Several weeks had passed in a blur for Septi, who had gone through multiple forms of tortures. Septi, although still strong willed, was showing signs of such treatment, being battered and bruised, emotionally as well as physically. As she lay still on the “bed” that was in her cell, she thought about the last torture session, in which she had managed to cut off several of Steppe’s fingers. Unfortunately they had taken away her weapons after that.
Septi felt horrible. She knew that her hair was laying limp in a long, knotted braid down her back, and her already pale skin was now nearly transparent. Dark circles surrounded her eyes, and the bruises were the only color to her skin. Her lip was split and had just stopped bleeding. She was still wearing the bloodstained, tattered uniform that she had fought Steppe in, and she was simply filthy.
Oracle slipped up to the cell door, and let himself in. He approached her in his usual creepy way, staring at her pityingly. She sat up, and stared back at him defiantly. He pulled over a chair, and sat down beside her. Gently, he picked up her wrist and encircled it with his pinky and thumb.
“How long?” he asked her. “How long will you keep this up? Steppe’s cut your food to half of what it was. If you keep going like this, you’ll die, or-“
“I’m not afraid,” she said, jerking her wrist out of his grip. “I’ll kill him, or die trying.”
“Septi, do you fear nothing?” Oracle said, his voice somewhat irritable. “Death doesn’t scare you. Torture doesn’t scare you. Starvation, pain, and malnourishment don’t scare you. What does?”
“Love,” she responded, meeting his eyes. “I fear love.”
“You fear love?” he asked, completely shocked. “Why?”
“Love requires certain levels of intimacy,” Septi said, a little embaressed that she was sharing this secret fear of hers. “Letting another beong into your life, in on your secrets… it’s simply terrifying to me.”
“You fear love,” he repeated, and then started to laugh. “Septi, you truely are unique.” She shrugged.
“Laugh all you like. Getting so close to can prove to be extremely dangerous. You’re willingly giving them things that would be perfect weapons against you if they desired to hurt you. Trusting someone with those secrects, hopes, and dreams is just so terrifying to me.”
“Oh really?” he asked, still laughing slightly.
“I just don’t like to be hurt any more than the next person,” Septi said. “Not like that. Now, let’s get on with whatever tortures Steppe has planned for me.”
“I’m not here to hurt you,” he said. “I actually was wondering-“
“Oh, dear,” Septi said with a sigh. “What do you want to know, Oracle?”
“Well, see, there’s this girl I like,” he started, hesitating.
“Raram,” Septi said promptly. “And you may wish to cut back on the soap operas. Now get to the point.”
“I like Raram,” he said. “And I was wondering if she thought of me as anything other than a friend, or a ‘co-worker’.”
“No,” Septi said firmly. “Oracle, you’re-“
“Freaky? Creepy? Perhaps a little scary?” he asked, dryly. Septi blushed.
“I was going to say not the kind of guy that a girl like Raram would fall for.”
“Alright,” he said. “Septi, I’ll see you later. I’m going to have to go. Steppe has something that he wants to talk to me about. Or so he said.” Septi nodded, watching as he made his way to the door.
“How long will I be here?” she whispered, as the cell door shut. “How long?”
It was just after midnight, and Septi had finally managed to have fallen asleep when the vision started.
“Septi,” Oracle spoke quickly and urgently. “The loners will attack tonight. Ryan’ll let you free when they do. You must help us fight them. I know you’re not in the best shape-“
“Who cares?” Septi snapped. “Let me free, and I’ll be ready to kick some butt.” Oracle nodded, and the vision faded. About five to ten minutes later, Ryan was opening the cell. He motioned to her to keep quiet, and she nodded and followed him. He lead the way to his office, ushering her in. Shutting the door behind them, he turned to her.
“Oracle said to free you,” he said simply and quietly. “He also said to inform you that you are no longer the deputy. That Steppe finalized that earlier today.”
“Who did he replace me with?” she asked, turning her face away so that he wouldn’t see her eys fill with tears.
“Oracle,” Ryan said, softly. Septi looked up at him when he placed his hand on her shoulder.
“I didn’t know that you were capable of sympathy,” she said teasingly, fighting back her tears. Ryan shrugged and let his hand drop back to his side. She gave him a slight watery smile. “So did he tell you why you should let me out?” Ryan nodded, his face still. “Alright, and did he say if he had told Steppe what is going to happen?” Ryan shook his head. “No, you don’t know, or no, he didn’t tell Steppe?”
