Truths come out and questions are posed
I'm more arty than I am a writer, so this story actually started with a picture :D
But regardless I just have to say a HUGE thankyou to Deirdre and AcidCeleryStick for leaving me some recent, very much appreciated reviews. You guys are awesome!
Gerard woke up in a cold sweat. The lingering tendrils of a nightmare squeezed at his heart and it took a few deep breaths to settle his shaking hands.
"It's just a dream, get a grip man." he grumbled to himself, scrubbing his hands across his face, trying to erase the memories of lime green eyes flashing in the dark. "It can't fucking hurt me." The faint violet glow of pre-dawn pooled in through his window and he groaned, knowing that he had no chance of falling back asleep now. "May as well get up."
The physically and emotionally drained man heaved his body to its feet and forced himself to totter towards the kitchen in pursuit of simulated coffee. As he neared Bleach's room he noticed that the door was open.
"Hmmm I thought I closed that when I left last night..." he murmured. Curiosity got the better of him and he poked his head around the door, looking into the dim room. His sleep-fogged head cleared when he noticed the empty bed and twisted sheets. "What the fuck....?"
Party pushed away from the door frame and meandered towards the kitchen, looking around for signs of the girl. She wasn't in the living room, or the kitchen. He checked in the garage, making a mental note of all the accounted for vehicles. Flustered, Gerard padded down the hallway and knocked gently on his brother's door.
"Kobra," he whispered, opening the door, "Bleach has disappeared..." he trailed off, trying not to freak out at what he was seeing.
Mikey opened one eye lazily, focusing on his brother gaping at him. He immediately sprang awake and detached himself from the girl sleeping next to him. "This isn't what it looks like bro!" he cried.
Bleach mumbled incoherently, awaking from the sudden cold air replacing the warm arms of the Killjoy. She rolled over, chasing the heated body, only to hear a fear inspiring voice.
"This better not be what I think it is." Gerard hissed, anger building.
"No! It's not!" Mikey protested.
Bleach did not appreciate being woken up so early and was keen to voice her disapproval. "Do you always take it upon yourself to wake up other people before dawn?"
"I dunno," he replied nastily, "do you normally let men into your pants after two days of knowing them?"
"G - Party!" Kobra shouted, placing a protective arm around the girl. "Stop jumping to conclusions, she just needed someone to talk to. You should apologize for being so horrid!"
Bleach shrugged off his arm and stood. "Don't worry about it, he'll believe what he wants and I doubt you can change his mind." she slid past the red haired Killjoy standing in the doorway, not letting any part of her touch him, before walking away.
Gerard scowled after her retreating figure, but was quickly reprimanded by his younger brother.
"What the fuck, Gee? Can't you cut the girl some slack?" Mikey shouted, folding his gangly arms over his slender torso.
"Why are you getting angry at me? I'm just looking out for you, I mean you obviously have no self control if you let some slut-"
"Shut. Up." Kobra snapped, enunciating the words very clearly. "You know perfectly well that I am not like that, and if you were any judge of character you'd know that Bleach isn't either."
Gerard scoffed, leaning against the door insolently. "I've known her... what? 56 hours? How should I be able to tell what she is and isn't capable of?"
Kobra's cold stare weakened Party's resolve. "But you've known me my whole life. If you think for even a split second, that I would take advantage of a kid half my age, you can't be a very good brother."
The older man flinched at his words, tone softening. "Of course I didn't, I know that you aren't like that Mikey."
"So why did you accuse her of being a slut?" Kobra replied sharply.
Gerard opened his mouth, but couldn't find a confident comeback. After a pause he settled with "I don't trust her, and seeing her getting close to you in any way scares me."
Mikey raised an eyebrow skeptically. "Don't trust her? Listen to yourself Gee, you're the guy who hands out food to random zonerunners and devotes his time to saving the innocent. Then one day we bring home a helpless kid and you immediately decide to hate her. What's really going on?"
Gerard desperately wanted to tell his brother about Toxin and the yellowy green eyes that kept appearing in his dreams, linking the BL/ind agent to the girl. However he knew that he would just sound paranoid and be seen as overreacting. Instead of admitting his fears he just shrugged. "I guess I'm just in a bad mood... About Bob and everything..."
Kobra didn't give his crew leader an inch. "Just because you miss him doesn't mean you have the right to go around bullying this girl." Mikey rolled over, pulling the bed cover over his gaunt shoulders. "And just so you know, you're not the only person who misses Spider Bait, so stop acting like you are."
Harlequin took a deep breath to steady her shaking hands. Her body was racked with exhaustion after two days of little food and only a few mouthfuls of water. Around her crouched twenty of her best crew members, all highly trained in hand to hand combat, fit and resistant to pain. However even the stress of remaining still and quiet for such a long period of time was starting to get to them.
Harley had been planning this mission on and off for three years, mulling over how she was going to steal the BL/ind weapon as soon as word reached her ears about it. Early on in the game Roulette had pulled out, saying that she didn't want to risk her top followers for one object. Consequentially Diamond had been left to organize this theft all on her own, and although she didn't begrudge her best friend for throwing in the towel, she wished that Rabid was with her right now.
Their current whereabouts was a BL/ind testing facility in western Utah, where Harley had been tipped off that there was a weapon in construction that would give the government a huge advantage in the war against the rebels. The original source of this information had been shady, however after extensive investigation the Gambler had discovered that there was more to this rumor than first met the eye. Although Harley had access to numerous spy networks through Roulette, none of them turned up much useful information. After three long years of digging up dirt, all she had uncovered was a location and a name. The location was a heavily guarded BL/ind lab which it had taken Harley and her team two days to infiltrate, and the name of this object was Weapon S/C/9.GR8C.
The plan that Harlequin had formulated was, on the surface, basic. They broke into the lab and found a place to bunker down for 48 hours, setting up a surveillance of the division working on it. Depending on the amount of information they were able to gather, Harley would decide if the project was worth stealing, destroying or ignoring.
