Extraordinary Persons #4

And without further ado, Issue #4 of my Extraordinary Persons series, written in comic script form.

Past Issues: http://www.comicvine.com/forums/fan-fic/8/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/660884/#1

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PAGE 1 (Splash/Title)

This page picks up right where we left off in the previous issue. The ESCAPEES (REI MIURA, CHRISTINE WILSON, BRIANNA REID, MICHAEL DANVERS, and HECTOR RIOS) have made it outside the facility only to be confronted by a large team of GUARDS pointing guns at them, as well as a thoroughly annoyed SOPHIE BELMONT. One specific thing to note here is that REI is still hanging off of BRIANNA in order to stand, doubled over from the heavy bruising on her abdomen. Also, BRIANNA'S nose is bleeding and broken.

Sophie: Stand down at once, or we will use whatever force necessary to take you in.

TITLE: Extraordinary Persons

SUB-TITLE: Genesis: Part 4

CREDITS: Credits go here

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PAGE 2 (Five Panels)

1. Wide shot here of the ESCAPEES. They're none too thrilled at the prospect of going back as prisoners. MICHAEL reacts strongest of all, thoroughly pissed. Also, HECTOR is absently scratching one of his arms here.

Michael: Are you out of your mind? You kidnapped us! You did... things to us. And you expect us to just lie down and go back in those tanks? No way!

Caption (Brianna): Michael speaks for all of us. We want out of this place. All of us... kidnapped, imprisoned, experimented on.

2. Focusing just on BRIANNA and REI now. BRIANNA is angry, too, but REI is barely on her feet, in pain.

Brianna: You've no right to keep us here!

Caption (Brianna): Me name's Brianna Reid, in case you were wonderin'. The girl hangin' off me is Rei. Poor thing took a rubber bullet to the gut not long ago.

3. SOPHIE has her arms crossed. She's annoyed, frustrated. The situation is starting to get out of hand.

Sophie: Vraiment? You don't seem to realize, all of you are now property of Slaton Industries. We own you.

Caption (Brianna): As far as I can tell, this French chick is the only one standin' between us all and freedom.

4. Pull out on SOPHIE, so we can see her and several of the GUARDS along with her.

Sophie: You're not going anywhere. None of you.

Caption (Brianna): Well, her and about a dozen armed guards.

5. Switch focus to HECTOR and CHRISTINE here. HECTOR shares the anger of the others, but CHRISTINE is more panicked than anything. HECTOR continues absently scratching his arm here.

Hector: Property? We're human beings, estúpida!

Christine: Why? Why are you doing this to us?

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PAGE 3 (Five Panels)

1. Back on SOPHIE.

Sophie: Because... you are all very unique individuals. Monsieur Slaton needs you -- all of you.

2. MICHAEL has his hands balled to fists now, as if preparing to fight. He's also gone transparent again.

Michael: Sorry to disappoint, but you're not gonna stop us.

Caption (Brianna): Easy for him to say, he's got that nifty power of his.

3. SOPHIE glares at the ESCAPEES. She's smirking now, hands on her hips.

Sophie: You think your new abilities will help you escape? You barely know how to use them.

4. Focusing on BRIANNA and REI again.

Michael (O.P.): Yeah, well we've made this far, haven't we?

Caption (Brianna): Same with Rei here, and even Christine. Me? I'm just a black belt. Lot of good that does me right now.

5. Panel focusing on just HECTOR. He's scratching his arms furiously now, and there are small red blotches starting to form across his skin.

Michael (O.P.): We just have to make it a little farther.

Caption (Brianna): And Hector... he seems to have a right bad case of hives, or somethin'.

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PAGE 4 (Five Panels)

1. SOPHIE gestures at the GUARDS standing next to her. They hold their guns pointed forward at the group.

Sophie: Let me explain something to you. You see these weapons?

2. Close up on one of the GUARDS' weapons.

Sophie (O.P.): They fire a chemical dart designed to cripple and subdue its target. The result is extremely painful and carries the risk of permanent nerve damage. I do not wish to use it...

3. Close up on SOPHIE, glaring intently.

Sophie: ...but I will if I have to.

Rei (O.P./weak): No...

4. Focusing on REI now. She is still weakened from the damage to her abdomen, but glares back at SOPHIE with a renewed determination.

Rei (weak): ...you won't... keep us...

5. REI extends a hand forward now. The GUARDS recoil with shock and awe, as their weapons fly out of their grasps and through the air. The other ESCAPEES look on with more delighted surprise.

Rei: You won't!

Caption (Brianna): You know, I'm really startin' to like this girl.

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PAGE 5 (Four Panels)

1. Focusing back on REI again. She's standing a little straighter now, still determined.

2. Still on REI. She looks suddenly surprised, almost sick. She's about to vomit.

3. REI is hunched over now, leaning off panel and throwing up.

Rei: -hurk-

Caption (Brianna): Well, that's unfortunate.

4. Splash panel. SOPHIE points towards the ESCAPEES, ordering the GUARDS forward. The GUARDS run at them, pulling spare weapons from their belts. Some reach for billy clubs, others for stun guns.

Sophie: Stop them! Now!

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PAGE 6 (Five Panels)

1. We're back inside the facility again. Specifically, we're in the cafeteria from the previous issue. We should be able to see the hole in the wall, the result of CHRISTINE'S attack on LANCER. A dense pile of rubble surrounds it.

2. Zoom in on the hole in the wall here. Through the hole, we can see into the hallway beyond. Another pile of plaster and concrete lies beyond.

3. LANCER'S hand bursts through the rubble pile.

4. LANCER begins pulling himself up out of the debris. He's annoyed and frustrated, yet also strangely amused, a large grin slashing across his face.

5. LANCER walks back across the cafeteria floor, sword in hand. His back is to us, as he heads for the exit.

Lancer: My, my... sounds like I'm missin' one helluva shindig.

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PAGE 7 (Four Panels)

1. Splash panel. The GUARDS and the ESCAPEES have clashed. Several GUARDS surround CHRISTINE, firing stun guns at her, but she has a force field up around herself for protection. Another couple GUARDS attack MICHAEL with billy clubs, but he phases straight through the attacks, completely intangible. Another GUARD knocks HECTOR backward with a strong club blow. We can't see REI or BRIANNA yet in this panel.

Guard #1: Take them down!

Guard #2: Hold still!

2. Focusing on CHRISTINE'S fight here. She holds her arms out straight, forcing her energy barrier to expand and blasting the GUARDS attacking her through the air.

Christine: Stay away!

Guard #1: Aaargh!

Guard #2: Look out!

SFX: FWOOOM

3. A shot of MICHAEL now, phasing through another attack while delivering a solid punch to a GUARD'S jaw.

Michael: Don't think so!

4. We're on REI and BRIANNA now. REI is still hunched over, sick to her stomach. BRIANNA is trying to check on her, making sure she's alright. Towards the side of the panel, we can see a GUARD beginning to approach.

Brianna: You okay?

Rei (weak): I'm... fine...

Guard: Alright...

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PAGE 8 (Five Panels)

1. The GUARD points a stun gun at BRIANNA. She goes on guard, ready to make any action necessary to defend herself.

Guard: ...just make this nice and easy. No funny business.

2. The GUARD fires the stun gun, projecting the electrodes. BRIANNA evades, however, turning her body and catching the attached wires.

Guard: Wha-

3. BRIANNA lunges forward with a vicious cross jab to the man's jaw, whipping his head back.

Brianna: Not this time!

4. We're back on CHRISTINE again. She's standing over several injured GUARDS, looking at them in awe.

Christine: Oh my god, this is totally insane!

Michael (O.P.): You got that right.

5. On MICHAEL now, phasing through more GUARD attacks.

Michael: But don't let up now!

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PAGE 9 (Five Panels)

1. CHRISTINE looks back over her shoulder in surprise. We can see LANCER'S leg coming in from off panel.

Lancer (O.P.): Interestin' strategy.

Christine: Huh?

2. LANCER is in full view now, coming in with a flying kick that lands squarely on CHRISTINE'S backside. CHRISTINE recoils in shock and pain, as she plunges forward from the blow. MICHAEL looks on in surprise. He's also gone solid again. Note that LANCER'S sword has been returned to his back scabbard.

Lancer: Here's mine.

Michael: Christine!

3. CHRISTINE is on the ground now, cringing in pain. MICHAEL makes a move for LANCER. He's angry here. LANCER looks at him in amusement.

Michael: You son of a --

4. LANCER pulls MICHAEL into a hard knee strike to the gut.

Lancer: You really gotta learn to concentrate, mate. Your solid bits are showin' again.

Michael: -kaff!-

5. MICHAEL falls to his hands and knees, doubled over and clutching his stomach in pain. LANCER glances back over his shoulder. He sees BRIANNA there, defending herself and REI against another pair of GUARDS.

Lancer: Now, who's next?

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PAGE 10 (Five Panels)

1. This panel is focusing on HECTOR now. One GUARD restrains him, holding his arms behind his back, while another beats him across the face with a billy club. The bright red blotches have spread across most of HECTOR'S body.

Guard #1: Just hold him still!

Guard #2: I got him, I got him.

Caption (Hector): It itches...

2. HECTOR starts to struggle against the GUARD holding him. His lip is bleeding. The attacking GUARD is lining up for another attack

Hector: Let go!

Guard #2: Still got some fight in him.

Guard #1: I'll fix that in a second.

Caption (Hector): Why does it itch so much?

3. HECTOR takes another blow to the jaw, but it doesn't slow him down. He's struggling harder now, almost throwing off the GUARD holding him. All across his skin, a thick, silvery substance, almost like liquid, is starting to emerge through his pores, spreading over his body. It's the Bio-Steel.

Caption (Hector): ¡Mierda! Now it's cold!

4. The silvery substance has now almost entirely engulfed HECTOR'S body, hardening into a solid metal casing. Now, he manages to throw the GUARD off of him, sending the man through the air at the second GUARD.

Hector: Get off!

Guard #1: Shit!

5. HECTOR is completely coated now in the metallic substance. He looks down at himself in awe, hardly able to believe what he's seeing.

Hector: Dios...

Caption (Hector): Now it feels... good.

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PAGE 11 (Five Panels)

1. The GUARDS rush to attack HECTOR again.

Guard #1: What the hell's wrong with him?

Guard #2: Just put him down!

2. HECTOR catches one of the GUARD'S arms, squeezing tightly. He still can't believe what he's doing, or what's happening to him. The GUARD cringes with pain, as his arm breaks.

Guard: AAAHHH! MY ARM!

Hector: Uh, sorry?

SFX: KRAK

Caption (Hector): This strength...

3. HECTOR lets go of the GUARD. He turns to look at the second GUARD, who swings his billy club to strike HECTOR across the face. The blow causes no damage, as HECTOR doesn't even flinch. Instead, HECTOR has his hand placed on the second GUARD'S chest, about to push him.

Guard #1: Let him go!

Caption (Hector): ...this power.

4. HECTOR pushes the second GUARD with one hand, arm fully extended. The GUARD flies away through the air like a rocket.

Caption (Hector): Is this for real?

5. Focusing on LANCER now. He's standing above a downed REI, and holds a beaten BRIANNA by the hair. Looking back over his shoulder, he sees HECTOR.

Lancer: Well, well, look at that.

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PAGE 12 (Five Panels)

1. HECTOR and LANCER square off. LANCER takes a professional approach, readying himself with an expert fighting stance. HECTOR simply stares at him.

Hector: Leave them alone.

Lancer: Already done my business with them. You're the only one left.

2. LANCER lunges in with a swift kick to the side HECTOR'S head. HECTOR doesn't flinch, continuing to stare at him. LANCER looks genuinely surprised that his kick did no damage.

Hector: I won't be that easy.

3. Quick shot of HECTOR'S hand coming up to grab LANCER'S ankle.

4. HECTOR swings LANCER through the air, slamming him into the ground.

Hector: You're not keeping us here!

Lancer: Ack!

5. HECTOR throws LANCER through the air now.

Hector: We won't be your prisoners!

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PAGE 13 (Five Panels)

1. LANCER is on his hands and knees, recovering from HECTOR'S assault. One hand reaches up over his shoulder, grabbing the handle to his sword.

Lancer: Got some fight in ya, kid. I like that.

2. LANCER is back on his feet, sword drawn. HECTOR takes a defensive stance.

Lancer: All for nothin', though, I'm afraid.

3. Small close up of LANCER'S grip on his sword hilt. His thumb clicks down on a small switch near the hand guard.

SFX: CLK

4. LANCER runs forward, taking a two-handed grip on his sword. The blade is glowing now, bright white and humming.

Lancer: See, it's my job to stop you.

SFX: HHHMMMMMMM

5. HECTOR takes a swing at LANCER, but the mercenary ducks effortlessly below the strike.

Lancer: And that's exactly...

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PAGE 14 (Five Panels)

1. Splash panel. LANCER comes up close to HECTOR, driving the blade cleanly through his abdomen and out the other side. The glowing blade pierces through the metallic shell effortlessly, like a hot knife through butter. There is no blood here, though.

Lancer: ...what I intend to do.

2. LANCER removes the blade in one motion, as HECTOR falls backwards in pain. The metallic substance begins to disappear back into his skin.

3. LANCER sheathes his sword, walking back towards SOPHIE. She isn't pleased, however. On the contrary, she's pissed.

Lancer: There you go, all taken care of.

Sophie: You weren't supposed to kill any of them! We need them alive!

4. LANCER gives a stern look, starting to get annoyed with SOPHIE.

Lancer: Relax, would ya? I didn't strike any vital organs. He'll be fine, so long as you get him to the infirmary quick.

Sophie: And the others? Did you have to be so brutal with them?

5. Gazing over his handiwork, LANCER stands above the injured and mostly motionless ESCAPEES lying on the ground around them.

Lancer: I did what ya hired me to do -- stopped an escape attempt.

Sophie: Incroyable... fine. Take them back to the storage tanks.

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PAGE 15 (Five Panels)

1. SOPHIE and LANCER look back over to BRIANNA. The girl is pushing herself back up to her hands and knees, but she's shaky, weakened.

Brianna (weak): No... can't...

Lancer: Heh, looks like this one's still got some life in her.

Sophie: Guards, put her down.

2. One of the GUARDS fires a stun gun at BRIANNA, electrodes attaching squarely to her backside.

SFX: ZZZZZZT

Caption (Brianna): There should be pain.

3. The electric current coursing through her body does nothing to put BRIANNA down. Instead, she starts rising back to her feet. The GUARD watches with wide eyes, utterly dumbfounded. SOPHIE shows her frustration, really beginning to get annoyed.

Guard: It... It's not stopping her!

Sophie: Well then hit her with another!

Caption (Brianna): I should be on the ground, twitchin' like kind of dyin' fish.

4. A second GUARD fires another stun gun at her, but even with two sets of electrodes pumping electricity through her body, BRIANNA will not go down.

Brianna: This has to stop...

Caption (Brianna): But there is no pain. All I feel is... a warmth.

5. Close up on BRIANNA'S eyes. They're glowing a brilliant white.

Caption (Brianna): I don't think I've ever felt so...

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PAGE 16 (Splash)

Splash page. BRIANNA has undergone a radical transformation on this page. Her skin and hair has gone from dark to bright blue in color, and glows intensely. Her eyes, as on the previous panel, are glowing bright white. Miniature lightning bolts crackle all around her body, some firing out randomly through the air, forcing the nearby GUARDS, as well as LANCER and SOPHIE, to duck for cover. Also she has begun to hover several feet above the ground.

Brianna: It stops now!

Guard #1: Holy shit!

Sophie: Merde!

Caption (Brianna): ...alive.

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PAGE 17 (Five Panels)

1. BRIANNA is flying much higher now, a good twenty feet in the air at least. She's looking down in shock. As it turns out, she is terrified of heights.

Brianna: Huh?

Caption (Brianna): Oh no... oh nonononono.

2. BRIANNA is in full freak out mode now, flying into a panic as she begins to rise higher in the air.

Brianna: Get me down! Somebody get me down!

Caption (Brianna): I'm flying? Why on Earth do I have to be flying?!

3. Focus on LANCER and SOPHIE here, looking on at the floating electric girl.

Sophie: Do something! Stop her!

Lancer: You first. I ain't runnin' straight into a lightnin' field.

4. BRIANNA continues her freak out, eyes shut tight now.

Brianna: Stop goin' higher! Come on! Stop goin' higher!

Caption (Brianna): I don't do heights. I hate heights. So why did I have to get stuck with flight?!

5. BRIANNA suddenly erupts with a surge of electricity, shooting out massive lightning bolts through the air. Several of these bolts strike the nearby GUARDS. Among those struck are both LANCER and SOPHIE.

Brianna: AAAHHHH!!!

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PAGE 18 (Six Panels)

1. BRIANNA is back on the ground, on her hands and knees. Her appearance has returned to normal, no longer glowing blue.

Brianna: Oh thank goodness...

2. Getting back to her feet, BRIANNA looks around at the other ESCAPEES, most of whom are beginning to recover.

Brianna: Hey! Everyone alright?

3. We can see MICHAEL and CHRISTINE here, starting to get up off the ground. MICHAEL holds his gut in pain, while CHRISTINE nurses her backside.

Michael: Sure... peachy.

Christine: My back... oh my god, my back.

4. Switch over to HECTOR now. He's sitting up, inspecting his abdomen. The only sign of injury is a small, silver-colored scar across the side of his midsection. He looks utterly amazed that he' still alive.

Hector: I... I think I'm fine, actually.

5. BRIANNA looks over to REI now. REI is sitting up, looking around in surprise at all the bodies strewn about the ground.

Brianna: Rei?

Rei: I... I'm starting to feel better, yeah.

6. Close up on BRIANNA.

Brianna: Good...

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PAGE 19 (Four Panels)

1. Splash panel. Shot depicting all five of the ESCAPEES wandering away from the facility and into the wilderness beyond. They're injured, limping, and in bad shape, but they're free.

Brianna: ...then let's get the bloody hell out of this place.

2. Back on the facility grounds. We're focused on the downed bodies of LANCER and SOPHIE, both unmoving for the moment. SOPHIE'S clothing is charred and torn, revealing a good bit of skin beneath.

3. LANCER is the first to recover, pushing himself up from the ground.

Lancer: Well, that was unpleasant.

Sophie: -mmph-

4. LANCER is kneeling up straight now. SOPHIE is just starting to get up, grimacing in pain. Her clothes have been shredded so much that her underwear is visible beneath.

Sophie: What happened...?

Lancer: Those kids got away, that's what happened.

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PAGE 20 (Six Panels)

1. LANCER looks over at SOPHIE, leering at her with a smirk.

Lancer: That's a good look for ya.

Sophie: Eyes to yourself, Noah.

2. LANCER'S glare grows stern.

Lancer: It's Lancer while I'm in uniform, hun.

Sophie: As if I care.

3. They're both back on their feet now, brushing themselves off.

Sophie: You let them get away. Now we have five super powered children on the loose. They'll bring the police to our doorstep!

Lancer: Your own fault for givin' them super powers in the first place.

4. LANCER heads back towards the entrance to the facility. SOPHIE watches him, frowning.

Sophie: You will go after them.

Lancer: If you put up the cash, sure. Ya only paid me to guard your facility, remember. Not to go runnin' after a bunch of kids in the woods.

5. LANCER glances back over his shoulder, grinning at her.

Lancer: Better give that boss of yours a call.

6. Zoomed out shot of SOPHIE standing there, head bowed and hands on her hips.

Sophie: Merde.

Caption: To Be Continued...

4 Comments

Extraordinary Persons #3

Yes, I finally got a title for this! Granted, it's a pretty basic, meh title, more of a placeholder than anything, but at least it's something!

Issues #1 and #2

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PAGE 1 (Five Panels)

1. A team of five GUARDS runs down a corridor of the facility. Other guards are down on the floor, unconscious. Their weapons have been scattered, disassembled into pieces. Above them, a series of pipes run parallel to the ceiling (this is important because it correlates with a later page).

Guard #1: Go! Go! Move!

Guard #2: Where is she?

2. As they sprint down the corridor, one of the GUARDS looks to another.

Guard #1: She's in subject storage!

Guard #2: Ah, shit.

3. The GUARD team reaches a sturdy, metal door. However, the door has been bent, twisted, and is halfway open, revealing only darkness beyond.

Guard #3: Don't screw this up, guys. Boss will have our heads.

Guard #1: Alright, get into position. And remember, non-lethal force only.

4. The five GUARDS form a semi circle in front of the door, pointing their stun guns forward at arm's length.

Guard #1: Alright, get ready to breach.

Guard #2: Hold on, do you hear that? What --

SFX: KIIIRRRIIIK

5. Splash panel. The metal door suddenly bursts off its hinges, flying straight forward. It crashes with shocking force into the lead GUARD, as the others spread out in a panic.

Guard #1: AAAGH!

Guard #2: Oh shit!

Guard #3: Look out!

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PAGE 2 (Splash/Title)

Title page. REI MIURA is standing there in front of the now fully open doorway. One of her arms is outstretched, hand up and fingers splayed. She looks pleasantly surprised at the damage she just caused. Behind her, the other successful subjects look on in awe. This includes BRIANNA REID, HECTOR RIOS, MICHAEL DANVERS, CHRISTINE WILSON, and DIANA TOMPKINS. There should be four others there with them, though their design is fully up to you. They should be of varying ages, though. All of them, however, are wet, having just been removed from their stasis tanks.

Rei: Okay, that was awesome.

TITLE: Extraordinary Persons

SUB TITLE: Genesis: Part 3

CREDITS: Credits go here.

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PAGE 3 (Five Panels)

1. The GUARDS have recuperated, and are now pointing their stun guns at REI.

Guard #2: Take her down!

2. REI waves her arm upwards, causing their weapons to fly out of their hands. They look down at their now empty grasps in shock.

Guard #3: What the hell?!

3. REI waves her arm back across her body. This time, the fallen metal door rockets straight at another one of the GUARDS, slamming him in the gut like a missile.

Guard #4: Oof!

Guard #2: Shit!

4. The door spins at another GUARD, knocking him through the air.

5. The door slams into the final two GUARDS, taking them out.

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PAGE 4 (Six Panels)

1. REI stands above the unconscious GUARDS, surveying her work. The others are still mostly in shock at what they've just seen.

Rei: I don't think they'll give us anymore problems.

Hector: Madre de Dios...

2. Close up shot of CHRISTINE. She is utterly dumbfounded, mouth hanging agape.

Caption (Christine): This is isn't happening. This can't be happening. I mean, it's insane.

3. REI and the others start running down the corridor, careful to step around the unconscious GUARDS strewn about.

Rei: Come on!

Michael: Don't need to tell me twice.

Caption (Christine): I shouldn't be here. This shouldn't be happening to me. I'm Christine Wilson, from Sacramento, California. I'm a cheerleader for crying out loud!

4. The GROUP turns a corner in the hallway. REI is at the lead, with BRIANNA right next to her.

Brianna: How on Earth did you do that?

Rei: I... don't know, really. I just think it and it happens. It's hard to explain, but I can feel the metal around me. I can... I can move it.

Caption (Christine): And yet, I've been kicked out of my house, drugged, held prisoner, experimented on, and put inside a tank full of some kind of disgusting slime.

5. The GROUP stops outside another set of doors.

Brianna: What, you're tellin' me you're some kind of superhero? Like those fellows in The Vanguard?

Rei: I don't have a clue. They put me under, sedated me... next thing I knew, I was... well, you saw.

Caption (Christine): And then there's this girl. Rei, I think her name is.

6. Close up on REI.

Caption (Christine): I'm grateful and all that she got us out of those tanks, but she freaks the hell out of me. Levitating objects with her mind, or whatever she's doing... that's not natural. It can't be natural.

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PAGE 5 (Five Panels)

1. The GROUP looks around at each other, questioningly.

Michael: So, where do we go from here? There's bound to be more guards coming.

Subject #1: We have to get out of here!

Subject #2: I just want to go home!

2. A shot of DIANA and CHRISTINE here. They're panicked, afraid. They wants out of this place.

Diana: Yeah, let's get out of here. Now.

Christine: You can get us out of here, right?

2. All eyes are on REI now. She looks nervous, unsure of herself.

Rei: I... I don't know. I mean, I'll try...

3. Focusing on HECTOR and BRIANNA now.

Hector: But what about all the others? The ones still back in their cells?

Brianna: He's right, we can't just leave them here.

4. Now we're focusing on the unnamed members of the GROUP. They're in agreement with CHRISTINE and DIANA here, just wanting to get out of this facility.

Subject #3: But we don't even know if we can make it out ourselves!

5. A shot of MICHAEL now, contemplating. He doesn't like it, but he knows the others are right. We can see REI looking at him, just visible from the side of the panel.

Michael: They're right. If we get out of here right now, it'll be a miracle, let alone trying to free everyone else.

Rei: So what, we just leave them behind?

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PAGE 6 (Five Panels)

1. MICHAEL is looking back at REI now. REI holds her head in her hand, dejected.

Michael: I'm not saying we abandon them or anything. I'm saying we go get help, come back with the cops or something. But you're the super powered chick here, so hey, it's your call.

Rei: No, you're right... we have to get out here.

2. Looking back down the other end of the hallway now. Another team of of GUARDS is running after them with weapons drawn.

Guard #1: There they are!

Guard #2: Take 'em down!

3. REI holds an arm up over her head. The metal pipes above her burst from their fixtures.

4. A shot of several pipes spinning through the air at the GUARDS.

5. The pipes smash into the GUARDS, knocking them off their feet.

Guard #1: Aagh!

Guard #2: Look out!

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PAGE 7 (Five Panels)

1. REI is running through the doors in front of them now, as the GROUP follows.

Rei: Come on!

2. Simple shot of the GROUP sprinting down another hallway.

3. REI and the others emerge through another pair of doors into a large cafeteria, with a high ceiling. A series of catwalks snake their way above them. We can also see windows now, too, allowing in bright sunlight.

Diana: Look!

4. A close up on the windows. We can see the tops of several trees through them.

Diana (O.P.): I can see outside! The exit has to be close!

5. DIANA races across the cafeteria floor, through the rows of tables. REI is holding an arm out, as if reaching forward to stop her.

Diana: Come on!

Rei: Wait, hold on!

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PAGE 8 (Five Panels)

1. A full body shot of DIANA here, but she's cast completely in silhouette. She's falling, head whipping backwards with a projectile firing directly against her forehead.

SFX: BANG

2. A reaction shot of the others in the GROUP. They're in shock, horrified.

Rei: Diana!

Christine: Oh my god!

Michael: NO!

3. DIANA lies motionless against the floor, but there is no blood. MICHAEL is running towards her, as the others look on.

Brianna: Is she dead? Tell me she's not dead!

4. MICHAEL kneeling at DIANA'S side now, lifting her upright.

Michael: No blood?

5. A close up on HECTOR, looking upwards in surprise.

Hector: Uh... guys?

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PAGE 9 (Five Panels)

1. Splash Panel. We're focused on one of the catwalks up above. Standing on this catwalk is the mystery man from the last page of the previous issue. He's aiming down the sights of an assault rifle, the barrel still smoking from his previous shot. He's wearing the same sleek body armor as he was in his last appearance, including a sword on his back, a pistol on either hip, and a tactical utility belt around his waist. This is NOAH WALKER, otherwise known as LANCER. Caption here should label him accordingly.

Lancer: Quit ya worryin', she'll be fine.

Caption: Noah "Lancer" Walker. Mercenary.

2. Close up on MICHAEL. He's pissed, glaring up at LANCER.

Michael: Fine? She'll be "fine"? You shot her!

Caption (Michael): Damn it, things are getting out of control now.

3. Back on LANCER, aiming his weapon at MICHAEL.

Lancer: Rubber bullets, mate. She'll wake up in a while. Assumin' her brain ain't hemorrhagin', that is.

4. Focusing on MICHAEL again.

Michael: She's just a kid! Same as most of us! That how you get off, by shooting teens?

Caption (Michael): My name is Michael Danvers, if you didn't know. I'm no one special, really.

5. And again on LANCER. His finger is on the trigger, and a large smirk snakes across his face.

Lancer: Want to find out?

Caption (Michael): But even I know a sadistic b**tard when I see one.

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PAGE 10 (Five Panels)

1. Still on LANCER. He's looking away from his sights now, instead down at the catwalk he's standing on. The walkway is beginning to bend and twist.

Lancer: Now what's this?

Caption (Michael): I'm guessing this guy is supposed to stop us from escaping, just like those other guards.

SFX: KIIIRRRIIIK

2. The catwalk rips apart now into pieces. LANCER falls from the broken platform, dropping his weapon as he plummets towards the ground.

Caption (Michael): Fortunately...

3. Close up of REI, concentrating intensely with her hands outstretched.

Caption (Michael): ...we have little miss magnet girl on our side.

4. The broken pieces of the catwalk crash violently to the floor. In the middle of the debris, LANCER lands nimbly on his feet, in a crouch.

Lancer: Well that's interestin'.

5. LANCER is standing straight now, staring at REI. She still has one hand held forward at him.

Lancer: So, you must be the one they told me about, the one who already went and developed her power. But what is it, I wonder? Some kinda telekinesis maybe?

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PAGE 11 (Six Panels)

1. LANCER starts walking towards the GROUP. He reaches back behind him to grab hold of the sword on his back. The GROUP is in a panic now.

Christine: Do something, Rei! Throw him around or something! He's wearing armor!

Rei: I'm trying!

2. LANCER has his sword fully drawn now. A look of revelation comes over his face.

Lancer: Ah, my armor is made of synthetics... so that's it.

3. The sword suddenly lurches out of LANCER'S grasp.

Rei: Okay, plan B!

4. The sword swings horizontally. LANCER easily ducks below it, a smirk on his face.

Lancer: It's metal. You're like some kinda human magnet, that it?

5. The sword thrusts at him this time. LANCER sidesteps the attack with continued ease.

6. The sword swings again, but LANCER flips backwards out of the way.

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PAGE 12 (Five Panels)

1. REI looks back at the others in the GROUP. They look at her in surprise, uncertain.

Rei: Don't just stand there, keep going!

Brianna: What are you talkin' about? We're not just gonna leave you.

2. Same shot, but REI is looking forward again.

Rei: If you don't, this guy is going to take us all back.

3. We're focusing back on MICHAEL again. He's standing now, holding the unconscious DIANA in his arms.

Michael: She has a point. We can't just stand around watching, we have to move.

4. Another shot of LANCER evading the attacking sword.

5. Wide shot, showing the the GROUP starting to run towards the doors at the end of the cafeteria. BRIANNA is still looking back at REI as they go. We can see LANCER continuing to dodge the sword here.

Brianna: Fine, but catch up to us once you stop this guy!

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PAGE 13 (Six Panels)

1. LANCER crouches low, avoiding another swing of the sword. His hand goes to his waist, brushing over one of the pistols at his side.

Lancer: You mates are way off base.

2. LANCER is standing straight now, his body turned to evade another sword thrust. He points his gun straight forward, firing.

Lancer: You ain't goin' anywhere.

SFX: BLAM

3. Full body shot of Rei. The rubber bullet collides squarely with her stomach, rushing the wind out of her lungs. Her eyes are wide, practically bugging out of her head in shock.

Rei: Oof!

4. REI is on the ground now, curled up with her arms clutched tightly over her gut. She's in pain, a lot of pain. LANCER stands over her, grinning. He's placing his pistol back into its holster.

Lancer: Guess you can't stop a rubber bullet.

5. The fleeing GROUP stops partway to the door, looking back in surprise.

Brianna: Rei!

6. LANCER turns to the others now, hand reaching into one of the pouches of his utility belt.

Lancer: Now, then...

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PAGE 14 (Seven Panels)

1. LANCER throws a small flash bang grenade at his targets.

Hector: Look out!

2. The GROUP recoils from a blinding white flash, trying to shield their eyes as they stumble around blindly. Somewhere in here, we should be able to make out BRIANNA through the flash, burying her face into the pit of her elbow.

3. The flash is gone now, but nearly the entire GROUP is stunned. They rub their eyes, trying to clear their vision. Some are on their knees. BRIANNA, however, peers over the top of her arm, having been able to shield her eyes in time. Important to note here that DIANA is back on the floor, still unconscious, while MICHAEL is nowhere to be seen.

4. LANCER leaps into the middle of the GROUP, leading with a kick to one of the unnamed individuals' head.

5. LANCER delivers a brutal elbow strike to another of the unnamed's jaw.

6. LANCER attacks the third unnamed subject. He's grabbing the victim by the back of the head, pulling down and driving his knee upwards into the person's face.

7. LANCER finishes off the last unnamed individual with a vicious palm strike to the face.

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PAGE 15 (Five Panels)

1. LANCER turns his head, attention called by a voice behind him.

Brianna: Hey!

2. A shot of BRIANNA throwing a punch at LANCER. Her attack is blocked, however, as LANCER holds his arms up to guard against it.

Brianna: Lay off!

3. BRIANNA throws a kick this time, but LANCER ducks below it, pushing up on her leg with his arm.

4. Another punch this time, but LANCER catches BRIANNA's arm.

Lancer: You're good.

5. LANCER turns his body, throwing an explosive palm strike to BRIANNA'S face, breaking her nose. Her head whips back, blood spraying from her nostrils.

Lancer: But ya got a lot to learn.

Brianna: Aaagh!

SFX: KRAK

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PAGE 16 (Five Panels)

1. LANCER turns back to CHRISTINE and HECTOR. He's smirking, still. HECTOR is taking a step back, defensive. CHRISTINE is panicking, in tears.

Lancer: Just three left.

Christine: Stay away!

2. Close up on LANCER'S face. He looks confused.

Lancer: Wait... where's the other one?

3. Close up on the back of LANCER'S boots now. We can see transparent fingers starting to poke up through the floor.

Caption (Michael): Okay, I don't know what the hell is going on.

4. Same shot as previous. This time, a pair of transparent hands are poking through the floor, fingers curling around LANCER'S ankles.

Caption (Michael): But you know what they say about a gift horse.

5. Splash panel. We now see MICHAEL'S whole torso, completely transparent, rising up through the floor. His arms are yanking upwards, pulling LANCER'S feet out from under him. LANCER falls forward in surprise, arms springing out to break his fall. CHRISTINE and HECTOR watch in shock.

Caption (Michael): So I think I'll just roll with it.

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PAGE 17 (Six Panels)

1. LANCER is on his hands and knees now. Michael, still transparent, looks down at himself, thoroughly awed.

Michael: This feels... so weird.

Caption (Michael): I'm not even going to try and wrap my head around how I could grab hold of this guy while remaining intangible.

2. LANCER is starting to get back up now. He's frustrated, annoyed.

Lancer: Little punk...

Caption (Michael): Or how I can stand on solid ground without, you know, plummeting straight to the center of the earth.

3. LANCER throws a punch. MICHAEL flinches, but the fist travels straight through him.

Caption (Michael): Instead...

4. With LANCER'S arm thrust through his intangible opponent, MICHAEL delivers a punch of his own that hits solidly, whipping LANCER'S head to the side.

Caption (Michael): ...I'm just gonna kick his ass.

5. LANCER recovers quickly, kicking viciously at MICHAEL. Once again, the attack passes straight through him.

6. MICHAEL connects with a second punch.

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PAGE 18 (Six Panels)

1. Close up on LANCER. He's wiping a small trickle of blood from his lips, but he's grinning.

LANCER: Heh.

2. Focusing on MICHAEL now. He looks confused. He's also completely solid now.

Michael: What are you smiling at?

3. Shot of LANCER delivering a thunderous kick to MICHAEL'S gut. MICHAEL'S eyes widen in shock and pain.

Lancer: You're solid, mate.

Caption (Michael): Shit. Didn't even notice.

4. MICHAEL is on the floor now, doubled over and cringing in agony. LANCER has his pistol drawn again; he's pointing it at CHRISTINE.

Lancer: Alright, no more messin' around.

Christine: No, please!

5. Close up of LANCER smirking.

Lancer: Heh, I like the ones that beg.

6. Close up of CHRISTINE falling backwards, turning her head and raising her arms in a futile defense. Her eyes are shut tight in panic, not looking as the shot goes off. We should be able to see a soft purple glow coming from somewhere off panel here

Christine: NOOO!!!

SFX: BLAM

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PAGE 19 (Five Panels)

1. Still focusing on CHRISTINE. She's on the floor now, arms still raised in front of her. Her eyes are open, though. She's surprised, confused.

Christine: Huh?

2. Pull out here so we can see both CHRISTINE and LANCER. A dome of purple energy surrounds CHRISTINE, protecting her. She stares at it, eyes wide. HECTOR is standing nearby, too, watching in continued surprise.

Lancer: The hell is this?

Caption (Christine): Okay, I am officially freaking out now!

3. LANCER fires his pistol again. The bullet deflects harmlessly off the barrier.

Caption (Christine): This is insane. This is impossible.

SFX: BLAM

4. CHRISTINE is standing now, pressing her hands against the energy dome.

Lancer: Well... looks like I ain't gettin' to ya just yet.

Caption (Christine): What is this? Some kind of... force field?

5. LANCER turns to HECTOR now, pointing the pistol at him.

Lancer: Guess I'll just have to take care of this one first.

Hector: Hey, wait a minute!

Caption (Christine): I can feel it, same as I feel my heart beating. I wonder what would happen...

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PAGE 20 (Splash)

CHRISTINE pushes her arms forward. The force field grows rapidly, bursting across the ground and colliding into LANCER with stunning force. HECTOR ducks for cover, arms held over his head.

Caption (Christine): ...if I gave it a little push.

SFX: FOOOM

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PAGE 21 (Five Panels)

1. LANCER flies across the room, crashing into the far wall and tearing straight through it in a shower of debris.

2. A shot of CHRISTINE looking utterly flabbergasted. Beside her, HECTOR is in equal awe. The force field is gone now.

Christine: Did I do that? Me?

Hector: I think so...

3. HECTOR is now helping MICHAEL back to his feet. In the background, we can see BRIANNA on her knees, holding a hand to her bleeding nose.

Hector: But we can't think about it right now, we need to get out of here.

Michael: He's... urk... right. Grab everyone who can still walk and let's go. We'll come back with the goddamn National Guard if we have to.

4. BRIANNA is next to REI now, helping the girl up. REI is still in a lot of pain. A massive bruise blotches across her abdomen.

Brianna: You okay?

Rei: Been better...

5. The GROUP begins to head towards the doors at the end of the cafeteria. HECTOR and CHRISTINE are in fine condition, while MICHAEL walks hobbled over. REI is forced to keep an arm around BRIANNA in order to stay on her feet.

Michael: The exit has to be around here somewhere.

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PAGE 22 (Three panels)

1. The GROUP pushes through the entrance doors of the facility. They're outside now, finally. We're looking straight at them, unable to see anything in front of them.

Christine: Oh my god, fresh air!

2. Same angle as the previous panel. The GROUP finally sees what's in front of them. Their hopes instantly diminish, demoralized.

Sophie (O.P.): Our little escapees...

3. Splash panel. We're looking forward now, at what the GROUP is seeing. A massive team of GUARDS have formed a semi circle around the front entrance of the facility, all pointing their weapons at the GROUP. These aren't the usual stun guns, either, instead real guns. SOPHIE BELMONT stands in the middle, at the head of the team. Her arms are crossed, eyes narrowed.

Sophie: Stand down at once, or suffer the consequences.

Caption: To Be Continued...

3 Comments

Ravager4's Pilot Comic Script

Okay, so I really, really, hate it when comic vine decides to eat an entire topic. Tried to open the page, and got a 404 error, so now I have to repost it. At least I got a chance to make some edits to it. Anyway...

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So, this was originally supposed to be part of much larger project, but I haven't heard from the guy organizing that in over a month, so I'm pretty sure it's not going to happen. Now, this is more just for fun/practice. It doesn't even have a title, yet. It's a pilot issue for a team book, taking place in a universe where superheroes aren't yet very prevalent, like they are in DC or Marvel. Because of the nature of this issue, having to introduce the five main characters, as well as getting the plot moving, I extended the pilot issue to 30 pages, instead of the traditional 20-22. Any future issues would revert at the 20-22 margin. Also, since this is a comic script, the description is much more casual than narrative. I writing to the artist (not that I have an artist, mind you...), just getting the point across so he/she can bring it to life. The artist is who I'm referring to when I mention "you." Anyway, let me know what you think, if you happen to read it.

Issue #2

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PAGE 1 (Four Panels)

1. Splash Panel. We're in a high-tech control room. It's a large space, with high ceilings. A row of desks and computers are spread out in the middle of the room, with several scientists in white lab coats sitting in front of the computers, hard at work. In front of them, large screens rise up on the wall, each depicting a different human volunteer undergoing various medical tests, such as blood being drawn, getting a shot, having blood pressure taken, etc. On one of the screens is a John/Jane Doe being zipped into a body bag.

Behind them, on a raised viewing platform, stand three specific individuals: ISAIAH SLATON, standing straight an calm, SOPHIE BELMONT, taking notes with a pen and clipboard, and ALVIN Palmer, carrying with him a manila folder full of paperwork. Captions in this panel should label each individual accordingly.

Slaton: Have we made any progress?

Alvin: Not too much, I'm afraid.

Slaton: You're telling me that, with all the resources you've been given, you still can't figure it out? You're supposed to be the best there is.

Caption: ISAIAH SLATON.

Caption: SOPHIE BELMONT.

Caption: ALVIN PALMER.

2. ALVIN holds a hand up, trying to reassure his boss. SLATON glares at him, arms folded across his chest.

Alvin: Oh, no, it's not that -- and I am. We've completed the process one hundred percent.

Slaton: Then what seems to be the problem?

Alvin: It's the subjects.

3. ALVIN has his folder open now. He's pointing out a particular file to his boss. SLATON holds a hand to his chin, examining the file carefully.

Alvin: You see this? It's a normal human genetic structure.

Slaton: And the one beneath it?

Alvin: A very rare genetic variation, one we've never seen before.

4. SLATON glances curiously at ALVIN. Behind them, SOPHIE continues taking notes on her clipboard.

Slaton: What does that have to do with the test subjects?

Alvin: Well, those with a normal genetic structure... their bodies aren't adapting to the changes. They start to break down, until...

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PAGE 2 (Five Panels)

ALVIN gestures towards one of the large screens on the far wall. The screen depicts a plain white room lined with gurneys and other medical equipment. Each gurney is occupied by a motionless body, some horribly disfigured.

Alvin: ...well, until their bodies cease to function.

Slaton: And this genetic variation...

Alvin: We believe that only a subject with the anomaly is capable of surviving the process.

2. A close up on SLATON'S face, as he gazes up at the screen.

Slaton: And what is the basis for this hypothesis?

3. ALVIN grins smugly, arms folded across his chest.

Alvin: We tested a subject with the variation. It was a success.

4. SLATON'S interest has been peaked. He is smiling very slightly, only barely expressing his intrigue. Behind him, SOPHIE looks up from her clipboard, surprised.

Slaton: And here I thought I wasn't going to get any good news from you today.

Sophie: Merveilleux. Can we see him?

5. ALVIN heads for the exit, waving for the two to follow.

Alvin: Of course, just follow me.

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PAGE 3 (Five Panels)

1. The four main panels on this page should all be page-wide, and the same size, stacked on top of each other.

The three have moved into a smaller room now, darkened with heavy shadows. The only light comes from a bright red glow in front of them. They're looking towards us at the glow, but we can't see what it is yet. ALVIN holds an arm out, showing off the 'subject'. SLATON looks at it curiously, while SOPHIE takes notes on her clipboard again.

Alvin: And this is him.

Slaton: This... isn't what I was expecting. Is he even alive?

2. Same angle as the last panel. In fact, all panels on this page will be from the same angle. ALVIN glares back at SLATON, while SOPHIE looks up from her notes.

Alvin: Of course he's a live. We're just keeping him sedated until we figure out a way to control him.

Sophie: Il est magnifique... what did the process do to him?

3. ALVIN gazes back at the off panel subject. SOPHIE returns to her note taking.

Alvin: We're not entirely sure. Well, aside from the obvious. Some sort of energy manipulation, we believe.

Slaton: And we can make more?

Alvin: In theory, so long as we obtain more subjects with the proper genetic anomaly.

4. ALVIN looks back down at his folder, flipping through the files inside. SLATON'S attention holds on the off panel glow.

Alvin: But it's extremely rare -- this is the first we've seen it. I suppose we could run searches through the country's various DNA databases, see if we can find any matches. It'll take time, though.

Slaton: Time is something we have plenty of. Just do it.

Alvin: And if we do find any matches... how do you intend to bring them here?

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PAGE 4 (Splash/Title)

1. Insert panel, close up of SLATON smirking.

Slaton: Don't worry, Mister Palmer...

2. Splash/title page. Leave room for title and credits. We're positioned behind the three now, and we can finally see what they're looking at. In front of them is a large stasis pod, a lone figure floating inside with various wires attached to him, including a sturdy breathing mask. The figure is male, well built with defined muscle, and bald, wearing just a pair tight black trunks. His body, however, glows bright red, the source of the room's red tinted lighting.

Slaton: ...we'll take care of it. Isn't that right, SOPHIE?

Sophie: Oui, Monsieur.

TITLE: Extraordinary Persons

SUB-TITLE: Genesis: Part 1

CREDITS: Credits go here.

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PAGE 5 (Six Panels)

1. Transition: "Southfield, Michigan."

We're in a high school hallway. The panel should be angled so it's looking straight down the hall. On the left, in the foreground, is our main focus of the panel: REI MIURA. She stands in front of her locker, loading books into her backpack. From this angle, we should be able to see the inside of her locker door. Taped to the door is a magazine pin up of a woman in a bikini. As with the first page, the caption here should label REI accordingly.

Visible farther down the hallway, in the background, a group of three girls approaches. These girls, ASHLEY, JEANINE, and REBECCA, are your typical 'popular and pretty' crowd, the girls in high school that every guy wants to be with. It's important to note that ASHLEY is carrying several books with her.

Ashley: -- and Nick is totally taking me out Friday night.

Caption: REI MIURA.

2. REI has moved away from her locker and is now walking down the hallway. Her head is down, and backpack slung over her shoulder. The other girls continue walking towards her, but are too engrossed in conversation to pay attention to where they're going.

Jeanine: Oh my god, no way! He's like, the hottest guy in school!

Rebecca: Are you gonna make out with him? Oh, you're so going to make out with him!

3. REI and ASHLEY accidentally bump into each other, neither having been paying attention to where they were walking. The impact causes ASHLEY to drop her books.

Ashley: Well, I -- hey!

Rebecca: Watch where you're going!

4. REI drops down to her hands and knees, trying to pick up ASHLEY'S books for her. Though REI remains timid and apologetic, ASHLEY is angry. She glares down at REI, hands on her hips.

Rei: Sorry, sorry. I really didn't mean to --

Ashley: What the hell is wrong with you? Are you blind?

5. A shot of REI still on her hands and knees, holding the books up to their owner. ASHLEY'S arms come in from off panel to snatch the books out of REI'S hands.

Rei: Here's your --

Ashley: Give me those!

6. The three girls continue down the hallway, leaving REI behind on her knees. She doesn't watch them leave, instead staring straight down at the floor.

Ashley: My god, she is such a dyke.

Jeanine: Loser.

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PAGE 6 (Five Panels)

1. We're inside a small, simple suburban home now. REI walks through the front door, bag slung over her shoulder again. Her gaze is pointed at the ground, posture slouched.

Rei: I'm home...

2. Farther inside the home, REI ambles up a staircase, hand lazily dragging behind her on the railing. Her parents, MR. and MRS. MIURA, have appeared, from the side of the staircase. They’re a typical, middle-aged, Japanese-American couple.

Mrs. Miura: How was your day?

Rei: Fine.

Mr. Miura: Anything you want to talk about?

Rei: No.

3. Close up of MR. and MRS. MIURA giving each other concerned looks.

Mrs. Miura: I'll go talk to her.

Mr. Miura: Good idea.

4. We're in REI'S bedroom now. She is curled up on her bed, lying on her side with her back to the door. The colors of the room, from the walls and carpet to her bed sheets, are very dark and muted. She doesn't like bright colors. Along the walls of the room are shelves and shelves of big books. Next to her bed is a small end table, atop which sits a large sculpture of a dragon. On the other side of her room is a large desk, decorated with a variety of small fantasy figurines, everything from wizards and knights to dragons, gryphons, and other fantastical creatures. Several posters adorn her walls, depicting more fantasy elements. One in particular shows a well figured woman dressed in a chainmail bikini, holding a large sword.

Mrs. Miura (O.P.): Rei?

5. A shot of the bedroom door opening. MRS. MIURA pokes her head inside.

Mrs. Miura: Sweetie? Is everything alright?

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PAGE 7 (Five Panels)

1. A shot from the side of the bed, facing REI. She hugs her pillow close to her, frowning at the wall. MRS. MIURA approaches the bed.

Rei: I said I'm fine.

Mrs. Miura: Rei... it's okay. I am your mother. You can talk to me.

2. MRS. MIURA is sitting on the edge of the bed now, turned towards her daughter and holding a comforting hand to the girl's shoulder. REI doesn't even shift her position on the bed.

Mrs. Miura: Your father and I... we are trying to understand you. But it is difficult when you refuse to open up.

Rei: Look, I know I'm not like other girls, okay? I'm different.

3. REI lowers her gaze, now staring down at the mattress. She's distant, closed off. Almost sad.

Rei: But that doesn't mean I want to make a big deal out of it. I just... want to be accepted.

4. REI rolls over slightly, turning to look up at her mother. MRS. MIURA glances away sadly, posture slouching.

Rei: Even you and dad barely accept me.

Mrs. Miura: We are trying... we really are. But this is so different from what we are used to, from what we... expected.

5. REI looks down again, averting her eyes. MRS. MIURA has turned back to her daughter, brushing back REI'S bangs away from her face.

Mrs. Miura: But you're still our... our daughter, and we love you. Nothing will change that.

Rei: Thanks, I guess.

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PAGE 8 (Six Panels)

1. MRS. Miura stands up from the bed again, reaching a hand into her pocket. REI sits up attentively on the bed, holding her pillow in her lap.

Mrs. Miura: Oh, there was something else we needed to discuss with you.

Rei: What is it?

2. MRS. MIURA extends a hand forward, now holding out a small brochure. REI reaches out to take it.

Mrs. Miura: This came in the mail today. It looks like a very nice school.

Rei: A school?

3. A low angle shot, from bed level looking up at REI as she studies the open brochure. The front depicts an image of a very high end, private school. The lettering at the top reads: "Blanchett Academy."

Rei: But I already have a school.

Mrs. Miura (O.P.): Yes, but this one seems much more... suitable, for you.

Rei: Looks expensive.

4. REI looks back up at her mother. MRS. MIURA actually appears pleased, even excited.

Mrs. Miura: Not expensive at all. The brochure came with a scholarship offer.

Rei: A scholarship? For me? ...why?

5. MRS. MIURA shrugs unknowingly. REI folds the brochure back up again, considering her mother's words.

Mrs. Miura: I don't know. Just lucky, perhaps? Still, it looks very nice.

Rei: Maybe... but it said it was a boarding school. And it's far away.

6. MRS. MIURA holds a comforting hand to her daughter's shoulder. REI hugs her pillow closer, staring back down at the bed.

Mrs. Miura: I know, sweetie... but I also know that you don't like your current school. This could be... a fresh start.

Rei: I doubt it will change anything... but, I guess I'll think about it.

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PAGE 9 (Six Panels)

1. Transition: "Gainesville, Florida."

We’re outside a small high school now, in the parking lot. The focus of the panel should be a teenage boy opening the door to an old, beat up car. The vehicle is in a total state of disrepair; dents, rust, dirt, mud, you name it. The boy is named HECTOR RIOS, of Cuban descent. While opening the car door with one hand, HECTOR is turned to look behind him, waving with his other hand. Another group of boys stand a short distance away, waving in response.

Hector’s physical appearance: his skin is lightly tanned, his hair cut close and very neat, and he is clean shaven. His body is lean, and of average height. The clothes he wears typically consists of tight T-shirts, or button downed shirts, both short and long sleeves, and simple, form fitting blue jeans, with belt.

Unnamed Boy: Hey man, you coming over later?

Hector: Can't, got work.

Unnamed Boy: Damn, you work too much.

Caption: Hector Rios.

2. A shot of HECTOR sliding into the driver's seat, closing the door behind him.

Hector: So you keep telling me. See you guys tomorrow!

3. We're outside a small fast food restaurant now. Overhead shot, looking down at an angle. We can see Hector's car turning into the parking lot.

4. Inside the restaurant now, in the cooking area. HECTOR works the grill, flipping burgers. He's wearing a collared shirt and visor now, along with black pants.

Employee (O.P.): Need two more double cheeseburgers!

5. HECTOR works the deep fryer, pulling out a basket of french fries. Next to him, another EMPLOYEE works the drive-through window, speaking into a headset.

Employee: You want fries with that?

6. The cooking area has cleared out now. HECTOR is alone, mopping the floor. The rest of the area is cleaned up, spotless.

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PAGE 10 (Five Panels)

1. HECTOR pushes open the restaurant door, returning outside. He's dressed again in his normal clothes. It's night now, and the parking lot is mostly empty. Behind him, still inside, the MANAGER gives him a departing wave.

Manager: See you tomorrow, Hector.

Hector: Goodnight, Mr. Morello.

2. We're outside a small house, old and worn down. The tiny front lawn is overgrown, shingles are missing from the roof, and some of the window shutters are falling off. Hector's car sits in the driveway.

3. HECTOR sits at the kitchen table, open textbooks spread out around him as he writes busily in a notebook, doing his homework. The kitchen is small, with only very basic appliances. Water stains blotch the ceiling and wall, and some tiling is missing on the floor. A clock on the wall behind him reads: 10:35.

4. Same as the previous panel, except now Hector is fast asleep, collapsed against the table. The clock behind him reads: 12:45.

Mrs. Rios (O.P.): Hector?

5. Hector's mother, MRS. RIOS, is in the kitchen now. She's a full figured woman, with tanned skin and naturally curly hair. She holds a hand to her son's shoulder, urging him to wake up. HECTOR opens his eyes tiredly.

Mrs. Rios: <Hector, wake up. You fell asleep.>*

Hector: <Oh, Mom, you're home. How was work?>

Caption: *Translated from Spanish.

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PAGE 11 (Four Panels)

1. MRS. RIOS places her purse on the kitchen counter. Hector rubs his eyes, trying to wake himself.

Mrs. Rios: <Slow, as usual. Did you get your homework done?>

Hector: <Most of it. I'll do the rest in the morning, before school.>

2. HECTOR pulls out a brochure from beneath his textbooks. It's the same brochure from earlier, for Blanchett Academy. MRS. RIOS stands behind her son, looking over her shoulder at it.

Hector: <I saw this when I got home. You know what it is?>

Mrs. Rios: <Oh, that came in the mail earlier. It's a school.>

3. HECTOR opens the brochure and carefully examines it. MRS. RIOS is smiling enthusiastically.

Hector: <I can see it's a school. But why is it being sent to me?>

Mrs. Rios: <They want you to attend! Can you believe it? It's a very nice school.>

Hector: <But I already have one.>

4. MRS. RIOS bows her head, posture slouching. HECTOR looks up at her over his shoulder.

Mrs. Rios: -sigh- <I know, but it's not a very good school. It's just what we can afford. This is a much better school, with much better opportunities.>

Hector: <But there's no way we can afford it. We can barely pay the bills.>

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PAGE 12 (Four Panels)

1. MRS. RIOS' demeanor changes. She's excited again, eager, happy. HECTOR stares back down at the brochure, confused.

Mrs. Rios: <Yes, we can! They're offering to pay for your expenses. Like a scholarship!>

Hector: <What? Why would they want to do that?>

Mrs. Rios: <It doesn't matter. This is too good an opportunity to pass up.>

2. A close up on HECTOR'S face. He appears distant, almost depressed.

Hector: <But it's a boarding school... and it's so far away. I don't want to leave you here alone.>

Mrs. Rios (O.P.): <Hector...>

3. MRS. RIOS holds both her hands to her son's face, one on either cheek. She stares at him deeply, lovingly. Her smile is one of comfort.

Mrs. Rios: <...I will be okay. Really. I only want what is best for you. That's all I've ever wanted. This could give you the best possible opportunities for your future. Please, Hector...>

4. HECTOR bows his head, glancing back at the brochure on the table.

Hector: <Alright... if you really think I should go, then I will go.>

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PAGE 13 (Six Panels)

1. Transition: "Lancaster, Pennsylvania."

We’re in a high school classroom now. The classroom is full, various students sitting at the desks. The teacher, MS. BRADY, stands up front. She holds a stack of paper in her hands. Some kids are paying attention, others are whispering to each other, and others still are napping.

Focused in the center of the panel is a dark skinned girl with long brown hair, sitting straight up at attention. This is BRIANNA REID. She wears more reserved, casual clothing, such as jeans and long sleeved shirts, nothing revealing, as well as a pair of narrow, black rimmed glasses. Her body is of an athletic build, with very toned and defined muscles, and an average chest.

Ms. Brady: I have to say, I was not impressed with a lot of your test scores.

2. MS. BRADY walks around the classroom, passing back a sheet of paper from the stack she carries to each student. BRIANNA was one of the first to get her test back; she looks at it carefully.

Ms. Brady: Only three students scored above an eighty-five. Now, I know my questions weren't that difficult, which leaves me with the sneaking suspicion that some of you may not have studied as well as you could have.

3. A low angle shot from BRIANNA'S desk, looking up at her. She is smiling widely in satisfaction.

Ms. Brady (O.P.): I didn't want to have another review today, but you leave me no choice.

Caption: Brianna Reid.

4. Small insert panel, showing the corner of BRIANNA'S test. It depicts a score of 100.

5. We're in the hallway now. BRIANNA is at her locker, loading her books inside it. Nearby, two girls approach. These girls are DANIELLE and TIFFANY.

Danielle: Hey, Brianna! Thanks for the tutoring lessons!

Tiffany: For real, we totally aced that test. My parents would have killed me if I failed another one.

6. BRIANNA closes her locker door and turns to the other girls. She smiles pleasantly.

Brianna: Oh, no trouble at all. Happy to help.

Tiffany: Look, there's a party this Saturday, and we were thinking --

Danielle: -- you should totally come! It'll be a blast!

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PAGE 14 (Seven Panels)

1. BRIANNA shifts uneasily, nervously. DANIELLE and TIFFANY frown, disappointed.

Brianna: Oh, uh, I- I'd love to, but... I mean, I'm pretty busy...

Danielle: Oh, okay...

Tiffany: Yeah, it's no problem... we get it.

2. BRIANNA recoils sharply, eyes wide. She holds up her hands, trying desperately to reassure the two girls. DANIELLE and TIFFANY do relax, giving very slight smiles.

Brianna: Oh no, it's not like that! I really would like to go, it's just that, me parents... you know what, I'll definitely ask them about it. Promise.

Tiffany: Awesome!

Danielle: Yeah, hope to see you there.

3. DANIELLE and TIFFANY wave goodbye, as they head back down the hallway. BRIANNA gives them a wave in return.

Tiffany: See you later, Brie!

Brianna: I- I'll call you! To tell you what me parents said, I mean.

4. Wide panel. We're in a Karate dojo now. BRIANNA is at the front of the class, while the teacher guides his students through a choreographed form. They're all dressed in white gis, with either brown or black belts. BRIANNA'S belt is black.

5. Small shot of BRIANNA throwing a punch.

6. Small shot of BRIANNA throwing a side kick.

7. Small shot of BRIANNA and the other students bowing forward with their palms held together.

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PAGE 15 (Six Panels)

1. BRIANNA walks towards the entrance of the dojo, removing the top of her gi. She wears just a plain T-shirt underneath, so this is a good opportunity to really define the muscle in her arms. Nearby, her parents, MR. and MRS. REID, wait for her. They are a Black British family, being of African descent, yet hailing from England.

Mr. Reid: You looked good today, Brie. Should be a shoo-in to win the tourney next week.

Brianna: Thanks, Dad, but I'm not gettin' me hopes up.

2. The three head outside into the parking lot. MR. and MRS. REID lead the way, while BRIANNA follows.

Mrs. Reid: But you do so well, and you won last year's.

Brianna: Nothin's certain, Mum. I'd prefer not to go in cocky, is all.

3. They're in their car now. MR. REID is in the driver's seat, turning the key in the ignition. MRS. Reid is in the passenger's seat, putting her seat belt on. In the back seat, BRIANNA secures her own seat belt, while smiling pleasantly.

Mr. Reid: Not to worry, darlin', you'll do wonderfully.

Mrs. Reid: Oh, how did that test go, Brie?

Brianna: Perfect score, as usual.

4. MR. REID looks up into the rear view mirror, smiling. The car is moving down the street now.

Mr. Reid: That's me girl.

Brianna (O.P.): Oh, and I meant to ask, um... you see, there's this party on Saturday, an' I've been invited. Do you think that maybe, possibly... I could go?

5. A close shot of MR. and MRS. REID giving each other careful glances.

Mr. Reid: Oh, a party? That's, I mean, I don't really think that would be the... best idea.

Mrs. Reid: It's just, you have your schoolwork, and exams to be studying for, and then there's the tournament...

6. A close up shot of BRIANNA staring out the car window, as they drive down the street. She looks utterly disappointed.

Brianna: Right, I figured. I just... you know, I've never actually been to a party before. I thought it might be fun, is all.

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PAGE 16 (Six Panels)

1. We're in the Reid household now, in the kitchen. It's a fairly wealthy home, but nothing too lavish. BRIANNA sits at the kitchen table, going through her textbooks and doing her homework. MRS. REID is at the refrigerator removing a small brochure pinned to the door by a magnet. MR. REID stands at the counter, pouring himself a glass of orange juice.

Mrs. Reid: Brie, hun, there's something here for you.

Brianna: What is it?

2. A close up on the cover of the brochure, as MRS. REID passes it to her daughter. It's the same brochure as the others.

Mrs. Reid (O.P.): This came for you in the mail today. Look it over, I think you'll find it interesting.

Brianna (O.P.): A boarding school?

3. MR. REID sits at the table, placing his glass of orange juice in front of him. MRS. REID stands next to him, a hand on his shoulder, while BRIANNA carefully reads over the brochure.

Mr. Reid: A very nice boarding school. Private, high end, one of the best in the country from what I've gathered.

Mrs. Reid: An' they're offering to cover all expenses if you attend, starting next semester.

4. BRIANNA looks up in surprise.

Brianna: They want me to go to their school? You want me to go?

5. MR. and MRS. REID smile, remaining positive.

Mr. Reid: It's a lovely place, much better than the school you attend now. Think of the opportunities.

Brianna: An' it's a boarding school, correct? So that means, I'd... be on me own?

6. Close up of BRIANNA staring down at the brochure again. She's smiling.

Mrs. Reid (O.P.): It isn't too far away, darlin'. And you can call us every day, if you like.

Brianna: Well, I suppose I could think about it.

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PAGE 17 (Five Panels)

1. Transition: "Westbrook, Maine."

Wide shot of a high school football field. On the field, the team runs practice, scrimmaging against each other. We're in the middle of a play, with the center snapping the ball back to the QUARTERBACK.

Quarterback: Hut!

2. The QUARTERBACK hands the ball off to the halfback. The halfback is MICHAEL DANVERS. He's a large individual, well built and in excellent shape, though we can't see too many details under his pads right now.

3. MICHAEL plows straight through several defenders, knocking them on their asses.

Defender: Oof!

4. MICHAEL reaches the endzone, holding the football up high.

Michael: Yeah! And that's how it's done!

5. His teammates gather with him in the endzone. MICHAEL reaches up to take his helmet off, while the other players pat him on the back. Several of the players are doubled over, catching their breath.

Player #1: Damn, man, you keep running like that and there's no way we lose this week.

Player #2: Yeah, dude, I think you knocked my spleen into my throat.

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PAGE 18 (Five Panels)

1. MICHAEL has his helmet off now. He's quite good looking, with short blonde hair and bright green eyes, a strong, clean-shaven face. He's smirking triumphantly.

Michael: What can I say? I'm good at this.

Player #3: Totally.

Caption: Michael Danvers.

2. The players start heading off the field, back towards the school. Their COACH stands off to the side, hands on his hips.

Coach: Good work today, boys. Especially you, Danvers. Keep it up.

Michael: See you tomorrow, Coach.

3. In the locker room now, players removing their football gear and getting changed. MICHAEL pulls his shoulder pads up over his head in front of his locker. Several other players stand nearby.

Player #1: Hey, Mike, big party this weekend, man. You in?

Michael: Where at?

4. MICHAEL throws his shoulder pads into the locker. He's wearing just a white tank top underneath, giving good opportunity here to show off his impressive physique.

Player #2: Over at Swanson's, you know the place.

Michael: Ha, yeah I do. Count me in.

5. MICHAEL sits down on the bench behind him and works to untie his cleats.

Player #1: Awesome, man, see you later.

Michael: Later.

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PAGE 19 (Six Panels)

1. We're in a small, suburban home now. MICHAEL pushes his way through the front door, a backpack slung over his shoulder.

Michael: Dad! I'm home!

2. We're in the kitchen now. We can see a pair of legs sticking out from underneath the sink. His dad, MR. DANVERS, is in the process of fixing a leaky pipe. A box of tools sit nearby. MICHAEL places his book bag down on one of the kitchen table chairs. A pile of mail sits on the counter nearby, thrown there haphazardly.

Mr. Danvers: How was practice?

Michael: Great.

3. MICHAEL stands in front of the counter, going through the mail.

Mr. Danvers (O.P.): Gonna be ready for the game this week?

Michael: Aren't I always?

4. We can see MR. DANVERS sliding out from beneath the sink, a wrench in hand. MICHAEL casually opens up one of the envelopes at the counter.

Mr. Danvers: That you are. Speaking of which, got something I need to talk to you about.

5. Low angle shot, looking up at MICHAEL as he stares down at the paper in his hands.

Michael: What is it?

6. Insert panel, showing the paper MICHAEL holds. It's his school progress report, showing straight A's across the board.

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PAGE 20 (Six Panels)

1. MR. DANVERS holds out the "Blanchett Academy" brochure. MICHAEL lowers his progress report and stares at the brochure.

Mr. Danvers: Take a look at that.

Michael: A school?

2. MR. DANVERS folds his arms across his chest, smirking. MICHAEL holds the brochure now, looking at it closely.

Mr. Danvers: Not just any school. Did a little research on the place. It's got one of the best high school sports programs in the country.

Michael: But why does that ---

3. MR. DANVERS' expression suddenly grows more stern. He's staring at his son intently now.

Mr. Danvers: They want you to play for them, last half of this year and your Senior year. Football, basketball, baseball, the works. They like what they see, and you could get some real nice college scholarships.

4. MICHAEL looks up in surprise. He doesn't like what he's hearing.

Michael: What? You can't just send me to another school! I have friends here, commitments. I'm a Westbrook High Wildcat, end of story.

5. MR. DANVERS is angry now. He points at his son, scowling.

Mr. Danvers: This is the best chance you're gonna get to make it big, Mike. If you really want to be a star one day, then you'll --

Michael: But I never wanted that! You wanted that! You can't just --

6. MR. DANVERS turns his back and starts walking away. MICHAEL stands there, utterly stunned and taken aback. He can't bring himself to say anything else.

Mr. Danvers: You're going, end of story! Deal with it.

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PAGE 21 (Five Panels)

1. Transition: "Sacramento, California."

We're in another high school hallway now. It's pretty crowded, groups of students walking between classes. One group in particular is the focus of this panel, a group of girls. We'll be paying most attention to one of these girls here, CHRISTINE WILSON. Her hair is blonde and long, flowing around one of her shoulders. While her body has some distinct curves to it, she's still very fit, just not pencil thin like the other girls in her group. The low cut top that she wears accentuates her large chest, as if asking to draw attention to it. The other girls in the group, JENNY, BETTY, and MEGAN, are all dressed in similar fashion, with remarkably short skirts to match.

Jenny: -- told her there was no way I was wearing something that hideous.

Betty: Ha! Oh my god, that's priceless.

2. The group continues heading down the hallway, engaged in conversation. CHRISTINE, however, hangs off to the side somewhat, not looking at them. Instead, her attention is straight ahead, where a BOY approaches from off panel, only part of his body visible to us right now.

Jenny: Maybe next time my mother will learn to ask me before she buys me anything.

Megan: Girl, you are so bad.

3. The group of girls stops abruptly, staring forward in surprise. The BOY from the previous panel is fully visible now, though we're looking from behind him, so all we can see is his backside. While CHRISTINE here is largely indifferent at the moment, the other girls appear annoyed.

Boy: Um, excuse me...

4. This panel focuses solely on the BOY now. He isn't particularly unattractive, but he's no hunk either. He is somewhat scrawny, though, with glasses. He carries with him a stack of books in his arms.

Boy: Jenny, I was wondering if maybe... maybe you'd like to go to the dance with me next Saturday?

5. Close up on Jenny's face, looking both surprised and disgusted.

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PAGE 22 (Six Panels)

1. The girls break out into laughter, genuinely amused. CHRISTINE, however, does not join in on the laughter, instead looking at the other girls out of the corner of her eyes.

Jenny/Betty/Megan: HAHAHAHAHA!

2. The girls push their way past the BOY, completely dismissing him. Jenny, in particular, causes the books he's carrying to tumble out of his arms to the floor. CHRISTINE, however, doesn't move, instead just watching them.

Jenny: As if!

Megan: Ha, what a loser!

Betty: Come on, Christine!

3. CHRISTINE continues to stand there, looking down the hallway. The BOY is down on his hands and knees now, picking up his books. He looks completely crushed.

Christine: Uh, yeah, be right there.

4. Now CHRISTINE is on her hands and knees, too, helping to pick up the fallen books. The BOY glances up at her in surprise.

Christine: That was gutsy, you know. Stupid, but gutsy.

Boy: Um... thanks?

5. CHRISTINE hands him a couple of the fallen books, smiling slightly.

Christine: Don't pay any attention to them, really. They're... well, you know.

Boy: But you hang out with them?

Caption: Christine Wilson.

6. They're back on their feet now. CHRISTINE shifts awkwardly, glancing off to the side. The BOY holds his books closely, staring at her.

Christine: Yeah, well... they're still my friends. Look, I gotta get going, so...

Boy: Oh, right... um, see you around.

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PAGE 23 (Five Panels)

1. Wide angle shot of a very wealthy, large home, more of a mansion than anything. CHRISTINE is at the front entrance, pushing the door open.

2. The interior of the home is just as lavish, with expensive and elegant decor. The Wilson family is very wealthy, and their home clearly represents that. CHRISTINE walks down one of the hallways, looking around carefully.

Christine: Mom? Dad? I'm home.

3. CHRISTINE enters into the sunroom, where a woman lounges in a leather seat reading a magazine. A martini glass sits on the table next to her, along with an open envelope and brochure. The woman's eyes remain locked on the magazine, not looking up when CHRISTINE enters the room. This is MRS. WILSON.

Christine: Hey, mom... I'm home.

Mrs. Wilson: I heard you.

4. CHRISTINE'S expression slackens. She's distant, awkward. MRS. WILSON still doesn't look up from her magazine.

Christine: Oh, right... of course you did. So, um... I was thinking about going over Jenny's later. If that's alright.

Mrs. Wilson: Whatever you want, dear.

5. MRS. WILSON casually sips from her martini glass, still focused on her magazine. CHRISTINE bows her head, turning to leave.

Christine: Right, so I'll just... I'll go, then.

Mrs. Wilson: Hold on just a moment.

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PAGE 24 (Six Panels)

1. Still looking down at her magazine, Mrs. Wilson reaches over to the table next to her to grab the brochure. It's the same one as all the others. CHRISTINE approaches her mother, curiously.

Mrs. Wilson: Take a look at this.

Christine: What is it?

Mrs. Wilson: Your new school.

2. CHRISTINE stares in shock, hand frozen on the brochure that her mother holds out. MRS. WILSON continues to look completely uninterested, her focus never leaving the magazine. Not once during this entire exchange will she look up at her daughter.

Christine: My what?! What do you mean my new school? I have a school!

Mrs. Wilson: This one is offering to cover expenses. Saves us money.

3. CHRISTINE is angry now. She rips the brochure out of her mother's hand, scowling at her.

Christine: You can't just send me to another school! All my friends are here! My whole life is here!

Mrs. Wilson: I'm afraid your father already filled out the forms. You leave in three weeks.

4. Now CHRISTINE is confused, surprised. Her posture slackens, gazing curiously at her mother.

Christine: What do you mean, I... I leave?

Mrs. Wilson: It's a boarding school. You'll be staying there.

5. And CHRISTINE is angry again, furious. She's starting to cry, too. Still, Mrs. Wilson doesn't pay her any attention.

Christine: You're getting rid of me! I can't believe -- you can't do this!

6. CHRISTINE turns and runs out of the room.

Christine: I hate you! I hate you!

Mrs. Wilson: That's lovely, dear.

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PAGE 25 (Five Panels)

1. Transition: "Buffalo, New York. One Month Later..."

Establishing shot of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Reference pictures can be provided for exterior shots, interiors are up to you. Parked out front, near the pick up area, is a large transport bus with heavily tinted windows.

2. Inside the airport now, focused on one of the terminal jetways. A line of people exit into the terminal, their plane having landed just moments ago. At the center of this crowd and clearly visible is REI MIURA, a carry on bag slung over her shoulder.

3. Down in baggage claim, HECTOR RIOS waits patiently, watching the luggage move round the conveyer belt. At the neighboring luggage conveyer, MICHAEL DANVERS leans forward to grab his suitcase.

4. BRIANNA REID stands calmly on a descending escalator, her luggage at her side. She's smiling happily.

5. Back outside now, CHRISTINE WILSON walks through the exit, wheeling her large suitcase behind her. She looks miserable, in no way wanting to be there.

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PAGE 26 (Five Panels)

1. A wide shot of the bus from the previous page. The storage area below is open, half filled with luggage bags already. A line of individuals of varying ages, both teenagers and older, board the bus. On the side of the bus, written in large, stylish letters, is the word "Blanchett". The bus driver, dressed in full uniform, including a hat, works to load more luggage into the bottom compartment. Note that the bus driver is actually SOPHIE BELMONT, from the first few pages, but with her hair down straight and hat pulled low over her face, this fact should not yet be clear.

2. MICHAEL and HECTOR walk out through the exit now, already engaged in conversation with each other.

Michael: So, you're heading to this school, too, huh?

Hector: Yeah, my mother wanted me to go. Not something we could have ever afforded on our own.

3. BRIANNA arrives at the bus, dropping her luggage off for the driver to load. She's still all smiles. Nearby, Rei gives her a curious look.

Brianna: Absolutely brilliant.

Rei: Huh?

4. BRIANNA and REI begin to board the bus, now looking at each other in conversation.

Brianna: Oh, sorry, just talking to meself, is all.

Rei: What's so "brilliant"?

5. BRIANNA and REI take a seat next to each other.

Brianna: Oh, I'm just a bit excited to be out on me own. Never had that kind of freedom before, even if it is for school.

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PAGE 27 (Five Panels)

1. HECTOR and MICHAEL are sitting next to each other on the bus now. CHRISTINE walks down the aisle, her head turned to look at them. She's noticed MICHAEL.

Michael: -- sports, mostly. My dad always pushed them on me.

Hector: Oh, cool. What kind of sports you play?

2. CHRISTINE leans over the seat from behind them, reaching forward with one hand. She's smiling, her attention fully on MICHAEL. The two boys look up at her, with MICHAEL reaching up to shake her hand.

Christine: Well, hello there. You going to this new school, too, I hope?

Michael: Uh, yes. Yes, I am. Name's Michael. And you are?

3. Focusing back on REI and BRIANNA now. REI is starting to smile, as BRIANNA'S good mood rubs off on her.

Rei: That accent... you from England?

Brianna: Me family's from London, yeah. Came over when I was twelve.

4. Still on REI and BRIANNA.

Brianna: What about you, where you from?

Rei: Oh, Japan. Parents came over from Kyoto. That was before I was even born, though.

5. CHRISTINE is leaning even farther over the seat now, focused entirely on MICHAEL. HECTOR is forced to lean slightly to the side to make room. MICHAEL'S attention, too, is all on CHRISTINE.

Michael: Your parents forced you to come, too?

Christine: Oh yeah, my parents are great like that. They just wanted to get rid of me, if you can believe it.

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PAGE 28 (Five Panels)

1. A shot from the front of the bus looking towards the back. Almost every seat is filled. In the foreground, we can see the stairs to our left, with the bus driver's hand gripping the railing.

2. The bus driver, SOPHIE, sits in the driver's seat, pulling the lever to close the doors.

3. The large bus drives away from the airport, pulling onto the main street.

4. Back inside the bus, we're focused on two unnamed teenagers. They're staring at a couple older individuals in the seat next to them, across the aisle.

Teenager #1: Don't they look a little old to be going to high school?

Teenager #2: Maybe they're teachers?

5. One of the teenagers leans forward across the aisle, grabbing one of the older men's attention.

Teenager #1: Excuse me, are you a teacher?

Older Man: A teacher?

Teenager #1: Yeah, you know, for the school?

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PAGE 29 (Five Panels)

1. The man looks thoroughly confused, having no idea what the kid is talking about.

Older Man: Uh, no. I'm here for an interview at Blanchett Industries.

Teenager #2: Wait, you mean Blanchett Academy, right?

2. A close up on SOPHIE. The sound effect of a phone ringing comes from her front pocket.

SFX: RNNNG RNNNG

3. SOPHIE holds a cell phone up to her ear.

Sophie: Oui, I have them all with me now... Should be there in an hour.

4. SOPHIE reaches next to her with one hand, holding her cell phone between her ear and shoulder so she can still drive with her other hand. She pulls out a gas mask from her bag.

Sophie: Oui, Monsieur. Right away. I will see you soon.

5. The panel should be wide enough to show seats on both sides of the aisle. On one side, we see MICHAEL, BRIANNA, and HECTOR, all looking upwards, curiously. On the other side, REI and BRIANNA do the same, confused.

Michael: Hey do you hear that?

Hector: Sounds like...

Rei: Gas?

SFX: TSSSSSSSSS

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PAGE 30 (Splash)

Splash page. We're looking down the aisle from the front of the bus, with SOPHIE visible in the driver's seat to the right side. She's wearing the gas mask now. A thick, heavy gas is now visible, leaking out of the air vents and filling the bus. The passengers go into a panic, some falling out of their seats, others clawing at their throats.

Passenger #1: Oh my god!

Passenger #2: What's going on?!

Passenger #3: Can't -kaff- breathe! -kaff, kaff-

Caption: To Be Continued...

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Rose Wilson: The Ravager - All's Well That Ends Well (#107-109)

Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy/Ruby, Sophie, Jeremiah Belmont, Michelle Blanchett, Isaiah Slaton, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.

Rating: T+

Note: An exciting turning point awaits Rose in the final chapters of her story. Come witness how her adventures end!

Side Note: It's been a long, long time since I started this fic. Well, I guess that's a relative term. It's only been about a third of a year, but it feels like a lot longer, probably since I've been spitting out a chapter a day since then. But it's been enjoyable, too. I've loved writing this story, I've loved writing these characters, and I'm thrilled that I've finally completed something I can be proud of. I'm only a little sad that it's over, but then all good things must come to an end. To be honest, I could probably write another twenty story arcs at least if I wanted to, but it just made sense for me to end it here. I don't want to burn out and then start writing crap, and I felt the characters of the story could use some real, solid closure. In a sense, it just felt right. So, without further ado, I give you the conclusion to the Rose Wilson series.

All Chapters: http://www.comicvine.com/forums/fan-fic/8/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/660884/#1

Chapter #107

Ext. Whitmore Cemetery – Day

Four people. Such a small number to show up at a funeral. Of course, it’s not like anyone would have expected more than that to come pay respects to a man like Slade Wilson. His funeral hadn't even been publicly announced, anyway. Besides, in all likelihood, Slade probably would have preferred a small funeral, wouldn’t want too many people making a fuss over nothing. They didn’t have a service for him, just a burial. A small, quiet burial.

As Rose stands there, hands shoved in her pockets and gaze locked onto the headstone, she isn’t sure what emotion is strongest. A great deal of grief burns in her chest, but so does anger. Sadness, too. She doesn’t cry, though, no. She’d already shed her tears for this man, and she’d come to peace with the fact that he was gone. The lack of tears, however, do nothing to soothe the hollowness in her heart.

Breathing in deeply, she glances briefly over her shoulder. Lillian and Joseph await nearby, already having paid their respects. A soft, disbelieving breath surges past her lips, as she turns back to the gravestone yet again. The irony is practically mocking her.

Leave it to me to have the hardest time letting go. Me, the one who should hate you most of all…

A gentle touch graces her shoulder. Rose looks to her left, and Becky offers a comforting smile. She tries to return the same in kind, but her lips refuse to contort properly. Instead, she utters a deep sigh and bows her head.

Becky: You alright?

Rose: I… yeah, I’ll be fine. Guess I just never really thought I’d find myself here, like this. He was a b*stard, sure, but… he always seemed sort of invincible to me, you know? No matter what situation he got himself into, no matter how many times even I tried to kill him, he always got away… like a psychotic cockroach or something. Almost funny that it took sacrifice to put him down for good.

Becky: A sacrifice for family. A sacrifice for you.

Rose: Yeah… for me.

A small, amused laugh bursts from her throat, as she crosses her arms across her chest. She pauses briefly, shaking her head.

Becky: What is it?

Rose: My dad was probably the best person in the world at getting people to hate him. Especially his family. Yet in spite of all of that… he was also pretty good at getting people to forgive him.

Bringing her own gaze to the headstone, Becky’s arm slips around Rose’s shoulder, holding her closely.

Becky: So you really forgive him, ah?

Rose: He gave his life for ours… he gave me my mother back. In the end, he finally started acting like a father, in his own weird way. I… that’s all I ever wanted from him. Don’t get me wrong, though. I still hate the things he did to me, and I hate how he screwed my life up in the first place, and god knows the rest of the world won’t forgive the things he’s done. But… yeah, I do forgive him.

Becky: Well, then so do I.

As Rose’s lips curl into a subtle smile, she turns and leans in to Becky, giving a tender kiss to the woman’s cheek.

Rose: You know how much I love you, right?

Becky: About as much as I love you, I imagine.

Becky smirks, initiating her own kiss this time. She brings their lips together for several moments, before finally pulling away and taking hold of Rose’s hand. She squeezes tightly, interlocking their fingers.

Becky: Now and always. That’s a promise.

Widening her smile, Rose leans her head against Becky’s shoulder and inhales a deep, slow breath.

Rose: Remind me never to let you go.

Becky: Ha, I don’t think that needs reminding.

Rose: Hmh. I think you’re right.

They stand there for several moments longer in silence, until finally turning away from the headstone to leave. They walk hand in hand, fingers interlaced tightly and lovingly. They don’t make it very far, however, before Rose stops suddenly, staring forward. Becky sees it, too, pausing briefly before letting go of Rose’s hand.

Becky: Give you a minute?

Rose: Uh… yeah. I’ll catch up with you.

When Becky leaves, Rose shoves her hands back into her pockets and focuses on the approaching man, a familiar face that she never would have expected to see here.

Rose: What are you doing here?

Dick: You said today was the funeral, right? Guess I’m a little late.

Rose: I mean, why did you come? You and my dad were like… worst enemies.

Dick: I’m not here to shed a tear for the man, if that’s what you mean. He was one of my worst enemies, and he hurt a lot of people close to me.

Rose: Then why?

Dick: I’m here for you, Rose. Not for him. In spite of who he was, you still lost your father.

Exhaling deeply, Rose looks away. Her gaze finds a stray clump of clover in the grass and locks on, not turning back.

Rose: Yeah, well… I’m fine. Really.

Dick: Look, you told me what he did for you. I can respect him for that, but only for that. Everything else he did… well, I don’t think I need to explain. But I know you still loved him, and I’m sorry. I really am, Rose.

Rose: It’s a nice sentiment, Dick, but let’s be serious here. You’re as glad he’s gone as the rest of the heroes he crossed paths with over the years. But hey, it’s not like I can blame you for it. He did a lot of horrible things. Hell, if not for how he redeemed himself in the end, I’d be glad he was gone, too. You don’t need to pretend you’re sorry.

Dick: Rose…

Rose: So is that the only reason you came by, to offer your sympathies?

He pauses for a moment, bowing his head and sighing.

Dick: No, it’s not the only reason I came.

Rose: Well go on, then.

Dick: It’s the JLA. We’re looking to… expand membership.

Rose: Alright, and you’re telling me this, because…?

Dick: Because we want you to join, Rose. It wasn’t exactly a unanimous decision, but you got a majority vote.

For a very long moment, Rose doesn’t move, doesn’t speak, doesn’t even blink. She just stares straight forward at him, almost completely motionless.

Dick: Uh… Rose?

Rose: Just a second…

Breathing in deeply again, she takes a brief moment to compose herself before speaking again.

Rose: Let me get this straight. You want… me -- me? -- on the Justice League?

Dick: That’s what I said, yeah.

She can’t help it. Holding her arms over her chest, she lets her head fall back and bursts out in a loud, thoroughly amused laugh.

Rose: Hahaha! …oh god… oh my… are you out of your damn mind?

Dick: I don’t… really see what’s so funny.

Rose: Oh come on! I’m like… the worst possible choice to join any team, let alone the freakin’ Justice League! God, I couldn’t even get along with the Titans, remember?

Dick: Well, we just thought… I mean, you’ve grown a lot since… are you saying no?

Rose: Really, Dick, did you actually think that would be a good idea? I mean, sure, I appreciate the offer and everything, but let’s be honest… I’m not Justice League material. Never will be. That’s better suited for the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman/Flash types, not me. I work better small time.

Shifting his stance slightly, Dick blinks a couple times and straightens himself, trying not to look too surprised.

Dick: I, uh, right, of course. What was I thinking?

Rose: I don’t think you were, that’s the problem.

Dick: Well, then… this is awkward.

Forming her lips into a pleasant smile, Rose takes a step forward and gently holds a hand to Dick’s shoulder.

Rose: But seriously… thanks. And I don’t mean for the invite, I mean for… for everything. For being my friend, for giving me a chance when no one else would… thank you.

He returns the smile, giving her a subtle, but firm nod.

Dick: It’s been my pleasure.

Rose: Anyway, I should get going… Gotta pick up Holly, and then we’re all going out for brunch. You, uh… you’re welcome to come along, if you want.

