((60 - Greyscale))
June 2nd, 802 AT.
Slowly, the world faded in from black, in a steadily lightening haze. Cold metal met at their wrists and ankles, hold them both against… a wall? Slowly the world came into focus, revealing a room full of strange equipment—bubbling vials of glowing liquid, apparati hanging from the ceiling, tools and instruments of all sorts. A tall man in a white lab coat was hunched over a table, scrawling notes. A long, thin red pony tail trailed down his back.
Owl’s eyes went wide, and she pulled against the cold bonds, staring around the room in confusion.
Next to her on the wall, Skunk scowled. “What the fuck?” She tried to shape the metal bonds, but found them unresponsive.
At the sound, the man at the table stood up, turning to face them. His glasses gleamed in the too-bright light from overhead. "Ah, you're awake."
Owl frowned. "Who are you?" she questioned, more dazed than angry.
Skunk pulled against her bonds. “And why the hell are we bound?”
The word 'language' came as an auto-response to the older woman's lips, but she swallowed it.
"You can call me Dr. Emerson." He smiled, and walked calmly over to a large machine that hung from the ceiling.
Skunk's face twisted into an even deeper scowl. "That's not an answer."
"Oh, don't worry, I'm sure I'll get plenty of answers out of you." Emerson pulled the machine down, revealing a large jagged-edged circular piece of metal on a socket off one side.
"Out of us?" There was a squeaky quality to Owl's tone now.
"Coward," spat Skunk venomously.
Turning to face her, he raised an eyebrow, smile unwavering. "Am I?"
"Binding me up with freak metal, using fucking machines to do your dirty work?"
He simply shrugged, and turned back to his machine, continuing to prepare it.
Owl shivered. It had nothing to do with cold.
Skunk’s eyes narrowed as she examined the machine. "Gonna torture us, are you?"
"He... he can't do that!" Owl gasped.
“Why not?” Emerson blinked. "You don't make the least bit of sense, and I intend to find some!"
"Be-because... because we... you just can't!"
"It's simple science, my dear." He took a step towards his two subjects. "Look at you! You're covered with strange words, half of them in languages that I can't find in the most detailed linguistics textbooks!"
"Well then, then... your books aren't very good." Owl squirmed under his gaze.
Skunk just rolled her eyes. "Whoop-dee-fuckin'-doo, he's a nutter too."
"And you--" he gestured at Skunk "--are covered head to toe with some sort of liquid, semi-living metal."
Owl continued to protest. "And let me tell you, from everything I've read, simple science is rarely just that."
"Well, of course not. If it were simple, it wouldn't be fun." He flipped a switch on the machine, and the circle began to spin.
“But then… then you lied,” Owl said.
The metal rotated, slowly at first, then faster and faster, becoming a shining whirring blur.
He blinked at Owl. "Really?"
"You... you said it was simple, and that simple science wasn't fun and... and that thing does NOT look simple."
Skunk watched the blade spin. "What are you looking for?"
“I’m looking for an explanation.”
"For what?" asked Skunk, trying to steal some time.
He reached back and pushed a button on a small machine mounted on a tripod. Ignoring them, he spoke to the machine. "Experiment one. Testing resilience of liquid metal skin-system, using iron saw."
He turned back to the girls, and moved the spinning blade into position over Skunk's right arm.
"I do not like the sound of that." Skunk braced herself, gritting her teeth.
"You! Hey! Young man, you will use no such thing on her!" Owl’s protests sounded hollow, even to her.
"And how do you intend to stop me, ma'am? With words?"
Owl squeezed her eyes shut and turned her head, determined not to have the image stuck in her skull. "Words are more powerful than you might think," she answered, not opening her eyes.
Emerson pushed the saw down onto Skunk's arm.
“The saw is soft,” Owl began, as the room filled with a screeching sound of metal on metal as the saw blade scraped against the much-harder metal of Skunk.
Skunk tried to shape the metal into a harmless blob, but somehow it too resisted her power. "Ow," she commented sounding far away.
"Nearly intangible,” Owl continued. “It is made of cotton and baby blankets. The teeth are duller than a newborn's gums." The words flowed down her arms, crossing behind Skunk along the wall, wrapping around her arm and onto the saw.
"When it touches metal, it folds against it," Owl said, voice getting stronger. She pushed the words hard. "When it touches Skunk, it cannot hurt her... it is a cloud."
Emerson took a step back in confusion, watching as his best saw appeared to melt, and then half-fade away, falling through the machinery holding it up.
Owl’s words wrapped around the blade, covering it with writing, as it landed on the floor and folded in on itself.