As it was though, after the full two days of waiting and watching, unable to move from their positions, none of the team had been able to identify the nature of the weapon. It's dimensions and exact function was a mystery. However they did pertain that S/C/9 was undergoing final testing and would be ready for field action in four weeks time. It was obvious from the way the scientists acted that this was a breakthrough technologically and that they had high hopes for the product. Harley also found out that BL/ind had been working on Weapon S/C/9.GR8C since the takeover, making this a nine year old project.
"Harlequin D," Cherry Bomber whispered to her crew leader, "the full 48 hours will be up in 15 minutes. What is your decision?"
The Gambler thought for a good five minutes, making sure that her decision was the right one before relaying her strategy to the twenty men and women with her. She gulped the last mouthful of water from her canister and sent a silent message to whatever God existed, praying that they would get out alive.
Bleach was sitting outside the Diner on an old milk crate. She fiddled with a small rock with her bare toes, rolling it around in the dirt. The strong beams of light cast long shadows across the flat desert, which grew shorter as the sun rose. She sighed, feeling the air rushing from her lungs and began to wonder what would happen if she never chose to inhale.
'The Killjoys probably wouldn't care... Okay maybe Kobra Kid would, but Party Poison doesn't seem to like me at all. So much for him being all friendly last night.' her thoughts turned to Korse, 'He only cares about exterminating the zonerunners. If I died he'd just be annoyed that I didn't get rid of the Fabulous Killjoys. My parents already think that I'm dead and I haven't seen any of my friends for eight years, so they wont mind.' she picked up a stick and traced the BL/ind logo in the sand, 'Anton would care. He'd think it was his own fault... But it wouldn't matter anyway, because if I die Korse has no reason to keep him alive.'
Rolling her eyes, Bleach took in a deep breath of air, replenishing her starved lungs. She wasn't seriously considering suicide, but with so much pressure on her, and so many secrets keeping her tongue tied, it was hard not to think about different ways of escape. If she was honest with herself though, she knew she didn't have the guts to kill herself anymore. When it had been her against the world, living in Battery City blindly, the razor blades had seemed so friendly. She reminisced the night she had met Anton, when she lent over the edge of the building, feeling the wind tugging at her hair and her outstretched arms. Death had seemed beautiful.
But now, after looking death straight in the eye, in the form of a blonde haired, lip pierced Killjoy, the notion lost it's romantic qualities. All of a sudden she understood that when you're gone there is no coming back. You don't get to see if people actually miss you, or know if the people you love live on without you. Death is final, death is repulsive, almost obscene.
"But so is life." she whispered.
Party stepped out the front door and lit a cigarette, huffing in the noxious smoke greedily. He felt the nicotine seep into his body and exhaled a lengthly, white breath. It took him a minute or so before he noticed the girl sitting nearby, staring out into the desert. He huffed, observing her limp hand holding the end of a stick. In the dirt she had drawn the smiley face logo hated by every zonerunner across the country.
"So what?" he growled, gesturing to the image, "You like BL/ind now?"
Bleach turned and fixed a blank stare at him. "What kind of fucking question is that?" she snarled, standing up and screwing her bare foot into the smiling face on the ground. Without another word she began to walk away, round the side of the Diner.
"Oh, so are you going to fuck Fun Ghoul now?" he shouted after her, wanting for some reason to provoke her. He didn't care if he was being a jerk, something was telling him that his suspicions were right. The girl was bad news.
Bleach kept walking, round the corner of the building and round another corner again. She found a shady spot and slumped against the wall, arms folded. She bit her lip, trying to draw the sting out of Party Poison's words. However the voices in her head kept whispering, telling her that he was right. She was a slut, she was a coward, she was pathetic.
"Shut up!" she growled out loud, pressing her hands on each side of her forehead, as though she could squeeze the words out. "You don't know me!"
"Oh but we are you." the whispering in her head replied.
"Fuck!" she shouted and crouched into a ball on the ground, throwing her arms over her head in a uselessly protective gesture.
"Bleach?" Fun Ghoul said, sticking his head out a window. "Who are you talking to?"
The girl didn't reply, keeping her face hidden from the Killjoy.
Frank hopped out the window and knelt down beside her. "What's wrong Sugar?"
"I am no one's Sugar." she hissed.
He placed a hand hesitantly on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, of course you're not. Do you want to tell me what's wrong?"
"No." her voice was hard.
Fun Ghoul sighed. "Do you want anything?"
"We have a few painkillers if you have a headache..." he offered.
"I don't want them." her tone softened slightly.
Frank hugged her slightly. "Look, everyone else is in the kitchen having breakfast, come join us."
"No." Bleach's voice was low and heavy with fatigue, but lacking the hate she felt a minute ago.
"That wasn't a question, kid." he chuckled and pulled her to her feet. "I don't care if Jet and Kobra think we should let you choose what you do and don't want to do, I am making you eat something."
Bleach walked with him back inside, fight gone out of her.
Thankfully, Party Poison wasn't in the kitchen. Mikey and Ray looked up from their food as she walked in and greeted her warmly.
"Hey Bleach, you sleep well?" Jet Star asked, shuffling along in the booth to make room for her.
She nodded, and sat down next to him.
"I can vouch for her that she did." Kobra grinned cheekily. "You slept like a log!"
Both Ghoul and Jet burst out laughing.
"And how should you know?" Fun Ghoul giggled, grabbing two bowls.
Bleach tried on a small smile. "I didn't want to sleep alone, so I crashed in his room."
"That can't have been very comfortable, sleeping next to a bag of bones." Jet teased Kobra, who blushed and mumbled something about a fast metabolism.
Fun Ghoul sat down next to Bleach and handed her a bowl of cereal. "Eat." he ordered, chewing on a mouthful of food.
She sighed, feeling the eyes of three men boring into her. "Fine." she lifted the spoon and ate a mouthful of the almost flavorless flakes.
They all laughed at the face that she pulled.
"Come on, it isn't that bad!" Kobra giggled.
She screwed up her nose indignantly and forced herself to swallow. "Oh yes, it really is!" she exclaimed, feeling lighter at heart already.
They all laughed and continued to eat, conversation flowing easily amongst themselves.