Dick: Thanks, but I really need to head back myself. I don’t really trust Damian alone for too long with just Alfred to look after him.

Rose: Hmh, good call. So… see you around, then.

As she pushes past him to rejoin the others, she pauses briefly and glances back over her shoulder.

Rose: And hey, I know I don’t want to join or anything… but if you guys ever really need my help with something, just give me a call.

Folding his arms back across his chest, Dick nods again.

Dick: You got it.

Ext. Silverstone City – Night

Six weeks later...

Lillian Worth walks hand in hand with her granddaughter down the quiet city sidewalk. Holly retains a big smile on her face, licking eagerly at her ice cream cone and humming quietly to herself. It had been a good night for some quality bonding time with the two.

Lillian: So, did you like the movie?

Holly: Yeah, was pretty awesome. I mean, how can you not love ninja assassins?

Chuckling quietly, Lillian brings a small smile to her face

Lillian: Yes, indeed.

Holly: But I still say we should have gone out with Mom and Becky for dinner first. I mean, popcorn and ice cream are great and all, but I'm starving.

Lillian: It's their anniversary, dear. A time for them to be alone and enjoy each other.

Holly: Ha, yeah... 'be alone and enjoy each other.' I know what that means.

Lillian: Oh do you, now?

Snorting out a knowing laugh, the girl shrugs her shoulders and smirks confidently.

Holly: Duh, I'm not stupid. What, am I supposed to think they just hold hands or something in their bedroom? I am twelve years old, you know.

Lillian: Hmm... so you are.

Holly: But it's cool and all. They're in love and that's what people who love each other do. Someday, when I'm in love with somebody, I'll do that, too. But that won't be for a long, long time.

Glancing down at her granddaughter, Lillian smiles. In the short amount of time that they've known each other, Holly has proven to be a very smart, very mature girl, especially for one so young.

Lillian: Well, that's good to hear. I take it there's no crushes on any of the boys at school, in that case?

Holly: Ew, no. Boys are gross.

Lillian: Oh, is that right?

Holly: Totally. Girls are way cooler.

Lillian: Ha, so we are.

As the pair round the corner of the sidewalk, their surroundings begin to change. Leaving the busier street behind, they come to a more secluded area, with narrower streets and a multitude of back alleyways. Lillian pauses momentarily, taking a careful look around.

Lillian: I think we've taken a wrong turn... still not used to this city, yet, I suppose.

Holly: Uh, yeah I think we were supposed to take a left back on Levitt Street.

Lillian: Right, well I'll let you lead the way in that case. Goodness knows I'll just get us lost again.

As they turn back around, however, several figures quickly move out of the adjacent alley; four men total, each garbed in ragged hoodies. One of the men practically skips up on front of them, blocking their path. He glances over at his buddies briefly, before turning his attention to Lillian.

Mugger: Money, lady.

Lillian: Ah, and here's one of the things I didn't miss about big cities.

Mugger: Come on, lady, let's see the money.

Lillian: You really don't want to do this, boy.

Mugger: The f*ck I don't. Now are you deaf or what? Give me the money and no one needs to get hurt.

Lillian: Was that a threat? Are you seriously going to stand there, big tough guy that you are, and threaten a middle aged woman and a young girl? My, you are intimidating, aren't you?

Mugger: Look, lady, geez. My buddies over there, they got guns. Ya hear me?

Pulling his hand out of his pocket, the mugger flips open a switchblade and points it at her.

Mugger: And I got this. Now quit talking and give us the money.

Lillian: So, your friends have guns, but all they gave you was that little pig sticker? Oh, you poor thing.

Her comment actually elicits several stifled laughs from the other guys. All three of them hold their hands over their mouths, chuckling under their breaths.

Mugger: Wh- no, shut up! Just give us the money, b*tch!

The man makes a move forward, pointing the knife closer. Unfortunately, he doesn't keep his eyes on Holly, who suddenly lurches forward and grabs his arm, striking the bottom of his wrist with the points of her fingers. The sudden impact forces his hand open, dropping the knife.

Mugger: Hey, wait a-

Holly's palm then whips into the bottom of his chin, sending his head snapping backwards. She follows up with a kick to the side of the knee, a jab to the groin, and then, for good measure, a chop to the throat. The mugger falls, collapsing to the ground and twitching with pain. He coughs, barely able to breathe, let alone move. The brief moment that his buddies stare, dumbfounded that their friend just got his ass handed to him by a twelve year old girl, allows Lillian to make her own move. She whirls around, lunging between the three men and delivering a series of lightning fast, vicious blows. In seconds, all three men topple to the ground, moaning in agony. With a flip of her hair, Lillian casually walks back over to Holly.

Lillian: Well, they shouldn't be bothering anyone else tonight.

Holly: Whoa... you totally destroyed them. How'd you do that?

Lillian: Please, dear, I may be a grandmother, but I'm no helpless old woman. Who do you think trained your mother?

Smirking pleasantly, Holly quickens her pace to catch up with Lillian, as she leads them back towards the main street.

Holly: Man, this family kicks so much ass!

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Night

The hour is well past midnight when Rose and Becky finally come stumbling into the apartment, all smiles and laughing with each other. As they push into the hallway, Rose loses her balance and staggers against the wall, just barely catching herself. Becky slouches forward, holding a hand to her mouth and stifling further snickers.

Becky: Easy there, don't wanna hurt yourself.

Rose: I'm fine, I'm fine... just got dizzy for a second.

Becky: Quite a night, ah? A good, good night.

Rose: You can say that again... very good. And it's not... not over yet.

A small grin spreads its way across Becky's face, as she helps Rose along farther into the penthouse.

Becky: Si, plenty more to do in the bedroom.

Rose: Don't know if I'm gonna make it that far.

Becky: Oh Dios, I know you're not that drunk, girl.

Rose: No, no... I'm not. But I was thinking, since Holly's out with my mother, let's do... let's do something special.

Stumbling forward, Rose leans against the counter in the kitchen. She motions for Becky to follow, giving a playful, seductive smile.

Rose: Let's do it right here in the kitchen.

Becky: Ah, now you are the adventurous sort... I like it.

Rose: Then come here already.

Holding her hands out, Rose grabs Becky by the wrists and pulls her forward. The two come together in a warm embrace, lips locking and arms wrapping around each other. Within seconds, clothes are flying, hands clawing at each other with loving yet carnal intent. Knees going weak, the two tumble down to the floor, lost to the tingling passion consuming their bodies.

Several hours later...

Rose leans back against the kitchen counter, sitting on the kitchen floor. She holds a coffee mug in one hand, with her other arm wrapped around Becky's shoulders. Becky lies against her, hugging her midsection and taking in deep, steady breaths. Nearby, two empty bottles of whipped cream lay scattered across the floor.

Becky: Mmm... that was... muy bueno.

Smirking pleasantly, Rose lifts the coffee mug to her lips and takes a long sip of the warm, relaxing liquid.

Rose: Oh yes... muy beuno, indeed.

Becky: Hard to believe we've only been together for one year, ah? Seems like... so much longer.

Rose: Well, we have been through a lot... more than most couples, I suppose.

Becky: Si, I even died somewhere in there... not something I intend to have happen again for a long, long time, by the way.

Turning her head, Rose gives her girlfriend a tender, gentle kiss.

Rose: Well I would certainly hope not.

Becky: So, I did good then, ah? Planning tonight, I mean. Dinner, dancing... you even seemed to enjoy the Fuego Lounge.

Rose: It was the drinks I enjoyed. They have... good drinks. Can't believe I let you talk me into it, though.

Becky: Come on, admit it, you liked it. Helps when your girlfriend can pull strings to get us a private room for our anniversary, too, right?

Rose: I... plead the fifth.

A wide grin spreads its way across Becky's face. She leans forward, pressing her lips briefly against Rose's.

Becky: That's what I thought.

Rose: Though, if I recall, you were late. Kept me waiting at the restaurant for forty-five minutes.

Becky: Si, I remember, I was there. You've also brought it up no less than six times tonight.

Rose: What, I can't tease my normally punctual girlfriend for losing track of time?

Becky: Ha, of course you can. But you wouldn't be, if you knew why I was late.

Lifting her eyebrows, Rose tilts her head lazily to the side and gives the woman a curious look.

Rose: And what would that be?

Becky: I had to pick something up, if you must know.

Rose: Oh, of course, it makes perfect sense now. You had to pick up something important moments before our anniversary date! My, how silly of me for not realizing.

Becky: Keep it up and maybe I won't give it to you.

Rose pauses, demeanor instantly shifting. Her gaze grows more curious, as she straightens herself against the cabinets behind her.

Rose: Hey, I thought we said no gifts?

Becky: We did. I got you one anyway.

Rose: Well, I guess that's one way to upstage me... so what is it?

Becky: Close your eyes. And no peaking!

Exhaling a long breath through her nose, Rose hesitates briefly before obediently closing her eyes. She squints them shut tightly, having no intention of peaking and ruining the surprise.

Rose: Alright, get on with it.

Becky: Just a second, I have to get it... was in my pants pocket. Uh... where are my pants, again?

Rose: I think you kicked them off into the hallway.

Rose waits patiently, tapping her fingers against her arms as she listens to Becky march across the apartment to find her pants. Becky returns a short moment later, lowering herself back down to the floor in front of Rose.

Becky: Okay, now, uh... you know I love you, right?

Rose: Right...

Becky: And you love me.

Rose: You know I do.

Becky: I know we've only been together a year, but I... I've never felt this way about anyone before. My heart beats faster whenever I'm around you, you know. I feel... I feel safe around you. Happy. I... I love you more than anything.

Rose: Becky...?

Becky: Shh, let me get through this. I can barely think straight I'm so nervous. I realized something a little while ago, when I was thinking of you. I realized that I... that I never want to leave you, that I never want to be with anyone else but you, and that I want to wake up next to you everyday for the rest of my life.

A sudden jolt of surprise surges through Rose's chest.

Rose: Wait, Becky, are you...?

When a small weight presses itself into the palm of Rose's hand, she can't bring herself to finish her sentence. With Becky's hands holding her own, she swallows nervously and sucks in a deep, shaky breath.

Becky: So I, uh... I have a question for you.

She can't keep her eyes shut any longer. Slowly easing them open, she lowers her gaze down to her palm to see a small black box sitting there. A numb, anxious lump instantly knots its way into her throat. Becky smiles at her, then brings a hand up to gently ease the box open, revealing inside a brilliant, glittering diamond ring.

Becky: Rose... will you marry me?

Rose doesn't have to look at the ring another second longer, instantly lunging forward and wrapping her arms tightly around Becky. She brings their lips together for a long, long while, until finally pulling back and pressing their foreheads together, a wide, overjoyed smile on her face.

Rose: Yes, Becky... yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Chapter #108

Int. Ruby's Bridal Shop – Day

Ruby: Now don't you just look ravishing?

Rose: I don't know, seems a bit... restricting.

Ruby: Nonsense, it's wonderful.

Rose: Look, I may be nimble on my feet, but this is just... too much.

Ruby: Oh fine, fine. We'll try another.

Releasing a long breath, Ruby carefully works to undo the back of the wedding gown. Rose stands still, staring at herself in the mirror. More specifically, she's focusing on the nearly five foot long train trailing behind the dress. Sure, the gown looks nice, but it's far too elegant and superfluous for her tastes, and she doesn't need to be tripping over her feet, either. Nearby, Lillian leans back in her seat, one leg crossed over the other, and intently inspects the gown as Ruby removes it.

Lillian: I think the style is quite lovely, but it is far too large a garment. Perhaps something of a similar nature, but one not so long?

Rose: I'd prefer one that doesn't go past my ankles. Remember, I'm used to wearing skin tight armor and combat boots, I don't do well in flowery dresses.

Ruby: Alright, I'll see what I can find. Just hold on a few minutes.

Rose: Any chance you could make it one minute?

A cold shiver runs its way up her spine, as she stands there in her undergarments.

Rose: I mean, it's not that hot out. Do you really need to crank up the A/C so much?

Ruby: My store, my air conditioning. Besides, as my friends, I'm offering you both a sizable discount, so I'm sure you can endure it a little while longer.

Rose: Which I don't think we've properly thanked you for, yet... so thanks.

Waving off the comment nonchalantly, Ruby gently returns the gown back its place in the large back closet, and then quickly searches for a more suitable one.

Ruby: Oh, not a problem at all. I'm only surprised that after as long as we've known each other, you never once asked what I did for a living.

Rose: Well, I knew you ran a store... just not what kind.

Ruby: Fortunate for you, then, that I happen to have nearly everything you'll need to prepare for your wedding.

Pausing a moment, Rose glances over to the dividing wall of the fitting room.

Rose: Hey, how's it coming in there?

A brief moment later, three heads poke their way around the partition.

Circe: Coming along quite well, I think.

Lyta: Yeah, she picked out a great one!

Holly: But you can't see it! Not until the wedding!

Another voice follows from within the second fitting room beyond.

Becky: They're pretty protective, ah? Don't worry, you'll love it. How's it going on your end?

Rose: Oh, it's going... alright.

Raising her arms, Rose sucks in a deep breath as Ruby begins fitting her for another gown. This one, fortunately, doesn't rival a Persian rug in size.

Rose: I'll have something. Eventually.

Ext. Silverstone City Streets – Day

Nearly an hour later, the group of women pile out onto the sidewalk outside of Ruby's shop. Becky raises an arm high in the air, trying to wave down a taxi.

Becky: Oy, over here!

The cab zooms straight by them, without so much as slowing down.

Becky: Ahh, pandejo!

Rose: Easy there, Beck.

Becky: What can I say, ah? I'm starving. Sooner we get to the restaurant, the better.

Growing a wide, amused smirk across her face, Rose leans in and gives her fiance a gentle kiss on the cheek.

Rose: Have I mentioned how much I love you, lately?

Becky: Ha, not since this morning. But it's okay, I never get tired of hearing it.

Rose: Mmm, good. Because I never get tired of saying it. Anyway, I'll let you guys get going to lunch. I gotta leave soon.

Becky: Wait, where are you-

She stops mid-sentence, sudden understanding washing over her face. With a quick exhale, she smacks her forehead and chuckles to herself.

Becky: Ah, right, right. It's that day. You heading to the airport now?

Rose: Soon, got one more stop to make on the way. In any case, I should be back later tonight.

Becky: I'll make sure to wait up, then.

Rose's lips slowly curl into another broad smile. Leaning forward, she kisses Becky again, longer this time.

Rose: I look forward to it.

Int. Silverstone Central Police Station – Day

Sitting calmly behind his desk, Police Chief Gerald Palmer's attention lifts abruptly at the sound of a gentle knock on his door. He sits up straighter, placing his pen down and then folding his hands firmly in front of him.

Palmer: Come in.

When the door opens to reveal the visitor, Palmer relaxes slightly, sinking back into his seat and smiling.

Palmer: Wilson, come in, come in, sit down.

With a small smile of her own, Rose crosses the office and sits down in the chair across from the desk.

Rose: You know you can call me Rose, right? I think we've known each other plenty long enough.

Palmer: I know, I know. Just a habit, I guess. So how have you been, anyway? Been a while. I heard about the engagement from Chavez, congratulations.

Rose: Thanks, sir. We're very excited about it, trust me.

Palmer: How long you been engaged now? Two months, is that right?

Rose: Closer to two and a half, but yeah. The wedding is next month.

Palmer: Ah, coming up quick.

Rose: Yeah, we're not wasting any time with it.

Palmer's smile widens a little, as he leans forward.

Palmer: That's good, that's good. Hey, how's Holly doing? She going out for the school soccer team again this year?

Rose: Are you kidding me? It's all she'll talk about when it comes to school. Homework, forget it, but soccer... The season is still six months away, but she's already practicing for it.

Palmer: You got yourself a determined girl there. Don't find too many kids with that kind of discipline nowadays.

This time, it's Rose's turn to broaden her grin.

Rose: Hey, what do you expect when her mother is the Ravager?

Palmer: Ha, true enough. So what brings you here? You aren't the type to just drop by to shoot the breeze.

Rose: Well, I'm here to personally invite you to the wedding.

At this comment, Palmer's eyebrows lift. His posture straightens, hands folding firmly in front of himself again.

Palmer: Your wedding? That's... I mean, of course, that's wonderful. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Rose: But I don't just want you to attend the wedding.

Palmer: Come again?

Rose: I mean... you've been a good friend to me for a while now. You know me, you know my family -- hell, you practically are part of my family at this point. I know we didn't get along much at first, I mean back when I was still the new cape in town, not to mention the rookie cop, but... we've come a long way. We care about each other, but you're a tough son of a b*tch, too. You know how to tell me the things I need to hear, no matter how hard it is for me to hear them.

Furrowing his brow slightly, Palmer tilts his head curiously and gives her a long, confused stare.

Palmer: Wilson, what on earth are you getting at?

Rose: What I mean is, in the short time I've known you, you've been the closest thing to a real father figure I've ever had. And I... I want you to walk me down the aisle.

An abrupt silence descended over the two. Not an awkward silence, but a calm, peaceful one. Palmer straightens even further in his seat for a moment, only to then sink back in the chair and exhale deeply. When he finally is able to bring himself to speak again, his lips curl into a very slight, almost distant smile.

Palmer: You know, my daughter, rest her her soul... she'd be about your age now if she were still alive. I always imagined seeing her some day dressed up in one of those wedding gowns, walking her down the aisle with those little white flowers stuck up in her hair... just like the song. You know that song?

Rose: Can't say I do.

Palmer: Ah, don't know what you're missing. Great song. Used to sing it to her every night when she was a kid. She really loved that song... But I'm never going to have that chance now, am I? To walk her down the aisle, I mean.

Rose: Sir...

Palmer: Sorry, sorry.

Taking in a deep breath, he leans forward against his desk and gives her a stern, yet caring gaze..

Palmer: Just... reminiscing is all. Wils -- Rose, it would be my honor to give you away at your wedding.

A pleased smile curls its way across Rose's face.

Rose: Thank you. I'll see you there.

Ext. Titans Tower - Day

Six hours later...

Rose stands just outside the main entrance to the tower, tilting her head back to stare up at the top. It's been nearly four years now since she last stepped foot on the island. Four years since she left the Teen Titans to start a life of her own, to find her own place in the world. The irony of ending up back here again after so long, even if only briefly, does not escape her. Glancing back behind her, she carefully examines the destroyed security turrets. The twisted scraps of metal spark and hiss in disrepair. In retrospect, she probably should have called ahead...

When the doors open, Rose inhales deeply. She watches as Tim Drake, fully garbed in his Red Robin outfit, walks out of the tower and approaches her, arms folded across his chest. He stares at her for several moments in silence.

Rose: Uh... hey, Tim. How is everyone?

Red Robin: They're good. Been kind of a crazy week for us, but nothing we couldn't handle.

Rose: Oh, that's good. Glad to hear it.

Red Robin: So... what brings you here? First visit in, what, three years?

Rose: Closer to four... but yeah. I, uh... I'm here to invite you all, the Teen Titans that is... to my wedding.

The comment actually causes Tim to falter slightly. His weight shifts, eyes widening and arms lowering from his chest.

Red Robin: You... you're getting married? To who?

Rose: Rebecca; you know, you've already met her.

Red Robin: But I thought she was-

Rose: Yeah... it's a long story. But she's been back for a while now, and better than ever.

Red Robin: Well that's- I mean... that's great. Really, congratulations.

Smiling softly, Rose shifts her stance, briefly lowering her gaze to the ground.

Rose: Thanks, Tim... that actually means a lot to hear you say.

Red Robin: Uh, now no offense or anything, but... couldn't you have just sent us a regular invitation? I mean, you didn't need to come all the way here... and destroy our security system. Should really look into upgrading, now that I think of it...

Rose: No, you're right. There's actually a different reason I came. I, uh... I need to talk to one of you.

Int. Titans Tower - Day

The initial silence is beyond awkward. It hangs over the pair like a heavy smog, forcing them both to shift uncomfortably numerous times before bringing themselves to say anything. When she came here, Rose had things prepared she wanted to say, but now... now she can barely find the words.

Rose: I... well, I... um...

Fortunately, the other woman speaks up with words of her own before Rose can make a bumbling fool of herself.

Cassie: I'll start. Please.

Rose: Yeah, alright... go ahead.

Cassie: I... I'm sorry, Rose. For everything, really. I treated you like crap before... and you were right, it was because I already had you pegged as bad news, from the moment you walked into the tower. I was so... so certain that you were a bad person, I never gave you much of a chance to be anything else.

Rose: Well, to be fair, I didn't really help my case much...

A soft chuckle finds its way out of Cassie's throat. She smiles, looking away momentarily.

Cassie: No, no you really didn't. But still... you've changed. A lot. I was loath to admit it for a while, but... you're a great hero, you know. And person. Kinda wish I knew more of that firsthand, to be honest, instead of hearing about it from everyone else. Also, uh... for what happened with Rebecca back then, I'm... I'm so sorry about that. I was angry at you, and I wasn't thinking, I just... acted.

Bowing her head, Cassie exhales a long, deep sigh.

Cassie: I was a real b*tch, wasn't I?

Rose: Yeah, well so was I. I mean, hell, I always did my best to provoke you. To tell the truth, I got a real kick out of making you angry... probably why we never got along very well. You always wanted to be mad at me, and I always gave you a reason.

Cassie: Match made in hell, right?

Smirking widely, Rose bows her head and utters a brief, amused laugh.

Rose: That's one way of putting it, yeah. But, in any case... I'm sorry, too. I kinda had this bad habit of overreacting to a lot of things, especially when it came to you. I mean, I was always just... looking for approval, I guess. But I always failed, and it really had a way of getting to me.

With a soft breath of air, Cassie's face contorts into slight confusion.

Cassie: Approval?

Rose: Well, yeah. I mean, you were Wonder Girl. You could do no wrong, and let's face it, most of the alerts we responded to, you could have solved by yourself just fine. But then there was me, the new kid, just a little ball of hate with swords trying to impress everyone else. You'd never know it since I always kept my feelings bottled up back then, to the point where I couldn't even admit them to myself, but... I cared what you all thought of me. I cared a lot. Part of why I kept leaving so much after every time I screwed up, because it could never be a little screw up, no, it was always a big one, always a cause for you guys to want to kick me out on your own. I just... I couldn't deal with that. So I left, ran away so you didn't have to deal with me.

Cassie: Rose...

By this time, Rose has her head pressed against her hand, gaze pointed at the floor. She breathes in deeply, swallowing back a hard knot in her throat and trying to hold herself together.

God I'm such a wuss, wearing my emotions on my goddamn sleeves now. Was so much easier when I hid them all.

Rose: And another thing, Cass, I'm... I'm sorry... about Bart. I'm the reason he's gone, and I spent so much goddamn time hating myself for it, I just... I never should have walked through that door. I should have listened to Tim, I... I acted like a child and it got one of our friends killed. That's not something I can ever make up for, but I am sorry... more than you can ever know.

Cassie's arms suddenly wrap firmly around her shoulders. Rose stands there stupidly, blinking in surprise and disbelief. For a long moment, she does nothing, only shifting her eyes to look at the woman now hugging her.

Cassie: It's alright, Rose... I promise, everything is alright.

As the seconds melt by, however, she gradually lifts her own arms to return the embrace.

Rose: Thanks... I... I needed this.

Cassie: I know.

Rose: It's kinda funny... there was a time when I would have sooner fired a bazooka at you than give you a hug.

Cassie: Yeah... I'm pretty sure you actually did that once.

A sudden laugh bursts past Rose's lips. She grins widely, bowing her head.

Rose: Right... I did, didn't I?

When the two pull away from each other, Rose folds her arms across her chest and shifts her stance, giving a long look at the woman across from her. Cassie returns the gaze, hands lowering to her hips.

Cassie: So... we good?

Rose: Yeah, we're good. I mean, I know we might never be best friends or anything, but... I'd still like it if you came to my wedding. There's a spot open for another bridesmaid, if you're interested.

Cassie: Depends... the dresses aren't hideous, are they?

Rose: Ha, no. Becky picked them out herself, and she actually has a lot of fashion sense. More so than I do, anyway.

Cassie: Well in that case... I'd be happy to.

Chapter #109

Ext. Silverstone City – Evening

Leaning over the edge of the rooftop, Ravager gazes down at the back alleys below. Her eyes focus on a thug wearing a hooded sweatshirt, sprinting across the nearby basketball court. She doesn't make a move on him yet, waiting for the proper moment. After all, she's not about to let impatience ruin two hours of stalking. If she jumps the gun, then she might lose the big catch.

As the man turns a corner, Ravager straightens herself and leaps across the alley to the next rooftop, keeping him in sight. The abrupt sound of a beeping alarm, however, draws her attention away momentarily. Glancing down at her belt, she reaches into one of the compartments and pulls out her cell phone, glaring at it intently. First warning.

Ravager: Still got time.

After returning the phone to her utility belt, she quickens her pace and races across the roof in pursuit.

Ext. Silverstone City Park – Evening

A lot goes into preparing a wedding, especially with only a few months advance notice. Everything from determining where to hold it, when to have it, what food to serve, what catering service to use, who's invited, what decorations to use, what music to play, make-up, jewelry... it can be a real nightmare trying to get it all perfect. Fortunately, not only is Ruby the owner of a wedding shop, but she also happens to double as a professional wedding planner on the side, when she isn't teleporting around the city fighting crime. When Rose and Becky needed to put together a wedding in three months, she happily stepped forward to take on the task for her friends.

The where had been easy enough to decide. Silverstone Park, easily the most elegant and beautiful place in the city. Reserving the use of it for the ceremony and following reception hadn't exactly been cheap, but it was well worth it. Near the center of the park, over in front of the pond, the ceremony would take place. Rows and rows of chairs had already been set up in two sections, one on either side of the carpeted walkway. Quite a few people have already gathered themselves in their seats, waiting for the ceremony to begin, despite the fact that the event isn't due to start for another hour.

Towards the other end of the park, the reception area stands ready and waiting. Multiple tables with silks cloths, each with a flowered centerpiece, sit in front of a raised dance floor and stage, where the selected band of the evening will make its appearance later on. Throughout the park, large trellises had been erected, each decorated with a variety of elegant ribbons and flowers. Then there were the swan ice sculptures, objects of great intrigue to the guests. While the soon to be married couple had been reluctant about overdoing it with the decorations, Ruby had spared nothing to make this day one that they would remember forever.

And in regards to the attending guests, invitations had been sent out to a large majority of the superhero community (in addition to those normal family members from Becky's side). Anyone that Rose had worked with over the years, whether she knew them well or not, had received an invite, and every single one of them chose to attend, including the entire Justice League. Of course, with costumes replaced by dresses and suits, few would be able to actually connect any of them to their superhero aliases, except for those with more obvious identities.

Standing at the center of the park with a headset around her ear, Ruby stares down intently at the clipboard in her grasp. Pursing her lips, she absently smoothes out the front of her scarlet bridesmaid dress. While the other guests mingle amongst themselves as they wait the ceremony to begin, it's Ruby's job to make sure the whole event goes off without a hitch. Glancing up quickly from her clipboard, she carefully scans the dining area.

Ruby: Seventy-five... eighty... eighty-five... yes, I'm sure there's enough seats. Forty tables, five to a table... wait, we're missing two tables. Damn it, Nickie.

A hiss of static comes in over her headset, followed by a timid female voice.

Nickie/Headset: Oh my, I'm sorry. I was sure we had all the tables out! I'll go find them right away.

Breathing out a small sigh, Ruby slowly shakes her head.

Ruby: It's alright, just have them out before the reception begins. Plenty of time to get it done.

Nickie/Headset: Right, of course. Sorry again.

Ruby: Nickie?

Nickie/Headset: Uh, yes?

Ruby: Stop apologizing.

Nickie/Headset: Oh, uh, sorry. I mean -- um...

Chuckling softly to herself, Ruby curls her lips into a playful smile.

Ruby: Just get those tables out, Nickie.

Nickie/Headset: Yes, right away.

A small pause comes in over the headset, until Nickie's voice abruptly reappears.

Nickie/Headset: And, uh... we're still on for tomorrow night, right?

Ruby: Wouldn't miss it for the world, darling.

The excitement coming in from the other line is practically tangible.

Nickie/Headset: Oh, awesome! We'll have so much fun, I promise. I- I'll... tables, right. I'll take care of it!

Ruby's smile widens, as she turns her attention back to her clipboard. She carefully checks off various items on her list, only when she's certain that they're taken care of. Her attention, however, is quickly drawn away at presence of another woman approaching.

Circe: You really should take a break from the clipboard, Ruby. Stress and all that.

Ruby: I'll be fine, Circe. Everything is almost all taken care of... once the ceremony begins and I'm standing up there with the rest of you bridesmaids, then I can put the clipboard down.

Circe: Ah, ah, ah, I'm not a bridesmaid.

Rolling her eyes slightly, Ruby breathes out another sigh.

Ruby: Yes, yes, maid of honor, I know. Are the other bridesmaids ready, though?

Circe: Right over there.

Turning her gaze, Ruby squints across the grass to see a group of women standing there and talking amongst themselves: Zatanna, Cassandra Cain, Renee Montoya, Abigail Chavez (Becky's sister), Cassandra Sandsmark, Karen Starr, and Raven. Lyta, too, though not a bridesmaid herself, stands in conversation with Zatanna, learning a variety of magical tips from the much more experienced magician.

Ruby: Hmm... certainly looks like all of them. And bridesmen?

Circe: They really don't like you calling them that, you know. They've been quite adamantly referring to themselves as groomsmen.

Ruby: And if there were a groom, I'd refer to them as that, as well. Where are they?

With a casual gesture, Circe points out the group of men hovering around the snack table. Ruby counts them carefully, making sure that not a single one is missing. Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, Roy Harper, Cyborg, Joseph Wilson, Conner Kent, and of course the best man, Dick Grayson.

Ruby: Alright, good, and how are the brides coming along?

Circe: Oh, you mean Rose and Rebecca?

Ruby: Who else would I mean? Are they ready to go?

Circe: Well, I suppose they would be... if I could find them.

Ruby pauses, blinking a single time and clearing her throat. She leans forward ever so slightly, her eyes slowly widening

Ruby: You... want to run that by me again?

Circe: I'm saying I can't find them. They're not here.

Int. Crack House – Evening

Drug Dealer: No! No, please!

A vicious fist to the face abruptly cuts off the man's voice. He stumbles backwards, tripping over a wooden end table and crashing to the floor. A pained groan surges past his bloodied lips, as he crawls weakly through the shabby, near dilapidated living room. Above him, water stains blotch the ceiling, while thick streaks of mold and mildew paint across the walls, filling the place with a musty scent pungent enough to induce nausea.

Drug Dealer: I'm telling you... don't know anything!

Ravager folds her arms firmly across her chest, glaring down at the sad excuse for a man. He cowers there on the floor, shuddering violently in his fright. Or maybe it's pain? Same difference.

Ravager: I'd be more inclined to believe that if I hadn't been following you since you met with the others. You know the ones, your buddies. The ones selling to kids!

Drug Dealer: That's them! They do that, man, not me!

Ravager: But you know who they work for, who they associate with. Where's their base? Who's their boss?

Drug Dealer: Oh come on, I don't know!

Ravager: Sure you do, and if you don't start talking, that broken nose of yours is going to be the least of your problems.

Drug Dealer: Man, screw you!

The thug suddenly reaches into the back of his pants, pulling out a pistol and taking aim. He fires three times, and each time Ravager effortlessly dodges, leaning casually out of the way of all three bullets. She watches as the man scrambles up to his feet and sprints towards the back of the building, intent on escaping through the rear exit. She could easily chase him down, but doesn't bother. She doesn't need to.

Crash!

The drug dealer suddenly reappears, flying straight through the decaying living room wall in a cloud of plaster. He hits the floor hard, rolling to a stop right in front of Ravager's feet.

Ravager: Well now, that wasn't too smart.

Poking her head through the newly created hole in the wall, Becky stares down at the man in surprise. The pale moonlight streaming in through the window shines brilliantly off the surface of her silvery, metallic shell, bathing her in an eerie, yet beautiful glow.

Becky: Uh... I may have overdone it on that one. Wasn't actually trying to put him through the wall.

Ravager: I wouldn't worry about it, wasn't your fault.

Bending down momentarily, she lifts the man by the shirt collar and holds him up at arm's length.

Ravager: These damn walls are practically falling apart already. I'd have been more surprised if he didn't go through it.

Drug Dealer: Ungh... don't know nothin'... I swear.

Ravager: In case you aren't aware of what just happened, my friend over there put you through a wall. If you don't tell us what we want to know, you'll see firsthand what else she can do. Understand?

His gaze slowly turns over to Becky; she simply folds her powerful arms across her chest and smirks at him. Cringing, he gulps down the knot in his throat and whimpers out a frightened breath.

Drug Dealer: Alright, alright... the one you're looking for, his name's Big Tony. Works out of an old warehouse near the abandoned toy factory. That's all I know, I swear.

Ravager: Hmm... that's all the way on the other side of the city.

Throwing the guy back to the floor, she takes the phone back out of her belt. Forty-five minutes.

Becky: We got time?

Ravager: Yeah, we got time.

Ext. Silverstone City Park - Evening

Deep breaths, just take deep breaths, Ruby.

Inhaling a large gulp of air, Ruby paces back and forth, one hand clutching her clipboard close to her chest and the other held anxiously against the side of her head. Her heart thumps rapidly in her chest, pounding like some kind of demonic drum.

So they're apparently not here, and neither of them are answering their phones. But knowing those two, they probably just snuck off somewhere for a quickie before the ceremony. Hahaha, yes, yes, that's probably what they did... no way they could actually be missing, not on their wedding day.

A hiss of static abruptly startles her out of her panic.

Nickie/Headset: Any sign of them?

Ruby: No, nothing yet... I have a search team engaged, however. If they're around here, we'll find them.

No sooner than she says this, two members of the aforementioned search party appear behind her: Fellow bridesmaid, Renee Montoya, and her partner, the scarlet-haired Kate Kane. She turns to them quickly, daring to let out a relieved breath. This must be good news, of course, they couldn't possibly be back to tell her that-

Renee: No sign of them.

Or maybe they could.

Ruby: You're sure?

Kate: Well, we've looked everywhere we can think of, searched for any clues we could find, followed all leads-

Renee: -and yet all trails run cold. Curious, don't you think?

Ruby: Not the word I'd use...

Breathing out a frustrated sigh, she turns back around to face another approaching pair: Lillian Worth and Gerald Palmer.

Ruby: Please tell me you have something.

Palmer: 'Fraid not. Doesn't look like they're around.

Lillian: But I wouldn't worry. This is their wedding day, after all. They'll be here.

Ruby: Your confidence in endearing, I'm sure, but if they don't show up in the next fifteen minutes, we're really going to be cutting things close. I swear, if I have to delay the start of the ceremony...

Palmer: Relax, they'll be here.

Ruby drops her head into her hands. So help those two if they're late to the wedding that she'd gone through so much trouble putting together for them in such a short amount of time...

Palmer shifts weight slightly, while bringing his hands up to straighten out his tie. He clears his throat briefly, then casually turns his gaze over to Lillian.

Palmer: So, uh... you're Rose's mother, correct? Mrs. Wilson?

Lillian: It's Miss Worth, actually. I'm not married. You can call me Lili, though.

Palmer: Right, of course. Lili, then.

Lillian: And you're Mr. Palmer. Or Chief Palmer, as I hear. My daughter speaks very highly of you.

Palmer: Does she? Well, I have to say I think the same of her. Remarkable daughter you have. Oh, and it's just Gerald.

Lillian tilts her head slightly, smiling a very subtle smile at him.

Lillian: Thank you, Gerald.

Returning the smile, Palmer shifts his weight awkwardly and scratches the back of his neck. He stands there for a moment, remaining silent, until finally clearing his throat and working up the nerve to speak again.

Palmer: So, uh... can I get you a drink, or anything?

Lillian: I was wondering when you'd ask.

Ruby watches only briefly as the pair leave for the bar, soon being interrupted by another pair tasked with searching for brides. She doesn't look at them right away, instead sucking in a deep breath of air and holding it for several moments. When at last her nerves have calmed, she slowly exhales and turns to them: the best man, Dick Grayson, and his date for the evening, Barbara Gordon.

Ruby: Before you say anything... please know that I'm liable to spread my misery to everyone in the park if I get anymore bad news. Have you ever seen an empath freak out before? It's not pretty.

Dick: Uh... I have, actually. And no, it's definitely not pretty.

Barbara: But we're afraid we haven't found them, either.

Ruby: Oh you must be joking.

Groaning loudly, she bows her head in her hands again and tries to calm her breathing.

Barbara: I do think I have a way to find them, though.

A jolt of hope surges through her body. Slowly raising her gaze, Ruby blinks several times at the woman. A hard knot begins forming in her throat, but she swallows it down.

Ruby: Are you sure?

Barbara grins knowingly, leaning forward in her wheelchair.

Barbara: All I need is your cell phone.

Int. Abandoned Warehouse – Evening

Ravager: So, you're Big Tony, huh?

Arms folded firmly across her chest, Ravager glares at the large man standing across from her. He doesn't falter, aiming his pistol straight at her and cocked sideways, gangster style... as do his ten buddies, all standing around him. At such odds, the only thing she can bring herself to do is grin.

Big Tony: Yeah, well wassit to ya?

Ravager: I hear you're the one running the local drug ring. Been selling to kids, haven't you?

Big Tony: I sells to whoeva wants it. No questions. You got a problem withat?

Ravager: Yeah, see, I really do have a problem with that. I happen to like this city... what I don't like, is guys like you slowly killing it like a bad case of cancer. So, as long as scum like you exist in Silverstone, I'll be here to stop it. Any of this getting through that big dumb skull of yours?

Big Tony: Right, and yous gonna stop us. Ya hear that boys, she's gonna stop us.

A series of amused chuckles cackle out from the group. They glance at each other, shaking their heads and smirking in disbelief. They aren't afraid... they should be afraid.

Big Tony: Ain't nobody stoppin' this operation, ya dig? Bad move, ya costumed freak.

As he pulls the trigger, Rose is already leaning to the side. By the time the gun fires, she's well out of the way of the bullet path. A long moment of silence descends over the warehouse, coupled with dumbfounded stares by the group of drug dealers.

Ravager: You're right... bad move.

With a simple flick of her fingers, she tosses down a single smoke pellet, quickly filling the room with a thick smog. The men backpedal in panic, firing off their guns at her repeatedly. A lot of good it does them, as she easily evades every shot and drifts into the smoke like a shadow. Before they can work out a plan to defend themselves with those tiny brains of theirs, they find themselves under attack from behind. Becky crashes through the roof of the warehouse, landing with a thunderous quake. Several more shots go off, each one deflecting off her armored skin.

Becky: Yeah, that doesn't work so well, ah?

She darts at the first several men, flipping them over with little effort and battering them into unconsciousness. By now, the men run aimlessly like frightened rabbits, desperate to get away. Ravager doesn't allow it, lunging through the smoke and delivering a series of crippling, yet graceful attacks that drop each man to the ground. Within seconds, the soon to be married couple are the only two left standing, surrounded by a pile of unconscious bodies.

Ravager: That was almost anticlimactic.

Becky: Si... if it didn't feel so good to beat some sense into these pandejos, I might have been disappointed.

Ravager: Oh well, time to give the station a call, get some cops down here to clean up the scene.

Becky: Then we should probably get going, ah? How much time we got left?

Ruby: Ten minutes. You have ten minutes.

Whirling around suddenly, Rose and Becky come face to face with their friend and wedding planner, Ruby. She stares back at them, a scowl on her face and hands on her hips.

Ruby: You two are going to be late to your own wedding! The wedding that I put together!

Becky: Oh, uh... hey, Ruby. We were just on our way now...

Ravager: How did you even find us?

Ruby: Oracle hacked the GPS signal on your phone. Fortunately, my teleportation range extends across the entire city. Now, you have approximately...

Her eyes briefly glance back down at her watch.

Ruby: -nine minutes to get to your dressing rooms, get dressed, and get ready to walk down the damn aisle!

Shifting uneasily on her feet, Becky leans close to her bride.

Becky: We should get going, shouldn't we?

Ravager: Would probably be a good idea, yeah.

Ext. Silverstone City Park – Night

Priest: Rose Wilson, do you take Rebecca Chavez for your lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do you part?

Rose looks across from her, taking that single moment to truly appreciate Rebecca's beauty, dressed up in that elegant wedding gown of hers. She can't remember a moment that she ever felt more nervous, more anxious, and yet quite so overwhelmingly happy as that moment right then. The words almost don't find their way out of her mouth, with her heart pounding as thunderously against the inside of her chest as it is. But with a deep, calming breath, she smiles a deeply loving smile and breathes those words out with finality and conviction.

Rose: I do.

In the eagerly watchful crowd, Holly sits up straighter on her seat and grins widely.

Holly: This is awesome! Isn't this awesome?

Lillian: Shh, my dear. Let's not spoil the moment.

Priest: And Rebecca Chavez, do you take Rose for your lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do you part?

The same caring smile curls its way across her face. She takes in a deep breath, reaching forward to gently take hold of Rose's hands.

Rebecca: I do.

Back in the crowd, Holly practically jumps out of her seat.

Holly: Oh I almost can't believe this is happening... I have two moms now! Could this day get any better?

Lillian: Holly, settle down.

Priest: Then I now pronounce you woman and wife. You may kiss the bride.

They finally come together, arms wrapping gently around one another as they lean in for their first kiss as a married couple. When their lips meet, an explosion of euphoria races through them, fueled only stronger by the eruption of applause and cheers from the guests. For several long moments, they hold the kiss, neither wanting to let go.

Holly: Yes! Now we get to go on the honeymoon! Bermuda, here we come!

Lillian: You do know that the honeymoon is just for them, right?

Holly: Wait, what?

Lillian: The honeymoon is for the married couple. You're staying here with me.

Holly: What?! Awww, man! So not cool!

As the new brides walk hand in hand down the aisle, Becky leans in close and smiles.

Becky: Looking forward to later tonight, ah?

Rose: Ha, you have no idea.

So, I can't say I ever thought my life would turn out this way. It's been a wild ride, to say the least. There were moments when I thought I wasn't going to make it, that I'd end up dead in a ditch somewhere. Just another statistic.

Rose waves to her mother, as they walk by. She waves to Palmer, too. And Holly. And all the bridesmaids, and the bridesmen, and everyone else. She can't remember another time when she's ever been surrounded by this many people who care about her.

But I survived. I didn't give up, I didn't back down, and I persevered. I made something of my life. I've made friends, I've found family, and I've come to love them all. I am my own woman now. I'm a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a mentor... And above all else-

When they reach the end of the aisle, Becky turns to her again and tenderly holds both of her hands. She steps forward, leaning close, and embraces her with another long, loving kiss. She pulls back several moments later, touching their foreheads together and grinning.

Becky: We got a whole new life ahead of us. You ready for it?

Rose: More than you know, Becky. More than you know.

-above all else... I'm happy.

The End.

3 Comments

Rose Wilson: The Ravager - Thicker Than Water (#98-106)

Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy/Ruby, Sophie, Jeremiah Belmont, Michelle Blanchett, Isaiah Slaton, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.

Rating: T+

Note: It's no secret that Rose Wilson hates her father. But when he sends someone to her doorstep requesting her help, she's forced to come to put her past differences with him aside, at least for the time being. Witness the final full story arc of the series, as Rose gains closure with her family once and for all. Can she truly move on from her past, and can she really bury the hatchet with her father once and for all? Read on to find out!

Side Note: So coming off my longest single part arc ever, I end up tying it with another long one. It works out well, though, since this is the final arc, so it needed to be epic. I just hope it lives up to the expectations. Just a few more follow up chapters left to go, which will tie the series to a close. I'll probably get those out some time next week, since I just really want to take a break from it, plus I have a few other things I need to work on. So, as always, please enjoy!

All Chapters: http://www.comicvine.com/forums/fan-fic/8/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/660884/#1

Chapter #98

Ext. Vietnam Jungle – Day

It all happened so… fast. One moment, the flight had been smooth, quiet. Then, a horrifying flicker of precog flashed through Rose’s head, warning of the abrupt interruption they were about to receive. Unfortunately, she had little luck in warning the pilot before the back end of the helicopter blew apart in an eruption of smoke and fire. The only saving grace about the situation is that the rocket-propelled grenade hadn’t been completely accurate. Had it hit the cabin instead of the tail, they’d probably all be dead.

Now, they’re falling. Rose tries to flip herself around in the air, to gain some sense of balance as she plummets towards the ground, but she cannot shake out of her daze in time. In seconds, her body is crashing through the jungle canopy, snapping branches on her way down. As much as it hurts, she knows it’s the only thing that allows her to survive the fall. Had they been over open ground with no trees between them and the ground, the resulting impact could have been much greater.

Regardless, air surges from her lungs when she lands, the flat of her back crashing against a soft bed of grass. It’s another small stroke of luck that prevents her injuries from being any worse. Still, she finds consciousness swiftly leaving her. She tries to fight through it, sitting up and blinking her eyes, but everything starts spinning wildly.

Sh*t… not gonna happen.

A heavy blackness engulfs her throbbing mind, and in seconds she collapses back against the ground, going limp. How the hell did she find herself here?

Int. Rose’s Penthouse Suite – Night

Thirty-six hours ago…

Rose lies back on her bed, sprawled out haphazardly above the sheets and sucking in deep, heaving breaths. A thin, yet shiny sheen of sweat glistens across her naked body, seemingly glowing in the silver moonlight spilling in from the bedside window. Becky rolls over next to her, an arm coming around her waist and lips gently tracing along her neck.

Becky: Lemme guess; you enjoyed that?

She can’t even formulate a response, not at first. Instead, she takes in several more deep breaths, eyes closing for a moment as she tries to calm her body down. She can barely even move after that, but in the best possible way. A deep, heavy exhaustion grips her body in the afterglow of their intimacy, and by god Rose has never enjoyed it more. Eventually, she brings herself to nod, puffing out a long breath of air.

Rose: Uh… yeah… you could say that.

Becky: So I guess this new strength of mine isn’t just good for beating up armed thugs, ah?

Rose: Oh yeah… definitely.

A soft, amused chuckle finds its way out of Becky’s throat. She brings her lips up to Rose’s, giving a gentle, tender kiss.

Becky: So then you won’t mind if we do it again.

Rose: Ha… if we do that again, I won’t be able to get up in the morning.

Becky: Then it’s a good thing you have nothing to get up for tomorrow, ah?

A pleasant smile slowly curls its way across Rose’s face.

Rose: Well, when you put it that way…

Reaching upward with her arms, Rose wraps them around Becky’s shoulders and pulls her close, pressing their lips together again in a deep, intense kiss. Becky is already moving atop her, pushing one of Rose’s legs far to the side. A sudden surge of warmth explodes throughout her body, tingling madly in all the right places. And as her heartbeat begins to pick up, pounding rapidly in her chest… the doorbell rings. Rose blinks, slowly pulling her lips away from Becky’s and glancing up across the room.

Becky: Maybe… we’re both hearing things?

They pause quietly, listening. The doorbell goes off yet again. With an annoyed groan, Rose drops her head back against her pillow.

Rose: Ugh, come on! It’s three in the morning for crying out loud.

Becky: Don’t worry; I’ll get rid of whoever it is.

Becky leans in to give Rose one more brief kiss, before sliding off the bed and grabbing a bathrobe hanging nearby. As she ties it off closely around her body, Rose tilts her head back again and breathes in deeply.

Rose: Hurry back.

The doorbell buzzes loudly a third time. Becky shuffles across the apartment, uttering her own breath of annoyance. She doesn’t exactly take very kindly to being interrupted at three in the morning, especially when in the middle of such an intimate moment. Throwing the front door open, Becky cocks her hips to the side and folds her arms firmly across her chest. She narrows her eyes, staring at the blond haired man in the hallway with as clear contempt as she can portray.

Becky: Can I help you?

The blonde man just blinks a couple of times, as if confused to see her. He casually leans to the side and looks further into the apartment, then brings his attention back to her again.

Man: Uh… yes, I’m looking for Rose Wilson? This… is where she lives, isn’t it?

Becky: It is… but you do realize it’s three in the morning, right? People are sleeping. Or doing other things they don’t want to be interrupted for.

Man: Oh, of course, I know. I just… sorry, this is an emergency. I really need to speak with her right away.

Becky: Uh huh… sure it is. And what kind of emergency would that be?

Man: A family emergency.

The statement brings pause to Becky’s words. Her eyes twist slightly in confusion, giving the man a closer look.

Becky: What family emergency? Rose doesn’t have any other family left… not outside her raging lunatic of a father, who you’re definitely not.

Man: Ah, not surprising. We haven’t seen each other in years… I’ve been a little busy. She probably thinks I’m dead, or something.

Becky: Uh… huh. And you expect me to buy that? You take me for loco or something?

Man: Please, just let me talk to her. She’ll clear it up.

Becky: Sure she will. But hell, if it gets you out of here faster, then fine. Rose!

Several quiet minutes tick by, before Rose emerges from the dark shadows of the apartment within. She looks down at herself, tying a sash tightly around her bathrobe as she makes her way to the front door.

Rose: I’m coming, I’m coming… this had better be import-

Her words abruptly cut off, as she lifts her gaze to see the man standing there. Her heart flutters a bit, skipping a beat and nearly exploding in her chest.

Rose: …Joey?

That face can belong to only one person, becoming even more recognizable as his lips form into that oh so familiar smile of his: Joseph Wilson, her brother. Well, half-brother to be more precise, but he’s still family, and the only family she has left that she doesn’t despise.

Joseph: Hey, Rose. How have you been?

Rose: Joey!

Her tired legs suddenly kick into motion, sprinting forward. She throws herself at him, arms wrapping firmly around his shoulders. He returns the embrace, hugging tightly.

Rose: I… damn it, I thought you were dead!

Joseph: Not dead, just busy.

Becky: Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on. Joseph? As in the brother you haven’t seen in four years?

Rbose: Yeah, that’s him.

She pulls back away from her brother, bringing a hand up to close the top of her bathrobe. A broad smile forms across her face, as she glances over at Becky and places a palm to the woman’s back. With a firm shove, she pushes Becky closer.

Robse: Joey, I want you to meet Becky. She’s my… well, she’s my girlfriend.

A blink of surprise comes to Joseph’s face.

Joseph: Your… oh. Wow. Uh, well it’s pleasure to meet you.

When he extends his hand, Becky glances down at it curiously before bringing her own hand up to shake.

Becky: Yeah, uh… likewise. Sorry about giving you a hard time before, we were just in the middle of… I mean, it’s late, so we were just trying to get rid of… well, sorry.

Joseph: It’s fine, really.

Rose: So where the hell have you been?

Joseph: With Dad, mostly.

A small sigh exudes from Rose’s lips. She palms a hand to her face and disappointingly shakes her head from side to side.

Rose: Really, Joe? Still? What the hell do you still see in that man?

Joseph: I know, I know. He’s… not the best father. And a little messed up.

Rose: More than a little.

Joseph: Okay, a lot messed up.

Rose: So if you’ve been running around with Slade, what the hell are you doing here now?

Joseph: I came because of him, Rose. He’s in trouble… big trouble. I need your help to get him back.

Ext. Vietnam Jungle – Day

Present…

Rose’s eyes flicker open weakly, vision dark and hazy. For a long moment, she simply lies there, unable to move.

Damn it... how long was I out? Couldn't have been too long.

Ever so gradually, her muscles begin responding to her commands. Fingers twitch, limbs slide across the ground, head lifts up. She fights her way into a sitting position, dull pain throbbing throughout her body.

Rose: Becky?

Looking around carefully, she searches for signs of someone, anyone. All she sees is thick jungle and a few smoldering pieces of busted helicopter.

Rose: Joey?

She attempts to stand, managing to get to one knee before a crippling sting rips through her chest, forcing her back down.

Rose: Sh*t… where are you guys?

Movement in the trees draws her attention. Quickly, she snaps her gaze up and stares intently. Could it be Becky? Maybe Joey? Hell, even their pilot would be a welcomed sight at this point. Just as long as it isn't whoever fired the rocket that blew apart their chopper.

Ratatatatat!

The machine gun fire is abrupt and loud, and it gets Rose moving. In spite of her pain, she forces herself to her feet and stumbles forward through the jungle’s undergrowth. Of course it's the guys who shot them down, because why the hell not?

As Rose slides down a small embankment, bullets rip into the tree trunks above her, blowing apart wooden splinters into the air. Her precog suddenly goes off, forcing her to duck out of the way. A bullet fires through the air right where her head had been a mere second before. Breathing in deeply, she quickens her pace, leaping over a fallen tree and bursting through a thick tangle of vines.

What the hell did you get me into, Joey?!

Int. Rose’s Penthouse Suit – Night

Thirty-six hours ago…

Rose: Wait a minute, what do you mean you need my help to get him back? Where the hell is he?

Rose crosses her arms across her chest, staring back at Joseph in a mix of disbelief and confusion.

Joseph: Right now? In Vietnam. The jungles of Vietnam, to be more accurate. We were ambushed; bandits and drug smugglers mostly. They took him captive.

Rose: Wait, wait, wait, step back.

Lifting a hand to her face, Rose tiredly rubs her eyes, trying to process the information.

Rose: First of all, what were you two doing in Vietnam? Second, how the hell did a bunch of punk smugglers overpower Deathstroke? And third, why didn’t they just kill him?

Joseph: Uh, one question at a time?

Rose: Sure, whatever. Just start explaining before my brain overloads.

Joseph: We traveled to Vietnam because… well, we were looking for something.

Rose: Looking for what?

Joseph: I… can’t say. I wish I could.

Rose: Of course you can’t, because god forbid you make sense. Let me guess, Slade is the one who told you not to tell me?

Joseph: Yes.

A frustrated groan leaves her throat. She takes a step back, brushing her fingers through her hair. Coming up beside her, Becky holds an arm around her shoulders, trying to calm her down. It works, if only a little.

Rose: Okay, so keep going.

Joseph: As for how they beat him… it was intentional.

Rose: It was… what?

Joseph: The man in charge of the bandit group has information that Dad needs, at least that’s what he told me. So, we came up with a plan… which largely involved allowing himself to be captured so he could obtain the information.

Rose: Okay… and they didn’t just kill him, because…?

Joseph: Before he set himself up to be captured, he might have stolen a hundred million worth of drugs and cash from them and hidden it somewhere they’ll never find it, unless he tells them. So, they can’t kill him if they want their goods back.

Becky snorts out a laugh at this statement, one of her eyebrows lifting in amusement.

Becky: Seriously? Dios, Rose, your dad might be a twisted b*stard, but he’s got balls. Either that or he's just stupid.

Rose: So it would seem…

Joseph: Unfortunately, their base camp is a lot more heavily guarded than we anticipated. Even taking who he is into consideration, he won’t be able to break out on his own. Likewise, I can’t break him out by myself, either.

Rose: So you came back here to get help.

Joseph: It was our fallback plan, yes. If anything went wrong, I was supposed to come back and get you, since… well, you’re the only one we can trust.

Rose: Not filling me in on what you’re even doing over there isn’t a good way to get me to help.

Joseph: I know… but I was hoping that family might be a good enough reason.

Rose exhales a tiny, disappointed breath. Slowly she shakes her head.

Rose: We haven’t been a family in a long time, Joey. You know that.

Joseph: Yeah... But maybe we can give it another shot?

Ext. Vietnam Jungle - Day

Present...

Smuggler #1: <Do you see her?>*

(* Translated from Vietnamese)

Smuggler #2: <No, spread out and keep looking!>

Rose very slowly lifts her head to watch, as several men armed with AK-47s carefully fan out through the jungle's undergrowth. She goes unnoticed for now, buried under a collection of plants, leaves, and dirt. When she couldn't run anymore, she had been forced to hide herself from sight. For the time being, her cover appears to be working. Still, she can't lie there on the ground forever. She has to find the others.

For two solid hours, she waits patiently, remaining unmoving against the jungle floor. Though the men have long since pressed onward, she isn't about to take any chances of running into them again by accident. She wants to be absolutely sure that they're gone, before she begins roaming into the open again. When enough time passes, Rose slowly and cautiously rises to her feet, eyes darting around for any sign of danger. Seeing only empty jungle, she exhales a deep breath and limps back the way she came.

I'll have to double back first, see if I can't find the wreckage. I could reallyuse my gear right about now.

And hopefully, she can come across the others along the way, if they haven't already wandered off from the crash. Or worse...

No, can't think that way. They'll both be fine. Becky's bulletproof and Joey can always body hop to hide. I just need to actually find them first.

And hopefully not get shot in the process.

I swear, Slade, if we make it through this alive, I'll kill you myself.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite - Night

Becky: So... what are you thinking?

Breathing out a heavy puff of air, Rose opens her eyes and leans back on her hands, still sitting cross-legged on the floor. For a moment, she simply stares straight forward, then slowly shifts her gaze over towards the kitchen. Joey sits there at the counter, sipping from a hot mug of coffee.

Rose: I don't know, Beck. I really... just don't know.

Becky: Well, did you see anything?

Rose: A little. I mean, I've figured out how to have visions at will, but I can't control what they show me. I saw a bit of my dad... he was in some kind of bandit camp, tied up, jungle all around them. Saw at least fifty armed goons, too. AKs, RPGs, grenades, heavy stuff. But that's it.

Becky: You know you hate the man, right?

Rose: Of course I hate him. But at the same time...

Becky: You still love him.

Rose: Ugh, I know. In spite of everything he's done to me, and how many times he's screwed my life up... he's still my dad.

Becky: Aaaand as much as you loathe him, you're not about to abandon him to die in a Vietnam jungle.

Rose drops her head into her hands and utters a loud, frustrated groan.

Rose: How sad is that?

Becky: Very. And yet, I still love you just the same.

Rose: I hate this, though. It's only been a month since the whole Blanchett fiasco, and now I'm going to be traipsing across Vietnam? God, I hope Holly doesn't hate me too much.

Becky: You mean us. You're loco if you think I'm letting you fly off to Asia to free your psycho father from a band of murderous smugglers without me. Holly can stay with Circe.

Rose: Becky...

Becky: Nope, this isn't up for discussion. Shush your lips, and face the facts: I'm coming.

Rose: Alright, fine. You're coming.

Sucking in a deep breath, Rose falls to the floor, lying on her back and staring straight up at the ceiling.

Rose: Should be... fun.

Becky: Oh si, a real blast, I'm betting. Now, tell your brother to go find a motel, so we can get back to doing what we were in the middle of before he showed up, ah?

A small smile curls its way across Rose's face.

Rose: Best idea I've heard yet.

Chapter #99

Ext. Vietnam Jungle – Day

The helicopter wreckage comes into view gradually, broken bits of twisted metal scattered along a destructed trail through the jungle. Rose comes across the tail end of the chopper first, the shaft split in half and missing its rear rotors. Climbing over a short series of toppled trees, she finds shattered pieces of the chopper's main rotors littering the ground. She pauses only briefly, looking around to make sure that her equipment hadn't already fallen out before the crash. When she finds nothing, she hurries through the dense tangle of vines and trees in front of her.

Cautiously, she pokes her face through a fern bush. There in the small clearing ahead, she sees the wreckage. The helicopter body lies on its side, smashed against the ground and surrounded by countless shards of glass and broken metal. From her position, she can't see into the cabin, and the side door is shut tight. Eyes narrowing, she scans her gaze across the surrounding jungle.

Doesn't seem like anyone else is around... should be safe.

The crash would have been the first place that the attackers checked, before spreading out to search for the survivors. It's been at least three hours since then, meaning they should be long gone. At least, she certainly hopes so. Taking in a deep breath, Rose hesitates only a moment before rushing out of her hiding spot and leaping up onto the side of the copper. Her fingers tightly grip the door handle, arms straining as she pulls. With the frame so heavily bent and cracked, however, the door barely budges.

She soon forgoes the idea of sliding it open normally, and instead reduces herself to standing and stomping down on the weakened frame. Surprisingly, the door caves inward with a single kick. She quickly jumps down into the body of the chopper, leaning her way over into the cabin.

Rose: Isaac? Hey, Isaac. You there?

He's there, alright. Their pilot is slumped forward motionless, still harnessed into his seat. The side of his head, along with most of the dashboard in front of him, runs thick with crimson. Rose bows her head at the revelation, momentarily bringing a hand to the deceased man's shoulder.

Sh*t, guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Turning from the cabin, Rose briefly rummages through the wreckage until her fingers close on a large duffel bag, tattered and beaten, but still in good shape. Kneeling against the ground, she unzips the bag to expose her Ravager gear inside. The metal faceplate stares back up at her, a sword running along on either side of it. She stares at the mask momentarily, then reaches in to pull out the armored suit. She dresses quickly, pulling off her pants and shirt before stuffing herself into the costume.

Ugh, I really need to see about getting internal cooling in this thing. It's like a heat box in this weather.

High overhead, the Vietnam sun beats down mercilessly upon her and the rest of the jungle. With such a scorching temperature and obscene humidity, these is far from ideal conditions to be wearing full body armor. Of course, if she's going to make it through this jungle alive, she'll likely be needing it. A T-shirt is a lot cooler, but it won't stop a stray bullet.

Once she finishes dressing fully in her armor, she leaps back up out of the chopper. Dull pain continues to throb through her body, but it isn't nearly as bad as it had been a few hours ago. With how fast the pain is subsiding, she can at least be certain that she didn't break or tear anything. In another hour or so, she'd be good as new. In theory, anyway.

Alright, next step, find Becky and Joey. Wherever they are.

She isn't getting her hopes up on finding them any time soon, though. The jungle is huge, and they could be anywhere by now, probably run off in a different direction. She hadn't heard any gunfire yet, which means that they haven't been discovered by the search parties. With any luck, they'd meet up again before nightfall.

The rustling of undergrowth suddenly draws her attention. Her gaze turns sharply to the left, eyes scanning through the trees. She doesn't see anything at first, but still she lifts a hand up behind her back to grip one of her sword handles. She isn't about to take any chances.

Maybe it's Becky... or Joey.

The snap of a twig slowly brings her attention behind her. She spots movement darting in between the trees.

Or maybe it's both of them...

The rapid blare of machine gun fire shatters those hopes in an instant. The first spray of bullets deflects off the side of the chopper, where her body had been just moments before. Consistent flashes of precog keep her one steep ahead, allowing her to dive back into the downed helicopter for cover. At the very least, the chopper is armored, most likely for exactly these kinds of situations. It buys her some time, but not much. It won't take her attackers very long to follow her inside the wreckage, a very narrow space that doesn't allow her much opportunity to prepare for a counter attack.

Regardless of her predicament, she quickly shifts herself into a better position, diving over the back seats of the chopper and crouching down. She draws her swords, holds them down out of sight, and then waits. Outside, she can hear the men circling the wreckage, exchanging briefly in a language she doesn't understand. As the sound of footsteps draws closer to the entrance, Ravager shifts up on her feet, poising to strike the first person dumb enough to stick his head in. What flashes through her mind, however, is far different.

Ravager: Sh*t!

Dropping her blades, she springs forward over the seat with an arm outstretched. A very live frag grenade plummets through the open space of the helicopter door, landing flat against her palm. The moment it hits her hand, she pushes forward and sends the grenade flying back out into the jungle. Several panicked screams follow, as the men outside scramble to find cover. The grenade explodes in a loud bang, sending a hot wave of shrapnel in all directions. And then...

Silence. Complete silence.

Ravager waits several minutes, then slowly hoists herself up through the open door. She gazes around carefully, eyes scanning the immediate vicinity. Three poor souls lie face down on the ground, half their bodies shredded by the grenade. A long, heavy breath exudes out of her throat at the sight.

Your own damn faults... Did you really think I was just going to eat a grenade for you guys? Not a damn chance.

Shick, shick.

Ravager immediately stiffens at the sound of a gun cocking behind her. Two seconds pass, and nothing happens. No gunfire, no precognitive vision. Very carefully, she turns herself around to see a man standing there behind the wreckage of the chopper and aiming his gun directly at her head.

Smuggler: <Hands up.>*

(* Translated from Vietnamese)

Ravager: Uh... yeah, I have no idea what you're saying.

Smuggler: <Hands up!>

Ravager: Still no idea.

The man aims his weapon higher, this time putting his eye to he sights.

Smuggler: <Put your hands up, and come out of the chopper!>

Ravager: Look, you really don't want to do that. It won't end well for you.

Shick, shick.

Shick, shick.

Two more guns cocking, two more reasons for Ravager to doubt her confidence in this predicament. Her eyes shift momentarily, looking first to the left, then the right. Two more men stand at the ready, aiming their AK-47s at her.

Ravager: Alright... now you might have better odds.

Ext. Vietnam Airport – Day

Four hours ago...

The instant that Becky pushes the doors open, leading the trio outside, her body slouches forward, head hanging. A hot, intense sun beats down from overhead, in full force with no clouds in the sky. Within seconds, sweat begins beading across her forehead.

Becky: Madre de Dios... it's so hot... why's it so hot?

Rose: Because it's Vietnam, that's why.

Joseph: Temperature averages in the eighties year round, if I'm not mistaken. Same with the humidity.

Bringing a hand to her forehead, Becky wipes away a thick coating of perspiration.

Becky: Thirty seconds out of the air conditioning and already I feel so... sticky. And not in a good way.

Rose: There'll be plenty of time for that later, Beck. First we pull Slade out of this fine mess he's gotten himself into, and then we can go relax at a nice a resort for a few days.

Becky: Only if it's got a pool. And air conditioning.

A small smile slowly curls across her face.

Rose: Nothing less.

When they manage to wave down a cab outside the airport, Rose hoists her large duffel bag into the back of the vehicle’s trunk. The cab driver gives her a suspicious look, but says nothing. Leaning close and holding up one hand at the side of her mouth, Becky speaks to her in a hushed whisper.

Becky: So, remind me again just how you managed to get all that stuff on that plane? Last time I checked, you couldn't just toss a couple swords in your bag and hop on a flight.

Rose: Same way we got you through the metal detector: connections.

Becky: Ah, right, well... fair enough.

Once the group piles into the back of the cab, the driver takes off down the busy city streets. Becky tilts her head back, closing her eyes and fanning herself with her hand.

Becky: So… where to next?

Joseph: I’ve already prepared a helicopter to be waiting for us. We’ll need it to get out to the area of jungle where the bandits are holed up.

Folding her arms calmly across her chest, Rose slowly glances over at her brother.

Rose: Isn’t flying into enemy territory generally a bad idea? Especially when they’re likely armed well enough to shoot us out of the sky?

Joseph: We won’t be flying straight into their territory, but rather the area just outside of where they usually patrol. From there, we can head in on foot.

Rose: And you’re sure Slade isn’t dead yet? I mean, we’re not walking in there for nothing, right?

At this comment, Joey turns his gaze toward his sister and gives a stern, knowing look.

Joseph: It’s Dad. What do you think?

Ext. Vietnam Airfield – Day

Three and a half hours ago…

Becky: Wait, we’re going up in that?

Approaching the chain link fence surrounding the airfield tarmac, Becky stares curiously at the large, military chopper sitting just a hundred yards away.

Joseph: Not that one specifically, but one just like it, yes.

Becky: Oy, that’s some heavy-duty stuff. I’m officially impressed. When you said we were taking a chopper, I just assumed you meant one of those tiny, commercial ones they fly around on tours in the big cities.

Rose: I guess when you’re flying near hostile territory, it pays to be prepared.

Joseph: That is the general consensus. We just have to meet with the flight coordinator first, then the pilot will take us out.

Inside the main building, Joseph leads the group up to the main desk, briefly asking the man behind the counter to meet with the airfield’s flight coordinator. They wait only briefly before a young Vietnamese woman with long dark hair, dressed in uniform, arrives to greet them.

Isabelle: <Welcome back, Joseph.>

Reaching forward, Joey briefly shakes hands with the woman, giving her a warm smile.

Joseph: <Thanks, Isabelle. It's good to see you again.>

Rose lifts an eyebrow, staring at her brother.

Rose: Since when do you speak Vietnamese?

Joseph: I picked a few things up while I've been here. What can I say? I'm a fast learner. Anyway, this is Isabelle Lee, the flight coordinator. Isabelle, this is my sister, Rose, and her partner, Rebecca.

Giving them a pleasant smile, Isabelle extends her hand forward and quickly exchanges handshakes with them.

Isabelle: Pleasure to meet you.

Joseph: Isabelle here’s been great in getting us a flight prepared.

Isabelle: Well, it not hard to be accommodating when you offer up such generous donations to the airfield. But I still do not understand why you want to go back out that way. It is… very dangerous out there.

Joseph: We know, and we’ll be careful.

Isabelle: You had better; that helicopter cost twenty million American dollars.

Becky utters a low, impressed whistle under her breath.

Becky: Let’s try not to crash it then, ah?

Isabelle: We be sending you out with one of our best pilots, so you be in good hands. If you follow me right this way, I take you to him.

Once the group leaves down the connecting corridor, the man behind the counter reaches for the phone. He looks back over his shoulder cautiously, before dialing a number and holding the phone up to his ear.

Man: <Hey, it’s me. You told me to call you when the Wilson kid showed up again. Yeah, well he’s here, and he brought friends with him. No, just a couple of chicks. Nothing to worry about. They’re heading out your way soon, though. Better be ready for them.>

Ext. Vietnam Jungle – Day

Present...

Ravager stands still, arms raised high in the air. The idiots are smarter than she would have thought, she’ll give them that much. They keep their distance, as they lead her along through the jungle, too far out of range for her to make a move without eating a bunch of bullets. They’ll make a mistake soon, though, she’s sure of that. Guys like this always make a mistake.

For now, though, she marches forward with three gun barrels pointed at the back of her head. While she’s certain her suit could stop a good majority of damage from said machinegun fire, she doesn’t exactly want to unnecessarily test its durability when she doesn’t have to. They don’t seem to actually be trying to kill her right now, despite the fact that they were shooting and throwing grenades at her earlier.

This might actually work out… If they take me back to their base camp, I can find Slade and have him out before the day’s up. Then we can find the others and get out of this hellhole.

Pushing past a dense collection of undergrowth, Rose comes out to a small clearing. She pauses momentarily, taking a look at the few tents and jeeps dotting the area. Definitely a camp, but not a very large one. It’s not their base, most likely just a perimeter camp instead. One of the men leading her along comes up close behind her, jabbing his rifle barrel between her shoulder blades. She briefly considers making her move right then, but the other two keep their aim on her. Still smart, for now. Keeping her hands raise, she marches forward again to the large tent in the middle of the camp.

Smuggler: <Inside.>

Ravager: I assume you want me to go inside?

He jabs her back again with his gun. A small frown slowly forms across her face, before she finally pulls back the flap of the tent and ducks her way inside. The first thing she notices is the line of weapons along one side of the tent, everything from assault rifles to unloaded RPG launchers. On the other side of the space, a man sits casually in a chair and sips calmly from a cup of water, his feet propped up on a table in front of him. As she moves farther inside the tent, two of them men escorting her come in behind her and stand off to the sides. They keep their guns trained on her.

Ravager: Nice place you got here. Little low key, but it’s got real… homey feeling to it.

The man sitting at the table lifts a hand and motions for her to come closer, pointing specifically to the chair across from him. Ravager glances back at the men behind her for a second, then obeys and comes forward to sit in the chair.

Man: Remove your mask.

She pauses, narrowing her eyes at the man. She does listen, however, slowly reaching up to pull the faceplate off her helmet.

Ravager: Happy?

Man: Better.

Ravager: So who are you supposed to be?

Koh: My name is Jayden Koh, if you must know.

Ravager: And you’re the big man in charge around here, huh?

Koh: Of this particular area, yes.

Ravager: Which makes you the one who shot us down.

Koh: I did give the order, yes.

Frowning, Ravager leans forward, placing her hands gently on the table. The men behind her instantly cock their guns and bring their eyes to the sights. Koh raises a hand, though, ordering them to stand down. Reluctantly, they lower their weapons.

Ravager: Well, you listen to me, buddy. Nobody, and I mean nobody, fires a rocket at me and gets away with it. You got that?

Koh: I don’t believe you’re in a position to be making threats, Miss Wilson.

She stiffens suddenly, eyes narrowing.

Ravager: You know who I am?

Koh: Of course. You are Rose, correct?

Ravager: Okay, how do you know who I am?

Koh: It is my business to know these things. Your father has spoken a great deal about you and his family.

Her fingers tighten around the edge of the table.

Ravager: Where is he?

Koh: Oh, we will take you to him in good time, yes. Perhaps threatening you will finally make him talk… but first, you will tell me where the other two who came with you are.

Ravager: You say that like I’m supposed to know.

Koh: Do you not?

Ravager: I’m as much in the dark as you.

A small silence passes between them. Koh leans back in his seat, rubbing his hand along his chin momentarily.

Koh: I see. Well, that is unfortunate.

Ravager: Okay, actually that’s not entirely true. I do know where one of them is. Joey, now would be a good time.

One of the men standing behind her suddenly turns and lashes out the butt of his gun. Before the second man can react, the wooden handle smashes into the side of his head, dropping him to the ground in an instant. Koh hesitates, a paralyzing grip of shock running through his body. When he finally comes to his senses, he reaches down to his holstered pistol. His hand barely makes it halfway there before he has a gun barrel pointed straight at his face.

Ravager: Alright, here’s how it works. I ask you questions, and you answer. We don’t like your answers, and my brother here puts one between your eyes. How’s that sound?

Koh: That… is fair.

Ravager’s lips curl slowly into a pleased smile.

Ravager: Good.

Chapter #100

Ext. Vietnam Jungle – Day

Three hours ago…

The helicopter sweeps low above the tree line, rotors roaring loudly as they go. Within the aircraft, Rose, Becky, and Joseph sit next to each other in the back, harnessed into their seats with waist and shoulder straps. They each wear a small headset, allowing them to communicate to each other over the noise. In the cabin ahead of them, the pilot eases the controls forward slightly, causing the chopper to rapidly pick up speed.

Isaac: How you liking da flight so far? Pretty fun, yeah?

Holding on tightly to the wall beside her, Becky slowly looks up, face contorted into an odd combination of panic and amazement.

Becky: Oh si… it’s a real… a real blast.

Isaac: You seem bit distressed. Never been in helicopter before?

Becky: Uh, no… no I can’t say I have. Do you really need to go so fast?

Isaac: I just get you to your destination faster, yeah? Everything okay, no worry.

Becky: Sure… whatever you say.

Smirking calmly to herself, Rose turns to her brother and leans in close, so he can hear him without the headset.

Rose: So, that Isabelle woman… she’s pretty cute, huh?

Joseph: Huh? Oh… yeah, I suppose.

Rose: Are you two…?

He blinks at her for a moment, apparently confused. When he finally realizes what she’s asking, his eyes go wide.

Joseph: What? No! No, we’re not… I mean, we’re just acquaintances.

Rose: Oh yeah, because I totally believe you with that reaction. How long have you been dating?

Joseph: We… we’re not exactly dating, per se, we’re just…

Rose: Mutually benefiting from one another’s company?

Joseph: That’s… one way of putting it. And if you must know, we’ve known each other for a couple of months now.

Rose: A couple of months? Just how long have you and Slade been in Vietnam?

Joseph: About that long. We found a lead that brought us here, but it ran cold for a while. Wasn’t until just a week ago that we picked it up again. I met Isabelle shortly after we arrived.

Rose: I see… don’t suppose you’ll tell me now what it is you got a lead on, huh?

Joseph: No, I still can’t. If Dad wants to tell you when we find him, then he’ll tell you. Until then, I promised I wouldn’t.

A small, frustrated sigh emerges from her throat. She bows her head, bringing up a hand and rubbing her eyes.

Rose: Ugh… this had better be worth it.

Joseph: It will be, Rose… I promise.

Ext. Vietnam Jungle

Present…

Joseph: When did you figure out it was me?

Ravager: Not long after I saw you. Everything from how you carried yourself to how you looked at me. Was the eyes, mostly. You can hop into whatever body you want, but I’ll always know those eyes. They have a certain… gentleness to them.

And yet, there’s nothing gentle about pointing a gun at Jayden Koh, the leader of this particular perimeter camp. Koh sits straight up in his seat, eying the gun barrel carefully for several moments, and then slowly turning his gaze back to Ravager.

Koh: Get on with your questions, then.

Ravager: Where’s your main base camp? Where are you holding our father?

Koh: I can’t tell you that.

Ravager: I don't think you’re fully aware of your situation, buddy. You have a gun aimed at your skull. Unless you want your tent redecorated, you’ll answer the damn question.

Koh: You shoot me, and my men will hear it. You won’t get out of here alive.

Ravager: Maybe…

Bringing a hand down to her thigh, she grips the handle of a spare knife and draws it from its sheath. With a firm thunk, she stabs the blade into the wooden table in front of her, then folds her arms calmly.

Ravager: But there are other, more silent ways of inflicting pain. So, new deal. Answer the question, or I start cutting off appendages.

Koh stares at the knife for a long time, as if mesmerized by its presence. Eventually, he lifts his gaze and casually folds his hands in front of him.

Koh: Very well… our main camp is approximately ten miles north of here, across the river. Very hard to miss.

Ravager: Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Koh: If you are done here, then leave… or at least, try to. You cannot simply walk out of this camp.

Ravager: Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. Joey, go ahead and take him. He’ll be a lot more useful than the mook you’re in right now.

Joseph: Good point.

Koh: Wait… what are you doing?

Joseph: Nothing important. Just look at me, Mr. Koh. Just like that.

Contact.

Joseph’s real body suddenly emerges in an astral projection form, gliding out of the man he’s currently possessing and diving straight into Koh. The previously possessed man collapses instantly, unconscious, while Koh himself stiffens up straight as Joseph’s mind takes over.

Ravager: You good?

Joseph: I’m good. Now come on, let’s get out of here.

Ext. Vietnam Jungle

Three hours ago…

Isaac reaches up overhead, flicking a few switches in the cabin as he eases the chopper down to a slower pace.

Isaac: We almost there. I set you down in da clearing up ahead, yeah?

Joseph: Sounds good, Isaac. Take us in nice an easy.

Isaac: You got it, boss.

The helicopter turns slightly, tilting to the side as it glides down towards the clearing in the distance. As they grow closer, however, Rose suddenly goes rigid, a rapid series of images flashing through her head. Instantly, she unbuckles her harness and lurches forward towards the cabin.

Rose: Isaac! Bank left, now!

Isaac: What are you talking about? Sit down, please. We going to be landing soon.

Rose: Don’t argue! Just turn to the-

Before she can finish the sentence, though, she sees it: a small rocket flying straight through the air, leaving behind a long trail of thick white smoke. Isaac sees it, too, yanking on the controls and banking hard to the left.

Isaac: Hold on everyone! This could get… rough!

His actions are too little, too late. He doesn’t have enough time to properly get them out of the way, though fortunately it is enough to keep from taking a direct hit. Instead, the rocket impacts the back end of the chopper’s body, blowing the tail section straight off. With such heavy damage, and no rear stabilizers now, they begin to spin wildly towards the jungle below.

Joseph: We need to jump!

Already out of his seat, Joey pulls one of the side doors open, hanging on tightly to the frame to keep form tumbling over.

Becky: Are you loco? We can’t just jump out!

Joseph: It’s either that or die in a fiery crash! Your choice!

Rose pulls Becky from her seat and pushes her to the open door.

Rose: He’s right! And you can survive the fall better than any of us, so just go!

Becky stumbles momentarily, staggering towards the exit and looking around as the chopper continues spinning forward. A look of nausea washes over her face.

Becky: Dios mio… alright, just don’t go getting yourself killed, you hear me? See you down there!

And with that, she leaps out of the helicopter and plummets towards the ground. She instantly pushes her nanites up through her pores, coating herself fully in the shiny, metallic substance. Within seconds, it hardens into a near indestructible shell, and by the time she crashes through the tree canopy and slams into the ground, she’s completely protected. As such, she receives very little actual damage from the fall, more shaken than anything. Pushing herself back to her feet, she looks up and watches overhead as the out of control chopper pummels through the jungle somewhere in the distance.

Madre de Dios... I hope they got out in time. Please let them have made it out in time.

Wasting no time of her own, she scrambles up the side of an embankment, bursting through a thick collection of vines, trees, and bushes. If she heads in the direction of the crash, then she should be able to meet up with the others along the way, assuming they got out before the helicopter hit the jungle floor. Unfortunately, she doesn't make it very far before the ratatatatat of machine gun fire resonates through the undergrowth. Becky dives behind a tree, feeling several bullets ricochet off her hardened flesh. She stays there momentarily, listening as her attackers shout back at each other.

Smuggler #1: <Hold on, you idiot! We're supposed to take them alive if possible!>*

(* Translated from Vietnamese)

Smuggler #2: <Only the Wilson kids. The other one is expendable!>

Smuggler #1: <But we don't know which one we're shooting at yet, you jackass!>

Okay, Becky, think, think... You could run out there and deliver an epic face stomping to those guys. I mean hell, you are bulletproof and all. But you don't know how many of them are out there, what kind of artillery they have, or exactly how strong these nanites are. Sure, they're plenty impressive, but what happens if the shell cracks and falls apart, ah? Then you're dead.

Instead, she runs for it, darting through the trees back the way she came. Another brief burst of gunfire follows, before abruptly ceasing in response to more angered shouting. She glances back over her shoulder just in time to catch sight of at least five men in pursuit, some distance back in the heavy tangle of jungle foliage.

Fortunately, along with her newly enhanced strength and durability comes much greater speed and stamina, as well. In seconds, she more than doubles the distance between her and her pursuers. By the time a minute passes, she can't even hear them anymore, let alone see them. Slowing to a stop, Becky brings her hands to her hips and looks around carefully. It doesn't take very long before she comes to a panicked, frustrated conclusion.

Ay caramba... I'm lost.

Ext. Vietnam Jungle - Day

Present...

Through the dense jungle, Rose can make out the fringes of the main bandit camp, set up in a large clearing. Dozens of armed men march back and forth between numerous tents and jeeps. She makes an attempt to count them all to get a precise number of what they're dealing with, but more seem to appear each minute. She loses track after reaching thirty.

Ravager: Don't suppose you have a rough estimate on how many men they have?

Joseph, still in the body of Jayden Koh, slowly shakes his head.

Joseph: Not a clue. I watched the place for a couple days after Dad was captured, but I could never get good feel for their numbers. At least fifty, but less than a hundred.

Ravager: That's... a bigger range than I was hoping for.

Joseph: Well, sorry to disappoint.

Ravager: So how are we getting in?

Joseph: You'll be my prisoner.

Ravager: Excuse me?

Joseph: Right now, I'm one of them, remember? And they want you captured, to use as leverage against Dad to make him talk. So, I take you in as my prisoner, then we're both inside.

Rose considers the proposition, breathing outwardly and staring back at the camp in the distance. She doesn't like the idea of acting as a prisoner, but it is a better plan than trying to sneak in or commit a full frontal attack with just the two of them.

Ravager: Alright, fine. When do you want to make our move?

Joseph: Soon. We'll have to double back and head around to the other side of the camp, where the road leads in.

They wait a few moments, continuing to watch the men roaming around the camp. Joey was right; even with their dad being who he is, Rose doubts that he'd be able to escape under these circumstances. As they get ready to move out, Joseph momentarily turns his head to look at her.

Joseph: So, you and Rebecca... is it serious?

Lifting an eyebrow behind her faceplate, Rose gives her brother a confused gaze.

Ravager: Is this really the time to have this conversation?

Joseph: Just curious. You seemed to be living together.

Ravager: We are. And yes, it's serious.

Joseph: It's hard to picture, you know.

Ravager: What is?

Joseph: You, in a relationship, happy. In all the time I've known you, I don't think I could have imagined it.

Ravager: Gee, your flattery knows no bounds.

Joseph: I'm just saying, with the way Dad messed with your life -- our lives -- it wasn't exactly shocking. I mean, you were always nice around me, but everyone else seemed to rub you the wrong way almost. Seeing you now, though... it's nice, and I'm happy for you.

Ravager pauses, straightening her posture and gently lowering her arms. He can't see it, but she's smiling a very broad, pleasant smile behind her mask.

Ravager: Thanks, Joey. I've come a long way since we last met, you know. If we make it out of this alive, I have a lot of stories to tell you. Plus, you can properly meet your niece.

At this comment, Joseph's eyes go wide with confusion. He stares at her for a long, quiet moment, eventually leaning in close to her. His voice comes out in a hushed whisper.

Joseph: I... have a niece?

Ravager: Yeah, her name's Holly

Joseph: But, how do... I mean, who did you... with?

Ravager: Pull yourself together, I didn't actually have a kid with anyone. She had no place else to go, so I took her in a few years back. Just recently adopted her.

Joseph: Oh... well that's great. I mean it. Can't wait to meet her.

Ravager: Yeah, I think you'll like each other. Now, what do you say we get in there and save Dad's ass?

Joseph: Sounds like a plan to me.

Ext. Bandit Camp - Day

Joseph marches forward down the road, pushing Ravager along with the barrel of his gun pressed between her shoulder blades. Ravager twists her wrists around slightly to make sure that the rope they used to tie her hands behind her back is nice and tight. Their ruse probably won't work so well if these smugglers have reason to doubt that she's actually a prisoner. Having her bonds fall off might give them such doubt. As they approach the camp entrance, several armed men take careful steps toward them.

Bandit: <Jayden? What's this?>

Joseph: <Found one of the Wilson kids. Thought the boss might like to put her to good use.>

Bandit: <You came on foot? Where the hell is your jeep?>

Joseph: <Damn thing broke down a couple miles back. We walked the rest of the way. Get me some damn water, I'm f*cking thirsty.>

The bandit tilts his head, eying the two curiously, then turns back to one of them behind him and gives a nod. The man runs off back into the camp, presumably to get Koh his water.

Bandit: <She's not armed, is she?>

Joseph: <I don't believe so.>

Bandit: <Kind of hard to tell with that outfit she has on. A lot of places to hide a weapon.>

Joseph: <I don't really think she's hiding anything.>

Bandit: <Better safe than sorry. Untie her hands and tell her to take it off.>

Joseph clears his throat, pausing and giving Ravager a sidelong glance. Turning his gaze back to the bandit, he shifts his weight uneasily.

Joseph: <Is that really necessary?>

Bandit: <I decide what's necessary. Tell her.>

Ravager: What the hell is he saying?

Joseph: He, uh... wants you to take off your armor.

