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The Experiment - Part 3

Written by CavemanNinjaJoe :: [Friday, 14 January 2011 14:11] Last updated by :: [Thursday, 20 December 2012 09:13]

Scorpion's battle with the TPA continues, but a surprise offer could change everything.

Out in the middle of the desert, miles from civilisation, a lone blue car races along the highway to Seed Falls. Scorpion is sitting in the passenger seat, bored out of her skull, watching rocks and cacti whoosh past. She finds herself wondering if all people travel from place to place this slowly. Meanwhile, Keith sits in the driver's seat, too focused on the road to notice her increasing agitation.

“Can't this thing go any faster?”, Scorpion asks at last.

Keith, caught off guard by the question, stumbles. “Wha...? Um... I suppose, but there's a seventy mile speed limit 'round here, and if I get booked again, well, there goes my licence.”

“Oh,” Scorpion says, disappointed.

“Why do you ask? Did Burke say you had to be there by one or he won't show or something?”

Scorpion sighs, “No, I guess not.” She goes back to watching the scenery, imagining that she was outside, sprinting faster than a speeding locomotive, instead of being trapped in this slow, fragile tin can. She longs to feel the wind in her hair. Instead, she finds herself sitting still, trying to prevent her knee from bending the glove compartment out of shape.

Ten minutes - that felt like ten hours - later, Scorpion, while intently eyeing a particularly fascinating cactus - this one is slightly taller than the last couple of dozen – speaks up again. “Uh, Keith?”

“Yeah?”

“I just wanted to thank you for this. I'm sure you had better things to do today than chaperone me around.”

“Huh? Oh, don't mention it,” Keith tells her, his mind clearly elsewhere. “Yeah, I mean, Kate's too busy, and I don't have anything else to do today. So... yeah.” Scorpion just gives a little grunt of acknowledgement.

Three hundred cacti and five rock pillars later, Scorpion hears Keith saying something to her.

"Sorry Keith, I didn't quite catch that."

"I said... there's something I really need to ask you," Keith says. He sounds uneasy.

"Uh, okay then, shoot."

“Well, um... I'm not really sure how to put this, but...”

"..."

"..."

“...yes?” Scorpion prompts.

“...what was it like being dead?”

The car goes deathly quiet, save for the splutter of the engine and the whistling of the wind outside. Scorpion looks over to Keith, who seems to be trying as hard as he can not to stare at her.

“What do you mean?” she asks tentatively.

“Well, like... when you died, I mean, what happened to... you? What did you feel? Was there a tunnel? Guys with red pyjamas and pitch forks? Did you... I don't know, merge with the trees or something? Anything?”

Scorpion pauses, contemplating her answer. “I don't know.”

“So, what, you're saying there's... ?”

“Well, no, I mean, maybe... I don't know....” she stops again to collect her thoughts. “Look, Keith, it was Alexis that died, not me, remember? I can't remember a damn thing that happened to me... I mean her... whatever, before I woke up in the bunker – in this world or any other. Kate said it was probably because the oxygen supply to her... my... our brain was cut off so long.”

“Oh...,” Keith says. He sets his eyes back on the road. For the briefest of moments, Scorpion could have sworn he looked disappointed. “Fair enough, I suppose.”

“Uh, just out of curiosity, Keith, why are you asking?” Scorpion looks suddenly alarmed, “You're not thinking of trying it are you?”

“What! No! Hell no! I'm just... I'm just curious is all. I mean, after all, its not every day that one of your best friends comes back from the dead.” Scorpion readies herself to give the 'I'm not Alexis' speech again, but quickly reconsiders. Deciding she would rather just drop the conversation for time being, she changes the subject.

“So... Keith, what do you do for a living?”

“Right now? Well... wait... oh what the hell is this?” Keith complains, gesturing down the road. Up ahead of them, a line of black SUVs block the highway, with armed men standing alongside them. “Who are those guys? Cops or something?”

“Beats me,” Scorpion whispers.

“No, they wouldn't be cops... FBI, maybe?”, Keith thinks out loud. “No, the cars would be marked... unless they're undercover cars, but why would they use undercover cars for a roadblock?”

“How the hell would I know?”

