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Haemorrhage : The Mini Series
Issue 2 of 4 : A Whole New Drug.
Emma looked down beside her, at the lolling and comatose body of her captive. She didn't really understand her unwillingness to kill the Ex-PROSAC trooper. But Jon Gunn posed no obvious threat to her, and killing him would prove nothing; and so she had to let him live. And she had to keep him with her... until she had remembered everything that she had previously forced herself to forget. His knowledge would come in handy, she knew.
he must have been very tired to sleep through her carrying him to the car, and placing him in the passenger seat. She had bought supplies at the crack of dawn; more whiskey, primarily, and some food for the human. He was still asleep two hours later, as she rattled into Music City (the car that she had stolen being in poor repair) and headed toward the man's flat.
She knew that such an action was dangerous. If they didn't know where she was already (and she couldn't discount that possibility despite her care) then, bereft of other options, PROSAC might just stake out her captives home. They would have to be desperate and overfunded to take such steps, but Emma had a hunch that they might by now be both.
"Wake up," she said, and gave her hostage a gentle nudge. She concentrated very hard as she did so, in an attempt to avoid skewering him should he wake quickly and surprise her. But he merely mumbled in his sleep.
Emma took his belongings from the glove compartment where she had placed them earlier. It had hit her suddenly, the idea of investigating his pockets. Wandering through the early light, long shower already taken, Emma had been bored. But she had no idea of a plan, no idea as to her next destination. Without the rest of her... Rhesus Factor, she had no direction. And she didn't want to wake the man; he looked so peaceful, removed from the tension and death that had haunted his previous day upon the planet.
So she had carefully reached into his sleep-rumpled clothing, as yet unaware of the depth of his sleep, her fingers and the flesh they carried obey her constantly concentrated commands on a molecular level. He had carried the expected wallet, the expected keys, some loose change, a hip flask, and a small bottle of pills. Emma recognised the pills as anti-depressants.
She had found his address in his wallet, and had decided that whatever notes he kept within his flat might serve her more adequately than the stubborn resident. And she needed some goal, fruitlessness and danger notwithstanding. Hell, she wasn't in danger, except of further blackening her already obsidian soul with the drying blood of another squad of policemen.
Only now, sitting in her stolen car with the radio turned low did she think that the man's uncommon doze might be a product of the booze she had fed him mixed with the pills that she held in a cautious hand.
He was depressed. He had lost his legs, his life with them. There was a photograph tucked in the wallet, of a wife and family, torn in two then taped together once more. Had he lost them? He must have lost his legs while working, fighting some super menace for the Security of American Citizens. His bravery had ended his own American dream. His job, his family, his life; all gone, replaced by a beer-bottle brown jar of tiny white pills.
She almost knew sympathy then...
... because she could feel him. It had been so long that she doubted the sensation initially. But she concentrated upon the images and feelings that were rising to her mind, her blood, and began to realise that it was true. She was incapable of denial. She could feel him. She could feel his dreams of what he had lost. Whiskey soaked dreams of love and affection, of family and friends and success. Pride, stoked by sure ability in work and support from his wife, the love of his life, held close at night, banishing the nightmare images of death and destruction that he witnessed during the day. Dreams of the scared but vital anticipation that lived with him as he and his colleagues waited for that fatal alarm. Once, maybe twice a fortnight, and some meta-being would bring danger to civilians, and PROSAC would be summoned. He was scared. He was exhilarated. He believed in what he was doing, because he knew why he was doing it. Scared, angry, sorrowful, still he was complete.
His dreams looped then. On the verge of branching into memory of his accident his memories began to turn in upon themselves. Progressively the balance was lost, there, in his sleeping lifetime. Did he fear his job, or his responsibility at home? Was his sorrow for the wounded and dying he met, or for himself in legacy of those meetings? Was his anger directed at the miscreants that threatened his security, or at his wife who limited his freedom so much by making him fear for her, for his family; or was his anger directed at himself, for being so damn helpless in the face of his terrors?
Emma felt recognition, here. And so she broke away. She remembered the trick, a simple re-affirmation of her own identity. It was easy to get lost in others, unless you were lost in yourself. She knew all the tricks. She had learned them long ago, as a member of a government task force named Rhesus Factor, who had died at the hands of a villain and had been replaced by armoured soldiers who wore the emblem of PROSAC.
She saw herself in the man slumped in drug-driven dream beside her. She had tried, as he had. And they had both failed.
