Posts Tagged ‘Dead Metal’

“Heal you?”  she asked.

“Yes. Heal me,”  I replied.  “Look at me.  I’m charred.”  I tried my hardest to emphasise how badly wounded I was.  I’m not sure if it worked, my vision was getting hazy now.

God, if I die before I even get a chance to finish…

Sacrifice shook her head.  “Sorry.”

“Sorry?”  I asked a little weakly.

“I can only return you to your peak, and only if I have a memory of you,”  she said.

Dead Metal shifted, or there was movement in the blotchy area that she stood.  The fact that Samantha’s power considered the Sacrifice from the Hunting Party as ‘Peak’ was  a huge part of the discomfort.

It was for me at least.

“Don’t care,”  I replied.  “Do something.”

“Look, I don’t even know you,”  Sacrifice complained.  “You might be a vil-”

“I’m dying here,”  I said, a little louder than I could manage.  “Please?”

I winced as pain raked my neck again.  I felt pretty pathetic, talking loudly hurt me, and I couldn’t afford to lose any concentration at all.

Sacrifice stood for a few moments and finally moved over to me.

“Okay… I’ll help.”

Thank god.

“Your peak is how I remember you, so I can’t remove the burns,”  she said,  “but I can stabilize you instead.  You’ll have to look elsewhere for further aid.”

She placed her hands on me, and I quickly drifted off.

 

***

 

I was drowning in bliss.  My clothing stuck to me and my skin felt pure rejuvenation.

“-ty people died because of that form-”

The world was blurry, and I floated in the liquid as it filled my lungs.  Strangely, I wasn’t drowning at all.  Strange.

“-an’t remember any of th-”

People were talking outside of my…  Room?  Womb?  Cage?  It was most likely the Hunting Party and Event Horizon.   What were they arguing about?

Why was I in this anyway? Did Taker do something already?

“If you-”

I moved a little, reaching out.  Was it me they were arguing over?  It didn’t matter, they were getting louder.  That wasn’t good at all.

“-ow could you remo-”

The walls were too hard.  I couldn’t break free with my hands.  I needed help to escape.  I swam to he edge where everyone was, maybe they’d help if they saw me?

“-don’t kno-”

I banged over and over.  No use.  The liquid surrounding me was too thick, the membrane holding me and the liquid in was too elastic.

The talking stopped and somebody acted, coming over.  The membrane was cut and I was forced out with the liquid.  I couldn’t see straight, opting to cough out the liquid in my lungs.

Nobody moved, they just waited me to finish and get my bearings.

I got of my knees and saw Sacrifice.  There was two people I didn’t recognize.

The ground, the walls, the ceiling… it was weird.  Alien.

The taller figure leaned in close.  He was completely black and had a cane in his hand.  “Are you feeling better, my boy?”

I nodded, and then looked up at him.  “Thanks, but…  Who are you?”

There was a telling silence.  I started casting my powers through the area, making it safe.  It may have been to late, but it was a good idea anyway.  The ground started turning to normal.

“Ah,”  the man in black said, stepping back.  “t seems your memories have had an alteration.”

He turned to Sacrifice.  “See? Amnesia.”

I got onto my feet.

“Amnesia?”  I asked.

“Well, some form of it.”

What?  What does he mean?

I turned to Sacrifice.  She looked very different than usual.  Her pose was… reserved.  She was upset about something, but it wasn’t something she could solve easily.  Like the Taker thing.  She needs my help to fight Taker, right?

“Sacrifice?”

She turned away.

“Christ.  I-I killed people.”

I didn’t get it.  Why is she upset about what she did before?  She wasn’t remorseful before we enter…

Wait.  Why was I in that vat anyway?

The man in the black costume changed the subject.

“Okay,”  he said.  “Here is the story.  You both have amnesia, because you,”  he pointed at Sacrifice “Give people a form of it when you heal them.”

He pointed at me.  “You are an unfortunate victim turned into a hero.”

