Chapter Thirteen - Jigsaw Ex Machina

Co-written with Renegade Vic

A/N: An extra special shout-out to Jacalyn Hyde for reviewing, extensively, every single chapter of this story up to this point! Means a lot to us ^^

Then the kid lurched up, his eyes wide and flashing with a rage that no one would have expected of him. His body was wound tighter than a spring and in his hands…in his hands…

Xavier barely had time to blink before the kid slashed his throat with the rusty hacksaw that he gripped tightly in his hand. The drug dealer gasped, inhaling blood as he dropped the knife and grabbed at his own throat, trying to stem the flow of blood with no success. His hands were coated in thick, red blood that flowed steadily with every last beat of his heart. His vision became fuzzy, unfocused and he fell to his knees and collapsed, the last of his life-blood covering the grimy tiled floor.

Xavier Chavez was beaten.

Daniel dropped the hacksaw, his face dropping from pale to completely fucking white as he backed away from the newly-dead creature on the ground.

"Oh, god. Oh, god. Oh, god…"

"Ease up, kid." Ava had chosen that moment to step into the room and was eyeing Xavier's corpse with distaste, walking purposefully around the growing pool of blood and shaking her head at it.

"I can think of worse ways to go," she muttered, an annoyed tone seeping into her voice. "Shame he never got to experience them."

After all the shit this motherfucker had caused, he had been granted a quick and relatively painless death. Didn't seem right to her.

"Jesus, fuck. He's dead. I killed him. He's dead…" Daniel was blubbering, eyes on Xavier's blood covered body and seeming unable to look away from it.

"Quite the observant one," she muttered idly, turning to Mike and Amanda, who looked as pale as Daniel, if not more so.

"Had to come and make sure you got out okay," Ava explained, raising her eyes to the ceiling as to avoid eye contact.

"Th…thanks," Mike responded, his gaze fixed on Xavier's finally-still body. So that was what it had finally taken. A hacksaw to the throat. His entire windpipe had been slashed open- Daniel had put a lot of power behind that single swing.

"The doors should be open by now," Amanda murmured, pointing to the clock that hung just above the sliding door. "We can…we can go."

"What about the antidote?" Mike asked, still struggling to process what had just happened.

If they left without getting the antidote…wouldn't they die? Wouldn't the gas have already entered their bloodstream?

"We don't need it. I…I owe all of you some explanations, but I'm not sure I'm the one who can…who can explain it like you need to hear it." Amanda sidestepped the body in the center of the floor- the one with the demolished face, it looked as if he had been beaten to death with the toilet lid beneath him- and approached Mike, eyes downcast.

What was she saying? That she knew something else about everything that had happened?

"All right," Mike replied, nodding in numb acceptance. "But I want to know the whole story…"

Ava frowned at Amanda, who by now was nibbling on her bottom lip, either out of anxiety or habit, she wasn't quite sure.

"I'll tell you everything," she said quietly, still refusing to meet their gazes. "But you have to let me finish before you say anything…or make any judgments, okay?"

Mike glanced over in Ava's direction, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion and apprehension. If she was already worrying about what they would think…exactly what had she done to become so paranoid about it?

"Alright," Ava said slowly. "Let's hear it. All of it."

Amanda glanced sideways, catching the full glare of the other woman's eyes before looking down at her feet again.

"Two months ago, I was put in a Jigsaw trap," she began, her voice low."I woke up…wearing something called a Reverse Bear Trap, a device that would tear my head in half, basically."

She swallowed heavily. "I had…I had to cut the key to the trap out of the stomach of a man who was in the room with me…a man who wasn't dead."

Ava's stomach twisted in distaste. She could slit a man open from chin to stomach, but she'd never considering rooting around in the still living organs of a human being.

"I got the key. I survived. I got out and…I started putting my life back together, y'know? Got a job. Through the habit, all that stuff. And then I came home one day…"

She bit her lip, now shifting her weight from foot-to-foot.

"And John was there waiting for me."

"I'm sorry. Who?"

Amanda looked slowly at Ava, a small smile on the other woman's lips.

"Jigsaw. John Kramer. He found me. And I found him. I found a father, a mentor, a teacher. He took me in…and made me whole again."

"So you're…connected to this guy. Like an apprentice, or something?" Mike asked, hardly daring to believe his ears. Amanda not only looked up to this Jigsaw guy- John, she had said- but she'd met him…and here she was, involved in another of his sick "games."

"You could say that," Amanda answered, still hesitant. "He needed someone who could help him…someone who could understand what he was doing. He helped me…what could I do?"

He was right. It was definitely her.

He had taken Addison to an addiction clinic to try and get her to shake her habits…and while she had been in a therapy session, he had seen Amanda there as well. She had been a mess back then- Mike remembered that much. And then there was Cecil…

The memory of the arrogant, territorial, insufferable sack of shit burned in the pit of Mike's stomach like an ulcer. All he had been doing was making polite conversation…and Cecil had completely flipped his fucking wig, and come in swinging without any explanation. He'd missed, of course, and gotten a broken nose and black eye in return- but Mike had been "asked" to leave the clinic after that.

