Two weeks had passed. As the commanders of Winter’s Shadow gathered at the hangar, along with Wolf’s closest lieutenants, there was one major question going through everyone’s heads.
“Where the hell is she?!” Two-Face snarled. “It’s been over two weeks since we heard from her, shouldn’t we have had SOME idea where she was by now?!”
Deathstroke ran his fingers through his hair, deep in thought. Something was wrong, and everyone could feel it.
Black Mask looked up at the screen, where Oracle and Merc were linked in. “Merc, have the Runners found any sign of her?”
“That’s a big negative. We don’t have a damn clue! I’ve had my people in every city trying to find her, but we haven’t been able to find a sign.”
“Same here! I’ve scoured everywhere I can think of on the Net, but I got nothing.”
There was a long moment of quiet.
Finally, it was Azrael who spoke. “So, did she just ditch us? I mean, where the hell would she have gone?”
Deadshot snorted. “You’ve got a link to this all-powerful entity, why don’t you ask him?!” That got him more than one dirty look. Tensions were running high, and those in Winter’s Shadow were worried.
“Well, if you ask me, this is what we get for working with someone who wears a mask!” Riddler snarled. “If we had a face, or a name or anything, finding her would be loads easier! If she ever does end up here again, I’d say that we have more than enough reason to demand an explanation from her!” There were murmurs of agreement.
Gabby was staying out of this. She was scared. Without Wolf, what do we have? Black Mask and the others are good commanders, but she is the glue that holds this together. Without her, this whole operation falls apart. Why would she leave us now?!
“Enough!” Deathstroke said, standing up. “We don’t know what happened, why she has broken contact, or even if she is alive. For all we know, the Empire blew a building she was in up!”
There was some agreement, but then Black Mask looked over. “Wait, if they killed her, wouldn’t the Empire be playing it on every channel? I mean, the death of Wolf would be a killing blow to us. So why wouldn’t they capitalize on it?”
“For the same reason that Riddler is so annoyed-”
“Can we drop the fucking nicknames?” Riddler demanded. “I mean, if the woman who gave them to us isn’t here, why should we us them?”
“Okay, can you just shut the fuck up?!” Bane growled. “We were given these names for our own protection. So, if you have nothing constructive to offer, then sit there and shut up, grease-monkey!”
“What did you just say?!”
“Enough!” Deathstroke shouted. “We’re not doing this! We’re not going to go fighting each other, when we’ve got a much more real enemy outside of this place. Do I make myself clear?!”
Riddler sat back down.
“Now, the reason that Riddler is so annoyed is the same reason that they could have killed her and not be parading her corpse through the street. They are just as much in the dark as we are. But let’s not assume anything, until we know more. So, for now, we carry on as we have been. We now have a large and state-of-the-art navy at our disposal, a lot of tanks and other vehicles, and what’s this about an airship?”
Gabby got up and walked out of the room. She didn’t need to hear this. She was Wolf’s personal knight. Without the commander that she served, she had no reason to stay and be a part of the conversation.
Emily was in her element. Wearing a suit of high-grade body armor, she was in the heat of battle. It felt great to have her nerves singing again. She stretched out with her mind, grabbing several enemy soldiers and bending them to her will. She had them turn their weapons on the others, opening fire. The enemy shot them, but that was no concern. So long as the body was intact, she was good. Something about contorting the bodies of the dead to keep fighting, she felt like the master of a bunch of zombies. To make her talent work, she had her arms outstretched. It very much was like being an actual puppeteer. This kind of warfare was something she had been missing. Manipulating rioters to go home was one thing. Actually being in combat was another.
She saw Full-Crank, just down the way. He was manipulating the form of a blasted tank, combining it with some of the fallen arms nearby. It made for a very grotesque metal monster that was firing at them. His ability to change metal into new weapons, it was a devastating power, when the right materials were around. Good thing he’s on our side. Radio was with them as well. Watching bullets just curve around her, it was a sight to behold. A tank shell also curved around her. The sound waves could almost be seen, accumulating around her. She had learned to be able to use these sound waves in a rather interesting way – a means of transportation. Using her feet and hands, she could boost herself in any given direction, for a split-second. It made dodging explosions that much easier. The sound that those generated was unreal. She vaulted up, sending a blast of sonic energy down at a bunch of insurgents. They were literally ripped apart. She boosted ahead, sending down another, then another. The destruction was unbelievable!
She got back to their position, seeing Full-Crank lose the armor he had made for himself.
“It’s almost too easy!”
He nodded. “For real, this is just as simple as it was during the first war.”
That’s when it occurred to her. “That’s because we’re facing random insurgents. This isn’t true Winter’s Shadow. These are just people they were cool with using because they served a purpose. Wolf and her people not only killed two of us, but they have exposed a shape-shifter in their midst. I have no doubt – fighting Wolf and her crew will be a dozen times tougher.”
