Here For Pickup


danko_icon.gif keira2_icon.gif

Scene Title Here For Pickup
Synopsis Keira takes a rather unwise course of action.
Date May 10, 2018

The Rookery

There’s something about Thursday mornings that tends to bring the hooded figure Keira’s correctly fingered as a dead man out into the Rookery market. Today it’s 03:15 hours before one of her men spots him on a side path — a slight figure in black moving silently between darkened shops.

Harbor fog has sunk in silent through streets crowded with shanty stalls and awnings — lit lurid orange in places where sulfur bulbs still burn on borrowed electricity. Settled in smelly and thick until it’s scorched off by the morning sun, still some two and a half hours off the horizon. A slack wind rattling shutters — the squeak of a cart wheel, the guttural bark of heron out over water — it all carries and echoes in the quiet, amplified by the humid air. The only thing there isn’t is conversation.

Even the Rookery has to sleep sometime.

Visibility is low, but that’s to their advantage as much as it is his — and they have an idea of where he might be headed. A few shops do some of their biggest business in the rollover from one day to the next. A gunshop on the edge of town with a neon X flickering red over its door is one of them.

This whole thing has the potential to be very, very bad and go very, very wrong for Keira, if she doesn't play her cards right. And while this is quite possibly an unwise decision (even she can admit that much), the tiny shapeshifter is, at the very least, organized in her planning.

Sure, it could all go wrong and she could get unexpectedly murdered by a crazy anti-evo terrorist who is supposed to be dead. But Keira is on a personal quest for redemption for her shitty ways long ago. It’s not like she ever met the guy, but he’s also kind of the face of her past.

She was mad that she wasn’t a special snowflake. And while she didn’t really feel violent about it at first, she let herself get involved with other people who were angry that they weren’t special snowflakes, and those people were violent about it. Add in a rather fucked up father figure who she sees, in hindsight, wasn’t really good at the role she had assigned to him. Not like Walsh ever asked for that kind of relationship with her — she just gave it to him because he was the closest older male figure who was nice-ish to her.

Keira’s done a lot of soul searching, and apparently, at least to her, this silly little redemption side story of hers is worthy enough of the risk that she’ll take it. It would have been nice if Ray was in town, as she’d probably have a bit more firepower at her fingertips, but he wasn’t, and there’s no telling if or when Emile Danko will move on. So she’s making her move now.

Her boys are positioned in the gun shop in question, posing as customers. The tiny shapeshifter pokes her head out of the back room, nodding to the owner; the man nods, and slips into the back room with her, closing the door behind them for privacy. He’s pocketing a nice bit of money and extra merchandise from this arrangement, and his greed is apparently enough to outweigh the risk of pissing Danko off.

While Danko makes his way toward the gun shop, the owner is holding hands…with himself. The other gun shop owner stares quietly at a timer on a pink phone that rests upon the desk.

It’s nearly as gloomy in the shop as it is outside — a pair of lit oil lanterns and a single suspended lamp yielding just enough sallow light to see the wares by. There are guns on the walls, guns locked in cases, scopes and silencers and bumpstocks on display.

The hooded figure shoulders in through the open door like he always does — a silent entrant from the street with his hood drawn up, at a time when other customers (and their prying eyes) are few and far between.

He stops immediately at the sight of so many other warm bodies crowded inside, grey eyes searching face to face, hip to hip.

To their eyes, Keira’s hunch is proven accurate at a glance — Danko’s eyes are sunk in hollow, irises washed ghostly pale in the shadow of his hood. He’s short, slight, wiry. Suspicion furrowed into his brow is underscored by the dishwater grey bristle of a mustache that might qualify as comical, under less potentially lethal circumstances.

Granted: mustachios are an increasingly common sight out here, on Staten Island.

Alister Black’s influence, perhaps.

He takes a step deeper in, and another for the unoccupied counter, hood pushed back from the fuzzy grey scruff on his skull as he goes. His other hand stays stuffed down hard in his pocket. Just another Thursday.

She marks it: 30 seconds. That should give her a good 10 minutes as the shop owner — more than enough time to carry out the first part of this crazy, farfetched plan of hers. Then, the twin shop owners, tall and burly men with shaved heads and scowling eyebrows, break contact. The original looks rather dazed — it’s always rather strange to look at yourself where there was once a tiny tattooed woman.