"Hey Bleach," Jet Star said, facing her, "Kobra and I are going to Sanctum today to pick up supplies, do you want to come?"
She raised an eyebrow at the strange name. "Yeah sure... Um but what's Sanctum?"
They grinned, "You'll see."
Bleach rode shotgun in the car while Kobra Kid drove and Jet Star lounged in the back. The desert flashed by them in blurs of browns, oranges, black and muted green. She had never been this deep into the zones and kept her eyes fixed on her surroundings. She found every inch of the scenery interesting, from the bombed out cars along the highway to the abandoned petrol stations and the odd ghost town.
"Does anyone live in these places?" she asked as they passed through the third derelict clump of buildings.
Jet Star was dozing in the back so Kobra answered. "Not usually, they're hotspots for drac ambushes. Most zonerunners only stick around to pick off a few blindos, but it's too dangerous to live there normally.
She nodded and continued to ask questions. Kobra answered them all patiently, amused at her lack of knowledge. He didn't find her questioning odd at all, so Toxin had no trouble gathering a decent amount of information about rebel hideouts and places to tell Korse to check out.
When they reached the ridge that surrounded Sanctum she forgot about asking questions and stared in awe at the valley that was spread out before them. Although she couldn't see any signs of life, the protected bowl of earth was beautiful, circling around a small lake at the centre.
"This, my friend, is Sanctum." Kobra announced, smiling. It's the largest community of Californian rebels, if you could call it a community that is. The people who live here come from a diverse amount of crews, although they get along well enough not to kill each other.... usually." As they drove down into the valley he explained the structure of the zonerunner crews. "See the Gambler's run the two biggest crews in California. Russian Roulette you've met - she's the one who commands the most rebels under the crew Dice. Her best friend Harlequin Diamond has this crew called the Cardz, and they're the second biggest, but far better fighters. Then you've got Maverick, Cobalt Blues, Jettison and Electric Tango who all have pretty sizable crews. The power between them shifts a fair bit and they like to get into fights with each other, however they rarely go after the Gamblers. And beneath them there are... about 27 other crews, run by random people with not much power."
"So where do the Fabulous Killjoys fit into all of this?" she asked.
Kobra grinned. "We're the exception. There's five... four of us, but not many people try to mess with the Killjoys. We're were the first crew to form and up until a week ago we'd never lost a member. Not to mention Party Poison is revered by all zonerunners to be the best shot in California. They adore him, including the crew leaders. There's even a rumor going around that he's actually invincible."
Bleach could hear the pride in his voice as he spoke about his legendary brother, but she couldn't help but feel weighed down by the anguish on his face when he thought of Spider Bait. Even though she knew that she was meant to be a BL/ind agent and unaffected by emotion, she was riddled with guilt and remorse for her actions. Korse may hate the Killjoys, but Bleach knew in her heart that Kobra, Jet and Ghoul were good people, friends even.
Kobra noticed the far off look in her eye and assumed that she was thinking about his brother. "You know, he's really not all that bad, Party Poison. I know that what he said this morning was uncalled for, and that he hasn't been exactly hospitable for most of your stay, but his heart is in the right place. Just sometimes his stubbornness gets in the way."
Bleach looked at the slender man and gave him a small smile. "It's okay Kobra, I really don't care what he thinks of me. I just hope his opinions of me wont affect out friendship." Although her words were chosen carefully for the benefit of her mission, Abbey knew that her affection for three of the Killjoys was becoming genuine.
The Black Lake Market was pretty much what it sounded like; a black market set up near a lake. It was situated at the very bottom of Sanctum valley and attracted zonerunners from the whole of California and zones beyond. Although most of the market consisted of smuggled weapons, tins of poorly labelled food and car parts, there was also the darker side offering rebels poisons and drugs. There was a great hierarchy in the business of trading, most sellers would raise the expense for rival crew members, but let their own haggle the price down. If you weren't in a favorable crew, you had to pay the higher price. As you could expect, an area with so many valuable goods attracted thieves like flies, however the risk was high. Every crew leader had agreed to give shop owners the right to take the hand of any rebel they caught stealing goods. Although this didn't deter all of the pickpockets.
As the stepped out of the car, Kobra warned Bleach of the danger of being swindled.
"And it's not only having stuff stolen, sometimes if thieves can't get their hands on their goods, they'll settle for... Well put it this way, women are more at risk." He patted her back reassuringly. "But don't worry, nothing will happen when you're with us."
"Yeah, last time a lowlife tried something out on Mikey the crowd went berserk, almost tore him apart for touching a Killjoy." Jet Star chuckled. "Kobra had to beg them not to kill the creep."
Bleach laughed and nudged the skinny man. "Bet he wishes to this day he succeeded."
"Watch it girly," Kobra grinned, pulling the shorter girl into a headlock and ruffling her hair playfully, "or I might trade you in for a new pair of boots!"
Bleach shrieked as he ticked her stomach and pulled on his fringe. "Lemme go you oaf!"
Mikey let go of her and grabbed his hair protectively and she dashed away from his grasp, giggling. "Catch me if you can, Killjoy!"
Kobra accepted her challenge and sprinted after her as she ran towards the crowd of zonerunners.
Jet Star sighed and watched them go. "I'm getting too old for this." he grumbled, smiling, and walked after them.
As soon as Bleach was immersed in the crowd she was lost. She tried to peek over the heads of people to see where she was going, but there were too many tall people. The mass of bodies pushed against her, everyone heading in a different direction. She was jostled about like she was in a pinball machine and had to push her way through people to a stall so that she could get some air. As she stood to the side she drew the attention of a few burly looking men, and blushed furiously. Bleach took in a deep breath, realizing that playing hide and seek in a place she didn't know was a bad idea. She hung out of the way of the crowd for a good five minutes, pondering what to do.
"Hey little girl, wanna go some place a little quieter?" a dark voice whispered in her ear.
Her scream was muffled by a hand that was clamped over her mouth, and she bit down instinctively.
"Hey!" a higher pitched voice cried, half laughing.
Bleach turned around to face her assailant and sighed with relief. "Oh it's only you, Kobra. You scared me!"
