"Skin Deep" drabbles by Neville Hunt

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Frightening consequences

Skin Deep #78

When the girl and Rufus got to her flat, both expected raunchy sex. Stripping off, the two of them bundled onto her bed and started the preliminaries. For this interlude, Rufus temporarily disconnected himself from the machine. Instinctively he felt he needed no help in the sex department.

However, in the penis department, there appeared to be strike action! Whatever he did, however hard he tried, hard was not what he got!

The woman was really quite understanding, but unintentionally she managed to patronise him, make him feel as small as he remained.

No-one ever patronised Rufus without consequences.

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Doubly impetuous

Skin Deep #77

Killing Clive Dollis was the instinctive, brutal side of the rebooted Rufus. Action before thought. A pointless brutal gesture getting him nowhere. He now had a body to dispose of, yet he was no closer to finding Marcus.

It was a double problem because he'd left behind in her flat off Maida Vale, an equally dead young woman, also strangled, but savagely beaten first.

He'd met the woman in a bar, alone and open to meeting a fit young man ten years her junior. She'd invited him back to her flat for the night.

So why the hell kill her?

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Cuckoo beware

Skin Deep #76

First things first. To find Marcus, find his house! Not difficult, that part of Rufus's memory was 100% OK.

Arriving at the house he'd last seen several weeks before brought back unpleasant memories for Rufus. Reaching the front door, he aimed a straight kick at the middle. The door flew open inwards. Rufus bounded in and powered up the staircase. Entering Marcus's bedroom, he didn't see what he expected.

An older man was there on the bed, but it wasn't Marcus. He was considerably younger. Who cared? Certainly not Rufus!

Clive Dollis cared, for an instant, before Rufus strangled him.

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Complementary objectives

Skin Deep #75

Rufus was ready for his mission. He still had problems with his speech though. Without realising it, this was an advantage. People were at pains to be tolerant of him for fear of being thought discriminatory. He seemed simple.

Rufus was far from simple! He could get away with murder!

With encouragement from the machine, he made plans. Rufus was planning to find Marcus, make him suffer, then kill him in revenge for the treatment Marcus had meted out to him.

The machine's objective differed. It planned to extract the contents of Marcus's brain via Rufus... for the time being...!

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Opportunity squats

Skin Deep #74

Clive Dollis was a waster, a 'bottom feeder', doing as little as he could get away with and narrowly avoiding prison a number of times.

His stayed close to his sister Grace, who'd married a rich, older guy who lived in an expensive house edging on Hampstead.

He hated Marcus, who'd treated him like shit, but he had eyes on the house, or at least the proceeds if, as likely, Marcus died before Grace. That didn't happen, so when he read recent stories in The Goss, he decided to stake a claim.

But first, he would break in and squat...

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Shrewd investment

Skin Deep #73

Marcus bought well when young. The well-paid electronics boffin invested in property at the end of the 1960s, just before Britain's huge housing boom. His detached property bordering Hampstead and Finchley Road had shot up in price, now commanding well over £2million.

When he married Grace, she shared his house, although his dark character must have shown through back then when, unusually for the times, he insisted she relinquish any future claims via a prenuptial agreement.

Grace, besotted then with the man she thought he was, went along with it.

Her surviving brother saw an opportunity to reverse this....

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Hair today, gone today

Skin Deep #72

First port of call for Rufus was a barber. He didn't hesitate in asking for a shaved head. His speech was still extremely slow. The barber checked, thinking Rufus a bit simple.

"You sure, mate?"

The look in Rufus's eyes told him not to mess with this bloke. So all the locks were shorn in minutes. Rufus paid and left.

Next he bought jeans and shirt at a chainstore. He now looked like an ordinary bloke; smartish... but nonetheless homeless.

A bed required for the night... hopefully with a woman in it!

Off to a busy bar seeking tonight's prey....

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Spick, span and savagely inclined

Skin Deep #71

What emerged from the house some 10 minutes later was a clean-shaven, fit young man inside a rather bulky shirt and baggy trousers, held up with a tight belt. His long clean hair, still drying, when seen in the context of his oversize garb, carrying a black box and wearing headphones made him seem quite trendy, in a bohemian kind of way.

But for his savage intent, Rufus must be inconspicuous. The long hair must go and he must buy standard denims and shirts, so he wouldn't seem out of place.

And a box for the box was essential.

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Skin Deep #70

Shopping wasn't possible so he'd have to help himself. Rufus walked until he found a residential street, selecting a house with a car outside, indicating that someone was there. Knocking on the door, a young woman came and was greeted by a fist in the mouth, knocking her clean out, as Rufus stepped straight over her, thinking to close the door after him.

His destinations were bathroom and bedroom. Fortunately, a man lived there, so razor and clothes, albeit a little large for him, could be found.

He checked the woman was still out cold, then jumped into the shower...

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Skin Deep #69

Rufus was getting his memory back quite quickly. However, his speech was taking longer. He sounded like someone with severe learning difficulties. The reality was that he was a very fast learner, university material no less.

How would he clean himself up? He fumbled in his pocket and discovered the £50 Marcus had paid him. This would give him access to a razor and some new clothes. However, being allowed in the shop and purchase anything in his dishevelled, stinky state could be a problem.

