Sunday, 25 March 2012

~Steele~ If you’re not with us…

I’m not at the House. I’m on the way to DC. With a package, of sorts. Spence may say we’re not doing deliveries anymore, but I think we’re all acutely aware now, of the fact that I disagree with him occasionally.

Besides, this is a favour for an old friend. An old friend who I met in the strangest of places the other night. A warehouse in Detroit; not exactly the place I generally try to spend my Saturday nights, but a friend of mine invited me around to have a look at a personal project of his.

”Your House. It’s a community solution to an individual problem. People don’t Run in packs. The Runner’s experience is solitary, isolating, imperative, for that is how He operates; divide and conquer. Make the target drop from civilized society, then hunt them. A safehouse, a home base, an indivisible group that can split and reconnect, provide aid and structured networks…Only when we stop Running, can we start Fighting.”

So that’s what he did. Invited a bunch of Runners to start a community in a warehouse. Fantastic idea for me, but only one reason was on my mind as I pulled up outside the warehouse, with Poe perched on the passenger’s seat: With a group of runners from all across the area, all with their own distinct history, surely one of them would have some information on our red-headed friend.

Turns out, someone did; but it was the last person I expected. For while I was looking for information, I had in the back of my mind; three family members down, our ‘community solution to an individual problem’ wasn’t exactly working out. Clearly someone had missed those memos before starting this little…safeHouse.

Particularly, this one.

The smell of blood was tangible as I opened the door, rushing out to occupy the cool night air. An invisible red mist. I shouldn’t have walked in. Recent events have made me try to play the big damn hero, but that’s just not who I am; I am, and always have been, a survivor. I’ve always wanted to extend my life, but I’ve been throwing myself into these dangerous situations without a care.

Poe cawed and flew to land smartly on my shoulder; he smelled the blood too.

Either I’ve been lying to myself all along, or I’ve finally realised; the only way to truly prolong life is to stand your ground, not to live in retreat. If you run from your troubles, you aren’t truly living. You’re subsisting. Living is not delaying death.

So I stepped across the threshold and drew my handgun. Click.

As I walked down the corridor, I could hear scraping from up ahead; the screech of metal against metal, the tearing of metal against flesh, the sawing of metal against bone. The smell of blood was mixed with something else now; something chemical, formaldehyde…an oddly sterile smell to be mixed with the scent of such violence.

You know what this means. You’ve smelled this before.

I came to the corner, and peered around, agonizingly slow, only to have my suspicions confirmed.

The warehouse floor was covered in blood. Absolutely covered; the shimmering red reflected the light from the middle of the room, centred on a single table, with a man lying on it. There were other tables, too, about 15 of them; a man and a woman were hooked up to IVs and oxygen masks on two of them, strapped down on these makeshift gurneys; not moving…barely breathing. But still alive, very much still alive.

Unlike the man on the table. It wasn’t even a man; it was only most of a man. The skin had been flayed from his flesh at his extremities, the exposed tendons of his arms and legs gave way to white bone. His chest had been broken open like the covers of a book, and inside was…not much. Filed up neatly along the edge of an operating table was a series of jars containing what were presumably some of the man’s organs, preserved and labelled meticulously. Below the table were several black garbage bags, glittering and dripping menacingly with fluids. In fact, below a LOT of tables were several black garbage bags; the only tables that did not have that particular feature were the tables that were occupied by those uncannily still people.

And in the centre of the room was the architect of this macabre project, her long black hair framing her bone mask; for it truly was made of sizable shards of bone, most of which looked to be human, though there was one part which was definitely from a male deer skull, according to the broken off antler that slightly protruded. The mismatched, Frankenstein-esque conglomerate of bone material had two small eyeholes, underneath which the glint of a pair of glasses was visible.

Doc. What has He done to you?

I pulled back around the wall slowly, but Poe, the scavenger, had other plans; he squawked excitedly and took flight around the corner, landing on one of the garbage bags underneath one of the empty tables, and started tearing at the plastic. Doc stopped her operation and looked up at the corridor, as I realised I’d been discovered, and changed tactics; standing up and slowly walking towards her.

"Lori…what have you done to him?” I asked mournfully, standing a fair distance from the table. Lori put her tools down, and with empty hands, slowly walked around the table to stand in front of me. I could see her eyes beneath the mask; she looked happy. She reached into her pocket, and I pulled my gun out of mine. “Easy now. No sudden movements.” She knew the score, and continued to rummage around in her pockets, eventually pulling out a yellow lollypop and a crumpled up note, holding it out to me with a curiously serene look in her eyes. I took them both, and pocketed them, continuing to stare at Lori.

You know what He’s done to her.

He’s done it before.

You know only too well.

”Lori, are you okay?” I ask shakily, not expecting much in the way of an answer, as she ran back around to the other side of the table and grabbed a package, passing it to me. It said “RIVERS” in messy handwriting.

Giggle, nod. It doesn’t take a genius to see that she’s no longer all there.

Oh, but she is. You know that. You know that the dead bodies around you weren’t taken by her, they’re His fault.

”Do you remember August, Lori?” I felt moisture seep from the corner of my eyes, as the twinkle in her eyes faded, and the giggling stopped. Nod.

”Remember the man who killed him? You found Writer, didn’t you?” I asked.

Of course. You have more important things to do, don’t you? Always did have a one-track mind. This isn’t your friend anymore, she’s not even a murderer anymore, she’s a broken means to a violent end.

She nodded, and there was a growling sound from underneath the mask, a gurgling, guttural affair. With that, she reached down to the bottom of her shirt, and lifted it just slightly, revealing a stitched up wound across her stomach, a thin, cruel slash.