He sucked his reddened finger and grinned. "That was the idea, I'm glad my sneaking skills are up to scratch."
She rolled her eyes, but smiled. "To be honest I really was worried there for a moment. I didn't realize just how many people there are here." she gestured at the moving mass of people.
Kobra nodded. "Yeah, if you fired a shot in this crowd you'd probs take out four people in one hit." he slipped his hand in hers and led her towards the crowd. "Come on, lets go find some lunch. Don't let go of my hand, okay?"
She nodded and they stepped into the river and bodies.
The first thing Bleach noticed walking with Kobra Kid was that people went out of their way to make room for him. The crowd parted ahead of him, letting him make his way almost effortlessly through the maze of stalls.
"Okay seriously," she hissed, watching the odd person nod at the Killjoy respectfully, "who are you? The Pope?"
Kobra burst out laughing. "Nope," he said, wiping a tear from his eye, "That's Party Poison. When he visits the Black Lake Market they practically role out the red carpet."
Bleach shook her head, flabbergasted by this behavior. "When you said that you had no enemies I thought you exaggerating. Now, I believe you 100%. These people look like their ready to drop to the ground and kiss your boots." she blushed at the people staring at her intensely. "Who died and make you guys king?"
Kobra's face was calm, but she could see the his conflicting emotions beneath. "No one died and left us the crown, it was more like we killed the Scarecrows and we stole it. The people around here, all they care about is the next drac mask they can pin to their wall. However only the best zonerunners go after the Scarecrows."
She bit her lip. "How many did you guys take down?"
"Five, out of the eight. Russian Roulette took out one and Harlequin Diamond got the other." His voice betrayed his pride.
Bleach struggled to suppress the shudder that occurred when she thought of all the Scarecrows that Kobra had personally seen die.
"Now there's only one left... Oh well two I guess, including Toxin. She's the next one on the table, Korse must be getting ready to give her the chip soon."
"The... Chip?" she mumbled, confused.
Kobra looked down at the girl, a sad expression crossing his face. "I'll explain it two you in a minute, first let's find some food."
Bleach nodded and followed him as he made his way to a stall. The vendor was frying rice and what looked and smelt like chicken, but she was unsure.
"We'll take two." Kobra said handing over the correct amount of money.
The man stuttered out a reply, filling two containers with the hot stir fry. He placed two small bottles on top of each container and bowed his head to Kobra. "On the house, as a token of our appreciation."
Kobra Kid said it wasn't necessary, but thanked the man anyway. They kept walking until they reached the edge of the lake, and found some rocks to sit on. Bleach opened the bottle and sniffed at the contents suspiciously.
"What is this?" she asked, unsure about drinking the mystery liquid.
Kobra smirked. "It's a chemical based alcohol called Cyanide. BL/ind makes it for their Scarecrows and high ranking dracs, but there's an illegal market for it among the zonerunners. They go gaga for it." Bleach frowned and screwed the lid back on. He laughed at her reaction. "Yeah I don't often drink either, unless I'm nervous or sad."
"And... What's this?" she asked, opening the container. The aroma of hot, flavorsome food wafted into her nose, but she held back.
He shrugged, chewing on a mouthful. "I think it's rice, chicken stock and some kind of lizard." He smiled at her. "Don't worry, I wouldn't be letting you eat it if I thought it was poisonous. Besides, it tastes pretty good."
Bleach cringed. "Lizard!?"
He nodded. "Hey, it's meat. Zonerunners gotta get nutrients from somewhere."
She sighed, closed her eyes and ate a spoonful. She was pleasantly surprised by the flavour and although the texture was pretty stringy, it was far better than stale cereal. "Hmmm this isn't bad." she mumbled around a mouthful of rice.
Kobra winked, grinning. "Welcome to the zones, where nothing is really what it seems."
Bleach pondered what he said for a few minutes, slipping off her converses and dabbing her toes experimentally in the cool water. She watched the ripples spread across the smooth surface and smiled at a water bird gliding along a few meters away.
Mikey followed her gaze and gave a half smile. "If that bird knows what's good for it, it'll fly away to another pond. Some hungry rebels gonna see it and turn it into dinner.
She smiled too, knowing that he was half teasing her, half being serious. "Hey Kobra, what were you saying about the Scarecrows and chips before?"
He chewed on a mouthful of lizard and swallowed before speaking. "Don't get me wrong Bleach, I fucking hate Scarecrows. Their twisted and downright nasty. However, in some respects, I kinda feel bad for them."
"Go on." she whispered when he paused.
He put his food down and picked up the bottle of Cyanide, opening it up and taking a small sip. He winced and turned to face Bleach. "The people in Battery City and the dracs, see they've got a bit of a choice when it comes to how they live their lives. I mean, you lived in Battery so you'd know. The pills are all different strengths, and depending on what people think they need, or what their doctors tell them to take. The dosage varies. But after a day the drug wears off and they needa take more. The Scarecrows though, no they don't take those drugs."
Bleach gulped a little. "What do they take?"
Kobra shuddered even thinking about it and took another swing of alcohol. "When they're deemed ready by the Head, they have this operation and a chip is implanted in their body."
Abbey felt the world spin, but she gripped the rock beneath her tightly and forced herself to ask. "What does the chip do?"
"This is something that Party and I spent years trynna figure out. See dracs, we can pick em off like flies. Their dumb and I swear that drug in their system slows them down. But the Scarecrows, see their smart. They don't fall for our traps and if they do they're bloody hard to kill."
"What do you mean, hard to kill?" she whispered.
He pulled a face. "You can shoot a Scarecrow a dozen times and the fuckers barely flinch. You can put a hole straight through them with a machete, but that wont stop them either. It's not that they don't feel pain," Kobra's face took on a twisted smirk, "because they do. I've seen em scream out in agony, just like us. But the difference is that what would normally kill a human only damages the Scarecrows. They just keep fighting, even though their body should shut down." he shook his head in disgust. "So one day Party and I are out near the drop zones in the north and a desert tanker comes along. This was about... Three years ago. By this stage we'd taken out two other Scarecrows, but every time we'd blown them up, so there was nothing left."