She took his keys, and stepped from the car. Nobody shot at her. She opened his apartment door, and nothing exploded. She was almost disappointed.
She wondered, briefly, where her own home was. Then she remembered that the flat that she had entered was not Jon Gunn's home. His home was elsewhere, and lost to him now.
A short bare corridor led to a pair of opposing doors; bedroom to one side, kitchen and living area to the other, she guessed. Where would his P.C. be? Left, for want of a better choice. She always chose the left-hand door bereft of other inspiration.
She was greeted by the sight of her own reflection. She felt nails of flesh pierce her clothing across her body, shocked by the images adorning the man's bedroom walls. Cuttings from newspapers, images from the bootleg comics, stills reproduced by computer from T.V. footage. His space was a shrine to her. She pushed further into the room, astonished, frightened by the attention. Many of the pictures had captured her best side; humanity. Others depicted her wilder turns, all mesh and splint, spike and hook. One in particular reminded her of something, her body formed into a delicate lattice much like a child's climbing frame, but knit of bone. But she couldn't quite recall where she had seen that image before.
His P.C. sat to one side, hedged into the bedroom corner. His bed was unmade. A second pill bottle, half empty, stood beside the alarm clock. The room was a mess of torn papers, pizza boxes and junk food packets. He needed a woman to look after him, Emma mused, as she made for his terminal.
She wished Goblin were with her. Despite his down-home tendencies, he had an intrinsic understanding of computer technology, and so did his imps. She was sure that he could have cracked the codes she encountered, and in no time. But the task was beyond her. She had seen Wargames, and knew that the cracking of passwords was no easy matter. Christ, she could barely understand Windows in all its temperamental obscurity.
She needed Gunn.
"Fuck," she grunted. She didn't really want him to know that she had seen this room. Her face reflected here, caught as if generated by the sheer weight of similar imagery pinned to the walls; she was sure that it was something that his sanity could do without him seeing.
Still, she thought. I need access to the PROSAC mainframe. And I'll bet he has it.
"You just hold it right there," a mechanical voice instructed to her back. "You just take it nice and easy. Then no-one has to get hurt."
Yeah, Emma thought, her strange inner peace vanishing. You wish.
The villain looked up, the trance that he had drawn around himself to Verdi fracturing. The mental voice sounded tentative but urgent. He recognised it as belonging to the more human half of Virus.
Sir, I have news. My sister has been monitoring the PROSAC frequency, as requested, and there appears to be some movement worthy of your personal attention.
"Excellent," the villain said. He knew that his brain waves would form while speaking, and that Virus would understand him. "Can you put her on?"
Transferring link. Hiya boss, what's up?
"I believe that you have information for me?" The villain took a fresh hand-rolled cigarette from a golden case, and slipped it into his cigarette holder. He lit it with his cuff link.
They've found her already, boss. Didn't put up much of a chase. Maybe she forgot how. Apparently she kidnapped some ex-PROSAC staffer at random, and they ended up back at his place. Must be a real smooth mover. So, she's pinned there by enough artillery to give Doctor Music a headache. What do you think?
"I think that you have brought me very good news, my little chrome concubine. Alert agent 306 as to the location, and have her proceed with all speed. I can feel a victory coming on. I can feel it in my bones."
The villain felt the link between him and the twins snap, as Virus returned to her console to issue his commands. He experienced a moment of loss; he enjoyed his communion with his girls, on whatever level. But he let his music seep back into his mind, and soon his weakness was forgotten within the sweeping perfection of sound.
Slowly, Emma crossed to the bedroom window. She pulled back the heavy curtain, ignoring the trigger-happy rumblings behind her, and peeked through the smeared condensation upon the glass to the street below. She was surrounded all right. And from the steady flow of confused people she assumed that the men in blue were doing things properly this time; certainly a total evacuation of the area appealed to her as a method of saving lives.
Her new side did surprise her. Ever since she had dug herself up she had been experiencing feelings that were alien to her now but had once been part of her innate being. She cared more, now, and was caring more with each passing minute. She was also aware that each caring second weakened her; reduced the anger that drove her, and detracted from her ability to survive assault by a small army in high-tech hero-wannabie kit.
And she could see Gunn there, too. Dragged from the car, still dozy with drug and drink, he seemed to be part of the evacuation. And he seemed to be unhappy with that status. Presumably the senior of the men who carried him, he thrashed within their grasp, within the grasp of his intoxicants. He knew how to deal with her, of course. They were just being stupid, trying to take her by force.
