Chapter 9


Tokoyo scratched at his stubble, then dug in the pocket of his lab coat for cigarette and lighter. The man on the table in front of him was in excellent health, of course, despite the work already done on him, but other than that the scientist saw nothing appealing about him. He was frightened and trembling and sported a badly butchered haircut--a new addition to his look. There were many many things Tokoyo had no patience for and one of them was vanity. Perhaps this would teach his subject a lesson in the impermanence of beauty, even for a specimen such as himself; he almost felt he had done the man a favor in stripping him of all that hair.

His lighter was almost out of fluid and he stood clicking it for several minutes before he got a flame and was able to light his cigarette and inhale deeply.

"I know what you're thinking," he said to the terrified man on the table, letting smoke leak out of his mouth as he spoke. "A scientist smoking? I should know better, right?"

If the specimen was thinking anything at all, that certainly wasn't it.

Tokoyo crossed closer to the table and checked the young Maxwell's vitals and restraints. His cigarette dangled from his lips, and he didn't bother to acknowledge the bit of hot ash that fell onto his subject's chest as he leaned across him. By the time he looked down, the tiny burn would no longer be existent. He was continually being amazed as well as frustrated by the Shard's power; while he could find no limit to it, he also could not pinpoint its source. It was as though there was no physical mechanism for it, and the healing ability was simply a byproduct of a massive amount of energy coursing through the man's body.

Straightening up again, he removed the cigarette from his lips, holding it between his middle and ring fingers as he crossed his arms over his chest and looked down at Julian.

"It won't hurt me, though. That's my problem actually."

Julian only stared at him, bewildered and half-catatonic.

"That's what I need you here for," Tokoyo continued his explanation. "I need you to show me your talent."

The subject's glazed eyes seemed to focus for a moment at that. It wouldn't be long before he succumbed mentally to this torturous project and retreated from consciousness altogether. Tokoyo wasn't worried about that--he'd already tested whether or not the man's body would continue to heal with him unaware.

"Mm. I am in need of your power. The problem is figuring out how it works and how to transfer or copy it to myself. Not sure how much of you will be left when I'm done," he admitted, "but there's some security for me in your neutralization whether or not this attempt to fix my body works in the end." As he finished speaking, he idly reached out to flick the ash off of Julian's chest.

The slight contact when his fingertips touched the other man's skin sent a shock through Julian that caused his whole body to become rigid and his eyes to flare open. In the next instant, Tokoyo reeled back several steps, clutching at his arm, face twisted. His cigarette rolled under the table and burnt itself out.

Tokoyo made no noise, only clutched what was left of his arm. For his part, Julian turned his face to the side and began to retch. The noise almost covered the wet plops and drips as what had been flesh and muscle and even bone oozed between Tokoyo's fingers to pool at his feet.

When he'd regained enough composure to speak, he guided his now skeletal hand into his coat pocket. Julian had stopped trying to throw up, but was still looking stubbornly away as his captor forced the tension out of his body and straightened up.

"I'll let my assistants get back to work while I get this taken care of. Goodbye, Healer." His voice was as emotionless as it had been from the beginning of their one-sided interview, though his eyes were colder. He turned away, issuing verbal orders to the room's terminal system to lower the temperature of the building fifteen degrees, and left Julian alone.