An earnest store assistant received a broken nose for challenging Rufus, who left with nothing.

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A clean kill

Skin Deep #68

If Rufus planned to be a first class killer, the machine had planned something different. Neither Rufus nor the machine knew that Marcus had already died and was currently lying in a chilled drawer somewhere in London, waiting to be laid to rest. Neither would have cared anyway. Rufus needed revenge and the machine needed the contents of Marcus’s brain, albeit via Rufus, who might be discarded when the machine had extracted all it needed.

Reconstructed Rufus interrogated his memory. He needed to plan where to go, what to do and how. But first, he needed to clean himself up.

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Remember, remember

Skin Deep #67

It must have seemed like hours, but in reality, it was probably only 15 minutes maximum when Rufus fully woke up, with brain largely restored to the way it was before Marcus messed him up. He started to remember things, lots of things. Thoughts and memories crowded his brain and he had to shake his head to unscramble them.

1. He owed his life to the machine he clasped.
2. An evil old man tried to kill him and must be dealt with.
3. He was going to university.

...but first he planned to graduate as a first class killer.

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Skin Deep #66

Fortunately for Rufus, now suffering an excruciating headache during his brain reboot, he fell unconscious five minutes into the recharge.

When he regained consciousness, he was highly disorientated, not knowing who he was, where he was and what he was doing anyway. He flopped down again, trying to make sense of the spectrum of senses that had been rudely awakened by the reboot.

The machine had been smart though and Rufus still instinctively knew he had to hang on to it and he subsequently he would still feel the urge to power it up.

This bloody machine was his salvation!

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Skin Deep #65

The next time Rufus found an electric point for recharging the machine, it was time. Time for a crash session of reprogramming and a splitting headache for Rufus. Immediately the power surged into the machine, maximum power was pumped into the brain of Rufus...

So sophisticated was the machine that it was able to reverse Rufus's brain decay. It was the brain’s equivalent of the machine undeleting files that had been sent to the recycle bin. Rufus’s original brain content was being recycled... at breakneck speed.

A splitting headache was a fair price for Rufus to pay to be restored.

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Thirst for power

Skin Deep #64

If the machine could experience emotions, it would be in constant fear of Rufus failing to power-up between battery charges. It somehow created in him a feeling akin to thirst every time its battery capacity fell below 15%.

Every time, without thinking, Rufus sought an electric socket.

And the machine got smarter at every power-up!

Another fear might be that because of his extreme level of aggression, Rufus could get in serious trouble with the police. That was potential suicide for the machine. It's reprogramming involved the urgent socialising of Rufus by reinstalling his reason... well... within reason!

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Keeping it up

Skin Deep #63

The coroner’s work assessing the cause of Marcus’s death had been on one level very easy. He knew what had happened, but not how.

He was quite happy that The Goss wished to delay any funeral until relatives had been found. So grisly was Marcus’s death that he wanted to keep the option to re-examine the body later to reconsider his verdict.

Marcus was kept exactly as he was, erection included, until such time as his relatives and heirs were found. It wasn’t difficult to find people claiming to be Marcus’s heir, The Goss was inundated with bogus claimants.

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Skin Deep #62

While the machine embarked upon socialising Rufus, Marcus continued to be held at controlled temperature, awaiting the time when any relatives he might have could give him a proper send off. This meant that his tissue would not undergo any further deterioration. It’s not that unusual these days for a body to be kept for weeks, even months, before interment.

Meanwhile, The Goss was exploiting the search it had initiated for Marcus’s relatives. It was working with ‘heir hunters’ and an online ancestry business. It was win-win-win for the newspaper and the circulation was going up-up-up.

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The machine smells trouble

Skin Deep #61

If you don’t wash, it's not long before you start to smell really foul. Accompanied by an untidy facial growth, crapping and peeing in the gutters or wherever you fancy makes you everyone’s enemy. That was Rufus.

Rufus was largely oblivious to this fact due to his lack of development in the brain department. A fellow rough-sleeper spat at him, declaring, “You’re a stinky dirty bastard you are. Go on, piss off before I kick your arse!"

After Rufus had one-handedly pummeled the man into a bloody mess, the machine deduced that a change was necessary, and quickly.

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Skin Deep #60

Rufus needed socialisation if he was to go unchallenged to find Marcus. The problem was that despite a high level of sophistication, the machine wasn’t strong on social or emotional intelligence. Being inhuman, it didn’t consider these. Therefore, the machine didn’t bother about instilling niceties, like washing, shaving, and other acceptable social behaviour in Rufus until it realised it needed to.

Sleeping rough, living rough, scavenging food appeared to be very effective behaviour in that it kept Rufus under the radar, as sleeping on the streets seemed to be so common.

Rufus stank! That alone would get him into trouble!

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Skin Deep #59

The machine needed a brain dump from Marcus. First, it must instill in Rufus the driving urge to claim back his life from the old man.

The first thing the machine had done getting Rufus back to life, following the deathbed reboot, had been to restore his physicality. Rufus was 100% the ruthless, instinctive wild animal again. He was a tough, fearless creature inclined to attack without forethought. The machine realised this could get him into trouble and thus threaten its own survival.

Rufus needed reasoning power to keep in check - but not too much.

Brutishness might well be required.