"You're that girl from the clinic, the one with the jackass guy who tried to pick a fight with me…" Mike was staring- he knew that much. But he couldn't help it. The likelihood of meeting her again was a small one and yet, here they were.

"Yeah…" Amanda replied, still staring off anywhere but at the others. Something about those memories had caught her off-guard; an expression that looked like guilt hung over her face like a shroud.

"This is…unexpected…" Mike trailed off.

"So, you two know each other," Ava commented mildly, her eyebrows furrowed as she fought to maintain her composure. "Peachy. Lovely. Really, I'm happy for you. But, can we focus on the topic at hand please? Because we've just realized that she is working for the motherfucker that put us in here!"

Amanda…Amanda the junkie who'd be tested by Jigsaw before…was working for him? After everything that Ava thought she knew, she'd been totally proved wrong by this…this…junkie bitch!

She had been responsible for dragging them all in here. She could have got them out in a matter of minutes, but no. She'd stayed and played them all for the idiots they were. Why else would Jigsaw have a previous survivor in with them? To make sure they all played by his rules, his fucking rules!

"Ava, calm down, please-"

"I…" she was breathing had through her nostrils in an effort to control herself, "will not calm down. I have been put through the most fucking agonizing three hours of my goddamn life in here and she knew exactly how the fuck we could get out!"

Amanda had taken a quick step back, looking as though she was about to hide behind Mike, but she didn't.

She was more or less standing her ground, her hands clenched into fists and her face set into one of defiance.

"You're alive," she said, her voice strong but shaking. "You won. You survived."

"I wouldn't have had to," Ava snarled back. "If it weren't for you!"

"Hold it, Ava. Think about this for a minute," Mike cut in. "Jigsaw had shit on all of us without her…and she helped us. You, me, everyone else…we'd probably be dead if she hadn't been here."

"I was the…'insurance policy.' I was supposed to keep Daniel alive. John wants to test Eric Matthews, and he's using this to do it. I don't know how he's doing it…but he told me that much."

Everything they were doing…was being done to fuck with Matthews? If that had been the goal, all he'd have to have done was ask.

"Still could've gotten us out of here, th-"

"No, I couldn't. I helped build some of this- the door is the only way out." The finality in Amanda's voice left no doubt in Mike's mind that she was telling the truth- at least, the truth as far as she knew it.

Ava was still simmering with rage, but she had to admit that there was some truth in Mike's words. She had helped them, despite everything. By the sound of it, she had been asked into this game almost against her will, but had done it due to a kind of twisted loyalty to the serial killer.

And this house…this was all to 'test' Eric Matthews, the fucker that had framed and put away everyone in the house, with the exception of his son. The son must have been the test, or at least a big part of it.

"Fine," she muttered around clenched teeth. "I guess that's the truth then. But if you're lying to me, I swear-"

"I'm not lying," Amanda cut her off. "I'm done with lying to you both. You've passed your tests. You've…you've been fixed."

Ava's eyebrows rose.

"Fixed? I've been 'fixed'?"

"Yeah…it's what…it's what his methods do. Once you see death up close, then you know what the value of life is-"

"Sounds like a fuckin' fortune cookie," Ava snapped. "Who the fuck is this Jigsaw guy anyway? You called him John. John who? I think we deserve to know exactly who's responsible for putting us here, don't you?"

She wanted to know. Ava was sick to death of being kept in the dark about this whole thing. It was time to shed some light on the subject as far as she was concerned.

"Kramer. She already said so, Ava," Mike answered, edging a step away from Xavier's body. "Fuck if I know who he is, though. Name ring a bell?"

"Kramer…John Kramer…" Ava repeated, seemingly lost in a fog of memory. Mike shrugged, glancing toward Daniel.

"We've gotta get out of here. All of us. Yeah, there's things we haven't figured out yet…but I don't feel like stickin' around waiting for this fucker-" Mike gestured toward Xavier's body, already beginning to smell faintly of the same cloying, suffocating odor that the bathroom seemed to embody- "to start smellin'. Besides…this place freaks the fuck out of me."

"Yeah. We can…we can keep talking about all of this once we get out of here," Daniel agreed, tossing the hacksaw next to Xavier's body. "I just wanna get out of here."

"What about you?" Amanda asked, her attention turned back to Ava. "You're probably more used to it than any of us…but if you still want to know more, I can take you to him."

Ava's upper lip curled as she glanced sideways down at the corpse. She didn't like the smell of dead bodies any more than anybody else, even if she did see them on a more regular basis than many others.

