"Positive," replied his companion.
"Any clue what shape or material they might be?" he asked.
"Shush and let me concentrate a sec." A far away look grew on her face after a few seconds of concentration. "Over there!" she pointed. "Near the top of the conveyer belt, four of them! I get the taste of metal!"
Nodding at her, the man quickly walked over to the automated controls of the conveyer belt. After looking at the the various switches and dials for a second, he shrugged.
"Guess the owner of this scrap yard can bill me." With that he reached inside his overcoat and pulled out a double barrel sawed-off shotgun. Two high powered shots later he was climbing the unmoving conveyer belt to retrieve the four helpless teens.
Reaching the top, he pulled the two beaten-up statues from the rest of the garbage and tossed them over the side to fall of the ground with a crash. Looking at the frown on his partner's face, he smirked, saying, "Yeah, yeah, like they can feel pain at this point." Reaching down, he picked up the small shapely spoon and put it in his pocket. "Where's the fourth one?"
"In the espresso machine," his partner said shortly.
Climbing back down the conveyer belt, he saw she was right: a human-shaped silver object was protruding at an odd angle from between the pubic lips of the silver statue. "A dildo?!?" he said in amazement. "Heh, check it out 'tana, this kid's a dildo! Haven't seen one like this since that one kid encountered a genie and made a dumb wish. Hmmm, too bad we can't communicate with them like this, he might not wanna be turned back."
He shoved the dildo back into position, then placed what was left of the four friends in the bed of his 4x4. Smirking at his partner as he climbed into the driver's seat, he commented, "Mission accomplished, let's head for home. I'm sure Gina can't wait to see these four."
But before the truck could pull away they were surrounded by cartwheeling hooded ninjas. "What the fuck!" Sultana swore.
"Don't worry," her partner muttered. "Haven't met a ninja yet who could avoid a shotgun blast." He aimed his weapon at the ninja who stood screaming at them from the hood of the truck. In a spray of silver the figure toppled backward. But two more had leapt into the bed of the truck.
"Constructs!" Sultana gasped. The human-like robots had mercury instead of blood. She rooted in the truck's glove compartment for her own handgun; they couldn't lose these four now, not after all the trouble they'd gone through to find and retrieve them. She took aim at the head of the nearest construct as it grabbed the espresso machine, lifting it by the hips. The construct's head exploded in a satisfying shower of sparks. "How the hell did Takahashi find out so quickly?" she muttered.
Her partner slammed the truck into gear. The rapid acceleration caused the ninja in the bed of the truck to topple out head over heels, where it hit the concrete with a sickening sound. Accelerating, they ran down another unlucky ninja who'd suddenly bounded in front of them. Crushed silvery shards and liquid mercury were all that were left of the being after the tires passed over it.
"Careful!" Sultana warned. "We don't want to lose those four in back as well."
Sultana sighed. Five shuriken stars suddenly hit the passenger's side door below the window, narrowly missing her arm. She quickly drew it back inside. "Better put the shields up. They're getting serious."
Her partner touched a button, sealing the truck and statues inside a silent bubble of protection. Behind them the surviving ninjas tried to regroup, but they didn't have a vehicle, and the two Soul Searchers did. The Asian-made robots were soon left in the dust.
"That was close," Sultana said. She opened up a pack of ciggies. "Care for a smoke, Jax?" He nodded. She took out her favorite lighter, a buxom silver wench with a blue flame spurting from her lips, and lit the slim Gitane. The lighter was actually one of the Transformed, but, having been melted down and recast a few times, was too far gone to reassume her original mortal shape. Not willing to discard her, the Searchers kept her as a mascot, in the hope that one day they'd have the technology to change her back.
Jax drew hard on the fragrant smoke. "The Iron Claw is getting smarter."
"Not as smart as we are," Sultana said. "We'd better get back to headquarters though. We don't want any more surprises."
This story gets stranger and stranger, Harriet thought as the truck sped down the highway. Robot ninjas? Why would they want to kidnap us? But their two strange saviors had no answers for them. They only drove, as quickly as possible, away from the scrapyard and towards the city.