Skunk relaxed a bit. "Okay, that's...better."
Emerson whirled to Owl. "Well then! I see I've directed my inquiry in the wrong direction!" He pulled a scalpel out of his pocket and took two steps towards her.
"Wait, what exactly do you want to know?" Skunk cut in.
Owl glared at the scientist looming over her, easily a foot taller than her. "Young man, I hope you realize that that scalpel is made of the same clouds as the saw." Owl allowed herself a strained smile as she sent more words out. "It will touch me, but it cannot hurt me. It is softer than air."
Ignoring her, Emerson spoke to Skunk. "At the moment, if the words on this woman are—” He blinked in surprise as the scalpel literally fell through his fingertips, coming to rest softly against the ground.
Skunk ground her teeth, annoyed at being useless. "Great job. Now, can you get us out?"
Owl's eyes lit up. "I can!" she answered. "The metal that holds us is melting away. But as it melts, it remains cool."
Emerson turned back to the machine on the tripod. "Subjects are proving difficult to experiment on, and resistant. Perhaps I should have done more experimentation on them when they were unconscious."
“Camera!” Owl named automatically, recognizing it from a book. “What are you taking pictures of?”
"You know, I for one wouldn't mind practicing my whip's aim on this guy," muttered Skunk, ignoring the scientist.
Owl’s words had wrapped around the restraints, again flowing off of her body and altering what they touched. The metal melted away, slipping to the floor.
Skunk eyed Owl. "So you do have your uses then."
"Several of them, I hope," Owl replied.
Oblivious, Emerson continued to talk into the camera, describing Owl's writing.
She turned back to the scientist. "Young man. Perhaps you should let us go. This whole laboratory could be a puddle of clouds." Owl shook her wrists, getting a fleck of melted metal off.
He continued to ignore her, launching into a description of the feeling of the scalpel as it passed through his hand.
"Young man!" Owl snapped. "Do your, um, guests the common courtesy of paying them attention!"
Skunk rubbed her wrists, and looked around for her iron whip, which was conspicuously absent from her hip. "You know, I think we ought to repay him with as much courtesy as he gave us."
"What do you... Oh, no. Skunk! We couldn't!"
This seemed to finally get the doctor's attention. "Hm? I'm sorry, did you say something?
"Yes, several things," Owl answered.
"Oh. I'm sorry, would you mind repeating them?"
"You know, I think this guy is absolutely out of his goddamn mind." Skunk advanced towards him menacingly.
Owl put her hands on her hips and scowled. "Well, first of all, I asked what the camera was for," she repeated. "And second of all, while I disagree with the phrasing, I think you might be right, Skunk."
"Why? Well, that seems obvious enough. To record my experiments so that I can review the data later!"
Owl's eyes widened. "So you can... that's terrible! You were going to have vih-dee-oh of this?"
Skunk kept her blood-red eyes trained on the Doctor, but didn't make any moves just yet. "Yeah, well, I think we've already seen that he's not exactly the nicest guy ever."
"Of course I was! Record-keeping is vital to good scientific methodology."
"Why in all of Face would you want something like that?" Owl gasped.
“Look, does it matter? He’s clearly crazy.” Skunk glanced around the rest of the room, eyes coming to rest on the ladder hanging down into the room from above. "There's a ladder over there, maybe we can get out."
"Well, yes, but," Owl bit her lip. "There are lines that shouldn't be crossed."
"I am not crazy, I am a man of science!"
"Same thing, from my reading," Owl replied. “Well, except for some nice ones.”
"I'm leaving.” Skunk rolled her red eyes. “This guy's not worth the time it would take to smear his brains on the walls."
Emerson frowned. "Hm." He took a few steps over towards a work desk, and picked up a fist-sized metal apparatus.
Skunk headed for the ladder. “I’m getting out of here, whether you’re coming or not, Owl.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” The older woman answered.
Emerson spun towards them. "But I've just begun my experiments!" The contraption now included a large canister of glowing green liquid which, combined with the long needle out the other end, gave it a rather sinister appearance. "Stop, the experiments will go much smoother if I sedate you."
“Owl? What’s that?”
“Don’t know for sure!” The wordmancer was already starting towards the ladder. "But the green stuff looks like a lot of various liquids in this one old book with a skull on the front... No good can come of that."
Skunk glared around the room, seeing many exciting sources of metal she could use as a weapon. She settled on touching her palm to the nearest table, melting part of it off to form a long sword-like shard. Her other arm she formed into a gleaming blade.
