Notes: Warning! Violence and sex ensues, so if you're squimish, look away!
We went to bed afterwards, her exhausted and me having to work the next day. All through night and into the morning, ghosts of the rich and powerful haunted me. Every terrible corporate pyramid climbing movie I'd ever watched (The Devil's Advocate and The Firm stand front and center) visited me in my dreams. Sebastian Shaw--the devilish powerbroker--and Betsy--his unwilling victim--reprised their roles in every unoriginal fashion. His corrupting claws would sink deeper and deeper into her till she couldn't escape, till she didn't even remember who I was.
I gave her an extra hug and kiss this morning to banish my demons. Her comforting words and cleared up eyes gave me the courage to head into work.
Still hadn't turned on my cell phone yet, but my parents were another beast best left to wrestle later.
"How are ya doin', Ms. Cerras?" greeted the parking attendant, a sweet, heavy set, middle aged woman named Dorothy.
"It's another day," I smiled while handing her my parking permit to stamp. "Hope it'll be same old, same old."
My reflection from her bifocals let me know how unconvincing my feigned joy was. "Well, I got good news to perk you right up."
As she fumbled around under her cash register, I turned my head around to peek at the mass of cars lined up behind me. The hostile glares from fellow motorists, agitated at my slowing down Dorothy's usually efficient work, burned holes into my good sense. I wanted to tell her to hurry up, that "perking me right up" wasn't worth the bother, that I appreciated her gesture. My heart couldn't find the callousness to say so.
Moments before horns blared, she sat back up and handed me a black tag to hook onto my rearview mirror.
"One of the secretaries told me to give it to you," she winked. "Looks like you're moving up the world!"
A black tag. Managing Partners had black tags on their cars so they could park in the VIP section closest to the elevators. Security cameras and security guards watched the spacious twelve car area with vigilance and ferocity. A car without the hallowed tag would meet Bad Things if parked there for any amount of time. I heard of delivery people, presumptuous employees, and clueless visitors complaining about missing vehicles, wheel boots, and, even one instance, broken windows.
A black tag? I wasn't even close to sniffing Partner territory! I wasn't old enough, I wasn't influential enough, heck, I hadn't even made enough sales yet! What did I do you deserve a-
A car horn's blare followed by a "Move it, lady!" made me pull forward. To park or not to park, that was the question. Actually, not even a question: this had to be a mistake. Mistake on Dorothy's part for maybe confusing me with someone else, and barring that, a mistake on my part for accepting the tag.
My better sense screamed "bribe from the rich and powerful Sebastian Shaw!"
I veered off to where I normally parked my car. Low and behold, a cosmic joke conspired against me: no spots. Oh, there was one spot, but the idiot on the right felt it appropriate to take up a space and half with his boat-like Tahoe. Freakin' NRA members...
The black tag beckoned me, this time much more appealing. Parking anywhere wasn't unreasonable but the walk would be far. The route back here after nightfall wasn't seedy but I didn't want to stake my life on it. I mean, people still talked about the time one of the security guards tried to kidnap a former colleague of mine. Understandably, she got scared and decided to work at another real estate firm, not that I blamed her.
I knew I shouldn't, but in the end, I did.
My Lexus pulled up into a fleet of BMWs, Bentleys, and Jaguars. One of the guards posted there to ward off mere mortals like myself made a move to stop me, but when he spied the black tag, he sat back down and gave me the most courteous smile. I could get used to this if I wasn't certain Sebastian Shaw wanted to buy my soul.
Creepy... frowning... lecherous... power hungry Sebastian Shaw...
I grabbed my cell phone and-
Stopped. Hadn't turned on my cell phone since yesterday. Probably missed a bevy of calls, most of them from Mom and Dad. Turning on my phone meant having to face that reality when all I wanted to do was call and ask Betsy, "Would Shaw really be this blatantly underhanded?"
I screamed in surprise when I heard the guard, formerly sitting at his perch, tap against my window. "Ma'am, are you ok?"
"Fine," I squeaked, stuffing my phone in my purse and bolting out of the car. "Just forgot something at home, that's all."
He didn't believe me but it wasn't his place to question me. Black tag, remember? I could probably slap his face and he'd ask me for another. The comforting thought didn't do anything for my dignity as I all but sprinted into the building. I needed to get in my office and call Betsy. I needed to think of a rational explanation for the black tag.
Instead I heard applause.
At first I thought it was someone's birthday. Receptionists and interns grinned at me as they clapped. Acquaintances stopped whatever they were doing and beamed, some even resorting to cat calls. Other associates surrounded me while offering congratulations and handshakes. A virtual sea of humanity overwhelmed me with their genuine encouragement.
It wasn't someone's birthday; it felt a lot like my funeral.
My boss' face materialized from the chaos. Despite the almost joyful chuckles, he wasn't pleased: he looked at me like I was a thief, his handshake was too firm, and his smile showed too much teeth.
"Guess you're walking with big dogs now."
He spoke flatly, unable to keep the envy and puzzlement out of his voice. Whatever working relationship we had shattered against my newfound success. From my friends, I spotted similar expressions of outwardly happy but inwardly steamed. Against my will, disappointment made my cheeks redden and my eyes teary. I knew I had other things, namely Sebastian Shaw, to consider, but it hurt to know the people I trusted, people I worked with for years, people who I invited to my home were so... so... petty.
