For a change of pace: Here’s part two of Krauner’s story.
Krauner woke to the familiar beeps of a pulse monitor. He was surrounded in white, the cold surroundings of a medical treatment room. To his right laid a mountain of flowers and get well cards; to his left the halved eyes of a robot wearing a pink karate gi.
Good. Everything is normal.
“Good morning sir,” Henry said, “Though I suppose I should say it twice.”
Krauner sat up; it filled the room with an ear-piercing flat line beep. Henry, undaunted, calmly flipped it off.
“You missed Christmas, again.” Henry folded his steel hands in front of himself.
“I’ll catch Santa next year. I’m good for it.” Krauner let out a yawn. “So how long was I out?”
“Four days sir,” Henry said, “Not your worst stretch. Not your best.”
“Ok! So back to wo—“
“Afraid not sir. You’re still in bad shape.” Henry shook his head. “We have a specialist here.”
“So what’s the damage?” Krauner glanced down at his body.
“13 broken bones, three of them compound, concussion, and mild nerve damage.” A doctor came into the room holding a stack of papers.
“That’s a new record.” Krauner said with a small fist pump.
“Yes sir. It is. Should I frame the medical chart in your office?” Henry said.
“Nah.” Krauner shook his head. “Make a copy. Put something awesome on it.”
“Of course sir.”
The doctor stared blankly, turned his eyes down to his paper work and went on. “I see the rumors weren’t exaggerated.”
“Which ones? That I’m awesome?” Krauner leaned forward and grinned. He put a hand at his chin and stroked it thoughtfully.
“I was referring to the ones regarding your recklessness.” The Doctor sighed. “My name is Han Yamazaki, pleasure to meet you.”
“Being reckless is how it goes Han. You only live once.” Krauner thumped his chest with a fist and winced in pain.
“I wouldn’t do that again.” Han smiled.
“Why not. A few broken bones aren’t going to kill me. I’m a vampire.” Krauner pointed at himself with bravado. “I sparkle and everything.”
“Sir. You’re not a vampire. And what does sparkling have to do with anything?” Henry wagged a finger at him.
Han ran a finger across Krauner’s charts casually. “Your conscious healing is doing well but you need time. fluids and…”
“Whoa. You didn’t even bat an eye. But check these out.” Krauner brought a thumb to his cheek and bore his fangs.
Han was unimpressed.
“Sir. He knows the truth of things. He’s a specialist.” Henry turned to Han. “Apologies Dr. Yamazaki, one of his greatest joys is scaring his physicians.
The smile fell off Krauner’s face and he pouted. “What sort of specialist?”
“Superhumans,” Han smiled wryly. “While your pedipalps are impressive, they’re just a side effect from your enhanced healing.”
“You’re wrong.” Krauner said flatly. His green eyes locked on Han. “I really am a vampire.”
Han raised a brow. “With all due respect I’ve spent the last 48 hours going over your charts and have not found a single trace of blood dependency. Nor do you have any sort of communicative disease that would be spread by… biting people. The definition of a vampire right?”
“I’m still a vampire.” Krauner held out a hand. “Henry.”
“Of course sir.” Henry produced a pair of ruby red sunglasses and handed them to his master.
Krauner slipped them on calmly.
“Whatever you claim to be… sir… You’re not immortal. You need to be careful as the extent of your power is limited to healing.” Han frowned.
Krauner held out a hand. “Doctor, or hey, can I just call you Han?”
“Give me the anatomical chart.” Krauner flexed his hand.
Han complied quietly. He watched as Krauner traced a finger across the chart, tapped and focused on a part of his body. After a faint glow he went back to the chart.
“What is he doing?” Han asked Henry.
“Fixing himself,” Henry said calmly. “It’s a little different than a standard healing factor. He can’t do it unconsciously. It goes hand in hand with his other power.”
“Shape shifting, of course.” Han turned away and started to rifle through his stack of papers. “I understand now. You might be on to something after all…”
Henry paced over to Han and peered down at his papers. “Have you made some sort of discovery?”
“Well. I knew you didn’t call me here just to patch him up. You paid me for research, so I did some preliminary work.” Han tapped on the paper at the word ‘shade’.
“So you’ve discovered what breed Krauner is?”
“I’m right here you know.” Krauner frowned as continued his work.
“He’s not that far off calling himself a vampire. If anything, he’s a sort of… incubus.”
“That would certainly explain his obsession with being the center of attention.” Henry nodded. “So he’s a soul sucking demon. Amusing.”
“I don’t know about souls… but… “ Han eyed Krauner. “The traditional incubus is an equivalent to the Scottish Demon, the Succubus. They feed off lust. I don’t think that’s his problem.”
“So his primary form of nourishment is attention?” Henry took a moment to log that into his permanent memory.
“Emotion,” Han said, “It lines up with my tests. I couldn’t explain it otherwise, but even unconscious his vitals improved randomly. Looking back on it, I think I had the television on.”
“Soap operas.” Krauner nodded. “I love em’. Too bad I missed out on Linda’s confession to Barry. They’ve been hyping that up all week.”
