Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Days Of Our Lives
I can see the light!
…Or it might be a train. Whichever mental picture suits your fancy.
Soon, my friends.
So very soon, my business here will be complete and I’ll once again know the joy of traveling alone. Of living and surviving alone. Of hearing a silence filled only by the soft, yet still abrupt, calls of my little shadows as they converse between each other. Of spreading out on a cheap bed in the middle of nowhere, knowing that few to none knew of where I was or what exactly I was doing.
Pardon. What WE were doing.
If I were to be honest, I’d have to say that I feel as though I’ve been neglecting my partners of Chaos and Destruction since my return to work. There are so very few missions lately with which I feel comfortable bringing them with me, and their restlessness tends to show in the most creative of ways. I remember last month (before the fire), I was audience to a rather spectacular show in which Loki distracted Shooter’s attention away from his supper for just an instant… only to find himself taken by surprise from the other direction as Kali dove in. Grabbing the piece of cooked long pork in her talons before both took refuge high up in the rafters of our new warehouse.
Morningstar’s yelling alerted both of his teams and myself into coming to see what evil mind was playing with the fearless leader…
I damn near split my sides laughing.
There was Shooter. Climbing up the walls like a maddened monkey. Swinging off one rafter to grab another as he made his way towards the thieves and his stolen bounty. Yelling as if all to Hell would pay for this massive insult. Cursing them. Cursing me. Promising that he’d roast us all over an open flame as he jumped from one siding to another, pushing off, and landing somewhere else entirely. Graceful and sure in his footing as if he had been born and raised in such canopies. Working his way along the edging until he was ALMOST within arms-reach…
And then Kali and Loki decided that another perch across the warehouse suited them better.
The profanity and ranting that had poured from Morningstar’s mouth then…
My God, I wish I had had a tape recorder. Things like that… you just can’t reproduce from memory. Period.
The crowd gathered below him watched in the kind of amusement that used to be available from drive-in theaters back in the days of my parents. Either making little comments to themselves or those beside them, or simply enjoying the show with a grin or a sigh that attempted to sound annoyed. Gleeman, of course, was the first to start yelling like an old, cranky uncle at Shooter’s escapade. Telling him to get a grip and get down already.
I really couldn't help the smile that I flashed the clown, speaking in the sweetest of voices that I could muster. Cooing as I called him ‘my darling’ as if we were an old married couple and told him to not take his frustrations at work out on our children and let them play.
I got the reaction I was looking for.
A slight twitch of glaring eyes, a reddening face beneath the makeup, and a low growl were the first of my answers, followed shortly by a snapping threat that was meant to still my tongue with fear, I’m sure. I can’t quite remember how it went for the life of me, but it had something to do with his flag-gun and my ability to walk.
His reaction was not was he was hoping for.
“Oh, my darling, you know how I LOVE it when you get rough with me. It never fails to send shivers right up and down my spine!”
“I’LL SHOW YOU WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR DAMN SPINE!”
I love it.
Blood Harvest and Tiger held him back from lunging at me. Though, if vulgarity were punches, I’d certainly be black and blue.
Then, of course, like what always happens at these manner of parties… one person took it a little too far: the sharp crack of gunfire firing not ten feet away from me.
Shooter’s pirate – Yellowbeard, I think? – was lucky that I didn’t choose to sick his chosen targets back onto him when he drunkenly took aim at my ravens. Cracking out a shot or two before I slipped up to his side and, taking the barrel of his gun in the hand of my gauntlet, I introduced him to the floor with a crack of my own. The knuckles of my opposite hand finding his temple. He gracefully relieved control of his weapon on his way to the introduction, so I then relieved the gun of the rest of its bullets.
Personally, I’d have had the right mind to kill the idiot. I find him dull and useless, myself. But I would never hear the end of it if I made a human bird-feeder out of Morningstar’s pirate. He seems to have grown fond of the fact that he has one.
