Red stared at the giant suit of mechware that stood
before him, and began to panic. He'd given Orloske his sword and gun
back when they were allies. He'd anticipated having to take on Chelsea
again, and figured it would be helpful to have a way to counter-act
her weapons' blessed properties. He hadn't thought it would be such
a quick process.
"Face it, Coates," said Orloske, his voice booming from the
mech's speakers, "You're out numbered and outclassed. Surrender
quietly and we won't hurt you. I'm sure we can find a way to bring you
around to our way of seeing things. What do you say?"
Orloske's big blue exosuit stood towering over him, while Pink and
Yellow hovered on either side of him. With his weapons useless, he didn't
see any other way to defeat them. All he had to count on was his blessed
luck, but he didn't really see how much that could do against a ten-foot
robot and two women in flying armor, all of whom were presumably heavily
"All right," Red said. "I'll-"
"Red, you coward!" Chelsea screamed. By the time Red saw
her, she was leaping off the projection platform and colliding with
Pink, who, in turn, slammed into Yellow mid air. The three of them toppled
down into the theatre seating below.
"Huh," said Red. "Well, I guess that's a no." He
winked at Orloske, but then he remembered he was wearing a mask, and
just decided to run away instead.
He broke for the lobby, knowing the doorway was far too small for the
mech to pursue, but as he reached the front door, he heard the archway
behind him exploding, likely another victim of the mech's enhanced arsenal.
Red changed the view on his helmet screen so he could see behind himself
in a little window. He saw big Blue moving through the new opening into
the lobby. Red ran out into the street, trying to see if Steve was operating
the thing physically or if it was somehow hooked to his mind, and was
almost hit by a car. Luckily, it stopped just in time, the front bumper
a centimeter away from Red's metal shin. He pulled his gun and pointed
"Out of the car!" he said. The woman inside obliged. Red
leapt into the car and slammed his foot on the gas before he even closed
the car door. "As time went by," a voice on the car radio
said, "They get a little bit older, and a little bit slower." Red
switched it off. In the rear view, Big Blue launched itself into the
air, where it seemed to move both more quickly and with far greater
maneuverability. Red saw an odd little dot break off of the bot. He
hung a hard left, the missile coming into contact with the street in
his wake, blowing black chunks of debris everywhere.
This clearly wasn't going to work- Red couldn't evade the thing. It
was faster than the car was by a wide margin, especially taking into
account the traffic Red had to swerve to avoid. A change of tactics
Red hung another left up Ridge Road and floored the pedal. There were
no cars on the street, so he began building speed immediately as he
raced uphill. Off to his left, he saw Big Blue fall into pace along
side him and begin to take aim. Red veered hard across the other lane
of traffic at the top of the hill and the car left the road, launching
through the air directly at the mech.
Red was a little surprised when Big Blue caught the car.
"Come now, Red," came Orloske's voice, "Did you really
think you could beat us all on your own?" One robot hand on either
side of the car's front end, Orloske began flying them straight up in
the air, fast. Red could feel the G-force pulling him downward into
the car's seating as they rocketed upwards. He pulled his sword and
cut away the car's roof, which was sucked off the vehicle by the wind
as fast as it came loose. Red stood up unsteadily and began to step
out onto the car's hood. Orloske slowed to a stop.
"What on earth are you doing?" he asked.
Red glanced downwards. He felt just a little faint. He'd never been
up this high without the aid of an airplane before. He locked his eyes
on Steve in the center of the big blue thing and decided to focus on
that. "I don't know, I just thought I would go for a stroll," he
said, inching closer. Once he was about a foot away his fist shot out
in a punch, hitting Steve right smack in the side of the helmet. Steve
"This is it, Red, last chance. Are you with us, or should I just… let
Steve began to gently rock the car left and right a little. Red crouched
down, grasping onto the only thing he could grab at the time (the radio
antenna) and panicking a little more. There has got to be a way out
of this, he though.
His eyes started to dart about frantically inside the helmet, darting
through the menus, looking for anything that could help. Nothing seemed
very useful. He accidentally activated the Comm, and Steve's voice began
flowing directly into his ears.
"-should be done with Red in just a minute," he said, "then
I can come help."
"Good," said Amy, "because we're having some trouble
"Uhn!" cried Thuy.
"I'm… I'm ok! We just need to get this bitch!"
