Well at least you didn't have to wait long for this part :D Enjoy.
Thalia Circe shrieked and ducked behind the table. She peeked out from under it with terrified eyes and then emitted another scream and buried her head in her arms. Octaboona sighed.
“It’s OK, Thalia I only said hello.”
Thalia refused to answer him, instead looking around for something she could throw. However there was nothing to hand, not her sword or her rice paddle or even a frying pan. So instead she made a dash for the door, realised Octaboona was still standing in it and looked frantically around for a window that didn’t exist.
“Will you stop acting like a little girl and calm down.”
“I’m 73 I’ll have you know” Thalia muttered staring at the silver locket on her chest.
“Well if you’d stop imitating a rabid squirrel and answer a few questions then maybe I can leave you in peace.”
Thalia looked up warily and stared at him. And then she stared some more. She pointed at Octaboona.
“Are... are you... wearing... a BUNNY costume?”
Octaboona looked around carelessly.
“Nice decor, I really like what you’ve done with this place.”
“Why are you wearing a bunny outfit?”
“Really nice. Especially the hologram outside. It gives the room a nice feel. Lovely.”
“What happened to its head?”
“Your defences are admirable. I’m very impressed.”
“Bunny. You. Why?”
“May I say what wonderful taste in clothes you have. And music. He looked at the band depicted on her T-shirt. The Gaslight Anthem.”
Octaboona nodded and started to sing I’da Called You Woody Joe.
“And then I heard it like a shot through my skull to my brain,
I felt my fingertips tingle and it started to rain,”
I felt my fingertips tingle and it started to rain,”
Octaboona's voice warbled up and down the octave, straining at the high notes.
Thalia wasn’t sure whether to scream or to laugh. The resulting expression caused Octaboona to pale. He quickly stopped singing.
Before Thalia found something to throw at him Octaboona quickly interrupted.
“Do we have to go through this whole charade every time?”
Thalia averted her eyes and lapsed into silence again.
“Yes, I know, you find me scary... I know you can’t read my mind... but do you have to go through the whole shriek and throw routine every time we meet?”
“I’m pretty certain this is just an act now. You find this rather fun don’t you? But honestly I’m harmless. Look at me. I’m old. I have wrinkles. I’m wearing the lower half of a pink bunny costume. You’ll have to trust in me for once. I promise I won’t hurt you. Now, first question. Have you seen Skyril Oblivion?”
Thalia kept her back to Octaboona as she answered. “Yes, I rescued her.”
“From inside a pod?”
“No, they hadn’t transferred her yet.”
“So where is she now?”
“I sent her out with Kenny to retrieve our weapons and other belongings. I need them in order to escape.”
“Who is this Kenny guy? Where did he come from? Not... you didn’t rescue him from a pod did you?”
“His name is Kenny Lakinson. And yes I did. But he’s fine. He’d only been in the pod for a day or two at most. I’ve looked over his mind. He’s still relatively stable.”
“Oh Thalia, you stupid, stupid girl. He’s been subjected to the torture of Nightmare’s Passage. I don’t care for how long that makes him dangerous. And you just sent Skyril off with him?”
Thalia glared at him furiously.
“I told you, I’ve checked him out. He’s fine honestly.”
“Did it ever incur to you that your mind reading skills might not be infallible. I mean, you can’t get through my defences for a start. Did you think that maybe Kenny was just masking his true mental state by broadcasting the appearance of a stable mind?”
“Who Kenny? He wouldn’t know how. And I can tell when someone is thinking false information.”
“Even if they’re really, really good at it? Look Kenny will have been infected the moment he entered that pod.”
“Do you even know how this whole process works?”
Thalia muttered defensively. “Of course I do. They use the Nightmare Inductor up in the main control room.”
“And how precisely does the Nightmare Inductor work?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet.”
“Well listen to me, the Nightmare Inductor is simply a giant breeding vat with conduits that lead to a vent in the ceiling of every pod. The Inductor contains a thought virus. When the virus first enters the host, it explores the host mind extremely thoroughly, working its way through every thought, memory and emotion, digesting them until it knows the host’s mind better than the host itself. The virus excretes out all the unwanted by-products- fear, despair, hatred and so on, in the form of nightmares whilst it digests hope and happiness and love, hence why the victim is steadily drained of anything good and is left with the most horrifying of nightmares to occupy their mind. Once the host mind has thus been subdued the virus takes control of the host- using their body for its own purposes. Of course locked away in their pods and heavily manacled, the host is useless and the virus dies when the host does. But you released one of them and then sent it off with Skyril. Why on earth didn’t you go with her yourself?”
“How do you know all this?”
“I’m old Thalia. I’m very very old.”
Thalia looked sheepish.
“Umm... uhh.. well.. I didn’t go because of the onions...”
“Yes, I absolutely despise onions. I can’t go near them. And the room where they’re keeping my belongings is absolutely surrounded with them.”
“Pray tell why exactly don’t you like onions? Is it the smell perhaps? I’d have thought you could overcome a nasty stench in order to escape from this hellhole.”
“No, it’s not the smell.”
