Bleeding now I’m
Crying out I’m
Falling down and I’m
Feeling nothing like
Laughing now I’m
Stopping now I’m
Reaching out and I’m
Yeah, you have created a rift within me
Now there have been several complications
That have left me feeling nothing
I might say, you were wrong to take it from me
Left me feeling nothing
Crawling now I’m
Beaten down I’m
Tortured now and I’m
Feeling nothing like
Hunting now I’m
Stalking now I’m
Reaching out and I’m
I can feel you ripping and tearing
Feeding and growing inside of me
I want this, more than you know
I need this, give it back to me
~ Numb (Disturbed)
Author’s Note: There is a lot of time jumping back and forth in this chapter in order to get the many viewpoints and events shown to mix in real time (while much of it happens concurrently). I hope I have included enough narrative bookmarks that it is clear to everyone what is happening when, where, and to whom. – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)
Leaping down from the tree and moving into the garden, the trooper took the C-4 out of his belt pouch. Snorting when he saw a pottery gnome, he headed right for it as he formed the clay-like explosive into a disc. The silly statue wouldn’t come off the ground without a fight, so he dropped to his knees to stick the explosive to its belt buckle. Carefully inserting the detonator with timer into it, he set it for twenty seconds.
The radio went off again when he patted the side of the red pointy hat, so he paused to answer the boss before starting the clock. “Sir?”
“New orders. Creed has stolen the antidote and I want it back. Abort the bombing attack. The antidote is in a small metal vial, easily concealed. Recover it, kill both Creed and the girl, and then meet us at the airfield. It’s time to take our business elsewhere.”
“Roger that, sir. Out.” Not in the mood to abort the bombing, he started the timer. A rumbling noise and vibration through the ground came up fast. “Whuh –?” He got one boot under him and turned his head to look into the woods at his shoulder.
Bursting from the trees in a shower of leaves and twigs, a huge motorcycle struck him as its front wheel lifted. He fell back and screamed as the rear wheel ran him over. The weight of it, and of Creed riding it, made it heavy enough to break his bones.
Creed set the motorcycle on its kickstand and strode over, yanked the gnome out of the ground, grabbed his military jacket in the other hand, and hauled him off to the street.
He tried to struggle, tried to grab Creed’s boot or the tire of a car as he was dragged past it. The mutant crouched down, set the statue aside, and placed his head on a forearm. Open-palmed, a hand smashed down, breaking his neck. He and the statue were picked up again. He couldn’t feel the twisted arm he was pulled by as he watched his broken legs skitter on the old gravelly asphalt.
Creed dropped him in the center of the narrow street and placed the gnome on its side over his outstretched broken arm. Grabbing a handful of jacket again, his enemy lifted his upper body and set his head on the gnome statue like a pillow.
“No! No, please, don’t –!”
Bonnie and Ruth jumped when an explosion sounded outside, rattling the windows in the sitting room.
“I think we need to move,” the older woman said, frowning at the large windows.
“Do you think Victor’s all right, Ruth?”
Ruth screamed when a soldier jumped through the window. “Bonnie, look out!”
The orders from Kalashnikov had been on their squad’s channel, but his intrepid firebug leader hadn’t been able to resist readying the weapon that Creed had used to kill him.
Kolya didn’t flinch when the bomb made a crater in his comrade’s corpse. Perched in another tree, he assumed command and called out his first order to whatever was left of them. “Occupy Creed out here. I’ll kill the girl inside. Be on the lookout for a small metal vial he stole – the big boss says it’s the antidote.”
Another trooper’s voice came over the radio and acknowledged, “Roger.” It was the only voice that answered.
Two of us left? Won’t matter – Fedor knows what he’s doing and Creed and his trollop are going to be just as dead.
Gripping his automatic rifle, Kolya crouched and jumped – shattering the glass as he landed in the room where Hale and the older woman were. When he landed, they started to scatter. He fired at both of them, filling the room full of holes.
“You’re just making it worse, bitch!”
