8. The Quietest of Freedoms
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Making his way out of the bunker, Numa felt a sense of freedom, there wasn’t an explicit emotion attached to that (whether it be positive or negative) but Numa felt free, like if he jumped into the air he would float away, carried away into the ether. The two guards at the door didn’t take a second glance at Numa when he left, but he still took the time to give a thumbs up to the guards. While it was true that sentimentality, happiness, and approval seemed to be emotions that now alluded Numa, but the muscle memory, the instinct was still there.

This meant that Numa possessed no actual sense of what he was feeling nor what the others were feeling, but instead had an inkling based on memory. If Numa saw someone smile he would know they were happy, not because of the innate nature of humans to instinctively read that body language and know the emotion, instead Numa would know they were happy because he had learned so, back when he still had those instincts.

Numa continued to the pods, but he didn’t let all his drones on. He entered the pod with Chromedome, but he released Convobat the bat and Safeguard the condor into the sky. He wanted to see just how fast they could go and whether they could keep up with the pod. Putting in the return destination, Numa felt the pod rise. Fully “releasing” his deployers, Safeguard shot straight up into the air, rising way above the pod, circling above the pod. Convobat on the other hand flittered about, not following the same path around the pod.

While it was true that Numa technically controlled his deployers (Chromedome included) Numa could feel the degradation of this connection. Instead of it being like a radio, where there is a receiver and a broadcaster, instead it was more like a conversation with himself. Parts of his mind, his soul were stuck into these machines. Taken as a sum of its parts, Numa couldn’t tell, but when Numa centered in on himself he found it hard to tell what exactly himself was. Thinking of Chromedome as himself felt just as right as calling himself Convobat.

It was disorienting, and it became even more apparent once his deployers began to move subconsciously. Numa consciously wanted his fliers to follow along with the pod, so he thought about it, but it wasn’t like he was actively charting their flight path, that was seemingly done for him—but was it.

Numa felt the parts of him in the deployers, but h also felt like the parts of him in there were almost taking a life of their own. What was even worse, Numa felt like he was starting to feel something. It wasn’t a good feeling either, instead it formed this deep anxiousness like he was forgetting something super important. Deciding it was just an after affect of his new augments and the experimental nature of them, Numa chose to close himself off more to his deployers—something that Numa would only later learn exacerbated the issue.

Closing his eyes, Numa saw what his condor was seeing, flying miles above the pod—while it was going much slower than the pod the distance it had gained above the pod had allowed it to move at the same pace, his bat on the other hand was moving incredibly faster than the pod, flittering above, below, in front of it never staying in one place for too long. Numa could feel that it could easily outpace the pod if he let it.

Reaching his destination, Numa stepped out of the pod. Looking up at the sky, it was just starting to rise above the horizon. He had spent five solar cycles within that lab, meaning he had only had two cycles to “arm” himself, even though many would consider himself armed to the teeth already.

While it was approaching night on this side of the planet, there were still many people up and about, milling around the streets, rushing to different places. Just in front of him, Numa spotted the ox making his way back towards their living quarters.

Slowly exiting the pod, Numa let the distance grow between him and the ox, not wanting to run into his classmates. It was this anti-social behavior that seemed to be driving many of Numa’s functions right now. In an almost illogical loop, Numa wanted to live, but at the same time wanted to live alone. To fuel this meant he needed to grow his strength, meaning he needed allies, but he couldn’t keep killing his “allies” just like he had done with the two doctors, Higgins, and the instructor.

Deciding Convobat was the most capable scout, Numa sent him off to explore the area around his building and to get the general layout scheme of the buildings of the transports. Safeguard perched himself on Numa’s shoulder keenly eyeing those who passed by. Chromedome simply walked alongside Numa, following stoically a step behind.

Stepping into the building revealed a long labyrinth of hallways and stairwells, following his memories and his HUD, Numa made his way back to his room. Unfortunately, all the rooms with their sleeping capsules were located as offshoots from the main common room, meaning there was no sneaking into his room.

Stepping into the common area, it wasn’t filled to the brim with people, but there were still a couple who looked at Numa once he entered. Some looked with disgust once they saw what was on his shoulders, others simply glanced away.

Just like outside, there was almost no noise as people communicated between themselves with internal communicators. Numa paid this no mind, yet almost as if noticing that something was wrong his condor patted him on the back with his wing. Whether this was further proof that him and his deployers considered themselves different entities or it was some perverse sense of self comfort was yet to be seen.

Slipping into his solitary room, Numa let out a large sigh. Half collapsing to the ground, Numa was supported by Chromedome as Safeguard circled worriedly. Waving off Safeguard, Numa crawled over to his sleeping capsule, barely managing to toss of his armor pack before collapsing into the capsule and passing out.

Not even managing to close the door to the capsule, Numa was gone by the time his head touched the pillow. Almost lovingly, Chromedome picked up the armor pack, and Safeguard picked up Chromedome, flying over to the top of the capsule, Chromedome carefully plugged in the armor pack. Finally closing the door to the sleeping capsule.

Leaning against the capsule, Chromedome seemingly fell asleep—but as a drone do, they truly sleep? Safeguard circled a couple times before landing on top of the capsule and snuggling in on itself it too fell into whatever “sleep” was to them.

