"I’m finding it more and more difficult to…relax.”
The word could mean anything, but he announced it after a pause as if to emphasize its possibilities.
"And here I thought it’d take you so much longer to scrape the bottom of the deletion bin." Vira chuckled. "I do hope you don’t have bit rot, darling. That would make you singularly unsuited for my sort of game."
"So, what's gone wrong for you now, darling?" The virus took a seat next to Ozias with no preamble, as was their custom now. Her eyebrow was raised and her lips curled into a playful smirk. "Karma finally catching you?"
The Guard squinted his eyes, and likely would have quipped cruelly in reply were he not utterly drained by the constant dispel of energy due to this nightmarish glitch. He leaned his head back against the glossy, cool wall of the warehouse behind him, having found this isolated location to merely rest away from any prying eyes. Unsurprisingly, he was found, but to his relief it was not someone he entirely expected to be tormented by - and how amusing that realization as for him, considering she was such an incredible threat to everyone else.
He tilted his head to glance over at her, finally answering, “Someone placed a temporary glitch in my energy supply.” His voice was low, tired, his circuits still rimmed with a red, sore hue. “I call that vengeance, not karma.”
Vira was careful not to lean back into the wall and spread her infection. The brief respite from the constant infection had been nice, but now she was back to her usual self. She touched his shoulder lightly, through her gloves and only with her fingertips before drawing back.
"What sort of glitch? Damaging?" She raised an eyebrow. She still didn’t wholly feel the virus queen again, and likely wouldn’t for a while. The experience of being a medic had forced her to reevaluate … everything. "I assume, since you’re hiding in a warehouse instead of being your usual infuriating self, that it’s quite a problem for you." She smirked.
"So now I infuriate you?" he answered with a raise of his brow in her direction. He’d twitched when she touched him, even so gently, his responsiveness alert and his circuits still sensitive all over. He hadn’t even noticed her change back to normal until now, and considering their relations while she’d been safe to make contact with— Ozias hissed through his teeth, seemingly for no reason, and quickly looked away from her. How his system was still able to respond so basically, after all that, he had no idea. It was simply maddening.
"I guess it’s damaging…it’s terrible enough, anyway." He pressed his head back again and relieved a great, deep sigh, still a little shaky in the heated exhale. The warmth still pulsed from him, and he suddenly yearned then for the ability she’d had previously - going back for energy or to a medic meant an extended possibility to be referred to, and he couldn’t handle any more of that. "I see you’re back to normal. How lucky for you. How many did you infect?" He’d figured this much out about her.
She didn’t touch him again, barely wanting to risk more. The urge was still there, of course, like a child with a new toy, or maybe, just maybe, like a program with something they enjoyed. Vira wouldn’t’ve known, as neither ever seemed to apply to her.
“That’s not answering the question, darling,” she teased, raising an eyebrow at him. The former challenge was ignored, because she had no retort and no desire to start that game all over with him, not the way things stood now. “But to answer yours,” She adjusted, pulling her loose hair over one shoulder, “I’ve only infected three.” Her eyes were dark. The three had been sentries, tall, dark haired, enough for her to take out her frustration on. They’d never really stood a chance. “You might have heard, but likely not. I spent more time in the hunt than usual.” She cocked her head to the side with a sad little half-smile. “I’ve derezzed more than that, of course. The three of them were … playthings.” She looked up at him from under her lashes, wondering how he’d take this turn of phrase.
He would have never guessed he liked hearing that annoying pet name from her as much as he did then. With every pause to regard him, he tensed, merely to ease comfortably when it was followed by that charming wisp of her voice speaking only, ‘darling,’ or some other such reference. The Guard cracked a weary smile at her, more interested now in talking about her than himself - for once.
Studying her own expression and disregarding the bothersome surge of electricity and heat that seemed never ending in her presence - and now only worsened since his system had experienced her - he was amused. “Playthings, huh?” He had to repeat it out loud, and for himself, although he didn’t find it hard to believe that someone like her would pluck programs out of their regular functions and turn them into drones for her own undying pleasure. He was certain that was her strange purpose, other than the obvious. “Did I bore you that much?” He knew he hadn’t, and he knew that wasn’t the purpose for her choice of words. Just as well, he was playing along with this game, and he rather enjoyed it. It was distracting, and that was very good.