She could still feel him, then. She wondered why.
Then she turned.
"Hi," she said.
"No talk," the suited figure hunched tight through the frame of the door stated. "You should surrender. You are surrounded. You have no hope."
"Oh fuck you," Emma snarled. She was almost human again, in her heart, but these Star Trek knock-offs wanted to reduce her to primal frenzy once more. Were they so sure of they arms, their armour? Hadn't they read the files, her paperwork? She could cut through much tougher composites, she could resist far more powerful firearms. They were fools.
She decided to attempt a more peaceful approach. This decision in itself startled her. Short weeks ago, and these fools would be blood and circuitry by now.
"I just want to hack into this computer," she told the armour. "I want to locate Salmanazar's nearest processing plant, and go there, and rob it. This robbery will destroy millions of dollars worth of his investment. And that, you have to agree, is a good thing. Throughout my career as a meta-villainess, those who died have been those who have got in my way. The innocent survive, if your definition of innocent is those who don't assume a greater right to exist than myself. How do you feel about those terms?"
Emma felt quite proud of herself. She knew exactly what was to come.
"Do you surrender?" the armour asked of her. "There will be no killing if you surrender."
"I can't surrender," she sighed. A part of her was miserable, torn by her failure. But another part sprang to life, thirsting for blood, for the sound of rending metal. "If you think about it, you'll understand why no-one can surrender unless they have something to surrender."
"Then you must be contained," the armour buzzed.
Emma span, presenting her back to the creature's cannon. She tried to shield the screen. She was desperate now. A rescue of Gunn would cost lives, and the lives of people he had worked with. But without him she had no other source of information than the dumb box before her. Without information, she had no drug.
And with no drug... she was dead.
She tried a series of futile combinations, the screen refusing her with each. She had time to send a quick prayer to the meta-god of blood, that her team-mates would turn up to save her. She had time to feel the weapon's bullets scoring the name of their triggerer into her back. Dust fell around her, like dandruff. Then a stray bullet pushed her to one side, and its brother destroyed the computer terminal in a shower of olympian sparks.
She had time to pray, before she lost all hope. She felt Haemorrhage begin to bleed back into her; as if something inside her had ruptured, a tissue bag filled with hate and anger. That persona filled her. Her ivory fingers became steak knives. Her teeth began to rotate and buzz within her jaw. Her extremities became blades. Her face lost its sterile beauty to transform into a flesh mill. And she descended upon her oppressors, after offering to them every warning they deserved.
Sparks flew. Then she gained purchase upon the slippery armour; then she penetrated it. She was rewarded with an explosion of blood. A human, split from its shell, began to gurgle as she drank. She caught phantom glimpses of another life, another family, but she was too far gone to pay any attention. The blood tasted good. It fed her. She never wanted that fountain to run dry.
Her world became gunfire, screaming and pain. She was home again.
Jon Gunn watched with a peculiar sense of inevitable misery as the fight spilled onto the street. The homes that were situated in the buildings around his flat had been evacuated of people, but those families had been given no time to salvage any of the trappings of the lives that they had worked for. Sure, it was only a T.V, a video game, a modest library, some photographs. But those things had been promised to the exiles as belongings, and now they were being taken away. Not by Haemorrhage, who would have left in peace given time, but by the soldiers who were too impatient to be bothered with trailing or luring her to a safer site for their inevitable war.
Gunn could see faces, staring from the perimeter of the safe zone, gasping with shock as their homes became rubble.
At least PROSAC were doing it properly this time. Their troops were co-ordinated, their weapons were of more than sufficient power, they understood their terrain and were using every advantage including that of surprise to contain their suspect. Emma wasn't doing too badly herself, of course, and her body count had reached double figures from what Gunn could see; but her tactical naiveté was beginning to show.
As Gunn watched his former comrades drive Haemorrhage further into a powerful crossfire, as he saw her begin to spend more time off her feet being buffeted by projectiles and explosions than stood upright, his mind began to wander. He recognised the symptoms; he had drunk liquor on top of his anti-depressants, and suicidal misery with decorative hallucinations was his only reward. He was used to this. He never read the label on whatever bottle his doctor gave him. He really didn't care.
The fiery combat became overlaid with a similar scene. Haemorrhage was there as well, with her team-mates. PROSAC had finally tracked Rhesus Factor well enough to intercept them. The scene was a similar urban surrounding. The Meta-Four were there too, and a camera crew. The combat was messy, too many participants, and casualties were the only obvious product of such chaos.
