The entire staff were stunned. So were the children.
“That’s…impossible!” Thomas muttered.
Juliet felt something inside. Something dark and cold. There was something about this man in front of her that put her off. Primitive instincts were kicking in. Fight or flight instincts. She was scared of him. Everyone there was. This got the man’s attention.
“What’s the matter with all of you? Are you not pleased to see your Emperor return home?” The man normally spoke with quiet resolve. Now his voice was laced with primeval passion. Anger that was barely being contained.
One of the servants approached. “Of course, it’s just that you look so much different, your majesty. It has caught us off-guard.”
The mood of the Emperor did a complete 180 and he laughed. “I see. Understandable, I guess. It makes for quite the tale!” He saw his children, waving to them. “Ah, my dearest children! How wonderful to see you all again.” He looked around. “Say, where is my wife? I would have thought that she would have been the first one to greet me.”
Thomas stepped forward. “Mother has been taken ill. She has been slowly becoming more and more unstable, with this business in Area 7.”
The happy look on the Emperor’s face soured. “Is that still going on?! Why hasn’t your brother gotten things under control?! I shall have a word with him when he gets back.” The smile came right back. “In any case! I’m starving! Get the staff to cook us a fine meal. We shall eat as a family again.” He only saw Thomas, Juliet and Elizabeth there. “Where are Adam and Mary? What about Amelia?” The man had no concern for Audra. He had been rather savage to her already, writing her off as nothing but a waste of Imperial skin.
Thomas looked down. “Adam and Mary are in Area 7. They are negotiating the terms for the secession of the territory to Winter’s Shadow.”
“The hell they are!” The Emperor roared. “We do NOT negotiate with terrorists! Ever! Why on Earth would he even think of doing such a thing?!”
“Father,” Juliet said, trying to speak up. “They have Amelia! The Wolf has taken Amelia hostage! Their demands are that we give back their territory, or they will send pieces of her to us!”
The Emperor’s dark face got somber. “Amelia. Why on Earth…” The dark look came back. “Why on Earth does he care?! If she was captured, then she will suffer. It is tragic, but we do NOT negotiate with terrorists! Get a link to that man. I shall have a word with him.” The man stormed in, with the servants running behind. Thomas looked at the other two. He was nervous. Everyone was. Something was wrong here, and he didn’t know what the right thing to do was. This man was NOT the father they had known and come to love. Whatever happened to him in space, it turned him into a different man.
Adam was sitting on the bridge of his ship. Only three of Wolf’s command had come to his side. The ones they called Black Mask, Azrael and The Riddler. This wasn’t good. The loyalty that the rest had to Eleanor was a problem. Just then, there was a buzz.
“My lord, we’re getting a link from the White Palace!”
He stood up quickly, believing it to be his mother. “Patch it through!”
Mary came up behind him, standing tall. Both of them were rendered speechless. It was the Emperor!
“I’m being told from Thomas that the two of you are negotiating with the Wolf to give Area 7 back to the Numbers! Why on Earth would you do that?!” The rage in the man’s voice was imposing.
“I don’t want to hear your excuses! If Amelia must die for the sake of victory, then that is what shall happen! Do I make myself clear?!” The man shook his head. “No, actually, scratch that! The two of you are to come back to the homeland at once! We’re going to sit down, as a family and talk about what to do about this Wolf and her little band. That is an order, son. You are to return home, immediately!”
Adam’s fists were clenched as he barely hid his rage. “Understood, your majesty.” He cut the link off. “That fucking bastard! That evil, ruthless and uncaring bastard!” He slammed his fists into the console, stalking back and forth. “I should go back there with a loaded gun and blow his fucking head off! How dare he insult me like this!”
Mary sat down, snarling, “That man thinks that he rules the world. Way I see it, he isn’t doing shit! The man has been gone for the better part of a year, now he comes back and decides to take us to task?! Fuck that!” She stood up, walking over to her brother. “Adam, this is the best time! I say, we go back to the White Palace in force. We take control of the country from that monster! What could he REALLY do to stop us?!”
The Prince looked out at the stand-off with the Odysseus that they had going. His tactical mind was working. Father has two fleets there. Fleets that are loyal to him, to whatever end. I can’t just barge in, guns blazing. But Mary’s right. That man is no more a ruler than I am a diplomat. It’s time for him to get put in his place! But how…?