She blinks, not registering his words at first. Slowly, she turns her head and stares at him.

Ravager: All of it?

Joseph: All of it. He's concerned about... concealed weapons.

Ravager: Well tell him to f*ck off. I've only got underwear on under this.

Joseph: Somehow, I think that's the point... <What if she refuses?>

Bandit: <Then we put a bullet in her head. After putting her to some... more personal use.>

Joseph: If you don't take it off quick, things are going to get ugly.

Ravager: Well then let them get ugly! I'm not taking my damn clothes for any perverted sons of-

Shick shick.

At the sound of multiple guns cocking, Ravager glances back towards the men in front of them. Multiple guns are now pointed straight at her. Apparently, these guys don't take very well to raised voices.

Joseph: Rose...

Ravager: Alright, fine! I swear, of all the degrading... you'd better not look.

Joseph: Eyes averted. <Alright, she's doing it. Put the guns down.>

Once the guns lower, Ravager breathes out a long, annoyed sigh. She waits for Joseph to untie her hands, then calmly begins removing her armored suit, starting with her helmet and working her way down. She feels the men leering intensely at her, as she pulls the suit down past her legs, exposing the scant bra and panties she wears underneath her outfit. It makes her want to gut somebody, but she manages to restrain herself.

Rose: There, you happy? Go ahead and take a nice long look, assholes.

With that, she kicks over her costume and folds her arms firmly across her chest. In doing so, a large knife tumbles out of a hidden compartment in the armor. Joseph watches as one of the men bends down to pick up the knife, then briefly glances back at Rose. Noticing his look, she curls her lips into an annoyed frown.

Rose: What? Their concerns being justified doesn't make this any less demeaning.

Joseph: Wasn't saying anything.

Rose: But you were thinking it.

Joseph: If you say so. <Are you good, now?>

The bandit turns his gaze over to Rose, his eyes traveling over her much longer than could be considered comfortable. With a pleased smirk, he nods and waves his gun for them to follow.

Bandit: <Oh yeah, we're good.>

Chapter #101

Ext. Vietnam Jungle – Day

Becky saunters forward through the jungle, body slouched over and head hanging towards the ground. The metallic shell around her body is gone now, considering she hasn’t come across another one of those smugglers in over three hours. Instead, she’s been wandering aimlessly, gradually losing hope of ever finding Rose or Joseph.

Also, it’s hot. Damn hot. She had hoped that the temperature would drop as the afternoon dragged on, but instead it just got worse. Even the humidity has risen, leaving her to soak in her sweat. By now, her shirt is drenched and sticks tightly against her body, like some kind of second skin. Very wet, very uncomfortable skin. That’s not to mention the horrible stench of body odor following her around wherever she goes. There isn’t enough deodorant on the planet to keep someone from stinking up a storm in this weather.

Oy… I’d give anything for a cold beer and a dip in a pool right about now…

Breathing in deeply, she pushes through a thick grouping of bushes, her legs already beginning to tire out. What she doesn’t see, as she lazily steps forward, is the sudden decline in terrain. Her foot never comes down on solid earth, instead dropping out from underneath her. With a loud yelp, she’s suddenly falling, crashing hard into the embankment and then rolling wildly down the hill.

She comes to a stop with a loud splash, plunging into the depths of miraculously cool water. For a brief moment, she just floats there in disbelief, reveling in the feel of cold water against her hot, exhausted body. When she reemerges from the surface, she flips her hair back, runs her hands over her head, and utters a pleasant, if somewhat confused, laugh.

Becky: Dios mio… it’s a damn miracle.

Glancing around momentarily, Becky comes to realize that she’s currently floating in a calm, shallow river that cuts through the jungle like a long wet dagger. She remains there for several minutes longer, until finally swimming back to shore and dragging herself out of the water. As great as it feels, there’s no telling what kind of wildlife is lurking around below the surface. The last thing she wants is to be attacked by a hungry crocodile or something.

But at least I don’t feel like a boiled lobster anymore.

Taking in another, deep breath, she stretches her arms up over her head and then begins casually trekking down the river bank. It beats traipsing around aimlessly in the jungle, and if she can always take a quick dip in the water whenever she starts overheating again. When she rounds the corner of a river bend, however, movement draws her attention. She turns her head sharply, instantly pulling out her body’s nanites and hardening them around her. This caution lasts only briefly, though, as instead of an armed bandit standing there, she sees a young girl. The two stare at each other for a long moment, until finally Becky allows her nanites to sink back into her skin.

Becky: Uh… hi? What are you doing out here?

The girl just continues staring, not saying anything. Becky looks past her, wondering where on earth she came from. And that’s when she notices two men standing nearby atop a small embankment, near the tree line. They give her hard, careful looks, before slowly approaching the small girl. The men position themselves between her and the girl protectively, as if expecting Becky to attack.

Becky: Hey, easy, I’m not hostile. I’m just lost. Uh… do any of you speak English?

Again, silence. Becky scratches her head, watching as the men and the girl begin to walks away back through the jungle. She cautiously follows them.

Becky: Wait a minute, can any of you tell me where to-

They quicken their pace, almost jogging now. In seconds, they disappear through a small tangle of undergrowth, leaving Becky standing there alone.

Becky: Vietnam. Why did it have to be Vietnam? Why not Spain or something? At least there, I’d speak the native language.

Uttering a sigh of frustration, she hurries up the embankment and through the dense foliage, hoping to find where the two men and the girl had gone. Maybe she’s close by to civilization, maybe even a hotel. Oh what she wouldn’t give for a nice relaxing shower right about now.

Ext. Farming Village – Day

As she pushes through the other side of the vines and trees, she comes out to a small collection of huts and shacks, spread out in front open fields. She pauses briefly, staring with confused eyes. Turning back around, she takes a moment to make sure that she had actually just been in a jungle. Indeed, dense jungle surrounds the entire village and its open fields.

Well this is... not what I expected. Looks like some kind of farming village.

Becky slowly walks towards the grouping of homes. carefully inspecting the area. She never imagined that such a place could exist in the middle of a jungle. It feels like a whole different world, almost. Turning her head, she sees an old man sitting on a small seat and staring at her. She squints back at him, slightly tilting her head. His gaze doesn’t shift in the slightest. Finally pulling her eyes away, she continues walking through the village.

I don’t think I should get my hopes up on a shower or television in these huts.

She doesn’t make it very far before she realizes that a lot more than just the one old guy is staring at her. Everywhere she turns, she spots someone looking her way. Men, women, children… everyone.

Becky: Uh… can anyone tell me how to get back to the city? Or a main road? Something? …yeah, didn’t think so.

To her astonishment, however, a calm voice in a very familiar language answers her question.

Man: You’re a long way from the city.

Spinning around, Becky comes face to face with a man standing behind her. He isn’t Vietnamese, however… actually, he looks more American than anything; tall, decent shape, scruffy blonde hair, closely trimmed beard. Not the kind of person she would have expected to see around here.

Becky: You, uh… who are you?

Charles: Name’s Charles Foster.

He gives her a friendly smile, extending a hand. She glances at it briefly before shaking.

Charles: And you are?

Becky: Rebecca. Rebecca Chavez.

Charles: Well, pleasure to meet you, Rebecca Chavez. What brings you out this way?

Becky: Er… well, I came here with friends, but… we kind of got separated. And then I got lost. And… now I’m here. But, what are you… I mean, you’re not…

A small chuckle finds its way out of his throat.

Charles: No, I’m not native to the area, if that’s what you’re implying. Came here about ten years ago from the States, ended up in this little farming village and never left.

Becky: Just like that? You just up and left your life to stay… here?

Charles: To be honest, I didn’t really have much of a life back there. But here…

He turns momentarily, looking back near the corner of the hut behind him. A pretty Vietnamese woman stands there, watching closely. A young girl stands next to her, holding on tightly to the woman’s pant leg. The girl doesn’t look as strongly Vietnamese as her mother, possessing certain other traits strikingly similar to Charles'.

Charles: …well, let’s just say I found something worth living for.

Becky’s gaze follows his closely, coming to a quick understanding of his meaning.

Becky: Oh, I see. I guess that would be enough to leave everything behind, ah?

Charles: That it would.

Becky: So anyway, you said something about me being a long way away from the city? Exactly how long of a way are we talking? I really think I need to get back and, I don't know, draw up a search party or something for my friends.

Charles: Well, you see that road over there?

He points briefly over to a small trail leading out of the village and into the jungle.

Charles: That'll take you out to a main road back to civilization... about sixty miles or so from here. Not going to get there any time soon on foot.

Becky: Oy... so you got a jeep I could borrow or something?

Charles: Delivery truck comes in once a week with supplies, but it's not due for another three days.

With a frustrated groan, Becky brings a hand up to smack her forehead.

Becky: Jueputa... I guess I'm walking, then.

Charles: I'd suggest maybe getting some rest first, maybe a little something to eat? Looks like you've been out there for a while. My wife and I were just about to make dinner, actually, if you'd like to join us.

She pauses briefly, folding her arms and looking around. By now, the other village folk have resigned to ignoring her, instead of staring. Fine by her. Eventually, she shrugs her shoulders and exhales sharply.

Becky: Sure, why not?

Charles: Great, follow me. I'll show introduce you to the family.

Ext. Storage Tent, Bandit Camp - Day

Bandit: <Tie her up in there with the other. Then come with me; the boss will want to talk to you.>*

* (Translated from Vietnamese)

Joseph pushes Rose through the flap of the tent, glancing behind him. They're watching him carefully. With a cool breath, he turns his attention back inside. The tent is a small one, mostly made for storage. Several large crates sit around the space, along with barrels of water and sacks of grain.

Joseph: There.

He points to one of the support poles, urging his sister to follow instructions and try not to make things difficult. If their plan is going to succeed, they have to play along for now. Reluctantly, Rose complies, sitting down against the pole and holding her hands behind her back. Joseph quickly snaps a pair of iron shackles around her wrists, the chain bonding her hands tightly into place.

Rose: This is wrong on so many levels...

Joseph: Just hang tight. I'll try to make it back as soon as I can.

Rose: Oh please take your time. I've always wanted to be chained half naked in a smuggler camp. It's a dream come true.

Exhaling, Joseph straightens himself and gives her one last look before exiting the tent. Once she's alone, Rose bows her head and grumbles quietly to herself.

Rose: Well, can't say that went as expected...

Voice: And how did you expect it to go?

Rose lifts her head up sharply, gaze snapping to the source of the voice. Across from her, chained to a similar support pole, is a very familiar man, beaten and bloodied. The plain white tank top he wears is shredded, barely more than rags covering his torso, while his jeans have seen better days. Though a sickening scar slashes across his right eye, there is no sign of his eye patch anywhere. Rose stiffens slightly at the sight of him, breathing in a slow, calm breath.

Rose: So Joey was right... you're not dead. Yet.

Slade: You know me, Rose. It'll take a lot more than a few punk bandits with AKs to put me down.

Rose: As unfortunate as that might be...

Pausing a moment, Slade sits up straighter and lets out a soft breath.

Slade: I'm glad you came... a part of me didn't think you would.

Rose: Really, only a part? After everything you've done to me?

Slade: The other part hoped you'd come help out your family. Looks like I was right.

A large frown slashes across her face. She huffs out a large breath of air, glaring off to the side. She can barely stand to look at the man right now.

Rose: Yeah, well, as much as I hate you, I guess I still love you, too. Like some kind of demented case of Stockholm's or something.

Slowly, she turns her gaze back towards him.

Rose: But let's make one thing perfectly clear. I'm not happy I'm here, and I don't like you. I never will. If we get out of this, I want you out of my life for good, you got it? And don't ever ask for my help again.

Slade: Careful what you wish for, Rose.

Rose: What I wish is that I didn't have to come all the way out here to rescue you. What the hell are you and Joey even looking for? And why is it so damn important that you had to go and pull this ridiculous -- not to mention stupid -- stunt of getting yourself captured?

At this question, Slade goes quiet. He sucks in a deep breath, looking away from her.

Slade: I can't-

Rose: No! Don't you dare say you can't tell me! I traveled halfway across the world to save your sorry ass! The least you can do is tell me why!

Slade: It's not the right time. I want to... but it's for the best if you don't know just yet.

Rose: And why the hell can't I know yet?

Slade: Because... it'll be easier for you to forgive me when this is over.

Lifting a confused eyebrow, Rose narrows her eyes. He still isn't looking at her.

Rose: What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Slade: Everything will be made clear in good time, I promise you.

Rose: Whatever. It's gonna have to wait, though, because the first thing we're doing when we get out of this camp is searching for Becky. She's still out in the jungle somewhere.

Slade's gaze moves swiftly back to his daughter, eyes widening.

Slade: Rebecca... she's alive? But I thought...

Rose: Yeah, she got better. Go figure, right? But it's a long story.

Slade: And yet you dragged her along on this?

Rose: No, she insisted. Wouldn't take no for an answer. She's not the same as before, though, she's... well, she's more than capable of handling herself. I'm not so much worried that something will happen to her as I am of just not finding her again.

Slade: I see... in that case, we'll look for her as soon as we get out of here. As soon as I get the information I need. I just need five minutes alone with that boss of theirs, and now that you and Joseph are here, we can make it happen.

Rose: I assume you have a plan?

Slade: I always have a plan.

Rose: Does it involve pants? Because I could really, really use some pants right now.

Int. Smuggler Captain's Tent, Bandit Camp – Day

With a steady breath, Joseph enters through the double flap of the large tent. He looks around briefly, noting how much larger it actually is, almost like a small house. The floor is even raised up on a wooden platform, unlike the natural, dirt floors in the others. His gaze quickly passes over a bed, a small kitchen area, and a workstation, finally settling on the tall, well built man sitting at a desk. The man leans back casually in his chair, arms folding across his broad chest. This man, going by the name of Vinh Dao, is the one in charge of operating the sizable group of bandits and smugglers hiding out in the jungle.

Vinh: <Ah, Jayden Koh. Please, have a seat.>

Joseph walks forward across the tent, calmly lowering himself into a seat in front of the man's desk. He remains calm, collected, paying careful mind to the fact that he is inhabiting the body of another.

Joseph: <Thank you. I trust you have heard the news?>

Vinh: <So I have, and I must say, excellent work. While I would like to have both Wilson children in custody, the girl is wholly sufficient for now. I'll get to work with them soon.>

Joseph: <And what would you have me do now? Shall I return to my post?>

Vinh: <No, I have a rather special assignment I need you to take care of.>

Straightening in his chair, Joseph furrows his brow in confusion.

Joseph: <What assignment?>

Vinh: <A way to expand our reach in the jungle, as well as get rid of a few pests along the way. Ten miles south of here is a small farming village. It isn't much, but a well used road does run close by. We're going to take control of that village, and by extension the road.>

Joseph: <I see... and you want me leading the party?>

Vinh: <Yes, I feel your talents would be most useful for the mission. You can work on putting together a small team soon. Understood?>

Joseph: <Yes, sir... I understand.>

Chapter #102

Ext. Farming Village – Night

Bright orange flames flicker wildly in the night, fueled by half the wooden dwellings and rice fields of the village. Every now and then a hot ember pops, drawing the attention of the survivors standing nearby. They watch with wide eyes, lost in quiet contemplation. Too shocked are they to grieve right now, too horrified to act. The only thing they can do is stare as the growing flames spread from home to home.

Bodies lie haphazardly strewn about the village, some caught in the inferno and others lying face down in the dirt. Villagers, bandits. Men, women. Adults, children. No one had been safe when the attack began, no one's survival certain. Not even the one who had defended them all, the one who had jumped headlong into danger to save as many as them as possible. Charles kneels over her body, pressing his fingers to her neck. No pulse. His wife, Kym, hovers over his shoulder, holding herself tightly.

Kym: <Is she... alive?>*

(* Translated from Vietnamese>

Charles: <I don't know. I can't feel a pulse, and she's been hit multiple times.>

Kym: <Is there anything you can do? She saved us... there must be some way we can help.>

Charles: <I'm not a doctor, Kym. I don't... I don't know how.>

With a heavy breath, Charles sinks back against the ground, hanging his head into his hands. It's hopeless; he can't do anything to save her. She's already gone.

Charles: Thank you... for saving my family. I promise we won't forget what you did here, Rebecca.

Int. Storage Tent, Bandit Camp – Day

Four hours ago...

Rose tilts her head back against the support pole behind her. She's been staring at the ceiling of the tent now for an hour in stone dead silence, having run out of things to talk about with her father within the first ten minutes. Of course, she isn't entirely broken up about that, wanting as little to do with the man as possible. The only reason she's here is to help him escape and acquire the information he's after, so they can find whatever the hell he's looking for. Once that's done, she never has to see him again.

At least, that's the plan. Knowing her abysmal luck, Slade will be back in her life in a few years to muck it up all over again. Such is how the wheel seems to term, in their father-daughter relationship. Rose finds some happiness, Slade shows up, Rose's life gets flipped on its backside. He tries to fix things, Rose disowns him again. He leaves, Rose picks up where she left off. Lather, rinse, and f*cking repeat.

Her attention is finally drawn when the entrance flap to the tent pushes inward, revealing the body of Jayden Koh, still possessed by the astral spirit of Joseph Wilson. He takes a few careful steps forward, eyes passing between the two captives. Then, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out an old key.

Joseph: Remember to act like you're still locked up, or else you'll blow it.

Slade: Thank you, son. I knew you'd come through, you always do.

Kneeling down beside his father, Joey quickly slips the key into the lock of the shackles binding the man's wrists. With a simple turn, the shackles pop free. Of course, Slade keeps his arms wrapped back around the pole behind him, to keep up the act. Joseph then brings the key over to his sister, do the same for her bonds.

Rose: You couldn't bring me some clothes, too?

Joseph: Couldn't find any. Would look too suspicious, anyway.

Rose: Of course it would...

Slade: When's Vinh dropping by for a visit?

Joseph: Should be soon, though I think he had a couple things to take care of first. You have a plan?

Slade: I do, and I'll need you there as part of it.

Joseph shifts slightly, turning his gaze away momentarily. A long, soft breath exudes from his throat, one hand coming up to absently rub his shoulder.

Joseph: I... can't be here for it.

Slade's eyes narrow, gaze locking on hard to his son.

Slade: What do you mean you can't be here for it? You're essential.

Joseph: Vinh ordered a raid on a nearby farming village tonight. They'll kill everyone just to control the road leading out of it. But if I stay in Koh's body and go with them, I can stop it. I can help those people.

Slade: That isn't our problem, Joseph. We have a clear goal here, or have you forgotten?

Bowing his head, Joey exhales deeply and shakes his head.

Joseph: No, I haven't forgotten. But I can't just stay here and let innocent people be slaughtered when I can do something about it.

Slade: Joseph, you listen to me-

Rose: Shut up, Slade. Just shut up.

Slade glances a his daughter from the corner of his eye, but says nothing.

Rose: God, you're still the same selfish pr*ck as always, aren't you? Could you stop thinking about yourself for once? You might not like helping people, but news flash, it's kind of what we do.

Slade: Rose, we don't have time to be-

Rose: No, don't talk. I told you to shut up so I can talk. You got yourself into this mess, and now you need us to get you out. You want us to do that, then we do it our way, got it? And our way says that you let Joey stop these assholes from murdering a bunch of innocent people.

For a long moment, Slade stares back at her, eyes unblinking. He's never quite seen his daughter this defiant before. Sure, she despises him, wants nothing to do with him, and has tried to kill him on multiple occasions, but the adamant ferocity in her voice right now is something else altogether, like an angry parent talking down to a child.

Rose: If you're so concerned about your plan for getting out of here, then come up with a new plan. We're more than capable of adapting. You got that?

Slade lowers his gaze to the ground, taking in a deep, slow breath.

Slade: Just be careful, Joseph.

Joseph: I will. When you two get out of here, we can meet up at the village and figure out where to go from there. That work?

Rose: It works. Go do your thing, Joey. We'll be fine.

Moving back towards the tent flap, Joey nods appreciatively to his sister.

Joseph: See you soon.

When he's gone, Slade lifts his gaze back towards Rose. He looks at her long and hard before bringing himself to speak, and she stares right back at him the whole time, never wavering.

Slade: You never cease to surprise me, Rose.

Rose: Probably because your head is so far up your ass you can't realize that I'm a changed woman. I stopped letting you walk over me years ago.

Slade: I know, and I'm proud of you for that. You're strong, intelligent, but most of all... caring, something I've never been good at.

Rose: Oh boy, you're proud of me? Gee, that means so much coming from you.

Slade: It might not now... but I hope some day that it will.

Rose: Fat chance of that. Now... let's hurry up and figure out a new plan before it's too late.

Int. Charles' Home, Farming Village – Night

One hour ago...

The dwelling is rather small, nothing more than a spruced up hut with the barest of amenities. Becky doesn't understand it, how people can live with so little. According to Charles, they've learned to live with only what is necessary and are quite happy in doing so. She, on the other hand, will take all the technological luxuries of the current era any day.

Sitting at the small kitchen table, Becky slowly shifts her gaze between Charles, his wife, Kym, and their daughter, Mai. The one thing she has been impressed with so far is the amount of care they've shown for each other. In just the short few hours that she's known them, she's found them to be one of the happiest families she ever met. Her eyes pause briefly, watching closely as Charles cuts his daughter's fish into smaller pieces. The young girl smiles, swinging her legs back and forth with a big smile on her face.

Caramba... this is what I want someday. A family to love and call my own. People like Rose. Holly, too. I don't think there's anything I wouldn't give to spend the rest of my life with them.

Mai: <Thanks, Daddy.>

The young girl turns her head and gives her Dad a quick kiss on the cheek, then returns her attention to her food. A broad smile forms its way onto Becky's face, as she watches. Her hand only absently drifts towards her plate, stabbing at the fish with her fork.

Yeah... definitely.

Becky: Thank you for the dinner, by the way. Didn't realize how hungry I was until I started eating.

Charles: It's no trouble, really.

Kym: Do yew... anjoy da feesh?

The woman's English is broken and heavily accented, but clear enough to understand. Becky gives her a warm smile, nodding firmly.

Becky: Yes, it's very good. You're an excellent cook.

Kym returns the smile broadly.

Kym: Dat is... good. Vey, vey good.

Ext. Farming Village – Night

Forty-five minutes ago...

A short time later, Becky stands outside, hands in her pockets as she gazes up at the stars. Next to her, Charles folds his arms casually across his chest, lifting his own eyes towards the sky, as well. With not a cloud in the sky, the stars are out in full force.

Becky: You really do have a lovely family, you know.

Charles: Thanks. I never imagined something so great would come out of my trip here a decade ago, but when I met Kym... well, I knew I couldn't leave. And Mai, she's my everything. An angel I didn't deserve, yet have been blessed to have her.

Becky: She really is a sweet girl, ah?

Charles: That she is. You have anyone like that? Someone you love?

Becky: Si... I do.

Charles: Then don't ever let them go. It would be the biggest mistake you could ever make.

Breathing out deeply, Becky brings her gaze down to look at Charles. She curls a small, warm smile onto her face.

Becky: I don't intend to.

BAM!

A single gunshot rings out like firecracker, splitting the quiet night air. Becky snaps her attention towards the sound, though it's difficult to discern exactly what direction it came from. The only thing she can be certain of is that it was close. Very close.

Charles: The hell was that?

Becky: I don't know, but I'd get back inside if I were you.

Quickly moving away from him, she runs down the dirt path through the center of the village. As she does, another gunshot deafens the air.

BAM!

Charles: Where are you going?

Becky: To check things out. Just stay with your family!

---

At the edge of the village, a collection of jeeps and troops have gathered, preparing to invade the collection of homes ahead. At least, that had been the plan a few minutes ago. Now, though, things have changed dramatically. Jayden Koh cocks his rifle again, aiming the barrel at the downed man's other leg.

BAM!

The fallen bandit recoils sharply, reaching down and grabbing at the fresh bullet wound. He screams, throwing his head back and squinting his eyes shut. The other man stand back, watching with wide eyes. In their minds, their leader has gone insane. Of course, that's because they don't know who's really in that body of his.

Joseph: <Let me ask you again. What are you going to do when we get in there?>

The injured man whimpers, sucking in deep, frantic breaths.

Bandit #1: <W-we're... we're going t-to... to peacefully... oc-occupy... the village. No one... no one gets h-hurt, and no one has to... has to leave their homes...>

Joseph: <That's better. Anyone else have any objections?>

A deadening silence answers his question. The other men give each other careful glances, as if wordlessly communicating their thoughts to each other. Joseph takes that to mean that his message has been understood. He turns his back, marching several steps forward and resting his gun on his shoulder.

Joseph: <Good. Now, if any of you decides to disobey my orders, I'll personally put you out of your->

Crack!

A rifle butt caroms into the back of his head, dropping him down to his knees in a daze.

Okay... that didn't go as planned. Bunch of unruly b*stards...

He knows what's coming next, though. He can feel it. If he doesn't get out of this body soon, it could get real messy. Just as several of the men standing behind him raise their rifle barrels at him, Joseph's astral form expels itself out of Koh's head. By the time his body begins to re-solidify, he's already rolling forward across the ground into the nearby brush. The apparent supernatural act takes the bandits by surprise, freezing them in place as they watch Joseph's figure disappear into the night.

Bandit #2: <A... demon. It was a demon.>

Koh: <Wasn't a demon, you morons.>

With a tired, pained groan, Jayden Koh slowly rises back to his feet, a hand pressed to the back of his head.

Koh: <One of the Wilson kids. Ignore him for now, we have a job to do. But first, who's the one that hit me?>

One of the men shifts awkwardly, slowly bringing his hand up. Koh promptly throws a whipping right cross that bashes into the side of the man's face, dropping him to the ground.

Koh: <The rest of you, get to work. I have a call to make.>

---

Becky moves cautiously through the village, eyes scanning into the darkness. There hasn't been another gunshot for a few minutes now, but she isn't taking any chances by not investigating properly. The people of this village don't strike her as the type to go out at night and fire off a couple of shots for a good time. No, something else is definitely...

Fwoom!

...wrong.

Becky takes a step back, shielding her face against the intense heat emanating from the sudden spark of flames towering out of the building in front of her.

Becky: Qué demonios?!

The screams reach her ears next, piercing out over the now roaring inferno. Becky's heart stutters. She lowers her arms and squints intently at the flames, as the horrified cries of panic growing even stronger.

Dios mio... please let these nanites be fireproof.

Forcing her legs into motion, she sprints straight at the burning dwelling. The nanites surge through her pores once again, hardening into its familiar protective shell. She pauses briefly when she reaches the scene, holding her arms up and gritting her teeth. The heat explodes in front of her, threatening to boil her from the inside out. At the very least, the flames themselves aren't burning her, allowing a small window of opportunity to get in and out.

She pushes forward, reaching out to smash down the burning wall in front of her. It crumbles with a slight touch, causing the entire structure to shift awkwardly, as if about to collapse. Swallowing hard, Becky stumbles inside and looks round. Her eyes find a young couple huddled together closely in the center of the floor, as far away from the flames as possible.

Becky: Come on, this way!

Taking a step to the side, she waves her arm back at the giant hole in the wall she just created. The couple gives her a long, surprised look before scrambling frantically back to their feet and hurrying out of their burning home. Becky takes one last look around before following back out into the night. It isn't until she's safely away from the roar of the flames that she hears it.

Gunfire. More screaming. Explosions.

All around her, whole groups of houses go up in smoke and fire. She stands there for a long moment, watching in horror as the village folk frantically run away, only making it so far before tumbling to the ground with bullet wounds riddling their backsides. Only one word can properly describe this nightmare.

Hell... Hijo de puta, this is Hell.

Chapter #103

Int. Storage Tent, Bandit Camp – Night

Two hours ago…

When the tent flap pushes open, Rose slowly turns her gaze to look at the man entering. He’s much larger than most of the others, tall with broad shoulders, and carries an air of strength and power about him. She holds no doubt in her mind that this is Vinh, the leader of the bandit/smuggler camp.

Slade: Was wondering when you were going to show your sorry face again.

Vinh shifts his eyes toward the prisoner. Pulling up a chair, he sits down calmly and folds his arms across his chest. He doesn’t say anything, not yet. Instead, he utters a loud, brief whistle, then glances back towards the tent entrance. A short moment later, no less than a dozen armed men enter the small space, surrounding them and keeping their guns trained on both prisoners. Slade straightens himself, eying the men carefully.

Slade: What’s this?

Vinh: A little insurance, is all. A little birdie told me that you might be… difficult.

Slade: Really now, and what birdie would that be?

The bandit leader pauses before answering, shifting his position and leaning forward.

Vinh: Jayden Koh.

Slade and Rose look quickly at each other. They’re both thinking the same thing.

Vinh: He told me to be wary of the both of you… which he was correct to do so, if your shackles are truly unlocked.

Rose swallows, bringing her gaze down to the floor. A cold, numb sensation begins to spread through her chest. If Koh called back to warn Vinh… then something must have happened to Joey. He might be… no, he can’t be. He can’t.

Vinh motions to one of his men, ordering him to check on Slade’s chains. A quick inspection reveals that the chains that had been bonding his arms around the pole have indeed been removed.

Vinh: I guess Koh was right. What a strange ability that son of yours has.

Slade: If you did anything to him, I swear…

Vinh: What do you swear? You are not in a good position to be making threats, Mr. Wilson. Or did you think I came here to have you talk back to me? No, I came here to make you understand something.

Slade: And what would that be?

Standing up from his seat, Vinh marches the short distance away towards Rose and pulls a knife.

Vinh: That if you don’t tell me where you hid our money and our cargo…

He brings the knife downward, running the edge of the blade slowly across Rose’s cheek, drawing a thin line of blood. She flinches, turning her head to the side and forcing down the growing anger inside her. As much as she wants to leap up and cripple the b*stard, she’d be dead before she even got a chance.

Vinh: …then I will hurt your daughter. I can cause her all sorts of pain, Mr. Wilson. Whether with the knife…

He abruptly brings the blade lower, tapping it several times over the middle of her bra, a clear threat to cut it away from her body.

Vinh: …or with something else. Either way, I will make her scream.

Rose: You even try it-

Her gaze lifts up at him sharply, eyes narrowing with white-hot ire.

Rose: -and it’ll be the last thing you do.

Slade: No, it won’t be.

Slade’s own gaze hardens on the man with anger and disgust.

Slade: Because he’ll be doing a lot of squirming, a lot of begging, and a lot of screaming of his own before I let him die.

Straightening himself, Vinh turns and slowly curls a smug grin across his face.

Vinh: Is that so? By all means, Mr. Wilson… go ahead and try.

He briefly gestures to the armed men standing around him. They keep their weapons pointed firmly on both Slade and Rose.

Vinh: See how far you get. Now, are you going to tell me where you took our goods, or am I going to have to play with your daughter?

A heavy silence exudes from Slade. He bows his head momentarily, sucking in a deep, slow breath, until finally he glares up coldly at Vinh.

Slade: I’ll do you one better. I’ll show you.

Ext. Farming Village – Night

Half an hour ago…

Becky: I said… back OFF!

Lunging forward, Becky smashes into one of the smuggler jeeps, tearing the thing in two like tissue paper. Bits of twisted, broken metal scatter in all directions as the engine explodes, engulfing her and the several men aboard in a scorching fireball. She comes out of the explosion perfectly fine, but the same can’t be said of the smugglers. She pauses only briefly to glance back at the burning bodies, then charges forward again.

All around her, death and horror erupt. Small groups of bandits march through the village, taking shots at fleeing villagers and tossing incendiaries into the dwellings. The sheer casualness of this butchery surges Becky into action, fueling her with a rage and sense of duty she never thought she could feel. As long as she still stands, she will not let this village be taken. She’ll kill as many of these murderers as she needs to, and protect as many innocents as she can, or she’ll die trying.

Becky: Oy! Pandejos! Over here!

Several armed men turn towards her, their eyes going wide at the sight of a metallic woman charging straight at them. Immediately, they raise their weapons and open fire, but it does them no good. The bullets bounce harmlessly off her harder-than-steel skin. Before they realize that their weapons are useless, however, Becky closes the distance. Holding an arm out, she keeps on running and clotheslines the first man she sees, spinning violently through the air. He hits the ground with a sickening snap, neck twisting at an awkward angle.

Turning to the next man, she throws a thunderous punch to his gut, lifting him straight upwards with astonishing force. The man’s face contorts with agony as he flies through the air, only to then crash through the roof of one of the burning homes. The third bandit backpedals desperately, eyes wide with fear. He quickly turns to run away, but tangles his feet together in his rush. With a thud, he crashes straight to the ground.

Becky: Don’t feel bad; you wouldn’t have gotten away.

Reaching down, she grips the man tightly by the leg, squeezing hard. Bone pops and splinters beneath Becky's grip, eliciting a loud, horrified scream of pain from the man's lips. Without further hesitation, she swings him around and whips him through the air with every ounce of effort she can muster. The man disappears into the jungle, crashing through the undergrowth until smashing against a tree trunk.

Becky wastes no time, sprinting back farther into the village and taking out every armed bandit along the way. As hard as she fights, though, she can’t save everyone. Every now and then, she passes the body of a fallen villager; men, women, and children alike. It sickens her, twisting a knot of nausea into her gut.

I’ll kill them all. I swear I’ll kill them.

As she rounds a corner, several familiar voices cry out over the madness. She stops, looking around frantically for the source.

Charles: <No! Leave her alone!>*

<* Translated from Vietnamese>

Mai: <Daddy! Help me!>

Kym: <Let go of her, you monsters! Let her go!>

Her gaze finds the sight just in time. One of the bandits drags the young girl, Mai, out of the doorway by her hair, then tosses her forward. She rolls across the ground with a grunt of pain, as her parents run forward to stop the crazed man from hurting her. They don’t even get halfway to him before he turns, lifts his gun, and fires. The bullet rips into the meat of Kym’s arm, dropping her to the ground. She screams, clutching at the wound tightly and shuddering, eyes already beginning to water.

Charles: <Kym!>

He comes to her side to inspect the wound, but forces himself to turn back and reach out with a desperate hand.

Charles: <Stop this! Please, don’t do it!>

But the bandit doesn’t listen, only raising his gun and pointing it straight at the girl’s head. Mai stares up at him, eyes brimming with tears.

Mai: <No! P-please! I don’t want to be shot!>

BLAM!

The gun goes off, but the bullet flies in a completely different direction, coming nowhere near its intended target. Becky barrels into him hard, loosening his hold on the gun. A hateful, rage-filled shout finds its way out of Becky’s throat, as she lifts both fists and sends them crashing down without relent on the man’s chest. The force of the impact caves in the man's chest cavity and craters the ground beneath him, as large spidery cracks rip the earth open.

Taking in deep breaths, Becky slowly raises her hands. She stares at them, at the bright crimson dripping down the gleaming silver. Swallowing a hard knot in her throat, she forces herself out of the daze and looks back at the family. Both Mai and her father kneel at Kym’s side, trying to stop the bleeding from her arm.

Becky: How is she?

Charles: It’s just a flesh wound… she’ll be fine, thank god.

Then, he looks over at her and gives a soft, appreciative nod.

Charles: And thank you. If you hadn’t… they might have been…

Becky: Don’t mention it.

Charles: You look… different. And the way you destroyed the ground like that… are you one of those superheroes?

Becky: I may be super, Charles, but I’m not a hero. I’m just doing what’s right.

That’s when she sees it. Another armed man comes around the corner of the burning home, at least twenty yards away from them. He pauses briefly, and then raises his weapon at Charles and his family. Becky’s eyes fly open. She springs up from the ground to stop him, but already she realizes that she won’t make it there in time. If she can just throw herself between them, then she can shield them. Or something. Anything.

Ratatatatatatat!

Machine gun fire goes off. For the shortest of moments, Becky flinches, heart pounding with panicked horror. She glances at the others, only to see them unharmed. When she looks back at the bandit, the man crumples face first in front of her, his backside riddled with bullet wounds. Standing behind him, with an assault rifle raised and barrel smoking, is Joseph.

Joseph: Everyone alright?

Becky: Dios mio! Joey, what the hell are you doing here?

Joseph: Same as you, trying to stop this nightmare.

Becky: Where’s Rose? Is she alright?

Joseph: She’s fine, for now. She’s with our Dad.

Becky: Somehow, that doesn’t inspire much confidence. How’s the fight coming?

Hesitating momentarily, Joseph turns his head to look around. While half the village is in flames, and dead bodies lie bloodied all around them, the mayhem appears to have died down.

Joseph: I think that’s the last of them. They hit a good deal of the village, but we pushed them back.

Becky: Oy, good. I’ve had enough of this for one night.

Joseph: I agree. Let’s help clean up here, then we can get back to Rose.

Becky: Right, let me just- look out!

When she lifts her gaze back up to Joseph, she spots a small round object falling through the air, aimed straight them. Rushing forward, she shoves Joy out of the way, sending him tumbling head over heels backwards. She catches the incoming grenade with both hands, then tucks it in against her chest. Dropping to the ground, she curls up her body to shield the others from the blast.

BOOM!

When the grenade erupts, Becky pushes out a sudden breath of air through her lips. A pained, throbbing sensation surges through her chest, but she manages to roll over and slowly push her way back to her feet. She breathes in deeply, posture slouched and knees shaking.

Becky: Everyone… ergh… alright?

Charles: We… we’re fine. Are you?

Becky: Oh sure, just peachy. I love taking grenades to the chest.

Charles: Your, uh… your skin. It’s cracked.

Glancing down at herself, Becky notices through her now shredded T-shirt that her metallic shell is indeed riddled with long, spidery cracks. It holds together for now, but is no doubt weakened.

Becky: Oh, it’s fine. I just… need a second.

BANG!

Becky suddenly staggers forward, legs buckling. Her gaze returns back down to her chest, where a rather large bullet hole pierces through the entirety of her body. The cracks grow larger, small chunks beginning to fall away.

BANG!

Another bullet rips through her body, this one bursting out the side of her ribcage. With a surprised gasp of air, she falls to her knees.

Charles: Rebecca!

BANG!

A third bullet rips through her backside, this one ripping through her body and out her stomach. By now, the nanites have re-liquefied, seeping back into her skin. That’s when the blood starts flowing, gushes of bright crimson oozing out the three wounds. She suddenly topples forward to he ground, breathing becoming short and rapid, as a thick red pool steadily grows beneath her.

Joseph: Get down!

Rolling forward, Joseph positions himself behind a small wooden cart. He peers through a gap in the boards, quickly finding the attacker. Lit up by the growing flames of the burning village, Jayden Koh stands on the back of his jeep, taking aim with a high-powered sniper rifle. He hesitates momentarily, releasing the clip from the weapon and reloading. Joseph takes the opportunity, raising his own weapon and firing. A surprised yell of pain erupts from the man’s lips, as one of the bullets pummel his left leg. He collapses over the side of his jeep, landing with a thud against the ground.

Joseph: Stay with her! I’m going after Koh!

Springing out from behind his cover, Joseph races along the boardwalk towards the man’s jeep.

She’d better not die… God help me if I have to tell Rose that she’s dead. God help us all.

Ext. Vietnam Jungle – Night

Present...

Vinh leads the small team of men through the dense undergrowth, darkness broken up only by the flashlight beams glowing from the tops of their rifles. The three men in front sweep their beams across the ground, lighting the way, while the three men in behind keep their aim at Slade's backside, ready to fire at a moment's notice if he tries something funny.

Vinh: How much farther?

Slade: A hundred yards, maybe less. Just through here.

Nodding forward, Slade indicates a thinner section of ferns and bushes. Vinh gives him a wary look, then gently shoves him forward.

Vinh: Go on, then. Just remember: you try anything, and your daughter pays the price. Got it?

Slade: Of course.

Keeping his gaze pointed forward, Slade moves past the front three men and heads through the bushes. His eyes shift down towards the ground, scanning carefully. When he sees a thin glimmer in the flashlight beam, he very deliberately raises his feet a little higher than usual during his stride. Once on the other side, he pauses, waiting for them to follow. The closest bandit to him notices nothing out of the ordinary, and so continues moving forward. His feet, however, do not lift over the tripwire, instead snapping it. A heavy rustling and rush of air follows, as Slade dives out of the way, disappearing into the undergrowth.

Vinh: Slade!

Smuggler: <What is that? What's->

BAM!

Two large, spiked squares of wood swing through the foliage, slamming into each other with thunderous force and smushing the poor soul caught between them. The other men jump back, screaming and firing off their weapons in panic. Several stray bullets rip through the air and into the backside of a second man; he collapses to the ground instantly.

Vinh: <You idiots, stop shooting and find Wilson! Now!>

The remaining four men quickly gather themselves, swallowing nervously and then hurrying off in the same direction that Slade disappeared. They spread out to cover more ground, a natural assumption to find him more quickly. For Slade, however, it's the biggest mistake they could have made. They don't know just what kind of man he is, or what he's done to the surrounding jungle.

The first bandit moves around the side of a tree, shining his flashlight and pointing his gun forward. When he sees no one, he takes a careful step forward. The ground instantly gives way, causing him to plummet down into a deep trapping pit, complete with sharpened wooden spikes jutting up from the ground. Miraculously, he manages to miss most of the spikes on his way down... all except for the one that pierces straight through his throat.

The next man pushes aside a large bush of ferns, as he makes his way forward. He pauses and jumps at even the smallest of sounds, spinning around wildly to aim his flashlight into the darkness. Stepping backwards, his heel comes down with a quiet click. He only barely registers what the sound means before the landmine goes off, blowing him into a cloud of bloody mist and limbs.

Cautiously, the third bandit makes his way through a tight tangle of trees and vines, very intently examining the area ahead of him. He takes in deep, steady breaths, attempting to calm himself. Little good it does. He heard the explosion; he knows they're in trouble. As his left foot comes down, a sudden tug yanks his leg out from beneath him. The next thing he knows, he's flying up into the air, hanging upside by one leg from a line of rope attacked to a tree limb above him.

Frantically, he gazes around into the shadows. His gun, along with the attached flashlight, now lies on the jungle floor right below him. A small rustling draws his attention. Turning his gaze towards the sound, he sucks in a deep breath, waiting and hoping it will go away. But it doesn't. A shadowed figure runs out from the brush and with the quick flash of a knife, cuts the man's throat.

The fourth man somehow makes his way back to Vinh unscathed, but the sheer look of terror on his face isn't very inspiring. He stumbles forward over a fallen tree log, nearly dropping his gun in the process.

Bandit: <He's killing us all!>

Vinh: <Incompetent idiots. Do I have to do everything myself?>

Bandit: <It's not our fault! The whole place is booby trapped!>

The sharp whistle of a blade flying through the air briefly interrupts them. The sound abruptly halts, at the same time the final bandit crumbles to the ground, a large knife jutting out the back of his neck. Vinh takes a quick step backwards, aiming his gun into the jungle. Over the silence, Slade's calm, cool voice speaks out to him.

Slade: Shouldn't keep your light on in the dark, Vinh. Gives away your position.

Vinh pauses momentarily, then reaches a hand up to flick off the flashlight.

Slade: Of course, now you can't see, either. Lets me do this.

Springing out of the undergrowth, Slade throws himself at the man. Vinh goes down hard, barely able to react. Fists fly, knuckles smashing into flesh and bone. A pained cry bursts from his lips. In spite of his size, Vinh is by no means a well versed fighter, and someone of Slade's caliber easily overpowers and pummels him into submission. By the end of the assault, he lies there on the ground motionlessly, his face barely more than a bloody mess.

Slade: Now, you're going to answer a question for me. Think very carefully before you speak. Where is the Jewel of Cambodia?

Vinh: Don't know... what... you're talking about...

Slade: Wrong answer.

A sharp strike to the solar plexus elicits an sharp gasp of air from the man's throat. He curls up, coughing out a spray of blood and whimpering.

Slade: I know you have a truce. You don't cross over to her side of the jungle, she doesn't over to yours. You've dealt with her before. You know where she is!

The only response he receives is another whimpering groan from the man. Slade frowns, this time driving his elbow in Vinh's side, snapping several of his ribs.

Slade: Tell me!

Vinh: Alright... okay... if you promise not to kill me.

Slade: Fine... I won't kill you. If you tell me.

Vinh: You must swear it. I know you... you have honor.... make the vow.

Uttering a long breath of annoyance, Slade rolls his eye.

Slade: Very well. I swear not to kill you, if you give me the information I require. Happy?

Vinh: Okay... the woman you speak of, the one they... call the Jewel of Cambodia... she lives twenty miles west of here, in a villa centered deep in the jungle, over the border. Heavily fortified and guarded... she does not allow unwanted visitors.

Slade: The coordinates. Give me the exact coordinates.

Vinh's hand fumbles into one of his pockets. He pulls out a small scrap of paper and pencil, then quickly jots down the coordinates.

Vinh: There... now, you let me go.

Slade: A deal's a deal... you can go.

Rising back to his feet, Slade stuffs the scrap of paper into his own pocket and steps carefully backwards, keeping his eyes on the bloodied, beaten Vinh.

Slade: Not that it matters... you'll be lucky to get very far. I've rigged the entire surrounding area with various traps, most of them lethal, others more... torturous. Lucky for me, I studied every square inch of this section of jungle; I know it like I know the back of my hand.

He pauses briefly before slipping back through the brush and disappearing into the darkness.

Slade: Question is... do you?

Chapter #104

Ext. Farming Village – Night

Joey saunters back into the village, carrying with him a large weapon: Koh's sniper rifle. He keeps his gaze pointed at the ground, as he approaches Charles and his family. Becky still lies nearby, motionless in a pool of her own blood. From here, he can't tell if she's still alive or not, but considering the grievous wounds she suffered, her chances of survival don't look good.

Charles: Did you find him? Did you find the shooter?

Joseph: No. Lost him in the jungle.

He drops the rifle onto the ground, uttering a long, heavy sigh.

Joseph: Fifty caliber... it's no wonder the shots penetrated her weakened shell. Has there... been any change?

Charles slowly shakes his head, then glances down at the unmoving body. He rests a hand on the woman's shoulder, closing his eyes.

Charles: None. I didn't know how to stop the bleeding or... or how to help her at all. Did you know her?

A long pause passes between them. Joseph turns away and utters a long breath, as he stares out at the smoldering huts.

Joseph: I personally didn't know her for very long, no. But... she was my sister's partner.

Charles: You mean like a cop?

Joseph: I mean like a lover. A girlfriend.

Exhaling a deep breath, Charles glances back down at Becky.

Charles: Oh... I am truly sorry.

Another quiet moment descends over the group. As Kym works to console their daughter, Mai, Charles narrows his eyes at Becky's body, inspecting the wounds. He tilts his head, looks closer, and utters a small breath of surprise.

Charles: Huh.

Joseph: What is it?

Charles: It's that... silvery stuff. It's in her wounds.

Joseph comes closer, kneeling down at Becky's side and focusing his gaze on the three bullet wounds across her backside. As Charles indicated, rather than blood clotting in the round holes, a shiny, silvery substance has instead replaced it, glimmering brightly in the dimming firelight.

Charles: What is it?

Joseph: I'm not sure exactly.

Charles: Does it look like those holes are getting smaller to you?

Indeed it does. The bullet wounds slowly, gradually shrink in size. Joseph leans closer, touching the tips of his fingers to one of the holes and watching in amazement as Becky's injuries begin healing with extreme rapidity, until finally they disappear altogether.

Charles: Holy... you don't see that everyday.

Jospeh: No... no you don't.

With a small, coughing groan, Becky opens her eyes. She winces slightly, a sharp pain flaring through her chest, and then calmly sits up. She glances back and forth between the two men briefly, her brow furrowing in confusion.

Becky: Why you all staring at me?

Charles: Good god, it's a miracle.

Joseph: Not a miracle. Just... one of her abilities. Must be.

Becky: Dios, what are you two talking about?

Joseph: You don't remember?

Becky: I remember ripping apart a bunch of murderous pandejos, helping Charles and his family, and then... I don't know. Feels like I took a nap.

Charles: That's a bit of an understatement.

Letting out a long yawn, Becky stretches her arms out and then stands up. She pauses briefly, gazing around the ruined village. Her expression instantly slackens.

Becky: Jueputa... you lost half the village.

Charles: We would have lost more if you hadn't been here. You saved a lot of people. You saved my family. We owe you... so much.

Becky: You don't owe me anything. Just a thank you is good enough, ah?

A small smile curls its way onto Charles' face.

Charles: Thank you, then.

Becky: And look after your family, too.

Charles: You can count on that.

Looking back to Joey, Becky folds her arms and hardens her expression.

Becky: So what's the deal? What's going on?

Joseph: I left Rose and our father back at the enemy base camp. While inhabiting one of their men, I took Rose captive to get her inside. They were working on a plan to get out when I came here to help stop this.

Becky: Oy, Dios mio... you let my girlfriend get captured by a bunch of degenerate bandits?

Joseph: It was a risky plan, I know, but there wasn't another option.

Becky: Right, of course... let's just get back there and help out. Who knows what the hell they're doing to her right now?

Ext. Bandit Camp – Night

Slade slowly marches through the main camp, keeping his gun raised and at the ready. His gaze scans carefully along the ground in front of him, where several bodies lie strewn about, their limbs twisted and broken. Curiously, he prods one of the fallen men, eliciting a groan of pain. He does the same to another with the same result. Crippled but still alive, all of them.

His glances up further into the camp. It doesn't look like a single man is still on his feet, or in any other condition aside from brutally beaten. Eyes narrowing, he quickens his pace towards the storage tent, where they'd been held prisoner. He pushes the flap inside and pokes his head in.

Slade: Rose?

No answer, only thick, suffocating darkness.

Slade: Sh*t.

Moving back through the camp, he lowers his gun and straightens himself. His eyes slowly shift around again, carefully inspecting each man he sees.

Slade: What the hell happened here?

Ravager: I happened here.

Slade spins around in an instant, training his sights on the figure behind him. When he realizes who it is, he lowers the gun again and breathes out a sigh of relief. Ravager, dressed again in full costume, sits there atop one of the nearby jeeps.

Ravager: You look surprised.

Slade: You escaped?

Ravager: They only left four men to guard me. Once I broke the chains, it was easy.

Slade: And the rest of the camp? There were at least fifty men stationed here.

Ravager: So what's your point?

A subtle, amused chuckle finds its way out of Slade's throat.

Slade: Nothing. Good work.

Jumping down to the ground, Ravager stands straight and tall, arms folding across her chest.

Ravager: Well, seeing as how you're back here, I take it the plan worked.

Slade: Was there ever a doubt?

Ravager: So you got the information you needed out of Vinh?

Slade: I did.

Ravager: Good, then let's get the hell out of here. We need to find Becky. Your gear's in the jeep, by the way.

Moving around the side of the vehicle, Ravager hops into the driver's seat and waits patiently, one hand on the steering wheel. Slade heads around to the back, searching inside until he finds the large duffel bag full of his equipment. He wastes no time in getting dressed.

Slade: We'll meet up with Joseph first, since we know where he is. Then we'll sweep the area for Rebecca. I assume that mask of yours has infrared?

Ravager: And night vision.

Slade: Good-

He takes a moment to secure his armor into place, followed by slipping a patch over his right eye. Finally, he tugs on the two toned mask over his face.

Deathstroke: -then let's get going.

Ext. Vietnam Jungle – Night

Thirty minutes later...

Becky: Are you sure we're going the right way?

Squinting her eyes, she tries to get a clear view on the worn road in front of them. The moon is bright, and yet barely illuminates the jungle well enough to see more than ten feet ahead.

Joseph: Yes, we just follow this road a few more miles, then turn east along another hidden path. Shouldn't take much longer.

Becky: It better not. I think I'm beginning to- wait, do you hear that?

The two pause for a moment, straining their ears to listen. The low rumble of a jeep comes in over the night air.

Joseph: Quick, off the road.

He pulls her off to the side, into the undergrowth. Hiding deep in the brush, they watch, waiting as the jeep approaches. Becky squints at the gradually appearing vehicle, barely able to make it out through the inky darkness.

Becky: Why are they driving with their headlights off?

Joseph: Could be trying to remain as unnoticed as possible. Explains why they're going so slow.

Becky: But why would those guys want to... wait a minute, that's not-

Before even finishing her sentence, she races out of the jungle.

Joseph: Hold on, come back!

But there's no stopping her. Even through the darkness, there is no mistaking the mask she sees sitting behind the jeep's steering wheel. Hurrying in front of the vehicle's path, she waves her arms wildly to get the woman's attention.

Becky: Rose!

The jeep instantly lurches to a halt, the driver's side door already bursting open. Ravager hops out of the vehicle, running forward and ripping the faceplate off her helmet.

Ravager: Oh god, Becky!

The two leap into each other's arms a moment later, embracing in a warm, loving hug. Their lips come together firmly for a long few seconds. During this time, Joseph walks over casually to the jeep and leans against the side.

Joseph: You ever expect anything like this?

Deathstroke: Anything like what?

Joseph: I mean... that.

He gestures a hand forward at the two women embracing.

Joseph: With Rose.

Deathstroke: Honestly? No. But I'd always hoped for it. She deserves to be happy. You both do.

Joseph: That's what this whole thing is about, right? Making Rose happy?

Deathstroke: That was the plan, yes.

Joseph: Still think it'll work?

Deathstroke pauses briefly, uttering a deep, heavy sigh. He watches closely, as both Becky and Ravager begin making their way back to the jeep.

Deathstroke: Provided we make it to our new destination, yes. It will.

Ravager jumps back into the driver's seat, while Joseph and Becky climb into the back next to the mounted machine gun. A low whistle finds its way past Becky's lips, as she gazes up at the weapon.

Becky: Got some heavy-duty artillery with you, I see.

Deathstroke: Always pays to be prepared.

As the jeep surges back into motion, Ravager sits straighter in her seat and glances carefully at her dad.

Ravager: So, where exactly are we headed now?

Deathstroke: West. Got little ways to go. Follow the road here until you get to a turn, then it's a straight shot through the jungle.

Becky: If it's all the same to you guys, I could really go for some sleep first, before we go jumping into whatever it is we're jumping into next.

Deathstroke: No time. We keep moving until we read our destination.

Ravager: No, she's right. I don't know about you, but we've been up now for almost two days straight, and that's not even taking jet lag into account. I'm about ready to pass out myself. We need rest.

Deathstroke breathes out a gruff, annoyed groan, folding his arms firmly across his chest.

Deathstroke: Fine. We'll find a suitable place to spend the rest of the night and head out at first light. No later.

Ravager: Whatever you say, Slade. Whatever you say.

Ext. Bandit Camp – Night

Jayden Koh limps his way out of the jungle, a hand pressed firmly against the bullet wound on his leg. He had tied off a strip of cloth to stop the bleeding, but it still hurts unbelievably.

Koh: Damn that Wilson kid...

Stumbling forward off balance, he catches himself against a crate and breathes out a groan of discomfort.

Koh: <Could use some help here!>

When he receives no answer, he squints deeper into the camp to get a better look through the shadows. That's when he sees the bodies everywhere, most unconscious and others in too much pain to speak.

Koh: <F*ck!>

He hobbles forward to one of the jeeps and leans far inside, reaching for an object below the dash. When he stumbles back out of the vehicle, he holds a satellite phone to his ear, waiting for someone from his perimeter camp to pick up.

Koh: <Li, can you hear me? Good. Listen to me closely. Wake all your men now and tell them to get their asses moving. Arm yourselves with everything you got and meet me at the main camp. We have a problem.>

Ext. Vietnam Jungle – Morning

The jeep rumbles along the overgrown path at a steady pace. Ravager leans back in her seat, driving with a single hand on the steering wheel.

Ravager: How much farther?

Deathstroke: Not much. Five miles, maybe.

Ravager: And this is it? I mean, when we get here, you'll be done with this stupid search of yours?

Deathstroke: If everything works out, yes.

Ravager: Good, then allow me to get us there a little faster.

Pushing her foot down a bit more firmly on the gas, she urges the jeep as fast as is safe on the old, beaten path overgrown with tall grass. Shortly after, however, a sudden image flickers through her mind, causing her to turn the jeep sharply to the left.

Ravager: Everybody hang on!

From the back of the jeep, Becky clutches the base of the mounted machinegun and holds on tightly.

Becky: Ay caramba! What are you doing?!

An abrupt explosion of smoke and fire to their right side answers her question. A loud cacophony of rapid machinegun fire follows, bullets pummeling the side of the vehicle. Ravager floors her foot against the pedal now, lurching the jeep forward at twice the speed as before.

Joseph: Over there!

He points into the distance down the road, where several other jeeps suddenly appear around the bend, racing after them. Becky leans forward, squinting at their pursuers. She counts at least four men to a jeep, with at least five jeeps in pursuit. On the back of one of the vehicles, a man stands behind a mounted machinegun of his own, much like the one on the back of their own jeep. When the bandit gets a clear shot, he opens fire again. Becky quickly surges her nanites out of her pores again, hardening the protective shell around her body.

Becky: Get down!

She throws herself in front of Joseph, several bullets deflecting off her steely skin. Joseph crawls back, lifting up the sights of his gun to his eyes and taking a few shots. He hits only air, as their jeep again lurches sharply to the side. Becky tumbles backwards, landing with a thud against the jeep cabin.

Becky: Oy, watch it!

Another explosion goes off, right in the spot where they'd been just moments before. When Becky looks back up at the approaching vehicles, she spots another man reloading an empty RPG launcher.

Ravager: Excuse me for not wanting to get blown up!

Becky: You could do it a little more gracefully!

Grunting softly to herself, Becky pushes her way back to her feet and gets into position behind the mounted machine gun. Putting her thumbs above the trigger, she lines the sights up with the nearest jeep.

Becky: This is why I never let you drive the squad car!

She opens fire, sending out a hail of bullets. The pursuing vehicles scatter, some dropping back down the line, and others picking up the pace.

Ravager: Damn it, how did they even find us?!

Deathstroke: It doesn't matter! For all we know, they have trackers in their jeeps. Just keep driving!

Leaning out the passenger window, Deathstroke aims his weapon and takes several careful shots. Two of the bandits standing in the back of their jeeps go down, tumbling over to the ground.

Deathstroke: I told you we didn't have time to stop for a respite! Did I not tell you that?!

Ravager: Shut up, Slade! Just keep shooting!

Becky sweeps the machine gun across her line of sight, driving multiple bullets into one of the jeeps. A miniature explosion erupts from its engine, causing the entire vehicle to flip forward and crash. Another, more powerful explosion soon engulfs the wreck. Unfortunately, the other vehicles are perfectly capable of driving right around the wreckage and continuing with their chase.

Becky: Incoming!

The RPG bandit takes aim again, launching off another explosive round. The rocket zips forward through the air with a burning hiss, impacting the ground next to their jeep.

Ravager: Hang on!

She yanks the steering wheel wildly to the right, avoiding most of the blast. But she doesn't see the fallen tree trunk buried in the grass. When the jeep hits at their current speed, the front tires shoot upright, while the vehicles continues going forward. Once the front tires come down again, the entire jeep tilts to the side, wheels spinning wildly to no avail.

Joseph: Rose! Any time!

Ravager: I'm trying! I just need to-

BOOM!

Another explosion goes off, this one hitting just below their jeep and sending the vehicle flipping through the air. Ravager tightens her grip on the steering wheel to brace herself, while Deathstroke tumbles out the passenger's side door. Becky falls back, spinning over the top of the jeep, and Joey rolls safely forward before the twisted wreckage crashes into the ground.

Ravager kicks her door open, crawling slowly out of the destroyed jeep. Her head is spinning, while a very shrill ringing echoes between her ears. When she staggers back up to her feet, her eyes quickly scan the area. She doesn't see the others, though. All she sees is the rapidly approaching bandits, now no more than fifty yards from them.

Rose: Guys?

Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam!

The front tires of two of the pursuing jeeps suddenly blow apart. The vehicles lurch sideways, flipping over and rolling violently across the ground, until coming to a sudden, destructive halt. In doing so, they also block most of the road, preventing the others from driving past. This slows them down, if only a little, as the men begin pouring out of their jeeps and continuing pursuit on foot.

Turning her gaze towards the sound of the previous gunshots, Rose finds Deathstroke poised against the side of their own destroyed vehicle with the sights of his rifle pressed firmly against his eye.

Ravager: Slade! Come on, we can't stick around!

Becky emerges from the thick grass, standing upright and uttering a dazed groan.

Becky: I'm with her. Those b*stards are gaining fast.

Joseph approaches from the side, clutching at his limp left arm. It dangles there motionlessly, if not broken than at least popped from its socket.

Joseph: We can lose them in the jungle if we're quick enough.

Deathstroke says nothing, taking a couple more shots. Two of the pursuing men go down, but half a dozen more take their place. They begin taking a more cautious approach, fanning out into the surrounding jungle and shooting back. A bullet ricochets off the side of their jeep, just inches from Deathstroke's head, forcing him to duck back behind cover.

Deathstroke: We won't make it far, there's too many of them and they have too much firepower.

Ravager: So you expect us to stand here like sitting ducks instead?

Deathstroke: No, I expect you to keep going.

Ravager: But you just said-

Deathstroke: I said that we wouldn't make it if we all ran. But if someone stays behind, holds them off... it'll give you enough time to get away.

Ravager pauses, blinking several times in surprise.

Ravager: But... that's suicide.

Deathstroke: Maybe. But there's no time to argue.

Joseph: Dad...

Deathstroke: You're still standing here? Get moving!

Ravager: Slade... Dad. You don't have to-

Aiming around the side of the jeep again, Deathstroke takes a few more shots at the men in the trees. One of them goes down. Moving back behind cover again, he takes in a deep breath and pulls off his mask, his gaze locking firmly onto his daughter.

Slade: Rose, if I've been anything, it's a terrible father. I know that, I admit it. I made too many mistakes to count, and I screwed your life up far too many times. But everything I did was for you. I only ever wanted you to be safe, to be happy... and yet I always failed.

Several more gunshots go off, these ones coming a little too close for comfort. Slade swings his gun around the side of the jeep and takes aim again. Two more of the approaching men go down, but before he can pull back into cover, a stray bullet rips into the meat of his shoulder, pushing him back again.

Ravager: Dad!

Slade: Rose, Joey... I'm not going to fail this time. This time... I protect my family.

She pauses briefly, shoulders slouching and head bowing. Reaching up, she rips off her helmet and faceplate. With a deep, heavy breath, she swallows a back a hard lump in her throat and lowers her gaze

Rose: You always were a b*stard, you know that?

And then, she comes forward, wrapping her arms tightly around her father and burying her face against his shoulder. He raises an arm in return, holding it around her shoulders and exhaling slowly.

Slade: I know. And I'm sorry, for everything.

Rose lets go of him finally, bringing a hand up to wipe her watering eyes. After everything he's put her through, she doesn't understand how she can possibly bring herself to shed a tear for this man, and yet she does.

Slade moves towards the back of the wreckage. The mounted machine gun that had been on their jeep lies just a short distance away in the grass. He reaches down and picks the heavy weapon up, setting it up against the edge of the vehicle.

Slade: Rebecca... take good care of my daughter.

Becky swallows, glancing briefly at Rose.

Becky: Si... I will.

Slade: Keep to the road, and when you get across the bridge, look for a hidden trail. Follow it and you'll come out to where you need to be. I'll lay down some cover fire while you put some distance between us.

Rose: Dad... where is it you're sending us? Why is this so damn important?

Slade: You'll know when you get there. Now go!

Popping out of cover, Slade pushes down on the triggers. A storm of bullets rips through the jungle, forcing the approaching men behind cover as he sweeps his sights across the tree line. The others stay low in the grass as they flee, making themselves difficult targets to aim at. Not that it matters, since Slade keeps their pursuers at bay with suppressive fire. The bandits can only advance very slowly now, lest they risk getting ripped apart.

Slade: Alright, you b*stards... Come and get me!

Chapter #105

Ext. Vietnam Jungle - Morning

Slade squeezes his thumbs down firmly on the triggers. The machine gun vibrates wildly, threatening to fly off the makeshift base he's mounted it on. But he holds it steady, repeatedly pummeling the jungle ahead of him with a hailstorm of bullets. He can't even see the pursuing bandits now hiding behind the trees and in the bushes, but he doesn't need to see them. As long as he can keep them under heavy fire long enough for the others to put significant distance between them, then he's done his job.

And then, the thunkunkunkunk of his weapon ceases, replaced by a metallic whirring sound. He glances down sharply, realizing that he's just run out of ammo. With a frustrated grunt, he tosses the gun aside and lifts up his assault rifle. Lowering his gaze to the sights, he watches and waits. It doesn't take long before nearly a dozen men pour out of the undergrowth. His first couple of bursts put down two of the attackers, but before he can take another shot, a bullet rips into wrist.

The blow stuns him briefly, but he forces himself to push through it. Just squeezing the trigger now sends a bolt of shooting pain up his arm. He fires again, a perfect shot right between the eyes. As he turns his sights onto a new target, he catches sight of an RPG rocketing through the air straight at him. Desperately, he throws himself backwards. The explosion goes off directly in front of him, catapulting him through the air.

Fighting through a dull, pounding pain in the center of his chest, Slade rolls back to his feet and scrambles quickly back into cover. A grenade explodes merely ten paces behind him, sending a cloud of burning shrapnel into his backside. Grunting deeply, he falls to his knees and pauses momentarily. His armor is barely holding up now, and he can feel the warm flow of blood oozing against his skin.

Slade: Persistent b*stards...

Sitting flat against the back of a burning metal chunk of wrecked jeep, Slade plucks a grenade from his belt and pulls the pin. He waits two seconds, listening, then tosses it over his head. Panicked screams ignite the air, as the blast goes off and shreds the two men standing next to it.

Another grenade goes off, this one on his end of things. The blast erupts just in front of the jeep, tearing open gashes in the twisted metal. A second rocket explosion follows, clouding the air with dirt, smoke, and flame. Slade huddles close to the ground, shielding his body with his arm as a cacophony of bullets rips into his cover. Yet another grenade tumbles down from the air behind him, exploding and tearing open the side of his face with shrapnel.

Slade pauses briefly, dazed from the blast. He pushes himself back to his hands and knees, half crawling and half stumbling away. The remains of the jeep that he'd been using as cover is barely more than a pelted hunk of metal now, offering very little protection. He's almost out of options.

Taking in a deep, slow breath, Slade catches sight of his mask nearby on the ground, partially shredded from the firefight. Reaching for it, he quickly tugs it on, then stands up in the open. More than half his body pulsates with sharp, near crippling pain, but he ignores it. Instead, he reaches to his holsters on either hip and draws his pistols. Then, he turns and gazes out at the approaching men.

Today, Deathstroke makes his final stand.

Another bullet rips into his side, but still he ignores it. He takes a step forward, aiming one of his pistols and firing. The shot strikes true, straight through the man's eyes. He aims again, his second shot piercing another man's throat. Two more hot, stinging jolts of pain surge through him, as another pair of bullets riddle his body. Yet still, he stands firm. In spite of the wounds, in spite of the blood pouring down his body, he doesn't back down.

He counts half a dozen more men remaining. Half that amount goes down with bullets tearing through vital organs. The other half... well, even Deathstroke isn't invincible. One of them gets in another lucky grenade toss, rolling the explosive just a foot in front of him, right before Deathstroke puts a shot through his forehead.

Boom!

Deathstroke shields his face with his arms as the grenade goes off, launching backwards off his feet and crashing against one of the jeep's loose tires. He tries to move, but his whole body goes into lockdown, crippling pain clawing through very muscle fiber. Just lifting his arm upward to aim his gun once more elicits a blunt cry of pain from his throat.

But still he perseveres, just as he always has. He gets off two more shots before his arm falls limp to the ground. Both remaining men crumple dead, and then everything is quiet. Deathstroke sucks in deep, raspy breaths, broken up by fits of coughing. Sprays of blood soak the inside of his mask, and consciousness barely stays with him, but he's alive.

Deathstroke: It takes more than that to kill me... b*stards.

No sooner than he says this, the rumble of a jeep engine reaches his ears. He holds his breath, heart skipping a beat. The jeep comes to a stop, followed closely by doors opening and then slamming shut again. Soon, a new team of armed bandits strolls into view. At the lead is a familiar man, one Jayden Koh. When their eyes meet, Deathstroke slowly lets out his breath, posture slouching even further as the pain begins to overpower him.

Deathtroke: Well f*ck.

Ext. Cambodian Jungle - Morning

The sounds of gunfire have long since been left behind, replaced by the natural ambiance of the jungle. It brings an eerie sense of calm, allowing Rose an opportunity for contemplation. She had always hated her father, and for obvious reasons. Well, not always... There had been a time where she actually liked him, although that time had been all too brief, ending shortly after she first met him. Then he decided to go and manipulate her, gamble her life as part of his psychotic schemes, make her kill for him... too much. She grew to loathe him over time, tried to distance herself from him, but he always came back into her life just to screw it up again.

And yet, through all of that, somewhere down the line he had realized how badly he had hurt her. He changed his tune, made plans to keep her safe, make her happy, not the least of which was setting her up to join the Teen Titans, even if he did go about it in one of those twisted ways of his. As long as she hated him, in his mind, then she was safe from him. Even when she had tried to kill him on multiple occasions, he always cared. He always wanted her to have a life of her own

Rose had never believed that, of course. Even if deep down she had still loved him, for the sole reason of him being her father, she always called his twisted values and reasoning as bullsh*t. He was a b*stard, he couldn't have cared. She couldn't let herself believe that he actually loved her. That is, until about a half hour ago when he stayed behind to let them escape, when he sacrificed himself to keep his family safe. He had shown qualities of himself in that moment that she never would have thought existed.

Why couldn't he have always shown those qualities? Why couldn't he have always just been a father to me? Why... why did he have to wait until now?

Things might have been a lot different. Her life might have been a lot different. She might never have had to experience so much pain and trauma. She might have even been happy.

Becky: Rose... are you alright?

A gentle hand comes down on her shoulder. Rose lifts her gaze, glancing over at her girlfriend and swallowing back a numb lump in her throat.

Rose: I'm... okay.

Becky: Dios... you're a mess.

Lifting up a hand, Becky tenderly wipes away the tears from Rose's red, puffy eyes. Rose looks away, shaking her head.

Rose: I... I shouldn't be crying for him. I shouldn't be sad for him, or feel bad for him, or wish that he had stayed with us... I shouldn't.

Becky: But you are.

Rose: God I am so pathetic.

Becky: Hey, hey...

Bringing her fingers to Rose's chin, Becky slowly turns her girlfriend's head to face her.

Becky: You're a lot of things, Rose, but you're not pathetic. He was your father... he may have been mucho loco, but that's not the sort of thing you just get over.

Rose: Ugh, why did he actually have to care? This would be so much easier if I could still just... hate him outright.

Becky: I don't think these kinds of things are supposed to be easy.

Rose breathes out deeply, bowing her head again. She stands there quietly, eyes closing and beginning to water again.

Becky: Hey, come here.

Rose feels Becky's arms coming tightly around her, hugging in a warm, comforting embrace. She sinks into the hold, bringing her own arms up and clutching them around Becky's shoulders. A tingling warmth begins to spread through her body, a sort of peace that soothes her torn heart. And that's when she realizes it.

I might have been happy? ...who am I kidding? Through whatever inadvertent series of circumstances, if my life hadn't played out the way it did... I never would have met Becky. Or Holly. Or Circe. Or Lyta. Or Palmer. Or Ruby. Or any other number of people that I've come to know and love. No, Dad... you didn't fail. I am happy.

Joseph: Uh, hey, girls? I hate to be the one to break up a tender moment, but we really need to keep moving. There's no telling how long Dad was able to hold them back.

Pulling away from the embrace, Rose slowly turns to face her brother. He stands a short distance away, holding his gun with one hand, while his other arm still hangs limply at his side. Sucking in a deep breath, Rose wipes her eyes again and nods.

Rose: Right, yeah. Let's keep moving.

Becky: We should be almost there, right?

Joseph: Less than a mile, I think. That's the bridge up ahead.

Following his gaze, Rose spots a small, rickety wooden bridge stretching over a shallow river in front of them.

Rose: What's waiting for us over there, Joey? You can tell me now, you know.

Joseph slowly shakes his head.

Joseph: Not at this point. Wouldn't be right.

Rose: Somehow, I knew you'd say something like that.

Joseph: You'll see soon enough, Rose. I promise.

Breathing out a long sigh, Rose holds an arm around Becky and follows Joey towards the bridge.

This had better be worth it, Dad... this had better be worth your life.

Ext. Vietnam Jungle - Day

Deathstroke sucks in a long, shaky breath of air, as he stares up at the men standing over him and pointing the barrels of their guns in his face. Jayden Koh stands at the front, arms folded and lips pursing. With a small sigh, he shakes his head and squats down, coming level with Deathstroke's gaze.

Koh: That wasn't very smart, fighting all of us by yourself. Did you really expect to win?

Deathstroke: Wasn't trying to win. Just trying to stall.

Koh: Of course... sacrificing yourself so your children could escape, yes? Very noble. It won't do them any good, though. We'll still find them.

Deathstroke: Go ahead. It'd be the last thing you ever did.

Koh: Was that a threat?

Deathstroke: A promise.

Tilting his head slightly, Koh exhales deeply and rubs his fingers against his chin, thinking. Eventually, he shakes his head and stands up again.

Koh: Shouldn't make promises you can't keep. When we find them, we'll do worse to them than we did to you. I think I'll start with that boy of yours. I owe him for messing around in my body.

Deathstroke says nothing. Rather, all he does is slowly drag one of his limp arms across the grass towards his belt.

Koh: Then maybe we move on to your daughter, yes? She is quite the pretty thing.

A gruff, amused laugh escapes Deathstroke's throat.

Deathstroke: By all means, try. I just hope you enjoy life as a eunuch.

Koh: Ever the sarcastic one, you are. It's almost funny... we've ll heard the rumors of the great, powerful Slade Wilson. Deathstroke the Terminator, the most dangerous mercenary on the planet. People were afraid of you. Yet, come to find...

Reaching forward, Koh snatches Deathstroke's mask off his face. He stares at it briefly, then drops the torn fabric to the ground.

Koh: ...he's just a man.

Finally, Koh draws his pistol and points it straight between Slade's eyes. The two stare at each other for a long, quiet moment.

Koh: Any last words, Mr. Wilson?

Slade: Just one...

Lifting up his hand, Slade reveals three small metal pins dangling from his fingertips.

Slade: ...boom.

Koh takes a step back in a panic, his eyes falling quickly to Slade's belt. The three attached grenades have all had their pins removed.

Koh: <Get back! Everybody get->*

(* Translated from Vietnamese)

BOOM!

Ext. Cambodian Jungle - Day

Rose holds an arm up, shielding her eyes as she pushes through a thick tangle of branches and vines. Large fern leaves swipe across at her face, blocking most of her vision ahead. Becky and Joseph follow closely behind, moving carefully to navigate through the dense jungle.

Becky: Are we almost there or what?

Rose: I don't know, the trail disappeared twenty minutes ago.

Joseph: Shouldn't be much farther, I don't think.

Rose: What the hell are we even looking for?

Joseph: I'm actually not certain. Dad said we'd know it when we saw it.

Rose: Well gee, that's inspiring.

Uttering a soft groan, she ducks through a thick collection of bushes, coming out to a clearing on the other side. When she does, she pauses suddenly, eyes blinking several times in surprise. She isn't quite sure she believes what she's seeing. It must be some sort of hallucination... the heat is getting to her, it has to be. What else would explain the elaborate and elegant looking estate sitting in front of them, in the middle of the jungle? It might actually be more apt to call this place a villa, with large dwellings, fountains, a beautifully tended garden, even a full, olympic sized swimming pool outside. Surrounding it all is a high, iron fence, outfitted with security cameras and barbed wire at the top.

Becky: Tell me I'm not the only one seeing that.

Rose: You're not the only one seeing that.

Becky: Good... for a minute I thought I'd gone totally loco. Is this what we were supposed to find?

Joseph: Must be.

Becky: Who the hell lives here? And why? It's in the middle of nowhere.

Rose: I don't know... but my dad wanted me to get here for some reason... and he claimed it was important. So let's find out.

The trio barely even makes it halfway to the gate in front of them before a rapid series of clicking sounds fill the air, the sounds of rifles being cocked and aimed at them. They freeze, slowly turning their heads to see no less than a dozen armed men standing thee, guns at the ready. Very slowly, the three bring their hands up in surrender.

Guard: <Freeze! Who are you? What are you doing here?>*

(* Translated from Cambodian)

Rose: Joey, what's he saying?

Joseph: I don't know.

Rose: What? I thought you spoke Vietnamese.

Joseph: He's not speaking Vietnamese.

Rose: What? Then what the hell is he speaking?

Joseph: If I had to make a guess? I'd say Cambodian.

Rose: Cambodian? Why is he speaking Cambodian?

Joseph: Because we're in Cambodia.

The man at the front of the group narrows his eyes, giving the trio a curious look as they quickly talk amongst themselves.

Becky: Wait a minute, I thought we were in Vietnam.

Joseph: We were. Now we're in Cambodia. We crossed the border about a half hour ago.

Rose: We crossed the- why are we in Cambodia?

Joseph: Because this is where we're supposed to be.

Rose: Oh would you stop being so mysterious?! I'm getting really fed up with the whole 'don't tell Rose anything' gag!

Guard: <Quiet!>

Rose glances back at the men carefully. They've brought the sights to their eyes now, fingers near the triggers.

Rose: Uh... okay, look. We... don't speak... your language. So... maybe we can work this out?

The guards glance quickly back and forth between one another, speaking in hushed tones. Eventually, the head guard looks back to them and takes a step forward, gesturing with his gun barrel.

Guard: You... come with us.

Rose: Oh you speak English now? Well how convenient of-

Guard: Move!

Rose: Alright, moving. Geez.

The guards keep them at gunpoint, not taking any chances with the strangers. They follow the guards through the iron gate, heading across the lush, well manicured lawn. The contrast between the villa and surrounding jungle is absolutely astounding. As they come to the main courtyard, several of the guards hurry up the steps into the big building ahead of them, most likely the main living quarters.

Rose: Where do you think they're going?

Joseph: Probably to inform the owner that she has unexpected visitors.

Rose: She? How do you know it's a she?

Joseph: Call it a lucky guess.

The guards return a short few minutes later, walking in a horizontal line. Behind them follows a figure that, right now, is unnoticeable behind their broad bodies, but her voice carries well enough across the courtyard. It's a smooth, pleasant voice, yet brings with it an air of power and importance.

Woman: <Alright, now who just happened to stumble upon my abode?>

Guard: <Just a few rodents, Miss Worth. What do you want us to do with them?>

As the line of guards parts, they reveal a strikingly beautiful Cambodian woman, garbed in an elegant green dress trimmed with gold that accentuates her remarkably well maintained figure. Her long, silky black hair coils around her mature, yet pretty face, bringing out the bright blue of her eyes. The woman steps forward, walking down the steps and bringing her gaze to the three standing in front of her.

Woman: <I see. Well for starters, you can->

When her eyes get a good look at the white haired girl in the group, her words instantly catch in her throat. She pauses, legs refusing to move in cold, numbing shock. Rose, too, stiffens straighter, eyes going wide and beginning to water in sheer disbelief. The Cambodian woman's jaw slackens, face contorting into an almost pained expression of awe and elation.

Lillian: Rose?

Rose's throat goes numb. She can already feel the warm trickle of tears leaking down the sides of her face.

Rose: ...Mom?

Chapter #106

Ext. Lillian Worth's Jungle Villa – Day

Becky slowly turns her gaze to Joseph, leaning in to speak in a hushed whisper.

Becky: Wait... did she say...?

Joseph: She did.

Becky: Then this whole time, we were actually looking for Rose's-

Rose: Mom!

She races forward across the grass, heart pounding rapidly in her chest. The guards raise their weapons in defense, but Lillian holds a hand up, forcing them to drop their aim. Rose practically lunges at her mother, wrapping her arms tightly around the woman. An explosion of emotions surges through her body like wildfire. Happiness, shock, disbelief, confusion, grief... She tries to hold it together, but it's useless. Back in her mother's arms again after eight long years, she breaks down, burying her head into Lillian's shoulder and sobbing. Right now, she never wants to let go.

Lillian: Rose... I don't- I can't believe- how is this possible?

Rose: I knew you were alive! They never found your body, and I... I always knew. I tried to find you, really I did, but... but I never could. I... I love you. I love you so much. I... I...

Rose cries harder, a choking lump knotting its way into her throat. Her mother slowly reaches up to return the loving embrace. She holds her daughter gently, soothingly.

Lillian: Shh, it's alright, honey. I'm here.

Sniffling, Rose lifts her head slightly and sucks in a deep, shaky breath.

Rose: Why didn't you come find me, Mom? If you were alive, why... what are you doing here?

Lillian: I tried... oh believe me, I tried. But they... they told me you were dead. When I found out, I... I left the States and came back here, back to my home. I can't believe this... All this time, I thought... oh god, I love you, sweetie. Now and always.

Watching the scene closely, Becky raises a finger to her eyes and quickly wipes away a few tears of her own. Joseph glances at her, lifting an eyebrow.

Joseph: You okay over there?

Becky: What can I say, ah? I'm a sucker for happy endings.

Lillian takes a small step back, holding her hands to her daughter's shoulders.

Lillian: My word... you've grown into such a beautiful young woman.

Rose smiles slightly, eyes lighting up at the compliment. Such a comment wouldn't normally be cause for such elation from her, but coming from her mother, it means the world.

Rose: Thanks, Mom.

Lillian: But Rose, what are you doing here? How did you find me?

Rose: I... I didn't find you.

She bows her head sadly, eyes drooping as a wave of sorrow suddenly washes over her. She realizes it now; she understands everything.

Rose: Dad did... he found you.

Lillian: Slade? He brought you here? ...where is he?

Rose: He... stayed behind, Mom.

Her gaze shifts to the side, arms coming up to hold herself closely.

Rose: He didn't make it.

Lillian's expression saddens, eyes filling with sympathy. She moves closer again, hugging her daughter once more.

Lillian: Oh Rose... I'm so sorry.

She wants to say: Don’t be sorry, Mom. Dad was a real b*stard after you were gone. He manipulated me, tormented me, and made a good portion of my life a living hell. I'm glad he's dead. I'm glad I don't have to deal with him anymore.

But if she did, she'd have to follow it up with: And yet in spite of all that, he cared about me... he loved me. He had a real terrible way of showing it, made me literally want to kill him on multiple occasions, and was probably the world's worst father, but he at least tried to always put his family first. And in the end... he made up for it in the best way imaginable. He brought me back to my mother.

Instead, she says far less, barely managing to force the words out of her quivering throat.

Rose: I miss him...

The two hold each other for several moments longer, until Lillian finally pulls back and looks over at the other two, Becky and Joseph.

Lillian: Who are your friends?

Rose briefly wipes her eyes dry, then forms a broad smile as she walks over to them. She stops at Joseph first, putting a hand on his shoulder.

Rose: This is Joey... my brother. Well, half-brother. From Slade's first marriage.

Lillian: Joseph? I've heard the name before. Your father mentioned you a few times when we were together.

Joseph steps carefully forward, extending his hand. Lillian takes it, shaking firmly.

Joseph: It's great to meet you. My dad, he... he spoke very highly of you.

Rose: And this...

Taking Becky's hand, Rose pulls her towards Lillian. She then interlocks their fingers and leans in close to her.

Rose: This is Rebecca Chavez. She's my...

Lillian: Your significant other, yes?

Blinking, Rose tilts her head curiously and lifts an eyebrow.

Rose: How did you...

Lillian: I can tell by the way you looked at each other. The way you hold her hand, the way you lean against her... you're not exactly trying to hide it.

Rose shifts slightly, uttering a small, quiet laugh.

Rose: No... no, I guess I'm not.

Lillian: It is a pleasure to meet you, Rebecca.

Becky: Gracias, Miss, uh... Rose's Mom.

Lillian: Please, Lillian is fine. Or just Lili.

Becky: Lili, then. It's wonderful to meet you, too.

Flashing a pleasant smile, Lillian nods appreciatively and then looks to her daughter again.

Lillian: Come, we have so much to talk about. I want to know how you've been, what you've done... everything.

Rose: Believe me, there's a whole lot to tell.

Becky: Any chance of getting a bath and a change of clothes?

Turning briefly to one of the guards, Lillian snaps her fingers. He comes forward immediately, standing at attention.

Lillian: He will show you where you can wash up. I'll have clean clothes brought to you shortly.

A big grin curls its way across Becky's face.

Becky: Ah, gracias a Dios.

Int. Lillian Worth's Jungle Villa – Day

Three hours later...

Joseph Wilson leans calmly against the railing on one of the open walkways that runs along the side of the main building. His injured arm has since been set in a sling, resting peacefully until he can get it properly treated and put in a cast. Breathing in deeply, he gazes out at the courtyard, watching one of the large fountains in particular. The sound of footsteps, however, draws his attention away.

Rose: Thought I might find you around here.

Looking to the side, Joseph watches as his sister calmly approaches. When she leans up against the railing next to him, he bows his head and exhales.

Joseph: It's quiet here. Peaceful.

Rose: One of the reasons my mom made her home out here, so she was telling me.

Joseph: Where is she now?

Rose: Getting to know Becky. They're making lunch together.

A small pause passes between them. Rose leans farther over the railing, bringing her hands together in front of her and staring straight down at the grass below. Slowly, she breathes in a large gulp of air.

Rose: You knew this whole time, didn't you?

Joseph: I did.

Rose: Why didn't you tell me? I mean... why didn't Dad want me to know that you were looking for my mother?

Joseph: Because of what you said to him the last time it came up. Don't you remember? Back when we beat those Black Lanterns, when you first suspected she might really still be alive.

Rose's shoulders droop slightly. She closes her eyes and lets out a long sigh.

Rose: Yeah... I remember. “If you even so much as Google her name, I will kill you.” Something like that, right?

Joseph: Right. He was afraid of how you would react, if you found out he was looking for her. He... didn't want to spoil it.

Rose: I never thought he'd actually go looking for her again, though. And not for his own selfish wants, either. That he would sacrifice so much to find my mother for me, just for me, something so selfless...

A subtle chuckle finds its way past Joseph's lips. He nods, understanding what his sister means.

Joseph: I know. Hard to imagine.

Rose: And you coming to get me had nothing to do with rescuing him, did it?

Joseph: No, it didn't. He could broken out any time he wanted to. He just... wanted you to be here when we finally found her. Once we realized how close we were, he sent me to get you.

