Act Four Bobby stared at Beka for what seemed like a lifetime.
Bobby stared at Beka for what seemed like a lifetime.
"You're…you're up." He eventually said weakly.
"What are you doing?" Beka asked, acid in her voice.
Bobby looked down at the bottles and vials on the table, then back up at Beka. "Um….I was-"
"You asshole!" Beka's voice broke painfully and she lashed out at one of the cupboard doors, which shook painfully on it's locked hinges. "You promised me! You fucking promised me!"
"Beka, I can explain-" Bobby pushed himself away from the table with a scramble.
"Oh, can you?" Her voice was still agonizingly shrill. "You can explain to me why you broke a promise to me, and you kept treating me like…Jesus, Bobby, you'd deliberately go out of your way to get me angry! What's the fuck's wrong with you?"
Bobby was withdrawing. "Look, Beka, I-"
"I don't think I want to hear it!" Beka was trembling, her bone-thin hands twitching in anger. "You promised me you'd stop! You're just…you're just like him, you're just like him!"
Bobby didn't need to ask who she was talking about. His face darkened. "Whatever. You drove me to it, you bitch."
"Shut up!" Bobby's eyes really widened. It was the first time she had responded to his insults like that before. "Just shut the fuck up! I never want to hear your fucking voice again!" She sobbed out the last word and stood there, shaking, and it was a long time before she realized tears were running down her face.
She turned and got a glimpse of her reflection in the polished metal surface of the locked cupboards, her face still crusted slightly with blood, a sizable bruise just starting to heal around her left eye. Tears streaming down angry flushed cheeks. Tired, weary reddened eyes.
Beka took a deep, shaky breath.
"I…I've made you cry, haven't I?" Bobby asked softly.
Beka just looked at him, her eyes narrowing, incredulous.
Bobby, leaning against the wall, slowly slid to the floor. "I'm sorry Beka." He said, his voice shaking, and a few of his own tears slipped out.
Beka didn't move from where she was, far away from him as she could get in that room. "Why do you do it, Bobby?"
"I…" Bobby breathed in loudly, and wiped his arm across his eyes. "I don't know. I…I'm not strong, Beka, I'm not like you."
Beka slid to the floor now, too. They stayed like that for a good ten minutes, staring at each other sadly, crying, unwilling to go to each other.
"I don't mean to, Beka…" Bobby almost whined. Beka didn't want to believe him but a part of her, reluctantly, did.
"I…I don't want you on my ship anymore, Bobby." It finally came out, softly, barely a whisper.
Bobby didn't answer right away, his head hung low, crying. Beka thought maybe he didn't hear her, and winced, because she had such a hard time saying it first, she didn't think she could say it again.
"I'm sorry, Beka." He said simply, his voice that of a child.
"I'm sorry, too." She whispered back. But she still didn't go to him.
They finally docked at Telsa Drift and Beka watched as Bobby gathered his things slowly; he only had a few, small bags. She saw him out to the hatchway in one of the Drift airlocks.
"You…you think I'll see you around sometime?" Bobby asked, his voice still withdrawal-shaky.
Beka didn't meet his gaze. "Not likely," She had a hard time saying that, too, and kicked at the metal of the hatchway.
"I am sorry, Beka," Bobby leaned in and placed a harsh kiss on Beka's cheek. She didn't respond. She didn't even say anything as he made his way out of the airlock bay into the loading corridor.
As soon as the inner airlock doors closed, Beka opened the bay doors and took the Maru out.
She put the ship on autopilot to the slipstream jump point, then went to her bunk and cried and cried and cried, having just realized that no men in her life had ever truly loved her.
Chemicals and room-temperature water now flooded the white room. Big scraps of metal and nuts, bolts, screws and what have you were scattered amongst the sea of death chemicals, like frozen bodies after a shipwreck.
Fifty nuclear weapons were dismantled, and for a full two hours Brendan and Ozzie watched, horrified, their little 'freaking genius' temporarily forgotten.
Seamus was smart enough to get himself out of his fix…
Neither of them was smart enough to save Carol, or figure out why she was doing this.
The first half hour into it they could tell she was already hurting. Her movements lagged, she would stop to cough, painfully, and the stitching in her lips didn't help.
After an hour her skin was blistered up and bleeding, some of it turning green. Her radiation dose was much too high. If she could speak, Brendan was sure she would have been screaming. As it were, she simply shook and continued to do her work, taking apart components, emptying cartridges, disabling the weapons thoroughly. The doors were sealed so tightly that radiation wasn't about to get out. And if they were opened, it would ensure the deaths of everybody in a ten kilometer radius. The Ubers would never risk that. They'd probably sooner seal the entire facility off until the end of time than risk poisoning themselves, much less all those slaves.
The weapons couldn't hurt anyone now but herself.
Ozzie was crying outright, not even trying to cover it up. He pressed his hands against his face, whispering "Oh shit, oh shit…why? Carol…oh, please, Carol, I'm sorry, I love you, please…" And crying.
Brendan trembled, glancing over at Ozzie every now and then uncomfortably, gripping Joy close to him. He didn't notice that he, himself, was also crying.
Also at an hour, Carol had turned to them with her green, boiling face and gave them the finger, matter-of-factly, and gestured at them to leave.
