Silver River Institute, Pacific Point
“We warned you. We told you that compliance was non negotiable. Yet you chose not to listen.
The time for talk has past. From this moment on, you are either with us or you are against us.
We are coming, and you will either stand with us, or you will burn with them.”
A few of the lab workers cursed violently at the television set. More then a few people broke down crying, some of them desperately dialing cell phones to contact loved ones. There was a tinkling sound as something made of glass slipped from someone's grip and shattered on the ground. Mostly though, it was silent. Dead silent. So silent that even the sounds that were there seemed muted and distant.
Three cities. Thousands of people. Gone in an instant. Everyone Maddy knew was far out of harm's way, but it still felt like someone close to her had died.
Like most of the others, Maddy could only sit in a foggy stunned silence as she internalized it all, her panicked heartbeat thumping in her chest like an engine. Nautican Island. Paris. Philedelphia. Gone.
"Everyone go home."
Sabrina Durante's sharp voice pierced the quiet, if only because no one had ever heard the boss speak like that before. Pale as marble, and looking just as stiff and lifeless, she seemed determined not to meet anyone's eyes.
"But I don't have-"
"What about the-"
"I SAID GO! LEAVE, GET OUT OF HERE!" Maddy felt the breeze on her face as Durante shot past her and ran into her office, the door locking behind her with a click. A dull murmur broke out as the other students and workers began preparing to leave. Maddy wasn't one of them. Staring blankly at her shoes, her eyes burning with held-back tears, she listened to her heart pounding against her ribs and saw the images rush through her head again. Fire, ash, the burning city. The sirens...the screaming...and the voice.
You will burn with them.
Burn with them
"Maddy, come on, let's go!"
"We have to move fast!" Yavor said, pulling her to her feet. "My co-worker is giving us a ride out of here, we have to get off the road before the evacuations start!"
"W-wait, there's an evacuation?"
"Not yet, but I'll eat my thesis paper if everyone doesn't try to run or riot in the next hour," Yavor responded. "Come on, let's go!"
Maddy complied, letting Yavor lead her through the corridors and out into the parking lot, only ever being vaguely aware of her surroundings. Unfortunately Yavor turned out to be right, as a mob of escaping cars had begun to clog up the lot as the two of them weaved their way through the moving cars.
"Son of a bitch!" Yavor shouted, barely audible over the guttural roar of a motorcycle that tried to cut through a crosswalk to escape, nearly running them over. He was about to swear at the inconsiderate cyclist before Maddy started screaming.
"Mads, what's wrong?!?" Yavor said, wincing as she wrapped herself painfully around his neck.
"Th-they're going to kill me!" Maddy shrieked, paralyzed with utter terror.
"Mads, come on-"
"THEY'RE GOING TO KILL ME!"
"Maddy, it's okay," Yavor tried to say soothingly, nudging the pair of them forward as he realized something was wrong. "I got you, you're going to be fine."
"I d-don't want to die..."
"You're safe Mads, it's going to be okay," Yavor continued, nudging open the car door with his foot and squeezing into the back seat of the car. The driver, a brunette woman with square glasses and her hair tied back, paled slightly as she saw what was going on.
"Goddess, what's wrong with her?"
"I don't know," Yavor admitted, buckling himself in as he let Maddy lie across the backseat. "But I think it would help to get to someplace quiet. I think Maddy's house is closest." Rattling off the address, he turned back to Maddy to make sure she was okay. She stopped screaming, at least.
"I...don't want to die..." Maddy said weakly.
"It's alright, Maddy," Yavor said gently. "Me and Terra will get you home. It's going to be alright..."
Maddy's eyes fluttered closed as she drifted off.
One Hour Later
"You have some nerve showing your face here again, you know."
"I call it a victory lap, Miss Durante."
Sabrina Durante looked at Holt, flanked on both sides by his Hound compatriots, with the same expression she would give something scraped off the bottom of her shoe."You certainly have an interesting interpretation of your victory, then."
"Our victory, you mean?" Holt looked around the alleyway they were meeting at, the same alley they met in weeks ago where they set up deliveries. At least before the biker gang interrupted them. "We're all allies in the fight against the muties, after all?"
"And the million people you slaughtered today are the enemy, then?"
Holt shrugged. "They were warned about what would happen, and they continued to support mutants. They paid the price."
"What was it that Nietzsche said?" Durante spat back. "He who fights monsters...?"
