Exploring the World of Whateley Academy (Gen 0 Project)
A Good Man
Gen-0 oversight by Elrod
Evil is always possible. And Goodness is eternally difficult.
— Anne Rice, Interview With a Vampire.
MCO research lab #5, Northern Michigan
October 31st, 1991
Franky made his way from the parking booth, feeling almost human thanks to bringing a camping chair from home to sit on. But while his body felt better, despite still being a mass of bruises, he was on the edge of murdering someone over what had happened to Tara. He'd only heard some gossip over the radio, no one was telling him anything personally, but when he heard the word vivisection followed by laughter he didn't need or want to know the details.
All he wanted to do was change out of his uniform and see how his friend was doing. Then he could find out who had done it and crush their throats in his hand. Despite his training, he'd only gotten into fights in the ring and a few bar fights, now with everything that was going on he wanted to commit real violence. He could practically hear the snapping of bones as he fantasized meeting the scum in a dark alleyway. He'd make what happened to Dr. Carter look like a picnic.
Entering the change room he saw five other guards there, they looked at him like he was dirt. Franky recognized two of them from the fight, they smirked at him. Unbuttoning his shirt, he kept his eyes moving to make sure none of them decided to try to finish the job they'd started a few days ago. Stretching his arms pulled some muscles that were still bruised and cramped, he gritted his teeth, not letting them see the pain. The less satisfaction they had, the better.
Slipping on his t-shirt, he noticed that the others still hadn't stopped staring at him. A quick glance with just his eyes showed their hands were balled up into fists, their muscles tense. Slamming the locker shut, he decided that his work pants could stay on. Walking as casually as possible to the door, he let out a small, quiet sigh of relief as he saw the hallway video camera looking down at him.
Setting a quick pace for the infirmary his grim face turned even darker as he saw Tara.
She was lying in bed, barely breathing, the bandages covering her eyes looked to be sunken in. Franky went to her bed, only to have a hand press against his chest.
“Enrico,” he growled, ignoring the three other guards who moved towards him, their hands on their batons, “if you don't move your hand right now, I'm going to tear it off. Your goons won't be able to stop me in time.”
“She's a dangerous murderer, I don't want you getting hurt if she acts up,” Enrico said, grinning from ear to ear.
As Franky raised his hand, the on duty nurse stepped in between them, pointedly glaring at Enrico. “Tara is allowed to have visitors, so kindly step away and let Franky talk to her,” she said.
“Of course, nurse,” Enrico said. “Anything for a lady.”
“Thanks,” Franky said quietly. He took Tara's bandaged hand in his own, and gave it a gentle squeeze of support. The way the bandages gave under the pressure, he thought there might be some fingers missing. A growl rose in his throat.
“We're going to induce a rage in the morning, she should be strong enough to survive it then,” the nurse said. “That will have her up on her feet in just a few minutes.”
“Great!” Enrico said, clapping his hands together. “Dr. Brennan has a bunch of new experiments to try tomorrow.”
Franky didn't remember moving. One moment he was holding Tara's hand, the next second he was kneeling on Enrico's stomach, one hand holding the sadists wrist, the other wrapped in his short hair slamming his head into the tiled floor.
Strong arms grabbed him from behind. “Hey, let him go! Let him go now!”
He recognized the voice of Dr. Carter's new nurse, breathing hard, trying to regain control he let go of the dazed man and allowed himself to get pulled to his feet. He vaguely noticed the nurse who had spoken up before, holding the other guards back, ordering them not to cause a problem in the infirmary or she'd see them all fired.
“Franky, I'm going to let you go,” David said very slowly and calmly, “if you try anything I'll drop you. You understand?”
“Yeah,” Franky managed to say through his teeth.
The arms released him, and he heard the squeak of shoes as David quickly took a few steps back.
“You're going to get fired for this,” one of the guards said.
“If anyone does, it will be you,” the nurse said, her voice tight. “I saw you four instigate it, isn't that right David?”
“Oh yes, I saw it all. I thought Franky's reaction was rather restrained myself,” David replied, glaring at the three guards.
“Now, instead of having to report all of this, how about you three pick him up and take him to the side office so his head can be looked at. He might have gotten a concussion and that isn't something to take lightly,” the nurse told them.
The three guards realized that as the low men on the totem pole compared to the two nurses, retreating to lick their wounds would be a better course of action than pushing things. Bending down they helped Enrico to his feet and half carried him to the office, casting sullen looks at them as they went.
The nurse patted Franky's shoulder. “Good job, but next time hit him harder, he's still breathing,” she whispered, before following the guards.
“Thanks,” Franky replied, “I'll keep that in mind.” Turning to David, he saw the man was staring at Tara, the scar on his face a crimson red. “She gonna be OK?” he asked.
“Not with those people around,” David replied, holding his ribs and grimacing in pain. From the look in his eyes, the nurse was holding back a fury at least as bad as Franky's own.
Leaning down, Franky gently cradled Tara's head and whispered in her ear. “I don't know how, but I'm not going to let them keep hurting you. Don't let them break you.”
Her only response was a moan of pain.
Near MCO research lab #5, Northern Michigan
“It's all bullshit,” Rob said, dipping his hand into a bowl of beer, letting his skin suck up the alcohol. “The MCO has us under lock and key, screwing us over and now they're torturing girls. Someone needs to do something.”
His friends nodded in agreement as they drank their own beer in a garage. “So what are you going to do?” asked Leroy, the ringleader of the local punks.
“Nothing I can do. I hit them back like they deserve,” he pitched the acoustics and tone of his words to hit the maximum suggestibility possible, “I go to prison. No thank you. But someone should see that bitch Brennan gets a taste of her own medicine. She's no better than a wild animal.”
“Damn right,” muttered Jason, who was busy dragging a hunting knife across the backrest of the old wooden chair he was sitting on. “I'd love to show that bitch how she's supposed to act.”
“Damn it, Rob, why the hell did you have to invite Jason?” Denise asked, leaning away from the guy they all agreed was a psychopath. Leroy put an arm around her almost protectively, which she promptly shrugged off.
“I'm pissed off. He fits my mood right now, nice and blood thirsty.” The final words were aimed at Jason, driving into his ear like a scalpel. “You didn't see this girl, she was like a mummy, all cut up, it seemed like she'd been flayed alive. And her arms looked like they'd been twisted around the bones all splintered. I don't even want to know what else the guards might have done to her. It was like a rabid dog got at her.”
Despite the discomfort his friends were showing, they didn't leave. His voice held them tightly in their seats. Jason on the other hand was almost jumping up and down with excitement hanging onto his every word. As more beer was drunk and he wove an elaborate fantasy of bloody revenge, Rob was glad his face couldn't reveal his feelings as the psycho drove the knife deeper and deeper into the scarred wood.
November 1st, 1991
Dr Carter leaned heavily on his cane, fighting the exhaustion that was deep in his bones leeching away the determination that he felt. Despite his healing his body felt ready to fall apart, his limbs were fragile twigs, and every step made his entire being throb with a dull ache.
A nondescript M.C.O. car pulled up and a young man dressed in a black suit hopped out rushing over to open the passenger door. “Hello, Dr. Carter. I got your suitcases and possessions from the hotel, so we're all set to go. But,” he hesitated, watching Carter awkwardly half step and half fall into the car, “are you sure you're up for this?”
“I've got work to do,” Dr. Carter replied, wiping his face with a handkerchief. “How soon can we be back at the research center?”
“About 6 hours, sir.”
“Make it four and I'll give your supervisor a glowing review.”
The car peeled away from the curb, the driver grinning with delight. “You've got it sir, lets hope the police are too busy eating donuts to notice us.”
New York State
The crowd roared with anger, hastily made signs with taped on pictures of the Fools Fight, H1! slogans and demands for action against the mutant menace were held high, as a woman dropped her bullhorn and practically collapsed into the arms of her husband. Her story of losing her daughter to the mutants during the Fools Fight had enraged the crowd, the pictures of the pretty 21 year old nursing student fanned the flames of hatred even higher. What had been an orderly if noisy demonstration, had become a mob screaming for blood.
“Tango, this is Cash,” an observer spoke into a walkie-talkie from the top of a nearby building, “M.M. did her job a little too well, the mob is looking for blood. Where is the mutant?”
“I lost visual twenty minutes ago, had to back off to avoid spooking them, but the tracker is working. He should be at your location in just under a minute,” his partner said.
“Understood. Keep me updated if he changes position,” Cash replied. Clicking to another secure channel he tried to spot the blockers. “Sumo, you're almost up. Are the trucks ready?”
“Ready for action. Once the target and his parents enter town they're not going to get out again,” the undercover MCO officer said.
“Good.” He hit a button and tried to keep the excitement out of his voice as the mob yelled at the exhortations of the newest speaker. They were about to have one less mutant and the MCO would be absolutely blameless. Maybe it wasn't so bad that the former test subject had been pulled out of the MCO research facility. “All units, prepare for action. Target should be entering town now.”
There was a long moment of silence, broken by the cheers of the mob below. Cash risked pulling out his binoculars and looking down the street. The only sign of life amongst the shops which had closed up either to participate in or to avoid the rally, was a man riding a motorcycle, his helmet had H1 painted on it, a close look revealed a patch with Gizmatic in the center of some crosshairs, and the words 'KILL ON SIGHT'.