“It didn’t happen. She chickened out.” Han folded his arms.
“Figures.” Krauner folded his arms. “I think Joe is a better match for her anyway.”
“Can we please stay on topic gentlemen?” Henry said calmly.
“O…of course.” Han said. “But as I was saying. I have experience with the physiologies of super humans and your body is remarkably normal. There are no clear anomalies in your body to explain your ability to… sparkle. He isn’t actually healing. He’s just putting himself back to a familiar state.”
“And sometimes unfamiliar states,” Henry added. “You’ve seen the footage of Krauner in action haven’t you?”
“I have not.” Han eyed Henry. “And you… you’re an AI?”
“Yes. Designation: KB-00001 Common Designation: Henry.”
“You’re… very well programmed.”
“I agree.” Krauner beamed.
“Please sir. Krauner’s ego is large enough.” Henry’s blank eyes stared forward. “I and the rest of the KB model line has been designed by Krauner himself.”
“You programmed him?” Han’s eyes grew wide. “You’re a roboticist?”
“A hobbyist really.” Krauner scratched his cheek. “It’s complicated. Anyway, yeah, I built em. Henry is the only smart one though. The rest are pretty advanced… but still stick to one function or another. I think the most complicated thing I’ve gotten one to do it mix drinks.”
“That’s still impressive.” Han drew in closer. “…and illegal.”
“Yeah yeah….” Krauner put his hands behind his head. “If you need money to keep quiet that can be arranged.”
“Sir. You’re supposed to be slightly less blatant about bribing people.” Henry said.
“Whatever.” Krauner shrugged. “You and I are pals right Han? Anyone that watches the Old and the Obnoxious is good in my book.”
“I’m not worried about the AI. But you should be more careful. They could shut you down if the realized you had a fully aware one.”
“Not happening.” Krauner said casually. “The property, ticket and zoning taxes I pay probably keep this city afloat. I have my bases covered.”
“So… who hired me if I you were unconscious?” Han considered aloud.
“Me. Sort of.” Krauner broke into a wide grin. “I have a pretty good medical staff here since it’s a fighting arena and all. It’s part of the safety requirements actually. But with the sort of money that comes in and out of here. People don’t ask questions.”
Han grew pale.
“It’s alright. I know you did. But that’s probably why we hired you. How would you like a full time job here?”
“I couldn’t possibly…”
“Oh right. I’m not saying it has to be exclusive. You can leave anytime you want. If you have other work to do just say the word and I won’t ask questions. I think your clients often have picky privacy requirements.
Han nodded quietly. “That would be my primary concern.”
“Then it’s a non-issue.” Krauner smirked. “I just want you to help me figure out what makes me tick. I figured out that much. The part you said about emotions and all that. It doesn’t really matter what sort of emotions they are, but they just supercharge me.”
Krauner tapped his forehead. “No better place than a fighting arena. A crowd full of riled people is a veritable power plant for me. No matter how badly I get beat, I’ll bounce back if I have my fans cheering for me.”
“In theory,” Henry said.
“In practice,” Krauner wagged a finger.
“In theory,” Han said knitting his eyebrows. “Even if it’s a resource, it certainly doesn’t prevent damage. You were in dire straits only minutes ago. “
He reached out and squeezed Krauner’s arm. “I have experience with healing. This is not healing. You’re simply replacing your body with new parts. Or reverting it. Regardless. This doesn’t remove your need to be careful.”
“Doctors orders.” Henry said firmly. “You see? Even if he believes your vampire gibberish, he still acknowledges your foolishness.”
“Bravery.” Han said. “Even if he’s foolish, he’s doing a service. He’s an entertainer. I can respect that. It actually sets me at ease that you don’t get that Henry. A Machine wouldn’t.”
Henry merely stared at Han in response.
“You mean you’ll help me then?” Krauner offered a hand.
“For free. For now.” Hand fixed his collar. “I don’t want to work for you till I know your motivations.”
Krauner smiled. “Fair enough.”
Han reached up to the TV and pulled out a data card. He slipped it into Krauner’s palm. “I’m going to do some more homework on shades. You hold on to this in the meantime
Krauner gave him a puzzled look.
“It was a good episode.” Han smirked and put a hand on Krauner’s shoulder.
Krauner closed his hand around it and watched Han leave the room.
“I think he plans to cooperate sir. His heart rate elevated, sure, but it seemed to be a sign of anticipation.”
“Yeah. I think so too. Good call on this one Henry.” Krauner stared at his closed fist. “Sucks you have you pretend to be a heartless machine though… considering it was my fault.”
“Think nothing of it Krauner.” Henry nodded. “In some ways you killing me might have been the best thing that ever happened to me. You should show more confidence though. Even if I designed ‘myself’ you’ve made some significant improvements to the design.”
“Plagiarism is plagiarism.” Krauner sighed. “The only thing that comes out of me that’s original causes death. That’s a bit hard to swallow.”
“You do a fine job of it sir.” Henry gave him a pat on the arm. “That’s why Dr. Yamazaki is here. Maybe through him, you’ll learn some control. “