“No, he didn’t tell Steppe,” Ryan finally said.
“Excellent. so I have to be very careful that Steppe doesn’t know of this… I wonder if he’s asleep yet?”
“Because, if I can slit his throat while he’s sleeping, I will. He will not get away with what’s been done.” Septi’s face was set with a grim determination. Ryan nodded again, not a single flicker of emotion appearing on his face. Just then, a loud bang came from the upper floors. Mes came vaulting in, wearing her pajamas, but carrying a knife. She stopped dead when she saw Septi.
“You’re free!” she exclaimed. Then she turned her attention back to the matter at hand when another loud bang set the ceiling trembeling. “The loners are attacking. You’re both needed, and wanted. Oracle told me to tell you, Ryan.”
“Okay, Mes, enough said. Let’s get to it,” Septi said, accepting her daggers from Ryan. Mes nodded, and the three of them vaulted through the hideout. When they reached the place where the fight was Septi slipped off, heading for Steppe’s room.
When she reached the door of his room, she paused. Just then the door flew open and Steppe was standing there, still fully dressed, in the doorway. Steppe let out a roar and charged past her.
She looped her foot around Steppe’s leg, bringing him down. He twisted as he fell, and sprung back up. His body plated itself with metal, and he charged for her again. She dropped, his momentum causing him to crash against the wall, which cracked and buckled under his weight. He staggered away from it, slightly stunned and coated in plasted dust.
Septi lunged, her dagger in hand, and stabbed him, driving her dagger into the back of his neck. Blood soaked heer hand and arm, and he fell to the ground, his plating vanishing. He gurgled and choked, his eyes rolling back into his head.
“You’ve killed enough of my friends, and used others. You injured me, and imprisoned me. You replaced my possition as your deputy, making me nothing. Your wrongs will end end today, by my hand.” She turned and ran down the hall, away from the corpse.
“Septi!” Oracle cried, running up to her, a gash in his brow bleeding prfusely. He stopped dead when he saw her bloodsoaked sleeve and the corpse laying at the far end of the hall. “What happened? Why are you-?”
“I killed Steppe,” she said, her voice devoid of emotion. “But you are not my commander.” A sudden vehemence filled her voice, and anger blazed in her eyes. Oracle blinked and stepped back a half step.
“Now’s not the time,” he said coldly. “We’ll talk about this later, but right now, there’s a battle going on downstairs. We need to go.” Septi glared, then pushed past him, heading to the battle.
When she got there, she entered the fray, making quick work of two mutants who tried to take her down. Bloodlust was in her eyes, and she was fighting with the ferocity of a wild animal that’s been caged and abused. Spotting a mutant about to strike a wounded Raram she let out a bloodcurdeling shriek and attacked him. A quick dagger down his back finished him.
“Take care of yourself,” she said to Raram. Carefully, she knelt beside Raram, and bared the wounds. “Raram! Where’s Dr. H? These need serious attention.”
“I don’t know,” Raram said weakly. She licked her dry lips and gripped Septi’s hand. “I-“
“I’m here,” someone said from behind Septi. Septi, startled and suspicious, spun, drawing her daggers. Then, with a sigh of relief, she sheathed them.
“She’s not looking very well, Dr. H,” Septi said needlessly as she stepped back so that he could take a look. He nodded at her, and carefully examined the wounds. Closing his eyes, he released a steady flow of healing energy. Septi was trying to watch when someone snuck up on her and brought a rope around her neck. Septi shifted smaller, slipping free of the rope. Then she spun, the daggers back out, attempting to behead whoever had just tried to strangle her.
She gasped as a semi-familiar face gaped back at her. Then the person, her old commrade Patrick Evens, fell to the floor, dead. A woman’s shriek filled the hall.
“Pat!” The woman came vaulting up, looking somewhat dis-sheveled.
“He’s dead,” Septi said, keeping her face and voice void of the emotions underneath.
“You little witch!” The woman exclaimed, drawing a dagger from the sheath on her belt. “You killed my brother!” That made Septi pause to think, trying to place the woman. ‘This isn’t the woman who was a teacher’s assistant at the school for a semester, is it? What’s her name… Guinavere? Surely she’s not that idiotic, to attack us!’
