“Here comes another chopper! Benny, how many stingers do we have left?”
The remnants of Mouse’s forces had scattered, either dead or cut off from communication. None of them had anticipated how vicious Cerberus would be. Her largest remaining group managed to get ahold of a walkie talkie off a Cerberus corpse and contacted her. Mouse fed them orders as she attempted to navigate the chaotic streets, listening to the battle through her communication device. It didn’t sound good.
Just when all hope seemed lost, Mouse heard one of her scouts exclaim that he’d found a box of Blueshift. “Hell yeah! Everyone, dose up! We can still kick some ass. Here, you guys sort that out. Angela, Mike, Hoops, Jones, you’re on point. If we can nab that APC over there, we can beat it. Ms. Verion, what’s your location?”
“Viceroy Road, approaching Harris. I’m five minutes out, if I don’t run into any hangups,” she replied, hopping a totaled car that blocked the street. “Take no chances. We can still come out of this on top, but we need to keep our heads.” It was hard to keep the tremor out of her voice, but she had to stay strong for the men. They’d suffered so many casualties as it was, she was afraid to lose anyone else.
“Here comes another one! Taylor, drop it! Angela, come on, put some effort into that ice shield, we’re not playing kiddie games over here! Jones, what the hell do you call that? That’s no fuckin’ magnetism I’ve ever seen. Push it! We’ve got Blueshift, quit being babies!”
Mouse poured on the hustle, her nerves increasing by the second. Two of her men were cut down by aerial fire before the helicopter was forced to evade a bolt of lightning from Hoops. She rounded a corner, spotted her men, and broke into a sprint. Time slowed to a crawl as she watched one of her scouts raise their last stinger and fire it. The missile impacted the helicopter in the tail, sending it spiralling downwards. Mouse rushed forward, as did her men, and then the craft slammed into the alleyway behind them, cutting her off. She’d have to make a big loop around to get back to them at this rate.
And then, like the trumpets of doomsday, she heard it. Jet engines. “No. No no no. No! Aaron! Mike! Get out of there!” she screamed, trying to work her way through the wreckage. A jet whipped overhead, and then three seconds later, the world went white. When Mouse came to, she was lying much farther back into the alleyway, covered in minor shrapnel wounds, and her ears were filled with ringing. The helicopter wreckage had been shredded. Beyond it lay a crater where her men used to be. She had no words. Misery and rage boiled up within her in equal parts. Cerberus… Those fucking bastards would pay for what they did. They’d all pay.
Why didn’t I put it together?
The thought repeated itself in Shade’s mind over and over as she bore witness to the madness unfolding. All of Vicio was being set ablaze. Cerberus choppers filled the sky like a swarm of locusts, devouring everything in its path. The nearest chopper pulled up to a building, steadied twenty feet from the ground and strafed everything on the second floor. Only faintly could she make out dying screams.
This was mother’s plan all along, she realized in terror. The Cerberus occupation was nothing but a show, and the guns she had given the crime lords was the pretext she needed to pull back the curtains and reveal her ghastly nature.
Everything shook as more jets screamed by. It felt like the end of everything.
“SHADE! SHADE, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?! GET OFF THE STREET!”
A convoy of trucks rolled by. Was she imagining a few of them shuddering? They clutched their rifles, eyed her down…
And kept on rolling.
Someone yanked her back with a mighty tug. She blinked as they re-entered the metro tunnel. Prism was leaned up against a wall, steadying himself as he hyperventilated.
“We’re all gonna di-ie,” he gasped out, shaking his head.
Dawn wasn’t in as bad shape as Fritz, but her lip was quivering and she had her arms pulled up into herself.
“What’s happening, Alex?” she asked.
Onyx struggled for words. But somewhere in him he had the courage to pick his sister up and carry her further down the tunnel.
“I don’t know, but whatever happens I’ll be with you.”
“Jessica.” Shade grew cold. “I’m in my office, and so is Quinn. My men have orders not to harm you. Come here unarmed.”
Onyx shot a look over his shoulder. They exchanged a wordless understanding, and Shade marched back into the street.
Rebecca passed the minutes by listening to the radio chatter.
“This is Tartarus Five, thermal scans of the area are showing all targets are down. We have fifty-seven confirmed kills in Davis, over.”
“We got a guy moving down there, light ‘im up… Good kill, lots of itty bitty pieces.”
“Two hostiles taking cover in a church. Are we clear to engage?”
“That looks like my house down there…”
“Do not engage the armored car, I repeat, do not engage the armored car. Napier’s orders.”
“We have enemy forces scattering from the bookstore, strafe ‘em.”
“Uh, which one’s the bookstore?”
“Two klicks down the intersection, just south of the daycare.”
“Jesus, you don’t think there’s any kids in there, do you?”
