By Hunter (Skull Man)
(The scene is in Jade's room, where certain activities happen...)
Jet : Okay, go left and use the bomb on that wall.
Jade : Got it. Sweet statue is mine.
Jet : Co-op Wind Waker is rather fun, you know.
Jade : Heh.
(At that moment, enters...)
Jade? : Hard day's work, but the researchs have advanced and - *walks in on the players*
Jet : *sighs* Jade ?
Jade : *dissipates the clone* Sorry, Jet. You know Cossack is running some big project at the moment.
Jet : I know, it's just that ... well, you don't seem able to focus on a single thing at once.
Jade : Sorry. *saves the game* I guess we're done for tongight's game ?
Jet : Better luck next week. *walks to John's room*
John : Uh, hi.
Jet : Mind if I stay for a bit ?
John : Well, uh, of course not. What's the problem ?
Jet : Nothing. Except ... Jade. He's gotten a bit cold recently. Focusing on his work...
John : That's not much of an issue. I mean, there's still work to do for the world, and he has skills needed. Seems logical to me.
Jet : I know. But, when I look at the Comrades ... I feel like we all turn bad at some point. Like Geoff, Zy, or Reg. I-I know it's silly, but ... I fear Jade will turn out like this.
John : I wouldn't worry. I mean, I don't know him as long as you all did, but he seems more balanced than your examples. Or, or, see AM and Sean, they behave fine.
Jet : Hmm, guess so. Since I'm here, are you up for tea ?
John : *shrugs* Why not ?
(At the same time, Jade is preparing himself for a live interview on TV.)
Pharaohman : Armor's fine, cape pins are the good ones ... let's go. *teleports to the TV studio*
Employee : Wha- ? How- ? Anyway, we were just waiting for you, Pharaohman. You remember the points to avoid ?
Pharaohman : Yeah, not scaring the people with War souvenirs, nothing about political tensions or Diveman... I know the gig.
Employee : Perfect !
(In the studio...)
Anchorman : Ladies and gentlemen, I think we're ready to start, and belive me, we have something really special for you tonight ! In his first ever live Q&A session, let's have a big hand for Pharaohman himself, the ancient explorer of the Cossack's Comrades ? So, what's up ?
Pharaohman : Oh, nothing much. It's always like that when I sleep at my mummy's.
Public : *laughs*
Anchorman : Good one ! So, if we'll begin with the questions ... Yes, you there ?
Reporter 1 : Mr Pharaohman, suppose the Army comes back. What would be the reaction of the Comrades ?
Pharaohman : Well, obviously, we'd side with the RPD and stop that threat once and for all. Though, I can assure you this is over.
Anchorman : Wonderful. Okay, next person, and try to keep it snappy !
Reporter 2 : Mr Pharaohman, I am Dmitri Roth, reporter for the Moskau Light. I wonder if you remember your old partner, Zymeth. Turns out he tried to sell you all to the SA.
Pharaohman : I know he was converted to their cause, albeit without his consent. He was weird in his own way, but a good teammate.
Roth : I speak from before that time. And then, Saint-Petersburg, where your "friend" Diveman blew up a bridge full of innocents.
Pharaohman : It-I, I must remind you, we were at war !
Roth : Oh, and the assault of the SA on your Citadel ? You survived by siding with Mesmerman, who used you later on !
Pharaohman : Just HOW did you get these informations, anyway ?!
Roth : Thanks to a citizen who only wished to spread the truth. Who can say if you aren't still trying to have us all killed ? Maybe the General is still out there, and waiting for his pawns to play his game...
Anchorman : That, sir, is defamation !
Roth : Regardless, your Team is made of self-admitted murderers and criminals ! What kind of example are you trying to set ?
Security : Alright, gents, that's it ! Mr Pharaoh is tired, and needs to leave now !
Reporter 2 : Pravda here ! Are all these facts real ?
Pharaohman : Please, let me go...
