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Hordes of Doggerland Part 10

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The maelstrom was swirling madly. The North Sea was quarantined completely after the powerful people realised that there was something very wrong with the Dogger Bank. Navy warships formed borders at Dover and Calais, enclosing the gap between Britain and France, but none dared to venture too deep into the waves. High above the clouds and Dray was keeping watch. The airspace had been prohibited too so there was no need to cloak. It was nice not to have all the power draining away.
She watched the storm clouds spin with the relentlessness of the darkest black hole, and wondered on its origins.
“Doggerland,” she said as several classified documents rested on her lap.
One of the many consoles around her started beeping. She turned in her chair and pulled herself closer to it. Several alien figures appeared on screen. She calculated them all.
“Hmm,” she said. “I should have known.”
“Should’ve known what, Miss Draygon?” a man’s voice escaped from a nearby terminal. Dray glared over uninterestedly.
“I didn’t realise that you guys were still listening…”
“We’re always listening,” said the voice.
Dray rolled her eyes.
“Only when I allow you to,” she said. “Don’t pretend that you have any real power over me or the Initiative.”
“Don’t let us remind you that your citizenship on our planet is only tolerated because of your dealings with the agency in the past. We share a mutual trust, Miss Draygon. Let’s not make this about you.”
“It’s just Draygon,” she glowered at the terminal, “and I don’t need reminding. I’ve been an ally of the SIS since long before the War.”
“Yes, I read about your assistance during Vietnam.”
Dray sighed. “World War One, you idiot.”
The voice went quiet for a moment.
“So you were about to give us an update on the situation with Doggerland?” he finally spoke again.
“The storm is self-sustaining as I suspected,” she explained. “It’s probably controlled from within the city itself.”
“How is that even possible, Draygon?”
“Through alien technology of course,” she said. “The walls of the city are laced with it. It would have made everything so much easier if you guys had made records of what kind of technology you were actually dealing with before you went and built a whole city out of it.”
“That was a different SIS,” said the voice, “with different agents.”
“Oh the more things change…” Dray muttered. She turned back to the scan results.
“Do you have any further suggestions?” asked the voice. “Is there anything we can do?”
“Except from feed the press stories about a torrential side of global warming?” she answered. “No, nothing. The storm protects the whole area. Going in would be suicide and whoever is controlling the city must know that. But the maelstrom has only been active for a week, which means that something has changed down there. It must have. It’s the only reason that they would raise their defences like this. They don’t want anyone getting in or out. I suspect something has threatened their security.”
“We interrogated all of the people of Aldeburgh and got them to spill the beans,” explained the voice. Dray breathed out through her noise.
“No wonder the Secret Service is so feared. Those people had their memories wiped. I hope you had fun restoring them, not that they weren’t already traumatised enough!”
“It was necessary for the security of Great Britain,” the man’s voice said coldly, “and I’ll be damned if I’ll be lectured by a damn alien!”
Dray exhaled again and pushed her brow up with her fingers, resting her arm. She had been out here for many hours now and was exhausted. All she wanted was for CJ to be back and safe. To not have that link, the telepathy the two had shared since Bastille Day, felt abhorrent.
“What did you learn?” she asked.
“Their memories were wiped as you expected but we managed to lift whatever mental barriers had been placed in their heads. DNA was taken from each of them.”
“DNA?” Dray said. “You mean blood?”
“We say DNA for a reason, Miss Draygon.”
“It’s just Draygon…”
“We say DNA for a reason, Draygon.”
“What reason?”
“We believe that they were cloned.”  

**

It was that dream again.
A blinding light, burning, burning . . .
The universe was flooding with tears.
She could feel it, the responsibility . . . The guilt for those left behind.
What was it that he had told her in his final moments?
“I forgive you.”
Susie longed to relive that moment to say sorry just another thousand times.
The central pillar of the TARDIS was alive with movement. The console sparkled with emerald light beneath the various switches. Green, she thought. It’s the colour of life. The console room was mostly shadowed, which was how she remembered it from the early days, but the console was its shining heart. Susie approached the centre.
“It’s not over yet,” said P90’s voice. “There’s still something you have to do for me.”