“I’m a witch no more than you are, Guinavere,” she resonded, her daggers still in her hands. “Perhaps less so than you, as a matter of fact.”
“What do you mean by that?” Guinavere hissed, parrying Septi’s one blow with a dagger and countering the attack with suprising viciousness. Septi dodged the blow and tried to stab Guinavere in the back with her other dagger but missed, her dagger meeting naught but air.
Septi barely blocked as Guin slashed at her head and fought fiercly to drive her blade back to it’s mistress’s neck. Guin, however, was using a strength that comes from a sorrowful pain, fighting with a ferocity that wasn’t her own. Septi grunted slightly as the blades trembled, locked in mid-air.
“I… mean… nothing… by… that…” Septi said through gritted teeth. “Please… stop… calling… me… a… witch…” With that, she swung her knee up, catching Guin in the stomach. Guin doubled over, gasping for breath, and dropped her dagger. Septi steadied herself, and slashed at Guin’s exposed neck. Guin moved away, still panting slightly, her red hair flying free of the tidy braid it had been in, and a fire was blazing in her green eyes.
“You killed my brother,” Guin said, her voice deadly calm. Septi siaghed and rolled her eyes.
“Can’t you say anything else?” she asked, her voice slightly impatient, although she understood Guin’s pain. “Yes, I did kill Pat. He was trying to strangle me and I gutted him, not realizing who it was. Besides, everyone has their time to die.”
“And I’ll make sure you get yours,” Guin promised angrily. “I I swear, if it’s the last thing I do, I will see you dead.”
“Oh, get in line,” Septi said, diving for Guin again, her daggers in her hands. Guin sidestepped, and Septi overshot. As Septi flew by, Guin grabbed the tazer from Septi’s belt, and pulled the trigger. Septi siezed up, a scream of pain echoing through the hall. Her senses overloaded as electricity raced through her body. Pain was the only thing she knew in that moment, and then it was over.
Septi lay there panting. She didn’t know how she had wound up on the floor, but she was laying there. Her sight was a little spotty and her ears were still ringing.
Fighting her nausea, she sat up. As she sat up, the hall started spinning, and she squeezed her eyes shut just as a foot came into her line of vision. Septi sprawled back from the force of the kick as a distant cracking sound vaguely registered in Septi’s brain, along with a jolt of pain through the fog. Septi licked her lips and tasted a warm metalically liquid. ‘Blood,’ she thought drily. ‘I’m bleeding.’
“You will die!” Guin said, her face appearing in Septi’s line of vision. Tears had soaked Guin’s face, and one of Septi’s own daggers was in Guin’s hand. Guin raised the dagger, her hand trembling, ready to make the final strike.
“No you don’t,” Raram suddenly appeared behind Guin, catching the wrist with the dagger. She twisted, and the snap of a bone accompanied by a slight moan of pain slipped into Septi’s brain, jolting her back to reality. She sat up again, slowly, to see Raram twisting Guin’s arm in a way that it oughtn’t twist.
Guin whimpered slightly in pain and hit Raram hard, trying to loosen her grasp. Raram twisted Guin’s arm sharply, then released her.
“You do not hurt my friends,” Raram said icily. She spun smoothly, booting Guin in the chest. Guin caught Raram’s ankle with her good hand and twisted. Raram moved with Guin until she couldn’t, then overbalanced and fell, accidentally landing on Guin. Guin rolled backwards awkwardly dropping the dagger and dragging Raram with her.
Guin was now sitting on top of Raram, who was pressed with her face against the blood-soaked carpet. Septi lunged at Guin, adrenaline and one thought drinving her. Pummeling Guin, she knocked her off of Raram.
“She’s my friend,” Septi panted. “Don’t touch her.” Septi reached for her last dirk, ready to gut Guin. Then Dr. Hamilton pried them apart and stepped between them.
“Ladies,” he said, slightly nervous. “Ladies, there’s no reason why you two should be fighting. You’re both outraged by Steppe’s actions. Can’t we all unite against a common enemy?”
“Steppe is dead,” Septi informed Dr. Hamilton cooly. Guin’s look of anger changed to a look of shock as she stared at Septi. “I killed him.”