Suddenly one of the men at the roadblock calls out to them. “Hey, stop right there!” His associates pull out their weapons, and point them at the approaching vehicle.

“Alright! Alright!” Keith yells back. He hits the brakes, and brings the car to a stop at the side of the road, about fifty feet from the roadblock. For reasons she doesn't fully understand, the hairs on the back of Scorpion's neck stand on end. A rush of ice cold water seems to pass through her. The hint of danger, something barely recalled, rushes through her body. Scorpion, fighting down a sudden, unexplainable panic, turns to Keith.

“What do they want with us?”, she asks.

“I don't know... I guess we'll find out soon enough....” Keith tells her as the men, all wearing masks, walk up to the side of the car.

“Uh, Keith...”, Scorpion says quietly, “I think we should leave. Now.”

“Yeah, I'm beginning to agree with you.” Keith slowly starts moving his hand down to release the handbrake.

“HEY! HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE 'EM, ASSHOLE!” one of the men yells. The man fires a warning shot at them. It strikes the driver side mirror, shattering it and scaring the hell out of Keith.

Seconds later, one of the men gets to the door. Not skipping a beat, he reaches inside and grabs the scruff of Keith's shirt. Keith is wrenched out of the window, and dragged down to the desert floor. He struggles, kicking up red dust all over the place. His flailing foot collides with the car door. He cries out in pain.

“Keith!” Scorpion screams, as another man makes grabs hold of her tank top. He pulls on her, but to his surprise, she doesn't budge. Confused, he tries again. He succeeds only in ripping the strap off the right side of her top. This proves just enough for Scorpion to take notice of him.

Not missing a beat, Scorpion grabs hold of the man's hand. He screams in agony as her grip causes his bones to crumble like they are made of chalk. Scorpion tugs on his arm, and the man is jerked forward, introducing his skull to the car door and immediately rendering him unconscious. He falls to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

Another man, seeing his comrade collapse, races around to the side of the car. Before he can do anything but gawk, Scorpion kicks the door with all the force she can muster. The flimsy plastic and thin metal buckle, and goes flying off the hinges and off into the distance, carrying her hapless assailant with it.

Scorpion, forgetting that she was still wearing her seat belt (Keith had been rather insistent), leapt out the door. The belt tried to hold her in, and failed miserably. Now trying to hold the car on the youngg woman, instead of the other way around, it snapped. Freed from her would-be restraints, Scorpion walks around the car to confront the others, all of whom are now punching, kicking and stomping on every inch of Keith they can reach.

"Let him go, you bastards!" Scorpion yells, but the goons don't take any notice of her. Blinded by rage, Scorpion lunges onto one of the attackers. Holding the man tightly, she effortlessly hoists him up and over her head. The rest of the men whirl around, and are dumbstruck at the sight of the slim young woman hoisting a fully grown man above her head with no more effort than she might use to lift a throw pillow. Her deep blue eyes stare into them, filled with nothing but loathing.

Before the men's jaws can drop all the way to the floor, Scorpion winds up and pitches their comrade right at them. The men crash to the ground like a bunch of six foot tall skittles.

Scorpion rushes over to Keith's side. “Keith! Are you alright?” she says, visibly worried.

“Yeah, I'm a little tenderised but I think I'll be okay.” Keith moans through gritted teeth. Scorpion can clearly see blood pooling in his mouth. Suddenly, Keith sees one of their attackers climbing out of the pile, and getting into one of the cars. “Alex! Look out!”, he yells, as the man guns the engine, and spins the car around - pointing its menacing front grill right at Scorpion. The SUV barrels towards them at breakneck speed. Scorpion jumps up, and stands tall.

“Alex, what the hell are you doing, get out-of-the-way!” Keith yells. She doesn't seem to hear him.

Scorpion's breathing heightens, her heart pounding in her chest like a jackhammer. “Come on, take your best shot....” she whispers.

The man, apparently obliging her, pushes the accelerator to the floor. He slams into car into her at eighty miles per hour. However, he soon gets the (last) shock of his life. Rather than turning Scorpion into road kill, the car comes to an immediate dead stop - its metal frame bending around Scorpion's body like it were play-doh. The driver, however does not stop, and he's sent flying through the front windscreen. He collides with the ground with a sickening splat. The back tires are still spinning, and the back of the car is lifted into the air by its momentum. Scorpion doesn't flinch as her body is showered with shards of shattered windscreen. Finally the SUV, its momentum spent, flops back to the ground, useless.