Well, she won’t be your means if you don’t play ball a little.

”That’s our Lori.” I said, smiling a little, in spite of myself. It didn’t extend to my eyes. “You wanted revenge for our August, didn’t you?”

Nod nod.

”Tell me where Writer is. Let me finish the job. We can get him. We can fix this.” I pleaded. Lori blinked, opening her mouth to speak, tears openly in her eyes.

She’s so…collected.

The illusion was broken when all that came from her mouth was a collection of sounds; as if she knew what she was talking about, but her mouth wouldn’t move in the right ways. She stopped, frustration in her eyes, and tried again, before giving up with a sigh.

It was a long shot, anyway.

”Can you show me?” I asked Lori, similarly as hopefully. She pulled out a pad of paper and began to write, as the smells of the warehouse assaulted my senses once more.

She’s still there, but look what she did. The team doctor has a body count. And here you are asking for directions, like that’s all excusable. Like brief moments of sentience make up for murder. I suppose even a lion is seen as graceful and majestic, when it’s not hunting.

She ripped off the sheet of paper and handed it to me. I took a brief look at it and pocked it again.

These people had families, just like Lori’s part of yours. She’s just made 10 more graves for people to stand over and mourn, people to declare revenge, people to lose their minds over…

”Thank you, Lori…I’m going to miss you.” I said, moving towards the door. She made a low, rumbling sound from beneath the mask. Almost like a purr.


Never had I met a person as smart and kind as you. Sure, we had our…creative differences, particularly about the when, where and whys of drug use, but we developed an understanding of each other, a mutual acceptance…and even a friendship. We’ve been here from the start, you and I. Ever since that day I came barrelling into yours and Spencer’s life, you’ve been there to support us, to pick us up when we fall down, to clean us up when we got messed up after a mission.

Then the others came. one, two three four five….All the other couriers. You and I, we’ve seen them all. The young kids through to the older, seasoned recruits. Our family grew…but there were always the injuries you couldn’t fix.

I never knew how you did what you did. How you cared so damn much about people, and continued your life even after you tried your hardest to save them, and it wasn’t enough. I can only imagine what you must’ve felt, being so incredibly involved, and so incredibly vulnerable. I closed myself off, stayed aloof, didn’t let myself become anything other than the guy who gets things done. You stayed, and you cared. That took incredible strength, strength I could never match.

People called you a bit of a mad scientist; I may have started that. “Doc” as a nickname stuck a lot better than I expected. I hope you liked it, I never meant it in a mean way. You always cared for your research, but it was always to help someone. Everything you do, everything you have done, has been for the greater good of some cause; be it to cure Spencer like recently, or the plethora of times you’ve figured shit out. A problem solver.

”Lori, how’s your research going?”
She made a ‘so-so’ sign with her hand.
”Can I see it?”
Her face lit up as she led me by the hand to the desiccated organs and open corpse in the middle of the room, before picking up two pairs of blue latex gloves and passing them to me.
”Meticulous as usual, I see.” I said, as I put the gloves on.

You put such passion into your work. Because you knew what you were doing was the right thing to be doing. I never had that luxury, I always questioned myself. I always do question myself.

I’m questioning myself now…but I know you wouldn’t. You’d look at me, and you’d smile, and you’d understand. It had to be done. It makes sense. I’d have done the same.

I hope.

Please, don’t hate me.

Lori turned around and leaned down to point to a part of the man’s brain, which stood there exposed, raw and bloody. In turn, she also exposed the back of her own head, her slightly frazzled black hair. She almost looked normal.

I had to be quick. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if she knew what was coming.

I reached into my pocket,

pulled out my gun

and fired twice.

I looked through my pockets when I was sitting in the car, and found the note about Writer, the lollypop, and the first note. “STEELE”, it said on the back.

I turned it over.

G'DAY STEELE! I'm so happy to see you again I've missed you all so much since I left but I promise I didn't mean to leave so suddenly I'll be home soon, really soon so take care of yourself or else. Research has been going well, tell Spencer that I should be able to help him more really soon the bodies have been giving me all sorts of good information, so don't worry about me I'm just fine and everything will be okay. KISSES, Lori.

I had to. She’d murdered an entire safehouse in cold blood.

I had to.

But her twinkling eyes were still there. Another pair of eyes to accompany the brilliant green pair in my mind.

And they’re all I see when I close my eyes.


  1. ...
    i think
    ... i think i'm gonna be sick

  2. Steele, I... You did what you had to. I'm so sorry. Let me know if you do need backup for Writer. I'd be more than happy to oblige.

  3. That's pretty close to the best way that problem could have been resolved. Pretty close because a lot of damage was done before the problem was solved. There was an opportunity for her to be put down earlier, I seem to recall.

    1. Don't you fucking dare talk about Lori like some mongrel dog. She is my friend.

    2. You mean "was" your friend.


    3. If you love someone and they pass away, you don't stop loving them. I mean nothing of the sort, bitch, and good move staying anonymous.

  4. I still think you're crusading towards your own death, but maybe I was a bit wrong about how far your head was up your ass.

    You'll probably ignore this, because it's ME, but... I'm not in a good mood either right now so... if I can help you with this, I believe my email is quite public.

    1. If people talk to me civilly, I do the same in kind.

      We're cool. Turns out I've been losing a lot of friends lately. I'll take not-enemies if I can get them.

  5. Not that you need anyone telling you, but you did the right fucking thing.

  6. I know this won't help you, but I do think you did the right thing.