Hypertonic is born
"Come in!" he called.
Abbey was shoved in along with one drac and the door was shut firmly behind them. Her face was wet, but she looked composed and determined. The Scarecrow studied her bedraggled appearance. There were some serious looking burns across her shoulders and a few grazes on her knees and arms.
"So," he said, gesturing at her to sit in the chair on the other side of the table. "I am going to presume that you've seen your precious Renegade and know that he is alive and well."
"That depends on what you classify as being well." her voice was calm, and had a tone of authority. Korse knew that she knew how much her knowledge was worth.
He shrugged. "Well then, how do you describe health, Abbey?"
She sniffed. "Health and well being are two separate things. If Renegade was well, he'd be free."
"You know I cannot do that."
She narrowed her eyes. "I want someone to take him food and water. And I mean decent food, not that crap jail-baits get given."
Korse chewed his cigar, tossing up her demand.
"Now!" she snapped.
He raised an eyebrow at her audacity, but nodded at the drac in the corner who left to do her bidding.
"I am also not going to tell you what happened in that tunnel until you promise not to dispose of me and my boyfriend once you have what you want." She watched his reaction carefully.
"Abbey dear, what makes you think that I'd do-"
"You thought I would be crushed by that explosion." she hissed. "I know now that you expected me to die, and afterwards you would have been able to get rid of Renegade, who would have been of no further value to you."
Korse couldn't help the small smile that twitched his lips. She was learning fast.
"Yes, I suppose that you got me on that one. So what makes you think that my promises should mean anything to you?"
It was Abbey's turn to smile. She grinned at him wickedly.
Somewhere in between being capture by Korse and sitting in that room, debating her future, Abbey Palini learnt the art of bluffing. She also established that in this political world, manners got you no where. In some sense then, she had learnt that to play the game you have to give threat to get respect.
"Korse, I don't know much about how this world works."
He smirked. "No, you don't. That much was evident when you asked me how a gun works."
Her smile didn't waver like he expected it to.
"Yet, even with my lack of understanding, what I have acknowledged is the fact that you cannot seem to catch a certain group of people." She played one of her unstable cards. "Namely one Party Poison?"
The hatred that flashed across his face confirmed her thoughts. Korse was desperate to get rid of the masked man with the red hair.
"I have also noticed that your dracs don't seem exactly competent at their job."
A vein pulsed on the Scarecrow's forehead. "My draculoids are perfectly fine. We've done a pretty good job and taking over America so far, evidently."
She sniggered. "And yet you're still plagued by these zonerunners after how many years?"
"What's your point?" He growled.
She stopped smiling for a moment and became serious. "In case it isn't apparent to you yet, I was not able to kill off Party Poison tonight. Him and the two women escaped, which, before you get angry at me, was not my fault. I do recall you telling me that there was only one vehicle."
Korse wanted to beat some respect into the girl, but he held his temper in check. It seemed like the kid was going somewhere good with this little speech. And she was right, her instruction had been given under the assumption that there was only a car.
"I did, however, manage to kill the other man." He couldn't be sure, but Korse thought he saw a pang of sadness on the girl's face. "I was caught in rather a nasty fight against the two men, and yet with no previous experience I managed to take one out. This is in comparison to your dracs who have had years of training under their belts, and still fail you at every turn."
Korse felt a small amount of satisfaction at the knowledge that one of the Killjoys had been successfully exterminated. He, however, did not find it amusing that his draculoids were being so casually discredited.
"And I think that the reason why this is so, is because of the drug that you use to brain wash them."
Abbey paused to let that sink in.
"Oh really? And how to you prove that theory, might I ask?"
"Well, to put it simple your drugs take away people's ability to use their initiative. From what I can tell, in fighting situations you need that creative ability to decide for yourself how to overcome your enemy. The reason why your dracs keep getting killed, is because they don't have enough brain power left to think on their feet."
Korse knew that the girl had got him where she wanted him. She was right. Her theory made complete sense, it summed up why the loose cannon rebel gangs had been able to out-wit and out-fight his army of trained assassins. "So what do you think I should do?" he didn't care that he was admitting that he was wrong. He was on the verge of doing something great for the corporation, he could feel it.
"Send me into the desert instead." Abbey knew the weight of that declaration. It would mean that she would be fighting against what she believed in. However if she was forever working for Korse, he would not be able to hurt Anton.
"Send you after the Killjoys?" he felt a mixture of amusement, respect and hope at her statement. The amusement was mainly because of the blank look he got at the name of the rebel gang. Of course she wouldn't know who The Fabulous Killjoys were.
"I don't know who you mean, but yes. Train me and send me in as one of yours. I can learn the skills of your dracs, but the cunning of a zonerunner. They wont stand a chance." She knew that she was treading thin ice. This would be the most dangerous thing she had ever done. Either she would succeed and save Renegade, or she would fail and die. Somehow though, dying in the desert didn't seem like such a bad thing.
Korse sucked in a lungful of cancerous smoke and puffed it out again, grinning. "Okay Abbey, you're on. And I assume that in return for your services you want your dope to live?"
"Yes." she said quickly. "No one is to touch Renegade. He is to be kept comfortable and entertained. And he is never," she stared into his eyes seriously, "never ever, to be forced to take your drugs."
The Scarecrow frowned at the condition. It would be hard to pass through The Head, they wouldn't like it. But once he got this kid going, he knew that she'd be unstoppable. They were going to win this war, and it would be because of him, not the fools who sat in offices and made political statements.