Cursing, Cash grabbed his walkie-talkie again. “Tango, target is not in sight. What is his location?”
“The target is there, you can spit on him,” Tango insisted.
“All I've got is a guy on a motorcycle,” Cash growled. “Are you telling me this kid can suddenly hold himself together and mimic an adult now?!”
“They must have done a switch.”
Swearing again, he changed frequencies. “Sumo, the target was switched, can you get the biker?”
“Sure thing,” came the immediate response.
“At least we can figure out what happened. Maybe we can still get the kid before he gets to the freak school,” Cash said to himself as the transports rolled into action.
The motorcycle sped up, heading straight for the mob. Squealing to a stop at the very edge of it, the rider raised his fist and shouted, “FUCK THE MUTANT LOVING GOVERNMENT!”
“Jesus Christ!” Cash shouted as the biker tossed a molotov into town hall, shattering the window.
As if it was a signal, dozens of protesters who had been worked into a rage grabbed the stones and bottles that had been handed out over the last half hour and threw them at the building and the police who were watching them.
All hell broke loose below as half the crowd tried to run away and the rest joined in on the fun. Cash could only watch as the biker who had started it all blew past the growing riot, waving straight at him.
“Mission blown, clear out now!” Cash shouted to be heard over the screams of rage and fear.
MCO research lab #5, Northern Michigan
“We're ready to induce the rage,” a nurse said.
Victor tried not to scratch at the bandages that covered the stumps of his hands. His regeneration was regrowing them nicely after he'd burned them off the previous day, and the new flesh was agonizingly sensitive to every irritation. So he watched the medical team prep Tara for her rage.
The nurses and doctors carefully removed the needles and sensors from the heavily bandaged girl, writing down final readings and other medical jargon he didn't understand. Off to the side, nurse David was unpacking a large case. His eyes widened as the scarred nurse pulled out what looked like a small cannon and set it up on the floor facing a thick metal door.
While Tara was wheeled into the armoured room, David asked, “Are you sure you can't strap her down?”
“She's too badly hurt, it could take several seconds or even a minute for her regeneration and durability to kick in again. If she's strapped down the damage done trying to break free could be terminal,” the doctor said.
Victor felt a growing sense of dread. He knew how dangerous Tara was when she raged, but he'd never actually seen it happen. Now all that stood between him and her would be a single door. He wanted to leave, but without his hands he couldn't even open the door. Unthinkingly he pushed himself against the wall, trying to get a few more inches of space between them.
The nurses came out of the room with the empty stretcher, the pneumatic system closed the heavy vault like door, and a nurse turned the three massive locks. David got on the ground, placing the butt of the gun against his shoulder.
“Inducing rage, now,” the doctor said.
There was a shriek of anger, followed a second later by a metallic thud. The screams became louder. Victor clutched his blanket with this stubs, his instincts screaming that death was coming for him.
The heavy metal door began to shake as Tara pounded on them. The screams echoed in the room, matched by the ringing of the metal.
Wide-eyed, Victor saw most of the nurses and doctors back away to the far side of the infirmary. Only David didn't flinch. His only reaction was to put his finger on the trigger.
Small bulges began to appear on the door. The shrieks became louder. The door physically shook as it sounded like Tara was throwing herself against it. Metal cracked under the assault, one of the upper hinges snapped.
A nurse screamed, and they began to huddle together, whether they were seeking comfort or protection, Victor didn't know. He just wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else.
The upper corner of the door was pushed outwards. The shrieks of rage became louder. Bloody, skeletal fingers appeared, pushing through the tiny crack, uncaring as the flesh was pulped and slashed to ribbons. The fingers pushed into the metal as if it were clay.
Tara pushed and pulled at the opening, widening it just enough to slip more fingers through. Metal groaned under the pressure. From inside the door itself Victor heard the locks snap.
With a sickening crack of broken bones, a hand was shoved through the crack. Tara's thin, but impossibly strong arm, began to push its way through causing the armoured door to groan in protest.
Victor's ears rang from the roar of the gun as David pulled the trigger.
A single bullet hit Tara's wrist, it seemed to explode. She wrenched her arm back, recoiling from the sudden pain. Her hand got caught on the ragged metal and was torn off, falling to the ground in a small pool of blood.
For a second, as the sound of the shot still echoed in the infirmary, there was silence from the armoured room. Then the screaming got even louder and the door violently shook as Tara redoubled her assault.
This lasted for what seemed like an eternity, and then there was silence.
The medical staff waited several minutes to ensure Tara was truly done raging. Looking at the armoured door, covered in dents, ripped apart in one corner and bulging outwards, Victor couldn't fault them for waiting. Finally, once they were certain Tara was safe, they went to look at the door.
A quick check proved they wouldn't be opening the door without a cutting torch
Victor watched, wondering what they would do now. His unasked question was answered almost immediately when a doctor opened a side panel, revealing a keyboard. A long code was typed in, activating several large fans around the door. A muffled bang came from the door, smoke and dust erupted from around it, then the door and its frame slowly fell, shaking the room as it hit the floor.
David stayed on the ground holding the gun, with the medical staff behind him or well to the side until the smoke cleared. Then as if on cue, he took out the clip, picked up the gun and began putting it away while the medical team entered the room. Victor thought about going over to see what was happening, but the lingering fear of Tara and her rage kept him firmly in his bed.
Tara's voice rang out, making him jump. “GET AWAY!”
Tara, bloody but seemingly unharmed, stumbled out of the room in a badly ripped hospital gown, the bandages that had covered her were shredded and falling off. The nurses tried to talk to her, to calm her down. She screamed at them again, scrabbling along the floor to get away. Her eyes fell on Victor.
“Stay away from me!” he shouted, as she crawled towards him.
She threw herself onto his bed, clutching him tightly. “Don't let them hurt me! Don't let them hurt me! Don't let them hurt me!” she sobbed, pushing her face into his chest.
Not sure what to do, he wrapped his arms around her as the medical staff watched helplessly.
There was a knock on Carter's door, which opened up a second later. “I wasn't expecting you back on your feet so soon, Dr. Carter,” Director Brown said, stepping into the office uninvited.
Carter didn't quite glare at the man. He'd only gotten back an hour earlier, and had spent most of it catching up on what happened while he'd been injured. “I heard how this place was falling apart with me away, and decided I needed to come back as soon as possible.”
“We're hardly falling apart,” the Director said.
“Almost killing a patient, allowing another one to burn his hands off, having most of the research staff sent away, what else should I call it?”
The Director loomed over Carter, trying to use his size to intimidate him. “We're getting proper replacements for the researchers. Ones who are more in line with the MCO mission.”
“I didn't know we were butchers,” Carter said. “Is that why you've doubled the guards? You don't want the animals to escape before you've had your fun?”
“It's a dangerous world doctor. We didn't choose it, but we do have to live and deal with it,” the Director said. “And since we're on the topic, I have news for you. You're being retired at the end of the year.”
A week ago that would have surprised him, now Carter just accepted the news. They hadn't expected him to recover, retiring him in just over a month would make the MCO seem like they cared. Let the old man retire with dignity to recover from his wounds, while keeping him on the payroll long enough to pay for his treatment.
He allowed himself a small smile, the Director thought he was beaten, but he would still have enough time to do what needed to be done. “Very well. I'd better get to work ensuring everything is prepared for my replacement.”
The Director eyed him carefully, clearly trying to discover what his plan was. When nothing was forthcoming, he left the office.
Locking the door, Carter turned on a special devise an acquaintance had made for him, a gentle hum filled the room. Feeling certain that there were no bugs or eavesdroppers he began making calls.
Ben oozed into his wheelchair, tired after the long almost non-stop drive, looking nervously around at the Whateley campus; it was bigger than he'd expected, and nicer . But seeing the students made his stomach go cold, and his form lost even more coherence. A boy walked by himself, his eyes darting every which way, jumping ten feet in the air when Ben's father slammed the car door shut. Three girls walked arm in arm, the middle one was crying, almost being carried by the others. A werewolf sniffed the air and glared at the sky, its claws were bared as it growled menacingly, looking ready to pounce at the first sign of danger. Another student sat under a tree staring at a picture, tears rolling down his face.
He saw a costumed woman, he vaguely recognized as a New York hero, on a rooftop listening through large earphones to a silver box. In a copse of trees another costumed figure, this one all in black, appeared out of nowhere, scanned the area for a few seconds and disappeared in a barely noticeable puff of smoke. Heavily armed, grim faced guards marched along the paths, their eyes constantly moving.
Everywhere he looked, he didn't see the happy and nervous faces he'd expect to see at a school, but fear, anger, loss, hatred, as if the school was under siege. Following their escort, his father wheeled him into a building called Schuster and the sense of foreboding got worse.
“How are we supposed to do this newest batch of power testing? We're still trying to get the last group through their testing?” a man in a lab coat demanded.
“I know this is difficult,” a white haired woman wearing an expensive looking suit said, “but this is a crisis, we have to pull it together.”
The angry response of the scientist was cut off by the elevator door closing.
“Don't worry Ben, it's going to be alright,” his mother said, gently patting his arm.
“Thanks,” he whispered, trying to pull himself together.