The WASP landed at a large estate. It was a mansion that clearly had been vacant for some time. The stonework was aging and the woods had overgrown the area. The neatly-trimmed yard was now a mess of vegetation. Beautiful stained-glass windows were now aged with dirt and decay. It was a sad sight, indeed.
“What is this place?” Oracle asked.
“The country home of the Fox family. It was never taken by any other nobility. Too many ghosts for them, I guess. I’ve been using it for some time, though I haven’t been back here in a while. I have a place for you to set up your network inside. Trust me, it’s secure. I have this place swept for bugs weekly.” The hatch opened, with the chilly morning air coming in.
“So, what are we here for?”
Quinn smiled at him. “It’s time I go and finally settle the score with the Emperor. He’s finally back from his trip to Orbital Station Five. Any information on what he did there?”
After getting his stuff unpacked and the system booted up, he uploaded some data he mined. “Apparently, he tried a dangerous new program that the Empire has been testing. Remember that Special with the healing factor? Well, they took some of her blood and combined it with the formula they got from you. They apparently made a large chamber full of the stuff. They call it ‘The Fountain.'”
That got her a bit more serious. “Well, so the Emperor has made a Fountain of Youth. Impressive. This man never ceases to amaze. His intellect is worthy indeed. But it doesn’t matter. This is power that was taken from me. So naturally, I mean to take it back.”
Oracle smiled at her. “I’ll find you way into the White Palace.”
“Thank you, Oracle. Very soon, I mean to end this.”
Emily had taken a car outside the city. She was still a member of the Empire, so her passport should be good. She knew where Quinn was going, and she was going to confront her. A child of the Emperor, a member of the Aristocracy, why was she fighting so hard against her own people? That was something that she would get an answer to. She would get an answer, or if it was true, and she was just using them to ascend the throne, then she would do what had to be done. Quinn was a better intellect than anyone in the Empire. If she took the throne, she would crush all opposition. She would take over the world and no one could stop her. Quinn, I love you. Forgive me, for what I must do.
The Emperor stood over his wife, his glowing eyes looking down on her with dissatisfaction.
“God, you’re pathetic, woman. I swear, I don’t know what I was thinking when I married you. You are all to pieces about a child who was stupid enough to let herself get caught. You ask me, Amelia is getting what she deserves. I care nothing for weak children. Nor do I care for a weak wife.”
Outside the room, Elizabeth overheard it all. Damn that bastard! He doesn’t care if my sister lives or dies. Who is this animal in our home?!
She got into the Palace via a water-duct. It was one they were using to keep the garden’s waterfalls and irrigation system in place. She came up in the underground portion of the castle, where maintenance was done on the system. After removing the scuba gear, she shifted her appearance back to her usual self. Once she got out of the underground, she was like a whisper in the night. She put the Knight who could teleport’s talent to good use. The guard here was pathetically sloppy. Security here was so lax that she almost didn’t need to to get inside. No cameras, light security. The only real danger she had of being spotted was one of the servants. She would amend that, presently.
Juliet got to Elizabeth’s room in time to see that she was gone. The rest of the Knights had gotten a car for her and she left. She was headed to where Adam was. In her desperation, she was going to the only person that she thought could get her sister back. However, the airship that would get her there wouldn’t go where she thought. Prince Adam had had the Hyperion withdraw. He was heading east. Toward their territory in the EU. Something was brewing. As she looked over the empty drawers, Juliet started to cry. That was when she saw Audra come in.
“Audra,” she whispered.
“When did things turn out like this, Juli? Was it always like this? Were we blind?” She sat down on Elizabeth’s bed. “I remember us sitting down to have dinner, and dad looking really excited. He would tell of us a conquest he did, with Adam, back when he was teaching Adam to be a soldier. We all listened intently, so excited to hear. Mom was happy. Everyone was. Was all that just a smokescreen? Were we just too complacent?” She hugged her knees to her chest as she started to cry. “Everyone thinks I’m a fuck-up who doesn’t know anything. But I do know! I know more than they will ever admit! Why is everything falling apart, Juliet?! Why are we suffering?! What did we do wrong?!”