Nodding, Keira leaves the man tucked away in a hidden corner of the shop. She’s interacted with him long enough that she has his mannerisms and walk down, and the acting classes she took at one point only reinforce her mimicry. A nearly finished breakfast burrito is pulled from a bag on the desk, and then the tall man is slipping out of the office, popping the last bite of the food into his mouth.

Wiping his hands on the back of his pants, the man offers a casual nod toward Danko; nothing out of the usual, save for the slightly crowded shop; it seems the three men, occasionally mumbling amongst themselves, are there for the same purposes as Danko — discreet purchases without the crowds.

Keira steps over to the counter, pulling out a large blowgun from the wall and offering it to one of the men to examine; the other two are busy mumbling something about a flamethrower.

Emile’s not much for window-shopping — he approaches when the keeper makes his appearance, nonplussed about the prospect of bothering anyone who’s been in here waiting longer than he has. The order of these things is generally understood: don’t start shit if you aren’t willing to finish it. And he looks like he is, the hollows in his face carved in close to the bone, snakey muscle rigged up taut behind his ears.

Brow to boots, ignoring the ‘stache, he’s exactly as Keira remembers him.

The only thing diluted is his attitude — a wad of cash palmed down onto the countertop without implicit threat, just enough remnant swagger for him to keep his back turned to the others while he does it. There’s sandy mud smudged in the creases of his backpack and across the black of his hoodie, small holes snagged up the side and across the shoulder.

He sizes the shopkeep up a beat, head tipped, deep-set eyes weary, as if already in anticipation of some kind of bullshit he doesn’t have time for.

“Here for pickup,”

One hundred rounds of ballistic point .223, broken up into boxes of 20. He put in the order two weeks ago.

Silently, the burly man nods; he leaves the fellow to examining the blowgun, the man moving over to his two friends and mumbling about how cool this shit is, and how many of those fucking squirrels do they think he could kill with this thing?

In the meanwhile, Keira turns away from Danko, moving to the ammunitions locker and pulling out his keys. After peering them over, he quickly pulls the proper key out, and sets about unlocking the locker to retrieve the man’s order.

This is really him. She’s really standing in the same room as Emile Danko, the war criminal who had a statue depicting him erected and promptly torn down. She’s really got three of her boys in here with him, ready to fuck an anti-evo bitch up at her word, with a fourth keeping watch outside.

She’s really doing this.

The locker swings open, and Keira reaches in, retrieving the man’s order without so much as a flinch. Then, Keira turns in her burly-man-suit, approaching Danko and clearing his throat in the process. Five boxes, just as he asked.

Unfortunately, the throat clearing is also the signal to move. The three thugs laugh together at some remark over the flamethrower…and then, Blowgun fellow quickly sends a pair of darts from the weapon he was previously showing off to his friends, aimed at the back of Danko’s neck. Both of these darts are tipped with a rather potent batch of ketamine, all the better to knock the man and his stupid porn ‘stache out.

At the same time, Keira’s hand is on the shotgun under the counter — she’d like to take him alive, but she will shoot him in the face with a shotgun if it comes to that.

Five boxes. Danko lifts his left hand from the cash to paw over the boxes instead, eyes still tracking clear and cold after Keira. Whatever’s going on — it’s like he can smell it in the cloying air, suspicion in the slow flip of his thumb under a box lid. Ready to check the contents, only to stop when the keep reaches under the counter.

Emile twists his brows into a knit up at him, like. Really? You really want to do this?

Both darts catch him full in the neck from behind; Keira will see the instant his pupils blow out in muddled shock — the jolt of his hip to the counter when he flinches.

He spins, of course — right hand dragged out of his hoodie pouch with an oversized handgun in tow, the left brought up to rip the darts out from behind his ear. It takes less than a second, movement controlled, weapon brought up smooth for him to start shooting. BLAM BLAM, the .45’s report is ear splitting in the enclosed space, aimed to blast a pair of holes through the blowgun thug’s chest. BLAM. The third shot goes wide of the man’s skull. Miss.

The fourth goes wider, aimed hazy at blowgun’s partner, only to ricochet off the wall.

The gun drops through Danko’s fingers with a heavy clatter, spent casings still rattling across the floor away from his boots. He just stands there, weaving, until his knee buckles.