Victor was rushing down a back hallway behind the lab to find a place where he could dump the contents of the cabinet when something inside it exploded and knocked him across the hallway. His raincoat, shirt, and bandana caught fire and the stink of the explosive was all too familiar.
Who tha fuck keeps C-4 in a lab? His impact had put a hole in the wall and knocked his hair out of the bun.
Stripping off the flaming clothing and cutting away a scorched lock of hair, he jumped to his feet. Claws took the twisted cabinet apart. Stomping on the fire through a sea of papers, he spotted a single metal vial and snapped it up. The label on it was scorched, but it was all he had.
It was still raining when he reached the motorcycle. He wanted to stay and kill them all, but the vial was Bonnie’s last chance. He growled when he saw a slick liquid leaking from the cap. Opening one of the saddlebags, he found a ragged black bandana and wrapped the vial into it before stuffing it into a front pocket of his jeans. Growling at the rain, he snagged a t-shirt from the saddlebag and threw it over his head.
Letting his hair get wet with the rest of him, Victor drove the Harley like a madman to reach the girl in time.
~ ~ ~
Finding more zombies playing soldiers on his property didn’t improve his night, but running their squad leader over with the motorcycle and then blowing him into pothole filler helped.
He had started running to reach the backstairs when he felt something burning his hip and thigh.
~ ~ ~
Bonnie screamed inside the house as glass shattered. Victor growled and raced up to find her as a soldier shouted, his automatic rifle firing at the women inside. A second asshole was harrying his footsteps, but he couldn’t scent any others.
Victor ran through the house. “Bonnie! Where are ya?”
Bullets peppered around him, none of them fast enough to hit. He headed for the main staircase, following the scent of her fear and the undead stench of her pursuer.
The grinning zombie behind him shouted out, “You should’ve just stayed in bed today, Creed, ‘cause I’m about to put you in a whole new world of hurt!”
Swallowed up by the darkness upstairs, Victor listened to him climbing up. With a hiss, he whispered, “Oh yeah?”
Bonnie had run into the bathroom in his suite, and Ruth had never gotten up the stairs. The tips of his ears twitched when he heard water rushing not far away – the tub was being filled.
Bonnie waited, breathless but ready to fight. Beside her, the tub was filling fast. Two soldiers were moving near the suite door, but only one entered.
“Just like a woman … run and hide in the bathroom.”
She heard the second one laugh, but then he moved farther away. Okay, one is better.
Gripping the can of hairspray she’d borrowed and Victor’s cigarette lighter, she managed not to scream when the soldier entered the bathroom and spotted her. She attacked immediately with the make-shift flamethrower and set him on fire. His scream helped ramp her up as she grabbed a towel and twisted it like a rope. She dropped it over his head, wound it around his neck, and used it to swing him off balance beside the tub. He screamed again as he fell into the water, his hideous weapon clattering on the tiled floor.
She didn’t allow herself to stop and think. They were monsters; they were trying to kill her, to kill Victor and Ruth. She picked up the hairdryer and its long cord and turned it on, holding it over the soldier.
Hands up to ward off her attack, he yelled, “You bitch! I’ll –”
Bonnie tossed it in on him and watched as it electrocuted him. The noise and the cries he made were awful and her heart was nearly pounding out of her chest, but she watched until he was dead. Leaning back a bit to get the full view of the mess she’d made of him, she let a little smile of triumph creep onto her face.
Something crashed through the tiled wall around the tub, and she jumped back to stand in the doorway. She was shocked to see the head of the other soldier sticking through the wall.
“Aaow! Geez, man, please, I already told you what you – hey – hey, what the hell’re you –? Don’t stick that up my –! Shit, that hurts! Oh, no – No, no, don’t, don’t –” His scream so close was horrid, but the machine gun going off behind him was worse. In moments, he was dead, his head hanging down over the electrocuted one in the tub.
Bonnie stepped outside of the bathroom and saw Victor dropping the machine gun as he entered the suite.
