A/N: The idea for this started out as a more comedic work, with Dark Tezz being a seriously gay sissy villain who flirted with everybody, but I really wanted to work in Dark AJ being so scary he makes the rest of the Evil Force 5 cringe. So instead, I worked off my more dramatic option for Tezz's opposite: since Tezz is a pretty neutral character, more cold and pragmatic than his friends but not really evil, I made his opposite's differences more physical and personal, giving the opposite a tragic and painful experience with the Negative 5. But essentially, Tezz's dark counterpart is the same character in a different body, just different experiences from the crapsack world in which the double lives. And it is MOST DEFINITELY a crapsack world the Negative 5 come from. So much so, in point of fact, that Dark AJ wound up stealing a large portion of the show.
Let us now join our intrepid heroes as they plan for an upcoming battle!
Members of the Battle Force 5 were all in a tizzy thanks to the coming eclipse and the consequences it would entail. If a storm shock opened during the eclipse, contact with the mirror world was imminent and the drivers would have to face such strange sights as the good Captain Kalus fighting to protect the Vandal home world from the evil conquerors, Battle Force 5.
"Whoa, freaky," AJ intoned.
"Hey, this isn't something to take lightly!" Spinner insisted. "If there's anything fantasy games have taught me, it's that there's nothing more serious than fighting a dark reflection of yourself. The Negative 5 are our complete opposites, exemplifying every little thing we hate about ourselves."
"Maybe not perfect opposites," Sherman contended, "But their personalities definitely take some serious deviations from our own. Dark Spinner, for example, was aggressive to the point of being willing to hop out of his car and fight us unarmed, whereas Spinner…"
"Are you calling me a coward?"
"No, of course not," Sherman assured him, but as soon as his back was turned he nodded grimly.
"Now, Tezz," Spinner continued, "I'm not too worried about you. You're pretty neutral on the alignment chart, so your counterpart probably isn't that much more evil than you. Heck, he might even be more socially inclined. This is opposite world we're talking about."
AJ grinned at the master of magnetism. "He's right, dude. You're kind of a jerk."
"YOU, on the other hand," Spinner cried, pointing an accusatory finger. "You are such a sweet and friendly guy that you probably have a baby-eating serial killer for an opposite!"
Tezz raised an eyebrow, smirking as he observed the look of disgust on AJ's face. Sherman went immediately to comfort the Canadian.
"This is all merely speculation, AJ. Your opposite might not be that bad."
"When he's not torturing animals," Spinner muttered under his breath. "We may not know your counterparts yet, but we have a vague idea of what to expect thanks to past experiences. Dark Agura was a vapid twit, Dark Stanford was an unwashed boor, and Dark Zoom…had a nose-ring!"
"We just want you to be prepared. Even if they're clearly evil, fighting someone who has your face can be…unnerving."
"Yeah, like running into Dark Sherman!" Spinner agreed. "Dumb as a post! I think he must've been dropped on his head as a child!"
Tezz smirked wordlessly as he watched the brothers' quarrel, completely confident of his place in things to come. AJ wished he could be that sure…
Of course, the day of the eclipse came all too soon, and, naturally, a storm shock opened. They had prepared as much they could. All that could be done now was to grab the battle key and get out of there as quickly as possible and lock the zone so the Evil Force 5 would not have access to a more positive Earth. But it is said that the best laid plans of mice and men are often led astray…
Zoom circled the skies, having gone on ahead to find a lead on the key. As always, he underestimated his importance in the events of the day, taking his responsibilities lightly as if it were all a game. Some days it seemed that was the only way for him to cope with it all. The very nature of their mission was insane, and still he carried on as if he were on a scavenger hunt during some demented garden party.
This was just the distraction Dark Zoom needed to get the drop on his good counterpart. The pair of Muy Thai warriors clashed in midair, their fists flying like the order from whence they came. Every kick, every punch was like a dance to them.
"Sloppiest. Technique. Ever!" Zoom taunted.
"But I'm still tougher," Dark Zoom insisted, and when he landed a kick to Zoom's solar plexus, he had to agree.