“Anything,” said Susie on instinct. “Anything for you.”
Susie smiled at the console. His voice was so soothing. It bled the cold world away.
“It’s waiting for you,” he said lovingly. “Exactly where you left it.”
“P90,” she called out to him in tears, “I need you…”
She tried to remember his face. Maybe he would appear if she remembered his face clearly enough.
“Do you remember our last night together?” he spoke softly, looking down on her from wherever he was.
“How could I forget?”
The TARDIS melted into a backdrop of cabinets and wardrobes and sofas. The room was wooden with an adjoining bathroom. Outside there was a balcony, and beyond that Paris…
“You’re not here,” she said sadly, realising that she was alone. “I wish you were here.”
She fell onto the bed, and then buried her face into her hands.
“Oh God, I wish you were here,” Susie cried. “I can’t do this without you.”
A light started to reach out from the inn’s hallway.
“You won’t have to.”
Susie looked up. Her face drenched.
The words on the door glowed in the light.
“She is coming.”
The words glistened.
They shined.
‘ELL3.’

In Doggerland Susie’s eyes snapped open. She sat up and searched the empty lab with her eyes. The feeling had returned to her body in the many hours since she last saw Koch. The dream was a reminder. She felt a calm she had not felt for a very long time. She shifted towards the edge of the bed, and then took her first few steps towards the door. There, on Koch’s desk, lay a pile of clipboards with attached charts. Curiously, Susie started to file through them.
After a short while she had absorbed all of the facts. She looked up, encased by a sudden and terrifying truth.
“This is it,” she spoke. “Oh my God…”

**

Koch was taking blood.
“Shhh now,” he said to Susie’s daughter as she howled quietly. Koch used a handkerchief to rub away the baby’s snotty features as he shrewdly drained blood from her upper arm. “It’s okay, little one. Your life is so precious. You’re the first baby ever to be born down here under the ocean. At least that’s what the stories will say. We will leave Bathory’s forced C-Section out of it, don’t you think?”
She whined some more as she waved her arms about, reaching and pinching at the cold air.
“You know,” Koch said, “I was more surprised than anyone that the Countess decided to let you live.”
“Why?” came a voice from behind him. He turned, and bowed.
“My lady,” Koch welcomed the Countess.
She was holding Laski under her arm.
“What news?” she asked as she entered the room. It was another lab, but much smaller than the main one.
“There’s quite the gathering in Blue Moon Plaza,” he updated her as he dripped the baby’s blood into a tiny test tube. “I suspect that there’s going to be another revolt.”
“This is Doggerland, professor. If there isn’t a revolt going on I get suspicious. Who is at this gathering?”
“Anyone who ever had any loyalty to the League of Iron,” came another voice. The two looked to the doorway as King strode in with fresh scars across his armour, accompanied by two Iron Angels. He and the Countess shared a friendly nod, and King adjusted his eye patch nervously. “They’ve no leaders anymore,” he continued “so the people have taken to the streets in panic. I’ve ordered our Angels to secure the plaza. No one will leave until we have declared the new administration.”  
“What about your followers from Shades Alley?” asked Koch. “Will they be rewarded now that they have freed themselves from tyranny?”
King ignored him and instead approached the cot.
“So this is her,” King smiled, gripping the barrier with his giant’s hands, “we meet at last. You’re beautiful.”
The Countess leaned over the cot as well and stared thoughtfully at the baby. Koch and King watched them in silence, and shared troubled glances. There was a moment when they both thought that she might fall off her feet. King even moved in to steady her, but she raised a hand.
“I am fine.”
He bowed a little.
“Koch, I need you to dig out all of the prototypes you started on the vortex technology.”
“My lady?”
“Do you remember when I ordered you to recreate the vortex manipulator I lost?”
“Well yes of course, my lady, but I stalled the project when I realised that all of my attempts were redundant. If you could only find the original then perhaps…”
“The original is gone, most likely destroyed. I need you to put a new one together with what we have here.”
Koch scratched his head. “I will try of course, but the technology is vastly superior to anything I have ever seen before.”
“Well of course it is,” the Countess sighed, “but I’m sure you will manage. There should be something in the blueprints for the Iron Angels. When they were first commissioned the Furia Sisterhood wanted to send them back in time to kill our enemies.”
