There was a lot that all three of them had been through, danger they had faced and pain they had endured. This was worse.
They had been asked to help chase off a group of Reach by one of the Green Lanterns. Considering the reputation Blue Beetle and Impulse had gained over the years– first on Earth by ousting the Reach invasion there, and then with occasional forays into space as needed for various missions where they’d worked in tandem– it made sense to call them in. Blue Beetle was the only known infiltrator proven to be free of Reach control. Impulse was the only one known to be able to tell instantly if Blue Beetle was on mode (or anything like it). In combination the two (three?) of them were virtually unstoppable.
No one had been counting on them getting caught.
Khaji Da clamped down, stubbornly refusing to allow the Reach access to his systems even as he maintained the armor around Jaime. It was difficult keeping ahead of the Reach system’s efforts at trying to obtain access or disable Khaji Da, but with the both of them working in tandem they were able to effectively lock out the Reach computer system. The hard part was trying to resist giving in as they listened to Bart’s screams.
“We know you care for the meat. Give in and his pain will cease,” the scientist said in cold voice, as if he was examining a mildly interesting specimen. This particular reachling was more of a gray-green than most Reach Jaime, Bart, or Khaji Da had encountered, with a partial ‘hood’ in gray and black patterned over his head in almost precisely angled stripes arching over the top of his scalp (something Khaji Da had distractedly noted as a genetic flaw when they’d first seen him). His choice to wear a long black coat paired with a black, white, and gray suit of sorts was probably a deliberate one to distract from his entirely too obvious ‘flaw’. One thing Jaime, Khaji Da, and Bart had come to learn in their various encounters with the Reach was that those connected to the hive had a low tolerance for any perceived ‘flaws’.
Jaime grit his teeth.
The reachling tilted his head to the side, then waved to his enforcer to pause in what she was doing (at least Jaime thought the enforcer was a woman, he wasn’t sure). Bart’s screams died to ragged breathing. “Your stubbornness only costs him. I do not know why, if you seem to care for this meat so much, that you do not submit.”
A bark of ragged laughter escaped Bart, despite the pain he was in from the numerous slices he’d received– some were already scars, some were trying desperately to heal though the process had been slowed by the enforcer cutting the injuries open again and again. “You… want to know… why they don’t give in, you fucking piece of shit?”
Disinterested eyes darted to Bart, a brief flicker of annoyance in their depths. “And you seem incapable of remaining quiet.”
“Fuck you,” Bart snarled, earning a slice on his cheek from the enforcer as a result. He hissed, but then glared at the scientist full-on, defiant. “They won’t give in because they know I’ve been through worse shit than you can ever dream of. They know that if they give in everything will be worse. So they won’t give in. They won’t give in even if you kill me, and it’ll be the biggest ‘fuck you’ to your entire fucking empire because then you’ll set off your own damned apocalypse.”
“Impulse, don’t,” Jaime pleaded. All three of them needed to get out. If Jaime and Khaji Da got out without Bart it would be ashes and dust with no real victory. If Bart died part of them would die with him.
[We can not lose the Bart Allen,] Khaji Da silently agreed, every bit as concerned and desperate as Jaime.
[How close are you to hacking the system?]
[Soon. SOON. Do not allow them to exterminate the Bart Allen!]
“Amusing,” the scientist drawled. “Even now, when you have no means to fight, you defy us.”
Khaji Da didn’t even hesitate, the words exploding from him and Jaime in an enraged snarl, catching Jaime by surprise, “If that were true then we would not be able to resist you now. You are incapable of gaining access, or you would not resort to torturing him to get to us.”
“That’s my bug,” Bart laughed before a cough interrupted his comment. “Note to self: stabbed lung really hurts, even though it’s healing.”
“You are trying my patience.” The scientist waved at the enforcer and an electrified blade dragged down Bart’s leg, eliciting another scream. “You are only prolonging his suffering.”
[How much longer? Khaji Da, I can’t– Bart’s–]
“Impulse!” Jaime called out, straining against the bonds that held him and Khaji Da in place.
“You have the power to make his pain stop. Just give in and it will be over,” the scientist said in his deceivingly smooth voice.
“Don’t… you… DARE… give in!” Bart yelled through his screams of pain.
[How much longer?!]
[Almost– when I give the word we move.]
The scientist casually strolled over and loomed over Jaime and Khaji Da, a contemptuous look aimed at them. He seized hold of Jaime’s jaw and forced them to look up at him before saying, “Just a few words, nothing more. Or not even words. Simply allow me access and it’s done. His pain ends. It’s a simple choice– because we can keep this up as long as necessary.”
Khaji Da gave Jaime a mental prod, and Jaime responded with, “I’ve got two words for you.”
“Oh?” the scientist asked.
In a moment Khaji Da had surged into control as he manifested a sonic-cannon over one shoulder and aimed at the scientist. When he spoke, his voice was furious snarl, “Fuck you.” A moment later there was a hole in the wall where the scientist had been blasted through it.
And then there was chaos.