Society of Justice 3: Crisis on the Earth

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Briān didn't just take the bait; he swallowed the hook with it. Tyson even took the first hit and let him keep a hold on him. He didn't know exactly how fast and how hard Briān's power worked against him. It took a few seconds for the cold, draining feeling to appear after the contact was made. In the meantime Bishop had to listen to Briān continue to insult him and his family. He knew what he needed and wasn't going to listen anymore.

Bishop punched Briān's elbow with his left fist. The extended joint had no way to absorb the impact, forcing Briān to let go of Bishop's face to prevent his arm from breaking. As soon as Briān let go, Bishop moved forward and around Briān's right side. Pivoting on his root foot, Bishop drove his left knee into Briān's back; making contact at the base of his right kidney. Than he placed his right foot against Briān as he stumbled forward, and pushed him to the ground.

"Never speak of my family again. They died because of the U.A.'s indiscriminate tactics of killing everyone who opposes them. I loved them and they loved me. If you've ever hugged and kissed your wife and child for the last time, you would never say those words. I would have gladly died in their place, but life was cruel and I did not. Now I live for my revenge, I will kill everyone who is a part of the corrupt, diseased tower. I may have been a good man once, but revenge is a dirty business and I'm long gone from that," Bishop announced to Brian, as he removed his pistol and ejected the magazine. Throwing the magazine away, Bishop cleared the chamber and tossed the gun away as well.

"Now stand and fight, before I go down there and rip out your tongue."

Briān coughed and spit out some building saliva, it had a tinge of red. He couldn't believe that he let Bishop get the drop on him like that. Then the nerve of that arrogant man.

"Now stand and fight, before I go down there and rip out your tongue."

Briān got his arms underneath him, pushing himself into a crawling position. Spinning around, still coughing a bit, he stopped when facing Bishop. He got up onto one knee, in a mock kneeling position. "Fuck zat. You come to me." With his planted foot, he swept his other leg around, knocking out Bishop's legs from underneath him. The Commander was not ready for this, and fell like a ton of bricks, crashing to the ground. Before he could regain his bearings, Brian scrambled over and grabbed him by the collar of his neck.

"You think," Briān started while popping Bishop with a solid right to the jaw, "not being a 'good man'," pop,block "gives you ze right," pop,block "to behave in such a way?" Another punch, and to avoid the blocks, Briān switched locations, coming into the side of Bishop's ribs, hitting a soft spot. Hearing an audible cry of pain satisfied him enough to break off and stand up for a moment. He cracked his knuckles, realigning them, but was stopped by another sound. The sound of Bishop rising. Briān spun around and charged at Bishop, pinning him up against the wall with his left arm, while his right hand grabbed onto his wrist, wrenching it back and starting the absorption process anew.

"Think about zis zen Bishop. If your family was 'ere to see you now, would zey approve of zis man you 'ave become? Would zey believe zis was a man dedicated to avenging zem? Or a man who is just selfishly looking for payback for 'imself? For 'is own needs? Zat is what I am seeing."

Brian could feel more of the murky energy flowing into him, and having enough, flung Bishop to the ground behind him. As Bishop flipped over and faced him, Briān stared down at the Commander. "Now do you want to continue zis discussion of morals? Or do you want to keep at zis leetle battle?"

"Will you two hurry up?!" Takashi called out, skidding to a halt at the edge of a roof. The lights of Nova City at night reflected from the lens of the pair of binoculars he held. Two others brung up his rear, the three of them only dressed in dark hoodies and sweats, small blades sitting on each of their shoulder holsters. The two bent over, taking a chance to catch their breaths as they neared the eldest brother.

"Why do you have to run so fast Taki?" Marrissa asked as she and the younger brother panted. Takashi turned towards his siblings, frowning at their lack of stamina.

"'Cause it's my first mission as the squad leader, and i'd rather not have your mishaps look bad on my behalf! So stop whining!" Takashi replied with a harsh tone as he began to approach her.

"Chill out bro, this is her first squad mission period. You don't have to be so hard on her." Jason protested, now standing up straight.

"Bullshit. They didn't let me off easy when I was her age on my first squad mission, why should I do the same for her?" Takashi protested, pointing in her direction.

"Bro, she's your younger sister. If anything, you should be protecting her, not bossing her around and treating her like a work horse." Jason replied, Marrissa closing the gap between the three.

"Oh yeah? And what about you, Mr. Even-Though-I'm-Only-15-I-Can-Make-My-Own-Decisions-Despite-Going-Against-Dad's-Orders?" Takashi reprimanded in a mocking tone.

"Hey, let's not make this about me. Besides, I know what I did was right. That scientist guy got what he deserved. I'm sure Dad will see the positives, in due time. Ain't that right, Mar?"

"Yeah! I believe you Jaķme!"

"See? Marrissa believes me." Jason added with a smile, tussling his younger sister's shaggy hair, Marrissa giggling in return. Takashi rolled his eyes at the sibling bonding.

"Whatever. Can we just get back to the task at hand? Please?" He asked with impatience as he looked beyond the rooftop, a fairly empty restaurant sitting across the street from their position.

"Did we catch up to our target?" Jason asked.

"Yeah. Before you two started whining, I saw him go into that restaurant. We can corner him in there. You two'll look for the place's emergency exit in case he tries to slip out. I'll go in through the front."

"Isn't this guy supposed to be armed? Last I checked, your armor has covered your vitals yet." Jason asked lastly.

"Yeah, and neither have yours. Don't worry, he's not faster than me." Takashi replied lowly with a snobbish grin as he pulled out his small sword. The others followed suite before exchanging confirmed glances at one another. With one last gesture from Takashi, the three leaped from the roof and towards their target.


Jason opened his eyes, finished with meditating for the moment. He rose from his seat, yawning a bit as he did some stretches, the sounds of bones cracking and popping as a result. As he scanned the room, his eyes wandered over to Tommy, who was sitting by Garrus. Realizing that at one time he and the towering man were once apart of an unfinished conversation, he migrated towards them, finding a seat next to the two.

"Y'know, we never did get to finish our conversation." He said to Tommy with a look of intrigue.

"Thats right, your brother, well not really your brother, more like your," Tommy suddenly paused mid sentence, as stopped himself from diving nose first into a rant about how much if at all, Jason was technically related to this Takashi but he stopped himself, " well that part doesn't really matter," He declared, before going on to address Jason's question, " You mentioned that the Key originated in Central America right? Because of that, I've always wondered if somewhere in New Eldorado there weren't some of the Key Corp's ancient secrets, locked away in the vault of somewhere. I mean you'd be surprised at how big some of these collections can be, Wizards who live for centuries just keep collecting and collecting artifacts of power, tomes, writings, spells, just about anything that has a shred of power. So at some point one of these collectors must have come across something that belonged to the Keys and locked it in his vault."

No, he's my brother. My half brother, but a brother nonetheless. You were on the right track Tommy." Jason thought at his teammate's words, smirking slightly as he hastily changed the subject. As Tommy continued on his spiel, Jason's mind began to reel at the thought of what could lay in wait in New Eldorado, who or what was left behind by his ancestors and their predecessors. The stories, the secrets. He wondered if any of what was left could help solve his dilemma. He then began to think about how said scenario possibly turned out in this universe. His mind then flashed to an earlier passage in time, when he was still in shackles, defenseless at the glyph that was incremented on said shackles.

The seal of Mictlantecuhtli...it's characteristics can be attempted, but only those who've actually laid eyes on it's original form could truly imitate it...I thought it perished along with my ancestors, but it's obviously been replicated without fail in this universe...did it survive somehow in New Eldorado? Better yet, how was the perfect copy found?" Jason thought in length, saying nothing long after Tommy finished talking. Before the air got awkward, Jason piped up with a question.

"Do you think any of these collectors and their archives of magical artifacts have been seized by the UA military? It would explain the glyphs they used to lock us up with." Jason asked interestingly, intently awaiting an answer.

"Already on the same wavelength," Tommy had been harboring a similar hunch ever since he learned the UA knew about magic. " I just talked to Catherine, she says the UA took control of New Eldorado, they invaded with their full strength, everyone in the city either submitted, ran, or died. So then the UA military combed the entire place over and stole everything that wasn't nailed down. Except you wouldn't believe some of the security that's on these vaults. No amount of brute strength will crack them, so there must still be a few that haven't been cracked yet."

" But that doesn't mean there's no way to get in, all vaults have some back entrance, and if you know enough about magic or your clever enough you can find them. Right now the spells that protected New Eldorado from attack have been disabled, so it'll be easier to infiltrate."

As the fight was taking place, one of Bishop's soldiers was walking towards the lounge to report the assessments of the vehicle's conditions. It didn't require him to get close to see a common enough sight; his commander in a fist fight. "Guy's the Second Lieutenant's in a fight. You all remember the standing order. Get down here and make sure no one else gets involved," the man said into his radio. A few seconds later all of Bishop's soldier that had been working on the vehicles were running down the hall towards them.

"No they'd see a man who plans damn well to make sure that as few people as possible have to take that same double edged route. If you don't believe me you can ask them yourself, on your way past them to whatever hell monsters like you go," Bishop spat back, as he got back to his feet. "I shall see you zere first, you son of a bitch!" Briān shouted back as he charged towards Bishop. Expecting the charge, Bishop grabbed Briān's collar while lifting him with his other open palm at the base of the man's stomach, flipping him over top of him, sending him flying a few meters down the hall, and rolling across the floor for a few more; past the lounge entrance.

Not wasting a second Bishop was after Briān. As the man tried to get to his feet he was greeted by running knee to the face; the contact created a crack as it broke his nose and sent him flying backwards onto his back. Briān's nose had already started to bleed as Bishop jumped on top of his chest, into the mount position.

A fake punch slipped past Briān's guard and Bishop hooked his right triceps with his right hand. Pulling the hooked arm to his right, at the same time as he slammed his left fist into Brian's face, Bishop slid off the top of Briān and pushed the man's body onto its side, with his right leg, in one fluid motion. Next Bishop quickly slipped his right leg around and over top of Brian's head and pulled back on his arm, keeping his butt pressed against Briān's back so he couldn't lay flat; completing the arm bar. Feeling the tension in the arm Bishop pulled back even harder, waiting for the subsequent break or dislocation. Bishop's men gathered into a circle around the two fighting soldiers, to prevent or easily move to prevent anyone else from immediately getting involved.