Koch began pulling out several unfinished objects from the surrounding shelves. “Yes I remember you telling me about the Chronos incident, my lady. Such a tragedy that you never heard back from that particular Angel…”
“The Chronos was lost and with it, one plot of the resistance failed. That’s all that mattered.”
“And what of the people of Doggerland, my lady?” asked Koch. “They await their Countess.”
“King?” she turned to her loyal commandant. “What is your plan?”
“Public execution, my lady.”
“Oh whom? All of our enemies are dead.” She suddenly noticed that King was staring at Koch. It was much in the manner that a python stares at a rat.
“Oh don’t be preposterous,” the old professor shook his head.
“They need a signal of changed times,” King said loudly as the baby whelped, “and you are the only member of the League left alive, Koch. It’s only right. We execute you in the plaza in front of everyone and then you can resurrect as before, but you will have to of course spend the rest of your days here in the Courts. You will not be allowed to be seen in public. The people must believe that all members of the League of Iron are dead. It is the only way to begin anew without fear of reprisal or vengeance.”
“And I suppose that the hypocrisy here doesn’t matter?” Koch argued. “You, King, created the League of Iron. It’s hardly my fault that you chose your successors poorly.”
“You lot were supposed to work together,” King sighed, “but instead you fought like children and condemned the city to ruin. We gave you the gift of leadership and you abused it. That is not my fault, Koch.”
But Koch raised a silencing finger.
“Ah, but we still managed to overthrow you didn’t we? Oh yes, King. Do you remember? We banished you to the pits of Shades Alley. I wouldn’t call that completely disastrous…”
King suddenly snatched Koch’s finger, and then snapped it clean off. Koch screamed and dropped to his knees, cradling his blood-spurting finger stump. The baby wailed to the Countess’s dismay. She pushed between them and scooped the baby up into her arms, soothing her.
“I was never exiled, professor. I merely went on vacation. I never expected you kids to wreck the house whilst I was away!”
“Enough,” she ordered them.
“My lady,” Koch shrieked, “he’s not fit to rule! He’s a mad man!”
“And down here under the waves that makes him the expert,” she added as she carried the baby back to the doorway, “just remember, Koch, that this child should never have been brought down here. It was only when Susie appeared in the plaza did I realise that the League was keeping this secret from me. I had to hide amongst the people to discover the truth. You, Bathory, Valculga and One-Shoe all kept her in secrecy and – since they all died to protect that lie – the final punishment falls upon your shoulders.” Koch processed this. He squeezed the stump with his fist and watched in agony as the blood ran between his fingers and down his paled knuckles.
“My lady, in truth, we feared that you might kill her…”
The Countess turned. The baby rubbed her head against her neck.
“Why would I kill this girl?”
King grabbed Koch by the collar and heaved him up onto his feet.
“Because,” Koch coughed, “because of your programming, my lady. You were assigned the task of killing every enemy of the Triangle were you not?”  
“He’s a clever one isn’t he?” King remarked. “He talks about it like he was there.”
Koch pushed himself free of King’s grasp, taking sanctuary on the opposite side of the cot. The Countess rolled her eyes. He took a couple of steps towards her.
“Once Bathory captured Susie and cut the child out of her I feared a reckoning. I also feared for the child’s safety. A paradox would ensue and all that we have built would die in an instant. The child’s safety is imperative.”
The Countess regarded him with an icy glare.
“Oh Koch,” she said. “You have no idea what you have done.”
After a moment spent staring into the baby’s eyes the Countess closed her eyes and considered every option available to her.
“King is right. You will suffer public execution for disobeying me and contributing to this whole mess. You will be bound to the Courts for your disloyalty and that will be the end of it.”
“But my lady, I was never disloyal. I couldn’t find you. I tried but you had hidden yourself away! I wanted to tell you about the baby!”
The Countess raised her free hand again, shoving Laski into her pocket.
“Enough lies, please, spare me.”
King followed Koch around the cot and snatched him up.
“Take him to the plaza,” she commanded. “Make your example of him to the people and then declare your full allegiance to me. Everyone else will fall in line.”