Brendan had nodded, swallowing, and tried to get Ozzie to come with him.
"No." Ozzie had said, firmly. "I'm not leaving her. I don't care if I die here, too. I'm not leaving her."
So they watched for another hour.
Eventually the twenty-four year old slave, and mother of dead children, was finished with her work. Fifty nuclear weapons. Must've taken them years to build, and she made short work of them in two hours.
With quite the price, of couse.
She wasn't even recognizable anymore, as she stumbled over to them. Her feet were burned almost to the bone as she sloshed through hazardous chemicals, her skin literally boiling and peeling with every step. Brendan was almost sick. Ozzie sobbed even louder.
"I love you, Carol, I love you…" He kept saying, over and over, drowning in his own tears. Carol stood before them in the mirror, staring, her reddened, poisoned eyes filling with their own tears. Brendan wondered fleetingly if she could still even understand what was going on.
White, chunky, toxic vomit spilled out from the between the stitches in her lips. Solemnly, she pressed a mutated hand to her lips in a twisted travesty of a kiss, and pressed it up against the glass where Ozzie's own lips were mashed.
Some of her skin stayed behind when she took it off again.
Carol blinked serenely at them, and slowly slumped down to the floor, so close to the wall that it was impossible to see her through the glass.
"No, no!" Ozzie bayed quietly, pounding the glass again, softly, with defeated fists. "I love you! I love you! Please…Carol…"
"Ozzie…Ozzie…" Brendan reached ineffectually for Ozzie's arm.
"Why…why would she leave me like that?" Ozzie sounded like he had just had a stroke or something. Brendan grimaced.
"She…she did it so they couldn't hurt anyone anymore, Oz. So that…so we could go and save Shay and…and get rid of them one day." Brendan sniffled feebly, ignorant of the tears running down his face. "Ple…please, Oz, let's go. Carol…she wants us to. She told us to." Brendan put a hand on Ozzie's heaving shoulder. "She did it so we could live, Oz, you know that. Don't you?"
Ozzie, weeping, looked at Brendan fleetingly in the eye. "I don't know if I can live without her, Bren," It was barely a whisper. Ozzie made a fist and bit down on it hard, still crying, punishing himself for leaving her like that.
"Yeah…yeah, you can, Ozzie." Brendan took Ozzie's arm and slowly led him away. "We've…we've all done it before."
It was too bad that, as they were so wrapped up in their own grief, they didn't see it coming when they were cornered by the white room worker Nietzscheans.
No one was with Carol when she died a half hour later.
It would have taken longer if her organs had given out from the radiation poisoning.
Mercifully, however, she just choked to death on her own vomit.
Seamus didn't know what time it was when he woke up. He didn't realize he had been asleep, or passed out, or whatever state he was, exactly, in. But suddenly prickling spots of bright whiteness flooded his vision and he shot back to reality, cringing, like a babe yanked from the warm, safe womb of its mother.
His head was still strapped down, jammed to the side painfully. Saliva still gobbed out from the sides of the belt wedged in his mouth. One of the myriad scabs on his head was itching like nuts, but he was helpless to reach up and scratch it.
"You're awake, Seamus," Goyashu said softy from where he sat to Seamus' side, his tools still in hand. "That was quick. You were only asleep a few minutes."
Seamus' entire outlook had changed. Everything was sharper, clearer…digital. He felt something scratching at the back of his eyes and he blinked rapidly to make it go away. His brain felt like it had been sucked out, categorized, and placed back neatly on tiny shelves stacked into his skull. He wanted to die.
"I'm really rather impressed," There was a shuffling around behind him, and Seamus struggled in his bonds to see what was going on, to no avail. "You took that quite well. A lesser kludge would have passed out long ago, even died. You, Shay…you're special, aren't you?" Goyashu gave his voice a nauseatingly sweet quality that made Seamus want to be sick. "Now we're going to test this out," Goyashu said, painfully slow, like he were speaking to a child. Seamus could hear someone else moving around, Aiello, in the background. His heart raced, even more so than it was before.
Seamus winced, and his breathing hitched, as he felt something cool and small painfully slide into his neck. Into his neck.
It felt like something was probing up inside his brain. It hurt, it fucking hurt!
"There, now," Goyashu cooed. Seamus wanted to kick him in the crotch. "That's not so bad, is it?" There was a slight click and a beeping sound. "Now just close your eyes and relax…" Like that was going to happen! "This isn't the real thing. It's a test. You're going to go into this program and fix those bugs. It's simple. It's a training program for children." He said the last word with disdain. Seamus heard another breath behind Goyashu's shoulder and realized Aiello was watching.
Seamus cringed as something activated in his port. Pinpricks of bright colour permeated his vision.
Suddenly it was as if he roused from a waking dream. He was standing, sort of, healthy and ethereal, in a glowing blue-green environment, scrolling information in 0s, 1s, and kanji characters brushing past his shoulders and over his skin.
It was confusing at first, but nice. Pretty. He had never seen anything truly pretty before.
He learned with glee that he could manipulate the environment to his will, change colours, conjure buildings…create. It felt good.
It didn't take Seamus long to find the 'bugs' that Goyashu was speaking of. They were mostly discrepancies in the kanji characters that flowed past him like cool, clean water. They were easy to fix, and Seamus felt a satisfied smile creep over his face as he healed this environment, feeling truly at home for the first time in his life.
