Angelcorp - 1991
I really don’t like this plan.
Sett watched the off-white box of another Angel computer crash through the store’s front window
Watched a paint bomb shoved through the broken crt go off, spraying the storefront
Tapping their toe
I hate this plan so much,
Anxious, even from 30 feet away
Turned away as their wife came flying through that same window
Not a witness
Stay down on the ground and put your hands behind your head
The sound of glass under her boot
The bank-splat of another paint bomb
The goat’s heart leapt into their throat as a gunshot rang out
Half-second of silence dragging on
The metal clatter of a gun
GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF OF ME, PIG
Not supposed to
Ratty, held off the ground by two security guards
Writhing and kicking
Partially coated in florescent paint
Shoved into the back of a police car
Caught sight of Sett one last time before the door closed
I fucking hate this plan
Fern sets a hand on the goat’s shoulder
Startles them initially
But it’s just Fern
C’mon, we have work to do.
I don't like, eden as a g man type figure though
Rewrite their dialogue to just kind of be like, a geek with too much power
They want to be g man,
ACTUALLY fuck that handler is like g man and they aspire to undermine handler so
That's their motivation
Find a place here to mention the tower project
Thinking about what it must have been like last time
As she was wheeled down a steel corridor
People in lab coats gawking at her
Anxious and superior all at once
Would probably have remembered this
Waited patiently as some balding geek lined up for a retinal scan
Not much to do besides be tied to a dolly
This entire wing of the facility was under construction
Through a set of reinforced set of glass double doors
Rolled out in front of a set of monitors
Larger than the rest of the labs
Counted eight different doors
One massive airlock, the one she came in from, three that all seemed to go to the same closet
The rest behind her
Well guarded too
Too well guarded
Hanratty Vermington, in the flesh.
Ratty turned to look at an upper catwalk
Supervisor of this operation
Quite the trouble you gave Doctor Matheson
Though, I must admit, his methods were…
Lets just say he no longer enjoys the... privilege... of working under me.
Seemed unable to balance breathing and swallowing spit with speaking.
This, I must also say… is not… my project. Though, I suspect you may have heard my name before. I took the liberty of-
Would you please, remove her from her, restraints.
The guard looks at the jackal
Then nods, releasing Ratty
Ratty rubs her wrists as she’s unstrapped
Yawns the soreness out of her jaw as her muzzle is undone
Director Eden, I assume?
In the flesh.
Of course, you are wondering why you’re here
Towards the airlock
Past a trio of bright yellow suits of armour
Ratty stopped next to them
We will not be activating the machine today
There will be no need for a hazard suit
But, i appreciate your proactivity.
Catwalk across a void
Wide open space
Massive black and yellow column in the centre
A team of engineers doing detail work on a massive metal arm hanging from the ceiling
Two other mounting points for similar arms still under construction
Hate to be rude but, I got all of my science credits from uh,
Weird grunt of a laugh
We have all the scientists we need, Ms. Vermington.
What we don’t have is… power.
I hear they just finished building a power plant in Darlington, might want to ask them.
The kind of power we need to run a machine of this scale won’t exist on this planet for at least another thirty years.
My employers have identified, an... alternative power source.
And are currently looking for liaisons to help us…
Laughs like hm hm hm
Your unique experiences-
Mining Hell, for power?
I am not familiar with this, Doom.
Doom comes out in two years.
In, any case, we were hoping to... hire… yourself and one other of these liaisons.
I thought it might help to ask you directly, if you had a recommendation
Takes a beat
Pretending to think
They were born in Hell, they live in Toronto now.
Well then, Ms. Vermington, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with, your team
You will meet your new boss - Handler Smith - at a later date.
I will be waiting-
Speaking of my projects.
I’m afraid you will have to meet your team another day, Ms. Vermington.
Angel’s security was too modern for the time. The same way the average person wasn’t vaccinated for the bubonic plague in 1991, a 2900s firewall didn’t waste any space on the kind of attacks someone from the 1990s had at their disposal.
Wireless access points, for example: Angel was so tightly engineered that parts of her body communicated with each other using an ‘archaic’ network of transmitters and receivers to run between points where it would have been too crowded to run a wire inside the body.