And yet, despite my restraint… Gleeman still snapped. His words wounding me so very terribly as he wrestled off the hold on him, seething with a wish that Yellow had had better aim. Voicing some glimmer of hope that trimming my flock would shut me up for a bit
I invited him to take aim himself. See what happens.
A threat. A challenge set.
I saw in my brother’s eyes that he was contemplating taking me up on it.
If it had not been in that scuffle of seconds that Morningstar had jumped back down from the canopy and retaken his position as the Leader of his squads, I do believe Gleeman and I would have had to do a little dance. Instead, Shooter dismissed most of them and ordered Yellowbeard to be “strung up for practice.” Nothing harmful, of course, but more to make a point.
Kali and Loki were MY team, if it were to be said I had one.
If Yellowbeard had nicked but a single feather on either Kali or Loki… Shooter is well aware that I would have made certain that the idiotic pirate would be able to make up for his mistake one agonized scream at a time. A show completely open for public viewing. Leather restraints groaning in just that perfect pitch as the trembling body that they held midair trashed and jerked uselessly. Every movement just another desperate attempt to prevent the next beak from tearing at swollen flesh. The next talon from digging in and clawing across…
It wouldn’t be the first time.
Kali has always liked going for the eyes first.
As the emergency meeting was adjourned, Morningstar gave me a look that practically pleaded “Play Nice” even with a mutter on his lips about how I should just forget about being a Proxy and become a professional shit-stirrer. That I was a natural. And yet, despite the sharpness of his words, what I could see in those eyes only asked me to give it time. That I’d get used to working with others. That I’d get used to having a team to call myself part of. That I’d come to like it. And that they would come to accept me. That I could be among them permanently… if only I stopped trying to give someone a reason to slit my throat while I slept. All of it read so plainly in those eyes…
Storm cloud eyes.
Ever since he attempted to crush my ribs at the Café, it’s been no secret that he doesn’t care to see a fork in the road in the future. That he wants me to be at his side as the second half of the ultimate Dynamic Duo of Destruction, so to speak. Opposites working in perfect rhythm. Chaotic logic. Logical chaos. For one like me, who prefers to create a nightmare in one’s own mind, working with someone like Morningstar, who breathes only to create a nightmare in one’s physical life… it has been a touch difficult to find the balancing act. To work together instead of getting each other killed in the most creative of ways.
And, trust me, I’ve wanted to kill him in a creative way more than once.
It’s that sort of hate that you have for a little brother who makes it his life’s purpose to make your life more difficult.
Only this little brother in particular nearly dropped a fire-truck on me. A fire-truck that was on fire at the time.
And that’s not even to mention getting my gauntlet stuck to one of those large magnets that move cars around in scrap yards. Suctioned me right off of the ground. A good twenty feet up. Straight up.
I couldn’t move my shoulder right for two weeks.
And yet, every time I mention getting off on my own again… the poor idiot looks like I sucker-punched him. It’s as if he thinks that, if I take flight on my own two wings without him and His Squads there at my back… that I’ll just disappear. That the last time he’ll see me will be just as the door is closing, and that will be that. No more exchanges of “bitch” and “jerk”. No more birdseed thrown in my face. No more headlocks provided by yours truly after said birdseed-attack. No more reminders to keep smiling.
No more sleeping back-to-back (or stealing my bunk while I mess with files, you little bastard) when the madness of the day threatens to keep sleep at bay.
And, honestly, I believe I know why it means so much to him. It’s why I’m still here. Among them like I am…
Myself, Tiger, Gleeman, Jack, Recluse… we are part of the world that he had lived before. Five constants in a Game that is barely recognizable. As if we each stand as living reminders of who he was.
Or, perhaps, who he is supposed to be.
Once, he even asked if I didn’t want to stay “because of this” and held up his hand with the ring and the red stone. Redlight’s mark.
I nearly cracked my gauntlet over his head.
We had a talk then. I very long talk. A reminder of who I am. What I do. And how I do it. A reminder of my strengths… and my weaknesses. A reminder that some things change, but others will always remain the same. That even though Kali and Loki have come to accept him as Shooter In A Different Shell (proven by their spectacle above), and even though I’ve learned to trust his resurrection more than I did originally…
I don’t do well in groups.
