After days of chasing, this was it. Not to mention the months of research this had taken. Sure, he’d brought Hank back several times, but this had been a different challenge that turned everything Doc knew on its head. Personal purgatories were nothing new, absolutely not, it was the dissenter in particular that it revolved around.
Deimos was a crafty little shit. And fast. It took weeks to track him down, and even longer to assess the situation. His mind was so closed in on itself that it was difficult to figure out where exactly in his personal purgatory he was, and what was happening. According to Doc’s research, the more that the victim was scared of or had internal conflicts with, the rougher the experience was and the more it screwed with your mind.
2BDamned was waiting for Fellow09’s reply. After the last message, all resources to track Deimos had cut, leaving him blind to everything. He was concerned that it may have cut off communications as well.
Come on, where are you? Doc thought bitterly. He was so close that he could almost taste it, and yet so far. This entire experience was painful even for him. Any time he had dragged Hank back from hell, it wasn’t easy but it wasn’t this difficult. Usually, it took a few weeks to a month.
Why was Deimos so special? Was it because he was a clone? Were they more susceptible to experiencing worse personal hells than a normal person? Or was it because he was the most emotional dumbass anyone could ever meet? Hank was always telling them that forming attachments was a waste of time and would be bad for everyone. Maybe he had a point.
Just as he was about to give up, Doc noticed his screen change in the corner of his eye. What he saw was what he had dreaded in the back of his mind ever since he had sent his associate out for this job in the first place.
Fellow09 was dead. They were a bloody mess on the ground, their body covered in large indentions that left bones shattered and exposed. It was the most disgusting thing 2BDamned had laid eyes on in ages. What was this feeling? Regret? Remorse? Heartbreak?
This. This is why you don’t form attachments.
Doc was too proud to let himself cry.
This couldn’t be happening.
This is what he gets for trying to fix things. No matter what, he always ends up fucking everything up. He should’ve just minded his own business. But a screw-up like this on such a monumental level? He’d never be able to look them straight in the eye ever again.
Where the hell did I go wrong?
There was screaming, but it was quickly silenced by deafening thuds of stone hitting flesh. At least they shared an enemy. But at this point, 2BDamned wasn’t sure if this… thing was friend or foe.
The creature turned and looked straight at him. Doc held his breath, trying not to move. He had no clue if he should run or stay put. He tried assessing the situation, which is something he was supposed to be good at, but failed to do so. All he saw was the carnage left in the monster’s blind rage; bodies were strewn across the ground, blood in every crack and crevasse. Heads were crushed, limbs were torn away, and it was almost enough to make him throw up in his mouth. He hadn’t seen the aftermath of a fight this bad in years, at least in person. He then looked back to his mistake, watching as it tore another agent’s body clean in half. The sickening crunch of the spine was probably the worst thing about it. No, that was reserved for how easily it had been done.
This wasn’t Deimos. Not anymore. He would never resort to something so gruesome as that. Deimos was gone, replaced by a mindless beast with no intent other than to kill. Jagged rocks were covering nearly every inch of his body, massive talons on the tips of fingers, an underbite with large fangs to match; A perfect example of a bioweapon.
It seems he was better at creating weapons than saving lives.
2BDamned swallowed roughly as he reached for a nearby abandoned gun. The agent’s bullets hadn’t done a thing, but maybe if he aimed just right…
No. He couldn’t do this. He’d worked so hard to bring Deimos back, and he wasn’t just going to give up. He could fix this. I can fix this. He fired a warning shot at the monster’s feet, but he didn’t even flinch. Instead, he narrowed his cold, black gaze and slowly stalked forward.
The dissenter couldn’t do anything but cower in fear as it got close enough so that it was towering over him. Blood dripped from its chin from when it had torn someone’s head off with nothing but his teeth and brute force, and they reeked of death and sweat. Doc closed his eyes tightly, praying that his death was quick and painless.
But nothing came.
The sounds of heavy, rushed footsteps urged him to see what exactly was happening, only to find that “Deimos” had disappeared.