He didn't notice Bleach flinch.
"Anyway, we happen across this tanker. They're fucking big things, almost impossible to attack, especially since there was only two of us with three ray guns. However, it was a stroke of luck that the blindos didn't see us. We stashed the Trans Am and stalked this thing for a little over a k, when it pulls up and Black Sparrow pops out. She was one of the lower ranking Scarecrows, probably because she was a woman. Anyway, she starts taking photos of the area. The dracs stay in the tanker and so Party and I came up with a plan." He grinned at the memory.
Bleach took the opportunity to pick up the bottle and take a deep swing of alcohol. Her nerves settled slightly as it absorbed into her bloodstream.
"So Poison gets me to grab a lighter and crawl under the tanker. BL/ind built those babies well, but the fuel tank's are notorious for leaking. All I had to do was slip under and set fire to the petrol coated underside and it was up in flames. We knew that would only buy us a few minutes, because the tankers are pretty fireproof otherwise. However, it was enough to distract the dracs inside. Meanwhile Party had been tracking this Scarecrow, who was obliviously photographing the place. To this day I don't know why." he chuckled and nudged Bleach who forced a smile and took another mouthful of Cyanide.
"So Sparrow's pretty much all on her lonesome, only stupid thing I've seen a Scarecrow do, and I crawl back and find Party. We hid under a saltbush and waited for her to come by, which she did. When she got close enough I leapt out and tackled her to the ground and Party took off her head with a knife." he summed up simply.
Bleach closed her eyes for a moment, breathing deeply through her nose. "So what does this have to do with the chip?" she whispered.
Kobra didn't seem to notice her discomfort. "Well, once we realized that we had a Scarecrow body we decided to take it back to the Diner. When we got back we spent about a week pulling it apart."
"Oh god!" Bleach cried, trying not to be sick.
Mikey looked at the girl apologetically. "Hey, I'm sorry. I know that seems a bit primitive to you, but we needed to know what was making the Scarecrows tick. It was important so that we could find a way to beat them in the future."
She nodded. "I understand, it's okay. I just... don't have much of a stomach for science."
He smiled. "Yeah, it wasn't much fun for us either, trust me. Anyway, pretty soon we realized that Sparrow had a pretty big advantage on all of us. BL/ind had installed this chip next to her heart which forced it to beat. Even after we had taken off her head it kept going. We also discovered these tubes looped throughout her body which, we found, release some kind of super white blood cell. Even though she was dead the machine inside her was still trying to heal her body, and it was. Excuse the graphic description but we could burn her skin away and within a few minutes it had grown back. Sounds good right, but there was a catch."
Bleach looked up at Kobra. "A catch?"
He nodded. "We ran some tests on Sparrow's blood and it came up clean, no brainwash drugs or anything. And when we thought about it, you know it makes sense. They aren't dopy like the dracs, so they're a fair bit harder to fool. The Scarecrows actually do feel emotion, perhaps not like we do, but they get angry, they can laugh, and they even crack a sadistic joke every now and then. Of course this confused us, because if BL/ind wasn't feeding them the happy pills then there was nothing stopping the Scarecrows upping and leaving the government."
"So then... how do they control them?" she asked, fearing the answer.
Kobra's face went suddenly sad. "After a few days of running tests on the body we noticed that the chip next to the heart was flashing red. Then every few hours, a blue light would flash and the tubes all over the body gave out a burst of electricity. The tissue around the tubes would heal almost instantaneously, but there is not doubt that having electricity burn you from the inside would be pretty painful. Then other things began happening, sections of the body would shut down for an hour or so, then reanimate. At first we were really confused, but then we discovered something pretty important. On the wrists of Black Sparrow were panels of fake skin, which peeled back to reveal a charger socket. Then it all began to make sense. See that chip must need to be recharged within so many days, and if it isn't it's programmed to inflict pain upon the body. BL/ind doesn't want their Scarecrows dying on them because they forgot to recharge, but at the same time they don't want them to run away. So the chip inflicts pain which forces the Scarecrow to go back to Battery City and get a recharge. If they've disobeyed the Head it means their pretty much heading home to get in trouble anyway, but they can't help it or they'll die. Make sense?"
Bleach felt like there was an icy hand enclosed over her heart. "Yes. So BL/ind has complete control over them because they'll die without the right equipment to charge them.
"And that's not even the most inhumane part!" Kobra continued.
She sighed, a feeling of hopelessness washing over her. "How could it get any worse?"
"We found that BL/ind also place a chip in their heads. Of course by taking off Sparrow's head there was no way she could have survived, however there's a monitor on the back of their necks which we discovered, can make them go to sleep. It's rather eloquently called an 'off' button. But because the Scarecrow is rendered unconscious, it can only be turned back on by someone who knows about the panel."
Bleach sucked in a shaky lungful of air. "And are you sure about all of this?"
Kobra dropped his gaze and filled with the cuffs on his jacket. "Yeah, we know for sure."
"How?" she pressed, "Sparrow was dead, it could have just been malfunctioning or something..."
He shook his head. "We know, because the next Scarecrow we killed died because he wasn't recharged. We nabbed him and locked him a room, only so that we could see if it was true."
Bleach gasped, leaping up and backing away from the Killjoy.
Mikey saw the fear in her eyes and tried to comfort her. "Hey, don't hate us for it. They kill hundreds of Bleach without any thought. To them we're just targets, they don't see us as people. There were eight of them against nearly forty thousand of us, and by the time we wheedled it down to one scarecrow there's barely a quarter of us left. I don't care if you think we were wrong by letting him die, because they do worse to us. Think about it, the dracs kill us because they're doped up and forced to follow orders. The Scarecrows, they murder us consciously, and they're laughing while they do it. They are monsters. They may not have been born like that, but by the time BL/ind is finished with them there's nothing left but a bloodthirsty shell that viciously destroys anything beautiful it sees."
Bleach shook her head and noticed that there were tears wetting her cheeks. She sniffed and wiped them away angrily. "You can't know that, you don't know that. They could be just like you, frightened of the government and fearful of the future."
