VIVIsect VI - Chapter One "Salvation" (Fiction)




VIVIsect VI - Chapter One "Salvation"

Another performance ended with its obligatory riotous applause, the actors taking their moment to bask in the limelight before releasing their audience to more mundane pursuits. The well dressed, and uncomfortably overdressed stepped out into the balmy Paragon City night, their beaming faces soliciting smiles from passing motorists. Slowly the patrons made their way from the theatre to their cars, trains and homes, as the "City of Heroes" took its hold on their lives once more.

The subway car shuddered to a stop at the Kings Row station, the doors sliding back With a hiss of hydraulics. Assaulted by the rank smell of urban decay, baked under a hot sun to an almost palpable stench - the passengers stepped out into the night.

"There that one, in the blue."
"Her? Man, we can do better!"
"Shut it Kenny, I feel like a blonde! Now get on the phone to Spike and Beefshank, tell them to stay close" Dirtnap loved to push his authority around - especially with the new kid.
"I keep telling you man, it's Bricks!"
"Just get on the damn phone."

What little breeze there was shifted Jane's blonde locks as she stepped down the ramp and looked up Claremont Streeet towards her apartment. A passing cop nodded, probably in simple appreciation that she was not committing any form of crime right now - which seemed rare in this part of town. Or maybe it was the little blue theatre dress - high where it mattered, and low where it counted. Yes, it must have been the dress. She felt watched as she strode between the grimy fountains, normally a good feeling, but not in this part of town.
She turned nervously, the cop was chatting to an elderly couple. The hairs on her neck stood up as she suddenly felt vulnerable. In a town of three thousand costumed heroes and three times that in ordinary cops, Jane still felt a prisoner as the curfew imposed by the street gangs was more threatening than anything the city could reasonably control.

"Mmmm she's a pretty one!"
"Umm yeah sure... Hey Spike, whazzup man! Listen, cruise by the tram station, we got a vic for tonight... Yeah bro yeah..."
"Tell him just to keep on us, I wanna watch this one walk."
"...Naw man, don't pick us up, just cruise, the boss wants to walk a bit... yeah you got it, a nice evening stroll hehe... yeah later bro!"
"Good, lets go. Damn, whats this..."

Jane glanced behind her, nervous and cursing her stupidy for wearing the little blue dress. She stumbled, swinging her head back around to face the way she was going. Something off to the right. Closing in fast. Dark, from a dark alleyway. Jane stumbled and yelped as the man laid his hand on her shoulder. She panicked and started to run, **** training taking over, as she simultaneously dug in her purse and looked over her shoulder to get a face. John... John? She stopped, her heart pounding and breath heaving.
"Easy easy, its me... I figured I'd make sure you got home"
"yeah... thanks... you scared the crap outta me!"
"Yeah, sorry about that, you were going to fall. How was the play"
Smiling, Jane recounted the performance, feeling more at ease with her boyfriend around.

Spike's black Caddy eased around the block, giving Beefshank his first look at the victim.
"Mmmm the boss man's got good taste as always!"
"Oh yeah, the cultured type - very nice" The wiry and furtive Spike scratched at the scab on his forehead. Every one of the crew had met up with a cape at some point in the past - some more recent than others.
Beefshank flexed and rubbed his hands before busying himself in the sports bag at his feet. "masks time I think, and I need to get my sledge off the back seat."
"There's Dirtnap there."

Dirtnap smiled pleasantly, as Kenny fumbled in his pants, adjusting the pistol and knife for easy access. The initial concern at the girls new companion, now gone with the revelation that he was nothing special. Nothing super.
It was the same drill every other night.
Pick a target.
Wait till it splits from the pack.
Follow it.
Take it.

"So how long did they say until you can apply again?" Jane hated Kings Row, much like the rest of its residents. Her job at Up And Away didn't pay much, and with John being turned down by Crey, he'd recently tried the Paragon City Police Department, with similar results.
"Three months is their next open house... You wanna take a run out to Talos tomorrow? I hear they have a nice boardwalk." Reminded of his failure, John steered the conversation away from his employment efforts. He kept up the talk of happier times as they walked up the concrete stairs to the apartment door, bringing his key up to the dimly lit lock.

Fifty yards back from the couple, Dirtnap pulled the white skull mask down over his face. He absently nudged Kenny to do the same, his mind quickly going into overdrive as he sensed an end to their game.
"Call Spike... cALL HIM NOW!" Hyper, and excited, Dirtnap's eyes gleamed with lust deep in the sockets of the skull mask.
Kenny... Bricks hit speed-dial as Dirtnap began rushing toward the oblivious couple.
Spike's cell barely got its ring out before, he jammed hard down on the gas - powering the caddy up the street, and lurching to a halt on the curb.