Well, isn’t that just splendid, he thought bitterly, but also in relief. While he was glad he wasn’t killed on the spot, he was pissed that he had lost his chance to contain what could have been a life saved from eternal suffering.
His second thought was, Oh, shit, realizing what this meant. If that thing was on the loose it could cause the deaths of so many people, innocent or not. Which, ultimately, would draw attention, and that was certainly undesirable. He didn’t need the Agency on his ass more than they already were.
His third and final thought was how pissed off the others would be at him. Being called a worthless freak will be the least of his worries. He’d be lucky if he wasn’t killed.
Still, he should at least warn them. How he was going to word it was another story by itself. How the fuck was he going to dodge the question of “where is he” or “did you fix him”? Doc was getting a migraine just thinking about it.
He reluctantly made his way to his laptop, which had surprisingly survived the fight. Fellow09’s last messages were still on display. It hurt knowing they were gone now (yet another victim of this mess), but there wasn’t time to mourn. There had been no time to mourn because Doc had been so busy for the past few days keeping track of Deimos to the best of his ability. But was all this for? Nothing. It only made matters worse tenfold.
God, even thinking about how this was all going down hurt just enough. Hank was going to have his head on a stick.
2BDAMNED: got him
2BDAMNED: brought back something worse with him though
He impatiently waited for a reply from someone. Anyone but Hank. He just couldn’t mentally deal with talking to him right now.
Alas, his prayers went unanswered.
xxHANKxx: the fuck did you do this time
“This time”. As if there was another time he’d screwed up. Which, yes, there were multiple accounts, and each involved the outcome being undesirable for the sake of Nevada – his time working for the Agency had proved that much. He’d done more harm for Nevada than good, though it wasn’t like he had a choice back then. The Agency was a master at manipulating their victim’s minds.
2BDAMNED: just leave it to me. i’ll figure something out
xxHANKxx: tobias what did you do
2BDAMNED: dont call me that
2BDAMNED: i told you its fine
Another name showed up on the screen. More pressure.
TruckFreak: wdym its fine??? whats going on???
2BDAMNED: nothing for the love of god i said i have it under control
xxHANKxx: where are you
2BDAMNED: south side. about 30 miles west of your location
xxHANKxx: you better be there
TruckFreak: is ANYONE gonna fill me in
TruckFreak: this is why i hate this fucking team
Sanford must not know about the situation. That was a good thing. That meant that he had less to stress out about, considering how close the arsonist was with Deimos.
Doc didn’t even bother to answer back, already having forgotten.
“Times you wish you had a chip installed in your coworkers to track them,” he muttered under his breath. Deimos could be halfway across Nevada by now. He made a mental note to look into that when he got the chance.
He had a job to do, whether he was going to be killed in the process or not.
To his luck, Deimos had left bloody tracks from when he had fled. There was one place to start. Doc’s grip on his gun tightened. Just follow the screams.
Nevada was a very hot and desolate land. Keyword was, because ever since someone killed the damn sun, it’s gotten increasingly colder. Especially during nights. While the sky remained a dark crimson, it was easy to tell when what should be daylight was done for due to the massive temperature drop. It makes life just that much more miserable, but what more can you do? There are no stars, no rain, or any other kind of weather; Kind of like being contained in a giant fishbowl that you can never hope to escape without dying. Some places did have a way to simulate real weather and rotation of the sun, but it was still fake.
Even if you did die, it was like you were still chained to the wastelands. You hear enough tales of people seemingly faking their deaths due to actually crawling their way back up through hell. Others weren’t so fortunate. Well, fortunate, as if coming back to this shithole was better.
“What was that?”
Sanford was torn from his thoughts, jumping at the sound of Hank’s voice. While he had grown used to how deep and rough it had become over the years, it still was intimidating in the worst ways possible. “Huh?”
Hank turned back to glare at him. “Nevermind,” he growled, his attention returning to what he was doing.
