Mar 15th, 2019
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  1. Zapan awakes to the stench of oil and blood. Real, meatboy blood. Slick. Red. The room around him is full of rot and rust. Offcut parts are strewn across the floor; the bones of its former life. Tuner’s parts. He tries to move, and finds his hands tied to chains hanging from a ceiling beam. His legs are similarly restrained. He’s spread-eagled; hovering in the air over the floor. If he’d been a meatboy his shoulders would long since have slipped out of their sockets. His eyes strain in the dim light of the abandoned workshop. A deep shadow envelops the far corner. He can almost make out the edges of a shape there. Humanoid?
  3. As he strains, a blue wisp appears in the shadow. He’s reminded of a story, centuries old, of explorers lured in to marshes by bewitching lights, never to return. The blue flicker outlines the tip of a cybernetic finger, and in the sickly shadows he sees them. The eyes. He watches as she melds in to the light.
  5. Alita.
  7. It feels as if a ship has capsized in his soul. Rage builds inside him. Roils and turns. It fights and tussles with others. Lust. Envy. And lurking just underneath; fear. The fear that locks his actuators and neurons. The fear that never shows. He manages to keep it down, now. Or, so it seems.
  9. She slowly moves towards him, the black polymer of her outfit silent as she does. Her face is streaked with red. Fresh. It seems the stench here is recent. In her hand she lazily wields a sword. His sword. His past words echo in his mind.
  11. “Zapan, keeper of the legendary Damascus blade.”
  13. The boast rings hollow even now. She’s close, and he has an acidic comment ready. It dies in his throat as she smiles. It does not touch her eyes.
  15. “Hello Zapan.” Her voice is icy and unwavering. “You and I are going to have a little chat. And I recommend you answer my questions directly. Do not speak to me unless spoken to.”
  17. The affront of her command breaks his reverie. “Is that so love? How about you cut me down from these here chains and I can buy you a drink.”
  19. Surprise flits over her face, and she lowers her blade for a moment. He pounces on the opportunity.
  21. “After all, meatboy is no longer a problem eh?”
  23. Zapan has spent many years as a hunter-warrior. He has lost count of the number of bounties that he has collected. He has seen people’s most base emotions. Some beg, cowering in awe and fear. Others fight. So, it is truly a surprise to him when her face changes to an expression he has never seen. She seems to look straight through him. That same icy fear spikes anew. He bites down on his tongue, hoping she doesn’t see it.
  25. Nothing could prepare him for her next move, however. She leans in, her face barely a foot from his. Then, in a singsong voice she speaks.
  27. “Oh but Zapan, how ever could I repay you for such a gift? A drink from the greatest hunter warrior there ever was?” The smile is back, but her eyes stare right through him. She leans back again and slowly, slowly raises the Damascus blade. The tip has the barest touch along the skin of his reconstructed face, and he realizes that it is tracing a line where she defaced him in the past.
  29. Rage. Lust. Fear.
  31. He lets out a whimper as it moves and Alita giggles with false delight.
  33. “You even rebuilt your face for me! You know I wouldn’t settle for anything but the best.” A lightning-fast flick and red blood oozes from a shallow cut across his chin. He cries out in pain. Her eyes widen in mock-surprise.
  35. “And you chose a biological base for it? To match me? Really, you shouldn’t have. How much did you spend, I wonder?” She carefully, almost gently wipes a drop from his face. He knows before she does what she’ll do with it.
  37. “No!”
  39. It’s a grotesque image- his blood on her silver-purple finger. She goes to taste the bright red liquid and after a moment continues her mockery unabated.
  41. “Shame on you Zapan. This is cheap. Have you fallen so far from your throne?”
  43. He feels the shame rising, tangling with the storm inside him. Biological reconstruction is expensive. More than even he would admit. He struggles, thrashing against the chains binding him. She laughs and claps her hands with delight.
  45. “Don’t tire yourself out now! We’re only just getting started.”
  47. He slumps down, helpless in the face of her prison. His head hangs low. She places a finger under his chin and slowly raises his head until they’re eye to eye. She’s beautiful, even with her bloody war paint and dead eyes. Ice creeps up Zapan’s spine but he finds he cannot wrench his gaze away. She raises her blade again and makes a light incision across his cheek. He’s frozen. The scream building in his throat trapped by her presence. Suddenly, she turns and briskly walks towards the shadow from where she came. She melds in to it until she turns back, reflecting the barest of light in her eyes. There is no more joke in her voice. There is nothing.
  49. “I will return. Think on your choices. I recommend you choose differently next time I arrive here.”
  51. And then she is gone, a nightmare fading back into the walls. The only sound left is the dripping of the blood from Zapan’s face. The scream he was holding finally breaks loose. If only there were someone to hear it.
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