The elevator door let them out in the administration office, where there was a flurry of activity, phones were ringing, secretaries and administrators were passing papers around, looking through filing cabinets and trying to be heard over the noise. Others were wearing the black and white Whateley uniform, those teenagers looked scared and more than one of them had red, puffy eyes.
A blonde woman who somehow looked composed despite the chaos around her came over to greet them. “Hello, you must be the Watsons, I'm Headmistress Carson.”
His parents shook her hand, their shaky smiles becoming a bit firmer.
“Ben, I'm sorry to rush you, but your student orientation is almost ready to go. Lydia will get you to them, while I talk to your parents,” the headmistress said, motioning to an older girl with yellow flowers in her hair.
“Wait, please,” Ben said. “Can you help my friends?”
For just a second, the cool and calm demeanour failed, revealing the exhaustion behind the beautiful blue eyes. “I've had my people contact the parents of your friends, but until they take their children from the MCO my hands are tied. I'm sorry, Ben.”
“I understand. Thanks for trying,” he replied. He put his chin in his hand as he felt it sliding down towards his chest.
A pleasant smell filled his nostrils and soft hands touched his shoulders. “Come on Ben,” Lydia said, her voice sounding like a dozen hummingbirds, “you don't want to be late for orientation do you?”
“No,” he said, his melting face making it almost impossible to understand.
Lydia tried to get him to talk as they rolled towards a large building made out of crystals. He hadn't noticed it at first, being too focused on the students, it was almost enough to make him forget his worries. Then he saw the students waiting in a small group.
“Everyone, this is Ben,” Lydia said softly.
Seeing the shattered teens before him, Ben almost wanted to cry. There was a young girl who couldn't be older than twelve clutching a half burned baby doll to her chest, stared off into the distance totally ignoring him. A boy turned awkwardly on a pair of crutches almost falling over, one pant leg empty. Another boy with bony plates on his face looked away revealing half melted plates and an empty eye socket, as if his face had been plunged into acid. A girl sat well away from the group, wearing a heavy track suit, her scalp was shaved and covered in stitches, crystal knives appeared and disappeared in her hands.
He watched Lydia look helplessly at two other senior students who stood around the group. Then the smile reappeared. “OK, lets get going, there's a lot to see and lots to do!” she said, somehow making her enthusiasm sound real.
MCO research lab #5, Northern Michigan
“Hello, Dr. Carter,” David said, quickly looking out into the hall before closing the door.
Carter looked around Tara's room, forcing himself to smile. “David,” he said. “I've read the reports, you've done a good job with Tara.”
His assistant nodded. “I've tried my best, I wish I could have done more.”
Tara was sitting on her bed, cradling her guitar, the shackles she was supposed to be wearing were in the furthest corner of the room. She was watching him carefully, seeming to not trust her own eyes that he was actually there.
“They said you were dead,” she said.
“I was hurt, but I'm not dead,” he replied.
“What happens now?” she asked.
Carter sat down beside her, placing his arm around her shoulder. “I'm going to stop this. Just give me a little time.”
She leaned away from him, bringing her guitar to her chest. “I don't believe you,” she said in a whisper.
Near MCO research lab #5, Northern Michigan
Dr. Brennan unlocked the door to her small house, provided free of charge by the MCO. She was pleased with herself, despite Dr. Carter somehow recovering in record time from his injuries, he was on his way out. In January she would be the head researcher, and he wouldn't be able to interfere with her research ever again. With the new batch of researchers coming in she would be able to advance mutant research far more than that bleeding heart ever would.
Stepping inside, she heard the sound of running feet. She had no time to react before a person rammed into her, slamming her onto the floor and knocking the air out of her.
She tried to scream, but only a gasp escaped her lips as her attacker slammed the door shut then flipped her onto her back. Leering, he knelt down digging his knee into her stomach. She looked up at a young man in a ski mask, his eyes were wide with excitement.
“Hi, Dr. Brennan. Rob said you like playing with knives, using them to cut up little girls. I like knives too,” he said in a sing-song voice. He pulled a hunting knife from his belt. “But I'd never hurt a kid. Kids are off limits. But Rob said you're an animal. A rabid dog. And what do you do with a rabid dog? You put it down.”
She stared into his eyes, trying to make a connection, to prove to him that she was a real person. “Please, don't hurt me,” she whispered, struggling to breathe as his weight forced the air out of her.
“You have to put rabid dogs down,” he repeated, running the blade along her neck, “but that doesn't mean you can't have some fun first.”
MCO research lab #5, Northern Michigan
November 2nd, 1991
Rob heard the Director coming down the hallway a few seconds before the door slammed open. He almost wished he could still smile as he saw the man who was usually so composed and dignified, practically foaming at the mouth. Instead he settled for simply saying, “Good morning, Director. What brings you to the freak room today?”
The Director glared at Sonny who was eating breakfast, cereal falling from his spoon as he stared at the two big security guards standing just outside the door. For once the speedster wasn't moving.
“You, out,” the Director said.
Sonny moved so fast his chair tipped over and slid across the floor. Half a second later his bedroom door slammed shut. Rob didn't spare a glance for his roommate, he merely cocked his head, keeping his beady eyes on the Director, not saying anything and not getting up from his comfortable sprawl on the couch, radiating an aura of unconcern.
The Director stormed over to him. “How did you do it, you fucking freak?”
“Do what?” Rob asked, his featureless face revealing absolutely nothing.
“Stop playing games, you know exactly what you did.”
“Well if you really want to know how I did it, I'll tell you,” he said reasonably. “This morning I woke up and it felt a little tight in my boxers. You know what I'm talking about right? So being a healthy lad, I grabbed my newest Playboy, reached down int-”
He was cut off as the Director punched him in the face.
“HEY! You asked, I was trying to tell you,” Rob said, his voice reverberating from the walls with barely contained laughter. “You've got a good punch. Guess you weren't always a desk jockey.”
“How did you kill Dr. Brennan?”
Rob forced his eyes to open a little wider. “She's dead? Well that's good. Ding dong, the bitch is dead.” The room filled with joyful music. “So when's the funeral?”
The music died as the Director punched him again.
“You know,” Rob said, rubbing his swelling cheek, “if you keep this up, I'm going to start thinking you don't like me very much.”
The Director motioned to his men, who drew their pistols and very obviously took the safeties off.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Rob said, raising his hands. “I didn't do anything to her. I came back yesterday morning with a hangover and haven't left since then. I'm pretty damn talented, but murdering someone I couldn't even see, is a little bit beyond me. Hell, I haven't even seen her except in the hallway for the last week.”
“She was brutally murdered in her home last night. I find it a bit suspicious that you went out and soon after she was killed,” the Director said.
“Look, I don't even know where she lives. How the fuck could I kill her when I didn't leave my room?” Rob asked. “And do you seriously think I'm stupid enough to murder someone right now? If I was arrested for littering, I'd have half the country wanting me to fry and the other half MIGHT settle for just locking me up for life.”
The Director glared at him for several seconds, the rage slowly leaving his eyes to be replaced by a look of pure hatred. “You're confined to your room until further notice. If you try to leave without permission and an escort, you will be shot.”
Rob nearly protested, but one look at the guards who still had their pistols out told him that would be a very bad idea. “Fine. Now if we're done I should catch up on my reading,” he said, grabbing his crotch and giving it a squeeze.
The Director ignored his last bit of defiance and stalked out of the room.
Grabbing some ice from the freezer, Rob went to his bedroom, a happy little bounce in his step.
Carter sat across from Rob, wondering what the teen was thinking. Even after working with him for years, he could never quite get a proper read on him. An educated guess, yes, but an accurate idea always eluded him.
“Rob, I need you to behave yourself,” he said.
“I behave myself just fine. It's everyone else who seems to want to blame me for everything and piss me off,” Rob replied. Even without a face, the teen looked smug.
“Listen to me,” Carter said, “there are too many things happening right now. If you go off half cocked, it will explode in our faces. I'm not asking for much, just don't do anything stupid for the next few weeks. Can you do that?”
Cocking his head, Rob glared at him with his two beady black eyes. “You're serious. With all the shit that's been happening, you want me to just sit back and do nothing?” The air vibrated with the voice, making Carter feel sick to his stomach.
“I want you to think before you do anything. You keep going on about how you're eighteen now and can do whatever you want, well that comes with some responsibilities,” Carter snapped. “Your actions don't just affect you, they could get Sonny and Victor killed.”
“Don't worry, doc. I'm being very careful right now, and I won't do anything stupid. But if you don't do something fast, I will.
Carter nodded in understanding, there was nothing else he could say.
Sonny struggled to lift the heavy weight strapped to his right leg. To his new sense of timing, he was moving in slow motion, practically as slow as everyone else. “SoIcanslowdown,juststrapfiftypoundstoeachlimb,” he joked.
“You won't need to do this forever. We just need to train your muscles to move at a slower speed,” the physiotherapist said, his voice strained as he put the other weight onto Sonny's left leg. “Stand up please.”
Jumping off the table he almost fell to his knees from the change in balance, only the rock steady arm of his therapist kept him upright. “Thanks,” he muttered. Taking a small step his foot painfully stomped against the floor, “Ijusthaveanhourofthisright?” he asked, wondering how he'd survive.
“Just an hour, starting as soon as we get you in position. Just three hundred steps to get to the starting line.”
With a groan, Sonny took another step. “You'recruelman,Atotalsadist.”
