Shyft - Endgame

(posted Friday, November 25, 2005)

Shyft huddled in a fetal position under the heavy flannel sheet. Her pillow was soaked by the silent tears that ran from her eyes. The last week had been a living nightmare. She had worked diligently for a year, gathering tidbits, clues and proof. After a year, Julianne, a friend with contacts in the city district attorney's office had seen enough to get a warrant for the Countess issued.

If the strike on the Countess Crey had not been disappointing enough, Red Saviour had let a combination of her hormones and normal bitchy disposition make a stressful situation impossible, even going so far as abandoning the team in mid raid. Rank had been forgotten. CeCe had drank her fill of Nat's bile. When she began insulting both of Shyft's closest of friends, CeCe had nearly slapped the teeth from her mouth. Had not Zach intervened, things could have degenerated to a point of no return. As it was, CeCe was still unsure where the CCCP fit into her life, if at all.

The Countess Crey was not a woman without her own means. She turned things around, and framed CeCe for a laundry list of crimes. Nemesis mercs had hunted her at every turn, trying to cash in on the multi-million dollar bounty.

Hegemon and Midnight Mirage had hidden her at their apartment while she worked under the cover of night to get herself exonerated. It had worked, and in clearing herself, she had gathered enough proof for a federal judge to issue another warrant for the Countess.

She shivered again and pulled the sheets over her shoulders, trying to drive the cold from her depths. The night's events replayed in her mind.

--------

Julianne handed Shyft a manila folder. "This is it Shyft. Look at the seal. Judge Sanicola is clean, above her manipulations."

CeCe opened the folder and smiled. The papers read "on charges of murder in the first degree and conspiracy to commit murder". It was federal arrest warrant for the Countess Crey. Word was already on the streets. Her empire was shaken, but her people were covering for her. She was hidden, under layers of protection. There was no doubt she was trying to get out of the country. Longbow Agents had been dispatched to cover the ways out of the city. "They want me to do it?"

"They want her brought in. I told them you were the one to do it."

Shyft nodded and flew off. Crey had most of their business holding stationed in the Brickstown district. She would need to bash heads, but she would get a location. As she sat on the tram, she heard Red Saviour, Comrade Vex and Communard exchange pleasantries over the radio. Still furious with the Commissar, her knuckles turned white as she gripped the armrest.

She scanner jumped to the Congress open channel. Tutelary's eager voice cut in. "Anyone want help? I can help! I try really hard, too!"

Tutelary was a warshade tied to the soul of the original Hegemon. Wide-eyed and innocent, she was a powerful ally with the attitude of an enthusiastic pre-teen. It was hard to remember she was an adult at times, but CeCe believed her infectious attitude would pull her out of the funk she was in. "I can use help."

"Awesome!" Her bubbly voice was fit to burst over the radio. Shyft quickly synced up their communicators. Within minutes, the young alien landed in front of Shyft waving enthusiastically. She paused a moment as a look of realization came over her face. "Heeey! I know you! You're Shyft! Whoa! You're pretty! No wonder Hegemon likes you so much!"

Shyft blushed. "Spaciba. Da, I am she. I know of you as well. You are Hegemon's charge."

Tutelary grinned. "Yeah, that's what he calls me sometimes. He was my first friend!" The girl's eyes narrowed. "Are you a Russian? I'm friends with a bunch of Russians. I'm not being one today, though."

"He is a great man." Shyft stifled a giggle. She was exactly what CeCe needed. "Da, I am Russian."

Tutelary shrugged "I don't know, I heard some pretty bad things about him! I don't think they're true, though."

"What do you mean, you are not being one today?" She paused as Tutelary's words sank in. "What durok would speak ill of Hegemon?"

"Someone I know! I'm not supposed to say, though. They don't like each other!" Tutelary looked down at her feet and fidgeted.

"Please Tutelary. He means the world to me, and I would not allow people to speak ill of him." CeCe had her idea who was speaking so, but she did not want to jumped to any conclusions.

