“Well this is a bitch and a half.” Gravity murmured as she sat at the meeting table.
Sarah sent a glare in her half sister’s direction, but ultimately couldn’t argue. It was a bitch and a half.
“Any news from Hard-Light?” Erich asked tiredly.
“Fortunately for you, no.” Sarah said acidly, seeing an outlet for her irritation, as she looked over the map.
It was much changed from that morning; the red markers that had once indicated Brotherhood business and residences were now divided into yellows for New Brotherhood and black for True Brotherhood.
And there were significantly more yellow markers on the table than black.
Including a number of new ones that Integrity was all too happy to point out. Though Sarah was going to be sending out some of her own people to confirm that fact. The events of the last two days had only served to reinforce that they needed far more information about what was going on in the city.
“You really think he’s going to be that pissed?” Erich asked, a tinge of worry piercing through his lethargy.
“He’s not going to be happy.” Gravity said sympathetically, “He’s usually pretty clear on the ‘no prisoners’ thing.”
“Integrity’s a valuable source of information.” Erich pointed out, defending his decision to bring the wheelchair bound man back alive. "Bringing someone back alive was supposed to be our objective."
Although he had only done so after ensuring the man really was wheel chair bound.
By breaking one of his legs.
He still felt a small shudder run through him each time he remembered the sound of bone splintering under his suit’s fingers, while the Neo-Nazi had looked on with that same mildly amused patronizing look in his eyes.
“Yes, he is. Hard-Light won’t have any issue with you bringing him along.” Sarah's glare redoubled as she looked at him. “What he’s going to be pissed about is that you let the rest of his people go.”
“I took their guns.” Erich defended sullenly.
“Oh yes, because its so hard to find more guns in this city.” The blonde said sarcastically. “All you’ve done is given us more people to fight later down the line.”
Erich wanted to argue that but couldn’t. She was right after all.
Still, it wasn’t like he’d had many options. He couldn’t just… gun them all down. And neither could he bring them all back with him. It had been difficult enough fitting everyone into their one remaining van and getting out of there before the cops showed up.
“Erich’s unexpected nobility aside,” Gravity butted in, saving him from any further tongue lashings, “has Integrity said anything else?”
Sarah sighed, but reluctantly returned to the topic at hand.
“Plenty.” She said, “In fact, it’s been difficult shutting him up.”
Erich could see that being the case. The man was more than just a little bitter about his organization being usurped right out from under him. Being betrayed by friends and colleagues you’ve known for years will have a tendency of doing that to you.
“He’s convinced this ‘Hangman’ has some kind of mind-control ability.” Sarah said.
“Mind control’s a myth.” Gravity scoffed, “His people were bought off by this new guy. Simple as that. Brotherhood might act like they have some holier than thou ‘noble mission’ but at the end of the day they’re all just bottom feeding scum like the rest of us.”
Erich couldn’t help but feel Gravity was a little biased on the subject. Understandably so though.
He doubted he would have a high opinion of a group that wanted to essentially exterminate everyone that even remotely resembled him.
More than that, Gravity had proven to be less than objective on the subject of the Brotherhood before.
Like the time she took us all out to a restaurant, despite knowing their was a good chance we would be attacked there. He thought, as he considered his second, and last, meeting with the Crusher.
“Perhaps.” Sarah allowed, “But that doesn’t explain one of our own people going turncoat as well. Three of the people who I have gathering information for me disappeared after we got back from the last outing.”
Needless to say, they were the same three people who had helped select the group’s targets for the last attack. Targets which had all turned out to be of great value to the True Brotherhood faction.
Which is most certainly not a coincidence, Erich thought grimly.
“That just proves our people aren’t much better.” Gravity muttered, “Show them some cash, and they’re pretty quick to switch allegiances.”
Sarah glared venomously at her half-sister, but ultimately was forced to once more concede that she had a point.
They were a band of criminals who were held together more by fear of Hard-Light, poor circumstances, and a love of money, rather than any great sense of camaraderie.
A Hard-Light who was currently missing, and had been for two days now.
Morale wasn’t quite at rock bottom at the compound, but it wasn’t far off either. It certainly didn’t help that both teams accompanying the villain had disappeared with him, leaving the organization's standing ‘soldiery’ at a measly thirty or so people.
No one had quite suggested aloud that the organization’s powerhouse, and the most powerful meta in the city, had been taken down, but it was certainly going through everyone’s heads.
“It’s not a total loss.” Erich said, “We now know where all that medical equipment was supposed to go.”
Although not even Integrity had known what its purpose was.
“Doesn’t do us much good.” Gravity muttered as she scooped up one of the yellow monopoly pieces. “We don’t really have the manpower to attack the place.”
Especially not with the Hangman still out there.
The fact that they had a name for the guy now was nice, but given what they now knew, the name Hangman was even more terrifying for the rank and file than the enigmatic Ghost had ever been.
…Not that any of this was of any concern to Erich anymore.
He was playing the part, but he already had a van back at his shop loaded up with tools. Now that he had the suit, and his bank account was nicely full, he was just waiting for confirmation that Hard-Light was definitely dead. Then he was getting the fuck out of here.
No way he was going down with this sinking ship.
Still, a part of him regretted it. He wasn’t much for people, but Sarah and Olivia had… grown on him. Unstable and twisted as they were.
He listened with half an ear to the rest of the meeting, saying the right things when prompted as Sarah went through the rest of what they knew and made tentative plans to bunker down and wait for Hard-Light to resurface.