The therapist gave a mad cackle, “You haven't seen anything yet. Soon my hamster wheel will be complete and I'll have you powering this whole facility by running, then my plans will finally be ready!”
“Hamsterwheel,” he said. “Ithinkyouneedtocutbackonyourcaffeine.”
That earned a big grin. “Too much?”
Speaking slowly, pretending he was eating molasses Sonny said as distinctly as possible, “Yes.”
“Everyone's a critic.”
Reaching the line set on the gymnasium floor that marked the starting position, Sonny checked the time not wanting to do an extra second of exercises with over 100 pounds strapped to his body. At a snails pace he began walking, trying to stride normally, forcing his muscles and tendons to react at a human speed when they wanted to send him across the room in a matter of seconds.
“So have you finally picked a codename?” the therapist asked.
“Yeah,I'mgoingtobethestreak!” he said, moving his hand through the air so fast it was a blur.
“The Streak?!” the therapist said, trying to hold back his laughter.
“Remind me to loan you my Ray Stevens tape later, Sonny. Streak isn't really a good name for a hero. Are you still planning on moving back to Dallas when you're all done here?”
“Sure,myparentslivethere,whereelseamIsupposetogo?” Sonny asked, struggling to move normally with the weights. ”ButI'mthinkingofgoingtoCaliforniaforcollege.CalPollyhasareallyinterestingcomputersciencecourse.”
The therapist bit his lip for a moment in indecision. “You might want to go to California sooner than that. Dallas really isn't a good place for mutants right now.”
“Maybe, but with everything that's going on it's getting pretty dangerous,” he replied as gently as possible.
Sonny punched the air a few times almost slowly enough for the therapist to see his fists. “TheDallasDefenderscanhandleit.HaveyouseenhowthenewguyLonghornhandledtheMixMaster?” Not waiting for a response, Sonny began acting out how the hero had taken out five biodevised monstrosities before personally breaking Mix Masters jaw.
“I know you like them, and they do good work,” the therapist said, “but last night someone tried to kill Longhorns teammate Grit. He's expected to live, but there are a lot of H1! Members in Texas are looking for anyone who isn't perfectly baseline. You should ask your parents if you could stay with a relative in a safer area.”
“Noway!That'smyhomeandIcan'twaittogoback,” Sonny protested. “I'lljusthavetomakesureI'mtwiceasgood,sothatIcanjointhedefendersandprovewearen'talllikethoselunaticsinNewYork!”
The therapist patted Sonny on the back. “If you keep that attitude you might just do it,” he said, hiding his true feelings behind a professional mask.
Sonny raced along the corridor, happy to be able to move normally without the heavy weights strapped to his limbs. He knew they were there to help him, but he hated having to move so slowly. He was built for speed and movement not plodding along like everyone else. He wished he could run outside. When he had first manifested he would sometimes go for runs outside of Dallas, racing through the grasslands not having a care in the world.
But that had been months ago. Now he was stuck running on treadmills or in circles around the gym, maybe once a month he could run outside. It wasn't fair.
It also wasn't fair how they were being treated by the MCO. Rob could be a jackass sometimes but he wasn't a bad guy. And what they'd done to Tara had made Sonny want to throw up when he heard about it. The MCO had never been the nicest place, but it had been OK. And most of the people had been pretty nice.
But now, now he just wanted to go home and forget he'd ever been here.
He saw the baton as he came to the corner.
To his sight, it looked like it was moving through water, and it was going to hit him right at the knees. He tried to dodge, his feet skidding on the floor, ripping apart the soles of his specially made shoes as he desperately backpedalled. But he had too much momentum. By some miracle he managed to twist just enough to avoid shattering his kneecap, taking the blow on his outer thigh instead.
The baton went flying from the impact, as he tumbled hitting the wall with his back, leaving a crater in the plaster.
His thigh felt like it was broken. Clutching it, he instinctively curled up into a ball. through his tears Sonny could make out a group of guards staring down at him, one of them was rubbing his hand.
“See, I told you taking out a speedster isn't impossible. You just need to remember, while they're fast, they have trouble dealing with momentum, and you can catch them by surprise,” one of them said.
A kick to the ribs, caused an explosion of pain to rip through Sonny's body and he began to retch.
“Now a kid like this,” the guard said, “is the easiest to deal with. Not much control, just gotta circle him and he's screwed. If you're fighting one on one, then it's more of a dance. Gotta go with your instincts, don't think about it, just react. They don't know how to fight, they'll get off balance right quick and then you disable them.” He stomped on Sonny's arm to demonstrate, the crack of bone echoed in the hallway.
“But not all speedsters are like this. Some of them have reflexes to match their speed, and some of those fuckers know how to fight. You don't want to go hand to hand with them,” he warned.
Sonny tried to get to his feet. Trying to not jostle his arm, struggling to make his injured leg work, with his ribs on fire, he could barely think, much less react.
A boot connected to his jaw, he hit the floor screaming.
“Stay down kid,” the guard said, “we're not done with our demonstration yet. Now where was I? Oh yeah, when you have one of those dangerous fuckers, you need to lay traps. Find out what they care about and use it to draw them out. Remind me to tell you about the fucker out West, that's one hell of a story. But lets deal with this freak first.”
Sonny felt rough hands grab him, dragging him to his feet. Someone grabbed his hair, nearly pulling it out as they raised his head. He tried to say something, only blood and bits of his teeth came out.
“You think this was bad you little freak?” the guard asked. “This was us being gentle. You're going to tell everyone that you fell down the stairs. If you don't, we're going to take you to a nice quiet room, and skin you alive. You'll be alive for hours, and every second of it will make this seem like fucking paradise. Do you understand?”
Sonny tried to nod.
“Good. You might live a little longer.”
His feet slid along the floor as he was carried down the hall, a door opened. Forcing his eyes open, Sonny saw a flight of stairs in front of him. He tried to escape, but he could barely move as they threw him down the stairs. He hit the steps and pain blossomed within him.
Mercifully he was unconscious before he came to a stop.
Carter looked down at Sonny's broken body, his appearance was calm only because of his years of experience. Despite that, his muscles were tense and he had to concentrate on his voice to keep the rage from coming out.
“Sonny,” he said, as gently as possible, “I need you to answer some questions.”
The boy stared up at him, his eyes glassy from pain killers and his injuries. “What?” he asked, his voice low, the word drawn out slowly as if coming from a long way away.
“What happened to you?”
Sonny closed his eyes, his shoulders hunched up making him gasp in pain. “Fell. Stairs.”
Carter clenched his cane so hard his hand hurt. “We know that didn't happen. You have a boot print on your ribs. Who attacked you?”
The boy seemed to shrink down into himself. “Fell down the stairs.”
Taking a moment to control his voice, Carter looked down at Sonny, his eyes pleading. “I need to know the truth. I need you to say what happened. If you won't tell us, I can't put the people who attacked you in jail. Please, just tell me who it was.”
“Fell down.” Sonny repeated.
The stress of the last few weeks, his attack, lack of sleep, and seeing his patients being attacked as he watched helplessly overcame him. For a moment the rage that had been building up came roaring to the surface. “Dammit! I can't help you if you won't help me!”
“Ifell.Ifell.Ifell.Idon'twanttodie.Ifell.Ifell.Ifell.” Tears welled up in Sonny's eyes as he struggled against his casts and bandages trying to curl up into a ball.
A nurse came rushing over. “Doctor, I think that's enough for today. He needs his sleep.”
Carter tried to say something, but there was nothing to say, he'd let his emotions get the better of him and hurt his best chance to get answers. Silently cursing himself he left the infirmary.
In the hallway he spared a single glare for the guards who stood on either side of the door, they were in full armour with heavy weapons slung over their backs. It was pointless having them guarding the infirmary, it was simply another way for the Director to show everyone he was in charge. It was the same with the increased guards throughout the facility, they'd even changed one of the old storerooms into a barracks, ostensibly so that there would be guards on hand at all times in case of attack. And, Carter thought morbidly to himself, it made it easier for the teenagers to have 'accidents' if they were caught alone.
He made his way to the late Dr. Brennan's office. Now that she was deceased, as head of research it was his duty to look over her research and either reassign it to another researcher on staff, like that was going to happen after the MCO gutted the facilities research department, or send it higher up so it could be sent to whoever could use it. He would do that, eventually, but at the moment he had something far more important to do.
Starting her computer, he opened her filing cabinet and pulled out the large folder for Tara. Sitting down at her desk he had to admit that the woman had been good at keeping things organized. The various tests and research notes were all properly dated and filed in order, a quick glance showed what he already knew, Tara's physiology, hormone levels, various chemicals used to suppress her rage, others that were to inhibit her increased strength and regeneration while in a rage, and so on.
Turning to the computer he used his master code to open her files.
What he saw there made him want to vomit.
Carter almost began to regret just how cutting edge the facility computers were. Every bloody photo and video was shown in detail that Hollywood would kill for. Reading the reports that went with each one was worse.
Never in his life had Carter been pleased about a death. Now he was only sorry he wasn't there to see the woman die.
He began the long process of transferring the files to his system, and finally glanced at the clock. He'd lost track of time and it was well into the evening. Getting to his feet, he swayed for a moment as a wave of dizziness overtook him. He had barely eaten that day and it was catching up to him. Cursing his weakness, he placed the important paper files into a box, he would have David grab it in the morning. They'd be useful, but the most important information was on the computer. He wanted to wait until they were transferred, to ensure nothing went wrong, but if he tried that he knew he would collapse. He wasn't young anymore, and despite being healed he was far weaker than he had been.
