Out Of The Frying Pan...

The tunnel was empty, but I did not notice. I would not have noticed if the sky had fallen on my head. It was all I could do to drag myself against a wall and collapse, exhausted, hungry, bloody, and shaking from head to foot. 

Vengeance never even made it that far. He lay halfway out of the vent, bleeding and growling into the earth. No, not growling. He was ... purring? Purring, like a cat, like a household cat licking its wounds after scrapping with a neighbourhood foe...

It was only when I tried and failed to laugh that I realised how exhausted I was.

I fell asleep where I was - we both did, for Vengeance had not moved when I awoke hours later. I came back to the side of the vent, sat beside him, and stared down into the darkness. 

The single sputtering argon lamp still vaguely illumed our position at the bottom of the elevator shaft. Even from down here, I could still remember the entrenched ghost of our route to this pit. I thought of those Scilla, Murphy and I had liberated from the cells, and wondered if their fates had been any less kind than those of my former companions. 

But beyond the cells was the hideyhole where I had left Chase and Kris huddled in the dark, with only the promise of my return to keep her safe. That and the File.

I bit back a sob, and buried my scarred hand in Vengeance's bloody scruff. That bloody File... bloody indeed; me, Kris, Murphy, Scilla, Lucatz, Vengeance, and the thousand wretched souls gunned down in the streets over Lucas Wayne's corpse. Jeremy Wayne, too. And Mark II.

I looked at Vengeance, and felt something like pity. I wondered how disparate Mark II had been from its predecessor, truly. Had it been the monster Kamarov and Wayne had hoped for? Had even it ever believed in a capacity to be otherwise?

I thought of Mark II, and its half-grown brethren in the empty laboratory. Wayne's reactor would run out in a matter of days without maintenance. As Vengeance had said - without them, they were simply waiting to die in their own mechanical wombs. 

Perhaps they were the lucky ones.

A faint thudding noise snapped me from my melancholia, and I half-turned, staring wide-eyed into the flickering dark. The thudding grew louder, and with it came a thin, horrible rasping. I straightened, wobbled onto my knees, ready to stand and wake Vengeance with a cry at a moment's notice.

But then the noises came into the light, and all I could do was stare.


Scilla ignored me. She was staring at the space over my head with the one eye remaining to her. The other, along with the corresponding ear, cheek, and - to my horror - majority of her face, had been reduced to scabby ruin by what were unmistakably a faceful of claw marks. She swallowed, and wobbled a little closer, dragging a ruined leg behind her, and dropped to the ground in front of me.

"They left us," she rasped. "Wex. Chase. Raven. Gone."

I goggled at her. Scilla swallowed painfully and held out a hand, where her earpiece rested.

"They're gone," she repeated. "Bastards."

The End

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