Yiska: "So, Chromium, now that you're done trying to destroy the world, what's up?"
Brogan: "Heh. Nice to see you, too. Well, the world's still here, and strangely enough, so am I.
How's Raven? There's something I'd like to talk to her about. It might be important, and I was hoping you could arrange a meeting. Whatever's convenient for her, but I'd prefer a private conversation. I'm guessing you'll be there too, of course. That's fine."
Brogan seems... different, somehow... but it's hard to say what's changed, exactly. Perhaps his state of mind has improved, but then, it had nowhere to go but up, anyway.
Yiska could find out quite easily, but does he really want to be inside Brogan's head? <<<shudder>>>
Yiska: "Is this about the little 'passenger' you picked up in Omega?"
Brogan walked over to the equipment rack full of P-88's as they talked. When he turned around, Yiska noticed the radiation trefoil on the power pack and took a couple of steps away.
"Yeah. Just so you know, I got it before Omega, before I even joined X-SWAT. It happened about the same time I got 'borged. Anyway, I've already talked to X-SWATS's best sorceress and our favorite exorcist, and they came up with fuck-all."
Brogan continued as he carefully disconnected the massive particle beam from its power pack, and placed it on the rack. Then he shrugged off the straps and slipped the pack off. Yiska noticed the back off his clamshell sported some new artwork. Now, when had he had time to get that done?
Brogan continued, "Then I was at the Order's infirmary, and this thing's making everyone nervous as hell, when it hit me—the only ones who can deal with Entities are, well, Entities. What have I got to lose? This thing's gonna kill me, Yiska."
He switched off the P-88 power supply and a low, almost subliminal humming sound Yiska had barely noticed before slowly subsided. Brogan then hung it on another rack, next to several identical units and spare power cells with similar radiation warnings, closed the doors and latched them firmly shut.
"Assuming nothing else gets me first."
Yiska: "Brogan, personally? You lost when you got 'borged. You've cheated death and the natural order of things. T'would only be natural that death wants what's his back."
Brogan looked tired. "It was a tradeoff. I would have lived, but only as a blind, impotent, quadruple-amputee burn victim, probably with long-term Entity sickness. Cadbury offered me this, and a place in X-SWAT, to get some pay-back. Need I say it worked, both for her and for me?"
"So now let me get this straight, your 'little kiss of death' is only residing in your cybernetics, correct? I'm fairly certain it is separate from and not replacing your soul-space so to speak. So you've got an Entity possessing what would otherwise be meat-bags if your brain wasn't in charge of them. How do you know that the Entity is evil?"
Brogan shook his head. "I'm not so sure. The incident with the Entity actually happened before the cybernetics were added—I think it was already there. As for whether it's evil, who knows? It doesn't even seem to be self-aware. It's like some kind of parasite. Anyway, every Entity I've spoken to noticed this thing. I'm hoping your girl might be able to tell me something, so we won't have to guess."
Then a thought crossed Brogan's mind. Crossing Brogan's mind isn't a pleasant thing for a thought to do; it's dark and scary, so by the time it got where it was going, the thought in question was considerably worse off for making the trip.
He looked intently at Yiska. "Of course, being an esper, you could find out easily enough, couldn't you?"
"Not so much... It's like trying to speak English to a person who only speaks Chinese. Humans and Entities speak different "mental languages." And if its not a jolly fellow Entity, well, then there'll be complications. But yeah, lemme give her a call."
After Yiska's call, the brunette arrived. The first indication of her presence was a throaty chuckle, delivered as she leaned against the doorway, giving her long, silky black hair a toss over one shoulder. The girl's eyes were dark black, like a shark's... smoldering with intensity.
"Hi there, loverboy." She purred to Yiska, then glanced over Brogan. "What's up, halfman? Taking a break from playing with the nuclear weapons?" Her voice was a soothing contralto, her tone light and playful.
Brogan was deeply involved with something else when Raven arrived—sifting through the X-SWAT archives for information to use against the Hart Regime. He didn't notice Raven's arrival, so when she first spoke to him, he tensed up for a moment, then quickly cleared his screen.
Only Entities call me "Halfman." What the hell is Yiska thinking, bringing her/it down here? We should have taken this elsewhere. Too late now—Yiska trusts her, and I'll have to trust her up to a point, as I've done in the past. Well, in for a penny, in for a C-note.
"Angelus is a nuclear-free zone, Raven." He lowered his shades and winked at her. They were both among the few people who knew the 'radioactive' cover story about Omega sector for what it was. "I'm just a Volunteer doing my part to enforce the ban."
"Glad to hear it." Was her reply. The girl then shook her head. "You can call me Scanner." She told him, but stole any sting from the rebuke with a wide smile, teeth gleaming.
"Hey there yourself, goddess of the night." Yiska replied as he moved off the wall he was leaning on towards the center of the room.
Scanner grinned. "Flattery will get you everywhere."
Yiska arches an eyebrow, "I know. And unfortunately my friend's face here isn't doing him any favors, but he's got a unique problem you might be able to help him with."
Brogan observed Scanner and Yiska's exchange with a surreal admixture of curiosity, amusement, lust, rage, and other emotions he couldn't even name. He wasn't sure which feelings were his own, or those of his 'passenger,' but he was learning to control them. The little bastard was responding to Scanner's presence, and he should have expected that. Damn....