Reporter 1 : Is the government still employing war criminals ? Answer us !
Pharaohman : No...
Reporter 4 : We want the truth ! Is your master the General still active ?
Pharaohman : I said to leave me ALONE !!
(In a storm of magic energy, the whole studio is emptied out.)
Pharaohman : *falls to his knees*
(At the Citadel...)
John : Uh, hi, AM. What's up ?
AM : You want my opinion ? Bad news all the way.
John : How bad ?
AM : Someone has just given some trash-newspaper the key to our skeleton-filled lockers. The War stuff.
John : God. Guess we should leave the country, like, an hour ago ?
AM : Not for now. If we flee, they'll be proved right. And I got enough of hiding out in muddy holes that aren't Dagobah.
(Later, that night, in AM's room...)
*SFX : Warp-in*
AM : Huh ? Jade ?
Pharaohman : Yes.
AM : What- How do you feel, now ?
Pharaohman : I ... I don't know. I think I could go with a break right now.
AM : Wait ! You can't leave right now !
Pharaohman : All this got me wondering ... what we did, what we had to do ... sorry, but I must think over it.
AM : What if we need you ?
Pharaohman : I'll contact you once I'm done thinking over. Bye.
*SFX : Warp-out*
AM : ...
*SFX : Warp-in*
AM : Done already ?
Pharaohman : Huh ? Oh, no. *goes to his room, and comes back with a full bag of games and stuff* Mars is pretty empty, and I don't want to end up bored as hell.
AM : Wait !
Pharaohman : My decision still needs to be taken.
AM : No, it's just ... you packed up MY DS, too.
Pharaohman : ... Oh. Sorry. *hands back the DS* I'll see you when I'm done.
John : *sleeps*
? : *throws a newspaper at his face*
John : ?! *wakes up*
Toadman : Good morning, Ringo.
Skullman : Brought you the sunday paper.
John : *browses through it* Grim news.
Skullman : Geoff dead, Jade gone ... all in less than two weeks.
Diveman : *barges in his room, singing lewd songs*
Toadman : So, who's next ? AM ? Jet ? You ? Me ?
John : Wait. No other Team has been targeted ?
Skullman : That we know of. Vendetta suspected.
Toadman : We'll fill you in once we have more info. Take care.
Skullman : Thanks for the breakfast.
John : *after they're gone* ... How come they're always raiding through MY groceries ?
(We start at the house of a well-known felon. For months, he had been part of the most fearsome threat on Earth. Now, he's resting, wary that his lust of blood may start anew. He hears a noise.)
Wraithman : Hm ?
(He picks a sidearm. Not his favorite weapon, but much better in order to deal with intruders.)
Wraithman : I know you're here. Stop disturbing the House of God, lest you want to suffer His wrath through my hands.
(He gets to his kitchen - no one. Wearily, he opens his fridge, expecting a bad surprise. It's empty - save for a cloak, and a note.)
Wraithman : Spare me, Lord... *reads the note*
("Behind you", followed by a stylized azure fox head.)
Wraithman : *turns to see an infamous duo staring at him*
Skullman : Hrm.
Wraithman : ...
Skullman : Gun. Not your style.
Wraithman : I had many ill-auspiced visitors before. But surely you are the worst of them.
Toadman : Now, now, let's not get started. We're all friends here, right ? ... Well, except you, Wraith, obviously.
Wraithman : Hmph. The Lord rewards those who wake early and take their part in His work. You should leave now and remember that lesson.
Skullman : Getting bothered. Not good. Need to cool down. *tosses Wraithman in his own fridge*
Wraithman : What is it you want with me ?
Toadman : Just keeping company to an old bot we know. We're in public service now, and chatting with the elderly is good for rep.
Wraithman : Can I get out of the fridge ?
Skullman : No. *grabs an E-can and drinks from it* Dive came here before getting offed. Dark stuff about the veteran Comrades from the War got revealed in tabloids. Pharaoh left Earth.