Jon Gunn had been one of them.
Heavy of the Meta-Four had been struck by the mound of gory tissue PROSAC had code-named Blood Clot. The brick-encrusted super hero had flown in a manner only seen previously in his team's licensed comic book. He obviously wasn't happy with his situation.
(And now another dream began to intrude. It was only right, Gunn mused. A dream for his drink, a dream for his drugs, and a dream for the reality that was so unimportant when compared to the two of them).
Maybe super-heroes weren't used to pain. Heavy howled. Gunn could see everything from his vantage point, cowering behind a half-demolished wall, huddled in his armour and unable to move. He was so scared. There was a hip flask in his pocket, but he couldn't reach it without removing his arms from their weapons hard-points. He wanted to, but he couldn't. He wanted to, but he couldn't.
His armour had been covered with blood, civilian blood.
(His third dream involved his family. He saw them as if posing for a portrait together, and he wondered where he could be. Shouldn't he be behind them? Maybe he had missed the appointment, been too drunk to remember. But then he saw it. The lighting wasn't crimson, it was a pure and blinding white; the sanguine taint came from the matter that coated his family. His flesh and blood. That was where he had got to).
And maybe heavy had mistaken him for the hunk of offal that had originally struck him; or maybe the hero had simply lashed out in anger and pain, and Gunn had been closest. But before he could react through the sober blur of his fear, he had been grabbed and broken and thrown to one side.
Emma was losing, now. They had her pinned. She couldn't regain her feet. Not that her vaunted invincibility had been compromised, but she couldn't get close enough to her oppressors to take out the anger that was so very apparent within her. Her frustration was great, Gunn could see. He felt for her. So, she had killed his friends. So had he, friendly fire. And she just wanted to be left alone. He knew that. He had read her files many times, plotted her patterns, followed her career. She never drew first blood, he knew that. That was what he believed.
He dipped for a second into his dreams and finished his fantasies. Maybe his drugs were weakening; maybe his body was again winning its perennial battle against his chemical weakness. His fantasy finished. He knew what he had to do.
"Rory, isn't it?" he asked, aware that his voice was slurred. It seemed to echo strangely within the confines of the transport as well. Did they think that she had wanted to keep him for a reason? Did they think that she might attempt to re-acquire him? Whatever their reasons, they had stowed his helpless, crippled body in an APC. He thought that he recognised it. Cheryl, Bob had called it. Bob had been a friend of Gunn's, an engineer and sentimentalist.
"Yeah? You awake?"
"Kind of. Don't suppose you could give me a hand here. My arms're asleep, and I just hate to feel as though I've no limbs at all. You know, like in that film."
"Sure, of course," Rory grunted, twisting his body between the chairs up front to make his way into the cramped body of the darkened vehicle. Gunn flashed that he had been swallowed by an insect. He remembered a story, of a man who had been swallowed by a dragon. That man had journeyed through the anatomy of his devourer until he had reached the tip of its tail. Then he had grabbed that tail by a bone, and retraced his steps. That man had turned the powerful dragon inside out.
Rory approached him.
Gunn flashed again, this time to his family. His family were insects, his family were dragons. He had drunk himself inside of them, grabbed their bones, and turned them inside out. He had turned himself inside out. He was raw now, and bleeding, a blood clot striving for identity. But he had memories of being saved. He knew what he had to do.
His family had been insects.
His fist met Rory's jaw in a satisfactory manner. Gunn began to crawl towards the insect's head. He knew how to drive this thing. Shit, they were buddies, he and Cheryl.
She had saved his life once, for what it had been worth. Now, he told himself, his internal voice as slurred as his vision, now it was payback time.
And now, she thought, in a moment of queer lucidity. Her head span, her joints ached. Her body was running dry of permutations, and none of them had worked. Pinned by flame and bullet, Emma thought that her time had finally come.
She sighed briefly, with relief.
And now the coup-de-grace, she thought, as the armoured car rolled toward her. She was too tired to avoid it. Once it would have been a sardine can to her, full of juicy meat, but she was too tired now. She wanted it to roll right over her. She wanted it to grind her brittle form to powder.
She failed to notice that the soldiers around her were unprepared for the vehicle's arrival. She didn't care that their relentless assault upon her body had finally relented. She couldn't see their astonished faces for the armour that stood between them and her.
"Emma!" the armoured car squawked, and she could have sworn that its voice was slurred. "Get up! Get on board! We're leaving!"
