Ray was driving, and Mikey was going back through the files on his hologlass to see if he had missed anything. This was a pretty recent lead, but he still liked to be thorough. He was so distracted by it he didn’t realise where they were going until Ray had stopped.
“Where are we?” he frowned, turning to Ray. Ray had the barrel of his blaster pointed straight at Mikey, looking determined. Mikey balked, surprised by the randomness of the moment, the unpredictable reaction of someone he thought he knew well, he thought he knew enough about to fall in love with, whatever that love was.
“Ray, what the fuck?” Mikey exclaimed, dropping the hologlass on his lap and trying to figure out what was going on.
“Get out of the car, Exterminator Way.” What? Why was he calling Mikey that? What the fuck had changed?
“Ray, seriously, what the fuck is going on with you? Ray, Jesus Christ-” Mikey was cut off by Ray pressing the barrel of the raygun to Mikey’s forehead. Point blank laser blast, right through his skull into the soft matter of his brain. He’d be dead in an instant.
“I said, out!” Ray hissed, looking at Mikey with an expression Mikey had never seen directed at him. It was pure, unadulterated rage, and it made Mikey flinch. What had happened to the three months they’d spent in love, the nine months they’d spent as friends and partners?
Mikey picked up the hologlass, shaking in fear at Ray, at the change in personality, at the foreign person wearing a face he felt too much for. He opened the door of the car, getting out slowly. Gerard’s friends Bob and Frank were there, waiting for him. They also had their guns pointed at him. Mikey was not planning on making any sudden movements.
“So. You are a ‘crow, I see.” Frank growled in an accusatory tone, looking at Mikey like he was the scum on the bottom of his shoe.
“Ray, what the fuck, Ray, help me-” he said, almost instinctively. Ray and Mikey were partners, Mikey depended on him. Mikey twisted around, searching for Ray, but Bob just pulled him up by the collar of his shirt so Frank could stick his gun right under his throat. It startled him so much he dropped the hologlass and it cracked on the gravelly pavement.
“Don’t talk to Jet Star like you fucking know him, Exterminator Way,” Frank spat, as Ray rounded the car to meet them.
They shuffled into another car, handcuffing Mikey to the shotgun seat and pointing a gun at his back as they drove to wherever they were taking him.
“How’s Gee?” Mikey asked to break through the silence.
“Don’t fucking talk, scarecrow-fucker,” Frank hissed, and Mikey snickered, probably unwisely.
“You wanna fucking talk to a scarecrow-fucker, you should talk to your friend Jet Star over here,” Mikey shot back, looking to see Ray’s reaction. Ray just clenched his jaw and kept driving. So maybe he wasn’t as soft as Mikey had thought. He definitely wasn’t as innocent.
“Shut the fuck up or I will blast your head off, hostages be damned.” Frank said, even more livid than before, if that was even possible.
So that was what they wanted with him, a hostage.
They got to a kind of hole in the ground type place in what Mikey thought was the New Jersey district. To think, Gerard could have been within walking distance from Mikey, and Mikey didn’t even know.
Mikey hadn’t realised the time, hadn’t realised how late it had gotten. It was time for him to take his pills.
They bustled him into the hideout, having to half-drag half-carry him inside, because he was shaking too hard to walk properly. He could recognise the signs of withdrawal, his rational mind telling him why they were doing this, but his body was still shuddering and sweating and gasping. It was time for his pills, and they weren’t going to give him any.
He hadn’t realised he was screaming and crying as they threw him onto the ratty sofa and sat on his legs to stop him kicking. His whole being ached for the sweet release of pleasurenumb that he got from his prescrip, he was aching for it. He was blacking out, in and out and vomiting up his lunch and breakfast.
“Ray! Ray, fuck, please, babe, Rayrayrayray Gee Ray!” he was wailing, reaching out blindly to anybody who could help him.
He was shaking, reaching out for anyone to come and touch him, help him, ground him in some sense of normalcy. He thought he could see Ray crying next to him, but he was blacking out and hallucinating so much (visions of Vladimir; visions of the nurses who gave him his first, second, third prescription; visions of Ray fucking him deeply and smoothly and lovingly; visions of Gerard when they were kids; visions of the people he’d killed) that he couldn’t tell what was real and what was a figment of his warped imagination.