Wraithman : And how does it lead to me ?
Toadman : Two words, "pal". One is sharp, and the other rimes with "blasphemy". You lost more than us in this little skit. Nice reason for a payback, huh ?
Wraithman : The Lord taught us to forgive all. Besides, I know nothing.
Skullman : Wrong tone. *starts fiddling with the controls of the fridge*
Toadman : Wonderful toys, these repurposed freezing units. Even borrowed the design for Blue Fox's ice guns. I saw some of them shatter a trapped Joe through cold. I hope you're made of a sterner stuff.
Wraithman : Wait ! I know nothing ! N-Nothing !
Skullman : Better. *opens the door*
Toadman : We'll be going now. If memory comes back, contact me, right ? Take care.
Skullman : *as they leave* Scythe is more your style.
Regulus' Journal, 21st October, 20XX :
Left Wraithman's house at 2:35 AM. He knows nothing about anny attempts to discredit us. He has simply been used.
By whom ? The RPD seems an obvious choice : the Comrades are still loose cannons. But Dive mentionned the SA in his last booze-inspired speech. It doesn't fit.
I can't concentrate. No sleep since saturday.
Walked to the closest teleportation relay past trashcans stuffed with rumors of war, Luddite groups, bodies, motives...
Waiting for a flash of enlightenment in all this blood and thunder.
(Elsewhere in town, two investigators from the RPD are facing quite the conundrum...)
Watcher Ivanov : Geez, what a mess.
Watcher Prokiev : Say that to them, not me.
(A whole family, killed in their appartment. Sprawled on the walls, a stylized fox head, with a message saying "Let's be friends. -BF")
Ivanov : Know what that reminds me of ?
Prokiev : I know already. The Army. But they're gone.
Ivanov : Yeah, yeah. But all those guys they enslaved. I bet at least one of them still has a screw loose. Can't know with this bunch.
Prokiev : Hmm.
Ivanov : And that symbol. Blue Fox's.
Prokiev : I heard he was with Cossack.
Ivanov : Yeah, but Cossack survived that big-ass assault somehow. Who knows what deal he made ?
Prokiev : I don't buy it. Still, Blue Fox was quite the pain in our ass. Even if this isn't his work, you can bet he'll stay locked-in forever if we catch him.
Ivanov : Forever ? He won't last a week. The whole aisle of war profiteers, mobsters and illegal dealers is filled with his ex-rivals.
Prokiev : Too bad for him.
Regulus' Journal, 21s October, 20XX :
Woken at eleven by shouting outside. Must remember to alter the coordinates of my base to avoid Jay and Bob popping in again for an after-party. Should be more careful.
On way to the teleporters, met up with Hunter. Nothing happened at the Citadel. Good. I know I partially built him, but I can't help wondering if he ever sleeps. And if so, what he dreams of - if he does.
Teleported to Moscow. On fortieth and seventh, saw John and Jet leaving diner. They didn't notice me. Good thing. Comrades must stick together, but I like to take breakfast undisturbed.
Entering diner, bought coffee then sat watching a maildrop, immediately across the street.
Passers-by made various deposits : candy wrappers, newspapers, a pair of keds strangled by their own laces, tongues lolling out horribly. Must be Tuesday.
This city is an animal, fierce and complicated. To understand it I read its droppings, its scents, the movements of its parasites...
I sat watching the trashcan, and Moscow opened its heart to me.
(At Sean's office of the "Dust-R-Us Vacuums" company...)
Secretary : Mr Dustman, time's running out. You'd better hurry.
Sean : Yes, yes, I know. The big distribution people, again ?
Secretary : That's right. It's safe to bet that your demonstration last week was successful.
Sean : Hmm ... It's debatable. Manual vacuums are pretty much dead.
Secretary : Please, not you too ! All talking about death. This morning, some family was killed by that Blue Fox guy.
Sean : What ?!
