Paragon City Stories: Meanwhile at the Superbase
Hosted by UNINVENTIVEHEART
Chapter I, Scene 3
Place: The Den
This was written as an aside to the second game, “Darkness, Digitized”, which did not include Tahquitz. This is PulseFire’s first appearance.
“Hi, guys… I tried calling Dev’s phone, but the voicemail was full. Anyway, PulseFire has found a break in her investigation of the Praetorian PPD officer who killed her mother. Huge break. She needs me to come help her, so I’m not able to come to Pocket D… later on if you need help, give me a call, and I’ll see what I can do. But right now, yeah, we’re playing a post-teenage wrecking crew in Imperial City. I’ll let you know how it went.”
That was 72 hours ago, and that was after a lot of fighting, espionage, and laying low in the Underground tunnels beneath Imperial City and Neutropolis.
With so many dead ends and false leads, Lisa is wondering if the truth is completely lost to her.
“That’s three days of my life I’ll never get back,” PulseFire said, then promptly kicked a planter in the Den. With her ImpulseWing boots off, it stung and hurt her foot immediately, but rage is all of the painkiller she needs, crying, “DAMN IT! DAMN IT!!! … damn it…” Tears fill her eyes at the realization of being back at square one.
“Tim, I’m so sorry… I know you had another job, and I wasted your time,” she said, sobbing, “I should have went on my own.”
Tahquitz heard her cussing, then saw her on the couch clutching her foot… He head towards the fridge in the corner for ice.
“If I didn’t come, you would have been gone for too long, and I would be looking for you instead of knowing you were safe… you might be a hell of a fighter, but you’ve got as much of a glass jaw as I do.”
“Besides, the prior mission had a hell of a payday. This one seemed to be a revenge thing or something… I don’t know why Linuial and Paige went. I don’t care about the money, but missing this wasn’t a loss for me.” He then returned to the couch with a bag of ice for Lisa’s foot.
“Thanks, babe,” Lisa stretched her foot out as Tahq carefully iced it. “Surprised you didn’t freeze my foot directly.”
“I want your foot to get better, not frostbitten,” Tahq said, “There’s no ‘thermostat’ on my powers, it’s full strength or nothing.”
“How’s your jaw? That TEST Ranger wasn’t messing around when he hit you across the eyes.”
PulseFire rubbed her sore and puffed left temple where his fist connected and sent her down the hall like a sack of potatoes… “Not my finest moment as a hero. Nope, not my finest.”
Three days ago…
The facility where the former cop was rumored to be working at in Praetoria was a biotech firm. Tim and Lisa were among a group who were visiting to seek an audience on a Environmental Impact Review before they constructed a factory in Neutropolis, razing some of the old neighborhoods in the process. It could have been something of genuine interest to them, except that Lisa’s childhood neighborhood has already been destroyed.
This purpose was solely to get past the reception desk and infiltrate the building to get to him.
The group was taken to the third floor when the two put their plan into action… “Excuse me, sir,” Tim asked, dressed as an environmentalist hipster, “My wife and I had lunch hours ago, and we wanted to know where the restrooms were…”
“Certainly, they’re right over here. We’ll be in the fifth door on the right when you are ready,” the Page said, “Remember, we’re starting promptly at 3:00 pm.”
“Thank you, honey!” Lisa said, grinning, clutching Tim’s arm, “Next time sweetie, we can’t drink so much waiting for the appetizers.” Lisa laughed flicking Tim’s nose playfully. They laughed, then walked elbow in elbow to the restroom doors… “Ready?” she asks Tim.
“As I’ll ever be…” Tim said, opening the men’s room door, “I have the ‘battering ram’ to set up, you go do your quick change act.”
“You’re the quick change artist, not me…” Lisa said jocularly, “Just remember to wash your hands when you’re finished.”
Lisa opened her ridiculous shoulder bag holding her costume and got rid of the pantsuit she wore to the ‘meeting’. She had problems with the jacket, which was tailored and difficult to remove, so she ended up ripping a shoulder seam in trying to get it off. “Gah! It doesn’t matter, I’m not keeping this suit. It makes me look like a damn politician.” Lisa muttered, as she took her shoes off. The last step was ripping off the flesh-silicon cover on her right arm, which was amputated after a run-in with the PPD in her late teenage years. The mechanical arm, released from it’s prison, operates much better now.