At the last possible second, Zoom was able to reaffirm his grip on the handlebars, gliding the Chopper to safety. Dark Zoom buzzed him with his Dark Chopper's blades, missing by less than an inch. They ran at each other a few times, circling like caged tigers. When Dark Zoom made a sudden move in the opposite direction, Zoom followed him, matching his speed. Faster and faster they went glowering at each other the whole way. So focused on this game was he that Zoom failed to notice a hulking black truck with teal racing stripes and what appeared to be a massive, blood-stained plow and a drill coming off the back. The Dark Gear Slammer scooped the earth out from beneath Zoom's wheels, too quickly and violently for him to react. Zoom was thrown from his bike by the impact, rolling twenty feet, uninjured but unconscious.
Dark Zoom pumped his brakes, removing his helmet, his nose ring glinting in the sun. "How'd you know he wasn't me?"
The moon roof retracted and a muscular figure in black and teal peeked his head out; he smiled in a way that did not touch his eyes, his clean, white face stained not by eyeliner or mascara, but by what one might mistake for ketchup if they did not know him well. He calmly replied to his teammate, "I was trying to hit you both." And that was that. Without acknowledging Dark Zoom further, AJ Dalton, the most sick and twisted member of the evil Battle Force 5, hopped out of his vehicle and moved towards his new playmate.
"Ahh, duct tape," he sighed. "Turning 'no, no, NO!' into 'mm-mm-MM!' since 1942. It makes such a nice sound as it ratchets off the roll." He wound the strip tightly around Zoom's wrists, then his ankles, until his toy was completely bound. Finally, he ripped a small strip off of the roll for Zoom's mouth, but as an afterthought, crumpled it up and threw it away. He thought he would prefer to hear this one scream.
"You know," Dark Zoom carefully began, frightened as he was, "if-if you, um, did anything to him, it would almost-well, almost like you were doing it to me, so I'd really appreciate it if you—"
He stopped dead, staring into Dark AJ's eyes. "That's the beauty of it, Zoom. He's not you." He grinned again. "So don't fucking worry about, okay, buddy?"
"Heheh...yeah, sure. Have fun," he unenthusiastically wished the evil Canadian. "Hit him once for me…"
"Why would I be hitting him? There are so many more interesting things I could do." With that same murderous smile that made even his teammates uneasy, he loaded his prey into the Gear Slammer. He looked down at the stirring Zoom, not paying attention as Dark Zoom drove off to find the rest of their team. He cooed approvingly. "Oh, you are a tough one, aren't you? Hardly a scratch from all that, and already you're coming around. I think we're going to become very…close in these next few days. Yes, indeed."
All Dark Vert had to say when he was told of the change in plans was, "Y-yeah, AJ, sure. A-anything you want." In short order he arrived at the hub, ready and raring to go. His fingers itched with desperate need, and he held his playmate tight. But first he had a pit stop to make.
"Teresa!" he barked. She came scurrying from the lab where she was most often kept. "I'm calling it a day. Ride an aftershock into the zone and help out the others. I have a…play date."
"Put me down, you mirror swine!" Zoom called, struggling fruitlessly against his bonds.
"But I'm not supposed to leave without an escort. Vert said—"
"Don't make me tell you twice!" He emphasized the statement with a slap. The woman called Teresa flew back, yelping in pain. She whimpered and did as she was told.
His captive gasped in outrage. "You're not going to get away with that!" Zoom yelled. "Or for taking me! When my friends get here—"
"Oh, I can tell already we're going to be great friends," Dark AJ sneered into Zoom's face. "Great, wonderful friends…"
Zoom shushed for the time being. This was shaping up to be one lousy day.
Vert was fairly evenly matched against his evil self, though he wasn't doing as well as Stanford, but oddly enough, Tezz and AJ were facing Dark Agura and Dark Zoom. He supposed it was their opposites' day to stay at the hub, if they'd even joined the team at all. As far as he was concerned, it made things easier; AJ had been his best friend in a time when he had needed one most and Vert didn't relish having to fight him, no matter what his alignment.
Sparks flew and metal clashed, sound waves echoed off of the dusty green cliffs. Dark Zoom deftly dodged AJ's plow, slicing moon rock with his wheel blades and missing his head by inches. Dark Agura constantly changed the height and angle of her car, jumping clear of one EMP burst only to be hit by another, and the blast sent her flying. She rolled and changed directions at the last second, taking a potshot at Stanford while Dark Stanford readied his cannons. Things were not looking good for our heroes.