Rose: While staging a ridiculously dangerous ruse to get me to come along.

Joseph: Good ol' Dad, right?

Lips slowly curling into a smile, Rose bows her head deeper and shifts her weight. A sudden revelation hits her, though, causing her gaze to lift sharply back to her brother.

Rose: That's why he was with the VRA! That's why he... why he did all that with Belmont, isn't it?

Joseph nods, straightening his posture slightly.

Joseph: Our leads were running cold, so he decided that acquiring government resources would be beneficial, even if he had to take on a shady, villainous job to do it. God knows that's never stopped him before.

Rose: Goddamn it, Dad...

Dropping her face into her hands, she utters out another heavy breath.

Rose: ...why do you have to keep making it so hard for me to hate you?

Joseph brings a hand down gently on one of her shoulders. They stand there together in silence for several minutes, listening to the calming sounds of the jungle around them. Eventually, Rose pushes herself away from the railing and folds her arms across her chest.

Rose: You know, as peaceful as this place is, I can't wait to get back home. After what we've been through the past couple days, I really need a break.

Joseph: Is your mother coming back with us?

At this question, a wide, happy smile forms across her face.

Rose: Yeah. The only reason she came back to Cambodia was because she thought there was nothing left for her in the States. Now... well, she can't wait to make up for lost time with her daughter, as she put it.

Holding a hand to her brother's shoulder, she walks with him down the hallway, keeping their pace slow and even.

Rose: But first, there's something else I need to do.

Ext. Vietnam Jungle – Day

The next day...

Rose stands there in the middle of the tall grass, gazing around the jungle road intently. It can only be described as a battlefield now, with the remains of blown apart jeeps, miniature craters formed by explosions, and dead bodies strewn about the area. One thing is certain from the scene: Slade didn't go down without a long, intense, and bloody fight.

Rose: Have you found anything yet?

Joseph looks up, tearing his gaze away from the long grass. Becky searches the area a short distance away from his, while Lillian investigates farther back.

Joseph: Not yet. Just a few mangled bandits.

Becky: Nothing over here, either.

A small, hopeful breath finds its way out Rose's mouth.

Rose: Okay, keep looking.

Maybe... maybe we won't find his body at all. Maybe he actually survived. Maybe he-

Lillian: Rose.

Rose's gaze quickly snaps over to her mother. Her hopes instantly plummet at the sight of the torn, shredded piece of fabric in Lillian's hands. It's barely recognizable with how badly damaged it is, but nevertheless she cannot mistake it for anything other than Deathstroke's mask. Swallowing a hard knot in her throat, she take several careful steps forward.

Rose: It's okay... it's just his mask. Doesn't mean anything.

Lillian: Rose... it was next to his body. I'm sorry.

She stops walking, legs refusing to move. Bowing her head, she holds a hand up to her face and breathes out deeply. Deep down, she had known this would be the case when they came out here, and yet the confirmed finality of it isn't something she had been prepared for.

Rose: Then he... he's really gone.

Her father's previous words suddenly echo in her mind, carrying a certain irony with them now.

Careful what you wish for, Rose... guess I should have made a different wish.

Joseph: We should bury him. Even he deserves that much.

Rose: No. At least... not yet.

Becky: What do you mean?

Rose: We'll ship his body back home. We can bury him there.

Sucking in a deep, shaky breath, she lifts her eyes and stares through the grass. She can just make out the bloodied form of a mangled body beyond the grass.

Rose: I... I want to be able to visit his grave.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suit – Night

Two days later...

When Rose pushes the door open, the first thing she hears is the sound of footsteps hurrying across the apartment. A familiar, blond haired girl appears around the corner a moment later, running forward and throwing herself at Rose, arms wrapping around tightly.

Holly: Mom!

Smiling, Rose kneels down and returns the hug firmly.

Rose: Hey, honey.

Holly: God, I'm so glad you're back. I really missed you!

Rose: It's good to be back, Holly. I missed you, too.

Two more figures appear across the apartment, coming around the corner. Circe folds her arms, leaning against the wall and giving a welcoming nod. Lyta hurries down the hall, arriving next to Holly and extending her hand forward. Rose smiles, shaking the girl's hand.

Lyta: Welcome back, Rose!

Rose: Thank you, Lyta.

Her gaze then shifts up to Circe.

Rose: And thank you for looking after Holly.

Circe: My pleasure. She was lovely, as always.

Then, Becky pokes her way inside, moving around Rose through the doorway.

Becky: Oy, what about me? Where's my hug, ah?

Holly: Right here!

Pulling back from Rose, Holly lunges forward and wraps her arms tightly around Becky.

Becky: Ah, gracias, Holly. It's good to see you again.

Rose: Now, um... there's a couple of people I'd like to introduce you all to.

Glancing back around the open doorway, she waves her hand.

Rose: Come on.

Joseph carefully walks through the entrance, taking in a deep breath and looking down at Holly.

Joseph: This her?

Rose: Yup, that's your niece.

Holly blinks several times, staring up at him curiously.

Holly: Your niece? But then that makes you... my uncle. Doesn't it?

Rose: That's right. He's my brother. His name is Joey.

Getting down on one knee, Joey holds a hand out and smiles.

Joseph: Nice to meet you, Holly.

Holly: Wow, I've never had an uncle before.

Reaching forward, Holly grasps Joseph's hand and gives it a firm shake.

Holly: Nice to meet you, Uncle Joey.

Joey: Uncle Joey... I think I like the sound of that.

Rose then steps to the side, allowing Lillian to make her way into the apartment.

Rose: And this... is my mother. Lillian Worth.

Circe suddenly pushes herself away from the wall, staring with amazement in her eyes.

Circe: Your mother... I thought she was...?

Rose: So did I... but we found her.

Circe: Where on earth did you go?

Rose: I'll tell all you about it later.

Kneeling down, Lillian leans forward and gives Holly a soft, pleasant smile.

Lillian: You must be Holly. It's a real pleasure to meet you; your mother has been telling so many things about you.

Holly: She has? ...only good things right? And nothing embarrassing?

Lillian: Only the best things. She says you're quite the smart girl.

Holly: Well, I don't like to brag... but yeah, I totally am.

Lillian: Ah, I'd bet you're right.

Holly: So... you're my mom's... uh, mom? That makes you... my grandmother, right? I've never had a grandmother before either.

The girl pauses, looking the woman up and down for a moment.

Holly: You don't really look like a granny.

Lillian: Yes, and I've worked very hard to make sure of that. Feel free to call me Lili, by the way. Granny just sounds... far too old.

Holly: Well, alright, then, Lili.

With a big smile, Holly reaches forward and gives the woman a firm hug. Lillian returns the smile, wrapping her own arms warmly around the girl.

Rose: And guys, this is Circe, and her daughter, Lyta.

Lyta: Nice to meet you!

Circe: Pleasure, really.

Rose: Alright now, everyone out of the hallway, come on. There's plenty more space in the living room, and there's a lot to talk about.

Lillian: I'll get dinner started, if that's alright. Holly, you can help me, if you like.

Holly: Sure! I'm a great cook. Well... when it comes to grilled cheese. But I'm learning!

A broad smile slowly curls across Lillian's face, as Holly grabs her hand and begins leading her into the kitchen.

Lillian: Don't worry; by the time we're done, I'll have turned you into a master chef.

As everyone heads down the hallway, Rose stands alone in the foyer. She takes in a deep breath, closing the penthouse door behind her, and then simply holds her hands to her hips. She can't help a large, pleased smile of her own from quickly forming.

You know something, Dad, you were a real b*stard. I'll stand by that until the day I die.

Holding her hands to her hips, Rose gradually makes her way down the hallway to rejoin everyone.

You made my life hell, did everything you could to make sure I would hate you, and you hurt too many people to count.

She stops just outside the kitchen, leaning against the wall and looking around the apartment. Becky and Circe sit back on the couch in the living room, currently engaged in conversation with Joseph. Nearby, Lyta leans back on her hands, legs sprawled out in front of her on the floor as she listens to the adults talk.

Yet, in spite of that, for what you did, for how you fixed things in the end, I just want to say...

Rose's gaze turns towards the kitchen, where Lillian is busily showing Holly how to chop peppers. Such a simple act, and yet it causes her smile to grow to new levels.

...thank you.

8 Comments

How DC's New 52 Affected My Favorite Ladies

As I've been looking back through the list of my favorite DC females characters, I've come to realize that the New 52 has largely been unkind to them, in some cases brutally so. Here's a look at just how my top ten have been affected, with my own personal grade on their new versions. Keep in mind that these are all my own opinions.

1. Ravager

While her recent appearances have been gorgeous from a physical perspective, she's lacked a whole lot of depth so far, going from the hero she was before the reboot to a barely relatable cold villain. While she's shown some brief flashes of depth and care around Caitlin Fairchild, those moments came and went way too fast, leaving her as just another villain. We've been promised to be shown her full backstory and see her develop more in The Ravagers series, but it doesn't look like that's happening any time soon. At least she's still badass, though I don't need to be constantly reminded of that every time she makes an appearance. Want some character development please. I've also dedicated an entire topic to my thoughts on her in the New 52, so for my full opinion, see here.

Grade: B

2. Raven

Non existent so far. It's been said that she's going to appear in the future in a big role, so here's hoping she turns out okay. I have a nagging feeling that they'll butcher her, though.

Grade: N/A

3. Power Girl

Oh boy, where the hell do I even start with her? This is not the PG I know, not even close. Not only has her origins changed to be the Supergirl from Earth-2 before becoming Power Girl, but her physical appearance has been horribly, horribly altered. First, the costume. I feel like a broken record repeating the thoughts of so many others, but oh my god is that thing ugly. It feels like an 80's track suit or a Swedish speed skating uniform with a cape, and the giant P symbol on the left side is beyond gaudy. Going along with that is her terrible drawn face and hair. Perez seems to want to draw every individual strand of hair on her head, and it fails. Hard. Her face is narrow and bony, and just oddly shaped with her cheekbones jutting out. It makes her look a lot older than she is, and not to mention a bit mannish. Then, of course, her actual figure has been trimmed down to be much leaner. She now looks no different than so many other heroines with skinny bodies. While she's given a few nice curves in a few panels, they're all too brief. To apparently compensate for the lack of visual appeal, they also went and made her super promiscuous, judging from some of her dialogue, and for no reason. My point is, this character is unrecognizable as PG on all levels. She has been completely butchered.

Grade: F

4. Barbara Gordon

I think I'm actually one of the few who don't mind her switch from Oracle back to Batgirl. Sure, the loss of Oracle is a heavy hit to the DC universe, but Barbara has always been my favorite Batgirl. While I'm way to young to have grown up with her as Batgirl in comics, I knew her from Batman TAS and such, and that's always how I knew Batgirl. When I started getting into comics, I was confused as to why she wasn't Batgirl, until I read the Killing Joke and learned about that whole backstory. I love the way Gail Simone has been writing her so far, too. Yeah, she's still a little rusty after having returned from three years in a wheelchair, but I absolutely adore her in every way so far.

Grade: A+

5. Renee Montoya

Non existent so far. Okay, that's not entirely true. She has been shown to exist, but only in a brief mention in Batwoman #1, where it's implied she might be dead. If she is... then eff you, DC, for snuffing one of the best diversity characters you had going for you, with absolutely no reason or explanation as to her disappearance, since she was quite alive and well before the reboot. Until her status is confirmed, though, I can't give a grade. Just know that I'm watching you, DC... I'm watching you closely.

Grade: N/A

6. Batwoman

Virtually unchanged from before the reboot, which is a good thing. She's still the character I love.

Grade: A

7. Cassandra Cain

I've always had a love-hate relationship with Cass. I initially hated her because she was Batgirl when I got into comics, and I already had it in my head that Barbara was supposed to be Batgirl. Plus, she was incredibly overpowered at the time... I mean, half the crap she pulled was beyond superhuman, yet she wasn't supposed to have any meta powers, which left me with quite a few 'wtf' moments. Later on, though, when I started reading her character more (and they thankfully nerfed her abilities to be more reasonable within the context of a non-powered superhero), she grew to be one of my favs. Buuuut... she's non existent so far in the New 52, with no confirmed mention, as far as I know, that she'll be making an appearance any time soon.

Grade: N/A

8. Poison Ivy

Prominent in the Birds of Prey series, which I rather enjoy. It's good to see her in a bigger role than just a sporadically appearing villain. Unlike a lot of others, too, I don't have many complaints about her costume, and I think it actually looks rather cool. Exceeeeept the fact that her skin isn't green anymore. That was one of the things I liked most about her, because it gave her a unique appearance and made sense (and looks awesome in combination with her red hair). That brings her grade down, unfortunately.

Grade: B+

9. Harley Quinn

Do I really even need to comment? This is not the Harley I grew to adore from Batman TAS, or earlier comics. This is... I don't even know what to call it. Harley's sl*tty doppelganger, I guess. I'll admit I haven't read much of her new version, but from what I've seen... it hasn't been pretty.

Grade: F

10. Big Barda

Non existent so far. Because, why not? Almost half the characters on this list haven't appeared yet.

Grade: N/A

So, out of my top ten favorite DC women, 4 haven't even made an appearance yet, and two of them are failures. Another two are above average, with the last two actually worthy of saying I like them as much, if not more so, than before the reboot. Overall, though, the reboot has not been kind at all to my favorite female characters.

What are your thoughts on some of these characters? Have your own favorite that was ruined by the reboot? Or maybe one that got better? Feel free to comment below!

57 Comments

Rose Wilson: The Ravager - Cutting the Strings (#89-97)

Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy/Ruby, Sophie, Jeremiah Belmont, Michelle Blanchett, Isaiah Slaton, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.

Rating: T+

Note: In the second to last arc, Holly and Lyta are kidnapped by a mysterious woman and thrust into the midst of a high end human trafficking ring. Ravager, along with her new crime fighting partner, race against the clock to get them back before the girls slip away for good!

Side Note: Uh, okay, yeah, this arc ended up being much longer than I planned. Not necessarily because a ton of stuff happened, just... I ended up writing a lot. As such, it's the longest single part arc I've written to date, at 9 chapters. Also, as such, I really only skimmed it when editing for typos and such, so chances are I didn't catch everything, nor is it written as well as it could be. So, keep that in mind when reading, and if anything really bad jumps out at you, point it out to me and I'll fix it. Just one more story arc to go, then the final few wrap up chapters!

All Chapters: http://www.comicvine.com/forums/fan-fic/8/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/660884/#1

Chapter #89

Ext. Warehouse – Night

A crisp, cool breeze gusts gently through the city, typical of a quiet, October night. A light coating of grey slush covers the ground, the result of an early snowfall mixed with driving rain. Several men hurry back and forth between the warehouse and a large box truck parked out front, though they don’t pay much mind to the deep puddles. Time is of the essence right now, and they can’t afford to be tiptoeing around a little water. This delivery needs to go out as soon as possible, before someone tips off the cops, or worse.

One of the guys, Danny, is a newcomer to the operation, only there because his buddy told him it would be some easy money. Come in for a couple of hours, help load up the truck, make a hundred bucks. It seemed like a simple enough deal at the time, but now he’s not so sure. He’s heard the rumors, after all, that the capes of Silverstone are back in full force ever since a couple of months ago. It’s not just that Ravager chick anymore, either. Rumors have been circulating about another woman in a hood and cloak who teleports. Get that? Freaking teleports! As if it couldn’t get any weirder, there’s supposed to be a third one now, some indestructible broad that bullets bounce off of.

Danny hasn't ever actually seen any of these costumed crime fighters himself, but then he’s never actually been involved in something like this before, transporting boxes of god knows what kinds of drugs, well past midnight. Knowing his luck, though, the one time he does, those vigilantes will show up. It’s almost guaranteed.

Danny: Hey, Ted, how much longer you think this is gonna take?

His friend, Ted, utters an annoyed sigh, as the two head back into the warehouse for another load.

Ted: Relax, shouldn’t be more than another half hour. What’s got you so nervous anyway?

Danny: Well, you’ve heard the talk, right? What if those crime fighting chicks show up and-

Ted: Oh, for the last time, dude, they’re not gonna show up. We were careful, you got that? We picked the right time, the right location, the right everything. I’d be more worried about the cops showing up than those loonies.

Grabbing another box, Danny breathes out an unconvinced sigh and slowly shuffles his way back outside.

Danny: I hope you’re right, man. I really don’t feel like running into them. Not tonight, not ever.

Ted: I swear, Danny, you are such a girl.

As the two emerge back outside into the loading area, they suddenly pause, noticing the other two loaders lying down on the ground behind the truck, unmoving. Ted hurries up to the truck to set down his box, then kneels down to check on their two unconscious friends.

Ted: What the hell? They’re out cold!

Danny: Aw man, I knew it! I told you! I’m getting out of here, dude, this isn’t worth a hundred bucks!

Dropping his box, Danny turns around and sprints away, arms swinging wildly. He wants to get as far from here as possible. No way he’s going to let himself be-

Thump!

A sudden crack explodes across the back of his skull, crumpling him unconscious to the ground. Emerging from the inky shadows next to him, a female figure coated in a metallic shell looks down and shakes her head in clear disappointment. With a brief sigh, she casually brushes off her hands and then brings her attention to the one man remaining.

Heart pounding in the midst of panic, Ted reaches into the back of his pants and pulls out his handgun. Even as he aims it at her, though, hand shaking and unsteady, he knows it won't do any good.

Ted: Stay back! I’ll shoot!

When the woman continues to approach him, he fires. Of course, the bullets ricochet like ping pong balls off her metallic skin, exactly as he'd feared. Huffing out a breath of utter hopelessness, Ted stands there and hangs his head; there's no point in running.

The woman comes to a stop in front of him, pausing only briefly to shake her head at him, then grabs the gun from his hand and crushes it with a single squeeze.

Becky: You know, shooting at a woman is really impolite.

Ted: Uh… s-sorry?

Becky: I’m sure you are. Now, be a good little boy and go to sleep.

She delivers a single, hard chop to the side of the man's neck, dropping him in an instant. For a moment, she worries that she might have put too much force into the blow, but a quick examination of the unconscious body reveals a steady pulse. It had taken Becky quite a bit of practice to get a firm grasp on her newfound strength levels. In order for a blow like that to simply knock someone out and not, for example, take his head clean off, she has to really hold back.

Becky: Well, I’d say that was simple enough. How’d I do?

From atop the truck, another figure walks into view, hands on her hips.

Ravager: Hmm… I give it a B+.

Becky: What, that’s it? Come on, that had to be at least an A-.

Ravager: Could have been, if you didn’t forget about the guy in the truck. If I didn't taken care of him, he’d have gotten away.

Becky: The guy in the… oh, right.

Ravager: Hey, don’t sweat it. You’re getting better.

Ravager pauses a moment to remove the faceplate of her helmet, revealing a pleased smile painted across her face. In a single, deft motion, she leaps down from the truck and lands softly on the balls of her feet. After straightening herself out again, she takes a few careful steps over to Becky and leans in close, pressing their lips together gently. The cold feel of Becky's metallic lips sends a pleasant chill down her spine, the kind of chill that makes her tingle in all the right places.

Becky: Well… at least I didn’t level half the warehouse by accident?

Ravager: You mean like you did last week?

Becky: Hey, that place was condemned anyway. If you think about it, I actually saved the city money from having to demolish it.

A soft chuckle finds its way out of Ravager’s throat, as she slips her faceplate back into place. Her voice resonates with a tin echo from behind the metal mask.

Ravager: Spin it however you want, you still got a C.

Becky: I thought it was a C+?

Ravager: It was, but then you went and ripped a hole through that person’s car when you chased down the last guy, remember? I took off points for that.

Becky: Oh… right, I forgot about that.

Ravager: And that's why I'm the one keeping track of your grades.

Reaching down into one of the compartments of her utility belt, Ravager pulls out a small phone. It isn't her normal phone, instead keeping this one around specifically to use while dressed up as Ravager. Only a small handful of numbers are stored on it, and this time her finger drifts over to the first speed dial button. Pacing several steps to the left, she waits patiently until the man on the other line picks up.

Ravager: Hey, Palmer. Yeah, it’s me. Listen, send down a couple squad cars to the old warehouse on Holland Street. Got you a box truck full of drugs and the guys moving it. Yeah, I’ll tell her. See you soon.

Hanging up the phone, she turns back to Becky and folds her arms across her chest.

Ravager: Palmer says hi.

Becky: Oh he does, ah? He just saw me a few hours ago, too.

Ravager: Probably still not over the whole you being alive again thing. Coming back from the dead tends to have an effect on people.

Becky: Ha, I suppose. You should have seen the looks I got on my first day back on the force. You’d think those guys saw a ghost. Hell, Stevens kept poking me with a pencil most of the day to make sure I was really there. Of course, he backed off when I crushed the pencil into powder.

A small smile snakes its way across Ravager’s face at the thought of Becky flipping on Stevens.

Ravager: You know, we should really consider getting you a costume or something. Maybe a codename, too. Just because Palmer and a couple other guys on the force know your identity, doesn’t mean everyone in the city has to.

Becky: What, the shiny metal skin not enough? Come on, you can’t even tell it’s me when I’m like this. And what would I call myself? The Super Metal Chica? Or maybe Silver Nanite Girl? Oh, how about The Shiny Avenger?

Ravager: Alright, alright, I see your point. You’re fine as is.

Becky: That’s what I thought. So, where’s Ruby, anyway?

Ravager: Working the East District, I believe. Something about investigating a string of weird murders involving razor blades and a hack saw.

Becky cringes slightly at the thought.

Becky: Sounds riveting. She coming to the party tomorrow?

Ravager: Well, I would hope so. She said she’d pick up the cake on her way there.

Becky: Ha, so she did. Should be fun, ah?

Ravager: If you don’t mind looking after a bunch of hyperactive, preteen kids, sure.

Becky: That’s why you got us girls to help you. God knows you couldn’t handle it on your own.

Ravager lets out a small, snorting laugh, hands coming down to her hips.

Ravager: When you’re right, Becky, you really are right.

Ext. Silverstone City Park – Day

It’s a big day, of course; what twelve-year-old girl’s birthday isn’t a big day? Any excuse to have a big party, open presents, and stuff yourself with cake is a good one in a kid’s eyes. For Holly, it’s no different. Not since her last birthday has she had a chance to get together with all of her friends like this, and she made sure to takes advantage of it, inviting literally everyone she’s even remotely friends with. The more people that attend, the more presents, after all! That and it makes the party games (which, for Holly, consist of things like flag football. Screw pin the tail on the jackass) a lot more exciting.

Of course, being responsible for twenty or so kids is more than a handful. If Rose had to do this herself, she’d probably go insane. Fortunately, she has the likes of Becky, Circe, and Ruby to help her out. Ruby is especially advantageous; if things ever get too out of hand, she can always make the kids calm down with her empathic abilities. That is, of course, when she actually gets there. As far as they know, Ruby is still downtown picking up the cake.

Lyta: Holly, I’m open! Throw it!

Holly isn’t like most girls. While others her age are more concerned with dolls, pink ribbons, and pretty dresses, she’s into things like sports and martial arts. Spending the last two and a half years being raised by Rose probably had a bit of influence on that, but still. That being the case, most of her friends are actually boys, with the exception of Lyta -- by far her best friend -- and a few other more tomboyish girls from her class.

Right now, said kids are engaged in a heated flag football game, with Holly acting as quarterback and leader of her team. As Lyta breaks out into the open, Holly pulls back the football and launches it through the air. It’s far from a perfect spiral, of course, but it reaches its mark, if a little overthrown. Still, Lyta manages to come down with a spectacular one handed grab in the end zone (a feat quite possibly aided by the girl’s magical ability, but there’s no need to mention that to anyone). It’s still a cause for their team to erupt with excitement, while the opposing team can only bow their heads in disappointment.

Holly: Nice catch!

Lyta: I know, it was pretty awesome, right?

At a nearby picnic table, the three present adults watch the game carefully. Circe leans back in her seat and folds her arms, smiling proudly.

Circe: Did you see that? My girl scored a goal.

Becky: It’s called a touchdown, and yes, we all saw it.

Circe: Touchdown, of course. That’s what I meant.

Becky: Suuure you did.

Walking around the side of the picnic table, Rose holds one hand to her hip, while pointing absently at the food items in front of her, making sure that they have everything in order.

Rose: Okay, we have sandwiches, chips, potato salad, pizza, cheese and crackers, juice, soda… am I missing anything?

Becky: Relax, girl, we got everything on the list. Sit down and watch the game; Holly’s team is dominating.

Rose: Alright, so then we’re just missing the-

Ruby: Cake, right?

Appearing behind them, Ruby casually walks over and places down the large chocolate cake on the picnic table in front of her.

Ruby: Got it right here. All twelve candles, too.

Rose: Oh, there you are, good. Alright, so I guess that’s everything. You guys want to help me getting this stuff ready for everyone to eat?

Becky: Yeah, just a second.

A quarterback sneak this time, and Holly really starts to put on the moves. The other team doesn’t have a prayer of catching her flags, not with the way she’s darting around and spinning. Within seconds, she breaks away and scores another touchdown, much to her own teams delight.

Becky: If I didn’t know any better, I’d say your girl hexed the other team or something.

Circe: If she did, then she’s putting her power to good use.

Becky: Ha, by cheating at a football game?

Circe: If you got it, flaunt it. That is how the saying goes, right?

Becky: Uh… something like that. Anyway, let’s help with the spread.

Turning back around to the picnic table, Becky and Circe focus their efforts in assisting Rose and Ruby with organizing all the food. When the kids finish their game, they'll be wanting to dig right in. Said game is just about over, of course, with how far ahead Holly's team is. The kids are still having fun, though, so for the time being, the game presses on.

Holly’s team is back in possession now. Holly drops back for another pass, her sharp eyes carefully scanning the field for an open receiver. Lyta breaks away from her defender again, waving her arms for the ball. Spotting her friend wide open in the end zone, Holly winds her arm back and launches the ball… promptly overthrowing her intended target by about ten feet. Well, they can’t all be perfect passes.

Lyta: Aw, I’m not that tall, Holly!

Holly: Sorry!

The oblong ball bounces awkwardly across the ground, rolling behind a collection of bushes near the park gate. Huffing out a small breath, Lyta hurries over to look for it. She looks around for a few minutes, searching high and low for the pigskin, but for some reason she can't find it anywhere. It's as if the thing up and vanished into thin air. A few moments later, Holly arrives to help search.

Holly: What’s taking so long over here?

Lyta: I dunno, can’t find the football. I thought it rolled over here somewhere.

Holly: It’s probably stuck in one of the bushes.

Pushing around to the back of the bushes, Holly looks around carefully, but she, too, finds nothing. As the two girls continue searching in confusion, a calm, smooth voice, thick with a French accent, interrupts them.

Voice: Are you girls looking for zis?

Glancing towards the sound of the voice, they see a very young woman standing there; she can't be older than nineteen or twenty. The woman is dressed in clean, business attire, including a silky red blouse and long black pants. A narrow pair of glasses sit atop her nose, framing around her sharp, green eyes. Her long blonde hair is pulled back into a ponytail, with the end hanging over her left shoulder in front of her. Extending one arm, the woman holds out the missing football.

Holly: Oh, hey yeah. Thanks.

As she goes over to take the football away, however, the woman teasingly pulls it back.

Woman: You really should be more careful where you srow your toys.

Holly: Um… thanks, I guess. We’ll keep that in mind.

Woman: So, what are you girls doing out 'ere on zis fine day?

Lyta: Can we just have our ball back? We’re not supposed to talk to strangers.

Woman: Euh, but of course. You girls are very smart, non? Never know what kind of people you might meet in a big city like zis.

Holly: Right… you want to give us the ball, please?

Woman: Why, certainly. 'Ere, all you have to do is take it from me.

Extending her hand forward again, the woman gives a small smile, as if daring one of the girls to take the football. Lyta furrows her brow, looking at the woman curiously. Finally, she reaches out to grab the ball. The instant her hands touch it, however, she falls forward to the ground, unconscious.

Holly: Lyta!

Before Holly can make a move to come to her friend’s aid, the woman extends a single hand and touches her on the shoulder. Much the same as Lyta, consciousness quickly leaves her, causing her to crumple to the ground.

Woman: I sink you girls will do nicely.

Back at the picnic table, Rose is in the middle of setting up the candles on the birthday cake when one of Holly’s friends suddenly rushes up and starts pulling on her sleeve.

Boy: Ms. Wilson! Ms. Wilson!

Rose: Oh, what is it?

Boy: It’s Holly and Lyta!

Blinking a couple of times, she looks up curiously and carefully scans the area. That’s when she realizes that she doesn’t see Holly or Lyta anywhere. Circe, too, is now standing and looking around.

Circe: Where are they? Where are our daughters?

Boy: Over there! They were over there!

He points over near the park gate, specifically out at the nearby street.

Boy: They were looking for the ball, and then they started talking to this woman, and-and-and then she took them!

Panic begins to set in. Rose takes a closer look at the street, and that’s when she notices a woman dressed in red and black slamming closed the side door of a large white van, with the words ‘Blanchett Limelight’ written on it. In an instant, Rose is sprinting across the park towards the van.

Rose: Holly!!!

Becky: Dios mio, the hell is going on?

Ruby: I… I don’t know. Circe? Hey!

Circe, too, is running after Rose, heading straight for the van. By now, though, the woman is in the front seat, already starting up the engine.

Circe: She took them! She took the girls!

Chapter #90

Ext. Silverstone City Streets – Day

With a shrill screech of the tires, the white van pulls out of its spot on the side of the road and speeds away. By the time Rose races through the park gates and makes it to the street, the vehicle is already a small dot in the distance. Holding her hands to her head, she takes in a deep, slow breath to stop herself from panicking.

Rose: No, no that didn’t just happen. Tell me that didn’t just happen.

Circe, on the other hand, an individual who is normally able to remain surprisingly calm in these kinds of situations, fails to keep her composure.

Circe: She took them! She took our daughters!

Running her hands through her hair, Circe paces around briefly, and then moves towards Rose. She reaches out, grabs Rose by the shirt collar, and pulls her close.

Circe: Why are you just standing there?! Go after them! Do something!

Rose: Calm down, Circe, I’m trying to think.

Circe: Calm down? Our children were just kidnapped! How do you expect me to remain calm?

Rose: Circe-

With a soft exhale, Rose lifts her hands and presses them to her friend’s cheeks, trying to offer some sort of comfort. Despite the comfort she's trying to give, however, she feels the same stinging sense of anxiety beginning to bubble in her chest.

Rose: -we will find them, do you understand me? We will get them back.

Swallowing a knot in her throat, Circe utters a small breath and takes a step back, then holds a hand to her forehead.

Circe: You’re right, of course you’re right. Our girls will be fine… they know how to handle themselves. I daresay that woman made a grave mistake in taking those two.

A short moment later, Ruby and Becky arrive next to them. The other children from the party linger somewhere behind, as if unsure whether or not they should approach the adults right now. Most of them look confused, wondering what happened. After all, they’re there for Holly’s birthday party… so where’s Holly?

Ruby: Would someone mind explaining just what on earth is going on?

Rose: It’s Holly and Lyta… they were just kidnapped by some nut-job woman in a white van.

Becky: What?! Who? Who took them? I swear I’ll tear her arms off!

Rose: We’re not sure, but we’re going to find out, trust me on that.

Ruby: Well I should damn well hope so. What kind of demented person kidnaps a couple of kids in the middle of the afternoon?

Digging into her pocket, Rose pulls out her phone and starts dialing.

Rose: All kinds, Ruby. Anyway, the party’s over. Can you and Circe work on getting these kids home? I have to make a call.

Int. Parking Garage – Day

The van slowly rumbles through the mostly empty parking garage, stopping only when it reaches the fourth level. After waiting a few, brief moments, the woman steps out of the vehicle and casually walks around to the side. She slides the door open, and then raises a finger, causing the two unconscious girls inside to suddenly float up into the air and drift out of the van.

Turning around, the woman makes her way towards the exit, which leads directly to an elevator attached to an adjacent building. Holly and Lyta continue to float in midair behind her, following exactly where she goes. Finding her way into the elevator, the woman presses the button for the top floor and waits calmly for the ascent.

Int. Blanchett Limelight – Day

The elevator doors open, leading directly into a large office, brightly decorated with all the latest fashion trends. Mannequins wearing elegant dresses and other outlandish garments line a red carpet walkway that leads up to an ebony desk at the back of the room. Abstract sculptures dot the sides of the room, nothing more than metal shapes open to interpretation. in front of a large window wall that overlooks the city. The far wall is one giant window, offering a stunning view of the city skyline beyond.

Sitting behind the office desk is a calm woman with long black hair coiling around her shockingly pale face. Though having reached the ripe old age of forty some months ago, her looks defy that age, retaining a certain sense of mature beauty. She wears a low cut top that fits around her torso rather tightly, specifically to accentuate her assets, and a skirt that barely finds its way halfway down her thighs. This is Michelle Blanchett, head of the Blanchett Limelight Fashion/Modeling Agency.

As her assistant approaches the desk, Blanchett's eyes shift upward to look at her.

Blanchett: You were gone for quite some time, Sophie... you don't normally take that long. I trust you were successful?

Sophie: Oui, Madame. I found two for ze price of one. Would you like to inspect zem?

Blanchett's gaze carefully moves over the two girls floating beside her assistant. They both appear to be around twelve years old, which works well enough. The prime age would be fourteen, but some of her clients do prefer younger girls. Besides, they’ll grow into that age eventually, of course. Releasing a soft breath, she stands up and moves around the side of her desk, arms held behind her back.

Blanchett: Straighten them out a little. I want to get a good look at them.

Sophie: As you wish, Madame.

Instantly, the two girls go from floating aimlessly to stiffening into a rigid, upright position, arms and legs straight at their sides. Holding a hand to her chin, Blanchett begins circling around them, looking closely.

Blanchett: The blonde should prove to be quite valuable; blondes have always been quite popular. But the other one… is her hair purple? That can’t be its natural color… though if it is, she’ll fetch quite the fee from our clients with more exotic tastes. Hmm…

Moving back around in front of them, Blanchett folds her arms. Her eyes narrow, drifting slowly back and forth between the two girls.

Blanchett: Both seem rather well developed for their age, as well. Always a plus. Sophie, I daresay you’ve outdone yourself this time.

Sophie: Merci, Madame. I do strive to do my best.

Blanchett: Yes, so you do. Go ahead and take these two to the others. We should have a full shipment ready for delivery tomorrow.

Sophie: Oui, right away.

Giving her mistress a polite bow of the head, Sophie turns and heads back towards the elevator, Holly and Lyta following closely behind.

Blanchett: Oh, and Sophie?

The woman stops momentarily, looking back over her shoulder.

Blanchett: After you’re finished, you may join me in the sauna, if you like.

Sophie: You are too kind, Madame. I will return shortly.

Int. Underground Storage – Day

When the elevator doors open this time, they lead into a sub basement level of the Blanchett building, to an area where the projected stock is kept until ready to be shipped out. The conditions of this holding area are actually quite pristine, more like and underground, four-star hotel than anything. Each child is offered their own room, complete with television, a bathroom, shower, a refrigerator kept stocked full of food, and a dresser full of clean clothes.

Of course, this lavish treatment is but a ruse, designed to keep the children complacent until the time comes when they are shipped away to potential clients. They aren’t even allowed to leave their rooms, which makes it a prison, no matter how well one dresses it up. Still, Blanchett does her best to make sure that they are well cared for until that time comes.

Sophie stops at the last door on the left, at the end of the corridor. She opens it, then walks inside and floats the girls across the room, dropping each of them on one of the two beds. After waiting for a brief moment, she snaps her fingers, and in an instant the girls awaken, lurching upright with deep breaths.

Sophie: Welcome, girls. Do try to make yourselves at ‘ome. Just don’t get too comfortable; we will be shipping you out tomorrow.

Holly: Shipping us… what? Who are you? Where are we?

Sophie: My name is Sophie, and I ‘ave brought you to your new ‘ome, at least for ze night. You will be given a more permanent residence in good time.

Lyta: You kidnapped us!

Sophie: Euh, I would not call it zat. I have merely… relocated you for ze time being. You will be given a ‘ome soon.

Lyta: We already have homes! We have families! Takes us back, right now!

Sophie: Oh, I am afraid I cannot do zat. You see, Madame Blanchett is very strict, and she simply refuses to let any of you go. Zat would cause a loss of profits, and we can’t have zat, now can we?

Holly: Profits? Profits? You’re selling us?!

Sophie: Oui, in a sense.

Lyta: I don’t think so! You’re gonna take us home right now!

Lifting her hands, a surge of crackling energy rapidly builds up in Lyta's palms. Sophie only has time to lift an eyebrow before a web of lightning bursts forth from the girl’s fingers, striking the woman square in the chest and throwing her backwards across the room. For several moments, Sophie lies there motionlessly on the floor, scant wisps of smoke billowing from her charred clothing.

Holly: You got her! Awesome!

Lyta: Yeah, well she shouldn’t have kidnapped us. Come on, let’s get out of here.

As the girls start hurrying for the open doorway, however, Sophie suddenly sits back upright, apparently unharmed by the lightning blast. With a simple wave of the hand, she sends the two girls flying back across the room, pinning them against the back wall. Instinctively, Lyta’s hands begin to charge again with magic, but with another wave of the hand, Sophie extinguishes the energy.

Sophie: So, I see we ‘ave a little witch. Zat could be problematique, non? I fear we must find a way to fix zat, else our clients won’t be too happy.

Holly: Stop it! Let us go!

Sophie: Désolé, but I ‘ave already said why I cannot do zat. Now, your friend 'ere must go to sleep for ze time being, until I come back wiz a more permanent solution.

Walking forward across the room, Sophie lifts her hands up to press them to the side of Lyta’s head.

Lyta: No! Stay away from me!

Sophie: Bonne nuit, ma petite.

A second later, Lyta’s eyes roll into the back of her head. She slumps forward fast asleep, a rush of air bursting from her lungs. Sophie then extends her hand, causing Lyta to float across the room and land gently on one of the beds, her head resting against the pillow.

Holly: If you hurt her, I’ll kill you! You hear me? I’ll kill you!

Sophie: She is un’armed, merely asleep. I will be back later to wake 'er up, you ‘ave my word.

Holly: Screw your word, you... you stupid b*tch!

Sophie: My, my, zat is no way for a young girl to speak.

Holly: Yeah, well my mom says I shouldn’t swear… but she’s not here right now.

Breathing out an annoyed sigh, Sophie places her hands on her hips and shakes her head.

Sophie: In any case, I must be going now. Try to relax, ma petite. It will make sings easier.

And with those parting words, she turns to walk back out the door, pausing only briefly to snap her fingers and allow Holly to fall back down from the wall.

Sophie: Au revoir.

Int. Silverstone Central Police Station – Day

Becky: You have to do something, now!

Leaning forward in his seat, Chief Palmer holds a hand to his head, while repeatedly tapping the fingers of his other hand in front of him. Rose and Becky stand in front of his desk, poised over him and yelling; it's all he can do to concentrate, let alone get a clear grasp on what they're telling him.

Palmer: And you're sure about this? You actually saw this woman take the girls?

Rose: I saw enough. One of Holly's friends pointed her out clear as day as the person they'd been talking to, and then she took off in a van! What more do you want?

Palmer: I'd like to have more to go on than circumstantial evidence before we go knocking on someone's door and start throwing around accusations of kidnapping.

Rose: Circumstantial, my ass! Who else took them, huh? The freaking phantom stalker of Silverstone Park?!

Uttering a small breath, Palmer slowly rubs his temples. He's beginning to feel a headache coming on.

Palmer: I know it's likely, given what you've told me, but you didn't actually see her take them. Simply having a possible suspect doesn't make a person guilty, and it's not enough for a warrant.

Rose: Would you listen to yourself? Chief, this is Holly we're talking about here. You know her; Lyta, too. Sh*t, you've been to their soccer games for f*ck's sake.

Palmer: Rose, believe me, I want to find her. And when we do find her, I'll nail the b*stard who took her so hard that he'll be staring at the inside of a cell until goddamn judgment day. But you're not giving me enough to go on here. We need to conduct a proper investigation; there are procedures for this.

Becky: Forget procedure! We know who did this! Jueputa, we gave you the name on the side of the van, now just go after the b*tch!

Palmer: May I remind you, Chavez, that in spite of your recent and miraculous resurrection, and your nightly vigilante escapades, you're still a cop? Or have you forgotten that? We do things by the book.

Becky: Since when the hell have you ever cared about the book? Hell, you've been working with Rose for over a year now help clean up this city, and she hardly operates 'by the book'. Why can't you just let us do what we do best? Let us go in there and grill these assholes for Holly and Lyta's whereabouts!

Palmer remains silent, slowly bringing his hands in front of him on the desk and clasping them together. His gaze lowers, a long, tired sigh escaping his lips.

Rose: Chief, what the hell is going on here? It's like you don't want us going after this Blanchett woman. What's so f*cking special about her?

Palmer: It’s not that she’s special, it’s just… it’s complicated.

Becky: Well then, by all means, enlighten us.

Palmer: Michelle Blanchett owns the most prolific and profitable fashion and modeling agency in the country, arguably the world. That in and of itself isn’t the problem, of course; it’s more than that. She’s a very powerful woman, has a lot of pull in not just her own industry, but just about everywhere.

Rose: Uh huh, so what, money is power? Big deal. What’s that have to do with us not storming her building and nailing her?

Palmer: You have to understand, Wilson, Blanchett is notorious for going out of her way to step on people to get what she wants. She's vindictive, spiteful, and power hungry, a plain lethal combination, and that isn’t exclusive to the fashion world; her lawyers could give Lex-friggin-Luthor’s a run for their money. If we start going in and tossing around accusations of something like kidnapping at her and we’re wrong, or we can’t prove it, not only do we fail to expose her, but she will do everything in her power to destroy us, whether it be financially or by reputation.

Throwing her hands up in the air, Becky paces back and forth for a moment, a breath of frustration bursting from her lips.

Becky: Dios, so you’re saying we’re just supposed to sit around and do nothing?

Palmer: No, I’m saying we need to be absolutely sure. If you think that Blanchett might have had a part in kidnapping Holly and her friend, then we need proof, and we’ll need to conduct a proper investigation. We’re not going to arrest the woman on speculation. You got that?

A brief wave of silence washes over the group. Rose folds her arms across her chest and looks off to the side, shaking her head slowly. She doesn’t want to admit that Palmer might have a point, but there isn’t a whole lot else she can do. As sure as she is on this, as much as she feels it in her gut, Palmer’s right. They don’t have any proof.

Rose: Fine then.

She suddenly reaches out to grab Becky’s hand, starting to pull her out the door of Palmer’s office.

Rose: If you need proof, then we’ll get you proof. Just be ready to back us up.

Palmer: Wilson… don’t you do anything stupid.

Rose: Don’t worry, Chief. I’m just gonna get my daughter back.

Chapter #91

Int. Underground Storage – Night

Sophie quietly opens the door,, stepping forward into the room and flipping the light switch on. In her hands, she carries a very unique device, made to resemble a dog collar. It is, of course, much more advanced and high tech than a simple collar, with a very specific purpose. After closing the door behind her, she quickly heads across the room towards one of the beds, where Lyta sleeps soundly.

Sophie: Alright now, little witch girl. I have a solution for you.

Before she makes it to the girl, however, a sudden thought her to pause. Curiously, she looks around the room, her eyes examining things closely.

Sophie: Wait… where is ze ozer one?

Holly: Right here!

Springing forward from behind, Holly delivers a hard kick to the back of the woman’s knee, Sophie's legs buckle, but she catches herself on the edge of the bed to maintain balance. Her efforts don't serve her well for long, however, as another stiff blow explodes across the side of her face. Sophie down to her hands and knees, only to then recoil at a third blow, this one driving straight into her gut.

Holly: You let us go, right now!

As the young girl winds up for another strike, however, Sophie lifts a hand. Instantly, Holly’s body goes stiff and flies across the room. She hits the wall with a hard thud, dropping to the floor a second later. Uttering a soft groan, Holly slowly sits upright. Her head throbs slightly, a dull, steady pulsing between her eyes. Sophie, meanwhile, rises back to her feet and takes a moment to straighten out her glasses.

Sophie: Zat is no way for a young girl to be'ave.

Holly: Well maybe I wouldn’t have to behave like this if you didn’t kidnap us!

Grumbling with frustration, Holly springs back to her feet and runs straight at the woman. With another simple wave of the hand, Sophie sends her crashing into the wall again, this time holding her there.

Sophie: Stay.

Holly struggles for a few moments, trying to break free from the invisible force keeping her in place, but it’s useless. It feels as though a massive hand is pressing her tightly against the wall, and the grip is unyielding. When she finally gives up, she looks over to see Sophie slipping the strange collar around Lyta’s neck.

Holly: Hey! You leave her alone!

Sophie: Zis will not ‘urt your friend. It is simply to keep ‘er from acting out, so she will be more… complacent for ‘omever purchases ‘er.

Holly: No, you’re not going to sell us! That’s illegal! And mean! You can’t treat kids like this!

Sophie: Do not worry, ma petite; our clients are very wealsy people. Zey will take good care of you.

Holly: Take good care of us? They’re buying us! That makes us their slaves! So they can... they can do… things to us.

Sophie abruptly stiffens and goes silent. For a long moment, she simply stares at the wall in front of her, eyes going out of focus and demeanor slackening. Holly watches curiously, tilting her head to the side narrowing her brow. Finally, Sophie holds her arms around herself, as if needing a warm body to hug, yet finding only herself for comfort.

Sophie: Oui, zey will… most likely do many sings to you. But zey will… zey will love you.

Tightening her jaw, Holly swallows back a lump of nausea in her throat.

Holly: If you know what they’re going to do to us, then why are you helping them? Why are you doing this to us?

Sophie: Because Madame Blanchett wishes it.

Holly: And if she wanted you to jump off a bridge, would you do that, too?

Sophie: Oui, if that is what she wanted. I live to follow ‘er command.

Pausing, Holly furrows her brow in confusion.

She's like a robot or something... programmed to follow her master's orders.

Holly: You can’t be serious.

Sophie: Euh, but I am serious. If Madame Blanchett wishes it, I make it ‘appen.

Holly: Why?

Sophie: What do you mean?

Holly: Why do you listen to her like that? Can’t you think for yourself?

Sophie: I… of course I can sink for myself. I simply choose to follow Madame Blanchett’s orders.

Holly: But why? What did she ever do for you?

Sophie: She… saved my life.

Holly: And that’s why you help her ruin other children’s lives? That’s why you kidnap them and sell them to people as slaves?

Sophie: Oui, zat is why.

A brief moment of silence passes between the pair. Holly stares at the woman, blinking several times in disbelief. Eventually, she slowly shakes her head.

Holly: Lady, my mom says I shouldn’t talk badly about people, but you are so messed up.

Sophie: I am not sure I understand.

Holly: Your whole thought process is just… wrong.

Sophie: I sink zat is a matter of opinion, non?

Holly: Uh uh, not in this case.

When Sophie doesn't respond, instead glancing off to the side and holding her arms tighter around herself, Holly's eyes soften.

Holly: What did that woman do to you?

She doesn't receive an answer, not at first. Sophie fidgets where she stands, shifting her weight several times and looking down at the floor. Gently, her eyes close, an attempt to stop the small droplets from leaking down her cheeks. She fails, though, as the tears continue tracing a wet path down her face.

Sophie: She did… nussing. She saved me. Zat is all.

Holly: It’s okay if you want to talk about it. If she did bad things to you... you can tell me. I had someone do bad things to me once, too…

Breathing out a long, heavy sigh, Holly lowers her gaze sadly.

Holly: I know what it’s like.

For a brief moment, Sophie glances back at the girl, as if contemplating whether or not to say something. She opens her mouth, but pauses, then looks away again.

Sophie: Je suis désolé… I cannot say anysing. I… I must go. Your friend will wake up soon, I promise.

She leaves in a hurry, heading out the door and locking it behind her. Holly drops down to the floor a second later, the invisible hold releasing her. For a long moment, she just sits there, staring at the door. As a cold, numb sensation begins to spread through her body, she bows her head and tucks her knees up to her chest, holding her arms around them.

Int. Blanchett Limelight – Night

Becky's fingers firmly tighten around the metal cable, as she easily hoists herself up through the elevator shaft. Ravager hangs off her waist, arms hanging on tightly as they ascend. Given Becky’s phenomenal new levels of strength, lifting both Ravager and herself upward proves to be a relatively simple task. It’s something that she still has trouble believing at times, how strong she is, though such disbelief is squashed whenever she accidentally rips a door off its hinges, or something of an equally embarrassing nature. The amount she has to hold back on a daily basis to make sure she doesn’t tear through walls like tissue paper is astounding. Fortunately, her strength is greatly reduced when not coated in her nanite shell, like she is now, but can be still a major headache at times.

Ravager: How much farther?

Becky: I think we just passed the twentieth floor.

Ravager: So thirty more to go before we get to Blanchett’s office.

Becky: So you’re not completely useless with math, I see.

Ravager: Well, you know, when you were gone I had to help Holly with it. I learned a few things.

A soft laugh emerges from Becky’s throat, as she continues to scale the elevator cable.

Becky: You’re sure the elevator isn’t going to suddenly activate, right? That could cause problems.

Ravager: It’s disabled, don’t worry.

Becky: And the security cameras?

Ravager: Also disabled. We just have to worry about not being seen by anyone.

Becky: Shouldn’t be a problem, then. That Blanchett woman got off work hours ago, and I doubt she hires security guards to sit in her private office all night.

Ravager: Not like it matters. We see any guards, and we do what we do best.

A smirk curls its way across Becky’s metallic face.

Becky: A huevo.

When they finally reach the top floor, Becky positions herself in front of the elevator doors, effortlessly pulling them open. She then steps into the large office, which looks more like a fashion museum than anything. Letting go, Ravager walks a short ways away and holds her hands to her hips. Her gaze gradually scans the area, obtaining a firm grasp on their surroundings.

Ravager: Interesting setup she’s got here…

Becky: You know, I will never understand the fashion world.

Moving up to one of the nearest mannequins, she disdainfully examines the shiny, gaudy garment.

Becky: Wouldn’t catch me dead wearing something like this. Looks ridiculous.

Ravager: Well it’s a good thing we’re not here to shop, then. We’re here to look for clues.

Heading down the long carpet, Ravager approaches the desk near the back of the office, right in front of the large window wall. With a small, contemplative breath, she sits down at the desk and turns on the computer.

Ravager: While I’m looking through her computer, check the drawers for any hard evidence.

Becky: Somehow, I don’t think she’d leave behind a paper in her desk that could tie her to recent kidnappings.

When Ravager slowly glares back up at her, Becky holds her hands up and joins her girlfriend behind the desk.

Becky: But hey, I’ll look anyway.

About twenty minutes later, the two haven’t found anything that can help them find Holly and Lyta. While Becky’s already gone through everything in the desk several times, Ravager hasn't found anything on the computer other than financial statements, fashion concepts, model profiles, and other such useless information.

Becky: I’m beginning to think we aren’t going to find anything here. Maybe we should just go straight for Blanchett herself and force her to give us some answers?

Ravager: Save that as a last resort. As much as I hate it, Palmer was right. Accusing someone like that of a crime is a big deal, and if we go after her directly, and we’re wrong, it won’t end well for anyone.

Becky: I just hate having to be so passive aggressive about this. I mean, this is Holly and Lyta. They’re counting on us. Circe’s counting on us. Mierda, everyone’s counting on us, it seems.

Ravager: You think I don’t know that? Sh*t, Becky, Holly’s my daughter for crying out loud. I want to get her back more than anything… but if we screw this up, then we might never find them.

Becky: I know, I know…

Ravager: But trust me, if we find out Blanchett is behind this, I’ll hit her so hard she’ll be spitting out teeth for a week. Now keep looking.

---

Down in a lower level of the building, Michelle Blanchett lies back against the edge of the large bathtub, which is really closer in resemblance to a hot tub than anything, complete three separate faucets and multiple air jets. The hot water rises up just past her chest, soothing her tired body, while a light fog of steam fills the bathroom.

The bathroom itself is incredibly sleek and high end, with gold and silver fixtures, a marble floor, mirrored ceiling, even a waterproof television hanging from the wall in front of her. Right now, though, she isn’t watching television. She’s merely sitting back and relaxing, enjoying the feel of the hot water soaking into her soft, alabaster skin. After several minutes of peaceful silence, she raises a hand and snaps her fingers.

Blanchett: Sophie, be a dear and get me some soap.

Sophie, who had up until now been waiting quietly off to the side, heads over to the nearby towel closet and opens the door. Several containers outfitted with all sorts of bath supplies, everything from soap and shampoo to bubbles and bath salts, hang from the back of the door. She grabs the first bar of soap that she sees from one of these containers and brings it over to her mistress.

Sophie: ‘Ere you are, Madame.

Blanchett takes the bar of soap from her, only to then pause and stare at it scornfully.

Blanchett: No, not this one! Uck, I hate the strawberry scented soap.

With a casual flip of the hand, she tosses the bar back over shoulder. Sophie catches it deftly in one hand.

Blanchett: Bring me the pomegranate.

Sophie: Right away, Madame.

She replaces the original bar of soap back in the closet, then grabs a different bar, bringing it to the bathing woman. This time, Blanchett takes the soap and begins to wash herself.

Blanchett: Now, shampoo. Apple scented.

Once again, Sophie returns to the closet, grabbing a large shampoo bottle. She then kneels behind Blanchett at the edge of the tub and grabs the bucket next to her, a bucket filled to the brim with warm, steaming water. Without warning, she dumps some of the water over the woman’s head, to wet her hair. Instantly, Blanchett recoils, coughing and sputtering.

Blanchett: You stupid girl! How many times have we been over this?!

Turning around, she rises up from the tub a bit and delivers a biting slap to Sophie’s face, then sinks back down to her previous position. Sophie just continues kneeling there, staring down at her and showing no change in emotion.

Blanchett: You don’t wet my hair until after I give you permission! Now, since you’ve already gone and done so, you may proceed with scrubbing.

Swallowing briefly, Sophie takes the shampoo, squirts a small amount into her hands, and then begins to scrub Blanchett’s hair. Once she finishes soaping herself up, Blanchett relaxes back against the edge of the tub and utters a long, satisfied breath, eyes closing.

Blanchett: Much better.

After several minutes of scrubbing, Blanchett flippantly waves one of her hands.

Blanchett: You may rinse now.

Sophie quickly obeys, taking the bucket of water and gradually pouring it over the woman's head, to remove all the suds from her hair. When finally she is completely cleaned, Blanchett rises out of the tub and steps up to the bathroom floor.

Blanchett: Robe.

Sophie brings her a soft, fluffy bathrobe, holding it open for her to slip into. Even as she wraps it around the woman and ties the sash tightly around her waist, the robe barely comes midway down Blanchett's thighs.

Blanchett: Thank you, my dear. If you continue to behave, I may even let you join me next time. How does that sound?

Sophie: Très bien, Madame. I will be on my best behavior.

Suddenly, the two are interrupted by the sound a shrill, incessant beeping. Narrowing her eyes, Blanchett walks over to granite sink, where her mobile phone vibrates across the smooth surface. Clicking it on, she holds the phone to her ear and utters a very annoyed sigh.

Blanchett: Yes, Jake, what is it?

Jake/Phone: Uh, Ma'am, sorry to interrupt you so late, but you may want to take a look at something. I'm sending the feed to your bathroom monitor now.

Turning towards the television screen, Blanchett watches as it flickers on, revealing a security camera feed of her office. In said office, two familiar individuals are rummaging around her desk, one on the computer and the other searching through the papers in her drawers. Instantly, her expression sours.

Blanchett: What are those two rodents doing in my office, Jake?

Jake/Phone: I, uh, I honestly have no idea. We think they may have infiltrated the building some time ago. We found the security cameras disable and were able to bring them back online fairly quick, but we still can't get the elevator to respond.

Blanchett: Of course you can't. Fine then, I'll handle it. But as my chief of security, Jake, I expect you to prevent instances like this. Screw up again and you'll find your ass out on the curb, have I made myself understood?

Jake/Phone: Yes, Ma'am, of course. Very sorry.

When she hangs up the phone, Blanchett exhales another long breath and slowly looks over to Sophie.

Blanchett: Sophie, why do you suppose the local super heroes are digging around my office?

Sophie: I... I don't know, Madame.

Blanchett: Could it be because they suspect me for something? Say, kidnapping, perhaps?

Sophie: I don't see 'ow-

Blanchet: When you retrieved our latest two girls, Sophie, did anyone see you? Could anyone have known you took the girls and connected you to me?

Sophie: I... I...

Blanchett: Speak up, Sophie! Did you f*ck up or not?!

Swallowing a hard lump in her throat, Sophie slowly bows her head and closes her eyes.

Sophie: I-I might 'ave, oui.

Smack!

Blanchett delivers a staggering backhand to Sophie's face, causing the young woman to stumble back against the sink. Sophie holds the edge of the sink tightly, barely able to maintain her balance as the sting of the blow flares across her face. Slowly, she lifts a hand to her now bright red cheek, and stares down at the floor, not daring to look her mistress in the eyes.

Blanchett: How many more times, Sophie? How many more times are you going to screw up?!

Coming forward, Blanchett reaches forward and grabs the sides of the woman's face, forcing her to look straight forward.

Blanchett: I saved you, don't you remember? I'm the one who gave you a better life. I raised you. I showed you love. And this is how you repay me? With utter incompetence?!

Sophie: F-forgive me, Madame. I-I will fix zis.

Blanchett: You had better.

Sophie sniffles, once again lowering her gaze and blinking the tears away from her eyes. Seeing this, Blanchett's demeanor suddenly softens. Leaning forward, she tenderly kisses the younger woman on the forehead.

Blanchett: My dear Sophie... you know how much I hate having to hurt you. But sometimes... you just don't leave me any choice.

Sophie: Oui, Madame, I understand. I... I'm sorry.

Blanchett: And I forgive you. Now, go and clean up your mess, hmm? Show those intruders what happens to those who mess with Michelle Blanchett.

Chapter #92

Int. Blanchett Limelight – Night

With a long, frustrated sigh, Becky pushes the bottom drawer of the desk back in with a loud slam. Rising back to her feet, she folds her arms callously across her chest and shifts her eyes over towards Ravager.

Becky: Fifth time I’ve been through her desk. There’s nothing here.

Ravager: I’m starting to think you’re right…

Moving the cursor across the screen, Ravager closes out of yet another dead end file. She’s been through most of the documents on the computer now, yet she hasn’t found a single piece of useful information.

Becky: I told you we weren’t going to find anything this way. No kidnapper is going to keep a record on their crimes.

Ravager: Normally, I’d agree with you. But consider the woman behind it. What possible purpose would Blanchett have to kidnap a bunch of children? She doesn’t need the petty cash she’d get from a ransom, and there can’t be any revenge involved since we’ve never crossed the woman before.

Becky: It could be for selfish reasons. Some kidnappers take children because they can’t have one of their own and they get desperate.

Ravager: Then she would have taken a much younger kid, probably a baby so she could raise it herself. It doesn’t make much sense to take a couple of twelve year old girls who know what you did and will hate you for it.

Becky pauses a moment, uncomfortably shifting her weight and glancing absently off to the side.

Becky: Well, there is another reason why some people kidnap older children…

Ravager: I know what you’re going to say, and I don’t want to think about it. But if that is the case, then there isn’t a damn place on this earth where Blanchett can hide from my wrath, that’s a promise.

Suddenly, the soft hum of a moving elevator finds their ears. Confusion setting in over them, the two woman slowly glance across the room at the elevator doors, to see the numbers above beginning to light up one at a time.

Becky: I thought you said the elevator disabled.

Ravager: It was.

She hesitates a moment, gaze drifting up towards the ceiling to a security camera pointed straight at the desk. A small red light glows next to the lens, indicating that the camera is up and running.

Ravager: And so were the security cameras. We took too long.

Becky: Time to go then, ah? I say we pay Blanchett a visit next. Her penthouse is just three blocks from here.

Lurching up from her seat, Ravager pushes the chair into the desk and quickly powers down the computer. In spite of their predicament, her body remains calm, cool. She’s been in far more nerve-wracking situations before than being caught breaking into an office. No cause for alarm.

Ravager: At this point, we may have to. Let’s just take of the wayward security guards first, then we can be on our way.

Becky: Now that I can do.

Ravager takes point, hurrying across the floor towards the elevator. The moment that it opens, she’s ready to strike. It’ll be quick, brutal, over before they goons inside have a chance to react. At least, that was the plan. One thing she should have learned by now, though, is that things almost never go according to plan. As the number fifty above the doors lights up, Ravager prepares to spring into the elevator and attack.

She never gets the chance.

Right when the doors begin to slide open, a powerful, invisible force pushes violently through the air and collides into Ravager’s chest. A surprised puff of air bursts from her lungs, as her body lifts off the ground and flies through the air, spinning wildly. She crashes through several of the nearby mannequins, shattering the fiberglass figures into countless, glittering shards. Shortly after she rolls to a stop, Becky comes to a harsh landing nearby, sliding straight into one of the abstract sculptures. The metal structure teeters momentarily, and then finally topples forward, landing with a crash atop her.

Becky: Alright…

Groaning, Becky pushes the sculpture off her with a single hand, sending it spinning into the wall next to her.

Becky: Wasn’t prepared for that.

Ravager takes a brief respite to gain her breath back, sucking in several large gulps of air. When the throbbing in her chest finally ceases, she pushes her way up to her hand and knees, then slowly rises up to her feet. When she looks back over to the elevator, she momentarily freezes at what she sees. Or rather, whom she sees.

Ravager: You…

Sophie: Oui, moi.

The woman takes several casual steps forward, calmly brining her fingers upward to straighten out her glasses. It’s the same woman from the park, Ravager’s sure of it. The hair is the same, the clothes are the same, the body type is the same… but now that she gets a real good look at her face, a strange grip of surprise begins to set upon her.

She looks… my age. No, younger. She can’t be out of her teens.

Ravager: You can’t be… Blanchett?

Sophie: Non, I am not Madame Blanchett. I am ‘er assistant, Sophie.

Becky: Well, Sophie-

Standing straight on her feet, Becky begins marching towards the woman. Her hands tighten to fists, arms lifting slightly in preparation to attack.

Becky: -you took two girls from the park today. So, here’s the deal. You tell us where they are and I won’t rip your freaking arms off.

Sophie: Non, I do not sink so.

Without even turning to give Becky a look of acknowledgment, Sophie lifts a palm and holds it straight out. Instantly, Becky lifts up from the floor and careens through the air with almost disturbing force into the wall next to her. Given her now considerable levels of durability, however, the impact barely dazes her, and in a short moment Becky is standing again.

Becky: Come on, is that the best you can do?

Ravager: Becky, calm down. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here.

Becky: She took the girls. I don’t care who or what she is, I’m stopping her right now!

Sophie: Zat would be most unwise.

Ignoring the warning, Becky sprints across the room again. This time, Sophie raises her arm and causes the metallic woman to fly straight upward, crashing violently into the ceiling. With another sweeping motion, she sends Becky plummeting back to the floor.

Ravager: That’s enough!

Slowly, Sophie turns her gaze, eyes locking onto Ravager.

Sophie: Non, not yet. You broke into Madame Blanchett’s private office. Now, you must pay ze price.

Ravager: We only broke in here because you kidnapped two innocent girls!

Sophie: I am afraid I don’t know what you speak of.

Ravager: Oh bullsh*t! I saw you at the park today. I saw you take my daughter and her friend. You’re going to tell us where they are and what you’ve done to them, or so help me…

Sophie: So 'elp you, what? What do you intend to do to me?

Becky: We’ll start by knocking those teeth out of your pretty face, how’s that?

Breathing in deeply, Becky slowly rises back to her feet. The actual pain is very mild, but a dull numbness spreads throughout her body regardless. Whatever force this Sophie woman had attacked her with is incredibly powerful, to say the least.

Sophie: What Madame Blanchett does is none of your concern, but I assure that you will not find 'olly or 'er friend 'ere.

Ravager stiffens at the statement, eyes narrowing coldly behind her mask.

Ravager: So then how did you know her name?

With a brief intake of air, Sophie’s mouth opens partially, as if about to speak. She hesitates, though, no words finding their way out of her throat. Instead, she pauses, thinking carefully and blinking in surprise. Eventually, her gaze lowers towards the floor, as she gradually realizes her mistake

Sophie: I… oh.

Ravager: Yeah, oh.

Sophie: Well, zis is embarrassing.

Ravager: Don’t worry; you won’t be embarrassed much longer.

Reaching down to her belt, she fumbles her fingers around inside one of the compartments momentarily. She pulls out a small, round pellet, cracks it open, and then throws it straight at the woman across from her. Sophie notices the tin object flying towards her and reacts instantly, holding up a hand to stop the pellet cold in the air.

Ravager: Becky, eyes!

A bright, blinding flash lights up the area, allowing only a brief second for Ravager and Becky to shield their eyes. Sophie, on the other hand, is unprepared for the flash, staring straight at the pellet when it goes off. She recoils backwards, stumbling over her own two feet and holding her hands up against her face.

Sophie: My… my eyes! I can’t see!

Ravager: That was the whole point!

Lunging forward, Ravager swings her arm forward widely. The sweeping blow strikes Sophie square in the jaw, knuckles cracking against bone. With a startled and pained cry, the woman falls back to one knee, clutching her cheek.

Sophie: P-please, I can’t… I’m sorry! Stop!

Becky: You kidnap children and now you’re sorry?

A scowl twists across Becky’s silvery face. She marches forward, standing over Sophie for a moment and then reaching down to grab her by the front of her blouse. Effortlessly, she lifts the woman up with one arm and then pushes her up against the elevator. The doors dent inward upon impact, eliciting a pained cry from Sophie’s throat.

Becky: It doesn’t work that way! You don’t just get to apologize and walk away!

Ravager: Becky, careful. Remember your strength.

Becky: Relax, I haven’t lost control. Yet.

Sophie blinks several times. All she sees are vague, hazy shapes in front of her. She squints, trying to better identify things, but her vision is only slowly returning.

Ravager: Why did you take the girls, Sophie?

Sophie: I… I do nussing unless Madame Blanchett wishes it.

Ravager: So then she’s the one who had them kidnapped?

Sophie: Oui… zem and many ozers.

Ravager: Wait, there’s more?

Sophie: Oui.

Becky: Why? What does she want with them?!

When Sophie fails to answer right away, Becky pulls her back a few feet and then once again slams her against the elevator doors.

Becky: Tell us!

Sophie: Please, I cannot say! Ze Madame will… she wouldn’t like it.

Ravager: Sophie, you need to tell us why Blanchett took them, and you need to tell us where they are.

Sophie: Non… please, I can’t.

Ravager: Sophie, it’s alright. You just need to-

Sophie: Non! I said, NON!

Another massive wave of invisible energy bursts forth, ripping Becky’s grip away from Sophie’s blouse. Uttering a surprise gasp, Becky tumbles backwards and smashes through several nearby mannequins. Ravager, however, receives a much larger impact. An unseen hand reaches out and grabs her, dragging her across the room. She tries to struggle against the vice-like hold, but there is no escaping it, not until it releases her of its own volition.

The large window wall behind Blanchett’s desk explodes outward in a cascading shower of glass shards, as Ravager crashes through it. For the briefest of moments, she hangs there, suspended in midair. Then, without warning, she plummets, fifteen hundred feet of empty, open air between her and solid pavement.

Becky: ROSE!

Springing up to her feet, Becky sprints forward towards the shattered window. She doesn’t think, doesn’t hesitate; she simply reacts. No more than three seconds after Rose began her descent, Becky leaps out of the building and follows.

Ext. Blanchett Limelight – Night

Ravager twists her body around in midair, looking downward at the rapidly approaching ground. With the air whipping around her so quickly, she feels as though she’s descending into a hurricane, a hurricane with a concrete bottom. Though her descent takes mere seconds, to her it drags on, feeling more like hours. All the while, her heart thumbs away in her chest, panic beginning to set in.

Not good, not good, not good!

It's the only thought she manages to formulate in her head, repeating it over and over again to herself like some kind of desperate mantra.

Becky: Rose!

A sudden flare of shock surges through her body. Twisting back around, she sees Becky plummeting through the air behind her, with her body straight and rigid, arms down by her sides. She descends like a missile, quickly closing the distance between them.

Rose: What the hell are you doing?!

Becky: Just... hold on!

By the time Becky reaches her, they're only a brief two seconds from impact. Instinctively, Ravager's body tenses up, preparing for her life to end in an explosive mess of blood and bone. But Becky grabs onto her tightly, and suddenly a cold tingling spreads its way across her entire body in an instant. In the last moment before they smack against the pavement, Becky flips them both over, so that she lands first with Ravager held in her arms.

When they finally hit the ground, the sidewalk shatters, opening up a small crater beneath them. Small chunks of concrete spray in all directions like shrapnel from a grenade, causing the few passersby to run away screaming, as if afraid they're under attack. No one's sticking around long enough to determine just exactly caused the miniature quake that just blew apart the sidewalk. Once they're gone, the street is empty. No cars, no people, just Ravager and Becky lying in a human sized indent on the pavement.

For a long, quiet moment, Ravager just stares up at the sky. She blinks a few times, not really sure if she's still alive. Then, slowly, she sits up. Though a dull pain throbs throughout her entire body, it isn't that severe. In fact, she's able to roll over to her hands and knees without much difficult. After taking another second to suck in several deep breaths, she glances down at herself to finally notice the hard, metallic shell coating her body. Within moments, however, the metal cracks apart and begins to melt down into a liquid-like state, dripping onto the sidewalk.

Ravager: Well, that's... nifty.

Becky: Hrrngh...

Slowly, Becky begins to sit upright. Having taken the large brunt of that impact, her body is in a worse state. The only plus side is that her body is now built to handle damage like that. Regardless of the intense pain flaring through her chest, she will be fine.

Becky: Madre de Dios... promise me we'll never do that again, ah?

Ravager: Right... promise.

Another soft groan of discomfort exhales from Becky's lips, as she leans over and holds her hand to the silvery pool in front of Ravager. Instantly, the same metallic shell around her own body begins to liquify, all merging together and then absorbing back into her skin. Now back in her normal form, Becky staggers up to her feet and sucks in a deep breath.

Becky: Okay, so we learned two things tonight. One, Blanchett definitely has Holly and Lyta, along with god knows how many others. We have find them, and we have to free them, no matter what it takes.

Ravager: No argument there. Come on, let's get out of here and figure out a plan.

Swallowing back a nauseous lump in her throat, Ravager rises back up to her feet again and arches her back, cracking loose several tight knots. Then, she holds an arm around Becky's shoulder and begins walking with her down into the nearest alleyway.

Ravager: So what's the second thing?

Becky: Telekinetics really suck.

Int. Underground Storage - Morning

Lyta sits next to Holly on the edge of the bed, staring down at her hands with a certain emptiness in her eyes. For the hundredth time, she splays her fingers and concentrates, trying to summon her magical energy, and for the hundredth time nothing happens. Finally, she gives up, hanging her head and burying her face into her palms.

Lyta: It's no use. I can't do anything.

Holly: Are you sure? Maybe you could-

Lyta: I said I can't!

Holly recoils slightly at the bitterness in her friend's tone. She doesn't understand the first thing about having magical powers or what it would feel like to have them taken away, but apparently it is a very difficult aspect for Lyta to deal with.

Lyta: I... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell, I just... if I could use my magic, I could get us out of here. Why can't I use it?

Holly: It must be the collar that Sophie person put on you last night.

Leaning forward cautiously, Holly gently pokes at the metal choker clamped firmly around Lyta's throat.

Holly: I wonder if I could...

Her fingers carefully grip the sides of the collar. Once she has a firm grasp, she brings her other hand up to take hold of the opposite side. Then, she makes an attempt to pull the thing apart, concentrating on seam where it comes together. Her fingers fumble briefly, pushing and tugging at the metal band, until suddenly she yanks it just the wrong way. A stinging electrical shock sparks to life, surging into her fingertips and through the rest of her body. With a startled yelp, she recoils backwards and stumbles to the floor. Lyta, too, suffers from the same shock, sliding forward off the bed and landing on her hands and knees. Unlike, Holly, however, whose pain ended the moment she let go, Lyta cannot escape the shock ripping into her body.

Holly: Lyta!

Lyta: It hurts! Make it stop!

Eventually, it ceases on its own, roughly fifteen seconds after it started. When the pain finally leaves, Lyta collapses to the floor and curls up into a ball, body shaking and twitching. Her eyes squint shut tightly, wet tears seeping out down the sides of her face. For several long moments, the only sounds she makes are frightened, pained sobs.

Holly: Oh my god, Lyta, I... I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to- I didn't know it would do that.

Crawling her way across the ground, Holly sits at her friend's side and gently lifts her up, holding her arms around the girl in a comforting hug. Lyta instinctively buries her face into Holly's shoulder, while reaching around with her arms to return the embrace.

Lyta: I don't like it here... I want my mom.

Holly: I know, Lyta... but it'll be alright. I'll protect you, I promise.

And abrupt slam interrupts their tender moment, as the door to the bedroom bursts open. A thin, pale woman with long dark hair steps inward. Her movements are elegant, graceful, as if gliding across the floor. Behind her, a more familiar woman follows. Sophie gives the two girls a brief, careful look, then immediately bows her gaze towards the floor.

Blanchett: Oh, good they're already awake. Saves us the trouble of getting them up.

Holly: Who are you? What are you doing here?

Blanchett: My dear, you don't need to know who I am. All you need to know is that if you do exactly what you're told, we'll get along just fine, and no one has to get hurt. Do you understand?

Holly doesn't answer, instead holding Lyta closer, defensively. Raising an eyebrow, Blanchett takes a step forward and holds her hands to her hips.

Blanchett: Don't feel like saying anything now, hmm? Fine, we don't have time to talk anyway. Sophie, see to it that they shower and change. We leave in an hour.

Sophie: As you wish, Madame.

Blanchett gives the two girls one more hard look, her eyes lingering over their bodies much too long for comfort. Then, she turns and leaves the apartment, swinging the door closed behind her. Sophie glances back over her shoulder briefly, before bringing her full attention to Holly and Lyta.

Sophie: Let's go, girls, time to get ready. We will be giving you a new 'ome very shortly.

Chapter #93

Int. Slaton Enterprises - Day

An ominous, foreboding silence hangs heavy over the office; a calm before the storm, so to speak. The blinds are drawn down over the windows, casting most of the room in shadow, save for a series of small slits of light. Pungent wisps of cigar smoke billow up form the used butts smoldering in the ashtray, choking the room in a thick, grey haze. Hovering over the desk, a man with slicked back, salt-and-pepper hair stares carefully at his phone in front of him.

This man, dressed in a clean pressed business suit, is Isaiah Slaton, an esteemed and highly accomplished businessman. Normally, he is quite the patient man, but as the afternoon drags on, that patience begins to wear thin. The call should have come an hour ago, yet that disdainful woman chooses instead to make him wait. He does so hate it when she makes him wait.

When at last the phone rings, Slaton narrows his eyes at the phone and slowly reaches out to answer it. His hand pauses momentarily, allowing it to ring several more times, until finally he decides to answer.

Slaton: I expected your call over an hour ago.

Blanchett/Phone: Yes, yes, so I had some things I needed to take care of. Besides, you’re a big boy. You can handle a little wait, can’t you?

Slaton: Do you have the shipment prepared?

Blanchett/Phone: Don’t I always? Quite the selection this time around, too. Our best in years, I’d say.

Slaton: Is that right? I look forward to… examining the product, then.

Blanchett/Phone: Just remember to keep your hands to yourself, this time, lest you spoil them. Remember what happened last time. Our clients don’t want to bid on damaged goods.

Slaton: You let me worry about that.

Leaning back against his chair, Slaton kicks his feet up on the desk in front of him and gazes emptily at the far wall.

Slaton: I trust you’ll be here in time?

Blanchett/Phone: Quite. My assistant is taking the shipment up there shortly so you can prepare them for tonight. I’ll be meeting you later.

Slaton: Your assistant… you mean that Sophie girl? How is she doing?

Blanchett/Phone: She’s a stupid, naïve girl… and yet, she’s my stupid, naïve girl. No matter how many times she screws up, I can’t stay mad at her.

Slaton: Hmph, if you ever get sick of her, send her my way. I wouldn’t mind a new… assistant.

Blanchett/Phone: Ha, you wish. She belongs to me, Isaiah, no one else. Even if I did get sick of her, she still has her uses.

Slaton: If you say so. I’m surprised, though, that you kept her around after she grew up. Last I knew, you preferred younger girls.

A soft laugh echoes in over the phone, followed by the slam of a car door. The familiar sounds of a busy city street follow.

Blanchett/Phone: Preferences change, Slaton. I raised the girl, pulled her off the streets. We have a… connection.

Slaton: Of course you do.

Blanchett/Phone: Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to be- yes? What is it?

Slaton listens carefully, sitting up straighter in his seat. He can hear muffled voices in the background, voices directed at Blanchett, but he can’t make out what they’re saying.

Blanchett/Phone: No, I don’t see what- hold on a moment.

The woman exudes an annoyed sigh from her lips, briefly bringing her attention back to her phone.

Blanchett/Phone: It appears I may be delayed a little while. Sophie should still be there on time, so be ready for her arrival. I’ll see you later.

A small frown slowly forms its way across Slaton’s face, as the line clicks dead. Breathing outwardly, he lowers the phone and places it back down on the desk, then casually leans back again in his chair.

So much to prepare for, and Blanchett feels the need to be ‘delayed’. She’d better have a good reason.

Ext. Silverstone City Streets – Day

Quickly slipping her cell phone back into her purse, Blanchett lifts her gaze at the two officers in front of her, eying them contemptuously. She doesn’t recognize them, which isn’t a good thing. Over the years, she’s managed to pay off quite a number of cops to leave her alone, but these two don’t appear to be one of them. Unfortunate, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Blanchett: Now, what is it you wanted with me?

Becky: We just need you to come down to the station with us, answer a few questions.

Blanchett: Am I being charged with something?

Stevens: No, you’re not being charged with anything. Not yet, anyway.

Becky: But we would hope that such a respected woman as yourself would be cooperative with local law enforcement, when requested.

Blanchett’s gaze shifts between the two officers curiously, as if trying to decipher their thoughts. Several moments later, she exhales a long sigh and lifts her shoulders with an indifferent shrug.

Blanchett: Very well, I have a little time to spare. If it’s all the same to you, though, officers, I’d prefer to take my own car; I can’t have some tabloid printing up a story of why I was being taken away in a police car. You can follow me, if you like, make sure I don’t flee.

Officer Stevens briefly glances over at his partner. Becky merely rolls her eyes and flippantly waves her hand, while turning to enter their squad car.

Stevens: Very well, we’ll follow you back to the station. I assume you know the way?

Blanchett: Why yes, I assure you that I do.

Int. Silverstone Central Police Station – Day

Blanchett sits calmly at the lone table in the middle of the interrogation room. She leans forward, opening her purse and pulling out a compact makeup kit. Without a care or concern about where she is or why she’s there, she casually begins to touch up her makeup, carefully examining her reflection in the mirror.

Rose: How long do you suppose she’ll stay that calm?

In the next room, the small team of Rose, Palmer, Becky, and Stevens stand around in the darkened interior, watching the woman closely from the other side of the large two-way mirror. While Palmer stands straight and stiff, his arms folded firmly across his chest, Rose and Becky lean close to the glass, eying the woman intently. This is the woman responsible for Holly and Lyta being taken. This is the woman they’re going to burn to the ground.

From the other side of the room, sitting lazily in a fold-up chair, Stevens widens his mouth in a long, tired yawn, before answering her question.

Stevens: Give it another hour. Maybe two. Once she starts sweating, then we can grill her for some answers.

Palmer: We may not have that much time. We’re holding her now, sure, but we haven’t charged her with anything. We can’t charge her with anything, not yet. Since she’s not being charged with anything, she’s free to leave at any time. If she decides to stop cooperating, we’re out of luck.

Becky: He’s right. We should go in there and starting talking her down, get her to confess and tell us where she’s keeping those children.

Palmer’s eyes slowly turn towards her.

Palmer: With all do respect, Chavez, I don’t think you should be questioning her. Technically, you shouldn’t even be on this case, since you’re personally involved.

Becky: But, Sir-

Palmer: No buts. You’ll have to sit this one out.

Rose: Then I’ll do it. I’ll have her talking in ten minutes. Hell, I’ll have singing.

Palmer: You’re not even a cop anymore, Wilson. You have even less of a chance of going in there than Rebecca. You’re lucky you’re even sitting back here with us.

Clearing his throat, Stevens begins to straighten himself in his seat. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but before a single word even leaves his throat, the Chief is on him.

Palmer: And before you even speak, Stevens, need I remind you that you have one of the worst track records in interrogation? I’m not letting you anywhere near that room.

Becky: Jueputa, then who’s supposed to question her?

Palmer: If the few detectives in this department weren’t busy on other cases, I’d have them in here. But, in the meantime… I’ll handle it.

When the door to the interrogation room opens, Blanchett quickly flips her compact closed and places it back into her purse. Sitting up straight, she smoothes out the front of her blouse and folds her hands in front of her on the table, while her eyes ever so slightly shift upwards to look at Palmer.

Blanchett: Afternoon, officer. What can I do for you?

Palmer: I’m hoping that you can answer a few questions for me, Miss Banchett.

Blanchett: Please, call me Michelle.

Palmer pulls up a seat on the other side of the table. He sits straight and rigid, arms resting calmly in front of him.

Palmer: Very well… Michelle. Now, are you aware that there have been a growing number of kidnappings in the city over the past few months?

Blanchett: Oh yes, I’ve heard about it on the news. It’s just awful, isn’t it?

Palmer: Quite. Did you also happen to hear that, most recently, two girls were taken from the park yesterday afternoon?

Blanchett: No, I’m afraid I didn’t hear that one. Sounds terrible.

The chief’s eyes narrow sternly at the woman. He knows a facade when he sees one, and this one is paper-thin.

Palmer: I have several eyewitness claims that one of your vans was parked outside the gates that afternoon. Reports also say that your assistant, Sophie I believe her name is, was spotted entering the park at around the same time those girls were taken.

Blanchett: Is that correct? Well, Sophie does love the park; I think she’s taken a liking to feeding the ducks at the pond. Between you and me, that girl is quite easily amused. I think she might be a little slow.

Palmer: And does she often visit the park in the middle of a workday?

Blanchett: My employees are free to do what they wish during their lunch break, so long as they’re back at the office on time. So, yes, I’d say it’s not out of the ordinary.

Palmer: And did you know that one eyewitness in particular claims she saw your assistant loading two girls into her van when she left?

At this question, a delightfully amused chuckle emerges from Blanchett’s lips. Forming a wide smile across her face, she leans back in her seat and folds her arms across her chest.

Blanchett: Well then I’m afraid that this witness must have been mistaken, because that is wholly impossible. I think I would have noticed if Sophie returned from her lunch with two kidnapped girls loaded into a van that we use multiple times throughout the day.

Palmer: I see. That’s interesting.

Carefully scribbling down a few notes on his notepad, Palmer presses his questioning.

Palmer: I say it’s interesting because we’ve been told by a very reliable source that your assistant all but confessed to kidnapping them. She even knew one of their names, when the story and the identities of the girls had not yet been released.

Blanchett stiffens in her seat, expression quickly souring. No longer is she smiling with amusement, but instead glaring with scorn.

Blanchett: I assure you, such a thing would be quite impossible. Sophie was with me all last night; I kept her working late, and she never left my presence. She could not have confessed such a thing to anyone without me knowing, especially considering she committed no such crime to begin with.

Gaze hardening even further, she slowly leans forward against the table, her eyes locking on coldly to Palmer’s.

Blanchett: Or do you mean to tell me that perhaps one of your little hero pets illegally broke into my building last night and coerced a confession out of her? Is that what you would have me believe?

Her statement causes Palmer to shift slightly in his chair. He crosses one leg over the other, tilting his notepad and writing down another few words. For now, he ignores her question and moves on.

Palmer: And where is your assistant right now? I’d like to ask her a few questions, as well, see if she can corroborate your story.

Blanchett: She’s unavailable right now; I have her running an errand. Even if she were available, though, I would not have her come down here to suffer such accusations, as I have.

Palmer: No one’s accusing you of anything. We’re just talking.

Blanchett: Insinuations, then. Either way, we are quite done here. If I’m correct, you haven’t actually charged me with anything, meaning, by my rights, I am free to leave when I want. You’ve already wasted enough of my time, and I have a very important meeting in Gotham tonight. So, if you’ll excuse me.

Pushing herself away from the table, Blanchett stands up quickly and grabs her purse. She doesn’t give Palmer a single glance as she storms out of the room, slamming the door loudly behind her. Once she’s gone, Palmer exhales a long breath and turns to look over at the mirror behind him.

Palmer: Could have gone worse.

From behind the mirror, Rose slowly glances over at Becky.

Rose: Did you hear what I heard?

Becky: Si. We’re going to Gotham.

Int. Rose’s Penthouse Suite – Day

Circe: You’re going to Gotham?

Standing there in the middle of the apartment, Circe watches as Rose quickly packs the Ravager equipment into a large, sturdy duffel bag. Becky lounges on the couch behind them, next to Ruby.

Rose: That’s where Blanchett is heading, yeah. Chances are, that’s where that Sophie girl is, too. If we’re lucky, they’ll lead us right to our daughters, and the other children. If not, we can corner them and get some real answers.

Circe: Then I’m going with you.

Rose pauses, looking up from her duffel bag and giving Circe a surprised gaze.

Rose: What do you mean you’re going?

Circe: You heard me. I’m not going to sit around again while my daughter is out there in trouble. How many times have I relied on you to help her? How many times have I sat back and waited for other people to solve my problems for me? Not this time!

Rose: But Circe… I mean, you’re not… you can’t…

Circe: Yes, Rose, I know I have no power, and no skill. Thank you oh so much for reminding me. You think I care? How can I be a good mother if I can’t even protect my daughter?

Rose: Circe… I get how you feel, really. But you can’t come with us. We already know that Blanchett has a girl with telekinesis trained to attack for her, and there’s no telling what else she’ll pull on us. You’d only be putting yourself in danger.

Circe: I told you, I don’t care! I just want to help my daughter!

Standing, Rose carefully walks up to the woman and puts a hand on her shoulder. She breathes out a sigh of understanding and looks deeply into Circe’s eyes, trying to offer some form of comfort.