He spent what felt like hours in there, lost in himself, in his work. Slowly everything faded to black and Seamus was left standing there, confused, staring at his digital hands, which weren't nearly as calloused and worn as his real ones.
Then he opened his eyes and his vision took a moment to clear, and he was still strapped into the padded chair, still gagged and gobby. Goyashu was laughing gleefully.
"The rumours were true. You did that all in just a few seconds. You're going to be very valuable to me, Shay!" He stood and undid the straps at the boy's ankles and wrists. Seamus was too weary, having done too much work in his perception, to even bother resisting.
Goyashu also took out the belt from Seamus' mouth, and chuckled when he helped lap up the gathered saliva and drool. Seamus was confused, disoriented, too much so to question it when Goyashu lifted him, almost tenderly, into his arms. Seamus was worth too much to bang around now.
"Now," The big ugly Nietzschean purred menacingly as he waddled over to the main computer with Seamus in his grasp. "We shall commence with more training, hmmm?"
"Uh, Kago, I don't think it's worth it now." Aiello said suddenly.
"What? Why?" Ignoring the boy still flailing feebly in his grasp, Goyashu leaned over Aiello's shoulder.
"That's why," Aiello breathed and pointed at one of the monitors. The white room was completely flooded, their nuclear weapons lying in pieces in the lethal sea. A girl, a skinny, boiled-up kludge was trudging towards the windows, where her kludge comrades looked on.
Goyashu swore a blue streak and dropped Seamus harshly, where he landed with a thud, knocking the back of his head against the side of the console. He looked up and saw the before mentioned discs sitting on the console, part of it hanging off the end.
Goyashu continued to swear, occasionally hitting Aiello as well. "Twelve goddamned years!" He yelled. "Ruined by a fucking kludge!"
Seamus, not really understanding what was going on, stared up at those discs for a long time. There was the diagnostic information needed to get the nuclear weapons online. The specs. Now the nuclear weapons were destroyed, and all that was left were these discs. The discs that Valentine had wanted.
He reached up quickly and snatched them, and, having no other place to stash them, he stuffed them in his mouth.
His already wet, undernourished mouth thought they were food, however, and before he knew what he was doing, he swallowed them whole.
"Well, what're we gonna do now?" Aiello was saying.
Goyashu swore some more, then pulled up a communicator. "Herrera! Debreo!" He yelled at two other henchmen. "Some mudfoots broke into the white room. Go get them and dispose of them now."
Seamus didn't hear the response, but he did hear it when Goyashu and Aiello came to stand before him, staring down menacingly.
"Well, we don't have much use for you now," Goyashu said with a sneer, characteristic of those who take out their own pain on those already weaker.
Seamus cringed painfully, and then the beating began.
Brendan and Ozzie stopped short, staring up and up into the faces of the two big Nietzscheans who had blocked their path.
"Well, well," One of them said. "You're the clever kludges who broke into our stash, aren't you?"
"Ozzie?" Brendan whispered hesitantly.
"What?" Ozzie, still tear-streaked, was beyond caring what happened to him now.
"Run." Brendan said.
And that's what they did.
After she made the slipstream jump, which very nearly killed her like the first time, Beka went to the shower and spent hours cleaning off a lifetime of guilt and self-loathing.
She stood in front of the mirror after, staring at herself, at her now-clean face, and the healing bruise.
"You're not gonna feel guilty, Beka," She said aloud, bitterly. "And if you do, it's going to be because you left those kids on that shit hole planet in the middle of a mission. And that's why you're going back there. To set it straight." Blue eyes bored into blue eyes. "You're not gonna feel sorry for yourself, either, Beka. Took you long enough to figure it out. But it's over now. It's in the past. It's time for the rest of your life." She leaned back, staring at herself critically. Then, with a shake of her head, her hair turned blonde. "There," She smiled. "That's better. New look. New life. And you're not gonna get screwed around this time. You're tough. You're Beka Valentine. And nobody fucks around with Beka Valentine." She leaned back again, the smile even more genuine. Pleased with herself, she straightened her shirt, and went to the cockpit to see about obtaining a landing pass for the Boston sand flats.
He had never coughed up so much blood in his life. Seamus was getting seriously worried from where he lay, curled upon himself in an impoverished little ball, trying to block the blows to no avail.
Seamus had no idea how long the beating had been going on. It felt like forever. He was beginning to forget the unearthly beauty inside his own mind, and he wished now to be there.
He cringed and prepared himself for another kick to his already sensitive, heaving stomach, when the two Nietzscheans dropped like dead flies in front of him.
Seamus remained crouched where he was, too numbed to realize what had happened, and if did know what was going on, he was too scared to believe the force behind it was any good.
"Shay?" A tentative female voice asked softly. Seamus managed to barely crack one swollen eye open. Barely being the operative word. "Jesus fuck, what did they do to you?" The voice was angrier now, as she moved closer to him.
Slender, strong arms gripped him and helped him back up onto the surgical seat where she lay him down. "V…Valentine?" He managed to groan out.
"Yeah, it's me, kid. I'm so sorry we left you guys like that. But I'm here now, we're going to be fine."
Seamus' other swollen eye barely cracked open. At least he was 'seeing' in stereo. "…you killed them." He said blearily.
