It was a grim affair at the hanger, as Gabby laid out what Wolf wanted done. Lots of the members of the team looked more than a little pissed at being told to run away, but they were not about to disobey her. Especially after they had all gone after her so hard, only to find out that she was hurt. Even while injured, Wolf was still the great commander they had grown to depend on. While Bane, Two-Face, Catwoman and Azrael hadn’t known her as long, they saw the respect she engendered from her people, and they knew that she was not just some rookie, and was serious about her task. The fact that their forces were losing wasn’t helping. A tactical retreat, saving as much of their assets as they could sounded pretty good. As she laid out the orders, Deathstroke couldn’t help but feel a tear welling up, that he hid. She’s alive! My commander is alive! The plans she had posed was one that she had gotten working on a while ago, in secret. It was ambitious, but would take time to implement. The group, while feeling a little defeated, liked it.
As she stood at the door of Quinn’s room, Emily felt the tears run down her face. Her world was gone, never to return. A woman who she had grown to care for more than any other was lost to her, and she was never, ever going to see her again. She could feel it. This is my punishment, and less than I deserve. Baby, please, wherever you are, forgive me. I won’t ever be happy again. I think that that is punishment enough, don’t you? That’s when she heard a series of footsteps behind her. She turned around to see a series of military police, standing there.
She turned to face them. “Yes?”
“I have orders from Admiral Duncan Bequette to place you under arrest for treason.”
Dad’s throwing me under the bus? Why?! “I see.” Her hands went forward in a snap, possessing the bodies of all the soldiers. Right as she did that, she felt a gun against the back of her head.
“Don’t make us kill you, ma’am!” It was one of her watchers. “Let them go. Now!”
Emily snarled at her, but did as bidden. They cuffed her hands behind her back and started walking her out. I will get out of this. I swear it! And when I do, I’m going to make these fuckers pay!
One year later.
She awoke in cold sweat. It was something that Quinn had done, every single night, since she got out of the hospital. She relived the experience in her head, over and over again. The memories of that night were like baggage that she couldn’t get away from. She wished that she could go back to Emily’s arms, but she knew that that wasn’t an option. She could never be with Emily again. Gabby had done her best to help her. An ironic twist was that she was also something of an early-riser. She could see how much Quinn was hurting. However, Quinn had become something of a wall, personally, since they got out of the hospital. There had been several more instances where she used Gabby’s energy to do more shifts, healing more damage, but it was always a very cold affair. It was like she didn’t want to be touched. More and more, Gabby was finding herself drawn to her commander. She would see her, sitting up in bed, shaking and sad, and she wanted to run over and hold her. But the wall that Quinn had put up was reinforced well, and now she realized that she was probably never going to get what she wanted.
To get away from the bad memories, Quinn drowned herself in her work. The offensive operations that Winter’s Shadow had been working on were done. Her new plan was elegant, but took time. It was time they could afford. Not long after she had killed the first Viceroy and took his talent, she used it to get every single production factory that the Empire had set up working for her. It was in case she needed a backup plan. And she needed one now. The group didn’t like it, but they were willing to be patient. They didn’t have a better plan. Since the factories were working for the Empire, they had to keep up production for them, but on the side, there were discrepancies between what they gave the Empire and what they produced. Ones that were easy enough to fake. So, they were getting lots of weapons, vehicles, and there were even a couple of completed airships that they got their hands on.
As for their previous operations, it wasn’t a total loss. They were able to salvage most of the navy that they took from the dry-docks. The airship that they took was also state-of-the-art, but hadn’t been prepped for battle. That was being completed in a new base. It was one that Wolf had had being worked on for some time. It was underground, with an inlet made into the ocean. It was able to house their vessels and airship. Inside was a sight to behold, and it was damn-near perfect. They could hide in plain sight, because the inlet looked like a natural formation, and the Empire believed that they sunk the fleet that they took. That was another reason that the group was not rebelling against her new battle plan.
