9. The World in Your Eyes
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Navigating through the crowded streets, Numa almost regretted not taking the pods back to his quarters, but soon found himself on one of the many side paths that snaked through the planet. Barely being able to see the sky through the crowding of pipes and conduits, Numa moved his way through an alleyway. Once Numa had moved past the pods, Convobat had alerted Numa to a group of soldiers led by the Commadore heading towards him. Numa wasn’t exactly sure what they wanted but decided to snake into an alleyway for some privacy.

Moving through the snaking alleyway, countless pipes and vents jutted out from the sides of the buildings, as the wall seemed to become narrower and narrower. Numa had not planned for it to be this tight, and soon there was barely enough space for Numa to fit, in fact if he entered any further, he was scared that he would soon become lodged in with no way to escape. This suited him partially, as it meant that if they followed him, the Commadore and the soldiers would need to come at him one on one. Unfortunately, this fact was painfully obvious, and Numa doubted the Commadore got to where she was by being that stupid. Numa didn’t really have any room to dodge projectiles, and if he was the Commadore there would be people on the roofs, and soldiers at the entrance--ready to clean up the scraps of Numa that would inevitably be thrown at them.

Luckily for him, Numa had eyes in the sky and wouldn’t be taken by surprise that easily. Numa could see soldiers exiting onto the roof on either side, garbed in customary armor. Yet they were all matte black and bore no insignia. Were they a private militia? Numa had no idea, and frankly this wasn’t one of those “just kill them and no one will know” things like before. This was going to be a loud fight, but Numa could also see just based on the numbers there wasn’t going to be a way to escape without engaging a few. Sending Convobat further away, Numa had him scout further, trying to see if there were any more of these freaks coming from anywhere else.

Jumping up, Numa began scaling the side of the building with the help of pipes. Luckily, while this part of the alleyway was thin, it was still long and so Numa found a hiding spot underneath a particularly dense section of pipes, hoping to obscure himself.

While Numa was getting into position, so were the matte black soldiers, swarming to the side of the building, they were soon positioned all along the length of the alleyway and were prepared to rain hell down onto the alleyway once ordered.

Soon, Numa could hear a group of people making their way down the alleyway. A voice was then heard, coming from a speaker just as authoritative as ever, “Numa the Guiding Hand would like to talk to you about your involvement in the deaths of the augmented Higgins and the Instructor… damn it what was his name again?” A voice was soon heard whispering, and then the Commadore continued, “Instructor Oblitus--anyways do not resist, we will use force if necessary…” The Commadore’s voice seemed both bored and patronizing at the same time, and her speech seemed to just slow down into nothing at the end, as if the effort of a quick stop was too much for her.

This didn’t bother Numa, and he didn’t reveal himself either; instead, it was time for Chromedome to make his entrance and to introduce himself. But what did confuse him was the announcement of the Guiding Hand in such a public setting. There did seem like something was brewing, yet at the same time Numa was left out of the loop like usual. It seemed that the Guiding Hand were making themselves known finally. Searching his memory, Numa found no such date, instead the closest date in similarity would be in four years when the Guiding Hand gained a large enough majority to formally ban Augmented from military command, meaning they would have already needed to be a public organization by then.

Safeguard had been flying over four and a half klicks in the air with Chromedome. The Guiding Hand militia didn’t notice them flying so high in the sky and were caught off guard when a terrifying shriek was heard as Safeguard dive bombed towards them, safely dropping Chromedome to the rooftop below. After the cry from safeguard, a still silence permeated the air, punctuated with a wet splash as a soldier’s head was liquified as Chromedome landed on his head hard. Turning towards the fallen Chromedome, no noise was heard but the orders to attack were apparently given as shots soon rained down on Chromedome who at first hid behind what was left of the soldier, before discarding the corpse in favor for one of the many antennas that littered the roof. Chromedome was thin enough that the antenna stack was enough to cover Chromedome in his entirety, or at least that’s how it appeared to the soldiers of the Guiding Hand. In reality, Chromedome was altering his shape, making himself thinner and taller to effectively hide behind the antenna stack. Not all the soldiers were shooting at Chromedome, a few were taking potshots at Safeguard, and a few were making their way down the alleyway combing for Numa.

The noise in the roof had begun to pickup as both sides began to take shots at one another. Safeguard had returned to an altitude way too far to be shot, and Chromedome had begun to blind fire into the group of soldiers. The soldiers were apparently ordered to take Numa and Chromedome unharmed or maybe there was concerns with damage to the buildings, so the soldiers were only equipped with short-ranged blaster pistols and null-rays, a type of weapon that used electro-magnets to admit an energy wave that functioned as an EMP that was also an effective organic restrainer, in other words and EMP that worked against tech as well as against people with brains.

As such, Chromedome was safe behind the antenna as their ordinances were by no means capable of penetrating the antenna. Chromedome stayed behind the antenna, only peeking to take shots with his plasma shifter against those who were spotted by Safeguard getting too close to the antenna. Soon of the thirty or so soldiers on the roof, four were confirmed dead, two of which were missing everything above their chest, and ten or so were on the floor missing assorted limbs, unmoving their fates remained up in the air.

Numa at one point had considered releasing a couple of Nanobots to kill them all but had decided against it as there was no saying the countermeasures that might have been taken against such certainties, and if this skill of his was ever discovered then everyone he ever fought would more likely then not take these countermeasures.

Deciding to take a more aggressive stance, Chromedome began to take shots, perfectly coordinating with Safeguard, who had become his eyes. Each shot soon took the life of a soldier, and within four seconds there only remained the soldiers who had previously been disabled.