Valentine glanced down at the incapacitated bodies of the Nietzscheans. "I didn't kill then, they're stunned. At least, I think they're stunned. I…" She turned back with a flippant curl of her lips. "Oh, who cares if they're dead?"
Seamus almost smiled. "You came back." His voice was still painfully weak.
She shrugged indifferently. She was way cooler than he remembered her being. "What'd you think I was going to do?"
"I hadn't noticed you left." He smiled inadequately. "But, still…you came back. You didn't have to."
"Sure I did," Valentine bristled, it was barely noticeable.
"Those Who Have Everything don't…they don't worry about Those Who Have Nothing. They never do. I wouldn't have been surprised if you didn't come back." The little reddened slits that were his eyes closed, and he breathed deeply. "I would've been mad, though."
If he was still looking, he would have seen Valentine staring at her shoes uncomfortably and biting her lip. "I'd never…I'd never abandon you, Shay. I…I don't want you to ever think that, because it wouldn't happen." She shrugged again. "If we were to ever work together again, of course." She said, a little too quickly.
"What happened to your face?" Seamus' eyes were still closed, and his voice sounded like he was talking in his sleep. Valentine started.
"I…Same thing that happened to yours." She brushed it off.
"He hit you?" The sleepy voice had a tinge of anger to it this time. Valentine didn't answer. "If he were here, you know, I'd kill him." Seamus said with conviction. "Or I'd try, anyway."
Valentine smiled, and put an arm on Seamus' shoulder. Instinctively, to Valentine's surprise, he slumped over and rested his weary head on her shoulder. "You changed your hair with your IT, didn't you?" He asked astutely.
She could feel him smile against her chest, the higher, flatter part of her bosom. "That's so fucking cool, Valentine."
"Thanks." The past feelings of anxiety and guilt that came with her from Telsa Drift, having almost been eradicated, were now completely gone. "Listen," She came back to reality and pushed him back up to a seating position; even if his eyes were closed he was still looking at her. "They were evacuating when I got here. That's how I got in so easily. A leak, they said. We have to find the others quickly and get the hell out of here."
"A leak?" Even bruised and swollen as it was, Seamus still managed to screw up his face in an accurate facial demonstration of his confusion. "Why would they evacuate for a leak?"
"It's radiation, Seamus. It'll kill us all if we're not careful."
"Radi…oooh," Something clicked in Seamus' mind. He cracked his swollen eyes open again and looked towards the monitor in trepidation. "Then we do have to move. Quickly."
Valentine looked over his shoulder, following his gaze, and immediately saw what he was talking about.
It was ridiculous logic, thinking they could outrun a pair of Nietzscheans, especially in their state- Ozzie still shocked, crying, without the will the live, and Brendan panicked, shaky, with a baby cradled in his arms.
It was the most terrifying thing Brendan had ever been through, and pacifists in his environment sit through a lot.
They didn't hear the sirens and evacuation warnings, or see the flashing lights down other corridors. Overhead lights flickered and soon they were left in the dark, lost, running blind and scared.
The cruelest part, Brendan figured, was that the Nietzscheans let them run for quite some time before they bothered to catch up. The two mudfoots could hear their laughter behind them, they could almost hear their breathing and feel their body heat. It was deliberate bullying, reserved for the lowest of colonial forces, whose only resort to prove superiority and dominance was overcompensation at the expense of the weaker.
Eventually they were cornered; Brendan almost ran smack dab into a wall, crushing Joy in his grip. He skidded to a halt and stared at the darkened, black wall in front of him, and swore and swore and swore.
The squeaking of thick rubber soles on linoleum slowed to a halt and there was a panicked, pained moment of thick silence that weighted on the soul. "Ozzz…" Brendan started.
"Get out of here," Ozzie said softly, his inferior, legally-blind-at-birth eyes straining to make out forms in the darkness.
"Fucking go, Brendan!" Ozzie hissed, and Brendan heard the sudden onslaught of a lynching.
He took off to his right, keeping one arm up against the wall the entire time to guide himself. He came to an area in the corridors where the lights still flickered painfully, and there he found a tiny alcove. Brendan couldn't run anywhere, especially considering the fact that he didn't know where he was going. He crushed himself into the corner as far as he could go, baby Joy cradled fretfully in his arms.
He said a quick prayer to an otherwise dead god in thanks that baby Joy never made sound. Brendan took several deep breaths and tried to silence his pounding heartbeat a little, willing himself to stop sweating and shaking. They could smell fear. Literally.
He stared into Joy's frighteningly alert, jaded blue eyes to calm himself. She stared back serenely, her big eyes sunken in her sallow face, gurgling silently and flailing her little plastic doll arms lightly. Brendan started crying and tried to hold his breath.
There was a loud crash in the corridor and Brendan actually screamed, thinking Ozzie already dead, and crushed himself up in that corner a little more.
The two Ubers swung around the corner with upsetting precision, effectively blocking Brendan into the alcove. Stupid move on Brendan's part, really, but he could hardly be blamed solely for his current position.
"Cowering, little kludge? Ready to beg for your worthless little life, hmm?" One of them sneered arrogantly. If Brendan were in a better state of mind he would have been sick, but as it were:
"Yes…" He murmured weakly.
