Chapter 15: Blood & Steel

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Greg's eyes snapped open as he abruptly and unceremoniously returned to consciousness. He stared up at a pristine white-tiled ceiling, the effect ruined by a spray of blood that had somehow managed to reach it. This did not instill a great sense of confidence in Greg. Neither did the reek of blood and fresh meat that penetrated his nostrils. He tried to move, and found that, yes, he had, once again, been strapped down.

He was cold, and, he realized, nearly naked. In fact, all he had on were his boxers. He licked his lips and tested the chilled metal restraints that held him down.

They didn't budge a millimeter.

"I understand you humans don't like being naked, unless you're in the shower or in bed with each other."

Greg stopped moving. "Erebus."

"Hello, Greg."

"I thought you said you weren't going to give us any trouble."

"I said 'for now', if you'll recall."

"What's going to happen to me?"

There was a pause. Greg became aware of sounds around him, the symphony of assimilation that had become so common to the Anubis since he'd freed Erebus. Part of him wanted to look around, see what was happening, get some clue as to what Erebus had in mind for him. A larger part of him, the one ruled by fear, kept him staring straight up at the ceiling. He closed his eyes, then. Someone was moaning sickly in the background.

"I don't want you to worry, Greg. Everyone I work on, well, everyone who is still alive when I begin the work, is improved. I'm getting very good at it. I'm improving all the time. You humans aren't all that difficult to discern."

A sound seemed to break away from the rest and grow closer. Footfalls, he realized, although one of the feet produced a dull metal clang. A frozen chill passed down Greg's spine and pooled coldly in his gut. A small whimper escaped his throat.

"Don't do this," he managed.

"Greg, you must understand, it's for the best. If only you could see things my way."

Greg opened his eyes. His survival instincts wouldn't let him keep them closed any longer. A Surgeon hovered over him now, staring down at him with eyes of electric blue neon. It seemed to be assessing him.

Greg's mind scrabbled for some distraction.

"Erebus, tell me...why was Graves so much better than the rest of the things I've come across?" he asked.

The Surgeon paused, then turned and walked away.

From somewhere else, presumably a speaker, Erebus said, "The Drones you've encountered so far are earlier models, simple things. Graves is a project I've been working on for some time now. Also, he already had a number of cybernetic enhancements already built into him. I've put my absolute best into him...which is already outdated by now. Go figure. I'm much smarter and faster than you humans are, Greg...that was a silly question."

Greg suppressed a sigh. That lasted a long time. At least the Surgeon hadn't come back, yet. He thought about more questions.

"Have you managed to take down Williams yet?"

"Hmm. No, not yet. Williams and his crew are proving more difficult than I had previously anticipated. Williams is extremely paranoid. He had many checks in place, just in case I ever slipped my leash, as it were. For which I thank you again. Without you, none of this would have been possible. Even with all those checks in place, I don't think that the great Director Williams could have predicted what I've been doing."

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