The pain was unbearable. If this was a wrestling match, Briān would be very close to tapping out. And because of his leather jacket, Bishop wasn't even getting a taste of the punishment he deserved. He wasn't going to lose to this arrogant bastard though. He wasn't going to give in to his savage treatment. As Bishop's lackeys gathered around him, he would show him what a true fighting spirit would do.

Briān struggled to get into a position to escape the hold, Bishop wasn't going to be letting go any time soon. He would have to counter the leverage Bishop had on him. He grabbed at the leg draped on his neck and tried to lift it up off of him. It was hard from the spot he was trapped in, but he was able to get it off. With this opening, he brought his body around, easing the pressure on his tortured limb before shooting up in between his legs. It wasn't much of a movement but it allowed Brian to shoot his left fist forward and connect with a shot to Bishop's groin. It was a low blow, but all was fair in love, war and moralistic beat-'em-ups.

Bishop broke the hold on Briān's arm over the shock of being hit in one of the most sensitive parts of the body. Briān grabbed his right arm, holding it close to his chest as he labored to get back to his feet with just the one good arm. He slid off his jacket, leaving him in just a t-shirt, spattered in red. The blood around his nose had dried up, leaving visible streaks on his face, and the prominent bridge had a noticeable bend. Reaching up with his left, he snapped the cartilage back into place as best he could, the bend tempered somewhat, as Bishop started to rise again. He was bent over, and Briān wasn't going to waste an opportunity like that. He pivoted on his left foot, whipping his right around to deliver a spinning kick to the side of Bishop's head, sending a tooth flying to the ground, just beating Bishop to it. "And yet 'ere you are, battling against a potentially powerful ally in your quest for your own stupid selfish reasons, Beeshop." The spit was flying out of his mouth uttering his opponent's name. "I may despise you, but the enemy of my enemy is supposed to be mon ami, non? A shame you do not see it zat way." Briān looked around at the men on guard around them. He didn't remember them coming in, or being asked to come in. They just maintained the circle. "I see I am not ze first considering you 'ave to 'ave your leetle foot soldiers come barrelling in, standing in formation to oversee zis fight. Is zis 'ow you 'andle any dispute Beeshop? With violence and verbal abuse? 'Ow very American of you." Once Bishop hit the ground, Brian took advantage of the position.

As Bishop lay on his stomach, Briān positioned himself to apply his own submission maneuver. He buried a knee into Bishop's spine and slammed his opponent's head onto the ground, face first. Bringing him back up, the forehead had a wound open, and blood began to trickle down Bishop's face. Bonne, zis should give me enough time to get zis in zen. Briān picked up Bishop's head and slid his injured arm underneath the neck, gripping onto his good left arm. His left hand was then applied to the back of Bishop's head, forcing the head and neck tightly into the crook. He then pulled back, keeping the lower body pinned down with his own body weight. The rear naked choke was in place, and Briān knew he had the advantage on two fronts. Not only would the blood flow to the brain be cut off, but there were now three positions on his body that were coming into contact with Briān's bare skin. As much as he hated to be touching Bishop right now, this meant three different points that would be drawing the life force right out of him, making the chokehold three times as effective.

"You see, tyrants like you who use such methods to deal with zeir problem? You know what we call you?" He squeezed his arm tighter. The pain from Bishop's earlier attack still stung like a thousand wasps, but if a bit more self harm took Bishop down for good, it would be worth it. "We call YOU a monster, and we know 'ow to deal with zose up in Le Grande Norte Blanc. We eliminate zem when given ze rare chance." The energy was really starting to flow now. Briān could feel it.

Levi nodded sympathetically. First Jason, now Tyson. Sharing a body with an unspeakable evil seemed to be more common than he thought. Still, that would explain the specific questions Tyson had asked shortly after the battle in his mindscape. And what had happened to Tyson during that fight. The grotesque bat creature he mutated into was the stuff of nightmares. Claws and wings that sprouted violently from the flesh, the black eyes not unlike Victor's...

In the time that Levi knew him, it was rare to see Tyson so openly distraught. Afraid. Whatever this thing was, it absolutely terrified him.

"Of course, Tyson," he replied as the distressed man headed for a chair off in the distance. With a sigh his gaze fell back to the glass of water sitting before him. Rather, what was left of it. He picked up the glass and swirled its foggy contents around a bit before downing the remainder.

bzzzt

A muted vibrating sounded from Levi's pocket. His cell phone. 'Probably a low battery warning,' he thought while retrieving the device. A curious eyebrow raised when he saw a new message indicator flashing on the screen. It was from Taryn.

Gone for a walk

Levi was confused. A walk? In a secret military base? What would possess her to do that? The fact that a text message could be delivered over a network in an alternate universe only served to raise more questions. But since he received the message, something had to be working here. He unlocked the phone and began to enter a response.

Wait, a walk? Where are you?

Pressing the 'send' key, he waited for the message to go through. 'Worth a shot.'

Bishop's vision was starting to blur for a second. He had one good shot at escaping Briān's hold, and he was running out of time to pull it off. He started with a slow motion as to not draw attention to his escape plan. Shifting his left arm forward; he braced his left palm on the ground. In an instant he pushed up with his hand and twisted the top of his body to the right. Briān's uneven balance and high center of gravity forced him off of Bishop's back, and onto his right side, with the turn.

Briān landed his right shoulder. A sharp, shooting pain spread through his arm; instantly loosening his hold on Bishop. Bishop's escape attempt was made as he drove his right arm up into Briān's armpit, causing even more pain, and pried the right arm away from his neck with his left hand. After a second he was free and turned around on the ground so his legs were facing Briān. A quick kick to Briān's throat sent him into a coughing fit for air, while Bishop entered one of his own.

Through the coughing Bishop backed himself away and soon stood while Briān was still moving to his feet. With Briān's head still at waist level, the Second Lieutenant made a charge. It only took less than a second to cross the few steps between them and Bishop jumped. His right knee moved up and struck Briān's chin. An instant later his right elbow dropped into the top of the Canadian's head. The force of the impact caused Brian's skull to fracture, and a piece of his tongue to be bitten off. The larger man fell down backwards after a moment. His eyes were fluttering in and out of consciousness; although his consciousness remained.

"A few things," Bishop said, before coughing, spitting out blood, and then stepping over Briān. He took a minute to compose himself before he continued. "My soldiers are ordered to watch and prevent interference. I demand respect from soldiers beneath me so they know their place and listen; if they don't it will cost us lives. For this I will personally beat their position into them if they disregard our Resistance's rules. Next that doesn't make me a tyrant or monster. That makes me a commander who gives a damn. Very far from Patriot or yourself who use their powers needless for no sake but that they want to. More over; don't use the term American as an insult. Canada fell six years before you were born. That makes you an American whether you like it or not."

Briān's eyes started to flutter again prompting Bishop to stop his speech and snap his fingers in front of Briān's eyes. Once focus was regained he continued. "Lastly, if you mention my family or insult my authority and command again, I will not hesitate to put a bullet in your head." Bishop was finished with his little monologue and grabbed Briān's collar and dragged him to his feet.

Moving quickly Bishop half pulled Briān the short distance to the door of the lounge; not caring for when the man's feet slipped out beneath him. Upon entering the lounge Bishop spit out the blood that was building in his mouth again and pointed a finger at Catherine. "YOU!" Bishop yelled across the room at her. Not waiting a moment he swung Briān forward into a table. The man hit it and rolled over into a chair on the other side. "Put a leash on your dog before I have to put him down!" Bishop finished as Briān made his impact with the chair. He was beat, bloody, and the adrenaline that was keeping him going was simmering off. He wasn't going to be standing much longer.

"You have convinced me, Katie, that you are not of my world. With that in mind I will do everything within my power to return you and your fellows to your home... on one condition," Catherine eventually said, breaking the silence that had fallen while she had analysed Katie and her answers.

All of a sudden, the tension in Katie's shoulders vanished. She hadn't even noticed its presence until it was gone. It was a relief, that was for sure. "Name it," she said.

"There is a matter that I must attend to, concerning one of my comrades. Briān MacKenzie. He and I... we had once fought side by side. He is a great man and a good fighter. I..." Catherine trailed off momentarily, and when she next spoke, it was in a whisper. "I love him. I have since the day we properly got to know one another. And I know he feels the same. But I cannot touch him, no matter what I do."

"What? Why not?" Katie was a little shocked. Both at the fact that her counterpart and Brian's, the healer of the Society, were in love, and the thought that Catherine would need Katie's help on a problem like this. She briefly wondered if Brian knew about the relationship between their counterparts. If he did, then their next conversation would be an awkward one.

"Because he will kill me if I do. He nearly did, once. Briān is afflicted with a genetic curse. If he touches anyone with his bare skin, their life force is drained, fuelling his own. I know firsthand what it is like... it is not something I would wish on anyone, save our enemies," Catherine explained. "In exchange for everything within my power to help you return to your home, I simply ask that you and the Society find a way to lift the gene-curse upon the man I love, so that we might truly be together."

"Catherine... that's so sad. To look at someone in such a way and not be able to help them to the best of your ability," Katie eventually murmured. Unbidden, her thoughts briefly turned to Jason and the Takashi dilemma he had faced a short time earlier. Katie was of the mind that she had not done the best job of cheering him up. "I can't speak on behalf of the entire Society, but I will do what I can to see if I can come up with a solution for you. You have my word." She made a mental note to ask some of the other Society members about Catherine's problem.

"I see. Still. It is better to try and fail than to never try at all. That is why the Resistance still stands, is it not?" Catherine gave Katie a wry look before glancing up at the clock on the wall. They still had a good length of time before the plane was prepared... she grimaced briefly.

Katie noticed. "What's wrong? Something up?"

Catherine blinked. She had not intended for Katie to see that. "Sometimes my equals can be... difficult, shall we say, to work with," she explained. "Second Lieutenant Bishop has a tendency to step beyond his station, despite the fact that he is in no way superior to myself. Logically, you would think that the inverse is true, given my ability to create independent clones, but the reality is somewhat different."