“You seem to be doing a lot of that today,” Guin said, her voice cool, but each word dripping venom and sorrow. “Killing. Isn’t there an end to this death? This is why I left the VI4C. The never ending murder.”
“Then why did you come back?” Septi asked. “Your brother’s dead because the two of you came back.”
“I wanted it to end, once and for all,” Guin said, her jaw set. “But Pat had other ideas.”
“Would ‘it’ be the VI4C, or Steppe’s atrocities?” Septi re-sheathed her dirks as she spoke, collecting the other daggers from the floor.
“Steppe’s atrocities,” Guin said, looking slightly shocked at the thought of ending the VI4C. “The VI4C in itself isn’t bad. It’s the commander that’s the problem.”
“That was the problem,” Septi corrected. “And I agree. The VI4C stands a chance if we have a decent leader. One who will make the changes necessary for our survival.”
“Why not you?” Guin asked, her manner a little warmer now that they weren’t fighting. “You seem to have the qualities a good leader needs; loyalty, dreams, a fighter’s spirit and ability, and a sense of authority.”
“I can’t be,” Septi said, fighting to keep her emotions from showing. “Steppe changed deputies earlier today. I was considered a rebel and slated for execution within the month.”
“Wait,” Guin closed her eyes part way, trying to think. “So you were deputy?” Septi nodded sharply, and started picking at her sleeve. “And what about this other person? The new deputy? What’s he- she?- he like?” Septi looked at her dry eyed, although she felt as though her heart was about to tear itself to shreds.
“Oracle is- was- decent,” she said, her voice strained. Guin started at the name. “He was always a bit on the quiet side. A little darker. A loner, really.”
“So he’s not the friendliest guy in the VI4C,” Guin said, still looking somewhat shocked. “He really doesn’t sound like the best for the job.”
“It’s really not able to be changed now,” Septi said dully. “He’s the commander now. No matter how much I dislike it, it’s how things are.”
“That’s not your only option,” Guin said, tilting her head, staring at Septi pityingly. “Become a loner.” Septi paused for a moment. ‘A loner? I wouldn’t be under anyone’s control, but my friends are here.’ Septi couldn’t explain the searing loss that shot through her at the thought of leaving the VI4C. Slowly, she shook her head.
“I couldn’t,” she said quietly. “Even with what I’ve lost, I could not bring myself to leave. There are too many people here- too many friends- for me to leave.”
“You really sure that you don’t want to?” Guin asked, staring at Septi sadly, a small smile on her face. Septi nodded.
“I’ve shed blood for the VI4C,” Septi said. “My friends fall into two catergories; they have either given their lives or they will shed blood for the VI4C.”
“It’s such a waste,” Guin said with a sigh. “All this talent coupled with death. So many lives gone in a moment.”
“Isn’t that why you left the VI4C?” Septi asked quietly. Dr. Hamilton had stepped from between them, and was healing wounded people, VI4C and loner alike, nearby.
“The death?” Guin asked, her voice betraying raw emotion; a heart broken sadness. “Yes, that is one of the reasons. I was also tired of being used. Steppe wanted me to teach the younger mutants that what he was doing wasn’t wrong. He was like Hitler, all over again.”
“Hitler?” Septi saked, slightly surprised.
“He wanted me to brainwash you. He used you as disposable theives and murderers; little more than killing machines. You can’t deny it. Not a single word of this.” Septi’s jaw dropped as she remembered her similar words from only a few weeks ago.
“So you ran,” Septi said, recovering from her shock quickly. “I’m denying nothing that you say. But you ran when you found the problem. I stayed and disposed of it.” An angry, and perhaps a little ashamed, flush creapt into Guin’s face.
“I did not run,” she said haughtily. “I left, yes, but only to try to find a way to fix the situation.”
“You left. I stayed. That’s the difference between you and me.” Septi stared at Guin coolly, not a hint of emotion on her face.
“You mean that you killed Steppe. Killing is not the only way to solve problems.” Guin stared back, still a little ashamed in spite of herself.
“Which would you rather, one person dying in order to protect many, or many dying because of one person’s insanity?” Guin opened her mouth, then closed it, speechless. “This is a pattern that is repeated throughout history.”
“We ought to learn from history to prevent it’s repetition,” Dr. Hamilton broke in as he finished up work on another patient.
