Noms De Guerre - A MCR Fanfiction
The unspoken Killjoy code of honor dictates that we never refer to ourselves as an army.
We're anti-BL/ind, a resistance, a collective group of freedom fighters. Calling ourselves soldiers of the revolution - every part of that phrase is wrong. We aren't soldiers, and it's too early to call this a revolution. I don't like thinking of ourselves as an army.
But sometimes I do - when I think of everything we do and everything we fight for - and that makes me sick.
I mean, we fight what is essentially a guerrilla war against BL/ind, trying to bring the truth into light. We use pseudonyms to conceal our identities even though really, if we're fighting for good, we shouldn't be hiding anything from anyone. The corporation has brainwashed countless people, so lost in their artificial contentedness that they don't feel the urge to do anything productive - and we're trying to break it apart. Wake people up with a harsh slap to the face. Remind them that happiness is but only one emotion in the world and there are countless others that ought to be protected and felt. In short, anti-euphoria. Killjoy. Combining that concept with our methods of fighting back, it's probably no surprise that we come off as anything from a militia to a terrorist organization.
But a few years ago, this wasn't happening. We remember how it used to be. So we walk along a knife edge, knowing that our faces are printed on Wanted posters all around Battery City, knowing that every day is one day closer to dying, all so we might have a chance at restoring it. Hey, you can't say we don't take it in stride. We sign the damn posters whenever we see them around. Can't say they were our best mugshots ever but you take what you get.
Imagine about thirty groups, all different but maximum fifteen people in size. They're just the active Killjoys. I am part of one of those groups - we're one of the leading ones. There is a bigger, sedentary population of those who have rejected BL/ind near the harsher parts of the desert - they're more of a passive resistance, bringing up a generation of children who know how to see colour and appreciate the kiss of the cool evening breeze. We're outnumbered, we know that better than anyone.
But you've got to do what you have to do. Nobody wants to die but someone has to do it, so we do. That's bad and maybe us and them both should feel bad, but that's an unreasonable thing to ask when they aren't capable of feeling bad about anything.
We want to fix that. So, by all means, Killjoys, make some noise.
Six o'clock on a Sunday morning, the sunrise bleeding over the condemned desert and onto the Fabulous Four. Let me tell you about them. Getting to know us all would be good. Let's start with Fun Ghoul. Odd specimen of a human being, but aren't we all. He's our demolitions expert. He's a lover of colors much like all of us, he likes reading, sometimes he goes stargazing if in a good mood, and he loves to sleep. So really, apart from being a demolitions expert, he's not at all an odd example of a human being, and in the world of BL/ind that makes him most definitely odd.
"Rise and shine, Fun Ghoul," I say, looking down at him. His reaction is to jostle Jet Star with his foot who then screams 'ahh, you fuck!' and chucks his helmet at my head before collapsing back down and staring with wide blank eyes at the ceiling. Kobra Kid snores behind me. I catch the helmet against my chest and set it down. This is just daily routine. "wake up. We gotta move."
Jet Star immediately rises to his feet. "Did I throw my helmet at you again," he states - it's delivered in such a matter-of-fact tone that it can't be considered a question - and I nod, pointing towards it. "sorry about that. Charge ran out on my gun and they nearly got you guys. Had to do something."
"Mmm," I say, too used to this to let it get to me. He's thrown much worse things although his helmet is usually the object of choice. We could probably catch anything he throws in our sleep now, it's just something that we've incorporated into our lives. "got enough time to dress, and some food too, but we'll probably have to be off within the hour."
Dressed in his loose shirt and trousers, he puts his shades over his forehead and steps out of the diner. We move around a lot but this is our main base camp, there are other smaller ones ranging from huts to sheds scattered all about the desert. He looks a little perturbed as per usual; he's a morning person, so waking up has nothing to do with it. We all know it's because he's always worried that he's going to really injure one of us one day. He doesn't trust himself and quite frankly I don't think most people would either.
So is he quite the liability because of that? Hell no. His trigger outbreaks bother him more than us. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger - Jet Star's always said that that was rubbish. Not everyone becomes an Übermensch after trauma. Some curl up and hide, regressing. Some look okay but then succumb suddenly, when they can't take it anymore. And some stagger on, never completely together after whatever they've gone through but with a lucid awareness of how strong they already were and are. He's the latter. A great fighter, focused and serious in combat, more efficient than any of us - and then he retires to our camp and dreams of killing and being killed all night, screaming in his sleep. Otherwise? He's good.
"Earth to Kobra Kid," he's saying in the background. Kobra Kid doesn't stir so what he does is just pick him up and toss him outside in the somewhat-bearable temperatures of morning desert, which does the job of waking him up very efficiently along with an extra slew of curses. Can't say it didn't work.
I'm amazed that he hasn't shut down already - PTSD must be a bitch for sure, I've heard of others just gaining that thousand-yard stare in the middle of fending off Draculoids. They don't get to fight anymore when that happens. They either get killed right there and then or get turned into Dracs themselves. Never happened with him. So we can put up with the nightly terrors; we wouldn't let him go when he's this good to have around, plus he's also the only one who doesn't drive like a maniac. He also has a fucking awesome jacket. Even I'm jealous.
Jet Star is justifiably crazy. But aren't we all.
It's actually probably a good thing. I'd have thought him dangerously insane if he were sane and still didn't mind what we were doing.
But never mind that now. The first person I wanted to wake up is still asleep. I bite my lip and stare down at Fun Ghoul as I think about the best way to approach this situation. Do I pick him up? No. Jet Star could, but you see, he can be a bit vicious sometimes when he's being held against his will. Bites too. God knows I don't want anybody going through that shit at this hour of the morning.
