Non-euclidean construction was not easy. It was one matter entirely to stow your boyfriend away in a relatively tiny pocket dimension, and another thing entirely to make a hallway that went on forever, with doors that had to lead to specific, unique, and persistent rooms. All of that on top of the fact that it had to be self sustaining.
There was a good reason Angelcorp didn’t spend any resources on helping anyone but themselves: because it was fucking hard, and at times too intimidating to try.
It was also just… profitable… to not… do that.
This was Lovette’s anxiety for the day: the thing that had him curled up on Charlie’s musty smelling couch, watching the tabby’s tail flick, growing increasingly annoyed with each back and forth, each drop of red that dropped from his butter-ketchup sandwich. He was getting it fucking everywhere.
“I can’t do it, Charlie.” Lovette snapped, their anxiety finally cresting.
“No, yeah-” Charlie started around a mouthful of mush. His manic energy was somehow comforting. “Like we’ve been over that- but like- I can’t work a floormaster and like- that shit- I mean I did get it, though, didn’t I?”
“It took off your toe.”
“Eh, but yeah, it’ll- it’ll grow back.”
“No-” Charlie tried to jump in.
“No.” Lovette interrupted. “And you also, didn’t actually get the floormaster working.”
“Well yeah, but I mean the floors still got waxed. What did-” Charlie took another bite of his sandwich. “What did they actually ask you to do?”
Lovette shrank in his seat, trying to run over the memory without bringing it up on tape. “Create an infinite number of rooms to house the new residents.”
“No, see.” Charlie caught it immediately. “Play it back.”
They stood for a moment in that little standoff, charlie completely unaware of the conflict.
“See, I know why. ‘Cus it’s not what they asked you, is it?” Charlie adopted the best possible smug grin with crumbs of white bread and butter-blended-ketchup on your lips. Lovette glared for a moment, annoyed at having been called out.
“Guh. Fine.” He took a small magnet out of his pocket, twisting his wrist back and producing a fluttering length of tape just below his fur. He ran the magnet across it, the fragile plastic buzzing and twisting as it was pulled to the metallic surface.
“...rooms…” it moaned quietly.
“What was that?” Charlie teased.
“Give me a fucking second Chuck.” Lovette snapped, running the magnet over a second time:
“...going to need enough rooms for the new residents…”
“See, what’d I say?” Charlie pointed with the remains of his sandwich, flecking the wall with it.
“Okay, so that’s a hypothetically infinite amount of people.”
“Nah, but isn’t there only like a couple million people on earth?” Charlie posited, his confidence soaring. Lovette returned to the roughly 10% of their relationship that was composed of quiet, stunned staring.
“There are a couple million people… in this city, Charles.”
“Right, yeah, okay, so you only gotta do a couple million, or like, 200.” Charlie said, matter of fact.
That… was a lot more possible. Not easy, but possible.
“Charlie Bucket…” Lovette muttered, calming down ever so slightly as he spoke. “You’re one of the dumbest geniuses I’ve ever met.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m a literal thinker.” And there he goes again.
“Do you mean lateral?”
“Yeah, sure. Latina.”
“No, Chuck. I’m Latino.” Lovette teased.
“Okay, well… I love you, so…” Charlie finished, as though somehow loving each other made the clueless cat a ‘Latina thinker’. What a fucking himbo. I love Charlie.
“I love you too.”
Angel’s security was actually too modern. The same way the average person isn’t vaccinated for the bubonic plague in 1991, a 2900’s firewall didn’t really bother to protect against the kind of attacks that someone from the 1990’s could pull off.
Wireless access points, for example: Angel was designed to be controlled and updated wirelessly from anywhere in the world. Not only that, but she was so tightly engineered that parts of her body communicated with each other wirelessly where it was too crowded to run a wire. A terrified band of rebels was a lot more likely to fire an explosive, than to try and emulate proprietary encrypted Angelcorp software.
But Angelcorp itself? Well… suffice it to say the master’s tools had to be modified.
“You need to sit still.” Rey muttered, gently plucking signal wires from their boards and bundling them into one central, exterior spine. The simplest solution to wireless vulnerability was to wire wherever possible. “This is the most delicate shit I’ve ever done.”
“I have tried to, and cannot make you understand that you are literally playing with the parts of me that makes me move. It is not a matter of-”
“Okay, yeah. Shut up.” Rey snapped, the movement of Angel’s mouth tugging a hair-thin wire out of their tweezers. No one could be blamed for mistaking this basement operation for some kind of illegal brain surgery. The synthetic skin was held back with a modified parallel port jammed into the back of Angel’s neck and held in place with electrical tape, each hole occupied with a different wire.
“So…” Rey started again, their tape-deck clicking and filling the room with silence. “What’s the uh- future… like?”