The other major obstacle to their work was the National Zone that the new Viceroy, Amelia, had set up. It was looking to open soon. The public support of their operation was far less, but they still had a lot of loyalty. That was good, for them. However, the cultural battle that was taking place over this planned zone was a problem, since Wolf and her followers were now very much laying low. But it was an obstacle for another day.
She saw Gabby wake up, poking her head in. She could see how distressed Quinn was, so she went in.
“I take it that it was another night of bad dreams.”
Quinn nodded. “Yeah, but it wasn’t so bad today.”
Gabby sat next to her, putting her hand on her arm. “Quinn, you need to talk to somebody about this! I can tell when you’re lying to me! It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse, isn’t it?”
She shrugged her off, snarling, “I’m fine!”
There was a long pause, as Gabby looked hurt. “Okay then, sorry I brought it up.” She left as quietly as she had come in. Quinn felt her stomach knot up. She got up, heading to the other room.
“Gabby, look. I’m sorry. Seems like I’ve been nothing but a bitch to you lately, and you’re just trying to help.” She sat down next to her, taking her hands. “I don’t know why you put up with it. Why you don’t tell me to get the fuck out…” Her voice trailed off, not wanting to continue the thought.
That’s when she noticed that Gabby was crying.
“It’s because I don’t want to be alone! For years, I go out, come back here and there is the same lonely fridge, the same lonely TV and the same guitar that I have had as my only friend here for as long as I have lived here. You’re the first roommate I ever had. And you’re not just my roommate. You’re my friend. I care for you. But at the end of the day, I put up with it so that I don’t have to be alone again.”
Quinn put her arms around her, pulling her close. She felt terrible, for being this way, hearing why Gabby did what she did. “I’m a terrible friend, Gabby. I’m sorry.” She moved some of her friend’s hair out of her face. “Tell you what, you and me should go out tonight! It’s been a while since I got to go out of the town. What do you say?!”
It was a complete 180, emotionally, where she hugged her tighter. “Hell yeah! I’d love that!” Such unrestrained affection. It took Quinn back, to another person who was that way.
Suddenly, the girl snapped her fingers. “Oh, I know! I’ve got this band that I am playing with. Care to come see a gig of ours?! We are playing around 11, and we’re expecting a decent crowd.”
Her friend smiled at her. “I’m there! Though I’m not getting dolled up for ya. Hell, I don’t have anything to doll with.” She stuck out her tongue and the two were laughing again. It felt good.
Elena had finished writing up her story. Over a year of work, and she finally had everything she wanted. The old boss had been sacked for being a pig, who slept around, and a new one was in. Thankfully, this was a guy who liked her. Being one of the most ambitious reporters he had ever met, the two were in good company fast. This report on the Specials, it was going to be an eye-opener for the Empire. Sure, it was going to ruffle a lot of the Aristocracy’s feathers, but they would back off as soon as the ratings came in. Getting the info wasn’t easy. Her association with Winter’s Shadow was paying off, in more ways than one. It was a group that she planned to do a story on next, if this one was a success. Dragging the Specials into the light of day, it was an opportunity that she couldn’t miss. Wolf had even approved the segment. For some reason, that made her feel even better. Maybe it was because Wolf was one of the few people not always trying to be nice or get into her pants. She was as close to a completely-objective editor as she would ever have. The story was set to run that night. She was excited in the extreme.
As she got out of the shower, wrapping a towel around herself, it was now that she started to realize just how long her hair had gotten. Long since the days of short spikes and white tips, Quinn’s fire-red hair was long enough that she had to put it in a ponytail to keep it out of her face. Or, she could just wrap it up and hold it together with a couple pencils or pens. It felt like an eternity since the days of the old rebellion. A year with their efforts being subdued was helping. A lot. She had recovered completely. The worst part of the recovery was feeling what had become of her parts. While she shifted the damage away, it just never felt quite the same. Seeing the damaged flesh between her legs, it was a bit heart-wrenching. She shook her head, putting it out of her mind.