Kobra Kid stood slowly and took hesitant steps towards her. When he was close enough he wrapped his arms around her shaking body and hugged her tightly. "I'm sorry. I know you don't understand all of this just yet, but you will. You can't tell me that Toxin is a good person after what she did to you." he ran his fingers gently over the stitches on her head. "And she's still a fledgling. If you ever have the misfortune of running into Korse you will understand what pure evil looks like. Toxin may still have feelings now, but I know for a fact that soon she wont even remember her real name. And you can't forget that. If you see a Scarecrow you need to run Bleach. They wont hesitate to kill you, so don't give them the opportunity."
Bleach buried her head in his chest and watched as her tears darkened his shirt. The sat together again on the shore of the lake and listened to the hum of the crowd behind them. Neither said a word, too fearful that it would break the peace of their thoughts and cause an argument. Kobra thought Bleach was having trouble dealing with thinking of the Scarecrows not as people, but weapons. Bleach on the other hand assumed that Kobra was skeptical of her allegiances and she wanted to keep quiet to avoid loosing his trust. However, the thought that she could also become controlled in such a way by BL/ind was at the back of her head. She tried to crush the fear welling up inside her, but it was hard. The idea that she would have no choice was too hard to face.
They didn't know how long they sat there, but after time someone broke through their trance.
"I knew it, you really were up to no good last night!" an amused voice hollered.
Kobra Kid jumped slightly, removing his arms from Bleach's shoulders. He turned around to see Jet Star leaning smugly against a stall. "Ugh, I swear on my mother's grave that nothing happened last night!" he growled, but a smile lingered on his lips.
Bleach also smiled, but her heart wasn't in it.
"So I've done all the shopping, just like a good house wife, and i've lugged all the food and supplies back to the car by myself, and then I came looking for you two." He grinned. "Come on, we've gotta get going."
"But it's not even mid afternoon yet." Kobra pointed out. "What's the rush?"
Jet Star pointed to Bleach. "Someone has a date with a ray gun. Bleach has zone training, so we needa get a move on."
"I do?" she said, standing and following them into the crowd.
Kobra Kid pulled off onto a side road not far from the hidden turnoff to the Diner. Jet Star didn't blink at the route, but Bleach had to mentally backtrack.
"Ummm this isn't the way back to you're home, is it?" she asked.
Mikey shook his head. "Nope. Like I said, you need to do some training."
"This is the place that we use when we need to brush up on our skills." Jet Star grinned at her as they pulled up next to an old airplane hanger. The massive shed had only two walls and even from inside the car Bleach could see the thick, dusty cobwebs dripping from the roof. Inside the blackened structure was the skeleton of a burnt out crop duster. It's wings were missing panels and between patches of scorched paint were letters and numbers on a green body. She also noticed the shells of old crates and the half ravaged bodies of trucks.
"What happened?" she whispered as they pulled up next to the Trans Am.
Kobra shrugged. "The war."
The Killjoys hopped out of the car, but Bleach hung back, realizing what the car next to them meant. She didn't want to see Party Poison any more than he wanted to see her.
"Come on." Jet Star said, oblivious to her protests as he tugged her out of the beamer. "We'll show ya where to go."
"Hold up boys, I don't think I wanna learn how to use a gun." she grumbled, digging her heels in the sand.
Kobra raised an eyebrow. "Don't be silly Bleach, we aren't letting you go till we know that you can take care of yourself. The zones are no picnic, especially for a young girl."
She chewed her lip nervously. "But I gotta go tomorrow, you can't keep me here!"
Jet Star patted her back. "S'ok kid, we aint forcing you to stay. But that makes it even more important that you get some skills laid down now. Right?"
She didn't have the chance to shake her head before they pulled her forward and pointed to a shed a couple of hundred meters out on the dirt runway. "Party will be over there. Don't worry kido, his bark's way worse than his bite." Kobra grinned. "We gotta get going, expecting a call from Roulette."
Bleach opened her mouth to beg them not to leave, but she was cut off by Jet Star.
"Have fun Bleach!" he called as he slipped into the car.
Kobra revved the engine and waved. "We'll see you in a few hours!"
And with that, they were gone. Bleach watched as they disappeared behind a cloud of dust growing smaller and further away.
"Great." she groaned. "Stranded in the desert with a temperamental clown. I hate clowns, their red hair sucks." She kicked a rock and trudged her way over to the box-like shed, nerves building in her stomach with every step.
Bleach reached the shack and tapped hesitantly on the corrugated iron door. "H-Hello?"
There was the sound of a gun being cocked and a dark voice replied. "Who are ya and what are ya doing here?"
She trembled and pushed the things he had said beforehand out of her mind. "It's Bleach. Kobra and Jet dropped me off here... So that I could learn to shoot."
The door opened. Bleach was assaulted by a cloud of cigarette smoke as Party Poison's scornful face appeared.
"Wow, can't believe they left the slut out in here the desert in my hands." he smirked nastily. "That could be a mistake."
Bleach cringed for a moment before growing a backbone and standing up straighter. "I don't care what you think of me. However you'd better to watch you're tongue, because one day I might just cut it out."
Party's eyebrows rose and the cigarette in his mouth flicked upwards as his jaw clenched. "You got no idea who you're talking to, Sugar." He drawled out the last word; mocking her.
"I could say the same thing right back to you, Killjoy." she hissed.
A dark shadow passed over his eyes and he pushed her back and slammed the door. They glared at each other under the heat of the afternoon sun, neither willing to back down from the other.
"Oh yeah, so who are you then? I'm betting that confidence don't spring from nowhere." he growled, eyeing her lime eyes that flashed with anger.
"Trust me when I say that one day you'll know... But right now I think I'll leave you hanging." her voice was layered with the threats that she was trying so hard to contain. She could feel Toxin pushing her way into her mouth, taking control of what she was saying.
Gerard could feel his anger growing. There was something this girl was hiding, and every instinct in his body told him she was dangerous. "I say we find out right now, Bitch." he shouted, yanking his ray gun from it's holster and pointing it towards her head. "Cut the bullshit and tell me; who are you!?"
