Part 3 of the fanfic i was writting on Chargestep. It’s been a lot of fun!
Tons of spoilers and speculation ahead. Super angst to the next level with all the rangers except Herald. I can’t bring myself to write angst with Herald. He’s just too adorable.
The company’s personnel carry on with their duties as you and Ortega take the Hardware. Of course, he’s carrying four times what you are, but you are providing anonymity.
“Wait. One moment” you ask Ortega. A few technicians come with a ladder and begin doing some work on the ceiling, preventing the camera from recording your exit.
“Now” You both continue towards the entrance.
“Until your next visit sir” the guard smiles opening the door and holding it so you can take the stolen goods to your getaway vehicle. He even helps you put everything in the trunk.
“Is this how you’ve been making your money ?” Ortega asks as he starts the engine.
“Gods no. I generally go after corrupt bankers and get a cut of their profits. This is a bit too risky. Specially now” You relax on the companion’s seat and expand your mind, looking for possible threats around you.
“It’s still a crime” he adds.
“I know.” You sigh. “That’s me. The villain. It’s what I do.”
“I still don’t get how you’r going to achieve anything against this “Farm” you talk about. How are these supercomputers going to defeat them ?”
“Didn’t you see that movie about the aliens blowing up the white house? The computer virus got them all” You smile. He doesn’t.
“I’m being serious.”
“I know” you repeat. “But I was being serious. Well not really, but the idea Isn’t so different from the aliens movie.”
“You want to hack into their system?”
“So to speak.”
He’s getting mad at you again. You’r not telling him everything and he’s not an idiot. But what choice do you have? He can’t perform your masterplan himself, and you’ve told him enough to go on already.
Telling him information he doesn’t need is just asking for the farm to get it from him later.
Things have been a rollercoaster lately. After that night when he finally kissed you, it got a lot more intense. You even had sex a few days later. Or something very close to it. It was awkward, and not at all the climatic and defining moment you expected.
You’ve been into people’s minds and you knew sex wasn’t like it was in the movies. But you had secretly hoped to be wrong. For your first time to be really special. Something to demonstrate that you are in fact a real human person capable of love.
But you couldn’t help but be overly conscious of being really “Seen” like that With your tatoos exposed, you were too nervous. . And he couldn’t quite get a grasp of what and who you really are. And you can’t blame him, he keeps finding new unsettling details of your life daily.
You didn’t suggest trying to do it again and neither did him. IF your relationship was complicated a few months ago, it’s an enigma right now.
“So” he takes a deep breath. “After we leave that with your fake company for transport, I found us a place to have dinner. It’s quiet and out of the way. Somewhere we can have a real conversation.”
“Oh” Well that’s new. “Oh… I… Yes. I’d like that!” you say with a smile. It’s been so awkward these last few days. Maybe you can get get past it. You promised him that you wouldn’t fall apart and neither would he.
“Great!” he says with a nervous smile. And that’s that.The rest of the day goes on like you had planned, but your attitude towards stealing hardware and heavy supercomputers for later nefarious use changes 180 degrees. Working under promise of a reward is all the more appealing.
You wake up. Sitting. A cold metal chair. Your arms are tied behind your back, as legs tied to each of the chairs front legs.
Crude but effective. Odd. The farm usually employs proper restraints.
You scan the room. A figure is fiddling with some equipment. His mind… is protected. You can see, but it is difficult to touch it. Or at least he thinks you cant. Maybe you could still do it if you focused enough. But going throw mental dampers is a painful chore that only a few telepaths can do and it will hurt you, and it could fail. There are a few more minds behind him, but they are deeper inside the protected area. You can’t tell who they are.
It only takes you a few seconds to realize who he is. But its better to feign ignorance while you try to process this. The last thing you remember is going to your date with Ortega… then it all goes blank.
You struggle against your bonds forcefully. Thats the most natural reaction that doesn´t involve speaking.
The man turns to you.
“I was wondering when you would get up.”
“Where am I?” You look at him with a well rehearsed mix of fear and anger. Like you were trained to do.
“Abandoned warehouse Mr. Basri. Or should I call you Retribution?”
“Wait, What?” A truly genuine false surprise. The farm doesn’t train mediocrity.
“I call it how it is. We know who you are”.