Red kept searching through the menus, and somehow his eyes got snagged
on the 'Disengage' function again, and then caught on the more information
"Time's up, Red," said Steve. "Looks like you're on
your own. We've learned a lot from you. Thanks for everything." He
released the car, which began tumbling out from under Red's feet. Red
grabbed onto big Blue's arm. He thoughtlessly clenched his eyes. Steve
laughed, and shook the mech's arm until Red could no longer hold on.
Red screamed as loud as humanly possible. He opened his eyes, and was
surprised to find that over the city lights he was falling towards was
text, saying "Repair unit deployed. Is this an emergency?" Apparently,
the helmet screen had interpreted his clenched eyes as a 'Yes' selection.
Red, still screaming, blinked 'Yes' again, this time on purpose. "Emergency
mode activated." Came the response.
Red could see the car's tail lights a number of feet below him, still
falling. Unfortunately, the lights on the buildings below were getting
bigger rather quickly. He wondered what that incredibly loud sound was,
and realized he was still screaming. It was at that moment that the
repair unit grabbed a hold of him and whisked him away towards the Mediator's
"I don't need my weapons to kick your asses!" Chelsea shouted.
She'd been quite anxious to prove it ever since that strange repetition
of the number nine had made he realize that something had been altering
her perceptions. The very concept made her furious- that someone would
have the balls to crowbar their way into the very special relationship
Chelsea shared with her savior. When she saw Red surrendering to those
flying bastards, she knew she couldn't allow him to go through with
it. This, she knew, was a fight she could win. She could see it- even
if she hadn't had a vision. She'd take the two flying women, he could
have the big robot thing.
Of course, Red just took the opportunity to run again, the coward.
She'd actually stuck around and fought the fight herself. She's kept
a hold of the pink one's leg for as long as possible, both keeping her
from being able to fly properly and giving the yellow one no clean shots
to take. At one point, she'd even snagged a loose wire from one of the
lighting rigs and tied it around Pink's leg, keeping her anchored long
enough to leap onto Yellow's back.
Her fists were already becoming bloody from pounding her knuckles into
their shells. She wrapped her arms around Yellow's neck, holding on
tight. Yellow was flying this way and that, trying to shake her off,
but Chelsea held fast. She had a plan.
She still remembered what Red had told them about the flying suits,
about how they operated. As Yellow neared what was left of the ceiling,
Chelsea wrapped her legs around Yellow's and yanked them backwards,
bending the girl's knees and sending her head straight into the roof.
She could feel the girl's body loosen for a split second as they plummeted
to the floor. Chelsea cushioned her landing by rolling off Yellow's
back and springing away from her.
On the up side, Yellow seemed dazed. Unfortunately, Chelsea had also
positioned herself away from the girls, which meant they were free to
aim their weapons at her again. They immediately did so. Chelsea was
trying to think of a way to position herself so as to get burned by
the blast the least amount upon leaping out of the way, when both Pink
and Yellow stumbled and yelled out in surprise. Pink put her hands on
the sides of her helmet, as if she were trying to block out a loud noise.
Yellow pulled her helmet off, the face it revealed wincing in pain.
That was all Chelsea needed. She ran at Yellow, then spun out a kick
to the girl's face, her boot connecting with the girl's jaw in a satisfyingly
abrupt manner. Yellow fell to the ground, spitting red, her helmet rolling
away into a nearby row of seats. Chelsea leapt into that row and grabbed
the helmet. She could hear a sound emanating from it that reminded her
of a cross between a yowling cat and a police siren. After a second,
the sound cut off, and she could hear talking.
"Red's on a repair drone!" said the voice of the blue robot. "He's
heading back to base! Emergency, forget the girl, we have to stop him!"
"Understood!" came the reply. The same voice then came from
the pink one. "We have to go to base. Now! I'll guide your flight!"
The Asian girl in the yellow suit, still dazed from the fall and the
kick, grabbed Pink's hand and they both took off through the hole in
the ceiling. Chelsea threw the helmet over her head, a number of readings
and numbers now in her view. She assumed these were why Pink needed
to guide Yellow by the hand. Chelsea grinned. She glanced at the area
she knew would open up the menu, and under the 'Suit Function' tab,
she chose the 'Self-Destruct' option. She whipped off the helmet and
tossed it away from herself, craning her neck to see the small dots
flying away out in the night sky erupt into a bright orange flash.
