Dragon's Tooth

From the Story Arc: Three Days In December

Previous Story in the Arc: Thunder by Bestial Boy (Tuesday, December 12, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Shiva Dances by Bestial Boy (Tuesday, December 12, 2006)

(posted Tuesday, December 12, 2006)

"Incoming!" he heard, as all four of the armed men whirled to face him at once. With a shock, he saw that they all had the same face. Clones? Was this something connected to Crey? No. A Duplicator. They were rare, and BB hadn't ever fought one. Metas that could create physical clones of themselves at will, sometimes granting partial sentience to them. This will get interesting.

The fifth man, who was shrouded in a cloak of shadow nearly identical to Zach's. also turned, but slowly. He let the shadow-cloak slip a bit, giving Zach a clearer view of himself. The enemy smiled. He was holding someone in an Army officer's uniform, one-handed, clutching him by the throat. As he turned to face Zach, he snapped the man's neck like a matchstick.

"Right on time," the man drawled, tossing the corpse aside. "You must be that commie Bestial Boy. Nice to meet you, brother."

Zach felt jolted. Brother? What the hell?

The other smiled even more broadly. "I suppose you're wondering if I am going to monologue now. Of course I am. But I'm not just going to stand here posing while I'm doing it--" And he flung himself at Zach. Zach brought up his murk to full force, tendrils of darkness whirling about him in a frenzy to take the surprise attack. The meta chopped at Zach, his hands bladed and covered with blood. The karate strikes glanced off of his murk, but still forced him to take a few steps back, launching counter-blows. Remarkably, Zach's own attacks hardly touched his opponent. This guy's got the same stuff I do! Meanwhile, Gremlin was laughing heartily, diving in at the duplicator's copies, occasionally shouting curses in Russian that would make a sailor blush.

"I'm kinda disappointed here, Zach, ol' buddy. I was hoping you'd have John Murdock along instead of this cut-rate Russki porcupine. Then all the alumni could be together." The meta ---the leader of this bunch, more than likely--- tried a wicked back-hand. Zach ducked under it with ease, pivoted, and then started a series of lightning-quick body-blows to the meta's midsection. The man crumpled back in pain, the flurry of blows showing some signs of having gotten through his defense.

"Alumni? What, you some kinda frat-boy gone horribly wrong?" Johnny? What's this got to do with Johnny? With his opponent reeling, Zach launched forward with a front-kick. Even with his wicked speed and partial obfuscation, the meta somehow reacted and grabbed Zach's boot, torquing and twisting it back and forth. Zach gritted his teeth, and spun with the final twist, bringing his other boot up; the toe of his boot struck the meta hard on the side of his chin, causing him to release Zach and stumble a step. Zach landed, catlike, on his feet.

"What? You thought the Program would just dry up and blow away without you?" The meta barked a harsh laugh. "You shoulda known better than that. Both of you. Buildings, people, they can all be replaced when someone really, really wants something. And someone really, really wanted us. Me and my bros. Or they did." The meta didn't relent his attack; he leapt up into the air, raising his fists over his head for a harsh overhead blow. Zach coiled himself, and then sprang up, his legs pistoning off from the ground. The meta looked like he was moving in slow motion as Zach thundered his fist upwards in an uppercut. The meta's fists slammed into his shoulders at the same time that Zach's own fist pounded the meta's chin, right on the point. Zach was forced to his knees, his shoulders aching. That'll bruise. The meta, however, flew onto his back, skidding on the asphalt before coming to a rest. Zach quickly recovered, getting into a low crouch, his stance ready for anything the meta could throw at him.

But Zach felt a chill that had nothing to do with his opponent’s fear-inducing murk, that nibbled at the edges of his mind. The Program...the super-soldier program he'd been funneled into as a kid...it was still going on? And...what did this have to do with John...

...unless the both of them had been in parts of the same Program...

The meta slowly picked himself up off of the ground, wiping away a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. He's getting sluggish. Probably exerted himself too much when he was having fun with the civvies, the bastard.

"Oh yeah, figuring it out, now, are you?" He was still grinning. "You might as well call me Weaponized. Or better yet, 'Weaponized, Sir' because you're gonna be my bitch right before I wipe you out of my life. Yeah, somebody wanted people like us real bad. Or they did. Right up until a little bird leaked the fact to Crey that two of their 'failed projects' had actually learned to think for themselves and get away, and then Crey leaked that to the desk-jockeys here. You. Murdock. You were still able to think for yourselves and get out--and you wrecked their labs when you did."