Katie too gave a small frown. Her next words were spoken quietly so as not to allow people to overhear. "I know the feeling. The Society's Bishop is very similar. Just because he comes from the military doesn't mean he is automatically better than the rest of us. He certainly thinks that way, though." She quickly looked around the lounge to see if the sound manipulator was within earshot; it didn't look like he was paying attention.


Spoon blinked, slightly shocked. He could sense something... it was going on outside of the lounge. Two familiar mind signatures, conflicting... lots of hatred involved. Pain flaring and fading: they were fighting, and they were fighting hard.

±Catherine, if I may interrupt your conversation, you may have a situation on your hands soon,± he thought-spoke to the 2nd Lt.


What? was all Catherine had time for in response to Spoon's interruption before the door to the lounge burst open and Bishop threw Briān across the room. She leapt to her feet, storming past Katie to take in the situation. Spoon had been correct.

She needed to stop them before they caused even more havoc. "What the devil is going on here?! Restrain these men immediately!" she yelled. As a follow-up, she added a brief, "Do not intervene," to the soldiers under Bishop's command.

Spoon quickly complied, lifting one hand to point at Bishop, whose arms snapped to their sides and legs locked together as if the man was tied. Spoon's other hand reached out to Briān, who suffered the same fate. The two were locked into psychic holds: if someone physically restrained Briān it would not go so well. "Place them side by side," Catherine ordered. Upon Spoon's compliance, she tersely thanked the psychic and strode up to face the two feuding men. When she next spoke, it was filled with so much venomous anger that both Katie and Rowan were shocked by it.

"I don't care who started this, I am finishing it right now. You are soldiers on the same fucking side! It is high bloody time you started acting like it! The two of you are guests in my base of operations, and as such are under my jurisdiction. You will both stand down immediately and walk away from the feud between you. I should not have to state that I expect common courtesy and politeness from you while you are under my roof, even if you don't like each other.

"I want a clear, unbiased account of this... this debacle, from both of you. Explain yourselves. Right now." Catherine's anger at the brawlers was strong enough to cause her to be unsure of how to finish her sentences. Her formalities had crumbled as soon as she saw the result of Bishop's yelling. Her hands were balled into fists, shaking visibly. Her emotions were conflicting with one another... she had very little idea of what to do about this mess. Especially since Briān was one of the parties involved.


As Catherine began her tirade, Katie quickly got up from the table and looked over at the kitchen. Brian appeared to not be paying much attention: she figured he might want to know what was going on. With that in mind, she skirted the lounge wall as she made her way around to the kitchen. Once there she poked her head around the corner.

"Hey, Brian... you might want to see what's going on in here," she said quietly, indicating the room behind her.

Briān coughed up some blood, spitting it out onto the ground as Catherine ripped into the two of them. She was angry. This was a rare side of Catherine barely ever seen, her calm demeanor usually taking precedent over any overt emotions she might feel the need to express. This was out and out rage though.

Once she was finished, Briān took the opportunity to get the story out first. "Hah. Ze same side? A pity zat Bishop does not seem to tink it is so. He 'ad issues with 'ow I dealt with Takashi's outburst earlier and I told 'im wat I thought of 'is management tactics if people are allowed to go off unrestrained such as zat. I now see zat zis is a mere extension of Bishop 'imself, not able to 'old anything back.

He decided 'e would rather compare me to zose pig dog UA forces, and how I was unnecessarily 'ere. I told 'im ze error in zat tinking ze Resistance could not use all 'elp it could get, purely because 'e can not deal with me, just as before. I tried to walk away, but zen 'e insults me more, 'e calls my relationship with you into question, because of my curse. I could not take zat. So I smacked 'im one. He escalated tings from zere. His leetle minions start surrounding us, and I am forced into a fight I wanted no part of. A few minutes later, zis is ze result. Zat is what 'appened, Ms. Southe."

By this time, Brian had heeded Katie's call and entered the lounge. Instantly all he could see was the two men suspended in the air in front of the woman who took charge when they came to the base not too long ago. Something had went on, and the two men were battered good. "Oh jeez," he stammered. "Should I like, you know, heal these guys or something? They look like they got knocked around some good there eh?"

The shouting had woken Tyson up and he quickly moved over to the source of the yelling. They look like they got the shit kicked out of them. What the fuck happened?

Bishop had almost snorted with laughter after hearing Catherine try to order his troop, and Briān's account of their actions. Instead he breathed calmly and didn't rush into his account if the events. "First off until your bar turns from Gold to Silver my soldiers won't follow your orders over my own. Secondly, if you want an unbiased account of the events, check the video records. I know you have video cameras throughout this base, so you should have video of the whole event. However since I'm assuming that you want my account; I'll tell you.

I didn't like the fact that he needlessly used his powers against a fellow resistance member. I told him as much and ordered him to not do so again. He then tried to justify it by saying that you were in danger. This was clearly not the case since Takashi's anger was directed at Jason. He then proceeded to say contemptuous words towards myself, an officer fourteen ranks above his own. After expressing my displeasure with his false justification he then proceeded to insult my dead family before punching me and using his powers against me. I then proceeded to defend myself against his violent actions towards me.

I'd also like to note that my soldiers appeared well into the confrontation. They by no means forced Briān to continue the confrontation as he made no attempts to leave the fight and instead continued his violent actions towards myself. My soldiers only followed an issued standing order. They are not to get involved in any confrontation involving myself and another resistance member and are to prevent others from getting involved as well. This is to prevent other people from getting into shit for actions that involve myself," Bishop stated in a calm collected voice.

"Now if you want to avoid some larger problems I suggest you get Briān some medical attention instead of hoisting him on his feet. If I fractured his skull his brain could start swelling soon."

"I think it's safe to say that you should not be telling me what to do in this situation," Catherine snapped at Bishop. She was not happy with his version of the events: his recount made it sound like he had done nothing wrong, when clearly both sides were at least partially to blame. "But you are correct. Both of you need medical assistance." She paused momentarily, unsure of how best to treat Briān. She knew he healed himself through draining others; such a procedure was far faster, and more effective, than application of field medicine.

"Spoon. Let them down," she ordered. The psychic complied, releasing his hold on the two. As soon as they were released Catherine turned back to Bishop. "You and your men will be escorted back to your vehicles for the duration of your stay. You will remain there unless I have need of you, in which case I will send a clone to collect you. As for medical attention, I trust you have a medic among your followers. If not, I shall provide one." She stepped back from Briān and Bishop, and closed her eyes in concentration.


Katie watched, fascinated, as eleven fully-clothed Catherine copies stepped out of the space where the original stood. It almost looked like the clones were being torn off of the original, or like a diagram of cellular division that she remembered from high school. She wasn't sure which was more accurate. Regardless, ten of the new clones stepped up to take formation around Bishop's men.

The sight of the clones spurred a thought in her mind. She could already produce plants out of thin air. What if she tried to replicate the ones she had, without reaching out to other spores? She quickly rebutted herself by remembering that she could easily recreate a copy of a plant by drawing material from the original and re-growing the missing pieces. That was how she kept up constant volleys of razor leaves, when she wanted to do so.


Catherine opened her eyes once more, smiling a little at the relief of being free from the familiar sensations of cloning herself. That smile vanished when she caught sight of Briān's injuries again. She gave a brief, "Dismissed," to Bishop before turning to the last clone she had created. This was a stab in the dark, but it would probably work.

"Catherine, will you give your life-force to get Briān back on his feet?" she asked. It wasn't an order, it was the clone's decision. They knew their lives could be short, often through combat, but Catherine asked anyway. Besides, ordering her clone to more or less commit suicide was both unethical and would not win her any points with the Society. The clone's answer was one that she expected:

"I will, Ms Southe."


Rowan blinked and sat upright at the thought of the clone sacrificing herself. "Wait, what? You can do that? Give your own life to heal him? That's... crazy. Mad. Unethical... maybe unethical, I dunno."

Catherine - the original - rounded on him with raised eyebrows, as if she thought he should already know this. "It is not a life-threatening matter, Mr Ward. My clones are aware of their mortality. Some have shorter lives than this one, believe me. And it is the choice of this one to give herself up to heal Briān. Unless you have another way of patching up my friend without killing yourself in the process, I suggest we use someone expendable."

Rowan didn't know what to say to that. It seemed to him that when he made comments in recent times, they were shouted down or outwitted. He backed down, averting his eyes from Catherine to indicate he was not going to pursue the argument.

±Times like these are why I should just shut my trap,± he commented to Spoon, hoping to convey a bitter tone to his thoughts.

Pain had been shooting throughout Bishop's body for a while now, and he was going to hit his wits end soon. Still Catherine talking down to him wasn't acceptable, nor was Spoon's binding actions either. He shot a quick glance over to Tyson and gave a slight head nod towards Spoon as a silent notion to keep an eye on him. Next Bishop turned around and signaled his men to start to leave.

"For the record they're my soldiers not followers. Don't mistake them for your clone slaves." Bishop said with bile and venom in his voice. "Also I'm leaving on my own terms, not your orders. Until your gold turns to silver it will always be that way, so watch your mouth. So on that topic, I'll go where I want without your permission and your 'escort' is a little undermanned and worthless. Like ten of you could even come close to stopping us in the slightest," Bishop told Catherine as he exited the door behind the rest of his men. A trailing laugh from Bishop could be heard as he walked a little long down the hall before it stopped. I'm probably going to need some morphine, a surgeon, and a long nap after this. I just need to make it back to the trucks on my feet so I don't lose any face.


Tyson had caught Bishop's nod and shifted his head so shift was in the outside corner of his field of vision. In truth Tyson had no trust for the man even if others did. His sudden appearance, his telepathy, and his other powers which Tyson didn't know the extent of held an uneasy nerve in his mind. Could just be that this me didn't like being held up like that somehow. I can't blame him though.

After Bishop left the room Tyson walked over to Garrus. "So Leader, I'm not exactly sure about you, but I'm not exactly liking here too much. Too many things seem off about their supers and I'm not sure that I can completely trust myself if you know what I'm saying," Tyson whispered to Garrus, as he wasn't exactly sure of what to make of the current situation.