A moments pause, and the armour around her began to open fire upon the rogue tank. But it seemed that, despite their obvious power, the ordnance of the PROSAC troopers had been selected to affect her. It had little penetrative value, and the APC shrugged it off.
What the fuck is going on? she thought. Not that she was worried about her rescue; she starred in comics, last minute reprieves were her bread and butter. But she felt so weak. She had never felt weak, as Haemorrhage. If she hadn't known better, she would have thought that she was about to faint.
She bunched her legs between her, and thrust them, flying through the ringing in her ears. In the air the world became clear to her in all its fiery glory. Bricks were piled upon brick, and beneath those the lives of ordinary people lay in ruins. Shelled PROSAC troops lay scattered around, quietly bleeding to themselves, not looking for recognition. She wished for a dizzy moment that she were a Christian priest so that she could bless as she killed. Shattered picture frames, fragmented fish tanks, torn books and magazine pages, hammered refrigerators, spilled produce and decaying meat, scattered clothing and charred underwear. Music collections reduced to base oil, videos crushed, diaries turned to funereal confetti, sketch books drifting through the ruins in the form of ashen phantoms. These were her legacy. She saw it all as she flew. She understood the geometry of her influence for one brief deified instant.
Then she landed upon cold metal, and felt the roaring of powerful machinery beneath her.
I'm about to faint, she thought. Who'd have believed it. PROSAC does work, after all.
Then her revelatory vision became blurred. Her insight spiralled into a dark vortex. Her mind became blank, and she fell into a blessed soulless infinity.
She was cold at first. Trapped beneath soil in the depths of the earth, held there not by its weight but by the fear in her mind. She was in conflict, her aversions balanced with her desires to the point of stasis. Buried in the ground, Emma Rage began to count.
One, two, and time began to pass.
Five days later and she had begun to forget. The darkness pressed around her was more familiar now than the taste of air, the need for hope, the feeling of sunlight upon her skin. She imagined herself a buried vampire, just waiting to rise. Waiting to feed off others.
Her count had reached the millions before that desire was lost to her. To feed upon others? Hadn't she done that once? The hallucinations had passed as well, but she felt conscious still. She didn't realise that her counting had become slurred in her mind; no longer linear, the string of numbers in her mind bore no obvious pattern.
An endless nothing later, and she had lost track of time altogether. Her numbering had infected time itself with that virus; her hallucinations were reality, and time held no structure. Though she was buried, she could see. Sunlight fell upon her once more. Her eyes were very sensitive. She squinted into the eternal now, and tried not to believe. She wanted to be buried, in the darkness beneath the earth. She was spawned of that realm, after all. Maybe there she might find her home.
She was structure, at one point. Her limbs were stretched in multiple directions and pinned her upright in perfectly engineered symmetry. She could feel the forces within the mesh of her body, balanced and opposed until the flexibility of her ambition was matched by the rigidity of her form. She was sharp and penetrating, no longer a breed of human, an art form instead. She could feel her friends around her; they were gasping in mutual sympathy. She had outdone herself. She was something to behold.
Within the black-blood flow of that recreated somaform she could feel time beating. Time ran in her veins. She pumped it to the sections of her dissected heart, reforming within her now with every pulse. She could still feel the darkness of earth pressed down above her. She could still feel the flesh-weight of her comrades hanging still and breathless around her; she could see a kaleidoscope fruition of the past blurred beside her, all of blood and hope and hate and despair mingled meaninglessly. Had she been that creature? And had she ever been that? She found it hard to believe, that once she might have been happy.
And she could feel the future in her tectonic beat as well. The symphony of her flesh allowed such projection, it seemed. She had been sensitive, once. She had been able to see into the hearts and minds of humankind. Then the accident had occluded her, and her flesh had become too brittle to bear the weight of the perceptions of others; and that talent had atrophied. The future told of a reversal, of a return to a demi-human form beneath a baptism of blood. She felt herself shed her circuitry. Her weapons fell away as rust. Her targeting systems gently ripened into eyes. The grind of the gearing in her joints matured into gristle and fat, the tools of a fleshly evolution. She felt her old programmed mind fall away into a digital abyss, to be replaced once more by the purl and spurt of truly human blood-born reason. All of the confusion, the doubt, the weakness, the fallibility of humanity would become her mantle once more; and she would revel in it.
Deep beneath the ground Emma began to feel fear. She wanted something. She had hope of something. Why did she feel this way?
