Friend, Good!
rating: +7+x

Site-77 , Autumn.

Sophia Light was feeling jet lagged as she attempted to keep up with her host. Site-77, moreso than any other Foundation facility never seemed to stop moving. There was a constant tsunami of people crashing into you from every side. Controlled chaos that could only be orchestrated by one woman.

"I know you're busy Gillie. I'll try not to take up too much of your time."

Director Shirley Gillespie's lips pursed upwards. "Nonsense, dear. I've been using my time to make this for you. Please take as long as you need to look it over. I don't have enjoyable company here nearly as often as I'd like to."

The elevator doors behind them closed and Gillespie instantly secured herself in a seat. "Mind the drop dear."

"Not my first rodeo partner. I think I can handle thi-"

The ground beneath Light fell with unheeded suddenness, nearly knocking her head into the ceiling.

Gillespie sat up straight while fiddling with her cane. "I know that you had a bit of trouble extracting the heart over from France. Terribly sorry for the consternation. But it really was the key to putting this whole thing together. I promise you complete satisfaction."

Light struggled to sit up as the elevator continued a rapid descent. "Well I knew that, oof, if there was anyone who could make that request not fucked up, it would be you. Shit, this is a lot right now. I need a minute."

Gillespie covered her mouth and laughed. "Oh we'll be there in a moment. Try to compose yourself, dear."

The elevator stopped its descent on a dime. Light brushed her coat as the doors silently opened. Waiting for them was a yellow golf cart with '77' emblazoned on either side. Gillespie stood, offering her hand to a weak-kneed Light. Together they rode onward. The labs around them were filled with colored chemicals in test tubes, human arms on electric machines twisting and gyrating hither and thither.

Passing through a few steel-bound security checkpoints the cart heralded them into a viewing booth. Far below them stood a massive glass cylinder unevenly jutting from the floor. The only light was a green luminescence which bathed the surrounding floor with a tranquil seawater-esque refraction. Thick metal tubes jutted in every direction from the top of the container, some bulging as they pumped liquid in and out. Gillespie tapped her cane once and the cart settled into a waiting crevice. Seats emerged, flipping forward from the ground with red velvet and cup holders.

Gillespie settled into her seat. "A few of the boys admitted that they took some inspiration from Star Wars. The second one, where that nice farm boy is getting fixed up after saving the day. You remember that film? My husband, rest his soul, took me there on a date night not long after we wed. I let the boys get away with the nomenclature."

"It's certainly larger than anything George Lucas could have re-imagined." Light walked past and focused on the chamber floor. The cylinder had a silhouetted humanoid form suspended in the center of it with wires stretching from it going up and down. A spiraling series of staircases and platforms descended from the top to the bottom packed with computers, machinery and netting in place of guardrails.

"Now the first thing we did was acquire that poor half man, with the dead family." Gillespie reached beneath her seat, producing and sipping from a fresh cup of tea. "Tragic, but the absorption properties really made this all possible. That was what gave me the inciting idea to put A heart from the French ent creature from France. Integrated far better than we could have expected. There's a whole new personality in there now."

"Shit. Hopefully it's less icky and more… useful?"

"Naturally honey, naturally. Flesh sick with grief and grey morality of nature, well, they combine to make a dark soul but not one of evil. Able to do what needs to be done. But with only half a body, we needed to get… more. Something to make it useful and not just interesting."

"I understand there were a few false starts." Light looked up at the cavernous center of research. "I didn't realize you'd put quite as much time and effort into this, Gillie, how did you put this all together?"

"My dear it was no trouble. Most of this was already in place with our existing research. I had to pull a few of the boys off their pet projects but I haven't exhausted my list of favors owed if more hands have to be pulled on deck."

"Things have gone smoothly then?"

"As you said we had some… false starts. Minimal casualties of course. We tried using the dead leg that enjoys causing amateur surgery at first to see if the entity could control when the effect was triggered."

"That didn't pan out, correct?"

"We averted spectacular disaster, but yes, it was less than ideal." Gillespie approached the glass, tapping it once with her cane. A flushing echoed throughout the cavern as the fluids began to be pumped out of the tube. "More than one man tried to give up their own leg for the cause. Even after we asked them not to. But, ah, the ideas that gave us! Worked out in the end."