Say, how about this. You ever wonder why he calls himself Fun Ghoul? There's a reason for that. Just watch, I'mma kick him hard in the shins.
"Che cazzo vuoi! Va fongul!"
Ah, there you go. His alias is a reflection of what he just said. He turns over and opens his eyes, squinting at me from the sudden light. "Hey, at least you're awake," I tell him, trying to coax him. "now you just need to sit up, swing your right leg out followed by your left - or do it the other way around, whatever - then stand up. Not too hard. Will you please do that for me?"
And no, he's not Italian. A born and bred American hailing from New Jersey, first language English, and he speaks it perfectly well.
"Because we need to move camp, that's why."
"Che ore sono?"
"About six in the morning."
He shrugs and leans back down again, but now a glimmer of a sweet, boyish smile is playing about his lips in the way that makes him want to either give him a hug or strangle him half to death. "Le sei di matina," he says, lazily sliding his eyes shut, knowing that it infuriates me. For someone who can rig up complicated explosives and keeps a cool attitude to most things, Fun Ghoul acts like a damn kid. I wish he'd stop. There's someone who deserves to act like a kid more than he does. "no, troppo presto. Ha!"
"Godfuckingdamnit I swear to Christ cut the bullshit right now and get up."
"Cosa vuol dire 'cut the bullshit'?" he asks, tilting his head and pretending to look puzzled, but the self-satisfied smirk is still plastered on his face. He knows exactly what it means and where it belongs. If I wasn't so hardened by all the fighting I'd probably be crying with frustration at this point. But I know not to lose my temper yet, so I just take a deep breath.
"The kid. It's about the kid."
At the mention of The Kid, Fun Ghoul opens his eyes, suddenly paying me his full attention. "We're going to have to do a long trek," I tell him, pleased enough with this progress. "Triple-Delta will temporarily care for her. Can't have her when we go to a full blown war zone, worse than anything we've ever had. You agree, right?" he hesitates, but then nods, understanding all too fully what I mean. "well then, raus! Get dressed."
"Raus?" he repeats blankly, but then he scowls in the way that he only does when he's about to go off in a tirade. "raus? 'Raus'?"
"Bastardo!" Fun Ghoul hisses before he starts explaining his anger to me in his immaculate Northern New Jersey-accented English. "that's German, you know I save German for Thursdays! From your context it ought to be either subito or veloce! Don't you ever listen, Party Poison?"
"Ahhh, capisco, scusami," I say, and this seems to placate him a little. I can't believe I'm doing this, but it's also kind of fun in a guilty way. "I won't do it again. Get dressed, veloce, and we'll go out there and drop off our lil' girl at his doorstep. The earlier we start, the quicker she can get there and the safer she'll be, si, mio amico?"
"Si, si!" Fun Ghoul nods determinedly; he then flashes me a dazzling grin, then finally jumps up and makes his bed before darting away. God. Only took me ten minutes.
There is actually a reason for the Italian. The default language of BL/ind is English and even that's not good enough because English has too many dialects and accents. They just want one clean language and they'll manufacture one eventually. Fun Ghoul took great offense to that, and he took it upon himself to preserve as many of them as he could by meeting other Killjoys and learning from them. He's quite the polyglot now, taking in the intangible, an embodiment of culture as it once was. I must admit that it spices up our lives, but when he sets special days aside to talk in a language and gets all pissy about using the wrong one, it can be quite the struggle. And as was demonstrated just there, he's prone to some seriously violent mood swings for very insignificant things. Fun Ghoul takes everything to the extreme; he had tattoos of various designs inked on him before BL/ind did away with colour altogether just to say fuck you to the entire business. Admirable in a very twisted way.
So okay, I guess he is odd. But aren't we all.
About the lil' girl, a.k.a, The Kid. She's the de facto fifth member of The Fabulous Four and also what's driving our whole mission right now, so she more than merits a mention.
Her Killjoy name is actually Missile Kid but we don't like to call her that. Actual name's Grace Jeanette; 'God's grace'. Beautiful name. You might think it was weird considering pseudonyms are thrown left and right and all around so much in this world that we often don't know which name is real and which isn't, but for her it's too apt, too violent, too early. We were late to give her a Killjoy name. Didn't like thinking of her out there, the resistance being the only thing she would know, but times have become more dangerous and we didn't have much choice. She's been with us for about a year and a half and just turned six; give her a hand with a gun or a bazooka and she's got insanely good aim. That name isn't for show.
So how did such a girl end up in our care? That's where Kobra Kid comes in. You didn't think I was going to forget about him, did you? Of course I wouldn't have. See, Kobra Kid's my younger brother. We just pretend that we aren't related. If BL/ind knew we were siblings, that'd just add on another layer of complications. He's not medically or culturally crazy. In fact he used to act so normal and casual about all of this that I would be a little afraid at times, that he was trying to hide under a mental facade. And I genuinely thought he was going to break around a year and a half ago when he would have long periods of staring ahead, followed by brief bursts of near psychotic anger. You see where I'm going with this?
Picked her up during a raid in one of the outside settlements. Four and a half years old, a girl whose first action after waking up was to thank us for the help and politely ask us if we knew where her mother was. Kobra Kid got attached to her, had to convince all of us that he wasn't going to let the kid be abandoned to an unknown fate. I don't think we believed him at first because he was only barely out of the angry adolescent stage himself - but he delivered. Oh, how he delivered. Thanks to her, he's settled in, and she's been more helpful than we could have ever imagined. Call it one very strange family if you like.