Time shied away from her grasp once more, to leave her incarcerated in a single glass room, the unformed bodies of her friends around her. Sludged in fatty flesh folds though they were, the identities of the incarcerated bodies were quite obvious to her. She could see the rhythm of their veins as they tightened around bodily identity; she could hear their plaintive mewlings as they grew towards voice. Idiot corpses of future potential, she couldn't help wonder as to how they had come to this. Only then, with the sight of Plasma and Haemogoblin and the hideous pulsing components of Blood Clot (impossible for her to view rationally for any length of time), did she think to look down at herself. And
her perception fled to that place beneath the earth with terror. Surely she was a beauty, despite her mutation. No longer, it seemed. Vat-grown to delirium, her living corpse had been in the process of expansion. Had that been the future of the past? Were that to become her tomorrow, she would gladly die now. Rather absolution than the need to face that petrie-dish grown bacterium. She hated herself now and forever.
And one last glimpse, of a dying man. Had she known him once? Had the loss of his legs killed him? He called to her as she turned her back on him. She had improved, she was human once more. He could not hold her. She had no pity. She was Emma Rage once more, and she intended to use her potential this time. Mutated beauty of cold pretend-ivory flesh, she knew exactly what she had to do. She walked untouched as that man died behind her.
Died behind her. Her humanity behind her, now. How could she lie here in this pretend grave? How had she come here? Her visions had become too much. She was in danger of losing sight of the source of humanity. Maybe... Maybe it was time to leave, to reveal herself, to give herself away. To rise from the cold aching soil. And wasn't she hungry now? Yes, surely she was. Her count was high. It had been some time.
And so out she crept, afraid of the world once more, reborn to fear and uncertainty, her flesh soft and malleable beneath her mental insecurity. Her steps were tentative. She was reborn.
In her dream, Emma recalled her resurrection. She recalled a previous dream as well. A sugar-spun web of death, soiled with blood and the grime of desperate clutching hands. Was that a spider at the centre of the web, or an icon wrought in representation of her soul? And did its ichor drip steadily to melt a piece of candy silk dropped from the structure, or was that forgotten artefact below cast of cold glass? Yes, it was glass. She could see its sheen through the veils of her waking memory. She struggled toward the light. She could see that vial quite clearly. It was easy to count once more, to count the tiny beads of blue liquid clung to the inside of the broken syringe...
Emma Rage awoke with a scream of fear. The light was above her, and the earth was below. She remembered. She remembered. But all too soon, she began to forget.
Jon Gunn was sitting beside her, not dead at all.
"What the fuck happened?" she asked. "Fucking hell, that was a trip. What day is it?"
"What day is it?" Gunn asked woozily. Emma could see that the man was tired; his drug cocktail was obviously still worrying at his system. "It's still the same day. It's still Thursday. No, hold on, that was yesterday. It must be Friday today, then."
"You're a help," Emma grunted, pulling herself to her feet. Her skin felt sore. She had punished her flesh in the recent combat; it always took her body some time to recover. It felt particularly bad, today. She sighed, and glanced around, trying to work out where she was. "Another motel," she whispered. She was laid across warm metal in the carpark of another motel. Gunn was poked from the APC hatch. She didn't want to be inside another motel.
She almost remembered her dream; the familiarity sent sparks into her mind, of repeating time, of all times being one time. Maybe she was visiting a motel of which each room held an alternative Emma Rage plucked from a different stage of her life. Maybe if she knocked on some of her neighbours' doors she might be able to patch together some semblance of recall regarding her former life. Plasma, she repeated to herself, Haemogoblin, Blood Clot. What had happened to them?
"Yeah, motel," Gunn agreed. "Where else did you expect me to take you? Neither of us have homes to go to anymore."
"You brought me here?" For a second Emma felt a desire to be angry, a need to chastise the man for his temerity. Then memories of recent events began to filter into her consciousness. "Wait, they had me. You mean you rescued me? How? Why?"
"Armoured car," Gunn muttered. "Need to sleep." He was trying to flop himself from the vehicle, to crawl to a bed within the motel. Faces stared from the windows of that place and passers-by were gawping. Emma knew that they were far from inconspicuous. And her clothes were torn again. She hated that.
She heard a distant thunder. She could see a cloud of smoke within the city. The soldiers were coming.
Gunn had heard them too. "Already? Shit. Some rescue," Gunn moaned. He fell from the APC, sliding across its metal and toward the tarmac beneath its wheels. "Shit!"