“Look i don’t know whats the big.idea but i’m not who you say I am. And who the heck is we? Why did you bring me here?”
"We have the suit Mr Basri. "
"What suit?"you sense great confidence. Its hard to know what evidence he has or not, but you feel he likes presenting his case and make people confess. You taste he even has a dark fetish about it too. Great…
“So you want to keep denying it I see. Do you even know how you got captured?” This one gives you pause, since you actually don’t.
“Are you some sort of villain I fought against ? I used to be a vigilante back in the day” you throw a Hail Mary. You know if you keep playing the idiot he will eventually tell you, even if it’s annoying for the both of you.
“Charge gave you up” he adds.
You freeze. This is clearly a lie. The only problem is his mind believes it to be truth. Why would he be wrong about this is unclear.
“Ortega, whom you tought was under your powers, broke free and what did he do?” Why does he insist on this?
“He Gave.” He didn’t.
“You.” He wouldn’t
“Up.” It’s a stupid lie.
“And that’s why you’r tied to the chair now.” He handyman absently adds the last remark.
“Perhaps you need proof.” He gets a phone and calls. He tells someone to approach now. The minds you sensed earlier come closer. You can tell they who the first two are the moment they show up entering the garage trough a distant door. …
Steel. Argent. And one more. It’s Ortega.
They stand behind the man. The Handyman. Chen and Argent glare at you with fury. Ortega has a concerned look.
“Now, perhaps you can stop playing games Mr. Basri?”
You smile. And laugh at them all.
“Something funny about this, Basri?” Oh he enjoys it. Dark fetish and all. Why are there humans like this? You always wondered.
“It is. Funny, Handyman. But you wouldn’t get it” Yes. Laughing beats crying.
You really don’t want to keep playing the interrogation game.
“Enough nonsense” It’s Steel speaking. “Why did you take Ortega ?” He’s not good at this game.
“I didn’t take anyone Steel.” Your mind is racing. Whatever you say first will be set in stone and they will question it afterwards. So you need to only say useful things when think they’ll buy them. Maybe you can still rely the information they need in some manner. Even if your journey ends here.
“Last i checked he came along willingly”. Your gaze turns to Ortega, who avoids it. “He helped me a lot.”
“We know you did something to him” It’s Argent’s turn. You screwed with his mind. “Like you did mine! Admit it you piece of filth!” She walks torwards you as she speaks, but the Handyman gestures for her to stop.
It’s ok if they are going to play Good cop and Bad cop but if Argent plays Demential cop it could go very badly. Better not provoke her too much right now.
“What’s the matter ? Did Herald call in sick today ?” you change the subject. “Or does he not like the rules of this game you’r going to play?” You know perfectly well why Herald isn’t here. You wish you didn’t.
“He has prior engagements” the handyman adds. “Now you haven’t been very cooperative Retribution. Is it ok to call you that now or do we go back to Mr. Basri? I’ve got more jacks in the box if you feel like it.”
“Retribution, or Sidestep is fine.” You concede.
“Ahh. Progress. Let’s get a few questions out of the way first before we get into the juicy part we all want to know about. What is this “Retribution” you’r looking for ?”
You answer the questions with evasives and half truths like second-nature while your mind is already creating the plan for your next move. The telepathic inhibitors point to the area in front of you where they are standing THere’s nothing behind you… And they have no idea about the actual range of your powers.
“Retribution on all those deserving of it.” You look directly into his eyes. “You don’t really qualify, Handyman. I’m not sure why are you so concerned about me. Whatever did i do to you?”
He doesn’t answer, but he looks inside a case, and extracts a syringe. He injects your arm. You cringe. You look at Steel, Ortega and Argent in turn as it happens. Ortega seems about to be going to say something. But he doesn’t. He does nothing. He just looks at you. And then he looks away. He clearly doubts his own mind by this point. Steel puts a hand on his shoulder. Argent just gives a blank stare. You deserve this of course.
“You know what this is I assume?” You don’t. But the substance soon reveals itself as you feel increasing pain from your arm, extending to your whole body. You breathe heavily and let out a gasp as the pain chokes.
