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Blood Doesn’t Make A Family, Love Does

Chapter Text

 

They’d had a terrible, stupid fight. The two of them very rarely argued, and if it did happen, it was usually over Victor not eating, or whether they were cramping Sydney too much. She teasingly referred to them as an old married couple when they did squabble, and it made Mitch smile and ruffle her hair. She always knew how to take the edge off – show them that they were being idiots.

Mitch wound Dol’s leash around his hand – he hated fighting, especially with Victor. He was the only person he had that he considered a friend – besides; Victor was never one to raise his voice. But this, this was something different – something that had been building up for a while. Mitch should have listened closer to the bad feeling that was creeping inside him. He just thought it would manifest into something like another EO, or EON – something they were used to. Not this.

Mitch’s phone buzzed in his pocket. He knew it was Victor and for once, he ignored it. He needed air – some space to cool off before he went back to the apartment where everything would slip back to normal; he had no doubt about that. They may never have fought this bad, but Mitch still knew the man he’d shared a cell with for five years – who he’d been on the run with for another five (Jesus, was it really ten years…?) – well enough to know that by the time he returned from his walk with Dol, that things would be fine again. He would make dinner, Sydney would pick out a movie and make them both watch, and things would be fine.

The buzzing continued, this time with a message, and Mitch rolled his eyes.

“He really doesn’t know when to quit, does he?” he said to Dol. The giant black dog looked at him and gave him a big doggy hurumph.

Mitch finally figured Victor had suffered enough silent treatment after he had left half an hour ago and withdrew his phone – besides, it could have been Sydney. He looked down at his screen and saw that he had more missed calls than he thought, all from Victor. Mitch wanted to laugh at the overkill, but there was that niggling bad feeling of his again. Instead he frowned and felt something heavy drop in his heart.

Then he noticed the voicemail.

Dol whimpered as Mitch stopped in his tracks, lifting the phone to his ear.

White noise. Victor calling out for Sydney. Coughing. “Mitch…” – Victor’s hoarse voice. More white noise. Thumping. Then muffled screaming from Sydney.

Mitch was already sprinting back by the time the voicemail cut out.

 

 

Half An Hour Ago

 

Victor’s door slammed and Sydney puffed her cheeks out in exasperation. She looked down at the small page she had written out in her notebook and carefully tore it out, particularly happy with what she had come up with.

Over the past year, Sydney had gotten into the habit of writing out custom pages of text for Victor to black out, and he would dutifully complete them, over and over again, like one would a crossword. Sydney was determined to create something that would stump him, something that would result in a full page of black solid lines, but he always managed to find a hidden message.

Most times they were humorous little jests like “KEEP TRY ING”, or “FEED D O L”, while others she kept aside as her favourites:

“NOT S M ALL BUT F I E R C E”

“YOU ARE U N STOP ABLE”

On her last birthday he had given the page back to her with a quick ruffle of her hair. “B L O O D DOES NOT MAKE F A M I L Y LOVE DOES” stared back at her. Sydney had kept that one in a little frame ever since.

Now she folded the new page of words and tucked it into her pocket, saving it to give to Victor later after dinner while he pretended to not watch the weekly movie.

Even when he was arguing, Victor was quiet. She knew both men just needed time to simmer down, to breathe and readjust. Mitch often called her the glue to their mismatched family – the gold that made the cracked vase function again. Syd really loved being that for them – she felt valuable – necessary.

 

Victor’s hands clenched into fists as he glared at the city spread out below him through the twenty-second floor window. Taking a deep, steadying breath, he felt himself begin to calm down. Victor sighed, resting his forehead against the cool glass.

Maybe Mitch was right, maybe he–

Something shiny caught Victor’s eye from the opposite building. He scanned the windows until he saw it again, glinting from the roof. There was a second of hesitation, a second’s worth of a frown before he threw himself to the floor, heartbeats before a rain of bullets sent glass hailing down on top of him.