"Chelsea, what's going on?" Argento asked, climbing down
from the projection platform.
"I killed the bitches. God's wrath and all," she smiled. "It's
good to be back. Come on- Red's on his way to Circuit City with that
blue thing on his tail. If we hurry, maybe I can save his sorry ass."
The repair drone was magnetically clamped around Red's waist, flying
at high speed with its two jets, both of which were bigger and more
powerful than the one that had been in Red's back. Red had stopped screaming
when it caught him, as the jarring change of direction had completely
knocked the wind out of him. By the time he'd gotten his breathing back
to normal, he'd heard Thuy and Amy to join Orloske in pursuit, and then
somehow, lose all contact.
Red looked ahead to see himself heading towards a different hangar
than the one they usually fly into. The drone slowed and took him into
the room, which was full of all manner of technology, including what
looked, to Red, to be other colors of mech suits like big Blue in various
stages of being built. The hangar doors were closing behind him.
The drone brought Red over a chair-like unit, and lay Red in it. "Interfacing
with diagnostic unit…" said Red's helmet display. Red struggled
to get up, but the chair was holding him in place, again, magnetically.
Finally, another message came up. "Initiating emergency disengage." The
suit began breaking apart around him, its every seam unlocking one piece
from the next. Red pulled off the helmet, and rose, once again dressed
only in one of his custom suits- black slacks, jacket, and tie, bright
red shirt and socks. Unfortunately, he was shoeless.
Red immediately began searching the room around him. They were definitely
other giant mech suits being made, but none of them appeared to be complete
enough for him to actually be able to use them. There were a number
of weapons that were waiting to be installed in the suits, but they
didn't look like they could be operated by hand.
The hangar's doors began opening again. Red began to hurry. There were
various jets and jet parts… there were large hunks of metal, some
cut and shaped, others waiting to be. Uncut hunks of metal? Red started
looking around again, harder, for something specific. The hangar clanged
into the open position. He found it what he was looking for behind the
half finished Pink unit. He flipped a switch powering the device up.
Big Blue came flying into the hangar and came down for a landing, feet
first. Red ducked down low so he could not be seen easily. "Red," said
Orloske, "You're only making me angry. You can't win, not in the
end. You know just as well as I do that one man is nothing in the face
of the corporate machinery of our country."
Red leapt up. "I guess I'll just have to cut my losses," he
said. As Big Blue spun on his robotic heels to face him, Red jammed
his finger on the trigger of the high-powered laser they'd used for
cutting and shaping the metals. He cranked the dial to the highest heat
setting and swung it diagonally through the mech, trying to avoid Steve's
body, and then again the opposite direction. The beam was constant,
since he'd kept the trigger pressed, and it sliced through the behemoth's
shell much as Red had hoped his sword would, except that it left little
red molten edges where it cut. Both of its arms were on the floor when
Red was done.
Steve screamed, and Big Blue fell to its metal knees.
Red leapt forward and ran up to him, reaching in, putting his hand
behind Steve's head and yanking, tearing him forcibly out of the bot.
He threw Steve to the floor and saw why he was screaming. Apparently,
Steve had still had to physically control the mech. Red had sliced off
Orloske's right hand and his left forearm an inch or two below the elbow.
The heat had cauterized the wounds. Red pulled off Steve's helmet. His
teeth were clenched, a look of deadly hatred in his eyes.
"You're not going to stop me," Steve said.
"Oh, please, Steve," said Red. "You're embarrassing
yourself. You know when you're beat. I think it's time to sell stock.
Let's go." Red grabbed Steve by the hair and dragged him to his
feet, then pulled him out of the room. Steve had to walk hunched over
in order to keep his hair from being ripped out of his head, balancing
carefully the whole time- if he were to fall over, he could no longer
catch himself. No more than he deserves, Red thought grimly.
"I'll crush you," Steve said. "I'll- ow- I will destroy
you and everything you care about."
"It's been done," Red said. "I lived."
Red walked through the compound, trying to figure out how to get back
to the surface world without flying. Whenever they would come across
a red jumpsuit, Steve would bark out orders to them, things like "Get
him!" or "Don't let him escape!" The sight of Orloske's
newly stumped arms combined with Red pointing a gun in their faces made
most of them steer clear and let them go on their way.