Then again, I'd be steamed at myself if I wasn't me. Actually, I was steamed at myself. Who was the dense, stupid, unconfident, trouble-seeking girl who just got promoted? That's right: me. Instead of listening to my good sense, I walked into the office praying what I knew wasn't real. For Christ's sake, my cell phone was turned off because I didn't have the spine to talk to my parents! Immature, crazy, and stupid, stupid, stupid.
"Now, now folks, please let her take it all in: our lady of the hour seems stunned at the attention."
I couldn't even see him, but with that one declaration, Sebastian Shaw quieted the entire office. His presence stifled exuberance and magnified my own misgivings. Bolting seemed like a good idea but I was trapped, pinned in from all sides by those I didn't know what to make of anymore. An immediate tenseness, like when a teacher walked into a room, descended and blanketed the room in quiet, questioning murmurs.
Sebastian strode to the forefront, his bulky body cutting through the crowd in a primal way which reminded me of Betsy. In the daylight (perhaps because of those surrounding us), his frown lines didn't appear as deep, his eyebrows didn't furl in annoyance, and his eyes didn't gleam with a dangerous glint: he actually looked less villainous and more human.
"Ms. Cerras," he said, "it's my pleasure to inform you that as of this morning, you've become a Managing Partner at La Roche and Associates." A pause and judging by the lipless smile, it was probably for dramatic effect. "I'd like for us to have a private meeting in the conference room. As you can tell, this will be quite the adjustment for you."
The way he said "adjustment" sent chills through me; all his human qualities went out the window. I frantically searched other faces to see if they caught the inflection but the crowd remained steadfastly oblivious. I was alone and cornered by what Betsy told me was a devil of a man.
How come this felt worse than the time I was kidnapped and used as bait by Japanese assassins?
One wave of his hand dismissed the crowd like unwelcome bugs. Sounds of phones, copying machines, and controlled chaos reasserted themselves. I marveled how this silent place could come to life without delay or fanfare, then I remembered Sebastian's accomplice. Martinique? Lady Mastermind? Whatever she called herself, she could influence minds. How could I be sure everything here wasn't some kind of illusion? What told me anything today was real? Was I caught in her grasp already? Did Sebastian have another crueler trick up his sleeve?
A closing door brought my mind back to earth and into the conference room. How did I get in here? I didn't remember-
"By now I'm sure you have plenty of questions, Ms. Cerras. What do I want with you? Why were you promoted? Why are you here? Valid inquiries, but as a man of science, I clearly separate 'valid' from 'pertinent.'"
I tried to turn around to face him but I couldn't. I... I couldn't! I stood at rigid attention, my chest thrust out, my mouth closed, and all I wanted to do was scream for all I was worth!
The door closed behind me as I broke out into a cold sweat. The opened blinds showing the insides of the conference room to everyone in the office shut. The ones at the windows? Already closed. With a flick of a switch, Sebastian plunged my world into darkness. All I could make out were the edges of the massive table before me and his shadowy body striding to the front of the room.
Every step seemed to make him grow both in height and bulk.
Despite his back to me, he continued his speech. "Ms. Cerras, you are special. I speak not of your abilities or personality--no, I reserve that for those simpleton therapists many of you are fond of--but rather I speak of your heritage, your genetics. Regardless of what you may think you know, your family tree is convoluted, one born from hurt, deception, and revenge."
My eyes adjusted to the darkness. He slowly faced me and all of sudden, shining like a dreadful star in the sky, a red glow gleamed from his forehead. Sebastian's skin turned as white as snow, his teeth grew sharper, and his pupils disappeared into pits of nothingness.
My mouth could move again but my body remained rigid. "Mr... Mr... Shaw?"
"Not Shaw," he grinned, "Sinister, and you, my daughter, should be asking yourself the only pertinent question: am I ready?"
My name was Vivian Cerras. I was thirty one years old and in a serious relationship. My job? Real estate at La Roche. I lived in a Greenwich Village loft shared by my lover, Elisabeth Braddock. My parents, Harold and Yvette, had no idea I was a lesbian. My friends called me Peeps and I enjoy-
"You are Specimen SP3, part of my Progeny experiment. Your mother, Dr. Yvette Leigh Cerras, is a direct descendent of Rebecca Essex, my dearly departed wife. Rebecca was perfect in every way, her beauty dwarfed only by the fantastic but dormant mutations building up in her genome. Various factors--some environmental but most genetic--prevented her from phenotypical manifestations of mutant abilities. When she died in 1859, I had no clue what a strand of DNA could accomplish, and like a fool, I allowed her to be cremated."