Tim had it much easier. After unbuttoning his flannel and losing the “aged denim”, he shapeshifted back into Tahquitz. His briefcase had a few items: his costume, which was very spartan… just pants. And a series of vials from the Superbase Lab that Matoaka showed him how to make: mix a base with a accelerant, a powder, and a compound of her own devising, then when it turns into putty, heat the 5th vial and pour it gently in drops, mixing it in as you go.
Smoke or vapor starts to come out of it, and you’re doing it too fast. If it gets hot quickly, throw it and get away as it’s about to explode. But if it remains cold and doesn’t aerate, you have a plastic explosive that slips past X-Ray Scanners, service animals, and explodes instantly on any contact with fire. Perfect to roll into a shape charge to blast metal reinforced doors off of their jamb. And perfectly safe to handle at room and body temperature.
With the plastic made, Tahq slips it into his pocket, then threw the suitcase and outfit into the trash.
He then waits for Lisa’s signal to begin their raid on the building, when his phone shows a text message he neglected to check before crossing into Praetoria. Paige told him that because of the mission they were on, she was going to be out of contact for a while, and not to expect Dev, Lin or anyone else either until it’s through. This worried him, as he knew if they were in trouble, they would be on their own. Sure, it’s what every hero signs up for when they start to live this life, but he didn’t expect that to be true this early in his car–
Lisa bangs on the bathroom wall five times in a rhythm, “Knock, knock-knock, KNOCK, KNOCK!” It’s time.
Tahq and Pulse left the bathrooms and made a beeline for the research lab mantrap. As they ran up, the two security guards on each side of the door prepped their weapons, as the left one punched the panic button to trigger alarms, and the right one yelling the scripted response, “You have trespassed into an unauthorized area. Citizen, your are required to submit to a search and seizure followed by interrogation. Thank you for your anticipated complianc–”
PulseFire wasted no time and leapt to the left guard, then gave him a well-timed Haymaker. Tahquitz froze the second guard’s feet, then froze the gun to his hand and spread a stream of ice on the wall, attaching the frozen gun hand to the ceiling. She then turned 180 degrees and knocked the right guard out, leaving him unconscious and standing.
With the alarms going off, guards were heard running down the halls headed towards them… “I need time to take out the man-trap…” Tahquitz said.
“You got it,” PulseFire said.
Tahquitz ran to the door and stuffed the plastic explosive into the jamb, using a strip of it on one side, and two strips on the hinges. He then jogs back and throws three quick shots of fire into the plastic. The door pops off of the hinges and dangles off of the jamb loosely, with the right guard’s right arm broken free of the ceiling ice, allowing him to slump over, still asleep. He then preps the inner door for the same treatment.
PulseFire is in the center of a mob of four PPD Officers, doing what she does best… resisting arrest and doing it gracefully. A PPD Officer pulls out his gun, and she blasts the weapon with an energy shot, heating it past his tolerance to hold it without burning his hand. Another officer behind her preps a shock baton while she backflips, grabbing the baton in mid-air, spinning the weapon out of his wrist while turning him 90 degrees before sticking it into his midriff. The first officer then rushes her and swings towards her face as she tucks and rolls behind him, delivering a kidney punch with her augmented right arm full of force that sends him 20 feet down the hallway. A third officer grabs her from behind to try to restrain her as she runs up the wall, leaping over his head as he’s pulled backward onto the floor. PulseFire delivers a well-timed punch into his temple, then turns around 180 degrees and uses her augmented arm to fire a shot into the solar plexus of a fourth officer who thought he had an opportunity to stop her, before he found himself slammed into a wall, then rolling 15 feet the opposite direction down the hallway.
With all four officers on the floor, PulseFire marches forward to the man-trap where Tahquitz prepped the inner door for infiltration, ready to shoot the 2nd batch of plastic… until she walks past a TEST Officer waiting in the corner before the door who delivered a glancing shot across her temple…
Upon making contact with her injured temple, a sharp acute stinging sensation permeated her entire left side of her head…
“AAAAAAH!” Lisa yelled, drawing in air through her teeth with a muted hiss afterward, “I think a second bag of ice is in order.”