"Then beg!" The other one laughed and kicked him swiftly in the side. Brendan jerked, still crushing Joy to his chest, and curled slightly to the side.
"Pl-please, please, sirs…" He managed to choke out through sobs and panic.
"That's pitiful," The first Nietzschean sounded like he was discussing a mediocre play. "You can do better than that." With that, he reached forward lightning fast and snatched baby Joy from Brendan's arms.
"N-" Brendan managed to peep out before he was pinned back to the wall by the spurred arm of the other Nietzschean digging painfully into his throat.
"How 'bout now? Think you can do better now?" The first Nietzschean gave baby Joy a painful shake. Brendan convulsed violently.
"Please, sir, please!" He screeched unbearably, his voice breaking as fiercly as his heart. "Please, please don't, oh God, fuck, please, please, don't-" Kick. "Please! Please!" His voice heightened considerably, tearing through the air like a sonic jet. "I'm begging you, please, let us go!"
The first Nietzschean laughed again, a little lighter this time, and shook Joy again a little casually. "Maybe if you do a little favour for me." He glanced at his Uber comrade, who was still holding down the still convulsing Brendan. "Do you think the little kludge would like doing a little…service for me, Debreo?"
Brendan twitched more, close to vomiting, his voice whispering off on a nonstop mantra of "Please, god, no, please."
Debreo shrugged, his spurs digging into Brendan's skinny shoulder and drawing blood, without his notice. "Seems like the type."
The first Nietzschean chuckled again, shaking Joy casually. "Kludge, do what I want and I'll give you your little friend here." He patted the front of his pants lightly as he spoke. Brendan's breathing hitched and he looked up with his tear-stained face.
"Don't act stupid." The Uber unzipped his fly sullenly and Debreo jerked Brendan forward, startling the young man, until he was in between the two Nietzscheans.
At any other time, like most times in the past, Brendan would have hesitated, objected, protested, whatever. Here he acted in a state of automatism, his breath hitching occasionally, tears still streaming down his face like a rushing waterfall, as he started with the familiar, degrading work before him.
It could be worse, he tried to console himself as he went through with it, choking, the Nietzschean arching back slightly, sighing contentedly. Carol went through much worse with Betas like this.
/Oh, God, Carol…/ Brendan sputtered a bit and almost didn't finish the job.
"Herrera, he's gorgeous like that," Debreo said softly, out of the blue, a moment later. Brendan choked for real and jerked back, spewing, Herrera finished and done with.
He fell to the ground, gagging, gasping, and puking, while Herrera chuckled, tucking himself back in and doing up his fly. "Yes. He is. Here, boy, you've earned your reward." He dangled Joy, upside-down, cruelly in front of Brendan. Brendan, startled, reached forward and fell again, his sobbing having started anew. "Go get it," Herrera suddenly flung Joy around, throwing her behind himself flippantly, where she hit the adjacent wall with a cruel thwack.
They were expecting Brendan to scream, at which point they could have more fun with him. But he didn't. He showed a remarkable feat of strength. In fact, the moment the sound of the breaking bones in that baby's body hit his ears, he shut right up. The tears stopped. His grimace faded. The anguished fire in his eyes died to be replaced with an angry freeze.
Something in him died. Most likely his soul.
Herrera and Debreo, as a matter of fact, were a little scared by this transition. Herrera's eyes widened the littlest bit and he took a step back from the disturbed kludge.
Brendan rose slowly, never blinking, his murderous eyes locked with Herrera's the entire time. His last tears crept ignored down his sallow, cracked face. Vomit, blood, and violation remained smeared across his chin, neck, and chest.
He opened his mouth softly, and sucked in the most terrifying breath Herrera had ever heard.
Then Brendan screamed. Howled. Wailed. Yelled. Bayed. Shrieked. If you could hear it, your heart would have broken into a million pieces.
But the Ubers didn't hear it. Ironically enough, the moment Brendan's breath pushed that shriek past his teeth, the sound of several shrillers filled the corridors.
The first thing that was done was the detaining of the Nietzscheans. After Seamus was propped up against the computer console, figuring his way around it, Beka dragged Goyashu and his lackey to one corner. It took her a hell of a while, but she did it. She didn't even bother asking Seamus over to help her. In the state he was in, he would've just gotten in the way.
She managed to drag them over to a load-bearing pole near the side of the room. She stood there for a while, staring, trying to find chains or something to bind them. Beka ended up taking the bonds from the surgical chair and trying to use those, but that didn't work out so well.
So she took her pistol and stunned them some more, and hoped they'd stay unconscious for longer.
They were only Betas, after all.
"I have a plan," Seamus said when she was done, and she leaned over his shoulder at the massive computer console. They saw Brendan and Ozzie running down darkened corridors over the monitors, the two Ubers playing like them like cats with mice. "I'll jack in and set off those Ubers, I can use their own security weapons against them. You go and get Ozzie and Brendan and get out of the building as fast as you can. Once you guys are out I'll seal all the outside doors so the radiation can't leak out. And I'll flood it in here so those bastards," He jerked his head backwards, where his tormentors lay subdued. "Can't get out ever again."
