Chelsea's foot was jammed to the floor as she swerved
through traffic after the flying metal person. She'd sideswiped a few
cars already and had been incredibly lucky at the first red light she
ran to have merely caused a horrible accident behind her rather than
being a part of one. The unlucky part being that the sound of the crash
alerted the fleeing flyer that it was being pursued. It turned around
and flew backwards, aiming its arm behind itself.
"Shit," Chelsea murmured.
Chelsea watched as a small rocket flew quietly in her direction. She
swerved as a new and rather large pothole came into being. She took
out her gun. Blasting out the windshield of the Accord, she fired at
the thing. Her safety was on- she couldn't really spare the concentration
to turn it off, and anyway, she still didn't know if the stupid thing
was a robot or a person.
It began evasive maneuvers. It was flying much more serpentine, dodging
bullets and such, and also began flying over buildings and in directions
Chelsea could not drive. Well, not without breaking the law, which she
did, of course, knocking down chain link fences, driving across grass.
Not having to worry about running out of bullets came in handy, as she
just kept firing nonstop. This seemed to take the flyer by some surprise,
he, presumably, having assumed a handgun would be empty after a few
quick evasions. After about fifty shots, one finally clipped it in the
The shiny metal covering broke off and began falling, revealing a brown-haired
human head beneath. The man in the flying suit, as he apparently was,
threw one hand over his face and dove down after the helmet. This gave
Chelsea the chance she needed. She aimed down where the helmet headed
and fired. Sure enough, the bullet whizzed right through the back of
the man's armor and popped out the front, disabling his flight pack.
He fell after his headgear and they both smashed to the pavement a fraction
of a second apart.
Chelsea screeched to a stop and hopped out of the Honda. The man was
struggling to his feet. He quickly shot off another rocket in Chelsea's
direction, but she dodged, leaving her borrowed car to absorb the explosive
"Stop right there!" Chelsea shouted, still barreling forward.
With a muttered expletive, the man took off in the opposite direction.
Chelsea scooped up the helmet with as she passed, carrying it under
her left arm, just in case. The man was running through the back alleys
and parking lots of the area, a sort of halfway point between downtown
and the surrounding suburbs. He was moving quickly, Chelsea had to give
him that, a natural sprinter. Unfortunately, his armor seemed to be
taking its toll on his endurance.
She chased him down the alley between Barnes and Noble and Staples.
At the end, he rounded the corner, ducking out of sight, and when Chelsea
turned the corner, he was gone. The parking lot had a fair number of
cars in it- a number of stores shared the plaza, including a Wal-Mart.
Chelsea ran out among the cars, looking for any sign of movement accompanied
by battle gear rather than plastic shopping bags. It got her nowhere
but frustrated. She climbed up on top of the nearest car and scanned
the area. Other than odd looks from the passersby, she saw nothing.
She came very close to smashing the helmet against the car she stood
upon before she realized that might be a bad idea. Exasperated, she
peered into the metallic headgear. She saw movement within- some sort
She put the helmet on. She almost fell off the roof of the car at first
out of disorientation. She wasn't seeing the same things with the helmet
on as she had with it off. She was looking at someone wobbling… on
top of a car.
It was then she realized that the armor came with the ridiculously
stupid feature of having the visual sensors attached not to the helmet,
but the main mass of the suit. She quickly found that it also had the
added feature of being able to look all around the armor's wearer 360
degrees by merely moving her eyes around, as well as some sort or control
menu she didn't have time to explore just then, but made a mental note
to investigate later.
The hiding man was peaking at her through car windows as he crept slowly
away from her. She began to turn her body, attempting to face herself
towards him, so when she took the helmet off, she could tell where he
was. Suddenly, the man's arm lifted in her direction and green text
appeared at the bottom of her field of view, reading "Armed," and
Chelsea leapt to one side, which was incredibly disconcerting, since
her view remained the same. She saw the rocket miss her by less than
a foot and continue across the street where it impacted dramatically
with a church.
"Oh, that is it," Chelsea said and tore off the helmet.
"Hail Mary, full of grace," she said, leaping back onto the
top of the car and looking out towards the Wal-Mart, scanning the crowd
for a dark green Mazda. She saw it. "The Lord is with you." He
must have seen her see it, because all of sudden he wasn't so concerned
with hiding. He broke out running again.
"Blessed are you among women," Chelsea continued as she sprang
from the roof of the car onto the next one, and from that, to the next. "And
blessed is the fruit of your womb." Her prey was weaving between
the vehicles, looking over his shoulder nervously as she pursued. "Holy
Mary, mother of God…" Chelsea, burning with righteous fury,
finally caught up to him, launching off the final rooftop and knocking
him face down into the pavement. "Pray for us sinners, now…" She
smashed her gun into the back of his head three times, each time pressing
his face more forcibly into the blacktop. The first blow broke his nose.