And just like that, the Evil Force 5 backed off. They sped into the distance, Dark Vert literally driving in reverse to keep an eye on them as a shadowy version of the Splitwire sent out concentrated electromagnetic pulses at first AJ, then Vert, magnetizing itself and driving sideways along a cliff face to dodge a sonic blast by Stanford. Another EMP at AJ for good measure, and then one for Stanford, and yet another at AJ!
AJ cried out, frowning deeply. "Man, why is evil you picking on me? I think I just lost a filling!"
"Perhaps he finds you annoying in his universe and this is a way of relieving stress." Tezz smirked, dodging an EMP and magnetized to the rock wall opposite his double. He chased the Dark Splitwire, continually blasting at it and missing every time. He growled in frustration.
Luckily, only Stanford's vehicle had been damaged, and only enough to disable his weapons system. As he struggled to get the sonic cannons back online he noticed something rather odd... "Guys, I think someone's trying to hack our communication line!"
"We are observed no longer," said a soft, not entirely familiar voice. "We need not continue to fight. Stop attacking me and I have a proposition for you."
"Tezz, stand down!"
"Oh, please! You actually believe—"
"Are you really going to attack someone who won't fight back?" Vert admonished.
Reluctantly, Tezz followed his captain's orders. He demagnetized from the wall, gliding along the rocky floor to his comrades. The Dark Splitwire instead moved to the ridge above the gulch, following him. Finally, it parked on a cliff above the Battle Force 5 gathered there, and out from the driver's side stepped a slender young woman with long, silky black hair and haunted eyes framed by thick eyeliner. The makeup, however, did nothing to hide her swollen and purple right cheek. She stood on dancer's legs, not with confidence, but with a resolve that came from having no alternatives.
"My name is Teresa Volitov and I wish to defect to your side," she told them, as if it were that simple. But none among them was so taken aback as Tezz.
"A female?" he sputtered.
"Yes, your powers of deduction are quite keen," she said, rolling her eyes. "We have only until the end of the eclipse. You must come to my world."
Stanford glowered. "What makes you think we'd trust you? You work for the evil BF5!"
"Against my will, I assure you," she replied, gesturing to her bruised face. "They keep me under lock and key. I am not allowed to leave the compound unattended, lest I should try to escape. But I had an opportunity today when that monster Dalton returned early. As soon as I saw them fighting you, I offered a hint as to the location of the battle key."
"You fool!" Tezz cried. "We will be locked in this zone, unable to return to our home world."
"But if you come to their world, you can steal the key from them later."
AJ grumbled over the radio. "It's way too obvious this is a trap. If she's as smart as she acts she should know we wouldn't fall for it."
"Let's hear her out, at least." Vert opened the hatch of his car to let her see his skeptical expression. "Why would we come to the dark world?"
Teresa blinked. "To rescue your scout, of course. Surely you received a distress signal, or at least noticed he was gone." But when she saw the panicked look on his face as he dove for his radio, she knew he had not. "Forgive me for not making that clear from the beginning. I thought you knew."
"Zoom, come in! This isn't funny!"
"He won't be able to answer you now," she said sadly. Vert rounded on her angrily, his sword at the ready as he jumped from his vehicle.
"What's going on here?"
She hung her head in sorrow and shame, but there was an underlying fear there as well. "That demon, Dalton, took him," she said, never meeting his eyes.
"AJ? But he's the nicest guy I've ever met. AJ gets along with everybody."
"I say, Vert's on the level! AJ's like one of those big, slobbery, friendly hounds who just sits there being generally affectionate to everyone he meets."
"Annoying as it is," Tezz stated, "I must agree with Stanford."
From his position in the gulch, AJ smiled and ignored the 'slobbery' comment. It was nice to know his teammates were so fond of him.
"Perhaps in your world," Teresa shuddered. "Where I come from he's a heartless killer. He is so fascinated by the suffering of others it seemed only natural Vert should make him their wet-works man. Any time they need a village burned, they send him, and he's off to Vandal to kill more of Captain Kalus's children. But he says it's not the same as…having human victims. And he-he likes children in a very unhealthy way. He says that they taste better.
"He could be doing any number of ghastly things to your friend as we speak. Please, if we don't hurry, Dalton won't have left you much to rescue."
Vert looked back and forth between Teresa and AJ for a moment, stunned, but he shook himself. The choice was clear. "Lead the way."
"Yes. But after the rescue, you must take me back to your world. I would not survive if they learned I helped you."