"Alright, he can keep his brain. However if he causes any trouble, any at all, he will be reprimanded. That I cannot prevent."
Abbey nodded and let out a sigh of relief. "So, when do I start?"
Korse tapped his cigar on the edge of a an ashtray, knocking the spent tobacco off the tip. "Well first of all, we need to get you settled in at Home Base."
"That's the residence of our top dracs in Battery. I live there, along with a few of my personal guards. It used to be the home of the Scarecrows."
Abbey raised an eyebrow at him. "Before....?"
"Before they were ghosted. There used to be eight of us. The last one, Veracity, was my close friend." He didn't see the harm in telling the girl this. She would hear it from someone sooner or later.
"It was Party Poison who killed him, wasn't it?" she murmured.
Korse scowled. He wasn't used to people being able to join the dots so quickly. Perhaps her theory about the drugs dulling people's thought patterns was a stronger point that he had initially thought. It would certainly explain why some dracs had to be retired early due to cretinous behavior.
"Yes, he was murdered by the Killjoy leader. It happened only a few months ago. The Scarecrow before him, known as Black Kite, was our leader. He was taken out by one of the women in that car who escaped today."
Abbey contemplated this. She almost felt pity for Korse, it would be hard seeing all your colleagues die, one by one. "But what happens if you get killed?"
The bald man gave a half-smile. "That's where you come in."
The teenager gaped at him for a moment, trying to find some other meaning, other than the obvious one.
Korse stood up and walked over to a closet embedded in the wall. He opened it and flicked through the various outfits within. He found one and tossed it to Abbey, along with what appeared to be a long, black haired wig and some boots. She caught the items and was shooed into the bathroom adjoining the Scarecrow's office.
"See if this fits." He said and left her to it.
Abbey gently peeled the hoodie from her skin, wincing at the pain of her blistered skin. She stared at the white jumpsuit Korse had given her for a moment before stepping into it. The fabric felt cool against her skin and clung to her as she zipped it from the belly up. It drew shut all the way up to beneath her jaw.
She stared at herself in the mirror. It hugged her body, though not in an especially revealing way. It had obviously been fitted to someone with a bit more muscle than her, as it felt a bit tight around the hips and chest, but bagged slightly around her biceps. It was cut off like shorts at the top of her legs, but covered all of her arms. There were even two little zips on each cuff that could be tightened. The outfit was completely white, save a smiling BLi logo on the left breast and the shiny, gold zipper. There were also two black loops of fabric that fell from her hips and crisscrossed behind her. The material was silky smooth, but there was strength in it. She pondered the use of such a thing, decoration or function?
The boots were very long, almost coming up to meet the bottom of her suit. The heels on the bottom were high, but not so much that she had difficulty walking. She noticed that each edge had been cut to a very sharp point, almost like a blade.
"Huh, sexy." she grumbled. Abbey didn't like the fact that her boots were so high, but she then realized that the insides of them were slightly padded. "Why is that?" she pondered.
The last thing was the wig. It took her a minute or two to bundle her thick, pale yellow curls up underneath the cap, but once it was on, it sat snug. The effect was dramatic. Apart from her eyes, there was nothing that Abbey could use to link herself back to the girl who had jumped out of her window only a night or so ago. The very straight, black hair was long, but already pulled back into a pony tail by a red band. It swung down her back in one shiny, long river. Abbey was surprised at how natural it felt. She didn't even feel like she was wearing a disguise. Even the wig sat comfortably.
She opened the door and stepped out into Korse's office.
He looked up at her and felt a small pang. This had been the outfit that one of the Scarecrows had used, minus the wig. She had been the second one killed, almost seven years ago now.
"Turn around." her ordered and Abbey did as he asked. The suit worked for her, he couldn't make any link between her and the girl that they had found with Renegade. He needed that girl to disappear. 'No one can recognize her,' he thought, 'or else we'll have a public relations crisis on our hands. I'll have to tell Stuart to keep his mouth shut about her real identity.'
"What's with these?" Abbey shook the black fabric loops.
He smiled. "They've been designed to cover you if you're ever caught in a radioactive storm. You'd be amazed at how well they work. And the heels on those boots take the place of a knife. It becomes difficult carrying a lot of weaponry, so we design to outfits to incorporate as much of it as we can."
"So then why do I have to wear such long boots?" she whined, upset at the effect it had.
He shrugged. "Change boots if you want to, but they've been made so that your legs are protected from the drac bikes. The heat that comes out of the side of the engine is hot enough to burn unprotected skin. The fabric of your suit will cushion you if you fall. I'm assuming you don't like gravel rash."
Abbey suddenly seemed thankful for the thigh-length boots.
"And the wig?"
"I don't want you looking like yourself." Korse didn't look up from the form he was filling in. "You are not longer to answer to Abbey Palini. That girl is dead."
"B-but what about my parents? Don't I get to see them again?"
"No." the reply tightened the girl's throat. "You're family will be informed of your tragic demise in a car crash caused by the notorious rebel, Renegade. BL/ind refuses to allow their employees to live two lives. Either you're my apprentice, or you're a public citizen. There's no go between."
Abbey nodded, unable to speak.
"Go get some sleep." He waved at her vaguely. "It's nearly dawn, but you can have today to get some rest and settle in. Tomorrow you will begin your training." He pressed a button on his desk, calling his main messenger. "Stuart will show you to your new home. If you need anything, talk to him about it."
She nodded again and went to the door. It opened for her, but before she stepped out of his office, Korse had one more thing to say to her.