“Where did you get that?” you ask pretending surprise. This is ephemeorol. It’s a dangerous pain inducing truth serum, too unstable to use on humans due to it’s side effects. Banned by the extended Geneva convention. The farm intentionally filthered misinformation about this being a substance used to control their regenes about a decade ago. It doesn’t work as a truth serum on regenes, but it still probably one of the worst tortures you’ve ever endured during your training. It could probably be worse. Not much tough. Still it gives you re-genes a way to manipulate interrogators who think it works.
“Ahh… you know what it is, don’t you?” He smiles. You scream in pain as the drug causes another pulse of pure misery spreading trough your muscles. Ortega keeps looking away. They are torturing you with chemicals banned under the Geneva convention and all he does is look away.
“It will hurt more if you lie to us, you know how it works.” Yes. That’s how it supposed to work. In truth, it will hurt like hell for about a week no matter what you say or don’t say.
“You’r a re-gene. And a renegade at that. You had Ortega help you fight the Special Directive. We want to know more. Let’s start with something simple. How did you escape them?”
"That’s old news… " You start sweating. “I already told Ortega”
"I want to hear it from your own words. You understand we think he’s been compromised. By you. "
"If you must… " You go on to tell the story as the pain lets you. While you speak, the seed of your plan begins opening up. As you go on, roots take place, a solid trunk elevates, leaves point at the sun and finally, a flowers bloom. You have an answer…
You run through the jungle. You can sense the carnivore minds tracking you. You’ve thrown off the scent, but they will catch on eventually. Their inhuman instincts are more than anyone expected. You keep scanning for your brothers, but there is no sign of their minds. The supervisor is gone too.
This was supposed to be just a collaboration with the military. You where going to track down the Catastrofiend and they’d take care of the actual battle. But you did your jobs too well. You tracked him too closely and he caught onto you. While the range of telepathy is impressive, his demon’s enhanced senses are more versatile in this jungle environment.
You stop to take some air. There are a few pieces of glass portruding from your leg. You slowly pull them out, pressuring the small wound. You never saw it coming when his demons shot down your helicopter with a missile. OR was it a laser weapon ? You can’t tell right now, nor does it matter. You check the bullets on your pistol. Not that it will help much against the demons, but it’s your only weapon.
Enough rest. you must keep running. You hear the cracking of lightning in the distance. Rain starts slowly, but it soon turns into a killer storm. Good, this will hide your scent.
You stop suddenly. You can sense the carnivore minds of the demons. They aren’t chasing you anymore. They’ve been ordered back to the crash site. You wonder why. Oh. The Catastrofiend wants them to consume the dead. The fiend wants to remove evidence.
You can’t help feel emotion. Still, sadness will have to wait. Your brothers are dead but all you can do is get to safety and try to get evacuated.
“You didn’t tell Ortega this was about the Catastrofiend.”
“I told him an operation went bad. What’s the difference?”
“We didn’t know you had experience with someone so adept at altering and producing their own re-genes. I find it curious”
“We took him down. Charge and I did.”
“That’s what you wanted us to think yes” he says casting doubt. You can see the doubts on Ortega’s eyes. Of course. You’ve lied about everything else, why wouldn’t he think the worst of you.
You struggle against the restraints. Another pulse of pain.
“I must tell you none of us are enjoying this” he lies in a grave tone. You can sense how much he likes it. How many villains has he tortured here ? You can see now why they call him The Handyman. Just another sick bastard loose in Los Diablos. Is that why Argent wanted him for all along?
“Now tell me, why didn’t you return to the Special Directive?”
“I was… I… My contacts were killed. The army base was overrun by the Catastrofiend’s demons the next day. They ate the dead and i was assumed dead too. I had no way to contact them…” It hurts so much “By the time i got out of the jungle the operation’s timeframe was over. I… I tried to contact them. But I was afraid.”
“Afraid of what?”
“I had failed my mission. Failures don’t always get second chances.”
“Afraid to die?”
“Aren’t you programmed to give your life for your mission?” he asks
“I AM A REAL PERSON!” You scream in defiance. You choke as another pulse of pain engulfs you. You can see the looks on their faces. The Handyman, he just smiles.
“I see. So why a hero? Why didn’t you hide?”
"My mission was … My… " you cough heavily “My mission was to find the Catastrofiend. I thought… I thought if i could fulfill my mission, then i’d get a second chance.”
