Contract – Employee Dynamics

“FUCK,” roared Gears to no one in particular.

Oh god… he just… he killed that guy. The others were talking about something, Olivia couldn’t understand it over the horrific thunking sound of Gears stomping a guy’s head until he died. She glanced at the others. Did they notice? Did they care? Gears stopped and sat on the curb to scrape off the bits of skull and brain from his boot.

There was no reason… First Membrane and now this? Olivia regretted getting distracted, trying to figure out what he was talking about, willing herself to remember something, anything, that would help. But no, nothing. And Membrane escaped while she stood there being an idiot. Stupid, just stupid. I could have helped Nomad and Skulker, but I didn’t. Stupid.

No one else cared, it seemed, that Gears just brutally killed a defenseless guy out of anger. He certainly wasn’t subtle about it; she couldn’t imagine everyone else just didn’t notice. What is wrong with everyone? She heard the engine of Delta’s car start.

Skulker broke her out of her thoughts, calling out, “Hey, Olivia.” He caught her jump. He cocked his head to the side and asked, “You alright?”

I just watched and heard your brother stomp a man’s head into the ground. “Sorry, yeah.” I don’t think he believed that.

“We gotta go. You head back to the lair, yeah?”

“OK. Sorry.” She jumped up and took flight. I’ve got to get away from here.

She kept high up to keep anyone on the ground from seeing or tracking her. What did Membrane say about the Bible? Olivia knew the Bible was the basis of Christianity, but nothing more specific about what it said. Jesus, that’s the guy. I think he’s a part of it too. Now, next question: what does that have to do with me? She could probably find a Bible somewhere, read it through and figure it out. That can’t be too difficult.

She came to the lair, circled around a few times to make sure the coast was clear, then landed and headed inside. She was the first one back. Ugh, tired. She paced, waiting for everyone else to come back. Miya enjoys tormenting captives, Gears is a murderer, Membrane knows more about my past than I do, we still have to kill someone to get paid. Paid. We’re ending a life for just money. Too much stuff to think about.

Delta and Miya drove in a couple minutes later and stumbled out of the car. They don’t smell too good. Blood and sweat and general weariness. A lot like me right now, actually. Miya threw her coat off to the side and crashed in the nearest chair while Delta peeled off the bulkier bits of her armor, starting with the helmet.

Delta stopped for a brief moment. “You wanna get the bones out, Miya?” she asked.

Miya, who’d been rolling her injured shoulder experimentally and grimacing, said, “Forgot. Yeah.” Olivia, currently with nothing to do, opened the door for the bones to get out.

“Thanks,” said Miya, sitting back in the chair. The bones walked out back, where they collapsed into a heap again. Miya peeled off the slapdash bandages on the back of her shoulder, exposing an angry looking wound. Ow. How is she just ignoring that… Wait. I think she said something about painkillers. I think.

“Is your shoulder OK?” asked Olivia. There was a bullet hole and blood on the corresponding shoulder of her trenchcoat. So that’s where the smell of blood is coming from.

“Will be. Any antiseptics in here?”

“No. That’s on the to do list,” said Amanda.

“Hydrogen peroxide?”

“Nope.”

“Well, damn it. Pass me that rag if it’s clean, will you? And you still have some of that vodka Ben bought, right?”

What is she doing? Alcohol can clean wounds? Seriously? Amanda, putting away bits of her armor and closest to the cardboard box of alcohol Ben bought for when they killed Freedom Fighter, withdrew a bottle half full of clear liquid from the box and handed it to Miya. Olivia got the requested rag. Doesn’t smell strange at all, it’s clean. Her senses had never lead her astray when she was dumpster diving. Considering a lot of my food came from trash, and I never once got sick, I think I’ve got a pretty good track record.

Miya held the rag up to the open bottle, and soaked the bit in vodka. “This is going to sting a bit,” Miya muttered to herself as she pressed the rag up to her injury. She bit her lip, stifling a cry of pain and removed the rag after a moment. It came away red.