Leaning heavily on his cane, he staggered out of the office. There would be something to eat in the cafeteria and then he could sleep.
November 3rd, 1991
Victor let the nurse open the door to the shared apartment, his hands were mostly grown back, but they were fragile with almost no muscle and his fingers were still just lumps past the knuckles. So even though he could leave the infirmary he still couldn't do much, and with what happened to Sonny, the nurses and doctors weren't letting him go anywhere without an escort.
“Finally, you're back,” Rob said, not bothering to look up from his magazine.
“Yeah, got sick of sitting in the infirmary with nothing do. Decided sitting in my own bed doing nothing was better,” he said.
“Sounds fascinating,” Rob said, still not looking at him. “Now go do something quietly, I'm reading a very interesting article about Miss October.”
Shaking his head, Victor stalked off to his room. “Great to be home,” he muttered, kicking off his shoes and collapsing onto his bed.
A voice whispered in his ear, making him jump. “Put on some music, act normally, and whisper back, I'll hear you,” Rob said.
He slapped at the radio a few times to turn it on, then with his arms covering his face like he wanted to shut out the world he quietly said, “What's up?”
“I'm planning a breakout. After what they did to Sonny, we need to get outta here pronto.”
“And go where? You can't exactly hide, and if I don't get my medicine I'll start a fire anytime I get bumped or stomp my feet,” Victor said.
Rob didn't say anything for a long moment. “I didn't say it would be easy, but I'd rather take my chances outside than sit around here waiting for them to murder me. I'm not going down like that.”
Raising his hand, Victor studied the new, bright pink skin, it was fresh and unblemished. He wondered if he could restart his whole life as easily as he got a new hand. Pushing the heat that was his constant companion he created a tiny flame in the palm of his hand.
The skin darkened under the flame, becoming a brilliant red. He felt a little pain, but he could handle it. It would be easy to make the fire bigger. He could fill the entire room with flames. He wondered if he'd go to heaven or hell by doing that. Maybe he'd get reincarnated into a body that worked. Or maybe there was nothing at all, that would be peaceful.
A flame popped into existence in his other hand. With his mind he made them stretch out and meet just above his head. The flame grew and danced in the air.
Then the flame died.
Looking at the blisters forming on his palms, Victor tried to make the flames appear again. The heat was still there, but he couldn't get it to appear.
“OK, Rob. I'm with you,” he said. “Let's get out of here.”
Hours later, still lying in bed Victor wondered why he was such a coward.
Franky poured himself and Carter a cup of coffee, before taking a seat. “How are you feeling Doc?” he asked.
“Terrible,” Carter said, taking a sip of the coffee and nearly spilling it as his hands shook.
To Franky's eyes the doctor looked half dead. His skin seemed too tight against the bones, his eyes were so dark it looked like he'd been punched, and his voice sounded wispy, as if he were a ghost. “So what did you want to talk about?”
“I heard about your fight with the new guards. I take it you're not happy with how things are going?”
He fought down a growl. “The only reason I haven't quit, is because I'm hoping I can help keep those kids alive just a little bit longer. I don't know what exactly I can do, but if I just leave I won't be able to look at myself in the mirror again.”
Carter nodded, clearly understanding what he was feeling. “How far are you willing to go to help them?”
That made him pause, the doctor wouldn't be asking him that for no reason. Just how far would he go? Most of his buddies had quit the MCO, and the ones who stuck around were more drinking buddies than anything. He hadn't really talked to anyone from his military days in years. A string of ex's were the sum total of his love life. He didn't have anyone holding him down.
He was just an old soldier, surviving, and getting older.
With the way things were going, he wasn't even in a comfortable rut anymore.
“OK, Doc, what's the plan? Unless it’s suicidal I'm in,” he said.
Dr. Carter's Home
Looking at his watch, Carter wished he could pace. Unfortunately he was too weak to do that now, even if his knee would move properly. His eyes kept going to the large box on the couch, as if it was a bomb.
In a way it was, just not for him.
A shimmer appeared in the air and a man wearing a simple face concealing ski mask, gloves and a backpack stepped out. “Dr. Carter?”
“Yes. You have what I asked for?” he asked.
The man nodded. “I'm not happy about having to jump all around the country, especially so close to the MCO, but I got everything you wanted,” he said, patting his bag. “Eleven files from MCO researchers who looked scared and pissed off.”
“Good, very good,” Carter said. He took an envelope from his pocket. “Here is your fee. Now the final job, take that box and deliver it to Mr. Mallory. You have his address?”
The man nodded, taking the envelope. “He's expecting me. This is everything you need? Once I jump out of here, I'm not coming back to the States for love nor money.”
“That's everything,” Carter said. “I won't need your services again.”
Grabbing the box, the man said, “Been a pleasure doing business with you,” then vanished in a shimmer of air.
MCO research lab #5, Northern Michigan
November 4th, 1991
Carter wheeled Sonny into the apartment, much to the surprise of Rob and Victor.
“Hey, shouldn't he be in the infirmary for another few weeks?” Rob asked, looking at the casts and bruises that covered the obviously drugged boy.
“Doctors orders, I want you three together for the next little while,” Carter said. Then he pulled out a palm size piece of electronics, placed it on the counter and pressed a button. The devise began to hum, and Carter allowed himself to relax a little.
“What are you doing?” Rob demanded.
“Tonight you three are going to leave with Franky and Tara, if you don't you'll be dead in a few weeks.”
Victor turned pale, but Rob clapped his hands together.
“Finally!” Rob said. “What's the plan?”
Dr. Carter tried to control his breathing, his hand clenched his cane so hard his knuckles were turning white. Slowly making his way to the Directors office, he didn't allow himself to think about what he was about to do. There was no time for second thoughts or doubts, he had a duty to the patients in his care, and he would do whatever was required to carry it out.
“The Director is busy,” the secretary said, not even bothering to look at him as he stepped into the office.
“I'm sure he is,” Carter replied. “But I'm going to have to insist this time.”
That got the womans attention. She glanced up at him, and the contemptuous look turned to shock as she saw the gun pointed at her chest.
“Please stand up and open the Directors door. Do it slowly and keep your hands where I can see them,” he said. “You know what the MCO has tried to do to me and what they have planned. I have nothing left to lose.”
The colour drained from her face. Very slowly she did as he ordered, though her hand was shaking so hard it took her two tries to open the door.
“Mary, I told you I wasn't to be-” the Directors angry words stopped as he saw Carter step inside. “What the hell do you think you're doing?” he asked.
“Go stand beside the Director please,” he told the secretary. Then he pointed the pistol at the Director. It felt strange in his hands. It hadn't seemed so heavy when he'd practised with it the night before. Locking the door with his free hand, he gave the Director a cold look. “Director Brown, I'm sorry it came to this.”
The Director glared at Carter. “You're going to spend the rest of your life in prison for this.”
“It's better than the alternative,” he replied. “Now sit quietly, this won't take long.”
The Director reached for the phone, “You're right it won't.”
The gunshot was deafening in the small room. The recoil almost made Carter drop the pistol, but despite his racing heart and the slight trembling in his limbs, he kept his composure. And by some miracle he had managed to hit the phone. The Director was cursing, holding his hand which was bleeding from several small gashes and splinters.
“What do you plan on doing? Holding me hostage until I agree to your demands?” the Director asked, grabbing a tissue to wipe away the blood.
“No, I know any promises you make won't matter,” Carter said. “Instead we're going to sit here and do nothing for a little while.”
“And what will happen while we do nothing?”
The lights dimmed, from the outer office came the sound of a steel emergency door slamming shut. The overhead speaker blared, “Emergency. Hostiles have penetrated the building. This is not a drill. Follow emergency procedures.”
The Director rose from his chair, his face twisted with rage, “What have you done?”
“What I had too,” Carter replied.
“Shouldn't you be home, Franky,” Greg asked.
Franky smiled at his friend, one of the few old guards left. “Got some last minute stuff to take care of. You know how it goes.”
“I hear ya. Always some bullshit to do.”
Pausing a moment, Franky bit his cheek in thought. “Greg, where are you working tonight?”
Greg grimaced, “Just basic hallway patrol. Gotta make sure Herr Director feels all safe and secure in his bunker.”
“Go check out the infirmary. Make sure the emergency equipment is in working order, I thought I saw some problems with the security door last time I was there.”
“You sure?” Greg said. “That's more a job for maintenance.”
“Maintenance isn't on the schedule tonight. If something happens, I'd like to make sure the nurses are safe. So do me a favour and check it out.”
Greg gave him a long, curious look. “OK, I'll go do that right now. I'll see you tomorrow I guess.”
Frank nodded. “I'll see you then.”
“Don't do anything stupid, all right.”
He didn't respond, just turned and walked towards the security center. When he was alone in the hall, he quietly said, “It's way too late for that Greg. Way too late.”
The security center was at the very bottom of the facility. If any outsider attacked heavy security doors would drop down making it impossible to enter without high explosives, cutting torches, or high level mutants. But for a security guard, even a pariah like Frank, accessing it was just a regular part of the job.