Moving in to Gabby’s was the best decision she could have ever made. Continuing on at the Academy was not a smart idea, and she felt all the sadness tied up there get better as soon as her stuff was out of that place. While part of her wanted to destroy it, she kept a picture that she had framed of her and Emily, back at her parent’s place. Sebastian had taken it, when they didn’t know it. The man had some ninja qualities about them. It was a genuine picture of the two of them holding each other. While it brought back sad memories, she didn’t have the heart to get rid of it. She still loved Emily. She probably always would. But she couldn’t change things now. It was a picture that she kept tucked away in the desk that she had in the guest room at their place. It was so odd – thinking of it as their place. One that the two of them shared. It was a nice feeling.
While she couldn’t doll herself up, she did have some nicer attire. She wore a relatively-flattering shirt, that still had a professional look, with pants that had these cute black suspenders. Only chicks could pull off this look. Made her glad for the form she had taken on. Well, guys could too, but only with a very specific kind of suit. The 50’s look on men was something that she did like, but never saw. Oh well. She threw on a fedora, grabbing her jacket. I’m sexy and I know it!
As she got out of the bathroom, she saw Gabby sitting on the couch, tuning her instrument. She looked up at her and her jaw dropped.
“Holy shit! Damn, you do clean up nice!”
Quinn rolled her eyes. “Fuck you, ya ass-kisser.” The two shared a laugh, finishing up their preparations and heading out the door.
Eloise was sitting down to dinner. She wasn’t happy. Her daughter was in jail, her husband was throwing the book at her, there hadn’t had a decent job in some time and now, she was told that there was a special report on the news that she had to see. She turned on the TV to see the story starting.
“Tonight, we’re going to look behind the curtain of one of the most secretive programs that is currently being run inside of the Empire. It is a program that has left countless dead, countless more injured or their homes being destroyed, with a purpose that is left unclear. I am talking, of course, about the Specials.”
Inside a new facility that had been made for them, Inferno and the others were on the edge of their seats. There was a single collective thought, what the fuck?!
“To start with, let’s examine what gives the Specials their unique talents. It is a new fuel source that is leading our Empire’s charge to expand our territory. This fuel is not well-understood, but here are the basics. It is called the Nova Particle. It was discovered in tests of the Hadron Collider. It is a particle that can alter the effects of space and time, along with affecting the laws of our own universe, when in large amounts. Such as being able to supersede gravity, which is what gives our airships the ability to fly without large engines. The ability to manufacture this particle was developed here in the Empire, under the reign of Emperor Ellis Beckett. When testing this particle, there were some unique effects that were found in relation to organic tissue. This particle has mutagenic properties. It can alter organic tissue at the subatomic level. Most of the mutations that were found by this particle were deadly to their hosts, but then there was another person who was affected.
Called ‘Subject Zero,’ by the people who originally discovered it, this was a child that was accidentally infused completely with the particle. The particle replaced all organic tissue, making this child living, breathing Nova Particles. Most of the information surrounding this effect, along with the child itself, no longer exists. However, the ability to make a manipulation of this effect to other subjects was founded from the research with Subject Zero. Thus, you have the Specials.”
In a prison block, suspended in a room far enough away for the staff to be immune to her attacks, Emily sat there, watching the story. Her outfit was white as a sheet, able to tie her arms at any point with special magnetic locks. So, that’s it. But who the hell was this “Subject Zero?” And where did they go?
“Currently, there are 12 Specials who are in service in the military. It is unknown how many others are being prepped or experimented on outside of that. How each of them was chosen is unknown. There are some reports that there was intentional exposure to the modified Nova Particle. Other reports that it was accidental. All reports say that they are chosen as children, then, after it is confirmed that they are receptive to the effect, they are taken to a facility to be tested on. Seven of the Specials currently active are the Knights of the Crown, who have their unique talents being boosted by special NANO Armor suits. They are tasked with serving as protectors of the Emperor and his family, dispatched only into the most dire of conflicts. Next, there are the attack-dogs of the Empire. These are the Specials who they keep active, mostly in Areas that are having conflict.
The first of these is one called ‘Inferno.’ His talent, as the name might suggest, is to use fire as a weapon. He does this by having the particles inside of him light the air on fire.” The image changed to the man, showing him attacking a city during the riots. “He has been used to put down the citizens of the Areas, seeming unconcerned how many or who he kills.”
