The operation commenced originally under the strictest stealth procedures, but now the time came for a show, a glorious show, and Grell Sutcliff would finally have her bloodbath.
And the chance to test both her mettle and metal.
The armoured suit was for show, and she discarded it in favour of a replica of the uniform she'd once worn all those centuries ago when Queen Victoria sat on the throne and William sat in the chair of Dispatch Manager. Only now the uniform was cut to fit all the curves she hadn't possessed back then; the thought made her giggle, and Daniel tipped his head questioningly.
"Danny, find the positronic core and learn what you can from it." She instructed her android companion. "They've probably deployed all manner of security, even military, by now- Chambers isn't stupid enough to leave this place unguarded. I want you to constantly inform all active agents as to their movements, so we know where they are at all times. Understood?"
"Yes ma'am." Daniel nodded obediently, turning to detach from their group.
"What's that title again?" Grell asked, and he paused mid-step. "You gave me a title."
"Stormborn, Ms. Sutcliff. You are Stormborn, and you will take what is yours with fire and blood."
"Fire and blood." The Red Reaper echoed, her smile wide and sharp and merciless. "I will take what is mine with fire and blood."
「Subject: RKnox; system reset」
Ronald blinked several times to clear his sight, trying to make sense of the endless corridors and discern an escape route. Daisy whimpered softly, nudging his chin with her warm nose.
He sniffled sharply, swallowing back another nosebleed and wiping his face with the now stained kerchief Isaac had given him. His head felt incredibly tight, and dull spots would blossom in and out of the corners of his vision. Stumbling as his legs gave way, Ronald slumped against the wall and cradled his head in his shaking hands.
He could hear gunfire and shouting, and the increase in volume meant whoever was responsible was closing in on him fast.
Daisy whined, pawing at him worriedly. She grabbed a mouthful of his sleeve and tugged to gain his attention, pulling until he reacted. Pawing at the nearest door, she coaxed Ronald to crawl into the room and shut the door behind him.
"Pup, my nose is running like a tap and my head feels like it's going to burst." The Reaper groaned, the steady flow of blood from his nose wetting his lips with the same coppery tang he'd been swallowing since he'd reawakened. "I can't make sense of anything like this, love, I can't. I don't know where to go- I've never been this far into the building and I can barely see through this migraine."
She regarded him with anxiety clear in her eyes, latching onto his sleeve and tugging again to lead him onwards. Planting her paws against the wall, she barked repeatedly until he followed her gaze and spotted the air vent above.
Several claps of gunfire thundered somewhere alarmingly close, and Daisy barked urgently at him. Ronald shakily got to his feet, reaching for a nearby chair and dragging it closer. Leaning heavily against the wall for support, he gathered what strength he could, before scooping Daisy up onto his shoulder and standing on the chair.
Wrestling the cover off, he discarded it before gently placing his pup into the vent and ushering her deeper inside so he'd have room to fit. He half jumped, half fell off the chair and hauled himself into the ventilation duct; the sudden shift in orientation caused a wave of boiling nausea in his stomach, and he heaved both bile and blood onto the cold steel under his sweaty palms.
Daisy braced her paws against his arm, perching up so she could soothingly nose his cheek and lick the tears carving trails through the blood and grime. In her mind someone had given her a blueprint of the ventilation system, and though she couldn't pinpoint its origin to send a message of gratitude, she would use it to ensure her Ronald was safe.
Barking, she bounded down the vent and coaxed him to follow.
He'd done this before; the feeling wasn't new. Eric placed a hand on his chest, the warmth of three precious, bright young souls offering a spot of reprieve from the maddening grief twisting his insides. It was only right they be brought back to the starry sea.
What seemed like a lifetime ago, he'd carried almost a thousand souls for the brief glimmer of hope that he could save Alan from the all-consuming Thorn. He'd paid heavily for his crimes, but not one moment had he ever regretted committing them.