Tutelary grimaced. "I can't say! I made a promise. She said that Hegemon was trying to give you a heart attack!"

Shyft sighed. "Very well." CeCe's tutors had always complained that she was a willful child. As a graduate student, disagreements with elder professors often turned heated. she was a passionate woman, and would not be denied when she saw herself in the right. Switching her communicator to the Congress channel. "What idiot is speaking ill of Hegemon?"

Tutelary's eyes went wide and she covered her mouth in surprise. "Oh no! Eeep!" She transformed into her warshade combat form and curled up into a hard-shelled ball.

Shyft had a visible snarl on her face as she keyed the mic again. "Does anyone have the guts to admit it?" She paused, hearing only silence. "I thought not."

After a moment, the communicator cracked and the voice of Red Saviour broke the silence. "Settle down, sestra."

Nat. Shyft was surprised she had not reacted to the insult earlier. Her voice shifted to a silky tone. She knew who had spoken now. "Oh, hello Commissar."

Kuo cut in. "What?"

Shyft smiled, taking delight in openly insulting Nat. "Someone within the Congress, a obvious dura, was speaking ill of my Hegemon. I will have it stopped now." She had switched the gender of the insult to feminine, hoping the point was made to those who spoke Russian. "He has been a rock for me over the last few days."

Agent Nikolia, a newcomer to the congress answered. "I don't speak ill of nobody, unless they got it coming."

Shyft smiled. "Very well. I would hope we of the Congress are above such petty nonsense. Spaciba for your time."

Tutelary's look was very apologetic. "I didn't mean to make you mad!"

Red Saviour's voice quietly spoke over the channel. "Ahem...I am sure he has."

She held up a finger to Tutelary. "A moment." Shyft switched to the CCCP private channel. If she was going to provoke a fight, better to keep it among the Soviets. "Is that supposed to mean something, Commissar?"

Her voice was quiet, but Red Saviour had a hint of anger to it. "Nyet."

Smiling again, Shyft turned off the radio. "No worries, child."

"I'm not a child. I'm just new." Tutelary squinted and poked Shyft. "Heeey! You're a black hole!"

"Da....well, I have one." Shyft tapped her forehead right above the brow line. "Right here."

"I saw them all the time when I was in space." tutelary sighed sharply and suddenly changed mental gears. "So what are we doing?"

"Want to beat up some Crey? They have information I need."

Tutelary grinned. "You bet!"

After a few hours of relentless assault and the destruction of several Crey "field units", Shyft had what she wanted. The fear of being eaten by a black hole caused one of the Countess Crey's chief scientists to give up where she was. The Countess was running scared. With all the labs and bunkers the corporation held, she was hiding in a cave complex in Perez Park until a chopper could be brought in to whisk her out of the country. Shyft wasn't about to let that happen.

As Tutelary went to tell Hegemon to pick up his phone, Shyft began making calls. "Boomer? Get your boyfriend. We have a Countess' ass to beat."

Nicolette was a bit surprised. Shyft was far colder than she had ever heard her before. "You got it CeCe. Where?"

"Perez Park."

"Greetings, CeCe." Hegemon's warm deep voice over the radio comforted Shyft. "So. You have found her, then?"

"Darlink!" Her heart leapt in her chest.

"It will be good to see you again. I have been worried sick."

Shyft made her way to the tram. As he stepped off, she surprised him and threw her arms around his neck. "I was safe in your home, and now I have her!"

"Excellent news!" He grinned. Shyft noted the normal flush of color around his neck and cheeks did not rise. He was getting accustomed to her physical displays of affection. It was pleasing to see. "What allies shall we take to the fight?"

"Boomer. Rory. Perhaps a healer." She released him, and her demeanor turned very serious. "No Soviets." She quickly grabbed her radio and broke into the Congress channel. "I have need of healer. Are any available?"

Hegemon nodded. "That is good to hear. I do not think I made a very good impression last time."