It’s like all of it goes in slow motion for Keira. The sound of the darts flying quietly out of the blowgun, the jolt that goes through Danko’s body as they hit their mark. And then Danko is flying into action for as long as he can, one of her men going down in a bloody mess — he’s definitely dead. The other two thugs duck down, covering the backs of their heads.

Keira ducks down as the man fires off his gunshots, but is right back up as the gun clatters to the ground, leaping over the counter. Her ears are ringing and she can hardly hear a thing, but she got him. She took down Emile Danko, and didn’t die in the process. One of her boys did, but she didn’t die.

The shop owner will be compensated accordingly for having someone murdered in his shop.

Over in their corner of the shop, one of the two thugs is having a panic attack. “Fuck, man, he fuckin’ killed Jerry! Holy shit, man, what the fuck!” The other one is a bit more stony-faced, giving Panic a sharp nudge with his foot.

Keira ducks down, pocketing Danko’s gun with a handkerchief, before reaching over and rolling the unconscious man over. “Your bonuses just got bigger. I’ll send someone to take care of Jerry, you two get him tied up and into th’van.” The shapeshifter-turned-shop owner gestures toward the unconscious man.

Abandoned Warehouse

When Danko awakens, it is definitely not a happy way to wake up. See, he just had a pretty strong does of Ketamine, and as a result, he is probably hallucinating pretty heavily as a result. There’s something called a K-Hole, and Emile is no doubt pretty far into one, with the dose that Keira gave him. His hands are tied behind his back, and he is seated in an old, uncomfortable wooden chair.

Sitting silently in front of him is a small person; their clothing is baggy and androgynous, and they wear a metal mask resembling a noseless animal skull with tiny blackened eye holes, and wicked sharp teeth. They sit with their hands folded in their lap, staring at Danko with their head canted slightly toward their shoulder.

Stripped of his hoodie and the private arsenal concealed beneath it, Danko’s hemmed up like a skinned cat in a black t-shirt, raw and lean, wrists twisted together stiff behind his back. Skull bowed, breathing slow, he struggles to lift his head when the shape of the figure across from him finally registers.

Drool ropes slippery thin from his chin to his chest — a dark patch already soaked in across his sternum.

Hard to tell what he sees or doesn’t see — his eyes have lost their shrapnel gleam, silver dulled an uncertain, filmy grey while he sizes up the mask. Getting a read of his prison is a pipe dream, walls a million miles away, light bulbs distant suns, time and space scaled beyond human comprehension. A spluttering cough sets the floor beneath him spinning counterclockwise.

Closing his eyes doesn’t help. Maybe he only thinks they’re closed.

Currently Keira wears the face of a teenage gutter punk, a girl she normally pays for information — this time, she paid her for her face. The little brunette smiles behind the mask, leaning closer to the man. The voice, lower and more raspy than her own, is disguised enough that Danko will never be able to recognize the true identity of his captor. Even Keira’s thugs don’t know which face is really hers — it keeps her safer that way.

“You’re probably really fucked up right about now. That was a decent dose of Ketamine you got there. Sorry, didn’t want to take any chances.” He certainly can’t see the smirk behind that horrible mask she wears. “Don’t worry about trying to answer me, it’s probably impossible right now. I’ve been there, my man, but the difference for me is that I wanted to be there.”

There’s a long pause, and the masked figure leans back in her seat. One hand goes into her pocket, pulling out a nice, shiny knife. “You’ve got a lot of nerve, showin’ your face around here.” She begins to idly play with the knife, twirling it about, the metal glinting in the floodlights she had her boys set up to make this experience that much more uncomfortable for him.

“You’re lucky, though. At least y’didn’t get hunted down by a murderer.” Keira is a lot of things, but she’s never really been fond of ending lives.

No answer. He doesn’t try, head dipping heavy back to his chest, the gristle in his neck gone slack.

The shirt he’s in has seen better days — worn faded and thin in patches, nicked with holes near the collar where brambles or bits of chain link have caught over the last few weeks. He stinks, too, like harbour water and stale smoke and the sweat clinging in the fabric under his arms and dark in the seedy scruff on his head.

Ketamine and all, he’s with it enough to focus one baleful eye on the glint of that knife before he squeezes it shut again on a reptilian delay, retina seared blind by the light.


