"What the hell are you doing?"
Rebecca was standing in the middle of the pipe, looking no worse for wear, aside from being a bit sweatier and having what was either a large bruise or a hickey on her neck. But that wasn't what concerned me.
"The job, now help me with her."
Slung over her shoulder in a haphazard fireman's carry was an unconscious woman with one side of her head shaved, looked to be in her mid twenties, and very strongly resembled Asher's descriptions of Lonnie.
I moved to take some of the dead weight off of her shoulders. "What happened to just intelligence gathering?"
"I saw the opportunity and I took my swing." We began moving up the side of the ditch
I shook my head, we could talk about this later, when we weren't in hostile territory. I tapped the comm button on my headset, "All teams, Aphrodite has stepped onto the beach, and she's decided we're skipping to phase three. Support element is to move to Olympus, exempting Typhon. ETA to rendezvous point is twelve minutes."
Two clicks came over the frequency, communication confirmed. I was keeping Goris back as a precaution, but the satellite scans had allowed me to pick out a route that kept us away from most of the hot spots. Still you never knew what was going to happen, particularly with untrained nutjobs who refused to maintain a cohesive operations schedule.
Moving through the streets of a dead city with a raider held between us, I asked her, "So, you want to tell me what happened in there?"
"Get me drunk, then maybe."
That was a task that I'd have to put off.
The immediate problem was the bit of theater I had set up.
The stage I picked was the room where I woke up, it had the right ambiance. Well, it did after Sturges and I managed to re-rig the lighting. Ask any stage manager, they'll tell you how important lighting is, it makes or breaks the production.
And for this show, I went with a classic, a single bright bulb over the chair in the center of the room creating a circle of light and obscuring the rest of the room in darkness. Cliché, but clichés become that way for a reason.
My casting was a bit thin, but I could make do. Mikhail, Ben, Preston, and Asher would handle the first act, with Mikhail taking center stage.
And of course, any good production needs a director sitting behind the camera, in this case the one hidden on top of the cryopod next to our captive audience.
"Just finished settin' everything up. We're good to go." Sturges came into my office via the reactor tunnel.
"Good, is Asher okay?" I didn't like putting him in this position, thankfully he didn't seem to have much of a problem with claustrophobia.
"He's good, I pulled a few of the pipes, so he's got air. And I checked the switch, it'll work just fine when his bit comes." He pointed at the little orb that now projected the camera's view onto the wall. "Damn, there anything that sweet piece can't do?"
"Just a simple projector, now hush, the show's about to start."
I grinned, I couldn't help myself.
Lonnie was in the center of the spotlight, bound to her chair by zip tie, a black bag over her head. The sedatives we'd pumped into her since getting back to Sanctuary were finally wearing off and she was beginning to struggle.
Enter stage left, Mikhail followed by two full suits of power armor. I'm not normally into guys, but even I've got to admit that the Russian is quite a sight in his tailored, tsar green, dress uniform.
"Who's there, where the fuck am I, tell me what the fuck is going on or I swear I'll fucking cut your dicks off!" She was angry, but the fear was there, perfect.
Mikhail didn't answer he merely paced around her for one rotation, then backhanded her hard enough to knock the chair over, her with it.
She writhed at her bonds like a fish out of water. "What the fuck are you saying?"
He kicked her in the stomach, not as hard as the first hit. "Do not speak you vonjuchij bitch."
"What the hell do you want?" She was screaming now.
Mikhail dragged her and the chair upright and ripped her bag off. She blinked, bleary eyed from the sudden glare. Mikhail gave her a moment to take in the contents of their little island of light. The uniform, the men in power armor, she wouldn't know what it all meant, but it would tell her she was dealing with people who meant business
"Wh-who are you?"
The fear was kicking in now, this wasn't a woman used to being helpless, but she wasn't weak. Climbing to the top of an organization like this one wasn't for the demure. She had a healthy fear of torture and death, if I wanted her for information, that would be enough, but I needed more for what I had planned.
Mikhail brought himself to his full height, filling as much space as he could with his polar-bear frame. From where Lonnie was, he must have appeared truly world-encompassing. "I am General Winter, supreme commander of the Long Night, the greatest standing army in the world." He drove his finger into her chest, "You are a pathetic savage."
