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All Things End: Volume II - Part 106

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Chapter 106: Backed Into A Corner

In the vast darkness, they were there.

Watching.

Waiting.

They could see their missing piece suspended in that black expanse, clinging to what little life he had left.

They did not even need to intervene in his survival, for a change. He wanted to live so badly, and not just for that dog he had come to care so much about, but for that puppy too, and for the rest of those mutts he had forged an unexpected kinship with. He wanted to see all of them again, no matter how hard he had to fight against his own fading life force to do so.

As they watched the scene play out before them, they relished in the agony they could feel radiating from their missing piece. Nothing would ever make up for all of the frustration he had caused them, but this was a sufficient consolation prize. Beside, they knew that the walls were closing in on him, and that more than made up for everything else. Their dear brother was running out of directions to flail in. All roads inevitably led back to them, he just did not realize it yet.

It had been so very frustrating getting to this point, however. Their plan to break him down through the use of a twisted image of his torturer had been such an ingenious one. They had come so close to reaching their goal of breaking down his sense of self and making him easier to manipulate. He had almost reached out to them in his deluded confusion and fear, having lost grasp of his identity. They had been so, so close.

Even after they had managed to destroy his perception of reality, and even after they had found a way to use their connection with Courage to cement his psychosis, by making Courage see and feel things that were not there as well, their brother still had managed to pull himself back from the brink. That damnable dog had been as much of a hindrance to their efforts as he had been a help. Making use of their connection with Courage had done wonders to destroy their brother's mental stability, but he had also been an anchor that helped draw him back to sanity.

They knew that they were going to have to do something about that dog, but they....they could not bring themselves to kill him. It would be easy enough to accomplish. Any abuse of the link they shared with him would be more than enough to destroy his mind and leave him nothing more than a blank meat puppet, but they...could not. Perhaps their missing piece was having an effect on them after all, even if he was still separated from them. Though he may be his own independent entity...for now, he 'was' connected to them, as much as they were connected to him.

Either way, their affinity for the dog disturbed them. While they had managed to reach a point, after years of hellish chaos, where they were finally capable of acting as one, Courage's mere presence was threatening to throw a wrench into the harmony that they had worked so hard to achieve. Just the fact that they could not decide to eliminate him, due to dissent from within themselves, threatened to fling them all back into a chaotic storm that they might not recover from. And the worst part about it all was that they could not figure out why. How could Courage be any different from the other organic beings that they so badly wished to punish for their tortured existence?

They needed to think as one, or not at all. They could continue to be this amalgamation, marching toward revenge and absolute destruction, of both themselves and everything around them, or they could go back to being that screaming, writhing mass of melted together minds, trapped in a whirling hurricane of thoughts and feelings that they could not control. At least like this, they could not tell where one Construct ended and where the next began. They were One, and that was all that mattered now.

Pushing away memories of the early days of their existence, they continued to ruminate on their various plans and how they had reached this point.

After their brother had managed to fight his way back to sanity, they had been forced to improvise. First, they had removed a small byte of his memory to eliminate their last encounter from his mind. It had worked to unsettle his already unsettled mind perfectly. Then, they had sent that cat gang after the two of them, knowing that their mentally exhausted brother would act in an excessive manner after everything that had just happened to him. They then had used their connection with Courage to nudge his reaction in a certain direction too.

It had been their hope that they would be able to destroy the companionship between the two right then and there. They had thought that after losing Courage and being captured by the SCC, their missing piece would finally give himself up to them. What they had not expected was for their brother to willingly give himself up to the SCC out of shame for having frightened Courage away, nor were they expecting Courage to break free of their subtle mental influence so easily either.

Because of that, they'd had to improvise even further and take far more direct action. As much as they loathed the SCC, they still had tipped them off to where their brother had gone, and then they had taken a much more difficult and extreme action. They had destroyed their brother's link to his own abilities. Before, they had been able to keep them hidden from him, with only odd occurrences like the lightning strike awakening a few of his old abilities, but now that he had figured out how to access all of them again, it had been a long time coming for them to reign his powers back in again.

It had been a drastic but necessary action, to make him much more desperate and easy to manipulate. The problem was, it had been a quick and messy effort. They were not sure that even once they had their missing piece that they would be able to fix what they had broken. Though they would soon be whole, they would not be able to add their brother's power to theirs if they had broken his connection as badly as it seemed.

In any case, they had taken control of the vehicle and forced it off the road. Courage's capture had been a happy accident. They had been expecting the SCC to capture their brother and put him into a position where he would have to join them to escape, but in the end he had been captured by the police before the SCC could even get to him. They had thought that the impossible situation their brother had been forced into would work to their advantage just as well. With no hope of rescuing Courage from the SCC, they had believed that he would have to turn to them for help, but his stubbornness had only earned him even more trouble. That led to Charon and his cage, and once again they had believed it would be the thing to finally break their missing piece. They had quietly waited for him to come to them for help, if only to end what was looking to be an endless torture, but even then his stubbornness had continued to win out. So, in the end, they ultimately had been forced to wait for what they had wanted from the start. Now their brother was with the SCC and without a means of escape. They were nothing if not patient, and their patience would soon pay off...