"From now on you're name is Hypertonic. Got that?"
"Hypertonic... Okay." she murmured, rolling the unfamiliar name around in her head.
Korse looked up at her and gave a blank smile. "We'll nickname you Toxin for short."
Abbey, now Toxin, shut the door behind her and took in a deep, shuddering breath. So much had happened, and so much was still to happen. She couldn't seem to get her head around the sudden turn her life had taken.
The drac was waiting for her outside. He motioned for her to follow him. "My n-name is Stuart, I'm Korse's main errand d-drac. I've met you before... In the t-tunnel."
Abbey tottered after him, getting used to the heeled boots. "Nice to meet you Stuart." she said absently. "My name is Ab- I mean my name is Hypertonic."
"Hypertonic huh?" he seemed amused. "Got a shorter one?"
"Toxin." she replied.
He stopped in front of the entrance doors and held one open for her to pass through. She thanked him.
"Well Toxin," he said and unlocked a sleek looking car parked out front. She slipped into the passenger seat beside him. "Let's hope you survive longer than Korse's last apprentice."
Abbey wasn't sure if he was teasing her, or being serious.
Party Poison's morbid thoughts were interrupted by Russian Roulette walking up the hill. He shoved his emotional baggage away and watched the woman climb closer. She had a bottle of Cyanide in her hand.
"Hey." She gave him a lopsided smile. He gave a half-hearted wave and patted the rock he was sitting on. She sat next to him and placed an arm hesitantly around his shoulders. "How you holding up?"
He snorted. "Yeah, fine I guess. I should be asking you that though, it's you who has a busted up body."
Roulette shrugged. "It's strange, in the face of something greater I've pretty much forgotten about that. I'm usually the first one to complain, but I spose right now that'd just seem wrong. I'm alive, and I'm free."
"That's probably the most selfless thing I've ever heard you say." He offered her a small smile.
Rabid laughed at that and wiped a tear from her eye. "Yeah, no one's ever accused me of compassion." She unscrewed the lid of Cyanide and took a swing of the bubbling, blue liquor. The impact of it hit her throat and she let out a sharp, short breath of air. Gerard eyed the bottle and deliberated. He been sober for so long....
"Don't even think about it." Roulette hiccuped and swung the bottle away from him. "I seem to remember you being pretty clean when you were famous, and I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have changed."
Party rolled his eyes. "If I remember correctly I told you not to drink any of that. You're sick enough."
"Just because I've stopped complaining about the pain right now, does not mean that I wont be in fifteen minutes. So if you want to hear me whining the whole way home, be my guest and take the bottle. If not, then zip it." She gave a grim smirk and sipped the numbing liquid.
Gee rolled his eyes. "You're going to kill yourself." he muttered.
"No, I'm self medicating." she poked her tongue out at him. "Recognize that quote? Life on the Murder Scene was quite the documentary."
Gerard paused and wrinkled his nose. "So exactly how much of a mcr fan were you?"
"Oh are you sure you want to go there?" She flashed him a big grin and took another gulp of alcohol. "Eh, I can't claim to be My Chem's biggest admirer, that title goes to Harley. She loved you guys since she was like, thirteen. But it was the kind of love where all she was interested in was your music and what you stood for. She wasn't desperate to get in your pants." Rabid giggled and elbowed Gerard.
"Well I guess I should be thankful for that." He smiled in return. "So what about you?"
Roulette's smile took on a far away look and she stared into the desert. "I used to hate you. I thought that you were the worst band ever. Alison would talk about you guys non-stop, and I spose that's why I was so prejudiced." She took in another mouthful of Cyanide and winced at the kick. "But then one day I was in the boarding house where we were at school and I actually listened to a song, like really listened. I'm not 100% sure, but I think it was cancer. Whichever one it was, it really hit a chord within me, you know? From then on I was hooked. I miss listening to your music; my ipod threw in the towel a year ago."
Gerard paused and took all of this in. Cancer seemed so long ago, a whole lifetime of memories had passed since then. "Eh what do you need your ipod for, you've got me as a friend now." He smirked and flickered her nose.
Roulette giggled. "Yeah you're going to regret befriending me because now I'll be on your doorstep every day, begging you to sing!"
Party chuckled, "Sounds like I'm going to have to go into hiding now."
"But we already are in hiding Gee." Roulette's comment placed a sober tone on the conversation and they stopped talking for a minute.
They sat in silence, drinking in the bright daylight. The sun had made it over the horizon and was now hanging above the flat expanse of zone 8. The atmosphere was relaxed, although both zonerunners kept a spare eye on the highway, watching for potential danger.
There was something colourful tumbling across the sun-baked plain below. Gerard squinted, trying to make out what it was.
"What the fuck....?"
"Is it a bird? Is it a tumbleweed?" Roulette giggled. "Nope, it's Harley!"
"Oh!" Gerard laughed, now able to make out the features of the athletic crew leader. "What on earth is she doing?"
Rabid shrugged. "Cartwheels. She's pretty god dam flexible. Would've made a great gymnast... If all this shit didn't happen."
They watched Harley spinning across the desert sand, a burst of colour in the sun-bleached land.
Roulette nibbled at her lip. "So what now?"
Gerard looked at her bleakly. "What do you mean?"
She shrugged, grimaced at the grating movement and then responded with, "Well we can't just surrender. Sure we fucked up the infiltration on BL/ind..." Gerard raised an eyebrow at her and she winced. :Okay so I fucked it up, but that doesn't give us permission to just back down and kick the bucket quietly."