Getting no answer, Shyft switched off the receiver, leaving only a private channel on. "To hell with them." She grimaced seeing Hegemon's shrug. "I am sorry darlink. I do not mean to sound bitter." She shook her head. "She pushed me too far."

"What can I say? I did try. Ah, well. I only have need of one Russian in my life." Hegemon took her hands and smiled causing Shyft to blush and smile. Rory and Boom-Boom suddenly came on, connecting to the private channel.

"Greetings and good evening, my allies."

Shyft had an immediate thought. The CCCP was not able to support her in this endeavor. On the other hand, she was standing with a handful of senior members of the Alliance of Champions. "Rory, are there any AOC healers about?"

"Greetin's." Rory's musical accent was a welcome sound. "Lemme check. Wha's up?"

Shyft's voice went icy. "I have her. She's in the park. She won't be leaving."

"Who?"

"The Countess." Shyft spat the word.

"If'n we're out ta get tha' Countess, shouldna we gets Manne involved?"

Shyft didn't know who Manne was, and right now she wasn't in the mood to make new first impressions. "Right now, I need people I care for. No Soviets."

All three looked at each other for a moment, visibly shocked. Hegemon broke the uncomfortable silence. "I daresay that there are many who bear a grudge. I believe that we will suffice." The four landed in front of the cave entrance Shyft

had plugged into the communication system. "Never fear, CeCe, we will prevail this time. I doubt she has many more tricks up her sleeve."

Shyft concentrated for a moment and a series of fluctuating fields formed around her. "I have a few new tricks myself."

She turned to Rory. "No luck with a healer?"

He shook his head. "Nae, lass."

Hegemon smiled and put his hands on her shoulders. Not to worry, CeCe. With luck, we will not require one. If we do, your abilities will suffice."

Shyft leading the way, the four entered the cave complex. Soft sobs echoed through the caves. Shyft was certain she recognized it as the Countess. The witch had nothing to cry about. For all she had wrought, it was time the Countess' crimes had caught up with her. Her fists clenched so tightly, her fingernails cut into her palms. "Let's do this."

Hegemon noticed a drop of crimson from Cerenje's hand. "CeCe, are you quite prepared for this?"

They stepped into an open cave, and immediately drew fire from a Cryo Tank supported by a trio of Crey's field agents.

Shyft trapped them in mid air, like flies in amber. Blasts of flame from Rory and a hail of gunfire from Boomer, and the room was silent again. "If we find the Countess, nobody touch her. She's mine." The other three, looked at each other. She was far darker than any of them had ever seen her be before.

They tore through the cave complex at a breakneck pace. Shyft was a woman possesed. The more they fought Crey security forces, the less she spoke, and the more harsh she became with her attacks. Staggered and nearly unconscious foes found themself crashing into cave walls. If they were in her way, her strikes came down with such ferocity that her companions were spending as much time fighting as they were making sure those they faced were not critically wounded.

Boomer tired to keep the conversation light. They had spent long nights talking about "what if's" should this day ever come to pass. Watching her friend, Boomer began to worry. "C'mon CeCe. Don't let this eat you up, girl." CeCe was a scientist and a socialite. At the rate she was going, would she be a killer before the night was over?

After running over several small patrols of Crey Security, the four found themselves in a large, domed-ceiling cave, dotted with stalactites and stalagmites. Hegemon pointed towards a pocket near the back of the cave. "There she is!"

Boom Boom lifted her rifle and began sighting in. ":I see her."

Shyft charged through a few dozen bodyguards, vaulting a pair of Power Tanks. "Countess Crey! This ends tonight!"

The Countess roared back as he energy fields activated. "Shyft! You may have destroyed my reputation and all my great work. But I will destroy you!"