Eventually, Red came to a staircase. He took Orloske up the stairs
head first, kicking at the exposed ends of his limbs when he would protest.
As the neared the surface, the numbers on each floor went down lower,
indicating which subbasement they were in. Red was about to head up
the final floor, when Steve gave him an idea.
"It's too late anyway," he said. "We're already inside
their minds, we'll never let go! We can make them do anything!"
Red stopped. "Your right," Red said. "You can. And of
course, being the scumbag you are, you waste it on greed." He turned
to face Orloske and pulled the man's face level to his own. "Where
is it? Where is this equipment?"
"Forget it. I won't- Ah!"
Red grabbed Steve's moustache with his other hand and yanked on it
"All right, here, here! This floor."
"Lucky me." Red lead them into subbasement one and wove through
the halls until he saw movement in a doorway that he caught a glimpse
of through a darkened storage area. He slowly approached.
"Red!" called a familiar voice.
"Alison!" Alison ran to Red and was about to throw her arms
around him when she noticed Steve's condition. "What? Oh, him.
Yeah, don't worry, he's finished." Red pulled downwards on Orloske's
hair and Steve fell to his knees.
"Red…" Alison said, "What did you do to him?"
"If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the giant robot exoskeleton,
I always say." He put his arms around Alison and kissed her. She
hesitated a little, but she seemed to be comforted by him. She had a
gun in her hand. "Let me take that, love," he said. She gave
it to him. He looked around the room.
Katz sat in a chair off to the side of the room, one leg bandaged up,
the other freshly bleeding. There was a series of computer monitors
and displays up against the wall near Katz, along with a few CD units
and a massive soundboard, the type used at radio stations.
"This is it, isn't it?" Red said. "This is how they've
been getting to everyone."
"I stopped it, Red," said Alison. "I got them to play
the release trigger."
"I heard," Red said. "These… these corporate scum
were brainwashing the proletariat into destroying everything so they
could sell it back to them at whatever price they wanted. Even on the
local level, the top ten-percent never ceases to drain every last drop
from the bottom ninety. When will capitalism learn that it needs strict
regulation to foster a truly free market?"
"Red," Alison said, "No. You-"
"Don't worry, Alison. I can fix this." Red held up the gun
Alison had given him and pointed it directly at Orloske's head. He smiled. "I
can beat them at their own game. I can use the machinery of the system
to bring that system down. I can bring down the corporate powers right
from this room, or at least I can make a start. Now… tell me how
"Forget it," Orloske said.
"You're in no position to bargain!" Red shouted. "I'd
like nothing better than to blow you away! You used me! You turned me
into a tool, something I swore I would never be again! I'm going to
ask you one more time, and then I'm going to start asking Katz over
there, so, please! Say no to me! TELL. ME. HOW. IT. WORKS."
"Screw you," Orloske said, and he spat.
"I hoped you'd say that," Red said. He straightened his arm
"Red, wait!" Alison said. Red looked at her. "Red, please… I
love you. Wait."
"What is it, Alison?"
"Red, this isn't you, it's… they're still controlling you,
whatever they did to you."
"I heard the… release thing. I'm back to normal."
"Red, I'm not sure why, or how, but you're not-"
"What? What do you want from me? Don't you trust me?"
"Do you trust me?" she said.
"It was the helmet, idiot," said Steve. "It's made to
insulate us from-"
"Just shut up!" Red said. "My mind has not been tampered
with! I'm my own person. I- I don't have time for this, Alison."
"You do… he's not going anywhere. Please, Red. Just… just
let me play it again. If it doesn't change anything… you can still
kill him. You know I can't stop you. Please."
Red looked Alison in the eyes. She wanted this so badly. He thought
it was foolish, a waste of his time, but she was a woman, and women
need to be indulged once in a while. Kill him now, kill him a minute
later, it made no difference in the long run. The point was what Red
could accomplish. If listening to the release thing would make Alison
happy, he could live with it.
"Fine, do it," he said.
Alison gestured to Katz, who carefully rolled his chair up to the console,
punched a few button, and a moment later, the Beatles' Revolution 9
came out of the speakers- the "Number Nine" Red had heard
in the theatre along with the odd soundscape of backwards music, conversational
snippets, sound effects, and screams. Red listened to the way the words
kept jumping from one speaker to the next, directed by the engineering,
how the sounds were all manipulated, warped out of their usual shapes,
convoluted into something else. Everything you heard was there, it was
part of the original sound, but twisted into something it never meant
to become. Red's eyes started to moisten.
