly quitting his position and found by an ancestor. It was strange. This man was the first to have been infected within the city as it was now. For several centuries now, the ancestors gave the privilege of deciding a human's worthiness to Ishan. He didn't know exactly why. So much between Ishan and the ancestors was kept between them. But this man had been changed without Ishan's consent.

Kato adjusted the strap on a brain scan headset and put it on Ishan's head. It was a perfect fit. He plugged one end of a data cable into it and the other into the bed's monitor on a tall tan shelf next to the bed. Ishan's brain activity filled the screen in graphical spikes between two horizontal lines, one at the top of the screen representing maximum activity and one at the bottom which represented zero.

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