“How’s this?” Tahquitz said, as he closed his fist, froze his left hand and touched her face, “Feel better?”
Tahquitz’s ribs stung sharply on his right side when he took in breath, part side-stitch, possibly a cracked rib. He started breathing more shallow to prevent aggravating it.
“Mmmmm… thanks. That feels much better,” PulseFire said.
“That doesn’t sound like normal breathing… you sure you’re alright?” Lisa touched his right side and he winced. “Sit back… we’ve got all night to relax.”
“You’ve took one too many hits yourself there, champ,” she admonished him, “We were not built for hand to hand fighting.”
“And yet you try it anyway… I love that about you,” Tahquitz said, laughing, then stopping aruptly as his ribs started stinging once again… “Ow, ow, ow… I’ve got to stop doing that.”
“Getting out of the interrogation room wasn’t easy, either…” PulseFire said, “That terrible excuse for water being an obvious interrogation tool. Got out of there in time before they waterboarded us with it.”
Two Days Ago…
Interrogator Hoffman paces the floor in the Interrogation Room. PulseFire is sitting handcuffed by her left hand at the table in a position she’s been in for so many times in the last 5 years. And she’s been sitting in here for 16 hours as lower police officials have tried to talk to her… and failed.
“Miss Perrineau… you have been most uncooperative with our… efforts. Committing Trespass into private property. Willfully coming into a research facility and destroying government property. Resisting arrest by our Police Force, who is only after protecting your safety and well being. This is it for you, girl. You have a straight path to prison and your freedom is forfeit,” he begins, “You look thirsty… have a drink.”
Lisa looks at the wall, not making eye contact with the Interrogator. Her boots have been removed, and her artificial arm has been detached, leaving her with a stub beneath her right shoulder. She is defenseless.
“The only bargaining chip you have is for how long. If you tell us who your target was, I can make sure we shave a few months off out of …appreciation,” he continued.
Lisa said nothing.
“If you tell us who the short black man with white hair in the holding cell is, the man that we have no records on whatsoever, I can make sure we can cut your sentence down by 1 or 2 years, while we make sure he never sees the light of day…” he offered.
She still said nothing.
“If you tell us who your handler is in the resistance, I can commute your sentence by an entire decade. Think about it. Two years in a Behavioral Adjustment Facility. Then you can return to your arts career, Miss Perrineau. We don’t offer that to everyone. But I can do that for you,” he said as a final offer, “but this isn’t going to be on the table for long. If I keep getting silence, your sentence will keep growing. Now, you positively have to be thirsty…” The Interrogator pours a glass, “And it occurs to me that your right arm must be the dominant one, so I’ll do you the courtesy. Would you like a glass?”
Lisa remained silent.
“I’ll help you drink… here, my child, just open your mouth…”
Lisa pursed her lips as if she were to accept the glass, then twirled her head to knock the cup out of the Interrogator’s hand, followed by kicking the table to upset the water pitcher, spilling all over the table, and part of her leg.
“DAMN YOU!” the Interrogator shouted as he struck her across the head, knocking her chair over and twisting her left arm as her chair and weight had her dangling uncomfortably… if her shoulder twisted 5 degrees to the left, she’d dislocate… by 15 degrees, it could break.
“Forget it. My patience for your insolence, Miss Perrineau, is at a premium, and I don’t care to prolong this any further.”
She’s not stupid enough to know that all of those offers were nonsense. That even if she told him who she was after, even if she sold Tahq out, or even if she gave up the Resistance, she’d spend the rest of her life with a needle in her arm studying the texture of wallpaper no matter what she did.
“You have 15 minutes. All the prior offers are off the table, you’re back to 15 years by default, but we’re skipping the Behavioral Adjustment Facility… you’re going to a more ‘exclusive’ location now. One where no one will be able to find you. And for every minute I wait in silence, your sentence grows by 2 years. If you don’t talk, you can spend the rest of your life as a psychological experiment.”