He goes on asking. He’s a real piece of work. Other interrogators would take breaks during something like this. He just enjoys doing this too much. You take your chances to start seek Eden. The telepathic inhibitors are not blocking your way to him… you just need a break to do what you need.
“So you want us to believe you escaped them twice” he goes on asking. It’s hard to follow his words and get Eden but you must focus on both. And resist the pain. That’s the easy part. The hardest part is standing their gazes. Specially Ortega’s. Why doesn’t he stop this???
“How did you do that? Didn’t they keep you under lock and key after the Hearbreak?”
You just hope he won’t go in there, but you realize he’s saving Hearbreak questions for later. To watch you squirm. He knows the effect those questions will have on you.
“They… were delighted. They were terrified of us escaping and spreading their secrets or causing havoc. Instead, when one of us breaks out, what happens ? They go on a personal quest to fulfill their objectives, capture their target, become a hero, save the city countless times and then take part in personally stopping an experimental weapon of mass destruction”
“The nanovores swarm yes. You are fond of them nanites we know… Tell me more aobut your second escape.”
“I was celebrated. They thought their programming was a success. They thought they could create people and then control them like puppets for as long as they wished. It was easier to escape once they believed I was incapable of resisting them…”
“Uhu” he nods. “You’ve made Ortega help you fight off the Special Directive. The rangers have seen more evidence of them around the city beyond just rescuing you. What are their plans?”
“I didn’t make him do anything! He’s immune to telepathy!”
“Oh yes we know that, but you are also beyond Alpha level, right? You told him yourself, there’s no telling what you could or not do”
Crap. You did tell him that. Was it you that created these doubts all along?
“You pretend to be dead. You don’t contact them when you break off. You steal from them. You posess them and make them fight each other. You attack them. You make them fall in love with you. And then you take one of them as your personal slave”
“I didn’t do anything to him!!!” You gasp, another pulse of pain.
“Well see about that” He asks, slightly unsure. He did expect you to confess to manipulating Ortega.
“What are your plans? What is the Special Directive doing in the city?”
“Go to hell, Handyman” This should ignite his fuse. A very short fuse at that too.
“Tsk Tsk… That’s not very nice.” He extends his hand to get another syringe. Crap no you don’t want him to do this… but it’s the only way. Ortega steps forward but Steel holds him. He says something and Steel And Argent talk to him. You can’t hear what they say… another pulse of pain comes.
The handyman doesn’t wait for them, and just injects you again.
You can hear yourself scream at the top of your lungs, no pretense right now.
“Oh gods no please make it stop!” you manage to form some words. It always scared you to think you could stand even more of this… your pain treshold is elevated beyond your own self-preservation instincts. Cuckoos are intended to goad their interrogators into killing them before revealing anything. Very nice people the Special Directive. You have to thank them for that some day.
“He’s killing him!” Ortega yells in the back
The Handyman turns and talks back at them. Now’s the time.
You start shaking as fast as you can, attempting to look out of yourself. You want them to think you’r having a seizure and there’s no reason for you not to have one right now. In fact a seizure should be just fine. Away from all this pain. You let your mind lock on Eden’s, and you travel to him.
“What is wrong mon cheri ? I came as fast as i could” It’s very late, and you had to call Mortum several times. He came to his lab at your request. “You look terrible!”
“It’s an urgent matter.” Eden speaks “Remember that favor my boss did to you?”
“Well he needs to cash in right now.”
“I’ll do my best… what does he need?” He does stress the word HE, finally getting to know something about your own real self. No matter, he will soon learn much more.
“How do you feel about donning your villain suit one last deed for old time’s sake?”
You stop your shaking. You are trying to keep a hold over your own body and Eden’s simultaneously. And you’r drugged. And in pain. It’s a lot of balls in the air. If this is a game you’r surprising yourself on how good you are at playing it.
Steel, Ortega and Argent are gone. It’s only the Handyman now. And you’r still waiting for the good cop. They really think you are a monster to leave you with him…
“Make… it stop… please” you say sobbing. It’s ok to cry now. It hurts too much you could have been crying the whole time, but right now it’s better. Makes your answers slower. Need to give Mortum some time.
“I’ll make it stop if you answer. We’ll have a break. Maybe we end this too… We need to know what your plan is. Why is the special directive in the city in such force?”
