Episode 19

The only thing keeping Damian sane right now was the knowledge that if he got out of this chair, he was going to kill Rob-Bob Egant.
            He was not one to usually take revenge on board as a method of personal motivation, but his Britishness had been slowly eroded by this uncouth Australian and his selection of automobile torture tools. All he could do now was fantasise about taking revenge on his dear sister’s pet, making seeing if heliked having a car registration number burned into his skin.
            No, this isn’t me. I cannot give in to these ruffians. I must stay strong.
            Rob-Bob produced a carburettor from his suitcase. “Alright, buddy. Let’s say with give this a spin on ya, eh?”
            Damian braced himself for another round of torture when there was a bright blue flash behind Rob-Bob. It dissipated to reveal Beth and Jacob standing there, shaking themselves like they’d just gotten out of the rain. They straightened up and examined their surroundings.
            “I’d forgotten that felt a bit weird,” Jacob commented idly.
            Beth chuckled. “You’ll get use to it, my child.” She looked over at Damian, whose face looked confused. “Something wrong, dear brother?”
            Jacob looked at Damian as if he were noticing him for the first time. “Oh, yeah, he’s your brother! Totally forgot that too.”
            Damian looked between the two of them, utterly lost for words. “Is this…” Then he stopped, finally understanding. He fixed Jacob squarely with a look of understanding. “You’re the Intern.”
            Jacob gave a mock bow, raising his arms with a flourish. “At your service, Prince Charles. Freshly unwrapped and ready for anything.”
            Damian’s gut clenched tight. Suddenly, a whole lot of things started making sense. “Your visit to the Alps a year ago.”
            Jacob smirked. “Got it in one, Johnny English. They got to me, woke me up to who I really was. Who I should’ve always been.”
            Beth was staring at him adoringly, like he was a puppy finally learning not to piss on the carpet. “Isn’t he just wonderful? I’ve always wanted a legacy, and this would be it!”
            “Your legacy needs a better haircut, dear sister,” Damian retorted, his voice still slightly distorted from his injuries. “I mean, really, with that mullet he’s a dead ringer for MacGyver. And not in the most positive light.”
            He expected recriminations in the form of further torture, or perhaps a quick go from Beth with the crowbar, but instead they all just laughed at him – Jacob in particular. “My hair?” he spluttered through laughs. “The best you can come up with is my hair? God, Johnny English, you need better humour. You sure you’re not a sleeper too?”
            “Is that what Brendan is too, then?” Damian asked bitterly, feeling blood well a little in his mouth. “Once you stripped away the New Zealander, did he turn into a psychopath as well?”
            Beth looked introspective for a moment. “Ah, Brendan…yes, I’ve got something different for him. He’s going to be important in ways you can’t even fathom yet. He’s a real Dreamer.”
            The emphasis on the word made it sound like a title rather than a simple noun. “And what, pray tell, does being a Dreamer entail these days?”
            She opened her mouth to reply, then stopped and closed it quickly. She gave a throaty giggle, placing a finger on her lips in response. Jacob followed suit; it was rather silly, in all honesty, seeing these two acting like they did. Even Rob-Bob looked a little uncomfortable, which gave Damian some tiny twinges of pleasure amongst the miasma of pain that was his entire body.
            “You will find out,” Beth promised, “just not today.” She flicked a glance at Rob-Bob, then amended her statement. “Or, maybe not. Whichever.”
            She strode out of the room with Jacob at her heels, leaving Damian alone once again with his captor. Rob-Bob shook his head a little, like he’d tried to phase out a bit through all of that ghastly exchange. “Sometimes, the lady really knows how to push ya buttons…” He straightened up again and brought the carburettor back up. “Sorry, mate. Shall we continue?”
            Damian would’ve clenched his jaw to stifle the screams, but it just hurt far too much for that already.
It is Jacob.
     The words came out of nowhere as they sat against the wall, waiting for the elevator to return. Trent took the USB out from his jacket after feeling it vibrate; he’d had Brandon hack into the floor sensors in the Grave. They could act as a form of surveillance equipment. “He’s been Activated?”
            Nick and Lonie perked up, leaning in to read the response. Even without a voice Brandon could still sound morose.
            I’m afraid so. He has murdered Agent Gardner.
     Trent closed his eyes slowly, knowing this had been inevitable. Nick and Lonie both looked downcast, saying nothing. Trent had instructed Brandon to spell out who the Intern was once the Shovel had departed. There was silence for a few moments before the USB vibrated again.
            This also means the failsafe has been activated. We currently have less than fifteen minutes to exit the building.
     “Figures,” Nick muttered, his hand gently clasping his stump. “You know, if Glen was here he’d say there’s no hope, and we should just give up to die.” He laughed mirthlessly. “Kind of ironic, now.”
            “Well, he’s not here,” Lonie said with conviction, standing swiftly, “and we can mourn for him later. Right now, we’re getting our asses out of here.”
            “How?” Nick asked, staring up at her with baleful eyes. “Do you know how to fly a plane or a chopper? I sure as hell don’t.”