“They’re long gone.”
“Air units check your fire, check your fire, someone’s dropping heat danger close!”
“Hahaha, must’ve been six guys in that truck!”
“Too bad, that was a nice truck.”
“Damn, they slipped into the sewer tunnels. You alright back there Thunder Three?”
“Sorry, just. Hands aren’t steady.”
“RPG fire, pull back, pull back!”
“Ground units this is Gold One, making another run. Mark your requested targets with smoke, over.”
“This is one hell of a way to win this op, isn’t it?”
Jessica stood at the door to her mother’s office for what felt like an eternity. No matter how long she waited, her hands wouldn’t stop shaking. But she knew she couldn’t keep running from her past. And so with a deep breath and all the courage she could muster, she entered the password and opened the door.
Quinn sat in Rebecca’s office chair, handcuffed to the desk. Rebecca herself stood behind, the gun in her hand shaking faintly. She was buzzed.
Jessica tore off her mask and hurled it to the floor.
“Why? Why are you doing this?”
Rebecca listlessly pushed herself away from the chair. Her eyes swam, but when they found Jessica they stopped, and she frowned.
“I should be asking that of you. What has your little escapade accomplished?”
Rebecca tilted her head. How were those glossy eyes so piercing?
“But you didn’t do it, did you?”
“… Not exactly.”
“And he’ll just be back. This city has been choking on its own blood for decades. Over and over again I arrested the same scumbags, brought them before a judge. Over and over again they agreed to a plea bargain, or got off on a technicality, sued me for violating their so-called rights. Then they’d go back onto the streets to rape and pillage some more. The American system isn’t designed to deliver justice. It’s designed to allow spineless worms to pat themselves on the back for being ‘humanitarian’.” The desk shook under her fist. “What’s humanitarian about that?!”
Quinn drew her ire next. “And you. Scott’s perfect little princess. Self-righteous Quinn. Feeling bad for poor little Rebecca, white trash Rebecca.” She pounded for emphasis as she continued. “Gave me a stupid costume and a stupid codename and a stupid mission! Made me a soldier in your army! Well I’ve seen through your bullshit Quinn. You left scum alive so you could continue playing the hero. That’s all it was, moral grandstanding! You never cared about me!”
“I loved you like a sister!” Quinn shouted. “You were just too myopic to notice!”
“More lies! No more! When americans see how clean I’ve made Blackburn, they’ll start to do things my way! And then your legacy will be gone, Quinn.”
Jessica had heard enough. “Yeah? At what cost? Look at what you’ve become. You’re holding your mentor at gunpoint and having your daughter tell you how insane you are! Innocent people could die because you got your fucking feelings hurt!”
“How could you?! After everything I’ve done for you!”
“PUT DOWN THE FUCKING GUN!”
Jessica lunged for the weapon, grabbing ahold of her mother’s wrist. She twisted it just enough to palm it out. Her ears rang as Rebecca headbutted her to the ground. She tried to squirm away, but Rebecca was on top of her in an instant.
“I’M! NOT! INSANE! I! AM NOT! WORTHLESS!”
Jessica couldn’t see. Her mother’s fists were moving too fast, and her knee was crushing her stomach. She tried putting her hands up but her fingers were thrown into her mouth. A tooth came loose. It sunk into the blood trickling into her mouth, choking her.
“Gack! I-I can’t… ulch… mom…”
When all began to fade away, the agony stopped. As if she were casted into a statue, Rebecca froze. Her eyes drifted down to her reddened fists. That’s when Jessica heard the most anguished scream she’d ever heard. Rebecca howled like every one of her strings had been pulled taut and severed. Even after all she’d done, Jessica couldn’t bear the sight of it. She squirmed away and hurled out the blood.
Mercifully, the howling stopped, fading into choked, throbbing sobs.
“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry, I… Oh God, what have I done?”
Jessica staggered to her feet.
“Give me the key.”
Rebecca nodded repeatedly and turned it over. Quinn was listening without an expression. When Jessica went to her side, she whispered “I’m proud of you Jessica.”
Jessica’s heart stopped. She didn’t deserve that.
“I… I – thanks…” She freed her mentor and helped her up.
“The… The radio. Hand me the radio,” Rebecca pleaded. Jessica exchanged glances with Quinn before doing so.
“This… This is… Stop. Just, stop, all of you. There’s no need for any of this. Report to base, put down your guns. That’s an order.”
“On your feet Rebecca.”
Jessica looked at Quinn’s hands. She was holding the handcuffs. A powerful, unbidden sob escaped Jessica’s mouth, but she knew it had to be done.
“I’m sorry Jessica. I’m so sorry…”
Jessica averted her eyes. When they had left the room she fell next to her mask, clutched it tightly, and cried for the devil.