“That’s the plan,” King agreed as he apprehended Koch again.
“But to be bound here forever?” he said. “I can never leave the Courts once I resurrect?”
“Trust me, professor. Soon that will be the least of your problems.” King shoved him towards the doorway. The Countess watched as he frogmarched Koch out of there like a prisoner of war.

**

It was raining hard by the time CJ had escaped from the Constantine Wharfs. Sea water leaked down from the crevices of the domed ceiling as she marched alongside various others. Everyone was heading towards the plaza. It was a mixed assortment of horrors from the few surviving mutants of the Vertigo Core to the insectoid remnants of One-Shoe’s locust army. Without their leaders the armies had fallen into peaceful disarray. A mysterious calling had been made for every one of them to regroup at the plaza. CJ pulled her cloak up tightly, hiding her identity in the shadows of the hood as the rest flowed behind her like a cape. Kazumi chinked a little as she strode.
The plaza was full. It seemed that every horde had answered the call. The Iron Angels lined the exits. It seemed that in her absence they had fallen under new leadership, and she caught various conversations amongst the people as she passed. It looked like Finchy’s warnings had been earnest. The elusive Countess had returned to Doggerland. CJ pushed her way through the crowd and towards an obstruction between the two largest staircases. The Iron Angels there were constructing something out of the wooden barriers once used to barricade the public house. As she drew nearer CJ started to connect the dots.
They were nailing together a long frame. No, she thought, a scaffold…
It was moments like this that her telepathy would come in handy. Damn the maelstrom!
“Hey,” she said quietly to whoever was nearest, “what is it?”
“Where’ve you been hiding, girl?” said a man. He was the sort who looked capable and she suspected that there was a face buried beneath all of the hair. “King has taken over.”
“But what is it?” she nodded to the scaffold.
“Gallows.”
For some reason her heart sank deep down into her body. She watched as the Iron Angels raised the frame and fixed ropes to each end, looped them around and formed a noose each.
“For whom?”
 
**

Bathory was a corpse. Yet she was standing close to a window and peering down at the submerged towers as they reached out of the dark chasm below. The view from the Bathory Courts had always been … SMACK! Bathory collapsed onto her front.
Susie stood over her wielding a fire extinguisher. The nurse scrambled to collect her rotting limbs. She moved sluggishly, as if movement was as new to her as freedom. Susie meanwhile was fresh out of mercy. Susie swung the fire extinguisher as if she was CJ and it was Kazumi. It was hard, fast and brutal. Bathory’s corpse cut back, cowering against the cracked window panes. She raised her pincer-sharp fingers to cover her face.
Susie watched the moving-cadaver tremble.
“Why won’t you die?” yelled Susie. She lifted the fire extinguisher high above her head. Bathory didn’t answer. She didn’t even look up. Susie took this as an insult and launched the extinguished down. Bathory flinched and groaned.
“Susie,” the nurse finally croaked with obvious fear as the object crashed down to her left. The voice sounded different somehow, strangely more masculine than before. Susie pulled out her combat knife.
“Susie…” pleaded the corpse of Bathory. Susie waited, and then grew impatient, and then snatched at Bathory’s stringy hair and towed her effortlessly into the middle of the hallway. Susie shoved the corpse’s head down to the floor panels, holding her combat knife tightly against the back of the nurse’s neck. That was when she noticed that the skin was greyed and bloodless, and the blue veins beneath had run dry hours ago. Still, Susie pressed the blade down. Translucent bodily juices began to escape down the edge of the knife.
“Susie,” said the voice again. It was gargling, like there was still blood trapped in the nurse’s throat. But it was stern. “I am n…”
“What?” interjected Susie. “What is it?”
“Not…”
“What?!”
“I…am…not…her.”
Susie glared with silent rage.
“What?”
“I am not…her!”
The moving-corpse pushed up, shoving Susie hard against the window panes. Bathory’s bones cracked and moaned as her corpse threw itself onto its legs. Her limbs hung lifelessly, without colour or substance. Her green-brown eyeballs rolled wildly in their sockets, her pupils displaced, fighting for focus. Susie just watched. Nothing came as a surprise to her anymore. She steadied herself and raised the knife again. This whole situation was bizarre. Bathory was dead but Bathory was still up and walking around. Susie took in a deep breath and cleared her mind. She had learned throughout her many adventures that you had to confront every alien problem in the same way… So she tried to approach it as P90 would.