John Kramer…

She remembered the name. It felt like almost a lifetime ago that she had heard it, or spoken to the owner. Never in a million years would she have guessed that he was the Jigsaw Killer. He'd been quite a pleasant, intelligent man from what she could recall, not a maniac that put people in mortally-dangerous devices that more than often ripped the victim apart.

"I think we should meet your 'mentor'. I'm perfectly happy to walk away from this sack of decaying meat," she replied, her voice of mocking good humour. "And maybe I could borrow a few proper bandages?" She held up her wrists for emphasis. "Don't think this material's gonna cut it."

Amanda nodded, looking a little more heartened than she had a few moments ago. Perhaps the realization that Ava wasn't up to her best had lessened her anxiety.

"Come on, it's this way."

Stepping ahead, Amanda walked quickly out of the bathroom, not once glancing back to make sure that the others were coming. Daniel went first, followed by Mike, who jerked his head towards the door at her before moving out of sight

Ava hung back a moment, considering her options and the chances of escape by other means, before sharply cursing and rushing to catch up.


The old Wilson Steel building.

It had been a landmark they used for races, back before the Triads had overrun this part of the city and made street racing even more of a test of survival. Mike had narrowly escaped crashing head-on into the building once, when Jericho had pulled a PIT maneuver and nearly spun him out, nearly three years prior.

Now it was the home to this "Jigsaw." Amanda had led them through the back entrance and into a service elevator. "Don't take the stairs. Ever," she had warned. Considering the nature of the new inhabitant, Mike had no intention of discovering why she had felt the need to make that point.

"Ah…Amanda. Good. You have Daniel- and, it seems, Mike and Ava," John spoke, his tone shifting from one of welcome to concern. "Obi came by not long before you got here. He told me that the four of you had disappeared."

"Xavier went berserk…he was chasing us. We ran down into the tunnels…to the bathroom," Amanda replied, something in her own voice changing as well.

"He killed Jonas…but now he's dead," Mike added, trying to take in the sheer amount of information the room was throwing at him. Blueprints, diagrams, half-finished sketches of traps covered every available surface, sticking out of file cabinets, covering the walls as if John had created them simply to use as wallpaper.

"I know. I've been watching." John unfolded his hands, leaning forward onto the desk before him. "I was unable to listen to anything that took place, but I was watching your progress through your tests. Your actions in particular, Mike, are interesting to me. You took Obi's test as your own, even knowing that there was some sort of danger involved- and allowed Obi to use the antidote you had earned in doing so to save Laura. You intervened in Xavier's test, even though you were not the victim of his actions. Why?"

The question caught Mike off-guard. John had almost sounded like he was praising his actions, for a moment- but the question was as probing, as sharp as an accusation. Was he angry that Mike had been playing by his own rules?

"We needed the edge, early in," Mike explained, thinking back to the furnace- to the second antidote that had come with the risk of activating the trap…to his escape. "If we got more antidotes, faster…more people made it out. And Xavier was a fuckin' coward…tryin' to make someone else do what he had to do."

Ava hung back away from the rest of them, standing in the shadows but close enough to still hear exactly what was going on. As far as she was concerned, she was here only because she'd wanted out and to meet the mind behind the Jigsaw killings for the second time, only this time she knew who he really was.

John Kramer looked as though he had aged ten years since she last seen him. His hair was whiter, his face dry and weathered, his lips were cracked and he looked frail, despite the fact that he was only just into his fifties. It would be heartbreaking to anyone else, but Ava's wrists had begun to sting once more, which greatly limited her ability for compassion.

"You put the lives of others before yourself," John said slowly, putting emphasis on each word. "You were willing to risk your own demise to protect…and save them."

"He led us," Amanda said, a touch of admiration seeping into her voice. "He kept us together. So, we all lived."

"Jonas didn't," Ava growled from her place in the corner. "Because of that creature a good man died."

She wasn't looking, but she could feel John staring at her.

"You take offence to the idea of a 'good man' being killed, Ava?"

"I take offence to the idea of a good man dying for nothing," she shot back, raising her eyes to glare at the elderly man. "Being murdered for nothing."

"And how is Xavier any different from you?" John replied, his voice sharpening but the volume remained steady. "You and him…are one in the same."

Ava blinked, her mouth slightly agape.

"Me…and him? The same?" Her teeth clenched as her hand curled into a fist. "You…you have no fucking idea-"

"I assure you, my dear, I have every fucking idea. I've been following your exploits for a long time. You've deluded yourself into thinking you're doing good. But the truth of the matter is, you choose to take out your urges on who you deem 'evil men', so that there is less chance that the police will follow you and prosecute you. Being a vigilante may be against the law, but it is not frowned upon by everyone. And you know that, don't you."

It wasn't a question.

Trembling with rage, Ava shut her mouth, dropping her eyes immediately and slumping until her back hit the wall behind her. He was right. On some level, she'd always know that that was the reason, but had chosen to ignore the possibility. She was cleaning up the streets solely to satisfy her own urges.

He knew her.