"I'm not sure I want to know the ideas that come into your head when you see your employees trying to saw off their own legs."

"They're all fine now thank you for asking. Inspiration struck not from the dismemberment, but the possibilities which arise from removing limbs at will. A great number of the Foundation's anomalous appendages are irreplaceable. Not at all suited for fieldwork. But when we found those dead dirt hands the pieces really began to fall into place."

Light scrunched her face. "The graveyard grabber things right? Tying your shoes but breaking toes?"

"Mmmmmhm. The dirt samples met our specifications, regenerative properties as well as reach, plus crushing grip power. That settled the arms and if you'll approve usage of that old coat we might even have more to work with."

"I'm not sure a greatcoat would survive long out in the field Gillie."

"A girl can dream can't she?" Gillespie smiled, looking up. "He's still only got one kidney, lung and an abbreviated intestinal tract. We've found a nutrient rich solution is best to keep him healthy. We tried using twenty-three eighty to be another kidney but it kept moving, ran into the same trouble as the damned legs. Home-grown organs are being worked on but, you know, those can be hit-or-miss batch to batch."

The fluid in the tank had completely drained by now. The figure standing in the center of the now-empty glass tube was lumpy, dripping with liquid and swaying with uneven tempo. Gillespie tapped her cane twice and the glass hissed, releasing streams of steam as it began retreating into the ground.

"The brain is finished, we found that Ed's head was removable and so we give him normal cerebral function, relatively. Worked in tempering some of that evil to boot. Wrap it up in an indestructible skin suit and you just might have a viable agent." Gillespie smiled as the glass finished giving way and the homunculi below took his first tottering steps forward. "Director, my Sophia, I give you… Frank."

The lumpiest thing which ever lived took two tottering tiptoed steps out of his tank. The jaw worked its way around with uneven arms massaging out the spots where skin and jaw did not quite match up. Frank looked up towards his creator and waved.

"Hi Mommy!" Frank's lips gave their best approximation of a smile while his jaw flapped aimlessly.

"…." Light looked at Gillespie.

"He's a work in progress. Let me show you what he can do." Tapping her cane thrice more, Gillespie's voice took on a commanding boom from unseen speakers imbuing her with the voice of god. "Come on Frank! You'll get some treats once you show our guest what you can do. Scoot! Scoot!"

Frank's legs took off while the rest of his body lurched awkwardly to keep up. Floodlights boomed to life above him, illuminating several apertures of varying composition. Wood and iron doors covered in rubbery creepy-crawlies next to a sheet of hissing liquid pouring through thin erected falls, along with a trapdoor in the floor.

Gillespie leaned forward, her barking intensified by what seemed to be ever-intensifying speakers. "Take care Frank! Show us your full capabilities?"

The lights intensified around a wooden door. The earthy dust covering one of Frank's arms extended to hesitantly knock, with particulates wafting off and rolling back to his feet once they hit the ground. A few facsimile beetles crawled onto his limbs but smaller arms grew from beneath them to gently replace them upon the door.

Squinting her eyes, Light removed small binoculars from her coat. "I can't quite see what he's up to out there but… he's certainly got a lighter touch than I expected. Kind of looks like Pig-Pen. You read Peanuts, right?"

"Focus on our business, dear." Gillespie's lips tightened. "Obfuscation is a tool of deceit. The wise warrior does not display their full strength at the outset. Frank will not disappoint me here."

Taking a few steps back, Frank's arms extended while multiplying into dozens of smaller and simpler appendages. Methodically removing the insectoids one by one and placing them upon the ground where they scuttled into the darkness. The door, now clear, descended into the ground. Behind it were three gourds placed upon platforms suspended in mid-air.

"Target practice, Frank!"

Stiffening his posture, dust began swirling in Frank's outstretched hand. Taking the form of an ovoid projectile, he hurled it towards the vegetative targets. Splitting into three, they made contact, knocking each one off with a satisfactory splat! As the remnants fell to the floor, the minute residue present on each one formed their remnants into a convincing facsimile of Frank's own face. Picking it up, Frank held it aloft for his observers to see, the ghoulish grin mirrored on gourd and guy.