“Terrifying.” The robot said, distant, matter of fact. “Small pockets of humanity remain the same, concentrated in former major cities: London, Tokyo, Moscow. These pockets are viciously curated, anyone who Angelcorp considered undesirable is either executed or exiled.”
“Huh.” Rey nodded, thoroughly annoyed with her lack of conversational skills. “So they took over?”
“Oh, they didn’t have to. The 2025 agricultural crash so heavily burdened the population that all they had to do was blame a hypothetical ‘other’. The rest of the world is a vast, nature-reclaimed wasteland. Where we are sitting is under several kilometers of snow by the time I am first built.”
“Wait- hold on.” Rey stopped, a roll of electrical tape hanging off their finger as they wrapped up the last of the spine. “Isn’t 2025 in like… 35 years?”
“Yes. The worst part is that it is now too far along to stop.” Angel said, still deadpan.
“Ah.” Rey struggled to speak as static took over their brain. “Well. Cool.” They completely absently snapped the hanging electrical tape from their roll, slipping up an awaiting heat-shrink tube and waving a heat gun over it.
“Well.” Rey sat up, feeling different. “You are done.”
Angel sat up, took the bundle of cable in her fist and gave it a firm yank, seemingly satisfied with the strength of the hodge-podge construction. She stood, turning as far as she could from side to side, once again satisfied when the new spine barely restricted them. She then bent forward, stopping as the spine went taught and making a note of her new limitations.
Rey held up a full length mirror, the robot turned in place, seemingly most fascinated with the addition of her electrical-tape-choker.
“Excellent work.” She said.
“Just like the club, right Lil?” Pokey tried to nudge the little tiger along, just about finished mapping out what the two remembered of Angelcorp’s prison. “You remember when we used to do treasure maps?” The lizard gave a weak smile.
“Yeah. I remember.” Lil replied, the two of them making a concerted effort not to think about the fact that they were Miss Nelly’s treasure maps as they lazily pushed pencils around the massive sheet of paper. Pokey quietly erased a wall the two of them had misplaced, scratching it in a few feet back.
“She could be there.” Pokey prodded, quickly taking on water in the losing battle of cheering her friend up. Lil turned this over quietly, scared to even consider the possibility, just in case she wasn’t. “In fact… I think she will be.” The lizard forced a genuine smile.
“It’s not nice to get someone’s hopes up.” Lil muttered, further hunching into her crossed arms.
“You think?” Pokey asked. The little tiger nodded, her face now almost completely hidden. “Well, I don’t think so. What would she say if she was here?”
“I dunno.” Lil’s voice muffled from the mass of black comfortable clothes that’d taken her over.
“Well, lets get her back, and then she’ll tell you that I’m right, and that it’s okay to be hopeful, you little dink.” Pokey bumped her little ‘sister’.
Lil shrugged, looking up from her crossed arms, just barely less sad as her eyes followed the hallways she had drawn.
“Maybe.” She relented.
“There we go, better than no.”
Ratty had settled into something: pretending to be a reporter was not a safe way of doing things. Angelcorp had already kidnapped two reporters - or rather, the same reporter on more than one occasion - and while there was an amount of safety in flaunting a press pass, that safety evidently did not extend to the actions of an evil mega-corporation.
She was good at being a criminal, good at swinging her way out of a locked box, good at sneaking around under the radar. As anxious as it made her, it was time to start breaking the law in the right direction.
Unsurprisingly, Ratty’s mob clientele overlapped in certain spots with the list of names found on Cliff’s computer. One such client owned a nightclub that used Ratty’s courier to move a locked black briefcase from one end of the city to the other roughly once a week. The look on the manager’s face every time she showed up told Ratty that maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t mind an unscheduled delivery.
And she dropped the professional thing well, too. She spent some free time since she had arrived on earth modifying a black jean jacket that she never got to wear: spiked shoulders, pink triangle, a little anarchist flag right over her heart. Punk was a good look for her.
“Hi, my name is Ratty Vermington.” She grinned, dropping into a bar stool with the comfort she really deserved, Sapphomet choosing to stand over her shoulder, their own break-from-form coming out as a very professional black cocktail dress they swore they would never wear again. It was worth a try, but not to the goat’s taste.
“I’d like to speak to management.” The possum grinned.
“Management isn’t in.” The mouse behind the counter was short, her northern drawl cut short. She tried to make herself look busy with an already pretty well-cleaned cup. Ratty glanced around, her eyebrows raised in a faux surprise.
“Funny, nice place like this, you would think he’d want to stick around.” Ratty mused.
“He’s got other clubs. Who’re you?” The bartender cocked an eyebrow, already annoyed with the possum.
“I’m Ratty, I bring packages, I’m sure we’ve met before.”
“Oh yeah, the courier.” The bartender chewed her lip, still utterly fascinated with the now pristine stein.
“Exactly.” Ratty leant in. “So, if management isn’t here, you should call him.”
