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Aberrant: Children of Quantum Fire - [Interlude] Trial by Fire [FIN]

The Mariner

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The Sahara - Well, one of the areas still desert anyways.

June 30th, 2027


Mary sat in her foxhole. She didn't want to be seen but she knew her target was approaching. FAST. As fast as it could... but why? Collecting intel? Getting a jump?

She can't have that...

She has a welcome she saves for occasions like this. Her "Railgun" wasn't her notorious pistol-shot that could level Tanks. She saved that for those that deserved it. Kamiko had no defense from that. On the other hand she knew that Kamiko could take a shot from what was her signature attack. A flick of metal that hit like a normal bullet. That would shoot her down. Knowing the child she probably overprepared for such a moment. She's gonna take advantage of that.

She gets up, feeling Kamiko's approach like radar. All the metal she carried like a signal to her to rip it from her like a jealous cat.

She flicks a coin into the air after she stands, the white paper glinting in the Sahara sun, and fires. Paper scatters everywhere and like clockwork Kamiko is under canope.

"Bingo." Mary grunts, and leaps into the air flying right for her, but then she notices her mistake. "Dammit I'm in a paper cloud..."

Kamiko smiles as she sends razor sharp blades of paper against Mary, cutting through her eufiber. "She's... actually looking to draw blood... time to retort!"

Mary pulls out her pistols and opens fire, not at Kamiko, but a single blast at the chute canope once she reaches a survivable drop.

Kamiko screams as she plummets, her chute utterly torn to shreds. Mary simply grabs her with hands of magnetic force and whips her aside into a sand dune.

"Simmer down..."

Mary starts unleashing a flurry of normal gunshots from her M1911s, knowing Kamiko would have her Eufiber and have some resistance to it but she makes sure to miss more than she'd hit. Dust and Sand scatter about. She listens for a scream but hears none. And Mary hesitates...

Kamiko jumps out of the sand dune and with almost savage determination forms a naginata and swipes at Mary, keeping her distance for her choice of weapon. Mary then decides enough was enough and once again picks her up.

"Miss Shakespeare... Thought you'd wear at least some proper clothes and that was it and here you are wearing full flight gear again." She does a Tisk-Tisk motion with her left hand. "How many times have you seen me take the weapons from a criminal's hand? This was a tactical error on your part and I will make you pay!"

She jumps up again and grabs Kamiko by the face. The unloads a powerful electrical shock from her body. And for the first time Kamiko screams.

"You could have simply surrendered... you could have simply not chosen this... but you have elected the way of PAIN!"

She turns up her electricity, so much so that the pain was excruciating, but still not lethal. She was going to break Kamiko. The way she knew how.

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Kamiko screamed. No doubt in her mind Mary intended to inflict as much bodily harm as possible before Dan cleaned up... This started to anger her... was she simply being softened up. Her scream turned to rage and she started unloading whatever paper she had, striking her face with every blunted sheet. It was enough to stagger Mary and distract her enough to get released. She finally managed to get her parachute harness off and tosses away her vest with her ammo holders that she knew had metal as well. She then charges in going hand-to-hand, with a new Naginata.

Mary was impressed but not yielding, blocking her Naginata with the trigger guard of her pistol, then with her other hand calls her other pistol to her and fires a single shot to Kamiko's chest. Then fires again.

"Oh god..."

Mary sees Kamiko hit the ground and sees blood spurt from her mouth. Internal damage? Mary knew more than her share of anatomy. What shocked her worse was what Kamiko did next. She rose up, her left arm limp, dislocated from the impact of the second shot and smoke rising from the first. The round cut through the flight suit but was caught mostly by the eufiber before some blood dripped down from abrasion wounds.

"Are you done?"

Mary levels her pistol at Kamiko's chest. "No... you are."

Without a moment's thought all of a sudden it was Mary screaming. Kamiko struck both wrists with paper on the ground, and when she fired , her hand wasn't in position and she sprained her wrist. Kamiko rushes Mary and starts punching in pain-blinded rage.

"You damn bitch! You're a monster! A damn monster!"

Mary blocks with the hand she could still feel with. "No... What I've done makes me the monster... And you've shown you could be one."

Kamiko stops suddenly and staggers back. Tears starting to fill her eyes. "W...What?"