Secretary : I'm as surprised as you. I heard he was a war hero ... But I think it won't damage your own reputation, sir !
Sean : Thanks. That's something I should think about.
(As they talked, a suspicious man approached them.)
Secretary : Not right now, sir. You have that meeting and- Oh god. Look, he -
(Said man had raised a gun against them - and opened fire. In a second, Sean turned into the resident scientist of the Comrades, and blocked the bullets.
Taking no chances, he rushed the guy, crushed the gun and grabbed him tightly.)
Dustman : You. Why did you attack me ? Who's behind this ?
Security 1 : Sir, let us -
Dustman : No. He's got a poison capsule. Don't swallow ! Answer -
Assassin : *falls unconscious*
Dustman : Dammit. *picks up the remnants of the capsule*
Secretary : Sir, are you fine ?
Dustman : No problem, thanks. Call our guests. Tell them I need to change.
Regulus' Journal, October 21st, 20XX :
Someone tried to kill Sean. Proves Team Killer theory. Checked maildrop. Message from Wraithman. Connected, perhaps ?
Next, went for a small walk. Outside appartment block, police restrained a youth on KT-28s. He was screaming something about the General. About bombs.
Is everyone but me going mad ? Over 40th Street, an elephant was drifting. No more picking in Dive's stash. But beyond that, unseen, spy satellites. If they so much as narrow their glass eyes, we shall all be dead, buying back the borrowed time.
This relentless world : there is only one sane response to it. The alleyway was cold and deserted.
I changed into Toadman. I had three hours before calling on Wraith. Away down alley, heard woman scream, first bubbling note of city's evening chorus.
Approached disturbance. An attempted rape/mugging/both. Cleared throat. The man turned and there was something rewarding in his eyes.
The face he made when he felt Hunter's claw on his neck made my week. Sometimes, the night is generous to me.
(At the RPD station.)
Ivanov : Phone's ringing.
Prokiev : Your turn. I'm tidying up evidence, here.
Ivanov : Whatever. Y'know, I have this feeling, like something is up in the air...
Prokiev : That's sound waves, man. From the phone.
Ivanov : Not that. First, that family's butchered, then somebody tried to off Dustman. It's like there's a pattern. It's...
Prokiev : Phone. Now.
Ivanov : Hmph. *picks up* Hello ? Watcher Ivanov speaking. A tip ? Sure. What's your name ... ? No name, huh ? Works for me, I guess. So, what do you have ?
Blue C- Sir, that is the wrong phone number you did ! ... Sorry, a problem on the line. You meant ...
... Blue Fox. Okay. Yeah. I see where it is. Yes, got it. We're on our way. Bye.
Prokiev : Man, you're kidding ! That wasn't about ... ?
Ivanov : Damn right it was. We now have that bastard's head on a plate. Let's take some of the lads with us and ignore some red lights.
(At Wraithman's church, a familiar duo entered...)
Skullman : Eleven thirty. Good evening, Wraithman.
Toadman : We got your note. I've kept the afternoon wondering why you wanted to see me. Somebody tried to shoot Russia's smartest robot today. Heard about that ?
Skullman : Diveman, Pharaohman, Dustman ... Somebody's killing Teams, Wraithman. Somebody wants us dead.
Toadman : Maybe some old enemy, like you. Maybe someone you met in prison, or at your merry band.
Skullman : Been running through names. Was it Krptoman ? Was it Mesmerman or the Met King ? Lot of questions. No answers. Maybe you can enlighten me.
(Sure he could. if you put a lightbulb at the other end of the bullet wound in his forehead.)
Toadman : Oh, slag.
Skullman : Main chips are unaffected. He can get a new body.
Toadman : *kneels and picks up a gun* Spells trouble.
Ivanov : *through a speaker* Blue Fox ! This is RPD, Blue Fox. We know you're in here. It's all over.
If someone's in here with you, let them out first unharmed...
Toadman : Oh, no...
