If you haven’t read it, here’s a link to part 1.
For everyone else, let’s continue, shall we?
That caught me off guard, and she nodded like I’d answered, told her whatever it was she wanted forgiveness for was okay. But, after a second, I just repeated my question: “So, what was it then?”
She answered without a pause. “It’s a biomechanical species of swarm insect. Though it acts as a single unit. Has a short lifespan, so every time its population grows low it latches onto one host and invades, repurposing organic material to make more and more of themselves until it can burst out without an issue.”
“And they put that into a dummy?” I said, stepping backward, into the doorframe, as she was too close, too much in my space. I liked her well enough—we’d done a lot together—but I still valued my personal bubble.
She languidly blinked, like looking through a drugged daze. Struck unresponsive somehow.
So, with hesitation, I continued talking. “That seems irresponsible—if it can kill real people. Why would they do that?”
She smiled, and turned around, dropping to her knees so close to the corpse I was worried she would sniff the thing. Stick her nose right into James’s fleshy body and take a good whiff.
Her voice came too clear when she said something. The expected dulling of sound from her facing away, and talking from lower than me, was nonexistent. Sounding too close and too clean. Like she’d recorded her voice and played it directly in my ear.
“They didn’t: I lied. Sorry. I’m programed to get the information to you, and that seemed as good a way to present it as any other way.”
She turned to look at me, and it near stopped my heart with what her face looked like. “Did it work? Believable? Good, right?”
I was out the doorway fully now and stumbling. She moved quick, like a scene fast-forwarded in a video. Only I was still normal speed and trying to not let her touch me.
“What the fuck happened to you!?” my shrill voice demanded.
I pulled out my pistol. We’d joked—though it was more than a joke, more like an eventuality—that one of us would get infected with something and would have to shoot the other. I always assumed it would be over a Juniper Corpse Shriek, or one of the other common parasitic species in the universe. But this: unrecognizable.
“I’m sorry!” I said and pulled the trigger. The gun did not fire, but I heard a shot, and my stomach went from the slurry of near-vomiting to a red-hot poker in my rib cage.
I expected blood to be pouring out of me with the way it burned, but nothing was there when I placed my hand on my gut.
She smiled, and I flinched. The face, her face, was crude. A mouth cut into the skin, cut into a bag of loose fabric that resembled a face—lacking any teeth. Her eyes remained the only thing normal. Stuck firm, staring out, surrounded by sloppy, drooping skin.
“Sorry, oh, he’s sorry now?” she said. “Sorry for your actions?”
“What is…” I said, the words stuttering out as I dropped to my knees, and clutched my stomach. The pain was beyond anything—and making me weaker from its presence. “What happened to you!?”
“Wrong question: I am here to present the facts of what is happening with your body,” she said, now standing over me. “I had to make it natural, you know? It takes a minute for the host to be fully ‘pickled’, as we like to call it. And, in the meantime, we keep you calm.”