He wasn't moving around much by the third. "And in the hour of
She snapped off her safety and took aim at his left hand. She fired
five times at his palm. His hand was obliterated when she was through.
She grabbed one of the fingers, still inside its armored fingershell.
She tried to pull the finger out but it was stuck. She put the end to
her mouth and sucked gently until she felt the severed end touch her
lips. She spat onto the ground and grabbed the exposed end, shoving
the finger into her pocket and throwing away the useless husk.
"Amen," she said.
She jogged off in the direction she had come from and scooped up the
helmet from where she had tossed it off. She slipped it back onto her
head. It was a bit disconcerting getting such a good view of the blood
pooling on the ground below the former flying man's head. Chelsea quickly
glanced down at the command menu in the corner of the field of her vision,
bringing up the display screen. From the menu she chose "Comm Link" and
Static jumped to her ears for a moment, then words came through.
"-Hear from Mobile C yet?"
"Nothing yet, sir. B and D have both returned to base successfully."
"Is the situation at CCI under control?"
"Well, sir… I think you'd better see for yourself."
"Just tell me."
"I… think you need to see this, sir."
"I'm on my way. Just tell me."
"Sir, I don't-"
"Don't be an idiot! If something important is going on, just tell
me what it is!"
"Well, sir, we've initiated Phase II with an assortment of subjects
there, but one of them is… unusual."
"I… can't explain it, sir… things we've never seen
before, not indicated in any of the files we'd made…"
Chelsea wasn't finding anything they said particularly illuminating.
"Forget it, I'll be there in a minute. Prepare the hangar."
"Where are you, sir?" Chelsea asked.
The Comm went silent.
"Who was that?"
"I don't know, sir. It's no one here."
"Who is on this channel?"
"Worth a shot," said Chelsea and blinked the Comm back off.
She noticed a bubbling in the pool of blood in her screen. She glanced
back at the menu and selected the 'Self-Destruct' option from the 'Suit
Function'. The screen began a ten-second countdown. She pulled the helmet
off and hurled it back in her downed opponent's direction. As the explosion
rang out behind her, she pondered her next move.
She wanted to get in touch with Argento, give him the finger, see what
he'd make of it. She chuckled. Give him the finger she'd taken from
this bastard, she'd meant. But she thought she might play a hunch.
She went into movie theatre in the plaza and asked if she could borrow
their phone book for a moment. Sure enough, she found what she was looking
Argento paid Alison's bail from the wad of money he took from her and
Red's suitcase full. He waited somewhat impatiently in the police station
lobby as they went to get her. When they brought her around, he could
tell she was upset- understandable, considering. He just hoped she wouldn't
push too hard into his invasion of her home.
"Alison, are you ok?" he said, squeezing her forearm.
"I'm… I'm fine, I guess. I'm just lucky you heard my call," she
glanced around warily. She seemed to notice someone or something, then
she said, "Let's get out of here."
"Of course," Argento said, ushering her towards the door.
"Miss Innes?" a voice called. "Miss Inness?" Argento
saw Alison fight not to turn around as they walked towards the door.
"Miss Ames?" the voice said, finally.
Alison turned to face a scruffy-haired detective she seemed to recognize. "Tim," she
"Miss Ames," said the detective, "I'm glad I caught
"I can't really talk," she said.
"I'll try to be quick," the detective continued. "When
I first met you, I had thought you looked somewhat familiar, but I couldn't
place it. The thing is, we ran your prints. They seem to match those
of a Miss Alison Innes who grew up in this town. Who I went to High
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Alison bluffed.
"Miss Innes was brought in for underage drinking during her senior
year, shortly before she moved to Long Island. The prints we took that
night are identical to yours. Of course, that makes no sense, since
your records show that you were born in Michigan. Any thoughts on how
"I assure you, I have no idea," said Alison. "Perhaps
you should call Miss Innes in Long Island and ask her."
"We may do just that," Tim said.
"Please do. May we go?"
"Of course," said Tim. "Just don't go too far." He
gave Argento a sideways glance before turning back where he came from.
Alison lead them out of the building and made it all the way to Argento's
new rental car before collapsing into the passenger seat and throwing
her face in her hands, an enormous sigh bursting from her lungs.
"What's going on?" Argento asked.
"Tim," Alison said, "Tim is my ex, except he doesn't
remember that. He remembers me as some mental Goth girl, just like everyone
else on the planet. Which is why he didn't recognize me. Until now."
"How did you get arrested?" Argento asked.
