Terran Date: 4522.3.29
“The last Lady of the Vitsu family has passed,” Anelus said to the small group that stood in vigil out of her suite, head bowed. Human, alien, and machine alike wept and wailed, clinging to one another. The mortician looked from beneath his eyes, spotting a towering man amongst the crowd, displaying no emotion as his gaze met his. Perhaps he was angry with the words strung together like that? Or was it shock, a delay in reaction? Truthfully, Anelus did not understand human emotion all that well; complex creatures they were. The gaze unwavered as he moved aside to let the others into the suite.
The man finally moved from his place; Anelus noticed that he was wearing the garbs of a bodyguard – a single breasted robe, black in color, contrasted by the white silk sash around his waist. He watched as the man entered the room; the small crowd parted from the bedside. Was it possible that he was her lover, the mortician asked himself as the man knelt at the bed, reaching behind his neck to unlatch his silver collar. The pendant that hung from it was the blue star of Xen. Someone muttered their surprise as he placed it around the woman’s pale neck.
Anelus wondered why humans showed such sentimentality when another died, but quick to violence at a small slight. Before he knew it though, the man had already left, and did not see him again until the hearing of the final Testament hearing two days later.
* * *
The twin suns when the Testament began. The Vitsu staff, wearing their finest funeral costumes, was seated on the manor’s ballroom balcony overlooking the vast sea and distant islands.
Vincent Nightsong stood in the very back, arms crossed over his chest, cerulean eyes scanning the crowd. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for something wild to interrupt the funeral, the wake, or the hearing, as experienced at others. He had his suspicions about this; she was healthy, happy, and playful a week ago with no trace of an oncoming disease or virus. Krit, even three days ago. She had no particular enemies – he saw to that personally. Maybe it was an inside job? No, every piece of food and object the house received were carefully screened before reaching planet-side. He ran other options and scenarios in his mind, but didn’t come up with any answers.
Or, she might have died naturally.
The bodyguard could not avoid looking at the mortician the whole time; something didn’t sit right with him at all. Twilight kept his eyes on him when he looked his way, faint eyes glinting in the dying light. For a brief moment, the mortician smiled from the corner of his thin-lipped mouth.
All the while, the reader of the will, an old and portly Acadrian, went through the inheritage; because she did not bore a son or daughter, all of it went to her staff, enough to provide their families for three generations straight and the manor itself will be a place of refuge for all. Vincent though, did not hear his name among the rest. Perhaps there will be a second hearing; after all, he was the closest to her after her father died. Then why do I get the feeling that he is involved?
As the meeting was adjourned, Vincent slipped back into the manor, along with the suns’ last light.
* * *
Anelus toured the mansion, his thin body only a shadow in the moonlight. The mourners were gone for the night, tending to the burial of the woman. A shame she had to die; clearly, she had another two or even three hundred years left in her. Such was the way of the universe. The mortician entered the suite, pausing when he saw the bodyguard from earlier sitting on the bed, eyes glowing softly in the dark. A machine? That can’t be; he looks human! A bio-type… this will be harder than I thought.
“Judging from your facial expression,” Vincent began, “you have already concluded what I am.”
“Nonsense,” Anelus replied, recovering. “I’m surprised that you are not at the burial. Were you not close to Lady Vitsu?”
“I’m suspicious.” The bodyguard stood, a broad shadow.
“Is it because I smiled?” The mortician did so, showing small, shark teeth. “I just find it amusing that even machines are even capable of having the same… emotions as a human. Tell me, is it simple programming?”
Vincent narrowed his eyes. “Isn’t your duty done? Why are you still here?”
Anelus shrugged, a fluid gesture. “It has come to my attention that since your beloved has died, you must as well.” Four white orbs flared from behind him, each producing a distinct low whine.
“You see, Vincent Nightsong, or should I call you XES-oh-two-nine? You were supposed to be decommissioned and scrapped after the second Purge, but the sympathetic Lady took it upon herself to save you; she gave you a new body and – as the Terrans say – a new lease on life in exchange to serve her until death.” He continued when Vincent said nothing, but he saw slow anger. “ You were illegally bought and converted without approval. That… isn’t something the dasanco would like; your fellow brethren that were actually killed Terrans and others without provocation.”
“What does this have to do with Skuella? If you wanted me, I would’ve complied.”