He pointed as Sacrifice. “Former vigilante tricked into being a monster from a psychic.”

I wanted to say I understood, but I didn’t.

How long had passed? Did we beat Taker? What about Event Horizon or Ellen or Maxine and Derek?  What happened during the war with Texas?

Sacrifice wasn’t going to tell me, it’s implied she can’t even remember me or what she did to me.  What she did to my friends.

“Dammit,”  I murmured while moving my hand through my hair.  “I can’t stand this.”

I meant that.  The last valid thing I remember was reaching the final doors, ready to kill the king of Texas and stop Taker.  Now I’m here, with a sacrifice who doesn’t remember me or what she did and two strangers.

Why the hell is this place a wreck anyway?

I turned to the adult and child.

“Who the hell are you anyway?”

The black man took a moment to look at me and bowed.

“My deepest apologies,”  he said.  “I am Nightmare.  My friend here is Dead Metal.”

He pointed to the girl in the metal mask.

“We came here to meet you in person.  Our boss has heard about you and took an interest.  He is actually arriving here in a few minutes to greet you in person.”

Sacrifice looked up from the ground where she sat.  “Boss?”

“Yes.  You know him as Biohazard.”

That wasn’t good at all.  He shouldn’t be moving.  He never moves.  This place – even if it is fucked up with the walls made of skin and the smell – is not in Biohazard’s territory.

“H-He left his park?”  I stammered.  Sacrifice glanced at me.  She didn’t know, did she?  She didn’t know the monster she and her gang made years ago.

“Why he is indeed,”  smiled Nightmare deceptively.  “He has an interest in you and… her.”

As Nightmare all but snarled at Sacrifice I started casting my power as wide and as fast I could.  Biohazard was coming.

 

 

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Samantha was here.  She was safe.  Well, safe as her power allowed her, anyway.  There was still the issue of escaping and the more pressing issue of calming her down, but everything was perfect.

Now, to find a staircase.

I turned to the Fingerface.

“Any stairs?”  I asked.

The Fingerface walked past me, towards the area covered in fire and ice.

I followed it and after a brief pause to look at each other, so did Nightmare and Dead Metal.

The staircase up was made of mostly bone rather than flesh.  It was a clear attempt to maintain some form of structural integrity as Samantha’s power spread throughout the area.

Dead Metal ran ahead up the stairs, leaving me and Nightmare alone.

Climbing it was… painful.  My burns were still fresh and exhaustion kicked in halfway up the stairs.  Thank god for railings, I mused.

I limped up the second half of the stairway, holding down a desperate need to cry as Nightmare aided me for the last few steps by propping my bad arm over his shoulder.

It was a slow,

Dead Metal was standing at the top of the steps.

She spoke her first words in my company.  “It’s her.”

I could feel the contempt dripping off her as she said that.  Nightmare gave a quizzical look.

“Are you sure?”

We reached the last step.

“I know.  She looks exactly like she did that year.  Sacrifice, the bitch.”

I gulped a little, and Nightmare looked at me like I’d insulted him.

“That’s the girl you were after?”

He got out from under my arm and stepped back.  I gripped the railing a little tighter.  I could see the thoughts running through his head.  Kill her.  Kill her and kill him, too.  The silence was thick.

“Just do it, Nightmare.”  Taker said gently into his ear.  “Go on.”

Taker wasn’t real.  He’s busy, safe and happy after putting me through hell.

“Just push him down the stairs and finish her off,”  he sneered.  “After all, she ruined everything.”

I closed my eyes and took a breath.

“Taker was the leader, not Sacrifice.”

Dead Metal took a step forwards, but Nightmare stopped her with his cane.

“Explain,” he said, anger seeping into his tone.

I did.  I explained the three years, what Sacrifice told me, what Taker could do, what he did do.  What he did to Sacrifice.

He didn’t say anything until I finished.

“Ryan, my boy.”

I looked at him.

