Stepping out into the basement, Grey beside her, Sarah noted the familiar scent of blood was in the air. Once upon a time that might have repulsed her, but years living with her father had removed that weakness.
Instead she felt emboldened. More alive.
There was no fancy interrogation room in the mansion. Just a surprisingly new and well-maintained pipe, tucked away in a shadowy corner of a repurposed wine cellar.
And a nearby drain.
Their prisoner for the day was an older man, abducted from his home in the middle of the day by a few of her trusted underlings. Not particularly high up in the Brotherhood’s food chain – they were tightly guarded, and usually Metas to match – but the aged tattoos littering his skin suggested he was a veteran member of the organization.
As she got closer, she noted the livid bruises running along his face and she had to resist the urge to tut. She had explicitly instructed her people not to inform her father of the man’s presence on the estate, but one of them must have blabbed.
Later she would have to find out who, and ‘educate’ them on where their true loyalties should lie. After all, loyalty to her was loyalty to her father.
Just a better directed form of loyalty.
Still, the Neo-Nazi was still alive and mostly intact, so all was not lost. She would just have to ensure that he stayed that way long enough for her purposes to be served.
The prisoner’s face was filled with a look of loathing she was all too familiar with, his pride unbroken by the bike-lock that held him firmly against the pipe.
“Has he said anything?” She asked Francis, the nervous looking young man looking like he wanted to be anywhere else.
Which was exactly why he was down here. Boy needed to toughen up if he was going to be of any use at all to her going forward. Her little faction had no room for weakness.
“No Ma’am.” The boy shook his head, “not after… the boss, got finished with him at least.”
"Good afternoon, Mr. Green.” Sarah spoke calmly as she directed her gaze to the glaring man, "I’m terribly sorry that we had to meet this way, but I am afraid that my father and I have a few questions. Questions we would like you to answer.”
"Fuck you, and your nigger loving father, you treacherous whore, I ain’t telling you shit.” The man tried to spit, but it seemed fear had quite dried his throat. It came off as rather pathetic really.
Quite understandable though. Unlike in the movies it’s quite difficult to come off convincingly rebellious when faced with the possibility of torture. Not even Integrity’s fanatics were immune to that. It wasn’t so much a matter of bravery as sanity, after all. She doubted she would do much better were she in his shoes.
Still, she didn’t plan to torture him. She had observed her father use it enough times, and more often than not, the information derived was entirely unreliable.
She had her own methods of discovering what she wanted to know. “Grey, please bring down our other guests. Francis, please help Grey, and then take the rest of the day off.”
Better to get him out of here. Toughening the boy up was one thing, but she didn’t want to go too far and break him. His naïve little crush would only bend him to her will so far. If she pushed too hard she could end up facing the exact opposite response from what she wanted. She’d done that quite often in the early days. When she was still learning.
Naturally, Francis was almost pathetically grateful to leave, taking the elevator up with a taciturn Grey.
Which left Sarah a few minutes to herself. Completely dismissing the glaring prisoner from her thoughts, she went over to sit on a barrel of hideously expensive wine - a holdover from the days of the estate’s former owner.
Flipping open her phone, she smiled when she saw that Erich hadn’t even attempted to call her after her rapid departure that morning. No doubt the young man was working himself into a tizzy, and burying himself in his work trying to distract himself from the possible implications, and consequences, that might arise as a result of what they had done last night.
He was adorably predictable like that. Predictable, easily controlled, morally malleable, great potential for growth, and without any real aspirations of his own.
Not awful in bed. Just a few pointers about what I like and he might be great.
The perfect partner really.
If she didn’t know any better, she might have thought her powers were more in line with a Machina when he all but fell into her lap. Or rather, her into his.
Now if only her cow of a sister would get out of her way, everything would be going perfectly.
Not for the first time she considered having her half-sibling suffer an ‘accident’, before dismissing it.
Too suspicious. Not so soon after Death-Shriek.
She was just finishing a ‘cutesy’ message to her newest ‘boyfriend’ when Grey reappeared from the elevator, dragging two struggling sacks with her.
“Little help?” The woman said, “That pretty boy Francis fucked right off after I got them into the elevator. Little pussy.”
Sarah rolled her eyes but obligingly grabbed one and dragged it over in front of their prisoner – though, not without shocking one painfully into submission first.
“Sorry for the wait, Mr. Green.” Sarah said as she looked turned back to her prisoner, who’s face was turning rapidly pale as realization started to dawn in his eyes. “Just had to get your wife and brother over here before we continued.”
As she spoke, she reached down to unzip the bags, revealing the gagged and tearstained faces of the man’s loved ones.