“Please, please give them to me I need my pills I need my prescrip I have to take them they’re going to kill me I have to be a Good Citizen please let me have them I need to forget I can’t feel sad I can see them dying please I will do anything I swear I have to do this I need them,” he was crying, breaking down over and over, the tears not stopping as he dry heaved into a dirty bucket.
He flopped back, screaming and screaming and drifting in and out of consciousness, but still screamed even though no words came out.
Then he blacked out.
When he came to, the only person in the room was Bob.
“How long has it been?” he croaked out, sitting up and stretching out all his joints. He was stiff and his neck ached, but what was to be expected from sleeping on the couch? If it had been more than a day his tracker would have worn off. He had two more weeks before his eye pills wore off, too. This detox was worse than his last one because he’d been on the pills for longer. Six months, fuck. That was a long fucking time.
“Two days. We better go now.” Bob was brusque, and Mikey cracked a grim smile.
“Second time you’ve detoxed me now. Are you collecting stamps?”
Bob rolled his eyes, but bustled him out of the grotty room. Mikey took off his Exterminator coat and button down, revealing a soft and homemade Mad Gear T-shirt, the pattern all cracked and faded. They both needed a wash, they smelt of stale sweat and vomit. Bob raised an eyebrow at that, and Mikey twisted his lips into a close-lipped smirk, like he was trying not to laugh at Bob.
“They let you wear that shit at work?” Bob looked slightly impressed.
“What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”
They drove through the Districts, Mikey handcuffed again to the passenger seat. Bob wasn’t a very talkative guy, so they sat in mostly silence. Mikey really wanted a shower; he was covered in dry sweat. It was disgusting.
Mikey could tell that this was their real HQ the second he walked inside. Whilst the outside was as ramshackle as everywhere else in the Michigan District, the inside was decked out in colours. Slogans that Mikey had seen graffitied over the City were all painted up here, and a disco ball slowly rotated above them. This place must have been a bar, but he wasn’t sure if it was used like that now. There were a couple people milling about, including Gerard’s friend Brian at the bar. Mikey didn’t recognise anyone else, but they were all dressed brightly, and many were tattooed. Mikey could see Gerard’s involvement, and he felt strangely nostalgic. Neither Gerard nor Ray were there, and Mikey was disappointed.
He was missing Ray, too used to being glued to Ray’s side to not feel the void. He wasn’t even pissed off, just sad. He kind of understood why Ray did it, but that didn’t make the ache lessen in his heart.
Bob shoved him into a little off-room behind the main area of the bar. It had a table, a sofa, and two chairs, and was a lot more colourful than the interrogation room back at the prison complex, but it still reminded him of that. Bob even handcuffed him to the table, how sweet.
Brian slipped in as Bob left, with a hologlass in hand and a blaster strapped to his thigh. His tattoos were proudly on display, and he was dressed more plainly than the people he’d passed in the bar. That excluded, of course, the lightning bolts shaved into the sides of his head. He sat down opposite to Mikey, closer to the door. Smart move, even though Mikey wasn’t going to set the place on fire or try to hurt Brian.
“So,” he started off with, opening up the discussion that they were inevitably going to have.
“So,” Mikey echoed.
“You’re an Exterminator?”
“What’s that like?”
“Huh. Why do you do it, then?”
Mikey snorted, shaking his head, “Do you think when they offered they gave me a choice? I didn’t go knocking on BL/ind’s door saying hey! can you give me a job? If I refused they would have thrown me in prison. I was saving my own ass.”
“Last time I saw you-”
“I was a recent recruit.”
“Last time I saw you, you were parroting BLI slogans like a true believer. What changed?”
“So you still believe BLI will keep us safe?”
“I never believed that.”
“And yet you went so far to kill for them?”
“I was saving my own ass.”
“You don’t care about much, do you?”
“I care about some things.”
“Really? Like what? Like alienating your brother? Getting rid of all your morals? Being a piece of shit?” Brian’s voice didn’t change in volume, but there was an edge of maliciousness that wasn’t there before.
Mikey didn’t know how to reply, so, true to form, he didn’t.
“You disgust me.” He sneered, getting up and clicking on his hologlass. Mikey shrugged, kicking his feet up onto the table. He then placed another small hologlass down in front of Mikey.