The Program had been a part of his life from such a young age, he hardly believed sometimes that it had "ended" when the Facility he was at went up in flames. It made sense that they'd have had more than one Facility, more test subjects and research. He felt so stupid; why hadn't he pieced it together before? Johnny's description of his past in the super-soldier program was strikingly similar to Zach's own experience. The only real difference was that Johnny had been dragooned into it as an adult, and supposedly consenting. Zach had been a kid, signed over by his folks when they couldn't cope with his developing powers. The surgical enhancements, the training, the disregard for those being "worked on". Johnny had been discovered as a meta, after he'd gone through all of those hells; Zach got taken in precisely because he was a metahuman. It makes such horrible sense.

Some of this must have shown on Zach's face, the man calling himself "Weaponized" laughed and lunged at him again.

"Yeah, they'd thought you were both dead, Zach Marlowe. And when they found out you weren't--when they found out you'd gone commie on them--they got scared. The desk-jockeys, the bean-counters here, that scared the crap out of them. Thinking it might get leaked to the Armed Services Committee scared them more. Decided it was too risky. Ordered it all shut down. Ordered us to be....'neutralized.' You know what that means, right?"

Oh yeah. He knew what that meant to people who thought of other human beings as "test subjects."

"I got into the files right before I did my own 'break out', me and 'Mr. Xerox' back there. It was weird that both of the first Facilities had gone up in explosions and flames, so they figured it was some sort of outside attack. Then they see you're alive, and not too long after, Murdock too. In the same gang of freaks, no less!" They both traded blows, inflicting no real damage upon each other; that was fine by Zach. He was wearing "Weaponized" down. Soon, he'd be able to put him down for good, drag him back to a precinct for questioning.

In a way, he was glad he was fighting, adrenaline fueling him, otherwise he'd be reeling with shock.

"So there you are, commie. Sitting there all fat and happy, with your medals and your titles and your blue bitch. And him... Both of you with my life. The life I should have had." Weaponized snarled. "I deserve it! I'm the American Hero here, not you! So after we broke out, I decided to teach the bastards that ordered us shut down a little permanent lesson. And while I was at it, I figured I'd come take my life back from you."

Zach backpedalled a little, and keyed his throat mike. He and Gremlin were both defaulted to the CCCP freq; unlikely anyone would hear them but the DC dispatcher. "We gotta get this guy out of here, bro. Too many civilians, and I don't know what else he can do. We need a clear field." Gremlin might not have heard him; he was busy guffawing, slashing at three copies of the last baddie. The fourth lay on the ground, motionless.

The dispatcher interrupted. "Feeding you loc beacon for Washington Dulles. Incoming air traffic is being rerouted, and we're clearing the field. I'm having the airport evac'd now."

"Roger that, dispatch, thanks." The blinking guide-light on his comm moved. A split second later, he was moving too, leaping away into the sky.

"Hey! Bitch! Where the hell do you think you're going?! Don't walk away when I'm talking at you!" Weaponized leapt after him. It wasn't far; Zach kept a good distance between them, bounding off of rooftops and the occasional national landmark towards the airport.

"Commissar! Come quickly!" The shout from multiple throats jarred Bella out of her paperwork-trance. The tone was urgent...alarmed...

She vaulted over the desk and sprinted for the rec room. A cluster of comrades either back from, or not yet gone out on patrol were clustered around the television monitor. Scrolling across the bottom were the words Breaking News: Carnage in the Capitol.

Accustomed now to taking in battle scenes at a glance, she read it all. The bodies first, the camera kept going back to them. The location--a second headline screamer read CCCP Heroes at Pentagon. Zach and Gremlin...she knew both of them so well she could pick them out at just about any distance.

The opponents--the odds didn't bother her so much as seeing that Zach looked to be evenly matched. She couldn't recall the last time that had happened...Tyrant, maybe? But that was an alternate timeline, not here. This could get very ugly for "collateral damage"...

But Zach would know that. He was such an experienced fighter...he would be thinking of ways to take the fight to an emptier location.

Someone made room for her and she sat down on the edge of the sofa, eyes glued to the set, hands clasped hard, her heart in her mouth.