As Bishop trotted off towards the garage, Briān was trying to return to his feet. It was not going well. He shouted, "Allez mangez la merde, Bishop!" The effort caused him to collapse again. With more strain in his voice, he added, "I 'ope you rot in 'ell." He sat up against the wall as one of the Catherine clones came up to him.

"Do what you must, Briān," the clone spoke as she reached down and took his hand.

Briān hated everything about this situation. Here was a representation of the woman he loved, offering to sacrifice herself for his well-being, when it really should be the other way around. He couldn't bare to harm her, even a clone of her. He could already feel the energy starting to seep into his body. It felt good. It felt pure. Regaining a bit of strength he moved his hand up to her face, to caress it as the faux Catherine's veins started to bulge out, eyes slowly rolling back in her head.

"Whoa, Jesus Christ, stop there, eh?!?"

Briān did not bother to look up from his task as he dismissed the voice coming from his alternate self. "Zis is 'ow tings work 'ere, You would not understand."

Brian rushed over to where the man who looked like him was practically killing someone who looked like Katie and grabbed Briān's arm, breaking the hold he had. The Catherine clone stumbled backwards, breathing heavily as she gasped to regain a hold on her life.

"Wat ze 'ell do you tink you are doing? Get off me, you bastard Anglophone!"

"Buddy, I'm not going to let you kill off someone. I can help you out there, it's kind of my thing, you know? So just hold still there for a second." Brian place his left hand on Briān's neck while his right hand was placed on top of his arm.

Briān couldn't believe the abject stupidity that his doppelganger was displaying. "Wat? Get off, you fool! Did you not zee wat 'appens to zose who get close to me?"

"It's all right man, just let me do my thing here." As Brian maintained his grip, Briān's wounds slowly started to close, the blood evaporating from the cuts as the healed.

Briān turned and stared at Brian, trying to figure out what he was doing, but his eyes went wide at what he saw. Or rather what he didn't see. His power was having no effect on him. "You..."

"Don't move there bye!" Brian stopped the French-Canadian as he tried to move to get a closer look. "You move, you're going to put your arm bone out of your skin. Just let me finish here. At least this isn't as bad as some of the other stuff I've seen so far. Should be getting close to finished up here."

As the energy flowed through him, Briān felt much better. Not only were the injuries the arrogant Bishop gave to him disappearing, but there was sustained human contact for the first time without him breaking it off for fear of causing death.

The energy stopped flowing as freely as it did before, signifying that there was little left to be actually healed. Brian took his hands off of Briān. "There we go, that should hold ya for a bit there, eh?"

Briān was still somewhat stunned by this turn of events. "'Ow did you do zis? No one 'as ever been able to touch me for more zen a few seconds without feeling faint, yet you do zis ting with your 'ands, and nothing?"

"Well, I can heal people, so I dunno, maybe I got something that blocks your thing, or whatever. Point is you're all right, right? Feeling better and all?"

Briān stood up and brushed some of the dirt off of his jacket and jeans. "Oui, it feels as zough I never 'ad contact with zat flat-faced maggot of a man. Merci."

"Hey no problem. Now maybe we can start thinking of ways to just get out of here you know? I mean, every day we're here, is another day I ain't at home playing the XBox, eh?"

"Huh. I'll leave all the magic stuff to you. Honestly, I don't know much magic past the fact that some variation of it plays a major role in the Key's creation. Y'know, if we ever go to New York by any chance, i'll have to introduce you to my friend's grandfather. You two'll get along just fine." Jason replied generally, the last lines seemingly tacked on randomly. But as he'd think about it, Jason came to terms on the fact that he really didn't have that good of a grasp on basic magical properties. He snapped himself from the thought strain as he further processed what Tommy said.

"...Wait, you're not thinking about expeditioning New El Dorado are you?" Jason added hastily, propping himself up in his seat excitedly. "...I mean, i'm all down for some Indiana Jones-style temple running, but we're in a unfamiliar environment, in a unfamiliar dimension. Let's make it a trip for when we get back to our place in time and space." He added with a upbeat intrigue. With the political state this place was in, Jason deemed it'd be if two unaffiliated superpowered beings weren't running around in such a hostile setting.

Deep into their resumed conversation, a familiar faced young solider reentered the room. However, the young Takashi entered without thoughts of malice. After letting his mind clear through a private walk along the skirts of the compound, he began to realize how he might've been in the wrong with his outburst, or at least, just towards the wrong person. Or the wrong form of the same person. Either way, with his anger subsided, his mind started to wander back to intrigue. As he still had questions for the elder Keyholder, Takashi assumed that the latter would've want to ask questions of his own. As he sat besides his brother from another universe, he couldn't help but take a double take towards the two Brians, one of which was being healed of cuts and bruises by the other.

"What...happened to Briān?" He queried with heavy concern, practically twisting himself around in the chair to get a better look. Jason's face twisted in a surprised confusion, more concerned towards Takashi's change of heart.

"Uhh...i'm not entirely sure as to what happened, but I think a fight broke out between him and Tyson's look alike." He answered with hesitation, thumbing over to the whispering solider, he in turn still huddled towards Garrus. Takashi glanced towards Tyson, and realized who Jason was referring to.

"Second Lieutenant Bishop? That dude's such a prick, none of us in Lt. Southe's platoon like him, or any of his dick-riding lackeys. Glad I don't have to listen to any of that dude's condescending demands all day." Takashi replied with a huff.

"So, uhh, why'd you come back here...again?"

"I...came to apologize. That spaz attack you witnessed earlier was uncalled for. I shouldn't be mad at you. Well, not you you, at least. The other, older, you, positively. But you're cool." Takashi quipped with a limp smile. It was small, but honestly, it might've been the first time Jason's ever seen his brother (in this universe, or his own) make such a positive emotion.

"Apology accepted holmes." He returned with his own smile, the two connecting with a hearty fistbump. With the pseudo tension lifted, Jason let off a bit of a sigh.

"So...how'd you guys get here?"

"A mad scientist...it's a long story. What I want to know though...the Seal of Mictlantecuhtli...how was its true form acquired? Who's idea was it to manufacture it and use it as some cheap form of imprisonment?" He said, voice lowering. Takashi scoffed in return.

"Heh. And you think you're the only one with a long story..."

Levi stared impatiently at his phone. The message had been sent about ten minutes ago, if the timestamp was correct. The sounds of a short scuffle from the hall distracted him momentarily, but after the violence had died down, his eyes were once again glued to the screen. If Taryn had "gone for a walk", where in this base could she have gone to? And why wasn't she able to respond to his message? It seemed a bit ridiculous, maybe a little too clingy, but Taryn should have responded by now. Levi pounded out a response almost the moment the message was received. There was no way she couldn't have noticed.

Ignoring a sudden spike in pain, Levi rose to his feet. He looked around the lounge cautiously. Something didn't feel right about this, and he was going to find out what. Hopefully, his presence wouldn't be missed for at least a little while. That left only the base's security measures to worry about, should he encounter any. It was certain that the Resistance guards wouldn't take kindly to someone wandering around unaccompanied in their base. Which was why he had to find Taryn, and soon.

Levi slipped out of the lounge and into an empty hall that went into a left turn. Before going around the corner, he took a deep breath and centered himself, reaching out with his magnetic "sixth sense". With his refined control of magnetism, he could "see" the minute electromagnetic disruptions created by all things electronic. Against the background noise of the alternate Earth's magnetic field, Levi could make out the pulsing form of electrical cords running through the walls and the lights along the ceiling.

Observing closer, he almost missed a slight electrical disturbance in the air. It was very faint. And very familiar. Taryn had been here, Levi was now certain of it. Nobody else left electrical disturbances in their wake quite like she did. Although she had almost complete control of her abilities, faint amounts of electricity still leaked from her body. Far too weak to electrocute, and too weak to be picked up by all but the most sensitive of instruments. Or a magnetic.

As far as Levi could determine, Taryn's energy signature continued down this hallway. This "walk" was beginning to make less and less sense. Tensions were high in this base. Who knew how the Resistance would react to such a breach of security, especially now? What on Earth was Taryn thinking? This sort of decision was completely unlike her. Questions would have to be asked later, however. After Levi found her. That was what mattered the most right now. Following Taryn's electrical footprint, he continued down the hall.

Garrus stayed silent for a few seconds expecting Tyson to suddenly lose interest in talking to him and leave like a few others had done to him earlier. When he realized that Tyson wasn't going to ditch him he replied, "I don't like it either. We're far away from home in an unknown dimension that is in the middle of a damn cold war. However we can't do anything about that just yet. We all are just going to have to roll with everything for now, and hope it turns out. Not much else we can do...these are our only allies right now, and they seem to be shipping us off to a safe place with people who can help us. At least that is what I'm praying it is. I hope that this isn't all a sham just to send us to some people only interested in keeping us here and using us. They all seem a bit too sincere for that though."

Taryn's energy signature led Levi through a series of hallways and stairs. Although still faint against the background, the invisible trail was becoming more distinct. He was getting closer. But even if he didn't have Taryn's trail to follow, he could have followed the trail of security cameras. Each one Levi encountered thus far had traces of the her energy footprint and blinked with a red light. That had to mean that Taryn was intentionally tampering with them somehow, but why? A simple "walk" didn't entail exploring deep into a military base while actively sabotaging its security measures. There was definitely more to this, he was convinced of that now.

Ascending one last stairwell, Levi entered a hallway with a closed metal door at the end. Given that it was the only way forward, Taryn had to have passed through it somehow. As he approached it, he took note of two things. One, it was operated by some kind of keypad system. Two, that keypad system had been ripped clean off the wall. Loose wire dangled from the gaping hole, throwing off stray sparks. This would have taken considerable strength. Strength that Levi knew Taryn didn't have. So who did this?

With the keypad system destroyed, there was no way anyone could open the door without some heavy-duty explosives. Somebody didn't want to be followed. Tentatively placing his hand on the door, Levi closed his eyes and tried to get a feel for the door's lock mechanism. Although somewhat of a brute force measure, it looked like he would have to manipulate the lock from the inside. With a brief moment of concentration, the lock came undone with the sounds of rending and grinding metal. Levi pushed the broken door aside and looked past the doorway.

