After Hemelshot departed for HQ, the remaining elements of 9th squad returned to the Rutger Bridge and began creating a safe perimeter for whatever emergency response eventually materialized. They all had a feeling it would be a long time coming. Yiska was busy, interfacing, communing, or whatever it was he did, with the Hive Mind, but took some 'real time' to come back and use his telekinesis to build some heavy barricades out of the wrecked vehicles scattered around the scene. When Yiska wasn't available, Brogan filled in for him. Tyger and Jama were on lookout for Entities.
For a while, everyone was rather busy, fighting stragglers; Entities still on the hunt, not realizing they had become the hunted. Scanner was still with them as well, refusing to leave Yiska, or just looking for more Entities to kill—Brogan wasn't sure. He found it fascinating to watch her take one of the creatures down. It was different for her; an act of pleasure. Brogan took a certain satisfaction from killing entities, but it was nothing like the rush Scanner seemed to get from doing it. Why the difference? Maybe it's because she's still got working 'equipment', and I don't. Brogan thought about that for a moment... an Entity with hormones? God help you, Yiska!
Brogan was stacking wrecked cars when an Entity nearly caught him off-guard. At the last minute he squashed it with the only weapon he had. Across the street Scanner watched a class II Entity quiver and die underneath a crumpled compact. She shook her head slowly, sadly, "You're really hopeless, Half-man." He heard Yiska laughing, somewhere.
Tyger made his way along the streets with his teammates with an eerie, foreboding quietness. His shoulders were slumped and his back was bowed as if he were carrying a great weight, well, a weight that was heavier than the many magazines of ammunition he carried for his assault rifle, GyroJet, and maser at any rate.
He dispatched Entities of all sorts without any form of emotion. A short burst from his rifle at a small pack of Class Is here, several very well placed shots with his keen marksmanship with both pistols at a wounded Class II there. He did it all without word, laugh, or glee.
Normally, the clade would be reveling in the ability to cut loose as he was. But he seemed distant somehow. As if his body were present and merely reacting to the situations around it on sheer reflex alone. Even the cigarette in his mouth was left mostly ignored as it simply smoldered slowly, releasing the ashes when they became too heavy or were jostled by his movements.
A Class II Entity leapt at him from the shadows, squealing it's hatred and lust for bloodshed as it devoured the distance between itself and Tyger. There was no reaction of surprise. No curse of anger. Only cold reaction. One hand twisted the assault rifle up and unleashed a hail of bullets at the creature as it descended upon him. His maser flew into his other hand as if he simply willed it there as the assault rifle stitched bullets over the creature's chest.
One, two, three energy bolts were pumped into the Entity, causing it's painful demise in mid-leap. Only the sheer momentum of the leap kept the creature descending towards the clade, who sidestepped the corpse dispassionately as it landed with a gurgling, wet thud. The only reaction from Tyger as the beast began its rapid decomposition was to flick a couple of ashes in its general direction after holstering his maser.
The victory brought nothing from Tyger. He simply continued to monitor the area for further stragglers, or thought he would make an easy kill. If he was aware of what the others were doing, he did not show it, nor did he seem to really care.
Eventually, the fighting slowed down as the remaining Entities were killed off or went elsewhere for easier prey, and the perimeter was completed. But HQ still didn't have an ETA for emergency services, so everyone hunkered down to wait. It would be dark in a couple of hours....
And Brogan finally had time to do some serious thinking. "Jama, when Cadbury asked you to take her place, did she mean "Defender of Angelus", or did she want you to be the next Director of X-SWAT as well?"
Sitting on the hood of a mostly flat spinner, Jama considered the question deeply. She was tired, more tired than she'd even been before, and felt utterly drained and exhausted. The day's events seemed almost like a dream and even now, hours later, she was still trying to come to grips with that she'd seen and heard.
"I..." she started than rubbed her face with her hands. "I'm not sure Malachi," she answered. "She told me 'I can't think of anyone better to take my place when I am gone. You know how to balance power with responsibility, duty with honor.' Perhaps she was speaking literarily and she meant for me to take her place as Director of XSWAT, or she was simply referring to her duties as Defender and Protector of Angelus." Jama paused and closed her eyes for a moment. "Malachi, the seal hasn't closed all the doorways from this world to the other, nor will it keep the determined from calling up more Entities if they wish. There will still need to be an XSWAT... perhaps one with more trust in magicians such as myself."
"Yeah, I think I see what you mean." Brogan lowered his voice conspiratorially. At this point, he wasn't sure if anyone at the scene had any recording devices in operation—that was Hart's mistake—or if the Hive Mind was listening in on their conversation through Yiska's ears. He supposed they'd find out about everything, eventually, and his plans would go forward with their blessing, or not at all.