I do my best work when I’m only answered by head tilts and the odd ‘caw’.
But, even still… I’ve been trying.
I’ve been working with Gleeman and his side of the operation, mostly. I suppose that in itself is a good reason why I can get under his skin far easier now than ever before, but I digress…
You see, since I agreed to hang around, I figured it only logical to take advantage of what was available to me. After all, I had business matters to handle and, when I began, I only knew one thing: Requiem had been ratted out. Plain and simple.
The Priest was one of the most diligent undercover Proxies you could want to head that kind of operation. Although he was cold to most of his kin, his smile turned on for the Norms that passed through his doors. I can remember watching him from the shadows as he brushed shoulders with your white picket-fence variety. Blending right in as he commented on the glow from one beaming, pregnant sheep in his flock and asked another about his son’s hockey game. He knew them all. Small enough town for it, I guess, but he still took the time to Know.
I even attended one or two of his masses. Once even at Easter. Just a stranger in the crowd that he could sense was a sibling, but didn’t know which one. I feel that he may have guessed, but he never once brought it up with me. Nor I, him.
He spoke beautifully in those sermons.
And then, after the Norms were gone, the chill would return. A business man who had a squad to operate and torture to inflict on any so unfortunately to have been dragged into the basement of the Church. Bound and gagged, usually. The entire system was ran tight. He and Mother Vex made sure of it. There was no way that there would be a big enough slip for Moriarty to find out.
But he did.
And I wanted to find the rat. Personally.
As I dug, Gleeman and I found other inconsistencies in Organization “mishaps”.
Specific sponsors suddenly winding up dead. The words “Cultist” or “murderer” or “blood money” carved into their chest or along their arms. Their companies usually burnt to the ground.
A Cult Town in the far West found itself under just as much firepower as what was aimed at the Church. If not, than more. The people there were hauled from their beds and shot in the street. Only the children left alive.
Even “Joseph’s” kidnapping was strange. Out of thin air, Moriarty just suddenly knew where the Café was located. The man getting in and out seamlessly. Not once putting a foot wrong to give our little Tin Soldier even the slightest warning of what was to come. A chance to fight back.
And those are just to name a few. There have been dozens across the last year. Slowly growing in frequency.
And then, with further digging from the unit, we discovered some more interesting little tidbits. Things that, on their own, shouldn’t amount to much, but, when grouped, certainly bring on a “huh” moment. Even me. Back at the beginning of the year. When someone managed to track me long enough to not only spoil the climax of a certain mission, but also resulted in vandalism to Requiem’s own church.
Hell, even Hakurei Ryuu found our warehouse in order to discover the pyro-maniac hidden deep inside herself. Though something in me is niggling that this one was a coincidence…
In any case, it’s no secret that knowledge is a deadly tool. Especially in this game.
Either we had a turncoat on our hands, or a spy.
My own Game with a certain captive we had back at the old warehouse confirmed for me which it was.
Like I said in my previous post, I was taking on the role of Prisoner of War for the little play we were putting on. Because our guest was just a few years older than me and had lost his wife to our dearest Father, I chose to step into a female version of the role. I fixed myself up and, by the time they would haul my future friend into the cell, I was already chained to the wall. The sudden light from the door making this poor, beaten woman flinch. A show of weakness that was quickly banished and covered up as (Shooter’s) Jack and a few of the newbies dragged the man in. Morningstar following them with that typical, wide grin of his as he made rather loud comments about hoping the accommodations were to his taste.
I did my best to try to be invisible. Keeping my trap shut – dry lips already carrying a heavy bruise and a torn lip. Dried blood down my chin.
Shooter’s doing. A doing done nearly too happily.