Even bad men had loved ones. Maybe not as many as most, but some. No one was an island. Everyone needed some connection.
And connections can be weaknesses. And weaknesses can be leveraged.
“Now, let’s try this again.” She said, trying to keep the visceral excitement from her voice as her lips pulled back into a lustful smile. “Tell me everything.”
Sarah slowly started to adjust her outfit as the elevator ascended back up to ground level; her cleavage was tucked away, her hair pulled up and the ever-present sultry smile was smoothed away into something colder.
“One of the bags is leaking.” She pointed out, stepping away from the slowly pooling puddle of blood.
Out the corner of her eye she saw Grey roll her eyes, but she dutifully reached over to firmly zip up the bag in question.
“You’re just going to see your dad.” Grey scoffed, dragging all three bags over toward herself.
Sarah had to resist the urge to roll her eyes in turn. It was moments like this that she had to remind herself that Grey was her second because of her dogged loyalty and talent with a gun, not her social skills or intelligence.
“Every action or inaction might sway Daddy’s choice in choosing his heir. Appearances count.”
Grey scoffed again, “Death-Shriek’s gone, none of your other siblings have developed powers, and Gravity’s Gravity.”
Yes, and Sarah thanked her luck for that small mercy every day. Because if her half-sibling ever showed even the ‘slightest’ inclination toward leadership of the gang, Sarah knew that all her plans would be rendered utterly worthless.
Along with me. She scowled, smoothing her hair out as the slightest crackle of static electricity threatened have it rise up.
“Just get those bodies disposed of and get down to Erich’s shop.” She snapped, “I want you to make sure that it’s only ‘my’ people watching over Mechromancer going forward.”
Grey nodded, giving a jaunty faux military salute, before painstakingly starting to drag the body-bags out of the elevator with her. Sarah frowned in distaste at the long smear of blood they left on the floor.
Someone will need to clean that up quickly. She thought, Last thing we need is an outsider seeing it.
Walking toward the stairs, she directed one of the nearby lounging toughs to grab a mop and bucket to get the elevator cleaned up, and to put out the word that she was looking for another source of information. If any of the crew happened to pick up a reasonably high ranking member of the Brotherhood, then they could expect a hefty cash deposit to find its way in their bank account.
That perked the surrounding goons up. So much so that they didn’t even grumble as they jogged off to find a mop.
Her father wasn’t in his office, which she had half expected. She could count on one hand the number of times she had found him in there over the years. And two of those times he had been in the middle of having sex with one woman or another. Women she later had eliminated. Over the years she had stopped keeping track of the man’s mistresses though.
Too much effort to reduce a risk that never really existed.
To her utter lack of surprise, he wasn’t in his room either.
Which left his workshop.
When she arrived, she found him stood over some metal contraption of no immediate purpose, his powers in full swing as he moved almost entirely without conscious thought, slapping bits of metal and wire into place with seemingly little rhyme or reason.
She had heard Erich’s complaints about Artificer work often enough over the last few days, and seeing the slapdash mess of wires and cables - and comparing it to Erich’s nice neat minimalism - she couldn’t help but agree just a little with his way of thinking.
“Daddy?” She called out not entirely sure if the man would be cognizant enough to hear her.
Fortunately for her, the man looked up immediately, his hand’s still moving even without his eyes to guide them. It seemed that whatever Artificer trance he was in currently, it did not require control of his conscious mind to work.
“You find out why they were stocking that crap?” The man asked irritably without preamble.
The ‘crap’ in question being the crates upon crates of medical machinery and supplies they had recovered from the raid on the Brotherhood’s warehouse. A fact which had only further stoked Hard-Light’s anger after he was informed about Chavez’s death.
She shook her head, “He didn’t know much more than rumors and hearsay.”
Which they had half expected to be the case, given the man’s relatively low place on the Brotherhood totem pole. It had always been a long shot.
Still, it hadn’t been an entire waste. Rumors and gossip were still better than nothing.
Which her father knew.
“Well, let’s hear it, then.” He sighed.
“Many members of the Brotherhood believe that the medical equipment is being used to create new cyborg soldiers, using a new Artificer with a particular skill set.”
“Possible,” Hard-Light shrugged, “but unlikely. Integrity would struggle to get any great number of volunteers for the procedure. Or at least, not enough to make it worth the heat it would bring down on his head.”
Sarah agreed. The drawbacks and lack of longevity of Artificer constructs were well known. Cyborgs made using them even more so. One might gain an arm cannon and the ability to jump over buildings, but within a year or two you were likely to end up in a wheelchair with one arm.
