“Get me a status report! Do we have them cut off?” Gilda demanded into her radio, taking cover behind her squad car. They’d done what they could to cordon off the bridge, but coordinating movements on two fronts, with chaos all around, proved to be difficult. With the apprehension of Rebecca, Cerberus had lost all authority, allowing SWAT to move on points previously controlled by the mercenary company, like the bridge. Unfortunately, while they were caught up in the logistics of it, these goons had snuck in and created a situation.
“Yes ma’am, they’re stuck on the bridge. We’re trying to get them to stand down, but they’re going ballistic over here. They keep demanding to talk to their boss,” came the reply, from a young sergeant. Damn it, Mouse was still causing trouble. She heaved a heavy sigh of exasperation, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“Pulowski, Weisshaupt, Simmons, you coordinate with the snipers. If we can avoid any more bloodshed, good, but not one more officer down, you hear me?” She reached into the passenger seat of her squad car to grab for her megaphone. “Listen up! This is the Chief of Police! We have you surrounded! Give yourselves up without violence!”
“Fuck you, bitch!” shouted one of the criminals, hunkered down by an overturned car. “What the fuck’d you do with Mouse? We ain’t goin’ anywhere til’ we hear from her!”
“You get us Mouse or we blow the whole goddamned bridge!” shouted another one. “Don’t fuckin’ try us!” She wanted to call their bluff, but the drug lord had already proven her ruthlessness and capacity to smuggle explosives into seemingly airtight locations. Who was to say she hadn’t wired the bridge? It was just the sort of petty, vengeful move that pasty bitch would pull, too.
“We don’t have your boss in custody,” Gilda finally responded. “If you can’t get in contact with her, why would we be able to?”
“You go fuckin’ find her then!”
“Goddamnit,” she hissed, tossing the megaphone back into the squad car. “I don’t have time for this.” Pulling out her cell phone, Gilda called her sister.
“Gilda,” Quinn said breathily. “Hey, how are you holding up?”
“Having tea with the President…”
“Ah, good ol’ sarcasm. You’re fine.”
“Look, we’ve got a situation. Mouse is AWOL and her goons are holding the bridge hostage. They claim they’ve got the capability to blow it and frankly, I believe them. Can you get your people to find her and bring her here? They’re demanding to see her.”
Quinn answered with a long sigh. “You’d think cuffing Rebecca would be the end of this, but of course not. Shade’s in bad shape but I think she’s got one last outing left in her.”
“Well this is important. If we lose this bridge, we’re hosed in more ways than one. Get her on it.”
“Consider it done. You just keep the city from tearing itself apart. Folks ain’t gonna be happy when all the beans start spilling…”
“What do you think is gonna happen, Shade?” Prism asked, as solemn in tone as she’d ever heard. “With- well, Rebecca and everything.”
“I don’t know. The government will lock her away forever… At best, but it won’t placate folks. Heads are going to roll and lawyers will play the part of Robespierre.”
“Hey, can’t say I blame them,” Prism said, shrugging. “And what about this Mouse chick?”
“That, we’re going to find out.” She motioned him and Onyx to follow her into the Poltergeist, one last time. “Mouse is a creature of habit. She needs familiar comforts, stability. My guess? She’s holed up in her office, high as kite and suffering from roid rage. I’ll see if I can’t talk her down.”
She took her seat with a soft plop. “But I’ll probably end up getting smacked around some more. I’m really starting to believe in karma, you know.”
“Good, it’ll keep you on the straight and narrow.” Onyx remarked cheerfully. She shot him a dirty glance.
“Um, not that I want you to get beaten up or anything.”
“Smooth, Alex,” Prism said, putting a hand over his face.
Shade’s grip on the steering wheel grew tighter the closer they game. The streets of Vicio had gone silent. Buildings, still soaked and battered from the hurricane, had been further damaged or outright demolished by machine guns and missiles. So many structures had been turned inside-out like the entrails of a hunted animal, it turned her stomach. She decided to keep her eyes forward until they arrived at Mouse’s apartment complex. Fittingly, the grand monument to Blackburn’s failure still stood, having shrugged off the fires of Cerberus. She yanked the keys from the ignition and tossed them to Onyx.
“You two, search for any caches of heavy ordnance. The machine guns are out, so just plow into them if you see any.”
“Oh, fun,” Onyx chuckled. “I know you’re a tough gal and all, but. Try not to die at the end now, okay?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it big guy.”
All the noise she hadn’t heard on the streets greeted her on her way up the manufacturing building. Banging, crashing, and screaming could be heard from the third floor. But there wasn’t a single mook in sight. Fear did not override loyalty with them. Mouse had sent them away. Had she known she was coming?
She wasted no time kicking down the door to Mouse’s lab. The drug lord spun around, eyes wild, and fired a haphazard shot from the shotgun in her hands, which shattered sheetrock a good six feet away from her. “You!” shrieked Mouse, actually raising the weapon to her shoulders. Rather than blasting her, the firearm simply clicked. Mouse was so far gone she hadn’t even loaded more than one shell in it.
“You traitorous bitch! Why are you doing this?!” Tossing the weapon aside, Mouse advanced towards her, trembling bodily. “Our family, gone… Slaughtered by that whore! I watched as she rained fire from above and reduced them to ash! Our brothers and sisters! And still you come in here, dressed in that fucking costume!” A pale finger levelled itself at her, backed by a tearful visage. “After all I gave you, all we did… You stab me in the back…”
“It’s over, Nisa. Rebecca’s in cuffs. Cerberus is in shambles. Give it up.”