He looked back and forth between them. Was Yiska reading his mind now? Had this been a huge mistake? If there was anyone on 9th squad who might not trust him, it was the esper, with his seemingly intractable prejudice against cyborgs. Brogan had seen what Yiska was capable of, when he put his mind to it. Yiska could take him out—no contest. And now here he was, alone with Yiska. And an Entity. Too late to back out. Better stick with plan A, at least until hostilities broke out.
"Okay, Scanner. I think you've already noticed it. Underneath all this burned flesh and machinery, there's something else, and it's not human. You seemed to be aware of it, on some level, the first time we met in Omega Sector. You recognized it."
Brogan took a step towards Scanner and lowered his voice slightly. "This thing is killing me, slowly but surely, and contrary to popular belief..." he looked towards Yiska, "...I do not have a death wish. I want to know what you can tell me about this thing—like how to get rid of it."
Scanner tilted her head slightly to the left. "Well..." She drew the word out. "You're on the right track for most of it." She made sure to keep her distance from the cyborg, but raked her eyes over him. He could indeed feel something inside responding to her presence... like two cats raising hackles at each other in a dark alley.
"You're just like me. Neither fully human nor Entity." She informed him. "But you're wrong... it's not killing you. It's keeping you alive."
"Alive... No." Brogan staggered back in complete shock. "But that means I can't...." His world turned inside-out, and his skin tried to do the same. Something crawled underneath it, writhing uncontrollably. Brogan walked unsteadily over to a cabinet and leaned against it weakly. He took out his flask and drained it. Brogan took a few deep breaths and looked up at Scanner as his composure temporarily returned. God, he hated Entities. Even the beautiful ones were nothing but bad news.
"Alright, I don't like where this is going, but tell me the rest anyway, dammit."
Scanner watched the cyborg drink dispassionately. She put one gloved hand on the wall, crossing one ankle over the other with a studied casual air.
"My name used to be Royce Redman. I was a cat burglar." She smiled. "Well, a thief, any ways. I did pretty well for myself."
"Until I pushed my luck a little too far." Her smile faded. "A security system I missed... some neurotoxin..." She shrugged. "I died. Or, I should have died."
Her eyes studied Brogan. "I suspect you have a similar story."
"Yeah..." Brogan didn't like remembering. "An Entity tried to eat me. I set off a bomb, and it should have killed both of us. Afterwards, there didn't seem to be any trace of the Entity, and not much left of me. But the Entity's still here, somehow. That's the part I'm having trouble with, Scanner. What the hell happened to me?"
Scanner smirked. "What happened to you... to us... is that one of them took up residence." She quirks an eyebrow. "Actually, you're the first one I've ever met other than myself."
"Anyway, it's like this. Not all Entities are alike. Some just want to be left alone, like Jester. Others... like to prey on their own kind. One of those second types got into me. I think a younger, more immature one may have gotten into you... I can sense that our 'partners' are more alike than different."
"At any rate, we're not the same people we were before. It's a symbiotic relationship. We're in control, but we're not really human anymore."
Yiska breaks into the conversation, "A symbiote then? What does the Entity get out of the relationship? Last time I checked Brogan hasn't gone around sucking blood out of people... last time I checked. Having nightmares Brogan?"
"You see, I knew we'd come around to this! HELL NO!!!" Brogan stood defiantly, fists balled up at his sides, moments from violence. "Have you both forgotten who you're talking to? Malachi Brogan, X-SWAT cyborg, slayer of Entities. I KILL SOUL-EATERS FOR A LIVING!!! And I enjoy it!"
"I've never fed on anyone's soul. Or their blood. And I never will."
Scanner snorted. "Don't be so melodramatic." She wagged a finger at the ranting cyborg. "I kill Entities for fun too, remember?" She shook her head. "Sheesh. And the whole, drinking blood thing? That was a one-time deal. I've never been... so badly hurt before." She glanced over at Yiska, her eyes softer. "It's only thanks to your friend here that I made it at all."
Her attention returned to Brogan. "Let's hope you never end up in the same situation. My point is, I've been living with this for a while now. It, I mean we're... used to each other."
"You kill Entities." Oh yeah, this lady's even more fun than a nuclear bomb. Gotta have her over again sometime.
"Is that the deal? These things want to kill their own kind, and they use us to do it?" This was going to take some getting used to, but the proof was standing right in front of him. Apparently it wasn't fatal—she looked quite... healthy, actually. Brogan unclenched his fists, took a deep breath and released it. Most of the tension in the room went away. "I'm good."
You knew all about this, from the very beginning, didn't you? What an exquisite weapon: an Entity with a cyborg body, yet under the control of a human mind. We're going to have a few words, Alice Cadbury.
"So... I guess my question would be this: What happens when the door Omega gets closed? Will things take their natural course at that point?" Yiska says, with a note of hesitation in his voice.
Brogan shrugged. "Define 'natural course.' It has to be done, regardless. I have no idea what happens after that. Scanner's had a lot more time to find out about these things."
"Well, will your friends disappear and let you die?"
"Hmmm." Scanner tapped on her chin with an almond-colored fingernail. "Not sure." She shrugs. "We survive by feeding on dark things... Entities... 'supernatural evil' of other sorts...."
"I really am unsure." She crosses her arms and frowns thoughtfully. "I know there is some link between Entities and magic, but beyond that, I'm not really an expert."
"There are other doors... Angelus just has the biggest."
"I don't know either. Guess I'll find out soon enough." Brogan didn't feel like he should push Scanner any farther. "I'm glad the... five of us could have this little chat. There was so much I didn't understand, Scanner, about all of us. I've got some serious thinking to do, now. There's a lot we still don't know, and if I can figure anything out, I'll pass it along."