Rose: I know, Circe. But you won’t be much help to her if you get yourself killed. We’ll find her, I promise.

Circe shrugs away from Rose’s touch, arms folding angrily across her chest. She turns her back, taking several short steps and glaring at the floor.

Circe: You’d better.

Sitting up in her seat, Becky offers a reassuring nod, hands clasping together in front of her.

Becky: We will, it’s a promise. Now, are we ready to head out or what?

Rose: Just a second, yeah. Ruby, think you can handle the city on your own for a while?

Ruby: I did when you were retired for three months, didn’t I?

Rose: Right, just help Palmer continue his investigation; see if anything turns up around here.

Ruby: You got it. Now, get out of here and go kick some ass.

Chapter #94

Int. Slaton Enterprises Basement – Day

The large elevator glide open swiftly, with an audible ding to announce their arrival. Cautiously, a group of twenty or so children shuffles out into the small lobby. The children range from age eight to sixteen, both boys and girls. They look around nervously and huddle close to each other, as though it gives them some semblance of safety. Some sob to themselves, terrified of their impending fates. They sniffle and blink their wet eyes, wiping away the rivers leaking down their cheeks. Others hang their head in silent contemplation, distant, broken expressions plastered across their faces. None of them speak, though. They've already learned what happens when they speak.

Sophie: Zis way, children, follow moi.

Moving quickly to the front of the group, Sophie waves them along. They largely hesitate, giving each other careful glances, until finally dragging their feet behind them and following. The lobby they move through looks like any other lobby you'd find in an office building like this, except for the fact that it's built underground. Two couches sit on either side of the central space, along with two end tables, both with stacks of magazines. Near the back of the room is a large reception desk, behind which stands a short, portly man with glasses. He leans forward, as the group approaches, and gives Sophie a welcoming smile.

Receptionist: Ah, Miss Blanchett's assistant, yes?

Sophie: Oui, zat is correct. I am 'ere wis ze shipment.

Receptionist: Yes, yes I can see that. Looks like a lively bunch this year.

Sophie: I sink our clients will be very 'appy wis it, non?

Receptionist: Well, go on ahead. Mr. Slaton is waiting to conduct his own personal inspection so he can determine how to organize tonight's auctions.

Sophie: Merci, Monsieur. Come, children, time is short.

As the group continues to shuffle its way forward towards the long corridor in front of them, Holly takes a few steps back. She reaches out to tightly grab Lyta's hand, then pulls her back in front of the reception desk. With the receptionist now preoccupied with his computer, and the girls both shorter than the top of the desk, they go unnoticed for now. Holly leans in and holds a finger over her lips, then quietly whispers to her friend.

Holly: Just follow my lead.

Placing her hands gently against the top of the counter, Holly suddenly jumps upward, pulling down with her arms and using her momentum to fling her body through the air. She lands on top of the desk with a loud thud, causing the receptionist to lurch back with a shocked yelp, his hand flying to his chest and eyes wide. She doesn't give him a chance to do much else, throwing herself out him wildly with her elbow swinging forward and cracking the man across the side of the face.

The receptionist stumbles backwards, tripping over his chair and plummeting to the floor. Holly is on him in an instant, landing on his chest and bringing both hands high above her head. With a viciousness the likes of which she's never had to show before, she brings her hands down and delivers two powerful chops, one to either side of the man's neck. His eyes go wide momentarily, before rolling into the back of his head, unconscious.

Lyta: Whoa.

Peering around the side of the desk, Lyta blinks in astonishment.

Lyta: Holly, that was amazing! You are so awesome.

Holly: Just did what I had to do... now come on, let's get out of here quick.

The two girls hurry back across the lobby towards the elevator. Holly's finger repeatedly clicks the button to make the thing open, each passing second feeling more and more like an eternity. When finally the doors open, they desperately stumble inside. Frantically, Holly pushes the ground floor button and then takes a few steps backwards, watching as the door closes in front of them. As the elevator begins to rise, Lyta utters a long, relieved breath, and smiles broadly.

Lyta: We made it!

Holly: Now we just need to get out of here and contact our moms. I know this city, too. I can get Batman here to help free the other kids.

Lyta: Wait, you know Batman?

Holly: Yeah, he and my mom are pretty good friends.

Lyta: Wow... sweet.

Suddenly, the elevator trembles. In seconds, the emergency breaks go on, screeching loudly as they grind to an abrupt halt. Holly and Lyta hold on to the sides carefully, looking up at the flickering light above them.

Lyta: Holly... what's going on? Why did we stop?

Holly: I... I'm not sure.

And then, the elevator plummets down the shaft. The girls scream in terror, certain that they're about to flatten against the ground when they crash land. Before the lift smashes into pile of twisted steel and cables, however, it rapidly begins to decelerate, coming to a slow and easy stop. Then, the doors fly open. An invisible force wraps around Holly and Lyta, yanking them through the air back out into the basement lobby. When they finally come to a stop, they hover there in midair, Sophie standing calmly in front of them. The young woman's eyes narrow at them in annoyance.

Sophie: You should not 'ave done zat.

Holly: Let us go!

Sophie: You are beginning to sound like a broken record, non? Repeating again why I cannot let you go would be, 'ow you say, redundant.

Lyta: Our moms are going to find us, you know. And when they do, they're going to hurt you.

Sophie: Non, I don't sink so. Soon enough, you bos will be 'alfway around ze world in a new 'ome.

Holly gives the woman a long look, tightening her jaw and swallowing a hard lump in her throat.

Holly: You don't have to do this... you don't have to keep hurting people. I know you don't like to.

A soft breath exudes from Sophie's lips. For a brief moment, her gaze shifts off to the side.

Sophie: You are wrong, ma petite... zis is sumsing I must do. Sumsing I must always do. For what it is wors... I am sorry.

Holly: Saying you're sorry doesn't make up for what you're doing.

Sophie: Oui, I know. But it is all I 'ave. Now come... Monsieur Slaton awaits.

---

Slaton paces slowly back and forth across the office floor, his eyes drifting carefully from child to child. His gaze lingers a little longer over the last two, the blonde girl and her violet-haired friend. Their attempted escape did little to delay the proceedings, yet it was still cause for annoyance. He'll have to keep a close eye on those two; they're trouble.

Slaton: You weren't exaggerating, Sophie. This crop is simply exquisite.

Sophie: Merci, Monsieur. Madame Blanchett and I utilized all our resources to bring you ze very best that we could find. I sink your clients will be most impressed, non?

Slaton: Yes, quite. Now, let's see...

Bringing a hand to his chin, he pauses momentarily to think. Suddenly, a twinkle of revelation comes to his eyes. He snaps his fingers and points at Sophie, smirking.

Slaton: Yes, here's how we'll do it this year. Organize them by age first, gender second. We'll bring them out two at a time, one girl and one boy, then let the bidding commence as usual. But, we'll add a buyout price to entice our clients to purchase each pair outright for a greater fee. Set the buyouts at a twenty percent increase over last year's averages, and we should be able to increase out earnings by a significant amount.

Sophie shifts slightly, holding one arm up to her shoulder and slowly nodding.

Sophie: Zat sounds... like a good plan. I'm certain Madame Blanchett will approve, when she arrives.

Slaton: Good, good...

He breathes in a deep, heavy gulp of air, then paces back and forth in front of the group once again, his shiny black dress shoes clacking methodically against the tile floor as he goes. After a brief second of contemplation, he begins pointing out various individuals.

Slaton: When you bring them to their chambers to prepare for tonight, pay special attention to her... her... him... her... him...

He continues pacing, eyes shifting back towards the end of the line. His icy, twisted gaze settles firmly on Holly and Lyta.

Slaton: And those two. I have a good feeling about them, so make sure to dress them up nicely.

Sophie: As you wish, Monsieur. Right away.

Int. Dressing Room – Day

Holly: I'm not wearing this.

Sophie: But you must.

Holly: I don't care what you say, I'm not wearing it.

Standing in the middle of the small changing room, Holly holds the white flowered sundress out at arm's length, as if trying to keep it as far from her body as possible. Her eyes glare contemptuously at it, a bubble of nausea building up in her gut just at the prospect of having to put something like this on again.

Sophie: Zis is what you 'ave been given to wear. Monsieur Slaton demands it.

Holly: I don't care what that bad man in there demands! I'm not wearing it!

Sophie: I don't understand, ma petite. Why can't you just put it on?

Holly: I told you before that another bad man did things to me a long time ago. Well he made me wear dresses just like this! Just looking at it makes me so... so mad... I am never, ever, never wearing another dress again!

Crumpling up the dress into a ball, she whips it across the room and then folds her arms across her chests with a pout. Her breaths ease in shakily, stuttering as she tries to calm herself down. She clenches her jaw tightly in attempts to fight back the growing numbness knotting itself in her throat, and her rage-filled eyes already glisten with small pools of tears that threaten to spill out down her cheeks.

Sophie: Euh... I see.

A brief, awkward moment of silences passes between them. Sophie shifts her weight, holding her hands out in front of her and clearing her throat.

Sophie: Is it... I mean, do you wish to talk about it?

Holly: No, I don't want to talk about it! I've already talked about it. I spent so long just trying to forget it. It's in the past. That bad man is gone; my mom killed him, and he can't hurt me anymore.

Sophie: Well, zat is a good sing, non? I am glad 'e is no longer able to 'urt you.

Holly: What the hell do you care?! You're trying to sell me off to someone else who'll do the same things to me! And not just me, to my friend, too, and all those other kids! Don't try to act all sympathetic and pretend you care! All those people out there who abuse us kids like this, those people you're selling us to? You're just as bad as they are!

For a moment, Holly's words have a striking effect on the young woman. Sophie recoils, as if physically struck, eyes going wide and mouth hanging open a little. At first, she appears stunned, unable to formulate a response. Shortly, though, her eyebrows cross and a scowl slashes across her face.

Sophie: I am nussing like zem! Zey are animals! Monsters! Zey... zey should all be locked up, or worse!

Holly: You're lying, trying to trick me. If you really thought that, then you wouldn't be helping them. You'd be trying to stop them.

Sophie pauses, blinking several times at the girl. With a huff, she crosses her arms across her chest and glares at the floor.

Sophie: I can't! I... I must listen to Madame Blanchett.

Holly: Look, I dunno what kind of sick hold you think she has on you, but you don't have to listen to her. You can help us.

Sophie: I wish, I could, ma petite... I wish I could. But ze Madame is... I owe everysing to 'er. No matter 'ow 'orrible she is, I... I cannot disobey.

Holly swallows a tight knot in her throat, sucking in a deep breath through her nostrils. Slowly, she shakes her head.

Holly: She really messed you up, didn't she?

No answer. Sophie merely bows her head, bringing her arms up to hold around herself. Then, she turns away and gingerly steps over to the door.

Sophie: I will... find sumsing else for you to wear.

Ext. Gotham City Streets – Night

Ravager paces frantically back and forth across the rooftop, brimming with anxiety the likes of which she hasn't known in a long time. She hates waiting around like this, hates not being able to do anything. Yet, she knows that she has to, if they want any hope of discovering where Blanchett disappeared to, and hopefully where the girls are being held.

Becky: Anything yet?

Ravager: Not a thing.

Becky: Well, it's only been five minutes. Maybe she's working on something important? Batman did say it might take a few minutes to connect you.

Ravager: I know, I know, it's just-

Suddenly, a shrill hiss of static blares loudly in her ear. It cuts out a moment later, followed by a strong, female voice.

Oracle/Comm: Well, as I live and breath. The infamous Ravager.

Ravager: And the all seeing Oracle. Pleasure, really.

Oracle/Comm: Batman tells me you're in need of my services.

Ravager: It would certainly be appreciated, yeah. I need to know where Michelle Blanchett is. She was supposed to be coming here for a meeting tonight, but we don't know where.

Oracle/Comm: And here I thought you'd give me a challenge.

Ravager: So you can help?

Oracle/Comm: Just let me run through my system files, see what I can dig up around the city. A high profile individual like that won't go unnoticed around Gotham.

Ravager: Right, thanks.

Giving a silent thumbs up to Becky, she casually turns over towards the building parapet and looks down at the city streets below.

Oracle/Comm: So, Dick talks about you a lot, you know. Says you've come a long way.

Ravager: Oh does he, now? That's funny, because he talks about you a lot, too.

Oracle/Comm: Is that right? And what does tall, dark, and mysterious have to say about me?

Ravager: Oh, you know, he says lots of things. I think I recall him mentioning that you'd look good in white.

Oracle/Comm: I see... and what exactly are you trying to say there?

Ravager: You're smart; you'll figure it out.

A brief pause follows, before Oracle's voice returns over the line.

Oracle/Comm: Ah, here we go. Michelle Blanchett was scheduled for a meeting at Slaton Enterprises tonight. From what I can gather, she arrived just a short while ago.

Ravager: Don't suppose you could give me the address?

Oracle/Comm: Already sent you the coordinates to your helmet's GPS.

Ravager: How did you...?

Oracle/Comm: You forget who you're talking to?

Ravager: Right... thanks.

Oracle/Comm: I also heard that you might need some backup. Had a nasty run in with a telepath?

Ravager: Something like that... but really, we're fine. There's no need to send any of your Birds.

Oracle/Comm: Oh, my Birds are busy with the mob right now. But I still found another couple of lovely ladies to help you out.

Ravager: Er... that's great, really. But we don't have time to wait around for-

Oracle/Comm: I already sent them to your position five minutes ago. They should be there soon. Play nice, now.

And with that, the line goes dead. Ravager blinks a couple of times, then holds her hands to her hips and slowly shakes her head.

What on earth does Dick see in that woman?

Becky: Uh, Rose?

Ravager turns her gaze. Becky stands just a few feet away, staring over at the other side of the roof, where a dark, caped figure crouches atop the parapet. Squinting her eyes, Ravager cautiously walks forward to get a better look at the woman. It doesn't take long to realize just who the new arrival is affiliated with, judging from the black suit, cowl, and bright red bat symbol across her chest.

Ravager: So... which one are you?

Batwoman: Call me Batwoman. Oracle said you two required aid.

Ravager: We don't require it... but I guess we'll take it. Where's the other one? We don't have time to sit around here.

That's when she's feels an ever so slight tug on the long hair coiling out the back of her helmet. Slowly, she turns her head to see another woman standing behind her and gently holding a few stray locks of her hair. This woman wears a suit and tie, trenchcoat, and fedora cap. Oh, and she doesn't have a face, either.

Question: White hair... curious.

Ravager: Please stop doing that.

The woman's fingers suddenly release their hold on Ravager's hair. Tilting her head up, the Question stares intently at her. At least, she thinks. It's hard to tell when someone's staring at you when they don't have any eyes.

Question: I think we know each other.

Ravager: Uh, yeah, you're the woman with no face... we met a long time ago, remember? You were trying to ask for Wonder Woman's autograph?

Question: I remember, but that's not what I meant.

Taking a few careful steps forward, Becky leans in close, blinking intently at the woman.

Becky: She doesn't have a face... why doesn't she have a face?

Ravager: Wait a minute... say something else.

Question: What am I supposed to say?

Ravager: I know that voice...

Of course she knows that voice. She spent three years around that voice in Nanda Parbat. Well... relatively, anyway.

Ravager: ...Renee?

Question: Question.

Ravager: Uh, yeah I asked you a question. What's the answer?

Question: Now that's a good question.

Ravager: Okay, now we're just wasting time.

Question: Are we?

Ravager: ...you're enjoying this way too much, aren't you?

Question: You have no idea.

Batwoman: Alright, that's enough.

Jumping off her perch, Batwoman comes to a soft landing and slowly straightens herself out to full height, cape draping around her body.

Batwoman: We have a job to do.

Question: To Slaton Enterprises, as I understand. Should be fun.

Chapter #95

Ext. Strees of Paris, France – Night

Ten years ago...

Store Owner: <Damn it, come back here!>*

(*translated from French.)

The bakery door bursts open, as the large, portly man races down the street. Snowflakes brush past his face, icy air stinging at his face. A short distance from him, a young girl with short blonde hair sprints away from him, clutching a baguette firmly against her chest. She glances back only briefly at him before quickening her pace.

Store Owner: <You have to pay for that!>

Soon, the distance between them grows. By the time she turns the street corner, the store owner has slowed down, leaning forward and pressing his hands to his knees. He takes in deep, exhausted breaths. By no means is he in the proper shape to be sprinting after a fleet-footed thief.

Store Owner: <Damn kids...>

The young girl gradually slows her pace down to a brisk walk. Already, the icy air begins to numb her throat, but at least she got away. Briefly, she pauses to look around at the people walking by, going about their business and paying her no attention. She doesn't come here often, to the nicer parts of Paris, but when she does she always takes time to marvel at the fancy clothes and expensive jewelery that these people wear.

<They're so lucky... To be able to afford such nice things, it must be... wonderful.>

But her? She can't even afford one lousy loaf of bread. Glancing down at the baguette, she quickly tears off a piece with her teeth. She chews the bread slowly, savoring the flavor. Even if it does taste a little stale, it beats digging through the trash for rancid leftovers any day. A small, tired sigh exudes from her lips, as she swallows, eyes drifting emptily to the ground. She knows she can't eat a lot of it right now; this single baguette might have to last her the rest of the week.

Turning another snowy street corner, the girl quickens her pace until reaching a particular back alley. She looks around briefly, making sure that no one is watching her. Of course, no one pays any attention to her. No one ever pays any attention to her. Quickly she darts into the alley, behind a dumpster and next to a large pile of empty cardboard boxes, with stacks of used newspapers nearby.

<I guess this will have to do for tonight...>

She carefully sets down the baguette on one of the cardboard boxes, while opening another and turning it on its side. Then, she spreads out a few of the newspapers inside it, creating a makeshift sleeping area. There should be plenty of other newspapers here to keep herself warm tonight... at least, she hopes so. The night is already cold enough, and with the snowflakes steadily drifting down overhead, it only threatens to get colder. As she grabs her long loaf of bread again and prepares to settle in for what is sure to be a very unpleasant night of sleep, several voices resonate from behind her.

Homeless Boy #1: <What do we have here?>

Homeless Boy #2: <Looks like a little girl lost her way.>

Homeless Boy #3: <That's a nice looking loaf she's got there.>

The young girl turns around in a panic, clutching the baguette close to her heart. The boys are older than her, maybe thirteen or fourteen, and much larger, too. It's an uncommon occurrence, homeless folk stealing from other homeless folk. On the streets, it's a constant struggle for survival, and sometimes you have to dirty your hands to see the sun rise again.

But she can't afford to go another week without food. The constant pangs of desperate hunger already burn uncomfortably in her gut. She needs this food. She can't let them take it!

Girl: <This is mine! You can't have it!>

Homeless Boy #1: <Don't make this difficult, alright?>

Walking towards her, he reaches out to grab the bread. A quick kick to the shins, however, abruptly forces him to jump back on one leg.

Homeless Boy #1: <Ow! Stupid girl kicked me!>

She wastes no time in taking hat opportunity to run from them. Turning tail, she sprints down the length of the alley, hoping desperately that she'll come out to another street where she can lose them. Unfortunately, these boys aren't as slow as the store owner she'd run from earlier. They're able to keep pace with her, even close the distance. By the time she turns the corner, they're almost on her. She can see the mouth of the alley ahead, can see people walking by down the sidewalk. She's almost there!

...and then she feels them on her. A blunt force explodes into her backside as one of the boys tackles her, dragging her to the ground. Desperately, she tries to hold on to her baguette, but the second boy effortlessly tears it from her arms, leaving her to clutch empty air. The third boy kicks her, hard. His worn, beaten shoe deflects violently off the side of her head, causing an explosion of bright lights in front of her gaze. She blinks, dazed, strength beginning to leave her.

Homeless Boy #1: <Stupid bitch! Should have just given it up!>

A second kick drives into her ribcage. She cringes, crying out loudly and curling into a ball. She's too young to handle pain very well, stomach already beginning to bubble with nausea. By the time the third kick strikes her, she's already sobbing and coughing in pain, wet, cold streaks staining her cheeks.

Homeless Boy #2: <Ha, look, we made her cry!>

Girl: <Stop it! Please... please stop it!>

Homeless Boy #3: <Gonna cry for your mommy? Go on!>

Girl: <I said... STOP!>

As her scream erupts into the cold winter air, a rush of invisible energy explodes from her body, rushing in all directions. Suddenly, the boys lift from their feet, flying like missiles into the wall behind them. One boy hits the wall headfirst, neck snapping with a sickening crack. His limp body tumbles back down, landing face first in the snow, unmoving. The other two boys, while shaken and in need of a change in pants, manage to crawl away in a panic.

Homeless Boy #1: <Sh-she kill him! The crazy bitch killed him!>

While the other boys scramble back to their feet and sprint out into the streets, the young girl slowly sits up. She blinks several times, a mix of shock and horror over what she'd just done twisting itself across her face. A cold knot forms in her throat, and she swallows it back with great difficulty. She cannot for the life of her tear her gaze away from the dead boy just five feet from her.

Girl: <How did I...? That isn't possible... what did I do?>

As she stares, utterly mesmerized by the boy's corpse, a silky smooth voice calls out to her.

Woman: Well, well, what do we have here?

The young girl slowly turns her head. Her heart skips a beat at the sight of the woman. Long dark hair, deathly pale skin, bright red lips, and such an amazing figure fit into the most elegant dress she's ever seen. Only one word can describe this woman.

<Beautiful...>

But her English is nearly non existent, and so the woman's soothing words go understood to her ears.

Girl: Que? Je ne sais pas Anglais.

Woman: Oh, of course, where are my manners? <Can you understand me now?>

Girl: <Yes... who are you?>

Blanchett: <My name is Michelle Blanchett.>

Girl: <You're beautiful.>

An amused chuckle finds its way out of Blanchett's throat. She curls her soft lips into a smile, while one hand comes up to rest on her perfectly shaped hips.

Blanchett: <Thank you, dear. And what can I call you?>

Sophie: <Sophie... my name is Sophie.>

Blanchett: <Well, Sophie, it is a pleasure to meet you. I saw what you did.>

Instantly, Sophie's eyes widen, expression contorting into utter terror.

Sophie: <No! I didn't mean to do it! I swear! They... they were hurting me, and I just got mad and... and then that happened! I didn't mean to kill him!>

Blanchett: <Calm yourself, Sophie. I don't care that you killed the boy.>

Sophie: <You... you don't?>

Blanchett: <Not at all. In fact, I care about you. I see that you have a very special gift, Sophie... I would like to see more of it.>

Sophie: <What do you mean?>

Blanchett: <I mean, I'm offering you to come with me.>

Taking a small step back, Blanchett motions towards the street, where a shiny black limousine is parked. The driver waits patiently, holding the rear door open.

Sophie: <That's yours?>

Blanchett: <It is. As a matter of fact, I was just on my way to the airport. I'm heading back to America, you see.>

Sophie: <You live in America?>

Blanchett: <That's right. If you like, I can take you with me and give you a new life. A better life. What do you say?>

Sophie: <I... I don't know if I should.>

Despite her apparent hesitation, however, Sophie's nerves are tingling like wildfire with excitement. The prospect of being miraculously taken off the street by a wealthy woman in a limousine is simply unbelievable!

Blanchett: <From what I can see, you have nowhere else to go. What do you have to lose?>

Int. Michelle Blanchett's Penthouse Suit – Night

Twelve hours later...

When the door opens, Sophie's eyes go wide. Never before has she ever had the opportunity to set foot in such an amazing, lavish home as this. She had seen glimpses of wealthy lives before, yes, but she'd never been a part of it. All that appeared to be changing, though.

Blanchett: <This I where I live. And as of right now, so do you. Do you like it?>

A huge grin forms its way across the girl's face. She runs across the apartment, carefully inspecting everything. Eventually, she finds herself in the living room, where she promptly throws herself down on the large, white sofa, snuggling against the soft pillows.

Sophie: <I love it! This is amazing!>

Blanchett: <That's good, I'm glad you like it. However, if you're going to be living here, we will need to work on your English.>

Rolling off the couch, Sophie stands up straight and gazes out the large window in front of her and at the Silverstone City skyline beyond. A brief moment later, she turns and hurries back over to Blanchett, throwing her arms tightly around the woman.

Sophie: <Thank you so much! I owe you everything!>

Blanchett: <You're quite welcome, my dear. Now...>

Widening a gentle smirk across her face, Blanchett reaches down with one of her hands and tenderly strokes the side of Sophie's face.

Blanchett: <...let's get you out of those old clothes.>

Int. Slaton Enterprises Bidding Room – Night

Present Day...

Blanchett: Sophie? Oh for Christ’s sake, Sophie, wake up!

Snapping out of her daze, Sophie blinks and lurches up straight in her seat. She pauses momentarily, glancing around the small, darkened room.

Sophie: Oui, Madame?

Blanchett: You were daydreaming again. Honestly, I don't know why I put up with you sometimes.

Sophie: Désolé... I will be more alert.

Blanchett: Good, because the festivities will be starting soon.

Taking in a deep breath, Sophie rubs her eyes. She can't believe she actually drifted off like that again; she'd been doing it more and more lately, fading out and daydreaming about the past. Blanchett doesn't like it very much when she does. Right now, though, she has to remain attentive. It's her job to keep track of the bids, after all, and she can't very well do that if she's half asleep.

Carefully, her eyes shift around the room, moving first past Blanchett, and the to Slaton, who leans back in a large leather armchair, one leg crossed over the other. On the table next to him, a spent cigar butt smolders in a filled ashtray, adjacent to a half empty glass of whiskey. As the coordinator of this annual event, he is full prepared for things to commence.

The room they're in is not a large one, just space enough for the three of them. The large glass panel making up the wall in front of them looks out into a staging area, some ten feet below. Encircling the staging area up above are ten more similar glass panels, each one leading into another private, darkened room. There, their clients have already arrived and await patiently for the bidding to begin.

Blanchett: How much longer?

Slaton: Five minutes. We're giving our clients a chance to get settled. Once they have their drinks, we can bring out the first pair.

Sophie: Who is ze first pair?

Slaton: How should I know? I don't bother to learn their names; that's your job. The only thing I care about is that they look nice and our clients place generous bids.

Sophie: Euh... oui, of course.

Going silent, Sophie returns her gaze to the table in front of her, specifically the glowing laptop screen. She watches the program carefully, as various indicators light up next to certain names. Within several minutes, each name is lit.

Sophie: Zey are all ready to commence.

Slaton: Good. Bring them out.

Down in the staging area below, the doors on the far wall slide open, revealing a young pair of children. Behind them, a muscled thug in a business suit shoves them forward. Though the boy is an unknown, the girl is strikingly familiar. No one possesses has such violet colored hair, after all.

Lyta stumbles forward to the center of the stage, followed closely by the other boy next to her. Her eyes shift around nervously, gazing up at the dark windows above her. She can't see any of them staring at her, but god she can feel them. Nausea abruptly bubbles up within her small, shaking body, as she swallows back a cold knot in her throat.

Slaton casually presses a small button on the side of his arm chair, activating a speaker system and allowing his calm voice to resonate over the PA system.

Slaton: Bidding for the girl will begin at two hundred thousand. One fifty for the boy. But remember, we've added a new feature this year. The buyout for the complete pair is two point five million. You may begin.

Lyta: No! Let us go! Please!

Of course, she receives no answer.

Lyta: I just want to go home! I just want my mom!

Sophie lowers her gaze to the computer screen again, trying not to listen to the girl's frantic cries. She has to concentrate on the bidding.

Sophie: Sree 'undred for ze girl. Two 'undred for ze boy. Four fifty for ze girl... six 'undred for ze girl. Four for ze boy. Seven 'undred for ze girl.... eight fifty for ze girl.

A sudden bell chimes in from the laptop's speakers. Sophie blinks, surprised.

Sophie: We 'ave a buyout.

Slaton's lips curl into a pleased grin.

Slaton: Excellent. Take them to the waiting room.

The large goon down below reaches forward and clamps his iron grip down on either child's arm, pulling them back towards the doors.

Lyta: No! Let us go! Don't do this!

Her cries go unheeded. Within moments, both she and the boy she'd been partnered with are gone.

Slaton: Bring in the next pair.

When the doors open again, a different thug pushes in the next two children. Holly glances back at the guy and glares coldly at him.

Holly: Quite pushing!

Slaton stares for a moment, rapping his fingers methodically against the arm of his chair.

Slaton: A schoolgirl outfit? Really? I specifically ordered this one to wear the flowered dress.

Sophie: Désolé, Monsieur... but she simply refused to wear ze dress. I had to find sumsing else for 'er.

A gruff, annoyed groan puffs from his lips.

Slaton: I don't like it; it's too... gimmicky. But too late now, let's get on with it.

His finger firmly presses down on the intercom button once again.

Slaton: Bidding will start at four hundred thousand for the girl, three hundred for the-

Holly: NO!

The young girl suddenly springs into action, throwing herself backwards at the guard behind her. Her attack is unexpected, taking the man by surprise. A surprised grunt escapes his lips when her elbow drives into the center of his gut, causing him to stagger down to one knee. Quickly, he reaches down to grab the gun holstered in his pants, but his fingers never even graze it. Holly's foot swings up sharply, catching him in the jaw and sending him toppling backwards. She's on him in a heartbeat, exploding her knee into the bottom of his jaw and snapping his head back hard. He goes limp nearly instantly.

Holly: You're not going to sell me!

Blurry figures appear in the darkened glass frames up above, surprised bidders coming forward for closer observation. Soon after, their muffled voices throughout the staging area, some shocked, some intrigued, and others angered. Holly takes several steps back to the center of the stage, looking up at the shadowy forms. The boy accompanying her, meanwhile, has taken to cowering against the far wall.

Slaton: As you can see, this one will require some... taming. Keep that in mind when placing your bids.

Removing his finger from the intercom button, Slaton instantly turns his gaze towards Blanchett.

Slaton: Get someone down there to restrain that girl. Now!

Blanchett: Sophie, if you would be so kind.

She doesn't respond at first, her eyes instead drifting down towards the defiant young girl down below. Eventually, however, Sophie does stand from her seat, while sucking a large, slow breath of air into her lungs.

Sophie: Oui, Madame, I will-

CRASH!!!

Without so much as an inkling of advanced warning, one of the glass window panes encircling the staging area shatters, exploding outward in a downpour of countless broken shards. Holly cries out, turning her body and covering her eyes for protection, but fortunately very little of the glass pieces reach her. With a sickening thud, a middle aged man with slicked back hair and a three thousand dollar suit slams into the stage, not getting up.

By now, the other clients are in a panic, faces pressed up closely to their windows and staring down at the mayhem. Smoke then begins to fill the room, a thick grey haze that rapidly obstructs a view greater than several feet in front of them. Slaton is on his feet now, fingers tightly digging into the arms of his chair.

Slaton: What the hell is going on?!

Blanchett: I don't know, I can't see anything down there! Sophie, damn it, do something!

Sophie: I- I can't see, eizer. I don't know what-

Smack!

Blanchett's backhand slaps violently into the side of Sophie's face, whipping her head to the side.

Blanchett: Then what good are you?!

And that's when the smoke begins to clear. Ever so gradually, the staging area comes back into view, complete with two figures that were not there when the smog first appeared. Standing back to back, with Holly safeguarded between them, are Ravager and Becky. Slowly, Ravager's gaze moves up towards the window panels above them, hands reaching up to grab the sword hilts crossing behind each shoulder. Becky simply pounds her fist into her palm, a sharp, metallic clank echoing across the stage.

Ravager: Alright-

Becky: -which one of you sick motherf*ckers is next?

Chapter #96

Int. Slaton Enterprises Bidding Room – Night

Holly's eyes instantly brighten at the sight of her mother. Even Becky came to help save her! Seeing both of them standing there, back to back and ready to put some serious hurt on, filled her previously desperate, frantic heart with a new height of excitement and relief, the likes of which she hadn't known in a long, long time.

Holly: Mom! Becky! I knew you'd come!

Becky: Damn straight we came. Now who wants their ass kicked first, huh?!

Ravager: Stay behind us Holly; we'll take care of things.

The doors at the back of the room abruptly slide open, allowing a small group of thugs to rush into the staging area. They each carry a small pistol, already pointed and ready to fire. Unfortunately, the poor b*stards might as well have brought popguns. Becky charges them, giving them no other choice in target. Bullets rip through the air, ricocheting harmlessly off her metallic skin and doing absolutely nothing to slow her down.

She clotheslines the first guy she comes to, spinning him through the air. His body crashes limply against the far wall, sliding back down to the floor with a sickening thud. She turns to the next nearest goon and sends her fish crashing into his face, effortlessly unhinging the man's jaw. By the time she kicks the third guy up through one of the glass panels up above them, the other guard turn tail to retreat.

Guard: Get outta here! They're crazy!

Becky: No you don't!

She gives chase, closing the distance between them in a matter of seconds. When she catches up, she tackles the first man she sees. They hit the wall, crashing straight through it in an explosion of steel and plaster. The entire floor quakes at the impact.

Ravager: Holly where are the other kids?

Taking her mother's hand, Holly starts tugging her along, leading her out the staging area doors.

Holly: They're back this way!

She pauses briefly, glancing over at the other boy nearby.

Holly: Come on!

Watching the group flee through the doors, Slaton moves quickly up to the glass wall in front of him, staring intently. His arms shake violently at his sides, hands curled to tight fists. Turning his head sharply, he glares at Blanchett, eyes burning hatefully.

Slaton: What the f*ck is this? Who are they?!

Blanchett: Just a couple of pests, nothing to worry about. Though, to think they'd have the gall to follow me here...

Slaton: Nothing to worry about?! They're ruining everything! Stop them!

Blanchett: Sophie, make yourself useful, for once.

Sophie: Oui, Madame.

The young woman immediately rises from her chair. Holding her arms out, she begins levitating her body towards the glass wall, and with a simple thought causes the pane to shatter outwards, allowing a clear path down into the staging area. Before she can pursue, however, the door behind them quite literally explodes inward, at the mercy of a mini explosive. Slaton dives to the side barely avoiding the projectile, but Sophie isn't so lucky. With her back turned, she doesn't notice it in time to get out of the way. When the door cracks across the back of her skull, she plummets ten feet through the air and lands with loud smack against the floor.

Blanchett: Oh for heaven's sake, what now?!

Two heads poke their way into the open doorway, one wearing a dark cowl with long red hair, and the other a fedora cap and no face at all.

Question: Looks like we got the right address.

Batwoman: I do hope we're not interrupting anything.

Slaton: Goddamn it!

Slaton's face twists into an even more intense scowl, as he reaches behind his back to grasp the gun ticked into his pants. But by the time he brings the weapon around to take aim the the two intruders, the faceless one is already on him, kicking it out of his hands. The Question follows up with a crippling palm strike to the bottom of his jaw, pushing him backwards. Her spinning roundhouse kick catches him squarely in the chest, launching him out of the open window and plummeting the ten feet down to the floor below. Twitching and coughing in pain, he makes no move to get up.

Question: Hmm, I think I may have over done it.

Blanchett: Sophie! Sophie, I need you!

The one dressed like a bat is already halfway to her. Blanchett stumbles backwards in a panic, throwing up her arms desperately to defend against the kick aimed at her head. While she deflects most of the impact, her feet twist together, balance escaping her. She reaches out, just managing to grab onto the side of the window frame to keep from following the same fate as Slaton.

Blanchett: Sophie, damn it! Get up!

Sophie utters a pained groan, rolling over on the floor. A heavy pounding assaults the back of her head, as she pushes her way back to her feet, but she tries to ignore it. Her mistress is in danger and requires her help, so she... she must go help.

Sophie: I am... on my way, Madame.

Batwoman: Lady, you really don't want to make this any more difficult. With what we got you on here, you're in for a world of hurt already.

Question: Actually, I wouldn't mind so much if she wanted to make it more difficult. I could use the workout.

Before they can make another move on Blanchett, however, the two crime fighters abruptly lift off their feet and rocket backwards into the wall. Sophie levitates back through the shattered glass wall, a single hand outstretched. For the first time since developing her power, her eyes bright blue glow while using it.

Sophie: Leave ze Madame alone!

The two woman struggle against the hold, but the grip is unyielding, pinning them firmly against the wall.

Batwoman: I take it... we found the telepath.

Question: Telekinetic.

Batwoman: What?

Question: She's a... mmf... telekinetic. Telepaths have telepathy. She's using telekinesis.

Batwoman: Please, what telekinetic have you ever come across that didn't also have telepathy?

Question: Well, that's... a good question.

Sophie: Enough!

Both Batwoman and the Question suddenly recoil, throwing their heads back and screaming. A sharp, electric pain begins to crawl its way up the backs of their spines, spreading through their skulls.

Question: And there's the... ggaaargh... the answer!

Blanchett: Sophie, that's enough. Stop wasting your time with those two, just put them out of their misery and go after the other two!

Sophie: Oui, Madame. As you wish.

Question: Any time, Kate. I know you... have something up your sleeve. You do have something up your sleeve, right?

Batwoman: You know me...

Gritting her teeth, Batwoman curls her fingers inward, pushing down hard on a small button on the palm of her glove. Instantly, a the sonic device built into her utility belt goes off, emitting a high pitched, shrill, deafeningly annoying whistle. Sophie suddenly staggers, hands coming up to her ears. She drops to one knee, squinting her eyes shut and screaming. Both the Question and Batwoman drop back down to the floor, the telekinetic hold releasing them. When they land, both immediately bring their own hands up to their ears, as well.

Batwoman: ...always with a plan!

Question: Not quite what I had in mind!

Batwoman: Hey, it got the job done! Let's finish her before-

Sophie: STOP IT! STOP IT!

And then, both women are in the air, again. This time, they hit the wall and go straight through it, landing violently back out in the hallway. The shrill siren abruptly cuts out, leaving the room in a cold, dead silence. Sophie sucks in several large gulps of air, slowly straightening herself out again and lowering her hands.

Sophie: It... it stopped. Sank goodness, it stopped.

Blanchett: Yes, that's.... just lovely.

Blanchett brings her hands down from her ears, staring carefully at the new hole in the wall. Her attention turns quickly, however, as she scurries over to the broken window pane and begins to lower herself down into the staging area.

Blanchett: Come, Sophie! We have to stop the others from escaping!

Int. Slaton Enterprises Basement – Night

The door to the waiting room bursts inward with a loud crash. The unconscious body thrown into the door slides violently across the floor until coming to an abrupt halt by smacking against the far wall. The group of children within the room run back in a panic, staring first at the unmoving thug on the floor, and then toward the open doorway.

Holly: Everything's going to be okay!

Running into the room, Holly waves her arms over at the door, calling attention to the two woman standing there. Almost instantly, the entire group shrinks away in fear. Ravager and Becky carefully step into the room, lowering their guard to clearly indicate that they mean no harm.

Ravager: We're not here to hurt you kids. We're here to help.

Becky: Si, we're gonna get you outta here.

The trust comes gradually, reluctantly. The children move forward cautiously, giving each other nervous glances. None of them want to go along with another couple of adults they know nothing of. What if these two women are just as bad as Blanchett? Or even worse? Yet, at the same time, they know they really have no other choice. They either trust oddly dressed women, or wait here to be sold.

Ravager: That's it, come on. Let's go.

Blanchett: No one is going anywhere.

All attention turns instantly back to the open doorway. Michelle Blanchett stands there, hips cocked to the side and a sinister smirk cutting across her face. Sophie stands next to her patiently, awaiting orders.

Ravager: You... I'm going to tear your teeth out one by one for all of this, you hear me?

Becky: Not before I do the same to her fingers. And arms.

Blanchett: Your threats are amusing, but petty. After what happened last time, I would have expected you two to learn. It appears I vastly overestimated your intelligence.

Ravager: Well that's the thing about us. We're slow learners.

Becky: But damned if we don't hit hard. Just wait until we get our hands on you, ah?

Blanchett: Too bad you won't. Sophie, be a dear.

Sophie: Oui, Madame. As you wish.

Int. Silverstone City, Circe's Apartment – Night

Circe's feet shuffle frantically across the floor of her apartment, as she paces back and forth. Hands clasped behind her, she keeps her eyes planted firmly downward, too engrossed in her thoughts to look anywhere else. A growing sense of nausea bubbles strongly in the pit of her stomach. It hadn't been much, at first, but now she's just about ready to double over and poke her guts out.

Something is wrong... I can feel it. Something with Lyta... She's in trouble, more now than before... I know she is.

Abruptly, she comes to a stop, standing still. A twinge of pain tingles in her chest, and in seconds she drops to her knees, hand clutching at her heart. This isn't a physical pain, though, no. This is something deeper. Emotional, spiritual, metaphysical, whatever the hell you want to call it. Something is most definitely wrong.

Circe: Lyta... please be safe. Please be...

As her words trail off, Circe slowly lifts her gaze, first at the wall in front of her, and then up to the ceiling. For a long moment, she just stares blankly forward, vision going out of focus. Eventually, her fingers clench into fists, and jaw tightens.

Circe: I am sick of this, do you hear me? I'm sick of waiting around in worry, useless. What kind of torment is this supposed to be, reduced to being able to only hope that my daughter comes back to me safely? I should be doing something about it!

No response comes, of course. She hardly expects them to be listening to her, of all people.

Circe: You know I'm not one to pray. And I know we never got along, not with any of you. But please... I can't do this any longer. If I can't protect my daughter... what good am I?

Another long pause descends over the apartment. Circe continues waiting, hoping – or rather, praying – that one of them will respond. As the minutes tick by, however, it soon becomes plainly apparent that her prayers are not going to be answered. Not now, not ever.

Circe: Well fine!

She bows her head again, holding a hand to her face and shrinking down closer to the floor on her knees. A numb, tight knot quickly forms its way into her throat. She can't even swallow it down, instead allowing it to sit there as she wallows in self pity and loathing.

Then, something extraordinary happens. A bright, heavenly light beams down at her, opening up from the ceiling. Circe lowers her hand in surprise, just staring at the the floor. She fears that if she looks up at the light, it will disappear, just an illusion. She can't bear to have that kind of hope crushed upon her. When the voice calls out to her, however, she promptly lifts her gaze in awe.

Awe. There's something I never felt as an all powerful sorceress. But now, I... there is no other word for it.

Athena: Circe. Your prayers have been heard.

She can't bring herself to speak for the longest time, only able to stare at the goddess' face looking down at her from the glowing beam of light above.

Athena: We understand you wish the ability to protect your daughter.

Circe: Yes, more than anything. I gave up my power, my immortality, everything about my past life, all so I could raise her properly. But what point is there in that if I cannot protect her? What kind of mother does that make me?

Athena: We understand your concerns. You are, however, still under close watch by the gods. In spite of your parole, your past crimes have not been forgotten.

Circe: I have lived up to my promise! I've done nothing criminal! Or spiteful, or cruel, or anything. I've lived to love my daughter. I... I have changed. For the better, I think.

Athena: So you have. The sincerity of your plea is genuine, and the goddess Aletheia confirms that you speak the truth about your intentions. You wish not to harm, not to maim, not to kill, not to control. Rather, you wish only to protect.

Circe: My daughter... she is my everything. I want to keep her safe. I must keep her save.

Athena: And so you will.

The light begins to glow more intensely, so strong now that Circe is forced to lift an arm upward to shield her eyes. No longer can she see Athena's face, as the light engulfs her, warms her. Soon, her entire body begins to surge with a sensation she hasn't known in a long, long time.

Athena: For the protection of your daughter, we grant you this gift, Circe. Use it wisely, for we will be watching.

Chapter #97

Int. Slaton Enterprises Basement – Night

Becky and Ravager hold their ground, preparing for whatever this woman decides to throw at them. When they fought before, they had been uninformed. Sophie’s powers had taken them by surprise, but not this time. This time, they know what they’re dealing with, and they aren’t about to give her a chance to get the upper hand this time. Ravager turns her body slightly to the side, shielding her opposite hand as it reaches down into a compartment on her utility belt. Her fingers grasp one of the flash pellets, which had been effective before.

From what Ravager could gather then, Sophie can only maintain her telekinesis when concentrating. Break that concentration, or keep her from being able to concentrate, and she loses her edge. This time around, she intends to break the woman’s concentration early and press a relentless attack, giving her no opportunity to focus. Doing that, they should be able to stop her before things get too out of hand.

Sophie: You two should not ‘ave come ‘ere. I sought that you would ‘ave learned from our last meeting, but now… zis will not end well for you, non?

Becky: Speak for yourself, chica. You don’t have a building to throw us off of this time.

Slowly, Sophie raises a hand and points it at them.

Sophie: I do not need to srow you off a building to ‘urt you.

Ravager: Neither…

Spinning her body around again, Ravager whips her arm and tosses the flash pellet. The small, round device rockets through the air, straight at Sophie.

Ravager: …do we!

This time, however, when the pellet reaches its target, Sophie catches it in a single hand and squeezes down. From the center of her palm and leaking through the gaps in her fingers, a bright white light surges briefly and then extinguishes. She then opens her hand and allows the spent pellet to plummet to the floor.

Sophie: Non, not zis time.

Both Becky and Ravager then abruptly fly backwards through the air. They hit the far wall hard, causing a web of thick cracks to slash across the concrete. Ravager clenches her fists tightly, struggling against the powerful psychic grip, but just as last time there is no way to break free. Becky has better luck, slowly and strenuously pushing herself away from the wall inch by inch. But before she can do anything to significantly resist the pressure pressing against her, Becky’s arms go limp, and once again she smacks firmly against the wall.

Blanchett: Excellent work, Sophie. Now, break their necks.

Holly: No, stop!

The young girl forward and stands with her arms stretched out at her sides. She knows what Sophie can do with that power of hers, she knows that her mother and Becky are in trouble.

Holly: Please, don’t hurt them!

Sophie: I… am sorry, ‘olly, but I must. Madame Blanchett-

Holly: I don’t care what she wants! That’s my mom and my friend you’re hurting!

Sophie: Zey got involved when zey should not ‘ave. It is zeir own fault.

Holly: Their own fault? They were just trying to help me! Because they love me! You’re the one who kidnapped me! You’re the one who’s selling children like slaves! This is your fault!

Becky turns her head, giving Ravager a curious look.

Becky: What’s she doing?

Ravager: Shh, let her talk.

Ever so slightly, Sophie hesitates. Her hand lowers, eyes gently narrowing at the girl.

Sophie: My… fault? Non, zis is… zis is not my fault. I just do what I am told! Ze Madame is the one who did zis, not moi!

Blanchett coldly turns her glare towards Sophie.

Blanchett: Watch your mouth, you stupid girl. You don’t talk to me that way.

Sophie: Euh… Je suis désolé, Madame. Forgive me.

Holly: Would you listen to yourself? Why do you let her talk that way to you?

Sophie: She… speaks like zat when I am out of line. When I make a mistake. When I… deserve it.

Holly: Why do you deserve it? Because you don’t want to take her crap anymore? Because you’re actually thinking for yourself?

Blanchett: That’s enough, girl. You’d do well to shut your pretty little mouth. Sophie, enough chatter. Just kill them already!

Sophie: I… I must listen to ze Madame… she saved me. She raised me… she loves me.

Holly: You call that love? She yells at you, she hits you, she… she did other bad things to you… that’s not love, Sophie. That’s abuse.

Sophie’s hand lowers even more, now barely raised up past her waist. The psychic hold on both Ravager and Becky slips, sliding them back down towards the floor, yet not completely releasing them yet.

Blanchett: Don’t you listen to her, Sophie!

Holly: My mom says that if you love someone, you should never hurt them. But if for some reason you do, you should always apologize. How can she love you if she always hurts you and never apologizes?

Sophie: I… I don’t…

Blanchett: Sophie… I order you to attack them. Now!

Holly: She’s just using you, Sophie… she abused you and manipulated you for years, and now you're just a weapon for her… but you don’t have to be just a weapon. You can be your own person.

Blanchett: That’s it!

Moving forward, Blanchett reaches into the back of her skirt and pulls out a small handgun. It isn’t big or flashy, but it’ll still kill just as well as any other. She brushes past Sophie, giving the young woman a harsh shove.

Blanchett: Stupid girl, you can be so useless sometimes. Goddamn waste of space, that’s what you are. Have to make me do everything.

Then, Blanchett aims the gun forward, pointing it straight at Holly’s face. The girl goes stiff, eyes widening.

Ravager: No! Don’t-

BLAM!

Ravager: HOLLY!

Holly cowers back, arms raised up in a desperate attempt to protect herself from the shot. She stands there for several moments, before slowly lowering her arms and peeking her eyes open. She doesn’t feel like she’s just been shot… in fact, she feels no pain at all. She soon realizes exactly why, as she notices the bullet from gun hovering in midair, still spinning rapidly, just six inches from her.

Sophie: Non! I won’t let you ‘urt zem!

Blanchett: Sophie, what the hell are you going?!

Sophie: Sumsing I’ve always been too afraid to do. Until now.

With a sweep of her arm, the bullet suddenly changes course and rifles its way through the air. Blanchett has no time to react before the projectile rips into her shoulder and clean out the other side. A shocked, pained cry erupts from her throat as she crumbles to the floor. She clutches at the wound tightly, but can do nothing to stop the bleeding.

Blanchett: Damn it! Sophie, how could you… aaargh!

Sophie stands over the fallen woman. A scowl quickly forms its way across her face, wet, angry tears already beginning to leak down her face.

Sophie: You promised to take care of me! You said… you said you would give me a better life!

She extends a hand, pointing her palm downward. Blanchett’s body instantly lifts upwards several feet, only to then come crashing back down with astonishing force. The bleeding woman screams, face twisting with agony.

Sophie: You said you loved me! You said I would be ‘appy!

Once again, Blanchett hovers upwards, then slams against the floor.

Sophie: But I was miserable! You ‘urt me! You abused me! But I… I never said anysing. I sought I owed you sumsing for taking me off ze streets. I convinced myself zat I deserved everysing you did to me…

The third time Blanchett crashes into the floor, her body starts going limp, twitching. She blinks sporadically, gazing up with a blank, glazed over look on her face.

Sophie: …every time you 'it me, every time you… you touched me, I had to say to myself… Zis is just sumsing I’m supposed to do. You saved me, so I 'ave to… 'ave to let you do zese sings to me…

This time, Sophie raises her arm and sends Blanchett higher into the air, well above her head.

Sophie: But zat wasn’t right. None of it was. You took… advantage of me. You did… ‘orrible sings to me. You are a bad woman, Madame… a very, very bad woman.

Just as Sophie prepares to bring her arm down and send Blanchett slamming into the floor one final time, she feels a gentle hold on her wrist. Her gaze shifts slightly, slowly coming down to see Holly standing there.

Holly: It’s okay, Sophie. You don’t have to hurt her anymore.

Sophie: But she… she deserves it. For everysing she did to me, she…

Holly: I know. Believe me, I know. But killing her doesn’t solve anything. You stood up to her, and that’s enough… she can’t hurt you or anyone else again.

Sophie pauses, gradually bringing her hand down. Blanchett’s battered body follows suit, coming to a gentle rest on the floor. A numb lump suddenly knots in her throat, accompanied by a nauseous wave of remorse and guilt.

Sophie: I am… so sorry, ‘olly… for everysing I did, I…

And then, Sophie collapses down to her knees. She buries her face into her hands, shrinking down and sobbing. Holly doesn’t even hesitate. She moves forward and warmly wraps her arms around the woman, a selfless offer of comfort and compassion.

Holly: It’s okay… everything will be okay. I promise.

Ravager slowly walks forward, arms folded across her chest. Standing next to her, Becky watches the scene closely for a long moment.

Becky: That really is one special girl you got there.

Ravager: Yeah… she really is.

Soon, two other figures appear in the doorway. They look around inside the room briefly, carefully observing.

Question: Hmm, looks like we missed the party.

Ravager: Hey, how did things go on your end?

Batwoman: Took down everyone still floating around. Got Slaton and his clients tied up and waiting for the Gotham PD to find them.

Ravager: Good… then we can finally get these kids out of here and end this nightmare.

Becky: Uh… Rose?

Becky’s eyes dart around the room frantically. She turns several times, carefully inspecting each child in the room.

Ravager: What is it?

Becky: I don’t see Lyta anywhere.

Ravager’s heart skips a beat, leaping up into her throat. She, too, now scans the group of children for any sign of Circe’s daughter. But, just like Becky, she finds nothing.

Holly: Lyta… oh no. She went ahead of me. Someone already bought her before you guys got here!

Becky: What?

Ravager: F*ck! So then where is she now?!

Sophie slowly looks up at them, rubbing her fingers into her wet eyes in attempts to dry them.

Sophie: She… she would have been brought back ‘ere to wait for ze one who purchased ‘er. But, if… if ze buyer already came to take ‘er, zen… zen she is gone.

Ravager: No… no, no, no, no! How do we find her? How do we get her back?!

Sophie: I… I don’t know. Ze clients always kept zeir identities anonymous, and Monsieur Slaton’s system designed zeir bank transfers to be untraceable.

Becky: What are you saying? That we have no way of finding her now?

Sophie: Oui… zeir is no way I know of to get ‘er back now.

Ext. Gotham City Airport – Night

The limousine pulls up to a stop on the tarmac, just a short distance away from the small, private jet. When the driver opens the side door, a firm hand pushes the two kids out. Lyta stumbles to her hands and knees momentarily, while the boy, Nathan, falls flat on his face. Sliding out of the vehicle, the tall man looks down at the pathetic sight and shakes his head.

Esteban: Get up. We’re leaving in five minutes.

This man is Esteban Juarez, a very rich and powerful man in his home nation of Mexico. Though playing the part of clean businessman, most of his funds come from the local drug trade, a system he’s managed to amass near total control of.

Lyta: No… please, I just want to go home.

Esteban: You are going home. Your new home. Don’t worry, niña chiquita, you will be very happy. I’ll take care of you. Both of you.

Nathan slowly pushes his way back up to his feet. He shivers, panic and fear spreading through him like wildfire. Briefly, he contemplates making a break for it, but then his eyes catch sight of the large gun holstered to the man’s waist and he promptly reconsiders.

Nathan: Why are you doing this?

Esteban: Because, I bought you fair and square, si? You are mis hijos, now. You will come to like it, in time. I have others like you back home, too. Muchos amigos for you. Now, get on the plane!

Suddenly, the sky opens up with a boom of thunder and lightning, with no clouds and no warning of any such weather. Esteban shields his himself with his arms, as a hot bolt of lightning strikes the ground in front of them. A woman stands in its wake, appearing seemingly out of thin air. Her long, pinkish hair flows elegantly in the wind, along with the long, revealing robes that adorn her body. Esteban stares in wonder, taking several cautious steps backwards.

Circe: They’re not going anywhere with you.

Esteban: Qué diablos?

Lyta: Mom!

Circe: Yes, Lyta, it’s me. Stand back, while I deal with this insect.

As Circe advances forward, Esteban pulls his gun and aims it at her. With a simple have of her hand, the gun instantly melts down into liquid metal. Esteban recoils, pulling his hand back and screaming in pain as the hot metal burns the flesh away from his hand.

Esteban: El diablo! El diablo!

Circe: No, I'm not the devil.

With a simple snap of Circe's fingers, the man collapses to the ground screaming. Countless skin boils begin springing up across his face and hands, some bursting within seconds and leaking thick, white pus.

Circe: But I'm certainly no angel, either.

Esteban: No... no please... I beg you!

Circe: Begging will get you nothing from me.

Raising her hands, a surge of crackling energy jumps between her fingertips and brightens up the night air. Esteban desperately crawls backwards, whimpering as each motion causes another boil to pop and ooze.

Esteban: No! NO!!!

Thirty seconds later...

Circe lowers her hands, turning away from the charred mess on the tarmac. The only thing left of Esteban now is the horrible smell of melted flesh and singed hair. And now, with her daughter safe, Circe's appearance alters. Her clothing magically morphs from flowing, sorceress robes, back into a pair of plain blue jeans and a white sweater. Lyta cautiously approaches, gazing in wonder up at her mother.

Lyta: Mom? You... you have you power back?

Circe: Yes, so long as it is to protect you, dear child.

Dropping to one knee, Circe holds her arms out and smiles a broad, warm smile. Lyta returns the grin, running forward and lunging into her mother's arms.

Lyta: I love you, Mom. So much, you have no idea.

Circe: Oh, I believe I have some idea.

Holding her arms around her daughter, Circe leans forward and gently kisses the girl's forehead.

Circe: I love you just as much, after all.

Nathan, the other kid present, stares blankly at the woman, having no idea what to say or do around her. He did just witness her fry a man into ash, though considering the man had been about to take him and the other girl on a plane to who knows where, he isn't all that broken up about it. Still, his lips simply refuse to move. When she finally looks over at him, he stiffens up straight, arms tightening at his sides.

Circe: What's your name?

Nathan: N-Nathan...

Circe: Hmm, a fine name. Would you like to go home, Nathan?

He slowly nods his head up and down, eyes still wide.

Nathan: Y-yes... I miss my parents.

Circe: Then let's get going. I believe I can call a cab.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Morning

Rose sits forward on the sofa, head buried in her hands. Becky stands next to her, arms folded and foot tapping methodically against the floor, while Holly curls herself up on the armchair.

Becky: Still nothing?

Rose: Nope. She's not answering her phone.

A long, exhausted breath seeps out of her throat. She lifts her eyes, yes dropping tiredly.

Rose: All the better, I suppose. Telling her that we couldn't find her daughter... probably something that should be done in person.

Becky: Si...

A long moment of silence passes over the living room. Shifting her weight tiredly, Becky abruptly plops herself down on the couch. She reaches an arm around Rose, holding the woman close.

Becky: You think that Sophie girl will be alright?

Rose: I hope so... can't imagine how messed up she is after a decade of abuse. With any luck, the therapy sessions will help sort her head out, now that she's free of Blanchett.

Becky: Should have just sent her to Belle Reve or something.

Rose: No, she deserves a chance to be her own person. Any crimes she committed were a direct extension and result of her abuse. Holly showed us that much.

Turning her head calmly, Becky gives the sleeping girl a long look.

Becky: So she did.

A knock at the door suddenly draws their attention away. Rose blinks, glancing back over her shoulder at the front door. With a tired yawn, she reluctantly stands up from the couch and ambles slowly down the hallway.

Rose: Who on earth could that be this early?

Becky: I don't suppose a pizza man would be too much to hope for, ah? Dios, I'm starving.

When she opens the door, however, they're greeted to the sight of Circe standing tall and calm. Rose's gut twists with a knot of anxiety, knowing now that she'll have to inform the woman about Lyta. She isn't looking forward to it by any means.

Rose: Circe...

But before she can get the words out, another individual appears. Lyta pokes her head into view, looking around her mother and into the apartment.

Lyta: Is Holly awake?

Rose: Wh-wha? Lyta! You're- I mean, you- how...?

Lyta: My mom's pretty much awesome, that's how.

Circe: We'll explain everything shortly, though first I could use some breakfast. May we come in?

Rose blinks dumbly several more times, until finally shaking out of her daze. An exasperated breath finds its way out of her throat, as she steps back and waves them inside, smiling widely.

Rose: Of course, come on in.

5 Comments

Rose Wilson: The Ravager - Under Siege: Part 2 (#83-88)

Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy/Ruby, Jeremiah Belmont, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.

Rating: T+

Note: This is it, the epic, final showdown between Ravager and her greatest enemy!

Side Note: Just two more story arcs left to go. As a little preview, the next story arc will focus on Holly, while the final arc ties up some loose ends concerning Rose's family. After that, there'll be a couple more final chapters to end the series.

All Chapters: http://www.comicvine.com/forums/fan-fic/8/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/660884/#1

Chapter #83

Ext. Silverstone Loading Shipping Docks – Night

The night is uncharacteristically cool for summer, especially considering that the last few nights have been unbearably humid. That makes it the perfect night for criminal scum to come out and do their dirty work. For example, the weapon smugglers currently unloading a huge shipment from a nondescript cargo ship down at the docks. While some of the smaller creates are unloaded by hand, most of the larger containers are being hoisted down by a crane to be moved by loading trucks into the nearby holding yard.

The smugglers have come well prepared for any surprises, too, every one of them armed with an automatic weapon of some sort. Should anyone be stupid enough to stop by and try to uncover their operation, they will simply make that person disappear, doesn't matter who it is. With hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cargo, they aren't about to let themselves get caught. Of course, the most they figure that they'll have to deal with is a wayward cop or two coming to check out suspicious activity.

Smuggler: Easy, easy!

The man standing down at the dock directing the crane throws his arms up as an urge for the man operating the crane to slow down. If the guy isn't careful, he could drop the massive shipping container and do who knows what kind of damage, not only to the dock but also the only truck that they have to move it.

Smuggler: Alright, take it down nice and slow! Slowly... slowly... alright, good. Set it down and release.

When the container comes to a firm rest on the back of the truck, the crane releases it and then moves on to the next one, as the truck drives off to the yard to be unloaded by a second crane. Releasing a small breath, the smuggler adjusts the strap of his uzi around his shoulder and waits for the next container to come down. He doesn't wait long, though, before someone suddenly interrupts him.

Apathy: My, my, what's this? A party I wasn't invited to?

The smuggler, along with the several other men standing nearby, all suddenly turn towards the cloaked woman and raise their weapons at her.

Smuggler: Who the hell are you supposed to be?

Apathy: Just a concerned citizen, that's all. Kinda wondering what all the suspicious activity is about. A little late to be unloading cargo, wouldn't you say?

Smuggler: Big mistake on your part, b*tch! Take her out!

The men all briefly pull the triggers of their weapons, unloading a small burst fire. However, their bullets hit nothing but air, as the woman vanishes instantly in a puff of smoke.

Smuggler: The f*ck? Where the hell did she go? Tell me I'm not the only one who saw that!

Apathy: Nah, you all saw it.

The group turns around behind them now to see the woman standing there. They try to bring their weapons up again, but for some reason they can't. For some reason, they start to feel themselves relaxing.

Apathy: Feeling good yet, boys? Nice and calm?

In seconds, the men are standing there straight with their weapons lowered and eyes drooping. Apathy comes forward, raising her hands and tapping each of them on the forehead.

Apathy: Go on, take a nap. You guys deserve it, working so hard.

They drop one by one, so incredibly relaxed and at peace that they begin to drift off into a calm, dreamless sleep. Apathy waits a moment, holding her hands to her hips, and then nods to herself in congratulations.

Apathy: I'd say that does it.

A short moment later, another figure appears, coming out of the shadows of the shipping yard.

Ravager: It's like you don't even need me.

Turning her gaze, Apathy smirks from behind her darkened mask.

Apathy: Nah, of course I need you. Who else is gonna be my lookout?

Ravager: Very funny.

Apathy: I take it you took care of the stragglers, then?

Ravager: All the ones I could find. A couple over in the yard, the guy working the crane, and a few more up on the ship. They won't be waking up for a while.

Apathy: Ha, that'll teach these loonies to bring illegal weapons into our city, ain't that right?

Folding her arms across her chest, Ravager tilts her head to the side a little and shifts her weight.

Ravager: Well, it might be good to at least check and make sure they were smuggling weapons. I mean, you took a bit of a leap of faith in making that guess.

Apathy: Please, have I been wrong yet?

The two head over to the nearest shipping container, remove the chains holding the doors closed, and then open it to take a look at the contents inside. Inside, there is a large assortment of various weapons, including rows of assault rifles, boxes of grenades, RPGs, plastic explosives, and a whole lot more. Apathy slowly turns her head and gives her a knowing look that, even without seeing her face, Ravager can feel exuding a playful smugness.

Apathy: So, you were saying?

Ravager: I was saying, let's give Palmer a call and get a squad down here to clean up the scene.

Apathy: That's what I thought.

Closing up the container again, Ravager and Apathy walk back towards the street together, where Ravager's bike is waiting. She can't exactly recall what number bike this is... something like the fifth one she's been through. At least Batman never questions it whenever she needs a new one.

Apathy: So, you about ready to call it a night?

Ravager: Yeah, I think so. I've punched enough thugs for one day.

Apathy: Ah, good. Then we can head over to that 24 hour coffee shop and maybe grab something. How's that sound?

Slowly turning her head, Ravager considers the suggestion for a moment before making a counter.

Ravager: Or we could just skip the coffee and head back to my place.

Apathy: Hmm, I don't know. It is rather late, and if we're going to be up for another couple of hours, I may need the caffeine first.

As Ravager mounts her ride and takes holds of the handlebars, she lets out a small chuckle.

Ravager: There are other ways to keep each other up than caffeine, you know.

Getting on the seat behind her, Apathy moves forward and holds her arms around Ravager's midsection, pulling herself tightly up against the woman.

Apathy: So there are. Alright then... skip the coffee. Straight to the fun stuff.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Night

Though the clock reads past four in the morning, Rose and Ruby are still wide awake, both lying in bed atop the covers and breathing heavily, sweat beading across their bodies. The night might be cool outside, but the inside of the bedroom is stifling.

Ruby: Alright, so maybe you had a good idea in skipping the coffee.

Rose: I told you. Who needs caffeine when you have... well, that?

A small laugh finds its way out of Ruby's throat, as she rolls over on top of Rose and gives her a gentle kiss.

Ruby: True enough, I suppose. But, you're sure that Holly couldn't hear us? I mean, I'd hate to wake her at this hour. Especially with what we were doing...

Rose: Relax. Like I've already told you three times, the walls are completely soundproof.

Ruby: Well, if you say so. I still can't help but worry a little bit, though. I mean, have you even had the talk with her yet?

Lifting her eyebrows, Rose raises one of her arms and holds it around Ruby's waist.

Rose: Are you kidding me? I didn't have to have the talk with her.

Ruby: What do you mean?

Rose: The thing about Holly is... well, she's very smart for her age. Mature, too. She sort of figured out a lot of it herself. I mean, sure she still had some questions, and I answered them, but you'd be surprised at how naturally she acquired in the information.

Ruby: Really? So she learned about the birds and the bees all on her own?

Rose: And the birds and birds. And the bees and the bees. Then again, being around Rebecca and I probably had some influence on that part.

Ruby chuckles again, holding herself up on her arms and looking down at Rose.

Ruby: And she learned this from... what exactly? Television? Magazines? Oh god, not the internet, I hope.

Rose: Books, mostly.

Ruby: And do you often keep books about sex lying around this place?

Rose: I honestly couldn't tell you what books or from where. All I know is that when I asked her where she learned all of it, she told me she read it in a book.

Ruby: Ha, you don't say. Saved you from some awkward conversations in the future, though, didn't it?

Rose: You see, it pays to have a smart kid.

Of course, there is another reason why Holly knows so much about it, a much darker reason concerning her past with Pavoni. Rose doesn't mention any of this, though. It's not something she wants to bring up right now, and it would just ruin a good moment.

Smirking, Ruby leans down to give Rose another kiss, then gently rests her head against the woman's chest. She closes her eyes, taking in a deep, steady breath.

Ruby: So, got the day off tomorrow, right? Any plans?

Rose: Yeah, actually. Holly and I are taking a trip up to Whitmore Cemetery in the afternoon to visit Becky's grave. We go there every month.

Ruby: Ah, that's sweet.

Rose: You're welcome to come along if you want. I mean, if you have nothing better to do.

Opening her eyes again, Ruby calmly glances up at Rose and smiles.

Ruby: Please, there's nothing I'd rather do.

Rose returns the smile, then lifts her head forward to kiss Ruby's forehead.

Rose: Thanks.

Int. Abandoned Incineration Plant – Night

Sitting at the desk in one of the plant's offices, Jeremiah Belmont holds an old pocket watch and stares at it, watching the second hand tick away. The time now reads 5:55 a.m. Five more minutes and the final step in Rose Wilson's destruction can begin. Normally, he wouldn't be this anxious for things to start. Normally, he's quite reserved in his eagerness. But this is different. This time, he beats her, once and for all. She's been a thorn in his side for far too long, and that cannot go unpunished.

As the minute hand inches closer, the door to the office open. Slowly, he glances up at the woman standing there and lowers his pocket watch.

Jerry: Well?

Woman: Just set the last one. It only took three months to spread them across the city, but they're all wired up and ready for the signal now.

A small smile curls its way across Jerry's face.

Jerry: Good. Just another minute now and I begin the countdown. Then, you're free to do your part.

Woman: I look forward to it.

Jerry: As well you should. Now...

Glancing back down at the watch, he straightens out the glasses on his face and then reaches towards the desk to push the button on a large wireless radio transmitter.

Jerry: Let's put Rose to her final test, shall we?

Int. Unknown Location – Night

The location is dark, quiet, somewhere beneath a building. Maybe the boiler room. Near the back corner, engulfed deeply in shadows, is a very large, two cylinder device, with wires connecting the tops of them. A small electronic panel sits between them, two tiny lights blinking on top of it. Suddenly, the lights stop blinking and instead light up continuously, a solid color. The panel on the front lights up as well, displaying numbers on it, numbers that read: 36:00:00. After a brief pause, the numbers begin to count down. Thirty six hours to go.

Ext. Whitmore Cemetery – Day

It's pretty warm out by the time they arrive at the cemetery the next morning, though the breeze keeps it from becoming too hot. A thick cloud cover starts to drift in as well, soon casting the area in a nice shade. Rose, Holly, and Ruby, walk across the grass from the pathway behind them, making their way to the large headstone near the back of the cemetery. The inscription reads:

R.I.P.
Rebecca Anne Chavez
March 3, 1987 - February 9, 2013
Loving Daughter, Loving Friend, Loving Spirit

Holly: Can I put the flowers down?

Rose: Sure, here you go.

Rose passes off the bundle of water lilies, which had been Becky's favorite flower, then watches as Holly walks forward to the gravestone and sets the flowers down in front of it. For a few moments afterward, the girl just stands there, staring at it.

Rose: Is there anything you want to say to her?

Holly: Well, I... I just want to say that I miss her. A lot.

Rose: Don't tell me, tell her.

Holly: Oh, right.

Clearing her throat, Holly holds her hands down in front of her and takes in a deep breath.

Holly: I really miss you, Becky. We all do. It... hasn't really been the same with you gone. Um... oh, I got almost all A's again this year. Except for math. I don't really like math... you always helped me out with that. Rose really isn't as good at it as you were, either.

Rose: Hey now, I know enough.

Leaning in close, Ruby laughs out a small whisper.

Ruby: Enough to get her a C, anyway.

Rose: Oh shush.

Holly: I wish you were still here... but Rose says you're watching over us, so I guess that's pretty cool. I promise I'll do better at math, if I can just remember those tricks you taught me.

Lifting up a hand to her face, Holly briefly wipes away the tears beginning to form in her eyes and sniffles. Rose takes a step forward, holding a hand on the girl's shoulder and offering her comfort.

Rose: That was good, Holly.

Holly: Thanks...

Wiping her eyes again, she takes a step back and breathes in deeply.

Holly: I think I need to take a walk.

Ruby: Come on, girl, I'll walk with you. Give your mom some time alone.

Taking Holly by the hand, Ruby leads her away, allowing Rose some alone time with Becky. Breathing outwardly, Rose sinks down to the ground, sitting cross legged and leaning back on her hands, just staring at the headstone.

Rose: You know I miss you, too, right? A part of me always will. You changed my life in so many ways... and I can't thank you enough for it. I mean, who knows where I'd be if I never met you? Probably the same old angry, disgruntled b*tch I used to be.

She pauses briefly, chuckling quietly to herself.

Rose: Well, okay, maybe not quite that bad. I mean, hell, Holly changed me a lot, too. But you... you showed me how to really enjoy life. That's something I never thought I'd be able to do again. You helped me grow into a person I never thought I'd be, Becky, and I'll never forget that.

Uttering another small sigh, Rose bows her head for a moment and smiles a little.

Rose: I, uh... I met someone else, you know. Her name's Ruby. I told you a little bit about her last time, you remember? She's really great. Fun, happy, free spirited... you'd like her.

Another soft chuckle then finds its way of her throat, as she folds her arms across her chest and stares back up at the headstone.

Rose: You know, it's funny. When we first got together, I told you I wasn't into women, that I was just into you... and yet lately women are all I've been attracted to. Strange how that works, huh? I guess you had a bit more of an impact on me than I realized, in that department. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Rose sucks in a large breath of air, then slowly stands up. She comes forward, touching the top of the headstone for a few moments.

Rose: It was nice seeing you again, Becky. I'll be back again next month, promise.

Before she goes to turn away from the grave, a slow, methodical, mocking clap begins to sting the air.

Voice: Bravo, bravo. That was touching. Can we get an encore?

Stiffening slightly, she slowly turns her head to look behind her. There, a woman leans up casually against a nearby tree, a woman dressed in black jeans, a white tank top, and black leather jacket. Rose's entire body instantly goes numb at the sight.

Rose: What... what is this?

Becky: Just a little reunion is all. Nothing special.

Rose swallows down a hard lump in her throat, but doesn't answer. Rather, she takes a cautious step forward, her body barely responding. Becky merely smirks, pushing herself away from the tree and stuffing her hands in her jacket pockets as she walks forward.

Becky: So, tell me. My funeral - was it heartbreaking?

Chapter #84

Int. City Morgue – Night

Six Months Ago...

Kubrick folds his arms across his chest, leaning a bit to the side as he eyes the man in front of him curiously. Jeremiah Belmont, huh? So, apparently this was the guy orchestrating everything from the start. Not the President, merely an impostor having taken over the President's position. Intriguing. Now the question remains, just what the hell does this Jeremiah have planned? And why the hell are they standing in a morgue late at night, hovering over two dead bodies on two separate tables in front of them, one of Rebecca Chavez and the other of the more recently deceased mortician?

Kubrick: We have work to do? Exactly what kind of work?

Jeremiah's gaze slowly shifts over to look at him from behind those small, round glasses. His eyes are... cold, intimidating. They even cause someone like Kubrick to stiffen up at the glare.

Jerry: I believe we all know of a woman named Rose Wilson, better known as the Ravager, correct?

Zaria: She rings a bell... miserable b*tch tore up my bar.

Kubrick: Among other things. So yeah, we have a history with her.

Jerry: As do I. Quite the intricate one, in fact. Even my dear friend Hugo here has crossed paths with her before.

Standing straighter, Hugo Strange clasps his hands behind his back and takes in a deep breath.

Strange: Yes, I believe my jaw is still sore.

Jerry: So it should come as no surprise that we all wouldn't mind seeing her... out of the way.

Kubrick: Well no sh*t, but what's the point? We've tried killing her before, but she keeps coming back. She's like a cockroach.

Jerry: My friends, I'm not proposing we kill her, not at first. Rather, this time around I wish to utterly break her. To destroy her entire reason for existing. To bring her down so far that she will beg for us to end it.

Narrowing her eyes, Zaria leans forward slightly, hands resting against the edge of one of the tables.

Zaria: And how exactly do you intend to do that?

Jerry: Ah, the details will come in time. First, we must finish up here, though I assure you this is part of my plan.

Kubrick: It had better be a good plan.

Smirking, Jerry moves forward and holds his hand against the face of the dead mortician. Almost instantly, the flesh from his palm begins to replicate and liquify, melting over the woman's pale visage. Within moments, that putty-like flesh spreads from her face and to the rest of her body, even her hair, then starts to reshape itself into a different image altogether. By the end of it, the mortician's body has become an exact duplicate of Rebecca's.

Kubrick: What the...

Jerry: Now, Hugo, go ahead and replace the body.

Strange: Of course. Help me with the clothes, will you, Michael?

Glaring briefly at the bald man in the lab coat, Kubrick comes forward to strip the clothes off the corpse, then assists in carrying it over to the open, chilled drawer on the far wall, where they had taken Rebecca's body from. Once the body is in place, Strange slides the drawer in and closes the door.

Zaria: Alright, now what was the point of that? We've replaced her body with a clone, so we can... do what, exactly?

Jerry: So we can do this.

Stepping around the front of the table on which Rebecca's body lies, Jerry reaches forward with both hands and presses either index finger to the corpse's ears. The flesh from his fingers begin to liquify again, draining down Rebecca's ear canals. With that done, he takes a step back and folds his arm.

Kubrick: What did you do?

Jerry: Wait a moment, give the nanites a chance to do their job.

Several minutes go by and nothing happens. Kubrick and Zaria begin to grow impatient, not very impressed with what they're seeing so far. However, their interests are soon peaked, as the massive bruising around the corpse's chest begins to gradually disappear. Not only this, but color begins to return to Rebecca's skin, no longer the ashen shade of death.

Kubrick: What's going on?

Zaria: She is... regenerating.

Jerry: Correct. The nanites are repairing her body's damage, returning it to one hundred percent health.

Glancing upward, Kubrick gives Jerry a confused look.

Kubrick: But she's still dead. Repair all the damage you want, you can't just raise her from the grave.

Jerry: Had we waited much longer, no, probably not. However, she has been deceased for a brief enough period that she can be brought back. Once the nanites fix her physical damage, they will integrate into her body's system, and from there they will self replicate. Her organs will begin to function again, restarting her heart, circulating her blood, filling her lungs with air... and then they will 'reboot' her brain, so to speak. Until...

Several more moments go by, and then suddenly Becky's eyes fly open. Sucking in a deep, coughing breath of air, she lurches upright, swallowing and staring around at the people surrounding her. For nearly two minutes straight, all she does is sit there, heaving heavy breaths of air inward, and holding a hand to her heart. Finally, her breathing begins to steady, and she slowly relaxes.

Becky: W-where... where am I?

A second later, Becky glances down at herself and flinches. She quickly curls up, bringing her knees to her chest and holding her arms around herself.

Becky: And jueputa, where are are my clothes?!

Hugo comes forward, as if on command, holding up a large blanket. Becky immediately takes it and wraps it around herself.

Kubrick: I don't f*cking believe it...

Zaria: She's... you really brought her back.

Turning her gaze, Becky stares at them in confusion.

Becky: Brought me back from from where? What the hell is going on?!

Jerry: From death, my dear. I brought you back from death.

Becky: I was... I was dead?

Jerry: Quite. You won't remember a lot of what happened at first, but give it time and your memories will come back to you. In the meantime, come with us. I have much to explain; like telling you all about the person who did this to you.

He extends his hand, offering it for Rebecca to take. For a long moment, Becky just stares at it. Eventually, however, she slowly reaches up and takes his hand in hers, accepting the offer.

Becky: Alright... tell me everything.

Ext. Whitmore Cemetery – Day

Present Day...

Rose briefly lifts her hands up to rub her eyes, as if doing so will make the hallucination disappear. At least, she thinks it's a hallucination. It has to be. How else could Rebecca be standing right in front of her? She's not in Trance's machine anymore, and Becky is dead. They buried her body in grave right behind her, plain and simple.

Wait... no, I know who this is.

Becky: What's the matter, Rose? Cat got your tongue, ah?

Rose: You're not Becky. You're not going to fool me, Jerry, I know that's you.

A small, amused chuckle finds its way out of Becky's throat. She shakes her head and utters an exasperated breath, smirking.

Becky: A good guess, but no, I'm not Jerry.

Rose: Yes you are. You have to be. There's nothing else that could... there's no one else who...

Becky: Oh, come on. I know you're not that dense, right? Alright, look. Ask me a question, any question. A question only I would know.

This is a trap... it has to be a trap.

And yet she complies anyway.

Rose: When you took me out for my birthday, what happened when we came back to my apartment?

Becky: Going with the easy ones, huh? Well, okay then. I came on to you for the first time; kissed you. Of course, you rejected me, because you claimed you weren't a lesbian, even though I was dumb enough to jump to that conclusion. So, I ended up running out in embarrassment.

Rose's heart skips a beat, throat going numb. She still can't believe it, so she tries again.

Rose: When you were in the hospital on your birthday, what did I bring you as a gift?

Becky: A birthday cake; vanilla, by the way, my favorite. You figured it was better than a "glad you didn't die cake" that the force would have given me when I came back.

Now Rose can start to feel her legs growing weak, almost like jelly. Her heart is beating a hundred times a second, it feels like, and her eyes are beginning to water.

Rose: You... Becky?

Becky: I told you, it's all me.

Rose: Then why... why do you seem so different?

Becky: Because I am different, Rose. I'm not the bubbly little pushover you used to know, not anymore.

Rose: What are you-

Becky: And it's kind of hard to look at a person the same way after they go and get you killed.

Rose: That's not fair... don't you say that.

Becky: But it's true, ah? You were supposed to watch my back, and what happened? Oh right, a goddamn building collapsed on me. After I got blown up by land mine.

Rose: How could I have stopped that? Tell me, Becky! If I could have... Christ, if I could have saved you, I would have. No matter what it took, I... I would have gladly traded places with you.

But Becky ignores the response and keeps going.

Becky: And then how long did it take after I was gone for you to start shacking up with another chica? What, three months? And here I thought you weren't into girls, Rose. Here I thought you were into me. Just me.

Rose: I loved you! I'll always love you! Nothing changes that, don't you even think it. But you... I thought you were gone... I was trying to move on, Becky, I was trying to be happy, because I knew that's what you would have wanted.

Becky: And diving between the legs of the first woman you see makes you happy, does it?

Rose: You're twisting my words.

Becky: Just asking a question. Is she good, Rose? Huh? Tell me, how does she taste?

Rose swallows another hard lump in her throat. She raises a hand briefly to wipe her eyes dry, then takes in another deep breath. What the hell is going on here? Why is this happening? This... this is a hundred times worse than Becky being dead. This is... this is torture. Every single word out of Becky's mouth cuts like a dagger.

Rose: So if you've been alive this whole time... where have you been, Becky? What have you been doing?

Becky: Watching. Waiting. Planning. All for this moment.

The revelation hits her like a freight train.

Rose: Jerry... you're working with Jerry. Everything these past few months, everything he's done... it was you, too?

Becky: Si, it was me, too.

Rose: Then he did something to you. Changed you, somehow he... a stem. He must have used one of his stems on you.

Becky: You wish, don't you? No, he hasn't done anything to me, Rose. All he's done is told me truth and opened my eyes to just what a miserable waste of space you really are. Try as hard as you want, but you'll never be anything more than failure.

Before Rose can make another response, their conversation is interrupted by a small, stunned voice.

Holly: Becky?

Turning their gazes, they notice Holly and Ruby, having returned from their walk. At first, the girl just stands their in disbelief, eyes wide and blinking. Then, she suddenly pulls away from Ruby and runs across the grass. She's already tearing up, a large, overjoyed smile on her face.

Holly: Becky!

Rose: No, Holly, stay away from-!

But her words don't make it in time. The moment that Holly comes into range, Rebecca winds up her arm and swats the girl away with a surprisingly powerful backhand. Holly flies backwards several feet, hitting the ground hard and then rolling to a stop.

Rose: HOLLY!

Sprinting forward, Rose comes to the girl's side. She kneels down, taking Holly into her arms.

Rose: Holly? Holly, are you alright?

The girl utters a small groan, glancing up at her mother and blinking a couple of times. A small cut on her forehead oozes a steady trickle of blood.

Holly: She hit me... why did Becky hit me?

Rose: Shh, it'll be alright. Everything will be fine.

Walking past them, Ruby glares at the woman, while raising her hands forward.

Ruby: Alright, I don't know who you are, lady, but you don't get to go around assaulting children like that.

Becky: Ah... so this is the little sl*t you've been sleeping around with.

Ruby: Now you listen to me. I'm gonna need you to calm down a little. Maybe take a nap. You feel that? Yeah, you're getting nice and relaxed.

Coming up right in front of her, Ruby holds her hand up against Becky's forward and stares into her eyes.

Ruby: Just let yourself- oof!

Becky's fist finds its way into Ruby's gut, delivering a stunningly powerful blow. A second later, Ruby coughs out a harsh breath and doubles over, almost dropping to her knees.

Becky: Yeah, don't bother with that empathic bullcrap. Doesn't work on me.

Swinging her leg forward, Becky sends the kick straight at the woman's face. Before the blow can land, though, Ruby teleports away, vanishing into thin air. A second later, she reappears directly behind Becky and sends a hard chop to the side of her neck. Becky doesn't even flinch.

Becky: That was... dumb.

Becky's hand suddenly flies up, grabbing Ruby's wrist and then swinging the woman up over her head. The next thing Ruby realizes, she's lying flat on her back and staring up at the sky, an intense pain throbbing through her chest. The world spins wildly around her.

Rose: Leave her alone!

Gently resting Holly on the ground, Rose stands up and takes a few steps forward, hands already formed into fists. Seeing this, Becky smirks.

Becky: What, you think you're going to stop me, Rose? The whole reason I came here was to put you in your place.

Rose: We'll see. If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to beat some sense back into that head of yours. I don't know what Jerry did to you, but I am going to fix it.

Becky: Hmph, good luck.

Wasting no more time, Rose runs forward, leading with flying kick aimed at Becky's chest. Her foot strikes only air, as Becky turns her body to the side and effortlessly dodges. Landing slightly off balance, Rose follows up with a cross jab, but Becky grabs her wrist, then delivers an elbow to her jaw. Head snapping backward, Rose cringes, seeing bright spots of light flash in front of her eyes.

The next thing she knows, she flying through the air. An explosive pain rips through her body, as she crashes straight through Becky's headstone, the granite shattering apart from the result of amazing force. For a long moment, Rose lies there motionlessly on her back, gazing up at the sky. She tries to move, but she can't. Hell, she can barely even breathe after that. Eventually, though, Rose slowly rolls over and manages to push her way back to her feet. She staggers momentarily, barely able to maintain her balance.

Becky: I can't believe I ever envied you. I mean, what are you, really? A glorified martial artist. That's it. You don't have any real power. Not like I do now.

Her skin suddenly begins to change. A thick, silver ooze begins to flood through her pores, coating her entire body. In seconds, the substance hardens, forming a hard metallic shell around her. As she walks forward, she casually swings her arm to the side, smashing her fist straight through another headstone. The granite blows apart as if hit by dynamite.

Becky: How do you feel, Rose? Scared yet? Today, it's your turn to be the helpless one.

Chapter #85

Ext. Whitmore Cemetery - Day

Rose sucks in a deep breath, struggling to maintain standing on her own two feet. That last blow had been tremendous, considering it put her through a solid granite headstone. Every breath causes a sharp, stinging pain to flare through her, and yet she knows she can't let that hinder her. Somehow, someway, she has to get through to Becky.

Rose: Becky, please... you don't have to do this.

Becky: Oh shut up.

Coming forward, Becky throws a solid punch. Fortunately, Rose sees it coming ahead of time and ducks out of the way. She manages to counter with a kick to the gut, though her shin caroms harmlessly off of Becky's metallic skin. Grabbing onto Rose's leg, Becky swings her around and throws her again, sending her flying over thirty feet through the air. Rose hits the ground hard and slides into another gravestone, a stunned breath of air bursting from her lips.