“We fail miserably at putting the stuff we learn into practice,” Septi countered.
“That’s because it’s just head knowledge, just useless trivia. We dismiss it as not important until after the fact,” Guin said.
“Alright then,” Septi said, crossing her arms. “You tell me; how do we learn from history, and put what we learn into practice?”
“I don’t know,” Guin admitted quietly. Septi nodded.
“Admit that the pattern of one person dying to save many is indeed a good pattern.”
“What is this? Confession night?” Guin grumbled. Septi smiled slightly.
“Yes,” Septi said sarcastically. “Now get confessing.”
“Hey, excuse me!” Raram said, sounding slightly irritated, breaking into the conversation. She had been standing there, shifting her weight from foot to foot for the last couple of minutes. “Um, am I the only one who hasn’t forgotten that there’s a fight going on?” Septi glanced over to her, feeling a little guilty that she had forgotten about Raram.
“Right,” Guin smiled at Septi slightly, and held out a hand. “Nice meeting you… I don’t think I caught your name?”
“Septi,” she said absentmindedly. “You’re not mad that I’m your brother’s killer?”
“Yes, I’m still mad,” Guin said, her smile brightening, with something dangerous appearing in her eyes. “But that’s okay, cause I’ll break you in the end, Septi.” A bitter smile played on Septi’s lips but her face remained still.
“Sure you will,” Septi said quietly. “It takes a lot to break me. Besides, I’ve got other enemies. Someone else might get there first.” Raram stiffled a giggle, and Guin nodded. Septi stepped aside as Guin stepped up to Dr. Hamilton, who was standing in the shadows, watching Guin, looking exceptionally pale and sickly.
“Doc,” Guin said quietly, her voice drifting clearly over to Septi and Raram. “i know that I’m no longer VI4C, but could you-?” her voice trailed off as she offered him her broken arm. He looked at her, a perculiar look in his eyes.
“Of course I will, my daughter,” he said, gently taking her arm. Septi couldn’t see Guin’s face, but her back had stiffened slightly.
“Mum said that dad died years ago,” Guin said, her voice trembeling. “That’s why daddy Evens adopted Pat and I.”
“I never died,” Dr. Hamilton said, a sad smile playing on his lips. “Did you ever guess, Guin?”
“I- I knew that there was some connection between the VI4C and my father, yes.”
“But you never thought that I was your father?”
“How can I know that you are actually my father?” Guin asked, her voice choked with a rush of emotion.
“How will you know?” he asked, then smiled. “I can hear Eowyn’s voice in yours, daughter. You are her daughter in almost every way. However, to answer your question, you will find letters from your mother in a chest in my room, along with the results to DNA tests for you and Pat and I, a divorce certificate, marriage certificate, pictures of our wedding day, and baby pictures of you and Pat. Secondly, have you ever wondered where you get the color of your eyes? It’s the exact shade of both my mother’s and my sister’s eyes.” Guin was swaying slightly.
“This is all too much,” she murmured. “All this right now. Why?”
“Now, let’s take a look at this arm,” he said, returning to the matter at hand. He closed his eyes and placed a hand on her arm. There was an audible click as the bone slipped into place, and Guin gasped slightly from the pain. Dr. Hamilton had turned a nasty grey color, and his breath was coming gasps. He stepped back shakily, and his knees gave way. Guin grabbed him, both her arms now opperable.
“Doc, what’s wrong?” she asked, lowering him to the ground, a note of pain slipping into her voice.
“Power overusage,” he whispered. “My time has come. I just wish that we had more time together.”
“You can’t die!” Guin cried, leaning over him, the shadows hiding her face. “Dad, I just found you.”
“You’re a beautiful young woman, Guinavere,” he said. A tear hit his face, and Guin was shaking slightly. “Don’t mourn me, Guin. Life is simply too short to mourn.”
“I can’t lose you,” she said, her voice choked with tears. “I’ve lost too much already.”
“Guinavere, don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. I gave you my life. Don’t throw it away.” Dr. Hamilton squeezed her hand, and caught sight of Septi, who had slipped up behind Guin. “Septi, you’ll be great, I know you will-” he stared at Guin far a couple of momenta, then whispered his last words, “I love you.” Then he closed his eyes and died.