“Bore me?” She laughed, but her voice was a little too warm around the edges, too low for her usual teasing. “Darling, if I was bored, I wouldn’t be here.” She cocked her head to the side, her eyes bright as she regarded him. “They’re all in bits now, the sentries. I got bored of them.” The admission was brutally honest in what it said – and didn’t say – but Ozias seemed to be in a mood to listen. Her fingers were drumming against her other wrist, beating out a pattern that might have been part of a song, or might just have been boredom.
He contemplated answering her earlier questioning, telling her all about the cycle of ceaseless overloads drawn out by the mere mention of his designation. But then he recalled her own twisted lust for entertainment, so similar to his own, and decided sparing himself of that torment. She had either forgotten or lost interest in knowing, or as well decided he wouldn’t tell her and didn’t care enough to press on. Whatever the case, he was better off.
"Unsurprising. They are sentries, after all," he remarked, humoring himself with the pride that came along with being a rank higher than those grunts. "I’m surprised you didn’t keep them for your army. They’re at least stronger than the average civilian." His head tilted to look at her, ever cautious of her motions, no matter the unusual promise she’d give him. There was always that chance, and he would regard it if even with a casual glimpse in her direction, just to be sure no strands of yellow were making their way toward him, ever.
Vira grinned and paused in her tapping. “They knew too much. They needed to die.” She leaned back, her palms against the ground. “My army, if you want to call it that, is strong enough without needing those – morons.” The way he watched her, like she was going to lose her mind and infect him at any moment, was amusing to her. “Besides, darling, sentries aren’t my style.”
TARKER: Tarker crawled through a window, into another place he didn't belong. Turning around, he saw a mostly empty apartment. It was dark, except for a sickly yellow glow coming from around the corner. "That's weird..." He began to walk towards it. "Hello? Anybody in here?" he offered. What was the worst that could happen? He'd get caught. He could escape. But there was worse. He just didn't know it yet.
Vira whirled toward the sound, her eyes flashing a brilliant yellow. Any other day, and this program might’ve survived - but tonight, she wasn’t in the mood.
The look she gave the hacker as she turned the corner was plenty intense without the added punch of her glowing yellow eyes. But after a moment she relaxed, and she more slank than walked up to the hacker, her eyes tracing over his render as she circled him.
"уσυ ∂ση’т вєℓσηg нєяє," she purred, with a lack of her usual tact. "тнαт мєαηѕ тнαт ησ σηє ωιℓℓ кησω ωнєяє тσ ℓσσк ƒσя уσυ."
Tarker backed away quickly. He had been in the wrong place before, but never got himself into a situation this bad. “I, uh, will just be going then. Because this isn’t where I thought it was. So sorry, carry on, not gonna tell anyone. I promise.”
He continued to back away to the window he came in. He prayed that he would make it before something worse could happen, but terror dogged his steps. The fear caused him to tremble and shake, and stumble over his own feet.
Vira chuckled and stepped forward sinuously, her eyes tracing over the hacker. “Sσ ѕσση?” She mock-pouted, before it was swallowed by a dark grin.
“I тнσυgнт ωє cσυℓ∂ ρℓαу α ωнιℓє." A flick of her head send her dark hair tumbling over her shoulders, and then she brushed gloved fingers over his cheek. "Jυѕт σηє gαмє, ∂єαя?" She leaned in close, her breath brushing over his ear as she murmured, "Iт’ℓℓ вαяєℓу тαкє αηу σƒ уσυя тιмє.”
That grin was terrifying. Every part of Tarker’s being screamed “RUN!” but something about her held him to the spot, even though he was more scared than he ever had been.