“For some reason, Poison wants you to write your story down. He said some shit about how writing a journal is good for your soul. Redeeming yourself. I don’t think you should be given this chance, so thank your lucky stars Poison is as nice as he is. It has no connection to the Inner Internet or any of that shit, so don’t go thinking you can call your nasty little BLI friends.”
Mikey rolled his eyes, but reached over to pick up the hologlass and placed it on his lap gently. He’d heard about how writing a journal could be cathartic, help with getting all your minddemons out, but he didn’t know how true that was. He’d really never been the type before.
“Wait-” Mikey said, as Brian went to leave, “Can I see Ray-I mean Jet Star? Or Gerard?” he was kind of desperate for them, it was almost (very) embarrassing.
“What makes you think they’d want to see you?” Brian spat back viciously, and it was that, over anything else, that took the wind out of Mikey’s sails.
And that’s where the story goes up to, I guess. I don’t know why they don’t kill me now, it’s much better than living a life like this.
Just locked up, chained to a fucking table and only getting to piss when they feel like letting me out. That’s no way to fucking live. At least with BLI I got the illusion of autonomy. Here I get rations twice a day and six glasses of water to swill around.
I wasn’t intending to write anything, but it’s fucking boring. I’ve got this, I’ve got the near daily interrogations in which they continue to get me to confess to something, and I’ve got sleep.
This is the best option.
Sleeping brings the nightmares once again, now I don’t have the pills to block them out. It’s horrible, because I can’t remember any of it, I just wake up screaming and crying and feeling the terrifying ghosts of the dreams pull at my insides.
I wonder if anyone can hear me scream and wail. I wonder if they just ignore me.
The “interrogations” aren’t much better, it’s either Brian coming in and telling me I am repulsive or Frank coming in and shouting increasingly inventive slurs at me. I have to admire his creativity, but they’re both testing my patience. I don’t know why they keep me here like this.
It’s been 13 days since I detoxed, and I still get the shakes sometimes. I still crave the fognumb that I’d get. I am still reviled by my own dependence on them.
I don’t know what else to do with this now. I’ve documented my entire life on this old hologlass, more about me than I’d ever want anyone else to know.
Mikey was lying down on the table when they came in. “Can I get some more water?” he asked idly, seeing if they’d get it.
He was shocked into rising when he heard Gerard say, “I’ll, uh, see about that.” He was shocked, shocked in the way where he was startled into jumping up and tugging his wrist painfully on the handcuffs.
“Gerard, oh god, Gerard! I swear to fuck I wasn’t trying to hurt you, I swear. I just wanted to protect you, I don’t - I didn’t - want you to get arrested or something, and then I didn’t know where you were and I didn’t know if you were dead and I was so worried, holy fuck, Gerard,” Mikey said, not realising the tears that were collecting on his cheeks.
Gerard looked different. Leaner, more muscle. They were wearing different clothes, too. More colour. The biggest change, of course, was the way they held theirself with confidence. (And also, the flaming red hair.) Mikey, as a brother, felt a pang of sudden and intense pride. He wondered if he looked different to them as well.
“I believe you.” Gerard said, so quiet that Mikey almost didn’t hear it. A smile spread from Mikey’s face, widening from ear to ear.
“Can you come here? I want to hug you,” Mikey stretched out his arms, and Gerard walked around the table and into his arms. They stood there, in a tight embrace for a long moment. “I swear on my life, Gee. I swear I only did everything I did to protect you.”
Gerard drew back, wiping the tears from Mikey’s eyes. “Mikey, I believe you. I’m so sorry, Mikey. I’m so sorry I didn’t trust you before.”
“Don’t do that again, yeah? Don’t disappear without me,” Mikey choked out, his face still watery and messy.
“So, uh, wanna see the HQ?” Gerard offered, smiling his lopsided grin.
“Are you sure that your friends will let me see? I’m pretty sure Frank, Brian, and Ray hate me,” Mikey joked, trying to get Gerard to laugh, but they just frowned.
“Fuck them, I can do whatever I want. I’m in charge of this joint anyway, so if they got a problem they can talk to my blaster,” Gerard announced and Mikey grasped their hand tightly as they unlocked him from the table, like Gerard was going to disappear if he let go.