"We've got two cans of Power Pup left," Fun Ghoul calls just as I'm getting back up, brushing his long dark hair back and smiling at me. "Party Poison, you want? Reckon you can have both, you need to eat well."
"Have you all eaten?"
"Eating. Our bambina is well fed and ready to go, don't you worry about that."
That's a relief. She's the one who needs to eat well out of all of us. "What about Kobra Kid?"
Fun Ghoul's also very fond of him. He was always good at taking more vulnerable people under his wing, and before the girl came along, it was usually he who would mediate and keep my brother in line. They've always been very, very close - they were both in their twenties when all of this started, so it wasn't as if Kobra Kid couldn't look after himself to begin with, but they've been inseparable ever since.
"Nah, don't go about worrying about me, Party Poison," he's calling from the kitchen, through a mouthful of food, it sounds like. "we're trekking. You're the navigator. Shaddup and get your goddamn eats already."
"I'm coming, I'm coming!"
Fun Ghoul is probably closer to my brother than I am, for the understandable reason that we can't show each other more attachment than what we show to everyone else.
It hurts me quite a lot and I know it hurts him too.
"It's so hot out."
"It's called the desert, Kobra Kid. You've complained about this since forever." His response is to stick out his tongue at Fun Ghoul and grin.
"Doesn't make it any less true," Missile Kid chips in, dressed to kick ass, clutching the radio and hopping up on a chair next to Jet Star.
"Good morning, princess," I tell her; she responds with her sunny grin and I feel instantly better.
She brings out the best in all of us. For one, she's the only thing that can stop Jet Star from triggering; put her within a two meter radius and he's then all happy and gentle and telling her stories. Kobra Kid sneaks her extra food and they hang around together, like brother and sister. Fun Ghoul teaches her to love the little things in life - bastard would dig a hole for her if she said the sky was falling. Well, I say that - but by God, if that actually happened, I would too. We all would. Missile Kid is something that many other Killjoys lack, who have taken on the more sensible option of not getting attached too much to others. Call it inconvenient, but she's something sacred that we have to protect, the sole thing that keeps us thinking that we have a purpose other than just being against the law. Our sepia-toned princess in this dark foreboding world.
So there you have it. Missile Kid is a good kid.
For a Killjoy. For an outlaw. For a war child.
For a kid raised by four lunatics who quite clearly have no business raising anybody, she's a very good kid and we love her in all honesty.
This is why it's too dangerous. BL/ind is very interested in her. I do mean very. She's easily impressionable, been around us for long enough to know the Killjoy secrets, and she's skilled enough to not fear BL/ind the slightest. A specimen that the corporation is too eager to grab. This is why we need to get her to Triple-Delta and his Show Pony. I mean that seriously. Dr. Death Defying, the leader and proctor of all the Killjoys; none will be able to find a better place to hide than with him.
We'll miss her but this is not a time to be selfish.
It's Tuesday and we're still driving along, due to reach our destination around half three in the afternoon, bickering about how justified we are in being Killjoys. It started off as an innocent question from Missile Kid about why exactly we're dropping her off to stay with Dr. Death Defying, and it just snowballed from there. I think she's given up listening but this is an interesting debate.
"We designated ourselves as good," Fun Ghoul is saying, in one of his serious moods. "and BL/ind hasn't proven us wrong yet, with their various evil antics."
"Isn't that too much black and white morality for our comfort?"
"That's the extreme. What I'm trying to get at is that they are so far away from our point of view, and we from theirs, that there's just no mixing. Too much distance. Makes it hard to care."
"Pathos of distance. Wow. Another concept that didn't need introducing into our already complicated lives."
Jet Star sniggers in the passenger seat upon hearing this. "Hey, it's a free desert. Ha! Ha!"
"So what supplies do we need?"
"Jet Star can do with a new gun or three. Batteries. More Power Pup. Explosives. And more water too, can always do with more water. Something for Kobra Kid Junior too maybe."
"Ew, you sick fuck," I tell him after making sure my hands are over Missile Kid's ears. Kobra Kid just smirks at me, cuddled up with Fun Ghoul under a thick blanket in the back seat. "not in front of her, okay?"
"Our ma. This is getting ridiculous," he flashes me a grin and a wink and I realize I've slipped up. I should be cursing myself for that, but seeing him so happy at acknowledging this makes me sort of warm inside. And kind of sad, too. I cough to disguise my feelings and gaze out the window. "that's a lot of supplies. Wish that the Powers That Be would put a BL/ind vending machine just conveniently in front of us."
Missile Kid's a good hacker. Within seconds she's got the vending machine hooked up and hacks into it, our sweet loot dropping down the chute and into our hands. Kobra Kid gives her a high five, the sound of hands slapping ringing loudly across the otherwise quiet landscape, and the sound makes Jet Star throw himself violently into the sand because he thought it was a Draculoid. A good day overall. It just gets better when it starts raining all of a sudden.
It hasn't rained in the desert for a while. We all lean against the vending machine and let the rain soak in, watching the streams of water carve crooked pathways into the sand. Our girl's laughing and jumping about - she's only seen rain a handful of times in her life - and Kobra Kid's finally stopped complaining. It's times like this I love the most. BL/ind likes to tell us that the world is clean and black and white and beautiful. It's not. The world is fucking filthy and colorful and it's ugly as hell. This desert is full of dust and entirely too red for anyone's liking. And we're not pale and clean-cut, we're covered with dust and sand and have a permanent tan. If we reject the artificial cleanliness of BL/ind, though, there's always the natural rain to cleanse us, and I like that.