The man bit off a few cutting comments that Shooter only laughed at. Giving the captive a ‘tisk-task’ with his finger and a mockery about everything coming with time. And the second “time” rolled off his tongue, those eyes turned sharp onto me. I stiffened under that glimmering stare. That grin. My lips pressed into a tight line as he cooed something to get my agreement on the matter. As if I had already proved him right. He walked over to me, speaking to the new addition to his “collection” as his fingers brushed under my chin. I tried to think back to the most fearful time in my life, then attempted to hide it. Hoping it would show – if only slightly – in my eyes as Star tilted my head out of how I’d had it tucked in and down defensively. He commented about how I had been a little viper too when I’d first come down here, but I’d since become quite the "pretty, little songbird." With Time.
I chose then to snap my teeth at his hand.
He backhanded me. Hard enough that I felt it snap up my neck as my head twisted around. My eyes clamped shut against the sting… then against the sting of sharp steel against my throat as he held his blade just under my jaw. He was close. Far too close for any manner of personal comfort. I strained my restraints as he came in even closer. Whispering in my ear. I made as though to shrink, only to stop. As though steeling myself. Forcing strength when I had none left to offer.
“You’re lucky I’m a busy Proxy, sister.”
Just loud enough for our guest to hear.
A guest that Morningstar made sure to wave at before commenting about how he was sure we’d land up being best of friends. Two little stool pigeons in one cage.
Then the door slammed shut, and there was only silence.
I waited for him to break it. My own gaze turned away. Glaring tiredly at some innocent piece of the shared cell. Cursing it to oblivion with thoughts alone. I could feel the eyes of my company on me. Studying me. Trying to assess me. Looking for red-flags that he was being set-up…
He would see someone who had hit rock-bottom weeks ago. Filthy. Covered in dried sweat and blood. Purple bruises risen on some visible flesh. Other wounds so obviously made by a knife. Some being cosmetic. Others, decidedly not. Hair nearly one solid mat - hanging in clumps around my head and partly in front of my face. The material of the Killsquad uniform was torn in just the right places to give light to a number of my old scars and some of my fresher ones. Giving age to my suffering.
A small chip beneath my clothes recorded the conversation.
“…Seems like a charming guy. Any more charming, and he’d be roadkill.”
I didn’t look over at his words. As if I didn’t want to make eye contact. “…Only if the roadkill was a skunk, maybe.” It was a muttering. Words bitter, but spoken as if part of a sigh.
“How long have you been here?”
“…Don’t even know what month it is, leave alone what day.”
“…Yeah, I guess there isn’t a clock on the wall for a reason. Fucking Proxies.” I could hear the smile tilt his words when he continued. “Name’s Hunt. Hunting Wolf, actually, but just ‘Hunt’ works.”
Ah, yes, I forgot to mention he was of Native blood, didn’t I? Brown skin, black hair, black eyes, well-built… not sure which band. I purposely didn’t read his file. Didn’t want anything to slip, obviously.
I left silence as my answer.
“…So are you going to tell me your name, or do I have to guess it?”
I turned to him then. Eyes accusing. “You can knock off the buddy-buddy act, alright? I know you heard what that son of a bitch called me and I know what you people think of people like me, so just… just save us both the lie, alright?” Then I looked away again.
A moment of silence spread, but when the voice came back, it hadn’t changed. “So I was right then. You’re a Flipper. A Proxy turned Soldier. Though it does look like you’ve flipped right on back...”
“Shut up. We’ll see how long you can sit there grinning like some righteous faggot at me when that shit in your system starts turning on you too. The Withdrawal isn’t a bloody picnic, dick-weed. See who’s grinning then when you think you have acid in your veins instead of blood. See who’s... who’s grinning...”
“…Seems like you’re doing alright by me. I heard the whiplash is bad enough to kill. How long did it take you to get through it?”
“What do you care?”
“Call me curious.”
“I’d rather call you that then fucking ‘Hunt’. What is it with this war and stupid names…?”
“You know what I mean. And you still haven’t told me YOUR name, so I’d wait before shooting down mine.”
“…Pariah. My name is Pariah. Or it used to be. Just… call me Natasha okay? Born with that one. Might as well die with it.”
“…Pariah? Think you won the contest on Stupid Names.”