It led into a dimly lit room, the light from the open door shining through enough to see details. Along the wall sat at least a dozen computer monitors, sitting quietly and displaying black screens. In the center of the room was a figure slumped over in a chair. As Levi cautiously entered the room, he quickly realized who it was. "Taryn?" he asked, with cautious relief. She seemed to be unaware of his presence, or at least unresponsive. Something was horribly wrong.

"Taryn?" Levi asked again as he approached her. As he came closer, he realized with horror that she had been severely beaten. Her face was heavily bruised and lined with several cuts that caked her face with dried blood. What looked like wound up cord hung loose from her wrists. Her left arm was cradled in her lap, as if it had been badly injured. Maybe broken. He knelt down beside her. "Taryn, are you okay?" His tone became more frantic, more angry. "Taryn, talk to me! Who did this to you?" This time, he got a response. Taryn lifted her head and her unfocused gaze drifted over to him. Her expression was a blank thousand-yard stare. She wasn't looking at Levi as much as she was looking through him.

"Stay with me. Please, say something. Anything!"

Suddenly, Levi went still. There someone else in the room, standing in the corner. He shot up to his feet and faced the figure. When it came into focus, it didn't take long for Levi to recognize the form as... 'Ethan?' When the pieces fell into place, Levi's body surged with anger. His hands clenched into fists. Without a second thought, he charged the cyborg and slammed him against the wall, pinning him by the throat with his left arm. Levi punched his right fist into his gut as hard as he could.

"What did you do to her?" he shouted. Ethan didn't respond. Somehow, his silence was even more infuriating. In response, Levi laid down a couple of extra punches. Relinquishing his grip on Ethan, Levi watched him double over in pain. He then threw a one-two punch to the helmet that sent the cyborg staggering back against the wall and followed with an uppercut that sent him crashing to the floor. Ethan made an attempt to get up, but Levi stomped on his stomach and pressed down with his boot. "You're not going anywhere," he hissed. The display of the nearby computer monitors wavered with static as Levi gathered magnetic energy into his hands. "Not until you start talking."

Both Catherines watched, equally concerned, as the two Brians made contact. The mouth of the usually unflappable original fell open as she watched the healing process take place. She had never seen anyone that close to Briān without suffering the effects of his unwanted gift. If anything she felt more than a little bit jealous of the Society's Brian.

Once the two moved away from one another, Catherine stepped forward to stand with Briān, turning to face the other one. "You have my thanks and gratitude as well," she noted. One priority was out of the way. Before she spoke with the Briān she knew and loved, she had an order for her clone. "Catherine, get down to the security hub and get me the footage and audio records of the past half hour. I want to know if it was Bishop who started the fight. If it was, he'll have to answer to our superiors." Her face curled into an expression of distaste with the mention of her guest. She had not been happy with Bishop's actions throughout the entire mission.

"Yes, Ms Southe," the clone answered with a nod before she hurried away. Catherine turned back to Briān. "Are you sure you're alright? I can send for a medic if you think it necessary," she added, not entirely sure of Brian's healing abilities.


With the situation in the lounge under control, Katie let out the sigh of relief that she had been holding in. The alternate version of Tyson didn't seem to be making many friends in Catherine's base. Katie took a seat next to Jason as Takashi explained his attitude towards the Second Lieutenant... it only reinforced her assumption further, though she did not comment on the situation. She chose to stay quiet until the two of them paused.

"Since not much appears to be going on right now, I figure a story could be good. Something to pass the time," she suggested. "No harm in telling a few tales, right?" She glanced from Jason to Takashi and back, briefly remembering that the Takashi she knew wasn't on their side. This version appeared to be one of Catherine's men, though, so perhaps he could be trusted.

Jason listened intently to his brother as he explained the relevance of the Seal of Mictlantecuhtli in this universe, along with how it was acquired and it's use among the military of United America. As Takashi went into details, Jason took on a look of shock as he went on to mention how his alternate entity was, in fact, the person to both find, and abuse the power of the seal upon reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the UA militia, along with rising to power amongst the Key Corps after the death of their father. Said death was seen by the populace to have occurred due to natural causes, but Takashi knew otherwise. Just reaching that point in the explanation made his fists clench.

"...I feel like there should be more to it though, y'know? You're chosen as the leader of your people, and in turn, you run a coup on them, and use them as lowly resources, only to gain footing in an axis force's army!" Takashi declared, his voice not hesitating to raise as he talked. Jason's eyes lowered as he put a hand to his chin in intrigue.

"And i'm guessing the reason you had to disband from the Corps was because you witnessed dad's death, and my evil twin was trying to cover it up." Jason replied, making a reflexive nod towards Katie has she sat betwixt him and Tommy.

"Basically, that's one of the reasons. I mean, there were several other witnesses, but I was the only one to get away. If anything, he probably had other Keyholders working under him to help with the assassinations, along with keeping mouths shut."

"Huh. Good to know that alternate universe 'you' is all calculative and ulterior motive-y." Erebus piped up with stark sarcasm, a reply the two could promptly agree on. Ultimately, the info Takashi provided only made Jason much more eager to meet his counterpart. While he was sure he wouldn't be able to trust him as far as he could throw him, he now knew he had a few questions to ask him. Before the air became stagnant with silence, Katie proposed a suggestion.

"...I figure a story could be good. Something to pass the time. No harm in telling a few tales, right?"

"Hehheh, remember the beach?"

"Dammit Ero! You know she wasn't there!"

"Well, I just finished telling a story to Jason, Lt. Southe. But, I do remember this one UA raid I went on with my previous platoon...wait...Lt. Southe? You're not Catherine...but you are? You definitely look younger..." Takashi tried to deduct Katie's existence, leaning further out of his seat to get a better look at her.

"It's okay, she's from my universe." Jason reassured. Takashi looked between the two before putting a hand to his head.

"Christ, you people are confusing." He muttered bluntly with a tired sigh.

Briān shook his limbs out, expecting to feel some kind of pain and yet there was nothing at all. "Oui, in fact I feel better zen I 'ave in a while. Zat..." He motioned at his counterpart. "I don't know what zat was, but zat energy zat flowed from you...it was almost as if my own was sated. Zat it had no need to consume anymore..." Briān felt silent for a moment as he looked over at Catherine, now standing beside him. Zis...otre moi...perhaps 'e is ze key...

He turned back to Brian. "Tell me, Bri-an. Zis power of yours, zis is natural, oui?"

"Yeah, since I was young I've been able to do that," Brian answered. "Don't get hurt much either. Least if it's not involving the brain or nothing. I don't know, it's just been there, you know?"

"Yes, yes, I tink I know what you mean." Returning his focus to his beloved, Briān asked, "You know, Ms. Southe, zis uh, how you say, new development, is quite interesting, non?"

'What did I do? What did I do? What did I do?' The question cycled over and over in Taryn's mind.

"I'm so glad you decided to see things my way. It's for the best, you see. You'll see. And remember. I don't like to be kept waiting."

Ethan couldn't tell anyone. She couldn't tell anyone. She couldn't risk it...she'd just...have to deal with this on her own. She had to. She had to for Ethan.

"Taryn, are you okay?

No. She was dizzy again. And cold...so cold. But her face felt warm. Maybe that was the blood. 'Wait...' That was...wasn't that?

"Stay with me. Please, say something. Anything!"

'Levi...' It was...him. She should tell him. She could tell him. She could...

'Nothing that you two have is real. None of it! You think you care? You think he cares?'

The cold that covered Taryn began to slowly consume her. Even though she could still feel the bruises that hadn't yet formed and the cuts that still bled every so slightly. She started to welcome the cold. Feeling nothing should be better than this. This blurry haze of consciousness. She didn't want to think anymore. She couldn't think anymore.

But the jarring sound of metal on concrete broke through the haze. Taryn struggled to focus. And unintentionally shifted the wrong arm. She whimpered softly, pitching her body forward around her broken arm. Electricity shot along her sleeve and wrist, following the path of each spike of pain. She had to breath, to keep breathing. In. Out. In. What was she doing? She was...there was fighting. Someone was fighting nearby. Someone important. 'Focus....focus...'. But she really wanted to just sleep. To sleep for a little while and then things would be better. This could all be just a dream.

"It's all in your head!"

But Taryn couldn't escape. There was too much noise. She tilted her head to squint through the darkness. 'There...' she could see the fight now on the other side of the room. Taryn watched Ethan's battered form fall to the ground and be pinned by Victor. Levi. Victor. Ethan was trapped. Again. Still trapped. They were both trapped.

"What did you do to her?"

Taryn breathed in slowly. She straightened her good arm, her fingers digging into the side of the chair as she slowly rose. Her strength faltered once but she forced her body back to a sitting position. Loosening her grip on the chair Taryn reached towards the two men. "Don't..." God, her throat hurt. Taryn moaned quietly, the sound no louder than a breath. She licked her lip tasting blood before she spoke again. "Don't!"

Ethan was in a state of shock. Even after he had regained control of his body, he simply stood in the dark corner as he tried to compose himself. He was back in control, he could tell, but for all he knew it would be a short reprieve from the forceful control of Taryn. 'No...not Taryn,' he told himself, looking at the static screens where she had been.

There was someone else in the room now, but Ethan didn't acknowledge them at all; not until that person started to attack him. The first hit did not really register for the still shocked Ethan, but the proceeding hits definitely did.

"What did you do to her?"

Ethan tried to explain what had happened, but absolutely no sounds were coming out. Even across his visor screen there were now rods. The realization sent a shot of fear as he worried why it was happening. His mind raced with possibilities until he figured out what it was. He glanced at Taryn, the real Taryn, and saw that she was trying to get up. Her voice was both comforting and painful, and as he heard it, Ethan came to the conclusion that it would be best for him to leave.

Suddenly rolling over allowed him to get out from underneath Levi's foot, though getting up proved to be a bit harder from the punches he had endured. Leaning against the wall, Ethan glanced at Taryn and had a short apology displayed on his visor before hastily leaving the room before Levi tried to get him again.

As he neared the doors to the Resistance lounge, he straightened up and composed himself before entering. He made a beeline for a place he would be comfortable and left alone in: the bathroom. He heard a greeting from Garrus, but he didn't return it as he passed through the lounge and entered the bathroom. As he locked the door behind him, he slumped to the ground and crawled over to the wall; curling himself up into the fetal position as he tried to get the ordeal out of his head.


