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To the Victor…
Chapter 7: Coming to Terms
by Tog

Doug wandered through the quiet halls of the old school he had found and set up as a small base for his group.  It really wasn’t much, and they all knew it, but it had been home for about four months.  It was getting colder now, and that was proving to be a problem.  The old place still had electricity, but no gas line.  They hadn’t needed the heater until now.  That wasn’t the only thing keeping him up, but it was the most obvious.

As he rounded the corner he saw a light on under Epim’s door.  He’d been hoping that she was still awake, but didn’t realize it until he actually saw that she was.  It had been that kind of night.

He knocked, very lightly, on the door, and entered when she called out it was okay.

“Hey, Doc.”

Epim set down her book and sat up a little straighter in the chair as she grabbed for her notepad.  Doug didn’t call her “Doc” unless it was a professional matter.  “Is everything okay, Doug?”

“I’ve had a lot on my mind lately.  I’ve been having odd dreams, too.  You have some time?”

She nodded, and he continued.  “Okay, I guess the real stuff first.  I’m not a leader, but that’s the sort of the position I’ve ended up.  It’s like I’m in charge, but only because I objected to it the least.  So, I’ve been trying to live up to that a bit.  I’m scared.  This thing Lis stumbled onto last week is really eating at me.  What if whoever sent the killers after that computer guy is able to track down Lis?  We can hold off the Vahz and Lost in here, but this other group, or whatever is going on seems way too professional for the seven of us.  Even with the traps, I think we could get overwhelmed in no time at all.

“Then there is the stuff in my head.  The Other Guy has been harder to tap into lately.  I’m trying, but it’s almost like he’s not there anymore.  The more I do what you say, the less it seems to work.  I think that ties in with my dreams.

“Since the riots, I’ve had some version of the same dream every night.  It’s not really a dream though.  It’s more like a memory that’s being distorted into a dream.  Does that even make sense?”

She nodded, once, and he continued.

“Okay.  So it starts out with me alone and surrounded by bad guys.  Like, a lot of bad guys, but I can’t see who they are.  It’s like they are all of the different groups rolled into one.  I don’t mean a Clock is standing next to a Tsoo, and a Hellion, I mean, there is a Clock with tattoos and a pointy hat, throwing fireballs.  You know what I mean?  So, in the dream, they just keep coming.  I’m trying to fight them off, but there are just too many of them.  I can’t keep up.  That’s when I hear ‘The Voice’.  I can’t tell where it comes from.  It feels like it’s behind me, but I know it’s not.  I’m positive I’m alone.  It tells me it will help, but I have to let it do it.  I have to step aside to let it by, but I can’t.  There is nowhere to move.  Does that make any sense at all to you?”

“At the moment, no.  Is the voice one you know?”

“See, that’s one of the weird parts.  I know I’ve never heard it, but it’s familiar to me, like I should know who it is.”

“And you’ve never been able to see the person, and they’ve never been able to get past you to help?”

“Correct.”

“And do you have any idea who it might be?”

Doug shifted a little.  After a long pause he replied, “I’m starting to think that it’s my father in some way.”

“I don’t think that’s the case.  If it were him, I don’t think he’d be asking you to let him help.  Also, it may have been a long time, but I’m sure you’d recall his voice if you heard it.  No.  I think this is something different.  I’ll go back over our notes and see what I can find out.

“Thanks, Doc.”

“As for the base.  I’m sure we could stick it out here, but I’ll keep my eyes open for a better spot.  And, for what it’s worth, you’re not the leader because you objected less.  You’re the leader because when the bad stuff happens, we all run to you for protection.  You are, quite literally, our shelter.”

Doug stood up, and thanked her for listening, then walked off to the main doors to get some air.

A few moments later, came a new knock on the door.  This time it was Lista.

“Hey, um, you got a sec?”

She put her book down again.  “Sure.”

“This is a notepad talk I think.”

Epim picked up her pad and flipped to a clean page.

Lista sighed, then began, “I wanted to fill you in on the talks I’ve been having with Ent, and to ask you about some other stuff.”

“Does Ent know you’re talking to me about her like this?”

“Yeah.  She’s cool with it.  We’ve been talking a lot and she finally thinks she might be ready to talk to you directly.”

“Okay, then.  What’s up?”

“Well, we all know she feels alone.  She misses her own kind, and stuff.  And I think that’s understandable.  The thing is, she’s a little upset that we seem to be using her for everything except the only thing she knows.  She knows how to guard prisoners.  That’s it.  That’s her sole purpose for even existing.  When she’s here, she does everything except that.  When we finally get to the point that we have someone to guard, they take that person off so someone else can do it.  I mean, It would be like you waking up tomorrow to find you’re a drill instructor for the marines.  All of your psych training is useless, because if someone does have a problem, and there is something you can do about it, they are taken away from you.”

“That all fits with what I’ve been thinking.  We need to find a way to get her to accept that she’s not just a guard, but maybe a bodyguard too.  If we can get her to think in terms of protecting us, as if we were prisoners that were under attack by other prisoners, then maybe we can get her to expand the ‘us’ to include the average citizen of Paragon as well.”

“That’s a big ‘if’.”

“True, but it’s all I can think of for now.  What was the other reason you came in?”

“Something Ent said to me when we first started talking.  I asked her why she selected me to be the one she talked to and her answer has sort of eaten at me ever since.  She said she picked me because we were the same.  Both alone among people that were different.  I agree that I feel alone a lot of the time, but I didn’t think anyone here was any different.  When I asked her what she meant, she said that I wasn’t human.  This is big news to me.  When I was trying to find out who I was, I had a DNA test done to see if I was in any database anywhere.  If I wasn’t human, you think someone would have mentioned it before now.”

