The First of Many

Professor Stanwick hummed a tune as he entered his own personal laboratory in the Institute of Karmic Research and Engineering of Vedria,  one of the most renowned research facilities in the entire world. So intent on reading the latest report from his experiments, he did not notice the lights; there shouldn’t be anyone in his personal laboratories, for he had been gone almost six months, overseeing a joint project with a few colleagues from Orlina at the behest of the High Lord, but he was too distracted to notice anything amiss, itchy as he was to catch up on his own personal projects. A metallic clang made him look up, and finally notice the lights on, and the lone man busy on the workbenches across the laboratory. “Viktor, is that you? I was not aware you had continued your projects in my absence. How did you get into my laboratory?”

“A simple trick with the lock, Professor. I apologise, but it was necessary for my research.” His voice was a coarse, metallic echo of what the Professor remembered, but that could be a consequence of long hours cooped inside the laboratory; Stanwick himself had already gone for days inside the lab, so focused on one project or another that he was. Of course, that had been when he was younger, and still had the energy to pass so long without food or sleep. Suppressing a fond smile for his apprentice’s antics, Stanwick forced his voice to be harsh. “And what research is that, Viktor? You were always brilliant, of course, but do not think that being the High Lord’s grandson will allow you special rights. Everyone must pave their own way in this Institute, and we allow no corners to be cut.”

“Oh, I intend to pave my way alright, Professor…. just not in this Institute.” Viktor said as he turned, and the Professor noticed for the first time the strange glimmer off of his body, previously obscured by his apprentice’s bulky cape, and gaped at the metallic mask that met him, instead of his apprentice’s face. “What… what have you done, Viktor?”

“Synthesis, Professor. The final frontier between Man and Machine, overcome at long last.”

“But… but… it shouldn’t be possible!”

“Ah, but it is, Professor, as I have always claimed, even though you and the other Professors were too blind to see.” There was no way to see it on his metallic face, but Viktor’s voice held the note of a triumphant smile as he reached out with his hand, extending it towards the Professor, “Now, I will open your eyes. Relinquish the flesh, Professor, and join me.”

“You go too far, Viktor! Don’t you see yourself in a mirror? You have become a monster!”

“A monster?” Viktor said, closing his outstretched hand into a metal fist, “No, fool, not a monster! I have become the herald of a new age, an age of steel and perfection! Embrace progress! Join my glorious evolution!”

“You are a madman! You must be stopped!” he began to step back, away from Viktor, eyes intent on him even while his hands groped the wall for the emergency button near his workbench that would set all of the alarms on the building singing and call the Legionnaires, “Don’t you see that this has changed you? You weren’t like this, Viktor!” His eyes widened as two additional arms emerged from Viktor’s back, lazily opening their palms towards him. They began to glow with an orange glimmer, and he knew then that his apprentice was no more, replaced by this steel monstrosity, and that he would not survive the night.

“No, you are the madman who does not see the future, you and all the rest of this Institute’s decadent Professors. You will not stop me. I am the first of many.”

His scream was muffled by the heavy walls of the laboratory.

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