Anelus tutted. “She was the only blockade, the only one preventing us…”
Vincent’s face went pale at the conclusion. “Nightingales,” he growled. “You’re a fool!”
“Really?” Anelus laughed, a rapid clicking sound. “Have you considered that they’re already on the outside of the system as we speak? They’ll be here within twenty-two years…” He paused, falling silent. “I’ve said too much.” The mortician uttered a single, guttural word and the four orbs pulsed twice in unison as he stepped back into the darkness.
Vincent was faster, destroying one of the orbs with a swift blow to its core. Even though the battle droid was invincible to human eyes, he saw the faint outline of their form; sleek and tall. He retreated and barely reflected a beam off of the dresser mirror, shattering it into shards. A sixth sense, as Skuella called it, nagged at him. If the mortician already knew about his past, why weren’t there more reinforcements?
“A ruse,” he muttered. By the time he glanced up again, the battle droids were gone. He didn’t pick up heat or sound signatures, except the startled whoops of the auwats from the outside.
Krit! A beam punctured through Twilight’s left shoulder, nearly severing his arm from its socket, and another barely missed his head; the heat from it overloaded his vision. Scores of blistered telwood rained on him and destroyed a good portion of the suite.
The mortician saw Vincent still standing there, gripping his lame arm. In the darkness, there was a bright shade of something pooling beneath the bodyguard. Blood?
Vincent moved away, cursing his arm. He thought about using Excelis, but the chances of it working properly were dwindling. The orbs reappeared, along with the smiling Anelus. “A bioroid? Not quite machine or human… I won’t feel as awful when I scrap you.”
The remaining battle droids leapt forwards, revealing their bodies of tungsten and titanium, talons unsheathed. Light exploded from Vincent, blinding them and then evaporating them with a burst of violent heat. Anelus shielded his eyes hissing, backing out of the room. He underestimated his strength and resolve... qualities that should not be in a machine. He swayed, missing the bodyguard's fist by centimeters and ducked, twisting his entire body as he allowed the long leg of Vincent soar over them.
Anelus pushed away with a light tap, dodging the exact strikes as if the winds of Ixion caught him. They stopped when his arrogance caught up with him; the mortician miscalculated a straight punch that turned into a hook, drawing dark ichor from his jaw. With a flick of his wrist, Anelus produced a small blade from his sleeve as Vincent's Excelis diminished and pinned him down. He knew he was too weak to struggle; the power surge was an act of desperation, like a cornered human. There was a look of fear in Vincent's cerulean eyes as they flicked back from him and past his shoulder.
Vincent snapped his head back with little room he had, and his forehead met with the mortician's nose, shattering it. He didn't have enough time to react to the blade being wedged between his eyes.
The bodyguard pushed the body of Anelus off with his free arm, rising and testing his left shoulder. The wound was gone but the synapses were still signaling pain; he hated how the Excelis depleted his energy, leaving him only the strength of the strongest Terran.
He wandered back into the suite, assessing the damages wrought by the fight, muttering a non-audible curse. "Sorry, Skuella..." Vincent picked up the skull of one of the scrapped battle droids. It was one thing to exterminate hostiles, but to do this to his own brethren left him an odd, empty feeling. What did she call it?
He sighed, dropping the skull. Vincent whirled at the warning of a sudden heat signature, he saw the mortician standing in the doorway, eyes in red slits, teeth barred, and dark blood running from his wounds. The bodyguard did not move fast enough as Anelus slithered towards him and pitched over as the mortician's hand punctured through his chest.
"I guess you really were created in the image of a Terran, even in the inside," Anelus said, wrapping his fingers around his heart. Vincent emitted a howl only heard by other sentient androids as unfamiliar pain overloaded his nervous, cut short when the mortician tore it out.
"And I most certainly know that the brain cannot live more than three minutes." Anelus watched with glee as Vincent collapsed, clawing his chest. He was disappointed on how little blood there was though. "I'll just keep this as a trophy... have a little fun experimenting. Or shall I use it in a dish? I hear it's a delicacy among the Taipels..."
Vincent's vision faded and defocused, only flashing the multiple messages of critical system damages, and the rapidly deteriorating countdown of remaining power he had left. Eventually, his eyes greyed and before his auditory switch into white noise, he heard the clicking - the laughter - of the mortician laughing at his death.