"You are being naiive, Durante. It had to be done. You can't make an omelette without-"
"Don't trot out that old excuse, you insipid lackey!" Sabrina barked, her teeth bared in anger. "Don't you think I knew that people were going to get hurt when we started working together? I know we need to hurt some people to ensure the purity of our species but Holt...?"
Durante drew up so close to the Hounds grunt that he could feel her breath on his face.
"You just wiped out a million of those pure humans you claim to protect. And don't you dare say those people you murdered were traitors," she interrupted when he opened his mouth to reply. "The way I see it, the only traitors to the cause here are you and the rest of your fucking Hounds. Go shoot down more humans with your laser, I'm done with you."
There was a pregnant pause as Durante turned on her heel to leave, leaving Holt in the dust. Before she could turn the corner, a figure stepped out of the shadows, the barrel of a shotgun pointing at her navel.
"Shame," Holt commented. "That you were not as steadfast as we had hoped." Durante walked backwards towards the first three men as Holt and his cronies drew pistols.
"Another pure human you're going to murder, then?" Durante said, her lips tightening as she spoke.
"Not really," Holt replied, placing the gun barrel against her forehead. "You're not pure anymore."
"That...was an utterly abysmal one-liner!"
Holt turned around sharply at the sound of the voice, finding its owner standing on the rooftops overhead. The four Hounds and their would-be victim stared in perplexed amazement at the gas-mask wearing spiky haired doctor, his lab coat fluttering in the wind.
"I could do a better witty sendoff in my SLEEP, even without my immense genius!" the villain known to some as Dr. Amorphous said. "For instance...'stick' em up!" The doctor snapped his fingers, and an orange glob of goo exploded from one of the overhead windows, making a beeline towards one of the Hounds. Before its victim could even scream in terror, he was sucked into the blob and carried off back into the window as quickly as it came. Durante watched Holt take aim at the doctor in retribution, only to be blasted backwards by a sudden gust of wind, slamming him into the wall.
"Boss, I-" the other Hound tried to speak, but his words quickly devolved into a wet gargle as his head fell from his shoulders in a spray of blood. Some of the stain hung in midair as the cyborg ninja Typhoon reappeared underneath, wiping his blade clean.
"Payment for the arm," he said coolly. Durante turned back to the shotgun wielder, who had simply stood their for the entire curb-stomp fight, a pained expression on his face. Finally, the gun fell limply from his fingers as he dropped to his knees, clutching at his chest. There was a beeping sound from behind the man as the grinning catlike visage of MonsterK4t emerged from the shadows, clapping the shotgun wielder on the shoulder.
"High-frequency sound waves overstimulating the ventricles!" Dr. Amorphous declared as he himself descended from the rooftops. "A bit brutal for my tastes, but effective nonetheless!"
"He's giving this Hound a massive heart attack, in laymen's terms," Reisen remarked as she floated down alongside the Doctor to the ground floor. Looking over at Holt crumpled against the wall to make sure he was still there, the assembled villains all turned back to Durante, still standing there in stunned amazement.
"I suggest you leave," Reisen offered.
"I...I have information on them!" Durante said defiantly. MonsterK4t beeped rapidly in response.
"Our mewing musician is right, take that information to a hero, we have other things to do!" Dr. Amorphous declared. "I recommend that pesky Voyager, but for now, begone!" Unwilling to argue, Durante scurried off as the villains all gathered near Holt, who made an attempt to reach for his gun before giving up with a chuckle.
"Fine, ya fucking muties," he said, blood trickling from his mouth. "Kill me and get it over with."
"We are not interested in killing you," Typhoon remarked coolly, sheathing his sword with a flourish. "We intend to send you a message."
"What, the four of you?"
There was a loud rattling as the garage doors to the warehouse started to open. Holt watched in shock as Fangs lifted the doors over her head, revealing a small mob of bystanders. As they swarmed out of the warehouse, more came in from the alley and outside of doors, other mutants and minor villains, patrons of Logans, friends and family of those lost in the satellite attack, or lost in the raids launched by the Hounds. Some of them showed off their powers as they approached, while others held weapons, chains and blunt objects. As Holt looked at the mob approaching him, feeling fear for the first time, a man with a hunk of steel stepped forward, heating it with flames summoned from his hand, and pressed it against Holt's cheek as others held him down. Screaming in pain, he glared bitterly at the mob after the man stepped back, revealing the outline of a dog branded onto his cheek.
"Now the world knows who you work for," Fangs said. "You can take a message back to your bosses for us."
"And what would that be?" Holt snarled.
"War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want," Reisen quoted.
"In short...we're going to fuck you up."