“Okay,” she said coldly, showing the knife but at a safe distance, “alright. Something’s possessed the body, I understand. I think… So who are you and why are you in control of her carcass?” The moving-corpse forced out a series of words in immediate response, before grunting and then putting them together into a sentence. It wrapped Bathory’s surgical mask over its jaw, hiding the grotesque mutilations beneath.
“I helped you in Paris,” it spoke gradually, stumbling and stopping and stuttering. “You helped me find my Cammi.”
Susie could not pull away her glare. She opened her mouth and held it open.
“Anton,” said Susie, finally. “But how?”
“They call me Subject 12. But I escaped, and I found you, and I found this corpse, and stepped inside it. I can’t help as a ghost.”
Susie tried to think about it rationally all of a sudden. “But you are a ghost,” she said to him with grave sadness, “because this is impossible.”
“I must have been abducted from my own time…”
“No,” Susie interrupted as the truth of this brutal world suddenly surfaced in her head. “No, you weren’t abducted.”
She lowered the knife. Things were finally piecing themselves together. The mystery of Doggerland had been long, but now it was solved.
“What?” the corpse mouthed.
“I found Koch’s reports about the population of Doggerland,” Susie explained slowly, “it was only a few minutes ago in the lab. I found out the reality of this place. We need to find CJ. I know how to end this, how to shut this place down forever.”
“What…truth?”
Susie paused and thought about how to word it.
“Copies,” she said. “The prisoners have been cloned from people the League abducted from the surface. They don’t have time travel technology. They could never go back in time and kidnap someone from a different time period, not without a significant device and then unlimited power for it. This place is falling apart. Look at it. They don’t have that kind of technology, nowhere near. But they had a city, but no people. So they made monstrosities and sent them to the world above, and kidnapped people from their homes along the coast. But they knew that the enforcers of England would grow suspicious and come looking, so they cloned their captives, wiped their memories and sent them home. No one got hurt except the clones.”
Bathory’s corpse found itself staring blankly out of the windows again, down towards the tragic ruins of the Doggerland that could have been.
“You have memories, right? Do you remember Mapp?”
Subject 12 did not react.
“Well,” Susie continued regardless, “when he first dropped me off in the twenty-first century I obsessed about Paris, about that day my whole world changed. I read up on the aftermath, of the revolution, of those who escaped to England, and I was so relieved to find the name Anton was amongst them and Cammi with it.”
“I lived with Cammi and Edward,” the corpse groaned longingly, “he was my son.”
Susie waited for him to fully grasp what she was trying to tell him.
“Anton lived until the ripe old age of eighty-four, and left behind a legacy of one son and four beautiful grandchildren. I even had Dray double-check the findings. He still has descendants living in England to this day. A family of them lives along the eastern coast, in a town called Aldeburgh.”
Subject 12 clicked Bathory’s tongue, and then forced out some more words: “What… What are you trying to say?”
“Somewhere along the line it wasn’t enough for the League of Iron just to control a population. Someone decided that Doggerland needed a new species, a perfect species that could one day challenge the people who lived above the waves. It wasn’t Koch’s idea but he was in on it, and he knew all about the Cantina from his days as Secretary of Defence. He proposed that the monstrosities should hunt for Cantina members on the surface.”
“But I am not a Cantina member,” struggled Subject 12. “I am Anton.”
“They found Anton’s grave and exhumed the bones,” Susie tried to control her quivering bottom lip. “I’m so sorry, but that’s where you came from. They grew you from Anton’s remains, because they couldn’t find any Cantina members so they moved onto the next best thing instead, which was you. You helped us in Paris. For a time you were one of us, and Anton, it was our honour.”
She watched as Bathory’s knife-fingers flexed and scratched the glass. It made Susie anxious. Perhaps, she thought, I shouldn’t have told him this so close to a window…
“If this is true,” the corpse groaned, “then how do you know that you are not a copy?”