I was normal. I was gay, but I was normal. I didn't have any powers, I couldn't jump over buildings, and I certainly couldn't break out of the surgical table I was strapped to. My cell phone wasn't on; even if it was, it wasn't in reach. The person whom I thought was Sebastian Shaw kidnapped me and took me to this sterile place. Betsy-
"However, she gave me one son. Mutations are not always kind and Adam bore the curse of Rebecca's unique genetics. Born without those inhibitors which kept Rebecca healthy, diseases rare and many ravaged him, so many not even I could save him. I thought her legacy ended, but years later, I found out I was wrong. In my all encompassing quest to perfect my work to unravel Darwin's theories, Rebecca had a affair with another man. She hid herself from me for months, not that I would've noticed her morning sickness or growing abdomen. When she conceived, brothers, sisters, parents surrounded her, no husband. She gave the child to them, recovered from her labor, and returned to me as if nothing happened."
Betsy needed to rescue me. How I didn't know, but I needed her right now. This madman Sinister was lecturing me, shooting me up with needles, and attaching things all over me. I was scared and naked and getting tired. Tired, not in a physical kind of way, but in a mind tired kind of way.
"Only by happenstance did I discover this illegitimate lineage, this family of normal humans balancing on the precipice of greatness and doom. I bide my time. After spending years sorting through genetic filth and painfully pedestrian specimens, I found Yvette. She most closely resembled Rebecca's perfection and I deemed her worthy to bear me a child capable of carrying the Essex name. I posed as a patient, copulated with her during a counseling session, and you are the result."
No, Mom and Dad... loved each other. Mom had standards and never even befriended her patients. I had Dad's nose and ears. Something I... I didn't have? A white face and gr... greasy slicked back hair... Also lacking the glowing red thing on my forehead. I was Vivian Cerras, not... not...
Another needle plunged into me and I gasped. "Yet you still are not what I'm looking for. Close I have to say, but not close enough. The mutations within you, muted by the same confounding factors which stifled Rebecca's ascendance, will not suffice. I could destroy those inhibitory genes yet the same fate which befell Adam would befall you. Thus, you are my daughter but not my heir. The mother to my heir? After extensive analysis on my vast database, I have to say yes."
This guy was... was... crazy. Oh lord, was he going to rape me? Why was he giving me all these... these... drugs?
"Mutants now manifest their powers in limited quantities: rarely do we see a telepath with impregnable skin or a shapeshifter capable of firing kinetic blasts. Lying within you is the potential to simultaneously achieve an astounding variety of powers at unheard of levels. Your child would be nothing short of divine, and hence, my perfect heir. The father will need to have incredible abilities to overcome what has amounted to Rebecca's curse. I believe James Braddock Jr. is this man, one whose genes--coupled with his reality altering abilities--can potentially unlock the wealth inside of you. Your child will change the fate of mutantkind, and indeed, the world."
A car's horn jostled me to my senses. The light turned green and I wasn't going, a veritable sin against God in this busy Manhattan traffic. The person behind me in the Mini swerved onto part of the sidewalk to get around me. As he passed, we made eye contact, I flipped him the finger, and my car roared forward to leave him in a difficult position.
Hoped he wasn't one of my neighbors.
The rest of my drive home was uneventful. Uneventful was good because it allowed me to prepare myself for my insatiable Betsy. I grew sinfully wet at my titillating thoughts of mouths and tongues and pussies and breasts. I sucked in a breath of cold air while my quivering legs did their best to get me home to a red faced, panting, and cum drenched Betsy. My hand left the steering wheel and brushed against the tube of hand lotion Father provided me with.
"It's a sedative with aphrodisiac qualities designed to be absorbed through the vaginal mucosa. I'm sure you know what to do with it."
I knew what to do with it alright. As I pulled into my condo's parking structure, I checked myself in the rearview. My eyes didn't have those dark rings around them, my lipstick wasn't smudged, and my hair was perfectly tussled--nothing amiss, at least no more than what I experienced at the office on a normal day.
Park, exit, go up stairs, stop outside home. I put my ear against the door to hear sounds of frying, chopping, and classical music. My Betsy was cooking dinner for us. Had to do something to repay her, no?
Setting down my briefcase, I popped the top on the lotion and rubbed its cold jelly all over my hands. I expected a tingling sensation or something, but I got none. Should I have expected it? No, Father was a genius and he didn't let little details like this slip by. The lotion would work only where he wanted it to, nowhere else. I tucked the tube into my purse and took out my keys.
"Mmm, what's that wonderful smell, honey?"
"Almond chicken, luv," Betsy replied from the kitchen amidst much pot banging. "You're home early tonight."
I shrugged off my coat and threw my personal effects on the couch. I undid the top two buttons of my shirt while kicking off my shoes. "I couldn't wait to get out of there. It was one of those days, you know?"
When I rounded the corner, I had to steady my breath. Betsy had her hair in a ponytail and the cutest pair of glasses on her face. She wore a casual kimono, the light green one with the gold sash she just loved to strut around in. About fifteen other things went on at once yet the place didn't look like a war zone. Bowls and measuring cups floated to and fro while lids lifted themselves off to stop the soup from boiling over. She herself presided over the cutting board, knife in hand and flashing with deadly precision. It looked to be an impressive spread tonight, but I only hungered for one thing.
We briefly kissed while I hugged her from behind. A few light strokes coaxed her nipples to stand up and show their impressions through the kimono's thin silk. "I missed you," I purred into her ear.
"Really?" she chuckled. "I couldn't tell."
