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The Masked Defective

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The Irken Empire was run efficiently and effectively, not by the two tall figure heads but rather by three gigantic machines, which held the 'souls' of the original three Tallest; Justice, Tradition, and Wisdom. These three machines, better known as the Control Brains regulated and shaped Irken society.

As each planet was conquered, transformed and cleansed for the use of the Irken people, three new Control Brains or CBs were installed. Of course they weren't nearly as advanced as the originals but, it made it so they had complete control over every sprawling corner of the Empire.

The CB's were responsible for population control, construction, battle plans, food supplies, punishment of the guilty, trials for the supposed innocent, and the Smeet Hatcheries. Every aspect of Irken life went through them. 

CBs were also complicated machines that required constant tune ups and updates in order to function properly. There was a special team of elite Irk scientists and engineers whose sole job was to travel wherever their assigned Control Brain was and keep it running like clockwork.

For centuries, the Irken people had lived under the rule of machines. They were trained from hatching to revere and fear these beings that had created their society, even more so than their Tallest.

"Are you in position?" His co-worker's voice rasped in his head, echoing from the speaker they'd chipped there. "Because if you aren't—"

"Oh shut up. I'm nearly there. Don't start lecturing me." Hash hissed back, antenna perked for any disturbances as he crept along the dimly lit corridor. It was empty, but for the occasional hidden camera. It was a place he'd been a billion times before it seemed.

Filled with all kinds of memories; good and bad and in between. Hash thought of his co-workers. They had become so much more than that. The ten of them had been hatched together, raised together. They were as close as any irken could possibly be to one another. 

The hall was clean but for the rather obnoxious grape soda stain in the middle of the hallway. Of course they'd tried to remove it, to no avail. The only other option would've been ripping up the carpet and that was just stupid. 

He half expected the lights above his head to flicker ominously as he walked to his destination. For someone to jump out and scream "Ah-hah! Caught you!"

But, he was allowed to be here, in fact he was one of the ten Irkens who had access to this place besides the Tallest and yet his spooch beat like it was going to hop out of his chest.

"Are you there NOW?" Hash cringed, glaring at the nearest camera.

"Will you stop? I'm going."

"Well, you don't look like you're doing anything but, staring at the wall like a dull witted Gashspleakasplorsh. What part of 'Urgent, Life or death situation' do you not comprehend?"

Her name was Mora and she was anything but, patient. Hash made a quick insulting gesture at the camera before shuffling up to the giant door at the end of the hallway. Taking a deep, steadying breath he typed in his special identification code, waited for the door to swoosh open and walked inside, his heels making too much noise.

"Nothing. I mean, I understand it all, thank you very much. I didn't vote for myself. You could've gone just as easily."

It was the same as it always was; Three giant Pak like machines, all beeping and humming nearly noiselessly in the giant room. These three were connected to every other Control Brain in the Empire. Aside from the brains, numerous tools were scattered around the room. Along with miscellaneous inventions, holo tapes, souvenirs from planets they had been flown to for a new Brain's installation...

"You know why I couldn't." Hash could almost picture her face as it instantly sobered, dark purple eyes dimming and yet still burning with that internal fire of determination he'd always admired.

The brains no longer acknowledged them, as it knew their PAK signatures. Hash walked right up to the far left Machine, which he knew was Justice or the Present or CB 1; in charge of Communications, Prisoner records, surveillance, Law Accounts, treaties and alliances.

"Yeah, yeah." He hissed non-existent brow furrowed as shaky claws moved to work. The brains never stirred from their 'hibernation' which they always went into at the end of the day to process all the new information. "Responsibilities, your mate, it's all so angst-y and such blah, blah."

The nervous irken worked swiftly, his hands, even while shaky, sure and experienced. This was what he was good at; Control Brains. From his hatching he'd known what he was meant to do. Now, he was doing the exact opposite. At least for a little while.

It was unheard of, blasphemy. And certainly worth a death sentence of painful deactivation in front of the entire Empire. And even if the very thought of that made Hash want to throw up the delicious doughnuts he'd managed to shove down earlier, he knew that if he didn't do this…he would never be able to live with himself. Or look at any of his co-workers again.

Pulling a final wire inside the main breaker of Justice, the green lights of the giant Pak went dark. Blowing out a spooch full of air, he scudded over to the next one; Wisdom, the Future, CB 2; in charge of schematics for all irken tech, main battle tactics, helping decide what laws to put into effect and how to enforce them.

"Lights down on CB 1; releasing control on cameras and sending in Roak and Ja-Bomb to Hatchery."

Mora told him, and it echoed in the rest of the team's mind. And he had come to think of them as that; a team. They'd spent more hours and rotations inside this room together, than most irkens spent with anyone. They'd learned each other's personalities, ideas, becoming close. They looked out for each other. Helped each other. Even in this…they were one.

Hash's fingers flew as they quickly repeated the process with Wisdom, eyes narrowed in concentration. The machine's blue lights flickered once, and then turned off completely. Mora made a humming sound in his head.

"Good. CB 2; lights out. Sending in Hic, Wren, and Gimp to transfer area."

The Irken knew that things were going well, Very well. Better than they had dared to imagine. He had expected to at least have triggered an alarm by now. His dark pink eyes flickered to the final control brain. Tradition, the Past, CB 3; in charge of deactivating criminals, harvesting information, smeeting training programs, tallest electoral and historical records.