            “We contact Belinda and Michael,” Lonie replied simply. “They can fly us out of here.”
            Trent raised an eyebrow. “We haven’t heard from them in ages. They’re probably dead.”
            “We don’t know that,” Lonie insisted, grabbing at Trent’s arm to haul him up. “Now come on, get your butts moving.”
            “What about that…thing? The one wearing Ash’s face? And what about Graham 917?” Nick sounded a little worried there.
            Trent had to agree with him – that zombie was more than a little unnerving, especially since it looked so familiar. And Graham 917 was potentially too valuable an asset to lose.
            “Neither of them matter,” Lonie told them staunchly. “We need to get ourselves and the captives on the main floor out to the carrier jet. Now move. Your. Asses.”
            “This isn’t very lawyerly behaviour, you know,” Nick observed, sounding a little more energised. Trent had to admit he felt a bit more life in him since she was starting to motivate them.
            Lonie gave Nick the most piercing death glare Trent had ever witnessed in his life; it made his stomach drop just looking at. “Then sue me. Now get the hell up and follow me.”
Michael had not been easy to carry to the plane, but Belinda imagined he’d’ve been harder if she wasn’t a professional weightlifter.
            She’d placed him in the pilot’s chair and bandaged his arm as best she could before sitting in the opposite seat, letting out a breath she didn’t even know she’d been holding. The last few hours had been trying on her – she stopped, considering for a moment. It really only had been a matter of hours since Beth’s team had infiltrated headquarters, and yet it felt like it had been weeks. She found she couldn’t remember the last time the place had been nice and relatively quiet, where everyone had been together as one big, happy, counterinsurgent family.
            She missed the good old days, when Anna Farraday and Jacob Aldente hadn’t had marital issues; when Brendan Brolland was the quirky, annoying New Zealander everyone loved to murder; when Mary Chestnut, resident equestrian, had dazzled everyone with her stallion Coconut.
            A tear made its way down Belinda’s cheek. Yes, she missed the good old days, when she felt more like a mother and less like a soldier.
            “Belinda, you there?”
            The voice was Trent’s, coming from the radio under her apron. She grabbed it out, brushing her revolver with her fingers as she did so. She wiped the tear away quickly. “Go ahead, Trent.”
            “HQ is FUBAR. We need exfil. You and Michael need to head to the launch bay, Nick says there’s a carrier plane.”
            “Yes, there is,” she replied, looking around the cockpit for something. “As luck would have it, I’m actually in the carrier now.”
            Trent gave a hissed noise of joy. “Excellent! Can you two prep the plane and be ready for launch in five minutes?”
            Already knowing what Trent would ask – and what her own response would be – she finally found what she was looking for; a small glove box, filled with first aid supplies. In it she found what she needed – namely, a syringe filled with adrenaline.
            “Yeah,” she replied to Trent, taking out the syringe, “we can do that.”
Beth stood over Tucker’s body, gently brushing the matted, sweaty hair from his forehead. He was breathing shallowly, but stably. According to the medic Dream had sent with them if he’d been in the dispersal room for a second or two longer he would’ve died; as it stood there was a chance he had suffered brain damage from the cocktail of gases he’d inhaled.
            She found herself teary as she stood by him, grasping his limp hand in her own. “It’ll be ok, my love,” she said quietly, far out of earshot of the medic. “I promise. You’ll be ok.”
            She wiped her eyes, coughing to get rid of the sad tone in her voice. As she straightened up she caught the eye of the medic. “You ready, Doc?”
            The medic – a man with a really annoying voice – stepped over to her and replied, “I’m not a doctor. My name’s Medical Officer DuFre-”
            “Yeah, don’t care.” Beth reached out and grabbed him by the arm, still holding Tucker’s hand. In a bright flash of blue they’d arrived at Dream’s hospital; Tucker’s bed and medical supplies, all hooked up to him, had been transported too.
            The medic looked around, a little confused, but adjusted to the setting quickly. He coughed a little. “Oh, yeah, that. Sorry Miss Atk-”
            His apology faded from Beth’s ears as she teleported back to CRUD HQ, standing on the main floor. The intelligence analysts – fat, porky men in white shirts – were all still huddled, bound, in the middle of the floor.
            She looked at them oddly for a moment, wondering if it was worth saving some as test subjects, then thought better of it; last thing she needed was fat nose-breathers calling her ‘mother’. She strode back to the conference room, seeing Damian with a carburettor opening his mouth part-way. Rob-Bob was striking sparks off of two alligator clips hooked up to a live car battery.
            “Hold on a sec,” she said, reaching forward to remove the carburettor from her brother’s mouth. “I wanna ask you something.”
            Damian coughed and spat a little, sticking his tongue out a few times to try and remove the taste of the metal. He flexed his jaw painfully. “What?”
            “Why are there so few people in this building?” she asked, suddenly curious about something that she absolutely should’ve checked the second they got here. “There’s you, your top team, that whackjob in the cells, and the nose-breathers out there.” She pointed at the intelligence analysts. “Where are your other teams? Where’s all your medical and science staff?”