The mouse scoffed, putting down the glass and hiding her hands under the counter. Ratty tried not to make it obvious that she had noticed, and seemed to have succeeded given the rising confidence in the bartender’s one working eye. “You’ve got a lot of nerve for a mailman.”
“And you’ve got a lot of loyalty for someone working for tips.” The possum pressed, recognizing that this is something she would not be saying if her adrenaline was not eroding the sides of whatever channel adrenaline goes through. This - Ratty felt - was what she was made for (she is correct about that lol). The system had failed her over and over again. Now, operating outside of the system, she couldn’t get the feeling of a rising crescendo of “yes… Yes!!! YES!!!” out her veins.
The bartender’s hands whipped out from their spot under the counter, time literally slowing as Ratty took in the blurry silhouette of a stubby .44 magnum. It was just barely an effort to stop the arm short, holding it well out of range of Sapphomet and herself as her time-warping abilities seemed to agree that, yes, this fucking ruled.
One shot and the mouse gave up, almost leaning into Ratty’s grip.
“Nice draw, cowboy.” Ratty quipped, about to hit the peak of her life. “Your aim is a little off, though.”
Like, okay, c’mon.
Hi folks, Madi Girlmeat here. Ratty just did the coolest shit she’s ever going to do. If that’s what you were waiting for, you can stop reading it now. She turned to Sapphomet, reaffirming that, yes, the peak of her life was in front of the love of her life.
“Pretty cool, right?” She asked, the wild west facade shattering in an instant.
“Oh, so cool, my love.” Sapphomet teased, planting a kiss on her wife’s cheek. That, I promise, is the last time Sapphomet will be treated like arm candy.
“Jesus Christ, Billie.” Everyone jumped as a rapidly graying maned wolf called their attention to a recently un-hidden staircase. “What the fuck are you doing, kid?”
“Hi, are you the manager?” Ratty cut the bartender off before they began.
“Cool, my name is Ratty Vermington, I’d like to talk to you about some of your business dealings.”
Management squealed, revealing the location of Angelcorp’s people warehouse, and gladly set up a meeting with very little convincing.
Pokey and Lil’s map was just about perfect, requiring only a little squashing to line up with the city’s record of the above-ground area.
Angel was up to- or, well, actually ‘down-to-date’.
And T35 was ready to harbour some fugitives.
So, I guess they just do it?
Yeah, sure. Why not.
July 7, 1991
Angel, Ratty, and Sapphomet were the only ones to actually go into the warehouse. Angel drove them up to the front gate, circled the car - a very swanky black rental car - and let the two out. Each did their best impression of corporate stooges: a black suit and tie, and a gray pant-suit respectively. Backs straight, sunglasses, briefcase. The whole nine yards.
Angel drove off as the two strolled up to warehouse, finding a bush to hide the vehicle in before portaling herself up to the roof and waiting.
Ratty swung her head around with a pitch perfect note out of the playbook of an undeserving potential billionaire. “Ready?” She asked, tipping her sunglasses. Sapphomet nodded, letting their ‘business face’ drop for a quick smile of encouragement.
Ratty sidled up to the buzzer, holding it down with her thumb like she had had so many assholes do at T35. She watched with a grin as a tired looking receptionist/security guard picked up a phone on the other side of the glass front door.
“Hi, I’m Ratty Vermington, on behalf of Team 35 Logistics.” She waved through the glass. “We have a meeting with the Director of this site.”
“Please hold.” The guard clicked through their computer, shrugged, and hit a button on their desk. The front door clicked, caught slightly by the pressure differential between inside and outside, just barely hanging open.
Ratty took the raised edged, gave a mock bow to her wife, and followed her into the lobby.
“No firearms beyond this point, personal self-defence instruments are allowed but must be scanned, nothing sharp over 10 inches, etcetera, etcetera. I assume you two got the rundown?” The guard droned, clearly bored - not just of this moment - but of life in general. Ratty nodded, kneeling to pull a nightstick from her boot and dropping it into a plastic tub. Sapphomet followed suit, her kit consisting of more sewing equipment than actual weapons.
Then, watches, Ratty’s wallet, Sapphomet’s purse, boots, belts, etc. All into the tubs.
An ornately cast gold thread-puller held the guard’s gaze as they pushed everything onto a conveyor belt, refocusing only as it went out of sight and waving the pair through a body scanner - still clearly distracted.
“We're getting pretty good at this.” Ratty nudged her wife as she finished re-tying her boots.
“Good at what?” The goat collected the last of their things, organizing them in their pockets as they lead the way to the elevator.
“Like, doing missions.” The possum said, offering her arm for a hook as she caught up with Sapphomet.
“Well…” Sapphomet tried to reason with what ‘mission’ meant. A prison break didn’t feel like a mission, having people come to them for help wasn’t a mission, following Ratty to a nightclub to watch her intimidate its owner was - while hot - also not a mission. “I mean, what are you counting?”