Stepping into the small room, which was dominated by a row of television screens, several phones, and a large console covered in a confusing number of buttons, dials and even a joystick. It had been created by a gadgeteer when the facility had been made, and it was still cutting edge. The only problem with it was that it controlled the entire facility. If an enemy got inside they could do whatever they wanted, unless the Director, the head of security, or the head researcher overrode it. But considering the low security priority of the facility, and the location of the room itself, it was considered a minor problem.
The lone guard turned in his chair, giving Frank a look of contempt. “What do you want?” he asked, practically spitting out the words.
“Got a message for ya,” Franky said, then swung his fist as hard as he could into the guards temple.
The guard didn't collapse, but he was flung out of his chair landing on his hands and knees. Pulling out his baton, Franky hit him once on the back of the head. He didn't know if he'd killed the man, but from the blood pouring out of his skull, the guard wouldn't be a problem.
Sitting down at the console, Franky began pressing buttons and typing in codes. The monitors showed all but one of the outside exits being sealed off by blast doors. Next he cut off communications for every room but his, if anyone wanted to make a phone call they would have to be routed through the console. Then marking off key rooms and the most direct routes to them, he typed in the code that only a few key people knew, declaring a level 5 emergency.
As far as the system knew the facility was under attack from an outside force that had penetrated the base. Security doors throughout the facility slammed shut. A message over the speakers ordered people in the hallways to go to safe rooms.
The radio and the phone both started beeping as guards and staff demanded to know what was going on. Franky ignored all of them, too busy typing in messages and commands. The fire alarm went off in the administration area. Intruders were reported on the west side of the grounds, and on the 2nd level. Power was cut in the armoury due to infiltration from intruders. Guards were ordered to various parts of the facility, and many more conflicting commands were given.
Satisfied that things were chaotic enough, Franky pulled a pry bar from his pocket. Using the tool he ripped open the panels revealing the inner workings of the console. Taking his water bottle, he sprayed gasoline all over the wires and electronics, took a match and set it on fire. The various manuals and papers for reports made the flames leap higher.
With that done, he kicked the guard in the side, who groaned a little in pain. “Guess I should save your ass,” he muttered. Taking him by the ankle he dragged the guard out of the room which was rapidly filling with smoke.
“That's our cue,” Rob said, when the alarms started ringing.
Victor grabbed his and Sonny's backpacks, which had some clothes, money and a few keepsakes. He handed them to Sonny who was hunched down in his wheelchair, and began to push the injured speedster towards the door.
“I push, dumbass,” Rob said, gently pushing him out of the way. “I don't need my hands to use my power. Take the lead and if anything gets in the way be ready to use your flame.”
“I'm not going to burn anyone,” he replied.
“Didn't say you had to. You keep them back and worried about getting burned, I'll use my powers to fuck them up. So stop yapping and lets get out of here.” Rob patted Sonny on the shoulder. “Now remember kid, you're my shield. Anyone shoots at me, you try to take the bullet first.”
“Haha.I'mnotinvulnerabledumbass,” Sonny said.
“I know that, I'd just rather you get your ass shot than me.”
Shaking his head, Victor eased the door open revealing a deserted hallway. Waving to his friends, he led the way down the hall. Sweat dripped down his face, and his body felt too hot. With every step he took smoke rose from his shoes.
“VIC! DOWN!” Rob shouted in his ear.
He dropped to the ground, flame erupting from his back. A pair of guards came around the corner, guns drawn. Raising his hand he shot a gout of flame straight up, making it flare to the sides. Bullets whined overhead.
Then the air boomed. Victor felt his bones vibrate from the pressure and his flames went out.
“Come on,” Rob said, his voice sounded shaky, “we need to get to Crazy Tara.”
Getting back to his feet, Victor hurried past the guards who were lying on the ground, blood was leaking from the eyes, ears and nose. He looked away, focusing on the hallway in front of him.
The group of guards were scared, when they saw Franky they didn't care that he was a mutant lover or on the shit list, he was calm, confident and seemed to know what he was doing. At the moment that was all they cared about.
“What the hell is happening?” one of them asked. “We can't get through to control and our orders have us spreading out through the whole place.”
“The shit has well and truly hit the fan,” Franky said. “Something bad is happening in administration, looks like mutants and they're jamming communications.”
Some of the guards turned white, at the prospect of fighting mutants who were obviously prepared for a fight. “Where are you going?”
“I was told to provide backup for the rager in lock up. We do not want her getting loose.” That was met with nods and looks of fear. “Get going to administration. I'll be joining you after dealing with the rager,” he ordered.
The guards headed for the nearest stairwell, not exactly eagerly, but with a bit of confidence now that they had a clear goal. Franky took off running for Tara's room. He passed a handful of more guards who were running around alone or in pairs, but they ignored him so he did the same.
Reaching her door, he knocked twice then slid his key card over the lock. He was surprised to see she was unchained hiding behind David.
“Franky, what are you doing here?” David asked, his tone calm and very precise. His muscles were tense but he didn't make any threatening moves.
There wasn't time to lie or make excuses, so Franky decided to go with the truth. “Dr. Carter and I are breaking the kids out.” Looking straight at Tara, he said, “Tara, if you want to survive you need to come with us.”
“I'm not safe,” she whispered.
Biting his tongue, Franky carefully chose his words. “Tara, you are dangerous. Not going to deny that. But no one deserves what you've gone through. Now you can come with me and try to make a life for yourself, or stay here and die. You've got until the boys arrive to make up your mind.”
She shrank back, hugging herself. “I-I, I don't know,” she said. Her eyes darted between Franky and David, tears welling up.
David smiled at her. “It's not my decision, but where there's life, there's hope.”
She took a deep breath, standing a bit straighter. “I'll go,” she said, almost too quietly to hear.
“Grab clothes for two or three days, leave anything that won't fit in a backpack,” Franky said. Turning to David, he asked, “What are you going to do?”
“Well I'm not going to run away with you,” the nurse said. He pulled a small metal box out of his pocket. “So take these. Give her one full needle and she won't be able to rage for about three hours.”
“This cures ragers?”
“No, it just stops her. We don't know the exact formula Dr. Brennan used, or the long term effects. Dr. Carter was analyzing them and I was observing her reactions. You have four doses there, and once they're gone, they're gone for good,” he stressed. “Use them when she gets too on edge, it will bring her back in balance.”
“Thanks, this will make things a lot easier. So, what will you tell the MCO about Tara?” Franky asked.
“You're going to punch me as hard as you can. Then I can say you came in saying there was an emergency and sucker punched me.” He smiled, “Simple lies are the easiest.”
Tara finished packing her bag, placing a small photo album on top of the clothes. “Can I have a needle now?” she asked.
Franky handed David one of the needles. He quickly and expertly gave her the injection, causing her to shudder and almost stumble. A moment later she seemed to be back to normal.
“Are we going now?”
“Just waiting for the boys.” Franky said. “They should be here any minute now, so say goodbye.”
He carefully opened the door, while Tara gave David a hug. Peering down the hall he heard an ear piercing whine and saw a guard drop to his knees clutching his ears. Vic came running up kicking the man hard in the face, as fire erupted from his back. He waved at the three boys, motioning for them to hurry up.
“And we're gone,” he said to Tara. The girl hesitantly stepped out into the hallway, leaving just David and Franky to finish things up.
“Good luck, David,” he said.
“Same to you,” David replied, turning his head slightly.
A punch to the jaw and David hit the ground, spitting blood and cursing. Franky spared him one last glance before leaving the room.
“What exactly do you think this will accomplish, doctor?” the Director asked.
“Something good, I hope,” Carter replied. He was only half listening to the Director. A few minutes before someone had been hammering on the emergency door, asking if anyone was inside. When no one answered they'd gone away, but he didn't know if they'd stay away.
“Good?” the Director snorted. “Because of your actions, you and whoever conspired with you are going to go to prison for a very long time. And those patients you care so much about have probably been shot trying to escape. What good can possibly come out of this?”
Carter stared at the Director, wondering what he could possibly say. Anything he said would just be scoffed at by the Director, things had gone well beyond the point where debates could help. Finally he said, “I think you'll be surprised. Without you or I, they'll have a difficult time getting control of the systems. And my people won't go down easily.”
An explosion echoed through the building. Carter smiled, “In fact I feel fairly confident they'll win.”
“Tara, you take the rear. Victor, you stay behind me and on the right. Rob, you and Sonny are in the middle,” Franky said. “Stay together, and stick close to me. Getting separated means you'll probably end up dead.”
“Good speech, man,” Rob said. “You really know how to keep morale up.”
“Shut up smart ass and move it, we're behind schedule,” Franky replied, drawing his pistol.
Getting into position, they started down the hall. Victor tried to focus on their surroundings, but his eyes kept going to his burnt hand. The smell of burning flesh filled his nose. He hadn't burned anyone yet, but he'd come close. Would he be able to use his power if there was no other choice?
Franky raised his arm, bringing them to a halt at a corner. “Someone got smart, they've got a squad at the stairs we need.”
“What will we do?” Victor asked, peering past him. There were four armoured guards at the door, with a portable barricade set up and heavy rifles at the ready.
“Rob, can you take them down from here?”
Closing his eyes, Rob looked like he was thinking. “Not easily. I can disorient them a bit, knock them around, but anything too big is out.”