Lisa started to involuntary tear up… sitting stationary for 10 hours with no break, and now being told she’s going straight to a psychiatric hospital in First Ward is imposing, since she’s never been this far in the interrogation process.
“And since my generosity has been refused… for the next 15 minutes, I’ll get to have you as a personal plaything,” the Interrogator said, “… Don’t cry, don’t worry, the tools are coming. In five minutes, I can slow your life down so every year feels like an eternity. Just wait, girl, just wai–”
A loose fireball cracks the bulletproof glass on the other side of the Interrogation Room… “No… NO! It’s impossi–” Interrogator Hoffman stopped his diatribe as two diamond-sharp icicles shattered the glass finally, followed by a freezing blast hitting him where he stands.
Tahquitz hopped through the broken window, “You didn’t drink the water, did you? Because I brought your toys…” He uncuffs Lisa, then gives her the boots and mechanical arm back to reattach. “You can’t drink and Super Jump in this town. It’s a felo–” Tahquitz was then slammed in the side by another Interrogator from the Police Box, “OWWW!!!”
“Enriche… robbing people of free will since 1980.” PulseFire said, “But I guess telling the truth doesn’t sell cases of brainwash water.”
“To be honest, I’ve drank it since I was a little girl… I’m not innocent, I’ve sung their song like I was told to do. And I got what I deserved… I lost my family because of it.”
“Ever hear ‘the hypnotized never lie’? What could you have possibly done, Lisa?” Tahquitz asks, “It’s like a child abuse victim blaming themselves for their parent’s crimes. Except your ‘parents’ in this case are a totalitarian government…”
“I could have defied my parents. I could have done something… anything…” Lisa said, “I could have… I could have… Damn!” She cried once more.
“You’re right, but I hate feeling so powerless. I never want to feel like that again. I never want to feel like I did back when I lost my arm…”
“Come to think of it, you’ve never told me how you lost your arm.” Tahquitz asked… “I know you’re not the first person to talk about your past, and most of us on this dimension don’t understand what it is like. But I’ve known you for two years… if I haven’t paid my dues by now, I don’t know how much more I’ve got to offer up in the trust department.”
Tahquitz hands her a box of facial tissues, “So, talk to me. How did it happen?”
“You’re right. You’ve told me about your family and your past, it’s only fair I tell you mine. I don’t tell people about my past in Primal Earth, mainly because …the embarrassment of it all is too much to bear. I imagine people in your Earth who escape cults or governments like Praetoria feel the same way… the realization of how easy it is to ‘play along’ and to ‘follow the leader’ instead of doing what any sane person should do: fight or flee.”
“Want to know how I lost my arm? This is my price of admission into the Resistance. This is what I paid for my curiosity,” she began her story after drying her eyes…
Three Years Ago, Before Lisa Met Tim…
Chysgodion appeared at the 4th floor stairwell door, then opened it for his partner, PulseFire, “Thank you very much.”
“Of course,” Chys said, “Our quarry is on the fifth floor, am I correct?”
“I think so… I have the map here,” Lisa said, testing doors in the hallway until one opened, and brought Chysgodion into the room, which was an empty meeting room. She took out her map: “He’ll be in Suite 518, and surrounded by cubicles. We’ll have to move fast.”
“Oh, I can do fast, love. I’m as quick as a wink. The real question: can your twin pistols keep up?”
Before PulseFire was an amputee, she was known for her prowess in combat shooting, as she was a deadly shot from the hip. Her energy pistols from the Resistance were an ideal weapon for her, as munitions were hard to come by, but generators were easier to make, and energy pistols could be maintained easier than a gun.
“Only one way to find out… you ready?” PulseFire says with a grin as she jerks the door open and the two run down the hallway toward the lobby of the Nightly News office, with a glass staircase leading up to their objective: Moses Clark, the reporter who told citizens that the world is at a silent war and that the only noble thing to do with a Resistance member is to allow the PPD unlimited resources to neutralize them. Not to convert them to obedient citizens. Not to arrest them to get them off of the streets and try to rehabilitate them through labor. Moses asked the PPD to kill anyone who brandishes the Resistance logo without prejudice.
He’s begging to be kidnapped.