“Uh, Hell, Cliff’s house, and the nightclub.” She counted them off on the fingers of her free hand. “And then, this.”
“Those aren’t really missions.” Sapphomet broke off as they got in the elevator, preferring to lean on the hand-rail.
“Okay, well, they were still exciting.” Ratty shrugged.
“Cliff’s house was exciting?” Sapphomet asked, a note of concern in their voice.
“I- no. You are right about that, actually.” The possum chuckled, caught out. A few moments of silence passed as the elevator doors closed.
“Hey.” Sapphomet poked, recognizing the weird tension they had created together. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Ratty smiled, letting it roll off her back. Another few moments of silence as the elevator seemingly sat still.
“I was thinking…” Sapphomet was the one to break the silence again. “We never really had a honeymoon.”
“No, we didn’t” Ratty agreed, seemingly realizing this for the first time, too. “It’s kind of been one thing after another since we broke out, huh?”
“Yes, it really has been. But I mean, if this all goes well…” Sapphomet examined the hem of her skirt, not totally satisfied with this look, either. “There will probably be enough people to run the center on its own for a little while.”
“I bet Pokey could do it, she’s kind of doing a bit of leadership.”
“Yes, I’m sure they’d be delighted.” Sapphomet nodded, encouraged.
Ratty smiled, sidling up next to her wife on the hand-rail and butting up to her shoulder. Sapphomet gazed up at her wife, her eyes still so tired, too tired. A honeymoon would be nice.
“Where do you want to go?” Ratty asked. “Hawaii, maybe?”
“Maybe. Do you like tropical places?” Sapphomet struggled to keep her eyes off the floor, held only by her wife’s gaze.
“The humidity is really good for my fur actually. I’ve also always wanted to go on one of those cruises where they bring you right up close to an iceberg or whatever.”
“Ooh. Iceberg cruise sounds nice.”
“Or like, Paris?”
“Oh, Ratty, my sweet, do you have any idea how thoroughly haunted all of Europe is?” Sapphomet giggled, their spirit ever-so-slightly lifted. “We wouldn’t be able to keep out of capers in gay Paree.”
“You’re right. It’s gotta be something all-inclusive.” Ratty concluded, comfortable to sit in the less tense miasma of quietly making honeymoon plans. Another moment of silence as the two independently had thoughts about the length of this elevator ride.
“Can I say something kind of weird?” Ratty prodded, thoroughly bored of this box.
“No, absolutely not.” Sapphomet ribbed, forgetting to put humor into their tone. Ratty blinked, clearly not getting it and sending a small pang of guilt through the little goat. “No, I’m sorry. That was a joke.”
“Oh, okay, perfect then.” Ratty smiled with seemingly no intention of continuing.
“So, what is it?” Sapphomet prodded.
“Oh, I was just gonna say that I like… miss you? I guess. Like, a lot. I feel like we spent more time together in hell than we have on earth so far.”
“I agree, actually. Like I feel like this elevator is the first time we’ve had a chance for just an uninterrupted one-on-one.”
“So, honeymoon for sure then.”
“Definitely.” Sapphomet said, watching the toe of their boot tap for a couple repetitions before picking the conversation back up. “And I really hate to be perverse, but-”
“No! Okay yeah! Absolutely.” Ratty shot off like a rocket at this. “When was the last time we had sex?”
“Gods, thank you for saying it. I wouldn’t want to do anything you don’t want to, but-”
“Oh babe you know nothing gets me rowdier than hearing the words ‘want’ and ‘to’ pronounced separately.” Ratty teased, burying her snout in the goats neck for a quick nip. Sapphomet laughed, wriggling against the promiscuous possum’s grip.
“Yes. Then as soon as we get home it’s-”
“For sure. No doubt. Bang night.” Ratty said, as though ‘bang night’ was at all a thing that anyone said, ever, in any context, at all.
“Bang night indeed.” Sapphomet agreed. [beat]
“This is a really long elevator ride.” Ratty said, returning to the center of the box and taking it in, looking for signs of trouble. Sapphomet listened, realizing for the first time that the elevator was not quiet, but silent as their eyes fell on the un-illuminated panel of buttons, and the segmented “G” in the glowing red display above.
“Did you- Ratty, hun.” Sapphomet began to laugh again. “Did you hit the button?”
“For our floor.”
“I- well hold on now.” Ratty turned, her mind racing to mount a defence as her wife burst out laughing. “You didn’t hit it either!”
“Oh Rattyline! Oh my love! Love of my life! I love you so much.” Sapphomet managed between fits of laughter.
“Okay.” Ratty said, trying to hide her embarrassment beneath a thin veneer of annoyance as she finally pressed the button, earning a satisfied ‘ka-thunk’ from the mechanism. “I love you too.” Ratty settled back in, bumping up against her wife.
