Days and weeks blended together in that place. It was very dark, save the few lights in her cell. Over the days she spent, Emily was getting to know her talent. It wasn’t like she was going anywhere. Food was delivered to her cell via a kind of elevator. It was also where she got any books or other things she could get her hands on. These things became her tools. Tools to train her about the world. Sometimes, she would be visited by one of the guards. Whenever that happened, special magnets that were attached to bracelets that she couldn’t removed stuck her hands together. Making it so that she couldn’t use her talent. Sometimes, the soldiers would do things to her. Over time, Emily got used to it. She used it to her advantage. Special favors, for other favors. It got her whatever she wanted. But not all of the men who visited her were pigs. There was a nice doctor that she had trained with. While he was glad to see her, he wished that she wasn’t there as a prisoner. He kept trying to get her to go along with her father. One word, and she was free. She didn’t care. Emily had every intention of killing the man the moment that she was out. His death would be hell in a way he couldn’t understand.
While she was never allowed outside of her cell, she was aware of what was happening. The Specials were now public blame-machine #1. In fact, there were reports that the Specials, all the active ones, had vanished. All of them. That made her smile. She knew that they would come looking for her. Brothers and sisters in arms. No way that they were going to sit by and become a public enemy. In the back of her mind, she already knew where Inferno would be looking to go. The only place they could – Winter’s Shadow. If they already had Doppelganger working for them, then they wouldn’t be against working with the rest.
One of the many days that bled into each other, and she heard something. It was an intercom to her room.
“Rise and shine, Puppeteer! You have a new roommate coming today! Hope you two can play nice!” There was laughter on the other end. The magnets on her wrists weren’t activated.
They want me to kill this person or something?! The door to her cell opened, with the one on the other side already closed. In came a young woman. She was bald, with tattoos going up her neck and face. They were also on her arms. As much as Emily could see, since she was wearing the same kind of prison outfit.
The moment the two met eyes, it was…awkward. Both looked like they expected to be attacked.
Finally, Emily broke the ice. “So, with the look that you’re giving me, I have a feeling that you were given the impression that I am going to try and kill you. That about right?”
The woman relaxed a bit. “Yeah, pretty much.” She looked around the room, seeing that there was only one bed. She let out an exasperated sigh. “From the look of the room, I get the feeling that the goal was to get us to kill each other. One bed, so one of us was supposed to die.”
Emily groaned, sitting at her desk. “I see. Well, I don’t even know you. I got no reason to kill you. Way I see it, you’re in the same situation as me. We’re in the same outfit, after all. And I’m not about to kill one of my own. It’s bad enough that we’re the Empire’s slaves. I’m not about to go fucking with my own people.”
The girl smiled, sitting on the bed. “So then, I guess we’re stuck together. Might as well get to know each other. I’m Vic.”
The girl’s eyes went wide. “Emily! It’s you?!” She then got rather awkward. “I don’t suppose you’d remember me. God, it’s been so long. We were in the same room, back during conditioning. I remember that you cried at night. You didn’t want to be here. You wanted to go home. We used to talk. I told you stories about the projects. You told me about the Aristocracy. So many miserable hours whiled away, just talking. It was nice. I always missed it, when you left.”
After thinking for a second, she remembered it all. “Oh god, Vic. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I forgot about you! Your eyes, I told you that your eyes were amazing.” She walked over, hugging her old friend. “It’s so good to see you again!”
Vic was nearly crying. “Likewise, buddy.”
Emily pulled back, sitting on the bed next to her. “So, what you in for?” The two shared a laugh at that.
“Oh, you know, killing a whole bunch of their people. They said that I was going to be sent out to the front lines. That I would ‘rip them all to pieces.’ Like I’m just some kind of animal. Sure, I got no issue with killing, but I don’t just kill people because I can. I need a better reason other than -they exist- to go kill someone, you know?”
Emily nodded. “Yeah. For so long, I was out of control. If just felt amazing! They set me loose, told me that I could do anything. At first, it was great. I could control people, even the dead! Didn’t matter. The longer you do it, being told by everyone that you can kill whoever you want, it’s a drug! It took seeing how much I could hurt a person who I love for me to understand just how far down the Rabbit Hole I had gone.” The memory of some of her battles caused her to shudder. “When I stood up to them, told them that I wouldn’t fight for them anymore, they threatened to take the person I loved away. Forever. Now, I’m back here.”
It was a long time before either of them spoke. Finally, Vic reached out and rested her hand on Emily’s shoulder. “He’s a lucky guy. I hope he forgives you, for whatever you did. I’m sure you didn’t mean to hurt him. I know you wouldn’t do that.”
Tears ran down her face as she looked back at Vic. “I hope she does. Someday.”
Her friend was in shock. “You’re…?”
“Yeah. Didn’t really know until I met her. Her name is Quinn. The feelings I had for her, they were stronger than for anyone else. I’ve had a few boyfriends, but it never, ever got this intense. Every moment that I spent with her were the best moments of my life. When I hurt her, I could barely live with myself. I just wanted to die. But here I am, carrying on. I found out from my dad that she got better. Now, he’s using her as blackmail to try and get me to do what he wants.”
Rage suddenly bubbled up inside of Vic. She remembered Emily’s father as well. “I always knew that he was a piece of shit, but this?! Why would he do this to his little girl?! Why would he torture you like that?!”
Emily snorted. “Because he wants to preserve his legacy. Right now, his daughter is one of the Specials, a group of criminals who our government employs. I play ball, he gets me in as one of the Knights of the Crown. A position that carries with it title and prestige. And makes him look like father of the fucking year. What a cocksucker. All he has to do after that is get me hitched with one of the Emperor’s children, then his position in society is set for the rest of his life!”
