There were currently five people you never wanted to meet in the world: The Mother, Overlord, Cain the Torturer, Angela Goodrum, and Slim Jim. The reasons to fear them were many and varied, but ultimately they didn’t matter. At the end of the day you ran in the opposite direction from them if at all possible.
The Mother was supposedly an ancient Germanic goddess. The kind that demanded bloody human sacrifice. The kind that inspired neo-Nazis. The kind that had thrown back the might of the Roman legions from the dark forests of central Europe. Stark raving mad, she shared that insanity with anyone who went near her dwindling forests.
Overlord was a notorious war criminal originally hailing from Serbia. He’d worked for various dictators across the world before deciding he liked having power for himself. The man was brilliant, one of the greatest techies the world had seen, but that didn’t lend itself to benevolence. He’d gone to ground the last time he’d been ousted from the nation he’d been currently terrorizing. In this case this meant a full NATO coalition force ousted him from Iraq in the late nineties.
Cain the Torturer was a normal guy with no powers. He had no relation to the Cain of the Bible, Cain was just the only name he responded to. Because if you are crazy, you might as well go the whole nine yards. The media dubbed him Cain the Torturer as a result. He liked causing pain. There was no reason behind it, he just snapped one day, killed his family, and started a rampage across the US. The government currently held him in an undisclosed super-max prison, while lawyers debated the death penalty for him.
Angela Goodrum was the pseudo head of the De Beers cartel. You didn’t mess with De Beers, or you would vanish from the face of the Earth without a trace. No one knew for certain if she had some sort of mentalist power, though it was considered likely. She would only meet with you if you had displeased her, hence why you never wanted to meet her in the first place. Angela currently lived in South Africa, where De Beers was headquartered.
Slim Jim was a mercenary. He’d gone solo after being kicked out of Lock Corp. for ‘unprofessional conduct’. Lock Corp. was well known as the most immoral major mercenary company, taking jobs that violated a plethora of international laws and conventions, so getting kicked out meant that his methods were probably awful for all involved. He currently stood in front of Miya.
This day was awesome until just now. Miya and her team had pulled off a nice armored car robbery, an important step for any criminal gang, despite some interference from the police and the Arizona Watch. They had made good their escape and retired to their ad hoc base: an out of the way garage attached to a house that the gang used as a hideout after the occasional major robbery. Then, without any warning or reason given, Slim Jim attacked.
It was that time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it wasn’t blisteringly hot outside. Miya’s grandmother would have chided her for being weak in the face of the heat of summer. “It was far hotter in Mexico, this is nothing. The northerners have made you weak.” Amusingly enough, grandmother had been brought by her own parents from Mexico sometime in the early twentieth century. Grandmother had spent most of her life in the States.
Miya’s full name, Miyahuatl, marked her as an Aztec. Aztecs were somewhat second rate citizens in the US; though that was improving as Cuauhtémoc became less belligerent, Miya could admit as much. Cuauhtémoc hadn’t been doing Aztec ex-pats any favors in the past, even though Miya’s family had fled Mexico because of his autocratic regime. He’d maintained a sort of proxy war with the US (and the Soviets, to a lesser extent) in Central America since the end of WWII, turning American public opinion against people like Miya. At least he finally stopped all human sacrifices in the seventies. That was a plus.
Grandmother had been too proud to work for any American, Miya’s parents had resigned themselves to a life of destitution. Miya took another option. Magic came easily to her. She found her specialty in biology, bones to be specific. She had power, she wasn’t going to sit idly while life passed her by while she controlled it.
Miya started with stealing food, money to pay the bills, things like that. Eventually a local magician named Don offered to teach her more of magic (she’d been working it out by herself), but for a price. The monetary kind. Demons were the only ones who used souls as a resource; they had a controlling interest in the soul market and didn’t appreciate mortals trying to muscle into their business.
She’d joined up with a small local gang, the Scorpions, to help pay for the ever increasing costs of lessons. Which isn’t to say the lessons weren’t worth it. Miya learned far more from Don than she had by trial and error. She’d even begun to like some of the gang members, but they were all dead now. Slim Jim killed them. Stop it with the info dump. Focus on the matter at hand.