As it became night at the Resistance base, the Society were given a section of the barracks to stay in for the night until the plane was done prepping. They were told it would be sometime before dawn that it would be ready, and that they should be prepared to leave as soon as it was.

Garrus gave his own little talk to the Society as they all settled down into their beds, saying that they should try to at least get some sleep here before their plane trip. "Though I'm sure we'll have more time to rest on the ride over. We're almost out of the danger zone, and hopefully we'll be back to our home before we even know it."

Tommy picked a random cot and offloaded his things. That is to say, he put his vest, gloves, and belt down on top of a foot-locker. He considered taking off his outfit, before he realized he didn't have anything to change into, but it did bring a question to mind, " Does it seem kind of pointless wearing these costumes now?" He said, pointing at his own, " They just seem a little, I don't know, super-flower-ish?"

'Wake up...'

After personally carrying her to the infirmary, Levi hadn't moved from Taryn's side. She had lost consciousness on the trip back down the halls and hadn't moved since. When asked by the physician what had happened to her, Levi did not offer any specifics, only that she had been severely beaten and that she required medical attention immediately. She was taken in and examined without any further questions. Her injuries were not life-threatening, the physician had told him, but it was likely that she would remain unconscious for at least little while longer.

"Taryn...it's me. Levi." He wasn't sure if she could hear him. He hoped she could, at least. "I need to know what happened. What Ethan did to you and why he did it." His eyes drifted to the sling that held her broken arm in place. A fresh cast was wrapped around the limb, protecting it from any more harm. Levi's hands curled into fists. It wasn't fair. Taryn didn't deserve this. If he ran into Ethan again, he wouldn't escape. The cyborg would pay for ever laying hands on her...

"Don't!"

Taryn had told him to stop. But why? Ethan had tied her to a chair and beaten her sensless, but she had come to his defense. That wasn't like her. None of this sounded like the Taryn that Levi knew. It just didn't add up. He was completely in the dark, to his frustration. He wanted answers, and he would be damned if he didn't get any. But now wasn't the time to be angry. Levi took a deep breath and forced himself to relax. He drew the breath out slowly and slumped forward in his seat.

"Just...please. Wake up. I love you."

"I dunno, bro," Brian answered Tommy as he settled in. "We don't have much else anyway, I just see it as a link home." He didn't say anything else, it had been a long, long day. At least now there was hope they could move on and find a way back to the proper universe. The Canadian fell asleep with visions of cold Alexander Keith's and Ottawa Senators games dancing in his head.


Meanwhile, Briān was not having as much luck getting some rest. He had seen too much today. It was not the restless sleep that sometimes struck him back in Quebec, where he pined for the woman he loved but couldn't love. She was in the room with him. No, his mind was on something else.

For the first time in his life, he had sustained human contact. Not even his parents were able to provide that growing up, and it was bothering him as he laid there. He could still feel where his doppelganger touched him, where he felt the healing process begin. He rubbed at his arm, as if he was trying to shake an itch, but it just wouldn't leave.

'Ow is zis possible zat in another world, given ze same circumstances, I could 'ave not only 'ad my love, but been able to care for 'er properly, 'eal 'er, make 'er feel ze way I feel? Is it not fair. Such a gift is wasted on zat imbicile. But still, 'e could be of some use. I know zose bastard Americans must 'ave something in zeir arsenal I could use to extract wat it is zat makes 'im able to touch someone like me.

He looked over at Catherine, who was already sleeping. Dare I dream of ze time when I can finally be wit you 100 percent? He looked back up at the ceiling. Bah, I'm sure zat bastard God or someone will find some way to screw it up. I just have to beat zem to ze punch, is all.

A Short While Earlier

In another part of Catherine's base, the Second Lieutenant was sitting at a communications console with a few clones manning the other stations. The only non-Catherine there was Briān: she had brought him along to reduce the possibility of him getting into another fight. And because Catherine was a little bit selfish at times - though she never liked to admit it - she had placed him under her personal protection. Not just a clone. The original would keep watch over him.

"Connection has been established, Ms Southe. Patching you through to Lieutenant Colonel Roberts now," one of the clones reported from her station. Catherine's eyes turned to the primary display as the Lt. Colonel's face flickered into view.

"Second Lieutenant Southe. I trust the rescue mission you and Second Lieutenant Bishop conducted was a success."

Catherine nodded. "It was, sir. Though it is not the reason why I am contacting you." A nod to one of the clones. "I am sending you some video and audio footage from my security systems. Bishop got into a fight with one of the men under my command, Corporal Briān MacKenzie. I do not believe myself capable of rendering a fair judgement, so I hope you can spare the time to handle the matter, sir."

"That's Second Lieutenant Bishop to you, Southe," Roberts admonished her before moving on. "I remember MacKenzie. Weren't the two of you... involved, shall we say, at one point?"

Catherine nodded, her stoic expression relaxing for a second as her superior commented on the man for whom she cared. "Yes, sir. Hence why I do not think myself in the right position to deliver a proper verdict in this matter."

Roberts raised one eyebrow, but dropped the subject. "Alright, Southe, I'll look into it. Just be prepared to face what's coming. You should have prevented this before it had a chance to start up."

"I understand, sir," Catherine answered, saluting as a clone signaled that the footage had been sent. Not wanting to take up any more of Roberts' time than she had to, she bid the Lt. Colonel farewell for the moment. She never liked sending matters to her superior officers: it made her feel weaker than she was. Made her feel like she wasn't entirely in command.

Present Time

Sure enough, as Briān looked over, Catherine was sound asleep. The day had been a long and rough one. She dreamed of peace, of the utopia she fought for. And she dreamed of Briān. Free from the gene-curse that was the one thing standing between her and her love.


"I think the word you're looking for there is 'superfluous'," Rowan noted as he leaned up against a wall near the much larger Tommy. "But you do have a point. There is a chance we might be recognised by what we're wearing as well as our general looks." He kept the fact that he didn't have that problem to himself; he was trying to think in terms of the Society as a whole rather than just his own personal issues.

"Although... Brian has a point as well. It is a reminder of home," he conceded, casting his gaze towards the floor. He missed walking the familiar streets, the jogging routine he had occasionally ran a couple of blocks around the Promenade. And he missed the people. Happy consumers free from the troubles of war and oppression, for the most part.


Despite being under the covers of one of the beds, Katie couldn't sleep. She was used to Leland being there next to her: there had been times when he had been away for the night, but he had almost always checked in with her before he left. Leland was always warm and comforting when Katie was cuddled up to him at night.

On that thought, she realised that she had come to depend on him a fair bit. Perhaps a little more independence would do her some good. Maybe spend a few nights without her boyfriend being there, and see how it goes. Of course, that would likely be only properly doable once they got back home...

And before that happened, Katie had to help her counterpart with her own romantic woes. Which meant talking to Brian's equivalent, finding out what caused his ability, and perhaps figuring out some way to reverse or eliminate it.

She found herself occasionally staring at some of her fellow Society members, occasionally averting her gaze or switching to look at someone else.


Since he didn't need all that much sleep at night, Spoon was more or less aimlessly wandering the halls of Catherine's base, occasionally sending out little feelers of thought to see who was still awake near his location. When he got restless he preferred to walk rather than move himself through levitation or teleporting. Those methods of getting about were too fast to properly relax him. Sometimes he would meet a Catherine clone, and the two would exchange a courteous nod or salute before she passed him by.

After visiting the barracks where Catherine's soldiers rested, joining in a conversation with some of them for a little while, the psychic continued his roving, eventually finding himself standing before the door to the infirmary. A thought turned the handle and swung it open, revealing two members of the Society. One was lying on one of the beds, the other watching over her. Spoon wondered what had happened to put someone in the infirmary. Had it been as a result of the prison break? He walked over to investigate.

±What happened here?± he asked the watcher, the one he recognised as being similar in appearance to the abominable Lector. His friend, or perhaps more than friend, appeared to have suffered a fair few injuries, though Catherine's physician had evidently seen to her.

±What happened here?±

The telepathic voice of Spoon echoed inside Levi's mind. The psychic was about the last person he wanted to talk to at the moment. Presumably if he could place messages into minds, he could also take them out. Levi wasn't warm to the idea of a stranger who could possibly reach into his thoughts. Victor did that in the past, and he didn't need anyone to do it again. His mind was his own now, and it was going to remain that way. Regardless, he couldn't just ignore Spoon after he asked a question.

±It's Taryn,± Levi said, taking caution as he formed his response. ±She's been badly injured. I'd like to leave it at that.±

"Hey!" With the word came pain and nausea as something heavy connected with Taryn's head. Her eyes opened to darkness. She coughed weakly, tasting blood as she licked her lip. She struggled against resistance, feeling strands of something dig into her the more she leaned. Another wave a nausea hit her. Fire. That's what it felt like. Fire. Or...maybe ice. Dios, I think that's a poem.

"Wakey wakey little weakling." The sing-song voice was back. It was her voice. At a pitch she'd never used. That she'd never had.

Not weak...

"Oh, but you are. Bring me closer, would you?" Ethan's body, because it had to be his body and not truly Ethan, jerked forward and Taryn's chair slid a few inches closer to the monitor. A frustrated sound came from speakers. "Closer!" A cold hand settled on Taryn's forehead and pushed, pinning her head to the back of the chair. Taryn blinked slowly. Everything was fuzzy around the edges. And dark. She tried to bring the screen into focus. The light hurt to look at, the image was blurry. But the speakers were very clear. Satisfied with the change in position, the figure continued. "You have a pretty bad track record. Every time you fight you lost. You got cut up, broken up, then you decided to fry yourself. Now that could have been brilliant except that you didn't compensate for the additional current. See here." There was a high pitched whine across the speakers and something rattled. The whine steadied into a rhythm of high and low frequencies. Taryn dimly recognized the sound as a dot-matrix printer. The sound of perforated paper being torn was distracting.