“If Sacrifice is supposedly fine,”  he said, stepping to the side.  “Why is she dressed like that?”

Samantha walked around the corner, slowly.  Naked, covered in blood.  The goat skull mask was affixed to her head again.

Even the pose was reminiscent of Sacrifice.  Samantha was always on edge, worried.  Expecting the worst.

Sacrifice didn’t worry at all.  She relished her own presence, trusting her powers.

Apparently, she had fine control of bodily fluids.  Blood, sweat, hormones…  even the fluid within the cells themselves.  She could reinforce herself to ignore a stab wound or break bones with ease, or alter hormones to induce sleep.  Luckily, she needed physical contact to alter the fluids of others.

She took a step forwards and reached her hand out to me, ignoring Nightmare and Dead Metal entirely.

“Samantha?”

Sacrifice stopped and lowered her hand for just a moment.  I internally breathed a sigh of relief.

Then she lept at me.

She hit like a truck, winding me and sending the both of us down the stairs.  I still held the railings; they snapped off.  It didn’t matter since the pain of impacting the ground made me drop the bone railing anyway.

Nightmare and Dead Metal moved to follow us, but Sacrifice turned and literally snarled at both of them.  They stopped in their tracks two steps down and backed away.

She turned to me.

“H-hey Samantha,”  I stammered.  “It’s me, Ry-”

“Shut up,”  she answered.

I sighed in frustration as she stared at me.  Stared through me.

“How do you know my name?”  She asked.

“You told me.”

“Where am I?”

“An asylum for people who don’t have a handle on their powers and their sanity.”

She took a second to think.  “That figures.  What about my powers?”

“Because you had a re-awakening,”  I replied, pausing to catch my breath.  “Several.”

“Several?”

“Twelve.”

She got up, still sitting on top of me.  “Twelve?”

I nodded as much as I could.  “Twelve,”  I assured.

“How?”

“You don’t remember?”

“I don’t.”

That was a dangerous answer for me.  Up until the war with Texas Sacrifice was firmly on the side of ‘sociopathic serial killer’, even if it was because of Taker’s influence.  Worst case, she remembers Norfolk and nothing after. Best case?  She remembers the war.  Anything before Norfolk? Almost as bad.

“Do you remember the war?”  I asked.

“What war?”

“The Kingmaker war.”

“Congo?”

“No,”  I paused.  “Texas.”

She turned up to Dead Metal and Nightmare, then back at me.  They didn’t move from the top of the stairs, mixed between looking for an escape from Sacrifice and wanting to listen to my conversation with her.

“I don’t remember that.”

I took the plunge.  “W-what do you remember?”

She didn’t say.  I could understand that, there was a real reason not to trust me.

“It’s May,”  I said.  “2015.  What date do you remember?”

“19… 1997.”

A gap of roughly eighteen years separated me and Sacrifice.  Me and Samantha.  I felt a pang of sadness, then my side flared up.  Sacrifice quickly got off me.

She turned to Nightmare and Dead Metal.

“What the hell are you waiting for, help me help hi-”

“Murderer,”  Dead Metal called out.

Sacrifice looked taken aback.

“…What?”

“You murdered people all the way up to 2012, Sacrifice.”

Oh, I see.  Her group never formed until 1999.  In her current state, the Hunting Party doesn’t exist to her knowledge.  That’s slightly better than what I feared.  Still, Nightmare and Dead Metal have a serious grudge with Sacrifice.  Victims?  Probably.

Sacrifice alternated between looking at Dead Metal, Nightmare and me.

“I…  I what?”

“Before we go through the history you’ve somehow forgotten,”  I interrupted.  “Can you heal me first?”

 

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Nightmare was constantly prodding at my awareness, trying to keep me lucid.  It was helping me more than I would like to admit.

Then again I was almost paralysed with pain and possibly dying so I had no real reason to complain about the guy making sure I wasn’t going to fall into a coma, or worse.