They were supposed to be keeping watch for an AAHW supplies shipment. They’d been planning this for weeks after learning about it, and there was no way in hell they were going to miss it. If they intervened with the shipment before it reached anywhere important, it’d surely set back the Agency’s plans at least slightly. What was in the shipment was still kept under the dark, though anything in it could prove useful for the team.
Hank had his eyes set on the horizon for their target, unmoving. One could assume he was simply petrified on the spot; hardly breathing, unblinking… Sanford guessed that’s what dying a lot does to you. Being a MAG could also be it, but he hadn’t had the time to study the workings of MAG agents, nor did he care.
“You’re fidgeting,” Hank snarled. “It’s pissing me off.”
Sanford noticed that he had been bouncing his knee, most likely out of stress or nervous anxiety. “Sorry,” he muttered. He tried focusing on something else, but he couldn’t find anything interesting enough to do so. It sucked when your work partner hated having any conversation at all. He missed Deimos.
Deimos was dead. And he had been for a year now. It had happened so fast, with no chance to say goodbye. No chance to properly mourn. The last time Sanford laid eyes on him was when he was a mangled corpse, shot several times in the head and back, near unrecognizable from how much he had been mutilated. Deimos, his Deimos, was gone and there was nothing he could have done about it.
There was no describing how much pain Sanford went through after seeing that. He had wanted to scream until his lungs gave out, to hold Deimos one last time and tell him it was alright when it really wasn’t. To say he loved him and would never forget.
He never did get that chance. Through that entire battle, Sanford had wanted to just give up and let whatever got to him first take his life. Hank could have taken care of himself.
Hank. Part of Sanford hated Hank so badly that it was unhealthy. He’d demanded that they go back for Deimos’ body as some hope to bring him back. But Hank had looked him dead in the eye and told him that he was a disappointment for thinking Deimos had been worth anything to begin with. And Sanford hadn’t had the time to argue back before they’d been jumped by Tricky.
The Auditor had already been thrown aside by the clown, though to this day no one was sure if they had survived. When Hank and Sanford returned from the Other Place, all that was found was the massive skeletal remains of Tricky, and the halo was gone. If the Auditor was still alive after all that, they were either in hiding or keeping under the radar - and very well at that.
Hank had made it clear that it didn’t mean that they shouldn’t keep their eyes and ears peeled for any hint of them. 2BDamned, while keeping to himself every second of his life, had dedicated most of his research to tracking anomalies in reality; Being able to track the remaining Improbability Drives had become a must before things became worse.
Come to think of it, Doc had grown more silent than usual. Up until the past few months he kept tabs with the team pretty often in regards to progress reports and just seeing how everyone was doing in general. But now it was almost like he didn’t exist. While they didn’t meet often, he looked much duller and sleep-deprived. Jumpy, twitchy, muttering to himself; It was kind of scary to be around. The way Hank looked at him didn’t help. There was some kind of silent argument going on between the two and it never made Sanford feel more alone.
“Hey. They’re here.” Hank nudged his shoulder - a little too hard - and nodded toward a new shape that had formed on the horizon that was quickly growing nearer. Sanford sat up, narrowing his eyes in an attempt to see it better. He gave up on that, grabbing the binoculars that he had set aside a while ago.
“Were there supposed to be two trucks?”
Hank scoffed, snatching the binoculars from him. He stiffened. “What the hell?"
There were much more than two. What had been a simple supply run had suddenly turned into a fight or flight situation. That many agents could easily overwhelm them, no matter how powerful either of them was.
“New plan. We grab what we can and get the hell out before they rip us to shreds,” Hank declared. “Grab your shit and get moving.”
This wasn’t going to be fun, was it?
This coffee was cold as shit. It reminded Doc that he’d been sitting here for over two hours staring at a damn screen. He coughed, trying hard to swallow without gagging. That was the last of it, too, he reminded himself angrily. No matter. He didn’t need caffeine to stay awake.
Speaking of, when was the last time he slept? It was probably bad that he couldn’t even remember, but that wasn’t his problem at the moment. He was about to reach a breakthrough, and worrying about his sleeping habits would only distract him from his task. He nudged the plastic cup of coffee over the side of his desk and into the trash, deciding he’ll just take care of that later.