The matter at hand was a tall man in only a pair of desert camo pants. He was thin and without any body hair that Miya could see. As in, no hair anywhere, on the head or anywhere else. He had almost no body fat, and his skin had no blemishes. No tattoos, freckles, or anything else. Except for the tentacle extending from beneath the skin of his upper arm, wrapped around Thomas’s neck. He stared at her without expression, snapping Thomas’s neck.
Miya tried to reform her golem, smashed when defending against Slim Jim’s attack. It happened fast. One moment Miya and Thomas were grabbing the alcohol while three more gang members unloaded the truck they had loaded the money into. Without warning Slim Jim’s tentacles tore open the garage door and entered the eyes of the three at the truck.
The tentacles weren’t really tentacles, they had no suckers, but Miya didn’t know what else to call them. They were two to five inches in diameter, green, wrinkly, and strong, as evidenced by what they did to the metal garage door. They emerged from any part of Slim Jim’s skin, more accurately from beneath. So far as Miya or anyone else knew, the only limiting factor to their numbers was how much skin Slim Jim had. No one knew how long they could get, it wasn’t as though Slim Jim sat down to discuss the limitations of his power.
Miya and Thomas went into combat mode before they realized who they were dealing with, Miya’s bone golem activating while Thomas opened up with his uzi. Slim Jim calmly walked forward, two more tentacles emerging to deal with the golem. Several bullets hit him in the chest.
Immediately several small tentacles emerged to cover up the wounds. They then turned back into skin, and it was as if he was never injured in the first place. He tore the gun out of Thomas’s hand while the rest of the tentacles grappled with the golem swinging a bone club at him.
Golem was the term for anything magically animated. Miya’s was made of bones, hence the name. She’d had to steal the bones from rendering plants and slaughterhouses. The result was an ever shifting mass of random cow bones, connected with the red ribbons of her power. They were cow bones for several reasons: they could get big, they were easily found at rendering plants, and bones of sentient species were magically…volatile. Miya had even thrown in a couple cow skulls to up the freaky factor.
“It’s Slim Jim. RUN!” Thomas screamed to Miya, right before a tentacle grabbed him by the neck. The tentacles were shattering the bones of Miya’s golem.
“I rigged that door to explode the moment it opens. It won’t kill you, just like I won’t kill you, Miya,” said Slim Jim without inflection. The golem was down, its components scattered. The tentacles receded back into Slim Jim, save the one wrapping itself around Thomas’s neck.
So there they stood, Thomas about to die, Slim Jim watching, and Miya trying desperately to figure out what was going on. He’s gonna kill me the second I turn my back now, doesn’t matter if he’s lying about the door. I can’t go toe to toe with this guy. Fuck it, I’m not gonna die without a fight.
“What do you want with me?” she asked to buy time. The golem was slowly coming back together, this time more under her control. Thomas’s neck snapped.
“Overlord would like to meet with you,” he said. Fuck me. She remembered Overlord’s old name, when he worked for dictators, rather than being one himself: Slave Driver. You are going to kill me before I go to him. I’m trying my chances with the door.
The golem, now reformed enough to be mildly useful, lunged at Slim Jim, while Miya bolted for the door. Slim Jim turned to face the golem, unconcerned. Did that seriously just work? She pushed open the door, heard an additional click, then the world went black.
Miya slowly regained consciousness. She could not however, move any part of her body. She knew it was there, but attempting to move anything resulted in nothing.
Feeling slowly returned to her, and with it, pain. Primarily her face, though her hands, gut, and left leg hurt as well. She cracked open her eyes, that much she at least could do, and was promptly blinded by the light. She tried to speak, but the words came out as more of a burble than anything intelligible. Wha…?
Her eyes slowly adjusted, and Miya took the time to fight the chemically induced mental fog and assess what might be happening. Slim Jim attacked…for some reason. Door…was rigged. Most of the rest of the gang was in the house, they’re probably dead too. Miya couldn’t really bring herself to care. Thomas had been alright, but the rest were shortsighted and violent. Slim Jim wanted to…capture me? Maybe? Where the fuck am I?
Her eyes adjusted enough to make out what she took to be a small hospital room without windows. Everything was white, sterile, and utterly still, save for the machine she was hooked up to, monitoring her vital signs. She herself lay in a typical hospital bed. There was a closed door in front of her, no distinguishing features on it. A black orb on the ceiling directly above her signified a camera. Grey metal cabinets lay to her right, closed, with no hint of exactly what lay inside them.