The hallway was changing as we progressed down it, occasionally breaking down a wall or two.  The face worked as a shield and protected us from the debris that came down as we essentially ploughed through a building.

“Hold on, we have some disturbance here.”

I moved a little to try and see ahead of us from behind the shield and regretted it instantly.  It was apparent that my burned skin did not like to even have a gentle breeze over it.

I winced and moved to hold my side but stopped.  I could see the disturbance.

The hallway condensed a little as a small but obvious black pinprick hovered in the air, creating a clear event horizon around it that blocked the hall.  It looked like a wormhole.

“Dead Metal, be prepared to back up,”  Nightmare said.  He dropped his act and was more focused now, even his voice was a little changed.  “I don’t like the look of that thing.  We’ll have to go around and hope it isn’t hostile.”

Just before our ride reversed the wormhole un-collapsed and an almost entirely black silhouette of a man unfolded so that he was standing in the hallway.  He wasn’t entirely black, as he looked more like an empty spot in the world.  He had stars and galaxies cover him in the way the sky would be covered, and as I moved my head, wincing I could see that the stars changed depending on his position.  He was what I would be looking at if the earth and the sky wasn’t there, a living window into space.

Nightmare grunted in irritation.  “Dead Metal?”

Wordlessly, Dead Metal fired something at the Wormhole making man before us.  He recollapsed and took the hit in his black hole form, then decompressed.  The rocket was growing smaller inside him.  I smirked internally, I was right to assume he was a wormhole.

He charged right at us.

“Back up, back up!”

Dead Metal followed Nightmare’s order and moved into reverse immediately, stopping the patient from closing the gap as he tried to approach.

It was no use.  We were losing the ground we covered.  I tugged on Nightmare’s shoulder.

“I’ll counter him,”  I said weakly, at the limits of staying awake.

Nightmare looked at me, studying my resolve with a gaze.  Whatever face I was making was good enough, because he nodded.

“Dead Metal, Stop.  Our new friend would like to aid us on our quest.”

The vehicle stopped, and the patient who I’ve dubbed Wormhole followed. He cocked his head to the side and shrunk down, pulling pebbles of rubble into himself.

I slowly hopped off and limped to Wormhole.  I knew his power, he was functioning as a one way trip to outer space.  One that I wasn’t going on.

I reached my range and the Wormhole folded in on itself before vanishing.  No distortion of light, no nothing.  Wormhole was gone as soon as I walked towards him.

A brief thought of an absolutely normal person floating in the middle of space flashed in my mind, and I nearly fell over.

Nightmare caught me.

“That was interesting, pray tell us how you were able to defeat such a man without touching him?”

“I stop powers from… From working,” I explained, my breathing even heavier.

Nightmare nodded and dragged me back  onto Dead Metal’s vehicle.  I wondered why there aren’t any seats since I was essentially laying on the top of the hood of a very, very small tank.

And it was very, very painful.  Every jolt, every bit of rubble we drove over and every wall we crashed into was distracting.

Now that I thought about it, this facility was improbably large for psychiatric uses, even if many of the patients had powers.

“It’s taking a while,”  I said to Nightmare.  He nodded at that, glad that I’m making an effort to stay awake.

“This building has a unique feature dwelling within it’s walls,”  he said.  “It is larger than it appears.”

“I guess it has to be, with people like Wendigo,”  I paused for breath. “And the Wormhole guy back there.”

“Indeed, my boy.”

We got closer to Samantha.  The walls were fading into a skin like colour, the sharpness of the corners disappearing.  An eye opened up on the ceiling, looking at us as we drove by.

Even the cells and doors changed, exactly like last time.  The rooms filled with stomach acid, trying to digest the occupants.

The only problem was that most of the occupants were trained for this and the rest had powers.  We stopped again.

The ground became too soft, too fleshy.  We were caught in a puddle of blood, piss and flesh.  The tracks only ripped away more skin at the ground and let it bleed even more.