Becky: This isn't some clichéd story where you use your feelings to get me to see the error of my ways. You aren't going to fix things with a few words, Rose.

Walking over to the slowly recovering Rose, Becky delivers a hard kick to her gut. Rose grunts in pain, holding her arms around her stomach and shrinking inward.

Rose: Then I'll just... have to figure out a different way... to fix it.

Becky: No, you won't. You want to know why? Because there's nothing to fix!

Reaching down, Becky lifts her up into the air by her hair, using only a single hand. The level of strength is astounding, especially for one who had previously displayed no such tendencies of such power.

Becky: Consider this a humbling, Rose. I'm not going to kill you, but I am going to make you realize what a pathetic, useless waste you are. And when I'm done, I have a message to give you.

Int. Silverstone General Hospital - Day

Deep in the basement of the hospital, a timer ticks downward, a timer attached to two very large canisters full of volatile substances. For now, the substances are kept separate from each other, but when the timer reaches zero and the two substances come into contact with each other, well...

3... 2... 1...

Up above in the main lobby of the hospital, doctors, visitors, patients, and secretaries all go about their business. Just another ordinary day for them. None of them are expecting the massive fireball that suddenly engulfs the building, bursting through the floor that cracks apart and rips open with violent force. People run screaming, horrified, but they can't get away. The entire building is consumed in a matter of moments.

Ext. Silverstone City - Day

All around Silverstone, similar explosions go off, in various buildings spread throughout the city. Each one not only levels the building in which it was placed, but the destruction also spreads to several surrounding blocks, claiming countless lives. Within minutes, the entire city is engulfed by pandemonium, hellish flames burning bright as the sun and torching all those caught in its path. The screams of horror are unbearable, and the sheer level of decimation unfathomable. In a single, gruesome moment, all of Silverstone is laid to waste.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite - Day

Snapping her eyes open, Rose leans forward and takes in deep breaths, sweat beading down her forehead and dripping to the floor. She swallows back a lump in her throat, then tries to stand up. Her legs barely respond, as she instead tumbles forward, catching herself with her hands.

Rose: She wasn't lying... I saw it. Those bombs, whatever they are, they'll take out this entire city and everyone in it. Twenty hours, that's all that's left until the timers reach zero.

Sitting across from her on the couch, Ruby leans forward slightly and blinks in surprise.

Ruby: You're serious?

Rose: Why wouldn't I be?

Ruby: Well, I mean I just... I guess I never imagined Becky to be capable of something that horrible, not with how you always described her.

Rose: That isn't Becky. Not really. I mean, it's her, but... it's not. Jerry did something to her when he brought her back. I don't know what, but it's screwing with her head. I know I can fix it, if I can just figure out what's wrong.

Ruby: You mean after we deal with the bombs, right?

Swallowing again, Rose nods and slowly stands up. She cringes at a sharp pain in her side. She's suffering through quite a few bruises at the moment, including a sickening black eye.

Rose: Right. I'll call Palmer, see if he can get the mayor to put together an evacuation or something.

Ruby: Why don't you just get Zatanna to swoop in here and magically transport the bombs to Venus or something?

Rose: She can't help us, Ruby... no one can. You remember what Becky said.

Ext. Whitmore Cemetery - Day

Two hours ago...

Rose lets out a harsh cough, spraying out several droplets of blood, as she lies there on the ground utterly defeated. Try as she might to defend herself, she doesn't have her gear, and fighting against someone with invulnerable skin and super strength with just your fists is really a bit of a mismatch. Taking in a deep breath, she stares upwards to see Becky now hovering over her.

Becky holds her arm downward, causing the metal skin encasing her body to suddenly extend into the form of a long, razor sharp blade. The tip presses against Rose's throat ever so slightly, just enough to draw the faintest trickle of blood.

Becky: Here's how it works, Rose. There are fifty bombs spread throughout the city, bombs destructive enough to take out several city blocks each. When they all go off, the chain reaction they trigger will decimate Silverstone and everyone in it.

Rose: Why... why are you...?

Becky: Because, you're the protector of this city, right? So protect it. Or at least, try. The countdown has already begun. There should be around twenty-two hours remaining by now, until everything goes up in smoke.

Swallowing, Rose slowly raises herself from the ground with one arm, sitting upright. The blade point moves with her, remaining against her throat.

Rose: I mean why are you... telling me? Why not just set them off?

Becky: Jeremiah wants you to feel as though you have a chance. He wants you to try and stop it. And he wants you to fail. He's right of course; we both know you'll do exactly that. Try and fail.

Uttering a tired sigh, Rose collapses back to the ground, lying there motionlessly, as she attempts to absorb this information.

This isn't happening... it can't be happening. I'm dreaming. This is a nightmare.

Becky: Oh, and to make sure you don't cheat...

The point of the blade suddenly liquifies, dripping the silvery substance onto Rose's neck and seeping inside of her wound. Rose flinches, gritting her teeth and clenching her fists tight as the cold sensation spreads through her veins.

Becky: Those nanites will monitor you. This way, I'll be able to keep track of everything you do. If you attempt to call for outside assistance, and by that I mean calling anyone outside of Silverstone, then you forfeit and the bombs will go off immediately. Got that?

Rose doesn't answer, instead closing her eyes and relaxing her head against the ground. She doesn't want to look at Becky anymore; she can't look at Becky anymore.

No, it's not Becky. Don't forget that. This is... something else, one of Jerry's creations. But the real Becky is in there somewhere... and god help me, I'll find her, if it's the last thing I do.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite - Day

Ruby breathes outwardly and folds her arms across her chest, slowly bowing her head.

Ruby: Right, no help. That puts a serious crimp in our chances.

Rose: That was the point.

Holding her head in her hands briefly, Rose heads across the living room to the phone.

Rose: Can you go check on Holly for me, please? I have to call Palmer.

Ruby: Sure thing.

Getting up from the couch, Ruby makes her way towards Holly's bedroom, where the girl is trying to recover from both the physical blow to her head, as well as the mental shock from seeing Becky come back as a bad guy. When she's gone, Rose lifts the phone and dials.

Palmer/Phone: Wilson, what is it?

Rose: Chief, we have a problem... a big problem.

She explains things as quickly and as succinctly as she can, while getting all the important information across. It sounds ridiculous even as it comes out of her mouth, and yet she knows it's the truth. A horrifying truth that she wishes she could get away from, but the truth nonetheless.

Palmer/Phone: Now hold on just a minute. Chavez is alive? And she's working with that Belmont psychopath?

Rose: That's correct.

A brief pause, before Palmer speaks again.

Palmer/Phone: In the name of all that's... by god, I really am getting too old for this kind of crap. Okay, forget Chavez for the moment, I'll deal with that nugget later. These bombs, you're sure about them?

Rose: As sure as I can breathe. Is there anyway we can evacuate the city?

Palmer/Phone: In less than twenty four hours? Not a snowman's chance in hell. Maybe if we had a week, but that's not going to happen.

Rose: Sh*t, alright. So then we need to disarm them.

Palmer/Phone: Oh, is that all? Correct me if I'm wrong, but you said there were fifty of them. Even if we even knew where they were all located, there aren't enough members of the bomb squad to get to them all in time. We'd need to call in for outside backup, but we can't do that or we all get blown to kingdom come, isn't that right?

Rose: Yes... that's right.

Palmer/Phone: Well, isn't that just fine and f*cking dandy?

Rose: Yeah, I get it. We're screwed.

Palmer/Phone: If we can't figure out a way to locate and disarm every single bomb, then you're damn right we are.

Rose: I know, I know... just give me a bit. Ruby and I will come up with something, and I'll get back to you.

Palmer/Phone: You do that. Meanwhile, I have on hell of a conversation I need to have right now with the mayor.

When the call clicks dead, Rose sets the phone back down and utters a heavy sigh, lowering her face into her hand. Now, if only she could believe her words as much as she wanted Palmer to believe them. The fact is, though, she doesn't believe them, even though she said them. They have no way of finding the bombs, and they're running out of time.

Ruby: Holly's fine, she's just resting for now.

Looking up, Rose notices Ruby walking across the living room. She utters a long sigh, bowing her head and leaning against the back of the couch.

Rose: If we don't figure out something quick, this entire city is done.

Ruby: Then we'll just have to figure something out, now won't we?

Rose: Just wish I knew what.

She holds her hands to her head and closes her eyes, trying to think.

Rose: God, I wish I could call Batman right about now... he'd know what to do.

Ruby: I'm guessing that's why you're not allowed. But really, you're smart, too, Rose. You don't need someone else to tell you what to do.

Rose: I know, I know, I just... hold on a minute.

Ruby: What is it?

Rose: I had a thought... in order for Jerry to have activated all the bombs at the same time, he would have needed to do it by using a wireless signal, right?

Ruby: Uh, well I suppose.

Rose: So, if we could get to one of the bombs, then we could trace the signal back to its source.

Ruby: If we could find one of them, and if we had a means to do so. But even then, what good would that do us? It wouldn't tell us where the other bombs are.

Rose: No, but it would tell us where the signal came from. In other words, where Jerry is hiding out. I'm willing to bet we can determine where the other bombs are from there.

Ruby: What exactly are you willing to bet? The lives of half a million people? Or more?

Breathing out a heavy breath, Rose slowly bows her head.

Rose: I wish I didn't have to bet that, but what else can we do? I don't suppose you have any better ideas.

Ruby goes silent for a moment, folding her arms and glancing off to the side.

Ruby: No, no I suppose I don't. But we'd still need a way to find one of the bombs first, not to mention a way to trace its incoming signal.

Rose: I already know where one is, I saw it in my vision. The basement of the Silverstone General Hospital, we can use that one.

Ruby: Then while we're at it, we should probably figure out how to disarm the damn things.

Rose: You let me worry about that. Go suit up and get ready.

Int. Silverstone General Hospital – Day

A sudden burst of smoke pops into the basement out of thin air, bringing with it three individuals. The two obvious ones include Ravager and Apathy, both now dressed in full costume and ready to get to work. The third individual is Mark Harris, head of Silverstone's bomb squad. After contacting Palmer about their plan, they had been urged to take Harris along with them in order figure out exactly how to disarm these bombs, once they find them all.

Ravager: Alright, spread out and look. It's down here somewhere.

Apathy: Uh... would that be it?

Pointing across the dimly lit room, Apathy gestures to the large structure near the far wall, a structure consisting of two large cylinders on either side of an electronic device in the middle, connected to each other by a bunch of wires. The countdown timer on the front panel read less than nineteen hours now.

Harris: That... would definitely be it.

The bomb squad expert slowly walks up to the large device and gives it a careful inspection, his expression one mixed with awe and confusion.

Harris: I've never seen a bomb quite like this before. Some kind of... chemical activation, maybe? But that wouldn't explain the level of devastation you described.

Ravager: I'm not interested it what makes it so strong, I'm interested in how to keep it from going off.

Harris: Give me a moment, this might require a few minutes.

Moving up to the bomb, Harris takes a closer look, examining every facet of the cylinders, the timer, and the electronic detonator. After several minutes, he apparently comes a conclusion about the situation and then kneels in front of it. Opening up his box of tools, he takes out a screwdriver and begins opening up a small metal panel on the front of the detonator.

Harris: As best as I can tell, the wires you see on the outside are dummy wires, made to detonate the device instantly if tampered with.

Apathy: And the real wires?

Harris: Right... here.

Popping off the panel, he reveals a neat set of wires on the inside of the device. After returning the screwdriver to the box, he takes out a pair of wire cutters and snips the top wire, then every second wire after that. Once he severs the last wire, the numbers on the front of the timer disappear, as the device switches off.

Harris: And that should do it, for now. I'll have to get the rest of the bomb squad down here later to dismantle it, but in the meantime you two should-

Suddenly, the timer switches back on, displaying a much lower time of thirty seconds. For a couple of those seconds they all stare at the thing, stunned.

Ravager: I thought you disarmed it!

Harris: So did I!

Harris drops back in front of the device in a hurry and starts examining the open display of wires again. He snips another wire, but nothing changes. Trying to retain his cool, he snips all the remaining wires, but still nothing. The timer hits fifteen seconds and keeps going.

Apathy: Running out of time!

Harris: I can see that!

Twelve seconds.

Harris: This doesn't make any sense, there shouldn't be a-

Eight seconds. He suddenly notices something out of the ordinary on the detonator and reaches up, tearing off the front display.

Harris: The thing had a whole dummy section to it!

Five seconds.

Ravager: Well disarm the real ones then!

Three seconds.

Snip, snip, snip.

Three quick motions, three severed wires. The timer freezes at one second remaining. Blinking in surprise, Harris bows his head and falls back to a seated position. An exasperated breath finds is way out of his throat, as he wipes sweat from his brow.

Apathy: Is it... is it good? Are we alive?

Harris: It's disarmed.

Ravager: Cutting it really close there.

Harris: Better than not cutting it at all.

Taking in several deep breaths to still her pounding heart, Ravager moves forward to the bomb and takes out a small, round electronic device. She sticks it to the top of the detonator, presses a couple of buttons on the top, and then folds her arms, waiting.

Harris: What exactly is that?

Ravager: It's a... a wireless bugging... thing. I don't remember what Batman called it. All I know is that it's supposed to trace the last incoming wireless signal received by various devices. It should tell us where the signal came from that started the timer. Just glad I still had some of these things lying around...

Several minutes go by before the 'wireless bugging thing' starts to blink and beep in completion. Removing it from the detonator, Ravager pulls out a GPS device and connects the two with a wire. A short moment later, and the GPS begins to zero in on the signal.

Apathy: You got it?

A quiet, steady beeping answers her question.

Ravager: Oh yeah, I got it. Come on; let's go pay Jeremiah a little visit.

Chapter #86

Int. Silverstone Central Police Station - Day

Police Chief Gerald Palmer stands behind his desk, leaning forward with one hand resting against the flat top and his other hand holding a phone to his ear. He can hear the chaos outside already; the screaming, the panic, the cars honking, screeching tires, the smashing of abrupt collisions. This whole situation is a mess.

Palmer: I know that evacuating the city would be the best course of action, Mr. Mayor, but only if it could be done safely and efficiently. Telling everyone that they have less than a day to get out of Silverstone before the whole place gets blown sky high was not the way to do it!

He pauses, listening to the idiotic justification he receives on the other line. Sighing, he holds his palm to his hand and shakes his head.

Palmer: Have you even looked out your window in the last hour? It's goddamn pandemonium out there! The streets are clogged, people are panicking, stores are being looted, suicide reports are coming in; people are dying, you understand that?

Another pause. Palmer rubs his eyes with his fingers, uttering a frustrated groan. He then turns to his window and pushes open the blinds so he can get a better look. The entire street outside the station is backed up bumper to bumper, several citizens are standing outside their cars shouting at each other, and someone even hit a damn fire hydrant, causing a towering spray of water to shoot into the air.

Palmer: Evacuations take time, it can't be done in a few hours. What you have now is a f*cking nightmare. Yes, I understand the gravity of- No, I've never- excuse me, Mr. Mayor, but don't use this sh*tstorm as an excuse to vent at me. I'm in the same goddamn boat as the rest of you.

The next statement causes Palmer's eyes to go wide, as he turns back towards his desk.

Palmer: No! You contact the Justice League, and those bombs will go off as soon as they get here! We'll be dead before the League even gets a chance to help.

Sinking down into his seat, Palmer utters a deep sigh and rubs his eyes again, tiredly.

Palmer: Two women in costumes. That's who we're relying on now. Yes, I do trust them... I hope so, too

Int. Abandoned Incineration Plant – Day

Apathy and Ravager appear out of thin air, popping into existence within the plant. When they arrive, Ravager takes a quick look around. They appear to be in some kind of loading area, a sort of garage structure with an area for dump trucks to back into and unload their waste into a giant pit, which leads into the kiln, where the refuse would be burned to ash. The actual location is unique; she's never seen a villain hide out in an incineration plant before, but then this place has been abandoned for years after it closed down. The only reason it hasn't been demolished yet is because the city can't spare the money.

Ravager: Alright, so where exactly are we right now?

Apathy: Looks like the reception hall, where the trucks would unload their garbage. That means straight ahead is the entire incineration structure, so I'm guessing the offices are in the other direction, probably through those doors.

Turning her gaze, Ravager notices a small set of metal stairs leading up to a door on the side of the hall. Giving her partner a nod, she starts walking towards it.

Ravager: Alright, let's move. We have to find Jerry, or at least find the device he used to send the signal out to his bombs.

Apathy: Which I'm betting is on his person. Of course, that's if he's even still here. The smart thing to do would have been to leave the city once he activated the detonators.

Ravager: No, you see, you don't know him like I do. He wants to watch, wants to see me fail. No way he doesn't stick around to see the grand finale. I'll bet anything that there isn't a bomb single within destructive range of this plant.

Apathy: I hope you're right...

Lowering her gaze, Ravager breathes outwardly. Yeah, she hopes she's right too, because if she isn't, then she's out of ideas on how to save this city in time. As they reach the door, Ravager reaches out to open it. Before her hand even makes it to the handle, though, the door flies off its hinges like a missile and smashes directly into her. Apathy reacts quickly, saving them both from further injury by grabbing onto Ravager's shoulder mid impact and teleporting them safely back down to the floor of the reception hall. When they rematerialize, Ravager staggers on her feet, holding a hand to her head and groaning.

Ravager: The f*ck was... that?

Glancing up, she quickly shakes off her daze and blinks at the figure walking through the now open doorway. It's Becky, already coated in her metallic shell.

Apathy: I take it this means you were right.

Walking down the stairs, Becky glares at them, arms lowered casually down at her sides.

Becky: You shouldn't be here, Rose. You should be looking for the bombs, unless you want Silverstone to go up in flames.

Ravager: What do you think I'm doing? I'm stopping them from the source.

Becky: Please, you can barely stand on your own two feet right now. I know you heal fast, but even you need more than a few hours to recover from the beating I gave you.

Ravager: I'll manage.

Becky: I think you overestimate yourself.

Taking in a deep breath, Ravager straightens herself, watching as Becky continues to approach across the large, open floor.

Ravager: Ruby, you keep searching. I'll deal with her.

Apathy: Are you out of bloody mind? I'm not leaving you alone with her; she practically tore you apart last time!

Ravager: Please, Ruby. This is something I have to do alone.

Apathy: But-

Ravager: Ruby!

Apathy: Alright... just don't go getting yourself killed, okay?

A second later, Apathy vanishes into thin air, leaving Ravager and Becky alone.

Ravager: So I take it Jerry still has you under his control.

Becky: Dios, when are you going to get it through that dense skull of yours? I'm not under anyone's control. This is all me; I'm doing this because I choose to, because I need to settle things with you once and for all.

Ravager: I don't believe that, not for a second. I love you, Becky, and I know you love me, too. When you died, I... I didn't know how I'd live through it.

Becky: Oh it seems like you lived through it just fine. Already got yourself a warm pair of legs to comfort you, ah?

Ravager: Would you stop it with that? God, I hope I'm not wrong, I really do. I hope you are being controlled somehow, because this is... I mean, sh*t, tell me you're not doing this just out of jealousy or something.

Becky: Ha, you think I'm going through all this trouble just because I'm jealous of that b*tch? If that were the case, I'd just kill her and be done with it. No, I've been working on this from the start, ever since Jeremiah brought be back six months ago.

Bowing her head slightly, Ravager slowly curls her hands into fists. She's just thankful that she's wearing a mask to hide her eyes, because she doesn't know if she wants Becky to see tears. Scratch that, she knows she doesn't want Becky seeing it, not under these circumstances.

Ravager: So that's how you want it, huh?

Becky: I think you're finally starting to catch on.

Ravager: Fine-

She brings her hands down to her hips suddenly, grasping at a pair of small sword hilts with curled knuckle guards on them. The handles aren't made of typical steel, though, as they aren't typical swords. Rather, the hilts are electronic, made of lighter materials and outfitted with a small button near her thumbs. She hesitates only briefly before clicking both buttons, causing a beam of energy to extend from either hilt. The beams become solid a moment later, forming into sword blades of pure energy. It's been years since she used these things, not since her earlier days on the Teen Titans, but she had always kept them, just in case she needed them. Holding her energy weapons at the ready, Ravager takes a fighting stance and exhales.

Ravager: -then let's get it over with.

---

Elsewhere in the plant, Apathy finds her way into the offices. She doesn't exactly know what she's looking for, other than Jeremiah himself, if he's actually here. Sure, Rebecca is still there, probably left behind in order to deal with them should they find their way here, but there would have been no reason for Jerry to stay, too. Unless, of course, it's like Rose said and he really does want a front row seat to Silverstone's destruction.

I only pray she's right... we could really use a break right about-

Before she can even finish her thought, she catches sight of something hurtling towards her from the side. Instantly, she teleports away, reappearing nearby and quickly locating the source of the attack. There he is, standing at the other end of the hallway that leads through the multiple offices on the upper levels of the plant.

Apathy: Belmont.

Jerry: Lawson.

Apathy: Well now that we've established we know each other's last name...

Narrowing her eyes, she focuses her power directly towards the man, exuding forth a sense of pure terror and agony. She'll send him deep down into the darkest pit of mental despair that he'd ever been in, and when he begs to for it to stop, ll only amplify the effects. At least, that's her plan. Unfortunately, it doesn't exactly go how she wanted.

Jerry: I hope you're not wasting your time trying to alter my emotions, because it isn't going to work.

Apathy flinches at the proclamation, taking a step backward as Jerry approaches, his hands held calmly behind his back.

Jerry: Do you really think I would have hired you if I couldn't counteract your abilities? If I've learned anything by now, it is to always have insurance.

Apathy: So you went and what, removed your emotions? I'd like to see that hospital bill.

Jerry: Ah, sarcasm. Just like Rose... you two really do make a good match.

Walking closer, he raises a hand and causes it to morph slowly into varying shapes.

Jerry: It's the nanites, you see. They've completely integrated into my body along with the mutated clay that makes up my flesh. You do know what nanites are, yes?

Apathy: Microscopic machines. Big deal.

Jerry: But it is a big deal, Ruby, at least in regards to your power. Machines don't have emotions, and since they're a part of my brain now, they prevent you from altering my own.

Apathy: Well how convenient for you. They still don't prevent me from doing this.

Vanishing into thin air again, Apathy teleports around behind the man and reappears with a vicious kick to the back of his head. The blow barely even staggers Jerry, as he utters a disappointed breath. Almost instantly, a large, sharpened spike extends out of his backside and pierces Apathy through the side of her abdomen. She flinches briefly, coughing up a small mouthful of blood inside her darkened mask, then teleports away again. When she rematerializes, she drops to one knee and holds a hand to the wound, while wheezing in pained breaths.

Jerry: Such a waste... You could have been an invaluable asset to me. I could have even brought back your dear Jeanette. But then you felt the need to have a change of heart...

Apathy: At least... I have one.

Jerry: Not for much longer, once I tear it from your chest.

---

Ravager lunges in for another strike, swinging her energy blades as swiftly and precisely as her body can manage. But yet again, she strikes only air, as Becky seemingly walks around her attacks. Stumbling forward, Ravager utters a surprised groan and collapses to one knee. She feels sluggish, tired... what the hell is going on?

Becky: What's the matter? Lost a bit of steam, ah?

Taking a step forward, Becky delivers a hard kick to Ravager's gut and sends her rolling across the ground with astonishing force. The pain goes right through her armored suit, drives the wind from her lungs. She tries to push herself back up to her feet, but the sudden agony gripping her chest forces her back to the floor.

Becky: Probably wondering why you're feeling all exhausted, right? And that burning in your chest has to be getting pretty aggravating.

Ravager coughs several times, spraying our blood droplets onto the inside of her faceplate. Her arms instinctively curl around her stomach, hugging herself tightly.

Becky: Those nanites I injected into your system weren't just for keeping an eye on you. Right now, they're slowly chewing through your vital organs. Your lungs, your heart, your liver, your kidneys... it'll be slow and excruciating, but eventually you'll die.

Ravager: Nanites...

Groaning out another cough of pain, Ravager slowly shifts herself back up to her knees. Reaching forward shakily with one hand, she grabs one of her fallen energy swords.

Ravager: Like... tiny robots, right?

Becky: That's correct.

Ravager: In that case... I hope this works.

Suddenly, she takes her energy blade and turns it on herself, cutting through the arm of her suit and driving the edge into her flesh. Of course, the bio-sensors disable the weapon from cutting through organic material, meaning her skin is left unharmed. However, the resulting electrical charge that surges through her body is far, far more painful than a little cut on the arm would be, eliciting a horrid, shrill scream from her throat. Becky watches in confusion, eyes blinking.

Becky: Madre de Dios... what on earth are you doing?

The pain only lasts a few seconds, though, and then everything just goes numb. Ravager finally manages to release her hold on the sword, causing it to clatter to the floor. The energy blade part of it deactivates a moment later, as she falls down next to it, motionlessly. Her suit is charred, torn, melted, and smoking as a result, while her fingers twitch spontaneously every now and then.

Becky: Ah, I see... you disabled the nanites with a power surge. Clever. Too bad you did the same to yourself.

Standing over Ravager, Becky stares downward and folds her arms across her chest. Slowly, she shakes her head in disappointment.

Becky: How pathetic... I can't believe I ever had feelings for you.

She stares a moment longer, then reaches down to grab the woman by the throat. However, before her hand makes it even halfway there, Ravager suddenly springs to life again, rolling over and grabbing the fallen sword handle. With a click flip of the switch, she thrusts it forward just as the energy blade extends, driving through Becky's metallic shell and coming into contact with her flesh beneath. Instantly, the same electrical surge that had just ripped through Ravager now rips through Becky instead. Her screams are deafening, at least in the few seconds before her voice abruptly cuts off.

Becky then falls forward limply, landing on top of Ravager. Uttering a long breath, Ravager discards the energy sword and then slowly rolls Becky over onto her back, as the metallic shell coating her body begins to melt off in the form of a thick, silvery ooze, revealing Becky's normal appearance beneath. Swallowing a lump in her throat, Ravager reaches up and removes her faceplate and helmet, then tosses it off to the side.

Rose stares downward at Becky for a few moments, before lifting up a hand and pressing her fingers to her eyes, trying to fight back the growing wetness. After sniffling in a deep breath, she leans down and gently plants her lips against Becky's. It's strange that something she had been longing for so badly, to hold the love of her life in her arm again, to kiss her again, could feel so heartbreaking and numb.

Rose: I don't know what he did to you, Becky... but I promise I'll fix it. You hear me? I'll fix it... I'll fix everything.

Chapter #87

Int. Abandoned Incineration Plant – Day

Apathy crawls backwards, leaving behind a trail of blood as she goes. The wound in her side is beginning to bleed a bit more heavily now, but at least she hadn't severed an artery, otherwise she'd probably already be dead. Breathing in deeply, she watches as Jerry continues to advance towards her, lashing out his arm and extending it in the shape of another long blade. In a puff of smoke, she teleports again, this time reappearing about ten feet away.

Jerry: Your disappearing acts are getting less and less impressive. Finding it difficult to concentrate?

She teleports again, as another attack shoots out at her. Reappearing in the next room, she leans against the wall and tilts her head back. Slow, tired breaths burst from her lips, the onset of pained exhaustion already beginning to take hold.

Jerry: Come now, you managed to make it all the way to the hospital the last time I skewered you, and you were barely alive then. Why not do the same now? Why bother hiding?

Because she made Rose a promise, that's why, and she isn't going to run away from that. Not to mention the whole bomb situation. If they fail here, then they're all dead anyway.

The door to the office abruptly flies inward off its hinges, clattering to the floor. Jerry takes a steps forward, eying Apathy curiously as she sits there against the wall. Slowly, a grin spreads across his face.

Jerry: There you are. Do try to stay still this time.

Raising his arm, he transforms it into the shape of a blade once again. As he goes to thrust it forward, however, his attention is suddenly drawn away by a figure rushing him from behind. Turning, he leaps backwards and ducks his head, narrowly avoiding the bright, humming energy weapon.

Jerry: You almost had me, Rose. Just not quick enough.

Rose: I'm just getting started, you son of a b*tch.

Running forward again, Rose swings both her energy swords at him. She has no idea if his flesh counts as organic material anymore, but she's more than willing to find out. Even if she can't cut through him, though, just a touch should have him on his knees, twitching and helpless. Her strikes touch only air, though, as Jerry effortlessly weaves around the blades.

Jerry: You look a little sluggish. Did your reunion with Rebecca not go so well?

Rose: Shut up!

She thrusts one of her swords at him this time, but he turns his body to the side. Lashing his arm out, he hardens into the form of a blade again, this time slicing through Rose's damaged suit and opening a long gash along her rib cage. Rose utters a pained cry of surprise, as she stumbles backwards. She drops one of her blades, holding her hand to the wound.

Rose: What did you do to her?!

Jerry: You mean aside from bring her back to life? Nothing at all, except for telling her the truth. I showed her exactly what you really are: a selfish, miserable, poor excuse for a human being.

Rose: You're lying... you changed her somehow. You did something to her!

Jerry: Don't you get it, Rose? This facade you wear of a kind, caring, nurturing woman is just that: a facade. Deep down, you're till the same dark, broody, sadistic, frightened little girl that you've always been. You can hide it behind however many layers of happiness and contentment you like, but you can't make it go away. Your friends may not be able to see it, but I see it, and I helped Rebecca to see it.

Rose: I don't believe you!

Uttering a loud, angry shout, she runs forward again, leaving behind a blood trail in her wake. She doesn't care that she's bleeding. All she cares about is cutting this b*stard's head from his shoulders. As she closes in on him, though, Apathy suddenly teleports next to her and grabs her, then teleports the both of them away, returning back to the main reception hall, where they arrived. Becky still lies unconscious several yards away.

Blinking in surprise, Rose looks around and then turns to Apathy. Shooting her hands forward, she grabs the woman by the brooch of her cloak and yanks her forward.

Rose: What did you do that for?! I had him!

Apathy: You were going to get yourself killed! Did you not see him swinging at you from the side? You'd have run right into the attack!

Rose pauses for a moment, then bows her head and turns away.

Rose: You need to go.

Apathy: What on earth are you talking about? I'm not going anywhere.

Rose: You're injured, you need to get yourself treated.

Apathy: In case you haven't noticed, Rose, you're in worse shape than I am.

Rose: Please, Ruby... just go. Take Becky with you. Find Holly. Circe and Lyta, too. Get them all out of the city, get them to safety. Then, find someone who can help Becky... get her back to normal.

Apathy: And just what the hell do you intend to do?

Rose: I'm stopping Jerry, and I'm stopping his bombs. Or I'm going to die trying.

Narrowing her eyes, Apathy takes a few steps forward and reaches a hand out. She pauses her hand momentarily, then rests it against Rose's shoulder.

Apathy: You... you're serious?

Rose: Very.

Apathy: But... but you could just come with us. You don't have to stay here.

Rose: Jerry is my villain, Ruby. And Silverstone is my city. I promised myself I would protect it from freaks just like Jeremiah, and if I run now, then I've broken that promise. So no, I'm not going with you. I'm going to stay here and I'm going to clean up my mess. If I fail, then at least I know I tried, and if this city goes down, then I go down with it.

Apathy: Rose...

Pausing a moment, Apathy reaches up and pulls down the hood of her costume, as well as the darkened face covering. Now, she's just Ruby. With a gentle touch, she turns Rose back around to face her, then leans in to give a tender kiss. Rose doesn't return the kiss, but she doesn't reject it, either. She simply accepts it.

Ruby: Don't fail.

Rose: Just tell Holly I love her, alright?

Ruby: Of course.

Taking a step back, Ruby breathes in deeply and then limps over towards Becky's unconscious body. She hesitates only briefly before touching her hand to the woman's shoulder.

Ruby: Good luck, Rose.

And with that, the two vanish into thin air. Rose stares briefly at the empty space where they had been just a moment before, then turns back around and waits.

Rose: Come on... where are you?

As if on cue, the wall to the overhang extending above the large, open loading area suddenly bursts outward, causing brick and plaster to explode in all directions. A second later, Jerry drops down through the air and nimbly lands across from her. He remains in a small crouch for several moments before slowly rising back to his full height.

Jerry: Now you're just delaying.

Rose: No, not anymore. I'm right here.

Jerry: So you are. Ready to finish this little feud once and all?

Rose: I've been ready. You're not gonna run away again, are you?

Jerry: Oh, no, Rose, no more running. You, me, a final climactic battle to the death... what more could your arch nemesis ask for?

In spite of her predicament, Rose can't help it. She snorts out a laugh.

Rose: My arch nemesis? How conceited can you get?

Jerry: Do you not agree? Who else can say they've put you through what I have?

Rose: So you've screwed with my life, big deal. Plenty of people have screwed with my life. Yeah, you've been a big pain in my ass for a couple years, but get real. 'Arch nemesis'? You sound like a bad Saturday morning cartoon.

Jerry: Sarcastic to the very end. How quaint.

Smirking slightly, Rose raises the sword hilt again and clicks the button, causing the beam of energy to extend once more in the form of a blade.

Rose: Question is, whose end?

Jerry: Let's find out, shall we?.

And then, there are no more words. The two engage in what would be their final conflict, one way or another. Rose knows it deep down, can feel it in her gut; one of them dies today. But she's already come to terms with it. In this instance, she isn't holding back. She will kill him if she can, and she won't bat an eye at it, either. As much as she's come to hate killing over the years, as much as she makes a conscious effort to not be the murderer she used to, some people just flat out deserve it. The last person she came across to deserve such a fate was Pavoni, and that was for entirely different reasons. Jerry had found whole new ways to push her buttons, to place himself at the top of her 'no mercy' list. Any hope he had of her leaving him alive ended a long time ago.

Of course, that's only if she can kill him. The way she's moving right now, the clumsiness of her actions, she'll be entirely lucky if she manages it. Her body is beaten, fried, bleeding, and she can barely keep up with her precog. Jerry, on the other hand, seems to enjoy leading her on, effortlessly avoiding her attacks. Before long, he plays the part of matador, and she the part of the bull. She lunges at him with as swift a strike as she can muster, and he simply steps out of the way. All that's missing is a red cape to wave in front of her face.

Eventually, Rose's condition catches up with her and the beating commences. She can see the attacks coming, but her body is too tired to do anything about it. Jerry could end it with one swift cut to her throat, but he doesn't. He drags it out, takes enjoyment out of her helplessness. He forms his arms into blunt objects, as opposed to bladed ones. A hammer smashes into her chest and sends her flying. She hits the ground hard and rolls to a stop, only to recoil sharply from a solid pole smacking into her backside. Then, Jerry's amorphous limb wraps around her midsection. It becomes solid again, holding onto her firmly, and then swings her around, slamming her into the floor and the walls repeatedly.

After a while, Rose can barely feel her body. All she feels is one large, methodical throbbing, and the warm trickle of blood oozing down her side. By the time Jerry releases her, she can barely move, every single motion requiring an obscene amount of effort and causing her to cringe in pain. There's definitely some broken bones in there, maybe some internal bleeding. Desperately, she reaches a hand down to her belt, fingers shaking and fumbling through one of the compartments. Meanwhile, Jerry casually approaches her, hands clasped behind his back.

Jerry: Are you broken, yet?

Grunting out a pained response, Rose forces herself to roll over onto her hands and knees. She doesn't make it much farther than that, though, unable to lift herself back up to her feet.

Jerry: Now, here's the part where I debate whether or not to kill you outright.

Reaching down, he grabs her by the throat and lifts her up, holding her at arm's length. What he doesn't notice, however, is her hand brushing up against his chest on the way up.

Jerry: Finally being rid of you would be satisfying... but I'm not quite sure if it would be more satisfying than giving you a front row seat to Silverstone's armageddon. Maybe I should let you decide, hmm? What do you say?

Rose: I say... boom.

Jerry raises an eyebrow, then slowly glances downward to see another one of those small explosive devices attached to his chest, the red light blinking faster and faster. Instantly, his expression slackens.

Jerry: Oh, you little b-

BOOM!

When the explosion goes off, a hot fireball engulfs Jeremiah, forcing him to stagger backwards. While the force of the blast had mostly been concentrated in his direction, a smaller, less concentrated shockwave bursts backwards, lifting Rose into the air and sending her hurtling into the wall behind her. For several moments, she just lies there, not having the strength to get back up.

Jerry, meanwhile, thrashes around and falls to his knees, as his malleable flesh begins to melt off his bones. He does manage to escape the heat and flames a few moments later, but he has a little trouble putting himself back together, unable to reform himself as quickly as he normally can.

Jerry: Again... with the incendiaries. This is proving to be an annoyance.

Holding both hands to the floor, Jerry leans over and closes his eyes, breathing in deeply. He's concentrating, trying to restabilize his molecular structure, though he finds it increasingly difficult. Eventually, however, he does manage to reform his flesh around his bones, a slow, agonizing process. He also finds it difficult to retain the form, as every few seconds he can feel his flesh beginning to melt off again.

Jerry: Just a little more... there we go.

Finally, he manages to retain his shape completely, though his body isn't without a few deformities along the way. Much of his flesh still hangs loosely, half melted, but at least it's staying on his bones. Breathing in deeply again, he lifts his head and rises back to a standing position... only to then pause in momentary surprise as he sees Rose standing there in front of him. She may barely be on her feet, staggering and teetering, but she's there, and she's holding the point of her energy blade inches from his eyes.

Rose: These weapons can't cut organic material, you know. They'll still shock the f*ck out of you, though. Now, I'm curious. Does that flesh of yours count as organic material?

Jerry merely glares up at her. He attempts to form his body into some sort of weapon, but it isn't responding to his commands. His molecules are still recovering, and they can't start reshaping themselves again so quickly.

Rose: Nothing? Well then, let's find out. The fun way.

On that note, she takes a vicious swing with the sword, aiming it the man's neck. The edge of the blade slices across his his throat, but doesn't cut through. Instead, it delivers an explosive surge of electricity to his body. In seconds, Jerry is screaming. This isn't just surprise, or mild annoyance. This is pain. True, honest, and utterly excruciating pain. Rose holds the sword against him for several minutes, reveling almost a little too much in the man's agony. Finally, she shuts off the energy source, releasing Jerry from the torture. By now, his clay-like flesh is beginning to melt off again, almost like liquid. She can see his muscles and tendons beneath, a sight that would be rather nauseating were it not actually satisfying at the moment.

Rose: How do I shut off the bombs?

Jerry: You... don't.

Rose: You activated them through a wireless signal. You have to have a way to deactivate them, too.

Jerry: If you really believe... that I would tell you, after all this... then you are a fool.

Rose: No... you will tell me. You have to tell me!

Jerry: I don't have to tell you anything.

A wicked grin slowly forms across the man's decaying face.

Jerry: You may kill me, Rose... but you will still fail this city. In the end, I still win.

A numb, sinking sensation begins to bubble up in the pit of her stomach, as she realizes exactly how hopeless her situation is right now.

I can't deactivate them remotely... he won't let me. And we don't know where any of them are. I can't even contact anyone to tell them it's safe to call for help now. No, there has to be... something I can do. There has to be a way I can save this city!

Jerry: Is it beginning to sink in yet? Just how badly you've failed?

Rose's expression suddenly darkens, eyes narrowing and face scowling. She reaches out and grabs Jerry by the collar of his charred, nearly shredded shirt, and drags him across the reception hall.

Jerry: What are you doing?

No response.

Jerry: I asked you a question, Rose! Where are you going?

Rose: Right here.

She stops at the ledge of the giant pit near the back of the loading area, the pit where the dump trucks would unload their waste. It leads to a conveyer belt down below, which then guides the waste into the incinerator itself, where it would be burned to ash. Without so much as a shift in her demeanor, she extends her arm and holds Jerry up over the void. He immediately grasps onto her wrist, desperately trying to hold on as his legs kick helplessly in open space.

Jerry: You can't do this, Rose!

Rose: You're wrong, Jerry. I can do this. And f*ck, I'm going to enjoy it.

At that comment, Jerry suddenly calms himself, no longer struggling. He merely stares back at her with a grin.

Jerry: You see? I was right all along. Nothing but a sadistic murderer. I win, Rose. I win.

Rose holds her glare on him for several moments longer, her expression not once shifting into anything more than pure, venomous hate.

Rose: If that's what you want to believe, then sure-

Her grip abruptly releases him, causing Jerry to plummet down into the dark, empty pit.

Rose: -you win, Jeremiah. You win.

---

Jerry hits bottom with a sickening thud, rolling down across the slanted conveyer belt until coming to a stop on a flatter surface. He utters a small groan, then slowly pushes his way back to his hands and knees. He tries reforming his flesh again, but at this point it's futile. His body is far too fried to accomplish it, not without an extensive recovery time. Blinking a few times, he looks around and tries to adjust his eyes to the complete blackness surrounding him, not a single spark of light to allow him to see.

Jerry: The fall didn't kill me, Rose... you failed again.

Now, all he has to do is bide his time until he recovers, at which point he can easily break free of of this structure and finish Rose off once and for all. No more messing around next time, either. No more toying, no more dragging things out. He'll find her and gut her, plain and simple. It'll be quick, and it'll be satisfying. A small grin twists across his face, as he contemplates the act of ripping the heart out of her chest and watching her die. He normally isn't one to enjoy such grotesque violence, but given the circumstances, he can make an exception.

A brief moment later, however, he quickly realizes that something is wrong. He can hear something... a loud, shrill hissing. It sounds like... gas? And then, suddenly, he can see, as a dull glow of illumination finds its way into the chamber. It's what causes the illumination that makes his eyes go wide. Small flames, all in a row, ignite on either side of him, as the metal conveyer belt begins to move. When it brings him into the center of the chamber, and the flames around him begin to grow, he slackens his posture and smiles a bewildered, defeated smile.

Jerry: Clever, clever girl...

Not a moment later, the entire chamber fills with a massive, scorching wave of flames. In an instant, Jeremiah Belmont is completely engulfed, as his body rapidly disintegrates into a pile of ash, accompanied by shrill, horrid screams of pain.

---

Rose lowers her hand from the plant controls, then bows her head and squints her eyes shut.

Had to be done... couldn't let him live. Not again. Not after the things he's done.

That's what she tells herself anyway, how she justifies it. Jeremiah may have been quite possibly the man most deserving of such a fate that she's come across, and yet the act of killing him still causes an unexplained sense of guilt. She hadn't been in a blind rage, consumed by anger, as the last time she thought she killed him. This time, it was a premeditated, calculated decision. This time, she flat out chose to murder him. No matter how justified, the consequences of the act itself is still something she'll be dealing with for a long time to come. Contrary to what she told Jerry before she let him fall, she doesn't enjoy it, not one bit.

Pushing herself away from the control panel, Rose stumbles across the floor. Her job isn't done yet; she still has to find a way to disarm the bombs before Silverstone goes up in smoke, before hundreds of thousands of innocent people die. Since she has no way of contacting anyone right now, she can't give the word that it's now safe to call in outside help. If she could just get a hold of Dick, or another member of the Justice League, they could have the problem solved in no time. Instead, she has to do it the old fashioned way. She has to get out of this plant, and she has to physically find someone who can help, or at least find a working phone.

Unfortunately, she doesn't make it very far before her injuries catch up with her. Without any advance warning, her legs give out. She collapses to the floor and lies there, barely able to move. Aside from the broken bones and bruising all throughout her body, the gash in her side has spilled a little too much blood for her body's liking. Her entire body is beginning to shut down, she can feel it. Her arms and legs begin to absently twitch and spasm, while her vision blurs. Finally unable to bear it any longer, she drops her head down to the floor and shuts her eyes.

I... couldn't do it... I failed...

And then, her entire world goes dark.

Chapter #88

Int. Silverstone General Hospital – Day

Rose's mind drifts around in inky darkness for what feels like an eternity. For once, she feels completely at peace. No more pain, no more stress, no more chaos. She almost doesn't want it to end... but of course, it does have to end eventually, as consciousness slowly comes back to her. At first, it's just a tiny flicker of light, accompanied by hazy images. Her eyes flicker again, a little wider this time, until finally they open completely. Several long moments later, her vision begins to clear up, allowing her to take in her surroundings.

Oh god, not another hospital room...

By now, she's come to really hate hospital rooms. They're dark, dingy, and smell of death. The only thing good that comes from the revelation is that it means she's still alive, though from the looks of it she isn't in very good condition. Or, at least she hadn't been. She should be barely able to move, with broken bones, cuts, bruises, and all manner of other injuries riddling her body. Yet, for some reason, there is no pain. Even as she slowly sits up and tears the oxygen mask off her face, she feels perfectly fine, almost as if her wounds have already completely healed.

Before she can contemplate her situation much longer, movement draws her attention. She looks to the side of her bed to see a figure sitting there in a chair, a figure that had, until a few seconds ago, been fast asleep.

Ruby: Hrrmmph... Rose?

The woman utters a long yawn, slowly awakening. She stretches her arms out, cracks her back, and then sits up straighter in her seat.

Ruby: Oh god... you're awake. Thank goodness.

Rose: Ruby? I... what happened?

Rubbing her eyes momentarily, Ruby stifles another yawn and sets her hands down on her knees.

Ruby: Well, after I got Holly and the others to safety, I came to see if I could help you. Found you out cold and near death... you were barely alive when I brought you here.

Rose: How long was I out?

Ruby: You... well, I mean...

Rose: Ruby, how long?

Ruby: You've been in a coma for three weeks.

Instantly, Rose straightens up in her bed, nearly lurching over the side in surprise.

Rose: Three weeks?!

That explains why my injuries have healed, but... but what about...

Rose: The bombs, what happened with the bombs? Are we even in Silverstone right now? Is the city-

Ruby: Relax, the city's fine. We're in Silverstone, safe and sound.

A heavy, relieved breath finds its way out of her throat.

Rose: How did you stop them?

Ruby: Once we found out that Jeremiah was... no longer an issue, we called in help. Zatanna had the bombs deactivated and dismantled with just a few words.

Rose: I see... Good old Z.

As she revels in their apparent victory, however, another thought hits her. Heart sinking, she looks up quickly at Ruby.

Rose: And... and Becky? Is she still...

At this question, Ruby calmly smiles

Ruby: Becky's doing just fine.

Rose: She's... she's fine?

Ruby: Yes, perfectly healthy and back to her old self. I believe she's out with Holly right now, making up for lost time.

A numb, yet elated sensation begins to bubble up in Rose's throat. She smiles, lowering her gaze and lifting a hand to her face, while struggling to hold back her relieved tears.

Rose: Then, I... I was right. He did do something to her.

Ruby: That he did. From what your friend, Cyborg, could determine, the nanites bonded to her system had been given very specific programming. When they integrated into her brain, they changed her, got her to think and act exactly how Jerry wanted her to. Fortunately, Cyborg disabled their programming, and they're no longer affecting her behavior.

A long silence abruptly descends over the pair. Rose continues staring down, lowering her hands and taking in a deep, contemplative breath.

Rose: So now she's... she's back. She's really back.

Ruby: And very looking forward to seeing you awake again.

Rose: But... how do I...

She pauses again, briefly rubbing her eyes and then glancing back to Ruby.

Rose: I mean, what about... what about us?

Ruby: Rose, please. What we had was fun, enjoyable... oh god, was it enjoyable. But we didn't have what you and Becky have. We don't have that kind of love. It really is amazing, the way she talks about you, the way she feels about you... You two are absolutely made for each other, and I'm not getting in the way of that.

Rose takes in the statement slowly, breathing in a steady breath and straightening herself further. Gradually, a small smile forms its way across her face, and she gives Ruby an appreciative nod.

Rose: Thank you.

Getting up from her seat, Ruby leans in close and gently kisses Rose's forehead.

Ruby: My pleasure, dear.

Returning to her seat, Ruby then delivers a playful smirk

Ruby: But hey, if you two ever need a third party to spice things up, just give me a call.

With a surprised look of confusion coming over her face, Rose's eyebrows slowly lift.

Rose: Uh...

Ruby: Kidding, kidding. Anyway, I suppose I should get going, let you get some rest.

Rose: Rest? Are you kidding me? I've been resting for three weeks. I need to stretch my legs, I need some food... and I need to see Becky.

Ruby: Oh, well in that case-

Standing up from her chair again, Ruby reaches an arm forward and pulls Rose out from the bed. Rose stumbles momentarily, her muscles weak from three weeks of not being used.

Ruby: -let's get you out of this dreadful hospital, shall we?

Ext. Silverstone City Park – Day

The days is... perfect. That's really the only way to describe it. Sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and just the right kind of breeze to keep the heat bearable. Add to that the relaxing scenery of the park, and there isn't another place that Rose would rather be right now. Then again, there is a much different reason she wants to be here right now, a reason that she can see sitting a short distance away.

Becky leans back against the park bench, elbows propped up behind her. Circe sits next to her in a much less relaxed pose, posture straight and one leg crossed over the other. The two are currently engaged in a quiet conversation, as they watch Holly and Lyta just a short distance away on the playground. Taking in a deep breath, Rose steadies herself on her tired legs and gently pushes away from Ruby's supporting hold.

Rose: I got it from here.

Ruby: Careful now, don't want to trip and fall. That'd just ruin the moment.

Smiling absently to herself, Rose takes a few cautious steps forward. When she feels comfortable standing on her own two feet, she starts approaching the park bench. She makes it halfway there before Becky looks up and sees her. Instantly, Becky springs to her feet and starts running forward, her expression one of overwhelmed joy. As much as Rose wants to respond the same, to run into the woman's arms, her legs don't want to obey such strenuous commands, not yet.

When Becky lunges forward into her arms, Rose utters a small breath and sinks into the embrace, arms coming up to wrap around her tightly. She tries to say something, but her voice catches numbly in her throat, so instead she merely closes her eyes and buries her face against Becky's shoulder. She isn't even trying to fight the tears this time; they come naturally, and she lets them flow.

Becky: Miss me?

Rose: You have no idea.

Becky: I love you, Rose. Nothing will ever change that.

Rose: I know... I love you, too.

Leaning back, Rose sniffles back a breath and smiles. A second later, she comes in with a firm, passionate kiss. The moment that their lips touch, an explosion of warmth and elation surges through her, the likes of which she hasn't known in a long time. When their kiss finally breaks, she closes her eyes again and rests her forehead against Becky's.

Rose: Let's take a walk, just you and me. There's... so much I want to talk about.

Smiling broadly, Becky reaches down and takes one of Rose's hands in her own, interlocking their fingers together.

Becky: I'd like nothing better.

After giving a brief wave to the others, Rose and Becky head down the path, hand in hand. It's something that Rose never thought she'd experience ever again. She's almost afraid it isn't real, that she's somehow dreaming, and once she wakes up everything will be gone again. But no, not this time... this time, it's real. No more illusions, no more dreams, no more nightmares... It's just her and Becky.

As the two walk slowly across the pond bridge, Becky leans in close and lets out a long breath. Rose glances over calmly, then brings up an arm to wrap around her shoulders.

Becky: Rose... those things that I said, I... I didn't mean any of it.

Rose: I know, Becky... I know.

Becky: And I'm sorry, for everything. For not listening, for being dense, for... for leaving you. I...

Rose: Shh.

Turning her head, she plants a gentle kiss on Becky's forehead.

Rose: It's alright, really. I'm just glad you're back.

Becky: You and me both, girl. You and me both.

Rose: So, you been catching up while I was out?

Becky: Si, been spending time with everyone. Holly, Circe, Lyta, Ruby... you were right, by the way. I do like her.

A small laugh finds its way past Rose's lips.

Rose: I told you.

Becky: So, you two were really...?

Rose: Yeah... but not anymore. I mean, with you back now, we... well we're just friends.

Becky: She make you happy? When you were together, I mean.

Rose: Uh, well... yes, she did.

A smile curls its way across Becky's face.

Becky: Good.

Furrowing her brow, Rose tilts her head in confusion.

Rose: Good?

Becky: That you were happy, yeah. That's all I've ever wanted for you, to be happy.

Rose slowly returns the smile, turning towards Becky and wrapping her arms around the woman's waist.

Rose: Have I mentioned how much I love you?

Becky: Not in the last five minutes.

Giving another kiss, Rose takes hold of Becky's hand again and then continues walking across the pond bridge.

Rose: So, you gone back to the station yet?

Becky: And do what, waltz into Palmer's office and ask for my badge back? Ha, no, not yet. I figure I should give it a little more time... I'm just trying to enjoy things for the time being. Although...

She takes in a deep breath, slowly exhaling.

Becky: I am going to have to face my family again sooner or later. They'll be... well, to be honest, I'm not sure how they'll react to me coming back. It's not something that happens everyday, you know? Someone you love coming back from the dead.

Rose: Not outside comic books, anyway.

Becky: I want you there with me when I go see them.

Rose: Um... I don't really know if that's the best idea. I'm not exactly their favorite person, seeing as how I got their daughter killed...

Becky: Please, I got myself killed. Never should have run ahead of you guys like that... was just a little overeager I guess.

Rose: I appreciate the sentiment, Becky, but even if you can convince them that you dying wasn't my fault, there's the fact that... that we're...

Becky: That we're what? In a lesbian relationship? Yeah, we are. And so what?

Rose: Well, I just-

Uttering a frustrated breath, Becky lifts a hand to her face and shakes her head.

Becky: I spent such a conscious effort before to hide who I was. My sister was the only one who knew, and that's only because she caught me making out with my ex. But I was so... afraid of what people would think of me, I never told anyone else. Well not this time around. If my parents want me in their lives, they're going to have to accept me for who I am, plain and simple. I don't care how much they hate it.

Rose: You mean that?

Becky: Si, I mean it.

Rose: Well... alright then. I'll be there for you.

Turning her head, Becky leans in and gives her another brief kiss on the cheek.

Becky: Thanks. Now, what do you say we go out for lunch? Then maybe we can head back to the apartment... make up for some lost time?

Rose: Becky...

A large, pleased grin spreads across her face. Tightening her hold around Becky's hand, she quickens their pace.

Rose: I thought you'd never ask.

Ext. Chavez Residence – Day

Two days later, Rose and Becky stand outside on the porch of the small, suburban home. Rose stands slightly off to the side, arms folded across her chest and posture slouched. She takes in deep, slow breaths, trying to mentally prepare herself for what's about to come. This little visit could go either very well, or very poorly. It's all up to Becky.

Becky: You ready?

Rose: Not really. You?

Becky: I wish I could say I was. Here goes nothing.

Raising her fist up to the door, she gently raps her knuckles against it several times, then stands back and waits. Several moments go by before the sound of shuffling feet comes from inside. A short second later, the door opens inward, revealing a short, thin woman with long, stringy hair. It's Emma Chavez, Becky's mother.

Emma: Yes, how can I-

Understandably, words escape her when she sees the person standing across from her.

Becky: Hey, Mom... how are you?

Emma stumbles forward, her legs seemingly refusing to obey her mental commands. When she finally makes it to her daughter, she reaches up with shaky hands to touch her face, as if wanting to make sure she isn't seeing things, or that it isn't a ghost come back to haunt her.

Emma: Rebecca, is it... are you...?

Becky: It's me, mamá. I'm here.

Almost instantly, the woman breaks down, a hand coming over her mouth as she begins weeping with a mixture of overwhelming joy and sorrow. Becky holds her arms forward, hugging her mother warmly. After several moments of silent reunion, Emma suddenly turns back around to shout further inside the house.

Emma: Jorge! Jorge! Come here! Dios mio, come here!

The sound of more footsteps reach their ears, until a man appears in the main hallway, heading for the door. Jorge Chavez, Rebecca's father.

Jorge: I'm coming, I'm coming. What's so important that you need to be shouting at me?

His question is answered when he reaches the doorway and his eyes fall on his daughter, back from the dead. For a moment, he simply stands there, staring at her, then slowly walks forward in disbelief.

Jorge: Rebecca?

Becky: Si, papá. It's me.

Breaking down in a similar fashion to his wife, Jorge comes forward and takes his daughter into his arms, holding her tightly and fighting through his tears.

Jorge: I don't believe it. My ángel... oh my little ángel.

Emma: Our baby has come back to us... it's a miracle.

The three remain in each other's embrace for several minutes longer. Rose continues standing there quietly, not daring to interrupt the tearful reunion. Eventually, though, Becky takes a step back, briefly wiping her eyes before turning her parents around.

Becky: Guys, there's... someone I want you to meet.

The reaction is about what Rose expected. Instantly, the emotions turn from joy to anger. The looks of hate that they give her would almost be unbearable, had Rose not been used to receiving those kinds of looks by now.

Jorge: What is she doing here?!

Emma: We told you to stay away from our family! You took our daughter away from us!

Becky: It's not her fault. If you want to blame someone for what happened, blame me, please. I put myself in that situation, I'm the reason I was taken from you.

Jorge: But Rebecca, she's-

Becky: No buts, Dad. I won't have you talking that way about my girlfriend.

The comment catches them by surprise. Jorge and Emma give each other brief looks of surprise, then turn back to their daughter.

Emma: Then it... it's true? When she spoke at your funeral, we assumed she was lying.

Jorge: Did she do this to you? Did she turn you into... into one of them?

Becky: No, she didn't turn me into anything. I've always been this way. I just never told you before, because I knew you'd react like this.

Emma: How else can we react? It's... it's unnatural.

Becky: The hell it is! Jueputa, this is who I am, and that makes it natural. Just because I like women, it doesn't change the fact that I'm still your daughter, the same daughter you've always known. I'm still me.

Jorge: Rebecca, it's just... I mean, we... oh Dios.

Holding a hand to head, he utters a frustrated breath and turns away momentarily.

Emma: Sweetie, we... we know you're still our daughter, but this is... we don't know if we can...

Becky: I'm not asking for you to approve of it. I'm not even asking you to like it. I'm just asking you to accept it. This is who I am, and it's not going to change. Besides...

Walking over to Rose, Becky reaches down and takes hold of one of her hands.

Becky: I love her.

Jorge: You... love her?

Becky: Si, with all my heart.

Slowly, Jorge and Emma look over at each other, as if quietly trying to decipher the other's thoughts. Eventually, the two slowly glance back at them. For a long moment, an uncomfortable silence hangs over them, until they finally break it.

Emma: Rose, was it?

Clearing her throat, she cautiously nods.

Rose: Uh, yeah.

Emma: Would you... like to come in for some coffee?

Breathing out a small breath of relief, Rose briefly glances at Becky and smiles.

Rose: Yes... I'd like that.

17 Comments

Rose Wilson: The Ravager - Under Siege: Part 1 (#77-82)

Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy/Ruby, Jeremiah Belmont, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.

Rating: M (this arc was a little more... intense than my last ones)

Note: Familiar enemies have returned, and they're coming after Rose! Finding herself and her friends under attack, Rose must work to stop them before she loses everything and everyone she holds dear.

Side Note: The first part to a two part arc, the second to last full arc of the series. After part 2, there will be one more story arc, followed by a couple follow up chapters to bring things to a close. Already got most of it worked out. Now, let's see if this gets more comments than the whopping 1 that my last story arc got...

All Chapters: http://www.comicvine.com/forums/fan-fic/8/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/660884/#1

Chapter #77

Ext. Silverstone City Park - Day

It is a peaceful day, a nice day. The sun shines brightly, with not a cloud in the sky, and a cool breeze blows gently through the streets. Rose closes her eyes momentarily, taking time to enjoy the wind whipping through hair. It seems like such a long time since she's actually been able to just relax and enjoy a day like today.

Vendor: Next.

Opening her eyes again, Rose takes a step forward up to the hot dog cart.

Rose: One with onions and relish, and one with everything.

Vendor: Coming right up.

When the vendor hands over the pair of hot dogs, Rose pays for them, then walks back across the grass towards the picnic table, where Circe sits, watching the two girls, Holly and Lyta, having fun over on the playground a short distance away. Sitting down across from her, she hands over one of the hot dogs.

Rose: And there you go, one with everything.

Circe: Much appreciated. It's odd, how much of a taste I've developed for these things. Such a simple food, yet so... savory.

Rose: Well, that cart does sell the best ones in the city, from my experience.

The two eat quietly for a moment, though it doesn't take long before Rose puts her food down and releases a long sigh.

Circe: Something wrong?

Rose: No, that's the thing. Everything is... great. I mean, as good as they can be, anyway.

Circe: Some people would be happy about that.

Rose: And I am. There's just... a lot of things on my mind, is all. You know, I still don't think I've thanked you for before, for setting me straight. So, thanks.

Circe: Please, I was only doing my duty as your friend. Nothing more.

Rose: Yeah, well I still appreciate it. I think I really needed that slap.

Circe: Now that part was a pleasure.

Smirking slightly, Rose raises up her hot dog to take another bite.

Rose: If I ever act even remotely like that again in the future, promise you'll slap me harder.

Circe: Oh, I'll do more than just slap you. Count on it.

Rose: You know, I realize something. We've known each other for quite a while now, and I still don't know much about you. Well, other than the fact that you used to be a deranged sorceress with god-like power.

Circe: And that's all there really is to know. Trust me, my history is a long and complicated one, and I'd very much like not to go into it. The past is the past, and that's where I want to leave it.

Rose: Guess I can't fault you for that. You were, like, a big Wonder Woman foe, though, right? I think I recall Wonder B*tch mentioning something about that before.

Circe: Yes, Diana and I have a long, outstanding history with one another.

Rose: But you aren't going to elaborate on that, are you?

Circe: Not a chance.

Retaining her cool demeanor, Circe finishes off the last of her hot dog, washing the bite down with a gulp from her water bottle.

Circe: Though, I imagine that if she could see me right now, see how far I've fallen, she'd have herself a good laugh.

Rose: I don't know-

Glancing to her left, she watches Holly and Lyta for a moment, both girls traversing the monkey bars quite adeptly.

Rose: -can you really call living a happy life with your daughter 'falling'?

Circe, too, looks over at the two two girls again. A long breath of air emerges past her lips.

Circe: No, no I suppose I can't.

Rose: So, now I'm not usually the one to pry on these things, but I'm curious. Are you ever going to get a date?

At this question, Circe lets out a very amused, very genuine laugh. She smiles, holding a hand to her face and shaking her head.

Rose: Didn't realize I was telling a joke.

Circe: I'm sorry, but the concept of mingling with these mortal men is just so... ridiculous. I may be a mortal woman now, but that doesn't mean I'm going to give myself to any of these weak minded, self centered pigs.

Rose: Well... I suppose when your former partner is the god war, it's hard to find someone who really measures up, huh?

Circe: Quite. I've yet to meet a man who I find worthy of my affections, as if I even have many affections to give.

Rose: I'm sure there's somebody out there for you.

Circe: Perhaps, but I haven't found him yet. One of your fellow super heroes, maybe, should I ever meet one. Some of them seem like they could be rather... virile.

It's Rose's turn to laugh, though her is a much quieter, more reserved sort of laugh. A broad smirk curls across her face, as she shakes her head and lets out a long sigh.

Rose: I will say, you are a unique woman.

Circe: Something I pride myself on very much, thank you.

As they continue to sit there, watching their daughters play, Rose's phone begins to ring. She doesn't want to answer it, but for all she knows it could be Dick calling about something important. Best to just pick it up. Finally pulling the phone out of her pocket, she holds it up to her ear.

Rose: Hello? Uh, yes, this is she... yes, I know a Ruby Lawson. She's what?!

A brief burst of panic sets in her voice, before she calms herself.

Rose: O- okay, I'll be right there. Yes, thank you.

Circe lifts a curious eyebrow, as Rose hangs up and stuffs the phone back in her pocket.

Circe: Who on earth was that?

Rose: That was the hospital. Ruby's in their intensive care wing, admitted last night.

Circe: Isn't that the woman that messed with your emotions these past couple weeks?

Rose: So what if she is?

Circe: Well, then why should you care? I say good riddance.

Rose: She isn't a bad person, she just made bad choices. That's something we've all done. Anyway, I have to go. Can you let Holly know what's going on? I'll be by to pick her up later.

Exhaling deeply, Circe merely shrugs her shoulders.

Circe: Of course. That's what I'm here for, isn't it?

Int. Silverstone General Hospital - Day

After pushing her way through the hospital entrance, Rose hurries up to the front desk in the main lobby. She didn't realize that she would be this worried over something happening to Ruby like this, and yet she can already feel a sense of anxiety setting in. Ruby really isn't a bad person; yes, she made some bad decisions and did some bad things, but who hasn't? Rose is guilty of that a hundred times over throughout her own life. She'd be a hypocrite to condemn the woman for that.

Rose: Hi, I just got a call about a friend admitted here last night. Her name's Ruby Lawson. What room is she in?

The secretary briefly glances up at her, then turns to her computer, pulling up the information.

Secretary: Let's see... here it is. Ruby Lawson, room 38B. I'm going to need to ask you to sign in on the visitor's list, please, while I alert Doctor Watson that his patient is expecting a visitor.

Rose quickly signs off her name on the clipboard, along with her time of arrival, and then hurries off again to the elevator. She hits the third floor button, then leans back against the elevator wall and utters a long breath, one hand brushing her hair out of her face. She waits quietly as she ascends, ignoring the lame background music coming from the speakers. Normally, such soft, classical music would probably have her ready to rip the speaker off the ceiling, but she's too worried at the moment to get annoyed.

As the elevator doors open, Rose moves out down the hallway, keeping her eyes on the numbers. When she finally makes it to 38B, a doctor is already standing outside, waiting to greet her and making notes on a clipboard.

Rose: Dr. Watson?

The doctor looks up from his clipboard, putting the pen into his front pocket and extending his hand.

Dr. Watson: Miss Wilson, I presume?

Reaching forward, she briefly shakes the man's hand.

Rose: That's me, yeah. How is she?

Dr. Watson: Well, she's stable right now, but her injuries are rather severe. I'm not going to lie, she's lucky to even be alive. We barely managed to stop the bleeding before we could get her in for an emergency transfusion and surgery. We've been working on her all night.

Rose: Uh, okay, so... do you know what happened?

Dr. Watson: I haven't the slightest clue. She quite literally appeared out of thin air in our waiting room last night, around midnight. Bleeding everywhere, too - the janitorial staff is still scrubbing the carpets.

Flipping through his clipboard, he pulls out the medical report and lets Rose take a look.

Dr. Watson: Six puncture wounds; three through her abdomen, two through her chest, one through the shoulder. Miraculously enough, most of her vital organs went undamaged; that's the only thing that saved her. She would have bled out in a matter of minutes, though, if she didn't... I don't know, teleport here when she did.

Rose: Who could have done this to her?

She's just thinking out loud, mostly, as she goes over the details on Ruby's injuries. The doctor is right; Ruby is lucky to be alive.

Dr. Watson: I'm afraid that isn't my area. Best leave that to the police. Though, if I had to make a guess, I'd say some gangbanger got a hold of her. When she arrived here, she was dressed in some fancy costume like those super hero folk. Maybe she just got unlucky.

Rose: Yeah... maybe.

Not a chance. No way some random goon takes out a teleporting empath.

Rose: By the way, how did you know to contact me?

Dr. Watson: Oh, right, almost forgot.

Rummaging through his pockets momentarily, Doctor Watson eventually pulls out a small, crumpled, and bloody slip of paper.

Dr. Watson: Before she passed out, she managed to scribble this down, said to call you when we got a chance.

Rose tentatively takes the paper from him, opening it up and staring at the writing. Parts of it are barely legible beneath a thick, dry crust of crimson, but she can still read it. In addition to her name and number, there are another two words: 'They're coming'.

They're coming? Who's coming?

She stares at the paper for a few more seconds, then turns it over. On the other side is an address: 586 Fiske Avenue.

Rose: I don't suppose she's awake right now, is she?

Dr. Watson: Out cold, and will be for a while. You can go in and see if you want, but be brief.

Rose: Right... I'll just be a few minutes.

Giving her a nod, Doctor Watson heads back down the hall to attend to his other patients. Rose utters a long sigh and pushes through the hospital room door. It's exactly what she expects from this place by now. Dark, quiet, heart monitor beeping methodically... she hates that it feels so familiar, with how much she's been in this place over the past couple years.

Rose sits at the bedside, just staring at the Ruby beneath the covers. An oxygen mask is fixed around her mouth, and of course the multitude of wires and tubes keeping her alive. Eventually, Rose bows her head, staring at the floor.

Rose: What did you get yourself into, Ruby?

For a few long moments, she continues to sit there in silence. Each passing minute, the feeling welling up inside her grows more intense. At first, she doesn't know what it is, but she soon realizes exactly what she's feeling, aside from the obvious worry. It's anger, with a little dash of determination. And maybe a little guilt. She hasn't felt quite like this in a long time, and now that she's feeling it again, she knows exactly what she has to do. Raising the bloody note back up to her face, she stares at the words written on it. Her eyes narrow, and then her fingers clench, crumpling the paper into her fist.

I don't know who did this to you, Ruby. I don't know who they are... but I'm damn sure going to find out.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Night

Setting the glass of water on the nightstand, Rose leans forward and gives Holly a gentle kiss on the forehead. The girl smiles, settling down against her pillow and gazing back up at her adoptive mother. For a brief moment, the two just look at each other lovingly, until finally Rose stands up straight.

Rose: Alright, you know the drill by now. Security system is up, doors are locked, and if anything happens, you know where the panic room is.

Holly: I know, Mom, I'll be fine. Not the first time we've done this.

Rose: Yeah... just like old times, right?

Holly: Right.

The two smile at each other again, and then Rose makes her way back over to the door, flicking the light switch off.

Holly: Hey, mom?

Rose: Yeah, hun?

Holly: I'm glad you're helping people again.

Rose: It's like you said, Holly: if you can help people, you should. Well, I can. So I will.

A small laugh finds its way out of Holly's throat.

Holly: You said that, remember?

Rose: And you reminded me.

A small pause goes by, and then Holly's tone grows a little more solemn.

Holly: You're gonna find the guys who hurt Ruby, right?

Rose: Yeah, I am.

Holly: Promise?

Rose pauses a moment, then reaches up and slides the faceplate down over the front of her helmet.

Ravager: I promise.

Holly puts on another smile, reassured by those words. If her mother says it, then it has to be true. Whoever put Ruby in the hospital would pay, now she's sure of it.

Holly: Good.

Ext. Silverstone City Streets – Night

Ravager stops outside the front of the building, gazing up at it carefully. From the looks of things, it's pretty deserted. As a matter of fact, it looks more like it's condemned, with how run down it is. It certainly didn't look like any place important... so then why is the building's address on the note that Ruby left for her? After taking a calm look around the area to make sure that no one else is in the immediate vicinity, she walks up to the front of the building and looks inside one of the boarded up windows.

Through a small gap in the wood she can see the interior. As she thought, the place is just about empty, and pretty dark, too. She doesn't really see what kind of clue she's supposed to find by breaking in there. But there has to be a reason that Ruby sent her here. Narrowing her eyes slightly, she takes a step backwards, pauses, and then looks up, a thought suddenly coming to her.

I wonder...

Moving around the side of the building, Ravager finds the rusted over fire escape and hoists herself upward, scaling towards the roof. When she makes it to the top, she pauses momentarily and looks around. There isn't a lot up here, just an access door leading inside the building, an old air conditioning unit, and a few stray pipes. Narrowing her gaze, she continues moving forward across the roof, further examining things.

That's when she sees it: a large, dark brown stain near one corner of the roof, the remains of a thick pool of blood. Kneeling down close to the stain, she tentatively dabs it with her gloved fingers. It's still wet and sticky in some areas, mostly beneath the dried surface. The pool had been quite thick in some areas.

Definitely lucky to be alive... what the hell did this to you, Ruby?

Lifting her gaze, Ravager takes another long look around, trying to find anything that could be considered a clue. Ruby had gone out of her way to send Ravager to the place where she'd been attacked, so there had to be something she could use. Her gaze stops on the top of a second fire escape across from her. Looking closer, she notices something curious and then stands up to investigate. Caught in the metal of the hand rails is a small tuft of brown hair.

Interesting...

Could it belong to the attacker? Before she gets a chance to take the evidence, however, she suddenly stiffens up as another presence makes itself known. Looks like she'll have to deal with something else before she can continue her investigation. Uttering a long, annoyed sigh, she turns around and stares at the figure standing across from her.

Ravager: I was wondering when you'd make your move. You've only been following me since Levitt Street.

Shiva: Disappointed I didn't attack sooner?

Ravager: Disappointed you even decided to come back. Seriously, is this your new thing now? Showing up randomly when I'm in the middle of something more important?

Lady Shiva's eyes narrow, her arms folding across her chest.

Shiva: Yes, well... we were interrupted last time, if you recall. I loathe having my fights interrupted.

Ravager: And so now you're back to 'settle' things, right? Took you long enough.

Shiva: I would have returned sooner, had I not ended up in Hong Kong before regaining my drive to combat you. I don't know what that woman did to me, but if I ever see her again...

Ravager: -she'll probably end up doing the same thing, so don't waste your time.

Turning her back on the woman, Ravager moves her attention back to the tuft of hair caught in the hand rail. Reaching into her belt, she pulls out a small plastic bag and places the sample inside it.

Ravager: Anyway, I don't really have time to 'settle' things right now, so why don't you come back later? Book an appointment with my secretary and I'll get back to you. I think I have an opening next Tuesday...

Shiva: Oh no, you do not get off again that easily. Our rematch has been delayed quite enough, and I sense that you've recovered from the depression that held you back last time. We finish things now.

With no further hesitation, Lady Shiva sprints across the rooftop, ready to attack. Ravager breathes outwardly, eyes narrowing and head slightly turning back to look at the approaching woman. When Shiva lunges in with an expert, vicious palm strike to the back of the head, Ravager idly sidesteps, spins, and catches her arm.

Ravager: Big mistake.

Chapter #78

Ext. Silverstone City – Night

Shiva's eyes go wide, as suddenly she's flipping through the air. Instinctively, she twists her body around to land on her feet in a crouch, only to then be forced to raise her arms to defend against an incoming knee strike. The force of the blow knocks her backwards regardless. As she stumbles off balance, she turns and rolls, springing back up to her feet again in an instant and taking a defensive stance.

Shiva: Now that is what I expected from you.

Ravager: Yeah, I got better. A lot better.

Shiva: So you have. Good, then my time won't be wasted here.

She lunges forward again, this time leading with a quick side kick, aimed high. Ravager leans to the side, pushing her leg away, then counters with a pinning kick of her own. Shiva ducks, pivots, and then brings up a hard upper cut. She strikes only air, though, as Ravager moves around the strike with ease, then delivers a powerful kick to the gut that sends her reeling.

Shiva recovers in seconds, however, ignoring the throbbing in her stomach and then charges in again. This time, she's done testing. This time, she unleashes everything she has, a series of vicious, relentless strikes meant to cripple her opponent.

It isn't nearly enough.

Ravager does more than keep up with the attacks; she's one step ahead the entire way. She doesn't even need her precog to tell her where the strikes are coming from, instead blocking and dodging with pure skill and reflexes, which has risen to completely new levels ever since her training in Nanda Parbat. She plays on the defensive for a few moments longer, then decides to finish things.

Leaning away from one attack, she spins around her opponent and drives her elbow into the back of Shiva's head. When the blow doesn't put the woman down, Ravager keeps going, throwing a hard kick to back of the leg, causing Shiva to stumble to one knee. Then, she grabs one of Shiva's arms, twists it around, and tugs. With a loud snap! it breaks. A surprised cry of pain erupts from Lady Shiva's throat, but she stifles it a moment later, just kneeling there on the roof and clutching her broken arm.

Ravager: I may not be wasting your time, but you're wasting mine. I have better things to do right now.

Shiva: That was... impressive. I've not seen anyone fight like that since my daughter.

Ravager: Your daughter... you mean Bat Chick, right? Cassandra? Yeah, I beat her. Funny enough, she wants another rematch, too. Must run in the family.

Stifling a groan of pain, Lady Shiva slowly rises back to her feet, turning to give Ravager a long look.

Shiva: Where did you train this past year? I knew you had potential, but you could not have accomplished this level of improvement on your own.

Ravager: A very long way from here.

A small moment of pause passes, as a sudden sense of understanding finds its way to Shiva.

Shiva: I thought I recognized some of those movements. You trained with Dragon, didn't you? For how long?

Ravager: Hell if I know. A month and a half, out here. In there... I don't know, years, maybe. However you want to calculate the time warp thing.

Shiva: I see...

A brief moment of silence passes between them again, while Lady Shiva's lips curl into a very slight, barely noticeable smirk. When she speaks, it is barely more than a whisper, a statement meant mostly for herself.

Shiva: Congratulations, Richard... you found a way to beat me.

Ravager: Anyway, are we done here yet? I have places I need to be.

Shiva: Of course. I, too, have other obligations that must be taken care of.

Ravager: You mean assassinations.

Shiva: Do I?

Ravager's eyes narrow.

Ravager: Count yourself lucky that I have something more important to do right now than drag you to prison.

With her smirk widening ever so slightly, Lady Shiva turns from her and heads towards the ledge of the roof. Even with her broken arm, she doesn't appear to be slowed down very much. Before jumping down to the fire escape below, she glances back over her shoulder and gives a subtle nod.

Shiva: Until next time, Rose.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Night

The heavy, reinforced door slides open after Rose inputs the security code. The panic room/command center is cleverly hidden inside her apartment, the entrance disguised as part of the far wall in her living room. Just another thing she owes Dick and can never pay him back for. She isn't in here for the computer system, or the protection, though. Rather, she's here for the more scientific aspects, specifically the small lab station on the left side. She never needed to use it before, but right now it's sure going to come in handy.

Moving over to the work table, she takes out the small plastic bag and removes its contents, the clump of brown hair. She can use it to get a DNA sample, then maybe have Dick run it through a database and see if it brings up any suspects. At least, she hopes that will work. She isn't exactly an expert at this whole detective thing. Her specialty involves beating people to a pulp.

After taking off her gloves and helmet, she lifts up the hair and closely inspects it, feels it between her fingers. Something about it seems... off. It's quite shiny, and very soft. Either the person it belonged to has amazing conditioner, or...

It's not hair at all... it's fur.

But what kind of fur? The more she thinks about it, the more her hopes sink. She probably just got a sample of some stray animal, and that isn't going to help her cause at all. Though, if it does belong to a stray animal, like a dog or maybe a cat, then what on earth was it doing on the roof? Narrowing her eyes, she reaches over and grabs the nearby microscope, then pins the tuft of fur down on a slide and puts it in place to be inspected.

During the next twenty minutes, Rose carefully examines the fur, while cross referencing its microscopic appearance with records in the computer system next to her. She'll have to thank Dick later for such an extensive database on... well, just about anything she could ever need, really, even the composition of different animal furs. Eventually, she has her answer.

Wolf fur? That can't be right. What the hell would a wolf be doing in-

Her thoughts suddenly cease, an unfortunate revelation coming to her. No, it can't be. Could it? Breathing outwardly, she hurries out of the command room and makes her way into her bedroom. There's one way to find our for sure. Entering the passcode on the wall panel, she watches as her back wall turns over, revealing all her gear on the other side. And by all, she means all, including the equipment that's been damaged in the past. She never throws any of it away, because she never knows when she might have a use for it. Like now, for example.

Pulling open a small box, she reaches in and grabs the sword hilt. It belongs to one of her old, broken blades, with only maybe a few inches of sharp steel still attached. But the blade itself isn't what she's after. Rather, she's after what's on the blade: dried smears of blood. In seconds, Rose exits the room and arrives back at her work station.

Rose: Alright... I'm going to need some help with this.

Reaching into her belt, she pulls out that special communicator that Dick gave her so long ago. She just hopes he's not busy right now. Pushing the button, she waits for a response.

Batman/Comm: Whoever this is, I can't talk right now!

In the background, she can hear the sounds of fighting; some yelling, some grunting, some crashing.

Rose: Dick, it's me. I need your help with something.

Batman/Comm: Rose?

Some more shouting. She hears some goon cry about his nose, and another crash through what sounds like glass.

Batman/Comm: Give me a minute!

She waits patiently, tapping her fingers against the table as Batman finishes up with whatever it is he's doing. Several minutes later, things finally quiet down.

Batman/Comm: Alright, I'm done.

Rose: Sounds like one hell of a party you're throwing down there.

Batman/Comm: It's a regular blast. What do you need?

Rose: I need you to walk me through how to do a DNA match.

Batman/Comm: Don't you have those manuals I gave you?

Rose: I might have neglected to read them, and I don't have the time right now. Please, this is urgent.

A small sigh comes in over the communicator.

Batman/Comm: Alright, give me a bit. I still have to check out this area, then I'll walk you through it.

Two hours later...

Rose leans back in her chair, just staring up at the large screen in front of her. She's been sitting like this for the past hour now, after going through the whole process of getting the materials prepared for sequencing. All that's left to do now is wait... though she could be waiting for a while. Right now, the progress bar reads: 17%. Uttering a long yawn, she glances at the clock. It's 3:24 in the morning. At least she doesn't have to be up in the morning, with tomorrow being Sunday. She can wait here as long as she needs to.

Several minutes later, a tired voice comes from behind her.

Holly: Mom?

Spinning around in her chair, Rose sees Holly, looking absolutely adorable in her pink pajamas and mussed up hair, standing in the doorway. The girl lets out a long yawn, before walking into the room.

Rose: Hey, what are you doing up? You should be sleeping.

Holly: I had to go to the bathroom, then I saw the light. Whatcha doing?

Rose: Well, right now I'm waiting for a DNA analysis to finish.

Blinking curiously, Holly stares at the computer screen.

Holly: What's a DNA analysis?

Rose: Here-

Motioning for the girl to come forward, Rose reaches down to help the girl up into her lap. She then turns the chair around back to the computer screen and starts pulling up a screen of information.

Rose: -I'll explain in just a second.

Holly: Will it help you catch who hurt Ruby?

A long breath seeps out of her lips, as she brings up a hand to brush back Holly's hair.

Rose: I hope so, sweetie. I hope so.

Int. Parking Garage – Night

The parking garage is mostly empty, save for a few cars here and there. At this hour, very few people are out and about. One couple, however, Billy and Dana, drunkenly stumbles across the third level towards their car, the only one in the immediate vicinity. They're both all smiles and laughs, after having enjoyed yet another late night out partying, and of course neither cares that they aren't in any condition to be driving home.

Billy: You was totally kickin' tonight, babe.

Dana: Mmmhm, I know I was.

As they reach their car, Billy suddenly moves in with an aggressive kiss to her neck. Even more aggressively, he pushes her back against the car and starts slipping his hands beneath her shirt. Dana giggles, playfully attempting to push his hands away.

Dana: Hey, easy there bad boy, someone might see us.

Billy: All part of the fun, babe. Come on, just a quickie; ain't no one around.

A shadow abruptly moves across the open space of the parking garage, slipping behind one of the pillars lining the center of it. Dana catches this out of the corner of her eye and lets out a startled gasp.

Billy: Oh, sounds like I got ya all revved up already.

Dana: No, I think... I think I saw sumin'. Over there.

Looking back over his shoulder, Billy narrows his eyes and takes a close look at where his girlfriend is pointing. Of course, with how blurred his vision is at the moment, he's not seeing much of anything. With a stupid grin, he turns back around and starts pulling down her skirt.

Billy: You're jus' seein' things.

Dana: No, Billy, I really thought I-

Crunch.

Something big and heavy lands atop their car, caving in the roof. Dana utters another shocked yelp, while Billy slowly looks upwards. When he sees the thing standing there, his eyes go wide with disbelief.

Billy: What the h-

A large furry arm comes down and grabs onto his throat, cutting off his sentence. With one swift jerk, the arm pulls him up and over the car, leaving behind a trail of blood. Dana stares straight up at where her boyfriend disappeared and screams in horror, briefly falling to the ground.

Dana: BILLY!!!

When her legs finally start working again, she fights her way back up to her feet and starts running, though in her current inebriated state, it's more accurate to say that she hobbles and trips her way along. Rounding the corner of a nearby pillar, she presses herself up against the flat of the concrete and closes her eyes, hiding.

Dana: Omigod, omigod, omigod.

After several moments, Dana opens her teary eyes again and sniffles, looking back around he edge of the pillar. She sees nothing but an empty lot. Maybe the attacker is gone? As soon as that thought runs through her head, however, a shadow casts over her. Blinking, she eases her gaze upward to see some kind of horrifying, scaly shark creature crawling its way along the upper half of the pillar.

Dana: No, no-! AAAHHHH!!!

Her scream is abruptly cut off, as the creature descends upon her, claws and teeth ripping into flesh, blood spraying everywhere. Within seconds, the creature drags Dana's lifeless corpse back into the shadows and begins to consume her.

---

A short while later, two naked figures stand casually in the shadows of one corner of the parking garage. The man licks his bloody fingers clean, savoring the flavor. The tattooed woman, on the other hand, turns her head and spits out a thick glob.

Zaria: I hate drunks; can taste the alcohol in their blood.

Kubrick: Tasted fine to me; and since when have you hated alcohol?

Zaria: Always, when it's in my food. Makes the blood bitter.

Kubrick: Huh, different taste buds, I guess.

Leaning back against the wall, Zaria folds her hands over her ample chest and gives him a hard look.

Zaria: You did remember the change of clothes, right?

Kubrick: In the car. You know... one of these days I'd like to find an outfit that doesn't shred every time I wolf out.

Zaria: What's the matter, embarrassed?

Kubrick returns her gaze, a small grin forming across his face.

Kubrick: I got nothing to be embarrassed about.

Slowly, Zaria's gaze drifts downwards, her own amused grin forming.

Zaria: Clearly.

Moving forward, Kubrick lashes out a hand and takes hold of her by the throat, then leans in and plants a lustful kiss on her lips. She returns the act in kind, pressing back firmly against him, only for him to then suddenly turn her around and force her up against the wall. Bringing himself up close behind her, he roughly bites into her shoulder, drawing blood. The sharp, sudden twinge elicits an excited gasp from Zaria's throat.

Zaria: Mmm... just how I like it.

Kubrick: That's why you're with me, Zee. I know how to give it to ya.

His grin grows, while his eyes already begin to take on a more feral appearance. Zaria returns the smile, then looks back ahead of her and exhales deeply, as her man gets to work.

Chapter #79

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Day

Rose utters a tired groan as she awakens the next morning. Shifting up straighter in her chair, she stretches her arms out and opens her mouth wide in a heavy yawn, then rubs her eyes to get the sleep out. As her vision begins to clear, she realizes that she isn't alone, with Holly still sitting on her lap and leaning forward against the desk, eyes locked onto one of the three computer screens.