He was playing up his accent, he liked to do that during interrogations, made him seem more alien, more like the other.
Her eyes widened, she'd undoubtedly heard the story from the raider Mikhail had tortured and sent to Lexington, maybe she'd even seen what he did to him. She'd certainly seen the mutilated corpses that we'd been sprinkling around her stomping grounds, perfect.
"Look, I'll tell you what you whatever you want."
Mikhail threw his head back, letting out a hearty laugh in that way only a Russian can. "And what could you have that we want? Your little comrade has given us so much already."
He stepped to the edge of the circle and appeared to manipulate the control panel on the cryopod that I had emerged from what felt like a life time ago.
That was the cue, and Asher hit his mark perfectly.
The light in the pod came on, Asher covered in frost that was actually chalk and glitter started pounding on the window the same way I had. "H-h-help! P-please, just let-t me out!" He was screaming and thrashing, "I-I t-think-k I'm d-dying."
A little melodramatic perhaps, but it did the job.
Then Mikhail flipped another disconnected switch and the light went out, and Asher went quiet again. "Perhaps we thaw him out for more when we are done with you, da?"
To my surprise, she impressed me. "He's just a kid I found in a bar, he doesn't know anything, let him go and I'll tell you whatever you want."
She knew she wasn't getting released, so she was trying to save him, a noble gesture. If Asher himself hadn't argued against it, I might have considered going in the other direction I could take this plan.
Still, better this way, when you're throwing an elbow, you don't pull it on impact.
"You will tell me whatever I desire regardless." Mikhail turned back towards Lonnie and the camera. "Tell me, did you see the messenger that we sent to you?"
"Yes." The answer was tight, but the gulp said more than enough.
"Then you know what will be done to you." He took a firm hold on her arm, "Do you know how frostbite works savage?" The grip tightened, "The cold causes ice tissues to form in the tissue, it starts in the skin, you will lose feeling, then it will go deeper, to the muscles, then the blood, and the bone. Your skin will turn red, then white, then black. And when it has reached its peak, when the appendage has been frozen all the way through." He released his grip and slammed his fist against the pod behind him, "Then we will shatter it."
He let his inner wolf out in the grin he gave her. "I will do this with each part of your body, one piece at a time, until you are nothing but little shards on the floor."
I turned to Sturges, "Tell Rebecca to get into costume, it's time for the second act."
The mechanic did as he was bid, and I turned toward the door.
It was time for Lonnie to meet Lucy Ferris.
Act Two, the leading lady enters stage left, followed by her trusty companion.
The door opened and I stepped into the room, my trench coat was black, it covered a bright red dress shirt and black slacks. My hair was dyed crimson, a flawless ruby hung from a gold chain around my neck, a pair of obsidian studs sat in my earlobes, a gold pocket watch sat in my jacket pocket, connected to a small loop on the inside of my coat.
All eyes were on me when I came through the door. All eyes except for Lonnie's
Lonnie's were focused on the background character, on Rebecca.
Rebecca was standing behind me, wearing my nanosuit, my goggles, my mask, my swords, and the red lights on each were turned to the highest possible setting. She looked like a demon in the dark.
She looked like the Reaper.
"Holy shit, it's real." Lonnie's voice was barely a whisper, but she was gaping like a fish. She must have heard the story from my little present.
I pretended not to notice her, hitting Mikhail with the most intense glare in my arsenal. "General, what exactly do you think you are doing with my prisoner?"
Mikhail countered my glare with a vicious smirk, "She is in my facility Director, that makes her my prisoner, to do with as I please."
I shook my head slightly, in the same way I would if an intern had gotten me the wrong coffee order for the third time in a week. Then I reached into my coat and produced a folded up piece of paper. "I have the backing of High Command. If you have a problem, then take it up with them."
Mikhail's grin fell into a scowl and he stormed over, snatching the paper from my hand, offering a quick conspiratorial grin while he was out of view from Lonnie, then the scowl was back and he threw the paper to the ground. "Suka, fine, you want the savage, take her."
Then he stormed past me, Preston and Ben stomping after him. The door sealed shut behind us and I stepped into the light, looking at Lonnie like a bug under a magnifying glass.
