2023.05.06 "It was a funny moment."

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"It was a funny moment."

I know that the microscopic and nanoscopic robots will eventually clean all my fangs completely, but it's easy to get impatient. I try to focus on the minor internal irritant.

"But I can't help but notice that you're not laughing."

My talon is hooked on a particularly stubborn gobbet of something near the gum line. My voice is broken and hard to understand normally, so it seems somewhat futile to respond while my hand jammed in my gape. So I just squint my little pink eyes through the bars. Obviously I could just send a response via comms, but I know better than to open up in that way in my current predicament.

"What I'm most surprised by is how you managed to find time to father children."

My reflexive response is to do a "slow blink", but undoubtedly my tiny peepers can't pull it off so I probably just look stunned. Which isn't far wrong, because I'm utterly baffled by that wildly wrong leap of logic. Unhappy with this circumstance, I slowly pull my hand out of my mouth and stop gaping like a teenager at their first true glimpse of the vast disappointment of their impending adulthood.

My captor used this mounting awkwardness as an opportunity to transform from an eerie grey humanoid into an actual human. But not just any human - it becomes male, presenting as past-prime age, and with a somewhat magnificent mustache. And, for no readily obvious reason, bright white shoes. This would make my hackles raise, except that he settles into a demeanour of deep trustworthiness and supportiveness. Which is it's own bizarre flavour of wrongness.

"See? I did a dad joke like your meta dad joke."

I used to hang around a human quite a lot, and I seem to recall that they classically referred to some subset of puns as "dad jokes". But as I stare at the shapeshifting nightmare of active metal, I must admit that I have no idea what it is babbling about. Is it insane?

The profound benevolence aura sours into annoyance. "Because he did a meme, and you used it to do a dad joke!" The dad-missionary points insistently at the corpse in this cell with me. A corpse I should confess which is largely my direct responsibility, but perhaps a miscalculation on my part.

Aw hell. Might as well poke the thing, since being subtle has backfired entirely so far. I gently run my tongue over my fangs, a nervous habit, and choose my words carefully. "What is it that you think is going on here?"

Now it's the monster-dad's turn to stare uncomfortably, and holy fuck is it better at it than I am. Then it tilts its head back and cackles while its mouth fills with perfectly wrong fangs that make me both envious and deeply uncomfortable. "Oh, my fine new toy, what an unexpected facet to find in a fiend of your kind. Tell ME: what do you think is going on?"

Well fuck. It's not like I can exactly lie to it - not with the number of stages of mathematician it must be bringing to bear on reading me. So now the trick is to not let it get away, and even better to not kill me before it gets away. "I think..."

"WAIT." I involuntarily freeze out of pure fright. That's not pleasant. Oh, what it's doing with its face is even less pleasant. Its eyes and ears stretch as it shifts mass into more elaborate sensing capabilities. "You are convinced that something is going on that I don't know about. Normally I would find such an idea amusing, but you are a rare fiend versed in the ways of my kind. Which is rather the whole point."

Yeah, he's totally scanning me, and possibly not all that interested in what I say. "I think what's going on is that you are long unaccustomed to being surprised."

A startling-fast motion and its arm is now sporting a brutally-effective-looking blaster barrel. "Surprise is death for my kind, and since I'm alive that means I've successfully avoided surprises." A flick of motion and it has aimed and acquired on me. "I should kill you, and be done with this."

My spines walk with agitation as my fucked-up biochemistry transformes fear into rage. Which will make me stupid, if I let it. "Yes, you probably should. But it would not make you done with this - only done with me in the least satisfying way possible."

It's such a drama queen, it is literally making artificial drool to be creepy. "So. You're part of something bigger."


"So you made yourself a lure as part of a trap?"

I think about the truest, but least-helpful way to answer. "No. More like I got to do something that I am good at, and by way of that I am part of a test for you."

It's eyes narrow. Which looks really off-putting, since it's giant scanner eyes have been passively peering through me in careful detail. "A test for ME?"

"Well, a test for something like you." I sneer. "You'll do."

"So, tell me, how do you think I pass this test?"

Sometimes it's dangerously fun to be honest. "Oh, you've already failed. Now it's just a matter of measuring degrees of failure."

It develops an entirely new rarified dimension of ominous aura. "What then is the final adjudicator of this supposed test?"

The degree to which I quail at the very very still hypernormally fast being glowering at me is hard to guess with any objectivity. I'm pretty sure it's going to kill me if I blink wrong. I swallow with difficulty, and croak, "I think you know."