Her hand brushing against his cheek sent shivers down his spine. But he was frozen to the spot. There was something about her, an authority to her slightly sarcastic tone, something in her bearing that said that she almost always got what she wanted, and Flynn help the one that crossed her. “I-i”m not sure I’d enjoy the game…” he stuttered out. He managed to take a few steps back, and suddenly found himself up against the wall.
That’s when the panic set in. Where was the window? What happened to the window? Looking frantically both ways, he saw it several feet away. It was then that he knew that whatever she was going to do, she was going to do it. He was effectively doomed. “P-please don’t hurt me…. I-I won’t tell anyone that you’re here… just… please!”
Begging. He had been reduced to begging. It tore at his code to beg. He always had a solution. ALWAYS. But now he was stuck, and he found out what sort of program he was. A beggar.
Vira laughed, her head tossed back. “Ƭнιѕ ιѕη’т αвσυт ωнαт уσυ ωιƖƖ σя ωση’т тєƖƖ, ɗєαя - тнιѕ ιѕ αвσυт уσυ, αηɗ αвσυт уσυ вєιηg ιη му ρƖαcєѕ.” She was circling him, her movements too fluid for a normal program, and then she was behind him, one arm around his shoulders to grip his throat firmly.
Her breath brushed over his ear when she murmured, “ǀ’м αfяαιɗ тнιѕ ωιƖƖ нυят. Ɓυт яєѕт αѕѕυяєɗ - ǀ ɗση’т Ɩιкє тσ ρƖαу ωιтн му fσσɗ.” She grinned before pressing a kiss to the spot just under her jaw. “Ɓяαcє уσυяѕєƖf,” she murmured, and then there was a web of pain spreading from her mouth and hands through his skin, burning as it rewrote his code.
Pain. Everything was pain.
From where she had kissed him, and where she was holding him, sickly, yellow-green, cracked lines of light spread. Every line sent searing pain through his core, each one rewriting a part of his function, forcibly bringing it in line with the objectives of the virus.
It crawled and spread, Tarker’s scream cut off because of the infection moving up his face. His grey-blue eyes were being taken over by the yellow-green, and as the infection reached his disk and made the final changes, everything about him changed in a burst of viral infection.
He was hunched. He was scarred.
And he was no longer afraid. There was only pain. Pain and….
"M1sTr3ss…" he croaked out.
Vira held Tarker against her as he writhed, not even straining to hold up the added weight of another body. Her arm around his shoulders was immovable, and her other arm was around his waist. She was snarling a little, the virus enjoying the screams, and the way it looked to see the virus sear over her prey’s skin. Ƥєяfєcт, she thought, and laughed to herself.
She released him slowly when he spoke, watching him with a smirk. “Ɓєттєя,” was all she admitted aloud, as her gloves rerezzed. “Mυcн вєттєя.” She seemed almost lazy now, more energy expended than was strictly necessary, enough to keep him on his feet until they got back to the Den - which she’d have to do now, because she didn’t let Infected sleep in her hiding holes.
She stepped closer, two fingers under his chin to force his gaze up. Her eyes searched his, finding the familiar, comforting shade of yellow, before she smiled. “Ƴσυя fυηcтισηѕ, тєƖƖ тнєм тσ мє.”
He breathed heavily, his entire frame shuddering. He was tired. The infection process had sapped his strength. He was sure it was temporary.
He looked into the eyes of his mistress, his queen. The yellow in them would terrify any program that was clean, but for the infected, it was an island of peace.
"k11L. DesTr0y. Inf3cT. SpR34D TH3 P41N!"
His infected circuits flared as he declared his function, even though he was physically tired.
His clawed fingers scraped the floor weakly. He was exuberant. He wanted to start immediately. He wanted to please her, but he required rest first.
Vira chuckled and brushed her fingers over his cheek. “Perhaps I asked the wrong question. I’m sure we can use whatever functions you had before, can’t we, dear?”
He must be exhausted, but his desire to infect was promising: fully rested, he would be an interesting addition. She turned on her heel and snapped her fingers, the thought jumping from her mind to his instantly. Follow me. Don’t stray.