Chysgodion was the first one to make it up the stairs, followed by PulseFire, then realizing that they are surrounded by TEST Provosts who are permanently stationed at the building.
“We’re in trouble, love. They did not say TEST would be here… it’s not too late to run,” Chysgodion said carefully.
“Citizens, evacuate the floor, this is your only warning! Surrender your arms, cooperate with our arrest, and you will be detained without inju–,” the lead Provost says.
PulseFire didn’t waste time… she drew and fired first at the talking Provost, square in the chest. The Provost was knocked back 10 feet from the hit, as she reaimed her pistols at the Provosts not expecting a fight on their own turf.
“No,” PulseFire said, her voice quiet and calm, responding to both the Provost and Chysgodion. She joined the Resistance to make a difference, and shying away from encounters doesn’t push the envelope.
“Like Moses said, boys… without prejudice,” the Provost standing opposite of Chys spoke with a grin, “OPEN FIRE!”
Chysgodion wasted no time as he removed his Wakazashi and flung the scabbard ridiculously fast at the forehead of the Provost standing directly behind him, stunning him. Chys then “blinked” to the side of the one he’s standing in front of, appearing instantaneously in a wisp of black smoke and whispered with a mild laugh, “Pity… you’re bravery outweighs your conviction,” as he stabs the Provost in his side armor’s weak point. He goes down like a sack of potatoes.
He whips the wakizashi to clear the loose blood, then turns around to see a soldier on his right rushing him as he “blinks” to his flank to do the same, then “blinks” to the other Provost and delivers a glancing blow before he can react.
In the same moment, PulseFire takes her second pistol and fires at the enormous chandelier over the staircase, which gives her the perfect distraction as the Provosts behind her are too late to dodge the large glass crystals now landing on their bodies, with one of the crystals missing the inside of the bannister and shattering the windows on the side of the building… She backflips onto the bannister behind her to gain upper ground as she fires on the standing officers that didn’t get Chysgodion’s attention.
The lightning strike took out 6 of the Provosts. Now the two who were stunned are standing. And now they’ve activated their shielding, making the fight much harder.
“Hmm… I did not know they had that in their complement,” Chysgodion said, “I’ll have to be more persistent,” as he blinked rapidly to attack one of the Provosts multiple times to find a chink in the digital armor. Three seconds elapse as over 15 strikes take place until the Provost whips his fist directly in front of him, knocking out Chys as he “blinked” past his front to try another possible weak spot.
PulseFire was trapped in a gunfight with the second provost as she calls out to her partner, who is now silent. “Chys?? CHYS?!!”
She carefully rises over her makeshift barricade deska as she sees the Provost that Chysgodion faced call out to her, “Rise, girl, and see the only possible outcome that the Resistance will face. See your future, even if you’re not a seer!” He turn his armor off, then twist Chys’ neck, killing him instantly. “I’ve done it countless times, and I’ll gladly finish you the same way.”
“NOOOO!” PulseFire cried out, then hid in her barricade. The Provosts knew they could overpower her easily now, turning their armor on and marching to her position in total confidence. She didn’t have much time…
“They said not to do this… but I have no choice.“ PulseFire said to herself, sobbing, knowing that her demise is imminent. She takes one of her energy pistols and overloads the charge setting, then breaks off the fuse and sticks a coin in it’s place. The gun turns a dull orange as it overheats as she rises to see the left Provost closer to her and tosses it at him before swiftly ducking. The energy pistol starts to spark as it strikes his shield, then explodes in sparks, shrapnel and fire. Her attack was well-timed enough to take out the Provost, but not enough to stop the second one as he grabs her arms, one of which holding her gun, and twists them behind her painfully.
“I WILL TAKE PLEASURE IN TEACHING YOU WHAT PAIN…”
He bends her arms into an unnatural angle, putting pressure on her shoulders.
He dislocates her left arm, which now hangs limp on her shoulder out of control and drops her pistol.
He then traps and smashes her bicep, shattering it, then rips the arm off of her body, flinging it out of the broken windows the chandelier shattered open, out into the street.
“WAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!” Lisa has never felt so much pain in her life as she exsanguinates from her shock and collapses, passing out.