Well, wherever we're going, it can't be as bad as being melted down, she thought. What year is it? 2030? 2031? She noticed few of the cars had tires anymore; they floated along a foot off the ground on some sort of repellers, making the pickup truck they were in an anachronism. God, have I been away for a while. She wondered what Rick thought of the strange twist in their adventure, but he was still lodged inside her, happily vibrating away, oblivious. Hmm, I think I'll let him have his fun. A sudden bump in the road shot Harriet towards orgasm; she would have been grinning ear to ear if she could, despite the uncertainty of her and her friends' fates. At least it meant she was still female, and still preserved some vestige of her once-human form. Guess I should just enjoy the ride, she thought. For 30 years she had been an espresso machine, spending the last eight of them in a storage shed; she was curious to see how the outside world had changed.
The truck turned off an exit and into the city Harriet had been familiar with, but after so many years it and its citizens looked very different. Harriet was used to pierced and tattooed classmates, but not to young men and women with prosthetic robot limbs, or zebra-striped skin, or sharpened steel blades growing out of their fingernails. Even the older citizens were dressed in outlandish materials like latex and rubber, or sheathed in metallic scales and fur. Some wore nothing except pearly oils applied on their skin. Yet all were going about their business exactly as people had two decades earlier.
Even more oddly, Harriet saw, at intervals along the street, more human-shaped statues of the same sort she and Diane had become. One chesty female statue was painted a bright red in color. As the truck passed by Harriet saw a man grab one of the statue's nipples and pull its DD-sized breasts downward and forward, revealing a rectangular slot into which he dropped a letter. Am I seeing things? she thought. Did he just drop a letter into her? The drawer clanged shut. The statue's bland, composed face changed expression slightly, its lips forming the words, "The next pickup will be at 2:15 PM. Thank you for patronising the local postal system, Mr. Walker." But the man had walked on by then; he hadn't stuck around to listen, having heard the politely worded thank-you before.
Apparently people had been being transformed for a while now, and no one batted an eye at it anymore. What a strange new world, Harriet thought. Much had changed since that fatal summer thirty years ago.
Her hypothesis was confirmed when the truck stopped to wait for a light at an intersection. On the corner, in front of a snack bar, stood a row of female metal torsos mounted into a counter from the hips down. All were individuals, yet they looked uncannily alike as they waited, bald, shiny heads staring blankly forward, for someone's use. And used they were. As Harriet watched a near-naked cyberpunk girl with orange feathers for hair came up and fed a coin through the lips of a statue, positioning her lips near one of its exagerratedly peaked, pointed nipples. Harriet was astounded to see a bright pink liquid fruit punch? squirt out of the nipple and into the girl's mouth. She was more astonished to see the girl smack her lips and actually suckle the hard metallic globe, drawing the last bit of the liquid nourishment into her body. None of the passersby bothered to stare.
Why doesn't anybody notice? Harriet thought in a daze as the truck drove on. Are such things commonplace now? For the first time she wondered what her, and her friends', fates would be.
The truck turned down a sidestreet into an older, more decrepit part of the city. The cyberpunks grew more numerous here, their bodily modifications more extreme. Clubs roared out strange genres of music, colors flickering within like hellish auroras. Despite the hipness, no one looked happy; instead, an air of danger and despair pervaded the atmosphere. Harriet waited as the pickup truck pulled down a narrow alley and stopped at the back entrance of what was one of these clubs, where there was a loading dock. The man and woman who rescued them went inside. A minute or so later they returned with a cart, upon which the four friends were unceremoniously loaded and conveyed into the back rooms.
They went through a series of reinforced steel doors some very thick before coming at last into a technogeek's paradise, a room full of computers, strange equipment, and television monitors upon which line after line of bright-green data repeatedly squiggled. In the midst of all this was a desk at which a woman sat.
"Hey, Gina," the strange man said.
"We got 'em," the woman Sultana? said. "In the nick of time, too. Another minute or so and they would've been liquified... unrecoverable."