She tried to raise her hand to get up, but found she was strapped to the bed. Oh this is just great. Just fucking splendid. I’m in some medical horror movie, after having just been attacked by Slim Jim of all people. Grandmother is laughing at me from hell right now, vindictive bitch that she is. She squirmed, not expecting to find any way to get out, but attempting none the less. Nope, good and tight.
She took stock. She could see that everything was still attached, she wasn’t feeling any phantom sensations from missing limbs. Though the left side of her face, besides feeling pain, felt odd. Almost numb. Plastic. Shit, shit, shit, shit. What did that door bomb thing do? There was no mirror in sight for her to check. She reached for her magic, and immediately felt a severe spike of pain in her head. She screamed in spite of herself.
She lay in the bed, panicking for a few minutes, when the door opened and a doctor in scrubs walked in, clipboard and all. A surgical mask covered his face, and a pair of glowing orange goggles covered his eyes. Not reassuring.
“Ah, you’re awake! Good,” he said before Miya could formulate anything to say. He continued, “Slim Jim dropped you off here two months ago, in pretty bad shape. Overlord was…less than pleased, shall we say? Though he was pleased the equipment he gave him worked.” He opened a cabinet, blocking the interior from Miya’s view with his body, and rummaged within.
“We actually had a bet going on, whether you would make it or not. A good chunk of your face was blown off; Doc Brown had to rebuild it. Did a good job too, I’ll give him that,” he nattered on cheerfully as he prepared a syringe full of a grey liquid. Fuck this. Fuck, fuck, FUCK.
“What is that?” asked Miya, her voice shaking.
“This? Oh, this.” He held up the syringe. “This here is full of nanites that should help your body adjust to the implants, rather than rejecting them. Designed them myself, with some help from Overlord. Last dose for you too. You should be good after this one. We could have used an automated machine, but I prefer a more personal touch.”
He looked at her. In a somewhat exasperated tone he said, “Yes, implants. Overlord has been wanting to incorporate magic into his technology, see if there was any way for it to be controlled. The only way we know to control magic so far is through people. A contact of Overlord’s in Arizona tipped us off about you, said you were very strong. Now hold still, unless you want to be sedated again.”
She thrashed wildly. I’m leaving now. He sighed. “Look, without this you might die. We don’t cause needless pain here.”
She stopped at the sheer stupidity of the statement. He took the advantage and stuck the syringe into her arm and depressed the plunger. “There. See? Didn’t hurt a bit. And we could have kept you awake for most of your twenty five surgeries. We kept you under instead.” This guy is a sociopath.
He looked around the room conspiratorially before leaning over her by the bed. “Now, before testing, I should probably explain the implants a little better. Using other test subjects, the research team determined that magic is activated from a certain portion of the brain. A chip was developed that should allow us to control the magic of someone without restraint when placed on the frontal lobe.”
“This chip functions as a sort of receiver for commands to the rest of the implants. For example, if you were trying to escape this facility, when you passed a certain point, the chip receives a command to shut down all of your organs, done through other devices. We could have had it explode, but that chip already holds some key data we would like to retrieve at some point. Of course when I say we, I mean us at the medical division. Magic is not quite our forte, if you will.” He sounded awfully chipper about everything. Miya, for her part, was desperately trying to keep herself from imagining exactly how they did all of this.
“Now, we know that your kind of magic occasionally requires you to maintain contact with your hands, so we put regulators of sorts in them. Apparently magic is a certain kind of energy. To be perfectly honest I don’t know the specifics.” He began unstrapping her. “Another note, if you try anything, Control up there,” he motioned to the camera, “can paralyze you, painfully. You felt it already. But enough talk, you’ve been sitting in a bed for over two months. Let’s see if you can walk, shall we?”
He held his hand out to help her up. It took all of her willpower to not faint, to scream, to fool herself into believing he was bluffing. I am going to kill everyone involved with this. EVERY LAST ONE!