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 had used the same encryption software from the beginning of their drone program (already underway in 1991) until it’s end in... well… suffice it to say the master’s tools had to be modified.
“You need to sit still.” Fern muttered, gently de-soldering signal wires from their absolutely minuscule boards with a needle on the end of a soldering iron. As each one came loose it was bundled into one central, exterior spine: a monstrosity of scrap wire and heat-shrink tubing. The simplest solution to wireless vulnerability was to wire wherever possible. “Seriously. This is the most delicate-” They dropped their soldering iron with a clatter as another twitch bumped their paw with a still-hot ball of tin.
“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.” Fern snapped, Angel’s mouth-mover tugging a hair-thin wire out of their tweezers. No one could be blamed for mistaking this basement operation for some kind of illegal upper-spine surgery: Fern had jammed a modified parallel port through the back of Angel’s neck, finding no interior point to mount it on and so instead holding it in place with a few loops of electrical tape. To make matters worse, there was a seemingly vital data port blocking out a massive chunk of the interior working space.
They got back to work just as the needle of their record player ran into the out-groove, filling the room with a repetitive silence. “So…” Fern started again. “What’s the uh- future… like?”
“Terrifying.” Angel said, conversationally distant. “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.”
“That’s… fun....” Fern nodded, thoroughly annoyed with the machine’s honesty. “When does… that... happen?”
“It’s already begun. Currently, the groundwork is being laid to make Angelcorp the foremost trusted brand by 2025. By then, the yearly waves of pandemics combined with agricultural collapse will so heavily burden the population that all they will have to do is blame a hypothetical ‘other’, and control will be theirs. It is not all bleak however. A rebel movement begins in 2020, encampments occupy the rest of the world by the time I am born, surviving off the vast, nature-reclaimed wasteland. Where we are sitting now is a rebel base, buried under several kilometres of snow by the time I am first built.”
“Wait- hold on.” Fern 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. Although mine and Ratty’s presence has thoroughly damaged the timeline, I suspect it is already too far along to stop.” Angel said, still deadpan.
“Ah.” Fern struggled to speak as static took over their brain. “Well... Cool...” They were entirely absent as they snapped the hanging electrical tape from their roll, slipping one final heat-shrink tube and waving their hairdryer over it.
“Okay...” The borzoi sat up, feeling different. “You are done.”
Angel sat up from the slab, took the bundle of cable in her fist and gave it a firm yank. It was not indestructible, but serviceable. Seemingly satisfied with the strength of the hodgepodge construction, she stood, turning as far as she could from side to side, once again satisfied when the new spine had barely any effect on her range of motion. She then bent forward, stopping as the spine went taught and making a note of her new limitations.
Fern, after a brief soul search, brought their full length mirror out from the bathroom, holding it up for Angel to look into. The robot turned in place, curiously tugging at the rubber edge of her electrical-tape-choker.
“Excellent work, Fern.”
July 7, 1991
Sett fidgeted nervously in the back of the black rental car. It smelled like old leather, a necessary part of the facade. A pant-suit was also not in keeping with their usual M.O. They swore to themselves that as soon as they got home they were changing back into the biggest sweater they owned, curling up with Ratty, and sleeping for a year.
“I hate this plan, Angel.” They murmured, watching the unsuspecting Angel Computers campus creep towards the window.
“I know you do. It will be over soon.” Angel rolled to a stop at the entrance, gravel crunching below the tires. Sett took a deep breath, making what eye contact they could with the reflective piece of black plexiglas, and opened the door.
“Ms. Sapphomet?” Bad start. “Hi, I’m Rebecca, assistant to Handler Smith. He unfortunately won’t have the time to meet with us today, but I’ve been briefed on the particulars of your assignment. Come with me.”
Sett turns to watch angel drive off
Hate this plan
Time to start acting
We were under the impression a Director Ross would be our point of contact?
Yes, director Ross and Ms. Jozwiak will be in attendance
Steps onto a light rail train
Sinking feeling as the entrance gets further and further away
Ran their finger along the ornate gold thread-puller in their pocket
Felt the weight of Ratty’s baton in their purse.
Hate this plan.