"Good work," the woman said. Her voice was deep, compelling. She stood. Harriet thought the club-hopping cyberkids were freakish, but Gina was even more so... she was at least six feet tall, with a tiny waist, huge watermelon-sized tits, and long legs ending in six-inch spiked heels, the whole of her rock-solid, muscular body compressed inside a shimmery latex catsuit. Her face was at once cruel and sweetly girlish, its sculpted features tiny in comparison to her enormous, upswept crest of bright purple hair. Not since the days of glam metal had Harriet seen such a bouffant. "Did you have any problems?" she asked conversationally.
"Takahashi's ninjas," Sultana sighed. "They attacked us as we were leaving. One of them's spattered all over the front grill."
Gina curled her lip in a disgusted way. "He's growing bolder."
"We thought so, too," Jax said. "The black market must be booming for first-time Transformeds."
What is he talking about, Harriet thought. But she could only listen. Suddenly Gina leaned down and yanked something out of her pussy. "A vibrator!" she declared, holding up what was left of Rick. "I didn't think the Xaositects were into sex toys; they only made objects for commercial use. You think it still works?"
"Only one way to find out," Sultana laughed. "I wouldn't count on it, though. The two chicks don't."
"Three," Jax amended, holding up the Rebecca spoon.
"Uh-huh," Gina said, filling out some sort of paperwork on her desk. "Mission complete, then?" The two nodded. "Good. One of the Investigators has picked up some more Soul Signatures on the east side coming from an old department store. I want you to go there next, see what you find. In the meantime, let's transform these four back to their old selves and give them a debriefing." She pressed a button on her desk. The wall to her right slid back, revealing a long row of what looked like shiny steel showerstalls.
"Righto," Jax said, lifting Harriet under her armpits. Gina hefted Diane, and Sultana scooped up the more diminuitive Rick and Rebecca. Each friend was placed in the middle of one of the cubicles. They were a strange sight indeed: an anthropomorphic dildo, a spoon, and two battered aluminum nudes. But Gina had seen worse, over the years.
She walked down the row and the closed doors, which were of very thick, steel-tempered glass to contain the energies that would be unleashed. She spun each locking mechanism in her gloved hands, making it whir. "Okay Jax, run the juice." Jax threw the switch.
Harriet didn't know what was happening, but all of a sudden she was gripped in a powerful... force, however one could describe it. It was pleasurable and painful at the same time. The only thing she could compare it to was orgasm. She felt as if she were being melted, stretched, and expanded, all at once. What she couldn't see, and the others could, was the the four teens were slowly dissolving into sparkles of light, regrouping, and taking on the shape of their old selves. Jax silently controlled the power levels, making adjustments accordingly. One always had to monitor the process closely to make sure the Transformed came back in one piece. If he didn't, there would be... well, an awful mess to be scraped off the sides of the cubicle.
The levels built, reached critical. Jax threw the last switch. A blinding flash of sun-like intensity filled the four cubicles. Slowly it faded, leaving the four teens, restored to their old selves, panting in exhilaration behind the tempered glass.
Harriet ran her hands over her body. It felt so good to move and breathe again! She ran her fingers through her hair, soft and silky as it had been, and couldn't resist squeezing the nipples that had expelled hot coffee for so long. Thankfully, nothing came out, though she did feel herself becoming aroused. That too, was a pleasant surprise. She had control over her own sexuality now; it, and she, couldn't be used as a mere thing anymore.
In the cubicle next to her Diane was rising from her kneeling position and stretching, bending herself over with her arms behind her back. A delighted grin spread over her face as she realized she could assume other positions. Rebecca too was stretching herself. As for Rick.. well, there was no mistaking what he was doing with his stiffy. In a second it had purged itself, leaving a white creamy smear against the glass.
Gina unlocked the doors, leading the four friends out. Sultana handed them each a paper smock to wear to cover themselves, as they were quite naked.
The teens were speechless. Though they'd been aware of all that had happened to them over the years being restored to human bodies had been quite a shock. "Please sit," Gina said, gesturing at the four chairs that Jax had brought into the room. Gratefully they collapsed. "I suppose you're wondering what all this is about, aren't you."