“Victor…” She rushed to him and they embraced. He kissed her with the same desperation she felt as she held his face gently in her hands. When he broke the kiss, they touched foreheads and held each other close. “I didn’t know if … if I’d see you again…”
“Hush, now. Hush,” he soothed her. “I told ya, Bonnie; I’ll keep ya with me. I’ll keep ya safe.”
She moved her hands to touch his heavily muscled shoulders and looked up into his strange and beautiful amber eyes, seeing the black cat’s eye pupils start to widen. “Promise?” she whispered.
His gruff voice smoothed into a soft raspy whisper as he answered, “I promise.”
Bonnie let out a sigh of relief. He turned her in his arms, rested his chin on her shoulder and wrapped his arms around her waist. She leaned her head back against his, feeling his long and loose wet hair as it fell around his shoulders. His clothes were wet, too, but nothing mattered now – she was safe in his arms.
Victor stepped out of the suite and found Ruth waiting in the hall. He left the door open behind him. “Ya will see t’ ‘er, Ruth?”
“Of course, Victor,” she answered, her tone soft and quiet. She followed him downstairs and stood in the formal diningroom to watch him leave.
He’d pulled on a black leather jacket, but hadn’t bothered to change clothes. It was still raining and he was already soaked. The rain hit him hard when he stepped outside at the backstairs.
~ ~ ~
The private airfield outside of East Irvington in upstate New York was quiet and mostly empty. Victor had tortured the location out of a man before bashing his head through a wall and shoving the nose of a machine gun up his ass.
A long hanger with many broken windows sported a few bright spotlights, but the building itself was dark. Out on the wide apron in front of it, a small tourist plane and a black helicopter were parked as the rain poured down.
The two dead men he was going to kill stepped out of the other end of the hanger and began to walk to the helicopter. They both carried cases and wore the same military gear as the others, but these were different – they were the ones from the lab, the scientists who had developed their own pet plague. When they began to speak, he could hear every word.
“I cannot believe how fast all this has gone to hell,” complained the Kung Fu-happy one. “When did Creed first show up, five hours ago?”
“I’m looking at it as a blessing, Cyril,” Doc Lab Coat replied.
Cyril frowned at him.
“I mean, yes,” he answered the sour look, “all of our bacteriological research was destroyed in the lab, and we’re set back for about six months … but I still have a photographic memory. We’ll recover.”
Victor lifted his sniper rifle to his shoulder and brought Lab Coat’s well-groomed and smiling face into sharp and close focus. He watched the man’s eyes as he spoke.
“And this time I think we’ll set up in Hawaii. Did you know native Hawaiian doesn’t have a generic word for ‘weather’? You know why it doesn’t? Because the weather there is always so fantastic, nobody feels the need to talk about it.” His smile stretched as the fantasy in his head amused him. “Some hula girls and a nice big margarita and all of this will be forgott – unnh!”
The report of the rifle echoed for effect as Victor’s finger released the trigger. The silencer had been tucked in his jacket pocket. He grinned as he watched the fool pitch forward, drop his case, and fall to the ground from the shot to his head. Moving fast through the hanger, he set up his next ambush – a far more personal one.
“Kalashnikov!” Cyril yelled. He whirled and spotted Victor as he stepped out of the dark doorway of the hanger they had emerged from before.
Leaning against the door jam as he held the rifle, smoke still billowing from its barrel, Victor tucked one hand in his jeans pocket and assumed an insultingly casual pose. “Coulda shot ya, too. Didn’t want t’. Know why?”
“No.” Cyril moved fast, drawing and firing an M-26 taser at him.
Victor dropped the rifle, caught the conductive wires and yanked them, jerking the gun from the man’s hand. “Cuz I’m goin’ t’ take ya apart – by hand.”
His enemy ran forward and tried another Bruce Lee kick to Victor’s outstretched arm. Victor moved in faster than Cyril could see, twisted his body, and struck him in the throat with an elbow. As he began to fall, Victor got a knee up and slammed it into the shoulder, throwing the man hard into the ground on his ass.
