Orchestrated By C.M. Rich (Magnetman)
By Hunter, Regulus, Zymeth
Skull didn’t bother to struggle as Wraith wheeled him down the hallways
on a hand-truck. He was bound in a standing position with copious amounts
of hi-strength wire, keeping most of his body stationary during his
trip through the SA Stronghold. He stared up at the florescent lights
that passed him overhead, a few of which flickered in Wraith’s presence.
He heard his brother speak from behind him.
“Vincent,” He said, “You’ll be undergoing an extensive body modification treatment once we get you to the engineering bay.” Wraith was about to say more when Skull interrupted him.
“Shocking. So you mean they’re going to make me one of the whacked-out freaks that we’ve been facing lately?” Skull asked, snidely.
“Unfortunately, yes.” Wraith replied, somberly. “Psychosis seems to be a key element of all of the SA officers’ transformations, even myself.”
“I’ve already got plenty, thanks.” Skull said, still sarcastic. “And I really appreciate all this, Wraith. I REALLY do.”
“Vincent, this pains me as well.”
“Does it now? You could’ve fooled me, jackass.” Skull spat. Skull felt himself spin around, suddenly completely upright and face-to-face with Wraith.
“Brother, you will be going through a much more extensive process than myself.” Wraith informed, deathly serious. “The pain will be excruciating, and the tax on your sanity great. They’ll be robbing you of what insignificant amounts of humanity remains in our black heart, Vincent.”
“So they’ll be turning a monster into a bigger monster?” Skull asked.
Wraith nodded, “One that serves General Cutman.” And with that Skull was spun around again and they continued on. Skull glared in front of him, thinking. He heard Wraith sigh behind him. “I’m sure there’s a way to change you back after the war is done…” he said.
“Change me back? To the man I am now or the one you grew up with?” Skull asked, as if looking for ways to stab Wraith’s heart even more.
“It does not matter to me. What matters to me now is that we must survive this, and the SA’s modifications are the only sure-fire way to see that end met.” Wraith returned.
Skull thought for a moment before saying, “I’ll agree with that. But what happens if we just become Cutman’s lackeys for all eternity?” Wraith didn’t answer. “So you’re putting your faith in him keeping his word? I figure you of all people would have a hard time swallowing that one, especially when your perfect little world hangs in the balance.”
“I have faith that Cutman’s tyrannical rule, should it come, would be quickly put down.” Wraith said, surprisingly confident.
“But the means to reach your ends, are they worth it?” Skull asked, still trying to sabotage his brother’s resolve.
“I’ll agree that I do not care for his tactics or the means, as you put it. I do however, have faith the human’s passing into the afterlife. They have something to look forward to when they die… or dread, as the case may be.”
“Still on that old tangent are we?” Skull inquired, rhetorically, “Well unlike you, I plan on doing something about the sorry state of the world myself.”
Wraith scoffed, “Your plan is merely to exact the vengeance you so delusionally crave, brother.” Skull’s eyes narrowed into a glare, annoyed. Wraith ignored it and continued moving. “I cannot truthfully say which world I’d dread more, yours or his.”
“My world would be one with hardships, to be sure, but one where at least the wicked would be properly punished…”
“Vincent, you will be chasing these demons forever, won’t you? Surely you must realize that evil cannot exterminate evil.”
“And surely YOU must realize that not everything is so clear cut or black and white.” Skull fired back. Wraith chuckled, defeated.
“You have me there.” He stifled the urge to continue that moral debate, but he realized that this was the last he’d see of his sibling before his nightmarish transformation, where he’d cease to be the same man as he was before. “You know,” He continued, “Back when we were first created, you and I spent a lot of time sitting about the library, arguing over literature and philosophy, hmhmhm.”
This did force a weak chuckle from Skull, “I bet. You know, with all the crap you’ve pulled so far, you’ve made yourself to be quite an enemy, despite all the brotherly crap you’re putting me through. You’re turning into a huge public enemy, especially for CC. I’d watch my back if I were you. Try and philosophize a method around that now.”