If you could commend Angelcorp on anything it was their security. Despite being far to early into development to figure out what exactly they were blocking out, each and every Angelcorp black site ran several dozen field generators of different kinds. While most of them simply spent taxpayer money causing blackouts and giving everyone in the surrounding area tumours, at least one of them blocked Angel from teleporting straight inside.
Which wasn’t a huge problem for a robot that could - among other things - fall a practically infinite distance without sustaining much damage, and also, just, uh… fly. Angelcorp nailed down their self-improvement algorithm pretty well before Angel was ever developed, so it wasn’t like anything could actually stop her.
The swiss army knife of hot murder robots dropped from just above the field, the corrugated roof buckling slightly under her weight. She followed the curve up and over to an access panel: a little half-shed with a locked hatch surrounded by a congregation of cigarette butts and their brick messiah.
The biomechanics in Angel’s wrist clicked and whurred, halfway between the grotesque cracking of misaligned bone and the standard operating noise of a very tightly built machine, as it built the perfect lockpick below her skin and spat it out of her palm.
The lock came easily, seeming to understand that the alternative was to simply be caved in and discarded. Angel wondered what kind of person would bother to come up here to smoke as the hatch opened onto an elevator shaft. She dropped down into it, her magnetic fall-dampening system licking at the metal walls as she came level with her floor.
Level B1 - Security was barely a floor at all. A small concrete outcropping connected the elevator to a series of catwalks between guard towers and surveillance offices. Below, rows of cell blocks made up towers only accessible by an elevator that circled each pillar like the ladder on a particularly tall bookshelf. Most prisoners just laid in their beds, the monotony broken up by the occasional sitting rebel.
“Hey!” A guard barked, whipping out a baton and trying to block the catwalk with their body. “Get back-” They did not finish that sentence, good thing too, because ‘get back to your cell’ are the kind of last words that get you sent straight to hell. The separate parts of their face seemed incapable of deciding who was going to bleed first as they choked on their crushed and severed throat.
“Everything alright, west-side?” The guard’s walkie hissed as Angel slipped into the uniform.
“Yeah, sorry,” Angel replied, her voice replaced with a perfect copy of the guard’s. “Just thought I saw something. One of these fuckin’ animals putting shit in my head.”
“I hear that. They’re putting shit in the camera guy’s eyes too. Come up and see a doctor about it when you get a sec.”
“For sure.” Angel nodded, dropping the walkie on the corpse behind her and shifting her appearance as much as she could to match. There was no replicating living eyes, but the rest of her passed pretty well for the now-dead ‘west-side’.
“Fuckin’ nice one, Angel.” A familiar voice came from directly inside Angel’s ear. She scanned her memory, trying to remember giving Rey any means of communicating with her.
“Why are you in my head?” Angel asked. The channel sat quiet for a few moments as the dog on the other end fumbled for an excuse.
“I uh, installed some extra software… Just to keep track of you.” They failed to actually answer the ‘why’. “Actually, everyone is here.” A chorus of various ‘hello’s filled Angel’s ears as she pressed on.
“So, just keep moving forward.”
“Yes, Rey. I have the map memorized. You do not need to give me directions.
“I’m terribly sorry. I’ve been running late all day.” Despite the hype, Director Eden Ross was kind of a little geek. They were tall and thin, clearly trying and failing to pull off whatever a young Dicaprio had going on at the time.
“Not a problem. My partner and I ended up getting stuck in the elevator on the way in anyway.” Ratty gave her best business smile as she shook the jackal’s hand. “My name is Ratty, this is my business partner S-”
“Oh, no. Yes. I know.” Eden nodded, their confused blinking amplified by their glasses. “You two took down John, uh- does he have a last name? First name John, the demon. That - I have to say - was an incredible help to our efforts in the region.”
Ratty and Sapphomet each then realized that they were in way over their heads on this one. Sapphomet’s taking the form of a bread-like lump in their throat, a quick glance to their wife for reassurance, met with nothing but a very subtle shrug and head-shake. Eden seemed not to notice as they beckoned the pair into a glass-walled boardroom.
“Word travels fast, I guess,” Ratty said, following and taking a seat just next to the director. “I’m sorry, then I guess my contact completely misled me on this gig. What are you looking for, exactly?”
“Oh dear. Well, no that’s- I’m certain that that’s my fault.” Eden apologized. They snapped their fingers, bringing to life a pile of fur and scrap metal in the corner of the room. It stood slowly, collecting a crystal bottle of whisky and three glasses from a hidden drawer and setting them down on the table between Ratty and Eden. It was fascinating to see the first version of an Angelcorp drone, very clearly more bio than mechanical. There was something familiar about the ‘pilot’ too - if they could be called that. Ratty chalked it up to PTSD as she was viscerally reminded of another deer in metal bondage. She made a note of it only as another person to drag out of here.