Toxin's eyes widened as she stared down the barrel of the gun, envisioning the blast of light that could kill her. "Ask politely next time, and I might!" she shouted back and swung her leg up, knocking the weapon from his hand.
It flipped through the air, landing twenty feet away. Party stared at the yellow firearm, skidding across the dirt in disbelief. He turned back to the girl before him just as she swung her fist towards his head. He saw the knuckles at the last second and ducked backwards, flinging up his hands in defense. Party dodged the next assault, keeping up his defense rather than lashing out at the girl. He may have been prone to threatening her with his ray gun, but Gerard would never have actually hurt the kid. But now that she was trying to hurt him he was finding it hard holding back.
Hypertonic growled and kept after him, throwing punches at him that never hit their target. They twirled across the runway, circling one another like animals. Her blonde curls twisted upwards, caught by the wind. Each tangle of hair caught the sun and gleamed like her feline eyes. His own eyes were glued to her body, judging her movements before she made them. One moment it seemed as though her well aimed strikes would land on him, but every time she would miss and he was a streak of red on the corner of her vision
Toxin hissed with pent up frustration and kicked out, finally feeling her body connect with his. The relatively soft heel of her converses slammed into his torso and he was unbalanced for a split second. But just like that, her chance was gone and the Killjoy's temper finally snapped.
Party Poison knew that her kick was going to get him the moment he saw her move, but it didn't stop the shock of the impact. His body jumped into action, regardless of his previous sentiments about fighting a girl. If anyone could land a strike on him, they were dangerous, and so he lashed back.
Hypertonic was surprised when she saw his expression turn from studious concentration into wrath. She could almost see his whole body focus in on her and she recognized the signs of attack.
"Ooooh gonna join the game now?" she taunted, circling slowly in time with him. Their feet touched the ground in unison, mirroring the others movements. "Good, because it's boring playing alone."
Party let out a threatening growl, not bothering with the witty back and forth, and lunged towards her.
For a moment there Toxin was confident that she could take him out, but the calculated way that his fists flew towards her mimicked the skill of Korse. She gasped and blocked each blow with her forearms, wincing at the impact. Suddenly the tables had turned and she had to fight back hard to keep her ground.
Toxin slapped one of his strikes away and punched his muscled chest as hard as she could. She was amazed to feel the groan of the bones in her hand as her knuckles hit the solid flesh of the Killjoy and she made a mental note to aim elsewhere next time.
Party grinned, seeing her falter for a moment and kicked her legs out from underneath her.
Hypertonic hit the ground hard, but managed to roll back over into a crouch and she sprang back towards him. He saw the move too late and felt the scratch of her nails across his cheek. The cool breeze brushed against the liquid dripping down his face. Party howled and grabbed her wrists, crushing them in his strong grasp.
"Gotcha." he jeered.
Toxin struggled against the vice-like grip, hands clawing towards his face. She was running out of options, but there was a fierce determination in her not to give up. Seizing the opportunity she bought her knee up between his legs. Party was expecting that and clamped her knee between his thighs.
"Now Sugar, that aint nice." he growled.
Hypertonic sneered back and spat in his face.
In all his days of fighting for his life, Gerard had never been spat at before. Gasping in surprise he dropped her hands and instinctively wiped his eyes clear. "Gross!" he cried.
Toxin sprang back out of his reach. Every muscle in her body was twitching, begging her to run. She knew that her skill was no match for his, but there was a voice in her head screaming at her to stay and fight. "Kill him!" it shouted viciously in her head. "Exterminate the Killjoy!" She shook her head, trying to rattle the voice out of her head while Party Poison recovered from the shock of her act.
He turned to face her, ready to defend himself again and saw the struggle on the girl's face. She had her hands clasped over her ears and there was a wild look in her eye. His gut was telling him to knock her out while he had the chance, but his conscience told him not to. The next moment though he was kicking himself for not listening to his instincts.
Toxin caved into the voice and sprinted towards the ray gun lying discarded on the ground.
Party Poison saw what she was doing and sprang after her, knowing there was little chance he could reach her before she got the firearm.
"Bleach!" he shouted as she pelted towards the yellow object. He was gaining on her, but not fast enough. "Don't do this!"
Toxin didn't even hear his voice. She was so focused, so intent on reaching that gun that she didn't even register the sound of booted feet getting closer behind her.
Suddenly the ray gun was within her range and she skidded on the loose dirt, reaching down to grab it. She balanced herself as she ground to a stop and swung around, intending fully to shoot the Killjoy.
Party saw her turn towards him, finger clenched over the trigger, but he didn't pause. Instead he bent forwards and barreled straight into her, grabbing her waist and throwing her to the ground.
Toxin felt the air rush from her lungs as her body slammed against the ground, hard. Her head smacked against the gravel and her vision went fuzzy. Regardless, her uncontrollable hands clutched at the gun, trying to aim it at the head of the man leaning over her.
"Die!" she shouted, firing off a series of shots.
The lasers hummed harmlessly over Party Poison's head, as one hand gripped the body of the weapon, tilting it away from him. He gasped at the conviction in her voice, seeing pure hatred in the snarl on her face.
For a moment there was complete silence, save the rasp of their labored breathing.
Abbey squeezed her eyes shut, head throbbing where it had impacted on the ground. And just like that, the fury that had overcome her drained away, leaving her confused and annoyed. Her shaking fingers let the ray gun slide from her hand and her body slumped in defeat.
Party Poison pocketed his gun, never taking his eyes off the dangerous girl beneath him. She faced away from him, twisted, angry face relaxed into submission. He calmed the fury coursing through him and forced himself to appear formidable and threatening.
"Who are you?" he ground out.
Bleach ignored him, trying to imagine herself someplace else, someplace safe.
Party scowled, gripping her limp wrists in his hands tightly. "Answer me!"
He saw her face flinch, but she still refused to respond.
"Listen Sugar, I'm only gonna ask you one more time." he wasn't faking the threat in his voice. "Who. Are. You." It wasn't a question, it was a demand.
Bleach turned to face him, opening her eyes slowly to look into his. They were dark brown, flecked through with yellows and greens. 'Hazel' her mind whispered.
