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Old 10-24-2017, 02:46 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Join Date: Sep 2010
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Bloodlust Dispatch #38

Quote:
Originally Posted by Malygos View Post
Just in time for the Nova vs. Spectre brawl.
Actually, it seems you were almost a year early. Sorry about that.

To any other readers, this is the finale to the big burst of posting stuff. Rest assured, however, that I'm arranging my schedule to make November in November possible this year.

* * * * * * *

Personal log, November Terra:
With my clocks reading seventy-six hours, I find myself fighting a new enemy, one that comes from the inside. My mouth is dry from more than the climate. My thoughts are scrambled. My senses are on red alert. I don’t know what’s happening. I must be getting sick. Ah, screw it. I do know what I’m feeling. It’s called ‘fear.’

Fear’s nothing new, of course. It’s just been a very long time since I felt it this strong. Ghosts are trained to suppress emotion—which is much easier to do when you have a clear objective. I don’t. I’m caught in someone else’s game. I don’t know the rules, and I certainly don’t know the win condition.

I came out here to learn more about the Nexus. I thought maybe there’d be a weakness somewhere I can use to escape—but my alternate selves are making that very difficult, each in her own way. One is a weight I can’t bear to throw away. The other has become a menace with my face.

I guess it’s a good thing I spent most of the last three hours scouting for new hide-outs. I’ve identified three—made easy by the orgy of looting at Phagun’s. Every resident for blocks is there, squabbling over anything the thugs didn’t take first. Under other circumstances, a diversion that big would’ve made it easy to swipe some local food, but things didn’t pan out that way. The Luxorians, it seems, serve their food on huge communal platters. Hard to grab one of those with out getting noticed. Harder still to carry it anywhere. And to take the food itself would get dirty fast. I might need to find some kind of container before this is viable.

I returned as the afternoon heat was reaching its height. True, the sun goes right through you when you’re cloaked, but that doesn’t do anything about the heat. If you can stay out of it, you should. My Spectre self was still down for the count, but Tybi was up. She was listlessly wandering the room—which was an improvement. But as I got closer, I realized she was crying again. “Hey,” I said, decloaking. I said it as gently as I knew how, but she turned her back the moment I became visible. “Look, I’ve been rough with you at a time when you’re very hurt. I just want you to know I understand what you’re going through.” She said nothing. “I know everything seems really hopeless right now,” I tried again, “but I also know you’ll get through it.” I reached out to touch her shoulder—and she shrugged me away almost before contact. “Believe me. Deep down, you are so. Strong. You have power you don’t even realize.” Still silence. It was like talking to a wall. “Please, say something—just so I know you’re still in there.”

Tybi’s voice was so soft I almost didn’t hear it. “I don’t— I don’t want to be a murderer,” she whispered.

I looked down. “I didn’t either. But I got over it. You will too. That’s how strong you are.”

Suddenly, she turned. “No!” she shrieked. “I don’t want to be a murderer!” She scurried back to her favorite hiding spot behind the piled furniture. I could hear her trying to stifle the sobs—in vain. Was I really such a basket case?

“Very smooth, Nova.” The voice was my own, but slightly lower, raspier.

I turned. Blood-breath had rolled over to watch me. “And I suppose a Spectre is going to give me a lesson in tact.”

She smirked. “If only. I’m you, remember? I don’t have any better graces than you do.”

“Then can it.”

Blood-breath sat up, her motion too familiar for comfort. “You’re rejecting my offer, then? You don’t want advice from someone who’s been there?”

“I never said that. I think it’s a conversation we need to have.” Changing the subject seemed like a good idea.

Her version of my face warped into a sadistic grin. “Then consider this your first lesson: There are lots of people who are attracted to you. Some will take pity on you. But you’ll never be able to love any of them back because you’re too damaged. You'll spend the rest of your life fumbling around in your relationships like Delta trying to read.”

So much for changing the subject. “For your information, Delta did learn to read.”

“True,” she admitted, “but it was never effortless. Not like you, Tosh, or any of the others. It was work. That’s how it’ll be for you, an emotional cripple.”

Now I really needed to change the subject. “Speaking of Delta, I hear you blood-suckers couldn’t catch her.”

She sighed. “You still like her. You always did. I suppose she was the first.”

“The first what?”

“The first lost puppy you collected. You have to stop doing that—or quit your job.”

I looked away. “Okay, so I’m not a robot. Your point?”

“Remember how I said your humanity makes you do dumb things?”

There was a crack in the wall, just to her left, that suddenly seemed very interesting. “I didn’t get to be the Dominion’s best Ghost by forgetting things.”

“No, I mean it. Her name is Lila. You will meet her on Altara. Stay. Away. From her.”

For a moment, my heart stopped. Luckily, my Ghost discipline stopped it from showing. “Why?”

“Because you’re going to kill her.”

It took everything I had to not react. “Big deal. What’s one more death to an assassin?”