Vic was stunned. The tenacity of it, it was almost impressive. “Wow. That’s…unbelievable!” Though it occurred to her. “But wait, if that’s what he wants, why not accept? I mean, all you’d have to do is smile and play nice with the Empire. You could still be with Quinn. There isn’t an Aristocratic family one that doesn’t have one or two relationships on the side.”
Hate boiled up inside. “I will NOT have Quinn as some relationship on the side! If I am going to be with her, then I am going to be able to be out in public, being held by her where anyone can see. I won’t hide her and bribe the press to keep quiet. She’s too strong for that, and I’m too proud of who she is to treat her any way else.”
Vic smiled. “I’m proud of you, Emily. So many people sell out, choose to play ball, to get ahead. You believe in who you are. That’s more than most people will ever do.”
The two talked for hours. It felt just like old times, which is what Emily had been wanting for a long time.
When dinner arrived, the doctor had made sure to send two. He was a good man. Emily told Vic about him, for the days when he came to visit. Now that she had a roommate, Emily was sure that the, other visits were going to stop. As the two ate, a thought came to her.
“So Vic, what is your talent? As I recall, yours hadn’t manifested when I was sent off to boot.”
Vic smiled at her. “Nice that you should ask. What I can do is unique. I can create energy fields. Very similar to Gerard, except better! His had to be focused into a weapon. Mine don’t. I can create fields around myself. Their are countless uses for them! I can turn them into a shield, which can repel almost any weapon, physical or particle. I can use them to blast things as a shockwave, pull things to me, levitate things and even to boost myself up! It’s the coolest thing ever when I use my power to throw myself up, slam down into the ground and send energy fields everywhere!” Her face got darker. “That’s when they started the more extensive training. I was told to attack people. Not dummies. Real people! When I hesitated, there were these devices that shocked me. It was horrible. The only way I could make it stop was to kill the people they put in front of me.” There was sadness in her voice. “I still hear their screams at night. Finally, I decided I’d had enough. I told them that if they had me kill anymore people, they’d be next. They tried to restrain me. Lots of their people died doing that. Then, I was hit by a bunch of rounds. They shocked the living hell out of me. Next thing I know, I am outside your cell, being told about how I am going to have a ‘new friend.’ They alluded that you were going to kill me.”
Emily didn’t know how to respond. She felt something, deep inside. A cold and dark feeling, remembering her own past. All she did was put her arms around Vic, holding her close.
“It’s okay, Victoria. We’re both free from that now.”
Eventually, both of them were tired. That was when things got a little awkward.
“So, how are the sleeping arrangements going to work?” Vic asked.
Emily gave her a look. “Oh, come on. It’s not like we have to be weird about this. Sure, it will be a bit of a squeeze, but we can share the same bed. I’m not going to have you sleeping on the floor. It’s freezing! And I sure as hell am not doing that either!” The two shared a laugh.
“Alright.” She looked over at her, closing an eye. “But if you try to have fun with me, it’s your ass!”
Emily stuck out her tongue. “Well, I do dig women with short hair.” That got a laugh. The two stripped to their tank-tops and panties, which was the closest thing they had to sleepwear. While it was still a little odd, it was all they could do. The fit was tight, but they made it work. Vic knew that Emily wasn’t going to try anything. If anything, she was doing all she could not to. Like she felt something was wrong. Like being with her was wrong. Even though she understood why, it still made her feel kind of sad.
Late in the night, Vic awoke. She used the bathroom attached to the cell, then crawled back into bed. As she did, she heard something. It was barely more than a whisper. A mumbling sound that was echoing through the room.
“I’m sorry, Quinn. I’m sorry. Please don’t hate me. I’m begging you, don’t hate me.”
The words made Vic start to cry, putting her arms gently around her cellmate.
At that moment, Quinn was returning home. She had noticed something on the way there. She was being watched. Who the hell is watching me?! Is someone from the Empire?! Do they know who I am?! The last thought, more than any other, got her attention. If they did, then she was in trouble. She made a plan to figure it out.
She got out of the bathroom window, making her way to the fire escape that was just down the ledge. It was a perilous climb, but she wasn’t worried. She’d done it before. After getting to the street, she made her way to the building where her watcher was posted. Like a cat, she got behind the man. In a flash, he was facing her, with her eyes glowing blue.
“So, how about you answer me a few questions, huh?”
The man was scared, then suddenly calmed down. “Of course. Whatever you wanna know.”
The Admiral was sitting on the bridge of his airship, reading through some of the reports. Winter’s Shadow was moving, but his inability to figure out where was bothering him. These people are fucking ghosts! Where are those Specials when you need them?! Just then, the door opened.
“Sir, a package was delivered to our outpost in Toronto. It’s earmarked for you.” It was one of his aides.
“Indeed. Has it been scanned?”
“Yes sir! No explosive, chemical or biological agents detected.”
“I see. Well, let’s see what it is.”
The aide put it on his desk. The Admiral pulled out a knife from his desk, cutting the tape. He opened the box.
“Oh god!” He felt sick. Inside, there was the head of the man he had had watching Quinn. There was a smile carved into his face. There was also a card inside the box.
Hey Admiral Bequette!
Good news, your flunky got the joke! The punch line – send better people!
There was a smiley-face, drawn in blood underneath it, with the word “Ha!” surrounding it. In that moment, the Admiral felt a chill go down his spine. Something was wrong. Very, very wrong. He felt like he had just opened a box. A box that should have stayed closed. Forever.
Until next time, a quote,
“Normal criminals usually have logical motives. But the Joker’s insane schemes make sense to him alone.” -Batman, Batman: The Animated Series