The epilogue of that encounter was a powerful one, on both PulseFire as well as the Resistance… Lisa awoke from the failed mission in a bed in the Underground complex beneath Imperial City. She was unaware of the mission to exfiltrate her from the Medical Center. Unaware that she was unconsciously treated before being taken to what would have been in Mother of Mercy Hospital. Unaware that her new home would have kept her from seeing freedom ever again. And the Resistance saved her from that fate.
Her eyes opened slowly to a TV screen with Moses Clark on the screen several days later, announcing the latest executive order from the Magisterium, offering a reward for PulseFire’s capture, dead or alive, for murdering 7 PPD Officials, and Cynog Dyffdd, known as Chysgodion, who is mourned as a Loyalist supporter of the PPD. This is regardless of the fact that for the last two years he has been fighting on the side of the Resistance after his family has been interred in the Behavioral Adjustment Facility after migrating from across the seas.
Lisa was also implicated in the murder of his family, either proving that they’ve been killed under Cole’s regime, or that they now have no intent to release them now that they are no longer useful as a bargaining chip to control Chysgodion any longer.
Lisa sank into a deep depression for two years after they mourned his loss. She worked in the Underground to support the fighters, but refused to return to active duty. She was perfectly content with remaining underground as a disabled supporter of theirs for the rest of her life.
That is, until she was approached by Beholder during a visit… she learned that she would leave the Underground one day and find her allies in another dimension after she finds out a cruel truth in the next week. She disregarded the vision as a parlor trick and went back to her life… until a report from a wire from Neutropolis arrived for her.
It stated that that the man who killed her family in Neutropolis 18 years ago was still alive today.
This started Lisa on her journey of recovery. If she can’t stop Emperor Cole, and she can’t stop the PPD and TEST, then she will at least get her revenge. Surgeries, prosthetics, and electronics research enabled her to merge her energy pistols into a part of her new right arm, with a conduit in her suit present to feed energy in an emitter in her left hand, allowing her to dual wield once more. In addition, by closing the aperture, she could charge her fists into delivering a fatal blow in close range using a considerable energy discharge upon contact.
PulseFire, reborn, reinvented, and reinspired, stepped into the portal to Primal Earth to continue her development as a hero to one day come back and get her vengeance.
“I see why this is so important to you now… Lisa,” Tahquitz embraces her gently, knowing that reaching too far would irritate his ribs again, “why haven’t you told me this before we left? I would have prepared so much differently.”
“I’m so sorr–”
“Don’t apologize for anything, Tahquitz. I’m glad you’re by my side.” Lisa sobs gently as she leans her head against his shoulder, “And I’ve never been this close to the answer in my life. Without you, I wouldn’t have gotten this far.”
“And you make me do the one thing I haven’t done for so long… smile,” PulseFire said looking up at him as he looks in her eyes, “There’s not much to smile about in Praetoria, but here in Primal Earth, I might have a chance at a normal life. And I have you to thank for that.”
“And with you, I’ve got the one thing I need… someone who is crazier than I am to make me rethink my impulsive behavior,” Tahquitz said.
Lisa said nothing, but grabbed a couch pillow and smashed him in the face as hard as she could.
Earlier this morning…
The last 12 hours of walking overnight has the two heroes fatigued, tired, and fairly cross at each other. The officer who has a clue to Lisa’s past is proving to be more and more elusive.
“I can’t take much more of this…” Tahquitz said… “I’m going to fly and find an exit.”
“So, you’re quitting? That’s how it is?” Lisa said in a terse and irritated tone.
“No, I’ve been over and over this. I just want to see what’s ahead and come back–” Tahq said.
“But you won’t come back. If there’s ghouls ahead, you’re one against 100s. And don’t even think of letting the ‘ancient one’ out of the basket… that was the scariest 72 hours of my life.” Lisa answered back.
“Then we both run ahead. You run, I’ll fly… I can’t take another hour of walking, we’ve been at it for 6 hours.”
“We CAN’T take a break. We can’t rush ahead because we might miss what we’re looking for. Are you really here for this, or do you want to speed through like most missions?”
“I’m here to do what you want, firecracker, but I’m out of gas… and this is ME saying that. Not even 10 minutes?”