"Destroy me? You made me!" Shyft struck the Countess with both hands, sending her reeling. "Now you will see what you have created!" Pulling strands of magnetics and gravity, Shyft took a handful of motes of dust in the air and collapsed them into a micro Singularity and placed it at the Countess Crey's chest before releasing it. Chug had nicknamed the visible effect of this power "Mr. Boing". "NOW YOU WILL FEEL THE POWER OF A LIVING STAR!"

As Agent Boom-Boom, Rory and Hegemon took down the rest of the security forces, the Countess and Shyft threw attack after attack at each other, both crashing off of the other's shields. As each attack bounced her anger grew. As she deflected each metal strike, she her vision turned red. Seeing her normally beautiful face twisted in rage, Hegemon could take it no longer. "Take her!" The Countess turned, surprised only to have one of Hegemon's mystically strengthened fists crash into her. Seeing the battle joined, Boomer and Rory opened fire, letting loose with everything they could.

Prepared for Shyft, the Countess could have stood until reinforcements arrived. She was not ready for a quartet of "costumed fools" and her shields overloaded and shut down quickly. Within moments, they were through her barriers and Shyft had her wrapped in a bubble of antigravity. Hegemon, quickly fell back. "She is at our mercy!" Rory and Boomer followed suit. "Finish her, CeCe!"

Pulling a wrecked car from the netherspace within her pinpoint singularity, Shyft flung it at the Countess, sending her flying, out cold. She stood over the Countess, her hand raised, rippling with power, as Rory, Hegemon and Boomer looked on. It was over. She had the woman who had made her life a nightmare over. It would be so simple. For everything she had done, for all of her crimes, for all the pain and suffering she and her people had caused. it would be so easy. A moment of influx, and Shyft could wink the Countess out of existence. All she had done, all the lives she had ruined, all the people she had killed to advance Crey Technologies. Nobody would have faulted her for a momentary moral lapse.

Shyft leaned down, tears streaming from her eyes. As she placed the teleport patch on the Countess, Rory quickly grabbed a sample from one of the wounds. "I will not...become like...her...." Hegemon kissed her cheek as Boomer hugged her. "Let us finish this." Shyft activated the patch and sent her to the Zig. Ultimately, beating her would appear to have been a futile effort. Her lawyers would have her out in hours. It didn't matter. Shyft had won.

***

Hegemon accompanied her home, but she was silent during the flight. They stopped for a moment as Hege spoke with Midnight Mirage, his roommate, letting her know he would be away for a few days. He feared Crey reprisals for the humiliation of the Countess. She simply could not bear to be alone.

They landed at her back door. Scrambling the electrocondusive fiber suit, she switched out of costume to civilian clothes. The tears had finally stopped, but there was still a hollow sadness to her. As Hegemon switched the charm on to change to normal clothing, he caught the far away look in her eye. "CeCe, you have beaten her. You prevailed! Is this not a time for celebration?"

CeCe leaned against the wall. "I thought, once this day came, all would be right." She shook her head. "Sergei is still dead. So is Gerald. Who knows what will become of Kid Crisis." She rubbed her temples. "She will be free before morning, and in two weeks her money will put a spin on this to make everyone forget it even happened. Why? Why did I even bother?" She began to cry again. "I should have just killed her."

Hegemon's jaw set firm. "I would not have blamed you, had you killed her. But you would not be the Shyft I have come to become very fond of if you had. You would never be able to live with yourself had you killed her."

She looked up at the starry sky and gave a shuddering sigh. "I don't know if I want to be Shyft anymore. I don't know if I want to be a hero anymore."

Hegemon gave a formal bow and then kissed her on the cheek. "Then just be CeCe. It is more than enough for me."

--------

She laid there, still awake. Her costume and communicator sat in the middle of her bedroom floor. The tears still came and went. It would be a long time before her heart healed. This was the oldest of her wounds. Even once healed, she would never be the same. She took comfort in knowing that is was finally healing.

There was a deep murmur and movement. She closed her eyes as the comfort of Hegemon's arm wrapped around her. The healing would take a long time, but she wouldn't have to go it alone.