“Thank you.” Eden nodded to the creature. “Do you drink?”
“Not at work,” Ratty said, some calmness returning as Eden poured themselves a glass.
“Smart. Keep yourself sharp.” Eden waved the drone away. “That’ll be all, 016.”
And that’s when Ratty decided it was too familiar to be a coincidence. “What did you just call- that?” She asked, pointing.
“Oh, of course.” Eden called it back over, having it stand and spin. “These are state of the art biomechanical personal assistants. They're in the prototyping stage right now, and 016 is the… well, 16th one we’ve built. I'm so sorry-” Eden stopped, putting down their drink. “Just how blind are you coming into this?”
Nothing between Angel and the security station offered much resistance. Perhaps best of all were the two corpses between her feet, and even then the only inconvenience they caused was limiting the amount of room to stand in the small office.
Another advantage of being wired was the ability to integrate pretty seamlessly with external systems. That, in turn, made taking them over just that much easier.
“Okay- just give me control and-” Rey started, breaking a prior promise to keep butted out.
“I'm not going to do that Rey.” Angel interrupted. “I was built with more knowledge-”
“Yeah? Then why are you running up against a wall?” Rey snapped back, giving the drone a taste of their own medicine. If Angel had the ability to be uncomfortable, it would be happening now.
“How much of me are you monitoring?” Angel asked. Rey did not answer, understanding that there was no good way to say ‘all’. “Fine, take over.”
For all the dog’s talents, they were seemingly incapable of putting a noise gate on their microphone. The tapping of their keyboard seemed to interrupt all of Angel’s senses as the security feeds went dark, one by one, some illuminated only by a bioluminescent paranormal in their cell.
Angel felt slightly lighter as a few of her subsystems came back online with the prison’s emergency light. Felt - if it was possible - even better as paranormals began to carefully climb their way down from the towers of cages.
“My goodness. What a day we are having. I am so sorry about this, do you mind if we-” Eden tried to stand, finding a firm possum-paw pressing them back down into their seat.
“Well, no. You’re going to stay here and tell me- just, everything.” Ratty whipped out her baton, pinning Eden to the chair with it.
“Ratty,” Sapphomet called their wife’s attention, their body 2/3rds out the door. “I have to go. I can already hear gunshots.” They bounced on the balls of their feet, ready to run into chaos.
“Go on then.” Ratty gave a reassuring grin. “Go save the world, my love.”
Sapphomet gave a confident nod as they disappeared into the fray.
“You’re making a mistake.” Eden said, equal parts annoyed and scared.
“Actually- the Hell thing made me think we were out of our depth, but like… more information is good information, right?” Ratty teased. Something dawned on Eden in that moment: the fact that Ratty really was ignorant of the whole thing. Perhaps foolishly, they saw this as a wonderful opportunity to brag.
“So sorry, I thought you knew.” Finally dropping into the confident tone of a cruel and unfeeling science-fiction bad guy. “Angelcorp is in the process of an exciting new merger with the afterlife hierarchy.”
“Like… Doom?” Ratty asked, not realizing that the original Doom would not come out for another three years.
“What is ‘Doom’?” Eden asked, jumping again as a distant explosion rattled the glass panes in their frames.
“Actually, y’know what. You were right. We should move, c’mon.” Ratty grabbed Eden by their shirt collar, regretting it immediately as 016 - previously slow and clunky - dropped into a fighting stance and charged at the possum, picking her up and throwing her through the drywall into the next boardroom. The resulting plume of dust found its way into the sprinkler system, setting it off and filling each room with faux rain in sequence. Ratty clambered to her knees in time to see Eden’s back through a pair of closing elevator doors. She set her sights instead on 016.
Sapphomet found their way to the security catwalks, stepping over Angelcorpses (nice) as they ran, scanning the fight below for paranormals in danger. The ones that got closest to the elevator seemed to be the ones that could handle a bullet or two: a massive bat with wings coated with a thick protective layer, an absolutely bezerk 12-year-old blur, tearing the throats from guards, several fairly normal-looking creatures, each with an apparently developed mastery of switchspace. They made up a living barricade, keeping safe a softer center of children and less combat-ready paranormals.
“Hey, hands up!” Someone barked, just behind Sapphomet. They turned to see a group of guards, apparently having discovered that they could use the catwalk to circumvent the front line. Sapphomet complied, summoning a length of thread with a heavy needle at the end through one of the supporting chains and giving it a firm yank. The hot ethereal metal broke through like a railroad spike through a rotting piece of wood, sending one corner of the catwalk to the floor below and - with the sudden added weight - breaking another chain.
And soon enough Sapphomet came to the realization that they were not on steady ground. The turned to run an instant too late, clinging to their piece of the catwalk as it swung down, just barely missing the heads of the tallest paranormals. The goat let go, dropping back-first to the ground in a circle of paranormals. Their hands shot back up immediately as a gun was drawn on them.
