This chapter is rather short, so I’ll just post it now.
“You never mentioned that Martin was a psychic.”
“I didn’t tell you a lot of things about that creep.”
“Yeah, no kidding there,” Prism said, shaking his head. “So, he was pretty much your father?”
Shade had to scoff at that one. “I never really knew him. He was as much my father as the petri dish he grew my embryo in.”
“So, he was your father?” Prism repeated.
She groaned. Did this fool have no tact? “Will you just shut up?”
Prism shrugged. “If that’s what you really want.”
As they entered Cove Park, they spotted Detective Higgins running towards them for what felt like the thousandth time that week.
“What happened with you guys? What happened with Martin?” he asked.
“I may never know the answer to that,” Shade remarked, tossing his cuffs back to him. Jeff looked down as if she had tossed a baby. “But he’s dead.”
“Uh.” Jeff stood gaping for a good few seconds. “How’d that happen?”
“A flying bookshelf.” She put her hands on her hips. “Yes, really.”
“Oh. I’ll- I’ll put that down somewhere, I guess.”
Prism opened his mouth to speak again, but Quinn saved her in the nick of time.
“Uh, we have a situation here folks. Two, in fact.”
Shade’s head panged with pain. “Jesus, what now?”
“Cerberus radio feeds are reporting an engagement with that bug creature in Davis. Rebecca must be there, because it’s her second-in-command that’s using it as an excuse for the city council to authorize – something. I’m trying to follow their chatter and the council’s CCTV at the same time and believe me, it’s chaos.”
Shade turned skyward, grousing at God or fate or karma. “I’ll fucking… I’ll deal with Mantis, you keep your ears to the council.”
She turned to Onyx who, if she was reading him right, had not lost an ounce of enthusiasm. He was a better person than her, at least. “You’re with me. Prism, stay here and keep the civvies safe.”
“Always taking all the hard jobs,” Prism said, shaking his head. “Really, Shade, you don’t need to be so generous.”
She raced to where she had left the Poltergeist. Onyx materialized by the passenger’s door, but hesitated to enter.
“Do you… want me to man the guns or something? I handled a rifle when I was with Cerberus, but nothing like this.”
“Just target and destroy, big guy.” She climbed inside and pulled out a panel above the glove box. Onyx pulled up a joystick with a large button and stared at it. “It gets easier the more you do it.”
Shade couldn’t help but notice how sparse Mouse’s goons were on their home turf. They had left their dead to the animals and hunkered down in a few fortified positions. Unlike Martin’s men and the looters, they weren’t foolish enough to waste ammunition on taking pot shots at the Poltergeist. Knowing her luck, she’d likely have to deal with Mouse as well soon, but she pushed that thought out of her mind and pressed on.
As they neared the intersection at the center of the island she caught sight of a formation of Cerberus vehicles. Several tactical trucks, a helicopter and a swarm of drones were spewing fire at Mantis. The beast made a series of small jerking movements as he was buffeted, but stood his ground. The flippant air about him was gone, replaced with savage bloodlust. She traced his eyes to the original Poltergeist, lying mangled and roofless several yards away. Phantasm was struggling to get out.
The Poltergeist zoomed forward, barrelling into Mantis, pushing, pushing…
And then nothing. Mantis had planted his feet, and his bulging arm muscles were holding the Poltergeist in place like a child’s toy. Then, with a hefty strain, he lifted every ton of the car straight up.
“Son of a-”
Shade’s heart jumped into her throat. She blinked her eyes open to see Onyx squeezing the trigger, pouring machine gun fire into the monster. His feet were taken out from under him, and Shade slammed on the gas. Mantis scurried out in the nick of time. She spun her tires to face him again. A large drone went flying onto the hood, sounding with a mighty thunk. Onyx was undeterred, retaliating with a missile that once again knocked Mantis onto his ass.
“YOU! YOU KILLED MY FATHER!” he uttered in something between a roar and a wail. He skittered out of the way of more machine gun blasts, then lept and buried his scythe in the front bumper of the car. The machine guns were torn away.