“I thought as much.” Sarah agreed, “Though, I can also see why such a theory might prove popular among the Brotherhood’s rank and file.”
Propagating the idea that members of the Brotherhood were putting their limbs, and very lives, on the line for the glory of the gang would definitely be something the gang’s higher-ups would want, not just as an added smoke screen. It would serve to raise the ranks and files morale and drive them to work harder themselves to ensure their comrades ‘sacrifice’ was not in vain.
“Anything on the fuck that took out Chavez’s team?” Hard-Light growled, shaping the metal beneath him with his bare hands.
“Some new meta from out of town.” She said, happy to have some more concrete information, “apparently one of their more remote branches sent him over here to make better use of his skills.”
Hard-Light sighed unhappily. “Powers? Skills? Appearance? Costume?”
Sarah shook her head. “Nothing I would consider reporting. The only other thing he knew worth mentioning was the usual complaints about the meta being arrogant, but that’s nothing new. Locals don’t like it when new guys muscle in on their ‘turf’.
“Great.” Hard-Light hissed, “An unknown new meta in my back yard, Brotherhood performing some kind of freaky experiments, and I’ve got a bunch of medical equipment my piece of shit power has no idea what the fuck to do with!”
As he finished, the bizarre contraption beneath his fingers snapped, prompting the man to throw it away in disgust. Sarah was more than familiar with the sight of a failed Artificer trance, and she also knew he father would be snappish and irritable for days because of it.
“I might be able to find a seller for the supplies.” She suggested, in an attempt to assuage his anger.
“What does it matter!?” The man huffed as he stood up, veins throbbing in his neck. “I’ve got money. More than I know what the fuck to do with!”
He roared, throwing tools onto the floor. Sarah didn’t flinch. This was something she was also more than familiar with. It might have terrified her as a gangly teen who had just been abducted from her home, but she was an adult now.
She’d survived the crucible that was her father and come out stronger for it.
“What I don’t have is prestige. Is power. Is any metas worth a damn!” The man roared, directing an accusatory glare in her direction.
She took it without flinching. It was an old pain. One she was well accustomed to.
Still, she wasn’t about to stand around to be bitched at. “Right. Well, I will get out of here and see if I can’t find any more information.”
Hard-Light snorted and looked away, and for a moment she thought that was that. Only, as she reached the door, did he choose to speak up.
“Call in with that new kid. Erich. See if he’s got any ideas we can use for this shit. Shifty little bastard, but he’s decent enough at fixing shit I can’t be bothered with.”
Sarah thought that was massive understatement, but she kept her peace.
“Of course, Daddy.” She said as she shut the door, leaving her father alone to brood. No doubt he’d emerge in a few hours, looking for women or drugs. Likely both.
Huffing, she flipped open her phone to check her messages and saw that Erich had already responded to her earlier one. It was a messy ramble with little in the way of a point, but it brought a small smile to her face.
So easy to push him in the directions I want him to go. She thought, luxuriating in the sensation of power and security it gave her.
With him at her side there was no limit to how much her power could-
I’m an idiot. She thought, her grin growing almost manic as her father’s last words came back to her.
Excitement thudded in her chest. How had she not thought of it already?
“Stuff you couldn’t be bothered with indeed, Daddy.” Sarah all-but purred.
“Sure.” Erich said distractedly as he attempted to thread a coolant line through the suit for the second time in as many weeks.
Another woman might have been offended by the fact that he didn’t even look at her as he spoke, but Sarah was well used to the peculiarities of Artificers. And while Erich clearly wasn’t one himself, he shared a great many of the same traits.
It also helped her that with his head stuck inside his suit, he wasn’t thinking about their current vaguely defined – for him - relationship status, and could actually answer her questions without overthinking every response.
More important than all of that though, she was overjoyed.
“Really?” She said breathlessly, “You’re absolutely sure.”
Erich stopped to give her a funny look, “Absolutely sure? Not a chance. I barely even know how your powers work, or what your big hang up about them is. Bloody typical, if I’m honest. You Metas are always so quick to show them off, but ask one of you to explain them and you totally clamp up.”
Sarah rolled her eyes as she handed him the tool he was reaching for, “Because if someone knows how it works, then they can come up with a counter for it.”
Many a Superhero or Supervillain over the years had been brought down by being a little too glib about that information. Hell, dozens of them had their strength and weakness listed on goddamn Wikipedia.
Not that hers was any great mystery. It was pretty obvious if you looked. “But if I explained it? You think you could do something about it?”
He nodded absently, “Sure.”