Keith sits up, still struggling to comprehend what he'd just seen. Scorpion, completely unperturbed, goes to one of their still unconscious attackers, and starts removing his shirt.

“Wh... what are you doing?”, Keith stumbles.

Scorpion whips off her ruined top, and replaces it with the man's black leather jacket. “Well, I have a meeting, Keith. I would not want to appear under-dressed,” she comments, pulling up the zipper.

“I... wh... ”

“Come on, Keith. we should keep moving.” Scorpion gestures to their car.

“Oh, err... right,” Keith mumbles. After taking a moment to wipe some more blood from his mouth, he climbs back into the drivers seat and they set off again.

 


 

“So... Keith, what exactly do you do for a living?” Scorpion asked a few minutes later. However Keith doesn't hear a thing. Her voice is completely drowned out by the whistling winds blowing through the passenger side door.

“WHAT?” Keith yells back.

“I said, WHERE DO YOU WORK?”

“Wh... Oh, RIGHT, WELL, AT THE MOMENT, I'M STUDYING FULL-TIME, IT DOESN'T LEAVE MUCH TIME FOR A JOB. KATE HAS TO PAY MOST OF THE BILLS.” Keith says, slightly embarrassed that his girlfriend has to take care of him like that.

“OH?” Scorpion said, slightly curious. “What are you studying?”

“HUH?”

"WHAT ARE YOU STUDYING?"

"BIOCHEMISTRY."

"Oh. WHAT'S THAT LIKE?"

“HARD,” Keith tells her, as they round a corner. Scorpion has to hold the door on to stop it falling off entirely. “I KEEP WORKING LATE INTO THE NIGHT, TRYING TO GET REPORTS WRITTEN UP AT THE LAST MINUTE... Hey, speaking of late nights... DID YOU SEE WHAT WAS DOWN BY THE DUMPSTER LAST NIGHT?”

“Err... NO,” Scorpion calls back. Already knowing what he is about to ask, she fights to keep a straight face.

“WELL, THERE WERE A BUNCH OF GUYS DOWN THERE, DRESSED, WELL, KIND OF LIKE THOSE GUYS BACK THERE. THEY WERE ALL TIED UP, OUT COLD, WITH A NOTE ATTACHED TO ONE SAYING 'PLEASE DELIVER TO POLICE'. WEIRD, OR WHAT?”

Scorpion's mouth twitches at the side. “Hmm. OH, YES... VERY WEIRD.”

Suddenly, the engine starts to splutter and cough. “Oh, what now?” Keith says, his nerves starting to fray. He pulls over to the side of the road. As soon as they've stopped, he gets out, pops the hood, and starts looking around.

"Ah, shit!"

"What is it?" Scorpion asks, poking her head out of the car.

"The damn flywheel's snapped again!", Keith tells her.

"Is that bad?"

“Well, Alex, put it this way – this car's not moving until we can get a new flywheel, and the nearest repair shop's not for another twenty miles. It'll take hours to walk there and back!”

“Hmm. Well, it may not be that bad,” Scorpion says, getting a little glimmer in her eye. “Get back in. I'll get us there.”

“How do you plan to...”

“Just get in Keith!”

“Alright, alright, keep your pants on Alex.”

“Why would they be off?”

“I... never mind,” Keith says, shaking his head ruefully. He slams the hood down, and gets back in the car while Scorpion moves around to the back.

“Ready?”, she says, as he buckles his seatbelt.

“Ready for what, exactly?”

Scorpion starts pushing the car along. “Keith? Just tell me when we need to turn,” she calls to him.

Keith looks around behind him. “Alex, you can't possibly mean to push us all the way to wwwwoOOOOOAAAAAAHHHHHH!” Keith screams as the car suddenly accelerates, shoving him back into his chair. He tries to mve, but he's held in place like a giant, invisible hand is pushing him back into the seat. Behind the car, Scorpion breaks into a sprint. The speedometer ticks past fifty miles per hour, seventy miles per hour, one-hundred ten, one-hundred and fifty,....