It was a little too fast for Beka. She ruffled her brow. "Jack in? Wha…" She turned his head to the side, to see the previously unnoticed newly implanted dataport, swollen around the sides, puffy, pussy, and bleeding just the littlest bit. "Jesus fuck! Shay, what the hell-"
"No no no, it's totally cool!" Seamus managed to give her a sly, cocky grin, even through all the swollen bruises. "Relax, relax. It hurt like hell, but I totally love it."
"Are you sure-"
"Don't touch it! Fuck!" He batted her hand away, lightly, not noticing how much they were bantering like siblings.
"Sorry," She retorted, smiling slightly.
"Here," Seamus continued, pointing up at the monitors. "Get out there, turn left, then right, then down a flight of stairs, and right again. I think."
"I'm not leaving you." Beka didn't move from where she was.
"How are you going to get out, Shay?" Beka moved to the side so she could see his face. He didn't look at her, typing away busily.
"I'll figure something out. Don't worry about me." When she still didn't move he looked up again. "Look, I mean it, I can take care of myself. Ozzie and Brendan can't. We have to help them. Go, please, Valentine?"
She rolled her eyes, gripped her pistol tighter, and headed out. Beka paused in the doorway. "Hey," She said. "You can call me Beka, you know."
He glanced up at her shyly. She could've sworn he was blushing, but it was so hard to tell, what with the bruises and all. "Okay, boss. Beka." He laughed a little, lightly.
Beka followed his directions down the darkened, flashing, klaxony corridors. Eventually she came across Ozzie, slumped over on the floor. She ran to him and knelt by his side.
"Jesus," she muttered as she rearranged his limbs around her.
"V-Valen…" He couldn't get it out very well. His throat was bruised right up, he had trouble breathing. His homemade spectacles were smashed, one of his eyes swollen shut and bloodied. It was very obvious he was essentially blind at the moment.
"Hold on," Beka said authoritatively. "We're gonna get you out of here. It'll be okay." She leaned down and slung one of his arms over her shoulders. For such a skinny guy, he was pretty freakin' heavy.
"But…Carol…" Ozzie managed to get out.
"I know," Beka said softly, trying not to think of the stitched up woman with the emaciated, raisin-like breasts. "It'll be okay, Ozzie. Come on."
She managed to limp down the halls, recalling from memory where she was supposed to go to get out.
Beka was startled and almost dropped Ozzie went the corridors were filled with the sound of shrillers.
He was in his element. Seamus couldn't stop grinning or laughing in the pseudo-environment, bathed in luminous blue and green. His body was healthy, healed, strong. He could see clearer than he ever had before in his life. There was no painful ringing in his ears, the buzz that usually came from fear, hunger, and the last beating.
Scrolling kanji whizzed by him, and with a flick of his hands he manipulated the chains to his will. He didn't see the monitors of the corridors, or hear the shrillers in the distance, but he knew they were there. He could feel it.
Seamus was omnipotent here. With a wave of one hand he built up entire empires of codes and information, and with the wave of the other he tore it all down again. He gave life to the AI matrix of the building, to the security system, the lighting, the heating, the ventilation, the alarms, even the plumbing. He gave life to an inanimate structure and he could take it all away again in the same breath.
He really was a freakin' genius!
Seamus laughed, his digital face clean, his digital hair shining. When he was satisfied that the shriller sounds had gone on long enough to subdue the Nietzscheans, he lit up a path for his comrades and opened a pathway for them, timing it to seal up after them so the good people of Boston were spared from poisoning.
Brendan yelled with the all the rage of three hundred years of oppression, of toil, labour, slavery and disease, poverty and starvation, all the frustration, anger, and helplessness exploded out of his corpse of a soul.
Herrera and Debreo didn't exactly fall to the ground, but they crumpled over satisfactorily, giving Brendan enough time to kick them each in the crotch and send them to the floor.
He started with Herrera, as was fitting. He throw himself forward and landed on the big Nietzschean's gut with a painful, soft thud, which would have hurt anyone. Without a moment' hesitation, in the same state of automatism in which he had performed his last act on this Nietzschean, he curled up his calloused, work-weary, scabby hand into a tight little steel fist and beat and beat and beat.
He broke Herrera's nose easily enough, and eventually it was shattered. Herrera struggled and Brendan shoved the palm of his left hand just underneath the Uber's adam's apple, crushing it painfully, while he struck his face.
After Herrera's nose was broken the cheekbones were easy to bruise and crush. The Nietzschean's face became distorted. Blood vessels in his eyes burst at alarming speeds and went red.
It was the most amazing feat of strength, or a Divine-given miracle, that the skinny little pacifist kludge could overpower the petro-chem Nietzschean guard so easily, but it happened. Eventually Herrera's face was nothing but a pile of mush and broken whiteness. Brendan didn't have time to try to bash the Uber's skull in, but if he had, he certainly would have done it.
Brendan stood and Debreo was cowering alongside Herrera, like the fucking lowly Beta he was. Brendan stood over him, glowering. At some point the shrillers had stopped and the lights flickered back on, and Debreo could clearly see the dead anger in the frozen eyes, and Brendan could clearly hear the sound of Debreo's rapidly beating heart.
Since Debreo hadn't been the real perpetuator of any crimes against Brendan, the skinny mudfoot was kinder to him. He kicked Debreo out and then stomped on his neck until he was sure it was broken.