"Bonnie we've only just gotten out of Battery, how can you be planning another attack so soon?" He groaned and scrubbed at his eyes with the heel of his hand. "We lost someone... I lost someone close to me."
Rabid took on a steely expression. "I'm pushing ahead because while I was in that fucking cell I promised myself that if I were to ever get out alive, I'd spend the rest of my days uniting the zonerunners of America, and take down BL/ind." She took another deep gulp of Cyanide. "I'm not going to rest until I've crushed every single pill and burnt every last logo that those fuckers distributed." She growled and took two more swings of liquor. The bottle was nearing half empty. "The last thing the members of The Head see is gonna be the barrel of my gun, and the last thing they hear is me telling them to remind the Devil to pencil his date with me in his diary."
Abbey's new room was white.
"Surprise surprise." she muttered.
"Nothing." Abbey gave a half-smile to Stuart. "So where can I find something to eat around here?"
"I'll show you around." He shrugged off the wall and began to lead her around the hushed home of the last Scarecrow.
The whole top floor was a rabbit warren of hallways and connected rooms; most of which were empty.
"Why so many rooms? I thought there were only eight Scarecrows."
Stuart gave her a small smile. "The Scarecrows liked having their most trusted dracs living with them. For convenience I guess. There were probably five dracs for each Scarecrow, so the 40 rooms up here went to good use."
"Where are all those dracs now?" she asked.
A slightly fearful expression crossed the drac's face. "We die defending our master. There is no life for us without them."
Hypertonic shivered at the thought of the echoing corridors, home to those who were dead. "So how many people are here now?"
Stuart paused for a second, tallying up the numbers. "Seven. Korse lives downstairs. Then there's Numbing Acid, an engine specialist, three dracs that Korse uses as his personal guard and me. If we're counting you that makes eight of us."
"So who's Numbing Acid?"
"Korse's weapons master. He's also the Home Base doctor." Stuart raised an eyebrow at her poignantly. "I'd g-go see him sometime soon if I were you."
Harley pulled up at the Diner. Dust swirled around the burning hot car. It was midday and the sun had turned the Trans Am into a greenhouse.
Diamond kicked open the door and tumbled out into the slightly cooler outside air. The sun shone fiercely down on her, but she smiled at the sensation of the light wind.
Gerard and Bonnie clambered out of the backseat, Party holding Rabid up slightly. The long, bumpy trip back to the Diner had caused her to go back into a state of drowsiness. They couldn't tell which was worse; if it was the cracked ribs or the alcohol. The Cyanide sure hadn't improved her temper, which was currently voicing it's disapproving of everything in general.
She groaned and tried to push Gerard away when she saw two other Killjoys sprinting towards them. "I might have ruined your respect for me Gee, but I have no intention of spoiling my reputation in the zones."
"You're an idiot." Harlequin said rolled her eyes. "I don't think any of that matters anymore."
"Party!" Mikey cried, reaching his brother and throwing himself onto the older man in a hug. "You're back, thank fucking God!"
Gerard laughed and squeezed him back. "It's nice to be home. Hey Ghoul." He greeted his short friend and included them in the reunion hug.
"I can't say I'm not glad to see you Poison, we were all preparing for the worst back here." He ruffled Gee's vibrant hair. "Ray's out scouting for food, but let's get inside."
They started walking towards the Diner, but Harley and Rabid hung back.
"Come on in you two, it's a billion degrees out here." Frank called and waved them over to the door.
Roulette looked at Harley and shrugged. Rabid had never seen the Killjoys confidential hideout. She knew that Alison had been entrusted with the knowledge of it's whereabouts as the two crew leaders became better friends, however she hadn't been in their circle of trust then.
The two women walked into the Diner and were surprised at how colourful it was. Every wall was covered in pictures and catchy statements. As both girls loved art, they stood with jaws slightly ajar, staring around them approvingly.
"Party Poison's quite the artist." Fun Ghoul nudged Harlequin who looked like she was about to start drooling.
Roulette giggled. "We know Frank."
Frank and Mikey started, unsure how the dangerous woman knew his name.
"Sorry guys, they kinda joined the dots." Gerard sighed and grabbed a few bottles of water from a cupboard and tossed them to Alison. Bonnie didn't look like she was sober enough to play catch.
Kobra and Ghoul still kept their distance, eyeing the pair cautiously. "How did they Party?"
"We know that you're My Chemical Romance. It only took a little nudge before it clicked. You're Frank Iero, you're Mikey Way, he's Gerard Way," Harley said, pointing to each of the Killjoys in turn, "and you're.... You I have never seen before." She laughed, pointing at the man in the wheelchair who had just come through the door.
"I might not have ever seen you before Harlequin Diamond, but I do know who you are." He chuckled at Harley's surprised expression. "You and Roulette here are crew leaders, right?"
"Mmm unfortunately." Roulette mumbled and leant against Alison heavily.
Frank helped Harley hold up the dazed woman. "What's wrong with her?"
Gerard pulled her over to a couch and got her to lie down. "She's been beaten up by Korse pretty bad..... Although the Cyanide in her system cant be helping."
"Shit, is she going to be okay?" Mikey leant over Gee's shoulder and gasped at the darkening skin across Bonnie's torso. Harley tugged her friend's singlet up as much was decent and tried to gauge how much damage had been done. Roulette had half fallen asleep, here eyelids flickered every few seconds and she was mumbling something about alcohol.