“Unfortunate,”  grumbled Nightmare.  “Dead Metal, this ground is too dangerous, we-”

“It’s safe-ish,”  I said, stumbling of and yelling in pain on my soft landing.  “Fuck!  It’s fine.  Samantha’s doing this.”

“I see,”  replied Nightmare, walking around the vehicle.  Dead Metal popped out of the hatch.  “I can see why she could help your predicament, with this… power.”

That, and if I was going to die, I want to at least say goodbye to somebody.  I’d have chosen Michael or Ricky or Derek or Maxine any day, or even Ellen if she wasn’t…

Right now, I only have Samantha.

I was braced against Nightmare, struggling down the putrid halls.  I could see fights of all types and hear them.  The rumbling and burning of flesh, Wendigo laughing as he snuck down a hallway, freezing three guards who had guns levelled at him.  The last one tried to get out the way too late and his foot broke off with the momentum.  He fell like a statue.

Luckily, Wendigo was too obsessed over his own art to notice us, and turned into the corner behind the three guards.

Metal spikes erupted from the floor, puncturing a converted pipe that began to leak fecal matter.

“C’est -”  Nightmare muttered something but I didn’t quite catch it.  It sounded foreign.  French?

It didn’t matter.  He picked up the pace as we got to more patients and guards.  This time it was one former patient protecting a few guards from a second.

The second patient walked away without a fight once one of the guards stepped forwards.  Lovecraft.

Now that I think about it, Lovecraft wasn’t a common name at all.  Was she a metahuman, too?

“So any clue on your friends location?”  asked Nightmare.

“She was in her cell last time,”  I said, grunting as I stepped into a softer bit of the flesh floor.  “She’ll be in one this time too.  Suspended in a cocoon.”

Nightmare nodded.  “Dead Metal, Check the cel-”

“No,”  I blurted out.  “She makes things, traps.  bone spike pits, drowning pits, even guards.  I’ll guide you.”

Dead Metal looked up at Nightmare, then me.  An unspoken agreement was made and Nightmare dragged me to the cells from the hallway.

We took a pause every two or three cells to look around for anyone who would attack us – be it the staff or the numerous powered and clearly insane patients – as we progressed from cell to cell.  We eventually saw our first womb room.

Dead Metal stepped forwards.

“Be careful,”  I said, making her pause mid step.  “She makes guards.”

Just as she was about to resume I saw Firespitter run around the corner, screaming.  He was back up.

Nightmare gracefully swerved us out of the way as he fired a flaming ball of liquid at us from his trunk.  It went wide and I turned to look at what he fired at.

Two Fingerfaces stood nearby.  Dammit.

“Nightmare, let me go!”

He complied, and charged Firespitter before stopping.  A wall of icicles sprouted from the ground.

Wendigo must have been Firespitter’s ally.  No wonder he left me for dead, I thought.

One of the Fingerfaces charged, pointing with many indexes, middles and rings.  I was weaker than last time; I didn’t have a knife.

Still, I had to fight.  Hands outreached, no less than fifty small fingers stretched like tentacles of a squid.  I stepped to the side, grabbed at the shoulder and put my foot out.

Momentum guided it into the door.  A door that was lined with spiked of bone, leaning outwards.

The second Fingerface wasn’t as stupid, and tackled me as the first died.  I landed on my good side, but it hit me in my burned hip.

I screamed out and punched its head repeatedly.  Four, five, six times.  No use.

I shot a brief glance up.

Wendigo and Firespitter were a team with surprising synergy.  They created impassible terrain each time they attacked anyone and missed, they always created splash damage, and most importantly, they were able to fire nearly constantly together.  They did so perfectly.  Wendigo freezing ground, launching icicles.  Firespitter lobbing balls of flame, burning the flesh on the ground.

Nightmare and Dead Metal were already separated, with Firespitter and Wendigo creating a deep gash of fire and ice in the middle of the hallway.