The tests were less than successful, so they sold her to Freedom Fighter’s organization. A less than perfect prototype unit, they called her. Doctor Orange was almost apologetic about the fact, as if in that, and only that, he had wronged her. If you overlooked the mad scientist aspects and the complete lack of human empathy, he could be considered quite friendly. He actually wished her luck as he oversaw the exchange between Freedom Fighter’s people and Overlord’s. I will make that fucker pay.
Initially they made sure she could function, like walking unassisted, eating solid foods without vomiting, and regain at least some dexterity in her hands. Then they started their testing, which consisted of making sure the various devices in her worked. Now that she was conscious, they could refine the…things…that filled every nerve she had with agony. She’d felt the worst it had to offer when she snapped and attacked a technician within arm’s reach. Now it oscillated between an annoying buzz and agony when activated.
Those were nothing compared to the clumsy attempts by the scientists to control her power. She imagined having a stroke was similar to the experience of someone forcibly extracting an otherworldly force using her and her brain as the conduit. They couldn’t control what the magic did, not nearly as well as she could, but they didn’t appreciate her trying to do anything on her own. The fact they couldn’t control it was apparently a major disappointment.
Internally, Miya frothed at the mouth to hurt someone, in fact, several someones. Don, for selling her out, the only other magician she had ever met, the only one who could know exactly how powerful she was. The color coded doctors, for experimenting on her in the first place. Overlord, for enabling them (she never saw the man). Freedom Fighter, for buying her and giving her to Sanchez as a weapon. And finally, Sanchez, for being Sanchez. But she would wait. Let them think they have me under control. I’ll find a way.
After she had been purchased, Overlord’s people threw a bag over her head and shoved her in a car with Freedom Fighter’s people. After a long drive over a miserable dirt road, they came to a stop and shoved her in a plane. A small one by the sound of it, and by how any amount of turbulence sent her bouncing in her seat. Despite this she drifted in and out of sleep. After a couple hours they landed and transferred to a larger, better plane. They finally took the bag off her head in the dead of night. She saw only stars out the window, nothing on the ground.
They landed once again, as the sun came up to the left. She spent her time at a low end hotel in Venezuela, more specifically the middle of goddamn nowhere, so far as Miya could tell. They kept her prisoner there for three days, during which she nursed her hatred. They didn’t watch her closely, but then again they had the kill switch with them, running would very probably result in nothing but suffering. Overlord’s equipment had a very long range.
Then they packed her into another plane. Oh, no bag over the head this time. It must be Christmas. More flying, more driving, more sleeping for lack of anything better to do. The gentlemen accompanying her on the plane ignored her, save one. Her Spanish wasn’t the best, but she picked up the name Sanchez. She didn’t like the way he smiled when he looked at her. Even the other men seemed a little nervous around him. As well, he had a crude sort of telekinesis, making him the leader.
Freedom Fighter’s organization seemed to operate on might makes right on the combat level. She saw nothing of the actual brains behind everything. They didn’t truly fight for an ideal, only anarchy. This did not attract the best humanity had to offer. Sociopaths, rogue mercenaries, the odd lunatic, the dumb and illiterate, those were the ones Freedom Fighter used as cannon fodder.
They finally arrived at night in an abandoned runway where several cars awaited them. Miya caught sight of several signs telling them they entered Westward City. At least I’ll speak the language here. They drove to what appeared to be a district composed mainly of abandoned buildings, lots of homeless and few lit buildings. Graffiti everywhere.
Miya settled into their new building. This was easy, as she possessed absolutely nothing now. They showed her the room and tossed a prisoner jumpsuit at her, one that had seen better days. No need to spend money on little old me. Her room was devoid of anything beyond a bed with a disgusting mattress and stained sheets. Half the light bulbs were burnt out, and too much grime caked the window to be able to see through it. Naturally, the hot stream of the shower of the attached bathroom read cold, and the cold read hot.
No sooner had she taken in her new surroundings then Sanchez filled the doorway, remote in hand and an evil smile on his face. “Let’s see what this can do.” He pressed a button and Miya’s pain receptors lit up. She screamed. He chuckled. “Ah, too easy!” He pressed another button and the pain stopped. “I don’t need a machine to do my work for me.” Miya crawled up to the bed, sitting upright and panting, regaining composure.
Sanchez continued, “You know what I want. You’ll open your legs to me, willingly once I’m done with you. I bet you got a good bit of fight in you, but you’ll give in willingly.” With that he left.