"That's right, Kamiko... let it out... let it all out... what you've repressed... show me..." Mary says, grinning.

"N... N.... No... NO!" Kamiko shouts, whipping out a streamer of paper and bringing a pistol to her hand, and levels it on Mary's head. Mary levels it on Kamiko in similar fashion.

"Prepared to die, little girl?" Mary says, grinning. "I've blown up tanks with this pistol."

Kamiko smiles. "No... I'm ready to win."

Mary pulls the trigger and sees she has no bullet in the chamber. She forgot to reload, then the pain of a bullet round hitting her square in the Jaw, barely prevented from breaking it by a force field knocks her back on her ass.

"The only monster I see... is you."

Mary glares. "No, what I see is someone who's just shown they have a killer in them... you resist letting her out but you know it's there... If you continue walking with me... with Dan... she will come out and people will die."

Kamiko glares. "Are you that divorced from humanity?"

Mary gets back up and staggers to Kamiko. "Look at us, Kamiko, we are NOT human. We never will be again or were born never to be! You're a Nova since you fell out of your mother's cooch and I can't go back either."

"Deal with it... You walk into our world there will be blood on your hands."

Kamiko trembles.

"Fear... of what, Miss Shakespeare? Fear of what you'll do? Fear of what Dan will bring? Or perhaps it's fear of what's to come? If I am willing to push too far... what will it take for you?"

Kamiko drops her gun. "That wasn't me..." She says, grabbing her paper and forming her Naginata once more.

"If you want to continue we'll finish this right..."

Mary spits a tooth out, then forms a bolt of electricity in her hand and fires it off, slamming Kamiko away.

When Kamiko hits the dune, she breathes heavily, barely able to keep concious.

Mary swaggers over and pulls up Kamiko by the throat in a choke. Her skin showing signs of scorching from Mary's electricity now. "Better by us than a bastard looking for a dime, right, Dan?"

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Dan watched with only a stonefaced expression. He knew Mary would go easy on her, and that she'd allow her to win out.

He stood there the wind at his back, electricity wreathing him, already quite prepared for this fight.

Sonja wasn't here, she was on the Primus right now, all she knew was that Daddy promised everything would work out.

He looked at her with cold expressionless grey eyes, and spoke. "Will you continue to walk this path Kamiko? Will you not turn aside?"

"Mary is a powerful and skilled Elite, But there are stronger. You won through grit and determination. Those will not work on me. Your parents could consider this a failure I'm sure, that you wish to walk this path, and not more peaceful academic pursuits. It is not too late. Know that if you continue, if you take another step without setting all you have to this task, I will take your life here and now."

"You have been a favored pupil, a beloved niece, and this pains me, but I will not let you walk this path without testing you truly. Choose."

He had drawn a combat knife in one hand, There was almost nothing she could read from his stance. this would be swift and beyond brutal.

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Mary sets Kamiko down and steps back. Allowing Kamiko and Dan space.

Kamiko rips off what was left of the top part of her tattered flight suit. Mary sees Kamiko's dislocated shoulder and helps pop it back in for her.

"If my decision is to move foreward, Dan, I should face you fully able."

Her left arm was still slightly numb, but recovering.

She looks to him. "I see now why you've gone this far, in this place. Either I walk away now, or face death."

She closes her eyes. She knows her next words decide not only her fate but everything she's worked for, everything she has achieved and everything she's going to have to do to save Metahumanity from a far greater war.

"Dan... Mary herself back on the station said I was drafted into this. I didn't ask for it. But I can't just put aside the fact people are going to need me. I will have to fight, Dan... I can't just run now. You know that. Whoever is sent against us will be sent when you cannot protect me, when Long's back is turned? What if I am in the Congo and I cannot run?"

She forms a paper dagger in her hand. "This will end it all or start it all, Dan. At least if I am broken by you... I would have a better reason than cowardice to stay out of the fight."

She knows the way this will end. Either she is rendered an invalid or is killed. But one thing is certain, she's going to start. Dan is the apex predator. Time for the prey to show it won't surrender.

She stomps and spikes shoot out from the ground. Over the course of the battle with Mary she had been setting paper up hidden in the sand. She knows Dan's tough hide would take the damage, but this would give her an opening.