            Damian coughed a bit more, making ‘blah’ noises. “You did attack us at night, my dear. Most of my staff are at home.”
            “Then it’s a good thing I got all your server data, huh?” she asked, suddenly wondering why she hadn’t thought of this earlier. Was she that preoccupied with condemning her brother that she hadn’t thought everything through properly?
            “Yes, it would be,” Damian admitted, “if it wasn’t for the fact that as soon as you entered the building an alarm was sent to every agent and member of the support staff who isn’t currently in the building. Right now they’re probably all reconnoitring at one of the five Alpha Resorts.”
            Beth frowned. She hadn’t heard of that before, and from preliminary skimming of the servers folders there was nothing about any Alpha Resorts in there. “What are they? More safehouses?”
            A small grin slowly started to make its way across Damian’s lips. “You could say that. You will not find them on the server data, however. The locational information from any building that is compromised gets…well, I suppose you could say it gets ‘re-worked’, as it were.” The grin blossomed into a smile. “Everything you have from our servers will be out of order or meshed with rather bogus information. None of it is useful to you.”
            He started to laugh, apparently ignoring the pain he most certainly would still be feeling in his face. Beth’s face contorted with rage, her fingers twitching in anticipation to be filled with the reassuring weight of the crowbar. Rob-Bob glanced at her, as if requesting instructions.
            “Kill him.” Her voice was surprisingly cold, even for her. She hadn’t humiliated her brother; rather, the reverse had occurred. That British piece of… “Kill him slowly. Make sure he suffers, but keep it inside ten minutes worth of pain.”
            Rob-Bob nodded apprehensively, obviously afraid of her newfound frigidity. He wordlessly took the carburettor from her and began to reinsert it into Damian’s mouth.
            Beth turned, knowing that if she stayed to watch her brother die she’d go into more of a rage later. Instead she walked out to the main floor, grabbing the attention of the rest of her team. “Attention fellow psychopaths! We’re bugging out in just a few –”
            CRASH.
            The sound came from the corridor leading to the main floor, behind its shut doors. Beth wondered for a moment what had caused it when the doors flew off their hinges and were vaulted across the floor like gigantic ninja stars. One of them slammed into a nameless merc, embedding a heavy corner into his ribcage and crushing him against the floor.
            Something– a muscled, large form – ran at full-pelt onto the main floor. It raised its arms and let out a horrid, inhuman howl as it started barrelling towards her.
            Beth’s eyes widened in shock just as Jacob came in front of her, wielding a shotgun that blasted the creature backwards before it could reach her. Jacob advanced on it predatorily, flanked on all sides by the other mercs who now had assault rifles aimed. She was about to thank Jacob when the creature rose again, releasing another howl before reaching forward with its arm and wrapping a hand around the nearest merc. It pulled the helpless individual forward as the merc screamed, thrashing wildly.
            The merc’s head went straight inside the grotesque creature’s mouth, and after a loud crunching snap all that remained was a bloodied, decapitated corpse.
            Beth noticed – with more horror than she’d ever had in her life – that the creature’s head was split partly down the middle. Its brain – a small, dark grey blob – suddenly expanded slightly, like a balloon. She also noticed that the area where Jacob had blasted it with the shotgun had now, in a sick and twisted way, regenerated itself.
            Jacob and the mercs were too stunned for a moment – and really, Beth couldn’t blame them – as the creature opened its mouth and growled. It took Beth a moment to realise it was speaking.
            “This,” it said, “is what I do to my friends.” It reached behind itself and tossed a similarly-headless body at them. Jacob took a step back to avoid being hit, then looked down at it.
            It was wearing a prison-orange jumpsuit, with a small nametag on the left breast. “Graham 917,” Jacob read aloud, before turning to face Beth.
            She could not have been more terrified if Slender Man had spontaneously appeared behind her. “Kill it!” she screeched. “Kill the thing!”
            She turned back towards the conference room as Jacob and the men started firing, the sounds of their guns punctuated by the occasional scream of terror from the mercs. She got back to the door. “Rob, we’ve got to get out –”
            And the terror just keeps on coming.
            Rob-Bob now lay on the ground, his mouth split open wide from the carburettor lodged firmly between his jaws. His eyes were open and glassy, and the alligator clips meant for Damian were clamped down on the ends of the car part.
            Damian himself stood over Rob-Bob’s corpse, looking triumphant as he rose to stare meaningfully at Beth. His right hand was bent at an odd angle; he must’ve broken his wrist to get out of the restraint.
“He got distracted,” he said, inclining his head fractionally towards Rob-Bob. Beth noticed with even more horror – if that was possible – that he held her crowbar in his left hand. “You’ll forgive me if I’m not too precise with this thing.”
She stared in shock, struck dumb, as her brother moved forward with the speed of an Olympian and struck her, before she could teleport, across the forehead with her own prized possession.
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