It was the most unpleasant thing that Hash had ever had the displeasure to work on. It often barked commands and spoke down to them more than the other two did. Grimacing from the shiver of nervousness that was working its way up his spine, he stepped forward and opened the control box, preparing to complete his task at last. This time his hands were steady even thought inside he was anything but.

"Mora. We're done. Task complete." Roak's squeaky voice cut through the speaker, sounding over joyed despite his normal stoic nature.

"Good. Now go back to base. How are you coming along, Hash?"

He grunted, hands flying as fast as he could, disconnecting wires, throwing switches, typing in the necessary codes…"Almost…"

"IRKEN CBT HASH. PAK #989237489. STATE YOUR BUSINESS." Tradition boomed in a voice of age and command.

"What was that?" Mora hissed.

"I-it's awake." Hash whispered back, petrified.

"Well, turn it off!"

"RESPON—" He tugged the final wire out, sending the red lights into darkness. From his head speaker he heard Mora's sigh of relief, along with the tap-tap of keys on a keyboard.

"It's out. CB 3 gone. Moving into final position." Pause. "Hash. Get out of there. Go to base and wait for orders."

He nodded even though he knew that she couldn't see him. Setting his tools down, he slipped out the door and,

"Halt!" Hash obeyed eyes wide in terror. Several soldiers stood outside the door, guns aimed at him, eyes hidden by tinted goggles.

 Without a second thought, he retreated, shoving the door behind him and beginning the lock down sequence, tapping the code in furiously.

"M-Mora…they've found me."

Before she could get a word in, Roak was cutting in. "We'll come get you, hold tight." He could almost picture the tiny irken's set face, large blue eyes, with his hands clenching tight to his weapon. His trusty companion, Ja-Bomb nodding along silently in agreement.

"You will do no such thing!" She shouted, the static increased. "You will go to base. Hash, you locking yourself in?"

"Yeah…but, I can hear them trying to break through." The doors muffled the sound of gun shots, harsh screeches of spider legs, metal against metal.

"Fuck. Just stay calm, okay? We'll find a wa—No. Damn it. Lost track on Hic." Hash backed away from the door, shaking uncontrollably. Was this it? Was this how it was going to end? Now, when things had seemed so close?

"Screw what Mora said, Hash. We're on our way. Hold right." Roak yelled.

"N-no…" He croaked. He cleared his throat and tried again. "No. Go. They need you. You two have talent. They need that for the plan. They need that for this to work."

On the other end, his co-worker was cursing angrily, desperately. "Hash…they're breaking through. But, you're going to be okay. Remember your training. Remember what we're doing this for, okay?" Once again he nodded as If she could see him. "It's all going to be—" BANG. A thump and the sound of static. Louder. As if she had fallen on top of her control panel.

Silence on the end. Everyone's end.

Hash let out a shuddering breath. Dead. Mora was dead. Hic was MIA and everyone else was in danger. With a big explosion, the door gave in, falling to the floor and revealing how warped it was from lasers and blunt force. He scrambled backwards; pressing his back to a corner just as the soldiers ran in with guns aimed everywhere, searching for their target.

Out of the fourteen or so, stepped the general, eyes covered by those stupid goggles. Designed to unnerve the enemy, to show no color or weakness. To distance themselves from the deaths they caused every day.

Hash didn't feel much of anything anymore. He was numb with shock. His friend was dead. And soon he would be too.

"You. Much shorter than I had imagined when I heard of the threat. But, that doesn't matter. Your accomplices are going to be exterminated. Just like you. Your plan has failed. You have failed."

The General smirked, speaking to his team. " Just like anybody who goes up against the Empire."

Hash gnashed his teeth, righteous anger finally making an appearance. This jerk, this slave was wrong. They may be about to die…but, they had died for something. They HAD made a difference. The irken straightened his back, chin up and looked the soldier square in the eye.

"We have not failed," He hissed loud enough for anyone who might still be listening in his headset. "We've already begun to destroy the Empire from within. The universe, every irken will know how corrupt our system is. If we die, ten more will take our place.." He could see them, shifting uncomfortably, an irken speaking such blasphemy. Good.

"The Empire WILL fall—" BANG.

With a jerk, his body fell to the floor. The laser had shot right through his midsection, taking out the PAK and ending his life faster than he could comprehend it. Pink blood pooled and boiled from the PAK's internal wires.

Normally anyone that was an enemy of the Empire was taken to the Control Brains, where they were judged and sentenced before every irken eye. They should know what happened to their enemies. But, this was different. They weren't common criminals…they had shut down the CB's and defied the Empire. This was a spark that they had to extinguish before it got out of hand.

This would never make the press or be recorded in any kind of history texts. No one would know about this. 

The general eyed the body with contempt.

"You see. This is what happens to traitors." Turning on his heel he spoke directly to his soldiers, who immediately stood at attention.  "You two, remove the body and take it to the Tallest along with the others outside. You, get a Vort prisoner to come fix the CBs. The rest of you come with me…we have six more to find before the day shift starts."

They all went to their tasks. The two soldiers kneeled down and hefted what used to be Hash up from the floor, grimacing as the blood continued to drip through the hole in his PAK. They stumbled out, stepping over the Grape soda stain now joined by a greater smear of pink and down the hallway after their general.