I could tell by the way her chopping slowed she was getting into the moment. With an aggressiveness belying my usual ways, I ripped off her sash. Her delightful squeal and the clothes' opening allowed me to massage her gorgeous mounds. Her knife clanked onto the counter, concentration waning.
Need tinged my already husky voice. "I want to fuck you right here, right now."
No excuses about dinner escaped her. Vegetables, cutting boards, and serving dishes scattered like sand as she twisted herself around and lanced her tongue into my mouth. I hooked my hands onto the back of her thighs and lifted her onto the counter. By now the kimono drifted down past her shoulders; would've been simple to disrobe her, but I spurred myself on. I sucked on a nipple and pressed against my fingers against the sensitive area surrounding her sex.
Her head cracked against a cabinet but the blow did nothing to slow her moans. I surged upwards to mute her nonsensical gasps. Would she scream when the drug was taking hold? Would she know what was happening to her? I didn't want to find out.
With our lips sealed around each other, I pushed four fingers into her. Forsaking my usual ministrations, I worked to coat the drug all over her insides. I turned and spread and stretched, each fleeting touch against her bringing forth jolts of excitement from her. She bucked against my hand, wetness gushing from her like a flood. Electricity coursed through her making her usually calculated, fluid motions erratic and out of rhythm. We fucked, or rather I fucked her, fucked her till her tight ponytail frayed, her body burst into an intense sweat, and her glasses lay crooked on her face.
Limply, she fell away from my kiss and slumped against the cabinet.
Her hips still gyrated on their own. All around me, pots boiled over, pans charred what was once appetizing, and Betsy's eyes rolled into the back of her head. Finally, all her muscles caved into exhaustion and the only thing keeping her from sliding onto the ground was my hand imbedded in her pussy.
From behind me, a dark light ripped through the air like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. Images materialized beyond the darkness, but it was still so hazy and foreboding. Father said I was to use it to go back to him.
A spittle of drool cascaded down the side of Betsy's mouth. I licked it clean and whispered to her, "Don't worry, my love, Father will know what's best for us."
Father knew what's best. I gathered her in my arms, took a deep breath, and stepped through the portal. The trip? Instantaneous. My bright kitchen filled with smells of sex and still sizzling chicken blended into Father's cold, impersonal lab. Cold, stale air stood my hairs on end. Before the portal could completely collapse, another person tried to relieve me of Betsy.
Martinique. Lady Mastermind. I didn't like her, though why I wasn't quite sure..
Father saw our impromptu staring match. He gave an indulgent chortle and declared, "Let her bring Psylocke to me, Martinique. I love it so when my children want to be involved in my work!"
I struggled to carry Betsy but I wouldn't let Father down. I wouldn't show weakness to Martinique, make her vile, hateful sneer bloom into mocking laughter. After summoning all my strength, I gently lay Betsy down on the metal examination table. The moment I did, the table came to life. What appeared solid liquefied into restraints around her arms, legs, and torso.
Father clasped a collar around her neck. Despite it digging into her flesh, Betsy seemed none bothered. A tray full of instruments--scalpels, syringes, electrodes, other things I had no familiarity with--levitated itself beside Father.
"Are you going to hurt her?"
All conscious parties seemed surprised at my question, myself the most. Was Father going to hurt Betsy? What kind of dumb question was that? What I felt didn't matter. What Betsy felt didn't matter. Father was trying to save mutantkind, and when saving so many, some inevitably got hurt. Betsy knew where her brother Jamie was, and in knowing so, also held the key for saving her people. Why then did I feel so apprehensive?
Father squinted at me, disapproving. "I see your willpower is greater than I anticipated, daughter. Truly remarkable that someone like yourself with no manifested powers can stand up to the drugs I've put into you. Remarkable," his voice dipped to a dangerous low, "and remarkably annoying. Martinique, please correct my daughter's state of mind while I extract some valuable information from Psylocke."
I found myself being dragged away from Father and Betsy. What had I done? I'd displeased Father and left Betsy in a lurch. I was not fond of Martinique and now I was going to be alone with her while she "corrected" my state of mind.
Her grip on my wrist tightened, nails now digging into my skin. The subtle but sadistic move reminded me of... of... last night? What was it about her and last night? Why did I not like her? Reaching beyond the past hour was too hard and something inside me screamed that Father wasn't helping matters. An epic migraine set in behind my eyes and jabbed at my brain. Waves of nausea flipped my stomach back and forth the more I searched myself for the reasons behind my actions.
The more I thought, the faster Martinique dragged me. She muttered vile curses and undisguised disgust at me, uncertain what Father would want "in this neurotic, clueless whiner, daughter or no." Passing by corridor after corridor we went, often past vats with people or monsters inside of them. Machines beeped and lights flashed while the pale blue light overhead kept the laboratory amply lit and suitably mysterious all at the same time. No other soul greeted us along the way; no computer's voice told us we were making too much noise.
Judging by the stream of profanity coming out of Martinique's mouth, I could see why nothing wanted to bother us.
"That's enough of your snarkish thinking, flatscan." Her open palm crashed against my cheek and knocked me to one knee.