And so it was for the next three weeks. Sanchez randomly entered her room at night and beat the tar out of her. At the end, he would ask if she was willing then. Her response varied between a shook head and spitting. He treated it like a game, never using the control device from Overlord.
The one time she fought back, throwing a punch in desperation, he caught her arm and twisted. Just twisted for five minutes, going further every time she adjusted to the pain. She fantasized about all the ways she could kill him. Better than contemplate giving in, though the thought had crossed her mind. I will not be some damsel or delicate flower in need of healing. If you do not kill me, I will kill you.
The rest of the fighters usually ignored her completely, and there was no one else in the building. Sometimes the bastards forced her to do magic tricks for their amusement, procuring bones so they could force her to use her power, just because they could. They were lax in their security, talking openly in front of her, though she was technically confined to the floor her room was on. She heard them talking about the latest exploits of Freedom Fighter, about how they were going to bring down the pigs of America, and other nonsensical drivel.
One day, about two and a half weeks in, she overheard them say something about a feral. That’s never good. Though she had to stop herself from laughing when they mentioned Freedom Fighter lost his arm to it. It was a demon with glowing eyes and everything? Jesus, you guys are idiots.
So another night, and Sanchez walked in once more, doing his thing once more, when the lights went out. Sanchez stopped, tossed her on the bed, and stood by the door, observing that the lights were out in the hallway as well. He pulled out his phone. “Damn thing, work. There was reception five minutes ago.”
He returned and watched Miya, who watched back warily. Neither spoke. No signals, no electricity. There’s something weird going on. They both heard noises come from the hallway. Sanchez walked out again, and yelled, “What the fuck are you doing here?” Fuck yeah, other people.
Miya hesitantly reached for her magic, nothing blocked her. She hurriedly reached for some of the nearby bones and rushed towards where Sanchez had gone. Sanchez was trying to run, Miya threw herself at him, taking out two months of accumulated fury on him, screaming something incoherent. The bones drew closer. She hit his knee to bring him down to her level.
Sanchez threw her off him with his power and attempted to get upright. She regained her feet first, kicking him square in the face. The bones were in arms reach now, she grabbed the broken one with the point and shoved it into Sanchez’s throat. Drown in your own blood, you son of a bitch. She meant to say that, but it came out as another scream.
“Whoa, calm down now. He’s dead. Get up and drop the bone,” said a distorted voice. Miya had forgotten the other people, the ones she assumed had enabled her current near freedom. She dropped the bone, released the others, and turned. There were two others in the hall with her.
The first, the one who had spoken, pointed a pistol at Miya’s chest. She looked like a somewhat smaller than average riot cop, without the shield. The mask and helmet explained the voice, which said, “I’m guessing you aren’t with Freedom Fighter.” No shit I’m not.
The one behind the cop was a feral. Far taller than Miya or the other, with wings and claws. I can see where they got the demon angle from. No glowing eyes though.
Miya might as well see if they were hostile too. “You’re that feral people’ve been talking about. Tore off Freedom Fighters arm. I’m guessing you two ain’t with him either.” Then, to Miya’s eternal shame, her strength gave out and she collapsed.
The feral moved forward. Don’t eat me. Instead it helped her up, asking, “Do you have a name?”
…Huh. “Just call me Miya.”
“I’m Olivia,” said the feral. “That is Delta.”
Miya nodded. “Thanks for the save. You two wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with everything electrical going all wonky over here, would you?”
“Yes, why?” said Delta.
“Well, Overlord did some experiments with me. Got a kill switch that will be activated once things return to normal in me that I would like out.” Miya did not want to talk about Overlord, but her freedom would be short lived if something wasn’t done about the devices controlling her.
“Oh shit. Overlord? You’re lucky not to be a brain in a box right now.” Delta poked her head into Miya’s room and guided her to the bed.
“I think that’s what they wanted to do originally. Good thing they don’t know much about magic,” said Miya, sitting down at Delta’s gesture. The feral, Olivia, followed. Delta pulled out a smaller version of the wands they use at airport security, then paused.
“Hey Olivia, remember that thingy I gave to you for the roof? Go and turn it off. Bring it back down with you too.”