That’s when the Belching Screamer threw up over them from an upper walkway.

I could hear the anger from Firespitter, covered in something that was purely rancid.  “Dammit.”

He wiped some off of his clothes with his hand.  Then he saw that it was eating through the cloth.

“Wendigo, Freeze me!”

Wendigo turned and Nightmare tackled him down in the short time he exposed himself.  Firespitter shot a blast out as Nightmare tumbled, holding onto Wendigo.  Wendigo took the brunt of the blast.

Nightmare then kicked Wendigo back as a maw opened in the few unburned and unfrozen patches of floor.  It ate Wendigo as he stumbled, then froze.

Firespitter was already gone by the time I turned to look at him.  His clothing was discarded, burning from chemicals.

“This reminds me of our employer,”  remarked Nightmare, patting out a small singe in his clothing as he stood up and walked over to me.

The Fingerface stopped moving and was mostly limp now, but it still held onto me and I struggled to shove it off.

“Dammit,”  I muttered.  “I’m here for Samantha.”

It looked up.

A second later it let go and got up.

“Where is she?” I asked.

It pointed at where the Belching Screamer was.

Okay.  She was on the second floor.

I could meet her.  Then I can deal with Trauma.

 

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11 | 3 : Machine

Posted: 11/27/2014 in Machine
Tags: , , ,

If I didn’t get out of this hunk of Ice, I’ll die.  I knew that.  The frozen flames affixed me to the spot, and I coud barely move at all, however.  A part of me curses my lack of thinking.  I should have gotten up and away instead of letting Firespitter attack, even if I thought I knew how his powers worked.

Still, I have priorities right now.

“W-Wendig-go?”

“Yes?” he answered.

“I’m just-t if you c-could f-f-free me?” I asked him.  I think I lost a few words and my teeth were chattering like crazy, but I think he got the message.

He pondered the request for a few moments, then walked around behind me.  I was freezing, and in pain.  The fires that thoroughly wrapped themselves around my body were frozen solid and my burns were being licked by ice.

“No, you look fine where you are, American boy.”

God damn it.

He walked off and as soon as he was out of range of my hearing (which I admit wasn’t clear due to all the rumbling and scraping of metal) I redoubled my efforts to not freeze to death.

No use.  My only hope was somebody less crazy decided to help me, which was unlikely with the emptyness of the hallway.  Just me and Wiles.

The metal sound grew louder to deafening levels, prompting a moment of panic.  I imagined a giant monster of metal rampaging down the hall, shattering Wiles’ corpse and crushing me with the ice.

I could hear the thumping grow louder, and a metallic roar.  I closed my eyes as the walls broke apart under the force of something not at all human.

***

The ice around me was broken, but I lived.  I was actually laying down, and a combination of a human face and a small tank made from scrap looked at me.

“We came to pick you up instead, since you were unable to contact us.”

The voice of my saviour walked out from behind the vehicle and looked at me.  He was dressed in all black. Black cloak, black shoes, black trousers, black mask, black hat.  Even the cane in his right hand was black.

Corvus,  I thought.  He looked exactly like him, but without the bird theme.

I nearly threw up.

“Hey,”  he said, running over to me.   “Are you alright? You seemed to have a close encounter with two nasty extremes, my boy.”

I waved him off with my right arm and grimaced as the pain came back.

“Let go!”  I said.

The man in black took a step back.

I asked two questions.  “Who are you?  Why are you after me?”

The man and black took a bow, removing his top hat and giving an exaggerated bow.

“I am known and revered as the mighty and powerful Nightmare, my boy,”  he said.  I shot him a look that was a mix of ‘that’s not a name anyone good would use’ and ‘why do I attract the people who go all out with the crazy’.

“Fret not!  I am here to assist you!”

I held out a hand.  I needed an ally right now,  and Sacrifice was probably pre-occupied with both the guards and other patients until I can find her.  That, and the only patients I’ve seen so far have been hostile. One tried to kill me and another left me for dead.