The stark hit cleared my malaise and only now did I notice we were in another room, not a corridor. Flasks containing all sorts of liquids bubbled away here. Chemical stenches weighed down on me while my captor filled a syringe from a nearby cylinder. A blue hue reminded me of...
... earlier today, screaming and struggling against my bonds, watching as the thing called Mr. Sinister shot me up...
The sickness returned but I held on to the memory. What else happened? What was it about last night and Martinique? I hated her, but why? Betsy warned me about-
I looked up in time to see a needle coming at me. Quickly--more quickly than I thought I was capable of at the moment--I jerked aside, snared her wrist, and twisted. The glass carpule shattered when it hit the ground but I paid it no attention; instead, I forced myself against her. Two steps in and I felt us toppling, me atop her, onto a table. Scalding liquid splashed onto me, but from the way Martinique swore, she got the worse of it.
I tried to punch her, I really did, but my fist weighed a ton and my head wouldn't stay up. My slowing moves allowed her to throw me off and take back control of the fight. I remembered why I was fighting now, because Mr. Sinister had tricked me by pretending to be Sebastian Shaw and had used Martinique the previous night to read my mind. Betsy was in trouble because of me and I was her only hope.
The tip of a leather boot clipped my temple, sending me reeling. She grabbed a fistful of my hair and made me look up at her. "You like playing rough, don't you? It's no wonder a slut like Psylocke lets you eat her pussy!"
The lotion. The drug I used on Betsy. Some of the slick cream still remained on my hands. For a defiant moment, I narrowed my eyes at her. She gasped as her telepathy showed her what I intended to do. We moved as one, her backing away and me driving my shoulder into her stomach. Again she slammed into the table but awareness of the sharp glass scattered from our previous pass made her fight to remain upright.
Despite the wrongness of it all, I shoved my hand under her tight waistband. A sudden jab into my mind almost blacked me out but Betsy's memory kept me from going under. As my fingers came up against unfamiliar folds of flesh, my migraine worsened to epic portions. Blood leaked from my nose and maybe even my ears. Her fists beat against my back. She tried to squirm away but I held fast.
When I entered her vagina, she was desert dry. Seconds after my digits went in, she was writhing in ecstasy. Instead of punching me, she pawed at my shirt. My headache lessened though the bleeding continued. The first few thrusts were hard, but now, I easily slipped my entire fist into her slippery canal. Carnal shrieks echoed from wall to wall. She ground her hips into my hand to relieve her tension but I wasn't being kind.
I pulled my hand out of her and fell onto my butt.
Martinique--torso splayed onto the glass littered table and legs hanging over the edge--spasmed, caught in the clutches of orgasm after orgasm. A wet patch formed around her crotch and expanded to her inner thighs. She violently squeezed her breasts, seemingly trying to tear away her clothes to get a better grip. Eventually, she slowed, probably from her profusely bleeding wounds but more likely because of the drug. The wet patch found its way down to her knees. Meaningless twitches now replaced powerful orgasms, her body spent just like Betsy's was.
My head spun. A fever consumed me. Shivers unsteadied my body. Close by, Betsy needed me because I was too dumb to run when I had a chance, too proud to call her for help, too naïve in my belief of the law protecting me from the rich and powerful.
Needed a weapon and the scalpel glinting from the lab bench beckoned me. What was I going to do to a mountain of a man like Mr. Sinister? How would I--all one hundred and twelve pounds of me--hope to even put his eye out?
I tried to tell myself I'd come up with a plan on the way there. In hopes of finding anything useful, I swept my eyes back and forth as I half-walked, half-stumbled back to Betsy. What looked useful I couldn't carry, what looked dangerous I didn't know how to operate, and what looked alien just plain freaked me out.
A scalpel. I was half-walking, half-stumbling into a shapeshifting, mind-controlling monster's place of work with a scalpel as my only defense. Lovely. My pockets? Empty, and even if I had my cell phone, I doubt I would've gotten any reception. Betsy's salvation lay in a scalpel and my love for her.
Now I knew I was recovering from the drugs: my brain once more entertained corny thoughts. Love... what a load of bullshit in times like these. What I needed was a big gun or a streetgang or the X-Men. I didn't need to be on the verge of freaking out and wanting to stab myself in the head just to get out of this situation.
Wait a second, stab myself in the head? Didn't Mr. Sinister want me to have his grandkid? Bleah, wrong in a disgusting fashion, but splitting migraine aside, I distinctly remembered that part. I'd be no use to him dead.
Suicide was my best weapon. How comforting.
In the distance, I heard him humming a Beethoven symphony, the Erocia. Not like I spent my childhood listening to classical music but Dad did and the Erocia was one of his favorites. Oh my God, if what Sinister said was true, my dad wasn't my dad anymore: that white faced freak himself was. The more I remembered about today, the more I wanted to forget already.
When I woke up this morning, I was a normal real estate who was dating a hot model and avoiding her parents after abruptly coming out to them. That set of circumstances sounded much more delightful than kidnapped, manipulated, drugged, battered, bloodied, and clueless about my entire existence. Drama about day-to-day things became so insignificant when compared to life and death. Maybe that's why Betsy was able to keep an even keel about her most of the time.
No matter how bad life was, she'd been through worse.