A screech of tires startled him, and John's keys fell.
Rattled, Jane stooped to pick up the keys.
It would be the wisest move she'd make all night...
John's jaw went slack as he looked down the steps at the black Caddy bounding up the curb.

The black barrel of Spike's shotgun discharged out of the open car window, one hundred steel pellets hurtling up the steps towards the apartment door. John caught the blast full in his chest - his body cartwheeling back into the glass door as it too exploded inwards in a red mist. Screaming, Jane felt several white hot shards from the blast tear through her shoulder, and the left side of her head.
Laughing insanely, Beefshank hauled his considerable bulk out of the passenger seat and ran around the front of the car, his heavy maul carried easily by muscles pumping blood and violence.
In an exploded world of pain and confusion, Jane struggled to get her stumbling feet under her. Dirtnap was faster.
Easily leaping the seven feet to the top of the step, the Skull's boss landed astride Jane. Passing a cursory glance to the groaning body of her man, Dirtnap reached down and hauled the blonde to her feet - grinning lasciviously.
"Batter up boss!" Beefshank stood to the side of the steps, half in the alley, as the rest of the gang ran up to join in the fun.

In an act of pure malicious cruelty, Dirtnap picked up the sobbing blonde, held her high above his head and with superhuman strength, tossed her down to the speeding head of Beefshank's maul. She screamed a desperate, animal scream as the hammer tore into her thigh - shattering the bone, and sending the wreckage of her now silent body hurtling down the alleyway before coming to rest in a pile of glistening black garbage bags.
"Foul Ball!" Shouted Bricks, which earned him a psychotic glare from Beefshank.
"Keep watch kid, you'll get your turn". Dirtnap strode into the alleyway, wiping a string of drool from his chin as Spike slung his shotgun and ran past to guard the other end.

With the usual pecking order firmly in place, Bricks heard the sobbing resume in the alley behind him, and gave a silent curse to Dirtnap.
A slight tap on his shoulder startled him, and he turned, quickly bringing his pistol to bear with a practiced sweep of his arm.

She'd come up on him using the impaired view from the skull mask as a screen - all the way across the street. She stood now in front of him, her eyes dull and glazed. A metal respirator gleamed in the moonlight, rasping with her breathing, and giving off puffs of noxious fumes as she exhaled. Her head was shaved, save for a long ponytail, crudely dyed red and running from the crown of her head, down her back to stop inches from the ground.
The cool metal of her skeletal right arm whirred softly as she moved the ornate Katana away from his shoulder - holding it out wide. The actuators on her bulky armoured left arm whined as she spread out the oversized fist to the other side, opening herself up to attack.
She gazed at him with glassy eyes, the smell of glue, bleach and other chemicals rising in toxic vapours from her clicking, wheezing breather. With a toned body clad in skintight enhanced latex, the woman possessed a cold and disturbing beauty. "Make... me... feel..." she stammered, presenting an invitation for Bricks to make his mark on the gang scene.

Bricks took the invitation.
Expecting a trick, Kenny backed away as he fired the pistol - bullets finding their mark and slamming home into the freak womans torso. Other's lit up in bright flashes as they ricocheted off her arm, and respirator. The woman shuddered and rocked as the bullets slammed into her, still holding her arms up and out wide.
Kenny kept firing, the gun clicked empty several times before his back hit the alley wall, and he finally stopped.
The womans eyes smiled, and sparked to life - becoming clear and bright even as they clogged up with blood from a severe head wound. She stepped forward, advancing on Bricks as he fumbled with another clip for his spent pistol.
"You are scum. There is no place here for you. I am here to show you how to live with pain. I live with pain from which I cannot escape - your pain at least will leave you someday. PRAY that day is not today!" She spoke with a marked clarity that was absent before. Her whole being more alive now, confusion and memory forgotten in the moment as Bricks brought the pistol to bear just inches from her face.
The mechanism creaked as Bricks tightened his finger down on the trigger. The impossibly sharp blade passed swiftly through Brick's arm, dropping it to the floor, where his finger completed the movement and the gun discharged. Screaming, bricks ran out of the alley, the stump of his arm pumping thick, dark blood onto the streets of Paragon City.

Alerted by the gunshots, Dirtnap watched Kenny unload his gun before running off, less one arm. The gang leader stood astride his prey like a jackal protecting his kill.
Beefshank was the first to act. His blood pumping with the remnants of his last Dyne fix, he rushed forward, snarling and wide eyed, the heavy sledgehammer high above his head. Sheathing her Katana across her back, in a skin sheath created from decades of scar tissue, the bloodied heroine dropped into a crouch, ready to accept the big man's charge.