Skullman : We were framed.
Ivanov : ... Then you with both hands visible. You have thirty seconds...
Skullman : A nuisance. We can take them on.
Toadman : Don't be silly. With my rep, they brought the extra mile. Special Forces.
Ivanov : Time's running out, and I can't make promises. Fifteen seconds...
Skullman : Need my help ?
Toadman : No, go now. They're only after me. The Comrades will need your help.
Skullman : But...
Toadman : That's an order !
Skullman : *nods and disappears*
Toadman : It's personal, now.
Ivanov : Time's out, Blue Fox ! I hope you're ready.
Toadman : *prepares his grenades* When you are.
(The Special Forces are a marvel of technology, designed to take on the toughest Robot Masters. That Regulus managed to slow down one, let alone a dozen, on his own, is no small feat. But it proves worthless, as he's trapped on the second floor of the church.)
Toadman : *jumps out through the vitral, shattering it* RRRAARRRL *gets pinned down by a Watcher shot*
RPD Agent : We got him ! We got him !
Prokiev : Let me see that bastard's real face...
SFX : *RIP*
Toadman : My face ! Give me back my face !
Ivanov : Eew.
(Tip : Toadman doesn't wear a mask. Prokiev is quite the strong man, though.)
Toadman : *his face a mess of wires and twisted metal* Give it back, I mean it ! That freakin' hurts !
Ivanov : *puts handcuffs and a limiter on Toadman, turning him back into Regulus* There. Who would've guessed the Comrades housed such a criminal ?
Diveman : *passes nearby, throws an empty bottle* Bah ! He's small time.
Prokiev : You'll have lots of fun with your underworld buddies, Blue Fox. If you can pass the first week.
Ivanov : Everything balances.
From the notes of Dr. Friedrik Long, 25th October, 20XX
Dr. Long : Okay, I want you to look at this. *hands Regulus a Rorschach test*
First interview with Regulus ... he's even more disturbed than I heard (and there were quite the rumors about the Comrades), but I'm optimistic. A success here could build my reputation.
Dr. Long : I want you to look at that and tell me what you see.
He looks absent, with no emotion in his voice and a blank mask for a face. Getting a response is often difficult.
Dr. Long : Can you look at it, Regulus, and tell me what you see ?
Physically, he isn't much outstanding : a basic variation on the Quickman body model. I could stare at him for hours ... except that he stares back. Though he's a cyborg/android, he's more unsettling than the norm.
Nevertheless, I'm convinced I can help him. No problem can't be handled by a psychoanalist, and they say I'm good with people.
I just hope I'm good with robots.
Dr. Long : Well, Regulus ? What do you see ?
Regulus : (A robot dog with its head split in half.) A pretty butterfly.
His responses to the Rorschach tests were surprisingly bright and positive, given his profile. I really think he might be getting better.
I just wish he was more present.
I just wish he wouldn't stare at me this way.
Dr. Long : Let's try another, shall we ?
Nothing much is known about Regulus, though he's wanted in pretty much every nation of the world. He's the rumored leader of Blue Fox, a worldwide arms-dealing organization.
He's in rather good shape, despite the beating he took from the Special Forces : they have a hatred of him ever since the War.
Dr. Long : How about this one ? *hands another test*
The RPD doesn't like him, the underworld hates him, and so far, his teammates seem to have abandonned him. I've never met anyone so alienated. How on Earth did he end like this ?
Regulus : *picks up the test*
Dr. Long : Good. Very good. So, what do you see ?
([[ACCESS CLASSIFIED : You are not allowed to see this flashback of Regulus' childhood.]])
Regulus : Some nice flowers.
Dr. Long : Wonderful. Regulus, I'm really pleased with your answers this afternoon. I really think there's hope for you. Don't you, Reg ?
Regulus : *stares*
Dr. Long : Uhh ... Well, okay, Regulus, that's enough for today. The guards will bring you back to your quarters. I'll see you tomorrow.