Juliet walked over, putting her arms around her sister. Even though she was crying, her face was in an dark place. “It’s because of our father. I’m convinced that everything that’s happening now is a result of actions our father has taken. There are dark corners of this Empire where we can’t see. Dark secrets that everyone is being kept away from. I am certain that what is destroying this family is there. I just wonder if we will survive our father’s secrets. Thomas was already wounded, now Amelia is going to be killed.” She looked out the window, at the pale moonlight. “I am certain that The Wolf is not some Number. She’s one of us. She’s tied into all this, somehow. I just wish I knew how.” The two held each other for a long time, neither wanting to face the world.
The Empress opened her eyes, sitting up. She grabbed a knife from the drawer. She had heard it. Heard everything. This demon in her home, it was not her husband. She was going to kill it, then she could make them a family again.
Emily reached the White Palace, using her talent to stay unnoticed. Anyone who did recognize her quickly found their neck broken. Even without her Armor, she was a force to be reckoned with. She knew that Quinn would make her move tonight.
The Emperor got back to his room, looking out at the moon over the world. His mind was working. This Wolf, I know beyond any doubt, she is Subject Zero! How that child survived, got to Earth and did all this is a mystery. One I cannot wait to solve! I will get my forces to go into Area 7. We shall crush her rebellion and then take her captive! Then, we can finish where we started! My Ascension is at hand! The day I have been waiting for for 50 years. It’s almost time.
Just then, a light turned on. The man quickly turned to face it, seeing a woman with fire-red hair sitting in a chair, reading a book.
“Just who the hell are you?!”
She looked up at him, smiling. “You don’t recognize me? Well, I suppose it has been a long time. So very long.” She stood up, setting the book down next to the chair. “Every time I closed my eyes, I dreamed of this moment! I dreamed of getting to finally confront you directly. It has been my every waking thought since I got out of that nightmare.”
The Emperor stepped back, nervous. “Who are you?!”
“Oh, you don’t remember? Well, I suppose my appearance has changed a bit. But there was one thing that, no matter how many times I shifted, never changed. Something that you should know well.” She stepped closer until she was able to see the man eye-to-eye. “Look into my eyes, and tell me – who am I?”
He did just that, staring at them intently. The irises were red! Blood red! “Subject Zero!”
She smiled at him. “At your service! It’s been 30 years, William. Thirty long years since the day I destroyed your little station.” She took out her phone, which she had Oracle link into a TV in the room. “Though I’m glad to see that your ambition kept on going!” She cued up a certain file. “The Project. If it had succeeded, you would have effectively been turned into God. Immortal, powerful beyond all understanding and with an Empire to back you. Truly, you would have been as close to God as ever there has been. I must say, I’m impressed.” She sat back down.
The Emperor did as well, sitting on his bed. “Well then, you know everything. May I ask you something?”
A smirk came to her face. “Not going to try and attack me?”
The man snorted. “We both know that that would do no good. So, since we’re here I figured that I would ask you something.”
She leaned back. “I’m listening.”
“How did you get away? How did you escape from the Station?”
The darkness came back on her face. “Your people thought that the drugs they were using on me would keep me sedated. But they didn’t realize how far I’d come. My body built up an immunity. But my talents, they were unstable. I started to create energy fields. Problem was, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I was just a little boy. So, the fields went out of control. They latched on to the Nova Particle formula, and the whole thing went up. Blew up the entire lab. If it weren’t for the emergency doors, that probably would have been the end for me. Just one more rupture away from vacuum exposure. But, as is consistent in my life, I survived. After that, I went roaming the halls, looking for a way off. Ran into this kid. Some little Aristocrat’s girl. I couldn’t create energy fields anymore. But, my form was now malleable. I have no form. My body is Nova Particles. Or rather, the formula of them. So, I took her DNA, and borrowed hers. The girl’s name was Eleanor Ann Fox. After that, I just found the Aristocrat and boarded the shuttle back to Earth. Clean and simple.”
The Emperor looked impressed. “You truly are amazing! You are everything you were supposed to be! I always knew that if I was to be a God, that you were to be the one standing next to me. I never intended to kill you. Far from it! Once I attained my place as a God, I would have you be with me. I knew that we were torturing you, but look at what you’ve become! You’ve grown so much in ways I could never imagine! I’ve read up on your victories. You could have brought the Empire to its knees.” He got up, walking over to her. “Join me! Together, think what we could accomplish! This species is violent, willing to destroy itself to get ahead. They don’t care that the planet is on the verge of becoming a toxic waste-dump. They need a force to guide them. They’re like children, wanting mommy and daddy to give them direction. That should be us! We should be the force guiding humanity into the future. With your brilliant tactical mind and my ability to lead, there is nothing that could stand in our way!”