It was something she had thought about since escaping the lab, but only one thing stuck in her mind.
“I’m not. I’m not a copy. I’m sorry. But I can’t spare the time to help you, but I need you to help me. I need you to help me find my baby.”

**

Music filled the plaza. Frank Sinatra.
King appeared on the scaffold first. His very presence aroused the denizens. For some reason there came a booming applause. He spread his arms as if giving out a victorious bear hug to all of them which the crowd welcomed with a series of cheers. CJ kept her hood down and remembered what Finchy had first told her about this man. King, the underdog of the League, was now in power.
The Iron Angels formed a barrier in front of the gallows as two more dragged out Koch in chains.
The cheering soon descending into angry cries for blood. King gestured his mechanical servants away and ushered Koch towards the noose himself. He even took the liberty of fastening it around the professor’s neck. At first Koch did not protest. He seemed to be preoccupied with his hand, which was bandaged heavily. CJ followed King with her eyes as the mad man tightened the rope as best he could and then gave Koch a reassuring slap on the back.
He stepped away.
“Welcome my people,” King took centre stage, “to the end of one era and the beginning of another! I offer you Professor Josef Koch of the infamous, and recently retired, League of Iron. He stands before you not as your leader but as a prisoner, at your very mercy. This man is responsible for the deaths of myriad and even more untold. It was he who led the revolt and inspired his colleagues to go against the Countess.”
“Wait – what?” Koch broke his silence.
“In this man’s clutches this city befell a crisis which may well have shattered its very foundations,” King continued after one of the Iron Angels suddenly gagged Koch, “and when he learned that I had risen up with my brothers from the dark reaches of Shades Alley, this man ordered the destruction of the Vertigo Core in order to topple any chance we had of surviving. This was all after, of course, he faked his death and tricked Valculga the Great into Celestial Heights to be murdered by his most trusted advisors. But we persevered. We fought back and found him cowering in one of the empty brothels near the Constantine Wharfs.”
CJ noticed many of the mutants, giants in the crowd; share a series of uncomfortable glances. Laughter ensued from the crowd. She watched Koch intensely as the Iron Angel tied his hands behind his back. He’s been tricked, she thought. He’s so afraid…
“This,” King silenced the crowd again as he held up a small device in his hands. CJ recognised the design immediately. “This is a detonator. You see, my people, Josef here has several ways of returning even if we kill him today. But I will not allow you to be lied to anymore. I will renew my loyalty to you by doing this.” He pushed the switch. The plaza trembled a little as a great something roared from outside the various windows. Out in the chasm of the city, the innermost tower exploded and then became consumed by the ocean. It all happened so fast.
Koch watched in absolute horror.
“Celestial Heights is no more,” King said loudly, and then turned to his prisoner. The plaza came to life with immense applause. It even made the walls rumble. CJ focused her everything on the two men. Whatever remained of her telepathy stretched out and caught a final, personal whisper between the two.
“You promised me,” she heard Koch struggle through the gag. “You promised me!”
King slapped him hard with the back of his hand.
“But the Countess…”
“The Countess,” said King as he squeezed Koch’s shoulder, “well it’s really not her decision. You should have begged for mercy upstairs, brother. I had my men place the charges at specific points in your labs. You see, your resurrection chambers aren’t destroyed. They’re just completely submerged. Do you know what that means? It means that when you wake up in one of your new bodies you’ll drown, and then you’ll resurrect again, and then you’ll drown, and then again and again, and again. I call it a special kind of gift to the man who ordered my exile. I answer your treason not with the peace of death, but with the agony of eternal life.” King smiled into Koch’s eyes and then stepped away again, leaving the professor to regard the crowd in a cruel silence. CJ smelled his fear.
He stared out to the people of Doggerland and they met his fate with overwhelming joy.
CJ was shaking under her cloak. She had seen much brutality in her time, but this… It was the end of the era and the promise of glory that compelled them, to be forgiven for their sins, to be rewarded for their loyalty to the new regime. It made her feel sick to the stomach.
She stepped back into the crowd and surrounded herself. At this point she wanted anything other than to be recognised. Hours ago and CJ would have fought tooth and nail for the freedoms of these people. Hours ago and the world was a very different place.