“Pretty fancy footwork you did there, convicin’ everyone you were dead. I believed it, too.” The woman twirls the blade again, watching Danko’s drugged reactions. “But then you go an’ show up here, sneakin’ around like the nasty little rat you are.” Still fiddling with the blade as one would with one of those stupid fidget cubes, Keira leans forward.

“I was hopin’ it’d be some moron who looked a little bit like you, tryin’ to take some fucked up form of glory from you. But no, you…” She sneers, a disgusted look flashing over her features behind the mask.

“Emile Danko. One of the big names of Humanis First. Captured, tortured, and executed SLC-expressive people. Lynched them. Took their lives because of th’way they were born.” She glares sullenly at the man — not that he can see the hatred in her eyes. “Bunch of fucked up little whiney-ass bitches who were butthurt that you weren’t special snowflakes too, so you took it out on the actual snowflakes.” She would know, she was one once.

The knife is spun in her hand again. “You are a pathetic excuse for a human being. I could totally fuckin’ slit your throat, right the fuck now, and nobody would shed a fuckin’ tear for you. I’d be a fuckin’ hero, killin’ you for real this time.”

She lets that linger, watching the man in silence.

Danko’s neck knots up sluggish around a swallow, adam’s apple slick with saliva. Nowhere to go, jaw slack, eyes dizzy when they’re open at all.

“Fuck you.”

He squeezes his own voice out rough through his throat, barely there, a cat’s tongue rasping bone. Little hooks plucking at exposed flesh, hatred boiled into the core of his being. Bubbling up through his teeth.

The gutter punk’s raspy voice responds with a hate-filled laugh. “Oh man, Emile, you’re feisty. It’s a fuckin’ wonder you can talk while you’re on that shit. Most are reduced to a puddle of drool and existential crisis.”

The knife is flipped upwards, held at the ready, and then Keira is leaning in closer and closer. Then, she’s lifting the knife, and cutting a slice across Danko’s forehead; the blade is sharp and cuts like butter, and then the woman is leaning back, watching the blood flow over the man’s brow and into his eyes.

“Still gotta figure out what t’ultimately do with you. Should I lynch you like you lynched those poor people? Should I start carving off your skin and torture you to death before publicly displaying your mangled corpse for all to see?” The woman chuckles softly, examining the blood on the blade.

“Nah. I’m not a murderer.” A pause. “That then begs the question, what the fuck do I do with you? I mean, I could keep you on a steady cocktail of sedatives. Keep you as my little pet, cut you when I’m mad. That’s pretty fucked up, though, and usually I cut the motherfuckers who make me mad, like I’m cuttin’ you now. Diversion tactics are bullshit anyhow.” She tilts her head to one side.

“That then leads to, who the fuck should I give you to?” Suddenly, she drives the blade down into Danko’s left thigh as hard as she can.

The absence of any convulsive jerk or recoil is as surreal as it is to be expected. Like she says — he’s taking a ride, and there’s no stopping for pain along the way.

Her knife lays his forehead open, split hide pulled wide by a furrow away from the warmth — a glimpse of skullbone slivered pale through the first pulse of blood. It courses dark down the ridge of his brow, follows old creases into his eyes, along his nose. Nearly black, in its drip off the end and into his lap, and its well along her blade.

There’s a pale glimpse of silvery iris when his eyes slick open, rolling in his skull to find her through the blood.

Fuck you.

He doesn’t have the will to force it out of his lungs again.

He doesn’t have the will to do much of anything. She spikes him deep, and this time his brow twists, blood spattered off the end of his nose and into her face in a choked grit against whatever sensation that invokes. Still more blood soaks up through the black of his pant leg. Basic biology.

It’s when she looks up again that she might notice there’s a problem.

The slash across Danko’s brow is starting to knead itself shut; the blood trickling off his chin and soaked into the bristle on his upper lip has thickened and slowed, until — as she watches — it stops. And starts to reverse. Crawling back up the bones of his face against gravity, diverting into his mouth and up his nose. Into his eyes.

There’s a clatter as the shapeshifter suddenly stands, leaving the knife in his leg. “You — what the fuck, you’re Evo too?! No wonder…” She clenches her fists at her sides. “So either you’re a fucking hypocrite, or you got fooled into thinkin’ you weren’t a special snowflake.” She was wondering exactly why she couldn’t take his face — here’s her answer.