“Don’t say that!” Her tone suddenly reminded me of how Spectres are prone to wild emotional swings. Hell of a time to remember. I instantly went into combat stance. She was in one too. “She’s practically a clone of you! You break some of the most sacred standing orders of the Ghost Program to help her—and then...” Spectre me was well and truly choking up, her breathing ragged.

I chose my words very carefully. “If you liked her so much, why kill her?”

Blood-breath pulled herself up straight, fighting back the emotion with a very familiar resolve. “Because of this,” she said, pulling the terrazine canister from her belt. She took a drag and held it so long I thought she was going to pass out. But when she finally did release it, she was back in control. I’m not sure whether my relief showed or not. “Terrazine exposure has to be paired with a healthy dose of jorium or the subject goes insane. Lila didn’t know that. She was just a kid.”

“How—”

She took a step closer. “One can. Left where she could reach it. That was all it took.” It was strange to see my face looking so...defeated. “Gabe offered to take care of it, but I insisted on doing myself. I put her in the situation. She was my responsibility.”

Is it possible for Spectres to feel regret? That’s sure what it looked like—but I couldn’t let it show. If it was an act, she had to think it wasn’t working. I sighed dramatically. “Too bad memory-wipes don’t work on Spectres. You could really use one.”

Her expression changed to wry amusement. “That is what you’d say, isn’t it? That’s your solution to everything—to forget.”

“How dare you,” I said evenly. “You know as well as I do what I’ve been through—how strong I’ve had to be.”

She shook her head. “You’re not strong. You’re weak. The Dominion asked for your soul, and you gave it to them without a second thought. You became exactly who they wanted you to be because, as painful as it was, it was less painful than being yourself.”

This again. “I think your ‘advice’ has gone on long enough,” I told her. “The Dominion made me who I am. The Dominion made me great.”

“Then pardon me for calling you by the wrong name, Agent X41822N. That’s all you are to them: a number.”

“All I am to them?!” I retorted. “How many men were under my command? How many?”

In retrospect, I should’ve curbed my outburst. I was talking to a Spectre. I lost my cool. She blew up. “How can you still not get this?! Yes, Emperor Mengsk created a whole squadron just to be your personal backup. But you never commanded the one person who mattered: you!”

“Every choice I made was my own!”

She scowled. “Becoming a Spectre was the best choice I ever made. You know why? Because it forced me to take a long, hard look at who I am. No more forgetting. No more running away. Just me, trying to live with myself.”

I glared back. “I guess terrazine really does make you lose your mind. And for the record, those mind-wipes haven’t changed a damn thing about who I am. I rediscovered framberries after every one of them.”

“Yes, because there wasn’t a damn thing about you they needed to change. Train. Kill. Forget. Train. Kill. Forget. Is that all you want out of life?”

“Yes!” I shouted. “Now leave me alone!”

“Like hell I will!” She vaulted across the room, bringing her leg up for a kick.

I was ready. I caught the kick and twisted her to the ground—which was, unfortunately, her intent. Her other foot hooked behind my ankle to drop me as well. I rolled and lunged at the same time she did, which threw us into a wrestling match. We grappled for who knows how long, neither of us able to gain the upper hand. Suddenly, I had an opening. She switched to fighting one-handed for some reason.

I figured out where the other hand had gone when I felt cold, sharp steel against my neck. “You are so...small—and pathetic,” she panted. “You’re cruel and lonely and miserable. Admit it!”

“Killing me won’t accomplish anything. You said so yourself.” I tried to sound tough, but it just wouldn’t come.

Blood-breath looked confused. “Then— Then her.” She nodded toward Tybi’s hiding place. “Who will take care of her if you’re gone?”

Something was very wrong. She was becoming more unstable by the minute.

“What do you want?” I asked as evenly as I could.

“You are my past,” said without looking at me. It was like she was slipping into a dream. “If you somehow ever get out of here, you can stop me from ever existing. Please, tell me you will.”

“Yes,” I replied, trying to sound calm. “I won’t make the same mistakes you did.”

“Good, good.” She rolled off me, returning the knife to the scabbard on her thigh. We sat staring at each other. Without warning, she stood up and walked away. I stood up too when she picked up her rifle. I was scared—and for me, that’s saying something. People trying to kill me I can deal with. They act in predictable ways that you can counter. Not knowing is whole other level.

To my surprise, Blood-breath thrust the weapon toward me. “Here,” she said. “You’ll need this.”

“What?” I was beyond shock. For a Ghost to hand over her weapon is sacrilege—heresy. She’s me. She had to have been taught the same things I was.

“TAKE IT!” she shouted. I accepted, even more confused than before. “Now, more...recon. Yes, that’s it. Find more places to hide.” The Spectre sprinted up the steps to the roof, then stumbled and fell at the top. I saw her get up as the cloak activated.

“What just happened here?” I said out loud. There was no answer. Of course there wasn’t. There’ve been fewer and fewer answers the farther I go along.

The smart thing to do right now is to get out of here and into one of the new hide-outs ASAP. It’s dangerous to go anywhere with that...thing running loose, but it’s even more dangerous to stay here. Nova out.

* * * * * * *

Things could be getting ugly in the next few posts...
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