“Hold on! Don’t shoot. I’m here to help.” Sapphomet said, very gently tipping aside the barrel and looking into the leader’s eyes. The gazelle was clearly not used to scowling, her face suited more for a teacher than the front-woman of a prison revolt. Still, she was unconvinced.
“I can help.” Sapphomet repeated, realizing as they scanned their body for their kit that a lot of it was sticking into her side. The slowly growing pool of blood seemed to convince them: the goat meant no harm. “I heard gunshots.” They said, peeling off their blazer and placing a gentle hand over the pricks, barely any effort in making them scab over and heal. “Is anyone hurt?”
The gazelle sized up the shorter woman. If they tried to do anything fishy, she could probably take them in a fight.
“What’s your name?” She asked.
“Sapphomet.” The goat raised their claw for a handshake. The gazelle watched the demon’s blood rapidly evaporate from their keratin fingers, it wasn’t unheard of for Angelcorp to hire paranormals, but it was at least less likely.
“Helena.” She took the hand, choosing instead to drag the goat over to a small huddle, parting it with her arms, and dropping Sapphomet at the side of a hare near death. Sapphomet glanced up at her observers, catching Helena’s eye before going to work.
“Does anyone call you Nelly?” Sapphomet asked, prefering to take a conversational longshot than work in silence, only sudden volleys of gunfire to steady their hands.
“My- my students did.” Nelly said, the distrust leaking out of their voice as Sapphomet pulled a needle from switchspace and dove into each of the bullet holes. She tied a small cradle around each one, pulling them out like plush toys out of a claw machine.
“Pokey, right? And Lil?” Sapphomet pried, only slightly annoyed at the least talkative teacher they had ever met. “They live at my halfway home. They’re doing great.” Each thread then dove back into the walls of the wound, making the same dragging motion and welding back together the interiors, careful not to obstruct anything they re-filled with meat.
“That’s-” Miss Nelly started.
“Done. They’ll need more attention when we get home, but they’re not going to die.” The blood, once again, rose from Sapphomet’s claws like smoke. Nelly knelt, pushing aside the blood-matted fur around the wounds and inspecting the small star-shaped scars.
“We have more.” She said, standing. “Can you do more?” Sapphomet nodded.
“I can, but unless it is life and death, we really ought to focus on getting out first.”
Angel had given up walking for hovering, seeing no reason to attempt blending in when shit was kicking off. She and Rey had also made the decision together to set the building to self destruct, trusting Ratty and Sapphomet to make it to the rendezvous on time.
“Angel?” Rey’s voice made more sense to be in the drone’s ear now that everything else was so loud.
“The rendezvous is not gonna happen. Ratty is- uh- preoccupied with a mutual friend of ours, and Sapphomet- actually just look down.” Sure enough, Sapphomet was immersed in a crowd directly below where Angel was currently hovering.
“You installed something on the prison’s security system?” Angel asked, positioning herself to drop into an empty spot in the group.
“Uh, yeah. That’s- mmhm. For sure, what I did.” Rey stammered.
“O.k.” Angel replied, not willing to delve into whatever weird amount of monitoring the dog had set up. She shut off her boosters, falling into the crowd with what was becoming a trademark ground-shaking thunk. Everyone - Sapphomet included - turned on the intruder in an instant, the demon’s face softening with recognition.
“Oh, okay. Everyone, this is Angel. She is… uh... on our side.” Sapphomet said, nudging the attack end of several weapons out of the drone’s face. “We’re planning a way out.” Sapphomet explained, leading her to an unfurled map in the center of another huddle.
“Unnecessary.” Angel said, raising her hand and lifting a golden ring from the floor around the map, switching it on and revealing the bullpen of T35 Logistics on the other side, a ‘welcome home’ banner fluttering against the new air current. Sapphomet turned, slightly stepped on as she sized up everyone’s reactions to the new portal.
“New plan.” They clapped. “Into the portal!”
Ratty stripped off her jacket and tie as she stood, glaring down the barrel of this half-machine. Very familiar indeed now that she was finally taking it in properly: The same body under it’s mechanical reinforcements, the same tuft of faded bleached and dyed hair, the same frizzy texture poking up above the visor that obscured the rest of its face.
“So that’s the twist? Angelcorp makes drones out of people?” Ratty asked, getting only silence in return as the drone sized her up. “Fucking sucks, if you ask me.” She spat.
016 charged, missing Ratty by a long shot as the possum lazily side-stepped the hunk of metal, smacking it on the back with her baton and sending it rolling up against the wall. Extra limbs sprouted from the metal reinforcements, almost throwing 016 back to its feet.
“Gonna assimilate me now?” Ratty teased, failing to hide the venom in her voice, less angry at 16 herself and more just enraged by the situation.