"Kobra, go grab a towel and dampen it." Dr D ordered. "This heat will only weaken her. Does she get sick easily?" He asked Harlequin.
"No," she shook her head, "Rabid's pretty healthy, minus her bouts of drinking."
The Doctor pushed the others out of the way and lightly prodded Roulette's ribs. She groaned and swatted his hands away. The unconscious coughing fit that followed was enough to make the his face grim. "How long has she had the ribs broken?"
"We don't know, a few days maybe? She's been pretty good up until the drive back here. It was about two hours ago that she began to deteriorate." Harley looked at Gerard who nodded.
"She could have had them the first day she was taken by Korse. It's hard to say what happened." Gee swallowed the anger tightening his throat. "They're not the best hosts at BL/ind."
"No, they aren't." Alison sniffed and leant back against Gerard. "I can't believe half the stuff that they do to prisoners... The kind of stuff they might have done to Bonnie."
Mikey returned with the wet cloth and passed it to the Dr, who sponged it onto Roulette's sweat plastered forehead. The inert woman sighed in her sleep.
"So what do you think's wrong with her?" Frank piped up. "Cracked ribs shouldn't be making her faint."
Dr D turned to face the hovering Killjoys and Harley. "I'm sorry Diamond, but I think she's internally bleeding. A solid thwack to her stomach could have started it... Or if she's unlucky it could be in her lungs."
"W-what?" Alison's tanned face turned milky. Gerard placed an arm around her shaking shoulders. "You're not serious, are you? Tell me that's the worst case scenario!"
There was a deathly silence in the room, apart from Roulette's strained breathing. Diamond sank to the ground next to her friends head and stroked Rabid's feverish cheek protectively.
"Sorry kid, sometimes shit just happens. We don't live forever after all." Dr D placed a heavy hand on her shoulder.
"But there has to be some way to... I just couldn't bear it if.... I need to find a doctor!" She was chocking back a sob. 'Pull yourself together,' she thought furiously, 'Bonnie needs me.... again'
Kobra Kid looked at Party and Ghoul. They both shook their heads. "Harley, there aren't any doctors anymore. We just don't have the facilities... Or at least we don't know anywhere that there are any, or anyone who knows what they're doing." Mikey turned the wet cloth over on Roulette's forehead, trying to keep her cool.
"There has to be someone." she gasped, refusing to believe it.
"If there was anyone out there who could help, you'd be more likely to know of them than us." Mikey spoke, voicing the truth.
Harley looked up at Gerard. "Everyone says that you know the zones better than any zonerunner. Surely you've heard of someone... anyone?"
Party bit his lip and shook his head. "I know the zones, but I don't know the people who live there. I don't try to get to know people."
"What if we air a message on 109?" Frank piped up.
"Saying what?" Mikey rolled his eyes. "Russian Roulette, most loved and most hated rebel is dying out at the Killjoy's hideout. Here's our address!?"
"Of course not... But that's not a bad idea Ghoul." Gerard clapped his friend on the shoulder. "How about we run it through Glock, he's a friend of Roulette's, isn't he?"
Harlequin nodded vigorously, "Yeah, Rabid's always at Misfits. She's practically their greatest paying patron. I know Glock's allegiance lies with Dice."
"Great, we'll post a message in the sky out to anyone with decent medical practice. No names, just a time and a date at Misfits. Applicants have to go through Glock." Gerard grinned and walked into the transmission room after the doctor.
Toxin knocked on Numbing Acid's door a little hesitantly.
"Come in!" a gruff voice yelled through the solid wood. She swung the door inward and stepped into the guys room.
She was surprised to see a guy in his mid twenties bent over what looked like a dissected ray gun on a table. His hair was a fluro green with white and black stripes mixed throughout it.
He looked up at her and gave a small grin. "So you're the fresh meat, huh?"
"I guess." She shrugged. "My name's Hypertonic... Although Toxin's shorter."
"Cool" he placed a very small spanner on the table and motioned for her to come closer.
Toxin shut the door behind her and moved towards the centre of the room. The walls were covered with an assortment of weaponry, some guns, some traditional swords. There were a few things that she had never seen before as well. "So I hear you're the guy to see if I need a ray gun..." she mumbled.
He smirked and leant against the table. "You hear correctly. What are you after? We have Stroke Beamers, you're traditional Paralysis Lasers, the latest Puncture Snubs..." he pointed to a different section of guns on the walls as he spoke. "I've also got some Sniper Jags, although they're a little old fashioned, or maybe you'd prefer a-"
"Hold on!" she cut him off. "I'm sorry, but I haven't got any idea what you're talking about. I don't know the first thing about firearms."
His eyebrows rose. "Really?"
Toxin sneered at him. "Yes really. Up until a day or two ago I didn't even know you guys existed. I was living a pretty comfy life now that I look back on it, so don't insult me."
"Sorry kid, I just didn't realize that you were really that new. I assumed that you had skipped dracversity or something. You're pretty young to be caught up in this shit."
The man's casual way of speaking sparked curiosity in Abbey. "You don't seem like the kind of person to be here."
He shrugged and looked away from her. "I have no idea what you mean. Now, if you'll just follow me I'll show you-"
"Wait, don't blow me off like that!" She grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back around. "Are you here.... Are you here because you have no choice, like me?"
Acid sized her up before relenting. "Yeah, I guess I am..."
As he instructed her on the different types of firearms at BLi disposal, Toxin couldn't get another word out of him about the circumstances that earnt him a place working for the Scarecrow. Every time she asked him something he'd just ignore her or give her a "back off" look.