Tahquitz sees his best friend get a steely eyed look on her face, bruised and puffed from injuries… Cold, relentless and determined to find what she is after. Even if she isn’t ready for it.
After 90 minutes more of walking and nagging…
“Lisa… what if this is a bust?” Tahquitz finally says after a 20 minute silence from prior unheard complaints.
“It’s not.” She said, red eyed, breathing panicked, and moving at a rough cadence betraying her usual grace. It’s clear she is tired and unable to continue.
“What if the entrance we’re looking for is flooded out? Or overgrown by this fungus stuff? Or just caved in? What if we can’t get inside?”
“It’s not…” she said in a staccato pace with her pacing down the tunnel.
“But this is getting further away from Neutropolis and closer to the First Ward… you know what happened down he-“
PulseFire stumbles and falls on her fatigued and aching legs, now crying and red with inflammation.
“IT’S NOT! It’s… n…” Lisa loses her composure finally after 4 hours of insistence on continuing forward. Tahquitz stops next to her and holds her as she cries. As soon as he embraces her, it turns to blubbering.
“I’m sorry, Lisa. I didn’t want to end it like this, but I’m concerned. You need rest. You need to recover.”
“I’ve– I’ve been w-waiting for this since I w-w-was 10 years old. S-s-since I returned to Neutropolis after th-t-t-that day, and Mom never picked me up from the train!” Lisa cried, holding Tahquitz, then screamed, “I… I swore… I SWORE that day that I would f-f-f-find her, one way or t-t-the other.”
“And you will. You will. I believe that more than anything, Lisa. You’re a force of nature, but even hurricanes lose momentum once they’re off of the ocean. I don’t want to lose you.”
As they headed back to the entrance, they spent only three hours walking back to a node that had ground access, when something caught Tahquitz’s eye in a hallway he thought he already checked…
“Wait, come here for a second… What was the company that the cop worked for after the PPD?” Tahquitz asked.
“Encero Genetics” PulseFire said.
“Look at this pipe…”
Sure enough, there’s a stencil of “ENCERO WATER MAIN - HQ” on the pipe.
“We follow this pipe, we find your building ruins!” Tahquitz says.
“Tahq! Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” PulseFire said, with adrenaline kicking in as she runs at speed down the hallway.
“Time to fly…” he said, unfurling his wings and chasing after his favorite firecracker.
Two floors above ground, Tahq and Pulse got their answer. PulseFire was too late, and will not find her peace.
“What? It’s true. You make me want to be a more careful hero… Not just because of that, but I want to see you realize your dream come true… a world without your past dictating it.” Tahquitz said, quietly recovering from the hit… the arc Lisa chose to swing the pillow sent his lower head into the top rail of the back of the couch. It stung… hard.
He rubs the back of his head whenever she turns around.
“I can’t believe he was experimented on… he must have left the PPD and became a Resistance member, but why haven’t they heard of him? He had no issue with his real name when he served.” PulseFire asked.
“I can’t believe he was turned into a Ghoul. Now I’ll never know what happened that day.”
She begins crying again, less intensely than when she found out initially in that musty and abandoned building.
“I’m so sorry, Lisa,” Tahquitz sits closer to her and holds her right hand as her left one dries her eyes, “I know it meant a lot to you to talk to him… The seer wasn’t wrong, he’s still alive, but he’s utterly useless now.”
“Why didn’t she tell me he was a ghoul now? If I knew that, I wouldn’t have pursued him for so many years. That’s all I had to go on. That’s all that I wanted,” PulseFire said.
“Except for Azuria, I hate clairvoyants. They seem to enjoy messing with people… or they’re uninterested, unwilling or unable to give you any good info… or they tend to be too ‘feeble minded’ to accurately say what they’re seeing, leaving you like this,” Tahquitz says, “But I know deflecting the blame on her doesn’t change what happened.”
“I don’t have an answer for you on what to do now. I wish I did.”
The two heroes continued talking about the mission for a couple of hours. Resting, re-icing, and more pillows involved in melee incidents. But in the end, Lisa is just as lost as when she was before returning to Praetoria, and had nothing to show for it.