Sorry girls, He thought as he strode from the meeting room, I’m just not the heroic type.
“Come on, Erich.” Gravity said as she handed him a pair of pliers. “I need something to upgrade my power.”
Erich sighed as he set about stripping a wire. “Gravity, I get where you’re coming from. I really do. But do I, or do I not, look like I have enough on my plate right now?”
The teams accompanying Hard-Light had been the ones carrying his ‘upgraded’ laser pistols, as they had been the ones most likely to face stiff resistance. As a result the only ones still available were strapped to his, Sarah’s and Gravity’s thighs.
And none of them were giving theirs up to a random mook, despite being the ones who probably least needed them.
As a result, Erich was sequestered down in the mansion’s garage, with a small crate of spare electrical components stolen from Hard-Light’s workshop... upgrading laser rifles.
Which Gravity was ostensibly supposed to be helping him with.
“Can’t you think of something?” Gravity whined, “She’s calling herself Bronte now!”
Yes. Bronte. Erich thought that naming oneself after an actual goddess was a little shameless, but it was also perfectly in keeping with what he knew of Sarah's ego.
“I’m busy.” He said through gritted teeth.
Mostly with planning my escape and sequestering away my earnings, but still busy!
“With this?” Gravity said, raising a half constructed laser rifle. “This’ll take you a few hours if that.”
“I still have to repair the suit.” Erich pointed out.
Gravity shook her head. “No you don’t. Sarah’s having Grey look it over. She figures the woman's been watching you for the last few days, so she’ll at least know how to recharge the batteries and put in fresh coolant.”
Erich felt like his heart stopped within his chest.
“She didn’t!” He gasped.
No one touched his suit. Least of all an… uneducated thug!
Sorry Grey, but it's true.
He was halfway though storming from the room when he felt a familiar sense of weightlessness overtake his body.
“Put me down woman!” He roared as he struggled against the strange green light.
“Sarah thought you’d react that way when you found out.” Gravity sighed, “Look Erich, I know you love the suit. Perhaps even a little more than is strictly healthy. But we can’t have you obsessing over it like you usually do. We just don’t have the time to indulge it.”
Obsess? Him? He didn't obsess! He gave things the exact amount of time and attention they deserved, and not a moment more.
“Don’t give me that look.” Gravity frowned, “She’s literally just changing the coolant and shoving in fresh power-packs. Even a monkey could do it.”
Erich did have to concede that point. It was something even a monkey could do.
“Fine.” He sighed tiredly. “Just put me down, so I can finish off those rifles.”
“And invent something to give me a boost over my sister?” Gravity chimed in hopefully.
Erich gave her a look as he slowly dropped back down to the ground. “You’ve never cared that much about it before?”
Sure, she had whined and moaned, but never for long. It was more in jest than anything else.
She shrugged, “Is it really that strange? Hard-Light’s missing. Nearly half our crew is gone. And we’ve got some new psychopath in charge of the Brotherhood.”
Well, when you put it that way…
“Fine.” He groused as he returned back to his temporary worktable, “After I’m done with this.”
And it’s certainly not going to be cheap!
He almost instantly regretted his decision as the grinning woman wrapped him in a hug.
Erich looked over his suit with a critical eye, flicking back and forth between it and the omni-pad on the table.
“There, see?” Gravity said, Grey indignantly nodding along with her, “It’s fine.”
Erich ignored them both. Uneducated philistines that they were.
Only after a full two minutes of silent inspection did he have to concede that was right.
“There, now get back to work on my new gizmo.” Gravity grinned, gesturing at the work table where a half-constructed shoulder harness sat.
“I am.” He grunted, lifting up a partially disassembled laser pistol in his hands.
“You weren’t even looking at it.” She accused, “I’m not having you half-ass it after the amount you charged me for it!”
Yes. Him announcing the price for his time and effort had gone quite some distance toward cooling the woman’s joviality after he agreed to even work on it at all.
“I don’t ‘half-ass’ anything.” He said indignantly as he finished tightening a screw, still not looking at the weapon in his hands.
Which was why he saw Grey rolling her eyes from off to the side. “Can I leave now? It’s nearly midnight.”
Erich reluctantly nodded, gesturing for her to go with a casual wave of his hand. Which the woman accepted with only the slightest of scowls.
“Would it kill you to be a bit more polite?” Gravity asked as she leaned back on a stool, watching their colleague disappear back into the mansion.
“She touched my suit. Without my permission.” He said, as if that explained everything.
“You originally planned to sell it.” Gravity pointed out.
Yes. He thought. And then your Dad forced me to pilot it on a whim. So forgive me if I’m a little overprotective of the only device standing between me and perforation by the next Meta-Gunner that doesn’t like the look of me!
Instead of saying all that, he just sniffed again, and turned his head away.
Gravity looked like she was about to say something else but stopped before the first word left her mouth. Instead she reached for her earpiece, as a complicated look stole over her face.
Erich watched, his guts turning to ice water as his hands slowly stopped screwing the laser pistol back together. When Gravity finally took her hand away from her ear, it was to give him a steely look.
“Drop that. Sarah wants us in the meeting room.” She said without preamble.
Erich was about to ask why, but the sound of an alarm ringing through the mansion pretty much answered his question for him.
“We’re under attack, aren’t we?” He asked with a put-upon sigh.
Well, it was a good thing I managed to get those new rifles finished. He thought blearily, his body crying out for sleep he knew it would not be receiving any time soon.