“Yeah.  I’d have never guessed.  Did she say why she thinks that?”

“She said that I look totally different from the rest of you when we come inside.  The way she explained it, and based on what I looked up, she’s saying that I radiate UV light all the time, not just the reflections from the sunlight.  She said it’s just a tiny amount, but far more than any person she’s ever seen here.”

“Do you want me to set up some tests?”

“If you know anyone, yes, that would be awesome.  The more we talked, the more she made it sound like I was like her; a stranger to this world.”

“Okay.  I’ll let you know when I have a date and place.”

Lista left the room and Epim started reading again, only to be interrupted for the third time that night.  This time by Jyn and Tonix.

“Um, do you have a minute?”

“Yes.  What can I do for you?”

“Well,” Tonix said.  He was obviously nervous.  “Jyn and I were talking it over, and well, this just isn’t what we’d expected.  Don’t get me wrong, you guys are all great.  We just mean the lifestyle.  We’re not really cut out to be heroes.”

“You’re quitting the group?”

“The whole city really.  We were thinking about moving out west somewhere.  Like I said, you guys are great, and we love you all like family, but we just can’t take the lifestyle anymore.”

“I understand, but I have to say I’m a little shocked.  When did you plan on leaving?”

“Tonight.  Jyn wanted to just sneak away so no one would see her cry, but I felt we needed to tell someone what was going on, in person.  We did leave a note.”

“Wow.  I don’t know what to say.  I wish you the best, and I’d love for you keep in touch, but I really think you should stick around and let the others get their chance at a goodbye as well.”

“We’ll talk it over some more.  But if were not here in the morning, let the others know we’ll be in touch once we get settled?”

“I will.”

They left her alone in the little room and quietly closed the door.  Epim sat for some time, thinking about what just happened.  Finally, she decided to say nothing, and just hope they stuck round until dawn.

 

When Epim came into the breakfast area, Mourning was already there.  On the table before here was a note.

“They just left?  How the hell can they just leave?  Not a word to anyone.  Just some stupid note!”

“Actually, they came to me last night to tell me they were going.  I tried to get them to stick around, but I guess they chose differently.”

“And you just let them go?”

“We’re not a prison.  I couldn’t have made them stay.”

Mourning tossed the letter back on the table and walked out of the room.  Epim knew she was going to find that spot on the War Wall she visits from time to time.

As the others woke up, they were all given the news.  The base was very quiet the rest of the day and on into the night.

 

A week later, Epim got a message from Tonix.  They were settled, and doing well.  They were sorry that they had snuck off in the night like that, but Jyn wouldn’t have it any other way.  He said there was more to the story, but it would have to wait.

That same night, Doug came to see Epim again.

“Doc!  Doc! Wake up!  I figured it out!  It wasn’t just a dream!”

Epim put on her robe and opened the door for him.  She asked him to slow down, and go through it all, very slowly.

“I couldn’t sleep, or didn’t want to try, so I got dressed and went off to patrol Steel Canyon for a bit.  I was on patrol by myself when I saw this 50 foot walking tree with a flaming pumpkin for a head walking towards me.  There were a bunch of other people around and I got invited to the team.  Before I could really tell what was going on, that thing was on me.  It hit hard and it threw these things at me.  When they hit they erupted into three more of him, but a lot smaller.  The rest of the team took out the big guy while I held his attention.

“Turns out there were a lot more of those things around.  We started hunting them, and doing really well.  We got a call that said there were four of them over by Subgenetics, so I took off.  When I arrived, there they were, two coming from either side.  I pulled out my axe and ran up to the closer group and hit each one once, then ran back to the other group and said something about pumpkin pie that they didn’t seem to like much.  My first step should have been to look around to see that the rest of my team was there.  Just as I got the full fury of the attack, everyone on my team left.  There I was, alone in the street with four giant pumpkin things and about two dozen of the smaller ones, and I was losing.  So I focus, and do like you said.  I called deep inside myself and tried to get some help from The Other Guy.  Nothing happened for a second, then I heard the voice in my head.  It said, ‘I can’t help unless you let me.’  It really freaked me out.  Then it said, ‘Doug, we’re out of time.  Don’t make me push through, let me help.’

“I didn’t know what to do!  I was getting beat up pretty bad, and here is this voice asking me to move, but there’s nowhere to go.  So I thought, ‘Yeah.  Okay sure.  Have at them.’  I swear!  It was just like that day with Tony.  All of the sudden, I’m standing outside my body, watching.  This time though, I wasn’t behind a building, or in a doorway, I was right behind my own shoulder.  The Other Guy looks exactly like me!  He is me!  Sort of.  Once he took over it was like we were nearly invincible.  We didn’t just not get hit as hard, we didn’t get hit as often either.  Turns out it wasn’t enough, and we still got creamed, but it really opened my eyes.

“After the fight, I had a long conversation with myself.  The Other Guy isn’t something I tap into when I need it.  It’s something that comes to the surface to protect me, the same way that I come up to protect you guys.  That’s all he’s ever wanted to do.  When I call on him, he just pops up in my place.  If I let him do it, I stay close and can call out threats to him, but if I resist, then he basically has to shove me aside.  That’s they way it happened with Tony and my father.  This changes a lot of stuff.”

“I—I don’t know what to say.  I need to look over my notes, and confer with a few colleagues.  Are you saying that instead of fusing the two personalities into one, that the second one really is a second one in your body?  And your are totally aware of everything he does when he’s in control?”

“I think so.  We talked quite a bit, and I can call on him at will now.  This is really going to change a lot of stuff for me.  I can call him up, if you want to talk to him directly.  I know he wants to talk to you.”

“Yes.  I think that would be for the best, but not tonight.  How is tomorrow morning for you…uhh, guys?”

“That’ll work.”






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