Wraith sighed, “I had nothing against the Comrades, Vincent. But I really do not think I’ll have too much worry over them anymore.
Skull tried turning as much as he could. “What?”
Wraith hesitated, “Cossack’s Comrades, save yourself and Rebel, are dead. General Cutman saw to that himself.” Skull’s eyes widened with horror. He was struck speechless for the first time since coming here. “And you would have joined them in the grave if it hadn’t been for my intervention. It was a foolish stance to protect that man…” Still Skull did not answer.
Skull could feel his heart being chipped at by the revelations. They had taken him in despite his many faults and villainous nature. They were the closest thing he had to family, outside his close-knit group of friends. Then he realized that Zapper was among them. “What about Regulus and Regdar?” Skull asked.
“As far as we know, they’re still alive.” Wraith answered. Skull knew that Regulus would be destroyed by her death. Regulus would know exactly what it felt like to be stripped of the one you love, just like Skull himself. A sadistic smile played at the edges of his mouth under his helmet, but his heart sank at the thought of taking such glee in Regulus’s misery. He couldn’t help it, however. It was his nature, a nature which he knew would only worsen as his SA Upgrades were installed.
Suddenly Skull was propped upright again, this time inside the engineering bay. Several SA engineers were going about their work, prepping a bench for him. Wraith put his hand on Skull’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry…” He said, honestly. Skull was too distracted by his own thoughts to be touched, however. “I’ll come check up on you every so often, and I’ll bring you the news of your friends’ fate if it comes. Perhaps it is of… some comfort to you that they all died fighting.” Wraith turned and left as soon as his sentence was finished, and the SA Engineers went about their work untying Skull.
Skull felt his binds go slack, and the Engineers caught him by his arms to support his limp body. He was still lost in thought. His conflicting thoughts began eating at his mind. And, he thought, General Cutman was the root of all of them. He had lost everything in his first chance at life, and now it was all being repeated, and he was loosing his last chance at creating the dream world that he promised Katrina and himself. He was slowly loosing his chance at vengeance. Reality snapped back and Skull realized he was being dragged to the table.
The Engineer to his right soared through the air as, in his rage, Skull batted him away. The two holding his other arm clung to it for dear life as he swung another punch to the fourth, carrying the two Engineers with it. As those two’s feet touched the ground after his punch, sending the fourth one clattering into the table, they did their best to hold him steady. They slid across the floor as he yanked back, trying to free himself. Finally, a fifth Engineer delivered a nasty shock to his back, inciting a scream from him and causing him to fall limp once again.
They heaved his frame onto the table, shackling him down. He struggled to keep his eyes open as they fastened his new restraints. His body finally shook off the stunning effects of the shock just in time to find that he was immobilized again. One of the Engineers, carrying a good-sized dent from his punch, stared down at him, almost malevolently. The Engineers began readying the tools of their trade, and he could only watch in horror. His whole world was coming crashing down around him. “Katrina…”
Wraith screamed and wailed in agony. Cutman tore him apart alive,
like a sick autopsy. This was his punishment for abandoning the battle
and for attending to his personal whims. Wraith thrashed slightly but
his binds held him to the table on which he was lying. Finally he could
no longer remove as he continued to be dismantled. It went on for what
seemed to be days. Still, he refused to apologize for his actions.
The reconstruction process was almost as, if not just as painful. His Dark Energy generator was the only thing left untouched, as its danger to those handling it were far to great for the General to want to deal with. Wraith felt his chestplate snap back into place and his eyes flung open. He flung himself to the side, clattering with the floor. Every portion of his whole body was in searing pain, and he curled up on the floor in agony. He felt a boot hit his back, sending him sprawling.
“Now, then, Wraith. You’re a smart guy. I’m sure you’ve learned from this little venture. Haven’t we.” Wraith just laid there, unmoving. “I’ll assume you’re too enthralled by your newfound humbleness to respond. I’ll let your mind wander around today’s lesson for a while.” Wraith heard the General’s footsteps fade out, leaving him alone.