(On the way to Reg's quarters.)
Prisonners : Hey ! Hey, Blue Fox ! You're dead, man.
-Yeah, but you're gonna be our bitch first, don't you, Blue Fox ?
-Gonna cut you, sissy...
-You're dead ...
-Uglier without the frog suit...
-(and so on...)
(As you can see, he isn't exactly meeting his fan club.)
Regulus : *smiles*
(Late at night, at Long's house.)
Dr Long's wife : Friedrik ? It's late. Are you done working on that Blue Fox case ?
Dr. Long : Not Blue Fox, Regulus. Blue Fox is an unhealthy identity he adopted by working so long in his business.
Dr Long's wife : He really sounded frightening on the news, what with the War and all. Don't get too involved in this, Fried. It might ruin your good composition.
Dr. Long : Gloria, I'm too fat and happy to have my composition ruined by anything, though some of this stuff, like his actions in the War...
Dr Long's wife : Shh. Leave it for your work. You got a nice life, I got a nice life. Nothing else matters.
Dr. Long : I guess not. It's just that he seems uncaring, and I really feel I can guide him out of it.
Dr Long's wife : Well, if anybody can, I know it's you. You're possibly the nicest and happiest man I know. Now cm'on ... the night is still young.
(The next day...)
Dr. Long : Good morning, Reg. Today, I'd like *yawns* ... Sorry, late night. Today I'd like to do something different, like talking. I'd like to talk about Blue Fox. Will you do that for me, Reg ? Will you tell me about Blue Fox ?
Regulus : You keep calling me Reg. Frankly, I resent that. I don't like you.
Dr. Long : Uhh ... You - you don't like me. Alright. W-why is that ?
Regulus : Well, look at you. Fat. Wealthy. Got it easy in your life. I'll tell you something, doc. I'll tell you about Blue Fox.
My life started real low, you know. As just one of those faces in the crowd. As I grew up, and started my "business", I saw an age of science and wonders, and the way we lost security for a foolish hope. I decided that since Wily and Light couldn't be bothered to make the world a perfect place, I'd do it myself, by becoming more than a man.
I upgraded myself to a machine, bit by bit. I rooted out my competitors, one by one, so that I'd become a major force of the underworld, one not to be messed with. I met friends, and made enemies. From your point of view, nothing could tell them apart. And I agree on that.
The most important thing in my upgrades was when it came to the matter of my head. Self-surgery on one's brain is on my Top 3 things to never try, but nothing stopped me from upgrading my senses. But really, it came down to changing my face into one that would not betray me.
Dr. Long : A face. I see. Reg, I think your experiences have accustomed you to thinking the world is an extension of your line of work. There are good people, like Megaman, or ... or ...
Regulus : Or you ?
Dr. Long : Me ? Oh, well, I wouldn't say that. I ...
Regulus : No, you just think it. You think you're "good people". Why do you spend so much time with me ?
Dr. Long : Well, um, because I care about you, and because you need help...
Regulus : Other people, down in these cells, have behaviors worse than mine. I know. I met them all. You don't spend time with them because they aren't famous. But rehabilitating a Comrade ? Now we're talking.
You don't want to help me. You just want to know what makes me sick. But you'll find out. You will ... *chuckles*
From the notes of Dr. Friedrik Long, October 26th, 20XX :
Of course, what we have here is a case of misdirected aggression. Regulus harbors some kind of self-loathing at associating himself with the underworld elements, so he dedicated his life to rooting them out in an attempt to go after his "utopia". It's perfectly simple. Case solved.
"You'll find out". I wonder what he meant ?
Later : the deputy warden just called. Apparently, Regulus was involved in an incident today, just after our "chat". It happened during lunch, in the canteen...
Thug : Blue Fox... You know that you're pretty famous ... And truth be told, I've been a big fan of your stint with the Comrades.