Well duh, Rebecca's expression said. Harriet and Diane kept silent, but shook their heads up and down. Rick said, "Well, that has crossed my mind, yes."
Gina nodded as if it that was what she had expected them to say. "Well, before I get your names and how you happened to become what you were, let me explain a few things. My name is Evangeline. This club is called Shadowboxx. I run it with my partner Glory; we, along with Jax and Sultana here, are members of the True Human Alliance. Rebels, if you will, against Xaositect rule. Chief among our activities is rescuing humans who have been Transformed, like you four, and restoring them."
"Yes, and thank you very much..." Harriet chirped. She couldn't help fondling her nipples, which had been tinted a light cafe au lait colour from their years of hard use. The hands of her friends were likewise busy surreptitiously pleasuring themselves.
Gina gave her, and the others, a hard stare until they quieted. "The compulsive masturbation will wear off in time as your new DNA adjusts itself."
"New?" Rick squeaked.
"Yes, new. Your original DNA had deteriorated so badly Jax was forced to patch it in. You're mere xerox copies of yourselves, to use a term from your era. Not fully human. We don't have the technology yet to restore you completely. The old Xaositect pattern of coffee machine or spoon or dildo still exists, though it is hidden. Because any DNA scan would see that, you don't exist in the legitimate world. You're still as good as slaves."
"Oh," Diane said. She removed her hands from her crotch, where both sets had been doing a merry job diddling her long-suffering and neglected clitty. "Is that why we were --?"
"Yes. The Xaositects subsumed your sex drives to serve their interests, but the compulsion, as I said, will fade in time."
"But we still look like ourselves."
"True. But the Xaositects always encode the parameters for outward appearance, especially when turning their victims into anthropomorphized objects like you and your friends have been. But looks don't matter today. Every institution uses DNA scanners. If you're not a fully registered human or a Xaositect, you're no better than meat."
"However, you may find it an advantage," Sultana said in a gentler tone. "Your new bodies are stronger, faster, and tougher than your old ones were. You won't have to eat or sleep as much, and you'll heal quicker, too. And if you want to move out into normal society what passes for normal now we can give you false papers."
"But we'd like it if you joined us," Gina said.
"Join you?" Diane said. "I'm confused. What exactly are you?"
"We think of ourselves as a humane society for the human race. True humans are becoming fewer and fewer these days; every Transformed we rescue supplies us with vital DNA that we need to restore the others."
Rick shook his head. "I'm confused. Human beings are becoming extinct?"
"Yes, and what or who are the Xaositects?" Diane broke in. "And those crazy ninjas?"
"And what are all those weird human machines doing on the streets?" Harriet said.
Rebecca kept quiet; but after Harriet had spoken she said, "If you hadn't rescued us from the scrapyard, what would have happened to us?"
"Legitimate questions, all," Gina said. "Much has changed in the thirty or so years you spent as slaves." A door opened to the room. "Ah, here's Glory now. She can explain it better than I can."
A woman similar to Gina's proportions, but half a head shorter, and with bright blue palmetto-like hair, came into the room. "Hiya love," she said, kissing Gina on the lips. Harriet swore she saw an exchange of tongue. The Amazonian couple's sapphic bond was confirmed when Gina fondled Glory's inflated breasts, tweaking the peaked nipples that protruded through the spandex. "Ah, you found them," Glory said cheerfully. The double entendre could have meant the teens, or the teats.
"One step ahead of Takahashi, actually." Gina said, grinning wickedly. "I was just telling them about this strange new world they've fallen into. Care to impart a few pearls of wisdom?"
Glory grinned, seating herself coquettishly on Gina's sleek thigh. "Well, what do you kids want to know?"
"Tell us about the Xaositects," Harriet said. "We've been hearing about them all this time, but I have no idea who or what they are." Rebecca, Diane, and Rick nodded in assent.
A thoughtful expression came over Gina's face. "The Xaositects. Well." She gave a significant look at her lesbian companion. But Glory only nodded. "Much has happened in the thirty years you four have been away... the important thing is that they are the rulers of this world now. And that we are their slaves."