“Sydney…!” He cried, his phone already in his hand, dialling and redialling. He could hear her shouting out from the lounge, and Victor scrambled towards his door on his stomach before something launched through his open window and clattered to the floor beside him–

The explosion of smoke was blinding and it disorientated him enough to drop the phone and fumble for his bearings. It was acrid and burnt his lungs, while his ears were still ringing from the initial explosion. Victor struggled for breath and his hands grasped blindly around on the floor until he found his phone and managed to get to his hands and knees. He tugged at his t-shirt to wipe his face and cover his mouth, desperately pressing redial as his hearing slowly started to come back to him in waves. He could hear Sydney struggling, the clattering of more smoke grenades, the thundering of feet.

“Mitch–” Victor coughed when he thought he’d gotten through, before Sydney screamed. He found his feet before ripping the door open and throwing himself into the fog filled hall. Feeling for the handful of bodies just beyond, he reached out his open palms and quickly jerked them into fists–

Nothing happened. No one screamed.

But Victor didn’t have time to be confused, because at that moment his eyes fell upon Sydney, tied to a chair with a piece of rope between her teeth.

Syd!” He lurched towards her and he saw tears streaming down her face as her eyes widened, mouth working as she tried to scream.

Something wasn’t right–

“Victor, no! It’s a trap!” Sydney tried, but her words were muffled around the rope tied around her head. She saw him hesitate for just a second but it was too late – he’d already fallen into it. A muffled shot through the smoke hit Victor from behind and she gasped.

Victor flinched as the dart lodged into the back of his ribs, before another one quickly followed, landing in his leg and his knee buckled under him. It collided with the ground and pain exploded through his kneecap before confusion crossed his face with the groggy realisation that he couldn’t turn it down.

He could see Syd’s terrified face and he tried to move, tried to get closer to her when a third dart struck him in the chest. Victor was too slow to wrench it out – his movements languid and slow like he was in water – like he was moving through the shadows with Dominic. Something like a gasp hiccupped out of him as pain started blossoming through his chest.

Traces of a blue neon liquid shone from within the empty dart in Victor’s trembling hand, as the pain slowly became a dull ache that started to consume him. The curling mist was wrapping around them like a shadow, and distantly he heard footsteps coming closer. He blinked at the ground, suddenly finding himself back on his hands and knees, but desperate to try and protect Sydney. What the hell was happening to him? Victor began to feel numb as his vision swam before him. He was so close – he was right there…

 

Sydney’s tears streamed down her face as she watched Victor’s eyes dim, and she gasped when he fell limp at her feet. Anger burned through her as she tore and pulled at the restraints around her wrists but they only got tighter the more she struggled. A furious scream grated past the rope she gritted her teeth against, and perhaps not for the first time, did Sydney wish she had a different power than her own. Out of the smoke filled room before her, the sound of heavy footsteps made her freeze.

A short man with dark hair and a lab coat emerged out of the white smoke to stand over Victor’s body, a reptile’s grin spreading from his thin mouth to his deep-set eyes that sat behind square glasses.

He looked from Victor up to Sydney and an ice chill shot through her, hating the weight of his gaze but he just grinned wider,

“Oh, we’re going to have so much fun…”

 

 

Chapter Text

The effect hit Dom immediately.

A rolling wave of nausea ceased him, a clammy sweat breaking out across his forehead and down his shoulder blades. Dominic tripped and choked back a gulping cry, catching himself against his locker.

“Dude, you alright?” Holtz frowned, but the panic drowned out the man’s question, took hold of Dom’s heart, his stomach, and every single nerve that had suddenly turned on him.

Why is it back? What the fuck, Victor? Is it back forever? It can’t be back forever – we had a deal.

Clearly the panic was only interested in self-preservation, because Dominic barely spared a thought for Victor – right now all he could focus on was the pain and that it was here, it was back and it wasn’t going away.

“–Rusher…” He flinched when Holtz‘s hand came down on his shoulder, and the other man’s eyes widened.

“Dude, you gotta go to the medic, ASAP.”

“No…” Dom gritted out, suddenly feeling it ebb a little. It was still there, but just… dampened, distant. It wasn’t like the night Victor had died, thank god, but it still wasn’t pleasant, or wanted. He was also convinced that the bastard was doing it on purpose – had he fled overseas or something? Why would he do that without telling him?

“That’s not a suggestion, Rusher,” Rios suddenly ordered, appearing behind Holtz.

Where the fuck did she come from?

“You’re compromised. I need you to go to the medic bay – that’s an order.”

“I feel better,” Dominic lied. He felt like he was going to be sick.