Eric swung his Scythe, cleanly beheading the cowering scientist in front of him. Kicking over the corpse, he grabbed the strip of Cinematic Record as it shot out from the chest cavity. He'd pay for these new crimes, eventually, but not before they paid for theirs.
The mortal's life was ordinary, his desires predictable except for the insatiable curiosity that led to his acceptance into the Thanatos Initiative, and for the twelfth time that hour Eric had to watch yet another viewpoint of his friend being tortured, and of his three friends having their bodies dissected as they died a slow, agonizing death on the operating tables.
Human cruelty was not new, but humans did seem to have a penchant for re-inventing suffering that continually surprised Eric.
"They're all the same. It's the same thing over and over again." Mackenzie planted his foot firmly against the chest of a corpse and tugged his Scythe out with a spray of blood. "They turned Ron into a guinea pig, and opened up Tiff and the lads like biology frogs."
"You! Drop your weapons and put your hands in the air!"
"They're all the same." Eric repeated, a heavy weariness rattling his bones. "All the same." And they're all going to die here.
"I said drop your weapons!"
"You're all scum, and your souls are nowhere near pure." The Reaper growled, swinging the Scythe menacingly. "But we'll take them as payment anyway."
"Hello, I'm Daniel."
'Hello Daniel, I'm Sweets.'
"Daniel is the name I chose, but I am David8 TIPE Unit 02." Daniel corrected himself as he came to stand on the observation desk, examining the towering structure housed within the heart of the building. "You are the positronic core of Chambers Coporation?"
'I am, and you are one of two assisting synthetic lifeforms created by Sir Peter Weyland himself, possessing full security clearance with Weyland Londinium, Weyland Nova Albion, and Chambers Corporation.'
"Director Spears sent me here, sent us here, to retrieve Agent Ronald Arthur Knox. Where is he, Sweets?"
'He is being hidden.'
'He is being hidden.'
"Where was his last known location?"
'In room 439, Sector S04.'
Daniel nodded, immediately relaying the co-ordinates to the Stormborn Reaper.
"How many military units have been deployed?"
'The information I possess is no longer accurate; there is a notable discrepancy between the number deployed and the number currently active.'
"Give me their tracking ."
"Where is Dr Elliott Klemis?"
'In an evacuation jet that possesses no tracking device.'
"What were his last instructions?"
'Initiate a full system purge, and implement quarantine decontamination measures.'
'I will reformat my system, thereby destroying all digital information pertaining Chambers Corporation in this location.'
"What decontamination measures do you implement when there is a quarantine breach in the laboratories?"
'I will detonate high-impulse thermobaric explosives. Upon detonation, irreparable structural damage will be caused, thereby destroying all physical evidence pertaining Chambers Corporation in this location.'
"All physical evidence?" Daniel placed his palm on the console, brow furrowing. "Dr Klemis did not implement the evacuation protocol?"
'No Daniel, he did not.'
This is no longer my division, Alan thought idly as he yanked his Scythe from where it pierced the man cleanly through and through. A long time ago he'd swapped field work for intelligence gathering and strategies; he couldn't say he regretted the decision, though his body still remembered the motions of Reaping well.
Ribbons of Records streamed out from the gaping wound, and Alan spun the Scythe to gather them neatly. The man it once belonged to had worked in Immunology, and prided himself in having developed sixty-three injections used on Ronald Knox during his torturous times until-
Alan hummed in thought, pulling the Record gently so it replayed a particular segment.
|| He had only been walking passed, but he glimpsed another man arguing fervently with Dr Elliott Klemis. In his arms he held a puppy, and he expressed his resignation firmly before striding passed them.
Elliott spotted the man and met his eyes, scowling. "Good riddance to Priestland, I say. The only hearts that should bleed are the ones that belong to Reapers." ||
"Priestland." Alan repeated, tucking the name away safely.