The desert landscape soon dissolves into an indistinguishable blur as Scorpion races, flat out, along the road. Suddenly, she hears Keith screaming something from the car, “THE NEXT RIGHT! TAKE THE NEXT RIGHT!”

Squinting against the wind, she spies the turn getting closer by the millisecond, and digs her heels into the tarmac. Keith is pitched forward as Scorpion applies the 'brakes', stopping just before hitting his head on the steering wheel. Scorpion forcefully whips the car around, sliding it into the corner. After rounding the corner, she immediately sprints off again.

A scant thirty seconds later, Seed Falls appears on the horizon. Barely five seconds after that, they reach the outskirts of town, and Scorpion slows back to a steady jogging pace. As she brings the car in to a particularly grotty looking mechanic's shop, Keith is sitting bolt upright in the drivers seat, his short hair blasted back, bug-eyed, gasping for breath, and sweating profusely. “Holy crap Alex,” he says, panting. “How... wait-a-minute, if you could just... run here... like that, why did you... need me to drive you?”.

“I didn't know the way,” Scorpion responds flatly, taking off her shoes. Keith just looks at her, utterly disbelieving. Scorpion holds up the shoes, and sees that the soles have been completely ruined by her unorthodox braking procedure. “Oh, that reminds me! Keith, which way is Wright-Corp from here?” Scorpion asks, as she tosses away her now useless runners.

“Its, its a large building in the business district.”, Keith says, pointing at a group of large skyscrapers near the centre of the city, “It shouldn't be too hard to find.”

“Okay, thanks,” she says, then notices that Keith seems a bit ill. “Are you alright, Keith?”.

“Yeah, just... just a little carsick. I'll be right.”

“You sure?” Scorpion asks, with obvious concern.

“Yeah. Go on, get going. You know the way back home to Red Sky, right?” Keith says, not looking up from the floor. Scorpion sighs, “Yeah, I think I can find my way. Bye, Keith!” and without further ado, she sprints off.

 


 

After a short time dashing around the business district - leaving onlookers baffled by the dark blur racing past them - Scorpion spots a large, steel and glass building with the words 'Wright Finance Incorporated' molded in gold above the entrance. She stops in mid-stride, right at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the entrance.

Scorpion strides in through the revolving front door into the building's vast foyer, and takes a moment to look around. She's confronted with a bewildering array of doors and elevators scattered around the room, each leading to who-knows-where. Thick marble columns extend from the floor to the roof of the two story lobby. The place seems deserted, except for a young blonde woman, who's sitting behind a heavy mahogany desk next to a door made of glass and metal labelled 'Employees only'. Scorpion wanders across the lobby, right for the door, and turns the handle. The door, apparently locked, starts making horrible noises, and the handle starts bending. Naturally, it doesn't take long for the racket to draw the woman's attention.

“Hey, what are you doing, lady! You can't go in there! You...!”

Before the other woman can say anything else, Scorpion gets impatient and yanks the door clean off its hinges. The secretary can only watch, stunned, as Scorpion then flings the thick metal door clear across the lobby.

“Uh... on second thought miss... um... go right through,” the secretary says nervously. The edge of Scorpion's mouth twitches again.

Suddenly, a door bursts open on the other side of the lobby. Two security guards come charging out, one of them large, and one comically skinny. In almost perfect unison, they glance from the broken door, to Scorpion, to the door, and finally back to Scorpion again. They draw handguns, and point them right at Scorpion. The secretary lets out a shrill scream, and hides behind her desk.

“Alright you! Drop it!” yells the larger of the two guards.

“Drop what?” Scorpion asks, legitimately confused. As her stare locks onto that of the guard, she sees the guns. Her supercharged heart begins to race. Her gaze lingers on the deadly weapons. A sudden, unwanted shudder races up her spine. Her acutely tuned ears are pounding with the sound of her blood rushing through her body.

“I said drop it!” yells the large one again, his nervousness starting to show.

“Yeah, uh, drop it!” the smaller one chimes in.