Victor dropped with him grabbing one arm under his. When he hit on his back behind the man, he gripped his own wrist with his other hand and snapped the elbow as he forced it back against his side.
The loud crack of bone and the agonized scream were satisfying, but Cyril fought to get away and rose before Victor could roll and attack again.
“Son of a bitch!”
Holding his injury, the hand hanging backward, he didn’t try any more martial arts moves. To Victor’s surprise, he bolted and began to run up a flight of stairs inside the hanger, heading for the roof. Even more surprising, mister tough guy started babbling almost childish threats at the top of his lungs as he went.
“Drop you on your head! Take you up, splatter out your brains! I will! I will! Just wait and see if I don’t –”
Victor raced after him, growling. Up on the roof, he slammed into him against a metal railing. A boot struck his and the man used Victor’s weight and forward motion against him again, redirecting his powerful lunge and swinging him down to his back.
Cyril was on him in an instant, laughing. “Here’s a thumb in your eye!”
Victor roared in pain but ignored the injury; the moment the man moved his hand to try hurting him again, the eye began to heal. “So ya … brought tha taser … thought that would stop me…?”
Intent on trying to choke him, Cyril didn’t notice when he groped at his jacket pocket and pulled out a huge syringe. Using a thumb, Victor flicked the cap off of the huge10 gauge needle.
“Well … I brought somethin’ fer ya, too.”
“Huh?” Cyril exclaimed as Victor pushed up fast, dislodging his chokehold.
“Was gonna use garden variety sulfuric acid…”
As he threw him over onto his back instead, Victor stabbed the needle up Cyril’s nose and slammed the plunger down. Rolling away from him, Victor sat up with one hand on his thigh and watched his handiwork as Cyril writhed and gurgled.
“But when I saw that shipment of acetic anhydride in the warehouse, well … I figured, why do things halfway?”
The man convulsed until the hellish chemical began to bubble and pour back out of his nose. Smoke rose from the head when the body went still.
Distracted by the sound of helicopter blades beginning to rotate and spin, Victor jumped up onto his feet and looked across the roof. The black helicopter was taking off, with scientist Kalashnikov, the brains of it all, at the controls.
Glaring at it, his eyes narrowed to amber slits in the pouring rain. “No.” Growling, he started to run. “Not a chance.” He raced to the other end of the roof and launched himself off of it, smashing through the glass windows of the helicopter into the cockpit.
“Mother of God!” Kalashnikov screamed.
The helicopter caught fire and went into a smoking spin before crashing to the ground with the tail of it almost broken in half. The rotors chewed up the concrete apron before they stopped, and then the smashed wreck slowly settled with a grinding squeal as fire consumed it.
They’d been thrown from the helicopter as it went down, but Victor recovered faster. Targeting Kalashnikov as he crawled on his belly away from the flaming pieces of his escape transport, Victor jumped and landed on either side of the scientist’s legs. His hand grabbed the back of the skull and slammed the man’s face into the concrete. One of his claws found the divot his bullet had made in the man’s head.
Growling, Victor ground his face down harder, scratching it up. “Ya just keep still fer a bit.”
Kalashnikov tried to speak and Victor allowed him to turn his head as he began to mumble, “At least … tell me … did you do it? Did you stop the plague? Did you … save your girlfriend?”
Victor lifted his head and stared off into the night. The images, their voices, her scent … took him back where he didn’t want to go.
~ ~ ~
He had started running to reach the backstairs when he felt something burning his hip and thigh. Snatching at the black bandana he’d wrapped the metal vial in, he yanked it out of his jeans pocket. Whatever had been in it was reacting to the heat it had been subjected to when the cabinet exploded.
Black and bubbling, it burned through the stopper cap as he watched. It dissolved the bandana and burned his fingers before he dropped it on the concrete curb. As the dark sludge cut a hole in the curb, his burns healed – but his hope was gone. He had frozen, staring at it, until he heard Bonnie scream.