"I don't know." she replied, voice hollow.
If Party was surprised by her answer his face didn't betray it. "Don't play coy with me. I asked you a question and you're in no position to deny me an answer."
She stared at him blankly. "Just because you asked the question, doesn't mean I know the answer. Who do you want me to be Party Poison?" He didn't reply so she pressed her argument. "If you want me to be Bleach, fine I'll be Bleach. But if you want me to be someone else, just tell me. I'll even be someone you want to kill, how about that?" she was rambling but she didn't really care, "How about I shave my head and dress up as Korse, I'm sure that would be fun for you."
"Shut up." he snarled. "I don't care about your mind games, I just want to know the truth."
The girl shrugged, feeling her fingertips go numb as the blood rushed away from her hands. "Well, my name was Bleach. But most recently I've been called Slut. How's that for an answer."
Party felt the adrenaline kick into his body again, fueled by his anger. There was something about this girl that really got to him. No matter what he threw at her, she wouldn't give him the answer that he wanted.
Suddenly he was aware of how her body felt beneath him. Her small wrists felt soft under his roughened hands. Her skin was fresh from the city, pale except for a pink tinge the sun had licked along her cheekbones, matching the peach of her lips. He felt her hips trapped beneath him as he crouched over her, and for the first time Party Poison felt desire mingle with his hatred.
Acting on impulse he leant down and forced his lips against hers, startling them both with the impact. He moulded his mouth against hers, seeking entrance.
Bleach's eyes flew open and she struggled against him. Every fiber in her body screamed that it was wrong, regardless of how good it felt. Her body jolted awake, aware of every part of him pressed against her. As her wrists strained against his hands she couldn't help but notice how warm his skin was. She strained away from him, but knew that deep down she craved the physical contact. For a moment she let her mouth open and marveled at the taste of her tongue against his. It was like rediscovering the taste of strawberries, slightly marred by the tang of nicotine. It was nothing like kissing Anton.
An instant realization of who he was swept threw her and Bleach ripped her mouth away from his, flinging her head sideways.
Party gasped, pulling back almost in disgust at what he had done. He looked down at the girl warily. She was breathing heavily, anger tinging her cheeks and her eyes were full of hate. He wiped his mouth, trying to act like he didn't enjoy what had just happened and pushed himself off her.
Poison stood, shaking from the conflicting emotions inside him and took two forceful steps away from her.
Bleach slowly sat upwards, leaning her head on her knees, hands gripping her stomach. "What the fuck was that?" she hissed, burying her face against her jeans.
Gerard felt weak, letting his emotions get to him like that. He knew that after what had happened he should just shoot the girl and get rid of the problem, but he feel guilty after pushing himself on her like that. 'Everything is so god dam fucked up.' he thought, more angry at himself than anything.
"I don't know." he replied, mimicking her words from earlier.
Bleach gave a short laugh. "So what, going to kill me now? Another body for your count?"
Party turned around to face her, seeing that she had lifted her head and was glaring at him. "No, we're going back to the Diner. This never fucking happened."
She gaped a little, not expecting such a good outcome. Moments ago she was counting down to the end, and now she was alive. Not only that, but she was being offered a lift back to the safety of Kobra Kid and the others. "This a trick of some sort?" she growled.
He glowered at her. "Either you get in the car now, or I leave you here to rot. Choice is yours."
Bleach sighed and lifted herself up off the ground. She trailed behind him as he stalked towards the Trans Am.
The trip back to the Diner was filled with an awkward silence, both full of questions they were too proud, or too afraid to ask.
The sun set over the desert as they drew up at the Fabulous Killjoy's home. Before Party could leave, Bleach grabbed his arm and pulled him back onto the drivers seat.
"What?" he snapped, avoiding her eyes.
The confidence she had felt previously was long gone, and it took her a moment to spit the words out. "Why didn't you just kill me?"
He met her confused eyes for a brief moment before turning away again and shrugging. "Didn't wanna upset the boys. They wouldn't appreciate me killing our 'guest'" And with that he left, slamming the door and trudging inside.
Harley slipped down through the grid in the ventilation system. It was pitch black as her feet lightly brushed the ground. Taking a breath for bravery she let go of her hold of the hole in the ceiling and landed her feet firmly on the floor.
"You good HD?" a quiet voice hissed from above.
Diamond crouched low to the ground, pulled her night vision goggles over her eyes and scanned the room. There was no sign of life, not that they expected any at this time of night.
"All clear. Keep an eye on the time, I'll be back before twenty."
"If not?" the voice trailed after her as she slunk forwards in the dark.
"Let's just not think about that." she grumbled and pressed herself against the wall.
After her time spent surveying the goings on of the BL/ind lab, Harley had a pretty good idea of the layout. She was currently in the control room. The exit door was to her left, not that she was going to use it. There was some kind of kitchen on the opposite side, and the door to Weapon S/C/9.GR8C was on her right... She hoped.
The Gamblers long legs slid across the floor and she sidled across to the door. She was keeping as low to the ground as she could, knowing that the security cameras would have trouble picking her up in the shadows of the desks. Her night vision googles directed her way and she reached her destination without knocking anything over or drawing any attention to herself.
The door itself was locked, and could only be opened with a combination for the number pad on the handle. It had taken three of her crew members two days to figure out what the series of numbers was, but she was glad that they did. Her thumb flicked across the buttons quickly and Harley breathed a sigh of relief as a small green light flashed and the handle snapped open.
'No going back now.' she thought and opened the door a crack.
As it was she had no idea what was waiting her beyond this door. For all she knew she was walking into a vault full of Puncture Snub wielding dracs. If that was the case Harley knew there'd be little left of her body to take back home.
However as she eased her body through the crack in the door, ray gun clasped in her hand, she had to pause and gather her thoughts. What she saw did not match what she expected. In fact, it took her a good five seconds before she was able to convince herself that this wasn't a dream.
"What the fuck....?" her british accent blurted.
I havent got any ratings so far, only reviews. Not that I'm complaining, but a rating would be awesome too :)