The Cybernetics of the Hydra — Chapter 8

Read Chapter 7 here.

8
Curious Cat

“What happened to Aural Impash?” was the only thought in Skoal’s mind. He was alone in his quarters as usual. Sitting down as he tied up his boots. Staying alone was a common thing that he enjoyed, left uninterrupted to read stories or treatises of far away people and highly abstract thought. Consequently, he was usually found reading in bed when in time off. Not tonight though. Because the matters that occupied him today were very different from the usual, they were about the here and now. He was preparing to go out and socialize. Although he preferred the coziness of home, he would spend his evening in the common area of the upper floor. As it was generally known, this was the best place to have a good time and catch up with the daily rumor. All thanks to the Alpha Legion’s authorization for recreational alcohol.

When Skoal got to the common room, he wasn’t surprised to see only a bunch of groups having notoriously quiet fun. It had been like this since the rearrangement, the Alpha Legion brought the booze but also established overseers in every bar. A single Astartes holding guard on each common area. There it stood in front of him, a hulk of shiny armor. Looking immutable and stiff as a statue, he dragged the journeymen’s joy by judging them from the center of the room. Of course, there was a reason for such a waste of an Astartes time. Alcohol broke only laughs at first, but as the hours pass, it brought high spirits that end in violence. There were the other effects too, as it is known. Many suspected that the legion did this for the additional benefit of information, which was candidly and voluntarily provided by drunk workers and soldiers.

Skoal got something to drink from the barman and casually sat in an empty table. Being here was already a victory in his book. He wasn’t surprised he managed to do it though, the weight of his curiosity was heavy. Here was the only place to look for answers. Even if there was an Alpha Legionnaire in the middle of the room, these men and women wanted to share, to bond. He only needed to approach his fellows now and ask about this intriguing Mr. Impash. Skoal measured his beverage, estimating how much he needed to gain minimal momentum. He didn’t need courage, he needed sympathy; to vibrate in their same frequency, and most importantly, to enjoy it. Skoal had concluded this was the way to smoothly interface with peers. As he gulped half of his glass, two journeymen holding two jars each, sat in Skoal’s table.

“What’s happening, Fluffy Butt?” said one of them and Skoal rejoiced. He didn’t care about passive aggressive bonding, at this time he appreciated how the foreman’s insult was working at his advantage. But this interaction was sooner than expected, so Skoal didn’t stop drinking. He slammed the empty cup in the table.

“Woah!” said the other one, “We will need more booze here!” he exclaimed while passing one of his jars to Skoal. “Here, it’s on us!”.

Skoal made a mental note. Reconsider the human need for closeness.

***

“What do you know…” mumbled Skoal, his eyelids winking slow “do you know about Aurelia Irion? Aurelio. Hm?”. His company, in a similar mental state, responded only with mumblings and a hand waving a negative. This was the third group that Skoal had reached out to. As he moved from table to table, the bonding became easier and easier. But the quality of conversation declined proportionally. Now, after a series of disappointing and intimate discussions with his peers, he sat in front of two drunk journeymen. One was already sleeping uncomfortably hunched over the table, the other one struggled to pay attention to Skoal. Another failure. Nevertheless, he felt empowered; the loosening from the alcohol and his delusional belief of self-importance made him restless. He looked back at the common area; most tables empty now. A few moments ago, it was filled with the unrestrained energy of a drunk crowd. He noticed that asking the last fellow about Aurelio had been a blunder. The Astartes in the middle of the room could have clearly heard him. An Alpha Legion is a snake first, and a warrior second reminded Skoal. As he stared at the marine, he forgot about the other drunk, who was now taking his sleeping friend back to their quarters. Lost in intoxication and dreams of curiosity he got up and walked firmly towards the Astartes.

“Hey, Alpharius!” he screamed a feet away from the cerulean golem. “Where the fuck is Aural Impash?”

The sound of Skoal’s limp body hitting the floor was the last sound heard in the room. The bar man and the few fellows stood in silence staring incredulously at their mate’s body. Even though Skoal’s is known for his lack of wit, it is unfair to compare the nervous system of an augmented human with those of an Astartes.

The huge, armored soldier stood with one fist upwards and his feet in a fighting stance. Only the bar man had been looking at them when it happened, and he was the only one that saw the body of Skoal react. Like a rag doll, the body of Skoal flied in a parabola across the room. The Alpha legionnaire recaptured his passive stance.

“Good night, boys.” said the marine. Immediately the bar man made some signals and the few drunks sitting around ran out of there. Among the fear and scrambling fellows, the Astartes walked towards the body and picked Skoal up.

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