“You better not make me say it again.” Rios snapped, striding out of the door.

“C’mon man, I’ll help you if you need–”

“I’m fine.” He said again, gritting his teeth and limping towards the door.

Christ, Victor, what the hell are you doing to me…?

By the time Dom was released from the medic bay and forced to return home with medication that wouldn’t work, the news had spread throughout the compound:

New EOs had been successfully apprehended.

The nausea swelled in Dom’s stomach, but this time it had nothing to do with his chronic pain threatening to send him back into a spiralling alcoholic.

Bara turned out to be the one spreading the news (why was Dom not surprised?), and the arrogant jerk clapped him around the shoulders when he passed him on the way out of the compound. Rios would have Dom’s ass if he didn’t follow her orders, so he tried to brush Bara off with a grimace. The other man didn’t notice.

“Have you heard? Two in one go!” He rubbed his hands together like he was about to sit down to an all you can eat dinner.

Dom swallowed a moan, felt the pins in his shoulder grind as Bara clapped it again in his excitement.

“Hey, if it decides to play nice, maybe it can help you out with your problem.”

Dominic’s head snapped up at his words, meters away from the glass doors that led to the security scanners. To fresh air and freedom and the safety of the shadows.

“What did you say?”

“I know right, it actually controls pain. There’s rumours it can even do like, exorcist shit too – man, I would have loved to have been there when they caught it.”

‘It’. Like this is all some sort of fucking hunting game.

Dom’s blood froze, unable to breathe, but Bara was still gushing,

“I mean, I’ve seen a lot of these things, but this one takes the cake – it’s almost as good as the one they’ve got down at HQ that heals itself.”

His head spun – if this asshole didn’t move out of his way, Dom was gonna throw up all over him. He managed to find his voice – a raspy, stutter that sounded like he’d been winded. In a way, he had.

“W-who’s… who’s the other one…?” Something had latched onto his stomach and was pulling it down to his feet, and Dom begged to hear anything other than what he knew was inevitably coming.
Bara’s eye lit up, “This kid who can raise the fucking dead! This I gotta see.” He mimed the action of his mind blowing, but the man swam in front of Dom’s eyes and his knee buckled. He felt the familiar tearing pain rip through his insides like shrapnel.

“Jesus, you gotta get some stronger meds, man.” Bara caught his elbow but Dom wanted to shove him off, he didn’t want this bastard touching him or speaking to him ever again.

“Is there a problem here?” Rios asked suddenly, and Dom squinted over at her, frowning at her sudden appearance for the second time in one day.

Dominic swallowed, forced himself to stand upright, albeit a little off centre. He felt his mouth moving before he could stop himself,

“A kid? Isn’t there some clause about age limits?”

Bara gaped, before laughing and stabbing a thumb at him,

“Look at Mr OH&S over here. Dude, it’s a freaking EO – who gives a shit?”

Dom clenched his fist so tight he winced, but he was ready to break this moron’s nose, even if it made Dom black out instead.

“Bara, kindly let Rusher return home and recuperate. Otherwise you’ll be the next one in the medic’s chair.”

If Dom wasn’t gritting his teeth to stop himself from screaming, he would have given Rios an appreciative nod.

‘These things’, ‘them’ – we’re not things. Sydney is not a ‘thing’.

 

Dom turned away and strode as confidently as he could through the glass doors and security. He had made it outside and over to his bike before he couldn’t hold it in any longer. Dominic fell to his knees in the grass and retched until his stomach was empty. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and spat, shakily finding his feet and sliding on his helmet.

He’d taken this job because Victor had convinced him it would be a good way to get intel from the source. But he’d also taken it because he knew it meant a lot to Sydney if he succeeded.

Ever since the taskforce had come to light – back when it was still a working idea, a nameless corporation they had dubbed EOTS – Sydney had been their driving force to rescue and alert EOs who had been flagged for “rehabilitation”.

That was three years ago. Now it had grown into something none of them could have anticipated, and the two people Dominic cared for the most had somehow ended up on that same list.

Dom kick-started his bike, ignoring the spurring pain that flared up his leg and through his spine. He’d be damned if he was going to let EON make a science experiment out of Sydney. He blinked away tears, not wanting to think about what had happened to them to wind up here, but he took solace in the fact that at least he was here too. He’d sooner trade himself in her place than let her be caged in this hellhole. 