Olivia nodded and left. Did she just boss around the feral? I wouldn’t run the risk of pissing her off if I were Delta. Delta asked Miya, “So what do you know about what Overlord did to you? I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to do anything, but anything you can give me will help.”
“Chip in my brain, I’d rather you not go poking around with that right now. They told me everything was set up to ruin my organs, my heart I think. Wires to pain receptors, keep me in line. Some stuff in my hands, to regulate magic.”
“Magic, huh? Wait…there. She got it.” Miya stopped herself from reaching for magic again. Don’t give the system a reason to screw me. Delta waved the wand over Miya’s upper body a couple times, then put it away. She tapped her helmet, “Come on…and done.” Delta remained quiet for a couple seconds. “All right. I think I can stop it from killing you, and back at base I can disable the rest of it. But it’s going to hurt.” She pulled out a combat knife about as long as her palm.
Olivia chose that time to return, metal spike in hand. She eyed the knife and hesitantly asked, “Delta, what’s the knife for?”
“So Miya here doesn’t die once Freedom Fighter’s people come back. Come here.” She turned to Miya. “Lay on your back on the bed. There’s a wire to cut in you. Olivia, hold her down, no matter what.”
Olivia’s eyes widened, and she hesitated. Delta said, “Now. Trust me.” This is going to suck. Miya laid down, and felt a sudden shock, knocking her unconscious.
She came around again, a portion of her back on fire. Olivia and Delta were arguing elsewhere in the room.
Olivia was saying, “…don’t think you should do that without telling them first.”
“Hey, it’s over with. If she’d have been conscious there was a good chance something stupid would happen, like her twitching and me cutting something important.”
“I’m still not OK with it.” They stopped as Miya groaned and sat upright, hands seeking out where Delta cut, near her left shoulder blade. I’ve gotten through worse. There was a gash on her back, covered by a bandage of some kind, Miya couldn’t see it. Please be clean. She began to reach for magic when everything started hurting again.
Olivia was beside her, Delta not long after. Miya waved them off. “Forgot. Can still hurt, just won’t kill now. Still can’t get magic,” she managed through gritted teeth. Fuck, knife wounds hurt.
Delta said, “Alright, Nomad and Skulker will be here in about five minutes. The other men are still tied up, so once we’re all clear we call the cops and let them do their thing.”
“Good, where are they? I’m going to go kill them,” Miya said, getting up and shakily walking towards the door. A large hand on her shoulder stopped her.
“No. You’re not going to kill helpless men,” said Olivia.
“Helpless? Good. They’ll get what I got.”
“No,” Olivia repeated, blocking Miya’s way. Miya’s rational side was telling her to avoid angering the large feral in front of her, especially since Miya was unarmed and powerless. Miya glared, but receded. Whatever, they’re little fish in the grand scheme of things.
“Fine then. How long was I out anyways? Thank you for that, for the record,” said Miya.
“Almost ten minutes. Ah, the others are here, Olivia.” said Delta. Olivia left. After a couple minutes two guys walked in, led by Olivia. The first was a big guy with a bandana over his face, the other was shorter, in all black, with a smiling mask.
The big guy nodded to Delta, who nodded back and said to the smiling guy, “Alright, jackass. Help me and Olivia carry some computers.” The smiling guy laughed and the three left.
The guy said, “I’m Nomad, in case Delta or Olivia didn’t tell you.” He motioned to the door. “I’m told you want to help against Freedom Fighter?” Sanchez’s body still lay in the hallway, Miya stopped to grab the bones from the ground. The two walked down the hallway.
“Yes. Yes I do.”
“So do we. However, you should know that the four of us are wanted right now….” he stopped walking as Miya started laughing. “What?”
“So am I. That’s not a problem.” They started again, reaching the stairs and going down.
“You didn’t hear me out. We are accused of aiding Freedom Fighter. We don’t, of course, but you should know that now.”
“Nah, we’re all good.”
They reached the bottom, exiting the building to where a car waited. The others followed soon after, packing the back with the computers and papers they carried. Skulker got in the driver’s seat, Nomad taking shotgun, while Miya and Delta got in the back.
“Hey, I’ll just follow overhead. I don’t think there’s room for me,” said Olivia.
“OK. Just stay low,” said Nomad. Skulker started the car and they drove.