Then he stepped back and leaned against the wall, staring blankly at where Joy lay. He didn't cry. And he didn't notice the huge gashes up and down his body where Herrera's bone spurs had wounded him.
Even if he did notice them, he wouldn't have cared.
It wasn't such an unbearable sound, Beka reflected, but she could see why the Nietzscheans would be vulnerable to it with their superior hearing. She cringed and cringed and helped Ozzie limp along the chosen pathway when the shrillers stopped and the lights came on full strength.
She stopped, standing still in the silence with Ozzie draped over her. A chill ran up her spine.
She turned the next corner and saw Brendan kicking in the throat of a Nietzschean. Another lay next to him, his face the most gruesome image Beka had ever seen.
Brendan didn't notice them as he turned and slumped against one wall. He bled freely up and down his sides. Beka worried a little that he would pass out.
She helped Ozzie walk over to them, pointedly avoiding the bodies, pointedly not looking at the dead baby in the corner, and set Ozzie down gently next to Brendan.
Then she looked at Brendan softly. "…Brendan?" She asked, a whisper.
He lifted his eyes up to meet hers. The front of his ragged shirt was an absolute mess. Beka didn't want to know what was in it. "I killed them," He said like he was discussing the weather.
"I know." She said softly.
"They…they got Joy. Carol, too, but…they really got Joy," It was like he was explaining a math equation.
"It's okay, Brendan," Beka felt a little uncomfortable saying that, as she knew very well it was not okay.
"So I killed them." He shrugged. "It didn't make me feel any better. Just made me…it made me like them."
"No, it didn't." Beka's voice had some strength and conviction now. It brooked no argument. "You're better than them. You always were. You're the only person I've met who deserves the title of 'man'." She didn't drop contact of his eyes.
Brendan remained where he was, just looking at her. Something changed in his eyes, but he didn't cry. They just became…softer.
"I'm sorry, Brendan." Beka said. She leaned forward and hugged him, unfazed by the mess that was now being smeared over her shirt and jacket. She hugged him tightly and he sighed and hugged her back, resting his overworked head on her shoulder.
"…thank you," He barely murmured after a moment.
They remained like that for a while. The lights started flickering, not immediately overhead of them, but around them. Seamus was telling them to go.
Brendan and Beka both helped Ozzie up, guiding him with one of his arms over their shoulders each. Lights lid the way ahead of them and flickered out once they crossed each distance. Doors sealed shut, forever, behind them.
They stood outside waiting for what seemed like an eternity. The rest of the workers and Nietzscheans had been evacuated. Most of the workers just went home, the job wasn't worth enough money to have any real opinions on losing. It just meant a few more sickly in the mines and a few more children in the sweatshops and brothels.
They lay Ozzie down on the ground and contemplated carrying him back to his little hole of a home, but Brendan wouldn't leave Seamus in there, and Beka wasn't about to argue with that.
There was a sort of general chaos around them. Many of the Nietzscheans were unaware of the nuclear threat, of course, so they squabbled amongst themselves.
Beka allowed herself to get worried. What the hell was wrong with that kid? When they got back to her ship she was giving him a good talking to-
Oooohkay. Pretty tangential train of thought, that.
"We were afraid you'd betrayed us. Abandoned us." Brendan said softly, never taking his eyes off the sealed up building.
Beka shifted uncomfortably. "I wouldn't do that. I don't do that to…friends."
Brendan nodded a little. "You will take care of Seamus?"
"What do you mean?"
"When you take him with you. You'll take care of him, right?" He looked down at her, his weary blue eyes puffy and reddened. "I'm not asking you to marry him if that's what you're worried about." It seemed like it should have been a joke but Brendan's voice was much too sad for that.
"Yeah…yeah, I know." Beka huddled into her jacket a little more. "I…I'll take him with me." She shrugged. "Sure," She tried to act nonchalant but it was a weird feeling inside her. She needed someone. She needed someone to be on the ship with her that wasn't going to fuck her over.
And he needed…a chance.
"He's a good kid," Brendan said, softly. He went through the old sell-Seamus routine, tiredly. "He's smart. Let him have some fun every now and then, just…look after him, okay?"
Beka looked up at Brendan. "I promise. I'll take care of him. And if anyone hurts him, I'll kill them."
Brendan managed a weak smile. "He'd do the same for you."
Beka couldn't think of anything to say as she stared into Brendan's eyes, which even in these most horrible of circumstances still captivated her.
Brendan's head suddenly jerked up as he turned to look back at the building, where a vent had opened on the side. Seamus scrambled out and dropped to the ground, then started running towards them.
"Finally! Seamus!" Beka was indignant, already feeling like loosing him would be too much. "What took you so long?"
"I was just makin' sure everything was sealed up and ready," Seamus called out, still running towards them. He grinned like an idiot. "I even set it up to seal up the vents on my way out. Am I perfect or what?"
"Why did you wait so long? What about the radiation?" Beka was still indignant.
"Oh, it's okay," Seamus said innocently enough. "I held my breath the whole time, there's no way it could get in."
Beka scrunched her eyes shut and told herself that the first thing she was going to do was give Seamus his shots.
As soon as Seamus actually got close enough to them, Brendan swooped down and snatched him up in an impressive bear hug. "Are you okay?" He whispered.