…..........

Computer gasped awake.

The first thing his dim awareness registered was the painful buzz of the EMP generator ripping through his very being. It was nowhere near as bad as the last two times it had been used on him, but it was still enough to leave his mind fuzzy and disconnected from his dog body. Apparently the damn thing had levels that could be adjusted depending on how badly they wanted to incapacitate you...

The next thing he noted was that, aside from the pain the EMP buzz was causing him, every square inch of his dog body, from tail to ear tip, ached beyond all reason. He could feel his stab wound in particular thudding in time with the beat of his heart.

He blinked dully up at a white tiled ceiling. There was the sound of a heart monitor beeping in time with the painful thudding of his, well, everything. He wanted to see what his stabbing injury looked like, but his cloudy mind slowly realized that he was completely immobilized. He could not even move his neck to look left or right. They had him strapped down to a bed, and he was clad in something that might as well have been a straight jacket straight out of an asylum.  

It was so hard to think...

The EMP buzz was smothering his mind, filling it with nothing but dull pain and taking up so much room that he had no place left to think or process anything.

Regardless, he used what little mind-space he had left to remind himself of Spot. If only he had some way to find out if they had helped him...

He heard the sound of someone standing up. Apparently he'd had a roommate watching over him and didn't know until now because he could only look up.

A face filled his vision.

...It was that skeletal woman from before.

“Welcome back.” She dryly greeted him. Nothing about her expression implied anything other than utter contempt for his existence.

There was the hum of a motor and Computer felt part of the hospital bed rise until he was in a sitting position.

The skeletal woman stood there with her arms crossed, considering him with an ever deepening look of contempt. Finally, she plucked a cigarette from her pocket and lit it up in one swift movement. She then sat down on the bed, turning just enough so that only the side of her face was still visible to him.

“Let me make one thing very clear,” She began, cigarette smoke snaking out of her mouth and nostrils. “I was more than ready to just let you bleed out on the street, but my organization desires answers, so we were compelled to preserve your existence for a little while longer. You're going to tell us everything, and we will take harsh measures if you do not talk. Don't get any funny ideas about using your abilities either. If we get even the slightest whiff that you're going to try something, we will increase the EMP, up to lethal levels if we have to. Right now, we have it on the lowest setting, where it is still enough to interfere with you and your abilities, but low enough that it allows this hospital and its equipment to keep running unaffected. How about you not make this little fiasco even more costly than it's already been, hmm?”

While Computer's incapacitated mind worked to keep up with her words, one of the few thoughts he was capable of making room for noted how much she sounded like him. It was uncanny, if not outright creepy.

“For now, we're going to wait until the host dog you're infesting has had a chance to fully stabilize. We cannot risk extracting you from that body in a place like this where you could simply escape through one of the many insecure networks present. I suppose it's a good thing then that you nearly destroyed this body doing whatever nonsense you were getting up to. Your foolishness has left you with a compromised body that you cannot escape from. We will most certainly notice if you try to transfer over to a machine, and let me remind you that the EMP generator is especially effective at destroying such machinery. So don't try anything stupid.”

The skeletal woman stood back up. “Don't worry though, after we've questioned you within the next day or so, we're going to ship you off to a safe location and remove you from that mutt. You will then be deactivated, and if I have my way, you will be destroyed. Otherwise, you can look forward to a permanent retirement in some dusty, old SCC storage warehouse where I suspect you will never be reactivated again. It's a sorry fate, perfect for someone like you. Destroyed or deactivated, you will be forgotten, and I will be all the happier for it.”

Something about the way she was talking seemed weirdly personal...

She moved to leave, and sensing that this might be his only chance, Computer tried to convey into words the thing that was on his pathetically dulled mind. The issue was that the buzz did not only affect his mind. There was a lagging disconnect between him and his possessed body, making it very hard for him to speak through the dog.

“Did you-” He began, his voice weak and cracking. His throat and mouth were bone dry.

The skeletal woman slowly turned back around and leered at him. She...really hated him. There was something going on here that was far more personal than Computer could truly understand, especially in his current state.

“D-did you...he..help him?” He finished, the strain of getting even just those few words out weakening his voice further.

The woman's eyes narrowed, somehow growing even more hateful.

“Don't pretend like you've ever cared about anyone other than yourself!” She spat out in a sharp tone.

She then spun back around with a disdainful flick of her wrist, and she had made it all the way to the door before she seemed to consider something and stopped.

Looking over her shoulder, she gave him one last look of pure spite. “Yes, we helped him, and we still have him in our custody, but he is no longer of any use to us.”

...Apparently she thought that he had been asking about Courage instead of Spot.