"I reckon I'd want to bottle it," I say casually to Fun Ghoul, who's standing next to me. He looks over with a charmingly curious tilt of the head. "you know, the smell of the air after rain. Clean, fresh and pure. You reckon we can do that with BL/ind technology if we ever succeed? I think that'd be a good idea, nothing like those pills they hand out to the masses."
"I think you're full of shit," he tells me, before he suddenly grins wide. "but if that's the kind of thing you think about in times like those, God forbid I wouldn't defend your right to be full of shit to the death. A man can dream, can't he?"
Yeah. Yeah, a man can dream. With the rain trickling down his face and his hair wet and slick, he looks more alive than ever. It's not unusual for Fun Ghoul to slouch around looking fairly relaxed and indifferent to everything. But now he's smiling and he looks happy, truly happy and blissful under the cool shower. With the water highlighting his vibrant tattoos I think he looks kind of beautiful, really.
We might be called Killjoys, but we aren't anti-happiness. It's just that, true moments of joy in life are unexpected and don't lurk in easily swallowed pills.
"No, you don't get the keys," Jet Star is saying, nonchalantly tucking his ray gun back into his pocket, watching the clouds begin to move away. "you drive like crazy. Can't have that. Children on board."
"She likes it though, don't you, Jeanette?"
A nod. Jet Star crosses his arms regardless. "Our girl needs protecting. Having you swerve into imaginary lanes every five minutes is not protecting."
"Tua mater," Fun Ghoul shoots back. God knows when he learnt Latin.
"You keep my mama out of this," Missile Kid tells him haughtily.
"But I was referring to his mama, darling."
"You keep everybody's mamas out of this." Like a boss. Can you see why we all love her to bits?
Well, keep it in mind. All this was the only even mildly funny bit in this story.
And if it wasn't funny then I'm sorry for that. I don't get paid to be funny for anybody. None of us do.
Oh my God. This hurts so much. Missile Kid's whimpering as she's being led away and I'm staring after her, unable to move.
How did things go to shit so quickly?
Let's rewind. The Draculoids are always the same old, same old, so we'll start in medias res. "Will you motherfuckers please be quiet?" Kobra Kid snaps from the driver's seat, and without waiting for a reply, he grabs his helmet from between his knees, jams it on his head, and accelerates into the danger zones. Missile Kid lets out a whoop of joy while Jet Star curses roughly. "this is terrible. Damn it. I should have known."
"What the hell was that for? We were doing all right with the Dracs, right?"
"No, you dumb fuck, no," Fun Ghoul groans next to me, and I look over at his side of things. And then I understand. "Korse himself is tracking us in his car. He's shouting at us."
I look at Missile Kid, tucked and hidden between us, so innocent and wide-eyed yet so completely unsurprised by the fact that we are being shot at. It's not right. She ought to be terrified. She ought to have a mother to cuddle into while waiting for the bad things to pass. All that just fuels my desire to get her to her destination. Turning to Jet Star, the shades over his eyes not doing very much to actually hide the fire burning within his eyes. "Roll down a window. Just a crack."
He does so - the Trans-Am is instantly bombarded by a series of stun bolts from the three Draculoids in his car and the ones following in motorcycles before Korse's voice screams at them to 'hold the fucking bolts for a second'. "We know you have the girl," he shouts. "you four are to be exterminated should you come anywhere near Battery City, but this is in the middle of the desert and we're evenly matched. Hand her over and I'll let you go free."
What, is he crazy? I'd like to shout out a 'come and take her then' but I don't. Roll the window back up, keep going. He doesn't take this well and starts attempting to shoot our tires. Goddamn it. We can't get stranded here. We wait until we reach a curve on the road, and with a nod of my head, Kobra Kid slams on the brakes and the Trans-Am skids to a halt while Korse's car swings right past. Hurl open the doors and run. We're of the desert, we know every ridge, we might be able to get a sniper's nest - Jet Star runs ahead with his helmet and Missile Kid in tow, obviously aiming for a hiding place for them both. I'd have preferred that he be on the offensive, but this isn't time to get picky. Fun Ghoul and Kobra Kid are just behind me, shooting at the Dracs who are now on our tail.
A game of hide and seek.
We're good at this game. At least I thought we were. Jet Star's PTSD has worked against him this time; with Missile Kid to consider, he's become extra disoriented, unsure whether to attack or stay hidden and defend her. I turn around just in time for him to face a Drac - because of his trigger reflexes, instead of shooting as he normally would have done, he shields himself with an arm - and he promptly gets his shades bashed in by the butt of the Drac's ray gun. He falls to the ground, crying out in pain, holding one side of his face - and having lost his grip over our girl.
Too late. They already have her in our grasp, even as all of us slide our way down to join him. Three Dracs and Korse against four of us. A Mexican stand-off.
"This wouldn't have happened if you'd just given her up willingly," he sneers at us. My heart is pounding; Missile Kid's by the side, there's nowhere to run, and we're stuck here in eternal stalemate until one of us moves. Keeping my gun low, I slowly push my mask over my eyes - Fun Ghoul already has his, and Jet Star has blindly tugged his helmet on as well. Die with our masks on if we're to die. Korse allows us that courtesy at least before he holds up his gun as an invitation for a silent countdown. Meet his eyes, steely and focused, reflexes sharp on the ready.
Not sharp enough, apparently. We draw at the same time but I get hit first, squarely on the chest, and without really knowing what's happened I find myself eating sand. Fun Ghoul is the second to fall, having taken a body shot for Kobra Kid, but it's not much use because he's soon hit as well. Jet Star manages to fight back admirably for about five seconds before a stray shot ricochets off his helmet, knocking down his visor, and then he too goes down. All over in about ten seconds' time. Ten seconds is all it took for us to lose Missile Kid. But I'm still conscious even though I don't think anyone else is - I just can't move.