“Outta this room you gotta call me Party Poison, okay? And Frank is Fun Ghoul and Ray is Jet Star and Brian is Crystal Clear and Bob is Dirty Steel, yeah? It just makes it a little harder for BLI to get to us. Names are dangerous.”
“Do I get a cool name?”
“Well, you gotta pick it, kid. I ain’t gonna pick it for you,” Gerard did an impression of their mom (that was spot on), and Mikey giggled.
“I should think about it, then.”
Gerard led him out to the rest of the place, showing him their rooms and the main bar and the kitchen and the basement. They gave him his raygun back, to Mikey’s relief. He still felt naked and unprotected without it. (It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Gerard’s friends, it was that he was still wearing his Exterminator clothes and these types tended to shoot first ask later. Mikey’d know.)
Mikey decided to take a place at the bar, watching everyone who came in and out of the bar. Gerard told him that he couldn’t go outside, he was still a hostage, but he got some kind of freedom. After being handcuffed to a table for 13 days, he was willing to take whatever he could get.
He got new clothes, too. Well, not new, but Gerard went and got his civvies from his apartment. It made him feel more at home, more like they were Gerard and Mikey instead of Party Poison and Exterminator Way. Mikey refused to take off his Exterminator jacket, though. He wore it around his shoulders like both a penance and trophy. It prevented people from approaching him, he found. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to talk with the other rebels, didn’t trust himself enough to not slip up again and say some BLI shit that was guaranteed to get him ghosted.
He found his place people watching in the bar. Doing it night after night suited Mikey, because being able to watch and take note of people and pretending to be a statue was his specialty. It was much better than Exterminating. (The only thing it was missing was Ray, and Mikey was missing him almost as bad as the pills. He didn’t know why Ray was avoiding him so completely.)
Ray'd-Ugh. Ray’d betrayed me, I still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe I told Ray fucking everything, and he’d just thrown it away, for what? Some kind of attack on BLI? Was that all I am to him? An attack on BLI?
Well, fuck him. That part of my life is over.
Starting the first day of proper Exterminating was something Mikey had been dreading for a long while coming. He was scared of killing, scared of having to work with and play nice with dracs, scared of meeting someone he knew and having to make a call on it. Scared of BLI finding out about the pills in his cupboard which he hadn’t been taking.
“Michael. How nice to see you,” Vladimir said when Mikey reported in.
“And you, sir.”
“Good to see you’re integrating well with your responsibilities. Now, I would like to discuss your mutational abilities and help you understand how they will work with your roles and responsibilities here at S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W.
“You will be allowed to use your mutational abilities on the job, however you are not permitted to use them outside of this. Due to the power and nature of your abilities, we have decided you will be most useful in tracking down other mutants, especially those who aim to cause chaos in our City. You have been put on the patrols which aim to do as much, however you will be working with an Exterminator partner whilst you are still new to the ranks.
“Your partner will be Exterminator Toro from the Mutant Div. II. He is also a new recruit, so you shall be given fairly simple assignments. I assume you know Exterminator Toro?” Vladimir stopped in his monologue for Mikey to nod. Mikey did.
“Good, then that shall make this process easier. You will be investigating the recent increase in rebellious graffiti by an artist known as Party Poison. You should attempt to arrest him, so we can see if he is just the tip of the iceberg - so to speak - or a lone dissident.”
Mikey didn’t understand the iceberg analogy, (he didn’t know what an iceberg was, and whatever it was, it sounded bad), but he was reminded of something Gerard had said after he’d gotten sober. “I’d poison any party I go to now.” Gerard had said, and Mikey felt even more angry at BLI than he thought possible. Fuck Vladimir, fuck BLI, fuck Battery City. They’d made him lose his brother, and now all he had was this. That was what they did, and it was fucked up.
Vladimir gave him access to their file on Party Poison, including images of Party Poison’s artwork. Whilst he was waiting for Toro he looked through the file. At each picture he felt the pit in his stomach grow like a large, round stone that was weighing him down.
The art style, the slogans: Mikey would recognise them anywhere. He had pictures very similar tacked up in his room, above his bed. These were more stylised and simpler than the ones he had, but they were still similar enough that he would recognise them anywhere.