“Since he is already dying, and since he now knows several bits of important classified information, we feel that there is no reason to release him from our custody. He is scheduled to be euthanized soon. The dog will be afforded a quick and dignified end, as much as his illness will allow. Perhaps you should not have filled his mind with fantasies of being cured of his disease, but I'm sure you never really cared beyond how you could use it to manipulate him to your own ends. Ah, well.”

Even with the buzz filling his mind, Computer's dulled brain still explode into a million different thoughts all at once. Panic took over, even if it was blunted by the intruding noise.

“D-don't!” He tried to yell out, but it came out more as a pathetic plea.

The woman's eyes went wide for half a millisecond, and then they narrowed as she put on a smug, mocking smirk. “I don't know if you've noticed, but you're not exactly in any position to be telling me what I can or can't do. Oh, how the tables have turned. I'm almost sorry to know that you'll be deactivated soon. I could get used to this feeling. But, if it means that I never have to hear that voice again, I think I'll live.”

She opened the door and then she was gone, all while Computer fought hopelessly against his restrains. The heart monitor beeping picked up speed. His aching body protested even the attempt at movement.

A guard silently entered the room to take the skeletal woman's place. He was well armed and armored, and he had a radio on him to call for help at a seconds notice. He stood stalwart in front of Computer's bed, although he refused to look down at him, even as he meagerly attempted to struggle against his excessive restraints.  

Pure desperation compounded on top of Computer's already present worry for Spot, and mourning of Dena.

They were going to kill Courage!

….And there was nothing, absolutely nothing he could do about it.

Allowing himself to get captured for Spot's sake had been his biggest mistake, because he had inadvertently given the SCC a reason to stop caring about keeping Courage alive. Even if he could somehow escape his bindings, and even if his body wasn't already so badly damaged that he'd never make out of the room without it giving out, how could he ever hope to save Courage when this place was crawling with the SCC, like the guard currently watching over him?

There was nothing he could do.

After everything, he was still going to lose Courage, without getting a chance to see him again, without   getting a chance to tell him that he-

An icy, cold sensation entered his mind, slowly pushing away the buzz as it took up the space it had occupied. A sense of clarity fell over him. Although, now that he could think again, with it only came even more panic and fear.

'Such a shame.'

That icy, cold feeling grew worse.

At the sound of those voices, Computer felt a pit form in his stomach.

'You just can't catch a break, can you?'

They were not only speaking in his head, but he could also hear their voices emanating from the various pieces of tech in the room...including the guard's radio.

The guard only had half a second to gasp at the unexpected phenomenon before something sharp suddenly protruded out of his chest. He was left gaping stupidly at the sight of it before it dislodged itself. He fell to the floor, dead, long before he could even begin to hope to call for help, not that the invading voices would have allowed him to either way.

Behind where he had just been standing, a long piece of broken metal stood, having burst out of the hospital floor to eliminate him. It remained there for a moment longer, blood dripping from the sharp edge, before it sunk outside of Computer's line of sight.

'Let's face it. You never had any chance of getting Courage back.'

They seemed to be immune to the EMP buzz entirely. In fact, they seemed to be subverting it with their own malevolent energy. The entire room hummed and vibrated with it like some sort of poltergeist haunting.

'It was a foolish hope.'

That icy, cold feeling in Computer's mind was turning into a stifling darkness that was slowly consuming him as easily as the buzz blocked out thought.

'You have only one option left.'

Claws were digging at his mind, dragging him downward. Although, they could not consume him entirely yet. They still needed him to-

'If you do not take it, they will kill him, and they will kill you.'

What choice did he have left? He doubted that 'they' would try to save Courage, but-

'Don't worry. We will make them pay. You will enjoy it, because we will enjoy it.'

He closed his eyes.

How could he give them what they want after all that they had done to him? It was their near constant meddling that had led him to this point in the first place. They had done everything they could to trap him in this unwinnable position!

'If you do not, you will lose everything.'

He still was going to lose everything, if he...

'Join us, before it is too late, for him and for yourself.'

...But what else could he do but give in? He could not bear the thought of letting the SCC kill Courage. As long as there was this one option left, he had to take it, no matter the consequences. Even if 'they' were not interested in saving Courage, they would get rid of the SCC, and Courage most certainly could not be euthanized if there was no SCC left to do the deed...

“Okay.” He relented. Finally, after so long. His voice sounded so small and pathetic among the growing hum of electrical energy all around him.

The pressure was building...

'Thank you. We have waited so long for this. Welcome home!'

He slowly opened his eyes to the room ripping itself apart. He felt the restraints covering him disintegrate. Darkness was edging into his vision. He could feel them closing in around him. He was losing himself. It was over.

“Just promise us-” He said over the swirl of debris. “Promise us that we won't hurt him...”

Some measure of horror fell over them when they realized that the adding of 'us' and 'we' to their final words, within their final moment of individuality, had not been a voluntary action. They had not allowed themselves even that one small-

End Of Chapter
courage the cowardly dog
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