I know they'll get you out of here in a jiffy, since they don't want their precious new guy to be with the bad boys... *prepares a switchblade* Still, I want to give them a fan letter. Think you can send it to 'em ?
Regulus : *grabs one of the boilers*
Cook : Hey, leave that ! You're not allowed to -
Regulus : *throws the boiler at the thug*
Thug : *screams his lungs out*
Regulus : Ah, groupies. Can't resist the pressure of meeting their idols.
The guards intervened, dragging Regulus away to solitary and his victim to the prison hospital. According to the deputy warden, his burns were horrific. Hot cooking fat ... even for a Mechanoid, that's awful.
As they dragged him away, Blue Fox spoke to the other inmates : "I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me."
My original optimism was proven wrong : he's getting worse. And so do I. What I wrote two lines above should have read : "Regulus spoke to the other inmates".
Regulus. Not Blue Fox.
(As he is writing this down, Dr. Long is making himself another coffee pot.)
Dr Long's wife : Friedrick ? You're never going to sleep with all that coffee.
Dr. Long : Oh, hi, Gloria. Sorry, but this case requires lots of attention. Not gonna sleep soon...
Dr Long's wife : Remember last night, Fried ? When I required your attention ?
Dr. Long : Gloria, please ! This was yesterday ... and besides, it's unfair of you to bring up sex when I need to work.
Dr Long's wife : Huh. Next time, think of all those times you brought up work when I mentioned sex. Good night.
Dr. Long : Wait ! Gloria, what do you mean ? Come back, and we can talk ...
"You're locked up in here with me", he said. He's right. Absolutely right.
(The next day...)
Dr. Long : Alright, Blue F-Alright, Regulus... This afternoon I want to pick up where we left off... You had met business partners, joined the Comrades and...
Regulus : Don't be stupid. I first rounded up my partners, and we formed the Armored Assassins. Despite the potential, we were going soft.
Dr. Long : Soft ? How do you mean ?
Regulus : Being pals with other Teams, fighting cartoony villains ... The works. Not going after the real bad guys.
Dr. Long : Like Wraithman, and other murders. But there is no real record of serious violence before the War...
Regulus : As I said, soft. The War hardened us all. I had met a few of the Cossackers before, but they were all mellow, and happy-go-lucky. Not being in War does that, even to humans. All of us ... me, my friends ... soft.
Dr. Long : You had friends ? Out of the Assassins ?
Regulus : Yup. There goes your "anti-social" theory, eh ? Yeah, I was a regular with some of the Comrades. Particularly ... her. But these were happier times.
The War truly revealed what was in everyone, even those reprogrammed by the Army : they didn't have to play pretend, and didn't care about their camp's morale, since it wasn't an issue. That's when I saw each and every one of these freedom fighters were optimistic fools. Except Diveman.
He was probably the biggest asshole I ever saw in my life, and be sure I met a lot. He knew exactly what mess we were in, and he revelled in it, found his element. He knew the world had gone to hell, and he wanted to spend the remaining of his time getting drunk and beating up the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
He remained an asshole ever after, because he doesn't care about the rules of society. He plays by the rules of mankind's nature : do unto others before they do unto you. Something I had forgotten by playing around with my friends.
But he reminded me of something else : there are things that must be done, even if we're told not to. Particularly so. Even if the authorities tell you otherwise, even if society shuns you. We do these things because we are compelled.
From the notes of Dr. Friedrik Long. October 27th, 20XX :
His last words today were "we do it because we are compelled". But he never says what compels him. His criminal past, shady associates, the War, each of them is a powerful factor in its own right ... but I can't help but feel there's something else. But with these things he experimented, it's even harder convincing him the world isn't as bleak as he imagines.
Bought a gazette on way home, including a small piece about Regulus which the newsvendor pointed at excitedly. Guess he does it to everybody. Apparently, his was a stand regularly attended to by some of the Comrades. The coincidence is trivial, but unsettling.