"Oh," Harriet said, looking down at her body which had been made of aluminum just a few hours previously. She well remembered the steamy fullness in her bowels and belly, the slippery feel of hot coffee spurting from her eternally erect nipples. She blushed at the thought of it. Why did it have had to have felt so good!
"Of course, the majority of the human population doesn't know this," Gina said, continuing. "They think things have continued as always, even though their ranks grow fewer and fewer by the year... transformed, through molecular manipulation, into the Xaositects' slaves, machines, or toys, their places taken by lookalike doppelgangers."
"What!" Diane said.
"Yes, it happened to you," Gina said, nodding. "When you four disappeared thirty years ago, four Xaositect colonists took your places, and lived your lives. Are still living them, with no one the wiser. As the years went they reached more and more positions of power, and their activities and technology eventually became legitimate. That is why you see Transformeds like yourself everywhere. But they are thought of only as amusing constructs or robots. Only we in the organization, and some others, know the real truth... that they were all once alive."
"But what are they!" Diane cried, much freaked by the idea she had not only been transformed, but had her entire life stolen away from her.
"No one knows for sure. Some of our scientists think the Xaositects come from a parallel dimension to ours, beings of malleable energy rather than flesh and blood. Others, that they are robots. Some think they aren't even alive or intelligent at all, merely a colony of bioengineered viruses escaped from some intergalactic weapons lab. However, I happen to think they are intelligent. How else could they come up with the things they do?"
"But why?" Harriet said. "Surely they had the technology to built war machines, robots, what have you if they wanted to conquer Earth. They sound like a very advanced race. Why transform people into... ice cream machines and dildoes? If they want our planet, why not kill us?"
"Every cup of espresso you made," Gina said, looking at Harriet, "and every dish of ice cream that came out of your body, Diane, contained a special virus. Designed by the Xaositects, but manufactured by your transformed bodies. This special virus was designed to dull human perceptions, to make minds dull and obedient, so that no one would grow alarmed by the bizarre changes that were occurring."
"Oh," Harriet said in a small voice, feeling worse now that she knew how she had, however unknowingly, participated in the Xaositects' schemes.
"Also, Transformeds like yourself are very valuable," Glory said, breaking into the conversation for the first time. "Human machines are far stronger and longer-lasting than regular ones, with minds and libidos that can be harnessed. The mind remains even when the metal and plastic body wears out. If we hadn't rescued you from the scrapyard you would have been melted down in the kiln and turned into something else... guns, spaceships, household appliances perhaps, melding your essences with those of the many other liquefied Transformeds. The collective souls give the new objects supernatural strength and durability. But the souls are enslaved forever, with no hope of recovery." The four gave a collective shudder. "And because even worn-out Transformeds are so valuable, there is a thriving black market trade. That was where the ninjas came in. They belong to a black marketeer named Takahashi. Our organization traces Transformeds like you by tracking their Soul Signatures Sultana here is quite the little psychic and rescues them from abuse or dissolution, but vermin such as Takahashi follow us, to steal away our discoveries, who they resell or rework for profit. He would have saved you from the kiln, but your fate would have been similar."
"Yes," Gina nodded. "And since we have saved you, we want you to work with us... to end the Xaositect rule on Earth forever!"
"But... how are we to do that?" Rick whispered.
"By infiltrating the Xaositects' ranks and finding their weaknesses. You're going to take back your lives from your doppelgangers... and live them yourselves," Glory said.
"What?" Harriet said, eyes wide. "How will that make a difference?"
"Because you and your friends were converted as part of the first wave of invasion the Xaositects who impersonated you have since risen very high in human society. In fact, they are part of the secret Xaositect ruling structure of this world. If they are assassinated, and you assume their positions, the True Human Alliance will be in a very good position to overthrow their rule for good."
"But I thought you said Xaositects couldn't be killed," Diane said.
"Oh, they can be killed, all right. We've seen the bodies. And they are not pretty." Glory shuddered. "But as to WHAT they are, we aren't sure. We will train you how to kill them using these devices." She indicated a row of four sleek headband-like objects on the shelves behind her. "In human form the Xaositects are as vulnerable as any other human and have human weaknesses."