If Angelcorp could be commended on anything it was their security. True, a goat with no prior training managed to get two completely different weapons deep into the complex, but in a paranormal sense, every black site ran several dozen field generators. While most of them simply spent taxpayer money causing blackouts and giving everyone in the surrounding area tumours, and every single one of them was horribly under-understood, at least one of them blocked Angel from teleporting directly into the building.
Which wasn’t a huge problem for a robot that could - for example - teleport to above a field and fall the roughly 30 feet between that spot and the nearest rooftop. Angelcorp had nailed down her self-improvement algorithm long before Angel was built, so it wasn’t like anything could actually stop her.
The corrugated roof buckled under her weight. She dug into the grooves, following the curve up and over to a little half-shed with a locked hatch, littered with a congregation of cigarette butts and their singular brick messiah.
The biomechanics in Angel’s wrist clicked and strained, somewhere between the grotesque cracking of a misaligned bone and the standard operating noise of a very tightly built piece of machinery as it built the perfect lock pick below her skin and spat it out of her palm.
The lock gave easily, sharing a moment of understanding with the android: this was the alternative to being caved in and torn out. The hatch opened onto an elevator shaft, further confusing the fact that someone seemed to come out here to smoke. 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 flimsy aluminum catwalks between different surveillance offices. Below, rows of cell blocks lined the opposite wall, only accessible via an elevator box running on a pair of perpendicular rails.
“Hey!” Angel turned as a guard barked from the other end of the catwalk. She watched calmly as he whipped out a baton and spread himself out to block off the width of the catwalk. “Get back-'' A stroke of luck that Angel crushed his windpipe, considering that ‘get back to your cell’ are the kind of last words that get a person fast tracked 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 his 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 dropped the walkie back onto the corpse and shifted 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 still-drowning ‘west-side’.
“Fuckin’ nice one, Angel.” Ferns voice blared from inside Angel’s ear. She paused for a moment, staring into the middle distance as she calculated a way around ‘Fern has constant access to the inside of my head’.
She settled on: “Why are you in my head?” The channel sat quiet for a few moments as the borzoi on the other end fumbled for an excuse.
“I installed some extra software… Just to keep track of you.” They failed to actually answer the ‘why’. “Uh, help you navigate, I guess… so... just keep moving forward.”
“Yes, Fern. I have the map memorized. You do not need to give me directions.”
“Sorry, I’ll butt out.”
Tram passes by a block of cells
Sett stands up
Watches it go by
Pardon us, what is that?
Ah, I suppose you’re the person to tell about this if there is anyone to tell.
Angelcorp is in the process of compiling the largest data set in history on paranormal entities.
Watches them go out of sight
And did they all, consent, to being locked up like that?
Our subjects are largely acquired through the legal and shelter systems
Transients and criminals
This is their alternative to rotting away in a prison cell or being stuffed into a homeless shelter.
Skips a beat as a drop of blood taps against the window
Angel has entered the building
Sits back down
Oh, actually, this is our stop.
Like a professional version of familiar
Directly into a handshake
Professor Vermington, really nice to finally meet you.
Hate this plan
“Rebecca, I’m so sorry.
Eden rounds a corner
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.
That’s quite alright Eden
Head pokes out the door
Am I the only one that’s on time today?
I thought I was late
Shit eating grin
Don’t you fucking say anything
Don’t say a god damn word, asshole.
Why are you even here, don’t you have some LSD to go do?
My trips pay your salary
Points at ratty
Why’d you smash up all my fucking computers? I worked hard on those designs.
I’m sorry, I had to set this all up somehow
Lies so effortlessly
Guess it’s not actually a lie
After this meeting is done, let’s get lunch so I can apologize properly.
Make it bitchy flirting
Sett felt a rising blush as they remembered just how fucking smooth their wife was
Not jealous just like
Beat where everyone just sits in the miasma of this smooth fuckin possum
We’re terribly sorry. We forgot to introduce ourselves,
Oh no, yes, I know
I heard about uh- or rather Ms. Vermington told me all about you
Should we sit?
Not going to
Because that's all I had to say
And your robot creeps me out
Stops in front of Ratty on her way out
Pushed a crumpled piece of paper into her chest
Hides her face
Looks at the paper
Shows sett the digits, bemused
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 the trio.
Rebecca, you can go as well, actually.
Rebecca nods and leaves
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 the machine back into its corner. “Do you drink?”