That sobered up the mood a bit.
“Well,” Full-Crank said, “we have our orders. Let’s finish up here, first.”
The other two perked up.
Their field-base wasn’t all that cozy, but it worked well enough. Each of the Specials had their own quarters. Perks of being one of the Empire’s secret weapons. As Emily sat there, tending to her body armor, she got a call. It was from Amelia.
“Hey you! Man, it’s nice to hear a friendly voice! I’ve been so thick in it for the past week that getting to hear from a friend again sounds like just what the doctor ordered! So, what’s up?”
“Emily, I came across something that I thought you should know.” Amelia’s voice sounded sad.
“What is it? Did something happen?!” Her mind went to Doppelganger. But that’s impossible! He’s way out of Dodge by now!
“I was looking through the paper this morning, and I came across a story that interested me.” It sounded like she was stumbling over her words. The longer the pause went on, the more worried Emily became.
“It’s…it’s about Quinn. Something’s happened. Something bad. She was…”
The door to the hospital opened, with Emily running inside, fear gripping her heart. “You have a patient, named Quinzel Wolfe. Where is she?!”
The receptionist at the desk gave her a cold look. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but we can’t give out that information without prior authorization.”
Emily leaned in. “I asked you a fucking question, bitch! Where is she?!”
The woman signaled security, who came over.
“I think it’s time for you to leave, ma’am!” one of them said, reaching out to grab her. Suddenly, he stopped moving. The man’s body got contorted into an ugly shape, with him screaming in pain. In a flash, he was thrown into the other security guard. Then, the receptionist at the desk was much the same, crying in agony.
“Where the fuck is SHE?! Answer me, god-dammit!”
The entire room of people panicked and fled in terror.
“I’ll tell you, I swear. But I’ll need you to let me have my arms back. Please, ma’am. Please…” Tears were running down her face.
Emily released her. “Work fast! Patience is a virtue I don’t have!”
The receptionist brought up her information. “She was just transferred out of Intensive Care. She’s currently in D-Wing, room 349.”
She took off running. She knew where that was. As she went by, everyone got out of her way. They now knew that she was a Special, and those are people you just don’t mess with.
She got to the room, bursting through the door. There, she saw a sight that broke her heart in every single way. Quinn was laying there, covered in bandages and still very bruised. There were a bunch of IVs going into her and a machine controlling her breathing.
“Oh god, Quinn! No…” She was almost limping as she got there, falling to the floor beside her bed. This is punishment! This is life punishing me for leaving you here, alone! Tears ran down her face in waves, with her gut-wrenching sobs echoing down the hall. The people who worked there knew that she was coming, and to stay out of her way. Hearing the anguish in her voice, it was making more than one of them want to cry as well.
One of the doctors who had operated on Quinn came in. It was a woman well-into her 40’s. She had a very professional look, a few extra pounds and a clear dedication to this patient. She saw Emily on the floor and walked over.
“I take it that you and her are close.” She grabbed a nearby chair, pulling it over. She helped Emily into it.
Emily took Quinn’s hand, holding it tight. That was all the answer the doctor needed.
Emily looked up at her. “What happened, doctor? Tell me, please!” She ran her fingers over her lover’s, wishing that she could get into bed with her.
The doctor sat down as well, in a chair on the other side of the room. “I don’t know how much of this story you’ll want to hear. It’s ugly, I can tell you that.”
“Please, doctor, tell me what she’s gone through. I need to know. I need to understand what happened. This is all my fault! I need to understand how I hurt her!”
The doctor looked over. “This isn’t your fault! This is the fault of some very foul people, who I hope get a special place in Hell for this! Don’t do this to yourself. I’m sure that she would agree.”
“No she wouldn’t! I abandoned her here! I abandoned her for my own selfish reasons! She told me to stay. She begged me to! If I had been here, this wouldn’t have happened! This is on me. It is a burden I will have to carry until she wakes up, and I can beg on hand and knee for her forgiveness.” The tears started again.
That got a sad look from the doctor as well. “If she ever wakes up. There was some pretty severe damage to her skull. It was fractured from an impact with a lead pipe. Her attackers jumped her, smacking her in the head with the pipe, stripping her naked, tying her down and raping her.” Realizing how awful that sounded, she looked ashamed. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean-!”
The look on Emily’s face was punishment enough for her choice of words.
“The fact is, she may be in this coma for the rest of her life. I’m so sorry. We did the best we could, but we couldn’t focus on the inflammation in her skull until we dealt with her internal injuries. She was bleeding to death on the inside. We saved her, but only just. Her lungs gave out halfway through the operation. She is healing, but we couldn’t track the damage to her brain. I’m sorry to say it, but she may never wake up.” Taking a hint was the polite word for how she saw she wasn’t needed. “I’ll let you have some privacy.”
