Thursday the 12th,
Lunar 3, Luka 16
Corpsman Geyser’s uniform did come in handy. Per Jane’s instructions, I was kind enough as to make sure it didn’t get much blood on it while I pummeled the fuck out of him and left his naked ass in a ditch. Jane helped, of course. She came up with the genius idea that one of us (me) should dress up as a corpsman to find out where our friends were being kept. Given that his pants were around my size anyways and ritzy-er than anything I’d ever owned, and his feet were smaller than Jane’s, I was happy to say goodbye to those gods-awful boots of hers. Jane would be my prisoner. If anyone asked, I found her hiding and needed to put her with the others. And I’d somehow lost my cap and trident in the process. If anyone had any other questions… well, then I’d be screwed, because that was all I prepped.
“You’re surprisingly good in a fight, uh, Mr. Corpsman,” Jane said, still grinning from ear to ear. “Didn’t think you had it in you with those useless little stick arms.”
Not to toot my own horn, but I was pretty impressed with myself, too. I’d picked up a few defensive tactics over the years at Brooke Regina, dealing with Fisk and his buddies, but this was the first time in my life I’d ever beaten a guy up. I probably wouldn’t have had it in me if I didn’t have so much pent up rage and sugar energy from all that chocolate. My knuckles were throbbing and painful beneath his uniform gloves, especially my thumbs. I’d held them in my fists while I was punching him, like you see in movies.
Jane laughed. “Maybe you’re suited for this after all.”
“You thought I wasn’t?” I asked.
“You’re a little less Worldly than I was expecting,” Jane admitted. “Not in a bad way. Just… a lot more vanilla than most people I meet in jail.”
I huffed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing. It doesn’t matter what I think.”
“Well I care what you think.”
“Corpsman Geyser!” came a voice. “Report immediately! Who is this girl?”
“Uhh… yeah,” I shouted back. “She’s a pirate.”
With the clank of a massive, silver trident, an older man in uniform approached us from the shadows. Numerous decorations and medals hung from his chest, and his shoulder pauldrons were covered in ornate stars. My guess was he was the boss… er, at very least, Corpsman Geyser’s boss. I had absolutely no idea how to use whatever lingo Geyser would’ve used to speak to him — if I had, I don’t know if it would’ve mattered. My focus was on trying not to piss my pants.
“Sir,” Jane grumbled, into a cough. “Sir.”
“Sir!” I called, realizing. “She’s a pirate, Sir.”
Keeping his distance, the man stopped several paces ahead of us, resting both hands upon his trident. His nameplate read: ORIAS, but I couldn’t tell what his rank was based on the bars and stripes over his heart. What a funny coincidence it was, him having that name, when the entire blue corps was also named Orias. There was something cold about him, hiding beneath an otherwise cheery exterior, and it wasn’t just from his uniform or his trident. His presence felt the way that Legato’s murder eye made me feel, but he still had both of his eyes. I got the feeling he didn’t deserve them.
“Hm. I’d thought this area was clear,” Orias said. “Where was she hiding, Corpsman?”
“Back over here, in the alley…” I gulped. “Right over there, Sir.”
“And what were you doing without your Corpsmates?”
“Uhm… the tobacco, sir.”
Orias gave a hearty, belly laugh. “At least you’re honest.” Things were already going bad — I could tell by the way he was looking at me, up and down, and even though Jane was facing the other way, I had the sinking suspicion that even she was laughing, too. “I don’t know if I recognize you, Corpsman Geyser. Your name, yes, but not your face.”
“Oh yeah, I’m new,” I said. “Y-you must be thinking of my, uh, brother,” I said. “Mist-thee Geyser.” It was quite possibly the worst fucking fake name I could’ve pulled out of my ass, and it came out in a whistle from my missing tooth.
Sure enough, Orias laughed again, the calm composure in his face cracking. Jane stamped down on my foot, hard.
“Admiral Orias!” called a corpsman, running from behind. “All clear, sir!”
“Excellent,” the Admiral said, without turning back to the two behind him. “You can put these two with the other pirates.”
Jane elbowed me, just as the others came to grab us. “You fucking dumbass…you absolute fucking dumbass,” she muttered. “Let go of me.”