"No thank you," “Not at work,” Sett and Ratty said simultaneously, some calmness returning to the little goat as Eden poured themselves a glass. This did not seem like the kind of person to hold their liquor.
“Smart. Keep yourself sharp.” Eden waved the drone back over. “013, would you put these away?”
And that’s when Ratty decided it was too familiar to be a coincidence. “What did you just call- that?” She pointed.
Nothing between Angel and the security station offered much resistance. The most valiant effort came from two corpses between her feet, and even then their greatest form of defence was limiting the amount of room to stand in the small office without getting blood on the android’s nice shoes. Then again, the inanimate security console was doing a better job of that, simply by virtue of the fact that Angel had to be tethered to it.
“Okay, enough. Just give me control and-” Fern started, breaking their promise.
“I'm not going to do that Fern.” Angel interrupted. “I was built with more knowledge-”
“Yeah? Well, why have you been running up against the same wall for like, four minutes?” Fern 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?” She asked. Fern did not answer, understanding that there was no good way to say ‘all’. Angel glared at the data visualization in her mind, feeling the pathetic creature of meat and bone hover over her with their stupid little laptop. “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 interrupted all of Angel’s senses as one by one the security feeds went dark, two out of the twelve illuminated only by a bioluminescent paranormal in their cell.
A weight lifted from behind Angel’s eyes as the few subsystems security had been suppressing came back online with the prison’s emergency lights. She watched each screen in turn as the corporation's prisoners began to climb their way down from the wall of cages.
“Are you going to set the self destruct or should I?” Fern asked.
“How long do you think it will take to collect them all?”
“Uh, I dunno like, half an hour? Maybe?”
“Okay.” Angel walked away from the terminal as they set a glowing red ‘30:00… 29:59… 29:58…’ ticking away in the corner of their vision.
“Jesus. What a day we are having, huh? I am so sorry about this, do you mind if we-” Eden stood, stumbling as Ratty stepped up to them and falling back into their chair.
“That’s not necessary.” Ratty pinned Eden in place with the tip of her baton. “You have been PAINFULLY vague with me the entire time I’ve been here, so, explain yourself.”
“Ms. Vermington, I understand the- this-” Eden’s pager screeched in their pocket, eliciting a panic as they took in the lcd screen. “This is absolutely not the time.”
“Ratty,” Sett interrupted, their body already 2/3rds out the door. “I heard gunshots. I need to go, now.”
“Go on then.” Ratty gave a firm nod. “Go save the world, my love.” Sett took a moment to take in her wife, still absolutely hating this plan, before disappearing into the fray.
“You two know each other?” Eden asked, equal parts scared and annoyed. “You’re making a huge mistake.”
“I don’t make mistakes, sorry.” Ratty said, splitting their attention between the door and the conversation. Something dawned on Eden in that moment: the possum’s total ignorance was a wonderful opportunity to brag.
“So sorry, I thought you knew.” They dropped suddenly into the confident and cruel tone of an unfeeling- “Angelcorp is in the process of an exciting new merger with the afterlife hierarchy. We are to become gods, travel freely between worlds, living forever, that sort of thing.” Director Ross was unphased as an explosion rattled the glass and sent cracks through the drywall.
“Excuse me?” Ratty asked
“Infinite power, Ms. Vermington?” The Jackal cocked an eyebrow as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “The money Ms. Jozwiak's computers bring in is nice, but only insofar as it allows us to expand our reach.” Another bang sprayed Ratty’s back with glass.
“Y’know what,” Ratty plucked the worst of the powder from the corner of her eyes. “You were right. We should move.” She grabbed Eden by their shirt-collar, regretting it immediately as 013 - previously slow and clunky - dropped into a fighting stance and charged at her. It twisted a fistful of her own shirt, throwing her through the drywall into the next boardroom.
“Speaking of living forever, Ms. Vermington…” The resulting plume of dust found its way into the sprinkler system, silhouetting Eden’s retreating form in a haze of white powder and water. Ratty stood to give chance, the ache of breaking through drywall holding her down long enough for them to disappear. She set her sights instead on 013.
Sett struggled to block out the metallic rattle of the catwalk under their hooves. Something had knocked them loose from their moorings, leaving them to swing freely from their anchors in the ceiling. If they fell, it would be against hard cement.