After a while they both came to a decision on a gun for Toxin. It was what Acid called a Tranfix-and-Trash.
"These babies are great, barely altered since I developed them back in 2015." He grinned and pulled one off the shelf. He took it over to the main table and placed it on a stand. It gleamed white under the fluorescent lights.
"Why this one?" she asked.
He pulled a tube out of a draw and some tape. "Because it's easy to use, but still has a good kick to it. I hear Korse has hopes that you'll be a combat drac, not a sniper. If that's the case then there's no point in giving you something high tech, since you're likely to just blow your own foot off with it."
Toxin watched as he worked over the gun. She didn't really know what he was doing, but was content just asking him questions. It was less intimidating talking to a seemingly normal person, rather than a doped up drac. "So, this is just an aim and shoot thing?"
"Mhmm." He squeezed a deep red paint out of the tube onto a palette. "It hasn't got enough kick to kill someone, unless you're at point-blank range. Although this means it's not so good for long distance kills, it doesn't use much energy and will last you longer than anything else. Some rifles only have a few shots in them before the battery clocks out, however this thing will give you nearly 50 rounds per magazine."
Toxin nodded, not really understanding, but appreciating the knowledge that it was going to be reliable for ammo.
"It also has a very simple adjuster. In some of our guns there are multiple dials which change the frequency, range, heat, blast coverage and etcetera. It can be a pain because if you change one, the others need altering as well, or else the thing can end up backfiring or overheating. Consider yourself lucky, because the Tranfix-and-Trash basically has an on/off button, a safety catch, and a dial that takes you from a level one beam to a level five."
She watched as he pointed out each control on the gun. "What does that mean then?"
"Well, at a range of 50 meters, a level one shot will probably not reach them, but the level 5 shot will knock them out cold for a few hours. If you were 3 meters away from them however, a level one shot would be likely to screw with their coordination, and anything above level 3 would be sending them to hospital for heart treatment... or straight to the morgue." He smiled at the small weapon affectionately. "They're a beautiful design, really takes the ray gun back to the basics. Completely waterproof, long lasting and tough as nails."
While they waited for the paint job on the gun to dry, Toxin decided to bring up her ordeal in the tunnel. "Hey, I also hear that you're the doctor around here."
"I guess you could call me that. I've got no qualifications, but I'm the guy they come to when they need some fixing up." He wiped his hands on a damp towel. "What's up with you?"
"I've kind of got some burns on my back." She shrugged. "They're not exactly small ones either."
"Let's see then." Acid hopped off his chair and walked around to her.
Abbey hesitantly lifted the back of her shirt up, revealing her blistered back, complete raw in some spots.
"Oh fuck! That's gotta hurt, Toxin." He winced at the sight.
She sighed. "Yeah, it kinda does. I guess I haven't had much time to think about it."
"I'll just go get something for that." Acid left the room for a few minutes.
While he was gone, Toxin looked at his handy work on her new gun. It was still shiny white, although now it had red stripes across the nose and a few red and gold trimmings. She smiled, it seemed like it would suit her. Abbey was thankful that he had picked out something relatively easy to work, or else she could be in for some strife later on.
"Here we go." Acid walked back into the room, brandishing a big needle.
A cold sweat broke out across Toxin's forehead. "W-What the fuck is that for?"
"You." He grinned, "It's great, you'll have a shot and be on the mend in no time."
"Nu-uh, that thing looks nasty." She held her hands up in front of her protectively.
Acid rolled his eyes. "Seriously, it's not that bad. You'll barely feel it, and I guarantee that your burns and anything else wrong with you will be gone within ten minutes."
She eyed the syringe. "I don't care if it gives me the golden touch or boosts my life by another year, you are not sticking that thing into me."
"Toxin," he sighed, "just let me give you the shot. Do you seriously want to life with your back that messed up?"
"There's no such thing as a miracle injection that heals burns, that's just wishful thinking." She jumped up off the stool and backed away from him, towards the exit.
Acid put the syringe down on the table and grabbed the dried gun. He handed it to her. "When you're back gets infected and you can't sleep, then you'll wish that you listened to me. This new drug fixes everything, it's a medical phenomenon, truly."
"Whatever." She shuddered that the thought of letting something BL/ind produced get into her veins. "Thanks for the gun though, I really do appreciate it Acid."
"No problem." He gave a small smile. "Don't go killing too many people with that you hear?"
"Don't worry, I wont." She smiled.
As she shut the door behind her, Toxin heard him follow that up with "And by people, I mean rebels. Dracs on the other hand, they aren't human."
Gerard sat on the roof of the Diner and watched the sun set. It was becoming a sort of ritual for him in the past few months. The natural stillness of the desert calmed him.
He had broke the news of Spider Bait's death to the others. It hadn't been easy.
Ray had come back from his expedition, laden with all sorts of edibles. When he was back Gerard had sat them all down and explained what had happened on their trip to Battery. They all took it hard, but he knew that they were all trying to stay brave in front of one another. There would be time to mourn later, once Alison and Bonnie had gone home.
Party's thoughts lingered on Russian Roulette for a while. He didn't want the woman to die. There had been so much loss recently, he really hoped that their radio message worked and that someone could help. He knew that the chances were slim, but he still hoped against the odds.
"I don't want our mission to Battery City to have been a waste." He said to the sky. Gerard didn't believe in God, but he still spoke to the heavens, hoping that somewhere, someone was answering his prayers. "There's been too much death. I need something good to happen, please. Just show us something, some sign that we're not dying without any hope out here."