“Do you need any help?” asked Olivia uncertainly.

“I’m… fine….thanks though,” managed Miya through gritted teeth.

“Alcohol cleans wounds?” asked Olivia. May as well see if I’m misinterpreting what I saw or not.

“Yeah,” said Miya, tossing the rag to the side on the table. “Antiseptics would be better, alcohol just kills everything, exposed flesh included.”

“Why didn’t you just go out and get some then? I mean… I know I can’t, but…”

Miya rolled her eyes. “Because I can’t walk into a store with a bullet hole in my shoulder unless I want to get arrested. People notice shit like that.”

“Well, you could have asked Amanda. She’s free of bullet holes, I hope.” Olivia glanced at Amanda. I’m not dumb, despite my occasional insistence to the contrary.

Amanda gave a sly smile in response, saying, “I don’t know. Maybe I’d just leave her to her own devices. What was it you said when Olivia got kidnapped, Miya?” You wouldn’t help her? What is wrong with you, no, everyone all of a sudden?

“Fuck you, bitch,” barked Miya in response, before Amanda could say anything further. Olivia looked between the two, concerned. What are they talking about? Amanda just looked smug. “Quit making bullshit, passive aggressive comments-” I must have missed that. “-about that, you got it? I fucking helped, so get off my back.” I’m missing something here.

“Oh please,” said Delta, putting as much scorn into her tone as possible. “We had to guilt you and you know it. Don’t try to play it off like you came because of your own initiative.” Are they talking about what I think they’re talking about? I just wanted to know why she didn’t wait to get antiseptic stuff.

“Guys…” said Olivia. Both stopped and turned to her, glancing at each other out of the corners of their eyes. They listened? Awesome. “Please stop arguing. I was just wondering if we should get antiseptics so Miya doesn’t have to use alcohol. It looked like it hurt.”

“You wanna know what happened?” asked Amanda. Without waiting for a response she said, “She was willing to let them cart you off to that research place, right after we killed Freedom Fighter.” Oh. She glanced at Miya. Miya grimaced, but did not deny Delta’s claim. She was there in the car with everyone else…

“Amanda… I don’t care. She came, that’s what I care about. That’s what she did. You guys were willing to help me, including her. I’m just trying to make sure you guys are alright too.” Miya shot her a questioning look.

Amanda was far more verbal. “What she did? She nearly fucking ditched us to go back to Arizona!”

“But she didn’t.”

“That doesn’t… fuck it. Fine then, whatever,” said Amanda, throwing her hands in the air. Sorry? Amanda stormed off, organizing her armor with more violence that necessary. I didn’t even know you could organize stuff with violence, but there it is. Miya busied herself with finding bandages for her shoulder, purposefully not looking at anyone.

Olivia sighed. Deal with it later, just like everything else. She didn’t have anything to do again, but no one seemed to be in a talking mood. Everyone’s tired. Just give it some time, I guess. Eventually, Skulker, Nomad, and Gears rolled up out back, and walked into the lair. So much sweat. Ugh.

Gears threw off the tarp covering him and back of the truck and hopped down, accompanied by the sharp metallic clank of metal boots hitting the concrete floor hard. Ben got out without the mask, as Chris got out without his bandana. The windows, shattered after many bullets overcame their bulletproof-ness, were rolled down, so that the BAT simply looked like an enormous truck, with only mild scratches on the side that could have come from anything, not necessarily gunfire.

Chris glanced between Olivia, Miya, and Amanda, picking up on the fact they weren’t speaking to each other. Ben happily threw his mask and gear to the side and fell face first on his mattress, not bothering to shut the curtain behind him. Rob walked to the stand he’d set up, and began disassembling his armor. Don’t act weird around him.

“So did you get anything from the surviving punk?” asked Amanda. One? Only one guy? Weren’t there five?