"Here! The files from your self-immolation attempt." The figure on screen shook her hand with a soft whistle. "I have to say I could almost be impressed with your healing time except, of course, it's a lot slower than mine. You couldn't even improve your pain threshold. Two cc's of morphine for...what is this...a potentially infected gash? Ah, wait this is recent. Let's go back to frydom." There was the sound of papers shuffling. With a small sigh Taryn lowered her head.

"Don't fall asleep now. Here, I'll cut to the chase since you obviously can't appreciate my genius. You shacked up with your abuser. The man who defeated you. Nearly killed you. It's not normal. It's not even the good kind of crazy. And I should know."

What?

"Ah ah ah. Here. Look." Abruptly the voice changed from sarcastic and insulting to cajoling. The laptop on the floor directly in front of Taryn powered on. Skipping the normal boot screen it went straight to a black screen with a single folder opened. File after file began opening in new windows. Picture after picture was displayed until the black could no longer be seen. Vivid technicolor images of herself and Levi. Personal pictures. Publicity photos. Everything. "You really should check your security settings. That man with the vest obsession. The powerful one."

Levi...

"We call him Victor here so let's call him Victor. Though ours has this weird dual identity going. From what I see, this guy beat you. Defeated you. And you accepted it. You lay there beaten, and you didn't die. You -lost-. You lost and not only that you gave yourself to the winner. Like a damn consolation prize."

On screen, Taryn's counterpart scoffed quietly. "It's sad, you see. Your...dependance. Your weakness. You should be the best! Strong! Fierce! Instead you are..." She snapped a few times.

"Complacent. Secondary..." There was a slight pause that grew into a stretch of silence. Taryn tilted her head to view the closest monitor. The figure on screen was wearing a completely different expression now. Now longer bored she now looked...angry. "You are lazy! You get beaten and you don't get stronger you get worse! Look!" Suddenly the screen was covered by an off-white blur.

"No no no. Look at me. " The obscuring item vanished and there was more finger snapping. "See where I am? See this place? It's mine. I control everything in this room. This room that no one's' been able to find on oh....how long has it been since... ten years? sure Perfectly secure. Perfectly mine. And I need. NO ONE! No...one..."

And then something strange happened. As Taryn watched through one eye the figure suddenly slammed her hand down on the armrest. And then...it was like an ion storm. Electricity surged into being and actually shot from the figure's body to items off screen. A howl cut through the sound of lightning as the figure began to shake violently. She pitched forward, then seemed to be thrown backwards a second later. Morbidly fascinated, Taryn watched as her doppelganger writhed and disappeared in a sphere of light. And then as suddenly as it appeared, the light vanished.

Behind the figure's head fluorescent bulbs hung from their sockets. Sparks sprayed from the machinery. The room was darker. But Taryn was most confused by the harsh breathing of her other self. Hunched over and panting she sounded almost winded. But then there was a loud cough and the figure straightened quickly. For a moment their gazes locked. And Taryn grunted in surprise. The expression that met hers was almost lucid. Just for a second. Something flickered across that face. Her face. An expression that she almost recognized. Then the unfocused gaze and manic grin returned.

"We should talk. You and I." Long sleeves brushed sparking cloth aside as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

The cold hand returned to force Taryn's head up. "No." she uttered quietly.

"No? Well then I suppose you won't mind if I bring this," Ethan's body suddenly seized, "to play with."

"Don't..."

"Don't make me! I can make you better! I can make you more"

Ethan dropped to the ground and Taryn gave a harsh cry. Her chest felt constricted, she couldn't get enough air.

"Okay! Okay..."

On screen, her alter clapped. Actually clapped. "Good! Then it's settled. I have to...clean up first though. And find just the right place for this little picnic. I'll send word when I'm ready. Ta!"

"Ethan..."

"Oh you can have your little toy back for now. I've already given him a nice muzzle and tags. Just try not to break him before tonight, would you? I'd hate to have to come find you myself. All those silly little minute men. Lined up in a row."

'No! Taryn woke up with a gasp that turned to a choked cry as she tried to inhale. Grabbing blindly with one hand she ripped off the oxygen mask covering her face and nose. Instead of the dark room she was now doused in white light. And white sheets. 'What? How? What?'. She turned her heat to see metal bars that struck a familiar cord. Hospital bed. She was in a hospital. And something was wrong with her arm. Taryn lifted her left arm and drew in a startled breath when she was met with a heavy cast. She struggled to sit up.

The room was dimly lit but the medical equipment on display was easy to identify. Taryn found a clock on the wall that told her she'd been asleep for several hours. 'Explains why there are no doctors. she noted. Levi was sleeping in a chair in the corner of the room. His quiet breathing brought a half-smile to Taryn's face. With a light touch Taryn shut down the monitors that were recording her heart rate. She winced slightly as she pulled the IV out of her arm, leaving it and the sticky tape in a ball. An off-white sling was sitting on the end of the bed. Taryn grabbed it.

Just as she settled the frustrating gear Taryn's phone gave a soft chirp signalling a text message.

'You have one hour. Look for the signs.'

"What if I don't want to?" Taryn mumbled quietly. Her phone suddenly gave a high pitched whine and smoke began to drift from its sides. Startled, Taryn dropped the device to her bed where it continued to smoke until the screen shorted out. "Damnit." she swore quietly. "I liked that phone." But she'd gotten her answer.

Sneaking quietly across the room Taryn made her way to the nearest door. She'd found her shoes next to Levi but her jacket was missing. The soft red glow of the lock flashed green as Taryn touched the door handle. She was going to be led, it seemed. As she stepped into the hallway the door shut behind her with a quiet hiss. The locked re-engaged and the overhead lights grew brighter down the left hall. She was going to be led and not be able to go back, it seemed. 'Meet, greet, get the heck out after Ethan's safe.' Taryn reminded herself. She turned left.

****

Getting off of the base was not as difficult as Taryn had imagined. Despite her secret hope to be stopped by one of the patrolling soldiers none of them seemed to notice her. The cameras of course were always malfunctioning. They turned as obediently as the queen's dog.

The highway was worn, and old. And the sparking power lines she'd been following stopped a good two minutes ago in a frayed mess. Maybe there had been a storm earlier?

Taryn now had no idea where she was supposed to go. And without her watch she didn't know how long she'd been gone. To distract herself she look at the trees. There were many. The ones on the left looked planted, they were too perfectly spaced to be anything but. But on the right side, where she was walking, the trees belonged to a dense forest were insects and birds were making their presence known.

A small firefly ventured away from its leafy shelter and drifted down towards Taryn. She stopped and watched its descent. The color was slightly off, it's glow a more orange than yellow.

"You remind me of something." She told the insect.

"You're late."

Startled, Taryn spun around at the low voice. There on the road, hands casually held behind her back, was her alter. Fear chased the remnants of morphine away.

"Okay. I'm here. What do you want." Taryn spoke quietly. Her own arms crossed in front of her chest.

"It's your lucky day! I've decided to help you." Her alter smiled and half-skipped forward.

"I don't need help. I need you to leave me alone. Please." The please wavered slightly as Taryn backed up. Closer to the dark woods.

"Oh, come 'on. It'll be fun! You'll be better and I'll be less inclined to kill you. It's a win-win!"

"I really don't..."

"Come ooooon." Her alter's arms came forward and Taryn froze. In the darkness she couldn't tell if there was anything but a real long rifle pointed at her. She was prepared to fight if she had to. But she couldn't block a bullet.

"Please don't." Why had she agreed to this? Why? Why didn't she tell Levi? She could have told him. She could have found another way to free Ethan.

"No!" Taryn yelled as she hurled electricity at the alter. She turned to run while still pouring energy into the attack.

Taryn's double grinned gleefully as she pulled the trigger and made no move to dodge the attack. Taryn yelled again and reached for her shoulder where pain erupted. The brightly colored dart she pulled away was small but sharp. She tried to keep running but she could only sway in place. Something blue flickered. Taryn looked up to see her electricity circling the alter in a playful wave. A bitter taste rose in her mouth. The blue light blurred. She didn't even feel herself fall.

****

It was cold. That was the first thing Taryn noticed. Cool air rushed by and brought the stink of wet dirt and something else she couldn't identify. A sense of dread followed déją vu when she opened her eyes to darkness. "Mmmmph!" Something was wrapped around her mouth, preventing anything more than a muffled groan.

"Easy on the tie, you know that was once the finest silk money could buy. Or in my case, steal?"

"Mmm?" Taryn coughed against the cloth stuffed in her mouth. There was a pounding in her skull and she couldn't take a full breath.

"You're probably still a little out of it. I wasn't sure if you were comparable to a 'small or medium buck' or closer to a 'large bear'. The camera always adds ten pounds you know. The saleslady was useless when I told her I needed to down a human. Speaking of, did you know the normal human body can only take so many volts of electricity before the neurons in their brain start to malfunction? Normal humans, I mean. It starts interfering with their braaain waves. Hahahaha. And their little vital organs. But, good news for you, you have a sliiightly higher threshold..."

As her alter continued to talk Taryn continued to struggle, to move her arms and legs. But she was restrained. Her body was wrapped in something with blunt edges that covered her chest and kept her legs still. Her arms were outstretched but secured at the wrist and shoulder to the weird metal table she felt she was lying on. 'Wire'? Was it wire? Something that smelled like rust and dirt rested beside her on the table. She could just see the edges of it when she turned her head. Metal. Metal, rust, and dirt. And there was a weird charge coming from somewhere. Like static. Like...being near one of those Van de Graaff generators. It made her itch. Taryn craned her neck to look sideways and saw an IV bag hanging on a broken shelf. She followed the small tube and saw it connected to her arm...but she couldn't feel the needle.

A flashlight was abruptly shoved close to her face. Taryn flinched and shut her eyes, still pushing against the restraints instinctively. It felt like her entire arm was in a cast. It wouldn't move.

"Now, now." Her captor chided her quietly and put her hand on her stomach. She couldn't feel it, not through the restraints, but all of sudden it got harder to breathe. "Don't mess with the cables of life. It took forever to get those just right and if you get 'em crisscrossed I'll be cross."

Cables? Not wire. It was computer cables before. But these were different still. She had to know. She had to know so she could get out.