I turned to Rebecca, "Knock her out, I've still got a meeting with the Sea Lords before I have time to deal with her." That had been a hard line to work out, the same with the titles, they needed to sound impressive, but they had to be something she could understand enough to be impressed by.
"Wait, ju-agh," Rebecca slipped behind Lonnie and jammed a needle full of fast acting sedatives into her carotid artery. A few seconds later, she was unconscious.
Once we were sure she was out like Emma on a Saturday night, I turned and yanked the release on Asher's pod.
The kid came stumbling out, the past two weeks had been good to him. Between the shaving, regular showers, regular meals, and lack of drug use, he was actually filling out into a handsome young man. The implants were taking his physical training to the next level, he wasn't in military shape, but he was getting there, by now he could pass for a second string quarterback on the average pre-war high school team.
"How'd I do?"
I patted him on the shoulder, "A bit over the top, but it did the job for this one, we'll work on it." I paused, "Are you sure about her? I'm willing to reconsider after seeing her in here. This is the point of no return."
Asher was quiet, that was a good thing, deciding to consign someone you know to death should never be an easy thing. When he finally spoke, his voice was steady. "Yes, I'm sure, Lonnie's not crazy like Jared, but she could never survive in the world we're trying to make, she's a raider, she'll never be anything else."
I nodded, "Alright, get yourself a shower and get suited up, Mikhail's going to want to run you through drills. You'll be in Wolf Pack for phase 4."
He winced at the mention of drills, but I could see the little glint of pride in his eyes. "Yes ma'am."
I couldn't help but smile as he left, the kid was a diamond in the rough, he'd make a hell of an operator one day. Then I turned back to the matter at hand, "Come on, let's get her into my office."
Setting, my office.
Cast, me as Lucy Ferris, Rebecca as the Reaper, and Lonnie as herself.
And no, before you get any ideas, this isn't the final act for this operation. This little production is of the Shakespearian five-act variety.
I chose my office for the same reason I chose to walk in with a paper full of random scribblings, everything about me had to scream Upper Management.
Nightmares were scary, the thought of being slowly tortured to death by a huge Russian thug is scary, but neither serve as a good leverage on their own. But what is feared more, the person who holds the leash of the nightmares. This is the one that you talk to, the one who can make or take your life with one word, because of this, this is the one that you will do anything for because they're the only person that can keep you safe.
Of course, I wasn't going to keep her safe, but she didn't need to know that.
Lonnie was slumped in the chair in front of my desk, the sedative was a far lighter dose than what we'd been using on her while we prepped for the introduction.
I honestly couldn't bring myself to feel any hate for her. I'd expected I would, usually I feel a fair bit of disgust for these third world thugs when I get them face to face. This one, I couldn't, maybe it was just the fact that the world had been blown to hell, maybe it was what Asher had said about her. She was a raider, and she couldn't survive in a world where that wasn't an option. I could sympathize with that, more than a few people had said similar about me, and I'd certainly made use of those sort of people, former soldiers mostly, as disposables. Disposables were operatives that could be sent on operations and any connections they had to the US were easily denied.
After about a half hour, she started to stir, and the intermission was over, it was time to get back to the show.
I picked up the dead phone on the desk and said something official sounding into it. "Yes, we need the Eighth division moved down to Baltimore, yes, all 50,000 of them. The operational timetable begins next week."
I put the phone down, and pretended to only just notice her waking up. "Ah good, you're finally awake."
She wasn't bound, but she didn't move, Rebecca standing behind me ensured that. When she did speak, she was quiet, tentative, "What do you want with me?"
I steepled my fingers, "Straight to the point, I respect that. I am Lucy Ferris, Director of Intelligence and Special Operations for Task Force Long Night, we are a joint Russian-American task force created shortly before the Great War consisting of the most elite units of our nations' respective armed forces." I smiled, "But none of that is important at the moment."
I gave her a second to ask the question. "Then what is?"
My smile grew wider.
"The fact that I am the only hope that you have of getting yourself and at least some of your friends out of this alive."
Okay guys, I warned you about this, my updates going forward will be spottier than a Dalmatian playing twister.
I have three research papers due in the next two weeks, so I'm going to be busy as all hell. I'll work on this as much as I can, but just so you guys know.
Honestly I had to cut this one short to get it up this Friday.
Either way, R&R people.