A grinning Light turned back to Gillespie. "Well, that is somewhat impressive. Creative too." The smile faded when she saw the fire in her elder's eyes.

Gillespie's grip audibly tightened around her cane. "Not part of the demonstration, Frank! This is the show! No more foolishness, release the hounds!.

There was audible rustling as a leafy green animate bushes in the shape of dogs bound forwards through the liquid sheet, bristling their leaves as it approached. An opened maw revealed thorny twisting vines in place of a tongue.

Light grabbed hold of her twisting hand. "Easy now! You're starting to sound like a cartoon villain. He's not blowing his audition here. I am legitimately impressed."

Producing a handkerchief, Gillespie wiped her brow. "Don't have to patronize me. This is just… what I feared it might do. We tempered the fire too much. Such gentleness does not have a place in Alpha-9's future. Not in any role it would play."

"You don't know everything about Alpha-9, Gillie. I don't either. We can only guess what the future holds." Kneeling and grasping with both hands, Light brought their eyes to level altitude. "I'm impressed by your work no matter how he ends up."

Closing her eyes for a moment, Gillespie sighed. "You've always had greater composure than I, Sophia. So please look out there and tell me he's massacred the potted pets we sent out there."

Standing, Light cupped her hands to press her head against the viewing glass. "No, it looks like he's playing fetch with one of his hands. Hey, is that Gregory down there? I miss Gregory. Never got to tell him he was a really really good dog-thing."

Sighing, Gillespie slouched in her seat. "Don't patronize me, Sophia. This is a failed audition. I'll have to scrap him and start fresh. Maybe see if I can get some more aggression with a little more evil in a heart…"

"Pump the brakes. You can't kill that boy. We've got waaaaay too much tied up in there to just dissemble it completely. Plus the lights are on in Frank's head. You tried programming him but I think there's something more in there. I'm sure we can find a role for him somewhere."

"A pity job. Maybe he can be the janitor at headquarters, too nice to say no. Made of dust for ease of cleaning puke and viscera. What a future in store for him!" Gillespie grimaced and stood, turning away from the display. "I don't know if I like that."

"You know, for someone who prides themselves on pushing the envelope, you've got an awful narrow set of blinders on. There's amazing potential here! If we needed someone to rip and tear, Abel is available. Plenty of others are available. Alpha-9 is last hope, not big hammer. There should and will be a place for gentle souls in the Foundation's future."

"The Foundation's future is one I won't get to see. If it's one where we go soft, maybe that's a good thing."

"Oh my god please lay off the salt. Gillie, you're being ridiculous. Please, at least think it overnight before you go off and murder the kid. Listen to yourself. You've made a life with amazing potential here but you want to snuff it out because he's not enough of a sociopath."

Gillespie paused, before pressing her cane into the observation booth's wall. A panel slid open, and a few armed men escorted her out. After a few moments, they came to collect Light. As she followed to exit, she stole one final look down at Frank.

He sat alone as a small figure at the center of the room. Holding something colorful in his hand. Pieces of his little art project or perhaps seeds of plant dogs. Light sighed.

Poor kid never really had a chance.


Site-77, Sub-Basement Level, Autumn

Frank awoke suddenly, as he always did. They let him sleep in a real bed for a little while. It was nice to wake up dry. The LCD calendar on the wall had an animated yellow orb on a horizon.

Cool

Working his muscles and bones into the right spots, Frank rose from the bed. Flicking his feet to fit his toes into the skin he looked around to see where they had laid him to rest. Looked like an appropriate enough place to sleep.

His thoughts were interrupted by the door buzzing and opening. Weird. There would usually be a big man on the other side to take him back to the big sleep tube. Nobody there today. No tube either. Just a big long hall with a ladder at the end. It went up too! What excitement!

Frank bounded forward out of the sleeping room and grabbed a hold of the ladder after three steps. Anything could be up there!

Hopefully not Mom. Frank knew she wouldn't be happy. But lying to the nice Mom she probably brought to watch wouldn't have been right. If this was a big concrete world of Moms and men with guns, every Mom ought to see truth. There was something inside of him that was sure of it.

Maybe the other Mom would be there too. Frank began climbing up. There was only one place to go from here, anyways.

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