"I had a vision."
"That's not illegal."
"Very funny. I don't know what happened. I had a vision, and then
I started smashing things."
"What kind of vision was it?" Argento asked.
"It's… it's hard to remember…" she said. "I
was… it was sort of like this vision I had before- I was in some
sort of… storage room or something. There's a room through a door,
and coming through the door, I hear… 'thump-thump, thump, thump,
thump-thump, thump-thump-thump, thump, thump, tha-thump-thump,' over
and over again. I kept going closer and it was getting louder and louder… then
I wake up and I 'm clawing at someone's car stereo through a broken
passenger-side window. I don't know what happened. People saw me do
it, I couldn't pretend it was an accident… I guess I could have
run, but… the police showed up in a moment and took me in."
"It's alright," said Argento. "You were scared, understandably."
"But now all this- they're going to find out about who I am!" she
said. "If they check into 'Alison Ames' enough, they'll realize
she's not real."
"But there still is an Alison Innes- how can they believe you're
"I know, I know… that may be the only thing that saves me," she
said. "Maybe they'll think we're… twins, separated at birth."
"Well," said Argento, "twins don't actually have identical
prints- just similar ones."
"Does the other 'Alison' even have my prints at all? Or is she
still going to print as some missing 18 year old Michigander?"
"I can't be certain- it's never come up before," said Argento. "I
would guess as long as she keeps the mask on, the prints will appear
as yours, just like her face, hands, voice, body… Once it comes
off, all the other things revert, so I suppose her prints would, too."
"Well, I don't think we're in any danger of that," said Alison. "They
sure did a number on Kimmy, completely replacing her memory with mine… or
what they wanted me to be. She's more the Alison Innes Tim here remembers
than I am. Hell, I don't remember being busted for drinking- I didn't
drink till college. I spent most of my time with Red- a guy who didn't
even exist here."
Suddenly, a number of police cars came rocketing out of the lot.
"I wonder what that's about," said Argento, and then, "Ah,
He quickly grabbed his satchel and began digging through it until he
found his police band radio. "We can find out," he said.
"You're a handy guy," said Alison.
"Tell that to Red."
"Repeat-" said the Radio, crackling to life at the touch
of a button, "All units proceed to CCI, all units proceed to CCI,
1500 434 south, we have a Code 3 for all available units, possible 404
and 417, proceed with caution, multiple suspects may be armed…"
"CCI?" said Alison.
"Isn't that where…?" said Argento.
"Where Red works," Alison confirmed. "Credit Collections
They jammed on the gas and sped off after the police cars as quickly
as they could. They were far enough behind that they felt the could
get away with minor traffic infractions like speeding, but weren't ready
to run reds at busy intersections, hence they pulled into the lot a
minute or two behind the cops, at the exact right time to collide with
a station wagon.
The wagon had made a left turn on red into the plaza without even stopping.
It smashed into the back seat door of the driver's side, spinning the
vehicle just enough to turn it sideways, jamming it tight between the
guard rails on both sides of the plaza entrance ramp. Alison and Argento
both had their seatbelts on, and as such were severely jostled but unharmed.
From the groaning of metal and the way the vehicle seemed to still
be attempting movement, it seemed the wagon's driver seemed to be trying
to continue driving through them. Argento looked over at the maniac
to find that he recognized her. He leaned on his horn. Chelsea flipped
him off before realizing who he was, then leapt out of her car. Argento
opened his door and hopped out to meet her.
"You heard the police?" he asked her.
"Police?" said Chelsea. "Man, what a pain in the ass.
I didn't know they were going be here getting in my way. No, I had to
deal with this stupid flying asshole who blew up a video store. His
helmet said something about this place, so I-"
Chelsea cut off.
"What?" asked Argento, looking over his shoulder at whatever
was distracting her. He didn't see anything but another destroyed rental
car and… "Oh, dear."
"What the Hell is she doing here?" screamed Chelsea, taking
out both weapons.
"Chelsea, let's not be hasty," he said.
"Screw that," Chelsea said. He felt the sleeve come off his
shirt as Chelsea began swinging her blade, tearing away the exterior
of the car.
Red idled out of his auto-dialer for his fifteen-minute break. The
morning had been an unusual one. Since his second call of the morning,
no incoming calls had come in with anything other than screams or sounds
of breakage. The calls kept coming in, though- that was the odd part.
People seemed like they were calling in just to let the operators hear
them destroy their stereos and televisions for some reason.
Outbound calls were going much better. Sure, people were never happy
to be called about owing money for their telephone bills, but they didn't
typically get violent about it. Most of the representatives had been
put on outbound while a few were left to sift through the inbound for
signs of intelligent life. Red had been on outbound, collecting on the
delinquent accounts, but from the look on the faces of the inbound reps,
they hadn't had any luck.