He had run to her and they had killed the last two soldiers together. Smart, resourceful, thinking fast on her feet in the face of an undead man with an ugly weapon – she had made a plan and killed him with it. She was magnificent – but he still had a promise to keep.
Victor let his claws prick into Kalashnikov’s scalp, but the points barely scratched him. He drew in a ragged breath and heard again the last words they’d spoken to each other.
I’ll keep ya with me, he told Bonnie as they had embraced. I’ll keep ya safe.
Promise? she asked.
I promise, he told her. He had meant it, just as much as the first time. He had wanted to protect her from fear, from pain. In the end, there had been only one way to do it.
Gently, he had turned her to put her back against his chest. For a few breaths, drunk on her scent, he had held her close, arms circled around her waist. He could hear the blood pounding in her temples, racing through her veins. Her heartrate was accelerating. She drew in a breath as he moved his hands. When she let the breath out in a contented sigh, he snapped her neck.
She sagged against him, dead in seconds.
He caught and held her, a broken whine escaping from clenched teeth.
Outside the door, he heard movement and growled – but the footsteps on the stairs and coming down the hall were too light. Ruth.
The soldier he’d tortured had told him about the private airfield and the plan to meet there and escape. His growl deepened. He couldn’t allow that – they had to pay.
Victor picked Bonnie up in his arms and laid her down carefully on the couch. One hand stroked her golden curls … and a claw cut one of them away. He caught it before it fell to the couch. Barely able to process why, he cut another one and rose.
When he went to open the door and stepped out, the golden curling hair had been contained – in a clear crystal box on the mantel.
He shut the door softly. “Ya will see t’ ‘er Ruth?”
“Of course Victor.”
The rain hit him hard when he stepped outside at the backstairs. He had half-stumbled down them to get to the concrete walkway where no one would see. Her voice pursued him, even after he struck himself in the head to silence it.
This, what we did tonight – this was real. Wasn’t it?
A savage hatred burned in his veins and drove him down to his knees. One hand fell to the dark burn over a jeans pocket.
I had it, I brought it t’ save ‘er, but tha fire ruined it – a fire I set. She wanted t’ go away … with me… He was covered with her scent, could still feel how she had touched him… Confusion twined with the hate, hating himself so intensely that it was hard to breathe.
In the brownstone, she had held her hand out to him, entreated him to believe her.
I’m telling the truth … you know that, don’t you?
His hands held his skull, trying to crush it to stop the voice. Hot hate and cold pain filled him. Back arching, he had roared … but he had little memory of how he had struggled up, how he had gotten … here.
“No … I didn’t save ‘er,” Sabretooth answered Kalashnikov. He snarled and pushed down harder, grinding the side of his face into the cracking concrete. “Tha antidote was destroyed in tha lab explosion.” His prey shuddered and slumped, close to passing out. “Don’t get too comfortable, Doc; we’re goin’ on a trip.”
~ ~ ~
Victor watched the Atlantic swallow the horizon as the jet swooped lower over the waves. When he stood, he smoothed the jacket of his gray suit and straightened the white silk tie. His long hair was wound tight in a bun at the nape of his neck again. Winding it up and trying to banish the memory – the feel – of delicate fingers … had been almost more than he could do and still stick to his plan.
He knew when his guest was beginning to wake and moved through the cabin to reach his chair. The man moaned, struggling. His wrists were bound behind his back.
“Good mornin’,” Victor greeted him. He watched as the man looked down and saw why he couldn’t move his legs – they were buried halfway up the calf in a black plastic tub full of solid concrete. Listening to it harden as he cleaned up and changed into the suit had helped him stay focused and calm.
Kalashnikov’s fear stench burst around him. “Oh my God … oh my God…” Whipping his head to the side to stare up at Victor, he began to beg in a growing desperate panic. “Creed, don’t kill me! You can’t kill me! I can – I can give you details! How we did it, where all the money is, everything! I know it all!”
Victor moved to sit in the chair across from him and leaned his forearms on his thighs. His fingers steepled as he stared at them, head down, listening.