Maverick tuned in to 109 in the sky. It was midnight.
"To all you friends out there of the Killjoys, you'll be glad to know that the legendary Party Poison is back in the zones." Dr Death's voice spoke through the speakers. "He escaped straight from the jaws of BL/ind itself, not on his lonesome too I hear. However on a sad note, someone who has survived the mistreatments of the white devil himself is looking like they're on their last legs."
Maverick's heart leapt. 'Could that be Roulette?' he thought. 'Did Party bust her out?' He turned the radio up and listened carefully.
"We know that there's very few of you left out there who have any medical training, but this is a call from the Killjoy head himself to anyone remaining. Ask for Glock at Misfits on Route Guano, tomorrow at noon if you're up for a job. Someone important to us all is dying, and we need some help."
"No!" Maverick cried out and grabbed the radio frantically. "Fuck, Bonnie can't be dying!"
Dr D's voice kept going. "... is a reward to anyone who knows how to patch them up; a sum of money and an invitation to become part of one of the strongest crews out here in the zones..."
Maverick pushed the radio away and stood up shakily.
"Terror!" He shouted.
"Yes Boss?" the girl's head poked around the side of his door.
He rubbed his stinging eyes and waved at her vaguely. "Tomorrow I need to head over to Misfits, get someone to run our crew meeting without me."
"Don't argue with me!" He yelled at the girl. "This is important."
Terror nodded and shut the door, scared stiff by the anger of their crew leader.
In his room Maverick had to sit himself down and take a few deep breaths. "Fuck." he groaned and let his head fall into his hands. "I can't let her die, not like this, not after what happened between us."
Harley walked outside in the early morning and was surprised to see party Poison climbing down from the roof of the Diner.
"Didn't you sleep?" she asked him.
He hugged her briefly. "A little. I guess I fell asleep watching the sunset."
"Hmmm, it's beautiful out here. Nice and quiet compared to Sanctum." She yawned in the morning sunshine and stretched.
Gerard noticed the bags under her eyes. "Hey, you okay? You look exhausted."
She shrugged. "I stayed up watching Roulette. I wanted to be there if she woke up, in case she got scared or anything."
Party chuckled. "I don't think Rabid gets scared very easily."
"You'd be surprised." She murmured. "I should actually get back to Bonnie, I've left her alone for too long. I just wanted to stretch my legs."
Party held onto her arm as she went to go back into the Diner. "Hey hold on, I'll watch over her if you want."
"Oh no Gee, I don't want to put any stress on you guys. I mean you've just lost-"
"Harley, go get some sleep." He smiled and ruffled her hair.
"Sugar, you need to stop playing the hero. You've done so much for Roulette already, now you need to go and get some shut eye." He pulled her into a hug. "My room is down the corridor, the one with the yellow door. You're welcome to crash on my bed."
Harley sighed and hugged him back. "Thanks Gee. You've been such a good friend, I can't even begin to thank you."
"You don't need to. You and Rabid aren't nearly as conceited and traitorous as everyone says. In fact, you've turned out especially to be an amazing friend."
They walked inside and Gerard pushed Alison towards his room.
"Night Gee." Alison murmured and stumbled towards his room.
"Morning Harley, have a good sleep." He laughed and walked into the living room.
Roulette was out cold on the couch. As Party walked towards her he noticed that the rise and fall of her chest wasn't as smooth as it should be. The sound of her breathing was ragged.
However the peaceful expression on Rabid's face didn't change in her sleep.
He sat on the floor and leant against the couch, thinking about much the same stuff he had been thinking about all night.
The sun rose, and light began to shine through the window. The Diner remained quiet.
'The boys probably don't want to get out of bed... It feels like there's nothing to live for right now.' He thought.
"Maverick?" Roulette's stressed voice broke through his thoughts. "Why? Stop running away...."
Gerard was about to ask her what she meant, but then realized the she was still asleep. A few tears were seeping from her tightly shut eyes, which he wiped away gently.
"Maverick I'm sorry... So sorry... I didn't want Korse... The dracs... No!" She began to shake in her sleep and Party had to grab her by the shoulders to break the dream.
"Bonnie!" He cried. "Wake up, it's just a nightmare!"
Rabid's eyes flickered and she stopped babbling. Her shaking stopped and she went limp in his arms.
She didn't respond, but the natural rise and fall of her chest reassured him that she was only sleeping.
He sat back against the couch again, but this time held her hand. It was cool to the touch, in an almost worrying way. He contemplated the thought that he could be holding the hand of death as he fell asleep.
Toxin slumped to the ground, sweat plastering her tank top to her skin. Grit coated the backs of her legs, and she didn't even want to think about what was going on with her hair. Mercifully Korse had let her take the stupid wig off for training, it just kept getting in the way. However the worst thing was the burns on her shoulders sticking to the fabric of her shirt. It pulled against the raw skin, stinging and drawing blood from the already aggravated wounds. Ironically all she could think about what that syringe. As she lay flat on the ground she could feel the gravel of the track digging into her tender skin, but she was too exhausted to care.
Hyertonic looked up from where she was on the ground and glared at the Scarecrow. He was lounging against the metal fence that encircled the athletics track, cigar clenched between his teeth.
"What the hell!?" she cried out.
"You ain't going anywhere with the speed you're running at right now."