I'm wrong though. I'm wrong about a lot of things. Kobra Kid shakes off the stun surprisingly quickly, he was probably just grazed. He's the one who gets up first, grabbing at his gun, snarling at the sight of Missile Kid being stuffed into the car. "You'll never take her!" he shouts before firing and nearly giving Korse a headshot. The latter flinches and for a moment I think he looks terrified. I've got to hand it to my brother. I can see him getting shot with about four stun bolts as he runs towards their car and just shaking them off as if they were nothing in his pure psychotic rage; but then a shot rings out into the air, sounding terrifyingly different compared to ray guns - he lurches over - I can't move, he was shot right in front of me and he's still going - and now he's collapsed onto the sand, come on why can't I just move-
"He could finish them off for us, probably," Korse comments as he bends down next to my brother. To my horror, he produces a syringe that I know contains a serum to turn people into Draculoids, and jabs the needle straight into his arm. As he does so Kobra Kid screams but I can't shut my eyes, I can't move, I can only watch. "let's go!"
And then they drive off, leaving us behind. Twitch a finger. Focus on that; don't try to break free all at once. Sensation returns to my hands, and then to the wrists. It feels like forever and indeed it has to go on for several agonizing minutes, while my brother is sobbing and writhing hysterically on the ground. But eventually my legs respond to me, and I roll over on my hands and knees, feeling horribly sick but focused only on him.
"Mikey," my voice sounds dry and raspy as it tears at my throat. "fuck. Oh fuck. What have they done to you?"
Only the heaving of his chest indicates that he's alive. Where's the anti-serum, I think we've got a case in the Trans-Am, I've got to hurry-
-and then I notice that the problem is something else entirely. He's bleeding. It's not just a normal kind of bleeding either; it's pouring out of his right shoulder the way ray gun shots shouldn't be able to do. Tear his shirt open, see a gaping wound caused by a bullet, a real bullet, the kind that we all thought were disposed of by BL/ind when ray guns became standard.
I don't know how to handle bullet wounds. I've never had to before.
All I know is that they are usually harmless once in the body, but he's bleeding so much, I don't understand. And then I suddenly do. He was moving around too much. I don't know how bullet wounds have to be handled and neither does he; the bullet's gotten moved around, tearing at his blood vessels and the surrounding tissue. Blood vessels on the shoulders are pretty big. Korse's idea of a practical joke.
The serum works in twenty minutes. He won't live to see ten.
"I'm cold," he cries, shivering. He's never complained of the cold before. And this is all I can think of even though I'm looking into his paling face, the red sands turning sticky and dark beneath us, his life draining away into the ground and onto my clothes. My own flesh and blood, expiring in front of me, and this is all I can think about even as I clutch and rock him back and forth. "I'm cold. Gee, I'm cold. I'm so cold."
"There, there," that's all I can say. I can't see his face anymore. I'm crying. I'm fucking crying. "sleep. Just sleep. I've got you, brother."
"It's okay, Mikey. It'll be okay."
My brother won't be appearing in this story anymore.
To say Fun Ghoul doesn't take this well would be an understatement.
"Schweinhund!" he screams, having been the last one to awake from the stun. Jet Star awoke second and found me sobbing over my brother's dead body, and even though I swear I could see something inside him snapping forever, what he did was to quietly load up the body alongside Fun Ghoul's still unconscious form in the Trans-Am. He drove ten minutes to a nearby base camp - hard, because he had one eye swollen shut - then got us inside before driving away with a faraway look in his eyes. I know where he's gone, on a one-Killjoy killing spree, searching blindly for Draculoids until he's exhausted. He's done it before. The point is me and Fun Ghoul are alone. "Schweinhund! Schweinhund!"
I said he had violent mood swings over insignificant things. You thought that was bad? Try him breaking down over a very significant thing.
First he couldn't believe it. Then he stared blankly for a while before breaking out into curses. And believe it or not, he actually ran out of English so he's started screaming in German instead. Heads down. Completely fucking losing it. It's not even a German day today.
"What do you want from me," I shout back at him. I don't think this is a good way to deal with this, but reason doesn't matter, not when Mr. Heart-Attack-In-Black-Hair-Dye is waving an absurdly sharp fork in my direction and whoa hang on where did he even get an absurdly sharp fork from I thought we had nothing but spoons and oh shit oh shit he's trying to fucking stab me-
"Fun Ghoul!" I dodge as the fork comes crashing down in my general direction, digging into the wooden furniture. He tugs it out with a snarl and comes towards me again, eyes blazing with insanity. "Fun Ghoul, what the fuck?"
Apparently he doesn't appreciate the unintentional repetition of insults hurled in his direction, if the fork flying at my head followed by his empty gun is any indication. I'm tempted to say that it's his own fault for naming himself that, but I can't focus on that right now. I yelp as he grabs a bowl and throws that at me as well. "Oh shit! Jesus!"
Apparently he suddenly doesn't appreciate blasphemy either when I'm the one doing it. Sooner or later he's going to run out of German and then he'll launch into sacre - if that happens his mental breakdown will never end. I have to stop him. So the next time he lunges at me, I sidestep at the last moment and wait for momentum to hurl him against the wall before pouncing, knocking him to the floor, rolling around. He cries out and tries to fend me off, but I've gotten him pinned underneath me, straddling him, keeping him still.