Quinn rolled her eyes. “And your wife?”
“Fuck her! That worthless cow has been nothing but trouble to me. She has bred only two decent children. The rest are worth nothing to me. They were a vanity project, nothing more. I needed her for the image. Once I have Ascended, then it won’t matter. I won’t need them anymore.”
Her eyes never left his. Unreal! This man is a genius, but is every bit the monster I always believed him to be. “Emperor, you truly are a genius. So much of a genius that you can’t see what’s right in front of you.”
“Oh, and what’s that?!”
“That you are small time! A small man with small needs who doesn’t really care about all the bullshit you just fed me.” She stood up suddenly. “It’s all about you! It’s all about your need to be a god! You don’t give a shit about anyone but yourself! You just want me to join you out of vanity! You make me sick!” At the last word, venom was oozing out.
The Emperor backed off a bit. “You dare to speak to me like this?! I made you! I formed you! I gave you the life you have! If not for me, you would have been the same little street urchin you were when we brought you to Orbital Station One! You are nothing without me!”
That got her laughing. “And what are you without me?! Did you enjoy your little trip to the Fountain of Youth? Wiping away the years. An interesting tactic. To buy your mortality more time.” She looked him right in the eye. “But it’s not working, is it? Your body is younger, but your mind is still old. You can feel your years catching up to you, and now you have nowhere left to go. You have lied to everyone. You’re kicking 80 in ass, and your Fountain didn’t do its job. Now, you have to face the possibility that mortality will claim you, and there is nothing you can do to stop it! You can’t capture me! What’s more, capturing me would do you no good now.”
The Emperor gave her a look. “What do you mean?” His voice was betraying his fear.
“I mean that I destroyed your Project! I found Lab 451. My people and I freed the subjects, bringing them to our side. All the staff was killed and we purged your records of The Project. Everyone who was working on it is dead. Everyone who knew about it is dead. Everything you worked for is finished, and it will never, EVER get started again!” There was a look of total victory in her eyes as she saw how beaten the Emperor looked.
“It…it can’t be!” He screamed. The man knocked over his bookshelf, smashed lights. His fists slammed into the walls, again and again. “You’ve ruined EVERYTHING! I was so fucking close!” He faced her, rage infecting his face. “Alright then, you little bitch! You can finish me now, too! I’ve got nothing left to say to you.”
She reached behind her, pulling out a machete. The real kind. “I’ve been waiting for this day for 30 years! I can’t tell you how good this feels.” She ran at him, bringing it down on his shoulder. The man screamed as blood splashed on the floor.
“Feel the pain!” She slashed him again, cutting his hand that he raised up off. “Of all those years!” She slashed his belly open. “All the years of hell you put me through!” Her machete cut more of the arm off when he raised it up again. “All the nights that I cried and begged for you to stop!” She was hacking and hacking, mostly cut that ripped out flesh but didn’t hit anything major. His blood splashed all over her. “For all the times that I prayed to a non-existent God to save me.” She grabbed the man’s head, pulling it close. Terror was in his eyes.
“While you burn in HELL!” The machete came down on the neck, damn-near taking the head off. It held on by a few sinews of muscle and skin. As his body fell, Quinn let out a roar that echoed throughout the entire castle. All of the security guards, the other children, the servants, they were in terror. There was a mass exodus as everybody thought that the Emperor had finally lost his mind.
“Fuck you!” She threw the machete down, with it impacting right into his head. She stood there, over her fallen enemy, sobbing. Sobs that also echoed through the castle. She cried out in agony as all the years of pain finally came back at her. But it was finally over. It was over and done. She had gotten her revenge, against the man who had hurt her in a way she could never have imagined.
Just then, the door opened. She whipped out a smaller knife. Standing there, it was Emily.
“Emily, why are you here?!”
She reached out with her talent, having Quinn’s arm put her knife to her own throat. “To end this, Eleanor! Once and for all!”
Until next time, a quote,
“You think I’m evil? I am justice! I protect the innocent and those who fear evil! I am the one who will become the god of a new world that everyone desires! All those who would oppose that god, they are the ones who are truly evil!” -Light Yagami, Death Note