For some reason she could not comprehend this, and so could not watch.
Koch was staring beyond the crowd with watery eyes. Metres away, King raised a hand. Everything stalled as if the whole world was freezing over. It didn’t happen for about a minute. King made them wait for it.
When the time came he gave someone, somewhere, a signal.
The platform beneath Koch dropped away. The noose caught him by the neck.
The scream he unleashed was anything but human. His body spasmed. It all ended in a climactic snap, which rang out like a war cry throughout the streets.
Finchy was right after all, thought CJ as she backed quietly out of the crowd and towards the nearest exit. I need to find Susie and leave.

**

“God damn it, King!” The Countess was enraged. The baby wailed.
After a moment she looked down at the little girl in her arms again, and smiled the terrible world away. Suddenly a muffled noise erupted from her pocket. She lifted Laski out and spread open his pages.
“So how did you do it?” he asked.
She sighed.
“Do what, Laski?”
“How did you overcome your programming?”
“Do you want to see?”
The Spirit Edge hung from her belt loyally.
“Just tell me,” he said. “You were taken to New Gallifrey and given a new identity in the Furia Sisterhood as the Countess. The Duchess programmed you to hunt down and destroy all enemies of the empire in the name of the Empress whilst they were busy trying to track down the Empress.”
“And that’s what I did,” she said, “for a good six months. I blindly followed their doctrine and killed many. Whilst I raged our secret war across the empire my sisters searched for the Empress, and Elle.”
“And then?”
“And if they had eventually found her then that’s where I’d be,” said the Countess unemotionally. “They managed to find out more information about her however, about where she had been and the people she had met after Terra, but nothing concrete. Not that it mattered. I’d already been hypnotised into fighting for other things. It wasn’t until I was ordered to kill King that I realised what was happening.”
“Did the memories just come back to you?”
“No. King and I fought and he hit me really hard on the back of the head, with a shovel I think,” she confessed as she squeezed the baby’s palm comfortingly. Susie’s daughter grunted a little as the Countess gently rubbed the sole of her tiny, tiny hand. “I still took the bastard’s eye though. When I woke up afterwards though I was me again, and together we took the fight back to New Gallifrey. The Furia Sisterhood had deceived me so I was intent on wiping them all out. By that point however the rest of the empire’s forces were converging near Midna. Rumours had spread that the Cantina was returning to the galaxy so everyone just left everything and went to see if it was true. The Furia Sisterhood took full control of New Gallifrey in the void that had been leftover, until King and I arrived and killed the bloody lot of them.”
Laski gulped, loudly.
“The Baroness did tell me something interesting before she died though,” the Countess added with sudden severity, “she had found some old records in the ruins of Terra. One of them was about Elle.”
“What about her?” Laski asked as the Countess returned to the cot and slowly placed the baby inside. The young girl grunted again and slowed her movements, closing her little beady baby eyes. “An orphan,” the Countess said, “Elle was an orphan like me.”
“But she had a family on Terra,” interjected Laski, “I saw them. Decimus was her father.”
“No,” she continued, “not her real father anyway. The records said that a baby was found in the mines, alone in one of the tunnels. As master of the mines how could Decimus refuse? He was about to leave work one day when he followed the sound of a crying baby…”
The Countess stared off into the black eternity of the sea. “The worst part was that Elle never told me. That’s the part I could never figure out. Why didn’t she tell me? I could have helped her.”
“Perhaps she didn’t know,” Laski suggested. “Perhaps Decimus never told her the truth. When he adopted her she became his daughter, from that moment onwards.”
The Countess dipped her head as the baby fell to sleep.
“Perhaps.”
“And after you butchered the Furia sisters. What then?”
“King and I were surrounded by Iron Angels,” she said. “There was only one way out. We fought our way to the initiation chambers and managed to steal a vortex manipulator. At first we thought it was just a simple teleport device, and then we materialised in a smoking swamp surrounded by giant dinosaurs.”
Laski would have shook his head if he had a head. “Dinosaurs you say?”
“Giant reptiles from Earth’s past,” she added. “That was a hard week. After that we managed to get the vortex manipulator working again.”