"The question, Jama, is this: Do you want the job? The Lieutenant's right, Cadbury didn't have the authority to name her own successor. But you've got all the authority you need—on that chip I gave you. All you have to do is use it."
There was a long moment while Jama stared at her hands, loosely clasped together in her lap. On one hand Brogan's suggestion seemed utterly absurd. Her, a mere 24 year-old rookie, in charge of Angelus XSWAT? Everyone would laugh! But then Cadbury's words came to her... 'I can't think of anyone better to take my place when I'm gone.' Cadbury had been no fool. She'd made her plans carefully and with much attention to detail. She'd selected Jama the same way she'd selected all the other members of 9th Squad: only after through consideration. Ninth Squad had been assembled for a purpose, this purpose. To defend Angelus in time of its greatest need. And now that she was gone, now that Angelus was safe (well, safer) there would be a need for someone to carry on in her stead and in her memory.
She looked up, her eyes clear, her gaze steady. "On one hand I feel I'm not ready, that I'm still too new, too inexperienced. On the other, I think of what we have done, what we have seen, what we have fought, and know that no other possible Director could even hope to understand such things. I enjoy field work...." she glanced at the wreckage about her and smiled, "Honestly I do, but I realize that XSWAT will need someone who understands our mission. What is means to us, as officers, to XSWAT, to Angelus, and to the world."
"Malachi? Would you accept me as Director?"
"Jama, I've got a decision to make. I fully expected to be dead, several times over now, but for some damn reason I'm still here. So, do I stay on the force, or what? If they put one of Hart's clot-head internal affairs cronies in charge, I'm gone. HELL YES! I'd accept you as Director. First and Last and Always. And if you won't blackmail Hart to get the job, I'll do it for you."
Brogan's tone of voice sounded indignant, almost hurt. "Would I accept you... what a question! After all we've been through, I'm shocked you'd ask me that, Jamadigni Renuka! And I'll tell you what—anyone has a problem with that, they'll have to answer to me!" He crossed his arms, scowled and nodded his head emphatically.
Then Brogan glanced to either side of him, at Tyger and Yiska. "Present company excepted, of course...."
Tyger gave a barely perceptible shrug of his shoulders at the question and at Brogan's response. "Do what you want..." he murmured softly. His eyes were downcast slightly, and both his voice and body seemed slightly slumped and deflated as he stood there. "...I don't care. Won't bring mom back...."
He turned from the group slowly and stepped off towards the edge of the bridge, leaning against the railing.
Jama stood, as if to speak, then paused and hung her head. "He blames me... and he has every right to."
Brogan looked back and forth between Tyger and Jama. His breath hissed between his teeth. Once. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Twice. He really needed to calm down. Three times. Oh, to hell with it....
"Am I the only sane person left in this whole God-forsaken City?!"
"Nobody's to blame for what happened to Cadbury. It was her decision, and nobody could talk her out of it—she pulled rank on all of us, remember? The choice was hers, and hers alone. And I don't want to hear another damn word about anyone else getting blamed for it."
"Now, get back over here, Snowball, I'm not done talking to you!"
Tyger looked over his shoulder and flicked the remains of his cigarette away. "Did I say I was blaming anyone for Alice's death? I don't recall sayin' anything like that at all." Tyger turned away from the group once more and looked out across the scenery. "I never had a mom...or dad or any sort of family. XSWAT and this team is it. As much as I hated her at times, Alice was the closest thing I ever had to a mom. If I was actually blaming anyone for her death, you all would know about it because I would hunt them down and make them regret the day they were born."
There was a brief moment of silence from the clade then. He turned to glower at Brogan from over his shoulder, spitting at the ground before he started talking. "Fuck off metal head. Who said I wanted to talk to you in the first place? Just leave me alone."
"Brogan, just leave Tyger alone. There's no talking to him when he gets like this—just ask Carpenter." Yiska shakes his head and walks over to Jama and sits down on the wrecked spinner next to her. "You know, Jama, one of my most endearing traits is the ability to stay positive and look on the bright side of things."
Jama blinked at that and looked at the esper.
"Well, it is. For instance I think that this white hair makes me very sophisticated looking." He pauses to strike 'the thinker' pose. "And now take for instance Cadbury's sacrifice this evening. In addition to her, all these fine people here died as well." He points towards the mangled corpses and the screaming and dying at the medical facilities. "I dare say Cadbury had an easier time of it than these poor folk. 'Giving up the ghost' is probably a lot easier than 'eaten by a ghost.'"