“Um, alright,” Scorpion says, still baffled. She starts lowering her arms to her sides when the large guard interrupts.

“Wha... you said to drop it!”

“Not your arms! Stupid bitch!” the larger one chastised.

“We said drop it!” the smaller one yells again, unhelpfully.

“Oh for...” Scorpion grumbles, shaking her head. Deciding to ignore the pair, she starts walking towards the open doorway.

“Hey, we said drop it!” yells the smaller guard again.

“Screw it, drop her!” the large one yells, and squeezes the trigger. Seemingly in slow motion, fire erupts from the end of the barrel. The slug blasts out of the weapon, heading straight for Scorpion. She stands, still as a statue, and watches the bullet come towards her. Her blood is racing through her body so fast that the pounding in her ears transmutes a roar. Her body screams at her, telling her to run, to escape. I've got to get out of here! she thinks.

Wait, why?

Before Scorpion has a chance to ponder that question, however, the bullet slams into her shoulder. She feels it pressing against her flesh, not unlike a small child trying to poke her. The hot lead tries its best to punch through, but Scorpion's flesh refuses to yield. At last, spent, the hunk of lead drops to the ground, hitting the marble floor with a pitiable plop.

Scorpion's eyes follow the bullet down with a swelling sense of satisfaction. When it hits the floor, she looks back up at the guards, smiling broadly. The guards mouths hang open, utterly disbelieving. The guards start glancing nervously at each other.

Suddenly, the pair come back to their senses and start firing at Scorpion again, and again. A fusillade of pernicious lead fills the air of the lobby as the men empty out their clips. The bullets strike Scorpion's body one after another, hitting her shoulder, her left cheek, her thigh, only to bounce off harmlessly. The bullets lodge themselves instead in the wall, the columns, one even shatters a very fancy vase on the secretary's desk.

Through the entire thing, Scorpion doesn't blink.

Finally, the gunshots stop. The large one bends down to reload, while the smaller one keeps pulling the trigger, eliciting nothing more than a series of clicks.

Scorpion, deciding that she's wasted too much time on these idiots, dashes across the room towards them. Both men freeze up as the young woman seemingly vanishes, only to reappear right in front of them. Scorpion looks down on the large one, her face almost dripping contempt. Slowly, his gaze edges up her body....

Then, faster than any human eye could make out, Scorpion backhands the guard from one end of the lobby to the other. He sails across the room like a walrus fired from a catapult before crashing down into a chair, his vast bulk splintering it into hundreds of tiny wooden chunks. He doesn't get back up.

The smaller guard, seeing what happened to his partner, finally decides to reload his weapon. He struggles frantically to replace the clip. Unfortunately for him, Scorpion has other plans. She turns her attention to him, and promptly snatches the gun from his hands. The guard keeps fumbling around, trying to place the clip into a gun which he no longer has.

Scorpion grabs the front of the man's shirt, and yanks him into the air. The man's eyes widen in fear as his feet leave the ground, then nearly bug out of his head when Scorpion gives him a knowing smirk. She bends her arm at the elbow, ready to send this guard to join his partner.

However, before she can make good her impulses, a distraction arrives in the form of a cold, calculated voice crackling over the building's intercom. “Miss Manning?”, it asks.

Scorpion, shaking off her surprise, calls out to the seemingly empty lobby. “Wh... who's there?”

“I think you already know Miss,” the voice tells her, with an unmistakeable hiss.

“Burke!” Scorpion exclaims. “Where are you?” she demands.

“I'm not far away, Miss Manning,” Burke announces, his tone chillingly calm. “Miss Manning, if it is convienient to you, I've been hoping you and I could have a little chat.”.

“Oh, have you now?” Scorpion says, her eyes flickering around the room. She tries to find the source of the noise, but to no avail, the lobby is acting like a giant echo chamber.

“Indeed. Just follow the lights, they'll lead you somewhere we can talk more... privately.”

“What lights?” Scorpion starts to ask, but she's cut off as a string of red lights bursts to life along the floor, leading through the doorway by the desk. “Alright. Fine,” Scorpion says, “I guess I'll be seeing you soon.”

“Excellent,” Burke says, his tone level. “Oh, and Miss Manning? One last thing?”

"What?"