On he came, rushing fast, legs working hard beneath his bulk. The hammer came down swiftly in a high arc, its impact with her head imminent.
And she was gone.
The hammer sparked as it chipped the concrete floor of the alleyway, the flash illuminating the shock and confusion on Beefshank's face. His comprehension caught up with him as he saw the lithe and impossibly quick assassin launch herself out from under his swing, the long red streak of her ponytail sweeping gracefully behind her. She planted an outstretched foot high on the alley wall, and leapt back at him. She landed perfectly on his cupped hands, breaking his grip on the heavy sledge. Simultaneously twisting the air, and torquing her hips over, her armoured and heavy steel left fist connected with the big man's forehead with a sickening crunch.
Beefshank fell back screaming as his eyes filled with his own freshly liberated blood. His outburst stopped before he hit the floor as his killer followed up her attack by fluidly ripping the sword from her back and deftly parting the flesh of Beefshank's neck.
By the time he hit the ground, Beefshank was nothing but a gurgling, and quickly dying mess.

"Very well done!" Dirtnap clapped arrogantly. "The new kid needs a new arm, and I need a another strongman... what do they call you freak?" he said, stepping out from the garbage pile, his prone victim moaning softly at the movement.
The slender and deadly heroine spoke in a heavy, rasping voice, the violence and adrenaline allowing her focus on the present, and put aside the soul crushing memories of a tragic past - if only temporarily.
"They call me Vivisect six... though I don't remember why..." Her forehead creased, and her voice trailed off, visibly struggling to keep her mind on the present.
"Nice name freak, maybe you shouldn't be huffing so much glue..." The stench reached his nostrils as Dirtnap edged forward, slowly getting closer to the distracted rescuer.
"It helps... me... forget..." she mumbled, her eyes trying desperately to lock onto the advancing ganger.
"What are you forgetting freak? What did they do to you? What is it... come on..." He taunted, now only a few yards away.
"I... no... stop..."
"Come on honey, you can tell Daddy Dirtnap..." Her eyes closed shut, and kept closing, the muscles in her bloodied cheeks and forehead trying desperately to crush the memories away.
"my dress... bleeding... bleeding the... roof... ... " she stopped... excerising a force of will echoed in her quivering, shaking body. She dropped the sword, and instead gripped her pounding head as she took an all too familiar and painful trip down memory lane, leaving herself vulnerable in its aftermath.

"NOW Spike!"
At Dirtnap's call, the rodent-like Spike spun into the alleyway from his hiding spot in the shadows, bringing his pump action remington to bear on the helpless Vivisect Six. A gout of flame and a rush of exhaust gasses preceded the buckshots terrible impact on her chest. Still caught up the nightmare world of her shattered mind, Vivisect barely noticed the crack of her head on the pavement as she went down in a shower of her own blood.
The memories getting the best of her, she began to mumble, her big, scared eyes searching frantically and her chest heaving with panting breaths as Spike planted a booted foot on her stomach.
With a cruel sneer, he looked down at this freak that had carved up his friends.
She looked back with eyes gleaming madness, and locked hard on his gaze, sucking him in and tugging at his soul.
A swift boot to the temple wrenched her head sideways, breaking the stare as Dirtnap stepped up "Just kill the freak, then we can get on with the other".
Spike shrugged and rested the barrel on her ear.
The trigger mechanism creaked with the first squeeze of pressure...

Viv floated in a world of her own, totally consumed, totally helpless. Reliving A tragedy that shattered her body in an instant, and threatens to destroy her mind every single moment of her life.
Images of a church, of a beautiful young bride. Of a handsome and loving groom returned from war - a hero. The wedding of her dreams played to the scent of fresh wildflowers, and the relief of a long war ended. The hum of a propeller engine, and the siren of a diving death machine, believed gone, but singing is song of doom once more. The wide eyed terror on the face of the badly beaten blonde woman as the... plane dived down... no. That's wrong. The eyes of the congregation, dressed in wedding-day finery, wide with stark terror as they lay bleeding to death in the garbage bags in the alley... lay... bleeding as the shotgun pushed their heads down on the cold, hard pavement, smelling of filth and death as the gangers were going to kill her... "This... is NOT... 1945 this... is... now!!"

Spike pulled the trigger, the shotgun tearing deep into viv's shoulder, destroying, and nearly severing her upper arm, before continuing its destructive path into her side. She'd moved at the last minute, but now lay still, unbreathing - Spike had torn our her heart. It was the last woman's heart he'd ever break.

Viv lashed out with her right arm, crushing Spike's ankle in its steel fingers, and dropping him to his back. He cried out, releasing the shotgun, as the mangled and lunatic Vivisect Six dragged herself up his body. Her blood drenched him as her left flank struggled to reknit itself. Spike flailed madly, screaming for help and fighting for his life, as death crawled a sanguine path up his body. Dirtnap broke the pair up, dragging the weakened vivisect off Spike, and tossing her roughly against the alley wall, where she slumped to a sitting position.

