a/n: This is a new fic to an awesome Netflix series called Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts. If you’re not familiar with it, I can’t recommend it enough! 🙂 Hope you enjoy!
Mmm…your brain waves taste nummy tonight…
Isla hung her mask in its usual spot above her pillow. If she had her way, she would have burned the thing, but that would let the timber-cat out of the bag faster than anything.
Gee, thanks, she mentally whispered to the voice in her head.
It giggled in response. He’s sleeping. You can relax.
Isla huffed. Just because Scarlemagne was asleep did not mean she could relax. It merely meant that if she slipped up, she’d be caught by one of his lackies and not him directly. Both scenarios would end the same–with her freedom, such as it was, being snatched from her, her mind forced under the same control as every other human.
Don’t eat too much, she warned the voice. She’d dubbed it Wren, after a picture she’d seen of such creatures before mutes existed. Who knew birds could once be so small? Seriously, he’s been obsessed with finding the city of underground humans lately. I’m going to need the energy.
Oh, okay, Wren replied. So…you should go to sleep and stop talking to me, right?
Isla stifled a chuckle. Right, she conceded before curling up on the cot she’d been assigned. It was always clean, the small pillow always perfectly in its place, and it was always much less comfortable than it looked. She was fairly sure that wherever Scarlemagne was getting their sleeping supplies from, he had them thoroughly tested for unpleasantness before his human pets were allowed to use them.
Isla lay awake, looking at the domed ceiling above her. Humans on cots to either side of her had already begun to snore. She wanted to believe she wasn’t the only one here who wasn’t under Scarlemagne’s full control. But it wasn’t as if she could ask others that question, nor could they ask her. Better to assume she was alone than take the risk. But the thought had occurred to her on more than one occasion; maybe the next time they recruited a human, she could try to save them. Or at least, if possible, give them a way to keep their own will. Like she did because of Wren.
Isla had met Wren a few months back. To call Wren a single entity wasn’t really accurate, but it was easier to think of the little mute that way. Wren was a collection of tardigrades. When the microorganisms that composed her gathered together, they only took up a space the size of Isla’s palm. Isla had actually felt bad for Wren when they first met; the mute had been unable to feed consistently for a long time. Creatures’ minds tended to build defenses against energy-sucking parasites. As soon as someone became aware of Wren’s presense, their body tended to reject her pretty quickly. Ilsa’s body no doubt would have done the same under normal circumstances. Except, when Scarlemagne found her camp, Isla had a very good reason to want certain brain waves blocked and consumed. And Wren had good reason to want… well, food. Thus their partnership was forged. The tardigrades got a consistent source of energy (their relatively small numbers meant proportionate small demands) and Isla gained the ability to take a shot of Scarlemagne’s mind-controlling perfume without being overwhelmed. She still knew the sensation, though. Her mind fogged, her own desires shoved aside, and the thought of dancing around like a fool because Scarlemagne demanded it made her giddy with delight. Every time Isla’s head cleared thanks to Wren’s intervention, it took everything in her not to vomit.
Her biggest problem now was this–without the scents cluing her mind in to Scarlemagne’s wishes, she needed another method to keep up her facade. Thankfully, Wren helped out there, too. The mute informed her when any non-verbal commands passed through it. Or at least, it was supposed to. The last time Scarlemagne clapped for everyone to get into line, Isla had almost missed his cue entirely. The inflated mandrill had ignored it. Someone else had collapsed from exhaustion, and they were much more interesting to berate than her.
She turned to the side, hoping the change of position would finally lull her to sleep. Were things really better for her now? Or was she just torturing herself more than the others? There was no escape from this place. And unlike the other humans, every time she got an order, she had to force herself to obey it or risk uncovering her secret. Some days, being in a mind-controlled fog the rest of her life sounded like a good alternative.
Snap! Snap! Snap! Of course, Scarlemagne could never just say, “Good morning!” or even “Wake up, you lazy bums!” Not when snapping his fingers to get his wishes was so much more effective and fun for him. Isla mourned the loss of a good stretch and a yawn in order to stand straight and give the impression she never got tired at all. The other humans all rose from their cots in the same manner.
“Get ready, my little performers!” Scarlemagne squealed with delight. “I’ve got word of a new human we can fetch. Isn’t that just delightful?” He threw his head back, practically convulsing in his maniacal laughter.
Laugh, whispered Wren, as the room filled with the sound of the humans’ pained, forced giggles. Isla did so, perfectly in time with them. Her stomach soured. This was going to be one of those days she hated the most. Then again, perhaps this was the opportunity she had been waiting for. Another unfortunate effect of being under Scarlemagne’s influence was that the humans’ reaction times were greatly slowed, their brains always forced to contemplate what he would want, rather than what they would want. Isla was at no such disadvantage. If she could find this new human before the rest of them did, she could help them safely escape the area. Scarlemagne would be angry of course, but he’d blame it on their general human incompetence as usual.
Isla hurried to get changed along with the others. For the first time in a long while, the smile on her face wasn’t entirely fake.