“I told you. Call me Natasha. Or just ‘Tasha’, if shorter words are easier on your brain.”
“Heh. You really are a bit of a Viper, aren’t you, Flipper? Think I might call you that instead. Too bad you didn’t get a hold of that bastard’s hand. It would have been nice to see what that venom does when it’s injected instead of spat.”
I threw him a glare… but the pleased smile he had on his face forced out a small smile. Just a slight tilt on the corners of my lips. Not too much, but still giving a bit of a voiceless laugh that almost felt like a sin in that cold, damp cell. “You really are a pain, you know that?”
“I consider it a bad day if I can’t make at least one pretty girl laugh. Flipper or not.” Those dark eyes fixed on mine. “Look, let’s make those rabid dogs out there work for their dinner, okay? I don’t care if you are a Flipper. You got off their side – that’s what matters in my book.”
I let my smile become a grin. A sadist’s grin with eyes like sharp, glistening blades. “You sure, darling? ‘Once a Proxy, always a Proxy.’ Isn’t that what you people say?”
“…Think of it like your name. You tossed it away in favor of ‘Pariah’, right? But now you went back and picked up ‘Natasha’ from the dirt. Your human name. I think that symbolizes something about how your gears are working upstairs, don’t you? I’ve heard this ‘Once a Proxy, always a Proxy’ thing… and I think it’s bullshit. I had a friend who was a Flipper. He was part of my squad. A good guy, if a little nutty. Just like him, you were born human, Tash. You can become human again.”
Such a nice way of saying that one stopped being one at one point, hm?
I let the ‘facade’ drop. Sharp eyes melting into a sad, nearly lost, expression that I quickly turned to face the opposite wall. As if to hide it. Cracked and split lips pressed tight into a line again. “…And what about your name? The one you use…?”
“Sometimes… you need to be more than just a normal human when you’re fighting evil. You have to represent something. I wanted the Hunters to become the Hunted… so I decided to be Hunting Wolf.” He winked. “So they’d know I was coming for them.”
“…What’s your human name?”
“…It’s nice to meet you, Mark.”
“Nice to meet you too, Tash.”
And so it goes.
We spent time talking. Joking. Never asking anything too personal. Respecting the wall of safety that every figure in this war keeps around themselves. I warned him about an injection that those “fucking Proxies” had concocted to mimic the one used by Killsquads. A friend of mine named Delirium actually made the copy, though it doesn’t seem to last as long as their own drug. Still, one can’t complain about progress. It stops the backlash. The Withdrawal. And I warned him that they use it as a reward for us being “good little birdies.” And as I spoke, I let the self-loathing bleed into my words. I let the walls around me thicken that little bit more. Muttering about how he’d land up talking. Just like I did. How he’ll just want it to stop. Want it all to just… stop…
Sometimes, they’d come for me. Drag me out for some more “play time”. Sometimes, I’d go without much of a fuss. Other times, I’d fight back. Lash out in a “weakened” state in some desperate attempt to delay the inevitable that little bit longer. Of course, that would earn me a bit of “punishment” right in front of Mark’s eyes. Suffering as a traitor in the hands of my ex-siblings…
Then, once out of the cell, I was Nightscream again. I had duties to attend to. Obligations. Missions. Research. The days became longer and longer, as did the nights. Never getting enough hours in a day to get everything done that I wanted to, and, before long, I’d need to go back into the cell. Shooter would give me some fresh marks, and then I’d let myself get dragged back in and chained up. Exhausted and sore.
His times being dragged out of the cell were obviously a lot more… painful than my own. Various forms of torture came to litter his body like graffiti. At first, he just tried to laugh it off. Saying it was “Just a flesh wound” or some other cheap movie line. But… his condition gradually worsened. And worsened. And worsened. Day by day. Not only from my kin’s handiwork, but from The Withdrawal setting in as well. Fever and shakes kicking off the show, followed shortly by muscle spasms and headaches. Hallucinations and vomiting.
The joys of life, in other words.
He came to be too weak to stand, and yet still refused to talk. Refused everything. Wanting death instead. Wishing for death.
