Dancing To The Tune

The Chaos Insurgency was having a very good day.

Marcus Austerion walked the halls as a hero. Their old, ragtag base had been replaced with a shiny new Foundation site, loaded with the latest technology and a vast array of… information to peruse.

And all I had to do was seduce some geezer and kill some fogies to get it.

There was a certain joy in being the boss. No longer was he at the beck and call of an old woman, having to spend the Insurgency's notably low budget on fancy gifts to please her. The respect is a nice touch too. For a time, he had been referred to as "Granny-lover Marcus," a decidedly uncreative nickname, but one that still stung nonetheless.

"Marcus, you're needed in the command center."

A wiry man, who had been acting as Marcus's assistant for the past few days notified him.

"Thank you, John." Marcus responded, "I'll be right there."

The former council room, now the command center, had been cleaned of blood and bodies only a few hours ago. The cleaning solution gave the room a nice lavender scent to mask the stench of death and gunshots. Two men sat, lightly bickering at the table. The man on the left, Dale O'Connor, was their unofficial treasurer. The man on the right, Kenneth Posely, preferred to speak on diplomatic affairs. Marcus himself acted as a de facto tactician, and if the situation called for it, general leader.

"What's the situation now?" Marcus asked, "We still have several days before the Universal Council reconvenes. Are we really having this much trouble securing key Sites in this backwater swamp planet?"

"To be frank, yes." Kenneth retorted, "They've noticed that all of their communication lines to us and to each other have been severed. At some point, they'll find a way out of lockdown before we can take control of the Sites. We don't have the manpower-"

"Or the resources," interrupted Dale.

"Yes, or the resources, to fend off the entire Foundation, especially if they reach out to other planets."

"So, I'm assuming this means we haven't made any progress with 13, is that correct?" Marcus inquired.

"Ah, yes, I have been completely unable to coerce him to give the 'all-clear' order." Kenneth sheepishly responded, "All attempts at torture have completely failed. We don't know what to do."

"I can't say I didn't expect this. Now, if there's nothing else, I would like to go deal with him myself."

"Uh, no, that's it. If we can get the all-clear order out we could just amnestize them all enough to believe that we are the rightful leaders of this planet's Foundation quite easily."

"Of course we could. Now, without further ado, I must be off. I have some information to claim."

"Hello, my little sole survivor, how are you doing today?"

O5-13 stares contemptuously at Marcus, as Marcus sits on a chair across the bars from him.

"I already told you, I'm never giving that order," O5-13 mutters before the question is even asked.

"Well, who said that's what I wanted you to do? I just want to become really good friends with you. After all, you owe me your life! It's the least you could do to be a little nicer with me."

"Not killing me does not count as saving my life."

"Does it not? No matter, because I think I'm going to really charm you right now. Now, tell me what the bad men did to you to try to get you to talk."

O5-13's eyes shift away from Marcus, to stare at some particularly interesting part of the wall.

"The silent treatment? That's cold. From this report… it seems like the only thing they've done so far is knock you around a little and not give you food. How harsh. Would you like some food?"

"Only if you eat it with me."

"What is it?"

"Bag of dicks."

Marcus broke into a light chuckle, which grew into uproarious laughter, before finally settling down again.

"Old man has jokes, doesn't he? I'm impressed you can keep your cool down here. Maybe you O5's have some fire in you after all. Now, because you were just so rude to me, mind telling me the all-clear code?"

"I already told your goons, I don't have it. Only O5-1 had that. And you killed him. So much for your plan."

"Wow, you really must think I'm stupid. Don't you remember who I am? 4's former assistant? She had some… loose lips. I know just about everything there is to know about all of you. Why do you think we left you alive?"

"I thought it was just this handsome mug I'm rocking."

"Good one. But I know you know the code. I even know the distress code, so if you were hoping to trick us into letting you send the might of the Foundation down on us, you are sorely mistaken. One of your coworkers, I believe it was 12, left it on a sticky note in his desk. How lucky for us. You're out of options, so how about you just make this all easy for yourself?"

"Suck a dick."

"Wow, the absolute mouth on you! Can't believe they let you in the Foundation, let alone the O5 council."