No turning back...

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Dan nodded, his blade slicing through the paper like a reaper's scythe through the harvest. Kamiko whas wholly unprepared. Dan was on her in an instant, vortex of electrical power wreathing him in a visage of elemental extremes. The black knife seemed to glow as it came in, once, twice, three times, a total of six hits that she felt, It was as if a surgeon of death was operating upon her. Her arms and legs wouldn't move, nothing would obey. He left hardly a shred of clothing upon her, just enough for decency's sake, and blood flowed freely from a half a dozen cuts, one at each shoulder, each hip, and in a perfect "X" between her breasts. He held her up by her neck, her blood staining his hand, her eyes locked with his. His eyes were like those of a machine, cold, unfeeling, inhuman.

"You are broken, defeated, and your life is mine."

He released her watching her fall into a heap, her own blood pooling around her. "You are not ready, not at All Kamiko. War is not your profession. You have your mother's powers, but not her resolve, or her strength."

First a redness creeped into Kamio's vision, then all the world faded to black. This was the end.

Dan pulled a radio "Come now."

"A warpgate opened and a young looking man stepped through. "My God Dan, what on earth..."

"Later. Heal her wounds quickly they shouldn't be fatal, I missed all the vitals on purpose. Blood loss is my big worry."

"She's a child."

"She asked this of us, a test to see if she was ready."

"She wasn't." The nova had already set about healing the wounds, urging her body to replace the blood quickly, stabilizing her with uncanny ease.

"Leave the scars. They will serve as a reminder of this lesson." The medical nova nodded. "And this squares us?"

"This and your silence regarding it, yes."

"Of course."

"Keep her in bed, and make her rest. The damage is healed, but she'll be sore for some time. I noticed you didn't scar her face?"

"I did everywhere else that matters." The other nova left as soon as quickly as he arrived. Kamiko was unconscious, leaving Dan and Mary to consider what had been done.

Kamiko's shoulders each bore a 2 and a half inch scar, as did each hip, and the X precisely between her breasts.

"It's done."

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Mary brushes off her suit. Some of Kamiko's blood was still on her.

"Damn... she's not gonna go further now... Message delivered."

She kneels down and checks Kamiko's pulse. "She's stable, Dan. Heartbeat's normal but she's going to have to recover the blood she's lost after that deft butchering... poor kid's got more scars inside than out, I think. What do you wager motivated her to be sacrificed like this, Dan? By all rights that should have killed her."

She sighs. "Damn lucky you had a marker you called in. Then again if you would have killed her I would have been equally complicit in her murder."

She trembles at that thought. "Maybe we are monsters, Dan..."

That look on her face showed she had swallowed back a demon she thought she had consigned to oblivion long ago.

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"There's no maybe, Mary. We are what we are, and always shall be, Killers."

"I broke my own word, I swore I'd not take it easy on her. But I did. After the fight with you it would have taken a single blow the kill her, I could have removed her heart and shown it to her, still beating."

"But I didn't." He looked at her. "I swore i would keep her safe, to Rho, and to Mu. I almost didn't go through with this. I didn't want this, I didn't want to hurt her. But like Kyoko, she had to see for herself, she had to know."

He knelt down beside her, removing his jacket and placing it over her to shield her from the elements. "I did this. I didn't stop her sooner. They will never forgive me."

Her blood had been wiped on his pants now, and he could still smell it. "We may have gone to far. Her body will mend, but her spirit, we may have broken it totally Mary, and that's something that pains me more than any wound."

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"You'd be suprised, Dan..."

"I was a broken woman as well the first go around with DeVries... If it wasn't for that dark moment I wouldn't be where I am now."

In the time it took Dan to finish the battle, Mary had gone to her backpack where she had kept her medical supplies, and brings it back. She sets the back pack next to Kamiko and sets a paper sack next to Kamiko.

"Kamiko may have finally had her path illustrated for her. Illustrated in blood. She needs a outlet and this isn't it. The child now knows what death feels like and all the more reason she may be more adamant of a rescuer... not a soldier."

She sighs. "She's no combat Elite, but she is perfect material for becoming a public defender. She has the skill set, the drive, and the devotion. Star might give her that outlet as well. I think she loved being science officer."