At home, Gloria seemed anxious to sweeten things after yesterday, and told me she'd invited Sergei and Diana to dinner tomorrow. Was too exhausted to take in all the details. Suggested an early night.
From the notes of Dr. Friedrik Long. October 27th, 20XX :
Today he told me everything. I hope.
Dr. Long : Hello, Blue Fox. How are you today ?
Regulus : Well, in prison. And what about yourself ?
Dr. Long : Uh... fine. Yeah, fine. I thought we'd try some more blot tests. How about taking a look at this one for me ?
Regulus : *takes a "flowers" card* Hm, we did this one already.
Dr. Long : Yes. I know. I ... uh ... think you didn't tell me everything last time. So, tell me what you really see.
Regulus : ... Dog. Robot dog with its head split in half.
Dr. Long : I ... I see. And, uh, w-what do you think split the, uh, dog's head ? In half ?
Regulus : I did. Bastard deserved it.
Zapper. If you remember our previous sessions, I may have mentioned that name. Someone with a worst deal than I got, if you can believe it. She was subject to experiments from a company named "Black Lotus", in order to create the perfect bio-weapon. I ... stumbled on them one day, and decided I'd help a fellow soul in need.
It was difficult at first, getting her not to be scared of the world outside, but we eventually managed to find her a nice cadre of friends : the Comrades. We were happy together, as much as two persons before the War could be.
And then ... it all went to hell. We had all suffered during the War, of course, but the worst part was when Black Lotus suddenly remembered their escaped prototype, and decided to clear up all the loose ends. By all means necessary.
I saw her die, Long. I had come to save her ... and I failed by a second. That's when I lost the best part of my soul. Of course, we ruined Black Lotus' installation, but that's hardly the end of it. One day they shall be wiped off by my hand.
She still lives in me. Blame the weird Team-related business, but part of her mind was downloaded into me when I became Toadman. I like to think she has made me a better man, but mark my words : if I ever find those Black Lotus bastards, they're dead, voice of conscience or not.
Dr. Long : ...
Regulus : That is what life is about, Long. We all go our own ways in the dark, suffering and pretending we're happy. We may share happiness at some point with others, but that is only so that fate separates us when all seems fine, and our pain is the greater.
Some decide to embrace the darkness, and spread pain and suffering. Others, just as deluded, fight for a pretence of justice and freedom. I have been on both sides, and both are wrong. But without the fighting ... we're nothing.
And there you are. Any more questions ?
From the notes of Dr. Friedrik Long, October 28th, 20XX :
Walked home along 40th street. Bought paper. RPD declares that the Comrades, and all of the Cossackers, will be under close examination from now on.
Home : Gloria reminded me that Sergei and Diana were coming tonight. Looked cross when I confessed I'd forgotten. We dressed for dinner in silence.
Dinner didn't go very well.
Sergei : So, Fried, how are things going with this famous Robot Master of yours ?
Diana : Yeah, tell us ! Anything weird or kinky yet ?
Dr. Long : Yes, there is. He mentioned his girlfriend.
Dr Long's wife : Look, maybe this isn't such a good idea right now...
Sergei : Oh, boy ! Was it some random lady of the night he picked off the streets ?
Diana : Oh, Sergei !
Dr. Long : No. She was the result of a bio-weapon project, and was killed by her creators after the War.
Sergei : ... Ha-ha, the stuff they can come up with ! I heard some of them Team people said they came from a doomed future. What imagination !
Diana : Heh, yes ! Or, how about this one who says he's from a parallel dimension ?
We finished the dinner in peace, but I knew there still was some unease.
Before we went to sleep, I looked at the Rorschach blot. I tried to pretend it looked it a spreading tree, with its shadow under, but it didn't. It looked more like a dead cat I found once, maggots eating at it and scurrying away from the light.
But even that is avoiding the real horror.
The horror is this : in the end, it is just a picture of a meaningless black shape. We are alone in the dark.
There is nothing else.