They took a roundabout path to the Dark Earth portal in order to avoid the Negative 5. Even so, Teresa had sent them on a wild goose chase and they would be busy searching for the key for some time. Teresa communicated with them freely.
But it was too easy, too simple. Too good to be true. Tezz did not trust this feminine counterpart of his, no matter how logical her reasons. She was most likely playing the wounded gazelle to act on their sympathies. It was doubtless an unspoken truth among the team that she was going to double cross them. But there were too many variables to sit well with him.
"You do not seem particularly loyal to your comrades."
"So quickly you forget," she chided, clearly annoyed. "As previously explained, I had no choice in joining the Battle Force 5. They found me fighting against their masters on a Red Sentient moon; they were more willing to use lethal means against humans than I and quickly overtook me. I fought valiantly enough to impress them, I suppose, as I was presented with two options: uphold my principals…or survive."
Teresa was thankful they could not see how ashamed she felt. "I have seen and done so many terrible things since that day. I would have done better to let them kill me." She blinked the tears from her eyes, wiping them and her mascara on the back of her glove.
"Looks like we're here," AJ said, and for once his voice lacked any optimism.
Zoom struggled from where he hung, his bound wrists suspended from a hook. The room he was in was more like a meat locker than anything. It was cold with walls of sheet metal; there were chains with hooks hanging from various points on the ceiling. A nasty, coppery smell that made Zoom gag was thick in the frigid air. There were red smears and splatters across the walls and ceilings, still red for the cold that he knew AJ would so prefer, even in an opposite universe. On a spear leaning in the corner was Captain Kalus's severed head—no wonder they hadn't run into the friendly version of that fur ball.
Twenty feet away, Dark AJ was tidying up what looked like an operating table of the remains of its previous occupant, spraying it down with a hose. He checked the restraints, tightened a few screws, and, satisfied, turned back towards Zoom.
"You'll never get me to talk," Zoom stated simply.
"Talk?" he asked, amused. He did not smile as much as bare his teeth in anticipation as he stripped off his own shirt. "I don't expect you to talk, little buddy. Hell, even if you do, I won't be listening. I just like to torture people."
Without almost any effort, he lifted his captive by the scruff of his neck, plunking him down on the table. Only once the thick leather belts across his head, chest, and knees were secured did he slice the duct tape. Zoom struggled further, but he only got his wrists pulled to his sides with bone-crushing pressure, cuffed into place. The same went for his ankles. There was nothing more he could do, now; his only hope was a rescue he was increasingly suspicious would not come.
"There are twenty-seven bones in the human hand, and every one of them can be broken, one by one. But that's been done to death! Personally, I want to see if they can be removed one at a time without damaging the rest of the hand, like completely pulled out. You'd have to be very careful, though… Trouble is, I'm not so good with careful."
Zoom's eyes widened as the evil Canadian took stock of all his tools hanging on the wall: a monkey wrench, a couple of screwdrivers, a bone saw, various gardening implements, a dental pick, a whip, an entire set of chef's knives, wooden kabob sticks, knitting needles in various gauges, a cork screw, something he thought might be a gynecologists' speculum…things he didn't even recognize. Finally, Dark AJ chose a rusty pocket knife and a pair of linesman's pliers. He put them off to the side for the time being, brandishing a boning knife from the chef set and the kabob sticks. The entire time the smile on his face got more genuine, like an excited child on his way to the circus. Overall, it made him look more like the friendly AJ Zoom was more familiar with, which was somehow even more terrifying.
"Let's work our way up to it, though. Don't want you to pass out before the real fun begins, little guy!" His voice was warm and cheerful as he leaned over his playmate, nudging him in the side with what Zoom sincerely hoped was a cell phone in his pocket. He licked Zoom's left cheek and cooed affectionately. "Now scream for me!"
And for the next two hours, he did.
Teresa led them through the hub; being that all drivers were otherwise occupied save for Dark AJ and herself, their base of operations was empty. Dark AJ did not like distractions and would not be paying any attention to security. The disturbingly scarlet Sage, however, was going to be a major problem.