“Creed, I can cut you in on the deal! We’ve made billions already! Just – just let me live! I can set it all up again, it’s a gold mine, just … please, I’m begging you… I’m begging you … please don’t kill me…”
Without looking up from his hands, he spoke in a calm, low voice. “Kalashnikov, there is exactly one reason I mighta ever had t’ not kill ya.” Taking a breath, he let it out slow. “An’ that reason died in my arms ‘bout four hours ago.” He lifted his head, reached for his sunglasses on the next seat beside him, and put them on. “Had t’ snap ‘er neck, so she wouldn’t die in fear an’ pain. Last thing I’m gonna do is let ya set up shop again an’ live t’ enjoy any damn thing. Also, want ya t’ know – got one o’ yer boys t’ talk already an’ he had a lot t’ say, includin’ tha name o’ yer offshore bank. I happen t’ know tha owner – hell, we practically share a hairbrush. Now ain’t that a kick.” He rose smoothly to his feet. “Time t’ go.”
From under the seat, behind the tub, he hauled out a thick chain and wrapped it tight around Kalashnikov’s body several times, looping it through and around his bound arms as well.
He ignored the begging and curses as he went to open the clamshell door with its built-in airstairs. The wind played havoc with his hair but the pilot had had plenty of practice with this maneuver and kept the jet at a perfect speed and low altitude over the roiling waves.
Pulling the scientist’s body over one shoulder, he picked up the tub of cement as if it weighed nothing. He set it down on the last step, paid out the end of the chain and held it in one hand. With adept precision, the pilot began to roll the jet slightly, until the chain snapped taut and only it and the curved lip of the last stair kept the man from falling. Legs braced in the open doorway, Victor’s other hand held onto the metal frame, careful not to crush it.
“Just so ya know, tha chemical cocktail I poured down yer throat while ya were unconscious will ignite as soon as salt water touches it. Burn ya out from tha inside. I figure ya got ‘bout five minutes, tops.”
“No … no…”
The hand holding the chain shifted, claws popping to slice the thick steel links like paper. “Rot in hell.”
Kalashnikov screamed all the way down until his body plunged into the waves, driven in by the weight of the cement. When he disappeared, Victor brought the door back up and sealed it as the jet leveled out.
He returned to his seat, leaving the sunglasses on in the bright glare through the window. One palm smoothed his windblown hair.
“Mr. Creed?” Zane called. “Are we still returning to the airfield?”
“Yeah.” He lifted his hand, elbow on the arm of the chair. Staring at the claws that had cut the chain, he swallowed down all the rest and tried to lock it away deep. “Been a long night – long night. It’s time I got back t’ work.”
Author’s Note: Cyril comments that Creed may have shown up five hours ago. I personally think it was longer than that, and earlier in the comic when Victor first stole Bonnie from them, they said they had sixteen hours until the plague Bonnie carried would be released.
The antidote’s vial was described but never shown, and in the comics Victor just says it was destroyed in the lab fire. I’ve altered that a little so that it might make a bit more sense (I hope). I felt that it was more intense for Victor to rush back thinking he had a cure for Bonnie, only to discover at the last minute that the fire had destroyed it. There are all sorts of chemicals and such that react to extreme heat, but I didn’t see the point in trying to invent what the antidote was (or the science behind the engineered plague bioweapon, for that matter).
The idea that Victor, so often motivated by greed, would just willingly pass up taking the billions these men made seemed odd to me. Obviously, he was too enraged by them to take Kalashnikov up on his final offer. Basically, I just wanted Victor to have that money. Having invented a powerful international bank that Victor helped build with his partner Obinata, and the fact that they often cater to criminal clients, made my embellishment at the end of this chapter easy – Obinata can just move Kalashnikov’s money over to his and Victor’s accounts. Victor’s joke about he and Obinata “sharing a hair brush” is a line I altered and borrowed from James Bond in Live and Let Die, in reference to his friendship with Quarrel Jr. – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)