“They are here to bring… order. Their… order.” you mutter. You pretend to be completely broken by the drugs this time. Maybe pass on some information they can use, if you fail.
“What do you mean?”
“There is too much chaos on the west coast. The special directive was always meant to provide a solution.”
“What kind of solution?”
“They sought massive psychic power to control the massess. That backfired when Heartbreak went insane. They’ve scaled down since then. Not a few powerful telepath, but hundreds of them. They will come in and destroy all dissonant thought. They will make the west coast… an utopia. A place where… everyone is happy. and does as… the government says”
“What ?!” He Snaps.
You smile weakly.
“What… is the … matter ?” Do i not sound so bad right now?
"So if you are telling the truth then that’s why you stole the nanites. You’r planning to kill us all with another swarm and take them with you. That’s why you wanted to contribute to the chaos… you wanted to force them to act sooner he ponders.
Close but not quite so. Still this is probably all you can tell them that will help at all. You pretend to faint. You’r good at false faintings. Teamleader was the best at it tough. You just hope you can be as convincing as he was.
“THis is insane, i should have never agreed to this!”
“He used you Ortega. He’s manipulated you from the very beginning. He’s used all of us!” Argent shot back.
“So we torture him with the aid of that freak? He saved my life a dozen times!”
“He wasn’t saving you at the museum!” Chen interjected. “And he isn’t even human. He’s lied from the beginning!”
Steel takes a hand to his ear.
“What was it?” Argent asks.
"The technicians back at the Headquarters. i asked for them to check all of the footage they had on Side… Retribution…
“Back after the Hearbreak, they were really concerned about you specially Ortega. THey tell me they put wires on the office of the counselor you went to. And they’r still active. They have video on it when REtribution was there.”
Steel starts the video on his laptop, not waiting for Ortega to voice his mind about the wires. He fast forwards the important parts The video plays on. As it ends, they fall silent.
“I am going to put an end to this Ortega states.”
“Ortega…” Steel starts
“Don’t you try to stop me. You can see he’s telling the truth. And we’r torturing him. This is sickening”
“I… I meant to say i’m sorry” Chen continued. “I really thought he… No. Nevermind. Let’s just stop this right now”
“This is over! Ortega states as he enters. No more questions. I’m setting him free right now”
“What?” The Handyman turns to him
“You are a sick pervert. Stay out of my way before I do something you’ll regret” He says shoving him away. A few sparkles go off his fist.
“This is a mistake” he says standing back. “He’s keeping more stuff from us”
Ortega starts undoing your restraints. You can barely notice. Eden is giving instructions to Mortum on the phone. It’s easy to control him from the couch. A comfortable couch. Not a metal one.
“Ortega?” you mumble as you see his face. “What… is going on? It… hurts so much. Please make it stop” You’r crying or sobbing…
“It’s my fault. But it’s over. They won’t touch you again…”
“Thank… you” you simply state. You really don’t know what you’r saying on your own body. Too much attention on Eden. And your body feels like it’s submerged in lava. You’d rather be anyone else right now.
You feel you’r standing? Ortega’s carrying you. Mortum is near. This will be over soon. Eden gives him the cue. You struggle lightly as the pain comes back once more. You feel a pull … being in two places simultaneously. No one could train you to be two people at once. Ortega tries to hold you. Mortum is talking to you on the phone. Ortega is so pale… you wonder how do you look from his point of view. You answer Mortum’s joke.
“Everyone! Perimeter breach!” Steel yells suddenly. Too late. You smile. Or does Eden smile ? Another explosion. You and Eden seem to always be around them lately. You fall off to the side. But it’s Eden who tries to stand. Did he fall of the couch too? Fragments and debris everywhere. Eden thinks it was a missile surely. You… you think it must have been a laser weapon… the smell of smoke.
“They are down” Eden tells Mortum. “Now!”
The large Figure of Mortum’s mechanical suit enters trough the crack in the warehouse wall. HE’s followed by a small army of other smaller mechanical spider creatures. Robots.
“Rangers! So good to meet you again” He laughs. Mortum is really good at making entrances you think. Of course he is, Eden adds.