Rose: Holly? You're still up?

The young girl doesn't answer at first, instead using the computer mouse to scroll down the information on the screen. Now fully awake, Rose sits completely upright and brings a hand up to Holly's shoulder.

Rose: Holly?

Holly: I'm just reading still. There's a lot of interesting stuff on this computer.

Rose: Oh yeah? Like what?

Holly: Like, it tells you all about how to be a detective, and there's a bunch of files on bad guys, and it says whether they're in jail or if someone still needs to catch them, and all sorts of stuff!

Rose: And you've been reading all night?

Holly: Yup, I'm not tired or anything.

Leaning forward, Rose gently takes the mouse from her daughter.

Rose: Hold on a second, hun, I need to check on the DNA thing.

Holly: Oh, that? That finished hours ago.

Rose: It did?

Holly: Uh huh. It said that the match was positive. So... that means the blood on your knife and the hair you found came from the same person, right?

A cold, numb sensation sinks into her gut at the information. She had been hoping that her initial guess would be wrong, but apparently she doesn't have much luck. Not that she can't handle him, because she can. Quiet easily, in fact. That's not the problem, though. The problem is the kind of damage he can cause before she finds him.

Rose: Yes, Holly, that's exactly what it means.

So, Kubrick's back in Silverstone. And where he is, so is his shark b*tch. They're not so bad by themselves, but together they're a problem. A big problem.

But why have they come back? Are they just looking to leave their mark on the city again, to stake out their previous territory, or are they back for something more? Like, revenge, perhaps? They do know who she is, at least she assumes they do, since they were working for Jerry in the VRA, so maybe they're looking to get back at her for the times she's dealt with them. If that were the case, though, then why haven't they made a move on her already?

Rose: Come on Holly, let's get going. Why don't you go take a nap, and then we can go see Ruby in the hospital later today, alright?

Holly: Awww, but I told you, I'm not even tired!

Rose: No arguing, Missy, you were up way too late. Go take a nap.

Releasing a disappointed breath, Holly slides off the chair and starts heading back to her room.

Holly: Alright...

Rose, too, gets up from her chair and heads back into the main apartment. After falling asleep in her Ravager uniform, she could really use a shower. A few minutes later, she's stripped down and relaxing beneath a spray of hot water.

Ruby wrote on her note that 'they're coming'. So she must have meant Kubrick and Zaria. But if she knows those two, then that means she was working with them when she was trying to break down my emotions along with Trance.

Narrowing her eyes, Rose takes a glob of shampoo and begins to scrub her long white hair.

But that doesn't make any sense. Only Kubrick and Zaria would have a grudge against me out of that group, and psychological warfare is definitely not a part of their M.O. No, someone else is pulling the strings here... but who?

When Rose gets out of the shower, the phone rings. Putting a towel around herself, she walks out of the bathroom and answers it.

Rose: Hello?

Palmer/Phone: Wilson, morning. It's Palmer.

Rose: I know your voice, Chief. Why are you calling?

Palmer/Phone: I just arrived at a crime scene... a very strange crime scene.

Rose: And why are you telling me this? I'm not a cop.

Palmer/Phone: You don't say, I had completely forgotten.

Rose: Just get to the point.

Palmer/Phone: When I say it's a strange crime scene, Wilson... I mean it's a strange crime scene.

Rose: That doesn't exactly tell me anything.

Palmer/Phone: Let's just say I could use your special kind of expertise, and pronto. That is, if you're feeling up to it.

Pausing for a moment, Rose sits on the edge of her bed and holds a hand to her forehead, contemplating.

Rose: Yeah, sure, whatever you need. Where are you?

Palmer/Phone: The parking garage next to the Keifer Chemicals building, third level. Just get here as soon as you can.

When the chief hangs up, Rose utters a small sigh and then places another call, waiting a few moments before someone picks up.

Rose: Hey, Circe? Yeah, what are you and Lyta doing right now? Listen, could you come over for a while and watch Holly? She's asleep right now and I have... business I need to take care of. Great, thanks.

Int. Parking Garage – Day

The third level of the parking garage is crawling with squad cars and police officers, as well as several unmarked vehicles and a forensics team. As Ravager drives her bike up to the scene, all eyes turn towards her, some curious, others cautious, and others still concerned. Bringing her ride to a stop, she steps off and heads over towards where Chief Palmer is standing, behind a wall of police tape. Before she can cross the line, however, a familiar officer runs up in front of her to stop her.

Stevens: Hey, hold it there, Ro- uh, Ravager. This is a police line, you can't cross.

Ravager: Stevens... I see they gave you your job back.

Stevens: Yeah, well, when they found out I was being mind controlled, they kind of let me off the hook. But I still can't let you-

Palmer: Cool your jets, Stevens, I called her.

Taking a step back, Officer Stevens blinks over at the chief, confused.

Stevens: Oh, ah, I didn't realize, sir. Was that necessary?

Palmer: Go take another look at the bodies and then ask me that question again.

Stevens: Uh... right, sorry.

Stepping past the police line, Ravager walks with Palmer towards a lone car with its roof caved in from some kind of heavy force.

Rose: So what's the deal?

Palmer: Some poor sap found a couple of Does this morning, called it in. It's pretty brutal.

Rose: Chief, I appreciate that you want my help, but if you start calling me in for every homicide, I'm never going to get a break.

Palmer: This isn't exactly what you'd call a normal homicide, Ravager. This is... well, see for yourself.

As they come around the other side of the car, Ravager freezes, gaze lowering towards the ground. Her stomach turns over briefly, but she fights the nausea down. It's the body of the John Doe, or at least what's left of it. Huge splatters and pools of crimson are everywhere, while the man's limbs and head have been torn off, and chest cavity ripped open and emptied. Taking in a deep breath, Ravager folds her arms.

Ravager: I see what you mean...

Palmer: We figured this was weird enough to get your attention. You should see the other one, it's in even worse shape. Any idea who, or what, did this?

Ravager: I might have a few ideas.

Palmer: Care to share?

She pauses a moment, glancing back over her shoulder at several nearby officers. In particular, Stevens is practically hovering over them.

Ravager: I'll explain tonight, when we can be alone. In the meantime... stock up on silver.

Ext. Silverstone City Streets – Night

When Ravager parks her ride in the dirty, dank alley, she pauses briefly to take a careful look around. Definitely the right spot. It might have been a long time since she's been here, but she remembers it well enough. Hopefully, she can find some more clues here, too.

Ravager: Alright, I'm here.

Palmer/Comm: You know, Wilson, when you said you'd explain things when we were alone, this isn't quite what I had in mind.

Ravager: What, you didn't expect me to take you to dinner and tell you over a bottle of wine, did you?

Palmer/Comm: Hardly. I just wasn't expecting you to break into my office again, leave behind a headset, and then take off.

Ravager: You want me to work with you, we do it my way.

Palmer/Comm: So you're serious about this? Detective Kubrick, a werewolf?

Ravager: Hold a second.

Knocking on the door, she waits for the little window slot to slide open, revealing a beady pair of eyes on the other side. Those eyes go wide a second later, as Ravager gives a mocking wave, then spins and kicks the door off its hinges. Moving inside, she swiftly knocks the man out and proceeds down the hallway.

Int. Zaria's Pool Hall – Night

Ravager: To answer your question, yes, he's a werewolf. You never wondered where he disappeared to?

A frustrated sigh comes in over the line.

Palmer/Comm: Damn it, well that's not good.

Ravager: Well if that isn't stating the obvious. You seem rather quick to believe in werewolves, though.

Palmer/Comm: Let's just say, I have experience with monsters.

As Ravager reaches the top of the stairs at the end of the hallway, she pauses, holding a hand to her ear in order to hear more clearly.

Ravager: What do you mean?

The only thing she gets as a response is stone dead silence.

Ravager: Chief?

Palmer/Comm: Never mind, it's not important. Just keep moving and do your thing.

Narrowing her eyes, Ravager pushes the thought to the back of her mind. If it's not something he wants to talk about, then she can't force him. Right now, she has more important matters to take care of. When she descends the steps into the underground pool hall, the patrons immediately cease their activities and look her way, most caught somewhere between surprise and confusion.

Ravager: Hello, boys. Which one of you b*stards can tell me where to find Zaria?

She's answered by the three nearest men lunging in to attack her. They know who she is, and they know that she knows who they are. Not specifically, maybe, but only the biggest criminal scum of the city find their way down here. Unfortunately for them, they don't know just how hopeless their attack is. It doesn't take very long for her to put down the initial few assailants with a few hard, crippling blows. Even when the rest of the place swarms her, she makes it look easy. Not a single person comes close to landing a blow on her, while she in turn beats them all senseless.

By the end of things, broken, unconscious bodies are strewn everywhere amongst snapped pool sticks and upturned tables and chairs. The only person left standing is the bartender, behind the counter. Ravager casually approaches the man and leans forward against the counter.

Ravager: So, tell me, where's Zaria? She used to own this joint, didn't she?

Bartender: Uh... I have no idea, really. I just sort of picked the place up when she vanished. But, can I interest you in a shot of my finest vodka?

Reaching back behind her, Ravager draws one of her swords and swings it at him, halting the razor edge just inches from his throat.

Ravager: Here's how it works. Either you tell me where Zaria and that flea ridden boyfriend of hers is, or I start making incisions.

The bartender's face goes into full on panic mode.

Bartender: W-what the- but I told you, I don't know! I haven't seen her in months!

Palmer/Comm: Wilson, what the hell are you doing? You can't torture the guy!

Ravager: I'll do what I have to in order to get the information I need. These two have to be found.

The poor bartender is terrified, practically in tears over the sharpened blade pressed to his throat. A hair's breath closer and it would be drawing blood.

Bartender: P-please, man, I don't know! I swear!

Palmer/Comm: You're walking an extremely thin line here, Wilson! I will not hesitate to put you in cuffs!

Several moments later, Ravager utters a frustrated breath and pulls her sword back, sheathing it. Still glowering, she turns from the man and starts marching away. Uttering an exasperated breath, the bartender sinks down to the floor in relief.

Ravager: Well, this was a waste of time.

Ext. Silverstone City – Night

Leaning forward against the parapet and holding herself up with her arms, Ravager takes a long look around the surrounding neighborhood. After a brief moment, she hangs her head and lets out a heavy sigh.

Ravager: Sorry for getting carried away back there. It's just... this is personal.

Palmer/Comm: No matter how personal something is, you can't let it control you. Take it from a man who knows. Lose your cool and you'll likely lose your head.

Ravager: Yeah, right. Just wish I could clean up all these loose ends I still have hanging around. Even with Jeremiah gone, there's Kubrick, Zaria, and god knows who else out there still gunning for me.

Palmer/Comm: We'll find them, Wilson. Don't you worry.

Another long breath escapes her throat, as she steps up on the ledge of the roof and jumps over to the next one.

Ravager: I need to figure out a better way to track them down.

Int. Zaria's Pool Hall – Night

An hour later...

The bartender frowns to himself, as he sweeps up some of the broken wood and glass littering the floor. Whoever that b*tch was, she had certainly left behind one hell of a mess for him to clean up. And of course that was before threatening to slice and dice him for information that he didn't have. He never would have taken over this bar if he knew something like this was going to happen. This isn't the kind of thing he likes to deal with. At least by now most of the customers she knocked unconscious have recovered and left.

As he starts sweeping some of the glass and wood into his dustpan, he suddenly becomes aware that he isn't alone. Looking up sharply, he sees two figures standing there, one a large man with shaggy, unkempt hair and the other... well, the other is all too familiar. Those tattoos, that body, that ass... really hard to forget.

Bartender: Zaria, you're back! W-where have you been?

Zaria: None of your concern, Jason.

Pausing, she takes a moment to look around the place. Her eyes eventually settle back on him.

Zaria: I can't say I like what you've done with the place.

Jason: Oh, it's not my fault, I swear! There was some crazy chick in here looking for you, she tore the place apart, beat up the customers.

Zaria: Is that right? I believe that sounds like someone we know...

Kubrick: So, she knows we're here. Doesn't matter; won't do her any good either way.

Jason: And I didn't tell her anything, honest. Not that I could have anyway. I mean, I didn't know anything at all. But I looked after the place just like you asked me to!

Folding her arms across her chest, Zaria utters an annoyed breath and gives Kubrick a sidelong glance. He simply shrugs, then starts heading behind the bar counter, paying no more attention. Eventually, Zaria's gaze finds its way back to Jason, while she licks her lips.

Zaria: Yes, Jason, you've done your part, and I must thank you for doing such a good job.

Jason: Oh, it was my pleasure. No trouble at all.

He flashes her a big smile, just happy that she's recognized how well he took care of her bar for her. Maybe if he's lucky, she'd give him some 'special' thanks later! Of course, that doesn't happen. Instead, his smile quickly shifts into a horrified, slack-jawed expression, as he witnesses Zaria abruptly begin transforming into her more monstrous, threatening form, clothes shredding from her body.

Jason: W-wha the hell?! No, no! S-stay back! NOOO!!!!

His voice cuts off and is replaced by a bloody gurgle, as claws rip open his throat. A second later and Zaria pounces, knocking him to the floor and tearing his body apart. From behind the bar, Kubrick merely pours himself a glass of whiskey while he watches, an amused grin on his face. Midway into the festivities, though, his phone rings. Turning away from the carnage, he pulls out his phone and answers.

Kubrick: What is it? Yes, of course... right away. Whatever you say.

The conversation is brief, as he hangs up less than a minute later. It doesn't take long to receive the orders, after all. Several minutes later, Zaria approaches the counter and sits down on one of the stools, now back in her human form. Thick, wet splotches of crimson stain her naked body, most of it concentrated around her mouth and chin. Pouring another glass, Kubrick slides it over to her.

Zaria: Was that him?

Kubrick: Who else would it be?

Lifting her glass, Zaria downs the entire drink in a couple gulps.

Zaria: So then it's time.

A grin finds it's way across Kubrick's face.

Kubrick: Let the fun begin.

Chapter #80

Int. Circe's Apartment - Day

Sitting quietly at the living room couch, Circe sips from a warm cup of coffee while reading the newspaper. This is how most of her afternoons go, at least on her days off. There is peace to be had in the simple things, like relaxing and catching up on current events. For a long time, she isolated herself from the world, but now she takes a great interest in keeping up with it.

Turning the page, she takes in a deep breath and sets her mug down on the coffee table in front of her, then sinks back into her seat and lifts the newspaper closer, carefully reading a particular story. No sooner than does she get invested in the story, though, a knock sounds on the apartment door, drawing her attention away. She utters a deep sigh, as she gets up from the couch. Probably Rose in need of something, though she could have at least called first.

Circe opens the door with an expression of indifference, fully expecting Rose to be standing there.

Circe: Yes, what is it this time?

But it's not Rose. Rather, it's a man, a man she recognizes instantly. The hair is a bit more mangy than she remembers, and his face covered with more stubble, but she never forgets a face. When he sees her, he grins, and her eyes go wide.

Circe: You!

Smack!

The man's arm clubs her across the face, sending her tumbling backwards to the floor. If she still had her magic, she could fry him in an instant, or turn him into a pig, or otherwise horribly mutilate him... but she doesn't have her magic anymore. She's mortal now, the price of freedom from Tartarus.

Kubrick: You remember me; I'm flattered.

He walks forward, as Circe slowly crawls her way backwards, a hand clutched to her cheek. She has to get to the living room, at least. She needs a weapon to use against him.

Circe: What are you doing here?

Kubrick: What do you think I'm doing here? Getting a little revenge, is all. When I heard you were hanging around with that Wilson b*tch, I jumped at the chance to take care of you personally.

Circe: What's the matter, couldn't handle the fleas?

Narrowing his eyes, Kubrick reaches down and lifts Circe up by the throat.

Kubrick: You turned me into a monster! For a crime I didn't commit!

Circe: But that you had every intention of committing. You just picked the wrong target.

Kubrick: Shut up!

With an angry shout, he throws her across the room. She lands on the coffee table, crashing through it hitting the floor hard. For several moments, she can barely move, groaning and lying there in a pile of broken glass and splinters.

Kubrick: Do you have any idea what it was like? Having to go through what you cursed me with?

Moving forward into the living room, he stands over her briefly and delivers a hard kick to her gut. She recoils, a pained grunt bursting from her lips.

Kubrick: I've come to terms with it now, sure. Hell, I even enjoy it. But for five long years, I hated myself. The things I did, the things you forced me to do... I wanted to die. I wanted to off myself and be done with it, but I couldn't. Too much of a coward, I guess.

Circe finally manages to right herself, getting on her hands and knees and breathing deeply. Her hands are cut up from the broken glass, and her stomach is teaming with nausea, but she tries to concentrate, looks up and finds the end table. Kubrick strikes her again, this time a kick to the face, but at least it pushes her closer, in spite of her very obviously broken nose.

Kubrick: But I'm not a coward anymore, no. I'm a monster, and I love it. The power is... unreal. Looks like your little curse came full circle and backfired big time, doesn't it?

Sniffling back a trickle of blood, Circe slowly pushes her way back to her feet, using the end table for support.

Circe: That may have been a lack of foresight on my part, I admit. Should have just turned you into a warthog while I had the chance.

Smirking, Kubrick comes closer and grabs her again, pulling her by the hair. Circe manages to make a desperate reach for the object on the end table, the only thing that can help her right now.

Kubrick: But you didn't, and now you get to suffer for- AAAHHHH!!!

He recoils sharply, dropping her and staggering backwards. With horrifying agony ripping through his body, he glances downward to see the back end of a letter opener sticking out of his chest. A silver letter opener. Falling to one knee, he grabs at it, tugging. It barely moves. By now, the wound is starting to burn, emitting small wisps of smoke.

Circe: What was that about suffering?

Kubrick: You... goddamn... b*tch!

Leaning up against the couch momentarily, Circe takes in a deep breath and wipes her nose clean. Then, she begins hobbling towards the exit. She has to get away, has to find Rose.

Kubrick: NO!

His body begins to change, going through the rapid transformation into his werewolf form. Doing this with a silver blade jabbed into his chest, though, causes excruciating agony, a pained howl ripping from his throat as his larger, clawed hand takes a firmer grip on the letter opener. With one final yank, his massively increased strength rips it from his body and tosses to the floor. Then, he turns his gaze over to the retreating Circe, his wolf eyes glowering with pure hate.

Kubrick: Where do you think you're going?

In a single leap, he pounces on her, knocking her to the floor and slicing his claws into her backside, opening long wounds and shredding most of her shirt. Instantly, Circe's muscles tense up, eyes closing and throat erupting with a loud scream of pain. She can already feel the warm blood beginning to flow down her back.

Kubrick: You know, I was just going to kill you. But since you had to go and be difficult-

Bringing his snout in closer, a low growl emerges from his mouth, his hot breath stinging the back of her neck.

Kubrick: -I might as well commit the crime you already condemned me for. Then, I can enjoy ripping you limb from limb.

Int. Silverstone General Hospital - Day

The hospital room is, as usual, dark and quiet. Ruby still hasn't awoken yet since her attack, and as such lies motionlessly in bed, the steady beeping of the heart monitor assuring that she's still very much a live. For now, anyway, as long as she keeps receiving the proper medical care. A short time later, her doctor enters the room, clipboard in hand. At least, it's supposed to be her doctor. It is a man dressed in a doctor's uniform, but the round glasses and bald head aren't familiar to the one who normally checks in on her.

Moving forward silently, the man lifts a filled syringe and jabs the needle end of it into Ruby's IV bag. When the contents of the syringe have been completely emptied into the bag, the man turns away and leaves as quickly as he came, glancing back only briefly to give the woman a long glare.

Strange: Sorry, my dear, but it is necessary.

The hospital room remains largely quiet for several minutes after he leaves. Eventually, though, the beeping from the monitor rapidly begins to increasing, her heart rate picking up. A short few moments later, and her body begins to spasm uncontrollably. A small team of doctors and nurses suddenly rush into the room in a panic, checking on her status and working to calm her down.

It doesn't work.

Within seconds, the monitor flatlines, and her body settles down. The most prominent sound in the room now is the high pitched whining of the monitor, a very loud and unceremonious death knell to the newly departed.

Int. Circe's Apartment - Day

Kubrick sits calmly on living room couch, leaning back and pressing a button on his cell phone. He has quiet the satisfied looking grin slashing across his face. Waiting calmly, he holds the phone to his ear and licks a bit of blood off his fingertips.

Zaria/Phone: Done yet?

Kubrick: Of course.

Zaria/Phone: Took you long enough.

Kubrick: Yes, well I added something to the schedule before I disemboweled her.

Still smirking, he glances back over towards the main hallway leading to the apartment door. A huge pool of blood surrounds the woman's remains, sprays of crimson everywhere, from the walls to the ceiling.

Kubrick: B*tch got what she deserved.

Zaria/Phone: Well, if you're done having your fun, you can come back now.

Kubrick: All in good time, Zee. I think I'll stick around for leftovers. For all the torment she caused me, at least she tasted good. What about you, anyway?

Zaria/Phone: What about me?

Kubrick: Finished off your target yet?

Zaria/Phone: I can't until later tonight, when he's alone. Even I'm not dumb enough to do it in the middle of a police station.

A small laugh finds its way out Kubrick's throat.

Kubrick: So you're not. See you soon, Zee.

Ext. East Silverstone Middle School - Day

As school gets out for the day, Holly and Lyta walk across the front lawn in search of their mothers. Normally, they aren't ever late in picking the girls up, but neither seems to be here at the moment.

Lyta: I don't see my mom's car, do you?

Holly: No, and I don't see mine, either.

Furrowing her brow in confusion, Lyta scratches the side of her head and purses her lips.

Lyta: That's odd... my mom's never late.

Before they can become too concerned, however, a friendly voice calls to them.

Rose: Hey!

The girls look over towards the far side of the school lawn to see Rose running up to them and waving.

Rose: Sorry I'm late, got caught up in traffic.

Holly smiles a large smile, coming forward to give her mother a brief hug.

Holly: S'alright, we weren't waiting too long.

Lyta: Hiya, Rose. Have you seen my mom anywhere?

Rose: Oh, yeah she just had something she needed to take care of. I'll bring you home.

The group moves around towards the back of the school, which is mostly deserted at this time. Curiously, the girls look around.

Holly: Where's the car?

Rose: I had to park on one of the back streets. I was so late that I couldn't get around to the front of the school before it all filled up.

They continue along, turning around a very deserted side street. There isn't another person in sight, and the only car parked nearby is a large van with tinted windows.

Lyta: Wait a minute, that's not-

But her voice cuts off abruptly, as a damp cloth comes up over her mouth and nose. Before Holly can react, the same thing happens to her. Her instinct is to fight back, but consciousness quickly slips away from her, leaving her without a chance to do anything. In seconds, both girls are out cold. Wrapping an arm around either girl, Rose lifts them up effortlessly and carries them towards the van, a wicked grin forming across her face.

Rose: There, that's better.

Int. Gerald Palmer's Apartment - Night

Palmer utters a long breath, as he pushes his way into his apartment. His call goes unanswered yet again. Bringing his phone down from his ear, he stuffs it back into his pocket and heads into the kitchen to grab some food. He really wishes that Rose would pick up her phone more often. It's starting to become a real guessing game when it comes to getting a hold of her. Maybe he can stop by her apartment later on, see if she's found anything else. She had said that she'd check in again tonight, but midnight rolled around and still she hadn't shown up. Either she just didn't feel like it, or something was wrong. Though he's sure she's just off doing things her own away again, it can't hurt to check up on her, just in case.

Pulling out an odd assortment of food containers from the refrigerator, Palmer just stares at them for a moment. Eventually, a disappointed sigh escapes his lips.

Palmer: Leftovers it is.

After filling out a plate of various leftovers, he walks over to the microwave and pops it in the microwave. Nearby, on the counter, is a small picture frame, with a photograph inside. The photograph depicts Palmer, as well as a woman and a young girl, smiling at the camera. It was taken a long time ago.

When his food is done heating up, he takes the plate of food and heads into the living room, where he intends to watch the late night news while he eats. Things don't exactly go as he expects, however. The moment that the living room comes into view, he drops his plate of food and pulls his gun, aiming it at the woman sitting on his couch.

Zaria: Hey there, Chief. How's the family?

Palmer: You! What the hell are you doing back here?!

An anger that he hasn't known is a long, long time begins to bubble up in his chest. He had managed to put these emotions behind him, after moving on, but then again he never thought he'd see her again.

Zaria: Please, put that thing away before you hurt someone.

Of course, Palmer's aim doesn't budge.

Palmer: They never believed me when I told them what killed my family. But I knew. Oh, I always knew. You don't forget something like that. You don't forget a monster!

Squeezing the trigger, Palmer fires off a shot. But his target is already moving out of the way, avoiding the bullet before the gun even shoots it. He tries to follow her with his aim, but her movements are too quick, too inhuman. She ducks behind the couch, then suddenly leaps over it, flipping through the air and knocking the gun from his hand with the barbed tail now protruding from her lower back.

Zaria: I thought I told you to put that away.

Raising her leg, she smashes her foot into his chest, sending him flying backwards into the wall behind him. The plaster cracks and caves inward upon impact, and for a brief moment he stays there, embedded into the wall. Soon, though, he eventually falls forward to the ground, barely holding himself up on his elbows and knees.

Zaria: Oooh, that looked like it hurt.

She reaches downward, grabbing the top of the man's skull and lifting him upwards with a single hand.

Zaria: Your wife was delicious, by the way. Sweet, savory... but the girl, mmm. Better than the finest veal on the market.

Palmer responds by spitting directly in the woman's face, the glob of saliva hitting her in the corner of the eye. She doesn't flinch from this, though her expression does immediately sour.

Palmer: Go to hell, demon.

An amused grin slowly spreads along Zaria's face. Holding her free hand up, she transforms it into its natural form, large claws extending from her fingertips.

Zaria: You first.

Wasting no more time, she swings her hand forward, slashing her claws through man's neck. A short second later, Palmer's body drops away from his head and crumples to the floor. Zaria then holds one of her clawed fingers forward, catching out a few drops of blood dripping down from the severed skull. She licks the blood clean, eyes closing and breath exhaling through her nose.

Zaria: Mmm... delectable.

Int. Abandoned Incineration Plant - Night

Rose groggily opens her eyes, flinching briefly at a sharp pain in the back of her head. It feels like a damn sledgehammer hit her, with how hard her skull throbs. Looking around, she utters a small groan, having no idea where the hell she is; everything is dark and blurry at the moment. When she tries to move, she realizes that she's strapped in and restrained to something. Must be a wall, since she's vertical.

The lights abruptly turn on. For a short moment, she flinches at the intense brightness, only amplified by the migraine assaulting her head. Fortunately, she manages to fight through it and blink away the haze, vision clearing up. What she sees, though, catches her instantly off guard. She's looking at... herself? No, it's just her reflection. Must be a mirror or something. However, that theory is instantly squashed when the face just half a foot away from her begins to speak.

Impostor Rose: Wakey, wakey, Rose.

Rose: What in the...

A delighted sneer forms across the impostor's face, eyes narrowing wickedly.

Impostor Rose: We have so much we need to discuss.

Chapter #81

Int. Abandoned Incineration Plant - Day

A cold, numb sensation begins to well up in Rose's chest. For a long moment, she just stares at the impostor standing in front of her in stunned silence. This doesn't make any sense, none of it does. How can she be staring at herself right now? She doesn't know anyone who could do this that would have a bone to pick with her. So what the hell is going on?

Rose: This... this isn't possible.

Impostor Rose: Oh, but isn't it?

The impostor turns away from her and begins walking over to a nearby table, where a few garments of clothing reside, including a long coat, a fedora hat, and a pair of round glasses.

Rose: Who are you?

Impostor Rose: Come on, Rose, you're not that dense. You already know the answer; you just don't want to believe it.

Deep down, she does. The stabbing sense of dread in her gut doesn't lie. She knows who this is... but that doesn't mean she wants it to be true.

Rose: You were dead. I killed you... I cut your goddamn head off.

Impostor Rose: No, you killed a stand in-

The impostor begins to put on the long coat, followed by the hat.

Impostor Rose: -with a very specific neural stem designed to replicate my personality. The appearance was not difficult to accomplish for someone of my... talent.

Turning towards Rose again, the impostor slips on the glass and grins, as her face begins to morph and change into something different, along with the rest of her body. Within seconds, someone different stands in her place, someone very familiar. Sickeningly familiar.

Jerry: What's the matter? You didn't think you'd really seen the last of me, did you? No, you're too much fun.

Rose: So what, I ruined your big scheme and now you're falling back on petty revenge?

Jerry: Petty, is it? As I recall, you delivered your own petty revenge not too long ago, when you thought you killed me. Calling the kettle black, are we?

Rose clenches her jaw, but says nothing, merely staring back at the man.

Jerry: But no, this isn't just simple revenge. This is so much more than that; this is the absolute mutilation of a person's life. When we're done, you will be begging for me to end it.

Rose: So that was you orchestrating Ruby and Dr. Atkinson, to tear me down psychologically.

Jerry: Yes, so it was. But, when that failed, I had to move up the next stage of the plan.

Rose: Which is?

A wicked sneer curls its way across Jerry's face.

Jerry: Tearing away from your life everything and everyone that you hold dear. Which, I have to say, was an amazing success.

Rose pauses, stiffening up at the declaration. No, he's bluffing. He has to be.

Rose: I don't believe you.

Jerry: I thought you might not, so I brought a few things for you.

Reaching into his coat pocket, he pulls out three items; two photographs and a written document. He holds them up one at a time.

Jerry: You recognize the apartment in this picture, yes? It belongs to your friend, Circe, the witch turned mortal. What do you suppose that bloody stain on the carpet is?

Her jaw clenches up again, a numb knot tightening in her throat. She tries not to let her shock show, her grief show.

Jerry: Not even a guess? Well, if you're curious, that stain is all that's left of her. I did ask Kubrick to leave behind some evidence, but I guess he was hungry.

Though her mind tries to deny it, her gut is already telling her that Jeremiah is telling the truth. It sickens her, but she believes him.

Jerry: And this picture is a little more graphic, but... well, it speaks for itself.

The image depicts a head, just a head, severed from its body. It's Palmer, the Silverstone City Police Chief, also a friend. The numbness in her throat grows, eyes beginning to water. When Jerry feels that she's looked at the picture enough, he pulls it back and then holds up the document.

Jerry: And this is Ruby's death certificate. She died yesterday afternoon when her heart gave out. An unfortunate turn of luck, because last I heard she was due to make a full recovery.

Finally, Rose closes her eyes and turns her head, while her entire body burns with a burning blend of anger and grief.

Rose: The girls...

Jerry: What's that?

Rose: Where are the girls?! What did you do with them?!

Jerry: Ah, yes, the girls. I figured you'd want to see them, so I had them prepared. Just a moment.

Turning away from Rose, he makes his way over to the door at the back of the small, empty room. When he opens the door, he sticks his head out and motions with his hand for someone to come in.

Jerry: Right this way now, don't be shy.

Returning into the room, he's followed by two more individuals. Holly and Lyta walk obediently behind him, their faces expressionless. They simply stare blankly forward, standing straight and rigid. Rose's muscles tense up at the sight, her hands curling into tight fists.

Rose: What did you do to them?

Jerry: Oh, nothing much. I merely used up the last couple of stems I had lying around. I think they'll make good pets, don't you?

Rose: You son of a b*tch! I'll kill you for this!

Jerry: You already tried that once, remember? It didn't go so well.

Smirking, he slowly walks around behind the two girls and puts a hand on either of their shoulders.

Jerry: The witch girl shows the most promise, of course, with what I've seen of her magic so far. But this Holly girl has some real talent, too. You've already trained her very well, and with the stem increasing her bodily functions, well... I'm sure I can find a use for her.

Rose: Get your hands off them, you twisted freak!

Jerry: Please, you worry too much. I'm not Pavoni. No, I think I'll make them into my personal bodyguards. I'll raise them, train them further, and eventually they'll be unstoppable. We'll be unstoppable.

Rose: Unstoppable for what?

Jerry: For the next stage of the plan, of course.

Rose: And just what the hell is that?

Jerry: The city.

Holding his arms out wide, a large smile twists across his face.

Jerry: Your city. I'm going to raze it to the ground, burn it into ash, and then when it's gone I'm going to show it to you, so that you can witness just exactly how much of a colossal failure you really are, to this city, to the people who trusted you, and to yourself. Then, when you've finally realized just what a pathetic waste of air you are, I will kill you. It will be slow, and it will be excruciating. The entire time, you will be begging for me to simply end it, but I won't. I will drag it out, make you suffer, and only once I have finally destroyed who you are as a human being, will I finally put you out of your misery.

Ext. Ruins of Silverstone City - Day

A small flash flickers in front of Rose's eyes, and suddenly she's not held captive anymore. No, instead she's kneeling in the middle of rubble. Just rubble. The skeletal remains of a few buildings still stand, but for the most part the entire city is no more than a smoldering pile of steel, concrete, bricks, and bodies. For a long moment, she just stares in disbelief, her gaze slowly circling the area.

The sky is dark and cloudy, opening up a sudden downpour that soaks her to the bone. She doesn't make a move to get out of the rain, though. She can't. Her legs simply won't let her. All she can do is kneel there in utter defeat, horrified at what she's seeing. Silverstone City, the place she had called home, the place that she had built a life for herself, is gone, all its people dead. Anything and everything that she had held dear no longer exists, and she can feel the pain of it in her chest, the absolute mortification of guilt consuming her.

She caused this. Everything she had done here in this city, it had all led up to this moment, her biggest failure. Jeremiah had not just beaten her, he had destroyed her, as promised. Swallowing a hard lump in her throat, Rose bows her head in shame, hands digging into the bloody dirt beneath her and eyes squinting shut. As she does this, she feels a hand on her shoulder. Such a touch should be one of comfort, of condolence. But it isn't. All she feels is menace.

Jerry: Isn't it grand? Of everything you've accomplished in your life, this is what you will be remembered for.

She says nothing, instead sinking her head lower and holding a hand up to her face.

Jerry: It's over, Rose. I win.

Rose: No...

Jerry: I'm sorry, what was that?

Rose: You haven't won... not yet.

Jerry: Look around you, Rose. Of course I have.

Rose: No.

Lifting an eyebrow, Jerry tilts his head at her in confusion.

Jerry: Yes, I have.

Rose: No!

Jerry: Do stop saying that.

Rose: No! No! NO!

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite - Day

Rose: NOOOO!!!

Eyes snapping open, Rose takes in deep, heavy breaths, chest heaving. She's sitting cross legged on the floor, dressed in a pair of gym shorts and a tank top, with a thick sheen of sweat beading across her body. Falling back on her hands, she stares blankly forward for several moments, then squints her eyes shut again.

That vision... it felt so real. Too real..

And extensive, far more so than any other vision she's had before. It didn't just cover a small period of time, it had covered days. It had shown her the exact layout of a possible future, what could happen if she failed. She knows that now, and she knows that she has to stop it. Otherwise, everything she loves will disappear in a cloud of smoke and ash.

Opening her eyes again, she glances up at the clock and cringes. It's one o'clock. Scrambling back up to her feet, she rushes into her bedroom and flips her gear wall around. She doesn't have a lot of time before things start. Did her vision really have to take up that much time?

You're not going to beat me, Jeremiah. Not this time.

Ext. Silverstone City Streets - Day

Ravager speeds down the street, weaving in and out of traffic on her bike. She isn't messing around right now. Clicking a button on her handle bar, she pulls up the phone application on the screen built into her dashboard. She clicks another button, dialing one of the numbers on her speed dial, which activates the built in communication system in her helmet. The phone rings, and rings, and rings...

Come on, come on, pick up!

Circe/Phone: Hello?

Ravager: Circe! Listen to me carefully!

Circe/Phone: Rose? What is it?

Ravager: It's Kubrick, he's on his way to your apartment! He's going to kill you!

A small pause comes in on the other line before Circe responds.

Circe/Phone: Is that so... a shame I don't still have my magic. Though, I do believe I have a silver letter opener I could-

Ravager: That won't work!

Circe/Phone: Then what do you propose I do?

Ravager: Don't worry, I've already called a friend. She should be there shortly to help you.

Circe/Phone: And what are you doing?

Ravager: Heading to the school! It's Jeremiah; he's still alive, and he's going to abduct our daughters and turn them into his personal slaves! He also means to have Ruby and Palmer killed!

Circe/Phone: Oh my- how do you know all this?

Ravager: I saw it.

Circe/Phone: What do you mean, 'you saw it'?

Ravager: I had a vision. I'm pretty sure I've figured out how to have them at will now; just requires a little time and meditation.

Another small pause.

Circe/Phone: What are you saying, Rose?

Rose: I'm saying, I'm not just a precog anymore.

Gunning the engine, she turns the corner of a street sharply and continues her mad drive through traffic. She can see the school in the distance.

Ravager: I'm a seer now.

Int. Circe's Apartment - Day

Circe blinks down at her phone as Rose hangs up. A seer? Did she say that she's a seer? As in, one who can foretell the future? Ridiculous, such an ability could not be acquired by a mortal girl like her, certainly not without some connection to magic forces. Gaining brief glimpses of the future with precognition is one thing. Seeing full blown visions of things to come, and doing it at will, is on a completely different level.

But she can't think on it for long. Kubrick is on his way, after all. She has to deal with him first. Glancing down at the end table next to her, she stares at the silver letter opener for a brief second, then reaches out to grab it. If Rose's friend doesn't get here in time, it may be her only way to defend herself. Of course, no sooner than does she grab the letter opener, a small flash flickers in the room, accompanied by a quiet boom of thunder. When everything goes quiet again, another woman is standing there. Circe blinks in surprise, narrowing her eyes at the woman.

Circe: You...

Grinning, the magician takes a bow, removing her top hat and holding her arm in front of her chest as she does so.

Zatanna: Zatanna Zatara, at your service.

Ext. East Silverstone Middle School

As school gets out for the day, Holly and Lyta walk across the front lawn in search of their mothers. Normally, they aren't ever late in picking the girls up, but neither seems to be here at the moment.

Lyta: I don't see my mom's car, do you?

Holly: No, and I don't see mine, either.

Furrowing her brow in confusion, Lyta scratches the side of her head and purses her lips.

Lyta: That's odd... my mom's never late.

Before they can become too concerned, however, a friendly voice calls to them.

Rose: Hey!

The girls look over towards the far side of the school lawn to see Rose running up to them and waving.

Rose: Sorry I'm late, got caught up in traffic.

Holly smiles a large smile, coming forward to give her mother a brief hug.

Holly: S'alright, we weren't waiting too long.

Lyta: Hiya, Rose. Have you seen my mom anywhere?

Rose: Oh, yeah she just had something she needed to take care of. I'll bring you home.

They don't get a chance to head back to the car, though. A brief moment later, as they turn to leave the lawn, the roaring sound of a motorcycle engine being pushed to the limit suffocates the air. All eyes turn towards the road, where Ravager speeds in like a bat out of hell. In a panic, Holly and Lyta duck out of the way, screaming. Rose, on the other hand, just stands there, eyes glaring at the incoming Ravager.

In mere seconds, Ravager reaches the school grounds. In a single, deft motion, she flips herself backwards off the bike, hitting the ground hard and rolling several yards before managing to spring back up to her feet. The bike, on the other hand, continues rocketing straight forward, crashing with a thunderous explosion as it smashes into Rose, the impostor Rose.

Holly: ROSE!

The young girl runs forward in horror, eyes on the burning wreckage. The distress on her face is gut wrenching, but it's also misplaced. She realizes this fact a short few seconds later, when she looks over to the apparent attacker to see her mother's familiar costume.

Holly: ...mom?

Ravager: It's me, Holly. But that was not.

She points to the flames, her eyes locked on. She's ready for anything. A few moments later, several larger pieces of her ruined bike scatter and fly through the air, as a silhouetted figure emerges, tendrils of flesh twisting and rippling as it pulls itself back together.

Ravager: Holly, Lyta. Run. Get as far away from here as you can, and look out for each other.

Holly: But mom...

Ravager: Just do it, Holly! Run now!

But Holly is still frozen in fear, watching the scene with wide eyes. Her legs are shaking, too. However, a sudden wave of comfort fills her, when a hand reaches out to grab her own. Turning her head, she sees Lyta standing there next to her, giving a caring and consoling look.

Lyta: Come on, Holly. Your mom can handle herself.

Swallowing nervously, Holly eventually nods in affirmation. The girls turn and begin to run away from the school, holding each other's hand tightly for support. When the two are safely gone, Ravager moves forward and reaches back over her shoulders, drawing both of her blades.

Ravager: Did you really think I wouldn't figure out who was behind it? Did you really think I'd let you destroy my life?!

Walking out of the wreckage, the now fully regenerated Jeremiah Belmont clasps his hands behind his back and glares at her.

Jerry: Once again, Rose, you do not fail to impress. But I'm afraid those girls weren't my only targets.

Ravager: Oh, yeah, you mean Circe, Chief Palmer, and Ruby, right? I wouldn't worry too much about them. I have a friend on the job.

This comment actually catches Jerry off guard. Lifting an eyebrow, he straightens himself and then slowly forms a grin.

Jerry: Clever girl.

Wasting no more time, Ravager sprints forward, both blades extended and ready for use.

Ravager: Let's finish this, Belmont! Just you and me!

Chapter #82

Int. Circe's Apartment – Day

Circe narrows her eyes at the magician woman, then folds her arms across her chest and frowns. She doesn't like this one bit, having to be aided by another magic user that would have been inferior to her own power, if she still had any power.

Circe: You must be joking. You're the one she called to help me?

Zatanna: Does that shock you?

Circe: It disappoints me. With all the other hero friends she has, I would have expected someone... different.

Zatanna smirks a little. It's almost satisfying, seeing a once superior, villainous sorceress put off like this.

Zatanna: Considering what I can do and how I can help, she thought I was best for the job. Now, if you're done complaining, I believe you have a wolf problem that needs taken care of, yes?

Circe: So I do...

Zatanna: From the sound of things, he should be here soon. I wonder if-

A knock on the apartment door suddenly draws their attention.

Zatanna: Ah, that should be him now. Shall we let him in?

Eying Zatanna for another brief moment, Circe then looks over to the door and sighs.

Circe: It's open!

A small pause passes, and then the door flies off its hinges, crashing into the floor. Kubrick steps into the apartment, a wicked grin slashing across his face. This is his chance to get revenge on the one who cursed him, after all, his chance to finally tear Circe apart. What he hadn't been expecting, though, was for someone else to be standing there. He gets halfway into the living room before he sees Zatanna, causing his eyes to instantly widen. He remembers her from their last encounter.

Kubrick: Son of a-

Zatanna: Teg kcab!

Kubrick suddenly lifts off his feet and flies backwards, crashing into the kitchen table and breaking it in half. He continues across the floor until smashing against the refrigerator, causing it to topple over on top of him.

Circe: Would you watch what you're doing?! This is my apartment you're destroying!

Zatanna: Uh... whoops. I'll fix it in a minute, soon as I'm done with big ugly here.

The fallen refrigerator suddenly bursts upright, launching forward through the air. Circe and Zatanna lunge out of the way, both narrowly avoiding the massive projectile as it crashes against the nearby china cabinet, sending shards of broken glass and wood everywhere.

Circe: Damn it all, that cost money!

Zatanna: Quit your whining, I told you I can fix it.

Kubrick lunges through the air, now in his werewolf form. He goes straight for Zatanna, knowing that he'll have to take her out first if he's to have any chance at getting to Circe. Unfortunately for him, getting to Zatanna is going to be its own challenge. The magician woman is ready for him, already standing back on her feet with a hand held forward.

Zatanna: Nruter ot namuh!

Instantly, Kubrick reverts back to his normal form and crashes into an end table, his jaw smacking against the edge and opening a deep cut. He probably should have seen that one coming, considering she did the exact same thing to him the last time they fought. Groaning, he slowly pushes himself back to his feet and wipes the blood from his chin.

Kubrick: Mangy b*tch. I'll tear you heart out, I swear.

Zatanna: Yeah, I don't think so. Teg kcab!

Once again, Kubrick flies backwards as though struck by some incredible, invisible force. This time, he launches directly against the back wall of the apartment, which just happens to be the wall that faces the street. Bursting through the wood and plaster, the man plummets down ten stories into the streets below. Zatanna blinks, a little surprised.

Zatanna: Uh... oops. I might have put a little too much 'oomph' into that.

Circe: Did you just... kill him?

Zatanna: Nah, I'm sure he'll be fine. Mostly.

Ext. Silverstone City Streets – Day

It's business as usual for most of the city folk out and about. They certainly aren't expecting anything out of the ordinary to interrupt their otherwise peaceful day. Of course, things seldom ever go as expected. The disturbance is extremely abrupt, as a body smashes into the top of a car parked on the sidewalk, caving the roof inward and literally exploding the windows apart. People start screaming and running in a panic, as if they think they're under attack. A few more curious individuals, however, rush over to see just what the hell happened.

Bystander: Someone call an ambulance or something!

Lying there atop the ruined vehicle, Kubrick utters a very long, very weak groan, coughing out small mouthful of blood. He may be much more durable than a normal person with his werewolf physiology, but that really hurt.

Kubrick: Stupid... b*tch... ugh.

Int. Silverstone General Hospital

The hospital room is, as usual, dark and quiet. The only sound is the familiar steady beeping of the heart monitor, assuring that the patient lying beneath the covers is very much alive. A short time later, a doctor enters the room, clipboard in hand. At least, it's a man dressed in a doctor's uniform, but the round glasses and bald head aren't familiar to the one who normally checks in on this particular patient.

Moving forward silently, the man lifts a filled syringe and jabs the needle end of it into Ruby's IV bag. When the contents of the syringe have been completely emptied into the bag, the man lets out a heavy breath and looks over to the form beneath the covers.

Strange: Sorry, my dear, but it is necessary.

Apathy: What, exactly, is so necessary?

Blinking in surprise, Hugo Strange spins around to look behind him. Standing there in full costume is Ruby Lawson, otherwise known by the superhero alias of Apathy. She leans casually against the far wall, arms folded across her chest, while staring at the man from behind the shadowed face covering of her hood.

Strange: What in the name of-

Briefly, he turns back to the bed and throws off the covers, only to reveal a row of pillows beneath, not the patient that should be there.

Strange: How is this possible? You should be crippled!

Apathy: Shoulda, coulda, woulda. But I'm not. Hell, I'm feeling better than ever.

Narrowing his eyes, Strange reaches into the front pocket of his lab coat and pulls out another syringe, this one full of the same substance he just injected into the IV bag. Apathy responds by uttering an amused, snorting laugh.

Apathy: Pfft, really there, doctor? What exactly do you hope to accomplish with that?

Strange: I have a job to do, dear. I won't let one small set back keep me from it!

Apathy: Keep talking, buddy.

Before Strange reaches her, she vanishes in a small puff of smoke, only to then reappear right behind him in the middle of a spinning kick aimed at the back of his head. He stumbles forward, trying to maintain his balance, but Apathy teleports again, this time to his side while delivering a hard punch to his face. She repeats this several more times, pretty much beating the crap out of him. By the end of it, Strange is lying motionlessly on the floor, unconscious.

Apathy: You know, I could have drained your will to fight, or made you quiver in the corner in utter terror... but that was so much more satisfying.

Ext. East Silverstone Middle School – Day

Ravager spins quickly, evading Jerry's incoming bladed arm. Whirling her blades around, she slices them towards his neck, but he ducks below them and backs off a bit to put distance between them. He then extends his other arm, shaping it into a whip and lashing outward. Ravager jumps over the initial strike, while throwing one of her swords at him. The blade plunges straight into his chest, forcing him to take a couple steps back.

Jerry: Please, Rose. You should know by now-

Reaching up, he grabs the hilt of the sword in his chest and pulls it out effortlessly. It doesn't cause him any pain or even draw any blood. With an amused grin, he tosses the blade back at his opponent's feet.

Jerry: -that isn't going work.

Ravager: Then I'm just going to have to find something that does!

Retrieving the fallen weapon, she sprints towards him again.

Ravager: If I recall, taking your head off should be pretty effective!

This time, Jerry doesn't move. He simply stands there with a large smirk on his face, watching Ravager's blades swing forward at his neck. Just as they're about to lop off his head, however, he raises up a cone shaped shield from his surrounding flesh, hardening it plenty enough to block the weapons from cutting through. He then forms one of his arms into a large mallet and clobbers Ravager across the chest, sending her flying back through the air. The blow only slightly stuns her, though, as she flips around in mid air to land back on her feet.

Jerry: You didn't think I was actually going to let you take my head this time, did you?

Ravager: I'll get it eventually... one way or another.

Jerry: Your determination is... admirable. Futile, but admirable.

Taking in a few deep breaths, Ravager briefly contemplates her next plan of attack. Eventually, she sprints forward again.

Jerry: I thought we went over this-

As Ravager lunges in, swinging her blades, Jerry pulls back his hammer-hand in preparation. In mid leap, Rose throws one of her sword at him, forcing him to deflect it. In that brief instant, her now free hand flies to a compartment on her belt, unseen by her opponent. When she reaches him, she braces herself for impact, while extending her free hand forward. The hammer bashes into her chest again, sending her rolling backwards across the ground.

Jerry: -that isn't going to work.

Ravager: Then it's a good thing I tried something different.

Narrowing his eyes, Jerry slowly turns his gaze down to his shoulder, where a small, round device has been attached. The device blinks with a red light.

Jerry: Clever g-

His voice cuts off abruptly, as the device explodes violently, causing Jerry to become engulfed in a fireball. Ravager holds her arm up in front of herself, trying to shield herself from the wave of heat that follows. She'd never used those explosives that Batman cooked up for her before... apparently they're highly potent. That's good. She needs potent.

When the smoke and flames begin to clear up, she sees Jerry kneeling there on his hands and knees. A good deal of his flesh drips from his body, as if melting. It also looks as though he's actually in pain, something he hasn't expressed since they first met. Standing up, Ravager takes in a deep breath and walks over to him, holding her blade up against his throat.

Ravager: Not so tough now, are you?

Jerry: That was... well played, Rose... well played.

Suddenly, police sirens begin to fill the air. Ravager briefly glances to the side, noticing a swarm of cop cars speeding towards the school grounds. In that instant, Jerry lashes one of his arms out, forming another hammer that smashes against her chest and stumbles her backwards. He takes this opportunity to hobble back up to his feet and then sprint away. His flesh is already starting to reform itself.

Jerry: We'll finish this another time, Rose!

Ravager briefly contemplates chasing after him. By the time she gets back up to her feet, though, he's already a great distance ahead of her, apparently able to move quite a bit faster than he used to. That, and the cop cars arrive a second later, screeching to a halt. The officers burst out of their vehicles a moment later, pointing their weapons at her. They don't know the details, after all. All they know is that she caused a couple of explosions on a school's front lawn.

Officer: Down on the ground!

Before Ravager makes a move to comply, however, they're interrupted.

Palmer: Weapons down, damn it!

The police chief makes his way forward past the line of other cops. They reluctantly obey, lowering their guns, though they're sure to keep them at the ready just in case.

Palmer: You'd better have a damn good explanation for this, Wilson! What in the hell is going on here?!

Ravager: It was him. Jeremiah Belmont.

A small, shocked pause passes between them.

Palmer: Belmont? You mean the guy behind the VRA sh*tstorm?

Ravager: That's him.

Palmer: I thought he died. Twice.

Ravager: Looks like he keeps finding a way to come back. I caught him here trying to abduct Holly and her friend. He also had his goons attempt to kill two more of my friends, and a third later tonight.

Palmer: And you're sure of that?

Ravager: Chief, I've never been more sure.

He pauses again, taking a careful look around at the tattered schoolyard. The remains of Ravager's bike are still burning just a few yards away.

Palmer: This guy really has it out for you, huh?

Ravager: You don't know the half of it. But he's gone for now... I threw another wrench in his plans. In the meantime, I need to talk with you.

Her gaze slowly moves back over to the other surrounding cops.

Ravager: Privately.

Int. Gerald Palmer's Apartment – Night

The interior of the apartment is dark and silent. After all, the owner isn't due to get home from work for another hour or so. That gives the infiltrator ample time to get in and make herself at home before getting to work. At least, that's what she expects, as she opens the window and slips inside from the fire escape. Closing the window behind her, Zaria takes in a deep breath and grins.

Zaria: Oh this is going to be fun.

No sooner than she says that, the lights flicker on.

Palmer: You're right, it is.

Standing there in the living room waiting for her arrival is not only her intended target, but also Ravager, Zatanna, and Apathy. Zaria immediately stiffens up in shock, glancing rapidly from person to person. This was definitely not supposed to happen!

Ravager: What's the matter? Didn't expect to see us?

Without saying anything, Zaria turns and tries to get the window open again so she can retreat. She might be a vicious, powerful killer, but even she's not crazy enough to take on three capes by herself, especially when one of them could turn her into lamppost with a couple of words. Of course, she doesn't get very far.

Zatanna: Pots!

Instantly, Zaria's actions cease, as she freezes up like a statue. She can still move her eyes, though, which she does to carefully glance back over at them.

Apathy: Well, that was rather... anticlimactic.

Palmer: I'm not complaining.

Moving forward, Palmer walks right up in front of the immobile alien woman, glaring at her with pure, intense hate. In a quick motion, he draws his gun and points it against her forehead. Not a single other person present makes an attempt to stop him.

Palmer: This b*tch murdered my family. By all rights, I should blow her away right now.

Ravager clears her throat and casually turns her head away.

Ravager: I'm not seeing anything.

Breathing out a long sigh, Palmer then pulls the gun away. He holds his gaze on Zaria, though.

Palmer: But I'm better than that.

Zatanna: We have a team ready to take her to a place where they have the equipment necessary to hold someone like her. Same place we sent Kubrick to earlier.

Apathy: I can have her there in a second.

Moving forward, Apathy holds a hand to Zaria's shoulder.

Apathy: Be back in flash.

A second later, they both disappear in a wisp of smoke. Once they're gone, Palmer releases another heavy breath and then sinks into the nearby arm chair.

Palmer: Well, that's one less weight on my shoulders. Thanks.

Ravager: You couldn't expect that I would have just let her kill you, could you?

Walking over farther into the living room, Ravager comes to sit down on the nearby sofa, then reaches up to remove the faceplate and helmet of her costume.

Rose: But you're welcome. And speaking of thanks-

She turns to look over at Zatanna now.

Rose: -I owe you a big one for helping out with Circe and healing Ruby.

Zatanna: Please, happy to help. How are the girls, by the way?

Rose: They're with Circe now, a little shaken after what happened today, but they'll be fine.

Zatanna: Ah, well that's good. Hey, mind if I grab a glass of water?

Palmer: Please, help yourself.

Once Zatanna leaves the room, Rose glances over at the end table next to her and notices a framed picture of Palmer and two other people, a woman and a young girl, probably around Holly's age. Curiously, she lifts it up to take a better look.

Rose: This them?

Palmer: Yeah, that's them.

Rose: They're beautiful.

Palmer: They really were.

Another long breath escapes from Palmer's lips, as he sinks further back into his seat, holding a hand up to his forehead.

Rose: Listen, Chief... I'm sorry about what I said before. When I... well, I didn't realize...

Palmer: Don't worry about it, Wilson. You weren't yourself then.

Rose: Still doesn't excuse it, and I'm still sorry.

Slowly turning his head to look at her, Palmer gives a subtle nod.

Palmer: Thank you.

A brief moment later, Apathy reappears in the center of the living room.

Apathy: And that's all taken care of. Those two should be locked up for a good long time, same with that crazy doctor who tried to off me.

Walking back into the room, now with a glass of water in hand, Zatanna smiles and sits down on the sofa next to Rose.

Zatanna: So, what's next on the agenda, then?

Apathy: Anyone up for drinks? I'm buying.

A gruff laugh emerges from Palmer's throat.

Palmer: Up for drinks? I could use a whole damn liquor cabinet right about now.

Rose: Well, she did say she was buying.

Apathy: Well then what the bloody hell are we still doing here? Let's go already!

Int. Abandoned Incineration Plant – Night

Jerry stands in front of a mirror, carefully inspecting his face. His flesh is still partially melted from the explosion, and isn't healing as fast as it normally does.

Jerry: Interesting... it appears that fire creates instability in my new molecular structure. I'll have to remember that.

From behind him, an amused laugh comes from an unseen woman, who sits back in the shadows.

Woman: She really took it to you, ah?

Jerry: I underestimated her.

Woman: Again.

Jerry: I was careless.

Woman: Need I repeat myself?

Taking in a small breath, Jerry turns to the woman behind him and folds his arms across his chest.

Jerry: And not only that, but I lost three of my best people today. It's just you and me now.

Woman: Oy, sounds like a real party.

Jerry: We'll have to move up stage three of the plan. Contrary to what she thinks, Rose hasn't won. Not yet.

Woman: But she's pretty damn close, ah?

Narrowing his eyes, Jerry turns back to the mirror, prodding his scorched flesh tenderly.

Jerry: When the time comes, you will take care of her, won't you?

Woman: That's my job, isn't it?

Jerry: I wasn't asking if you'll follow the order. I was asking if you can handle it.

A small pause passes, as the woman slowly curls her lips into a smirk.

Woman: Si, I can handle it.

12 Comments

Rose Wilson: The Ravager - Spellbound (#69-76)

Disclaimer: I do not own any DC characters or locations. All rights belong to DC Comics. I do, however, retain the rights to all characters and locations of my own creation, which include: Rebecca Chavez, Holly Sanders, Apathy, Ruby, Jeremiah Belmont, Michael Kubrick, Zaria (as well as her Celarian race), Shao Shen, Trance, Police Chief Gerald Palmer, Officer Stevens, Officer Harrow, Emilia Marconi, Francis Baldoni, Arnold Pavoni, Senator Thomas Greene, Agent Croft, as well as Silverstone City and all its interior locations of my own creation.

Rating: T+

Note: The next story arc deals with Rose's continued issues in moving past the loss of Becky. During this time, she meets a new friend, as well as a new hero around Silverstone. Though she's sworn off being Ravager for good, can she keep the costume off? Read on to find out!

Side Note: Alright, this is admittedly, a pretty slow story arc, I think, with not a whole lot of action. The conflict in this arc is mostly internal, and is more of a drama piece, kind of. I don't really think it's one of my better ones, either, since my ideas for it were kind of all over the place when I was writing. But, hopefully things came together alright and it won't be too bad. Anyway, as always, let me know what you think.

All Chapters: http://www.comicvine.com/forums/fan-fic/8/ravager4s-fan-fic-archives/660884/#1

Chapter #69

Int. Rose's Martial Arts Studio – Night

Even though it's after hours, with the last class having gone home nearly an hour ago, the studio is still open. Specifically, it's being used by two individuals currently engaged in a spar. Holly runs across the mat with skilled focus, leaping through the air and delivering a spinning kick. Of course, it isn't much of a challenge for Rose to block the attack and push the girl off balance. Holly quickly recovers, her feet setting themselves beneath her perfectly. Instantly, she counters with another kick, followed by a hard elbow. Rose blocks them all, but this doesn't discourage the girl; in fact it's the whole point.

Rose: That's good, you're doing great. Keep it coming.

Without hesitating, Holly lunges in with a flying knee, and when Rose goes to block, she brings both hands down in the form of a double chop aimed at the sides of her opponent's neck. Reaching up, Rose catches the girl's hands by the wrists, then flips her over onto her backside. Holly lands with a huff of air on the mat, blinking up in surprise.

Holly: Ow.

Standing over the girl, Rose brings her hands to her hips for a moment, then finally extends a hand down and smiles.

Rose: You're getting a lot better. Keep this up and you'll have your brown belt soon.

Returning the smile, Holly reaches up and takes Rose's hand, pulling herself back to her feet. She briefly takes in a small breath and then straightens herself, holding her hands to her lower back.

Holly: Thanks. I've been practicing a lot.

Rose: And it shows. I think you almost hit me that time.

A small grin forms its way onto Holly's face.

Holly: Just you wait, one of these days I'll get you.

Rose: I’ve no doubt.

Putting a hand on Holly's shoulder, Rose walks with her back towards the front of the studio, where Circe is sitting behind the newly repaired counter and going over the computer records. It had taken a few weeks to completely repair the place in light of the damage that had been caused during the VRA attack, but at least now everything is back to normal.

Behind Circe, her daughter Lyta sits on another chair, swinging around casually and casting a few small magic spells between her hands, causing bright sparks to erupt in the form of a miniature fireworks display. When the two approach, Circe glances up from the computer and shuts off the monitor.

Circe: You finished now?

Rose: Yeah, I'd say that does it for today.

Circe: Lyta, dear, grab your coat and let's go. You, too, Holly.

Holly: Right, just a second.

As Holly and Lyta retrieve their coats, Rose utters a long breath and leans against the counter.

Rose: Thanks for taking Holly for the night. I could use some time to myself.

Circe: It's no trouble, really. What do you plan on doing, anyway?

Rose: I don't know, I might just stay in and watch a few boring movies.

Circe: By yourself? Oh dear.

Rose: What?

Circe: Look, Rose... it's been three months now and you've barely set foot outside of your home except to work. Go out. Do something. Put on that atrocious costume of yours again and patrol the city if you have to, it doesn't matter.

Sighing, Rose lifts a hand to her head and closes her eyes.

Rose: I can't. I'm just... I'm not ready. Not yet.

Circe: You're still grieving, I understand. But at least consider it. I won't pretend to have known Rebecca nearly as well as you did, but even I don't think she would want you to forget how to enjoy life. You did tell me she's the one who taught you how to do that, right?

Rose: Yeah, well... I don't know. I'll figure something out. Thanks, though.

Circe: Just looking out for you. Someone once told me, 'that's what friends do'. So I'm being a friend.

Rose: A good one, too. Thank you.

A few seconds later, both Holly and Lyta run by, heading for the door.

Lyta: Race you to the car!

Holly: Hey, you got a head start!

Circe: I suppose that's my cue. I'll see you tomorrow, Rose.

Grabbing her own coat and purse, Circe walks out from behind the counter and make her way towards the door. She stops briefly, looking back at Rose.

Circe: And try to find a way to enjoy yourself. You deserve it.

When everyone is gone, Rose lets out a cool breath and stands there for several moments. Eventually, she heads out the door, locking the place up behind her.

Rose's Penthouse Suite – Night

Running her fingers through her hair, Rose leans back on the couch and puts her feet up on the coffee table. The night is young yet, only around eight-thirty or so, which means that she has plenty of time to just sit back, relax, and watch a couple of terrible movies. In spite of Circe's urgings to go out and try to have fun, she just can't bring herself to do so. It's still too soon, in her mind. The memories of Becky are still too fresh, the pain of her loss too strong.

As she reaches for the remote, a knock on the door suddenly calls her from her thoughts. She utters a low groan, bringing a hand up and rubbing her eyes briefly before rising back to her feet and heading for the door. Whoever this is, she's really not in the mood right now. She didn't order any food, she wasn't expecting any visitors, and she really just wants to be alone. The knock comes again, and this time Rose lets out a more audible breath of annoyance.

Rose: I'm coming, hold your damn horses.

When she throws the door open, her eyes glare forward at the man standing there, fully read to tell off whoever decided to interrupt her time alone. When she realizes who it is, however, her annoyance comes down a little.

Rose: Oh, it's you.

Standing in her doorway is Police Chief Gerald Palmer, head of Silverstone's police department. Before the whole VRA incident, the last time she'd spoken to him while in her civilian identity had been when she'd still been on the force, more than six months ago.

After the VRA incident, though, it didn't exactly take much for the people she used to work with to figure out that she was Ravager, the former vigilante of Silverstone City, especially considering her case for killing Jeremiah Belmont, the mastermind behind it all. Fortunately, the judge saw fit to throw that case out, given the incredibly outrageous circumstances surrounding it.

Palmer: Mind if I come in for a minute?

Rose: I guess. Not like I have anything else to do.

He gives her a brief, calm look, then walks through the doorway into the penthouse, closing the door behind him.

Palmer: I would have called, but...

Rose: I would have hung up again. Yeah. So what are you here for anyway? You still trying to 'recruit' me?

Palmer: I wouldn't really call it that, but if you mean I'm here to get you to work with us again, then yes. Silverstone's been in some rough shape these past few months, what with the budget cuts and police layoffs. As much as I hate to admit it, we could really use some help. Your kind of help.

Moving into the kitchen, Rose grabs a glass and pours herself some water from the sink. She stares at it for a short moment before taking a long gulp, then leans up against the counter and stares at Palmer.

Rose: I don't do that anymore, I already told you.

Palmer: I know, I know. It's the last thing you want to do. After what happened with Rebecca...

At the mention of Becky's name, Rose's gaze drifts off to the side, a heavy sigh emerging from her throat.

Rose: I just... I can't do it anymore. Things have changed; I have a daughter to look out for. I wasn't the only one who lost Becky, we both did. If I go out there again, if I put on that costume and I end up getting myself killed, too... I'm not putting Holly through that.

Folding his arms across his chest, Palmer takes in a deep breath and slowly lets it out.

Palmer: I understand. Never hurts to ask, though, right? Anyway, I, uh... I should get going. I got a bunch of reports to fill out, something about a new suspected drug going around getting kids addicted, and one of our undercover guys went missing.

Rose: Good luck with that.

Palmer: Yeah... see you around, Wilson. And take care of yourself.

When he finally gives her a parting nod and leaves the apartment, Rose bows her head for a moment and stares at the kitchen floor. She absently raises a hand, again rubbing her eyes and uttering a deep sigh. Eventually, she walks out of the kitchen and back into the living room, once again dropping herself onto the couch. Reaching for the remote again, something catches her vision from the corner of her eye.

Turning her head, she notices a framed photograph standing on the end table. It's a picture of her and Becky in the Silverstone City Park last September. It wasn't any significant moment, just a random act while they'd been sitting on the park bench. Becky practically ambushed her with the photo, throwing an arm around her and holding the camera up at them to snap the shot. As a result of being completely unprepared for the picture, Rose's expression is utterly ridiculous, somewhere between surprise and confusion, while Becky grins mischievously at the camera.

For the longest time, Rose just stares at the photo. She can almost feel Becky staring back... After a while, she reaches over to the picture and lifts it up, holding it in front of her to get a better look. Becky really was beautiful, and that smile was the best part about her. It had a way of melting Rose's heart every time she saw it.

Rose: So what do you think I should do, huh?

A moment of silence, as she ponders things in her head. Specifically, she's thinking about exactly how Becky would react if she could see Rose sitting alone on that couch right now.

Rose: Don't give me that look. You know I never liked to go out much. I only went out with you because I liked you. And so maybe you did teach me how to have fun... but that doesn't mean I should be doing it now without you.

Another pause. Rose knew Becky well enough to know how she'd respond to that. Letting out a long sigh, Rose closes her eyes and bows her head.

Rose: I know you'd still want me to be happy... but it's hard, you know? I miss you a lot.

Slowly lifting her gaze again, she stares at the picture a moment longer, then finally returns it to its spot on the end table.

Rose: Alright, you win; I'll try. No promises, though. Two to one says I'm back here in an hour even more miserable than I started.

Int. Last Call Bar – Night

It certainly hadn't been the place that Rose intended on ending up when she decided to go out that night. When she started thinking about it, though, anything else she thought of doing just reminded her too much of Becky and she couldn't bring herself to go through with it. Instead, she decided to do something that she and Becky had never done together, which happened to be going to a bar. It's actually been a couple of years since she went to a bar at all. Sitting there now, though, she starts to realize just why she hadn't been to a bar in so long.

Rose: No.

The man that had walked up to her just sort of blinks for a second. He hadn't even said anything yet, but she could tell he was going to.

Man: I was just-

Rose: I said no.

Man: But-

Rose: Get lost before I break your arm.

Man: Alright, geez.

Holding up his hands in mock surrender, the guy turns around and walks back the way he came. The group of friends he's with instantly breaks out into laughter over his incredible failure. Uttering a long groan, Rose bows her head and holds it in her hands, elbows resting on the bar counter. That had been no less than the seventh guy she had turned away. Who knew she'd be this desirable at the bar scene?

Maybe it has something to do with her striking white hair that gets people's attention, but either way she wants nothing to do with them. The only reason she's even here is to try and have a relaxing drink, not endure being repeatedly hit on all night.

Christ, I knew this was a mistake. Never should have gone out.

Bringing her beer up to her lips, she quickly gulps down the rest of the bottle's contents, then raises a hand to grab the bartender's attention.

Rose: I'll take a shot here.

Bartender: What of?

Rose: I don't care, as long as it's hard. Surprise me.

Bartender: Uh, alright, coming right up.

Breathing outwardly again, Rose taps her fingers incessantly against the counter while staring at herself in the reflection of a small mirror next to the shelves in front of her.

Woman: I take it you're having a rough night.

Rose's fingers suddenly stop tapping, as the voice grabs her attention. Looking to her left, she spots a woman sitting a few stools down from her. The woman's hair is dark red and cut short, falling just past her ears, and she wears a tight pair of jeans, plain white T-shirt, and a dark jacket. She's no stunner, but she's still attractive, with soft features, a toned body, and a small tattoo of a thorny vine around one side of her neck.

Rose: Uh... something like that. Do I know you?

Woman: Definitely not. I think we'd remember if we knew each other.

She speaks with a slight English accent. It's subtle, but still noticeable.

Rose: Yeah, right...

Ruby: Name's Ruby.

Rose: Rose.

Ruby: Huh, that's weird. I had a grandmother named Rose. Ghastly woman.

When Rose doesn't say anything, instead just blinking curiously at her, Ruby leans against the counter and nods over to a table of guys near the back.

Ruby: I've seen them making passes at you all night.

Rose: Yeah, kind of hard to miss.

A short moment later, Rose's shot arrives. She grabs the small glass and instantly downs the contents.

Ruby: You know, a few of them are pretty good looking guys. You don't like guys?

Rose: Er, it's not that I don't like guys. It's just... sometimes they can be so...

Ruby: Intolerable?

Rose: That sounds right. Like a bunch of dogs in heat looking for the nearest leg to hump.

Ruby snorts out a laugh, lips curling into a grin.

Ruby: Ain't that the truth? That's why I gave them up years ago.

Rose: Smart move. Lately, I've found that women are a lot easier to get along with.

Ruby: Also true.

A small sigh escapes Rose's lips, as she leans forward against the counter.

Rose: So what are you doing here, anyway? I mean, if you gave up guys and all... shouldn't you be at a different kind of bar?

Ruby simply points her thumb behind her, where a group of women are in the middle of flirting with a group of guys at a nearby table.

Ruby: My friends dragged me out with them, said it would be fun. So far, though, I've just been sitting here and watching them have fun.

Rose: Sounds riveting.

Ruby: Oh you don't know the half of it. As it stands, I'm about five minutes from leaving.

Rose: Funny, so am I.

Pursing her lips in thought, Ruby taps her finger against the side of the bar for a moment, then shifts her weight in her seat.

Ruby: Here's a crazy thought, why don't we leave together?

Rose: Together?

Ruby: Sure. I know this great little coffee shop over on Danelion Avenue that's open late. We could grab a cup, have a chat. Whatever.

Slowly, Rose's gaze narrows at the woman. A few quick thoughts begin running through her head, not least of which is whether she actually wants to go out with someone again so soon. The logical part of her brain is of course against it. She barely knows this woman, it's only been three months, and she still has Becky constantly in her head. It just wouldn't be right. And yet, at the same time, the spontaneous side of her brain sees something in Ruby that she wants to get to know, something... intriguing.

Rose: You know what, why not? Might be fun.

Chapter #70

Int. Cup O' Joe Coffee House - Night

Rose lifts the mug of coffee up to her mouth and takes a long sip. The hot liquid puts her at much greater ease than the drinks at the bar had. As she sets her mug down on the table again, she utters a long breath and leans back in her chair. Ruby sits across from her, just staring intently. Noticing this, Rose cocks her head to the side and narrows her eyes.

Rose: What, I have something on my face?

Ruby: Oh, no. I'm just reading you. It's sort of what I do.

Rose: What you do... like as a job?

Ruby, Ha, goodness no. Can't imagine a way to pay the bills with that, could you? No, it's just a hobby I have.

Rose: And what exactly are you reading with me?

Ruby: Hmm...

Leaning forward, she squints her eyes slightly and continues staring, trying to discern whatever she can from Rose's demeanor.

Ruby: I'm getting... uncertainty. You don't really know if you want to be here.

Rose: Lucky guess.

Ruby: And you're also sad. Not much on the outside, but within... yes, there's sorrow. Grief. I can see it in your eyes. You lost someone very important to you, didn't you? Recently, too.

At this statement, Rose furrows her brow and stiffens in her seat. Her gaze moves downward, looking into her coffee as her fingers tighten around the mug.

Rose: You... how did you...

Ruby: Like I said, it's what I do. No matter how much one tries to hide their emotions, the eyes never lie.

Rose breathes out a long sigh, continuing to stare into her coffee mug. She doesn't say anything yet, simply contemplating. After a long pause, Ruby rests her chin in her hand, and gives an empathetic look.

Ruby: Who was she?

Slowly, Rose glances back up.

Rose: You're so sure it's a she?

Ruby: Call it a lucky guess.

Another small pause, as Rose holds her head in her hand and sighs again.

Rose: She was... one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Ruby: Ah, you loved her.

Rose: Yeah.

Ruby: I know what that's like... been there, myself.

Rose: You mean...?

She gives a small nod, then sinks back into her seat and lifts her own cup to her lips, taking a long sip of coffee.

Ruby: Her name was Jeannette. Great girl; funny, smart, caring, everything you could want in someone. We'd been together for a long time, had even been talking about marriage. You know, all the happy stuff. But then...

Her demeanor suddenly takes on a much more solemn appearance. Ruby's eyes shift downward, shoulders slackening, as if remembering some painful memory. When she finally continues, she raises her gaze up to look at Rose again.

Ruby: It was cancer. Doctors caught it too late, and... well, there wasn't a lot they could do.

Rose: Oh... I'm sorry.

Ruby: Ah, it's alright. Was a long time ago. I've moved on. Though, I sense you haven't, yet.

Rose: Yeah, well, it's still too soon for me. To move on, I mean. I... I still remember her so well, you know? The memories... they're so vivid.

Ruby: It's just a natural part of the grieving process. Cherish them while you can, because eventually those memories will start to fade, as sad as it is.

Taking in a deep breath, Rose sips at her coffee a bit more until finally finishing the drink. Then, she sets the empty mug down and lets out a small, almost amused chuckle.

Rose: You know, I don't even know why I'm talking to you about any of this. I mean, I barely know you, and yet there's something about you. Something... I don't know, comfortable.

Ruby: Ha, yes, I tend to have that effect on people.

Rose: Thanks, though. For talking, for listening... and the coffee was good, too. But, I mean I don't know what you were expecting from this. If you were trying to pick me up or something, I'm not really ready to...

A small laugh finds its way out of Ruby's throat.

Ruby: Please, I'm not as heartless as I look. I wasn't expecting anything out of this except for a nice chat and some good coffee.

Rose smiles very slightly, nodding in response.

Rose: Thank you.

Ruby: However, I am going to give you my number.

Reaching into her purse, she pulls out a small pad of paper and a pen, then scribbles out her number on it. Tearing off the paper, she passes it over to Rose.

Ruby: If you ever feel up to it, give me a call. I'd like to see you again sometime.

Rose tentatively takes the number, giving it a long look. Eventually, she folds the paper and then stuffs it into her pants' pocket.

Rose: Sure, I'll keep that in mind.

Ruby: In that case, I will take my leave.

Standing up from her seat, Ruby takes an over exaggerated bow, then extends her hand.

Ruby: It was a pleasure to meet you, Rose. I hope things get better for you.

Sucking in a deep breath, Rose slowly lifts her hand her shake Ruby's, in turn giving a slight smile.

Rose: Was nice to meet you. I'll give you a call sometime, maybe when I'm feeling a bit better.

Ruby: May your heart mend itself well.

Flashing her own, almost childish smile, Ruby this time gives an over exaggerated curtsy, whirls her arm in a parting wave, and then spins around to head towards the exit. Rose leans forward, holding her chin up in one hand while watching the Ruby leave.

What an odd woman...

And yet as odd as she is, for some reason Rose finds herself wanting to know more about the woman, wants to see her again. For some reason, she's suddenly in a better mood.

Ext. Silverstone City Streets - Night

Rose stuffs her hands into her pockets, as she makes her way down the sidewalk. There's a bit more bounce in her step than when she had originally gone out that night, when she'd been dragging her feet beneath her and in no mood to actually be out. She doesn't know why, exactly, yet it feels like an air of happiness – no, not happiness. More like contentment – had taken hold of her.

Am I smiling? I am smiling. Why am I smiling?

But she doesn't actually care why she's smiling. All she knows is that she is, and that's good enough for her. Stopping at a crosswalk, she waits for the signal to change so she can cross the street. As she does this, however, she notices a couple of young kids grouped together near the alleyway across from her. She narrows her eyes at them for a moment, watching as they look around nervously and then duck into the shadows. She might have written it off as just a bunch of kids about to do something mischievous, if not for the fact that it's nearly ten o'clock, and it's a school night. Something about that just seemed a little off.

As soon as the signal changes, Rose hurries across the street and makes her way into the same alley that the kids had disappeared into. She steps past a small pile of trash bags, moves through a broken gap in a chain link fence, and then pauses at a bend in the path, hearing voices ahead of her.

Kid #1: Hey, we got you the money. Let us back in!

Kid #2: Yeah, come on! Please? I... I can't go without it. Life sucks out here... let us back in.

Kid #3: In there, I'm somebody. Out here I'm just a nerd with broken glasses.

A new voice follows, this one deeper... and impossibly creepy.

Man: Yes, yes of course. You've made the payment, so you get the treatment. Just relax and I'll bring you back again. Relax... open your eyes and watch the lights.

A short moment later, bright flashes of light begin to flicker out from around the corner. Instantly, Rose hurries forward to get a better look at what's going on, and hopefully stop whatever the creepy dude is about to do with those kids. Unfortunately, the second she comes into view, she goes blind by the lights, squinting her eyes shut and stumbling against the wall of the building next to her. The way they're flashing so fast, too, makes her feel like she's about to vomit. Fortunately, she manages to keep it down. By the time she regains her sight and her senses, though, the alley is empty.

Well sh*t.

Taking a quick look around to make sure she isn't missing anything, Rose utters a small sigh and stuffs her hands back in her pockets. So much for that.

Wait a minute, Rose, why do you even care? You don't do that anymore, remember? Just let the cops handle it.

A small frown suddenly forms on her face, as she walks back out of the alley. For some reason, she doesn't feel nearly as well as she did a few minutes ago. Whatever contentment she had after her talk with Ruby, it's gone now. The only thing left is the familiar sense of grief and misery. If anything, she actually feels worse now, and she has no idea what caused it. Hanging her head, she turns the corner of another sidewalk and starts back towards home. Maybe getting a good night's sleep will help.

Of course, she doesn't make it very far before she realizes that she's being watched. As subtle as her stalker is trying to be, it's actually fairly obvious. A couple years ago, she might not have picked up on it, but right now, she's well aware of the fact that she's being followed. Stopping suddenly, she turns to look behind her. As expected, the figure moves behind another group of people, hiding from view.

I am really not in the mood for this...

If this mystery stalker is so intent on following her, then fine. She'll lead whoever it is where she wants to take them. Turning another corner, she darts down an alley, then swings her way up onto a fire escape and begins climbing towards the roof of the building. In all likelihood, she'll lose the person on the way up to the building anyway.

However, looking back down, she notices that the figure is still close behind, not bothering to be very subtle about it anymore. Narrowing her eyes, Rose continues up onto the roof. She hurries a few steps ahead, then turns around and waits. Her stalker appears a few moments later, emerging onto the roof and jumping up to her feet.

Rose: Wait... you? What the hell are you doing here?

She doesn't recognize the face so much as the outfit; tight dark pants, a red shirt in the style of a Chinese gi, and a long, black leather coat.

Shiva: I did say I would return for you in one year, didn't I? Well, it's been a year.

Rose: Technically, it's been three months more than a year. Did they not teach you how to keep track of time where you come from?

Shiva: On the contrary, I was here three months ago, on time. However, when I found out about your... loss, I waited. I allowed you time to grieve, since you would not have been able to fight to the best of your ability then. Now, however, I would expect you to be ready.

Narrowing her eyes, Rose breathes outwardly and turns around, starting to walk away to the other side of the roof.

Rose: Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not in the mood. I'm not Ravager anymore. I'm not the person you're looking to fight.

Shiva: Do not walk away from me, Rose Wilson. Our rematch is already long overdo.

Rose: You say that like I should care.

Shiva: Yes, you should.

Rose: Well I don't.

And suddenly, Rose is reacting to her precog again, witnessing an attack from behind in her mind. Instantly, she reacts by ducking away to the side. During that period, there are at least a dozen different ways she can make a counter and land a hit so hard that Lady Shiva would be on the ground in a daze. But she never makes the attempt, instead just taking a few steps back. She doesn't react to the next attack nearly as fast as she should have, taking a hard kick straight to the face that sends her tumbling to the ground.

Shiva: Don't think that just because you won't give an effort that I will walk away. I've waited long enough, it was up to you to prepare yourself in time. I understand that you lost someone close to you, but if you don't get over it in the next few moments, then you will die.

Holding a hand to her bleeding nose, Rose glares up at the woman and then slowly returns to her feet.

Rose: Well, aren't you just a walking bundle of sympathy?

Shiva: Sarcasm won't save you, either.

Lady Shiva lunges in again, this time with a hard palm strike aimed at her face. Rose leans to the side to dodge it, then throws a punch of her own. However, her fist misses by a lot, while she takes a knee the chest, dropping her to her knees.

Shiva: Your body is here, but your mind is elsewhere.

Rose: I think... we established that already.

Shiva: You aren't making this worth my time. I was hoping that you would have improved in the past year. Instead, it's like fighting a child.

Groaning out a small, pained breath, Rose rises back to her feet again.

Rose: Oh, well, forgive me for disappointing you. What was I thinking?

Shiva: You weren't.

This time, when Lady Shiva comes in, she aims at a specific spot on Rose's throat, a very special pressure point that, if hit hard enough, can induce unconsciousness and even death within seconds. It isn't her leopard blow, but then only opponents she considers worthy are given the courtesy of receiving a blow from such a technique. No, Rose just gets a generic killing move. Before her fingers reach their target, however, she is stopped by the sudden appearance of... someone.

Quite literally, a third person materializes out of thin air right in front of her, leading with a flying missile kick that drives into her gut. Uttering a grunt of surprise, Lady Shiva slides backwards and quickly recovers her balance.

Shiva: Who are you supposed to be?

Rose blinks a few times at the new arrival, trying to discern just who the person is supposed to be. The rather form fitting, armored catsuit, colored black, does little to hide the fact that said person is female, especially considering some very noticeable features of her figure. To go along with the catsuit, however, is a long hooded cloak, blood red in color. The hood of the cloak also includes a dark covering over the face, completely obscuring her identity.

Woman: Just a concerned citizen, is all. I suggest you take your leave now, or I might have to force you.

Shiva: This does not concern you. Stand aside.

Woman: Sorry, I don't really think that I will. You see, I don't tolerate people like you. Either you get out of my city, or I throw you out.

Standing straighter, Lady Shiva slowly walks forward towards the woman. Coming to within a few paces of her, she suddenly throws a lightning quick jab, meant to take her out in a single blow. However, the hooded woman again vanishes into thin air, leaving behind a stray wisp of smoke in her wake. A second later, she reappears behind Shiva, leading with another kick. Shiva stumbles forward as the blow caroms off the back of her head.

Shiva: You're really starting to-

Woman: What? Get you riled up? Frustrate you? No, I don't think so. You see, you're actually starting to feel really, really calm. I'd even say indifferent. You don't feel like fighting anymore. All you want to do is leave.

Rose simply lifts an eyebrow in confusion, as she watches the scene. Is this mystery woman trying to pull some kind of Jedi mind trick or something? To her complete shock, however, the strange commands... actually work. Lady Shiva abruptly drops her guard and stands straight, her expression going clean and calm.

Shiva: You are right... I have more important things to do. Thank you, but I must be going now.

And with that, Lady Shiva turns around, walks back over to the fire escape, and then vanishes. Blinking in utter confusion, Rose looks over at the woman.

Rose: What the hell was that?

Woman: Oh that? Nothing really, just made her feel what I wanted her to feel. It's sort of what I do.

Rose: I see... and the teleportation bit?

Woman: Just part of the package. Are you alright, by the way?

Rose: I'm fine... though I could have handled myself, thanks.

Woman: Yes... you were on the verge of a miraculous comeback victory, I could feel it.

Gradually, Rose's eyes narrow.

Rose: Was that supposed to be a joke?

Woman: Did it feel like a joke?

Rose: I... what? Never mind. So who the hell are you, anyway?

Apathy: You can call me Apathy.

Rose: And what are you doing? I mean, dressed like that. Last I checked, you weren't the designated cape in Silverstone.

Apathy: Last I checked, no one was. At least not anymore.

Rose: So what, you decided to take over? I mean, since that Ravager person stopped showing up.

Apathy: Something like that. I just started recently, but wow is there a lot to clean up around this city.

Rose: Tell me about it...

Apathy tilts her head to the side slightly, while folding her arms across her chest.

Rose: Uh, I mean... like what?

Apathy: Oh, you name it, this place is infected with it. But if I'm being specific, right now I'm trying to figure out what's up with some of the kids in this area. They've been acting... strange. Rumor says it's a new drug going around, but I'm certain that it's something more.

Rose: Of course it's something more. It's always something more. At least... that's what I hear.

Apathy: Of course, because everyone hears that.

Without speaking a response, Rose merely narrows her eyes at the woman.

Apathy: It's a shame, though. Since I am so new at this and all, it might be good if I had some help. But alas, I'm all on my own in this.

Rose: Right, a real shame. Go to the cops if you want help.

Apathy: Please, I don't do cops. Besides, they can only help so much. They can't really do the kind of dirty work that we can.

Rose: And who's we, exactly?

Apathy: You know, superheroes.

Rose: You think you're a superhero?

Placing her hands on her hips, Apathy cocks her hips to the side and gives a hard stare. At least, Rose thinks she's staring; it's kind of hard to tell considering she can't see the woman's face through the dark mask and hood.