A single Red Sentient seemed not to be so serious to Vert, Stanford, Tezz, and AJ. They had faced worse odds before. But on what amounted to the home turf of a desperate lone survivor… When Teresa verified the Blues were the ones with respawn chambers on this side of the mirror, Stanford suggested simply killing her. All agreed to this was a suitable course of action, but were summarily warned that it would not be so easy. And just because she had yet to be killed unfortunately did not guarantee she lacked a respawn chamber. On top of that, Tezz and Teresa were unsure if such actions would have consequences for the Blue Sage on the other side of the mirror. In the end, they decided their resident master of electromagnetism would have the honor of temporarily disabling the Red Sage with an EMP burst.
Red Sage was fully aware of the intruders, opting to let them come to her so as to deal with them more easily. But she was unprepared for a male counterpart of Teresa with a cloaking device in his shock suit. With a blast that caught her from behind, Red Sage screamed and was forced into hibernation mode.
"She should stay like that for an hour at least."
"Great work, Tezz," said Vert. "Teresa, which way to AJ's room?"
Her nose wrinkled in disgust. "Dalton's dungeon is on one of the higher levels. We need to take the elevator."
"Dungeon?" AJ questioned, grimacing. "Is it really that bad?"
"Hello, little girl. Are you lost?"
She winced, shying away from him. Did he really have no idea what a beast he could be?
She had seen him talking to the child near Zeke's earlier that day. She did not think much of it at the time, even if she had instantly disliked AJ from their first meeting the week before. He was ruthless, needlessly cruel, even, but perhaps he had a soft spot for children. It was not unheard of, even in their dark corner of the globe.
But she could have sworn she heard someone crying.
It did not sound like a voice she had heard before. Certainly none of the coldhearted people she worked with would be weeping openly, leastways not where they could be heard. And the sobs sounded as if they were coming from someone much younger. It was disturbing.
The cries were getting louder now, closer together, with intermittent coughing and choking. Closer, too…Here was the door to AJ's room, the little place he had asked be set aside further from the rest of his team. She listened, putting her ear to the door. There was a little shriek.
"Please, noooo! M-mommeeeeeeeeeeeyy!"
"She can't help you now, sweetheart," AJ said. He laughed softly at her begging, and a chill ran down Teresa's spine.
Pushing past her fear, Teresa opened the door and was immediately hit with a blast of cold air. The next thing to hit her senses was a coppery smell that made her gag. The third thing she perceived was the splash of crimson hitting the ceiling from where a small figure in a white dress lay. And her final observation was that AJ did not look at all pleased with her.
He howled in frustration, lumbering towards her, and she thought a second too late to run. He grabbed her as she turned away, dragging her back into the room and tearing the keypad from the wall to prevent further intrusion. Teresa was slammed against the wall, pinned by her wrists as AJ leered directly into her eyes.
"You ruined it," he snarled. "Why'd you have to distract me like that? You made me miss the best part!"
"You sick bastard!"
Teresa instantly regretted that statement as he backhanded her and she fell to the floor.
"You little bitch! I guess your daddy never taught you to knock before entering, eh?" He punctuated this assertion by punching her in the gut. It was all Teresa could do to stay conscious and resistance was out of the question. "I'll just have to teach you myself, I suppose. Filthy little whore. You're lucky Vert needs your technical expertise. I promised him I wouldn't kill any of our allies."
He ripped the zipper of her shock suit down, revealing the creamy white skin of her breasts, and his eyes glistened in the most terrible way. She shrieked as loudly as she could, vainly trying to free herself from his iron grip and was rewarded with another slap. He yanked down her pants with a grin.
"But I don't have to kill you to have some fun."
She did not look up. "We have to hurry" was all she said.
Not a few minutes later and they were there. Vert got only a nod when he asked if they had the right door. Tezz was still certain they were being led into a trap, but rather than voice his opinion, he only charged his power glove to near fatal levels. Whoever was on the other side of this door was in for a real shock. Vert raised his sword, AJ raised his fists, and Stanford raised the possibility that he could wait in the garage and give word when the Negative 5 arrived and protect their vehicles.
"Fine, just go," Vert said, exasperated. "Now or never, guys!"
Teresa quickly hacked the security and stepped aside as the boys rushed forward, appalled at what they saw.
Shirtless, shoeless, gloveless and bleeding, Zoom lay strapped to a steel table. His eyes were puffy, there were shallow slashes across his chest and arms; high gauge knitting needles stuck out from his skin in a parody of acupuncture. The ends of his fingers and toes were a mangled mess. There were careful, measured notches cut into the sides of his ears. A few deeper cuts seemed to follow the borders between his well developed abdominal muscles and the skin of his left forearm was peeled back and kept open by forceps so the muscle was exposed.