“A fuckin’ healer, too. Well, isn’t that convenient.” Her jaw set, the small woman steps away, popping her knuckles as she processes this development.

Then, she turns, plucking the knife out of Danko’s leg. “So what if I keep the wound open while you heal? I feel like I should do an experiment here. Not like you give a shit, right?” She twirls the blood-stained blade in her hand once, then dips down, promptly grabbing hold of Danko’s leg and severing his Achilles tendon. Then, she pulls a blank business card out, folding it and wedging it into the cut.

Then, she straightens, glaring at Danko. “Maybe I can take you to Alister. He seems pretty well equipped to deal with you. But I also hate him, so.” A pause, as the woman leans down, examining what is going on with Danko’s foot. “Or I could just give you to SESA. That might be the better option.”

There’s an audible snap as the cut tendon rubber bands up into his calf, and he lurches against his binds, miserable and damp, retreating blood still siphoning itself back into his skull. It’s not especially particular about the route it takes, brackish tracks left behind — up into his ears after the initial cut has knit itself shut, and down Keira’s neck.

Because the stuff that landed on her face intends to make its way back too.

Blood seething black in his teeth, shadows hollowed in weary purple around his eyes, Emile follows her with his glare until she dips down out of his line of sight and is lost to the ketamine.

What’s going on with his foot? More of the same nasty black shit webs its way down from the muscle and up from the bone, gristle shining like crude oil under white hot lights. It has to navigate its way through the split fibers of his sock, working against the card she wedged into the gap like a tongue twisting at a loose tooth. Pushing it out. Making a path.

Still bound fast, he stifles another gagging cough, both eyes crushed shut, gunk clagged sticky in his throat.

Good experiment.

It is with wide, child-like eyes that Keira watches this — though Danko can’t see, what with the mask hiding her features. “Woah, Emile,” Keira says in the raspy gutter punk’s voice. She sounds like she’s had too many cigarettes, maybe. “That shit’s insane. Like, your blood wants to stay in you. And that shit,” she gestures toward his mending tendon, “that’s crazy.”

She pulls back, then, wiping the blade of her knife on Dank’s pants. Not that there’s any blood on it — that all came off rather quickly. “You look like you have fuckin’ oil for blood. Are you even a fuckin’ human?” Nonchalantly, she stabs her knife down into Danko’s right thigh.

“Kinda takes all the fun out of cuttin’ you when you just heal up. I was hopin’ I could at least fuckin’ scar you up a little bit, y’know?” She pulls the knife out, watching how the blood travels off of the blade and back into the man. “Or leave you a cripple, but damn. How long were you hidin’ this shit? Or are you a late bloomer?” She spins the knife in her hand once the blood rolls off.

“Irony is a fun fuckin’ thing, isn’t it? Kill all these Evos, and then y’find out that you’re one’ve ‘em.” She leans close, lifting the mask just high enough…and spits in the man’s face. The mask is pulled back down. “See, in that position, I would go out’ve my fuckin’ way to make it right, somehow…even in m’own eyes, y’know?”

She glances off to one of the guards, who has let her have her space with the man, and dips her head toward him wordlessly; the man makes his way to a corner of the warehouse, going through some gathered supplies that Keira thought to bring to this wonderful torture session.

“But here you are, hiding like a filthy little rat. Tryin’ t’live in peace after all the lives you’ve destroyed.” She’s berating herself just as much as she’s berating him, here, but he doesn’t need to know that. “It’s not that fuckin’ easy, you piece of shit. You don’t get to move on when you’ve done all the shit you’ve done.”

She certainly hasn’t.

A sporadic crackle of gunfire erupts outside, muffled by the warehouse’s insulated walls.

So much for living in peace.

Keira hears the start of a scream but not its crescendo; the sound is snipped abruptly short by the boom of a body crumpling against the side of what is probably the dumpster in the adjacent alleyway.

What comes next is worse: Silence.

The blood on Keira’s blade starts out rich and smooth — a deep, visceral red that grades into black as it rolls down for the tip. It stretches back for his thigh, a clinging, stringy drip, drawn as if by a magnet to the open wound.

Muscle bites in sharp across his breastbone at the sink of the knife back into his thigh for the second or third time — he rankles against the spit peppered warm across his face. Eye to eye, pupil whetted sharp out of his drug-induced haze. Not just hearing her, anymore. This is active listening.