“No.” The deer growled, it’s voice taken over by whatever computer made up it’s throat.
“Well, what a refreshing change of fucking pace.” 016 charged again, this time taking the steel stick in her stomach, then - stunned - in the back of her knee-joint, sending her to the floor with a cement-cracking thud and a mechanical growl. It picked Ratty up as it stood, throwing her through a sheet of glass and straight off the balcony behind it. She fell a few floors, cracking her back off an adjacent balcony before hitting the very bottom floor.
She watched 016 struggle to hover as every broken part of her body slowly reformed. It’s jet-boosters kept catching water from the sprinklers, kept having to evaporate it before re-igniting, kept falling several feet at a time before they gave out completely, dropping the body like a sack of hammers and walnuts with an equally sickening crunch.
The two stood at the same time, Ratty’s body healed enough to go on, 16 not so lucky. Every part of its body shuddered as it moved, very clearly too ‘prototype’ to survive anything but whisky and a lab-environment.
“We meet again, 019, for the last time.” 016 said, its voice breaking over every vowel as it glared in its best impression of anything more threatening than a computer that had just dropped itself off of a balcony. It drilled its feet into the floor as two flywheels spun up on its hips, preparing to throw some weight around.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Ratty asked, more to verbalize the feeling than to get any answers. She charged this time, bouncing up and off of a pillar and coming down on 016 from above. The ankles that kept it bolted down broke without protest, sending the deer to the floor. Ratty knelt on it’s chest as it tried to roll over, jamming the baton into the faceplate as it struggled and popping it off with a crack.
It was the same deer alright. Her eyes completely hollow, a dawning panic rising on her face as they searched for screens that weren’t there.
“Look at me.” Ratty snapped, glaring down into the empty sockets, her ears flat against her skull.
016 turned, grinding one of the flywheels into the ground and zipping out from under the possum. In the free instant, its armor rebuilt itself from spare parts, the visor replaced with a half-face blast shield as similar thick sheets of metal folded out from it’s limbs and pushing all the broken and bent pieces back into alignment.
The jets on its feet flickered one last time, sending 016 head first at the possum, who time-stepped just under the living missile. She grabbed its foot, yanking the jet from the rest of the construction even as it burned her hand. 016 stood, now incapable of anything but a slow, menacing advance.
“Come on.” Ratty pleaded, her voice catching in her throat as the shittiness of the situation started to catch up with her. 016 brought a fist down across her chin. Ratty stumbled back, tired of fighting as the wound just rebuilt itself.
“C’mon sixer.” The possum croaked. “Fucking look at me.”
Another strike, and Ratty was on her knees. Ratty struggled to swallow the rising guilt as the woman she failed to save stared blankly down at her.
Sapphomet ducked behind a cement wall as the last of the advance guard paranormals dropped into the portal. Dying wasn’t an issue, but being sent back to hell would be an entire layer of complication that this operation didn’t need.
“Where’s Ratty?” They asked, pulling a pair of needles from switchspace and preparing to dive into gunfire.
“Just around the corner, middle of the office courtyard.” Rey’s voice called, taking over Angel’s mouth for a second.
“We are going to have a conversation about boundaries, Rey.” She snapped, grabbing Sapphomet and dropping into a new portal to the courtyard. Sapphomet started forward, ready to bind with their wife against whatever.
They froze as the reality dawned on them: they had seen 16 before in Ratty’s investigation, and there she was again, standing over the possum, just whaling on her as she pleaded with the deer to come to her senses.
And it was over in an instant. Angel picked Sapphomet up by the collar as she ran a portal across 016, throwing it into the middle of some south-African jungle. Ratty jumped at the portal, caught in a linebacker tackle into another portal, the three women rolling to a stop in T35’s bullpen as the explosives built into the prison’s foundation went off in sequence behind them.
The portal slammed shut, leaving the huddled mass in a new silence.
“What are you doing, I-” The shockwave from the collapsing building cut Ratty off, rattling the windows as it sent dust all over the city and knocked out the power.
“She will be fine, Ratty. She will find her way back here eventually.” Angel did her best to rest a comforting hand on the possum’s shoulder.
“Why not- I could have saved her.” Ratty pleaded, furious with the drone.
“No, Hanrattyline.” Something twitched behind Angel’s visor, an emotion unhidden by the overengineered facade. Something between pity, guilt, and- well. Angel tightened her grip, Ratty lifted her hand to hold the wrist of her friend’s attempt at comfort as they stared up into the black bar that covered their eyes.
“You couldn’t have.” Angel said.
Sapphomet knelt next to their wife, gently pushing her way under Angel’s arm, and pulling Ratty’s eyes to their own. All over again, those same tired eyes. The demon wrapped her arms around the possum, and in that moment, her spirit broke.
And she just knelt there, numb.
And that’s all there is to say about that.