Franky cursed quietly to himself. “OK, Victor sent a wave of flame their way. Make them duck down, maybe dazzle them a bit.”
“But-” he started to say.
“You don't have to actually hit them,” Franky said, “just keep them from shooting us. Rob and I will follow behind it, when we're close enough we'll take them down. Tara, you wait back here with Sonny. As soon as the guards are down, come running, you'll be carrying him and the chair up the stairs. Any questions? No. Good.”
Victor channelled the heat coursing through his body, raised his burned hand and sent it flying outwards. The roar of the flames filled his ears. The flame rushed towards the guards, stopping mere feet away, creating a blazing wall of heat. The sprinkler system activated, trying to stop the fire. He pushed more heat and flames through his body, turning the water to steam before it could touch the flames.
Franky and Rob rushed forward, staying low and close to the wall while bullets were fired blindly down the hall. He lost sight of them as his own flames blinded him.
There was an explosion of sound, and he cut off his power. Gasping for air he tried to rise to his feet, he felt like he'd run a mile. Sweat covered his body, and looking down at his hand all the at was left was blackened muscle and scorched bone.
He jumped when four gunshots rang out. Then Tara was beside him, taking hold of his arm and dragging him along.
“Can you walk by yourself?” she asked.
“Yeah, I'm good now,” he muttered.
Rob and Franky were already heading up the stairs, Nodding, Tara headed up as well, awkwardly carrying Sonny in front of her. Victor spared a glance at the guards and wished he hadn't. Each one had been shot through the helmet. Vomit rose in his throat, he forced it down. They didn't have time for him to get sick. They had to run.
Trying not to jar his ruined hand, he followed his friends up the stairs.
Reloading his gun, Franky tried not to think of what he'd just done. The guards were new, he thought one of them might have been in the group that had beaten him, but killing them wasn't something he'd enjoyed or wanted. Unfortunately there'd been no choice. If he hadn't shot them, they would have been up and hunting him and the kids in a matter of minutes.
He knew it made sense, he also knew he'd be seeing them in his nightmares.
“Where to now, boss?” Rob asked.
“Vehicle bay,” he said, happy to have something to think about. “We disable the vehicles and leave through the exit, it's the only one still open.”
“And what can we expect between here and there?”
“No idea. So be ready to fight.” They got to the top of the stairs and paused at the door. “Can you hear anything?”
Rob closed his eyes for a moment. “Nada. The closed door and too many sonic booms are screwing up my hearing a bit.”
“Right. So we do this the fun way,” he said, opening the door.
“Shit! Lots of guys coming from the right, running fast,” Rob said.
“Dammit, that's the way we need to go.” Pushing the door wide open, he waved for the kids to run away from the guards. “Run like hell, head to the main lobby.”
The kids followed directions, taking off without looking back. He started to follow, keeping his gun pointed back as he jogged along. The second he saw a guard come around the corner he fired a shot, causing the person to jump back with a shout of panic. He shot again to make them cautious, then ran for his life.
If they could just make it to the main lobby they had a chance at getting out. Just a little further, he prayed to god that they'd make it.
Gunshots rang out from in front of them. Victor screamed in pain. The kids were huddled at the entrance to the lobby, hugging the floor, hiding behind the ornamental planters and security desk, while yet another squad of guards fired at them from a makeshift barricade. It looked like they'd been set up facing the outside, and had been caught in the middle of turning them to face into the facility.
“Victor! Set fire to the hallway behind us!” Franky shouted, trying to be heard over the gunfire.
“Are you crazy?!” the teen shouted back, holding his upper arm which was already soaked in blood.
“Shut up and do it, or we'll be in a crossfire!”
Victor raised his arm and let loose a wave of hellfire. The walls and ceiling erupted in flames so hot there was no chance it would go out quickly.
“Rob! Can you take them out?”
“I'm trying, but I'm outta juice, and none of my tricks are working,” he replied, his voice sounding weak.
“I thought you said you could take this whole place down if you wanted to,” Victor snapped.
“I fucking lied,” Rob snapped back. “You try to create a few sonic booms and see how you feel!”
Franky looked at the flames slowly coming towards them and the guards who were still taking potshots in their general direction. “We're going to need a fucking miracle.”
A bullet clipped her arm. It felt like a bee sting, looking down she saw it had just grazed her skin, there wasn't even a bruise.
“Are you OK?” she asked Sonny. She had tipped him over as gently as possible behind the desk, but it had to have hurt.
“I'lllive,” he groaned.
Rob ducked down, grabbing his forehead as shrapnel from the planter cut him. The air hummed like angry wasps for several seconds. Franky was just behind him, shooting with his pistol, the bullets weren't doing anything. If they even hit the guards, they weren't penetrating the armour. Victor was flat on the ground, just out of sight of the guards, a pool of blood was spreading out from his arm.
'I could stop this,' she thought.
She felt the rage deep inside her. The drugs were keeping it down, but it snapped and snarled, screaming to be unleashed.
If she wanted to, she could kill the guards in seconds. Her mind pictured her snapping their necks, crushing their skulls with a flick of her hand, throwing them so hard that their bones turned to splinters. She'd done it before. It would be easy to do it now. They'd even deserve it. She could save Franky, one of the few people she could call a friend. She would save the boys. She wouldn't be Crazy Tara then.
Then the screams came.
She heard her mother begging her to stop. Her father and cracking of bone as she broke him.
“No! No! No!” she whimpered. Clamping her hands over her ears, trying to make the screaming stop. She felt the blood of her victims dripping down her arms.
She couldn't do it.
Tears ran down her face.
Her arm jumped as a bullet hit her elbow.
Sonny was screaming beside her.
She saw Franky inching forward, trying to get a better shot.
He could order her to attack the men. He'd been ordering Rob and Victor to fight, but he only asked her to carry Sonny.
The fire was getting closer. The roaring flames were almost as loud as the gunfire.
She thought of David who had taken a punch and risked everything so she had a chance to escape.
“I won't kill anyone. I won't kill!” she shouted.
Driving her hands into the heavy desk, she lifted up and ran at the guards. It shuddered as the guards fired at it and her. Some got through and hit her, feeling like hammer blows. They hurt but they didn't stop her. Letting go of the desk it slide across the floor slamming into the barricade.
She leapt over it, grabbing the nearest gun by the barrel and whipping it across the room. She struck the disarmed guard with the palm of her hand, almost gently, sending him flying. She recoiled as a bullet hit her shoulder at point blank range. Taking hold of the shooters vest, she threw him into the center of the room, making sure he would only hit the floor.
Another shot hit her on the side. She felt the rage screaming, demanding she kill everything near her. She ignored it. Using her superhuman speed and grace, she ripped the guns away or snapped them in half. The guards were thrown painfully but carefully out of the barricade to land on the hard floor.
And then she was alone.
Franky came over to her, his hands raised. “You OK?”
She looked up, still crying. “I didn't kill them. I could have, but I didn't kill them.”
“That's right Tara,” he whispered, moving in to give her a hug. “You did good. You did everything right. Now come on, we need to get out of here.”
“OK,” she whispered.
“Are you hurt?” he asked.
She poked at the holes in her shoulder and ribs. They hurt but they were healing. “I'll survive.”
He heard footsteps coming his way. Looking up, he saw Rob's ugly face looking down at him.
“You alive?” Rob asked.
“I think so,” he said, coughing in the smoky air. “Not sure if I want to be though.”
“Can't say I blame you. I'm no doctor but I'm pretty sure bone fragments aren't supposed to be sticking out of your skin. Stay low, the air is fresher close to the floor.”
Looking at his arm, he wished he hadn't. Rob was right, his arm was broken and looked like raw hamburger. If his medicine didn't desensitize his body, he was pretty sure he'd be unconscious from the pain rather than just in agony. The acrid smoke, barely cut by the sprinklers, that was making him cough wasn't helping with the pain either. “What's going on?” he asked.
Rob waved at the door, which was hazy from the smoke and water. “Tara went and played superhero taking out the guards. Now we're trying to get out of here before the smoke kills us or the guards find a way in to kill us. From the look of things, I don't like our odds.” Helping Victor to his feet they made their way to the door.
Tara was digging her fingers into the solid metal of the emergency blast doors, trying to lift them up or tear them off. But she didn't have the mass or strength to do more than raise them an inch or two and bend the metal a little.
“If I was raging, I could do this,” she said, rubbing her shoulder which was soaked in blood.
“Not your fault,” Franky said. “These doors were made to handle a bomb blast. I think we'll have to try to tear a hole in the wall and make our way to the vehicle depot like I'd planned. I just don't like going through blind”
“Whatever we do, we need to do it fast. Some of us aren't doing so good,” Rob said, pointing at Sonny who was gasping for air.
Victor looked at the metal door. It was the quickest way out, and the only way they'd survive would be if they moved fast. “Tara, if I weaken the door enough could you make a hole?” he asked.
“Yeah, but it's really thick, can you handle it?” she asked.
“Lets find out,” he said. “Get as far away as you can. This is going to be hot.”
Franky looked like he was about to say something, but stopped himself and just put an encouraging hand on Victor’s good shoulder. The four moved to the far side of the room and ducked low.
Victor stared at the door, working up his courage. This was going to hurt. For all he knew this was going to kill him. Grabbing his ruined arm, he put his hand on the door. He couldn't let his fear stop him.