Emma rolled from the armour upon which she lay and went to his aid. "I shouldn't touch you, you know," she said absently as she lifted him. "I could so easily cut you by accident. It doesn't take much to kill, these days."
"Tell me about it," Gunn grunted as he positioned himself in her arms. He glanced over her shoulder. "What are we going to do now?"
"Well," Emma replied, sitting upon the chair beside him. "I can't fight them, not without some rest and some drugs. And anyway I'm tired of killing. It doesn't seem to get me anywhere. I really need a change. We have to escape if I can't fight them. The tank's knackered by the look of it." Gunn had run the back end of it into a small liquor store that stood upon the motel perimeter. The vehicle was fine, but jammed.
"What's our long term objective?" Gunn asked sleepily.
"Long term goals. PROSAC taught me, remember. You're used to running blind, trying to keep one step ahead. Is there anything that we can aim for that might give us direction? Give us a few ideas? We've got to approach this right or we're dead."
"Long term, shit, short term I need drugs. There's this blue shit I take, it keeps my body under control. I got beaten because I'm clean. Getting clean, anyway. If I had some of that I could get us out of here. But we have to get out of here before I can get the drug. Not good."
Gunn rubbed at his eyes. "They'll have the area surrounded by now." Emma could see that the soldiers were forming a perimeter. They were moving the civilians out again, they armoured eyes fixed upon her and her burden as the worked. It was as if they expected her to fly into a killing frenzy once more. And as soon as the people are clear, she thought; then we're dead. "You can't just call the cavalry can you?"
"The rest of Rhesus Factor. That'd do it."
Emma scowled. "I don't know what happened to them. I made myself forget, I think. I don't think that it would be a good idea to build them into any plan."
"Fair enough. New direction, why did you go to my flat?"
"Your computer files. New direction," Emma repeated, "Why the fuck did you have my picture all over your walls? That's sick." She stood, anger licking at her nerves once more. "I mean, what the fuck is this? You've got my pictures, you saved me, you're trapped outside motel with me instead of being in some PROSAC safe house by now. What is your problem?"
"I'm not actually sure that there's time for this," he muttered, looking abashed behind his fatigue.
"Oh come on," Emma snarled. She began to pace. Gunn bobbed as she carried him. The car-park was filthy beneath her feet, matted with old gum and dropped cigarettes. "We're dead, face it. I am. You'll probably just be court marshalled and have to live in some weird gulag for the rest of your life. There's no plan we can come up with to get us out of this one."
Gunn chuckled, the noise spiking Emma's heated emotional state to a higher level still. "Sound's like we've been doing this for years, and only now run up against insurmountable odds. I always liked the romanticism of being an outlaw."
"Oh Christ," Emma sighed, and sat down sharply. She wasn't really angry, she decided; she couldn't be. If she had been as angry as she wanted to be, she would be doing a mime interpretation of an army pen knife by now. If she was as angry as she wanted to be then the soldiers surrounding her would pose no threat to her. "Look, just tell me will you? I can't be bothered to threaten you, it just doesn't mean anything any more. What is it with you?"
"You saved my life, once," Gunn stated, his voice clear and sober. "By killing Heavy of the Meta-Four. He'd taken my legs and my balls, he'd've had my heart in his hand if you'd given him another second."
"I remember that," Emma frowned, battling with her memory. "Sort of. Big guy, made of brick or something? Killed one strong guy you've killed them all, really. I don't remember you, though."
"No reason for you to. You'd probably have killed me if you'd noticed me. I was in armour, you know. Power suit. Piece of shit that it was."
"You're lying," Emma decided. "Why would Heavy kill you? He's one of the good guys. Was," she added bitterly.
"Things turn out weird sometimes," Gunn shrugged.
"Hold that prayer," Emma suggested, walking to the window. "Shit, you didn't bring anything to drink, did you?"
"Hey, I parked in a liquor store especially for you. Help yourself," Gunn murmured.
The scene mere metres from her person was intimidating. Emma almost laughed. They hadn't tried to talk to her, to threaten her, to trick a surrender from her. The troopers were working industrially and almost silently now that the flocks of people had fled the building under police escort. Spectators were not being allowed, and most of the regular police had been moved away from the car park as well, hearding civilians as they went. PROSAC troopers were erecting a cordon of sonic bafflers and hypnotic floodlights. She could see many power suits, and even a pair of Meka Troopers in the distance, stomping through the city towards her. It seemed that PROSAC intended to overdose her. She wondered why she was giving them such a chance, giving them the time to make their elaborate preparations. Shit, they could see that she was trapped. They were acting more like gaffers upon a film set than soldiers, solidly carrying out their repetitive tasks while bitching about the talent stood within the spotlight and unable to perform.