Gerard might not be Party Poison, but they definitely played a huge fucking part in picking the fucking designs. And Mikey was meant to apprehend them. Fuck, the whole reason he’d done this was to save Gerard, and now he was faced with ruining Gerard’s life to save his own ass, or sacrificing himself to buy some time for Gerard (because even if he tried to sabotage this investigation they’d just spring back, two people to replace every one he killed).
He wanted to puke up his shitty BLI-issued oatmeal breakfast.
Ray came out of his meeting with his division head, all smiles and bouncy hair. Mikey waved him over, and closed down his hologlass.
“I was thinking we could start by checking out the outskirts of town, hit a couple of the bars and ask around, yeah? It would be better, start seeing the scene these guys probably run in.”
Mikey didn’t have any better suggestions, so he shrugged, acquiescing. They headed to the car that they were provided by BL/ind for investigations like this.
The apartment felt empty. It was empty and it was scary and it was like that for weeks, for months. The Party Poison case was infuriating, and shelved soon after we got it. We were put on a bunch of other cases, more small time shit, and most of it seemed to connect back to the Party Poison case. It was a massive clusterfuck, and the more we worked on it, the more it got all tangled together.
I can clearly remember shooting three people dead in the process. The first time I puked my guts out the second I got home, and didn’t stop retching all night. The second time I had nightmares, waking up in cold sweats to see their faces behind my eyelids and I was so fucking freaked, so freaked out I couldn’t stop hallucinating about their screams. The third time I could see the first two’s faces in my mind’s eye as I pulled the trigger.
I started taking my full prescription after that. It made things like that better, I didn’t feel too bad. After cold sweats and hallucinations and screaming my throat raw without even knowing, anything was better. Gerard wasn’t there to help me, and they had been the only thing that had kept me together before.
That was maybe a month after Gerard left, and I think if they were there things would either be better or worse.
After that I was on the pills, and things were mostly better. Killing was smoother (is that better or worse?), and I didn’t have to pretend to be on the pills in front of other BLI employees, in front of Ray.
But then me and Ray (Ray and I?) started fucking. In the scheme of things, it was NOT the smartest idea I’ve ever had. But I did it, and I got emotionally invested. It was one of those things you couldn’t blame on the pills, it was all me. I can see that now, I could see it then.
The things that attracted me to Ray were many, and varied. But his softness, the way he was wholeheartedly loyal, passionate, and sweet, those were all such innocent qualities that were hard to find in the circles we ran in. (Also, his fantastic cock didn’t hurt his case.)
I could see the flashes of love and hurt in his eyes as I told him I loved him and then kissed him with the same mouth I swallowed my prescrip every day with.
BLI pills don’t make you devoid of emotions, they just put a filter over them. People here seem to forget that, seem to forget that BLI doesn’t take away your entire life, it still lets you have fun, just in dosed quantities. Healthy amounts of serotonin and adrenaline, but just enough so you don’t get addicted.
I remember nights spent kissing Ray, lazing around in bed. Waking up in the mornings to his smile, investigating with him, sitting down to dinner (still as shitty as ever but) together. I think it was the happiest I’d been in a long time, since this whole shit started.
RETURN TO MASTERPOST
Mikey pursed his lips. They’re not getting anything out of him now, they couldn’t get anything out of them before, when he was slightly more inclined to speak. He looks stoic, but they’re better at it than him. They’re both at a stalemate.
If Mikey wasn’t handcuffed to a table and drugged to the gills he’d want to smirk. All he really wanted right now was to take a piss and-slash-or get out of this prison complex. They didn’t get Gerard though, so that was good. It was just him in this place, in damn Battery City.
Battery City was so corrupt nowadays-they just drugged you until you could barely stand straight you were so high - just so no one would notice their inhumane practices and the fact they’d completely ignored their mission statement. Battery City was just Japanese slogans and Porno droids now.
He wasn’t even that bad of a criminal, anyway. All he’d done is burn down a building. It was old and crumbling and he was tripping balls but he still knew shit from places people cared about and lived in. Most of the New Jersey district was cracked and broken and due a renovation anyway, he’d just been doing a public service. They should be thanking him.