There stood a happily smiling AJ with little bits of red sprayed like freckles across his face and upper body, raising eyebrows in wonder and brandishing linesman's pliers and a rusty pocket knife. More distressingly, he seemed to have a massive erection. He dropped the tools in favor of a fireman's axe, winking coyly at his more innocent counterpart. "Well, well, who is this handsome devil?"
Tezz sent an EMP blast that not only missed its target, but, due to the manner in which Dark AJ dodged, hit Zoom. The scout must have been meditating or dead because though his body jumped, he made no sound. Shocked as he was, he did not see how Dark AJ kept grabbing items from his tool rack. Before he could come to terms with his mistake, knitting needles were hurled at him like a ninja's senbon, followed immediately by a meat cleaver. Vert pulled him back before any permanent damage could be done, but two needles lodged themselves in Tezz's shoulder. He cried out, falling to his knees, but still not fighting back. Could he have just killed the one they came to save?
With Tezz out of commission, Vert charged at Dark AJ with his sword. Forced to leave his tool rack, he absconded with a small power drill and a santoku from the chef set, quickly tucking the handles into his belt. Dark AJ blocked a sword stroke with the axe handle, kicking out at Vert to take his legs out from under him. Vert slashed at his legs as he fell, but only grazed the tough material of the doppelganger's shock suit. Annoyed, Dark AJ brought the base of the handle down onto Vert's left temple. Vert slumped to the floor, seeing stars, as Dark AJ raised the axe to strike.
"Nice try, hero, but that's no way to get ahead in life," he snarked. "As the red queen said—"
The wind was knocked out of him as AJ shoulder-checked him into the wall NHL style. He quickly relieved his doppelganger of the axe, following up with a mean right hook. Dark AJ dodged the punch, grinning as knuckles hit the wall, and landed three quick but forceful punches to the more positive AJ's gut.
"You little punk," he said, amused. "That actually hurt. You've got spirit, I'll give ya that!"
He followed the statement with a hard kick to AJ's chest that sent him flying into Zoom's table. AJ hurriedly gathered himself up but was knocked back down again as Dark AJ elbowed him in the side of the head. Casually, he removed the power drill from his belt and gripped AJ by his hair. He pulled his head up and forward, but kept him pinned with his boot in the unfortunate goody-goody's crotch. AJ moaned in pain, trying to get a grip on Dark AJ's knee, but had his head bashed against the edge of the table for his trouble.
"See, you're not givin' up, which is cool; I get that," the doppelganger started. "But you're clearly holdin' out on me. I can see that hate in your eyes, eh? You could tear me apart if you grabbed a weapon and fought dirty. You've got the beast in ya same as me, no matter how ya fight it. C'mon, let 'im out. It'll do ya some good! Let's have some fun, dude!"
AJ spat a mouthful of blood at him. "I am nothing like you."
"Yer right; you aren't like me...you ARE me. You have the same kinds of feelings, of needs for the violence, for the thrill. You love extreme sports because they're so delightfully suicidal and blood and injuries don't bother you, am I right? You've got the potential to be something truly terrifying, big guy." He fingered the trigger of the drill and the motor squealed to life, the sharpened bit turning maliciously fast. "Or, at least you did. Now you're just going to be brain dead. Well, more than usual, anyway."
"You do realize, of course, that you are insulting yourself as well."
Dark AJ's head snapped to his left and he narrowed his eyes dangerously. "So the little whore let you boys in, eh?" he sneered, stopping the drill. He tightened his grip on AJ's hair, bashing his skull against the table so hard his fingers came away bloody.
"So now you want to kill yourself? How fascinating."
"Suicide isn't usually my modus operandi, but for this loser I'll make an exception." He put the drill back in his belt, removing instead the santoku.
"It's because you're weak. You can't—" Teresa's statement was cut abruptly short as he gripped her throat, holding her up against the wall.