It was impossible to avoid looking down. Down was where there would be people. Down was where, behind a barricade of whatever scrap they could scrounge up, a small clump of jumpsuit clad individuals huddled around one bleeding form.
“Hands up!” Someone barked from behind Sett. They turned to see a line of guards struggling to keep their footing on the swaying catwalk, having discovered it as an alternative angle of attack. Sett’s heart froze for just a moment as their instincts took over, yanking a heavy needle from subspace just behind the clump and pulling the attached thread through a support chain.
The ethereal spike of metal sheared clean through, tipping that corner of the catwalk to the floor below. The adjacent chain complained for a half-second before snapping and throwing three of the five guards to the cement.
Another chain snapped, this one close enough to make Sett flinch. Again on instinct they turned to run from the collapsing floor. Their stomach jumped into their chest as the metal grate below them gave out, just barely wide enough to dig their claws into as it swung low over the barricade.
The goat let go as the edged metal dug into their soft keratin, falling the remaining five feet and managing to stay upright.
“Who is hurt?” Sett asked, blood pumping too fast to react appropriately to the barrel of a stolen gun jammed into their face. They turned to stare blankly at the weapon, enraptured briefly by the way the slide rattled around the rest of the metal construction. “It’s okay,” the hard edge melted from their tone as instinct took its seat. They slowly, gently tipped the barrel away from their face, meeting their leader’s gaze. 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. They’re-” Sett pushed past, feeling the life ebb from what now looked more like a pool of blood than a person. They knelt, not flinching as the gun cocked behind them. If they were shot, they were shot. This couldn’t wait.
“What’s your name?” The leader asked.
“Sett.” The goat set out a sewing kit out on the slowly rising chest. She was cold, but not too far gone. “What’s hers?”
“She’s- she’s Stephanie. I’m Helena.” The gazelle dropped her aim, dumbfounded as threads of gold danced in and out of bullet-holes in step with the goat’s own stitching.
“‘Stephanie’ as in-”
The fox stirred, cutting Sett off. “I don’t want to die. I just wanted to make computers. This whole slavery shit- I just needed money to build my fuckin’ computers man. I don’t want to die.”
Yeah, that seemed likely enough.
“Steph, everything is going to be fine.” Sett said, a combination of firm and soft. “Does anyone call you Nelly?” Sett asked Helena over their shoulder, preferring to take a conversational long shot than work in a silence interrupted only by sudden volleys of gunfire to steady their hands.
“My- my students did.” Nelly said, the distrust leaking out of their voice as scrap lead bubbled to the surface of each wound.
“Did you ever have two students- Pokey and Prisha?” Sett pried. They took the stunned silence as a yes, annoyed at the least talkative teacher they had ever met. “They live with me. They’re doing great.” Each thread dove back into the walls of the wound, making the same dragging motion and the torn interiors back together.
“They’re okay?” She asked.
“Yes, I just said they’re doing great. Try and sit up for me, Alex.” Sett helped her into a sitting position as her blood rose from their claws like smoke. Nelly knelt, pushing aside the blood-matted fur, astonished at the constellation of fully healed, star-shaped scars.
“We have more.” She stood abruptly. “Can you do more?” Sett nodded confidently, already tying a knot around the next needle.
“There’s another clump of them coming up on your-” Fern was cut short as Angel stuck a fist through a cement corner, pulling only the most vital part of a guards throat through the hole, making it his own personal failure when the rest of his body failed to fold up to fit. “Hey, I know this is a thing for you, but could you- like I’m about to throw up here.”
“No.” Angel rounded the corner, dropping a portal below another clump of three refugees. She watched through the golden loop as Becca helped orient them, then closed it as she watched them climb off of the foam mat.
“That’s everyone but Ratty and the clump that Sett’s in. You’re gonna want to double back and-” Fern’s voice crackled and died, overtaken by the dull roar of the prison’s interior for just a moment before-
“I thought so!” Angel turned towards the familiar voice: one they had only heard in simulations and through speakers. Director Eden Ross, looking distinctly less like the warehouse full of servers Angel had known them as.
“Director.” She said, as terse as she could manage.