“Michael James Way. 23. Resident of the New Jersey District. Unregistered mutant. Has not taken prescribed BLI pills in six months. Found with a blood alcohol content of 0.013% and traces of MDMA in the bloodstream. Felonies: arson, unregistered mutations, refusal to take prescription, assault of BLI representatives, consumption of illegal substances.” The droid was going on and on and on, reciting this shit like he didn’t know it. It’d been repeating his info and charges over and over again. Either they were waiting for him to crack in the empty whiteness they called an interrogation room, or they were stalling, waiting for someone human to come and see him.
In old vids the characters talked about getting lawyers - people to argue for them and make sure they didn’t get locked up or dusted or worse, but those hadn’t existed since the zones came about and the Helium Wars blew up the whole damn US of A. Mikey didn’t have a damn lawyer, didn’t have the fucking cash for a damn lawyer, and even if he did, he’d cut off his cock and balls if they argued with BL/ind and won.
He just adjusted his glasses with the one hand that wasn’t handcuffed. His mom couldn’t afford eye pills for him, and he just spent all his cash on illegal liquor and hallucinogenics. Glasses were cheaper in the short run, but only if you took care of them.
A guy with a bald head and dumb ruffles around his neck came through the sliding door behind Mikey. Mikey tried to swivel his head around, get a good look at him, but he walked calmly around Mikey and sat down opposite him. Mikey would consider that a dumb move, except every wall in this room had a sliding door that Baldy had a swipe card to. If Mikey went ballistic and tried to crisp Baldy, Baldy could escape or call for reinforcements quickly enough. He wasn’t handcuffed.
Baldy looked at him and Mikey looked back. So here they both were, at an impasse until one of them talked. It sure as fuck ain’t gonna be Mikey.
“Michael James Way, I presume?”
“You got the right room, Baldy.”
“You may call me Vladimir, Mr. Way,” he said, raising his left eyebrow in challenge. Mikey tried very hard not to gape.
That was an uncommon name, reminiscent of the old times, and the kind of gory horror that was illegal now.
Mikey was kind of fucked. “You can call me Mikeyway, then. That’s what everyone calls me. Since we’re being friends and all.”
“There’s no need, Mr. Way. Perhaps I shall if you accept my offer.”
An offer? That was interesting: Mikey was just expecting they’d make him do community service and monitor his pill intake for a month or so, make sure he was Reforming and being an all around Upstanding Citizen. But an offer? That wasn’t something he was expecting.
“An offer, huh?”
“Yes, Mr. Way. BLI has been monitoring your use of your mutative abilities, and we feel that as part of your Reformation, offering you the opportunity to be a member of the mutant subdivision of S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W would be the best chance for you to become an Upstanding Citizen of Battery City.”
“Shit, indeed, Mr Way. This is a great opportunity to contribute to the wider community of Battery City.”
Mikey was still handcuffed to the table; he didn’t feel like he had much of a choice. “I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” he sighed, feeling very hard done by.
“Citizens of Battery City always have a choice,” Vladimir intoned, but Mikey knew what it meant. If he didn’t accept they’d look up his mom, look up Gerard, look up everyone he’d ever talked to and threaten them until he accepted. They wanted him, for some reason. They wanted his power.
“I accept, I guess. Might as well.” Mikey said, trying to seem as nonchalant as he could, being locked up in an interrogation room and all.
“Great,” Vladimir smiled a smile that looked more like he was baring his teeth at Mikey, and placed his swipe card on the table. The table lit up, recognising him and he started pulling files up for Mikey. “We welcome you to the team, Exterminator Way.”
Mikey felt grim. Kind of sick, really.
“As an Exterminator you will be required to go out with patrols within the City, as well as out in the Zones as you progress in ranking. You will not need to concern yourself with that quite yet. You have authorisation to use your mutative skills whilst on the clock, otherwise you are not exempt from Battery City laws. You will have a negotiable work schedule, a new regimen of pills, and a quite sizeable monthly income. Are there any questions?”
Mikey felt like he was going to puke. “Will I need to, like, Exterminate?”
“That’s generally assumed to be in the job description, yes.”
Mikey felt cheated and blackmailed. He said nothing else.
“Well! If that’s all, I should go. It was nice meeting you, Mikeyway. We shall expect to see you tomorrow morning at 0900 hours for your first day. Do not be late.”