He struggled to his feet and limped weakly to his quarters, passing several officers who obviously cared not for his plight. He struggled into his door and collapsed on the bench in his quarters. He struggled to stifle a scream that he caught in his throat. He figured he’d never be able to make it to Hell.
Wraith stared into the abyss of one of his blank walls, dominated by a sole crucifix. Wraith had been tempted by Cutman’s promise of a Utopia for his own kind, and its seizure from those beings Wraith envied so much. He tried to clench his fists but he just couldn’t do it. He was beginning to have doubts about all of this. It seemed that the man who promised paradise was merely dredging up more Hell.
It seemed as though he was tempted by the Devil, who quoted scripture for his own purposes. He knew that a man like him could not rule a real paradise. There could be no paradise created by these means. A world made by war cannot exist without it, and Wraith’s happy life would forever be in jeopardy, if of course it ever came.
Wraith thought about all the innocents of the world. Innocents like his “cousin”, Zapper, who died horribly at the hands of Cutman himself. She was also made by Black Lotus Co., though in a different experiment. He thought of his brother, Zymeth, who was to be horribly mutilated at the hands of the same man. It was better than him being butchered by him, Wraith supposed. The guilt started to fade, somewhat. But the problem remained.
Wraith was in too deep now. He couldn’t abandon the SA now. Where would he go? There was no place for him to hide. All he could do is pray that, perhaps the SA may be defeated by some miracle. Wraith’s eyes snapped open. He heaved himself from the bench and to his knees, bringing his hands together before him. He began praying with all his might.
“Lord… please take pity unto your humble servant… Please, give thy blessings to those who oppose us… Give thy children a chance to save themselves. Please, let not this demon conquer with his fire and brimstone. Let not this Antichrist succeed. Give thy servants the strength to sever his many heads. If he is to eradicate the living, and the Apocalypse is upon us, let the creations of your creations find the strength to quench the fires in its wake. Please, oh Lord… I must beg you… show us your sympathy, and your love…”
Wraith let out a long sigh, and heaved himself onto his bench in a sitting posture. He sighed and figured he’d continue on his course. There wasn’t much choice in the matter. Suddenly he heard a clicking noise. He jumped up and his limbs all cried with pain. He looked for the offending noise when he began to hear something. He looked behind him to hear a muffled song coming from the shelf behind him. All of his brother’s most prized possessions were strewn about it, saved from the destruction of the Citadel by him personally.
He opened the lid to find it playing. Wraith pondered how it was possible, and figured perhaps it had been playing a while and was activated before he reported for his punishment when he set it down. He thought of his brother, who was no doubt tied down and awaiting his procedure. Wraith knew Skull’s procedure didn’t begin until the next day, and decided it would definitely lighten his sibling’s torrential heart as its tune often helped him sleep. However, the box itself needed to stay put, as it was fragile and sentimental, not a good combination in the SA headquarters.
Wraith limped along the hallways, carrying his massive ebony piano with him. His fellow officers didn’t pay him too much mind, as he often relocated it to find a location with better acoustics. They were all more-or-less accustomed to his occasional piano playing. He parked it in the mostly empty room, or as many officers referred to it a “hangin’ out spot”, near Skull’s current location. His limbs still ached horribly, but he decided it’d do his healing process good to keep himself busy with his music.
Skull was strapped down on the table, anxiously. He was immobile and bound uncomfortable, and in horrible grief due to the recent news of CC’s demise. His mind was swirling with conflicting emotions. His eyes welled with both tears of grief and sheer anger. Suddenly Skull heard music from the background. It was the same song that Katrina had picked out for him for their music box. Skull’s struggling began to slow down. A few SA mechanics began gathering around him, examining him to prepare themselves for his upgrade process. Despite his fear, hatred, and guilt, Skull could almost feel his eyelids becoming heavy. Their image faded as his eyes closed, lulled to sleep by the melody and fatigue. Of course, he wouldn’t remain that way for long, but at least he was at peace until the next day.