She sighed. She knew no fear, but a strange sense of sadness had entered her. She wondered if that emotion belonged to Gunn. She had been so long without her drug; maybe that explained the return of her sympathetic powers. She remembered her days before her most recent mutation, when she had used her psychic abilities in the service of the original Rhesus Factor and American in general. She remembered the long sleepless nights, kept awake by the stray emotions of the people around her. It had been hell during those days that had led to the teams' death. In their own way, each of the members had predicted their demise. Her mind had been permanently bloody beneath their internal fears and speculation.
It had been almost a relief for her to realise, weeks later, that she could no longer sense the emotions of people. But it had left her cold. She had relied upon her power so much, that she was unable to read people without it. Body language meant nothing to her. Verbal communication was emotionally devoid when compared to her previous senses. People had seemed like meat to her. Dead on the inside.
She wished for a hit. One last hit, before she had to die. She recalled the beauty of light reflecting from the edges of the glass syringe, refracting through the magical blue liquid. She had used to open her flesh with her finger, sharpened to an unbluntable point. She remembered the anticipatory bubble of her dark ichorous blood. The feeling of the needle sliding into her. The first burst of feeling, like a vice pressing upon her body, like a support for her fatigued mind. She could let her concentration lapse without reforming. She was sharp when she was high. Sharp and cold and dangerous. In control.
Now she was dead. The ordnance around her could level Music City. She had given them time, and they had caught up with her. They were still erecting weapons, using every second of her pathetic confusion to hammer more technological nails into her coffin. It was ridiculous. She wondered if they had got Rhesus Factor first. Maybe the spider in her dream represented PROSAC.
Emma laid Gunn gently upon the car park, and sat down beside him.
"I became a little obsessed, I'm afraid," Gunn muttered. Emma turned, to see that his eyes were closed, to see that his breathing was shallow. Maybe he was asleep, or almost asleep. She listened.
"You'd saved my life. But my wife didn't want me, I couldn't be a father any more. Shit, I never had been, not really. I'd only play with the twins when I was drunk. Any other time I was just too scared. She never did understand, the things I saw... Humans are nothing to you people. So very fragile. I couldn't look at my family without seeing them as glass, just waiting to shatter. So I broke first.
"I don't see them any more. I live by myself, I can't get a job. Can barely crap by myself. I had to have a hobby. And I still had access to PROSAC mainframes, so... I sort of kept track. Shit, you'll have to forgive me. I'm just a sad old soldier who's had his dick ripped off. Why'd you think I stayed in that HEL mart? In my own sick way I love you, Emma. You're all I have left."
Emma sat, struck dumb. She didn't know what to say or do. She was embarrassed and revolted and peculiarly touched. And she was sure now, that she could feel his emotions. There was his pathetic obsession for her, forged in pain and misery. His sorrow that she had to die, and his grudging understanding of her evil. And she could feel his relief as well. That he was going to die. Nothing to do with her at all. But he was almost overjoyed that he was going to die.
"Shit," she muttered. Then the gunfire began.
At first Emma thought that the assault had started, and she threw her body over the now unconscious Gunn by reflex. She wondered what she was doing. She wondered what they were doing, as well. She had expected them to try to retrieve her hostage. Then she realised; that the sounds were all wrong. The gunfire wasn't aimed at her. The soldiers were fighting, but not with her. They were in a panic, trying to turn their oh-so-carefully positioned weaponry around, but they couldn't move fast enough. Through the clouds of dust rising with the city heat Emma could see a single attacking form. PROSAC were being attacked from behind, and didn't know what to do. How quickly things can change, she mused.
Then she recognised the form of her saviour.
"Oh fuck," she cursed. The figure danced behind the sonic weaponry, behind the psychedelic blur of their psychological technology. The two Meka-Troopers were already burning, their gears screaming as they tried to retaliate, tried to respond to the surprise attack. But the woman spread bullets and laser beams through the astonished soldiers, and every time she aimed she hit. Emma had seen that accuracy before.
"What?" Gunn asked weakly.
"It's Scandal," Emma replied. "Looks like she picked her moment to find me. Hold on, Jon, this is where things pick up pace."
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