“I don’t know if we’ve met, but- I mean let’s skip the niceties. You’re one of my designs, aren’t you?” They were rapidly approaching giddiness as they advanced on the drone. “I have so many questions. When do I build you? Are you-”
Angel tried to cut the conversation short, swinging for Eden’s throat and freezing as they got close. Eden smiled at their foresight, taking the mechanical hand in their own and examining the construction of the wrist.
“Fascinating… and if I just remember to-” They twisted the wrist, bringing Angel to her knees and exposing the data port just above their new spine. “Oh god, that is so cool!” The drone winced as she felt a ribbon cable click into the back of their neck.
“Let go of me.” She growled, a digital grinding seeping into her voice as the majority of her brain power was rerouted into dumping data. Her entire consciousness vibrated as - bit by bit - one became two, and was set back to one again, sucked out through the back of her neck.
She clenched her jaw and spun, hoping the momentum would carry her attack over the barrier. She had not realized just how firm Eden’s grasp on her spine was until bundles of the shoddy wiring tore themselves loose from their moorings.
“Shit. I’m gonna have to start over.” The ribbon cable clicked back into her neck as she took stock of just how many connections had become severed. The principal joints on her legs and one arm held on to a slim degree of movement. The ring of magnets in her chest that positioned her portals seemed also to be working, but just barely. That would be enough to get out of here. “The spine is aftermarket, I’m assuming? I would offer to fix it, but I honestly wouldn’t know where to start.”
Angel rolled over, the internal damage worth it just to glare up at Director Ross. One more turn and she was off the edge of the cement outcropping, pulling herself to her feet with her one still-working arm.
That was it: how Eden made the leap from a deer carcass in a metal suit to a fully fledged war machine, and Angel had just handed it to them. She tried desperately not to think about it, killing the process that made her reflect as she hobbled towards Sett.
“Angel?” Fern’s voice screeched as they reconnected.
“Just- just up ahead.”
“Thank you, Fern.”
“Are you okay? I’m seeing-”
“I damaged your spine.”
“Oh shit.” Angel heard the wheels of Fern’s chair rattle as they rolled back from the console. “I’m still moving. We are getting out of here.”
Ratty stripped off the top layer of her jumpsuit she stood, glaring down the barrel of this half-machine. 013 was all too familiar now that she actually had reason to look at her properly: the same scarred body under it’s mechanical reinforcements, the same tuft of faded, bleached, and dyed hair, the same hole in the top of her chest where a shell full of metal beads had ripped through her just - was it months? - earlier.
“So that’s the twist? Angelcorp makes drones out of people?” Ratty spat some of the dust out of her mouth, surprised when white drywall came out red. She received only silence in return as the drone sized her up. “Fucking stupid, if you ask me.”
13’s face changed as they finished their battle plan. She missed Ratty by a long shot, careening into the wall, all but thrown back to her feet as a set of superfluous limbs shot out, righted her, and broke off.
“Gonna assimilate me now?” Ratty failed to hide the venom in her voice, processing this in the worst way possible. 013 - clearly - was not at fault. Those who were had made themselves unavailable to kick the shit out of.
“No.” The deer’s voice was taken over by whatever computer made up it’s throat as the machine exerted more control over the flesh inside.
“That’s- yeah! Okay! Whatever!” 013 charged again, this time taking the possum’s baton to the stomach, then - stunned - in-between the scaffolding of her knee-joint. She hit the floor with a cement-cracking thud as the mechanical knee set fire to her fur welding itself back together. She picked Ratty up as she stood, glaring through the black glass of her eye-slots as she waited for her programming to tell her what to do next.
Ratty fumbled blindly for something to grab onto as she was thrown through the glass front wall of the conference room. The railing at the edge of the balcony was a no-go, but the same railing on the opposite side a few floors down was grippy enough to pull her shoulder out of her socket. That slowed her fall just enough to keep her conscious as she hit the concrete of the bottom floor.
Just barely. Her head swam as she watched 013 struggle to hover down between the ridged columns of red. Leftover droplets of water kept working their way into the air intake on her boosters, which in turn had to boil off before they could reignite. She fell several feet at a time before it gave out completely, dropping the body from 40 feet up, more into the cement than onto it.