The moment the door shut, the sobbing started up again. “I’m sorry, baby! I’m so sorry! I swear, I’m never leaving you again! Ever! I’m sorry…!” She kept repeating the words, over and over again. She stood up, walking over to the other side of the bed, where she had no IVs and the respirator wasn’t in the way. Being as delicate as a butterfly with a flower, she slipped into bed with her, resting her head on Quinn’s shoulder. She took her hand, wrapping her fingers with Quinn’s.
“I promise, I will never leave you again! Please, don’t hate me! Please, let me be loved.” Her voice was barely a whisper, as everyone outside didn’t dare try and get her to get out of there. Even the security people were too scared to go anywhere near that room.
Another two weeks, and the members of Winter’s Shadow were getting desperate. There had been neither hide nor hair from Wolf. If she was alive, they figured that she would have made contact with them, somehow. The Empire was finally fighting back in earnest. Black Mask was a good leader, and they were in the fight, but the fact was that without Wolf, the whole thing was falling apart. Some of the members were looking to leave. Some groups of resistance forces already had. There was a sense of terror in the air, as the whole organization was without a clear direction and having no clue where to go.
True to her word, Emily had not left that room. Not once. There were a couple nurses who were brave enough to enter the room with them, to change Quinn’s IVs, various other things and check her vitals. Twice a week, they were asked to give the girl a sponge bath, which Emily informed them would be being done by her and her alone. It wasn’t in a romantic sense. There was an air of misery in that room. She wasn’t taking care of Quinn out of love. She was doing it because she felt responsible. In her mind, everything, from the rape to the need to be cleaned was her fault. She was miserable there. Once or twice, someone from the administrative offices would try and get her to leave. They often were fleeing from the room with a broken arm (or two), leg and a few ribs. No one dared to stand against the Special in the room with her.
The doctor visited regularly, bringing Emily some food. She kept trying to convince her that her lover was safe and that they would take care of her, but she wouldn’t hear of it. The whole affair in this room had the entire staff feeling miserable. When they got Quinn off the respirator, that was a good day. That got Emily to actually smile again, with the belief that her lover might actually be with her again someday. But after a few more days passed, it wore off. Emily was literally running on hope now. Without it, the doctor was convinced that she might try and kill herself. This room was the only thing keeping her together.
Another problem was that the military was visiting regularly too. They kept telling Emily that she had to report back to the front. They were finally able to go after Winter’s Shadow in a larger way. Every single soldier who went to her to try and get her to leave ended up leaving the room with a few broken bones. One of them left screaming with a syringe in his eye. It was a medication that they were going to try and use to get her out of there.
Finally, the Colonel came into the room. Emily looked up at him, with the same cold eyes she had given the others.
“If you’re here for something, you better spit it out fast! My patience for your kind is running pretty fucking low! Next flunky you said in here is coming out in a bag!”
The man gave her the same cold look back. “Emily, I’m am speaking as your commanding officer, right now. You are a soldier! You have a duty to serve your country! And there has been a decision reached among those in command that if you won’t come willingly, then we will come here in force, and you will never, ever see this young woman ever again. Do you understand me?! We will take her away, far away, and then you will be locked up in a place where you can’t use your talent, and she will forever be lost to you.” He stepped forward. “Now, get your little ass in gear and report for duty, soldier!”
In a flash, the man was on the ground, screaming in agony. She had broken both of his arms in four places, along with every single bone in his hands.
“Yes sir,” she snarled. She turned to face Quinn, kissing her on the forehead. “Don’t you worry, baby! I’m going to come back! Soon as I’m done with these asshole, I’ll be right back!” She stepped on the Colonel’s head as she walked out of the room. “If you try and take her, I will kill every single person who you put between us, Colonel. Keep that in mind.” She kept walking, with the entire staff getting out of her way. His screams followed her.
As Gabby tried to figure out how to find Wolf, a thought hit her. I’m going after this the wrong way! Rather than try to find her as Wolf, what about finding her as Quinn?! She hit up Oracle, who she knew also knew her by name. The two scoured the records, until they hit jackpot.
“East block, one of the hospitals!” He said. Then his voice got lower. “Oh shit, this isn’t good, Gabby! If the others find out!”
“No! Don’t say anything to them! For now, let them be unaware. I’ll head over there and figure out what the situation is. Until you hear from me, say nothing. Understand?!”
“You got it!”
She cut off the link, grabbing her coat.
It had been a little over two weeks since Emily had been told to report back to the front. It was about one in the morning when it happened.
Quinn’s eyes opened.
Until next time, a quote,
“Ever since I was born, death has been nipping at my hells. It’s as if my very birth called it there.” -Kiba, Wolf’s Rain