He was no computer wiz, but 2BDamned had tried his best to hack past the AAHW’s firewall program. He’d been at this for months, and he was this close to succeeding. If he could put his full focus on this without falling asleep sitting up for at least an hour more, he’d have the Agency’s communications at his disposal. Maybe then, just maybe, they’d be able to figure out if the Auditor was still out there.
There were plenty of other things to keep track of, but the Auditor was the top priority. And the sooner he had this done, the sooner he could get back to tracking down his beast of a mistake. The last time Doc had heard or seen anything of Deimos’ whereabouts was when the undead technician had singlehandedly destroyed nearly an entire building while on another killing spree - and that was several weeks ago. Hank had come across the aftermath of the incident, and was certainly skeptical of the situation when he reported it to Doc. 2BDamned hadn’t had the chance to step away from his real work to chase after him, so he was forced to let Deimos get away again.
Next time. Next time he’ll be ready.
A knock on the door made him nearly jump out of his skin. He practically leaped out of the chair, wishing he hadn’t left his weapons in the other room. The door opened to reveal a perplexed Sanford, covered in new battle wounds that may or may not prove fatal without proper attention. He had several boxes in his arms, struggling to hold them up while enduring his pain. Hank was right behind him, though he remained just outside because he was too lazy to duck under the doorframe. He too was injured pretty badly.
“Just me, Doc. We found some stuff you might like,” he explained. "Where do you want these?”
Since when did they start showing up unannounced? And how did a supply run end up with them looking like that? 2BDamned drew a blank for a moment, stuttering. “Just put them on that table over there, I’ll go through it later.” He let out a tired sigh, rubbing his temples in response to an oncoming headache. “I suppose you’ll be wanted treatment.”
Two pairs of eyes stared back at him, unmoving.
“Oh. Sorry,” Sanford murmured, going to take a step forward until Hank grabbed him by the shoulder.
“Not yet. I need to discuss something.” Hank finally squeezed his way inside, nearly hitting his head on the ceiling. He hated being indoors.
Doc groaned. “I just cleaned these floors!” he protested, gesturing to the drying blood on Hank’s boots that was now rubbing off on the already bloodstained concrete. “Go sit down, you overgrown beast.”
He could have sworn he heard Sanford chuckle. His assumption was made clear when Hank turned his head sharply to glare at him in response. Sanford immediately stared down at his feet in regret.
“Make it quick,” Doc hissed, glancing back at his computer. He was losing time.
Hank gave him a furious glare. “You gave us false information. Thanks to you, the Agency nearly had us overpowered.”
2BDamned’s breath caught in his throat. What the hell happened out there? What’d I do wrong this time? He was sure he had given them the right instructions; How could he screw up a goddamn supply run?
"You’ve been messing up a lot lately, and I want to know what’s going on in that hollow head of yours!” Hank was fuming now. “At this rate, we’ll be dead before we even know where the next Improbability Drive is, and I will not tolerate your idiocy any longer. What has been up with you lately?”
It went terribly silent for a while. The only thing that was heard was Hank’s ragged breathing, which was an assault on anyone’s ears. Sanford watched with concern and disbelief, and all Doc could do was stare at the ground, mind racing with toxic thoughts of himself.
Hank was right to blame him. He was right about everything. He was an idiot. It was his fault for nearly having their asses handed to them. It was his fault that everything had been going wrong lately. All of it was his fault.
He blinked, looking in the direction of the voice that had called him. Sanford looked genuinely scared for him. It was then 2BDamned felt the tears threatening to form in his eyes. He cleared his throat, shaking his head. “Excuse me for a moment,” he mumbled, going to leave the room.
“Toby!” Sanford went to go after him but hesitated. "God, you’re such an asshole.” He left Hank behind to let that sink in.
The MAG didn’t know what to make of it. He had several things he wanted to say in response to that, but none of them were any sort of apology.
“I’m the asshole?”
No one was around to hear him.