“I don't think our good friend Eugene needs to hear this. If you would be so kind as to leave him here?”

“Who?”

“Let go of me!”the skinny guard yells, flailing about madly, kicking and punching any part of Scorpion that he can reach.

“Oh. Right. Him,” Scorpion says, blushing slightly as she lets go of 'Eugene', who falls flat on his behind. Scorpion walks through the doorway into a small room, with a large metal door on the other side, which the red lights run underneath. Scorpion notices a small green button next to it. She presses it, and the door shudders open. Air rushes into the previously sealed room, making a distinct whooshing noise. Scorpion gives the guards one last glare, then heads through.

Scorpion emerges inside a long, concrete lined corridor, lit only by the line of dim red lights running along the floor. Scorpion jumps a little bit as the large door slams shut behind her. An unwelcome unease begins to creep in as Scorpion starts off down the corridor. Her eyes dart about, trying to pick up what little detail she can. She catches a red glint reflected off a security camera that's following her every move. She watches it until its out of sight, and it watches her right back.

After a hundred feet or so, the row of lights make a sharp left turn, and Scorpion follows.

Suddenly, a loud noise rings out through the corridor, echoing off the walls. Scorpion lets out a little yelp, and frantically looks around for the source. She soon spies a small speaker one the wall. “That's it, Miss Manning, just a little further.”, Burke encourages. His voice echoes up and down the corridors, seeming almost omnipresent. Scorpion, after stopping for a moment to regain her composure, sets off once more.

Come on Scorpion, get it together! she silently chastises herself. Burke's voice crackles over the intercom again.

“Is there a problem, Miss Manning?”

“No, no problem," Scorpion says shortly. "What the hell is this guy playing at? Where is he leading me? she starts to wonder. Is this some kind of trap? Wait... shit! That's got to be it! she thinks, getting frantic. He's going to try and kill me to cover up his little 'mistake'! Oh, shit! Unconsciously, her hands begin to tremble.

Wait, what the hell am I worried for? He already sent his goon squads after me, and look how that turned out!, she snorts derisively, This is ridiculous. This guy's got nothing to scare me with. But, then, why am I still scared....

She thinks it over for a while, still following the red trail. Just as Burke's voice crackles over the intercom again, telling her she needed to head through a door on the right a few yards back, she comes up with an answer.

Maybe... maybe its not me that's scared... I mean, Alexis' feelings are still part of me, right? So... I'm not the one that's scared, she is! Of course! She'd be terrified by all this stuff. Fair enough, after all. She's only human....

At last, the red lights disappear under another door. Scorpion presses the little green button by the door, and the door's hydraulics force it open.

Alright, whatever he's got, I'm ready. Scorpion strides forward, ready to meet whatever Burke throws her way. She steps over the precipice and into the room.

Immediately, the red lights shut off, leaving her completely in darkness. She listens in, expecting to hear people moving around, guns ready to fire. However, the room is dead quiet. She cautiously edges her way around the room, expecting a gunshot to ring out at any moment. It doesn't come.

Puzzled, Scorpion starts feeling around the concrete walls, and soon locates what feels like a light switch near the door. She hesitates momentarily. What if its a bomb or something? She takes a deep breath, bracing herself. Well, only one way to find out. She flips the switch. Instinctively, Scorpion ducks back outside. The whole room lights up.

However, there's no explosion. No sound at all, save for the faint hum of a newly activated halogen light, buzzing away from the ceiling. Poking her head back into the room, Scorpion is amazed to see...

… nothing. Nothing at all. It is one of the plainest rooms she has ever seen. There's a simple, metal chair in the middle of the room, a small camera mounted to the roof, a speaker on the wall, and bare concrete walls all around. Still wary, Scorpion walks in, and gently closes the door behind her.

“Take a seat,” Burke demands over the intercom. Scorpion casts a quick glance at the chair.

“If its all the same to you, I'd rather stand,” she tells the disembodied voice.

"Sit. Now."

“No,” Scorpion says defiantly. The room falls silent.

Eventually, Burke speaks again. “Very well. As you wish.”

“Where are you, Burke?” Scorpion asks. “I thought we were supposed to meet?”