“I don’t understand, Aila. Why didn’t you return to the future to find Elle?”
“Because Elle wasn’t in the future anymore,” she said slowly, “the last intel I found before we escaped New Gallifrey said that the resistance was experimenting with time travel. Instead of facing the Triangle head on, the rebels were trying to avert the future. They thought that if they could go back and change things in the past, then the future would change and the Triangle would never have existed.”
“The Chronos,” said Laski. “Oh my God… I was there!”
“The Chronos was just their first attempt, Laski. Rahim used that loss as incentive to continue his research. As for the Baroness, well, she lied to me when she realised I was a better killer than her. That was her first mistake.”
“That’s why you killed her,” Laski muttered.
“I killed her because she’d already found Elle and didn’t tell me.”
“What?”
“Rahim had sent Elle back in time. She had become an agent and was going to change the future.”
Laski thought about this in silence.
“But she was just a girl,” he finally said. “Surely she was too young to become a soldier!”
“Apparently she didn’t seem to think so,” the Countess smiled slightly, “but needless to say my search led me across time, and I found her. I finally found her.”
The bomb dropped. Laski was in awe.
“Oh no.”
“Just not in the way I ever expected.”
“But it can’t be! It’s not possible! Susie’s…”
“Shh,” the Countess said as the child cried some more from the cot. Aila even shed a tear. “I love you more than you can ever know.”
“Step away from her!” Susie roared.
The Countess looked up, hands-raised. She dropped Laski on the floor. She eyed Susie with a glare that had toppled an empire, and then stopped as the corpse of Bathory staggered in, finger-blades lifted like knives.
“What in the hell…” the Countess had to stop herself from backing away.
Subject 12 dived onto her before she could react. Susie turned to her daughter and – finally – picked her up. She hurried to the edge of the lab, shoving Laski into her pocket and turning in time to see Subject 12 slashing violently at their mutual enemy. The Countess fought back, screaming out desperately, but she was fighting something with limited weaknesses. The baby screamed back. The corpse was strong, somehow. It made no sense. The Countess caught glance of Susie beyond, backing off with her daughter in her arms at long last. All of the struggles had been worth it.
“No,” Aila screamed away her title. “Give her back to me!” She clawed at Bathory’s corpse which clawed back. The battle was bloody and Susie cared not to see how it would end. With her daughter closely in tow and Laski faithfully under arm she ran and ran. She kept running until the screaming was far behind her and then ran some more, possessed by her own maternal strength.
“It’s okay,” she said to her daughter. “Shh, it’s all okay now, precious.”
“Susie…” said Laski. “Oh Susie.”
“I won’t believe it, Laski.”
“But…”
“Laski, shut up!”
“Okay, but the Countess is determined. If your child is who she says she is.”
“She isn’t. The Countess is deluded. That’s all. We’re going to get out of here today!”
“So she’s insane then,” Laski’s pages glowed in agreement. “And what if she follows us?”
“She won’t.”
“Susie, how can you know that?”
“Because we’re going to destroy this place with her still inside,” Susie said as she ran into the elevator.
“But we have no weapons,” Laski said. “No plan.”
“We’ll find a way. We have to find a way. I promise you,” Susie said to the both of them, “this all ends today!” The elevator doors slammed shut and started to drop down the shaft to the city-wide soundtrack of Frank Sinatra. My Way.
As Susie kissed her daughter on the forehead, everything that had happened here flashed before her. Being mutilated by Bathory and her surgeons, being dumped on Blue Moon Street, reuniting with CJ and joining the fight against the League of Iron, forging her alliance with the false Elle… Beating the hell out of Koch, and picking up her baby.
It took her a long moment to realise that she was sobbing. There was something on the air, a feeling of emptiness and a gust of foreboding. She had felt this once before, in caverns beneath the Earth’s surface, in those dark moments before her husband died.
It was ending soon, all of it.
But oh she knew, that someone was going to die.
CJ returns to the plaza after the destruction of the Vertigo Core and witnesses the regime take hold of the city. Meanwhile the Countess reveals her true unstoppable nature as Susie brings to fight to her doorstep.
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© 2013 - 2021 mappalazarou
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