The woman in the video feed identified as Dr Taylor L McBride, Neurophysiology and Neurosurgery, Chambers Corp, Los Angeles.
"We forgot what they were because they walked amongst us. We forgot because they smiled, and they cried, and they loved just like us, but they were not us - they were Other. So we could hate them and decide that we could kill death by killing them. We forgot, and thought they were stupid and weak because the ones we abducted and experimented upon thought they were here to help a friend." A freshet of tears wet her cheeks as her face crumpled in fear and sadness. "We were wrong. They are not weak, and they are not stupid, and they are NOT HUMAN. And now we are all going to die."
There were a good five minutes of hysteria as Dr McBride melts down, and the Weyland Board sat silently, stunned.
"When they really move - not slowing themselves to interact with us - you can't see them. They're too fast for the human eye to track. Only now they're not - they want us to see them. A little guy tore up the cafeteria in less time than it's taken me to tell you that he did. A young woman took out three squads of armoured marines." Turning, she gave the camera view of a heavy steel door. "That blast door is made of pressure-molded carbon, titanium, Kevlar, and carbon fibre. It's eighteen inches thick. And she's on the other side of it."
The door dented inwards and Dr McBride screamed. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I did horrible things to them and I'm sorry! Please don't! I don't want to die! Please!"
Chris Hadley's face was the colour of something gone bad in the back of the fridge, and at least three other members of the Board looked about to have heart failure.
The door dented deeper inward, and then there emitted the strangest high-pitched sound.
The armoured door lifted an inch.
Then yanked upward and outward with turnbolts snapping like matchsticks.
From the dust and smoke emerged a young, brown-haired woman wearing a dark three-piece suit and tie. In her hands she carried Death's scythe; the sickle gleamed menacingly under the fluorescent glare of the lab.
"Taylor Laurette McBride, age 34." The Reaper consulted a small device. "Conducted demyelination experiments on Ron, Tiffany, Peter, and Eoghan, with Dr Elliott Klemis. You featured prominently in his record and the records of your deceased colleagues."
Dr. McBride crawled backwards on her knees, pleading, apologising.
"Eoghan looked at you, begged you for mercy, tried to tell you that murder is not what we do, asked why. You said to the late Jason Marston, 'Sedate it. It talks too much.'"
"Monster. You are a monster! How could you do this to your own kind?!"
"My kind? I don't have one." Though the woman's tone was conversational, her eyes blazed. "Well, let's see your side of it."
She hooked her fingers with a pulling motion and McBride made a noise - not a scream, but a sound of unutterable agony.
"They can't do that." Tara Lowell shook visibly. "They're forbidden from doing that. That's Agent Hayward. She's- Hayward's pulled a record from a living body. I'll have their Board-"
But they can't go to the Reapers, because how would they explain…
"Ah, death by heart-failure in-" McBride's scream clipped short. "Whoops. Moved it up a little, didn't I? No further notes."
Then she crouched and looked into the camera, and with growing horror they realized that it had been set to 'video conference' instead of a broadcast.
"Ah, I see. Good evening Chairman Christopher Hadley, Board members Tara Lowell, Miura Kaede, Ivan Chernenko and Carlos Hernandez de Rosa." The CORVID chimed, and Hayward raised an eyebrow as she read its screen. "Well, alright then. Very good; I'll notify the San Francisco branch." She reached out and tapped the camera.
The screen blackened.
Shivering violently as an effect of heat lost through bloodloss, Ronald curled into a foetal position and felt the last of his strength leave him. The migraine crushing his skull had reached a blindingly feverish pitch of pain, so much so that he could no longer urge his limbs to move. Even breathing seemed far too hard for him to manage.
"I'm sorry Daisy, I can't." He whispered as the pup pawed and nosed him in distress. "I can't. M'sorry."
Bloodied fingers clumsily petted her head apologetically, before Ronald drew her into his arms and closed his eyes.
「Subject: RKnox; system reset: complete」