He stood before her, and gazed menacingly. "You're outmatched girl, the darkness is coming, gonna make you dead!" He flexed, muscles rippling across his body and a weird and otherworldly whine began piercing the night air. As Viv looked on, tendrils of black ether began to leak from Dirtnap's body. His eyes turned black and smokey, translucent darkness flowing out across his cheeks. His head lolled an rolled on his shoulders, as a morbid ecstacy took hold, slacking his jaw and filling the alley with the intoxicating scent of decay. His hand sheathed in darkness, dritnap grasped Vivisects throat, and cocked his right arm up high, arrogantly basking in the perverted evil that gave him strength.

With a sneer, Dirtnap brought his right fist down clean into Viv's face, breaking her nose and sheathing her head in inky, oily darkness. She twisted, and tried to slide up the wall, her left side still impaired. Another punch landed, tugging at her tormented soul as it struck the side of her head. Now manic, and enraged, Dirtnap hauled her body to a standing position against the wall, and held her there by her blood matted ponytail.
"Spike, kill the pretty one, I want this 'Hero' to watch her failure!"

Iron hard fists, shrouded in darkness rained down on Viv's head, fracturing her skull, and shattering her jaw. Pain screamed in her head, and lights flashed in front of her eyes - the beautiful heralds of a blackout, and an end to her life of torment. Through the murk and the storm of punches exploding on her head, Viv saw the broken blonde woman struggling feebly to get away from Spike. He crawled over her, pawing at her with vile molesting hands and grinning deliriously as he wrapped his hands around her throat.

Viv's pain was not enough. It was not enough to stifle the notion of guilt in her head. Her pain, and her suffering was simply not sufficient to excuse her from stopping the vermin in the alley from destroying yet another life. She had to stop them.

The thundercracks of Dirtnap's fists became muffled and distanced as she concentrated. The singular sensation of pain occupying a mind that could never, ever be empty. She focussed on the pain, and reached out through her nerve endings to the source. The marrow of her bones went into overdrive, pumping out rivers of blood to replace what was now drying on the alley floor. White cells and plasma rushed into her wounds, and began regenerating her flesh a furious pace. Her heart pounded in her head, trying to keep up with the torrent of blood now filling it. Steam flashed from her wounds as her body fought to cool itself, and prevent a meltdown.

Viv opened her eyes.
Dirtnap stopped, marvelling at her body's complete restoration.
She ignored him.

Spike began to squeeze, crushing what little life remained from Jane's body. His eyes wide with murder, and his mouth drooling with excitement as he lecherously looked his prey up and down. She struggled feebly, staring at her killer as her breaths came further and further apart in ragged, shallow gasps. As darkness started to claw at the edges of her vision, Jane realised the battle for her life was lost.

His body convulsed once as Vivisect Six brought her heavy steel left fist down on the back of Spike's neck, shattering the vertebrae, severing his spinal cord, and pulling the plug on a twisted brain. She rolled backwards, swiftly crossing the alleyway to her sword, and spun, blade up to defend herself - Dirtnap was gone. A few tendrils of dark ethereal muck clung to the air at the edge of the alley, pointing the way to Dirtnap's retreat. Viv took one step after him, before remembering the victim.

Jane was dead, but only just. Acting quickly, Vivisect took the point of her katana, and gouged a deep hole between her ribs. Gasping in pain, she probed around inside with a metal digit, before ripping out the small medical sensor implanted into her when she arrived in Paragon City. With her chance slipping away, Viv moved quickly, stuffing the sensor down Jane's throat and hoping it would be enough. With the immediate threat gone, so too did Vivisect's adrenaline and focus. Her thoughts began to scatter as she cradled Jane's ruined body, praying she was not too late to save the beautiful stranger. Praying the plane would not come and the bomb would not drop on another happy life.

* * *

The wail of a police siren startled Viv back to the alley. She did not know how long she'd been there, but was happy for the warm rain washing the misery from the streets. The woman was gone. There was a vague lingering memory of her fading away in Viv's arms, but everything after that was gone. The cruiser rushed past the end of the alley, speeding to another crime they'd be too late to stop. Its flashing lights dancing in the puddles on the rain slicked street.

Viv hauled herself up from the garbage pile, wiped her face and winced as she slid her sword back into its skins sheath. 1945 was coming back, she could feel it, almost see the church already. She needed something to destroy that memory again, and as always, wished it would never grow back.

VIVIsect VI wandered into the night, once again searching for something to help her forget - or at least something better to remember.

Steve Jose