"Rectified?" Despite all the insults she spat at him, it was this word that stuck with him. The attempt to belittle him was a much too common effort in which he’d lost interest in responding to a long time ago. But rectified? Why would she call him that? Did she really think…
Ozias’s puzzled face slowly transformed, becoming a subtle grin as his eyes drew down to the ground and then slowly back up to her, a slant in the posture of his mohawked head. He wiggled the baton at her, suppressing a heavier laugh. “All this time you’ve been meddling around with me, and you actually thought I-” He choked back another burst of laughter by turning his head away momentarily. Only a breathless sound escaped him, and then he inhaled audibly as he looked once more back at her. “Vira, I’ve never been re-purposed.” He shook his head loosely. “What you see here? It’s all original Ozias, darling.”
Her eyebrows were migrating higher and higher as he spoke. She didn’t even hide her shock. ”You mean to say they allow - sign ups in the Elite?” She groaned and turned, slamming her fist into a wall. Cracked lines of infection spread, and her knuckles dripped yellow voxels when she turned. “This changes everything! Fuck!”
There was a visible moment where she turned, reining herself in, and met his eyes again, although she seemed more excited than she’d been in a while. “It explains a lot about you,” she said after a long exhale. She glanced up at him. “So you just, what, decided to sign up?” She grinned and clicked her tongue. “And yet you still turn me down — I’m offended, darling.”
”You’d be surprised how fast that can change.”
”Most fight so briefly, once they’re infected.”
— but then silence.
This isn’t going so well
"I don’t want to change.”
”Oh please, dear. I’m not going to infect you right now.”
Everyone’s so scared of me.
”I think you’d be more fun to convince. It’s a hobby of mine.”
I love it.
Good luck with that.
”Have you never wanted to be powerful? Is there no one you want to outdo?”
Funny, I could almost convince myself like this.
“I could give you that. You’d be stronger than the Occupation.”
"Power…but at what cost?"
It’s tempting…but I’ve never been powerful.
And that’s how I’ve survived. By not standing out.
”At what cost?”
Funny program, this musician.
“What wouldn’t you pay to see the look on a certain black guard’s face when you’re the strong one?”
[infected verse] "I'll carry you. Hold still or it'll hurt more."
The infected program slightly groaned at his queen’s insistence, but he submitted. How could he not? She owned him. She was in his processor. She controlled his task manager. “c-C-c4n wAlK…” he grunted out.
It was the worst form of protest he was allowed. He wanted to impress her. He wanted her to think him special. To approve. Her approval was all he wanted. But after a run in with some reds, he was hardly in an impressive state, even if he had killed two or three, and left the rest with infected wounds that would take many cycles to fully heal.
Vira sighed and knelt, wrapping one arm around his chest and one under his legs as she stood. He was pressed close to her, but she certainly wasn’t making it comfortable for him as she walked, the longer, lose cloak barely hiding their circuits. She didn’t seem too phased by the added weight - in fact, for all she reacted, she might’ve been on a walk by herself.
"You’re ησт going to walk back ιη тнιѕ state," she snapped shortly. "You fσσƖιѕн beta. You thought you could take on a gang of sentries αƖσηє?" She rolled her eyes. "What did I тєαcн you all?"
"D0n’T Go 0uT aLon3…." he said, the sulk evident in his distorted voice. He let himself be carried, even though he wished that he could be walking proudly, the energy of the sentries dripping off his claws, staining the outlands as he made his way back to the Den.
"bUt tHeY wERe t00 c1osE… I w4nt3d to f33l tHeiR c0d3 sPliT unDeR mY clAwS… h3Ar ThEiR $cR34Mssss…."
Vira sighed and adjusted her grip on the infected in her arms. “Have I ever accepted єxcυѕєѕ?” She glared at him for a moment. “Rємємєя what нαρρєηєɗ to Jαмeѕ?”
Vira had happened to him, in the end. He’d gotten too far out of line, spoken back one too many times, and she’d ripped his throat from his body with hardly a moment of hesitation.
“Ɗσ уσυ ωαηт тσ вє тнє ηєxт єxαмρƖє?”