"Yeah…yeah, Bren. I'm fine."
Brendan didn't relinquish his hold. He turned Seamus' head to the side with a scowl. "Don't touch it!" Seamus yelped. "It's fine. It's great, I'm okay." Seamus looked up at his cousin and guardian. "I…I saw what happened, Bren."
Brendan closed his eyes and hugged Seamus close to him again, burying his face in the crook of the boy's shoulder and neck. "Forget about it," He said softly. "Forget about all of this. You're getting off of here. Valentine's taking you on your ship and…and you're going to have a real life, Shay. And you're going to come back and save us and make me proud. You're my little genius. So just forget all about it." He kissed Seamus' shorn, scabby head softly.
Seamus' cloudy blue eyes widened. "Really?" He said breathlessly. He pulled back and looked up at his cousin. "You mean it?"
"I mean it," Brendan said weakly.
Seamus looked at Beka. "He means it?" A cocky grin spread across his face.
"He means it!" Beka rolled her eyes and realized that, with Seamus on board, it was going to be one long lifetime.
"Ow! Mother fucker!" Seamus cried, and pulled his arm back as quickly as he could.
"Oh, quit your complaining," Beka admonished as she cleaned the needle and disposed of it.
"Why'd you even hafta do that? You said I was clean!"
"For now," Beka added. "It was just one little shot. You've got more of that coming to you where we're going." Seamus looked up at her, pouting a little. She actually laughed and rubbed the peach fuzz on his head. She had cleaned him up and dressed him in cut-down throwaways that Bobby had left on the ship. He looked as cute in them as a baby with a Mohawk. "Relax, Shay," She said. "It's not such a big deal. You'll thank me in a few years."
"Beka?" Seamus said in trepidation. "I have something to tell you."
"Well, those discs that you were after. I kind of…swallowed them. Accidentally."
Beka smiled. "Any sort of time frame of when I can expect them back?"
Seamus blushed and screwed up his face. "I don't think you're going to get them back...I've eaten a lot of things that I shouldn't have that…never came back. Besides, I had a hard enough time getting them down." He looked exasperated.
Beka laughed. "Don't worry about it. In fact, I completely forgot about them. I'll just have to tell my Jaguar that we couldn't find them."
Seamus hung his head. "Are you sure you're not mad? I'd totally understand if you didn't want to take me anymore."
"It's no problem, Seamus, really. Forget about it."
"I mean it," He said softly. "You don't have to do this. I know I'm just a burden."
Beka looked at him softly, concerned. "Seamus…do you not want to come?"
"No, no! I do! More than anything! It's just…do you think I could have a few more days? Maybe a week? There's something I gotta finish first."
Beka looked at him awkwardly. "Okay…I'll tell you what. I'll go and tell my employer we couldn't find the chips and come back, and that should be enough time. Four days good enough?"
"Yes!" He smiled at her. "Are you sure….you'll come back, right?"
"I'm not going to leave you here, Seamus." Beka said, her voice firm. "I would never leave you like that."
"I believe you," He cut his tirade short. "One more favour?"
"Could you…could you call me Harper? I had to hide that I was a Harper so they wouldn't find me and now…I don't know, after this I don't think I want to be called Seamus or Shay anymore."
Beka smiled. "Whatever you want, Harper."
Waking up with an ugly face
Winston Churchill in drag
Looking for a new maternal embrace
Another tired old gag
Am I just a walking bag of
Chewed up dust and bones?
Whoa.. this could be your lucky day in hell.
-Eels "Your Lucky Day In Hell"
"I'm very, very sorry General Rawlins. But by the time we got there the entire factory was sealed up, tighter than a tomb." Beka did her best to smile and hide her anxiety at being in the diplomatic, dress dining room of a Nietzschean ship with several hundred Nietzschean ambassadors from treaty prides.
"I'm very, very sorry General Rawlins. But by the time we got there the entire factory was sealed up, tighter than a tomb." Beka did her best to smile and hide her anxiety at being in the diplomatic, dress dining room of a Nietzschean ship with several hundred Nietzschean ambassadors from treaty prides.
General Rawlins, an aging, tough old Nietzschean, sighed. "Well I suppose there's nothing you could do about that. You do realize you won't be getting the second half of your pay?"
Beka smiled. "That's not an issue. I think both of us can just be glad that the Drago-Katzov no longer have those weapons."
Rawlins' eyes narrowed. "Yes. I guess you could say that." He straightened himself up. "Well, Ms. Valentine, I do hope I can keep in contact with you for any other operations I may need executed?"
Beka shivered slightly. "Tell you what. I'll let you know as soon as my schedule opens up."
When Beka went back to Earth four days later, she found Harper waiting for her, his dataport healed and clean, giving her the sunniest, most overconfident smile she had ever seen.
Behind him, a new well pumped clean water and the children danced in it.
Brendan and Ozzie sat on the side, watching, mourning together. Brendan smiled at Beka weakly, but still genuinely. His eyes lingered on Harper for a moment and his smile grew. He was proud of his little cousin.
Beka suppressed a proud beam and straightened her jacket toughly. "Well, Harper, now that you've proved yourself adept at running water, I expect you'll be able to fix the controls on my shower like you promised?"
If it were possible, Harper smiled wider. "Whatever you want, Boss."