“The taste? You don’t have to eat them if you don’t want to. Is it because they make your eyes water?”
“I don’t want to say.”
She shook her head mutely.
“Our friend is in danger Thalia. She’s alone in the presence of the slave of a particularly nasty virus and all because of an onion? So please, tell me, why can’t you stand onions?”
Thalia mumbled something.
“What was that?”
“Onions are my kryptonite.”
“Excuse me? Your weakness is onions?”
Thalia nodded sullenly.
“They cloud my ability to read minds ok. And they weaken the defences around my own mind. I don’t like being powerless.”
“Couldn’t you just move them out of the way with your telekinesis?
“It doesn’t work on onions.”
Octaboona sighed. “Well at least you can still immobilise people if needs be. And you still have your martial arts.” He winced. “I remember only too well.”
“Plus, I’ll be there too. So that settles it. Let’s go rescue Skyril.”
“So you see Austin I have to do something. I’m so very restless.” Rosella rocked back and forth with her head in her knees.
Austin squeaked and then snuffled his nose as he searched for food.
“You’re right Austin, it would be the best plan of action. I must avenge my friend.” Rosella muttered to herself.
“They deserve it” she said unconvincingly. “It’s the only choice I have” she pleaded, staring defensively at Austin.
“I’m going to kill whoever did this. Whoever murdered my friend I will find you and hunt you down.”
“It’s what Nyx would have wanted me to do.”
Kenny scowled and rubbed his eyes yet the world remained stubbornly out of focus. He cursed Skyril for ruining his eyesight and stumbled against the door bruising his hand. He instinctively raised his hand to nurse it yet the virus subjugated his will and forced his hand back down scrabbling for the handle. At last he pushed open the door and moaned, as the virus directed him down the aisle towards a small wooden chest lying on the floor. It was locked. The virus paused and considered breaking the chest open by bashing Kenny’s head against it repeatedly. However humans were frail and a fractured skull would likely kill him if it remained untreated. The virus knew it could not survive the death of its host unless it transferred itself to a new body. So it twisted Kenny’s head around and spotted a shiny object that was possibly a sword. Kenny lunged towards the sword, grasped the hilt firmly and brought it heavily down on the lock which snapped in two. He reached in and snatched up the bag that lay within before hurrying out of the room and on towards the Nightmare Inductor.
“We are gathered here today to pay our respects to our fallen comrade Skyril Oblivion.” Israel cleared his throat. “Skyril was a great friend to everyone she met and died a true hero’s death, defending Pyro from the hands of Nyx Dawn.”
Pyro blushed and stared at the ground, the flames flickering around his head crimson and dimmer than usual.
Necros walked over and whispered in his ear. “Pyro, it’s not your fault. You have to stop blaming yourself.”
Pyro scowled and edged away.
“There are so many good times to be remembered and adventures to be retold. Why once there was this time when...” Israel took a deep breath and tried to go on.
“When Skyril and I were eating lunch at the fancy restaurant” Kallista took over. The tears were flowing thick and fast as she spoke.
“I was mucking around, ordering ridiculous things like spinach croissants and Château de Van de la Ostrich Egg Pour Boink a Doink- the 1835 variety. The head waiter was getting really annoyed with me and was about to throw me out. But then Skyril stood up and said a few words to the waiter that I never forgot.
‘Excuse me but my friend ordered the very finest Château de Van de la Ostrich Egg Pour Boink a Doink and if you don’t see that she gets it presto then I no longer want to dine at your crummy little establishment.’
And then we were both thrown out by the waiter. But she always stood up for me did Skyril. She was a true sister.”
Israel was thankful for the pouring rain as it masked the tears that he was so reluctant to show. He must be stoic and strong and uplifting for the other inhabitants of Elysium Asylum. There would be time to mourn later, in private. He swallowed and replied
“And she was brave very brave. No one else would have thought to paint my shotgun a lurid green and then gone through with it.”
“Skyril would truly loved to have been here now” spoke up Necros. “This torrential rain was her favourite type of weather. If she could be here now why I guarantee she would be laughing and dancing like the lunatic that she was.”
Gradually others chipped in telling their own tales of Skyril and how she had made an impact on their lives. Eventually when the last person had spoken Israel lowered the empty coffin into the wet earth and threw the first handful of dirt into the grave.
“From ashes to ashes, dust to dust”
Skyril stirred and opened her eyes sleepily. She took in the sealed walls of the pod, the manacles on her wrists and ankles and an open vent directly above her head. She shook her head to clear it of the rotting fungal scent and yawned. Then she noticed the giant insect scuttling around in the corner. She took in the thousands of long black wriggling legs, the cold alien eyes which were so very other, devoid of any sense of familiarity and the rows of gnashing red mandibles. The insect started to move towards her. A quivering antenna brushed against her bare foot. Skyril opened her mouth and screamed. Deep within her brain the virus had taken root and was busily feasting on her memories. The virus sent out a mental pulse and Skyril’s fingers twitched. Satisfied that it would soon be in control, the virus went into hibernation whilst the insect shimmered, twitched its antennae angrily and then disappeared.