Though even death needs to be earned in this Game, doesn’t it?
And, all the way through his ordeal… I was there. Always there. In our cell, waiting for his return after each session. Slowly, he began to respond to me as an ally. More and more. Day by day. I could see the change, but couldn’t let the personality I’d chosen slip out of place. I played the Game. I played my part… and, slowly, I let this character I developed begin to care for this Native. Mark. I let my character begin to show shreds of weakness in seeing his state. Wanting to help. Needing to help. And when those “fucking Proxies” didn’t even both chaining him up anymore and just dumped him on the floor… this woman earned herself a bit of leniency from the guards. Selling pleasure to demons in exchange for the freedom to treat the wounds of her friend. To use the water dripping in the corner to wet some cloth and put on Mark’s forehead. Trying to soften the headache. To chill the fever.
Like some cheap romance novel.
Of course, nothing actually happened, but it made for some beautiful dramatic moments, if I do say so myself.
And then, to top off our little Daytime Drama… I could swear I smelt smoke.
Gradually, I began to hear shouting. Yelling back and forth as the smell of smoke became more intense. As it began to seep through the door. Swirling above our heads in a thick cloud and the crackle of flames came to my hearing next. Heat slowly rising as the fire spread fast. Far too fast for any manner of accident.
I tried to figure out what to do. We’d gone this far into the play, it would have been a shame for it all to be wasted…
And then his hand grabbed my wrist.
Those dark eyes, nearly overflowing with pain and misery, weren’t the least bit lifted by the pained smile he forced onto his lips when he looked into my own eyes. His slurred speech coming out slow as he fought to keep the muscle spasms from shaking him too greatly. Fought to keep his mind clear and focused.
He told me I was strong enough to get out. That I had to find a way and get out. That I could make it. That he could still see worth in me, even if I didn’t see it myself.
He told me everything.
He told me where to go when I got out of the warehouse. What to tell who I’d find there.
He told me that there was someone who could give me the information I needed… to pay these demons back for what they did to me. To him. To everyone. For abandoning their humanity. For siding with a monster.
He told me to talk to Lockjaw.
An expression he never would have seen on me before. An expression that he numbly rose a weak hand to touch. Brushing my cheek. And, when I slowly leaned down to thank him properly for such kind words… the kind expression he wore suddenly tore. Eyes clamped shut as his teeth gritted tight in a scream that would never have voice. Refusing to make even one sound more even as his chest arched up under me…
And I just kept leaning in closer. And closer. A knife slowly piercing through his chest bit by bit. My own weight pressing it in so very slowly as I waited for those dark eyes to flash open. To see the agony. The betrayal. The anger.
He didn’t disappoint.
And my lips just grazed over his when the blade was buried in full. When the blood was trickling down his chin, choking every breath…
Then I gave the knife a sharp twist, and it was all over.
By the time I stood to retrieve the key in my pocket and let myself out of that cage, the pain and hurt and betrayal in those eyes had emptied out. Staring blankly up to the swirling smoke around the ceiling. Body uncaring to the approaching flames.
I joined the flood of Proxies on their way out of the burning building. When we found out who had done it, I honestly couldn’t help but laugh. I couldn’t have been happier in that moment amongst my kin. A few of them a little singed, yet nothing lost but material assets. Ammunition. Files. Food. All things that can be replaced.
Hakurei… sweet, little Valerie… you truly are the Hope Bearer.
I have my Name.
The One Name that it has taken me nearly two months to find…
The Pet Proxy of the Highers themselves.
One of the very best in the entire Organization. The prized pick of the Highers. An assassin that they went out of their way to obtain. Her only job being to Eliminate those of her fellow Proxies who became too unruly, too wild, to remain in the business. The ones that caused more trouble than what they were worth…
And she had become a turn-coat. Selling information to the highest bidder.
It’s no wonder now that the Highers had “failed” to recognize the accumulated “huh” moments over the past year – they’d been trying to keep their big blunder under-wraps. After all, losing control of your best dog – one that you yourself sought out and trained to be the Best of the Best – is a little bit embarrassing, no? Sort of like locking your keys in your car and it starts rolling down a hill with you left to either pound on the window or walk away pretending it's not yours.
