Koen and I extricated ourselves from the magical trap that Koen's mother, Sumalee, had escaped from not long before. We continued down the twisting labyrinth, dug into the bayside cliffs of the cursed plantation that our father, Dr. Darien Mason, had been raised. All around us we saw evidence of what sort of monster Darien's father, Dr. Jeremiah Mason, had become.
Like our father, Jeremiah was clearly a carrier of the Spark. Everywhere we saw diagrams and remnants of the same unorthodox fusion of magic and technology that Darien Mason compulsively builds. The Mason of this house had animated small golems that were still following orders given long ago. They were walking furnaces built along the same principles as myself. But unlike Darien, Jeremiah conducted his experiments on subjects that were very much alive and unwilling. The remains of various bipedal creatures littered the hallways, pushed towards the sides only by the programmed wanderings of the automatons.
And then there was the creature, the Floating Heart. That is the easiest way to describe that horror. A pulsating, levitating mass the size of a horse pocked with eyes and maws, inhaling and regurgitating one-celled drones large enough to engulf a small animal and dissolve it, carrying the nutrients back to the living hive.
The pulsing of its tissues echoed to our ears, and the heat it radiated permeated the stone passageways as we descended deeper. As the cells raced towards us with increasing frequency, we would dexterously disrupt them with our blades. The fire of my furnace lit our way. We spied the beast from the edge of a doorway, and quickly flattened ourselves against the walls to avoid detection.
Koen and I only looked at each other. I removed a compact mirror from my sachel. I often use it glance at the back of my engine, but now I used it as a periscope, angling it to peek at the monster.
"It seems to be inactive..asleep perhaps, or lethargic." I whispered, "How many of those cells did we destroy?"
I multiplied the amount by the volume organic material we had seen them consume on a sortie. I factored in the frequency that they had charged us. I estimated the mass of the heartbeast.
"I think we've destroyed all of its cells. It's not getting enough food to move." I muttered.
Koen drew his metal claws with a tensing of his forearms.
"No. Not yet." I moved into the doorway and peered at the beast. I saw its outerlayer undulating from the new cells it was forming underneath.
Koen sniffed. "So if we damage it, the cells burst open and eat us, right?"
I nodded. "I have a plan."
I guided Koen in flipping some switches on my engine and reconnecting some copper tubing. I had detached my arm with the extinguisher attachment, propping it against the wall by the elbow, the hollow shoulder open to the grease that poured down through the copper tube.
"Qli? What is this stuff? Oil?"
"No..it's fat from the human meals I consume. It gets collected in a chamber below my furnace."
"It goes straight to your hips, huh?" He chuckled.
"You'd be amazed at how unhealthy these Caledonian meals are. Why, the fat from a single Scotch Egg.."
We froze as the beast rumbled in its stupor. I pulled the tube and reattached my arm. I cautiously advanced into the chamber where the creature rotated slowly, still undulating. As I aimed, it suddenly opened its eyes and opened a toothy maw, roaring at me. I propelled a jet of boiling grease straight into its orifice.
It shuddered. It gurgled. It expanded, and with a sudden "POP!" it ruptured from within and collapsed to the ground.
As the pulsing sound ceased, I turned to Koen. I gasped. He lay unconscious in the doorway. The echoeing throbs of the heartbeast was silenced, but now the sound of hissing serpents replaced it. I recognized the two red and black slithering appendages that stretched into my vision. It..they..were the Hydra, a curse of Bloodwing's father Hades that inhabited my demon-father like a parasite..tormenting Bloodwing even as the demon possessed my human co-creator. But Bloodwing had shed the serpents when he and Dr. Mason rose from the Underworld as a rejoined entity, "Dr. Bloodwing", cradling the infant they had just cured of vampirism! I drew my weapon as the massive shape they were attached to stepped from the shadows.
"Father? What is going on!"
The barrel trembled as my finger refused to flip off the safety. My programming recognized the Hydra as one of Bloodwing's forms. Unlike my neko brother, loyalty was ingrained in my being. Protect Your Creator. Not even self-defense would warrant. I could only flee..but even if I was willing to abandon my brother, The only passages we had mapped were blocked by this new threat.
A booted foot kicked Koen over on his back. The bite marks on his shoulder had torn through his alchemist's cloak, and the red fabric grew dark as he bled. A scratchy voice with a spiteful tone and a very familiar accent assaulted my ears.
"Nekos..people evolved from cats. Surely, Mankind should have realized it was doomed when the rest of the Animal Kingdom started cathing up to it?"
I took a few steps back as the vaguely human form stepped over my brother's body. My senses reeled. The serpents and their wings I recognized. The human they were attached to looked familiar, but mangled in its clearly undead state. Had I a human stomach it would have turned from seeing the torn cavity in his chest. The heart was conspicuously missing."
"No..no..it can't be..does not compute!"
"It will make sense, you marvelous little toy, as I make sense of you in my workshop."
"I am Doctor Jeremiah Wilhelm Mason..you have trespassed on my property, damaged my equipment and, quite literally, broke my heart! And now you, that bastard kitten of my runaway servant, and most of all my useless excuse for a son that sent you..shall PAY!
To Be Continued..