"Get a fucking hold on yourself," I yell, and give him a slap right around the face. Right around his goddamn face. His head snaps sideways and he inhales sharply in pain. "how's throwing shit at me going to solve anything? You're upset? You think you're upset? What about me, when he was my own brother and I watched him die in my arms? You think this is going to help Grace Jeanette in the slightest-"
"-Mikey?" he whispers, and I flinch. With the exception of Jeanette (being not a full Killjoy yet) he's never called anyone else by their real names before out of respect for their identities, whether alive or dead. Real names have always been something sacred amongst Killjoys, used to connotate trust, affection, love, destruction, and hatred. We all hide beneath aliases, our noms de guerres, our names of war. We can't hide under real names. Nobody knows this better than Fun Ghoul, the lover of language, does.
Let's say I get a free pass because he was family. This is different.
"What... what did you say?"
He isn't listening. The rage is gone from his expression; instead there is that soft healthy glow that I saw back that day when it rained. With shaking hands he reaches up and touches my face, brushing back my hair, his eyes meeting mine. "Mein Schatz," he coos, and with shock I realize that he sees my brother in me. We had the same eyes. "mein herrlich... herrlich Schatz..."
Oh my God. All the times they spent together. How my brother shook off the charge after seeing Fun Ghoul going down. How they cuddled up together. It all makes sense now. All of this and I never saw it because I was always too busy being distant. As I stare at him, his gaze returns to full focus, and his expression changes into one of hurt - and complete, utter sorrow. Moving off him quietly, I kneel down next to his body. "Hey..."
He pushes me away. Blindly staggers towards Mikey's body, splayed on the floor of the hut, collapses on it and starts crying. No, not just crying - he's having a breakdown, tears running down his cheeks, his proud head bowed as he pounds at the body uselessly with his fists. "Damn it," he sobs out angrily. "damn it. Damn it..." he then buries his face onto my brother's torn shoulder, the blood having long since dried but making streaks against his cheeks anyway as his tears brush against the skin. I don't know what to do, what to say, except watch as he grieves for my brother more strongly than I have done. And I feel like somebody tore out the left side of my body as it is. I can't imagine what Fun Ghoul is feeling. We stay there until Jet Star shoots down the door; he quickly puts away the gun after explaining that he thought we were fighting in there. Sit down by lamplight, stare blankly into my brother's face.
Once we were four, breathing and happy.
Now we are three and a cold body, one wearing an eyepatch, two wearing the other's blood.
Got chewed out big time by Dr. Death Defying. We deserved it completely and utterly. I took most of the blame. I told him everything and he was silent for a while.
"He was a good man," his voice is subdued and quiet over the com, and I have to bite back my tears. Strange how I never saw him as a man. He was my little brother, young even amidst war and horror. "so he's gone forever and Grace Jeanette is with BL/ind. Five down to three."
"I recommend you stay away for this."
Raise my head, stare into nothing. What? "Join a Killjoy camp and lay low, Party Poison. With Kobra Kid gone and our girl in BL/ind captivity, they're going to be out looking for your blood. You three have been high-profile criminals wanted in Battery City for the past three years as it is."
"But what about-"
"They won't harm her," Dr. Death says, and even though it might seem too incredulous to believe, I know he's more right than we think. "she's too valuable to them. She's a hostage and they'll want her alive to either negotiate something with you or extract information. We can't let all of you fall. There are other bands closer to Battery City than you currently are, ones who are nearly unknown; they're the best bet."
Fuck logic. Am I meant to sit by and just accept this?
What are they doing to her?
I can't sit by. I promised her that she would be safe, and I can't - won't abandon her to an unknown fate.
Mikey wouldn't have wanted it. We don't want it. She's ours.
I have to do something.
I don't like to think of ourselves as a militia but sometimes you've got to do what you have to.
Well of course they won't let me regroup and rise up, what the hell am I thinking. "You've gone out of your mind, Party Poison," Jet Star tells me sternly. "you're letting emotions get to you. I know we advocate emotions of all kinds but this is not the time to lose yourself in them."
This coming from a cyclops with a helmet. With an awesome jacket. Haha.
"Lose myself," I reply. Words come out hollow. "lose myself how? How much more than what I've already lost?"
Truth is, I know. I don't think anyone else does though.
"What do you think will happen to the community of Killjoys if you left? Like it or not, we are the most prominent group in the resistance! Are you going to abandon your people?"
I know how dangerous this might be. But with those two losses, it's personal. "You sure do know how to deal with this situation for a crazy shellshocked veteran," I tell him, and it comes out like I'm sneering at him but I'm not.
"Said crazy shellshocked veteran knows how to deal with this situation mainly because it's not yet over," Jet Star rebuffs. "do you think wars ever really end for people like me? And this isn't just in my head. This is real."
Protect the people. Protect Missile Kid.
Have to lay low. Have to get to Battery City.
I can't have it. I can't stand it.
Got a handful of pills here. You're meant to take one every six hours. I take a whole handful and start pounding at them with the butt of my ray gun. Want to forget Mikey. I even want to forget Grace Jeanette. I want to forget I exist. Might as well find out what the big deal is all of them pills. Don't need drugs, but I'll take what you've got. Went Draculoid hunting beforehand too. Relaxing. Maybe I enjoy this. Maybe I didn't become a Killjoy to kill joy. Maybe I just like killing things. Fucked up. Pills don't help but it sure is funny.
Go outside to find something to snort up the pills with. When I come back, the piece of paper with the crushed pills is gone. Fun Ghoul's the only one in the hut with me, in the other room, lying on the bed. He hasn't met my eyes properly since Mikey died.
"Where's the paper?"
He looks at me with dull eyes. "Quoi?"
It's a French day today. "Ou est le feuille, Fun Ghoul? Ou sont mes comprimés? You know what I mean, you bastard, where the hell are they."