“It’s not over! Not until every last one of those dogs of war lay dead! They’re a blight on the world! Infiltrating every level of society, corrupting everything they touch… The police, the government, it’s all tainted! It all has to be purged of their vile influence! You see, don’t you? You’ve seen them, working together? We’re gathering them in one place, where we can destroy them once and for all. Please, help me. Don’t walk away from me in my hour of need, sister…”
Shade stared at Mouse forlornly. That had been her, not that long ago. Tired, scared, distrusting, irrational, violent. No, it was still her, wasn’t it? But it was no longer who she resigned herself to be, and that was what really mattered.
“I have a family, Nisa. And we’re not like this. You don’t have to be either. Come with me, and forget this nonsense.”
It almost looked like she was going to, until Mouse’s twitching eyes darted to the door, then narrowed at her. “You’re working with her… You think that bitch still loves you? Will protect you? She doesn’t care about you! You’re just a means to an end! But if you think I’m going with you willingly, a lamb to the slaughter, then you’re too far gone.” Despite the rage in her expression, misery showed an equal presence. “Why? Why did it have to be this way?” And then there were no more words. Mouse lunged for her, her pink eyes shot through with cyan veins.
She silently thanked her mother and Quinn for her combat training. Without it, Mouse’s amped speed and strength would have been overwhelming. She was clearly high on Blueshift, and a lot of it. While the drug lord had never been particularly muscular or adept in physical violence, she fought like an animal possessed right then. Her feral strikes jarred Jessica with every block, and sent electric shockwaves of pain up her spine every time she successfully connected. To make matters worse, Mouse didn’t even seem to notice the hits she took herself, not even bothering to block them. They crashed back and forth through the room, destroying furniture and each other. At one point, Mouse hurled a desk at her. She did a front handspring to evade, but as soon as she was upright Mouse took her to the ground. Mouse slammed her head into the floor, but instead of trying to keep her pinned, continued to slam it repeatedly. Shade was dazed, but her legs moved on their own, snaking around the drug lord’s neck and throwing her back.
As the fight dragged on, Mouse’s arsenal ran dry of surprises, allowing her to dodge more and more of the blows directed at her. She managed to swell one of Mouse’s eyes, but Mouse was hardly using it anyways. When she began to hurl flasks of neon substances, Shade got her cape up just in time. They crackled and fizzed on the material, but her cape held fast.
Then, she broke a couple ribs and dislocated a shoulder. That too hardly registered, and Mouse sunk her teeth into her exposed shoulder. She had half a second to get Mouse off before her blood was flooded with chemicals. Her hands found a hotplate, and crashed it atop Mouse’s skull. Finally the drug lord showed a hint of pain, and Shade threw all her weight into a chop to the throat. Her former comrade dropped to the ground like a rock.
“I’m sorry, Nisa,” Shade said earnestly, clutching her shoulder. “But you’ve forced my hand.” With her free arm, she whipped out Higgins’ inhibitor cuffs. “The detective told me to try and use them this time. Be glad you’re not in the dirt with Martin.”
One last burst of energy flowed through Mouse, who kicked at her and scrambled away. The albino made a whimpering noise and whipped around, a gun in hand pointed at her. “No. Not like this…” she wheezed. Rather than shooting her, though, Mouse put the gun up to her own temple and squeezed the trigger. It clicked. Face falling, she dropped the gun and raised a pleading hand to her. “Jessica, please… Don’t put me in another cage… Kill me first. Please.”
“Hmph. You still don’t get it, do you?” She threw Mouse’s arms behind her back, muscling her into the cuffs. “I don’t want to live like an animal anymore.”
Hauling Mouse to her feet, she led her down the stairs and into the street, with only Mouse’s soft whimpers exchanged between them. The Poltergeist was waiting for them.
“Caches, crushed,” Onyx announced, clapping his hands. “So. It’s finally over, huh?”
“Yeah.” Shade seated Mouse next to her and strapped in. The weight of her efforts were finally catching up to her. The seat belt rubbing against her bare shoulder was excruciating. “Fucking Christ, I’m exhausted. Take us to the bridge, please.”
“Don’t need to tell me twice,” Onyx replied, gunning the accelerator.
“Hey, look at that!” Prism called, pointing up at a news helicopter passing over the bridge. “I’m gonna be famous! Chicks dig that.”
When the car came to a halt in sight of the cops, Shade bailed out. The SWAT officers were waiting expectantly, guns trained forward. Did she see Jeff peering out from behind? She wrested Mouse from her seat, and for the first time in awhile she spoke, her voice dripping with shame as she looked to her handcuffed men.
“Looks like it’s the big house for us, boys.” Mouse’s attempt at raising their spirits failed before it started as she choked herself up. “Tommy, you’re in charge in there. No one gets separated. Look out for Grant and Fremont. Grant, no contraband. I don’t want to hear you got shivved because you couldn’t keep your sticky fingers out of trouble.” The men kept their chins up, nodding at her.
“What about you, boss?” Grant blurted.
“I get the special treatment… Just like always. Don’t worry about me, I’ll have a chauffeur outside my private room 24/7.” Mouse glanced over her shoulder at her. “Isn’t that right, Shade?”
Five officers ran forward, securing Mouse and hauling her into an armored van. Shade wasn’t really paying them any mind. Her eyes were on the news helicopter circling above. Every citizen in Blackburn was watching them, wondering who their savior was. Wondering who would stop Rebecca while wearing the woman’s old costume. Wondering if they could trust her.
They had the right to know.
“You know what, fuck this mask,” she grumbled. And then, she tore it off.
“My name is Jessica Napier.”
So that’s it everyone! I hope you’ve enjoyed the opening arc of this series and will join us on many more. We’re taking some time off to edit this arc and plan for next, so if you have any comments, questions or feedback you’d like to provide, please feel free to do so. I’m always an email away. – Joker