The four eyed the devices with trepidation. Not twelve hours ago I was a beat-up coffee machine, Harriet thought. Now I'm to be a superhuman assassin?
"Of course, you can always refuse," Gina pointed out. "But if you do, I'm afraid we're going to have to change you back to your old forms and put you to use here in the club. You have no place in human society as it exists now. It would be for your own protection, because if you went free, the Xaositects would detect you eventually and track you down. And then they'd make you talk and you would spill everything you know about us and the Organization."
"Can't we be waiters and waitresses here, or something?" Harriet squeaked.
"I could wash dishes," Diane offered.
Gina laughed and shook her head. "Those menial jobs don't exist any more. Transformeds do them. That's the law. If you want to be transformed into a Cerius VII CafeGirl(c) with stainless steel plating and fully automated drink-disposing titties, be my guest."
"We've no choice then," Harriet said, biting her lip. Tentatively she took up one of the headbands. "Can you tell us about the lives our doppelgangers have led for us?"
"Well, see, that's the interesting part," Gina drawled on. "The four of you, as I said, have risen very high. Diane became a famous supermodel and later actress, and through wise investments (and three marriages) has become the de facto owner of several powerful companies the Xaositects regularly deal with, as well as mistress to the human leaders that still exist. Harriet, you became a scientist and are now chief researcher at City Institute, where the Xaositects plan news ways to control and transform human beings. Rebecca, you became a judge. You are now Supreme Justice of the city's court system, which is controlled by the Xaositects of course. And Rick, your story is the most interesting of all. You became an artist, but later trained to be undercover operative for the Xaositects. You are now their most deadly assassin."
"Then I'm going to be very hard to kill," Rick said, shuddering.
"But you have an advantage. In human form the Xaositects are vulnerable, and especially to a certain chemical we have formulated. Once injected, they soon lose form, and dissolve into their natural state. When that happens they can be killed by acid or fire."
The four were silent for a moment. Finally Rick said, "Can we talk this over amongst ourselves?"
Gina and Glory looked at each other, and nodded. "Sure. But don't take too long. We can't be absent from the club for any length of time or the clients will get suspicious. Many of them are the Xaositects' spies."
The four went several steps away to confer. Rebecca was almost in tears. "Oh my god, how can we do this?" she whimpered. "Train to be killers, and killing ourselves! What if those creatures caught us? Who knows what they'd do?"
"We don't have much of an alternative," Harriet pointed out reasonably. "Do you want to be a spoon again, or a robot? I don't. When they didn't get the temperature right that coffee hurt. Imagine boiling water being poured over your nipples and you'll have an idea."
"I don't want to be an ice cream machine again either," Diane said, shuddering. "I'm only now growing used to the idea of being warm again. Besides, if I went on to become a supermodel, I like that life. If I could replace whoever stole my future, I would."
"What about you, Rick?" Harriet asked. "Would you go back to being a dildo?"
Rick got a strange look on his face. "Uh, of course not," he stammered.
"I say we help them," Diane said. "What have we got to lose?"
Rick, who had decided to be the spokeperson for the group, spoke to Gina and Glory. "We don't want to be objects again. So we don't really have a choice. We're in. But... I was wondering, how are we just going to fit in to our doppelganger's lives? They certainly know a lot more than the lot of us do now."
"Remember the headbands I pointed out?" aaid Gina. "Once you're close enough, and you activate it, it will drain all the knowlege out of your double's heads and into your own. The only difference will be your egos and personalities. You'll be able to fit in their, your, lives without too much trouble. Plus, even the enemy aren't above being surprised, they'll be a little shocked to see their originals who they've never met until now."
"Okay," Rick said. "I get it. So how are we going to go about this?"
"Since your doppelgangers ended up splitting apart almost at once since your transformations, we don't need to worry about them wondering if one of them starts acting a little strange or connect it with their originals. You can knock them out one by one and that will be that."
"We find out what your doubles know and go from there. So who will be first?" Gina said.