But now I knew. We knew. The entire unit. And it didn’t take long for the Highers to find out that we knew. Nor did it take long for me to be entertaining a guest, ordering me to continue to follow the Yellow Brick Road. As if he already knew I was second-guessing if I wanted to try my luck in taking out The Lock. Someone who I’d seen at work before. Someone who I had watched Eliminate two of my allies – Trapper and Hawkeye - when I’d first been figuring out the business. Radicals, the both of them. Spent their entire Service pushing their luck too far… and, as a Newbie with a tag beside my name that I’d killed my own Handler (who had been in quite close relations with the Highers themselves), Lock made sure to take a moment and warn me about keeping bad company. Following poor examples…
I can still hear that voice. The British accent had never sounded so sweetly malicious than when it came from that woman. Especially when paired with movements that more resembled a panther stalking her prey rather than those of a normal human. Honestly, I've always half-expected to wake up one morning with her sipping tea in a nearby chair. I'd get that same tell-tale smile that she gave Trapper and Hawkeye... and there would be flare in the depth of her black eyes that would tell what wordless lips wouldn't.
"Time to put in for an early bath, kiddo."
But now, in perfect irony, I'm now the one who's been officially ordered to take out her.
In other words, since I’m in The Know now, they might as well use it as an opportunity to fix one of two problems. Her. Or me.
So, once I came to the conclusion that it was either her or me, I began to make some calls. The Butler has been assisting me for the past few weeks and, though many of my contacts were too busy to come, my old friend Jack was free to join the party. I'm sure everyone reading this has a friend with a gambling problem... and Jack would be mine. He even tries to take up bets on whether or not Gleeman is going to burn his toast for breakfast again. That being said, he's a smart man, when all is dealt and checked.
And, even with the three of ours heads plus whatever you make of Morningstar's team... I still had another friend on the outside who I was keeping informed and vice versa. I had hoped to keep her at a distance from everyone else and avoid unwanted questions...
But then Morningstar went for a little trip. Right into a pool of the Fear Ichor. He was dragged out as quick as possible, but his condition went south staggeringly fast. When he began hearing more voices than usual... I was quick as well to throw caution to the wind.
I brought Delirium in from the sidelines.
She's been an ally of mine for a long time, as well as of the late Requiem. He gave her shelter in his Church a few times, and it was during one such stay that we were introduced. For the past few months, she's been assisting me in monitoring my own health and overall situation with The Beak (Which has been oddly quiet. The odd smell of sulfur and decay, then nothing.), so when Shooter took ill... I gave her a new experiment to poke at. She's been treating him since infection... and doing so rather joyfully, I might add. Apparently doing work on one of Redlight's "experiments" has her tickled pink. Of course, it was only after I took away her scalpel and other such knives that I allowed her to "study" him.
The others were more than a bit leery, understandably. Gleeman basically threatening to kill me and have me stuffed if she hindered Shooter instead of helped. Thankfully for us all, Morningstar has been recovering well enough. Starting to look a little less like a corpse, which is always a promising start, and has started poking at food again.
The Butler asked if there was a special gene of stupidity that Shooter and I shared for getting screwed up with more than one Fear at a time, or if we were just that lucky. Frankly, I'd be interested in testing for that, but settled for just asking him if he had a gene of stupidity for continuing to come when I called. It has become practically a miracle at this point that he hasn't blocked my number on his phone yet.
And yet... it's all coming together. Slowly. Gradually. Over the past two months... we did it. We're finally there. We're ready. By the time you read this, we will have infiltrated Lockjaw's hideout hours ago...
And most likely have hit the Welcome Party that she's been getting ready since we started on her trail. She probably knew we were coming before we did. Bloody limey.
So there you have it. If you don’t hear back after a few days… now you know why.
Keep smiling, my friends.
Especially when facing the grin of the Grim Reaper.