Sae had a clear view of the execution grounds from her cell. She watched as a crucified woman, hairless, nude and who had until an hour ago been in the cell next to hers, was forced to swallow Hot Soup.
It was neither hot, nor soup. It was a small packet of jelly nanobots.
Her executioner stepped forward with a digital scroll which he unfurled and read. "For the crimes of treachery against the daimyo – attempted murder, impurity, mutantism, sexual perversion, and a litany of crimes too lengthy for this event – you are sentenced to serve the public."
"No! Not me! I kno–"
The words caught and she spasmed violently before loosing a scream so raw and piercing the stray dawgs in the square scattered and whined.
Her gut writhed with unnatural ripples, like a muddy rain pool disturbed by a scattering of rocks. Violent tremors gripped her body and tears streamed down her face. Any confession or pleas for mercy she had were ripped away by the awakening of the beast within her.
Tiny, precise cuts formed on her naked flesh in neat rows and cross-sections, a defined pattern that started across her belly and worked their way up and down her body.
A quick, desperate rasp worked to a furious crescendo until it stopped completely, leaving her bug-eyed and turning blue as her mouth opened and closed fish-like – no longer able to breathe.
Her skin fell away in great, neat chunks, followed by sluices of blood and internal organs, which all dropped into a sterile tub beneath her. Her eyes and tongue popped out of her head as if they had wills of their own and lazily plopped into the tub as well. Her ears dropped off with as little fanfare. Bits of legs, arms, body, breasts, lower sex, buttocks... it all dropped off and eventually filled the tub, leaving but a single hand atop the metal manacles that had held her against the X-shaped cross. Defiant and comical.
The civilian crowd which had been obediently quiet, drooling like trained crocohounds waiting for the dinner bell, stampeded forward to fill their slop buckets with pieces.
"Two pieces!" An ashigaru footsoldier kicked several greedy hands away, his nagigata polearm threatening them. "Two pieces each! Or you'll join her in serving!"
A cold jolt ran through her at the call of her name. She knew they'd be coming for her today. Maybe this was part of her serving, to watch as dinner was served. Was she dessert, or a second course?
Two men and the brutish female guard who'd tossed her in here three days ago after she'd been rounded up in a police raid on the riverside settlements of the clan-less that huddled against the river shores for safety.
The first man was an administrator, his deference in language toward the second marked him, while the second's sword marked him, as well. Samurai. High-ranking from the looks of his clean skin and finery.
The first man spoke. "No surname, of course. Clanless. Flesh manipulation." There was a certain pucker to his mouth as if he'd tasted something decidedly foul as he spoke the words 'flesh manipulation'. "You can dispose of her at any time." The man spoke in a dismissive tone, as if Sae weren't there.
Sae mumbled something. The same something she always mumbled when confronted with officials, samurai or otherwise.
"It speaks." The administrator's eyes widened for a moment at her brashness.
The female guard hit the charge bolt on her stunner. It sputtered in warning. "You only open your holes whe–"
"Enough," the samurai growled. "We've no time for this." He looked into Sae's cell, locking eyes with her. "Do you wish to die?"
It was not a question, but an unspoken proposal. There was the question of both the reward and the cost to her for accepting. Dying was easy. She knew the balance on the sheets for that. What did this samurai want and why? If he was here, in the last place one looks to fulfil one's needs, that need was dire. It also meant she was to be put in dire danger. You don't offer de-Soup those who would better serve the public as Soup on whim. Too many mouths to feed. It would make more sense to roast over the open fires to feed the troops in the field against the mutant hordes attacking the clan.
She had lived more seasons than she ever expected in this world. She expected every day to be her last, and when it wasn't – when she woke, she got up. It was as simple as that.
She had held the samurai's gaze for several seconds, then dropped it and dropped to her knees where she placated herself, putting her forehead to the ground. "I wish to live, milord."
He turned and walked out the door. "Bring her," his voice echoing in the chamber beyond.
The guard opened the cell door in a rush before Sae could stand, whipped out her stun baton and hit Sae with a full charge over ten times before Sae passed out.
Opening chapter. Follow the Samuraipunk Newsletter for updates: https://samuraipunk.substack.com/