Ratty’s core shook as she struggled to push herself upright, the push of curling herself into a sitting position threatening to tear her spine from the bottom of her skull. Her body took the hint, working double-time to fix what she couldn’t move without. 013 was not so lucky. Every part of her body screeched against her movement, too ‘prototype’ to survive anything but moving whisky and a lab-environment.
“We meet again, 017, for the last time.” 013 said, its voice breaking over every vowel as it tried to act like anything more threatening than a computer that had just dropped itself off of a balcony. It drilled its feet into the floor as twin flywheels spun up at its hips, preparing to throw their weight around.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Ratty asked, more to verbalize the feeling than to get any answers. She limped until she could run, dug her boot into the ridge of a pillar, and came down on 013 from above, shattering what little progress her legs had made. The ankles that kept the machine bolted down snapped without protest, sending her to the floor with the possum on her chest. Ratty jammed the baton into the face plate as she struggled and popped it off, shattering both eyes in the process.
Very familiar. Her eyes completely hollow, a dawning panic as she searched for screens that weren’t there.
“Look at me, Lucky.” Ratty snapped, glaring down into the empty sockets, her ears flat against her skull. 013 blinked back, blankly.
One of the flywheels shot sparks into Ratty’s leg as 013 jammed it into the ground, dragging her out from underneath the possum. A half-face blast shield folded out from under her chin in the free seconds, giving her something to stare at as similarly thick sheets of metal folded out from her limbs, pushing all the broken and bent pieces of her body back into alignment.
The jets around her ankles flickered one last time, shooting 013 head first at her target. Ratty felt time slow as she ducked under the living missile, claiming a fist around her foot and setting the back of her hand on fire as she yanked the jet from the rest of the construction.
013 stood again, now incapable of anything but a slow, menacing advance.
“Come the fuck on.” Ratty pleaded, her voice catching in her throat as just how shitty her stupid fucking post-life had been so far came crashing down around her. 013 brought a fist down across her chin. Ratty stumbled back, tired of fighting, refusing to let the wound rebuild itself.
“C’mon...” 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.
Sett flinched behind the nearest cement wall as the last of their paranormals lowered each other into the portal. Dying wasn’t an issue, but getting shot would hurt, and being sent back to Hell would be a layer of complication that they didn’t need right now.
“Where’s Ratty?” They asked, pulling a pair of needles from switchspace and preparing for the inevitable advance of gunfire. Angel stared blankly for a half-second, responding only after a relatively harmless bullet through the silicon chest kicked her into gear:
“Just around the corner, middle of the office courtyard.” Fern’s voice came from the robot’s mouth. She bit her lip, too annoyed at her own inaction to be annoyed at Fern. Instead of snapping, she picked up a metal piece of the barricade and pulled Sett around her back, hobbling down the hall as fast as her stiffened legs would take her.
“I would like to have a conversation about boundaries, Fern.” Angel’s mouth finally caught up with her head. Sett almost toppled the taller woman as she stopped in her tracks, her front leg apparently frozen.
“You’re okay.” Sett murmured, ducking under Angel’s arm and taking the piece of metal from her hands. “Here, hold on. I have you the rest of the way.” Angel complied, limping along with one functional leg, using Sett’s as their surrogate.
And there she was, right where Fern said she would be: backing her way through the concrete risers of an underground corporate courtyard, her fists clenched at her sides as 013 repeatedly brought their hammer of a fist down across her jaw.
In a sudden burst of energy, Angel picked Sett up by the collar and charged, throwing a portal behind 013 and checking her into it. She put a protective arm around Ratty as the foundations of the building began to rumble.
“What are you doing, I could have-” The shock wave from the collapsing building cut Ratty off, rattling the windows of her apartment building as it sent a rolling cloud of dust over the city. Ratty had lost track of where she was for just long enough to be dragged home.
“She will be fine, Ratty.” 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, Hanratty.” Something twitched behind Angel’s visor, an emotion unhidden by the over engineered facade. “You couldn’t have.” Angel said.
Sett, now released from the robot’s grip, gently pushed their way under Angel’s arm and pulled Ratty’s eyes to their own. All over again, those same tired eyes. The goat wrapped her arms around the possum, and in that moment, her spirit broke.
And she just knelt there, numb, until she was numb enough to stand again.