She actually laughs, roughing up Kamiko's hair. "She's brave. I didn't see one ounce of coward in her. But I did see a boat load of fool. But I think she's recieved her twenty lashes for her foolishmess."

"I got some clothes for her... I wagered she'd have nothing left after you were done. She deserves more dignity than this jacket. I'll go grab what she did leave that's still intact. She really loved that parachute."

"I think she'll be alright... I know she will. Just sad she had to learn like this."

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"No, I don't think public defender suits her, and you know that Mary. She's like Kyoko, not meant to be out front, but support from the rear. Information, Intelligence, that sort of thing. She wants to be a saviour, but even so, she might have some talent, but right now I fear it remains beyond her. She is still overcoming her demons."

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"Well, how do you wager we bring her into the world of cloaks and daggers. You know that's my thing, Dan. She's a spook and you know it. If she becomes a full blown sphinx... god help us. I know a few former Directive Agents who wear tinfoil hats now because they're afraid the scary sphinx was going to get them and there was nothing they could do about it. She's got alot of demons and I think she's trying to slay them too quick."

She stands up and starts walking. "Keep an eye on her I'm going to start grabbing Kamiko's personal effects. If anyone asks, she had a flying accident..." She gestures to the parachute. "People are gonna ask."

"Back in a few minutes."

As she walks off Kamiko starts to stir. She moans a little before spitting out some left over blood in her mouth.

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The first thing Kamiko could conciously sense was the lingering taste of blood and the feel of adrenaline. She instinctively swings with her right arm at the air almost as if that move was on a dead-man's switch.

The pain was still there. Across her chest was written a condemnation. A discharge. She was given an Elite's death, but lived to tell the tale. She still felt the warm blood in the sand as she tries to rise.

"FUCK!" Kamiko screeches. She could still feel some pain of her rib cage as she sits up. Noticing her clothes were now completely useless.

She clutches some of the blood stained sand. "How... how did I... How am I still alive..."

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"Because I have very good friends." Dan's hand forced her to lie back down, posessing more strength than she could ever match. "Your anger is unfounded. I have been an Elite almost twice as long as you have been alive Kamiko. Did you really think that as you are, you would pose a real threat to me, that you had a chance?"

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"I'm not angry... at least not at you, Dan." Kamiko says. "Ugh... I hope I didn't cry like a bitch when you put me down, Dan... Then again you did cut through several ribs, caused a hernia, damaged my spleen..." She coughs out some more blood... "And I think a lung was collapsed..."

"I think before whatever you did was fixed... I think I lost roughly 3 pints of blood."

She sighs, feeling her chest and for the first time feels the fresh scars.

"You left those didn't you? Fitting... I'm not going to be able to lay here forever... eventually I'm going to have to head home..."

"And thank you. I... I'm going to have to stay on the fringe of this. People need me to be there. I know I can't fight for them, but I can save them... there is much that can be done. Just have to work with what I got and stay out of the line of fire..."

"But this... this illustrates to me how people are going to die, Dan... Please... Just make sure it's the right ones that get killed, okay?"

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"I... I'll stay out of the line of fire as best I can, Sensei."

She sighs. "Dan... I can still save those I love... can't I? I can still be there with a hand and a warp home... right? I was going to talk with the Reid Foundation and Star to arrange using some GNS resources as a search and rescue platform. Although after this... I am... hesitant. I know people will be looking for humanitarian aid, and I can get peopel where they need to go... easily... I... I'm just a little gunshy now. I don't know if I can even complete those duties safely."

"People in disasters I should handle, I've been trained for that... perhaps I should strictly just say I'm not combat capable and make that the end of it..."

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She sighs. "She destroyed my parachute... She owes me..." She laughs, then winces. "She's brilliant. She also shot me... she bloody shot me in the chest... Should make note and thank god she didn't use that big shot of her's she used on my chute."

She nods. "She's tenacious. Although I don't know if she was acting or not... she has a sadistic streak. She's like Emperor Palpatine."

"How the bloody hell did she become a public defender is beyond me..."

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"Then either she was trying to scare me or was legitimately on the verge of snapping..."

She sighs as she lays back. She feels the pain subsiding a bit, but the soreness is still there.

"...I could end up like that... couldn't I?"