“I have been spying for a while and i’m so glad my surveillance paid off. You caught that thief stealing my technology for me”
“Get out right now or I will turn you to cinders” Steel aims his left cannon at him
“I’m afraid i can’t do that. He’s crossed a personal line of mine, Stealing that Suit. I have recovered it already while you were busy. I must say i wanted to torture him myself but you’ve gone above and beyond rangers” More laughter.
Steel shoots. A force-field deflects the blast before it hits Mortum.
“Get him my minions!” The spiderbots assault Steel. He draws an energy blade and begins fighting them back but there’s many of them.
Mortum aims his cannon at you. “Any final words, Retribution?”
“NO!” Ortega charges at Mortum, but the force field stops him as he did Steel’s weapon.
“My is it me or did this just get a bit personal Charge? You don’t tell me you have feelings for your victim here… But leave it to me to make it all right. You see when you torture someone, you have to kill them afterwards, or they get back at you in time.”
Argent runs at you, clearly intending to take you out of his sights. But she’s too slow. She won’t make it.
Eden is so ecstatic. Mortum is so imposing as a villain.You feel like a groupie… Wait. It’s him who feels like a groupie.
You stare at the gun’s barrel as Mortum begins to pull the trigger. Ortega stares at you in terror.
“I’m sorry. And I understand. This was inevitable” you simply say looking at him.
“Noooo!” He bangs on the forcefield.
White light. The disintegration ray. It hits you right on the chest. The Ephemorol was the worst pain you had ever felt. Right until this moment. You scream. it’s not instantaneous. Your whole body is consumed by light. You try to cover your eyes, but it’s impossible because your hands are made of light too. And then… darkness.
“Goodbye rangers. Enjoy the rest of the night!” Mortum laughs as he heads out, sending more robots to cover his escape and a few smoke grenades. Large portions of the ceiling begins to collapse as the rangers fight the robot spiders in the Handyman’s warehouse.
He’s gone. Ortega is kneeling next to the spot where Sidestep banished from existence.
“Don’t.” he just answers. “This is on me”
“It was me who suggested…”
“While I watched. I watched. We accused him of the worst things imagineable, dismissed what he told us and then we tortured him. And now he’s dead. For real this time.”
"I… " Steel’s words die out. He simply doesn’t know what to say.
“Steel… I quit. I can’t… i just… can’t…” He just walks away.
Argent approachs him but he just motions her to stay back. He heads to the door, and the outside.
The handyman holds a recording to steel. He just looks down. He hands it to Argent instead.
You feel a sense of unease. Where are you? Why is there no light anymore? Mortum didnt mention his beam hurt so much. It brought a new definition to you pain treshold.
You dont feel your body though you can sense minds. You wonder how. Is it possible to use your powers after being disintegrated ? How can you even think ?
You can catch glimpses of minds passing you by at great speed. WHERE ARE YOU?
You soon realize its not them that move its you. You are moving. Very fast. Trough the city. in a straight line. You have never done something like this but you feel that you can almost tell where in the city you are because you recognize some minds that seldom leave their homes. If you use them as landmarks… then… you are moving torwards … Mortum’s lab. Will teleportation hurt ? You are unafraid. Its strange but you cant properly feel your body, or your emotions either.
You feel a pull… your body is returning…
Something is wrong. There is a second pull, equally strong.
They both claim you…
Whatever it is you are right now.
You are splitting. You don’t know what that means There is nothing you can do about it.
It doesn’t hurt… but you feel yourself torn asunder. You try to hold but it’s useless.
Light. You are on the floor. In a room. Mortum’s lab. You feel your body. The beam worked. Everything hurts. The Ephemeorol is still going trough your veins. It hurts so much. You can’t stand.
Someone approaches. You feel him helping you up. You stare at him in disbelief.
“I think we need to lie down” Eden Smiles. “And then we can figure out which one of us is the real one.”
You just hope you’r not the real one. Everyone betrayed you, because you betrayed them. They tortured you. They think you a monster. A thing to be feared. It’s better not to look back.
“Thank you Eden” you attempt a pained smile in return. He helps you walk towards the bedroom. He’s awake. And you’r alive. It’s true what they say about Mortum. Impossible is what he does.
You wonder if you should even be alive at all. But you need to endure. At least for a while longer.
Retribution, is inevitable.