Nightmare took it and pulled me up, painfully.

“You seem hurt, dear boy.”

“For a friend, you don’t use names much,”  I said as I limped towards the vehicle.  “You never even asked m- ahh.”

Pain from my body didn’t even let me finish my sentence.  I keeled over and grabbed the metal face with my good hand, shaking in agony.

“Dead Metal, we need to take the boy and find someone who can procure medical assistance!”

A hatch on the vehicle opened up and a young girl clawed her way out.  She was wearing a dress that was stained with oil and grease.

It hit me.  These two are from the nightmare I had.

Dead Metal looked at me from her metal mask that covered her face.  The mask itself had the appearance of an older, more feminine woman.

Nightmare picked me up by my good side.

“Anything you wish to do before we leave?”

This was it.  I could see Samantha.

“There’s a friend here,”  I panted out.  “Want to see her.”

Nightmare nodded as Dead Metal jumped back into the vehicle, and after her hatch closed it began to move again, tearing through walls like they were paper as it turned and drove down the hallway.

The same direction as Wendigo ran, I noticed.

“There is a lot of regenerative and organic based power holders this way, my boy.”

I didn’t want to talk, I was in too much pain from being both burned and frozen in the span of a minute.  I wonder if any of the guards had those two patients attack them?

No.  It’s not working.

I groaned as the vehicle jolted, irritating my burned side, and by irritating I mean agonizing.  I seriously was going to die soon without medical help.

Nightmare thankfully noticed my situation as we rode the vehicle, protected by the giant metal face acting as a shield.  “Stay awake and talk to me, boy.”

“There’s a person,”  I mumbled.  “Samantha, she’ll help.”

“Are you sure?  I don’t want you to die without seeing your friend because you thought somebody can heal you,”  Nightmare said with obvious concern.

“The healer…”  I paused to catch a shallow breath.  “…my friend.”

Nightmare gave a curious look, before getting it.  “I see.  And your friend’s other name, perhaps?”

I didn’t want to say.  He wouldn’t understand that Sacrifice was good now, or at least trying.  She wasn’t evil from the start, it was all Taker’s fault.  He manipulated her, and the rest into thinking it was their idea.  He used his powers to control them like puppets, to do everything while he sat on the sidelines and saw her worm her way into a worse and worse fate, and then when he found the chance he spent three years getting slow and painful revenge on her every day for some perceived slight.

“… I can’t say.”

Nightmare nodded.  “I understand.  She didn’t get one.”

I was about to correct him, but I didn’t.  I just hoped that he wasn’t going to get mad.

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“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about this?”  asked Dr. Meadows.

She was my shrink.  I only went because these meeting are mandatory.  It’s been a five days since I returned from the Kingdom of New Austin and this is my second meeting.

She sat across the table, legs crossed and two glasses of water in the middle.  She was giving me an inspection from her relaxed posture, her blue eyes scanning every minute reaction I had.

“I’m sure,” I replied.  “I can handle it.”

“Samantha can’t,”  she retorted firmly.  “You said she needs your help, I think you are unqualified.”

“I’m not,”  I responded, emphasising my disagreement.  “I can help her.”

“Like you could have helped Ellen?”

Those words hit me like a punch to the gut.

“…Not like that.  I wa-“

“You were wrong, Ryan,”  Meadows interrupted.  “We can help her more than you can.  Trust us.  Trust me.”

I couldn’t trust her, or I didn’t want to deep down.  I wanted to keep Samantha safe.  I could do that at the very least.

“I don’t want to.  I think s-  I think she’s gone throug-“

“Ryan, this isn’t about what happened or what crimes she committed,”  she tried to reassure.  “Things are different now, and all you need to worry about is that you, Margaret and Samantha get help.”

As much as she tried, it wasn’t all getting through to me.  I mean, Samantha still did what she did, right?  It’s only natural that people would want her arrested, even after those three years.