I hoped and prayed she'd get through this.
My entrance back into Mr. Sinister's presence was far from grand. Instead of striding in triumphant and spouting off some brave but cheesy movie one-liner, I tripped over my own tired feet and fell on my hands and knees. Took a miracle for the scalpel not to puncture anything important of mine. I traded in my triumphant look for a desperate one because I figured bravado fooled no one.
Not when I was on the ground.
Not when he loomed over my still sleeping Betsy with machines, vials, and tubes running into and out of her.
"What are you doing to her?" I demanded.
I thought he'd say something inane like all movie villains did ("Where's Martinique?" or "You?!" or "Ah, we meet again, Ms. Cerras."), but he surprised me. "Harvesting her ova."
The answer gave me pause. I expected him to be Hannibal Lecter, prepping Betsy as a meal. I expected a totally vile deed being done here, and while "harvesting her ova" without permission remained vile in its own right, the act seemed innocent all things considered.
Next question then. "Why?"
"My daughter, I'm a man of science, a geneticist of no small regard. Surely you don't expect me let such a specimen like your Elisabeth Braddock slip through my grasp."
"Get away from her."
A chilling, boisterous laughter rumbled from his barrel of a chest and filled my soul with dread. "Or you'll what, my dear? I'm disappointed Martinique failed in giving you more of my conditioning drugs but she's still done quite a number on you. What could a battered human possibly do to me? Make me laugh myself to death?"
I swallowed the bile in my throat and growled as menacingly as I could, "I'll kill myself."
Even as the words left my mouth, I saw Sinister wasn't the least bit miffed by the threat.
"Stop it!" he howled in amusement. "You really are trying to make me laugh myself to death, aren't you? Kill yourself? The sheer comedy of it all! To think, you actually thought your life meant something to me. What would ever possess you to come to such a spurious conclusion, my daughter?"
"You said I'm your daughter. You said you needed me to give you a child. You said... you said..."
During my tired puzzlement, Sinister composed himself. He pulled all the instruments away from Betsy while keeping his red, soulless stare on me. "Contrary to what you think, blood is not thicker than water. You are an evolutionary step, an instrument to my ultimate legacy. Instruments, my dear daughter, are made to be discarded once used up. Your continued defiance only shows me your usefulness has run its course."
He picked up a hypodermic needle from one of the trays at his side. "In case you're wondering how I intend to have my heir without your bodily cooperation, the answer is simple: genetics. I need your genes to combine with James Braddock's. How that's done, whether it means he mounts you like a wild animal or I combine his sperm and your ovum in a growth medium, is of no consequence. Kill yourself? Please, my daughter, do it. The dead are so much easier to steal organs from than the live. In fact, why don't I wake up Ms. Braddock and have her witness your demise?"
I couldn't sprint forward. I couldn't stop the tears from running down my face or Sinister from injecting his syringe into Betsy. My jaw snapped shut and my legs weighed heavier than lead. Whatever he did before (before when he disguised himself as Sebastian Shaw) to stop me from escaping him, he did again.
Was this kind of power what I expected to stop with a scalpel? How insane was I? Sinister froze me without even looking and I wanted to stab him with a surgical instrument?
Betsy moaned, the first sound I heard from her since I brought her here. Seeing her groggy and vulnerable made me feel about two feet tall. I willed my mouth to open and it shocked me by complying.
"I'm sorry, Betsy."
Betsy twitched in her bindings while Sinister growled, "I didn't allow you to speak."
"I'm sorry, Betsy!"
My fingers loosened. Muscles, albeit sluggishly and stiffly, returned to my command. Sinister strode at me like a rampaging bull, grabbed my neck, and lifted me off the ground.
Needless to say, he robbed my power of coherent speech. "You shouldn't be gagging or gasping or flailing right now. You should be quietly dying while your lover recovers from her drug induced slumber. What are you doing?"
Desperately, I stabbed the scalpel into his forearm. I intended to rip my weapon out and use it again but his skin formed around the blade to trap it. As my vision dimmed, his grip strengthened, my lungs burned, and my heart sped to unhealthy levels. Blood pounded in my ears, pounded so loud I couldn't hear the screams coming out of Betsy's mouth or the racket she must've been making slamming her head against the lab table.
Pounding in my ears now joined by ringing. I saw Sinister mouth ferociously, "What are you doing?! How are you doing it?!"
I had no idea what I did. All I knew was I refused to die quietly, that if these were to be my last moments, I needed to try and set right what I did to Betsy. I wanted to hurt Sinister for bringing me to this point, for manipulating my family, for casting doubt onto my existence. My hand on the scalpel wretched and turned for all it was worth as I prayed to hit bone. Hitting bone meant pain which meant he might let go. I'd survive a few more precious seconds.
A series of crinkles rang through my deaf ears. The fire in my lungs extinguished. I saw my hand on the scalpel fall away, now dangling loosely against my side. My heart slowed to a crawl, pounding no more. Betsy, every toned and sculpted muscle on her straining and bulging, lunged uselessly while her face froze in a hideous howl. I heard more crinkles, then an ominous snap. My head tilted to one side, neck broken and unable to support its weight.