She thinks, then feels those shivers come back. "I'm... so sorry, Dan... I wanna go home."

The child she was was showing... it wasn't a spoiled brat but the expression of a child diciplined. "I'm so sorry..."

Her tears were genuine remorse. "I shouldn't have put you through this... What's been getting into me, Dan!"

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Mary sets Kamiko's stuff next to her.

"I just realized something Dan... those marks... those are a trademark, are they not?"

She kneels next to Kamiko. "Kamiko... This wasn't a waste. You know now what awaits Dan and I... we had to be harsh. I'm sorry you're hurting now. How do you think we feel now that we had to do this."

"Besides, you shot me in the face... somehting I didn't think you had the guts to do." She says, massaging her jaw.

"Don't worry, we'll protect you. I know you can't just leave things well enough alone and want to help... just stay off the battlefield. Help the wounded, rescue the lost... do what you think is right, Miss Shakespeare."

"You're still innocent. Don't lose that like I and Dan have."

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And for that moment... she knew.

"Well... I can't get home to sleep this off without getting helped up, right? I think my lateral obliques are knitting themselves.... I didn't know you guys had healing powers? Who should I thank from bringing me back?"

She looks to Mary, looking at the package. "What's that?"

"Some clothes I got you. You could use a change of outfit now."

"What is it?"

Mary just gives her the look of "not till you get home."

Kamiko sighs. "Alright... so... how are we gonna get back?"

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"I can get us to Casablanca in Morocco... I sort of really got wreckless with the energy and with Kamiko in her condition, I'm not sure treading water in the Indian Ocean would be smart for her."

She examines the built-in PFD on the vest Kamiko wore. "I missed the air bladder on this, but I would really not want to risk her health pulling us three along."

"I know of someone I can pull a favor from who I've worked for in the past. I think a flight to Tokyo would be well within his reach. He's got access to a cargo plane that should have enough room for our little lazarus to recover from her whupping."

She walks over to Kamiko and whispers in her ear. "Don't worry, he's a legitimate businessman."

"So... feel like holding on to Morocco, guys?"

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"I've never... been to Casablanca. Then again, once we get there and I rest for a day I could just warp us. I think I'll be better after a good night's rest and a good dinner."

She thinks for a moment... "Wait... The Mediterennean isn't that large of a body of water to cross, and Rome is a far more politically safe spot. We can rest up there and I can warp us. After we get back to Tokyo, I can crash out for a few days."

"Just remind me to get a hold of the other scoobies so I can let them know everything's fine and set a cover story."

"Wait... I can call Star. I don't think she'd mind giving us a warp to wherever we need. Particuarly if I tell her I got hurt here in a crash. Just a little song and dance, some calls placed by you to save my life and bang. Instant alibi."

"Is this scar a signature of yours, Dan? I hope not... you'll have some explaining to do with Long and... I really like the house... and the both of you for that matter... I hope he'd understand. I'll... have to face the music when he gets back. Say it was all my responsibility and I'm to blame."

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Dan shook his head. "Take us to the Congo, to Kinshasa, Mary. We can rest there in a safehouse for the night, and then onward to Tokyo." He was obviously not keen on mundane travel means. And do not call Star. Do not even think of lying to her about this. You sought this, you chose this. To deny that denigrates the entire affair."

He shook his head. She didn't understand after all. "Long will understand, I assure you. Your mother won't be happy, but they both know why you have it, and how you got them all."

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Kamiko pauses. "Alright. I understand."

She sighs. "Think you're up for that trip, Mary?"

Mary nods. "Yeah, That'll do."

"Very well... the day's not getting... any longer..."

Kamiko gets pulled up by Mary. She wearily speaks as she's hoisted on Mary's shoulders. "At least you guys aren't asking me for a warp... I think I recieved a concussion as well from the blow. Either that or it was a effect of the electricity."

She massages her head. "God help me if I ever gave you two a reason to attack me like that."

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It took some effort, but with sime guidance, and Kamiko almost slipping from Mary's grip once, everyone makes it back to Kinshasha.

It was a couple hour trip, still in the afternoon. Kamiko is laid down in a bed by Mary, and Kamiko gets comfortable.

"I'll be alright, guys, but I think you two should grab some food for us... I'm... getting hungry."


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