“And we will. But not here, and not now,” Burke says bluntly. “Given your actions in our bunker, I thought it safer to keep my distance. Well, for the time being at least.”

Should have guessed. Scorpion thought, shaking her head almost imperceptibly. “So, what, you're scared of little old me?” she taunted the empty room. “Hmph. Well, after what I did to those guys you sent after me at Kate's place, maybe you should be!”

To Scorpion's amazement, Burke lets out a satisfied snort. “So, that's how you found me? I suppose I'll have to give Powell's men a bonus.”

“A... a bonus?” Scorpion stammers out. “I beat the stuffing out of the lot of them, and left them by a dumpster! Oh, and those guys on the highway? Yeah, they didn't fare any better!”

“All according to plan.”, Burke says calmly. “Well, perhaps not the part with the dumpster. I hate having to bribe garbage men.”

“Wha... wait a minute.”, Scorpion says, now utterly perplexed, “Are you saying that you paid mercenaries to come after me, just to let me eat the living daylights out of them?”

“Yes and no.”, Burke tells her, “I did send them to your friends house, thinking you might be there. I knew they wouldn't stand a chance against you, however, I never intended for them to defeat you, only to deliver this location to you, so we could have a little one on one talk. I would have just sent my business card, but somehow I didn't think you would accept.”. Scorpion didn't need to see his face to know that Burke's thin lips were smiling right about now. “So, I made sure the mercenaries all 'overheard' me talking to their respective leaders, so that once you had beaten them to a pulp, they could direct you here. Not a bad plan, if I do say so myself.”

“Oh, and what would you have done if I'd killed them?”

“Send more,” Burke says nonchalantly. “Besides, even if they failed, it would have told us more about your capabilities. Speaking of which, that brings us to why I needed to talk to you to begin with.”

“My... is that all you care about? My powers!” Scorpion says, barely able to believe Burke's callousness.

“As it happens, Miss Manning, yes! It is very important that we....” Burke starts, but Scorpion cuts him off.

“Don't call me that.” she says, teeth clenched, “You killed Alexis Manning!”

“Oh?” Burke says, a glint of curiosity briefly shining through his cool exterior, “If that's true, then who am I talking to?”

"Scorpion."

“Oh... hmm... yes.... well, anyway....” Burke stumbled, apparently taken aback by this news, “I take it you are aware of Project... well of course you are. Are you aware of the difficulty we had obtaining volunteers for the project?”

“Yes. Vaguely.” Scorpion said, fists clenching in rage as she remembered what she had learned at the bunker.

“Well, to cut a long story short, my boss....”

"Your boss?"

“...decided that the project would need to be terminated unless we could find someone who wouldn't object to the procedure. Unfortunately, as we couldn't use a living subject, we needed someone recently deceased. However, to make sure that the subject would be suitable, we needed to start preserving their body almost immediately after death. The only way for us to do that, was to know in advance where and when....” Burke's voice trailed off.

“Anyway, I started seeking out... candidates. Scorpion, let me assure you... what happened to Alexis Manning and her family, as regrettable... as horrible, as it was, was absolutely necessary.”

“Necessary!”, Scorpion thunders, shaking the room, “What would ever make it 'necessary' for you to go around killing innocent people?” she demands. Again, Burke falls silent.

At last, he asks Scorpion a question. “Those organs you saw in the bunker, the ones that granted you your new powers. Do you know where they came from?”

“Wh... what? No! Why... how would I know that?” Scorpion stammers out, thrown completely by the question.

“Hmm. Alright, what do you know of the TPA's purpose?”

“The... what are you getting at here, Burke? What does this have to do with... anything!”

“Everything.”, Burke tells her, as coolly as ever.

Getting fed up with Burke's vagueness, Scorpion says "Fine. I'll bite. What's the TPA's purpose?"

“To protect us. All of us.”

“Protect against what? Who are you supposed to be protecting?”, she asks, struggling to contain her temper. Again, Burke goes quiet. “Well?” More silence.

“No.” Burke says at last.

“No... what?”

“You're not ready. I could tell you now but I doubt you would believe a word of it.”

“Not... listen to me, Burke! I've seen you and your little friends get away with murder, raise the dead... I'm ready to believe quite a lot right about now!”