Apathy: Well, let's see-

She then raises her hands, casually counting out her list of reasons.

Apathy: I have superpowers, I fight crime, I beat up bad guys on a regular basis, and I have an amazing costume. I believe that qualifies, yes?

Rose: Well, you did say you were new at it, right? That means you're a rookie.

A small, amused laugh escapes Apathy's throat.

Apathy: Don't let that fool you, kid, I know how to handle myself.

Rose: Uh huh, I'm sure. Why don't you go and- wait... did you just call me 'kid'? How old are you, exactly?

Apathy: Thirty.

Rose: You're joking, right? You act like you're about fifteen.

Apathy: Still a kid at heart. Now, if you're just going to keep standing there and asking me stupid questions, then I think it's time I take my leave. I have a city to clean up.

Rose: Hey, wait a-

In an instant, however, Apathy disappears into thin air, leaving behind only a few small wisps of smoke in her place.

Rose: -minute. What the hell is with her?

She stands there a few moments longer, then shakes her head and heads back towards the fire escape. So, now not only does she have to watch her back for Lady Shiva on a daily basis, but apparently there's a new cape in town looking to take her place as Silverstone's protector.

So what? You don't care, remember? Let her take your place. She can clean up the city, and you can feel less guilty for giving it up. Unless she gets herself killed...

Releasing a long sigh, Rose makes her way back down the fire escape and into the alley. She's about ready to get some sleep now.

Meanwhile, up above on another rooftop, Apathy leans over the parapet and gazes downward, watching Rose walk down the sidewalk. After several moments, she finally straightens herself and folds her arms over her chest.

Apathy: See you around, Ravager.

Another second, and she vanishes.

Chapter #71

Int. Silverstone City Mall - Day

Rose sits in the chair outside the dressing rooms, waiting patiently with her arms folded. A very soft, quiet music plays in the background over the store's speaker system. She guesses it's supposed to be soothing, but really all it does is make her want to tear the PA system out of the walls. The quicker they can be done with this trip, the better. Or at least move to a different store that doesn't have annoying music. A short while later, the door in front of her opens, revealing Holly dressed in an outfit consisting of capris and a tank-top with an abstract design on the front.

Holly: How's this look? I think it's okay.

Rose: Come here, let me see.

Holly moves closer, waiting while Rose inspects the outfit.

Rose: Seems alright to me. Everything fit okay?

Holly: Well, the pants are a little loose, but I think I'll grow into them.

Rose: You don't think the shirt is a little big, too?

Holly: Maybe, but-

Rose: You'll grow into it, right. Well, if you're sure you like it, then it's all yours.

A broad grin forms its way onto the girl's young face.

Holly: Thanks, Rose! Er, Mom. Er... I still don't know what I should call you.

A small chuckle finds its way to Rose's lips.

Rose: It's alright. Call me whatever you want.

A short while later, the two find themselves at the food court, sitting at table and eating a couple sandwiches. Neither of them say anything right now, simply enjoying the meal. Rose lifts her bottle of water to her lips, taking a long gulp and then leaning back in her chair. It's been a relatively dull day, but she doesn't mind it too much. Just spending it with Holly is enough to keep herself entertained.

Holly: Hey, Ro- uh, Mom?

Rose: Yeah?

Holly: I've been meaning to ask you something...

Straightening herself in her seat, Rose brings her hands in front of her and folds them together on the table, giving Holly a careful look.

Rose: What is it?

Holly: Well, um... how come you don't go out at night anymore? You know... to stop the bad guys and stuff?

Rose: Holly...

A long breath emerges from her throat, as she lifts a hand and holds it to her head.

Rose: I just want to spend more time with you. And I wouldn't be a very responsible mother if I went out every night getting shot at, now would I?

Holly: Well, yeah, I mean I guess that makes sense, but... I don't know, I guess I liked it when you helped people. Like how you helped me.

Rose: I like helping people, too, but sometimes things change. If something happened to me... I just don't want to put you through that. Not again.

At this comment, Holly merely gives a large smile.

Holly: But nothing could happen to you. You're the best.

Eyes softening, Rose returns her own smile. There are are just so many reasons to love this girl.

Rose: I wish that were true, Holly.

The girl shrugs her shoulders, then takes another bite of her sandwich.

Holly: I guess I just wouldn't mind if you still wanted to, because helping people is important. Someday, I want to be able to help people, too.

Rose: Yeah, and hopefully as a doctor or something.

Holly: Maybe.

Just as long as you don't end up like me, kid...

As they start to finish up their lunch, an excited voice suddenly calls out, interrupting them.

Voice: Hey there!

With the slight English accent to it, Rose knows exactly who the voice belongs to. Turning her head, she sees Ruby heading towards them from across the food court.

Ruby: Well, fancy meeting you here. My goodness, what a small world.

Rose: Yeah, fancy that. What are you doing here?

Ruby: Oh, you know, just shopping around. That is generally what one does at a mall, isn't it?

Rose: So it is.

Ruby: And who's this lovely young girl?

Rose: Oh, Ruby, Holly. Holly, Ruby.

Holly eagerly extends her hand forward, which Ruby takes and gives a firm handshake.

Holly: Nice to meet you.

Ruby: And you, as well, Holly. Are you Rose's sister?

Rose: Daughter, actually.

Blinking in surprise, Ruby glances back and forth between the two.

Ruby: She looks awfully... well, old, to be your daughter.

Holly: That's 'cuz she adopted me.

Ruby: Oh, I see, well that's wonderful.

Holly: How do you know Rose?

Ruby: Ah, you see, we met last night, didn't we? Had a cup of coffee, talked a little bit. She's a real interesting woman.

Looking back up to Rose, Holly smiles a little.

Holly: You didn't tell me you went out last night. Did you have fun?

Rose: I... well, yes, actually. I did.

Barring what happened after I left Ruby.

Holly: That's good. You deserve to have fun.

Rose: So people keep telling me.

Ruby: Anyway, what are you two up to? Aside from enjoying what looks like rather tasty sandwiches.

Rose: Shopping, same as you. Mostly for summer wear. Holly's outgrown a lot of her old clothes, so she practically needs a new wardrobe.

Holly: We're going to try on swimsuits next! I totally want a bikini this year.

Rose: Not until you're older.

Holly: Older? Come on, I'm already eleven and a half!

Ruby: And very mature for your age, I can tell.

Holly: See? Ruby thinks I'm mature.

Clearing her throat, Rose gives the woman a sidelong glance, then looks back to Holly.

Rose: In the sense that you're a very smart girl, not in the sense that a bikini would be appropriate for you.

Holly: But Rose-

Rose: No buts.

Pouting a little, Holly holds her arms over her chest and breathes out a sigh of defeat.

Holly: Fine.

Ruby: Say, do you mind if I tag along with you girls? I still have a bit of shopping left to do myself, and I find it's always more entertaining with other people than by yourself.

And there it is again, as sudden as a kick to the gut: that overwhelming feeling of calm and contentment, the same that she felt the night before after meeting Ruby. She still doesn't know what's causing it, but for some reason she's in a much better mood now. She might even go so far as to say she's feeling quite giddy and carefree at the moment

What the hell is it about this woman? She's so... enjoyable. Why is she so enjoyable?

Rose: Yeah, sure. That would be great actually. We could use the company, right?

Holly: Right!

Ext. Silverstone City Mall - Day

Ruby: I'll see you girls around. Thanks for the company!

Giving a warm wave of departure, Ruby heads across the parking lot in the opposite direction. Rose and Holly return their own waves as the woman disappears into the rows of cars, then head towards their own vehicle in the lot. Most of their many shopping bags, Rose gets stuck with, mostly due to the fact that she has the strength to handle them all. Holly, meanwhile, manages with just a pair of bags, one in either hand.

Holly: She's really nice. I like her.

Rose: Yeah...

Pausing a moment, she glances back over her shoulders, as if hoping to catch another glimpse of Ruby. She only sees a wall of cars, though.

Rose: I do, too.

Ext. Silverstone City Streets - Day

As Rose guides her car down the off ramp of the Silverstone overpass, she spots something ahead of her down the road that catches her attention. A collection of cop cars sits along the side of the street, along with an ambulance. The medical team works to lift a gurney up into the back of the ambulance, a gurney on which a young boy lies unconscious with an oxygen mask over his face. He can't be more than fourteen or fifteen years old.

While Rose at first considers simply continuing on, something about the situation feels off to her. This can't just be an ordinary accident. If that were the case, then the ambulance would be enough. Maybe one cop car. But six? And why on earth is the chief himself here, too? Right at the front of the line of squad cars is Gerald Palmer, police chief, speaking with a distraught looking woman outside the building. Curiously, Rose beings to slow down, eventually parking on the side of the street behind the cop cars.

Holly: What are we stopping for?

Rose: I just need to talk to someone real quick. Wait here.

Holly: Well can you at least leave the keys so I can listen to the radio?

Rose: Yeah, sure. Be back in a second.

Opening the door to her vehicle, Rose walks out onto the sidewalk and makes her way towards Palmer, who's just finishing up with the tearful woman. When he finally gives a nod and turns away, she speaks up.

Rose: Hey, Chief.

Blinking in surprise, Palmer glances over at her and lets out a small breath.

Palmer: Oh, Wilson. What are you doing here?

Rose: Was just passing by. Thought I'd stop and see what's going on. What happened?

Palmer: Damn tragedy is what happened. Kid collapsed while getting lunch with his mother. Paramedics called it a brain aneurism. He's still alive right now, but it doesn't look good.

Narrowing her eyes slightly, Rose looks around at the scene, watching the multiple officers in the area.

Rose: But you obviously think there's something else behind it. Otherwise, you wouldn't have a whole team investigating things.

Palmer: I might. But you know I can't discuss an ongoing case with a civilian.

Rose: And you know I'm not an ordinary civilian.

Palmer: Maybe before, but you gave it up, remember? Not that I can blame you. Plenty of weird sh*t going on around here lately.

Rose: I told you why I can't.

Briefly, she glances back behind her. Visible through her car window, Holly is singing along with a song on the radio.

Palmer: And I get that. You got a kid, you want to be there for her. I wasn't judging you, Wilson. I'm just saying I can't give case details to you.

Rose: Well maybe I have information that could be related to your case.

Palmer: And you won't tell me unless I tell you? How about I get you on obstruction of justice? Or better yet, impeding a police investigation.

Rose: You could. Problem is, I don't know if my information is related to your case or not. I'd need the details to be sure.

For a long moment, Palmer just glares at her, arms folded across his chest.

Rose: Come on, it's me. You know I just want to help.

Eventually, a tired sigh escapes from the chief's lips. Bringing a hand up, he rubs his eyes and shakes his head.

Palmer: Alright, fine. Truth is, this isn't the first incident of a young kid collapsing with an aneurism. There's actually been five similar cases within the past week, all in the same general area.

Rose: The same kids you think are addicted to some new street drug?

Palmer: That's our best guess, anyway. We've been getting a lot of reports of children appearing dazed in school, tired, erratic, twitchy, paranoid, you name it. I even heard that they've been stealing from their parents for extra cash. It fits, but no tests run on any of the kids have yielded any known results. As far as we can tell, whatever is happening to them, it's something new.

Holding a hand to her chin, Rose lets out a deep, contemplative breath.

Rose: Huh... that's interesting.

Palmer: What?

Rose: Last night I saw a few kids running off into an alley. It looked pretty suspicious, so I followed them, eavesdropped. They were talking to some man. They were paying him for something... said they wanted to 'go back in'.

Palmer: Could be related. Did you get a good look at the guy?

Rose: No. When I went to get a closer look, a bunch of bright lights started flashing; couldn't see a damn thing. Once the lights disappeared, the kids were gone.

Palmer: Weird...

Rose: Tell me about it.

Palmer: Actually sounds like something that would have been right up your alley. I mean, back when you had an alley.

A long pause passes between them. Rose's eyes narrow slightly, then moves her gaze back once again at her car. This time, Holly sees her and gives a wave. Smiling, Rose returns the wave, then lets out a heavy breath.

Rose: Look, if I get a chance... I'll look into it, alright? But no promises.

Palmer: You do what you need to, Wilson. But you know I won't refuse the help if you can give it. I don't need to remind you how shorthanded we are right now.

Rose: Like I said, no promises. But I do have your number in case I need it. Anyway, I should get going. I'll let you get back to work.

Giving a small wave, Rose turns and heads back to her car. Getting in behind the steering wheel, she takes in a deep breath, then leans back against the seat. Holly looks at her curiously.

Holly: Are you alright?

Rose: Yeah, I'm fine, hun.

Holly: Then what are you doing?

Rose: Thinking.

Holly: About what?

Rose: Just... what I talked about with the officer. Some kids that might need help.

Sitting up straighter in her seat, Holly looks curiously at her.

Holly: Are you gonna help them?

Rose: I... want to. But I can't.

Holly: Why not?

Rose: I already told you why.

Frowning slightly, Holly crosses her arms over her chest and shifts slightly in her seat.

Holly: But you can help them. And if you can help someone, you should. You told me that once.

Rose: Holly-

Holly: I was a kid that needed help, too. If you hadn't been there, where would I be now?

Rose: This is a little different... If anything, their parents should be the ones helping them, not me.

Holly: But maybe their parents can't help them. Maybe only you can.

Rose: Okay, don't go turning this into a cliché fantasy plot where I'm the only one who can save everybody. It's more complicated than that.

Breathing outwardly, Holly looks off to the side and leans back in her seat.

Holly: Fine, let's just go.

Rose gives the girl a long look, unsure of what else really to say. She hadn't really been expecting to have an argument like this with her. After all, the whole reason she isn't being Ravager anymore is specifically for Holly. Shaking her head, she puts the key into the ignition and drives back down the street.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Night

It's getting late now, almost ten o'clock. Holly has been in bed for a while, and since that time Rose has just been sitting on the edge of her bed, staring at the wall in front of her. To be more precise, it's the wall full of her gear. Swords, gadgets, spare costumes, everything. It seems like forever ago that she last saw any of this stuff. The only reason she's even looking at it now is because of what Holly had said to her: if you can help someone, you should.

I did tell her that...and now she thinks I'm being a hypocrite, even when I'm doing it because of her, because I have to be there for her. I have to be responsible.

And yet, at the same time, she knows she can still help people. At least, she certainly has the ability to. She always has. And she does like helping people, fighting for those who can't fight for themselves. She's good at it... The only real question that remains is, does she have the motivation left to do it? Is it worth continuing to put herself at risk, to put Holly at risk? Is it worth any of that?

Finally rising up from the edge of her bed, she begins to walk over to the wall of equipment. Slowly, she reaches forward and takes hold of her costume.

Rose: I guess we'll find out.

Chapter #72

Int. Silverstone City Central Police Station - Night

Gerald Palmer sinks into the seat behind his desk, rubbing his eyes tiredly. Almost eleven o'clock and he still has a stack of paperwork to take care of. At this rate, he might get home sometime tomorrow morning. As he goes to turn on his computer, however, a sudden presence near the window startles him.

Ravager: Chief, we need to talk.

Practically jumping out of his seat, Palmer whirls around, his hand already halfway to his gun. When he realizes who it is, though, he slowly relaxes. Breathing out a sigh of relief, he instead holds his hand up to his chest and sinks back into his chair.

Palmer: Wilson... I really hate it when you do that.

Ravager: I get that you know my identity now, but please, it's still 'Ravager' when I'm in costume.

Palmer: Right, of course. Ravager. So, I see you changed your mind.

Ravager: I... had some help with it. I'm still on edge about it, though. We'll see how things go.

Palmer: Well, either way, glad to have your help.

Ravager: First thing's first: I'm gonna need to know everything you know about this case. It doesn't matter if it's a minor detail you don't think is important.

Palmer: Alright, give me a few minutes. I'll have the case files copied for you.

About ten minutes later, Ravager is leaning over the chief's desk and going over a bunch of papers in a folder, all spread out in front of her.

Ravager: So, you had another incident just a few hours ago?

Palmer: Unfortunately, yes. That makes the seventh child aneurism in the last week.

Ravager: What do they have in common?

Palmer: Far as we can tell, they're all in the same general age group. High school kids, fifteen to seventeen. And if you look at this map-

Reaching into a drawer, Palmer pulls out a rolled up map and opens it across his desk. It's a map of Silverstone, with seven red dots across one side of it.

Palmer: -they all lived in the same neighborhood, within ten blocks of each other.

Ravager: The dots almost make a circle... I'll start searching in the center, work my way out. Hopefully, I'll find a lead. Can you tell me anything else?

Palmer: Other than what's in that folder, nothing directly. However, I will say that there's also been a series of unusual thefts in the past few weeks.

Ravager: Unusual, how?

Palmer: Well, the security alarms trigger, so the cops show up. Only problem, the person or persons on duty at the place in question insist that there's nothing wrong. Next day, we get a call saying that some equipment's been stolen. This has happened four times now, from different establishments. All heavy duty technology development companies, though, S.T.A.R. Labs included.

Ravager: You're right, that is unusual. You think it's related to what's going on with these kids?

Palmer: Hell if I know, but it's just as strange. I reckon it's possible, so it might be worth looking into if you don't find anything else.

Ravager: Give me a list of the places hit and all the information you've gathered from the reports; what was stolen, when it was stolen, all that. I'll look into it if I can't find any other leads.

Palmer: No problem. Oh, and Ravager? It's good to have you back.

Ravager: I'm not back. Not yet. I'm just... helping.

Ext, Silverstone City East District - Night

Ravager slows down her bike to a careful stop in a back alley. Glancing down at the GPS monitor on the dash, she double checks to make sure that she's in the right location. Yup, this is definitely the center of those red dots. All that's left to do now is patrol and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. It might be easier if she knew what she's looking for, but unfortunately she has no such knowledge. She'll just have to follow whatever lead she can find, no matter how small.

After killing the engine, Ravager hops off her ride and climbs the fire escape of the building next to her, making her way up onto the roof. Once up there, she gradually works her way around the ledge, gazing over the parapet and closely scanning the surrounding area. She sees a lot of empty streets and alleyways, but nothing out of the ordinary. A few people go about their business, walking along the sidewalks. A homeless man sleeps beneath the shelter of a few cardboard boxes, an empty bottle of alcohol next to him. A stray cat mewls loudly somewhere in the distance.

Good old Silverstone...

Breaking into a partial run, she leaps over the edge of the roof and onto the next one. Continuing her jog, she jumps from building to building, stopping every few rooftops to again scan the neighborhood. After several minutes of this, her gaze falls on a basketball court behind a collection of buildings, a high chain fence closing it off from the small side street next to it. Standing next to this basketball court is an unidentifiable man dressed in a hoodie sweatshirt, hood up. He looks around, shifting his weight nervously, as if waiting for someone.

Patiently, Ravager watches. Within several moments, another man in a hoodie shows up, walking out from behind one of the buildings. The two greet each other with a stylized hand shake, then start talking in low voices to each other. Curiously, Ravager moves farther along the rooftops to get a closer look. There's definitely an exchange being made. They think they're smooth, but she easily spots the money changing hands, along with a small plastic bag full of an unknown substance. She waits just a few seconds longer, until the two begin to part ways, and then makes her move.

Leaping down from the rooftop, she lands silently on the balls of her feet, in a crouch. As the dealer walks past her hidden location in the shadows, she runs out, lunges at the man, and knocks him to the ground. The man utters a surprised, frightened yell, landing hard on his front. Rolling him over, Ravager firmly pins him against the ground and clamps a hand over his mouth.

Ravager: You yell for help, and I break your fingers, got it?

Frantically, he utters a muffled response and nods his head furiously. After a moment's hesitation, she removes her hand from his mouth.

Dealer: J-jesus. You're the- the-

Ravager: I know who I am. What did you sell that guy?

Dealer: Wha- just some coke, man, honest.

Ravager: Just some... uck.

As if that's better compared to the mystery drug she's looking for. Quickly going through the guy's pockets, she pulls out several plastic bags with small quantities of white powder. She stares at the substance for a moment, then opens the bag and plants one of her fingers into the powder, a very small amount sticking to her glove.

Dealer: Hey, that costs money!

Ignoring him, she touches the substance to her tongue briefly. Frowning, she stares back at him. Just coke.

Ravager: Do yourself a favor and find a day job.

On that note, she starts to open all the plastic bags, dumping out the contents on the ground.

Dealer: Hey! What the hell are you doing?! That's a waste!

He tries to make a desperate grab for one of the bags, but Ravager silences him with a punch to the nose. Instantly recoiling, the dealer holds his hands up to his face, groaning in pain. Once all of the drugs are disposed of, she turns back to him, grips the collar of his shirt, and lifts him closer to her.

Ravager: There have been rumors of a new drug going around, affecting young kids. Know anything about it?

Dealer: Wha? Sh*t, no, I don't know anything like that. I ain't seen anything new or nothing.

Well, he isn't going to be much help.

Finally release the guy, Ravager stands up and places her hands on her hips, looking around the area. Still on the ground, the dealer rolls over, clutching his likely broken nose, and utters a small whimper of pain.

Dealer: Man, f*ck you. No good dirty c-

Without even looking at him, she cuts his words off with a sharp kick to the stomach. He immediately curls up, holding his arms around his gut and groaning. Then, Ravager walks away away from the scene to look elsewhere. A half hour later, Ravager comes to rest against the parapet of another rooftop, near the outer ring her search area. So far, no good. Chances are, she missed something somewhere, or just wasn't in the right place at the right time, but she can't help it. She is only one person, after all.

Taking in a deep breath, she slowly pushes herself up straighter and starts heading to the opposite end of the roof. There's still plenty of night left, so she can double back and patrol over the area a couple more times, just in case there's still something else out there she hasn't seen yet. As she plants her foot at the edge of the roof in order to jump to the next one, however, a sudden voice very close to her (in fact, right next to her), makes itself known.

Voice: Well, look who it is. The one and only Ravager.

Letting out a startled cry, Ravager stumbles forward, just barely catching herself before falling off the ledge into the alley below. Immediately turning to her left, with her guard raised, she prepares to defend herself in case of attack. When she sees who it is, though, she simply glares from behind her mask.

Ravager: What, are you stalking me now?

Apathy: Stalking you? But we've never met. Or have we?

Ravager: Uh... never mind. Who are you?

Apathy: Just a friend, doing the same as you. Name's Apathy.

Ravager: Let me guess, you're some newbie who thinks she's hot stuff, right?

Apathy: Possibly. Though, for the more experienced vigilante, you're really going about your investigation in a highly inefficient manner.

Ravager: Is that right? And what would you know about it?

Apathy: Well, I know that you'll never find what you're looking for the way you're looking for it.

Ravager: And you know what I'm looking for?

Apathy: The problems with the local kids, right? Me, too. Been on the case now for days, but it's been tough. Not a lot of leads.

Ravager: I'm willing to bet I have more leads than you.

Folding her arms across her chest, Apathy tilts her head to the side and gives a hard glare. Not that Ravager can see the glare from behind the woman's dark, tinted facial covering and hood. In fact, neither woman can see the other's face.

Apathy: You mean the places of residence of those kids who suffered from brain aneurisms, right? And you do have the list of strange robberies lately, I would assume? Have you cross referenced the locations of those robberies yet with those places of residence and mapped out the most probable radius to find the source of the problem?

For a long moment, Ravager just stares back at her, eyes narrowing. Eventually, she crosses her arms and lifts her chin a bit.

Ravager: That's assuming the source is even in the middle of it all. It could be coincidental. For all we know, whatever's causing it could be on the other side of the city.

Apathy: Possible, but unlikely. You didn't really do a lot of research into this before you decided to jump out here and look around, did you?

She doesn't answer, allowing for an awkward pause to pass between them. Hands coming to her hips, Apathy tilts her head to the side, bemused.

Apathy: Do you even know what was stolen from those companies?

Ravager: Some sort of advanced tech, right? I haven't looked into it, yet. I don't know what that would have to do with drugs, though.

A disappointed sigh finds its way to Apathy's lips.

Apathy: We're not looking for drugs.

Ravager: And what makes you so sure of that?

Apathy: Because of the tech that was stolen. Not a lot on on their own, but when you put them together you come up with something... interesting.

Ravager: Define 'interesting'.

Moving forward, Apathy reaches down to the belt of her armored catsuit and pulls out a small electronic device. Holding it up, she clicks a button and causes a rather detailed hologram to project from the lens on top, showing the different stolen components.

Apathy: Well, it's just a theory, actually, created by formerly renowned hypnologist, Dr. Preston Atkinson – he was fired recently. Anyway, he hypothesized that, with the right neurological stimulation, a person could be subconsciously driven into a sort of... alternate reality existing in their own minds. Sort of like a dream, only much more than a dream.

Ravager: Okay... and what does any of that have to do with the dying kids?

Apathy: Well, the finished product would be unstable. It's highly likely that it causes brain damage in some of the subjects, possibly even inflicting, you guessed it, brain aneurisms. So, if someone is using this technology to addict children to their own privatized virtual reality, they end up with complications after using it for too long.

Lifting a hand to her face, Ravager lets out a long sigh and shakes her head.

Ravager: Okay, none of that makes any sense. First of all, why would somebody be doing this in the first place? What's to gain, except for some small time cash from a bunch of kids stealing from their parents? And second, if it were true, how in the hell would you know all of it already?

Apathy: Because-

Holding a finger up, she points it playfully a Ravager.

Apathy: -I actually did my homework. You know, used the big thing in my head; a brain, I think it's called. Not bad for a 'newbie', huh?

Ravager: Okay... and exactly what do you propose we do about it?

Apathy: We go stop the guy behind it, duh. You really are two steps behind in the whole thinking thing, aren't you?

Ravager: Don't tell me, you just happen to know where this is all going down, right?

Apathy: Well... I have theories. But yes, I can say it's a distinct possibility. Care to join me?

The woman reaches a hand out, waiting for Ravager to take it. After staring at it for what feels like an eternity, Ravager finally extends her own hand and grips Apathy's. In an instant, they pop out of existence. When they reappear, Ravager staggers forward, holding a hand to her stomach and doubling over.

Ravager: Oh god... I will never get used to teleporting.

Apathy: Should I grab you a barf bag?

Ravager: I'll be fine.

Fighting back the bubbling nausea in her gut, Ravager sucks in a deep breath of air and straightens herself, finally looking around. It looks like one of the many back alleys in Silverstone, rather hard to discern from the other twenty she's already covered tonight.

Ravager: Where are we?

Apathy: The most probably location, as determined by yours truly, for whoever is behind the problem to be located. Well, this and the surrounding few blocks.

Rose: And we're still in the East District?

Apathy: Yup.

Rose: Then I've already searched this area. There's nothing here.

Apathy: Please, I saw you 'search'. A couple once overs hardly qualifies. I'm totally certain you didn't overlook anything at all.

Rose: So you are stalking me.

Apathy: I prefer to call it 'intensive observation'.

Rose: You know what... I don't even care. Let's just get looking.

Apathy: I suggest we split up to cover more ground.

Ravager: Wow, an actual good idea. I'm shocked.

Apathy: And I'm unamused at your poor attempts of sarcasm.

Giving the woman another glare, Ravager slowly turns away and begins marching off in the opposite direction.

Ravager: Let me know if you find anything.

This time around, Ravager takes a much closer look at the surrounding neighborhood, sticking to the more deserted areas and back alleyways, as usual. Unfortunately, she doesn't spot any sort of suspicious activity. Sure, whoever is behind this whole thing could be located in any one of these buildings, but she can't just go breaking into every single one to search, especially when she doesn't even know who or what she's looking for. There isn't enough time in the night.

Holding her hands to her hips, Ravager lets out an annoyed sigh and doubles back down the series of alleys she came through. Her eyes are drawn to a few chained and padlocked doors along the sides of some buildings, but they're meaningless to her right now. At least, she thinks they are at first. But then she notices one of the doors, the handle wrapped up in chains just like all the others. The only difference is, the chain is cut. She narrows her eyes, coming forward to inspect it.

Hmm... no guarantee it has anything to do with what I'm after, but it couldn't hurt to check out.

As she reaches forward to open the door, however, her attention is quickly drawn away when she catches sight of a shadowed figure watching her from further down alley. Turning towards the obstructed individual, she narrows her eyes at him, trying to get a better look. The figure pauses a moment, standing straighter, then suddenly sprints in the opposite direction.

Ravager: Yeah, that's not suspicious at all. Hey!

Taking off into a run, Ravager quickly reaches a speed that begins to close the distance between the two, even as the retreating figure disappears around an approaching corner. The moment she rounds the bend, her vision is assaulted by a rapidly flickering series of lights. She squints fiercely, trying to get a fix on whatever's happening. Her precog doesn't warn her of any imminent danger, so she isn't being attacked. But then what in the hell is all this?

Ravager: Would you... cut that... out?

Her words suddenly begin to slow down and slur, everything going blurry. She blinks a couple of times and shakes her head, trying to snap herself out of whatever daze she's sinking into. Within seconds, she realizes that it's useless. Something happens in her brain... almost like it just decides to just shut off. The next thing she knows, everything goes dark.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Morning

Slowly opening her eyes, Rose lets out a long moan of discomfort. The headache pounding between her eyes is simply astounding, as if someone's playing the drums with her brain. She sits up in bed, holding a hand to her head and squinting her eyes shut for several moments, trying to force the pain away. Slowly but surely, the headache begins to subside. When it's finally bearable, she opens her eyes again and takes a look around.

I'm back home? But how did I...?

The last thing she remembers is collapsing in an alleyway at the hands of strange flashing lights. But that didn't make any sense. How could blinking lights cause her to fall unconscious? No, doesn't make any sense at all.

Ugh, maybe it was just some kind of sick dream.

The sound of a toilet flushing catches her ears. She slowly glances over to the closed door of the bathroom next to the bed. Leaning back on her hands, she lets out a small yawn.

Rose: Holly, that you?

Don't tell me the toilet down the hall is clogged again.

And then, the door opens. It takes her brain a few moments to register exactly what she's seeing, throat going numb and heart jumping into her throat. At first, she thinks she's just hallucinating, maybe the side effect of whatever killer headache she had. But the more she stares, the more she realizes that the woman standing in front of her, dressed in nothing but a loose fitting T-shirt and a pair of underwear, is not a hallucination. She can't be.

Becky: Morning there, sleepy head.

Rose: Becky...?

Becky: Last night must have really tired you out, ah?

Chapter #73

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite - Morning

It takes several moments before Rose's legs are able to move, caught in frozen shock. When she finally manages to throw herself out of the bed, almost tripping over her own two feet on the way, she runs over to Becky and lunges forward, embracing her in warm, yet almost desperate hug, arms coming around tightly.

Rose: It... it was a dream. It was all a dream. Everything was...

Blinking in confusion, Becky slowly wraps her arms around Rose in return, giving a curious look.

Becky: Rose... are you alright?

Rose: Yeah, I... I'm fine now. I'm great.

Becky: You're crying.

Sniffling slightly, Rose lifts a hand to wipe the tears away and utters a small chuckle.

Rose: I'm just... I'm so happy to see you. God, I missed you so much.

Becky: Now I'm confused, did I go somewhere?

Rose: Did you-? No, nowhere at all... you've been here the whole time, haven't you?

Becky: Dios mio, girl, that must have been some dream.

Smiling, Rose pulls back slightly and plants her lips firmly against Becky's, her arms coming up to curl around the woman's shoulders. Breathing outwardly in pleasant surprise, Becky presses herself into the kiss, her own hands coming down around Rose's waist.

Becky: Oy, someone wants an early encore from last night.

Rose: Let's do something today.

Becky: What do you mean? What do you want to do?

Rose: Anything, it doesn't matter. We can go out. Shopping, bowling, a walk in the park, I don't care. I just want to spend some time with you right now.

Becky: But you have your classes to teach, don't you?

Rose: I'm canceling classes today.

Becky: Well I have work, too, you know.

Rose: So call in sick. I just... please, I want to spend the whole day with you.

Furrowing her brow in curiosity, Becky purses her lips and gives a slow nod.

Becky: Alright, alright. I'll call in sick.

Rose: Okay, good. That's... good. I'll go drive Holly to school, and then I'll come back and we can do something.

Becky: And I'll be waiting. Maybe I'll be wearing a little less, too, ah?

A large grin forms its way across Rose's face.

Rose: Have I told you how much I love you?

Becky: Not since last night. Though, I think there may have been a few 'oh gods' mixed in there somewhere.

Leaning back in, Rose gives her girlfriend another deep kiss.

Rose: I'll be right back.

Ext. Silverstone City Park - Day

Rose and Becky walk down the stone pathway of the park hand in hand, fingers tightly interlocked. It's a beautiful day, sunny and not a cloud in the sky. Warm, but not too hot. With the spring season, the trees are lush and full, birds hopping around their branches and singing to greet the day. A pair of squirrels chase each other along the path, then suddenly dart off towards a bush, disappearing within. A family of ducks swims lazily through the waters of the the large pond. Nearby, an elderly couple sits on one of the many park benches, throwing bread crumbs in front of them and watching the birds fly down to have a taste. The day is, quite simply, perfect.

Rose: I can't remember the last time I actually came here. It's so... relaxing.

Becky: Ha, girl, we were here just last week, remember?

Rose: Oh, uh... right. I meant it just seems like so long, I guess. We should come here more often.

Becky: Well I certainly wouldn't complain.

Rose: So, tell me about you. I mean, how are things going? With your family, with work, with life. Anything.

Again, Becky's expression twists into one of slight confusion and curiosity. Of course, this lasts only briefly, as she soon smiles and takes a firmer grip of Rose's hand.

Becky: Well, my family is doing good. Mom and Dad just got back from a cruise to the Bahamas, said they really loved it. You should see the pictures; my parents can be so ridiculous sometimes. Oh, and my sister just got engaged a few days ago. I haven't met the guy yet, but she says he's great.

Rose gives a smile of her own, leaning closer against Becky as they continue to walk down the pathway.

Becky: Work's been okay, about the same as you can expect. But ugh, you would not believe some of the things we have to put up with on the job. Well, maybe you do since you were a cop once, but it's just been weird lately. Naked homeless guys, wild parties, reports of cannibalism...

A small shudder runs up her spine at the thought. Some of the things that police officers have to respond to are just plain creepy.

Becky: But as for my life, well...

Turning her head, Becky's smile grows softer. They stop walking for a moment, as she leans forward to give Rose a light kiss.

Becky: I'm currently involved with the most wonderful woman I could ever ask for, who I love very much, and I couldn't be happier with. So I'd say my life is going perfectly.

Rose returns a kiss of her own, this one deeper and longer lasting than the first. When she finally pulls back, a small breathless gasp escapes her throat.

Rose: Funny... you just described my life, too.

The two continue down the path again, now taking a turn onto the bridge that overlooks the pond. The family of ducks from before is now swimming below them, heading beneath the bridge. Taking a moment to pause, Rose and Becky lean against the railing and gaze down into the water, still holding hands.

Rose: Hey, can I ask you something?

Becky: Shoot.

Rose: Do you... I mean, could you see yourself spending the rest of your life with me?

Lifting an eyebrow, Becky turns to her and takes in a short breath.

Becky: Do you really need to ask that question?

Rose: Well, I just... I was wondering, is all.

Becky: Dios, girl. Of course I can see myself spending the rest of my life with you. I wouldn't still be with you if I didn't.

Rose smiles, swallowing back a nervous lump in her throat.

Rose: Then let's get married.

Becky: Wha- for real?

Rose: Yeah. It doesn't have to be right now, but I want to marry you. More than anything.

Becky: You don't think it's a little soon? I mean, we haven't even been together a year, yet.

Rose: So what? Time is relative, anyway. I know that I love you, I know that you love me, and I know that I want to be with you forever. I don't ever want to lose you.

After a brief pause, Becky's lips curl into a delighted smile.

Becky: And you never will.

Rose: Is that a yes?

Becky: Si, it's a yes.

Int. Marchini's Italian Restaurant - Night

Later that night, Rose, Becky, and Holly all sit around a table at the restaurant, staring at the menus. While Rose and Becky remain entirely focused on said menus, acting as though nothing is out of the ordinary, Holly every so often glances up over hers and looks at either woman curiously. She may only be eleven and a half, but she's not stupid. She knows when something's up. Eventually, she closes her menu and plants it down flat on the table in front of her.

Holly: Okay, what's going on?

Rose: No idea what you're talking about.

A small smirk finds its way across Becky's lips, but she doesn't look up from her menu.

Holly: But we never go out for dinner on a school night. You always make me do my homework, and then we train, then you cook dinner at home, and then I go to bed.

Rose: Oh, well I just thought we'd mix things up a little bit tonight.

Holly: But I haven't even done my homework, yet! You didn't even ask what I had for homework. You always ask what I have for homework.

Finally, Becky lifts her gaze from the menu, flashing an amused smile at Rose.

Becky: Can't get anything by her, ah?

Holly: So there is something going on!

Rose: Well, maybe.

The young girl just gives a hard stare, arms folding across her chest.

Rose: Alright, alright. We're here because we're celebrating.

Holly: What are we celebrating?

Rose: Marriage.

Holly lifts an eyebrow and tilts her head in confusion

Holly: Marriage? Who's getting married?

At that question, Rose reaches across the table, taking Becky's hand with her own and firmly interlocking their fingers.

Rose: We are.

Eyes going wide, Holly shoots up straight in her seat.

Holly: What, really?

Becky: Si, it's true.

A big grin them forms its way across the girl's face.

Holly: That is so awesome! Oh my god, is there going to be a big wedding? Do I get to wear one of those awesome dresses? Oh! Can I bring the rings down the aisle?

Becky: Whoa, whoa, slow down, girl. We haven't even discussed when the wedding will be, yet.

Rose: It's more of a promise.

Moving her gaze towards Becky, she flashes a warm, loving smile of her own.

Rose: We don't know when it will happen yet, but some time, eventually, we will get married.

Holly: Oh, well that's cool, too. But when you have the wedding, can I bring the rings down the aisle? Pleeease?

Rose chuckles, slowly nodding.

Rose: Alright, you can bring the rings down the aisle.

Holly: Yes! Awesome!

Rose holds a large smile across her face, slowly glancing around the table. Becky, the love of her life, and Holly, the wonderful girl that brings out the mother in her. She couldn't ask for anything more out of her life. The more she looks at them, however, the more they begin to fade. In fact, everything is starting to fade; the restaurant, the people, her entire world, as though a dark curtain is being dragged in front of her eyes. In a near panic, she lunges up from her seat and looks around wildly.

Rose: No! What's going on? Bring it back! Bring it back!

But things just continue to get darker, until finally she herself disappears along with everything around her.

Int. Unknown Workshop - Night

Rose: No, no no no no... NO! I want to go back! Let me go back!

Her eyes suddenly fly open, a large, heavy breath escaping her lips. Things are blurry at first, but slowly come into focus. She's in a small, square room with a very dim florescent light flickering weakly above her. When she tries to move, she realizes that she's strapped into some kind of machine, with a weird, helmet-like device wrapped around her head. Clenching her fists, she struggles to break free, but the bonds are reinforced against even her enhanced strength.

Rose: Please... please, I want to go back...

Tears are streaking down her cheeks now, tears that she doesn't even know she's producing until the water in her eyes begins to blur her vision again. Blinking them away, she shakes her head and sucks in another deep gulp of air. Her heart feels like it's beating a thousand times a minute. She tries to lift her head, but finds that it, too, is strapped firmly against the odd machine she's in, some sort of strange pod with a glass covering above her.

A short moment later, the glass cover lifts open with a small hiss of air, then slides off the pod. The restraints holding her down suddenly release, and the helmet over her head lifts up, allowing her to lurch upright with a gaping breath and climb out of the pod. Her legs collapse like jelly, causing her to fall to the cold, hard floor. She still has her costume on, she realizes, but her real helmet and faceplate are gone, as are her swords and her belt.

Voice: How was it?

Flinching at the sound of the voice, Rose rolls over and pushes herself up against the wall. A short distance away, she sees a man standing there, a man dressed in a very odd costume. It's almost completely black, except for a series of round lights attached to it at various intervals along his body, as well as one larger light at the center of his chest. He wears a full mask covering his entire head, as well, with a black and white spiral design on the front.

Rose: How was... what? What are- who are you?

Trance: You can call me Trance, my dear. Now tell me, how was it? Did you see everything you wanted to see? Did your deepest desires come to life?

Swallowing a hard lump in her throat, Rose glances back at the pod machine, now noticing several more of the same machines lined along the dim, dirty room. The other machines are all occupied, mostly by kids, all with the same weird helmets over their heads. They look peaceful, as though they're sleeping.

My god... Apathy was right.

Rose: It... wasn't real. None of it was real.

Trance: And what makes something real? If you're referring to things that we can see, that we can touch, taste, hear, smell, then those are merely electrical impulses interpreted by our brains. If our brain tells us that something is there, if we can touch it, taste it, smell it, see it... is it not real?

Rose: But it wasn't really there. Becky wasn't... she isn't alive.

Trance: Maybe not in the material world, but in your mind-

The man slowly bends forward, bringing a finger up to press lightly against her forehead.

Trance: -there are no limits. What you want to exist does exist, and my machine offers you a gateway into that subconscious world, where you control your life, you control what you want to happen. It may be a different world entirely, it may be all in your head, but that doesn't make it any less 'real'.

Gripping the sides of her head, Rose closes her eyes and curls up slightly, bringing her knees to her chest.

Rose: But your machines, they're hurting people. The kids... it's killing them. Seven are dead already.

Trance: Yes, that is... unfortunate. And part of the reason why my theory was rejected by my peers, why they refused me funding, why they decided to let me go.... Fools, all of them. I can help people. These kids... they come abusive homes, or they get bullied in school, or they just want something more. Well I can give them more; I can give them whatever they want.

Rose: You're giving them brain aneurisms!

Trance: So there are some kinks that still need to be worked out; but it doesn't affect everyone. Most of the people who use my machines do not suffer any lethal side effects. These things take time. Trial, error. I'll fix it eventually.

Rose: No... no you won't... I have to... have to stop you.

She goes to stand up, but stumbles almost immediately and falls to her knees. She can't stand right now; she can barely think straight.

Trance: But my dear, if you stop me, then you'll never never get a chance to go back in. You do want to go back in, don't you?

She does. Deep down, she realizes it. More than anything, she wants to go back into that pod, close her eyes, and wake up in Becky's arms again. It had felt real... so very real. Becky had been alive again, even if only in her mind.

But she doesn't say anything. She can't just admit to this whack-job that she wants back into his machine. She's supposed to be the hero here.

Trance: I can see you're exhausted; another side effect of the machine. Tell you what, go home, take some time to think on it, and then come back to me. If you really still want to stop me, we'll deal with it then.

Turning around, Trance begins making his way back to the other machines, monitoring their status.

Trance: But, if you want to slip back into that world in the back of your mind... well, bring payment. Only the first jump is on the house.

Ext. Silverstone City East District - Night

Rose stumbles out of the door and into the alleyway, a hand held to her head. Her legs are still recovering, shaking and quivering. Several times, she trips and falls down to her knees, only to quickly push herself back to her feet. A small groan escapes her lips, as she holds herself up against the side of a building and takes in deep breaths.

Okay... okay, where's my ride? I need a nap.

When she finally figures out exactly where she is, she shambles her way back towards where she left her bike. A very strong grip of guilt and uncertainty begins to build its way up into her chest. She had put on this costume tonight in order to help those kids in there, to stop Trance from using his machines to slowly kill them. Yet, here she is, not stopping him, but walking away and actually considering going back to dive back into one of those pods again. To see Becky again. What does that make her?

An idiot, that's what it makes you. And a hypocrite.

But she doesn't care what it makes her. All she cares about is that, for at least a brief time, she had been able to see Becky again. She'd been able to hear Becky again, hold her again, feel her again...

And nothing will keep me from experiencing that again.

Chapter #74

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suit – Day

Rose lies back on the couch, her head resting in Becky's lap. She holds a magazine up in front of her face, just flipping casually through its pages. It's a bridal magazine, to be more precise. Wedding gowns, planning ideas, locations, decorations, and a whole lot more to help make the perfect event. Stopping on a page with images of different dresses, Rose exhales a long, relaxed breath.

Rose: What do you think of these?

While gently running her hands through Rose's hair, Becky looks down at the page, taking a few moments to examine the gowns.

Becky: Not bad, but I liked the one on page seven more. You know, the one with the ruffles along the side?

Rose: I don't know, I'm not sure about that one. I don't think it would look that good on me.

Becky: Who's talking about you, ah? I meant for me.

Flashing a small grin, Rose glances up at her bride-to-be and lowers the magazine.

Rose: Please, you'll look good in anything.

Becky: Well, this is true. But that doesn't mean we can't find something good for you.

Rose: I don't know, I've never really looked great in dresses. I doubt a wedding gown will be much different.

Becky: Hey-

Lifting Rose upwards slightly, Becky leans forward and gives a deep, loving kiss. When she finally pulls away, she smiles, caressing Rose's cheek gently with her fingers.

Becky: -you'll look beautiful. But you're not going to find the right gown in a magazine, so put that down and we'll go out. There's a bridal shop just four blocks from here; we'll head down there and we can find the perfect one.

Rose: That does sound like a good time...

Becky: Of course it does; I suggested it. Come on, go find your shoes and let's go.

Rose: Well, if you insi- no!

It's happening again. The world around her, darkening, fading away into nothingness. Rose tries to keep it alive, tries to hold on, but it's pointless. No matter how hard she concentrates, Becky's loving smile quickly disappears along with everything else around her, until all that's left is a cold, numbing void.

Int. Unknown Workshop – Night

Rose: NO!

Rose's eyes snap open, followed by an exasperated breath rushing from her lungs. She tries to struggle out of her restraints, but even if the bindings were weak enough to be broken by her regular strength levels, she barely has a fraction of that right now, with the quick onset of exhaustion. Several moments go by, vision slowly focusing on the glass covering above her, which begins to slide open. Shortly afterward, the restraints automatically release, along with the helmet lifting off her head. Immediately, she starts pulling her way out of the pod.

Rose: Put me back in! I should still have more time!

Nearby, Trance gives her a long look, slowly walking over and clasping his arms behind his back.

Trance: I'm afraid that's all the time that your payment covered.

When Rose's feet hit the floor, her legs instantly collapse. She crumples into a weak, nearly helpless heap, uttering a grunt of surprise while taking in slow breaths to recover.

Rose: What are you talking about? I gave you the two hundred!

Trance: Yes, you did. The first three times. But after that you only had fifty left over, remember? This is your fourth trip into the pod tonight.

It slowly starts to come back, the memories of her time in between each mental jump. He's right; Rose did spend all her money already. She came in with six hundred and fifty dollars, most of the cash that she could scrounge around. The night before, she burned through a thousand dollars, and the night before that, two thousand. She doesn't have a whole lot left.

Rose: Just... please put me back in? Just a little while longer. I'll get you the money, you know I have it. Please let me see her again.

Trance: I'm sorry, but rules are rules. You want in, you pay up.

Swallowing back a hard lump in her throat, Rose slowly begins pushing her way back up to her feet. She staggers there for a moment, legs feeling like jelly, but eventually she manages to stumbled her way towards the door.

Rose: Fine... fine, I'll be back. I'll get the money and I'll be back.

Ext. Silverstone City Streets - Day

Rose stares at the ATM screen in disbelief. She blinks a few times, then reaches up to rub her eyes, as though somehow she's just seeing things. But she isn't seeing things. The screen doesn't lie, showing her current balance as: $0.37.

Rose: This isn't right... this can't be right.

Feeling her heart rate beginning to increase, she gives the machine a hard kick.

Rose: This is wrong!

The people walking by take a moment to give her odd looks, curious over her outburst. When she notices this, she looks to them, eyebrows crossing angrily.

Rose: What are you looking at?!

The passersby quicken their pace, hurrying away from the scene before the strange woman takes her frustrations on something other than an ATM. Taking in a deep breath, Rose glances back at the screen again, her anger beginning to boil. Uttering one more furious breath, she storms away from the machine and stuffs her hands in her pockets.

Okay... okay, this isn't the end of the world. Just think. My students' next payments come in at the end of the week. I'll have plenty more to afford the pod a few more times this month.

But that isn't good enough. It can't be good enough! What's she supposed to do, blow all her cash just to see Becky maybe ten times a month? No, she needs more than that. Somehow, she needs more... As her thoughts begin to descend further into depression, a cheery voice suddenly calls out to her.

Ruby: Hey, there! Rose!

Glancing up, she notices the woman coming towards her down the sidewalk, waving like mad.

Ruby: What a surprise, I wasn't expecting to see you tonight.

Rose: Right... what a surprise.

Ruby: Haven't heard from you in a few days, didn't know if- goodness, are you alright?

Narrowing her eyes, Rose gives the woman an odd look.

Rose: Of course I'm alright. Why wouldn't I be alright?

Ruby: Well, I mean, I don't- you're just so pale. And your eyes, they're bloodshot something awful.

Suddenly turning her head away, Rose squints her eyes shut for a few moments and breathes in deeply.

Rose: Don't worry about it, I'm fine. Just a little tired, is all.

Ruby: Oh, sorry to hear that. But listen, what are you doing right now? Do you want to grab a bite or something? I mean, if you're not too tired.

Rose: I... I don't have any cash on me.

Ruby: Then I'll just have to pay for the both of us, now won't I? Although, that might qualify it as a date.

Furrowing her brow slightly, Rose turns back to look at her again.

Rose: A date?

Ruby: Right, sorry, bad joke.

Rose: No, actually... yeah, why not? A date might be good. I need to take my mind of some things.

Ruby: Oh, well then, excellent. Let's go, I know this great little Italian place.

Int. Marchini's Italian Restaurant – Night

Rose looks around, her eyes moving sharply across the restaurant. She takes note of the people, the atmosphere, the background music, everything. That fact that she had been here not too long ago with Becky in her dream world is bad enough, but everything is so... loud. And distracting. Though, maybe it's just her; nobody else seems to mind. So then why can't she concentrate?

Ruby: Rose? Hello, Earth to Rose.

Rose: Huh?

Snapping out of her daze, she turns towards Ruby, only then noticing that their waiter is standing next to the table, waiting.

Ruby: What are you having to drink?

Rose: Just, uh, water for now.

The waiter takes down her drink order, and then leaves the table. Ruby looks closely at her and narrows her eyes with concern.

Ruby: Are you sure you're alright?

Rose: Yeah, fine, totally.

Ruby: You can take a rain check if you like, I won't raise a fuss.

Rose: Don't worry, really, I'm okay. It's just this restaurant...

Ruby: What about it?

Rose: I... it's nothing.

Ruby: Come on now, you can't bring it up and then expect to brush it under the rug. Go on, tell me.

Rose: I just used to come here a lot, with...

Though she doesn't finish her sentence, Ruby figures it out fairly quickly. The tone in Rose's voice is enough of a giveaway.

Ruby: Oh, my- oh goodness. I'm so sorry, I didn't know. We can go someplace else, if you like.

Rose: No, we're already here. I'll be fine.

Ruby: Yes... yes, you will, won't you?

And then it happens again. A sudden onset of warmth, happiness, joy. It comes from nowhere and for no reason, but in an instant she's in a better mood. Her posture straightens, she lifts her head, she's able to concentrate, and she completely forgets why she'd been in such a terrible mood before.

Ruby: So, tell me about her.

Rose: About... you mean Rebecca?

Ruby: So that was her name? See, I'm learning more already.

Rose: I don't understand why you'd want to sit there and listen to me talk about her, though.

Ruby: I find that one of the best remedies for a broken heart is to talk it out. In this case, sharing the memories of Rebecca that made her special, the qualities about her that you loved, may do you some good. And besides, I'm curious.

She knows she shouldn't. It's still a touchy subject, after all, losing Rebecca. And yet, for some reason, she's feeling very open right now. So, Rose delivers a small smile, nods, and goes on to tell this woman all about Becky, all the things that made her wonderful. Funny moments, happy moments, touching moments, embarrassing moments; she covers them all. This goes on throughout their entire meal, all the way into dessert and beyond.

Ruby listens in quiet interest, sipping her drink and leaning forward closely on the table. Not once does she interrupt, allowing Rose's recollections to flow freely. By the end of it, Rose is laughing, smiling widely, and wiping away warm tears from her eyes.

Rose: And then the time the curling iron got caught in her hair, oh you should have seen her. Swearing up and down the apartment – in Spanish, mind you, so I couldn't understand half of what she was saying – while the smell of burnt hair started to choke the place. We finally managed to get it out, and what does she do? Kicks it across the room with bare feet! She bruised her toe real good, let me tell you.

Ruby: Ooh, painful.

Rose: Oh yeah, she had to take a week off work because she could barely walk.

Still smiling, Ruby lifts her glass of wine to take another sip.

Ruby: She sounds like a wonderful person. I would have very much liked to meet her.

Rose: Yeah... she would have liked you. Hell, she liked most people. That's just the kind of person she was.

Ruby: Take it from one who knows, Rose; don't lament that fact that she's gone, but rather celebrate that she lived.

Rose slowly nods, though her eyes grow ever more distant, and a long, sad breath leaves her throat.

Rose: If only it were that easy.

Ruby: Losing someone you love never is.

After a moment's pause, Rose lifts her gaze slightly, leaning forward against the table.

Rose: I... I want to thank you. For listening. For this date. It's... been really great.

Ruby: It was my pleasure. Now, shall we get going? I'll walk you home.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Night

Rose stops with Ruby outside the door to her penthouse. For a moment, she doesn't say anything, just shifting her weight slightly and folding her arms across her chest, smiling. It's amazing how good she feels right now, how content and at peace. Not two hours ago, she had been stumbling around the floor of Trance's workshop, begging to go back into one of his pods, but now such a thought couldn't be further from her mind.

Ruby: I still can't believe you live here. I mean, this is the most expensive place to live in the city, isn't it?

Rose: Yeah, well, I have some help affording it. It's nice, though, for sure.

Ruby: No kidding.

Rose reaches for the door handle briefly, then pauses, thinking.

Rose: You don't, uh... I mean, do you want to come in?

Ruby: Depends, are you offering?

The corner of Rose's lips curls into a slight smirk.

Rose: Yeah, I am.

Ruby: Well, in that case...

Suddenly moving forward, Ruby takes hold of Rose's shoulders and brings their lips together. Eyes going wide, Rose takes a step back.

Rose: Wait, I didn't mean-

And then their lips are together again. This time, she doesn't step back. Instead of surprise, she feels an abrupt warmth spreading through her, entire body tingling wildly. She doesn't know what it is, but it refuses to let her pull away, and instead she ends up reciprocating, arms coming up and wrapping around Ruby's body. Somewhere during this, she manages to open the door and lead them both into the apartment. By the time they make it past the kitchen, they're practically attacking each other, lips kissing along flesh, hands tearing off clothing. Like two animals in heat, they go at it.

What the hell is going on? I shouldn't be doing this... I shouldn't be... why am I doing this?

Those fleeting thoughts vanish in an instant, as the two push into the bedroom. They don't make it all the way to the bed, though, instead falling to the floor in a tangle of naked flesh and pleasured gasps.

---

Ruby takes in deep, steady breaths, just staring up at the ceiling. Rose lies calmly next to her in bed (they did eventually make it to the bed), eyes closed and fast asleep. Holding a hand to her head, Ruby utters a frustrated groan.

Okay, so perhaps I got a little carried away there.

But so what if she did? So what if this complicates things? She enjoyed it, and so did Rose. That much was evident. With everything going on right now, they both deserved something good for a change. It's at this thought that her eyes close and heart sinks.

No, no I can't go through with this.

Rolling out of bed, Ruby briefly rummages around her belongs until she finds her phone. Flipping it open, she hits the first number on the speed dial and holds it up to her ear, while walking out into the living room. The line rings several times with no answer. Finally, on the fifth ring, a voice answers her on the other end.

Voice/Phone: Ruby. It's rather late, don't you think?

She ignores the obviously rhetorical question and gets straight to the point.

Ruby: I don't want to do this anymore.

A small pause follows. When the voice speaks up again, it retains its eery calm.

Voice/Phone: I must say, that is disappointing to hear. Might I ask why?

Ruby: You told me when we started this that she was some awful person who deserved every bit of misery she got.

Voice/Phone: Of course, and I stand by that statement.

Ruby: But she's not! She's a lovely girl, and I can't understand why you'd want to break her down like this.

Another pause.

Voice/Phone: You slept with her, didn't you?

Ruby: That's none of your business! Nor is it the point I'm trying to make!

Voice/Phone: Calm yourself, Ruby. I can assure you that she did something very unforgivable to me, some time ago. Something that cannot go unpunished.

Ruby: I can't imagine what someone like her could have done to deserve the way you're toying with her emotions. The way you're making me toy with her emotions.

Voice/Phone: Have you forgotten our arrangement? You do your job, as I tell you, and I bring back your dear Jeanette.

A frustrated scoff leaves her throat, as she leans forward against the couch in front of her and stares out the large window in front of her.

Ruby: And I'm honestly supposed to continue believing that? You have done nothing to show me you're capable of such a thing.

Voice/Phone: You already know what I can do, don't fool yourself. Not to mention, with your ability, you can tell I'm not lying. Can't you?

Ruby doesn't answer, instead bowing her head shamefully, eyes closed.

Voice/Phone: If you continue to do as you're told, you will see Jeanette again. If you don't, then our deal is void. Take it or leave it.

The line clicks dead, as the man on the other line hangs up. For a long moment, Ruby just stands there, holding her phone up in the air with her fingers clutched tightly around it. Even with her eyes closed, she can't stop the tears from leaking out.

Goddamn it... What the hell am I doing?

Chapter #75

Int. Unknown Workshop – Night

The glass covering of the pod lets out a hiss of air, as it opens up. When the restraints release, Rose's hands fly up to grip the sides and pull herself back out. It feels even worse this time, coming out of her mental world. Not only are the side effects starting to get worse, but the life she's built herself with Becky in that pod is better than ever. They live in a beach house down in Miami now; it's wonderful. But that makes it harder and harder on her emotional spectrum every time she's torn away from it again.

Like now, for instance.

Rose: I- I have more. Money, I- I can get it. My payments come in next week, I- if you'll just let me have a little more time, I'll pay you later. I promise, I swear, please.

Trance: Sorry, my dear. I don't accept credit.

Uttering a frustrated groan, Rose slowly claws her way back up to her feet, using the edges of the pod to assist her. When she wobbles back to a standing position, her hands come up to press firmly against her eyes. God, it feels like they're on fire.

Rose: But I don't have anymore money right now! I can't wait that long!

Trance: I'm sure you'll find a way to cope.

Expression suddenly growing cross, Rose finds a burst of strength and lunges forward, taking hold of the man's throat with both hands.

Rose: You have to let me back in! I need it!

A second later, everything goes dizzy, like the feeling you get when you stand up too fast. Her grip loosens instantly from the man's neck and she collapses back to the floor.

Trance: No money, no jump. Plain and simple. Now, get yourself off my floor and get out of here.

Ext. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Night

Rose stares desperately at her phone, as the number rings through without anyone picking up. Again. For the tenth time. The name on the screen reads: Ruby. Desperately, she hits the call button again and waits. Again, she gets no response.

Rose: Come on, pick up! Pick up!

She tries again. Still nothing.

Rose: Damn it!

Finally giving up, she stuffs the phone back into her pocket and sinks against the wall. She couldn't even make it all the way down the hallway to get to the couch in the living room. Her legs gave out long before she ever got there, and she hasn't been able to stand up against since.

I don't get it, I don't understand. I thought we had something, I thought we... why isn't she picking up? Why hasn't she called me in three days? Why do I only feel happy in the real world when I'm with her?

Closing her eyes again, she brings her hands up to either side of her head. A sharp pounding surges between her eyes, like someone taking a pair of drills and driving them up against her temples. It hurts... it really hurts. She doesn't have time to wallow, though, as a knock suddenly sounds on the door. Slowly glaring up at it, she utters a long breath. Maybe if she waits, he'll just go away. When a second knock comes, she snaps her head back in frustration, unintentionally smacking it against the wall.

Rose: It's open.

The door opens a moment later, revealing Chief Palmer. He pauses a moment, staring around the interior of the apartment until his eyes finally find Rose sitting there on the floor in the hallway. Curiously, he steps inside and closes the door behind him.

Palmer: Wilson, are you... alright?

Rose: Why wouldn't I be?

Palmer: Well, it's just... I haven't heard from you in days. I know you like to work on your own schedule, but I figured you would have checked back in by now, let me know if you've found anything about-

Rose: I haven't. I've looked plenty, but I haven't found sh*t, okay?

Eyes narrowing, Palmer takes another few steps forward, hands folding across his chest.

Palmer: You don't need to snap.

Rose: I'm sorry, I'm just... tired. So what have you found?

Palmer: Same as you, complete jack. I've had any spare officers I could find investigating, searching for clues, but no luck yet. In the meantime, three more kids have been found dead. Same deal; all aneurisms.

Rose: Sorry to hear that.

Palmer: Yeah, well, I was really hoping you might have come across something we missed. With as poorly as this case has been going...

Rose: Yeah, well, news flash: I'm not perfect. Just because I put on a costume at night and have a few enhanced abilities, it doesn't mean I can do everything right!

Again, Palmer's eyes narrow. Now he's sure something's wrong.

Palmer: Are you sure you're okay?

Rose: I said I was, didn't I?

Palmer: Then what are you doing on the floor?

Rose: Nothing, I just- I had a few too many. Can't keep my balance.

Palmer: Funny, you're speaking rather eloquently for someone who's 'had a few too many'.

Saying nothing, Rose turns her head further away from him. Tilting his gaze slightly, Palmer squints his eyes at her.

Palmer: Look at me.

When she doesn't, he raises his voice.

Palmer: Damn it, Wilson, look at me.

Finally, she turns her face towards him completely. At the sight, the chief's eyes go wide with surprise. Her eyes are bright red and bloodshot with dark rings below them, and her skin is chalky white.

Palmer: Good god, Wilson, what happened to you? I haven't seen anyone looking this bad since the schizo we picked up last month so high on LSD he was flying kites. What the hell have you been doing?

Rose: I told you, I'm fine.

Palmer: Like hell you are! Have you seen yourself lately?

Rose: What does it matter?! I'm nobody to you! Just another damn cape you can use to get your work done for you!

Palmer: Believe it or not, it does matter to me. You're not 'just another damn cape', Wilson. You're a person, and a damn good one at that. I've seen the good you can do; I've seen the kind of person you are. I know losing Rebecca messed you up something bad, but you can't throw your life away because of it.

Rose: And what do you know about it, huh? How could you know how I feel?!

The question is met with stone cold silence. Palmer's eyes lock onto hers, hard and unwavering. After a long, uncomfortable pause, he just shakes his head.

Palmer: I know a lot more than you think; like I know that you need to shape up, for instance. You have a girl to look after for Christ's sake. If not for yourself, then get straight for her. There's nothing more important than that.

When Rose bows her head, not saying anything, Palmer turns and opens the door. He hesitates briefly before leaving, looking back over his shoulder.

Palmer: Get some help, Wilson.

Once he's finally gone, Rose slowly pushes herself upwards, using the wall for support. Her legs still feel like jello, but at least she's recovered enough to stand upright. At least, mostly. She still needs to hold the wall as she walks, making her way into the kitchen. Grabbing a glass from the cabinet, she fills it with water from the tap, then gulps it down. She's so absorbed in her thoughts that she doesn't notice Holly enter until she starts talking.

Holly: Mom? Is... everything okay? I heard shouting.

Rose doesn't answer, not at first. She swallows back a hard lump in her throat, staring into the sink. Holly moves closer, reaching out to gently touch her arm.

Holly: Rose?

Rose: I'm fine!

Her shout is one of abrupt anger, and in the process she lashes her arm out. She doesn't register it at first, but after a moment she realizes that she struck flesh. Blinking her way out of her blind stupor, she turns with a start to see Holly sitting on the floor, holding a hand to her cheek and staring up at Rose with wide eyes.

Rose: Holly... I- I'm sorry, I didn't mean-

But before she can spit out the words, Holly is back on her feet and running down the hall. The door to her room slams a moment later. For the longest time, Rose just stands there in disbelief over what she'd done.

I... I struck her. How... how could I...? I would never do that to her.

And yet she did.

Finding new strength in her legs, Rose hurries down the hall, still having to push against the wall every once in a while to remain on her feet. She stops outside Holly's bedroom, pausing. What is she supposed to say? How can she even begin to explain what just happened? Let alone to Holly, but to herself, too? As she pauses there, she hears something coming from the other side of the door. It doesn't take long for her to figure out what the sound is.

It's Holly crying.

A small piece of Rose's heart shatters at the revelation. Holding a hand over her mouth, she collapses to her knees and bows her head in shame. She struggles to hold back the tears, but fails miserably.

My god... what is wrong with me?

Ext. East Silverstone Middle School – Day

Rose tries to concentrate, as she pulls up outside the school that afternoon. She's still trying to figure out a way to talk to Holly after what happened. The ride here that morning had been bad enough; Holly wouldn't even look at her. Never before had she ever experienced such a long, awkward silence in all her live. The whole thing made her want to die right there.

It's okay... it was just an accident... I didn't mean to. Everything will be fine. I just... need to talk to her.

But as Rose waits there for Holly to come out of the school, she doesn't see her. The crowds of children slowly begin to disperse, some taking buses, and others getting into cars with their parents. No sign of Holly, though. Starting to grow concerned, she gets out of the car and looks around. By now, the school grounds are near empty, except for a few teachers. Staring to panic, she runs up to the first person she sees; conveniently enough, it happens to be Holly's homeroom teacher, Mrs. Hayes.

Rose: Mrs. Hayes!

The woman turns around suddenly, as Rose runs up to her. For a brief moment, she flinches, taking note of Rose's utterly drained and ill appearance. Finally, though, she does manage to respond.

Mrs. Hayes: Oh, Miss Wilson... are you alright?

Why does everyone keep asking me that?

Rose: I'm just- have you seen Holly? She's never been late to get picked up before and I was- I know I dropped her off this morning.

Mrs. Hayes: Holly? Why, yes, she left a little while ago with that friend of hers. Lyta, that's it.

Rose: You mean she... she went home with Lyta's mother?

Mrs. Hayes: I believe so, y- Miss Wilson?

Rose is already off and running back to her car. When she gets inside, she slams the door shut and takes off.

Int. Circe's Apartment – Day

Rose pounds the door wildly. She isn't being patient right now, already screaming out in the hallway.

Rose: Open the damn door, Circe! I know you're in there!

When no answer comes immediately, she drives her fist harder against the wood, starting to put cracks in it. She really doesn't want to have to break down this door, but she will if she has to. After a short few moments that to her feel like an eternity, the door finally opens. It doesn't stay open for long, though, as Circe slips out into the hallway and closes the door behind her.

Circe: You do know how to cause a racket, don't you?

Rose: Cut the sarcasm, where's Holly?

Circe: Inside, playing with Lyta.

Rose: Why did you take her?

Circe: I didn't take her; she wanted to come with us. Practically begged to.

Blinking her eyes a few times, Rose shakes her head.

Rose: Why would she-

Circe: She told me what happened, Rose. You hit her.

Rose: It was accident! I didn't... I didn't mean to.

Circe's gaze takes on a hard, venomous tone. She may be mortal and a bit more pleasant nowadays, but she still knows how to turn on her old, cold self. At the same time, though, she takes on this demeanor for entirely different purposes. She's changed these past months, mere shades of the evil sorceress she used to be.

Circe: I don't care if it was an 'accident'. It never should have happened. That's not all she told me, you know. You haven't been yourself lately. You're on a downward spiral, and you're sinking fast.

Rose: You don't know what you're talking about. Get out of the way, and give me my daughter!

Circe: You're not getting anywhere near her, not like this. Have you looked in a mirror lately? I've seen lost souls in Tartarus that looked better!

Rose: I'm fine! God, why do people keep thinking something's wrong with me?!

Circe: Because you're destroying yourself! And you're hurting everyone around you!

Rose: Keep talking and you'll be next!

Smack!

Circe's palm cracks across Rose's face like a whip, slapping her with enough force to make her stumble backwards and very nearly fall from her tired legs. For a moment, Rose just stands there with her hand pressed against her bright red cheek, utterly stunned. She blinks, staring back at Circe and slowly straightening herself.

Circe: Wake up, Rose! You're falling, and you're not letting anyone catch you! Whatever you're going through, let me- let us help you get past it. Let us help you get better. You owe that much to Holly.

Rose: I...

Bowing her head, Rose's eyes squint shut. She holds her hands to her head clenches her jaw tightly, fighting back the growing numb sensation rising in her throat.

Rose: I'm sorry... I'm so s- my god, I'm awful... what have I done?

Taking a few, careful steps forward, Circe holds out a hand to Rose's shoulder.

Circe: It's alright, Rose, we'll help you get through this.

Rose: I- I- hrrrnnggggh.

Suddenly lurching backwards, she falls to floor with both hands clawing at her skull. The pain is... unbelievable. It feels like someone is using her brain as a damn basketball! She doesn't realize it at first, but she's screaming. Granted, she can't actually hear her own voice, instead hearing only a loud ringing in her ears. When she blinks upwards, everything goes blurry and starts spinning. The pain begins to spread from the back of her head down into her neck, and then up between her eyes. After everything she's been through in her life, she's never felt anything physically more painful than this.

Circe: Rose! Rose!

Of course, Circe doesn't get a very promising response; just more pained screaming. Instantly, she lifts Rose up and starts dragging her back into her apartment.

Circe: Lyta! Call an ambulance, now!

Int. Silverstone General Hospital – Night

The hospital room is quiet, save for the methodical beeping of the heart monitor. Rose lies unconscious in the bed, all sorts of tubes and wires hooked up to her. With the amount of meds the doctors pumped her with, she won't be waking up for a while, which is probably for the best. She could use a nice, long rest. Visiting hours are over, too, but that doesn't stop the current guest from slipping in unnoticed. It's easy enough for one who can simply appear where she wants to appear. Coming up next to the bed, the figure hangs her head and breathes out a long, shameful sigh.

Ruby: This... this is my fault. All my fault.

The only response she receives is more beeping from the monitor.

Ruby: I thought I could do this. I thought I could...

Holding up a gloved hand to her face, she closes her eyes and shakes her head.

Ruby: I can't... it isn't worth this.

Finally, she sucks in a deep breath and lifts her gaze, walking away from the bed. Her hands, meanwhile, reach back over her shoulders.

Ruby: I'm sorry, Rose. For everything.

With that, she pulls up the hood over her head and slips the dark mask over her face.

Apathy: Time to clean up my mess.

A second later, she disappears in a small cloud of smoke.

Chapter #76

Int. Unknown Workshop – Night

The man calling himself Trance walks from pod to pod, inspecting the vitals on each person within. Nothing too serious, not yet. Give them enough time, though, and eventually another one will end up dead. But at least the percentage is going down, with the adjustments he's been making. Just a little bit more and he'll have all the kinks worked out. Maybe. Either way, he'll continue making a fortune off this operation, and all while helping people be exactly what they want to be. It's a dream that he never got to live when he was kid.

A sudden presence in the room, however, causes him to stiffen slightly. He straightens himself, turning around and glaring from behind his mask. When he sees who it is, he begins to relax. He knows that outfit; the armored catsuit, hooded cloak, and dark mask. He's only been working with her for the past couple weeks.

Trance: Ah, Apathy. How good of you to show up. To what do I owe the pleasure?

Apathy: Drop the facade, Atkinson. I'm not here for pleasantries.

Trance: Of course you're not. Finally decided to give my machines a test run yourself? I guarantee that you'll enjoy them. Just think; your deepest desires all coming to life. Imagine how great that would feel.

Apathy: I'd sooner make out with a cactus than get in one of those deathtraps.

Trance: Ah, Ruby, ever the jokester. But there's no need to fret; in a few more weeks these machines will be completely safe, once I figure out how to fix their little problem.

Apathy: I don't want to hear anymore of your deranged theories about how you're helping the innocent 'be all that they can be'. You're killing them, end of story.

Tilting his head to the side, Trance raises a hand to his chin and stares at her.

Trance: Funny, you didn't seem to mind before. In fact, you were quite willing. After all, what's a few dead kids when it brings in the prize we're really after? Who, I might remind you, is exactly where we want her: addicted to my pods and unable to shake free.

Apathy: She's in the damn hospital with an aneurism, you moron. We weren't supposed to kill her!

Trance: Ah, is that all you're worried about? Please, an aneurism won't kill her, not with her accelerated healing. Our boss assured me of it.

Apathy: But you're still destroying her!

Trance: And that was the whole plan, wasn't it? We follow the orders, we pick her apart piece by piece until there's just a shell left, and then we back off for phase two.

Apathy's hands clench into fists, her head bowing slightly. Taking in a deep breath, she then shakes her head firmly.

Apathy: No, it isn't right. We shouldn't be doing this, I don't care what we get in return.

Trance: Hmm, I thought you were doing this for that love of yours. Janet, I think her name was?

Apathy: It's Jeanette, you cretin.

Trance: Right, Jeanette. Terribly sorry. But either way, it's still the reason you signed up for this when we came to you. I thought you wanted to see her again?

Apathy: I did... I do. More than anything. But not like this, not if it means ruining a good person in the process. Not if it means killing innocent children. I... she wouldn't want me to do that. I know she wouldn't.

Shaking his head, Trance lets out a small sigh and turns back to his machines, making notes on a clipboard.

Trance: Touching, really, but it's a little late. Phase two will begin soon. Our jobs are almost done.

Apathy: No, it's not too late, not to fix my mistakes.

Trance: Whatever do you mean by-

His words are cut short by Apathy's teleporting fist ripping into his jaw. He goes down hard, crashing against one of the pods and rolling to the floor. For a moment, he just lies there groaning, then starts to push his way back up to his feet, a hand clutched to the side of his face.

Trance: Now that was a mistake.

Apathy: I'm shutting you down, Atkinson. Then I'm I'm going to fix what we've done to Rose. She doesn't deserve any of this.

Trance: You really are a f-

Again, he doesn't get a chance to finish his sentence, as knuckles carom off his face, knocking him back against one of the machines. He doesn't fall this time, though, managing to hold himself up and then reach down to his belt to click a button. Instantly, the lights on his suit begin to flash rapidly in a very distinct pattern. Apathy holds an arm up, trying to shield her eyes from the intense blinking.

Trance: You think this getup is just a fashion statement, you ungrateful little b*tch? These lights assault your neural stimuli. That funny feeling in the back of your head right now? I can make it to what I want now. Like paralysis, for example.

Apathy freezes, seemingly unable to move her body. Trance walks over to her with his hands held to his hips.

Trance: Or I could switch to nausea and having you puking blood in a matter of seconds. Or maybe I give you a blackout and stuff you in one of my pods permanently, hmm? Or I could control you, use you as I see fit. What do you think?

Apathy: I think... you're one of the dumbest smart people I've ever met.

Trance: That's cute, really. But you're in no position to-

Crack!

Apathy's knuckles hit him so hard this time that he literally flies off his feet, plummeting to the floor and landing hard on his back, air rushing from his lungs.

Trance: How...

Apathy: My mask isn't just a fashion statement either, you pitiful excuse for a man. It diffuses intense lights. Nice try, but you picked the wrong person to try your hypno-pocus crap against.

Groaning, Trance drops his head back against the floor. That last shot was a bit more than he could bare.

Apathy: Now, let's you and me take a little trip, shall we?

Int. Silverstone City Central Police Station – Night

Breathing in deeply, Chief Gerald Palmer pushes the door to his office open and closes it behind him, then flicks on the lights. It's been a long day, and he really needs to finish up the last of his paperwork so he can go home and-

Palmer: What the hell?!

Hand flying to his gun, he takes aim. But the figure in front of him vanishes in a cloud of smoke, only to reappear next to him and snatch the gun away.

Apathy: Shh, relax, I'm on your side here.

Palmer: Who the hell are you? And who's that?

He looks over at the unconscious man in a very strange costume, who is slumped forward in the chair against the desk.

Apathy: You don't need to know my name. Just that I'm currently a fill-in for Ravager, since she's...

Palmer: Not in a good place right now, I know.

Apathy: Yeah, that. As for this goon, his name is Dr. Atkinson. He's the one you're looking for, the one who's been responsible for those dead kids you've been investigating.

Palmer: Wait, you're serious?

Apathy: Quite. I can give you the address where he's been operating from, as well as detailed notes on exactly what he's been doing. He also committed those strange robberies you've been looking into.

Narrowing his eyes, Palmer takes a careful step backwards and looks back at Atkinson.

Palmer: But how did he commit those robberies without being noticed?

Apathy: The short version? Hypnosis. Don't ask me to explain, because we'd be here all night and I'm afraid I don't have the time.

Palmer: Alright, then explain exactly how you know what we've been investigating in the first place.

Apathy: Don't worry about that; I have my ways. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have places to need to be. All the information you need is on a note I left in Atkinson's front pocket. Take care, Chief.

When she vanishes again into thin air, the small wisp of smoke slowly dissipating in her wake, Palmer utters a long breath and holds a hand to his head.

Palmer: I'm getting too old for this.

Int. Silverstone General Hospital – Day

It's still quiet in the hospital room, even though Rose is awake now. There's no reason for her to raise a fuss or anything, though. Instead she just sits there upright in bed, staring down at the blanket covering her and contemplating what a stupid, illogical b*tch she's been these past couple of weeks. She can still hear Circe's words in her head, and they hurt. Not just because the words are biting and aggressive, but because they're true. Rose has been destroying herself, and inadvertently hurting everyone close to her. And now she hates herself for it.

A knock on the partially open hospital room door draws her attention. When she looks up, her attitude suddenly shifts from depressed to relieved and happy.

Ruby: Can I come in?

Rose: You know you can.

Moving forward, Ruby comes to the edge of the bed and sits down in a chair. A long sigh leaves her throat, while her gaze drops towards the floor.

Rose: Are you alright? I... I haven't heard from you in a few days. I thought-

Ruby: I know, and I'm sorry. I'm... so sorry. For everything I've done.

Rose: What do you mean? You've been nothing but good to me. Every time I'm with you, I feel... I feel amazing.

Ruby: Of course you have, because I made you feel that way.

Rose: Well yeah, you're a great person, I know. You're-

Ruby: That's not what I meant. Rose, I... I have some things I need to explain.

Five minutes later...

For a long moment, Rose sits there in silence, trying to absorb the information that Ruby told her. It's a lot to take in, after all. Folding her arms across her chest, she drops her eyes towards the bedsheets again, sucking in a deep breath and slowly letting it out.

Rose: So let me get this straight. You're an empath, and this whole time you've been interacting with me, you've been manipulating my emotions. Happy when I'm with you, depressed when you leave me.

Ruby: Yes.

Rose: And you led me to that Trance psycho so he could stuff me in his pods and addict me to my own little fantasy world to further deteriorate my emotional stability.

Ruby: ...yes.

Rose: All as part of a plan to break me down into an emotionless shell.

Ruby looks away in shame. Her eyes are closed, trying to hide the tears already brimming.

Ruby: I'm so sorry. The man who came to me, he said... he said you deserved it. He said you were a terrible person, and that if I helped him he'd bring Jeanette back to me. And I believed him...

It's Rose's turn to play the shameful expression game, turning her gaze away and holding a hand to her face.

Rose: I am a terrible person... manipulated by you or not, I fell into this hole and I hurt the only people who care about me. That's on me, no matter how it happened.

Ruby: What are you talking about? I'm the one who did this to you. I'm the one who... who toyed with you.

Rose: Yeah, well, you only did it because you wanted the person you loved back in your arms again. I get how that is, and I can't say I wouldn't have done the same in your position. There's one thing I don't understand, though.

Wiping her eyes briefly, Ruby gives her a confused look.

Ruby: What's that?

Rose: Why didn't you go through with it? Why did you give up that chance to be with Jeanette again?

At this question, Ruby bows her head again, expression softening and hands coming together in her lap.

Ruby: Because I had no guarantee that this mystery man could do what he claimed, or that he would even if he could. But more than that... I realized that bringing one good life back isn't worth destroying another.

A long moment of silence passes between the two. Rose continues staring down at the bed, wringing her hands together and thinking deeply about the situation. Eventually, she brushes back her hair and looks over to Ruby, who can barely stand to meet her gaze.

Rose: Thank you.

Ruby: Wha- thank you? For what?

Rose: You've made me realize something of my own just now. Are any of those pods still around?

Ruby: Wait, Rose, I don't think-

Rose: Relax, it's not what you think. There's just... one thing left I have to do.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suit – Day

When Rose opens her eyes, she's standing in her apartment again, just as she wanted. Taking in a deep, nervous breath, she walks forward towards the living room. Becky's waiting there for her, of course, just sitting casually on the couch and reading a magazine. A small smile finds its way to her lips, as she moves closer to the couch. Just seeing her again like this, it's beautiful.

But it won't last. It can't last.

When Becky notices Rose approaching, she looks up and grins widely, then rises to her feet and gives a warm, tender hug.

Becky: Ah, there you are. Was wondering where you ran off to.

Rose: Yeah, I was just... clearing my head. Hey, Beck?

Pulling back a little, Becky raises an eyebrow at her.

Becky: What is it?

Rose: You know I love you, right? I always will.

Becky: Well of course I know that. I'll always love you, too.

Another smile crosses Rose's face. But it's a different sort of smile. A sad smile.

Rose: I... I can't keep doing this, you know. I have to go, for good.

Becky: What are you talking about?

Rose: I can't stay here with you. It's not... it's not right. As real as this feels, it's not.

Blinking in confusion, Becky lifts her hands to Rose's shoulders and looks into her eyes.

Becky: Rose... what are you saying?

Rose: I'm saying that I have to stop living in the past. I love you, Becky, more than anything, and I will never forget you.

Leaning forward, Rose plants her lips firmly against Becky's, holding the kiss for a long moment before finally pulling back.

Rose: But I have to let you go...

And then, the world begins to fade again. Darkness sets it, washing away everything around her in inky blackness. The last thing she sees is Becky's tearful, confused face. Within seconds, that, too, vanishes.

Rose: Goodbye.

Int. Unknown Workshop – Day

When Rose opens her eyes this time, she feels different than before, than the other times she came out the pod. She feels... distant, sad, yet also somehow at peace. Uttering a deep breath, she sits up once the restraints release and the glass covering slides open. She doesn't feel quite as weak this time around, either, able to slide out of the machine and hold herself up on her feet. For a long moment, she just stands there, taking in deep breaths. That's when a comforting hand comes to her shoulder.

Ruby: Are you alright?

Rose: Yeah, I'll be... I'll be fine. I just need some time.

Ruby: You want me to take you home? The police will be back here soon to start dismantling these things.

Rose: Please.

Reaching out, Ruby gently takes Rose's hand, and in an instant they disappear in a cloud of smoke.

Int. Rose's Penthouse Suite – Night

Rose paces nervously around her apartment, heart fluttering and throat numb. She doesn't know how she's going to get through this, but she has to. She owes too much, and this isn't something she can avoid. Taking in one more deep breath, she gradually begins to calm herself, just as the front door opens. Circe stands there at the front, with the two girls behind her. Lyta holds her mother's hand, peering cautiously inside, while Holly waits off to the side, looking away.

Swallowing back a hard lump in her throat, Rose gently lowers herself down to one knee.

Rose: Holly...

It takes several moments, but the girl finally does glance over. Shifting her weight slightly, Holly pauses and looks up to Circe, unsure of what to do.

Circe: It's alright, we're all right here.

Finally, Holly moves forward into the penthouse, walking up in front of Rose and giving her a long look.

Holly: Are you... are you still mad?

Rose: No, sweetie, I'm not mad... not anymore.

Holly: You really scared me. You... you hit me. Did I do something wrong?

Bringing a hand up to her face, Rose swallows back another numb lump and shakes her head.

Rose: No... god, no. You didn't do anything wrong. I did... and I can't even begin to express how sorry I am. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you. But I did.

Holly: You weren't really yourself, were you?

Rose: That's putting it lightly.

Holly: Were you sick or something?

Rose: I... in a way, I guess. But that's not an excuse for what I did. I should never have hurt you like that. Ever.

Shifting her weight again, Holly briefly pauses before coming forward and wrapping her arms around Rose in a comforting hug.

Holly: It's okay, I forgive you. I still love you.

Squinting her eyes shut tightly, Rose returns the hug warmly, holding the girl tight.

Rose: I love you, too, Holly. I always will.

Ext. Silverstone City Streets – Night

Tapping her fingers gently against the parapet, Apathy gazes down at the streets below. It's late, and not too many people are out and about. Not to mention, crime has been pretty slow tonight, too. The only thing she's stopped so far is an attempted mugging, and that was hours ago. Letting out a long, bored sigh, she moves away from the edge and starts walking back across the roof.

Apathy: Well, guess it's time to switch areas. I wonder how the slums are doing this time of night.

Man: Probably the same as always.

Uttering a startled gasp, Apathy whirls around to see someone standing there at the corner of the roof, bathed in dark shadows. She squints a little, then soon realizes who it is.

Apathy: Oh, it's just you... what are you doing here?

Man: Checking up on you. Heard you... had a little disagreement with Dr. Atkinson.

Apathy: You heard right.

Man: Thought so. You know that means your deal with the boss is null, right?

Apathy: I don't care. I'm done working with you nut-jobs. What you're trying to do to that girl... I won't be a part of it. In fact, if you go near her again, I'll stop you myself.

Man: Well, your determination is admirable. And of course, if you're protecting her now, then by all means we'll back off.

Apathy: Your sarcasm is not endearing.

Man: Wasn't meant to be.

Apathy: Then why the hell do you even bother to keep talking?

Man: Because it's my job.

Folding her arms across her chest, Apathy cocks her hips to the side and tilts her head in confusion.

Apathy: Uh... huh. Your job is to bore me to death?

Man: No. My job is to distract you.

Apathy: Distrac- ngh!

Her words abruptly cut off at the feel of hot pain ripping through her body. Looking down slowly, she sees several long, razor sharp spikes jutting completely through her body. Three by her stomach, two at her chest, another still through her shoulder. A second later, the spikes retract, causing her body to crumple to the roof. She lies there motionless, just staring up at the sky as her blood begins to pool around her.

From behind her, another figure walks forward, hands in his pockets. He stands over her for a moment,, shaking his head.

Figure: Such a disappointment.

The other man, too, walks forward now.

Man: What do you want to do with her?

Figure: Have you eaten yet?

A grin forms across the man's face. Slowly, he steps from out the shadows, his eyes already shifting into something more feral.

Kubrick: No, no I haven't.

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