Metal scraped against stone and a chair suddenly appeared at Taryn's eye level. She tilted her head to watch her alter sit down in the chair backwards, leaning the chair casually on one leg. She reached for something on the ground, holding it up for Taryn to see. A thick cable, its end a mess of copper wires and shredded black plastic. It looked like...'Oh God.'. Power lines. Active power lines. It wasn't static she was feeling. It was current.

"And now," Taryn's head rocked as an unexpected blow landed on her chest, "we begin." Her field of vision filled with white light that grew brighter as the low hum of current grew louder. The first stream of energy hit the cables. And Taryn began to scream.

****

The key to a good charge, was making sure the increase was constant. Her subject wasn't talking anymore. Or mumbling. Or whatever that god-awful high pitched whine could be considered. Really after the first ten minutes it was just annoying to listen to. But that's okay. Now she had time to focus on the important things. Like redirecting every ounce of the city's power grid. It was just like baking. She had to hit the perfect temperature before her creation could transform from plain 'ol dough to glorious baked goods. She used the brightness of the glow encasing her subject as a guide. 'X volts for Y minutes plus Z. And Presto.'

"And here is the key ingredient. Z." It was a shame her little protegee couldn't see her magic formula. It'd taken years to finish. Not to mention the number of stolen assistants from the biology labs and the chemist she'd had to blackmail into separating the enzymes correctly. Hours and hours of someone's hard work she'd bought and never paid for to get this right. But why should she be the lab monkey when here was a perfect petri dish to test on. If she could take this zero up to a three, then imagine what it would do to her eleven.

"It's red dye number twelve. Can't you tell? Haha!" The fluid that slowly filled the syringe was in fact bright red. Tinted with small flecks of blue. Tossing the IV bag connection aside she slowly depressed the plunger.

"Just kidding. It's blood. Well, sort of. It used to be. Now it's got a few little additions. It's taken years to develop, you see. And three professor-scientists. Two chemists. One absolutely horrid biologist who was not worth the funds I claimed to pay him. And of course they all had to be silenced once they'd completed their work. This is liquid perfection. A fix-all transfusion."

The body on the table seized within its bonds. She ignored the movement, and finished emptying the container. "Let's find out what you're made of." She had little faith in the scientists of the world. Really if this resulted in even the tiniest increase she'd be legitimately impressed. And then she'd have to severely injure someone for lying to her of course. The rest of the batch was safely in her main lab, tagged and ready for her own transformation.

Taryn clapped her hands in glee. This was so exciting! She leaned down to whisper-shout in her subject's ear. "You'll be stronger." The contract said so! And lawyers never lie.

She took hold of the root cables again, which were still crackling with transferred electricity. The energy was designed to find the fastest route to ground. It's how lightning rods work. Grounded, was the term. But what if there was no ground? No way to dissipate all of that energy. What if instead it simply builds. More energy. More power. That's what she needed. More power for the activation. With a twist and a turn another cable wrapped snugly around her subject. More power. Power to activate, power to change. Power to build. Power to...

Now, what was wrong with the blasted voltage meter? It was flickering. It wasn't supposed to do that. Constant, steady increase. That was the key. Not...No! "Wait. No. No no no no no stop that. No!"

Within an abandoned storage building in an abandoned forest of trees, electricity flared bright white in coils and cables and seams. Sparks scattered to fly across every available surface as the air itself became ionized. Bright as day the area was illuminated. And then everything stopped. And everything went dark.

Levi awoke with a start. After a quick glance around the infirmary, he came to two conclusions. First, there was a massive electrical disturbance somewhere in the distance. Second, Taryn was gone. He realized with a sinking feeling that the disturbance carried her energy signature. Whatever just happened, it was bad. Very bad.

Levi exited the infirmary without another moment of hesitation, using the disturbance as a beacon. As he sneaked quietly through the halls, it became apparent that the source of the energy was somewhere outside the base. That meant that Taryn was out there as well, and likely in grave danger. The only thing that was certain now was that she had a lot to explain once he found her.


Finding a way out of the base was a simple matter. Finding the source of the electric disturbance was another. Since leaving the base, Levi had been searching through the forested area that surrounded it. The dense foliage made it hard to navigate, but after a half hour of walking, he felt like he was getting closer. The lingering charge in the air grew stronger as he continued forward.

Levi passed through a cluster of trees and stopped. Before him was a small clearing in the forest. In the center of this clearing was a decently sized storage building. Its condition suggested it had been abandoned for quite some time, but the electrical energy seeping from the metal told another story. This had to be where the initial burst of energy came from.

He approached the storage unit quietly, trying to reach out and detect Taryn's presence. However, the sheer amount of electric interference was playing havoc with his ability to see. If there was anyone in there, he couldn't tell. Erring to the side of caution, Levi made his way to a back door. He quietly entered and took cover behind a metal shelf.

"Stupid stupid stupid. What the hell went wrong?" She was going to kill that scientist. Slowly. Slowly they would suffer for ruining her triumph. Her shining moment of glory. The city was not out of power yet, it still had plenty more to give. They told her the ingredients were golden!

Back and forth Taryn paced, each stomped step casting off sparks that jumped to metal shards and debris before vanishing into the floor. She couldn't even look at her subject anymore. The damn voltage meter was slagged but she didn't need it anymore. She could sense. She could feel. Nothing. There was nothing. No spark nor wisp nor hint of power emanated from the weakling from the other world. There was more power in the air than in that wretched form. In the air!

Her subject was a void. She was voided. No longer existing on the electrical plane. It was impossible. It should have been impossible. Off course it wasn't the formula. It was her. "Do you have ANY IDEA what you've cost me? You were supposed to be REAL!" she shouted at the unmoving form. Angrily grabbing a handful of dark hair and charred shirt Taryn pulled until the subject's face was upturned. She leaned over the broken table to bare her teeth in anger. "You were supposed to LAST!" How much formula had she wasted on this attempt? With a snarl Taryn released her hold and returned to pacing. "Stupid useless trash I never should have let you live. I should have watched you die." It had been such fun to watch the despair and feeble attempts at reasoning. Of course the weakling couldn't understand true strength. She should have made a show of it. Then washed her hands of the whole thing.

A coiled cable intersected her path. Taryn kicked it away and then cleared her throat. "You are a failure. Another failure. Are all beings on your planet so useless? So utterly unusable? Is that why you left? Were you taking up too much space over there? Space someone truly strong could have used? WELL?" She slammed her hand down on the nearest object. A piece of shelving that caved into her fist's force.

"I've wasted this whole night. An entire night. Gone. Trying to make YOU better. To make your pitiful little life worth something. And then you go and RUIN IT with your UTTER LACK of CAPACITY! You WEREN'T supposed to DIE OUT!" The next object to suffer her wrath was the voltage meter, which flew in a beautiful arc before shattering against the wall.

Taryn sighed heavily. "I mean really, what are you without your power. Mortal? Simple? Congratulations you can be an accountant. God I hate them." She picked up a metal shard and began idly twirling it. "I suppose I could go pick up the puppet again." In the flickering fluorescence of the only light source left she cast a quick shadow against the floor. "But it's more useless than you were. And all those organic bits. Eeagh. I'll have one proper robot, to go, please. Thank you." Oh this was such a mess. And she hated cleaning. Especially when the mess wasn't even hers. "Oh wake up would you, I've got things to do and you're just boring me now." Tossing her playshard aside Taryn walked toward the table. Maybe her subject needed a good jump start.

Somewhere past his hiding spot, someone was talking. Thanks to the massive amount of energy floating around, he couldn't tell who exactly it was. It sounded like Taryn's voice, but considerably angry.

"I've wasted this whole night. An entire night. Gone. Trying to make YOU better..."

Who was she talking to, and what was this about? Something didn't feel right. Levi risked a peek around the corner. Taryn was in fact over there, but she was unconscious and strapped to a table. Surrounding the table were all sorts of cables, wires, and tubing. Her clothing was in tatters and what was left was scorched black. An IV drop was rather crudely inserted into arm. And angrily circling her was...

'No way...'

It was a demented mirror image of Taryn. She was adorned in what looked like the tattered remains of a straitjacket, with bleached spiked hair and fiery intense eyes. Her body language and vocal infliction painted a picture of an unhinged, unstable person. In mute horror, Levi watched as the furious woman continued to rant. She seemed to be unaware of his presence, as if she was absorbed in her own little world.

"I suppose I could go pick up the puppet again. But it's more useless than you were. And all those organic bits. Eeagh. I'll have one proper robot, to go, please. Thank you..."

Puppet. Organic bits. Robot. Could she be referring to Ethan? If she was, then the cyborg wasn't acting of his own free will when he captured Taryn. That meant that this impostor was the one behind everything that's been happening. She was the cause of Taryn's suffering. And that meant one thing.

'You're going down.'

Levi looked around him. The building he was in was filled with metal. Dozens of potential weapons. But she was very close to Taryn. If he missed, he ran the risk of striking her with his projectiles. At least, if he attacked straight on. He took a deep breath, and sprung from his hiding place.

Levi reached towards a pile of discarded metal tubing to his right and hurled them at the impostor Taryn's side with an angry shout. He then grabbed hold of a large toolbox to his left and threw that as well.

Shouting in her hideout? Who dared? 'Who dare-damn!' Something heavy slammed into Taryn's shoulder, throwing her off balance as she dove to avoid another shadowed projectile. She snarled at the flare of pain but the object flew by and crashed against the wall. Metal upon metal sounded in a brief echo. Leaping into the air with a burst of static energy, Taryn flipped to land in a half-crouch on the wall. In shadow she spat at the intruder. "Who's there?" she demanded. She hummed a few bars of a half-remembered tune before dropping to the ground. "WHO!" Something to do at last. Punish a stranger. And there! She could see him now. This simpleton who decided to-

"You!" Where the hell had he come from? How dare he intrude on her area. Him with his high and mighty attitude and his "Fault! It's your fault!" Of course! He was the one who kept her subject weak in the first place. "How DARE you come here, you vest obsessed imbecile." If HE hadn't affected HER then the evolution would have been Complete. He was the reason for the failure. He was! With a cry of her own Taryn slammed one hand against the wall and thrust the other forward. Wild, erratic lighting cut through the air in a barely controlled path to the object of her rage. Simultaneously sparks raced along the wall illuminating the building as they passed.

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