Wraith continued playing, and the pain in his limbs slowly began fading. They didn’t disappear, but his productiveness made him more resistant to the pain. His own eyes closed as he searched for ways to make him feel better about his cause. He thought about the potential good that could come from it, and the world that he and his brother could create, with the help of others of course. He thought of getting Vincent’s mind fixed, and return him to the same man he was before he inherited his namesake’s memories. He thought of living a happy life, if he played his cards right, and never needing to worry about finding that horrible, endless nothingness that he thought awaited him in the afterlife. A small chuckle escaped him as he continued playing. He figured that this could be solved in due time.
--------------------Sedulus's hands skillfully swept over the many rows of organ keys on the massive instrument he had set up in his room. He had caught a lot of questions about how he had moved it into his room, as the door was hardly large enough to fit even half of the massive pipe organ. Sedulus would smile, as always, and simply state, "There is a logical explanation to the appearance of this large instrument in such confined quarters, however, I do not wish to waste time in detailing such a trivial procedure."
"The General was extremely
kind to Cossack. After all, didn't he remove a great weight off Sergeï's
The two other Officers present in the room chuckled at my weak joke. It wasn't very good -I'm not that much of an humorist-, but we've all been in rough times because of the Cossackers.
Mysteryman suffered two defeats from their hands : the humiliation by Blizzardman in Monsteropolis, and the debacle in Saint-Petersburg, caused by the Comrades. For Ballade and us, Murmanks's fiasco was because of the Assassins, for a big part.
I poured three glasses, and my comrades took theirs. We raised them, and I spoke in a strong voice :
"To the memory of Cossack, a valiant enemy who gave us more of a challenge than we expected.
As we drank, I thought back on our victory. Even if I was "off" by the time the Castle got destroyed, the General seemed happy to the lot of us Officers : he even allowed the Mercs to be repaired in our personnal repair bays, up in the Marauder.
Mysteryman put his glass back on the desk. "I'm sure there's another reason you invited me than drinking to Cossack's memory, Quint."
"You reason well, Mystery." I answered. "The General wants to be done once and for all with the Cossackers. I called you, because you seem to know very well of one of their leaders."
He nodded. "Yeah. Astroman's an old acquaintance. And you ?"
Ballade spoke up - a rare event. "Jupiter was in our ranks."
"And I share some ... fraternal relationship with Searchman." Ballade and Mystery looked confused. "Anyways, I want to ask you : Astroman's still alive. What will he do now ?"
He thought for a few minutes. "I think ... he'll carry on fighting. He was a long-time friend of Cossack, and will continue in his memory. How about your "colleagues" ?"
"Jupiter was sent in the war because of our intervention. He lost at least two teammates to the SA. We're unsure of his decisions." Ballade at her best : concise and to the point.
"Now, for Searchman ..."
Before I carried on, Mystery raised a hand. "Wait. Didn't you blast him real good ?"
"Alas, Cossackers don't know how to stay dead : look at Blizzardman, for instance. I really think Searchman will soon be back on his feet.
"Anyways, since he still has some grudge against me, he won't give up fighting. I don't know what the other Impacters will do, though."
Mysteryman sneered. "A group of stray dogs, as I see. We won't have much problem crushing them."
"Except that we don't know where they are for now. Thanks for your help, Mysteryman." I said as I followed him to the door.
Once it was closed, I turned to Ballade. She knew very well of my thought pattern. "The Cossackers still have a base."
"You're right, Kayorei. But a small point bugs me : even if it's near Monsteropolis, as Searchman mentionned it a few times to me, neither the RPD nor the SA have found it. That's strange."
"A very good security, then. Or some cloaking device."
I nodded. "This could be the answer. I guess some of our prisonners of war have a suitable explanation..."
I smiled at the idea of crushing what was left of those commie fighters once and for all. If the fight to the Citadel went well, I just knew who I'd have to ask to...