Shade took in her surroundings in a panic. They weren’t going to out-muscle Mantis, she had to think outside the box.
Her eyes found their way to an abandoned truck. That was it!
“Onyx, when he’s near the truck, blow it up!”
He turned to it. “Does it have people inside?”
“No, just do it!”
Shade hit the reverse, but not too fast. Mantis charged forward and at the right moment, Onyx’s missile hit its mark. The truck erupted into fire, singing the monster harshly. Much of his exoskeleton turned black. Mantis did not make a sound, and after a tense moment, toppled over. Was it dead?
No. With energy she had no clue from where it came, it shuffled away, disappearing into the slums. But it was gone. Her eyes sought her mother, but she too was gone, leaving the corpse of the original Poltergeist behind. She frowned.
A sole Cerberus truck had not fled, firing feebly at them. Firing at them after all of that. Those ungrateful slimeballs! Grinding her teeth, she shot a finger towards her own missile button. Onyx grabbed her wrist.
“What are you doing?!” There was an anger in his voice she hadn’t imagined him capable of. She fumbled for words.
“Those – those thankless bastards are shooting at us!”
“They might as well be shooting at us with a water gun!”
“We just saved their worthless hides!”
“What the hell is wrong with you?!” He threw her wrist aside, and she recoiled. “You do not get use that as an excuse! You’re stressed, I get it, but we’re all stressed. Me, Fritz, Quinn, Dallas and Jeff. But you know what? None of us use that as an excuse to kill people! That’s your problem, isn’t it Jessica? It’s always your genes, the way you were raised, someone mistreated you. It’s never your fault.”
“I get it! I’m an asshole! You think I don’t realize that?!” At that moment, something inside her broke. The stress had been stacked like a Jenga tower, and Onyx had pulled a bottom block. She had to pull off her mask and wipe her nose. “But you try living the life I’ve led! I never asked for any of it, the training, the weapons, the weight of the city on my bloody shoulders. I don’t want to be what I am! I didn’t ask to be made!”
She buried her face in her hands. She listened to her sobs echo faintly off the windows, and had never felt so empty, so alone. Onyx was right. Her inner demons had defeated her. But now, they were silent. Now she had no scapegoat.
Onyx opened the glovebox and offered her a tissue.
“You don’t have to be what you were made.”
She wiped her nose. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I’m an asshole, and I’m sorry.”
They drove back in silence. Prism was waiting for them at Cove Park, eagerly awaiting an update. Onyx succinctly informed him Mantis was gone, and let her slip away into the dark corners of metro to ruminate.
Quinn could almost hear the dread in the council’s footsteps as the piled back into the room. One by one she heard them take their seats, until she counted only the mayor left standing.
“After thoughtful consideration, the city council of Blackburn has decided to authorize the Phoenix Initiative. But we would like to make it known that we are very, very disappointed in your inability to find another way.”
Empty words. Rebecca had already won that battle, and whatever was about to happen couldn’t have been any good. She was about to call the kids when she heard more footsteps. But they weren’t coming from the monitor.
And she knew those steps. Each one was taken with pride that only the sharpest of ears knew veiled fear. She swallowed her own fear, gripped the arms of her chair, and did not move.
“Quinn.” Rebecca staggered forward, breathing unevenly. “After all these years you still find ways to belittle me.”
“What are you talking about?”
Rebecca threw a table, yowling. Quinn didn’t budge.
“MY DAUGHTER! YOU TOOK HER AWAY FROM ME! FILLED HER HEAD WITH LIES! I SHOULD KILL YOU RIGHT NOW!”
“You know that’s not true. You pushed her away yourself.”
Rebecca pulled her from her chair. She tried to get a grip, but Rebecca slammed her head into the desk swiftly.
“No. You’re a manipulative fool with dead ideals. But I know Jessica knows that deep down, and I’ll prove it to you.”
“You’re… insane,” Quinn panted. Rebecca yanked her to her feet, placed her in a chokehold, and squeezed. She couldn’t help but let out a cry as her thoughts faded away.