Sinister laughed and let me go.
I didn't hurt when I slammed and bounced against the ground. Things go bad when you couldn't even feel numbness. I couldn't move, I couldn't hear, I couldn't breathe, but for some ungodly reason, I could see. I could see Sinister releasing Betsy from the table, grabbing her hair, and throwing her at me. I could see her tears as she yelled at me, something about "getting up" and "can't be dead" if her lips were any indication. Naked on her hands and knees, her eyes hardened, one moment on the verge of hysteria and the next murderous.
Her fingers pried against the collar on her neck but she couldn't get it loose. She spat at Sinister but he responded via a thunderous slap. My heart jumped.
My heart jumped!
How?! What?! My heart started itself again. Tingling sensations filled me from head to toe. My hearing, absent from the deadly silence, returned.
"-ily. I will note the Braddock family's noble sacrifice in my journals."
Betsy pulled so hard against her collar that her nails pierced skin, causing blood to run down her heaving chest. She had no recourse, just her bared teeth, straining effort, and that fabled defiance.
"Better not yank too hard, Psylocke. The inhibitor collar is keyed to my genetic signature. Should it be removed without my consent, the adamantium spikes within it will deploy and skewer your lovely neck in fifteen places. However, if that happens, I'll be sure to save you a place next to my daughter's."
"You despicable trash. You bloody creature! I hope when you go wake Jamie, he tears your soul apart!"
"Yes, the famed James Braddock Jr. Which reminds me, I have to remove poor Vivian's ovaries before they necrose. Organs are so hard to keep fresh in a rotting corpse."
"Through my fucking dead body, Sinister!"
Oh lord, why couldn't Betsy just leave? She had her legs and she could run! Why stay kneeled here and defending my body like I was fully alive? I mean, what else could I call myself? Usually snapped necks and stopped hearts meant dead, but here I was, almost feeling like I could talk and move again.
Was I going through an out of body experience? Was I really dead and all my soul was doing was giving me some comfort? If it was trying to comfort me, why did I feel cold and pain? Why did my neck burn and my lungs labor?
How come I could raise and wiggle my fingers?
Since his bottomless red eyes went wide, I could assume Sinister saw me moving. Air, glorious air, returned to my constricted throat. I chanced a slight move of my head, and when I did, my body lit ablaze in agony. Tingling numbness exploded into unadulterated, unfiltered pain. My entire being caught up to its last agonies and decided to push every horrifying sensation onto me post-haste. A crinkle and a snap, and this time, my vision fizzled. For a terrible second, I thought my time on this world was truly, finally done. God played His last trick on me and decided to call it quits.
Well, I wasn't so lucky.
My heart pounded again but now to the surging tidal wave of pulsating pain rumbling through me. My raspy throat approximated its best moans while I spasmed about like a woman caught in a seizure. My hands shot up and massaged my neck in a vain attempt to ease myself. A storm brewed in my brain, complete with thunder, lightning, hammering rain, and deafening winds--every conceivable ache ranging from nausea to nerve pains gouged into me.
Through it all, I heard Sinister whisper, "Fascinating."
Betsy's familiar arms cradled me. I curled up against her, surrounded myself in her strength, smell, and skin. My writhing slowed and my neck hurt less, now excruciating instead of unbearable. How I drew comfort in such small gestures I didn't know, but I did.
"What did you do to her?"
"I killed her."
"Then why is she like this?!"
"Temper, temper, Ms. Braddock. I'd appreciate it if you'd use your indoor voice. Remember who has access to their powers and who doesn't in this pathetic excuse for a standoff."
I watched Betsy pawing at her collar and put two and two together. After going through this madhouse, I had no doubt Sinister could make something to block her mutant powers. He said the infernal device was keyed to his genetic signature, right? Well, if I was really his daughter...
My wobbly hand reaching upwards garnered Betsy's attention. She stared at me, amazed puzzlement and not a small bit relief breaking through the mask of unbound rage. The moment my fingers pressed against the collar, a tiny click silenced Sinister's arrogant chuckles. The collar released and fell to the ground.
My voice--bone dry and wheezing--managed a soft, "Love you, Betsy."
I'd never seen the full extent of her powers. She told me she'd gotten them from a friend who, for all intents and purposes, was a god. They exchanged part of themselves during a particularly harrowing adventure, but since then, they never had another chance to sit down and sort themselves out. It was a moot point though since the friend was dead, her husband moving on to greener, more buxom pastures and her memory faded into oblivion by the troubles today brought. All that the friend left behind was an awesome power Betsy never had the inclination nor courage to really, truly test.
She said it was a frightening power. She said no one person should ever be allowed to wield the power she did. She said her friend controlled the power with an even temperament and compassionate heart, two things her fiery self lacked. She said the power of telekinesis, at its highest mastery, meant control of everything to the subatomic level.
Air around us condensed. Breezes thickened into visible wisps while time screeched to a halt, akin to a pitcher winding up for that last strike. All at once, a great force rushed against Sinister and blasted him back. Metal grating and surgical tables bent out of shape; delicate machines burst into tiny particles. As if a bomb had gone off, the room's walls bowed out irregardless of material or architectural stability. The ground rippled like the ocean, only unlike the ocean, metal and concrete failed to return to their original states. The sterile lab transformed into a ruin, dust and debris kicking about where order and cleanliness once reigned. Sinister smashed into one of those straining walls and kept on going. His angry voice carried far through his sprawling maze and gave me chills.