Reaching deep into himself, he grabbed the heat. His hand glowed, then the metal began glowing as well. Heat radiated from his arm, growing in intensity. Pale blue flames erupted from his skin. Burnt meat overpowered the smoke that filled the air.
He kept pushing more fire and heat through his body. Blisters rose on his face and neck. He turned his head trying to protect it from the intense heat. He began screaming in pain. Still he kept the flame going. The scream became an inhuman howl.
He couldn't think anymore. There was only the flame, the agonizing pain and the goal, he had to get through the door.
Something hit him, knocking him onto his back. For a moment the flame kept coming, but then some instinct made him stop. He was howling through blistered lips, he couldn't see. Something soft was hitting him on the chest and head. He tried to push them away but he didn't have any energy left.
Still screaming he felt everything go dark.
“Tara, get that door open now!” Franky shouted, throwing away the now burning mop he’d used to knock Victor back..
Taking off his coat, he knelt down beside the charred remains of Victor and began patting out the flames. The kids body was one massive burn, and somehow he was still screaming. His arm was gone, the stump that remained was pure charcoal. If he wasn't a regenerator Franky was sure he would be dead, as it was, there was still a good chance he'd die from his burns. Carefully he peeled the remains of Victor's shirt off, trying not to take any skin with it.
“I've got it open,” Tara said.
Franky turned to see that she'd ripped a large hole in the soft, half melted metal. She was holding her swollen, blistered hands away from her body, shaking from pain. “Good work Tara, give yourself a moment to heal, then help Sonny out.”
Taking his keys out of his pocket he tossed them to Rob. “Go start my car, you're driving.”
Rob nodded and gingerly stepped through the still glowing hole.
Lifting Victor up, the teen groaned in pain. Franky took that as a good sign, it meant his lungs were still working. He followed Tara and Sonny outside and led them to the car. It would be a tight squeeze for all of them but they'd fit. And they didn't have to sit in it for long, they had a proper getaway van a few miles down the road.
“Just hold on a little bit longer Victor, I don't want to lose you,” he said to the unconscious boy.
The alarms had finally stopped.
Carter struggled to stay on his feet, his knees ached and his arm felt numb, still he held the pistol on the Director. He didn't know what had happened, if this had all been for nothing, but he wouldn't allow himself to waver.
He heard orders being shouted in the outer office. The loyal MCO officers must have regained control of the systems, there wasn't much time left, he realized.
“Director Brown? Are you in there?” a voice shouted through the door.
“I'm here,” the Director said. “Dr. Carter is here as well, he has a pistol pointed at me.”
That was his cue. Leaning heavily on his cane he placed his pistol on the ground, unlocked the door and shuffled to the side of the room. “You can come in now, I've surrendered,” he said, surprised at how firm his voice sounded.
Security came in, pistols raised and pointed at Carter. “Get on your knees! Hands behind your head!” one of them shouted.
Grunting in pain, he complied as quickly as he was able. It wasn't the first time he'd had weapons pointed at him, and while he refused to show panic, he would rather not give them a reason to shoot him.
“What happened out there?” the Director demanded.
“The mutants escaped,” a guard said. “We've lost at least eight men, likely more, we won't know until we manually open all the emergency doors and do a headcount. The route they took was heavily damaged, mostly by fire.”
The Directors hands shook as he asked, almost calmly, “Do you know where they're going?”
“No sir. There is still a fire in the main lobby where they escaped. We were able to get out through the vehicle bay but by then they were long gone.
“Can we contact anyone on the outside?”
“The phone lines are out and the radio in the control room was destroyed. We have crews trying to repair both of them, but it will take a while. We've sent a man into town to contact the police and the MCO. For now that's the best we can do.”
Carter began laughing.
If looks could kill, Carter would be dead ten times over. The Director stalked over and glared down at him, his face as hard as stone. “I trust you realize, Dr. Carter, that you are still here.”
Smiling deeply at the Director, Carter said, “I do. I knew what would happen from the start. But what does it matter? You have a broken, foolish old man, but you've lost four young people with long lives ahead of them. I doubt the MCO will consider that a good bargain. I hope you enjoyed your career.”
Something snapped in the Directors eyes. He grabbed a pistol from the nearest guard, pointed it at Carter and pulled the trigger.
As Carter fell face first onto the carpet, he was still smiling.
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
November 6th, 1991
Franky sat on the bench freezing his ass off, pretending to be watching the water. In reality, he was watching everything but the lake. They hadn't had any run-ins with the police yet, but it would only be a matter of time before they were recognized.
He gave a quick look at Tara and Sonny, both bundled up against the cold. Tara was leaning on the wheelchair, her eyes closed while her fingers twitched as if plucking guitar strings. Sonny was just sat there, lost in his own little world.
“Yo, Franky. Got a man coming from your right, and a freaky flock of birds,” Rob said, the words whispering in his ear.
A casual look revealed a flock of songbirds flying their way. They didn't look quite right, their feathers glinted in the sun, almost like they were metal. They flew as one, circling the immediate area before landing in a bare tree. Strangest of all, they never made a sound.
The man came up a moment later. He didn't look like much, being rather scrawny with a receding hairline. He walked straight up to Franky, no expression on his face, but his eyes flickered back and forth, watching everything.
“You are Franky?” the man asked.
“Yeah. And you're The Burgermeister?” Franky asked in return.
“Please, when in public call me Mr. B. I presume Dr. Carter is...” the supervillain let his sentence trail off.
Franky nodded. “He didn't make it. He knew he wouldn't from the start.”
A flash of pain washed over Burgermeisters face. “That is sad to hear. He should have taken my offer when I made it.” A moment later he was all business once more. “I was told there would be five people.”
“Rob and Victor,” Franky said, nodding towards the two boys who were slowly walking towards them. “I didn't want anyone to see us all together and put two and two together.”
The Burgermeister nodded in understanding. “Do you have everything you need? My vehicle is nearby and we can prepare to leave immediately.”
“We've got everything important. The few clothes back at the hotel don't matter.”
“Good. Now how badly are you hurt?” he asked. “I don't have much practice with medicine, but my vehicle has a devise that can deal with emergencies.”
“Tara needs a place to calm down. She's a rager and she's been through hell. Sonny is healing up but could use some heavy duty pain killers. Victor needs any help you can provide. He's regenerator, but a slow one, and he burned off his arm and most of his skin in the escape,” Franky replied, point out the injuries.
Seemingly for the first time, Burgermeister looked at the teenagers, taking in their injuries and somber looks. The flock of birds took flight, becoming a dark cloud overhead. “The MCO did all of this?” he asked in a whisper.
The flock of birds moved like a spear towards a lone seagull that was pecking at some garbage on the lake shore. For a moment the seagull was surrounded by the tiny birds, then the flock was back in the sky. Where the seagull had been was a bloody smear of meat and feathers.
“Damn!” Rob said, looking at the birds. The others backed away from the supervillain, looking towards Franky for support.
The Burgermeister gave a small smile. “I'm sorry, I let my emotions get the better of me. I promise you this, as long as you are under my protection anyone who wants to harm you will have to go over my dead body. And people far better than the MCO have tried to kill me.”
“Where are we going?” Tara asked.
“Karedonia. It's still a work in progress, but it's the safest place in the world for you right now.”
“Thanks for your help,” Franky said, “but I'm not sure what we'll do once we get there. I was busy figuring out how to get the kids out, past that Dr. Carter said he'd look after it all.
The Burgermeister nodded. “He was afraid you might get caught, so he didn't tell you much. But don't worry, he left his affairs in order with me, that includes his Swiss bank account. Property is cheap in Karadonia, you can buy a nice plot of land and start a restaurant or a hotel.” He chuckled, “Or maybe even a theme park for the kids. Gizmatic would probably loan you the money for that. Now let's get moving, it's too cold and public out here. Have any of you ever been on a submarine? It's not very fast, but it is peaceful and very secret. I have some funny stories I can tell you to help pass the time, like why I don't work with Dr. Diabolik anymore.”
November 10th, 1991
New York City
Mallory took another drink as he looked over the files Dr. Carter had sent him. He'd spent the last few days writing up one of the best articles of his life, making copies of the gruesome experiments, horrifying pictures, and outright torture that was occurring in the MCO. And then he'd shown his editor.
The article had been ripped up, and he'd almost lost his job, the issue was simply too hot. If it was published it could bring the mob down on the newspaper. The fact the files had been stolen from the MCO was another nail in the coffin for the article.
The MCO was a rising star, the hero of the moment. Going against them would definitely cause a public backlash and could get politicians involved. The editor simply couldn't risk it.
And then he'd gotten a phone call that morning, along with a set of pictures.
There was a knock on the door.
Draining his glass, Mallory answered it.
Two men stepped inside his apartment. “Mr. Mallory, do you have the files?” the older one asked.
“Right over there,” he said, motioning to his coffee table, where they had all hastily thrown into a box.
“Did you make any copies?”
“I put them with the files.”
The man smiled. “Very good.”
“What about my family?” he asked.
“As long as you keep to our agreement, you, your ex-wife and your son are fine. None of you are mutants, so we have no problem with you,” the man said, while his partner grabbed the box. “Have a good evening, Mr. Mallory, I sincerely hope we don't meet again.”
Locking his door, Mallory poured himself another drink.