At his hock, the snipped tendon is dragged back down and secured to his heel, tissue winched taut. Ichor pooled onto the concrete floor beneath him thickens and clots into pitch, pulsing up into a glistening lump.

It shivers in the light, and begins to slither for his pant leg.

Gunfire, a scream, silence.

“Don’t stop now.” His voice is like wet sand in his throat, Keira’s saliva still sliding down the mess she’s made of his mug.

“We’re just getting to know each other.”

Oh shit. That would be her roof guy. Keira’s eyes, the eyes of the gutter punk, raise up to the ceiling of the old warehouse. How the fuck did he not see them coming? Keira’s eyes turn down to Danko, narrowing behind the mask.

She makes a few motions to her three indoor guards, the men returning to her side almost instantly. One hands her a needle, which she wastes no time in injecting into Danko’s neck. More Ketamine. Deeper into the K-hole for him — he’s up to a dangerous dose at this point. She’s done talking to him.

To make that point even more clear, she flips the knife up once, catching it by the handle, and drives the blade into Danko’s eye. He’ll heal, but at least he can experience having a knife in his eye socket.

Then, they’re moving, making for the back of the store — that has more exits, and may be a better chance at getting out alive. Also, the van is back there.

Danko is forgotten — they can have him, she’s had her fun.

The needle sticks, despite a frothing, animal jolt against his seat, and Danko slumps forward, silent and still and slack once more.

His eyes are open for Keira to schlormp her knife in deep.

No resistance.

Blood wells black along the grip.

As Keira and her men emerge into the alley where their van is parked, the vehicle’s headlights wash over them. It isn’t idling, but someone has turned the high beams on in anticipation of their arrival, forcing her foot soldiers to raise their hands to their faces, shielding their eyes from the glare.

A pair of luminous yellow points seated inside a helmet stares back at them from the hood of the truck where someone is perched. When she squints, Keira can make out the shape of a full suit of FRONTLINE armor crouched and waiting in the dark — but only for an instant, because they’re already moving as soon as the first opportunity presents itself. The figure spills off the van’s hood with all the lithe, fluid purpose of a small jungle cat about to sink its claws into something soft and vulnerable.

In this instance, it happens to be the throat of Keira’s nearest foot soldier. A blade snaps out of the figure’s wrist and punches through his jugular, spraying the pavement and the alley wall directly behind him with a gusher of blood.

Unlike Danko’s, it doesn’t retreat back into him. It continues to empty out of the gaping wound the blade leaves behind, even after his lifeless body crumples to the ground.

Two down, two left.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

This wasn’t supposed to happen like this. Stupid move, Keira. Don’t gloat over someone, just do what you’re going to do and get it over with. She totally fell into that trap this time. She could’ve just snuck him off to SESA in the first place, but she had to be a fucking cocky moron.

Just another mistake Keira won’t be making again, if she manages to get out of this alive.

That’s looking like a pretty big if. Keira and her thugs already had their guns drawn as they made their exit, and while Caleb there never got a chance to get a shot off, Paul and Tim are more than happy to open fire with their AR-15s after the initial shock of watching their buddy get stabbed through the throat, both of them screaming their heads off.

Keira makes sure to stay behind Paul, eyes wide. Fuck. She aims a few shots at the figure, but her goal here is to use her thugs here as a meat shield while she gets to the van — which she makes a beeline for while Paul and Tim (hopefully) distract Power Armor over there.

Bullets pop and spark, glancing off the armor’s glossy black exterior. Up close, Paul and Tim can see — with what little time they have left, at least — the hand-painted emblem on the figure’s shoulder, depicting what looks like a wolf and a raven entwined in complimentary shades of gray.

A hand clamps down on the barrel of Tim’s AR-15 and crumples it in the armor’s glove like it was made of paper mache, not metal. It isn’t a comparison he appreciates because the blade finds him next and splits him open from chin to groin.

Whatever fate befalls Paul is probably similar; Keira is at least spared having to watch what becomes of him as she darts toward the van, the front passenger side door still hanging open. She gets halfway across the seat and has one hand clutching the van’s wheel, the other fumbling for the keys in the ignition, before she feels something grasp at her hair.

She’s yanked out of the van and dragged back into the alley by the stranger in the armor, now sleek with the blood of her men, and this is the part where she should feel that blade pierce through her shoulder blades and slide out through her chest — except no such blow comes.