“No.” Burke repeats, “Don't worry, Scorpion, you'll find out everything soon enough.” Then, he adds, apparently to himself, “We'll all find out soon enough.” Once again, silence falls.

“Scorpion, the main reason I called you here is that there is something that I... we, need you to do.” Burke states.

Scorpion can hardly believe his audacity. “Wait, wait... let me see if I understand this. You murder Alexis and her family, turn her into... me... send armed thugs to my friend's house, refuse to tell me... anything... and now you're asking me for help! Are you completely insane! What could you possibly do to make me want to help you!”

“If it helps, you could be very well compensated. Well enough to set you and your friends up for life, if you wish.”

“Oh please. You think bribery is going to help?”, she snorts derisively.

“Alternatively, you could do it pro bono.”, Burke says. Scorpion has a difficult time figuring out whether or not he's trying to be funny. “I assure you Scorpion, you will do what we want of you sooner than later. Once... events are... in motion, and you see your friends in danger, you won't have much of a choice.”

“Now what is that supposed to mean, Burke!”, Scorpion yells back. The speaker says silent. “I should warn you Burke, If you think I'm going to respond to threats, you're dead wrong.”

“Scorpion, I simply wish to offer a place where you can safely hone your skills, and in return, you perform the mission for which you were created. You help us, we help you. Simple as that.”

What mission! Questions chase each other around her mind, Who am I supposed to helping! Terrorists, CIA, flipping FEMA,... who! He might just be some loon who got out of the asylum. Okay, a very rich, well connected loon, but a loon nonetheless! Still... this could be my best chance to get closer to him... maybe figure out what he's up to, and who else is involved in all this. Never mind Burke, I could bring down the whole TPA!

Her internal debate is brought to a sudden halt as Burke's voice crackles over the speakers. “Well, Scorpion? Do you accept my offer?”

She pauses.

"Well? What do you say?"

At last, she comes to a decision. “Alright. Fine. I'm in.” she says. For now.

“Excellent!” Burke says happily. Scorpion feels a faint shiver run down her spine, Burke seemed far less scary when he was angry than happy. “Return to your friend Kathleen Visitor's house for the time being, I'll send Adams around to pick you up later tonight. Look for a blue GM sedan.” Burke lets out a relieved sigh. “Ah, Scorpion...” he says wistfully, “... this is quite the historic occasion. I'd love to shake your hand, maybe even toast our new... partnership... but that may be somewhat difficult....”

“Not really,” Scorpion says calmly. Without another word, she slams her right hand right through the speaker. “Pleasure doing business with you, Mister Burke.” she spits, as the red lights on the floor come back on.

 


 

A short time later, Scorpion steps back out of the corridor, and into the lobby. Almost immediately, there's a small yelp, and a lot of scraping and crunching noises from her left. Perplexed, Scorpion looks over and sees a head of long, blonde hair just poking out above the desk.

Quietly snickering, Scorpion strides across the lobby to the front doors. On the way, she passes a janitor sweeping up clay, marble and small chunks of lead. She passes the security guards, who are now sitting on stretchers, and being attended by a couple of paramedics. The large one, startled to see her, tries to get away, but only succeeds in tipping the stretcher over, and sending himself tumbling to the floor.

At last, Scorpion pushes her way out through the front doors, and out into the sunlight. She walks down the stairs, and soon disappears into the hustle and bustle of workers on their lunch break.

Once she gets a few blocks away, Scorpion suddenly ducks out of the crowd, and into a small side alley. She glances around for a moment, checking that she's alone. Sure that she hasn't been followed, she reaches down the front of her shirt, and pulls out a small gizmo that looks a lot like an mp3 player. She messes with it for a moment, then presses the play button.

“...seeking out... candidates. Scorpion, let me assure you... what happened to Alexis Manning and her family,...” Burke's static filled voice crackled out of the device's tiny speakers. Scorpion smiles, and hides the recording device again.

“Oh, yes, I'm going to nail you yet, you son of a bitch.”

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Strings of red lights? Send them all (Especially the lights, Christmas just doesn't feel the same without them) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or find CavemanNinjaJoe on the SWM forums.

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