“Yeah, kinda,” called out Ben from his mattress.

“He was a smug little fucker, all things considered,” said Rob.

“Yes, very helpful,” said Amanda with a roll of her eyes.

“Wait,” said Olivia. Everyone looked at her. Hold on, what am I asking, besides a general protest? “Ummm, you said there was only guy left?”

“Yeah.”

“What happened to the other four?” You didn’t just shoot them, did you? I find it kind of sad that that’s an honest possibility.

“Two got killed in that firefight, two were teleporters,” said Chris.

“Killed? How?” We were kind of responsible for their well beings, considering we had them tied up and defenseless.

“One guy got shot tryin’ to get outta the truck when the bullets started flyin’,” said Rob.

Ben said, “Miya did somethin’ to the other fella. He jus’ died of medical shit, so far as we can tell.” That’s frustratingly vague. Then Ben noticed the frantic stop motion Miya was making behind Olivia’s back that Olivia caught out of the corner of her eye. Ben flipped Miya off. “I ain’t fuckin’ lyin’.” He practically spat the last word.

“Why did you do… whatever to him?” Olivia asked Miya.

“Get him to talk,” she said, glaring daggers at a grinning Ben.

Everyone else seemed rather indifferent. Gears is a brutal murderer, Miya tortured a guy, and everyone is completely fine with it except me. “I’m going for a walk,” Olivia muttered. Or fly, whatever.

Her statement was greeted with silence as she walked out back. She heard some rustling once her back was turned, and Miya ran after her once Olivia got outside.

“Fuck, Olivia, I’m sorry. I know this is just an excuse, but I was too focused on revenge then. Didn’t really care about you then as much as getting back at a lot of people. That sounds really awful now that I say it out loud, but I’m sorry.” Ow. Though she looks like she just stabbed her own foot, so this isn’t easy for her either.

“No, I get that Miya. I just don’t like the fact that you tortured a guy, and everyone’s killing without a second thought.”

“I won’t apologize for that. They got off easy,” said Miya harshly. “You know what the fucking guys at Overlord did to me? I spent a whole day just getting electrocuted. Nothing but that. It was purely to cause pain, purely to control me. You’ve stared at my face. You wanna know why it’s all messed up? Half of it got blown off by a merc named Slim Jim.” She’s never mentioned anything about this before. Miya nearly sounded hysterical at this point, nearly shouting.

“So one day I’m going to find every last of those bastards, and string them up with their own goddamn intestines! And they sold me! Sold me like a fucking object or something. And I spent three weeks, THREE, avoiding getting raped by some sadistic…” Miya trailed off for some reason. WHO?

“Olivia,” said Miya, snapping her fingers a couple times. “You still with me?”

“Who?”

“Ummm… you? You’re scaring me, Olivia. You started hissing really loudly all of a sudden.”

“No. Who… you know… “

“He’s dead now,” said Miya simply, inviting no further comment.

Olivia nodded. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to… you know…” Bring up some awful, awful stuff.

Miya sighed. “It’s alright. You still want to go for your fly? I think we’re going to get food before we crash for today.”

Mmmm. Food. “OK. Sorry. I mean… “

“It’s alright,” repeated Miya. “Let’s just…” she took a deep breath. “Let’s just get back to semblance of normality. I’m sorry I just dumped that all on you.”

She looked truly miserable. Olivia wrapped her up in a hug. “OK.” Stop sulking, me. Go back inside like a big girl.

The rest were talking when they came back.

“He told us that Nevermore picked up Tod and Membrane after the big riot, and had a healer of theirs patch the two of them up. The two agreed to work for them for a bit as enforcers,” said Chris to Amanda.

“Membrane doesn’t seem lucid enough for that kind of advanced thinking,” said Amanda. Creepy guy. Don’t want to meet him again. Unless…

“That’s what the guy told us. Nothing more. The only other thing he said was that Nevermore and the rest of the gang were going to torture and kill us for messing with them, so we might have to take his words with a grain of salt,” said Chris. Torture and kill? What? No.