Somewhere out there, in the deathly night was a bat flittering around the skyline, carefully avoiding collision with different objects, carefully mapping out the city for his friend, making sure that nothing went unnoticed.

After whom knows how long, Convobat slowly started making its way back to their living quarters, being just as careful heading back as they were when heading out in the first place. With no way to join Numa, Convobat instead chose a rooftop to flitter down on, slowly sinking into a quiet vigil, for that was what it truly was.

Drones, whatever you called them couldn’t and didn’t sleep.

The night passed by uneventfully for Numa, but not for everyone else. The princess returned much later, having been kept in meetings and briefings for ages. The MP’s nights were long, a dead augmentor with a hole in his head and a long serving instructor were found on the top of a rooftop, both hanging out of a window from their small intestines. It was a tough night for everyone involved. Those in charge could feel a storm brewing, and those who knew what was going on were preparing for turmoil.

Thankfully, or not so thankfully, humanity wasn’t in a place where military might could be turned away from their frontiers and towards themselves. At most, duels would occur in the worst situations, but often a political battle was fought through military accomplishments of factions. But what truly decided who came out on top with these kinds of political battles was either a knife in the back or a letter in the dark.

As the sun began to rise over the horizon the planet of Martius had been alive and running about preparing for the coming storm. Most students didn’t know what this hubbub was about, more guards were soon seen patrolling the streets. The start of classes was delayed, and soon the noble’s guards were moved into Numa’s room since it was currently empty except for him and his constructs. His knight protectorate was noticeably absent from this group of about thirty.

Three days after his escape and two and a half days after the discovery of the bodies hanging from the side of the building Numa soon found himself heading to the armory. At first, Numa simply thought he needed to grab weapons for himself, but he soon realized that Chromedome was going to need some sort of weapon, preferably a medium ranged weapon to cover our deficiencies. Numa believed that Convobat and Safeguard’s talons were good enough for now. For the next year and a half, if he got that, he was going to study his nanobots and further customize his drones. Customize himself? Numa really didn’t know how to approach the subject, considering he was as much himself as he was the drones.

Making his way to the armory was much more difficult than he thought it would be, moving through the crowd was difficult, even when Safeguard clutched Chromedome in his talons and flew with them Numa had a hard time pushing through the stream of people.

Eventually making his way to a pod, Chromedome rejoined him and soon they were whizzing towards the planetary armory. Numa vaguely knew the way, as Convobat had scouted that part of the complex earlier. Reaching the armory, Numa then proceeded to wait three more hours until it was his turn. Reaching the front of the armory, Numa revealed his palm, letting his armor be scanned. The metal mesh gate swung open, allowing for Numa to enter with his drones perched on his shoulders. Few turned to look at Numa, but not remained on him for long once he entered the section of the armory designated for augmented.

While this separation in the armory had a logical purpose, a lot of the weapons in this part of the armory were meant to be fitted into the augments, it had become a physical reminder and something of a status symbol for non-augmented, who saw it as the “natural course”. Numa didn’t mind though, considered that once he entered the armory there was no wait to meet with an armorer. Reaching an augmented hidden within a robe, Numa slipped him a data pad. On the data pad was his approved weapons order, he had asked and been granted access to a propulsion pack, two Kamas, one long range energy bolter (LEB), and one plasma shifter. Honestly, he had asked for so much just to get a little, but his order was approved with no issues which honestly shocked him.

At first, he thought it was the Commodore, but she knew he was an augmented and she wouldn’t directly help him out like that for no reason. His conclusion was that he clearly hadn’t asked for a lot and maybe should have asked for more. Locking the LEB to his back with magnets, Numa slipped the Kamas into the slots fitted into his wrists, hidden within his gauntlets. Numa then handed the plasma shifter to Chromedome who took it and absorbed it into his wrist. Numa felt the eyebrows on the armorer raise, but they chose not to comment on it.

Finished with his business, Numa turned to leave, but as he was leaving, the armorer reached out a hand and stopped him. With a raspy tin can voice they asked, “How has it been, becoming one of us?”

Numa thought, but his only real response was, “It has only been six days and I slept through two”

Chuckling, the armorer seemed amused by his response, “us augmented, we look out for each other. If you want, I can add a couple customizations to your helmet if you don’t ask for too much”

Thinking that he really didn’t need much especially with his nanobots, he decided to ask for a long-range communications array and an infrared scoped added to his helmet. Long-range communications arrays were important for any military campaign, but they were heavy as sin, so they were usually dumped on the augmented anyway.

Nodding the armorer seemed to approve, “Good choice kid, I’ll have your new armor sent to you in a couple of cycles, I’ll have them install the propulsion unit too.”

Thanking them, Numa stepped out of the armory, now “officially” armed, and decided to take the leisurely way back to his living quarters. This would give him a chance to scout out his classrooms, which he had passed earlier, and give Convobat to explore the city some more. Whistling, Numa sent off Convobat and Safeguard to explore their new living spaces.

Numa had never really considered himself a noble, and he considered the title a curse and a shackle, constantly dragging him down and endless amounts of grief. In some ways, Numa even blamed it for his mother’s death. Thankfully, this new Numa was free from this feeling of grief, no longer feeling anything, a freedom in a twisted sense. With this context in mind, it should be no surprise that this mantle of noble slipped of Numa quietly and without anyone grieving for it—well except for one…

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