He doesn't say a damn thing. Just gets up from the bed, walks over to me and envelopes me in a crushing embrace. I don't have the strength to fight back so I just close my eyes, wishing I were dead. We stand there for a long time and then he pulls away to look into my eyes, his face stained with tears. I tell him I want my pills back and he shakes his head; he's tossed them out somewhere so there's no chance of finding them. "All drugs do is to just pretend to be your friend for a few hours before slamming your face in shit. I'm not pretending."
"I should have loved him more."
"You did what you could. I did what I could."
"Gotta stuff myself with love for all I didn't give him. Love is a pill."
"This love isn't," he replies. But I don't feel better, not even as he grasps me in another hug and buries his face into my chest. All I can think of is revenge, plans to get into Battery City, despite me knowing how reckless and foolish it is. Maybe I'm just doing this because I failed Mikey and I failed Grace Jeanette and I'm hurt. But-
-JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE
oh god oh god oh god
A man can dream, right? I made a promise, right? I had to take care of Grace Jeanette, I had to save everyone, I wouldn't let all this be in vain. Fun Ghoul's sleeping next to me, absolutely exhausted and shattered inside and I can't put back the pieces because I'm not my brother and he's only clinging to me because we have the same eyes and we look a bit alike or maybe I'm just being a bitter unreasonable bastard. I don't need his love I don't want his love I don't deserve his love but I'll take what he's got and we can comfort each other in the shitty way comrades in war can do I guess either way I can't lose him or Jet Star so I need to protect everyone. I'm breaking down losing it and I don't even care. Head pounding. But you don't really care do you? Yes, you. You're only reading this for my own misery aren't you? Nevermind. I can't let them down. I'll save you. I'm coming for you.
Have to do it on my own. I'll just do it on my own.
Except I'm not on my own. Told them to go back but they wouldn't have it. "You don't know what you're doing, but we're in this together," Jet Star tells me. "always have been. And we'll probably die in the process because they're incredibly powerful and we're just three crazies crawling on the desert but if that's what it takes to get our girl out, we'll do it."
"For Grace Jeanette," Fun Ghoul adds in a near inaudible whisper. "for Mikey. For everyone they've ever fucked over."
But really, I should have done it on my own.
You want to know how it ends. Dracs are just one kill after another after all. So I'll tell you the ending.
We get her out. She makes to Dr. Death Defying's van parked outside, he got there because Fun Ghoul tipped him off, and they speed off.
Otherwise it's a foregone conclusion. The good guys lose, the bad guys win.
I fucked it up as I always do. Knocked a Drac over as I shot him to death, his mask slipped, and out came the face of Agent Cherri Coke. Someone I vaguely remember meeting during our Killjoy rounds quite a while back. And then I get that tingle, that dreaded thousand-yard stare coming on. Of course I knew all along, I knew that they were people, most likely my own people that I was killing. That's why Jet Star went so mad in the first place. We all knew, we just never talked about it, didn't want to face it. With that hesitation, Korse has his gun pressed to my chin, ready to end my misery.
Fun Ghoul, Missile Kid and Jet Star have nearly made it to the exit. Keep running. Leave me. I don't deserve to live. Just go. Only the last two make it out, though; Fun Ghoul stops short of the door and turns back, slamming it shut behind him - no, what is he doing, is he suicidal? Keep running, save yourself goddamnit, what are you doing-
He's smiling. He's crying, but he's smiling as he mouths a 'Goodbye' at me. A proper English goodbye. Then he tugs his mask over his head as he resumes fighting, knowing that he won't make it out alive. All this is happening within seconds. Korse's gun presses harder into my chin.
Off my chin.
Towards the back.
My scream is lost as Fun Ghoul's head snaps back, the bullet hitting him squarely on the chest and throwing him to the floor. As he does so I catch a glimpse of Jet Star shoving Missile Kid into the van, shutting the door before the Dracs get to them, his own helmet visor cracked. The engines screech and he backs away rapidly, making himself the target.
"-Give 'em hell, darling!" Jet Star screams as the van starts driving away, and almost instantly afterwards they get him in the back. He lands with a thud onto the hood of the Trans-Am, stretched out over our mark, never to have nightmares again.
"We treated your girl with the utmost kindness, you know. Didn't even give her any pills. The first Drac I saw approaching her with pills, I shot him in the head."
Nice to know. But I think of our girl, our brave girl, now en route where she will be safe for an indeterminate amount of time. Dr. Death will be her mentor now. My work is done.
"So," Korse spins around on his seat and faces me. I'm not even tied up. They know I have nothing left in me to fight back. "what do we do with you, then?"
"Kill me," I whisper. What's one more dead Killjoy in a body bag. Nothing more than what he means it to be. He guffaws at this, followed by the Draculoids doing the same, but I can barely hear it. I'm just so tired. I want this to be over.
But life hasn't stopped throwing surprises at me yet. He picks up a com and speaks into it: "There's no point in following them. I want every one of you back in HQ right now." I raise my head and meet his eyes, and he must have seen the confusion in my face for he gives me a smile and leans forwards.
"I'll do you a deal. Join the ranks of the Draculoids. Live. Work for me. I give you my word that the girl will be left alone. You can watch over it yourself."
"I don't trust you. You're a corporation and I'm just one person. It'd be easy for you to go after her again."
"Well then," his smile just gets wider. "I'll be in close proximity for your revenge, wouldn't I? They're not so removed that they don't remember anything at all."
I hate this. But even the faintest of hope, that Grace Jeanette will be able to live on, is a fuel to my soul. If I choose to be killed, he'll send out the scouts again before they get far, too far for them to chase. I need to buy them time any way I can.