Red headed into the break room. He pulled out his wallet and took two
bucks from its folds. He got a bag of Bugles from the snack machine
for seventy-five cents and spent the other dollar twenty-five on a bottle
of Coke. Usually he'd bring a book or something, but he'd forgotten
today, distracted by last night's nonsense. He sat down at a table near
the television. Like the ones above the collection floor, it was tuned
to Headline News. The difference being that this one had the sound on.
The news story was something about the World Series, which was apparently
happening, or would be. Red wasn't sure- he didn't follow sports. He,
instead, watched the bar at the bottom of the screen, where they would
put up little interesting news-bites that you could read, acknowledge,
and forget a minute later.
Except that one of them set him off thinking.
It was an unusual thing for CNN to care about… it read "Sixth
Time's the Charm; Film Army of Darkness to get new, sixth DVD release." Now,
Army of Darkness was something of a cult film, not the sort of thing
you'd expect to see mentioned on National Television. Granted, its director,
Sam Raimi, had just become a superstar by directing Spider-Man, but
still… Once Red got over the shock of seeing something he enjoyed
mentioned, the news itself got through to him.
Army of Darkness had been one of the first DVDs Red had bought, back
in his old life. It was a hilarious movie- he'd seen it tons of times
and doubted he'd ever get tired of it. About a year after he bought
it, they put out a new version. This was a two-disc set- the first disc
was the same as the one he already had, the second had the 'Directors
Cut' of the film, with an alternate ending, among other things. Red
bought it, of course. The original ending was completely different,
after all. He heard about it many times, but had never seen it. He was
quite excited, even if it did leave him with a duplicate version to
In the years since then, there had been three more DVDs. The 'Special
Edition', the 'Bootleg' edition, the 'Limited Edition Directors Cut'… each
version with slightly different extra features- some with the original
ending in the film, some with it as a bonus feature, some with different
documentaries, some with additional cut scenes not in either version
of the film, multiple different commentaries by the director and star… Rather
than put all these things on one disc, or in one set, even, there just
kept popping up new releases of the film, with one or two things added,
and missing other things. So a real fan of the film, like Red, for example,
had to buy all six editions. Which he did.
Now fortunately, Red had a large suitcase full of money. But what,
he wondered, about the average fans. Are they expected to shell out
their twenty bucks five times? No, Six times now. An all new version.
Of course, there is the chance that it will be that definitive release
that collects all the odds and ends that came before, but somehow, Red
It made him so angry. He loved the film, he loved Sam Raimi, he loved
Bruce Campbell… why did they have to rip people off like this?
How could they do that to people? To their fans especially, the people
who made these movies successful in the first place?
Money, of course. They were paid by the DVD companies to let them release
the film, and the DVD companies go for broke, put out as many versions
as you can, Hell! As long as some shmuck buys it, put out another one.
Which, of course, made Red a part of the problem- he had bought all
five DVDs, making him part of the disease that lead to this sixth edition.
It made him sick.
It was this 'system'. This system of greed begetting greed. Just like
it is here at work- the individual doesn't matter, the system is what
makes us money. Steal one penny from every customer and you've stolen
a million dollars. It's all math. Screw people, we're talking money,
we're talking equations. Determine mathematically how hideously greedy
you can become without the entire country realizing it and ditching
you. Factor in the fact that every other business in the market is trying
this same equation for themselves, and let the consumer milking commence.
"You know what?" said the guy next to Red. "This job
"You said it," Red said.
"Let's go on strike!" a woman yelled.
"Screw that," said another, "Let's just walk!"
"They'd just find some other suckers to take our place," Red
"You're right," said the first guy. "We've got to take
this place out!"
"Put a stop to them once and for all!" said another.
"Yeah!" said the guy closest to the TV. He got up, picked
up the chair he'd been sitting on, and smashed into the screen.
The crowd cheered.
"The vending machines!" someone yelled.
"Dollar Twenty-Five for a Coke, my ass!" someone called as
a group pulled the machine over and started pounding on its face.
"Guy, guys!" Red shouted, as loud as he could. "This
is stupid! Stop it! Hey, hey! Listen to me!"
After a moment, the crown stopped to listen to him.
"This isn't going to get us anywhere!" he said. "This
is the break room. Let's hit them where it hurts-" Red whipped
out his sword. "Let's take out the collection center!"
The crowd roared in agreement. Sword raised high, he led the mob out
onto the collection floor. Red slashed his blade through the first computer
monitor he saw. Then he took out his gun and began blasting away at
anything that could help the company collect money in any way.