Owl scrambled across the room until she reached the ladder. Grabbing a rung she called, "Skunk, leave him! Let's just go!"
"He's not giving up, though. The fucker could sound an alarm or some shit, or just stab one of us in the back."
Emerson’s eyes widened at Skunk's transformation, and ran over to the camera. He turned it on its tripod to point at her.
"But maybe he won't! Let's GO and not HURT anybody!" Owl knew she was screeching and she didn't care.
“Whatever.” Skunk backed away from him, stopping alongside Owl and the ladder. “Well? Head up.”
Owl started up the thing as fast as she could. "Going, going!"
"Wait! I'm not done with my experiments!"
"He gets to keep his head, for now," Skunk growled.
"Forever I hope. If we never see him again it'll be too soon," the shorter woman replied as she went up the ladder. Owl pulled herself over the top of the ladder and came out onto the ship’s upper deck.
The ladder opened onto the deck of a ship not terribly unlike the Quinn, though closer to the Oliver in size. At one end was a control port, and a pair of large engines stuck off the sides, currently rotated to point straight downwards. The sky above was open Void.
Skunk followed up the ladder, and looked around. “Fun. Now what?”
"What do we do?" Owl asked. "I know how to navigate, but... not in this."
"Hell, I don't know." Skunk glanced back down into the room they had left, checking to see if there was a way to close the scientist inside, but unfortunately there was no door or hatch to seal the ladder.
Owl walked over to the unfamiliar dash and said, "Oh." She concentrated for a moment. “The controls are not unfamiliar.” The words again flowed off of her finger tips, beginning to wrap around the controls and alter them.
After a moment, the large red-haired man came up the ladder. He took the large syringe out of his pocket, and walked towards Skunk. "Come now, I'm just going to sedate you to make the experiments easier."
"Back the fuck off." Skunk reformed her left arm into a blade.
"They look just like the ones I've practiced on. The steering wheel is in my hands." Seeing what was happening behind her, Owl sped up. "And the buttons are all ones I know. They're in nice little rows." The steering wheel formed into her hands, and the buttons began to pop into place, one by one.
Emerson took another step towards Skunk, holding out his empty hand. “Please, it won’t hurt at all.”
“Touch me and I kill you, asshole.”
Owl bit her lip and looked back to Emerson and Skunk. “The syringe is empty! It has no point!” She cried, willing it to change. Her words were still wrapped around the console, though, and it seemed she couldn’t edit two things at once. “Darn!”
“Fuck this.” Skunk reached out her metal hand and grabbed him by the wrist, pulling him close, then impaled him with her blade.
He stared down at the extended metal now sticking into his chest. He frowned at it, clearly in considerable consternation. "This is... hm."
She let him go, then quickly lashed out with one sharpened foot, just to be thorough. The second blade caught him in the leg, cutting through a large chunk of him.
He blinked twice. "I don't think..." Then his eyes rolled back into his head, and he fell over backwards.
Owl couldn't close her eyes fast enough, and shuddered as Emerson fell. She knew she could never forget that image. Blood flowed freely from the two large wounds as his body thudded down onto the hardwood floor.
"That oughta do it." Skunk casually stepped away. "Get us away."
Owl opened her eyes and stared at her companion. "You..." she whispered.
"Owl, focus, damnit."
"What did you... you killed him."
"He was gonna torture us."
The smaller woman shook. All she could think of was the blood. "You killed him! No, no, no..." The words in Owl's shadow changed. Blood, they read in a million tongues, blood screaming agony death. Blood Face Center leaving dying blood everything everyone! "No..."
Skunk crossed over to stand by Owl, and shook her roughly. "Yeah, well, we're gonna be dead too, if you don't get us somewhere."
"No," she whimpered, tears running down her cheeks. "I can't..."
“You’ve got two choices. Die out here, or learn to fly the damn ship.”
Owl was shivering to the point where she didn't trust her finger on the dash, but she turned to the controls. "You have to step away from me," she whispered, starting the ship.
Skunk complied. "I really hope there's no one else aboard," she mused under her breath.
Owl closed her eyes for a minute. When they opened she stopped shaking. "Okay. Let's go." She punched a few buttons in sequence and grabbed the wheel.
Going back over to the ladder opening, Skunk placed her palms against the floor and stretched some of the metal to cover the opening. "Where are we going?"
"Center," Owl replied, more casually than she should have been able to.
Skunk grunted, retreating into her usual silence.
"At least I hope so,” the rememorist added under her breath.
The small ship whirred to life at Owl's touch, reorienting downwards, and dropping into the Void.