Keira finds herself trapped in the figure’s embrace, the blade at her throat. She tries to move but gains only a fraction of an inch. Either the figure is supernaturally strong, or their armor is.

I have tears for him,” a voice hisses metallic from inside the helmet, “an entire ocean of them.”

She can’t help but scream as she finds herself yanked about like a ragdoll, arms flailing at the armor, likely bloodying her own knuckles as she attempts to fend off Power Armor with the weak fists of the gutter punk whose face she wears right now.

It just makes the strength of the person wearing the armor that much more effective, because all she currently has at her disposal is weak teenager arms. Fuck.

Then, she stops, going completely still as she feels the blade at her throat, green eyes wide as she stares at the helmet. Then, gritting her teeth, she spits at the helmet. “You’re one of th’few, then.” She hisses this out. “I wasn’t gonna fuckin’ kill him. I’m not a sadistic asshole, I just wanted t’give him a few scars an’ then give him t’SESA.” She narrows her eyes at the figure.

“He hurt people. He hurt so many people. I ain’t a fuckin’ angel, but even I can see that he needs to answer for it.” She grits her teeth. “He faked his own fuckin’ death, he’s a fuckin’ coward.”

Then, she closes her eyes, hands lowering to her sides. “Just do whatever th’fuck you’re gonna do t’me.”

“If you insist.”

The blade trails up Keira’s cheek, following the line of her jaw until it’s level with her left eye. This next strike is more precise than the one she’d inflicted on Danko and slips in behind the socket, severing the optic nerves and whatever other fleshy tangle of wiring that connects Keira’s eyeball to her skull.

It pops out with a wet sound and a torrent of hot, cascading blood shot through with intraocular fluid — or aqueous humor as physicians like to call it.

Not that there’s anything funny about this.

Keira puts on a big show of being tough. She’s made a career on being tough, really, not showing off any weaknesses to anyone but a select few. Be it mental toughness or physical toughness, she’s always been about showing off how much she can handle.

This, though — there’s no way to be tough when you are getting your eyeball cut out of your skull. Thanks to the desolate location, there’s nobody around to hear the ear-splitting shriek of pain that escapes Keira’s throat as the blade slips in and does its damage. Weak, bloodied hands grip and scrabble at the figure’s arms, feebly trying to stop what is happening — to no avail, of course.

Then her eye pops out, and raw, severed nerves are suddenly hit by air, and she shrieks even louder, arms and legs kicking at the figure as she tries to break free. There’s no point, really, she knows she’ll never break free, but she tries anyhow, even as she feels the blood and fluid pouring down her cheek.

Sure, it does kind of serve her right, but at least she gave Danko a tranquilizer before she stabbed him in the eye. And with his healing power, he probably won’t remember a bit of it — or he’ll remember watching it from outside of his body.

She can feel her consciousness wavering, between the pain and the blood loss, but she fights to stay awake. “Sh…show me your fuckin’ face if you’re gonna take my eye, at least.”

“No,” says the figure, flicking wetness off the tip off the blade. They use Keira’s own sleeve to wipe it clean before it retracts back into the armor. “You don’t get to see my face and live.”

So, hey, some good news.

Keira feels pressure building in the middle of her back as the figure brings their knee up and presses it against her tailbone at the same time they begin bending her backward, folding her body in half. “I want you to remember: Even men like Emile Danko are loved.”

Her spine snaps. Sensation floods out of her extremities. The last thing Keira remembers before the emptiness consumes her is the figure’s hold on her going slack as she’s discarded on the alley floor beside the mangled remains of her own men.

At least she gets to live — even if it’s half blind. She wonders if she’ll grow another eye when she changes into other people. Probably not. That’ll make anonymity a bit more of a challenge. She’ll have to invest in some glass eyes, or something. That’ll be creepy.

Another scream rips its way out of Keira’s borrowed vocal cords as she feels her spine break, the shark snap of bone snapping as it is bent in a way it’s not supposed to bend. The tiny gutter punk’s body breaks even easier than her own body might — not that it makes a difference when put up against the technology of those fucking armor suits.

As she falls to the ground, she feebly reaches into her pocket, pulling out her cell phone and pressing a single button. And then, she finally loses her grip on consciousness, and the cold darkness embraces her, taking her away from the immense amount of pain she’s in right now.

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