“Hey, I was nervous,” I said, through gritted teeth. One of the two came and grabbed me and wrapped my arms behind me, then threw me down. The same happened to Jane.
Orias was still smiling, smiling between me and Jane. “Her kind are cowardly — I’m not shocked she joined the likes of them. But you? You should have more pride in our homeland, and more respect for that uniform… not that a young girl like yourself would ever wear one, of course.”
Near the harbor, the Corpsmen forced us through a hatch in the road that led down a long, straight concrete stairway underground. The halls were cramped, narrow, and filled with pipes, valves and wires. There were huge computers, too, and decommissioned bots, though most were disconnected in pieces and left covered in dust. The only thing running was water, trickling in places. Must and mold lingered in the air.
“I take it back. I take back every nice thing I have ever said about you,” Jane grumbled at me, as we reached what appeared to have been the end of a hall. “You are so not cut out for this.”
“What did I say?” I asked.
Jane groaned. “What didn’t you say? Divine fucking Lords, all my life I never… Gods, I should’ve left you in jail.”
Defensive, I shot her a glare. “Okay, it could not have been that bad.”
“And yet here we are,” Jane grumbled, near spitting. “Thanks to ‘Misthee’ fucking Geyser.”
“Shut up!” said one of the Corpsmen, bucking her with his shoulder.
Jane grunted as she lurched forward. We quieted down after that.
Light dwindled as we walked, tridents at our back. One of the corpsmen touched something on the wall and a hidden door opened, leading into an open, brightly lit control room, loud with the sound of running water. Long, running pools–reservoirs–filled the room. The others were inside, each one chained to a large pipe running along the floor near the entrance. Quail and Kipley were there, pleased as punch to see us, along with Mwenze, equally pleased, Cove, and Hart (who I then realized I hadn’t apologized to yet). Everyone appeared to be in one piece, if a bit disheveled.
The Corpsmen prodded us forward, poking their tridents into our backs. They forced us down beside the others, then chained the both of us, too, by our right wrists. Without a word, they left us, then marched back down the hall, leaving the once-hidden door open wide.
Once they were gone, Kipley looked over to us, smiling wide. “Fancy meeting you two here!”
“I take it Pietro isn’t a convincing corpsman?” Quail asked, smirking at Geyser’s now well-soiled uniform.
“Yeah, you could say that again,” Jane muttered.
“Look at the bright side,” I said, turning to her. “We’re with the–OH SHIT!”
There was a coin-thick branch of cherry wood protruding from Jane’s cheek, appearing to have impaled her through the side of her face and into her mouth. Tiny leaves and pink buds were at the end of it, about four inches out from her face. She was completely unfazed, annoyed more by my reaction than anything. A deep forming bruise coated the skin around it, although the wound didn’t appear to be bleeding or punctured itself. On closer inspection it almost appeared as though the branch was growing from her flesh, rather than stabbed into it.
“It’s fine,” Jane muttered, turning away. “Well, don’t stare. Rude…”
My mouth was hanging wide. “O-oh, yeah, like THAT is not worth a stare.”
“Quickly now. Have you got your phone, Jane? Or a mirror?” Mwenze asked, leaning back to see us. Neither him, nor any of the others, seemed surprised to see Jane’s face. “They’ve taken all of ours.”
“Any weapons?” Kipley asked. “They took those too–even the private ones.” Though she was further down the line from me, and obscured behind Mwenze, she stuck her bare feet into the air. They’d even taken her shoes and stockings. Mwenze’s hands were covered in an extra layer of metal covering, too, probably to make sure he couldn’t use his claws to get out of the chains.
Jane blew a tense breath out through her teeth. “About that… no I don’t,” she murmured, glancing between everyone. “Is someone… missing a glove?”
“I am,” Hart replied, raising her left hand high. Curiously enough, she wasn’t missing a glove at all. “Ever since this afternoon.”
“Oh, I see. Did you drop it?” Jane inquired.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure it’ll turn up eventually,” Hart said, and yawned. “Always does.”
“So there’s one more of you, is there? No matter,” came a voice from the hall. It was that Admiral again, Orias. Flanking him were two of his underlings in blue, both with their tridents at the ready. “You should know that your ship left you — though I suppose that’s no surprise. No camaraderie among you ingrates.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Kipley said. “Just take us wherever you’re gonna take us and torture us already. I’m bored.”