"Why do you think you can convince me if starving me half to death has not, and will not work? Your charming personality? Maybe you think I'll accidentally say it during a sentence because I'm just that senile? What is it?"

"I don't need you to say it. You need you to say it."

"That was the dumbest statement I've ever heard. I have no past, no connections, nothing other than a want for the good of the Foundation, and you think I fear death?"

"I don't. But I do know what will terrify you."

Marcus activated his earpiece microphone.

"Bring in The Surgeon."

Immediately after his request, a set of guards stepped in. They stood on either side of a man with peculiar eyes and robotic hands. A third man entered alongside them, carrying surgical tools.

"This is my good friend, the Surgeon. He's a guy we picked up in a back alley, a bit down on his luck, but he had been running a bootleg neuro clinic in some… unsavory turf. Poor guy missed his protection fees by a few bucks and said unsavory clients made sure he could never work again. Show us your hands, Surgeon."

On command, the Surgeon removed the prosthetics to reveal the stumps where his real hands should have been.

"The man is an anomaly unto himself, no past, no future, just eyes that can see the finest details, and a brain that can store incredible amounts of knowledge. Too bad they cut his tongue off, I assume he was beautifully verbose. You should also recognize those hands. We recognized the worth of such a fantastic savant on our sides and needed an even anomalously good pair of hands. Prosthetics have come far, but you can't get beauties like these without a little bit of random cosmic magic. We just had to steal them from you, you understand. They would've been wasted on any other chump."

Marcus opens the cell door, and enters, along with The Surgeon and the guards. Marcus goes up close to O5-13 and whispers, out of the earshot of The Surgeon.

"We can't call him by his real name of course, because that would humanize him. But you understand that concept, don't you?”

"Eat shit and die."

"Ooh, getting a little quiet there buddy? Has your situation finally dawned on you? We found a fate much, much worse than death, especially for such a smart boy as you. See, our buddy here knows the exact part of the brain he needs to manipulate to remove your free will forever. We don't need you to give us the code willingly, after a little snip snip, we can just ask you and you'll do whatever anybody wants. I would make a PowerPoint explaining the exact sciences behind free will removal, but I don't think either of us wants to spend time on that. I'll just trust that you get it."

O5-13 remained silent. The only sound that could be heard in his containment area were the sounds of The Surgeon sharpening his equipment.

"Not even a witty retort this time? Shame, I was really a huge fan of those. Such vulgarities for an O5. Now, last chance, will you give the all-clear? I swear I won't have Mr. Bad Surgeon Man here touch your big ol' noggin if you do."



"I'll do it."

"What was that? Could barely hear you."

"I said I'll give the all-clear, okay?"

"That's a good boy. I'm sure you're thinking something heroic about how you're more useful to the Foundation with free will. Bring him to the terminal."

The Surgeon got himself and his tools out of the way to let the guard, who hefted O5-13 over his shoulder, and Marcus through. The trio walked up to the terminal, and some of the more belligerent Chaos Insurgency members clapped for the fallen O5. The guard sat O5-13 at the terminal. Marcus held a stun rod to 13's back.

"Try anything funny and you get knocked out. Then we'll try again the next day. Remember, I know your distress codes, and if the computer receives any signal that would achieve that effect, we have it rigged to let us know. You have no way out, other than giving the all-clear. Hey Dale! Are the guards ready? We have a personalized all-clear message ready to go out telling them to accept amnestization."

Dale, who was hunched over at another terminal, shot a thumbs up in the direction of Marcus.

"Now," Marcus said, right over the shoulder of 13, "Send the code."

A message prompt appeared on the screen.

Does the Black Moon howl?

Input: Only on the shoulders of the Stars.

A minute passes, before a sharp shout of joy can be heard from Dale.

"Receiving confirmation that our men are being let in." Dale yelled, "The geezer did his job!"

"I'm almost surprised. That whole distress signal thing was bullshit, all we did was send this all-clear to the most easily takeable Site. You actually sent the right code. Now, for your reward."

Marcus took a handgun out of its holster and dug it into the forehead of O5-13.

"Put that gun away, we had a deal." O5-13 said, letting the panic creep into his voice.

"I don't think we ever made a deal. Simply put, that’s all we needed you for."

Marcus cocked his gun. The shot echoed through the control room.

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