I told you not to touch that
“Whacha doin’?” my lump of a nephew asked as he oozed into the industrial kitchen.
“Preparing for later,” I said, setting a gleaming knife onto a white towel which sat atop a floating cart.
“You mean for those guys downstairs?” His bulbous body pulsed, and his eyestalks turned to examine the tray.
“The very ones.” The last item joined the others, and I retracted my arm into my own body.
“Can I watch?” he asked.
I sighed. “No.”
The whine in his voice made me want to form teeth and bite him, but I refrained. “You tell me,” I said with as much patience as I could muster.
His body sagged. “Because mom says I’m not mature enough not to go into a blood lust.”
“And?” I formed a ropey sinew and wrapped it around the cart’s controller. My nephew followed as I started toward the back door of the kitchen.
“And I would kill them too quickly.” His body grew larger on the bottom, as if he were slowly turning into a puddle.
“And why is it important not to kill them too quickly?” I asked.
He rolled his eyes in his eyestalks. “Because we want information.”
I stopped just short of the door. “And how valuable is information?”
“More valuable than currency,” he said in the most sarcastic voice he could muster.
He’d been here for over a cycle, and still wasn’t getting it. Of course I understood how difficult it was to stay in control during the development years. I’d been through it. I’d lost control once, and I still had the burn marks on the bottom of my body where my mentor punished me. It had only taken once.
Maybe it was time for my nephew to learn his first lesson.
“Listen, kid, tell you what. Why don’t you help me test some of this stuff?”
“Really?” His eyes widened, and he straightened.
“Really.” I jerked an eyestalk and moved the cart to a nearby counter. It would be another hour before the kitchen staff returned. Plenty of time for what I had in mind.
My nephew practically skimmed across the floor in my wake. I motioned for him to come around the other side as I pulled a drawer out from under the top of the cart.
Several organic items resided there. I could see their scents rise, like smoke, and my nephew leaned away when his body absorbed the first of them.
“This is the first level of persuasion,” I said. “The raw organics.”
My nephew paled, but eased forward.
“The scent isn’t deadly, but as you can feel, it is not pleasant.”
He shook his head and leaned to look into the drawer.
“This one in particular is mild, but it stays with you.” I plucked the white bulb off of the cold, metal surface. The outside of the organic shifted under my touch, and light flakes fluttered back down. I held it out. “Smell it.”
My nephew inched closer and extended a hand toward the object. He didn’t touch it, but instead cupped around it with the extension. Again, he paled, but didn’t move away.
“The outside is mild. The inside is a different story altogether.” I formed fingers and tore away the outer layers until I got to the segments. My appendage wanted to recoil, but I’d handled this before. I pulled a segment free and set it on the towel. “Get ready.”
My nephew grew still.
The blade of the knife gleamed in the light, and I placed the flat of it on top of the segment, then I pressed down.
The scent, once cream-colored, turned a disgusting hue of yellow. The moment the first tendril of it hit my nephew, he went green.
To his credit, he didn’t draw away.
“The beings downstairs will not like this, but it will not kill them.”
“Will they talk?”
“Perhaps,” I said. “Perhaps not.” I picked up the now cracked segment and began to peel the exterior away. The scent became more pungent, and I steeled myself. “But they will when I do this.”
I placed the segment into a little bucket of what we called the press. When it settled, I drew two handles together and pushed.
The segment squished apart and through small holes. The scent turned a violent orange, and raced outward in every direction.
My eyes secreted a protective layer.
“Ah!” My nephew reeled back, pulling his eyes into his body.
“One touch of this,” I said, “and they will be begging for mercy.”
I tapped the goo onto the nearby counter the turned my back and moved to a disposal. I threw the whole press away.
I only counted eight seconds before a strangled cry of alarm and pain rang out behind me.
The smell of searing flesh reached me, and I turned.
My nephew had taken the bait I had so carefully laid for him. He’d reached out a hand and touched the garlic.
Now his fingers were on fire, and he couldn’t get them back inside his body. He twitched and turned and screamed some more.
I pulled an extinguisher off the wall and pulled the trigger. A layer of purple mist enveloped him, and the he stopped screaming.
I moved to his whimpering form and looked down. “This is why you can’t come down.”
He nodded, liquid running from his eyes and blood running from his ruined hand.
“Now go see the doctor. I have work to do.”