The Admiral smiled. “We won’t be taking you anywhere,” he said, turning back to his men. “Open the water valves — all the way — all of them, every one you can find.”
The two did as instructed, starting with the pipe we were tied to. With one tap of their tridents, the valves opened, spilling water onto the ground around us. At first it came as a trickle, though it quickly began to gush out in a torrent. Within moments, enough collected to wet our feet and trickle to the hall nearby. The corpsmen then trotted out. The sound of trident on metal echoed behind them, beating the valves every few paces up the stairway.
“Even decommissioned as it has been, activating each of Carthage’s water reservoirs at once should yield enough to flood this colony–or what’s left of it,” The Admiral said. “Certainly enough to kill all of you, and the rest of the scum here.”
“You can’t!” Hart cried, yanking on her chain. “There’s–there’s families here, children!”
The Admiral glanced back at her, but said nothing, and continued on his way following the others, the sound of his clanking trident flanking him. Water spilled down them as he walked, pouring into what was already rising around our feet and ankles.
“Uh, any ideas?” Quail asked, frantically.
Mwenze wrapped the chains around his hand and tried to pull, but it was to no avail.
“Well, on the bright side, we can all breathe underwater,” Cove said, folding his legs beneath him, like he was getting comfortable.
“Speak for yourself,” Hart said. “I don’t wanna drown!”
“Me either,” Mwenze said.
“Or me,” Quail said.
“Oh, right,” Cove muttered, seeming to have forgotten. “Well, the rest of us can. You guys…well, good luck.”
The water was up to my waist, even higher on Mwenze. Even if everyone could swim, the sheer water pressure alone could be a problem, and the whole breathing thing, too, if the water level did reach over our heads. Judging by how tightly woven the chains were around my own wrist, slipping out wouldn’t be an option. More water was pouring in from the hall than from the valves around us, filling from the stairs and surface above…
Kipley reached as closely to Quail as she could. Her expression was uncharacteristically severe. “Quazies, you…” she bit her lip. “The water alone will break all your little birdy bones.”
Quail laughed it off, him reaching back to squeeze her hand. He could just barely reach her, but managed. “Eh. I’m sure it’s nothing a little glue won’t fix.”
Was there anything I could do? The seven of us stood and sat in relative silence for what seemed like forever, but only a moment or two must have passed.
“…well, there’s something I can try,” Jane said finally. “No promises.”
The branch stemming from her cheek appeared larger now, not only thicker, but budding out further at the end. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It truly was growing from her body.
Kipley’s face grew quite stern. “Don’t you dare, Janey.”
“Not worth it, Deux,” Quail said, quite stern. “Not… for us.”
Both Hart and Cove looked away, along with Mwenze. Each of them seemed to understand something grave, something that I didn’t. I looked at Jane for some clarification, but she didn’t say anything, only winked at me.
Jane reached up to the branch and snapped it off at the source, then jabbed the thick end of it down into her right arm, the one chained to the pipe. For a split second nothing happened, until a sudden rush of roots, wood spindles and vine burst and oozed from her arm with vicious, bestial speed. The wood slithered and twisted over the pipe and down all around us, its barbed, tendril edges piercing sharp through the pipe and into the floor. Other extensions of it were crawling up the walls, towering above. Within seconds, the pipe we were tethered to buckled and lurched, crumbling into pieces. Spurts of water flew everywhere.
“Let’s get out of here!” Hart screamed, from near the doorway. In the corner of my eye I saw her lead Mwenze through.
My chain had broken, but I couldn’t make myself budge. The roots and vines had encased half of Jane’s body in a wriggling, intricate cocoon, growing thicker by the second. Half of her face was still uncovered, but her eyes were distant and empty.
The strange nip of the wood at my toes scared me. It made a hissing sound as it moved, almost like it was breathing, like it had a life of its own. Whatever it was, it was trying to get at me. I screeched and skidded away from it. Someone–Kipley–hoisted me up from behind, grabbing me from my armpits from above.
“Let’s go!” she shouted, as she helped me get to my feet. “Now!”
“What about… J-Jane?!” I cried.
When I looked back, all I could see was the tree. She was gone.