"You used me. You used me you, piece of crap!" The gun had
dropped to his side as he listened, but he brought it back up and thrust
it right in Steve's face.
"Red, no!" Alison said, coming closer to him.
"No," said Red. He let the gun drop to his side again. "No.
I'm going to beat you, Steve. I'm going to beat you in a way that's
even worse than blowing you away. I'm going to go out and change the
world, and I'm going to do it fair and square. Means like yours… corrupt
any ends. I'm better than you, and I'm going to make sure that you are
never in a position to get back what you're losing here today. I'm not
going to kill you. I'm not in a position to judge whether you deserve
"I am," Chelsea said from the doorway, and she blew Steve's
brains all over the floor. "We all set here?"
"Jesus Christ, Chelsea!" Red shouted. "What the hell
are you doing?"
"My job, butthead. Retributions, remember?"
Argento made his way into the room. "Christ, what happened here?"
"The psycho-bitch strikes again!" Red said.
"Somebody has to clean up these messes," Chelsea said. "We
can't all be pansy asses like you, Red." She turned to Katz. "Am
I going to have to worry about you?"
"No, ma'am," he said. "I'll be good."
"Stick with the video games."
"Just in case…" Red said, and drew his sword. He set
about slicing all the equipment in the room into little tiny bits.
"Well, that's that," said Chelsea. "Everybody's dead
who needs to be. I guess I've taken care of everything that needs to
be done here, so… Argento?"
"Hmm?" he replied.
"I guess you and I should be going."
Argento blinked. "About that," he said. "In light of… everything,
I thought, ah, I thought I might be able to serve Red a little better
at this point than I might, ah… you."
Chelsea's face turned redder than her hair. "We had a deal."
"We had a deal."
"Hey, Chelsea, why don't we call it a truce?" Red said. "I
couldn't have done it without you. I appreciate the help. We all do." Red
squeezed Alison to his side with his left arm while offering his right
hand out to the other saint. She stared at it with contempt before turning
back to Argento.
"Damn you to hell," she said.
"He has," Argento replied. "And I hope he finds it in
His heart to save me, as I'm sure he will you."
Chelsea punched Argento square in the face, knocking him off his feet.
He stumbled backwards and fell on top on Steve's body. Chelsea looked
up at Red.
"You have everything given to you- everything! But someday you're
going to lose, and I'm going to be there to watch it happen." She
pointed at Alison. "And if you ever come near me again, I'll kill
you with my bare hands."
Then she turned and left. Red turned to Alison.
"What did you do to her?"
"I have no idea," said Alison. "Maybe something I forgot."
Red offered Argento a hand and helped him to his feet. His nose was
bleeding. "Do all your partnerships end that way?" Red asked.
"So far so good," said Argento, holding his nose.
"Red, what are we going to do now?"Alison said. "We
can't go home, the police are going to be looking for me. And they took
all of our money."
"I'm not going to be able to square these legal troubles," Argento
said. "I'll be lucky not to have ones of my own. I'm sure Chelsea
is going to tell Hayden about all this. I can't be the… mole in
"Then we've got no choice," Red said. "We leave town,
all three of us. Right now, tonight."
"What about Chaser?" Alison asked.
"I'm sure we can break in and steal him," Red said.
"If we hurry," Argento said, "We can rent a car before
they cancel my company cards."
"Sounds like a plan to me."
"But where are we going to go?" Alison said.
"I don't really know," Red said. "I don't really have
any contacts to go to or anything."
"Of course you do," Argento said. "You just don't remember
"Good thing we have you with us, then," said Red. "You
can lead the way. I think you said something about a prognostication
Argento's eyes brightened, but his voice grew serious. "He believes
he can make things happen, just by custom making a prediction of it.
Signs, of course, point to him being… crazy. But you never know."
Alison looked up into Red's eyes nervously. He smiled and touched his
nose to hers. "Don't worry, love. Things might be looking down,
but they can only get better from here. At least we're free."
"Even if nothing we're going to need to buy is," she replied.
Red laughed, and they went up stairs, leaving the building, and soon,
leaving home for good.