Betsy gathered me in her arms and kissed me. "Hold on tight."
A weird, ethereal, pink barrier came between us and the world. With one great leap, Betsy rocketed up to the ceiling. If my throat could've, I would've screamed bloody murder. However, instead of a smashing into solid steel and earth like bugs on a windshield, we plowed through without stopping. The fluorescent lights from Sinister's lab faded into darkness, and then from the darkness came the moon and the stars.
The highway stretched before us. No end in sight, no music to break up the silence, not even a gas station cast a glow against the blackened sky--the scene was allegorical to my thoughts and feelings. I felt lost and unsure of my identity, my past, and my place within the world. Not an hour ago, my life ended. I wasn't normal. Was Sinister my father or was Dad my father? Could I go back to La Roche and pretend nothing happened? My neck snapped, I knew I died, but I was here, alive and breathing.
Headlights flashed against regular lines of white paint. Betsy drove, her eyes on the road and her free hand clasped in mine. After burrowing our way out of Sinister's lab, we headed home long enough to get her a change of clothes and us to jump into my car. Though we didn't say it, neither of us felt safe in the condo anymore; at least for tonight, closing its door gave me more relief than anguish. Now she was driving and to where I had no clue.
She tried to talk to me a few times but I didn't reply. Rude? Incredibly so, but I couldn't stand the otherworldly creaking and flapping in my throat when I last spoke. It was a horrifying sound, much more horrifying to feel than hear. For God's sake, my vocal cords pressed against each other while my lungs searched for some way to inflate themselves! The memory made me shudder.
Betsy squeezed my hand. "I love you."
I flinched. How could she love me after I betrayed her? How could she love whatever the hell I'd become? How could she love me when I did everything to make this situation as worse as it could've been? I bet everyone she'd ever been with wasn't as gullible as me; after all, her ex's included superheroes and spies, so I brought up the rear when it came to courage and suave. Love me? I was surprised she didn't hate me.
"Vivian, I swear we'll pull through this."
Only if I wasn't dead weight to her. Sinister got her because of me. I was her weakness; I was slowing her down. I was everything she didn't need at the moment: vulnerable, shocked, and wrapped up in my own problems.
"Vivian? Honey? Please, say something."
Against my will, I sniffled and sobbed. The last of my mental strength gave way, condemning me into showing the nervous wreck that I was. I shrank away from her and huddled against the door. I needed to leave all this shit behind, rewind the day so none of this happened. All at the same time, I was embarrassed, terrified, and angry. I couldn't describe the tangled web inside of me, but it sucked.
We stopped moving. Beyond my tears, I saw the highway's shoulder. Cars, though few, zoomed by. I wanted to walk into the darkness and disappear forever. I didn't want to know anything anymore. I didn't want to deal with... with... life.
Her sharp voice shocked me back from the brink of hysteria. "Look at me."
Ever so slowly, I did what she wanted.
"Don't let that sodding leech get to you. I know it's hard, but believe me when I say I love you. Believe me when I say I'm going to be here and we are going to put an end to this. You can hurt, you can be afraid, but don't let him beat you: he isn't good enough to do that."
Maybe so, but "What's happening to me?"
Betsy shrugged. "I haven't the foggiest idea. You're alive and that's all that matters."
That's all that matters? "How can you say that? Betsy, I DIED!"
"Cheer up, luv, now we have something else in common."
Didn't she hear me? I said I... wait. She died too? When? How?
My bewildered face broadcasted my thoughts and led Betsy to shake her head. "There's nights when I lie awake and wonder how I'm alive too. Not knowing the how and why of my current existence bothers me to no ends, but I try to remind myself to give thanks to God and move on. Still, the nagging remains, consuming me if I'm not careful. In fact, it bothers some other people so much they don't want to have anything to do with me anymore."
When she said some other people, all I could think about were those famous mutants I saw on TV and in the papers. "The X-Men?"
"I died saving them, Vivian. A bastard rammed his sword through my gut and almost cut me in half. I remember every detail, every sensation, every nerve on fire. I died so they could live, but I'm back. I'm back and for some bloody reason, they don't trust me. They never gave me a chance, and I suppose they're justified because they fight manipulative scum like Sinister. Once burned, twice shy, you know? They're playing it safe, but I know who I am. Shame that my word isn't good enough for them anymore."
"But they can find out what happened to me, to us, right? They fight Sinister, so they know how to deal with us?"
Her reply was flat and swift. "We're not going to the X-Men."
"Then who else can help us?"
"A family friend of mine recently moved to Boston. He can point us in the right direction."
Just like that? "Betsy, who is he? What kind of a person would know anything about... about..."
"Coming back from the dead? Trust me, if there's anyone on this planet who would, it's John Constantine."
- The End.
End Notes: Thank you so much for reading! And yes, there will another part to round out this triology. Stay tuned to see how the incomparable John Constantine makes his way into this tangled web!