Rattle And Burn

The needle was shaper than I had expected, or else my desperation had leant me some brand of inhuman strength, for I felt it slam into bone before Mark II sent me flying. Flying like a rag doll, with only a flick of its ankle.

Its scream echoed in my head, ringing in and out in time with the pounding resonation of pain as my skull met the steel wall. It sounded more indignant than anything, and I found myself laughing at it, even as I dragged myself under the frame of a worktop. I lay there, helpless, eyes screwed shut as I tried in vain to shut out the whirling chaos of noise and colour and pain that had replaced my every understanding of the world.

Wayne was laughing, too, and I heard his footsteps on the floor. He was coming toward me, I thought, coming to drag me back to the mercy of his nightmare.

I cracked open my eyes, and struggled up to crouch under the worktop. I had left my last weapon embedded in Mark II's foot, like a spiteful splinter, but I would not go down easy. So long as there was breath in me, I'd take as much blood out of Jeremy Wayne as I could muster before he finished me off.

Then Wayne's dim shape paused, and he glanced back at the still-motionless monster.

"What are you waiting for? Go on, you stupid beast - have done with it."

Mark II made a bizarre whining noise, and I heard something clatter as the beast's weight knocked it over. Wayne snarled.

"Bloody- he's there, you dunderhead! Have him! You can't tell me Kamarov alone filled that cavernous belly of yours... oh, for hell's sake- What are you doing?"

Mark II whined again, and there was yet more clattering from that end of the room. As my vision cleared, I dared to lean over and peek out. The great monster was staggering around Vengeance's prone form, clattering into anything in its path and sending it spinning away or trampling it underfoot. More than once, in its confusion, it stepped on its intended victim - to no response.

Wayne snarled and turned on me again.

"One final annoyance before the end, is it? Fitting, I suppose." He swung the rod in his hand, coldly careless of his power, as ever. "Ah, but what's one more test run? Why not tweak a little more, why bother smoothing out the dings when you can just wipe the slate, eh?"

He stopped in the middle of the room, tapping the rod against a nearby tabletop with a slow, deliberate rhythm.

"Mark II, Mark III, they're all the same to me - it's all the same, when you think about it. All gone to hell, because people like you got in the way."

I shifted under the worktop, and as I did, I caught a glimpse of Mark II. It had paused in its circling, and now stared with feverish intensity at Wayne. No, not Wayne. At the rod. 

"That's the problem with you, Ryder," Wayne went on, his attention still entirely focussed on me. "You're too small to bother squashing - just another ding in the machine. People don't notice you until it's too late, and by then you're part of a much bigger ding, and it won't come out half so easy."

He laughed, and for one heart-stopping moment I feared he would spin on his heel and see what Mark II was doing. Luckily, my expression of fear kept his attention. I shifted back a little further to make him walk a little closer, one eye still on Mark II, who had begun to edge closer, silent now, swinging its monstrous head in time with the banging of the rod.

"What do I have to do?" Wayne cried. "What do I have to do to flatten you, hm?  I threw you into a pit of killers, and you proved yourself their master - I engineered a killer, and you proved yourself his master. That's you, isn't it - Gavin Ryder, master of every unholy inconvenience the hells see fit to torment me with!"

Wayne began to tap the rod faster, and Mark II's advance quickened. I held still. This madman's rambling might be the end of him yet. If I could just wait--

That was the last conscious thought I had before the world was chaos anew. Like an apparition, the wreckage that had once been Vengeance flew seemingly out of nowhere, landing on Mark II's back with the force of a cannonball. Mark II staggered and threw back its head in blind instinctive reaction - and Vengeance, twisted to an impossible angle, clamped his jaws around its throat. Mad with pain and confusion, Mark II leapt forward, as if to fling itself clear of the agonising choke-hold, flailing and screaming like a hurricane made flesh.

Just as I scrambled away, I saw a flash of faint bemusement in Jeremy Wayne's eyes. He half turned, gasped, raised the rod in front of him as if to fend them off -- Then he was gone, seemingly subsumed beneath the weight of his gigantic, warring experiments. 

Through the sea of howling and thrashing, I could just make out the shape of him, spasming desperately in the throes of agony as his intended tool of murder became his doom. Mark II, atop him, seemed like a caricature of its master made large; twitching, screaming, eyes bulging, tongue lolling with blood-flecked foam, caught between the two biting, relentless deaths at its throat and heart.

And through it all, Vengeance held on, if he hardly felt the last deadly, spasmodic blows of his enemy tearing into him, though his whole frame shook with the force of the shared electric torment. Silent, in the heart of the carnage.

I could not tell which of us screamed loudest.

The End

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