"Trying to hold my attention with witty banter long enough for the big damn heroes to compose themselves? Kind of cliché, eh?" He wasn't grinning in a predatory manner anymore; rather, his smile was truthfully joyful as he stabbed through her shocksuit. The knife buried to the hilt in her gut, a slow, survivable wound if properly treated, but the most painful for keeping its victim alive for such a long time. "For someone who's supposed to be a genius, you really are too dumb to live." He pulled the knife and stabbed once, twice, three times more into her abdomen, and let her fall to the floor. He walked back over to where AJ slumped, still dazed from his beating, taking out the drill again as he strode. "Now, where were we?"
With her last ounce of courage she had tried to buy the heroes some time, and all it got her was a knife to the gut. Watching Teresa fall was enough to finally snap Tezz out of his funk. Still, it took a painfully slow moment to charge his glove. With Dark AJ so close to AJ and Zoom, he didn't dare use anything higher than a knockout blow. His aim struck true, a bolt of electricity striking Dark AJ between his shoulder blades. He screamed, falling to his knees momentarily.
Much to Tezz's surprise, the behemoth started laughing. "Ooooo, that tickled! Careful, honey, you're really turning me on!"
Shakily, the doppelganger rose to his feet, moving further towards AJ. Tezz hit him again. Dark AJ snarled, throwing his power drill and missing Tezz's head by a fraction of an inch. With that precious moment of distraction he lunged at AJ with the still bloody knife, screaming. Tezz shocked him with as high a voltage as he dared in a room with so much metal. Finally, Dark AJ fell.
Vert stirred groggily as the steaming body hit the floor with a resounding thump. As his brain restarted and he remembered where he was, he quickly and efficiently prioritized the scene. Teresa was bleeding the most but Tezz was looking her over. AJ was bleeding terribly but head wounds often looked more serious than they actually were and the Canadian seemed more concerned about his balls. Dark AJ lay prostrate and was not a threat at the moment. Zoom was still strapped to the table and not moving!
Vert scrambled to the table, hurriedly unlatching Zoom from his prison and checking his vitals. He listened there for an agonized moment, ripping off the left glove of his shock suit with his teeth. He felt around the scout's throat, pushing his ear against his chest, desperate, petrified, despairing… Until, finally—was it? Yes! He had a heartbeat. Gingerly he lifted Zoom into his arms.
"AJ, you cool to drive, dude?"
"I think so."
"Good. See if you can find the Chopper and hitch it to Gear Slammer so we can head home. Tezz, you—Tezz?"
But the Russian had already run out with the injured form of Teresa Volitov clutched to his chest.
"Why'd he take her? She's one of them."
"We promised we'd bring her to our world. I won't go back on my word, especially if this is what she had to put up with."
AJ glanced over at his evil alternate, wiping the blood from his own forehead. He wondered, should they have killed him? No…that would have been wrong. The good guys didn't do those kinds of things. But, if he was really as good as he thought, he wouldn't have considered killing his dark self to begin with. And for just a second, AJ feared the doppelganger had been right.
In the end, he stood up and left, confident he was the better man. Side by side with Vert, the pair of them made their way up to the garage. Despite having taken the boy's bike, AJ was glad Zoom was riding in the Reverb; there was a part of him too scared of Zoom waking up and telling him exactly what he had endured.
Tezz had already fled through the portal and back to a more positive Earth, carrying the female version of himself to the infirmary. Sherman aided him in the surgery while Spinner covered surveillance and Agura hopped into the zone for a last minute assist. Almost as fast as she had entered the zone, she and Vert were home free with the key, safe and sound.
Stanford made his way to Earth and helped Sage with damage control. Despite looking awful, Zoom was hardly bleeding. The hardest part would be removing the bamboo splinters from beneath his finger and toenails without leaving anything behind. First, they got Zoom started on fluids and antibiotics, and Sage performed a few tests to see the extent of damage to the abdominal wall. After flushing and stitching the wound, the she pulled out the knitting needles which were, thankfully, not anywhere near any major arteries. The bamboo was more difficult, if only because there was so much of it. What kind of monster did this to anyone? To a member of their own species?
"Zoom will survive," Sage told Vert when he returned with the key. "But what he suffered was beyond unconscionable. Opposite timeline or not, I have trouble believing a human did this."
He looked through the doorway at the scout's sleeping form. "Humans are capable of a lot of things, opposite world or not. More righteous than any angel...more sinister than any demon; we're weird like that."
"Still, they said AJ's evil counterpart did things like this regularly? To other humans?"