Miya began rummaging about for something, asking, “How did they find us there, anyway?”

Rob spoke up this time. “They had… teleporters? The tattoo guys just vanished from the back, an’ Ben saw ‘em when they attacked us, so that’s my best guess. There was definitely somethin’ off ‘bout ‘em.”

“Looking back, they never said a word, even though they knew what the other was doing when I fought them and clown guy,” said Nomad. I missed a lot when I was dealing with Guardsman, didn’t I? Nomad took on three guys and won, singlehandedly, and I didn’t get to see any of it. He didn’t kill anyone, either.

“What are you looking for?” Olivia asked Miya.

“Something to patch up the gaping hole in my shoulder. The painkillers are wearing off, I can barely channel any more magic as it is, and suppressing pain for too long leads to bad things. I’m mainly focusing on not bleeding all over the place right now, actually.”

“Amanda, you’re good at first aid, right? You cut tha’ wiring shit outta Miya before, didn’cha?” asked Ben, getting up from where he lay to join the general conversation.

“If by good at first aid you mean ‘I desperately googled basic surgery techniques from World War One’ while I used my power to figure out where to cut, then yes. Sure.”

“Wait, seriously? World War One?” asked Miya with a morbid smile. Why are you smiling? That could have killed you. Still tired of not understanding stuff.

“Yes, seriously,” responded Amanda, deadpan.

“Why World War One?” asked Miya. I’m kind of curious myself. That was… a century ago? I think? Also, weren’t these two just going at it?

“I might have been in panic mode. Might have,” she said. Olivia stifled a yawn. Tired.

“So do we have bandages? Getting back to the matter at hand…” said Miya.

Ben started going through some of the boxes with indeterminate contents in the office kind of thing attached to the shop, boxes that Olivia never knew exactly the purpose of. I guess they have medical supplies in them. Maybe. I have no idea, and from Ben’s expression, neither does he.

“Nope, nothin’. We aren’t the best prepared people in the world are we?” he commented.

Miya sighed. Chris said, “All our cars are a bit suspicious now, what with the bullet holes and all.”

“Yeah,” said Ben. “I’m gonna change, an’ run by a drug store an’ a burger place. Anyone want anythin’?”

“Shouldn’t they be servin’ breakfast at this time o’ day?” asked Rob as Ben closed the curtain around his living area.

“Erm, probably. Question still stands,” he called back. Food. Food is good.

Everyone wanted food.

***

After eating, patching up Miya, and sleeping for twelve hours, everyone was awake again. Except Miya. No one had asked them what they talked about outside, and Olivia was fine with that. Miya will talk about it in her own time.

“Now what?” asked Olivia, as no one else was saying anything.

Amanda gave a long, protracted sigh as she stared at her desk, not moving. “I’m still tired. Still don’t feel like doing anything.”

“The apathy is strong in this one,” said Ben. “But yeah, still got a headache.”

After a couple silent minutes, Olivia asked again, “Now what?”

“Fearless leader, Blondie, whatever. You got somethin’?” said Rob, not lifting his head he had laid down on his crossed arms on the table everyone sat at.

After a moment, where he appeared to weigh the pros and cons of productivity, he said, “Nah. We still got eight days to figure this out. Let the police put some pressure on the Undead. We’ll start hunting tomorrow. We’re all still tired, and Miya will be out of action anyways.”

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6 thoughts on “Contract – Employee Dynamics

  1. Much improved over previous drafts. That little but of drama gave it just the kick it needed.

    Though you forgot all the italics for internal dialog (a pain, I know. Why the hell won’t it copy-paste correctly?)

  2. Looks like I’ve finally caught up!

    Entertaining story so far, I find it kind of interesting that both Delta and Nomad are both pretty casual about killing, despite being superheroes and general good guys until recently.

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