"Shame to have lost her. But she would have needed years' worth of care; you, on the other hand, are immensely useful right now."
Korse gets up from his seat and kneels down in front of me, grasping my face.
"Emotions are a curse, and I am a God. I can make it all better."
I'll do it. I'll do it for Jeanette. A nod is all they need; almost as soon as I incline my head, I feel something being stamped on my arm with unpleasantly wet and sticky ink along with a syringe being jabbed into my arm. It makes me think of Mikey but that just throws me into further despair so I shake off the thought and look down at my arm. Six digits? I thought Draculoids only had five digits. Six digits is a new one.
"Ahh," Korse admires the number stamped on my arm. Mere ink right now, but when I turn, it will seep into my skin, tainting me in black letters forever. "well, Party Poison, you are a special one, you always have been. I thought we'd give you a special number to celebrate as well. Six digits instead of five - promoting you to the higher ranks amongst the Dracs almost instantly!"
Well, isn't that a relief. Not.
"Is there a reason that my number is six-hundred ninety-six thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine?"
"That's what I said."
"No need to get lippy," Korse then pauses and stares into my eyes. "Party Poison, do you know how many people live in Battery City?"
"Maybe twenty thousand?"
He shakes his head. "Add in the Killjoys as well while you're at it. Keep guessing."
I don't answer because I don't know where he's going with this, but I'm curious nevertheless. He soon answers for me and I wish I had never known. "There are many people here," he says, gesturing out of the window. "some fight and some say they don't trust us, but eventually they all come around to our side. I think you will agree, deep inside, that everyone wants to be happy. You don't agree with our methods, but in essence, that's what we're all doing. Searching for happiness."
I can't let him get to me. This is propaganda. I've dealt with it all before. Stare straight ahead, get to the point. "What's that got to do with the number?"
"But I just told you, boy," he says, smirking. "seven hundred thousand is an apt estimate for how many people are now doomed because of your failure. And I couldn't pass up an opportunity to mark a trophy with that fact now... could I?" while I stare at him, horrified - I knew we were outnumbered but I had no idea just how much - he then reaches out and touches the number, running his thin finger over it. I feel sick when his finger comes off clean. No ink.
"Three sixty-nines," Korse then starts laughing. "don't you see the genius? Three of them; one each for the three people that you've fucked over especially hard!"
... Oh my God. I... I don't even know what to say to that.
That is either the best or the lamest fucking joke I've heard since forever. I don't know whether to laugh or be offended.
But then I remember something. It doesn't matter. It's the last joke I'll ever enjoy. So I throw my head back and start laughing and maybe I shed a few tears but there are all kinds of tears in the world, some are of sadness, some are of mirth, and I'm happy, I'm happy, isn't that what the motherfuckers want?
I've let you down.
I let all of you down a long time ago and I was the last to understand.
I have been chasing a fantasy and kicking my dust into the faces of thousands.
My first duty as a Drac is to bag up my dead friends. Made especially cruel by the fact that I haven't been turned yet - my expression is freezing into that blank slate of a face they wear and my speech is getting a little slurred. But I don't have a uniform or mask and the serum hasn't fully kicked in yet. I still feel. I'd rather have struggled or screamed on my own while I got turned, the way Mikey nearly ended up.
Fun Ghoul is the first I get to. His eyes are open and he's still smiling, kind of, a faint reflection of the final gift he gave me. But he's no longer warm and there are no more languages left on his lips anymore as I carefully slide him into the bag and zip him up. A true warrior, he died with his mask on, even though when he hit the floor it slipped out of place. I know this is the last time I will ever see his face, so I raise my hand, raise his mask a little and close his eyes, the final act of human kindness I will ever be able to perform.
I'm sorry, Frank.
I have abandoned you for the promises of another world.
It's all over now. They've been taken away, their colorful bodies buried within black and white, the very thing they fought against. I stagger against the wall and slide down it, burying my face in my knees, feeling the serum starting to take hold.
I'm scared. But I'm grateful that I can still feel scared. I bundle up all the emotions I have ever felt in my life, condensing them into one tiny square inch of space deep within my mind, so deep that not even I will soon be aware that it's there. Even happiness goes in that bundle - not the simple sensation of endorphins from BL/ind, either. I knew true happiness without pills, I felt the caress of the rain, I felt Fun Ghoul's warmth against mine not twenty-hour hours ago. It was good honest happiness and nothing, not the machine, not the degradation of my self, can take that away from me.
"It'll all be over soon," Korse's feet come into view, coming to a stop in front of me. "so this is how our hero falls."
"I'm not a hero," I whisper.
"That's right. Not a leader, nor a Killjoy, nor a hero."
"Just a young man."
I can't breathe.
"A human being."
I clutch at my chest, unable to do anything else. I'd be screaming but it is no longer in my power to scream.
This is degradation of the utmost degree.
Stripping me of the name I made myself, forcing, prying my eyelids open and making me see what I was all along.
But I am, I am, I am.
Even though I'm surrounded by the Dracs and Korse's grin, I manage to reach up. Tug my mask over my eyes, hide behind my nom de guerre, shelter beneath the thing that made me what I am. His face twists hatefully and he makes a movement as if to kick me, but I'm down already, now surrounded by white tile. White and blank and cold as the thing I will become, except for that single square inch of space within my heart that I won't let them take.
Do it for her... do it... do it for her...
Breathe in air, real air, tell yourself that it's human blood running in your veins, rich in iron and hemoglobin and life, instead of poison.
Even if you won't remember the taste of the air after the rain, nor the glare of the sun, nor what life is anymore.
Do it for...
Hey, like I said.
You've got to do what you have to do.