"Yiska...." Jama said slowly, her expression a mixture of confusion and disbelief, "I don't know what you're trying to do, but you're not really helping."
"Well, I guess I suck at cheering people up. I know you need time to work through the grief Jama... but we have a world to grieve in. That's something that you can take comfort in. We still have a home and we still have love, Jama. Just remember that we all love you."
Her expression softened as she heard the sincerity in Yiska's words. Leaning forward, Jama rested her head against Yiska's shoulder. "Thank you," she whispered.
There's some commotion over by the medical facilities. Some spinners firing up their thrusters.
"Well, it looks like they're getting ready to move the critical to a hospital. Jama why don't you go make sure Carpenter doesn't try to kill Satan on his way to the hospital, ok? It'll help keep your mind off of things here."
"Kill...." Jama stood and glanced back at the esper. "Yiska he hasn't moved since we pulled him from the crater. Do you think he'll be all right? He looks so pale."
Yiska stands and stretches a bit. "If I can make a poor, irrelevant metaphor, Carpenter is in the penalty box for checking Gozer. He'll be out of the Hospital in no time." He smiles at Jama, "It'll take more than armageddon to get Carpenter."
"I wish I could share you optimism." Jama shook her head and started for the flashing lights of the emegency spinners.
Yiska walks over to the railings where Tyger is brooding and smoking. He puts his elbows on the rail, and lets out a long breath. "You know I buried my parents when I was 13."
Tyger shoots a dark glance towards Yiska. "Never said I wanted to talk to you either. Go away."
"That's right. They knew too much. Had to kill them to cover my tracks." Yiska says with a poker face.
"What part of 'Go Away' did you not get?" Tyger growled as he flicked his cigarette at Yiska. "Do I need to throw 'fuck' in there somewhere? Fine. Go. The fuck. Away" He folded his arms and turned from his squadmate, glowering hatefully at the still burning city.
"I'm just messing with you, Tyger." Yiska laughs. "Or am I?" He says with a straight face again. "Actually, my dad was an alcoholic, and we got into an accident. Both my parents and the family in the other car died. I woke up in the hospital with the ability to move things with my mind. Talk about a change."
So? You want a cookie or something? My earliest memory is waking up after being pulled aboard a pirate ship. I should have drowned, but I didn't. Instead, I got to be their bloody mascot until they found out I could fly. Whoop de-fuckin'-doo." His words were accompanied by a mocking gesture before he pulled out a pack of cigarettes.
"The point is Tyger, we're supposed to bury our parents. It's the way of things. That's been going on for thousands upon thousands of years. It doesn't make it easy, or right even, but it's what happens. The main thing is to remember them, okay?" Yiska gives Tyger a pat on the shoulder. "It'll be alright buddy."
"Yeah...sure. Whatever." Tiger grumbled as he moved his shoulder, tugging himself away from Yiska and lighting a cigarette. "Just leave me the hell alone."
Yiska takes a few steps closer to Brogan. "And if your problem is not being dead yet, well..." Yiska cracks his neck and knuckles. "There's a real easy solution for that." He says with a grin.
Brogan spared Yiska a sharp glance. "There's nothing easy about it. There's a difference between 'not being dead' and 'still being alive.' Like figuring out where I go from here. At least now I'll have to think it over...."
With an exasperated grimace, Brogan wiped the excess rain from his face and walked back over to Jama. Forcing himself to calm down, he spoke to her quietly. "Uh, Jama... is it just me, or is the whole squad going crazy here? Tyger's not blaming you for Cadbury's death, but you seem to be blaming yourself. This is like Silver Hills all over again—you felt like hell after that, but I remember what she told you then. You remember?"
Jama paused at the door of the spinner she was getting ready to board, the lights highlighting her face with bright flashes of color. She closed her eyes and look towards the clouds, apparently unmindful of the rain. "'Use what I've given you well'," she recites. "She has given us life, Malachi. We should not forget that."
Brogan nodded. "And I said we never know what the battle will cost, until it's over. Jama, we survived, we won, and now we have to count the cost. I'm sorry. Just...I hope you won't cheapen the sacrifices others chose to make by second-guessing them. It's not our place to ask 'Was it worth it?' It's up to us to make sure that it will be, in the end. We owe them that."
With a nod, Jama onc again hugged the tall cybog tightly as if trying to reassure herself of Malachi's existance.
It was time for Jama to go, and Brogan had nothing more to say. He stood in the rain, helpless to console or comfort her, as she climbed into the spinner and departed. Ninth Squad had become like a family to him, and now his family was in danger of falling apart. He wondered what would happen to them all. It was funny—Brogan never worried about the future, back when he thought he was dying.