Abbey panted heavily, trying to suck oxygen through her hopelessly parched windpipe. "You're fucking kidding me. I've been out here running laps all afternoon, I need a break!"
"No zonerunner's going to press pause and let you take a break if they're on your trail. They have twice the stamina of you, or else they wouldn't have made it this long in that baking plain of jack shit." He let out a cloud of smoke which sluggishly rose into the pink sky. It was right on sunset, and they had been working since dawn. "Right now if you went out in the desert at dawn, you'd be chewed up and spat out before the zonerunners had contemplated breakfast. So keep going."
"Stop with the excuses kid, and get a move on!"
Toxin took in a shaky breath to steady herself and struggled to her feet. Her knees wobbled dangerously, but she managed to push off her toes and start a slow jog.
Korse watched the teenager stumble off around the track again. Her previously white clothes were stained with sweat, dirt and a tinge of pink across her shoulders, making it hard to see her in the faint light. He ruminated on how long it would take her to get ready for the zones.
'I'm surprised at how fit she is.' he thought to himself. 'She looks like she once did gymnastics or dancing or something... That'd make sense, we found her and Renegade in a ballet studio. She's got a long way to go though. Kid has absolutely no stamina and I'm pretty sure that Stuart could out run her with an elephant strapped to his back.'
On the other side of the field Toxin stopped and bent over, clutching her side.
"Keep going!" He shouted.
Even in the gloom of late day he could tell that she was flipping him off.
Korse laughed. "That's not going to work on the Killjoys honey."
A faint "fuck you" came back to him over the hum of cicadas, making him chuckle even more.
'Tomorrow we'll get some hand-to-hand combat down pat, and then, perhaps the day after I'll send her out for a test run.' He watched his new apprentice come round the final corner home, head hanging low. 'From the looks of things she's built for one on one fighting, perfect extermination material.' He grinned and puffed at his cigar. The tip glowed bright orange in the escalating darkness. 'I love fresh meat, especially when it's got a bit of spunk.'
Bonnie stared at the ceiling. The room was darkening fast with the oncoming night. Her eyes strained in the gloom to see who it was holding her hand.
It was Party Poison. He sat on the floor, half slumped on the couch. He was gripping her hand tightly in his sleep.
"Gerard?" She whispered, tugging her purple fingers out of his grip gently.
His hazel green eyes snapped open and fixed on hers. "Bonnie, you're awake." He smiled.
"Yeah..." she tried to sit upwards, but found that her throbbing head and crushed ribs didn't agree. "Oh God, I feel like shit Party."
Gerard stroked her face and felt her forehead. "I bet you do. By the time I wrestled that bottle of Cyanide off you there wasn't enough liquor left to fill a teaspoon."
Roulette laughed at that, but it ended with a chocking cough.
"Hey, you okay there?" He helped her sit up and rubbed her shuddering back.
"Yeah, I'm f-fine." Rabid said shakily, once she got the coughing fit under control. "Perfectly fine."
But Gerard had seen the blood splattered on the palm of her hand, which she hid under her leg hastily.
"Bonnie," he pulled her chin around to look at him. The woman's face once again had that steely mask of indifference. However this time he could see through it, to the desperation in her eyes. "I saw the blood. Don't lie to me."
Rabid sniffed and jerked her head away. "I'm not trying to lie to you Party, I just don't want Harley to worry... I know that there's nothing anyone can do to fix this."
"Fix what?" He wiped a dribble of red from the corner of her mouth.
"I can feel it, my lungs are filling up. Each breath I take is getting smaller. Soon I wont be able to breathe at all." A tear slid down her face. "I guess you and Alison wasted your time in Battery City; Bob's dead and I know that I'm following him."
Gerard got up and sat next to her on the couch. He pulled her back so that she was leaning against his chest and stroked her head. "You're not going to die. Harley, the Killjoys and I are working on a plan. We're going to find a way to fix you up."
"I appreciate that Party, but I'm not getting my hopes up." She shifted slightly against him and relaxed. The hoarse rattle of her breathing was getting worse. "I know better than anyone that there's aint a zonerunner out there who can help me now."
Hypertonic flopped onto her bed, body aching. The hot water of the shower had loosened up her stiff muscles, but couldn't do anything about how bone-weary she felt.
There was a soft knock on the door.
"Ugh yeah?" she huffed, not bothering to go open the it.
An unfamiliar drac let himself in, mask tucked under one arm. His face was completely blank, wiped of all expression, matching his deadpan voice. "Korse orders you to wear your fighting suit tomorrow."
"Okay." she thought about what this meant. Those heels were fucking hard to keep balanced on.
The drac turned and left Toxin. She sighed heavily and flipped on the television.
"Two days ago the Battery City Police Force uncovered the body of local Langford girl Abbey Palini. She has become the car crash victim of a Battery City intruder. The situation is currently at a stand still, information has not been disclosed to the public. BL/ind is warning people to stay alert to strangers..."
Toxin stared at the screen of the television, watching helicopter footage of a bashed up car.
"Korse is good at faking evidence." She said to no one.
She flipped the tv off. It was dark outside and a few stars shone half heatedly through the smoggy black sky. She didn't realize she was falling asleep, however as her lids grew heavy she began to think about the people out there in the zones, beneath those stars. She thought about the strange man Acid working for BL/ind, and what he had said about dracs not being human.
"I hope I never have to shoot anyone." She murmured sleepily. "Although, with my luck so far I doubt I'll be getting through this job that easily."
The silent stars twinkled back at Hypertonic, not telling her anything about the future.