Finally scaling to the top of the building, Numa stepped onto the rooftop, which had become slick with blood. Glancing towards the opposite rooftop, Numa could see that the same held true over there too, but Numa paid it no mind. Peaking down into the alleyway, Numa didn’t see the soldiers that were down there previously, but Numa could see that the Commadore was still at the front of the alleyway, apparently unperturbed by the near eradication of her troops.

The Commadore looked up at Numa, before turning and slipping back into the crowd, flanked by one matte black soldier and the other a soldier clad in all white. Numa wasn’t sure if they were both from the private militia of the Guiding Hand nor what the color of the armor indicated. Convobat by this point had returned, and Numa sent him away once again, tasked with following the Commadore and keeping tabs on her.

Chromedome was walking from corpse to corpse, plucking anything useful from them. Electronic wallets were collected and the e-coins inside were collected. Battery packs were sucked dry, replacing the ammunition expanded in the firefight. The nanobots were powered from glucose gained from when Numa ate his rations every day, but this power could be subsidized through the consumption of energy packs, and in situations such as a prolonged firefight was basically necessary to keep conscious. Thinking about it further, Numa called down safeguard who began to feast on the corpses of the soldiers, eating both electronics and flesh. It was a disgusting sight, yet these actions soon brought immediate benefits, as Numa could feel the power coursing through his three drones. Deciding it was worth it, Numa let Safeguard have his fill, making sure Safeguard shared the energy with his two other drones. Numa had begun considering these drones his kids as opposed to extensions of himself, which soon twisted how the drones saw both themselves and Numa.

It was a common problem with Augmented who controlled drones, yet it was never this pronounced, most likely due to the shear amount of Nanobots being controlled, as soon the number swelled to well over three hundred million. Numa didn’t know what to do with the extra nanobots created with Safeguard’s feasting, deciding to store some within himself, and adding the rest to Chromedome, who soon stood as tall and wide as Numa. Chromedome could now physically pass as a human in a suite, whether this would convince someone was a non-issue, as there was no need.

Soon the only soldiers left on the roof were the maimed ones, many of which Numa could see had woken up but were now currently playing dead. Walking over to one of them, Numa simply looked down and weighed his options. Interrogation was necessary, but information couldn’t exactly be trusted, and advanced techniques were both unknown and generally understood to be ineffective.

Thinking about it, Numa decided it might be time to experiment. Chromedome began to walk over, sharp claws soon growing from his right hand. Instead of sharp claws, these were closer to needles seemingly coming from his fingertips. They were extremely thin and could be misconceived to be overly long chiropractor needles. Looming over a solider who was still intent on playing dead, Chromedome flipped the soldier over before stabbing his needles into the base of his neck.

At first, Numa smiled, as new information began to slide into his head. He saw the most recent memories of this soldier, being deployed… waiting at their base… being briefed with the rest of the soldiers, each memory Numa could see, but most of these memories were a vague haze, the meaning coming across just fine—but the greater details of the area were a grey fuzzy mess. But soon, this process began to speed up as Numa began to travel further and further back into the memories, as each one became fuzzier and fuzzier. Yet the emotional aspect of the memories became more and more intense, Numa at first didn’t notice as the first couple of memories didn’t have much of an emotional attachment to them. But soon, these memories became more and more emotional, the death of his wife, the birth of his son… these emotions ramming into Numa digging into his brain like a molten nail.

Digging into his brain and aggravating it like some sick twisted reminder of Numa’s own situation. Soon the memories began to speed up even further, but there was no gap in Numa’s understanding. He always knew what the memories were, and the accompanying emotion. This blur of memories soon slowed to a stop once the final memory was reached. It was that of a man and woman leaning over someone who was laying down. Their faces were blurred, but Numa could tell they were his parents. They seemed to be happy, and the sight of their faces filled with Numa with such a naïve sense of joy, happiness, and contentment.

Numa soon found himself returned to the real world, on his hands and knees with tears streaming down his face. Resisting the urge to vomit, Numa noticed Chromedome had come next to him and was currently patting his back with an awkward jerking motion. Safeguard was perched nearby, worriedly watching Numa. Waving them off, wordlessly letting them know he was fine.

Turning around, Numa took off his faceplate to wipe the tears off his face before turning towards their test subject. This soldier had bled out, dying once Chromedome had severed the connection, but after removing the helmet Numa could see the blissful smile entrapped on the soldier’s face—his death had been a peaceful one.

For some unknown reason, this comforted Numa, yet Numa couldn’t tell why he needed comforting in the first place, it was almost like learning a close friend had gone peacefully in the night after battling with a terminal illness. It was an odd feeling, but soon that feeling and the feeling of contentedness from the memory soon faded away and Numa was once again left with the great void that was his emotions. This feeling was even more lonely now that Numa had been reminded what it felt like to live.

Numa directed Safeguard to eat the newly dead soldier, before instructing Chromedome to continue with the memory extraction process, content with feeling these fake emotions, if only to feel something new for a while.

This continued for a while, and soon Numa was left alone with Chromedome and Safeguard on the roof. They had gone through both sides of the roof, looting, and devouring both bodies and minds, and Numa had a lot on his mind. The act of memory stealing was uncommon, and this procedure was done frequently—to augmented. To Numa’s knowledge the procedure couldn’t be replicated with solely organic cerebral cores, yet Numa had done just that.

In fact, even trying what Numa had done was reckless and seemingly foolhardy, doubly so when it worked yet created such a visceral reaction. Why Numa had continued was beyond him, and a slightly worried Numa continued onwards back towards his living quarters.

The rest of the trek back was one of quiet contemplation, as Numa didn’t know what to make of himself anymore. There was much that needed to be understood, both about himself, the world he found himself in, and how he would interact with it going forward…