It cut to his voice.
“Run, you little fuckers! Run!”
“Where there is Inferno, not far behind is his partner – Shockwave.” It showed a picture of her. “As her name would also suggest, she is able to control electricity. The two of them have been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in the second war in Area 7, being deployed to attack the civilians in order to keep them in line. The official statement from the Empire is that they are being used to keep the peace. How far does that line go?”
Shockwave looked over at Inferno. The two were furious, but aside from their anger, there were gears turning in both of their heads. Both of them were having a thought, but it didn’t have form, at that moment.
“There are, however, those who are not just being used as a tool against the people. The first of these is Full-Crank. His talent is the ability to control metal. He can change the metal that he controls as well, making it into whatever form he wants it to be. So when an enemy drops or loses their munitions, that isn’t too much of a hurdle for this warrior. His record has been very battlefield exclusive, which is a very good thing, considering the company he keeps. However, there was an instance in Area 7, a year ago where his talent was being used to put down workers at a factory who were protesting their working conditions. Seven people died in the attack, with over a dozen others being injured.” It showed pictures of the attack, as well as his involvement.
Then there is the one called Radio. She can manipulate sound, making her self incapable of being hit by any kind of round, as she can use the sound waves that they emit to move the projectiles around herself. She can also turn sound waves against her enemy. While this doesn’t sound like much, everything in the world makes sounds. And she can amplify noise to great effect. It was recently displayed when she was tasked with attacking an enemy position. After blasting through most of their offensive line, the insurgents attempted to surrender. However, her commanders would not accept it, ordering her to kill all of them. A task she did with extreme prejudice.”
At the lab, Radio looked like she was about to cry. Full-Crank put his arm around her, pulling her close. Who is coming after us, and why now?
“Lastly, there is the one called Puppeteer. This one is the daughter of one of the Rear Admirals in our navy. As the name implies, she can take control of people and use them as puppets on a string. However, it isn’t the person that they are controlling. Merely the body. So, she can use this power on the dead, so long as the body is intact. We just learned that this one has been arrested and charged with treason, for going AWOL during a mission and injuring several members of her own team, including her commanding officer, who has lost all functionality in one hand and most in another, with his arms being damaged as well.”
In the cell, Emily snorted. More than that asshole deserved.
On the deck of an airship, Emily’s father threw his knife at the screen.
“That fucking bitch! I’m going to find this reporter, and put a bullet in her head! Do you have any idea how bad this makes me look?! That bitch is dead. Mark my words, she is dead!”
The screen changed to another image. It was showing Wolf. “Recently, we got to set up a link and have an interview with the woman who is leading the insurgency in Area 7, for some choice words about the situation. She had this to say.”
“The people of this nation are aware of the impact that these monsters have. The people of the Empire are aware of who they are. The only ones who are kept perpetually in the dark are those in the Aristocracy. It is time for this knowledge to get out, so that these kinds of atrocities will not be committed in the future. It is time for the people to stand up and demand change! If the Empire will not put their dogs on a leash, who will?”
It cut back to Elena. “The cost of war is always great. This is something that cannot be denied. But at what point does the cost become too high? When does the effect of the war on the people become a consideration for us? After all, we need them. Their nations are becoming the manufacturing bases for the Empire. So how far is too far? A question to consider, as we are looking to entire war with the EU very soon, and it can be assumed that the Specials will be deployed again.”
At her house, Eloise was crying. Sebastian was in the background. Emily had told him why she attacked the people at the hospital. He had heard what happened to Quinn, and his heart broke all over again. To survive one horror, just to be the victim of another, it was too hard to think about.
Quinn and Gabby got to the bar, heading in to the back.
“Hey guys, sorry we’re late. I’d like you to meet my new roommate! Her name’s Quinn.”
There was the shaking of hands, and they seemed to like her. As Gabby looked at the crowd outside, she smiled. This is going to be a great night!
Until next time, a quote,
“Gruesome and low-tech. Kiss me, I love it!” -Dr. Gregory House, House M.D.