She started again, taking my silence as an urging to continue.

“You don’t seem to think about what you really want.”

“I do,”  I said.  “I want to protect Samantha and I want to help.”

She pulled out her notes.

“You said last time that you didn’t really know and you only came up with the Village project to appease the NHN.  You lied?”

“I-”  No use.  “I just want to protect Samantha.”

She sighed.

“That’s pretty possessive,”  she said.  “Are you sure this is what you want?”

“Yeah.  Yeah it is.”

An awkward silence filled the seconds nothing happened.

“I think we should focus more on that behaviour of yours,”  she finally said.  “Maybe if I can help you let go of this need to do…  To be so chivalrous all the time.  We can work on that first, and maybe if you start to trust me more, we’ll sort out any other issues you have.  Together.”

She had trouble finding the right words, constantly trying to be careful.  I didn’t react.

“How about this;  We’ll avoid talking about any possibility of Samantha being arrested for whatever crimes she had previously committed.  I promise I’ll try to see that nothing happens as long as both you and Samantha make progress with your recoveries, okay?”

“I’ll try,”  I said, somewhat unconvinced.  “I’m not sure I need it but I’ll try at the least.”

She smiled and took a note down on her paper.

“That’s good.”

 

***

Warm.  Baking warm dirt and sand.  It was too hot to breathe, let alone walk along the road.  Not that walking mattered at this moment.  There was nowhere to go.  Just road.  Endless road and tantalizing mirages on the horizon.

I looked at my hands.  I looked as flesh searing, drying up and peeling away as if I’m standing in the fallout of some nuclear blast, and the heat is just eating away at me.  Sweat boiled off my face and stung.

“Being alone hurts, doesn’t it.”

I turned around.  Nobody there.  Just me and the heat.  The sun.  It was purely a large and oppressive object, bearing down from above, dominating the sky.  Constantly assaulting me with no remorse.

“You want more.  You want something to hold onto, no?”

Still nobody.

“Who’s there?”  I asked, foolishly.  Impatiently.

“Just a nightmare,”  it replied.  “Look at your arms.”

I did.  The flesh was gone, burning away to charcoal.  Underneath the skin, piston replaced muscle, Wiring replacing nerves, piping replacing liquids and arteries.  A purely mechanical arm.  I should be shocked or concerned but I wasn’t.  I’d had been through too much to be surprised already.

I felt a pang of self pity as I tested out my new arm.  I should be reacting to this, not staring at it with borderline disappointment.

“What do you want?”  it asked.

What a stupid question.  I watched as more skin burned away, revealing more of my mechanical body underneath me.

“I’m not saying,”  I replied.

“Of course,”  it said, smugly.  “You don’t really say what you want much, do you?”

I moved my mechanical arm.  It felt normal, but painless.  Not like my remaining skin as it burned away.

“Who are you?”  I repeated my question.

“I’m just a Nightmare,”  it said.  “That’s all there is to it.”

Metal grinding.  A massive mass of scrap was grinding and tearing itself as it rose before me, forming an almost human shape.  An anchor here, a bit of car there.  I could see all the way through it in places, gaps where metal didn’t fit correctly.  It took a small bow, the sound of metal groaning in fatigue.

What was interesting, was the head was the most detailed part, heavily feminine, but still formed from scrap.  Cables and wires were arranged to create stray hairs of a fringe and sheets of metal bent around and twisted to form skin.  LED lights made for irises.

Not perfect, but good enough for me to tell it was a copy.  I was impressed, smiling as my face still felt pain from the heat, even as a massive shadow towered over where I stood.

“Dead Metal,”  the first voice said, tone changed to annoyance.  “You shouldn’t join in on my work.”

Ah.  Somebody is using powers over dreams on me.

As soon as I thought about it, I woke up, staring at the dark ceiling of the cold cell.  I raised my arm, looking at it in the minimal light afforded to me.  Flesh and blood.  Not metal.

I wonder who those two were.

 

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