"There's a name for that kind of monster, Sage. We call them 'serial killers.' The scariest thing about them is they look just like everyone else." He looked into her eyes. "People lie to their family and their friends, all the while hiding the beast that lives inside them. Not everyone has a rhyme or reason to their actions. Some women just want to kill their own children. Some men just want to watch the world burn."
"But that's horrible!"
"Doesn't stop it from being true," he contended.
Both turned abruptly as an alarm sounded from the next operating room. Teresa's heart monitor was flatlining, the single note holding continuously.
"Stand back," Tezz demanded, charging his power glove. "I'm going to restart her heart."
"Tezz, we did the best we could. She's gone."
"No! If she's really a female me, she's too stubborn to die! CLEAR!"
Her body arched as the electricity coursed through it, and for a moment there was a blip on the heart monitor, but she lay still and the note held once more. Tezz's face contorted in rage.
"CLEAR!" he yelled again, shocking her once more to no effect. She did not take a breath, she did not twitch; she simply lay there.
"The brain can only go four minutes without oxygen before there's permanent damage," Sherman said grimly. "Tezz, I'm sorry."
"NO!" he cried, embracing Teresa's still form. "No, you saved me, you have to come back. Teresa, I'm sorry I didn't trust you. I'm sorry…please…"
Tezz fidgeted with the bandages around his shoulder, uneasy. It had been a long, hard ordeal and he was glad it was over.
As soon as they stabilized him, Zoom begged to have the past few hours removed from his memory. Seeing as how he had seen the worst Dark AJ had to offer, Sage mercifully obliged. The boy was now recovering nicely, though he did feel strange missing such a large amount of time. He joked about it from his bed in the infirmary, saying that he had his brain bleached. He remembered fighting with Dark Zoom, being captured by Dark AJ, even pleading for Sage to mind-wipe him…but for him those fateful hours were gone forever.
Thank goodness for that, at least. What Zoom had been through…no one needed to remember, especially one so young. Soon his body would heal and it would cease to matter entirely. He would forget all about the Negative 5 until the next eclipse, even the one who had died for him.
Tezz winced as he remembered Teresa's grim demeanor, how fatalistic she had been. Living with Dark AJ and the other Negative 5 had eaten away at her soul. He supposed it was only a matter of time before she self-destructed. It was only the logical conclusion after bearing the brunt of their abuse for so long. He wondered: would she have liked to have her memories of that time erased? Could an entire year be forgotten without severe brain damage or even death?
There was a knock at the door, and Tezz quickly pulled his shirt back on, ignoring how much his wounded shoulder itched. "It's open."
"Zoom's bruises have faded enough for him to be seen in public again and the others wish to celebrate by visiting Zeke's," she told him. "Shall we accompany them?"
"I think I would like that, Teresa," he said. He smiled warmly. "You will like it there. It is just a humble diner, but it is friendly."
"Just as long as Zeke himself is not a dirty old man; it was a strip club in the mirror world," she remarked, and they laughed. When finally their mirth eased, Tezz leaned forward, stroking her face. Teresa froze, as so often she did, always wary of any physical contact.
"You should smile more often. It is quite lovely."
"You are one to talk."
"And why hide such a beautiful face?" he asked gently, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear.
She smirked. "You are simply saying that out of vanity. As a genetic approximation of yourself, you think me attractive."
"I believe it is merely the 'brotherly affection' Sherman warned me about. Seeing as how we share similar genetics, I may be subconsciously considering you family and instinctually desiring to protect and nurture you." He stretched, arching his back a bit, and yawned. "We should go. Our teammates will be waiting."
"Anything you say…brother."
Tezz and Teresa shared yet another affectionate smile. As she bled on the table, her heart beat ceasing, Tezz had despaired and begged her not to go…so Teresa came back. Not even death could separate them, and now that the former orphans had family to cling to in times of trouble, things were looking brighter. She was solemn and scientific and they had so much in common, enjoying the same books and having the same pet peeves; Tezz finally understood how Spinner and Sherman shared such a bond. With a final laugh the newly minted Volitov siblings stepped out to congratulate Zoom on a speedy recovery, walking hand in hand.
A/N: DANANANANANANANA FENRIR...Yayz! Teh evulz! Teh gender bendin! What more could you want? I certainly had fun with this, and I hope you folks liked it too! Thanks for reading, and be sure to tune in next time, same Fenrir time, same Fenrir channel!