As soon as he was home and gasped his way into a change of clothes, Dom stepped out of time, wincing and limping until he found a quiet place a few blocks away. He reappeared and pulled his phone out.

It rang once, twice, three times. Dom swore under his breath. Then it picked up.

“Mitch? It’s me – what the fuck is going on? What happened?”

“It’s… complicated. What do you know?”

“Well uncomplicated it, because I’m fucking dying here.” His voice was edging on a whine from the pain laced through it.

“Wait, what? Are you… are you saying what I think you’re saying…?” Mitch sounded scared – unsure. And Mitch was never scared.

“I don’t know! I don’t think so. One minute I’m fine, the next minute I’m keeling over at work and sent home. It’s not like last time though. It feels, I don’t know, distant. I figured you’d all skipped country without me, but then as I’m going out the door I find out that Victor and Sydney are being brought in. What the hell, Mitch?”

“I know, I know – we had no idea, it was an ambush. I… I wasn’t even there…”

Dom winced at Mitch’s own pain.

“For some reason he’s decided to cut me out of the loop, did he say anything to you? Is this supposed to be him trying to tell me something?”

“No, he didn’t tell me anything. Although it wouldn’t be the first time.”

There was something in Mitch’s voice, but Dom didn’t have time to be his counsellor right now – a new wave of pain hit him and he doubled over against the wall, his muscles seizing up and making it worse.

“Dom? Dom you okay? Breathe. If he’s not dead then why…?”

“I– I don’t…” Dom wheezed, grimacing through it. “I don’t know – It’s– it’s like his power’s been – muffled or – or dampened or something – Wait…” Dominic squeezed his eyes closed, mind working to separate itself from the pain and shift through snippets of conversations he’d overheard – something he’d read on a debrief…

“Oh shit.” He gasped, both at the realisation, and at the tourniquet of pain crushing his organs. He brought a hand to his head, bracing himself through the dizziness.

“–I can come get you…” Mitch was saying but Dom shook his head.

“No… no, Mitch, you’ve gotta help me get them out. What they do to him, they wind up doing to me and I can’t go back there…” He didn’t mean to EON, he meant to the dark place he had been stuck in for years before Victor found him. He didn’t want to be that person again…

“I’ll make some calls, Dom. Don’t worry, we’ll fix this.”

“I can’t just stand by while they hurt them– while Sydney–”

“We’re gonna get them out. Victor’ll put them through hell before he lets anyone touch Syd anyway.” Mitch sounded a little ill, but he was convincing enough.

“While you’re at it – you should look up – a Dr Haverty. He was recently transferred from Eli’s compound – something tells me he’s seriously bad news.”

… 

After he came back to the destruction of the apartment and was hit with the wall of guilt and terror, Mitch had forced himself to check himself and Dol into a new hotel. From there he got to work.

If working with Victor for all this time had taught him one thing, it was that worrying would get him nowhere. He immediately buried himself in research, barely coming up for air or sleep.

As he printed all he had on the sinister doctor Dominic had told him about, Mitch dialled his phone, watching the pages slide out of the printer. Something like a smile made his eyes glint as he remembered another certain file printing out three years ago. A thick file for a thick-headed joker.

“Hey, kid, it’s Mitch.” He said when the line picked up. “Yeah, I know, it’s been a while, look–– Ugh, honestly? Not as much as you’d like to think – Well, we have better things to do than think about you, you kno–– I’m sure your ever-growing ego will survive – Well, rise and shine kid, it’s an emergency – Yes, I’m saying I need your help – No, I’m not putting it in writing. How soon can you get a flight here?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

A beeping noise stirred Victor from the murkiness. His head spun and a sharp smell assaulted his senses when he tried to take a breath. There was an oxygen mask covering his face, but it wasn’t supplying him with oxygen, he knew that much. His body felt so heavy and languid and empty, like he’d been sucked dry. He tried to shift, tried to make his aching limbs move or stretch, but a sharp pain told him he was tied to a metal table.

Pain.

Victor frowned, tried to blink his eyes open. His head pounded and his sinuses ached like they’d been filled with boiling water. The pain in his skull and wrists refused to ebb, and suddenly Victor became aware of the lack of control he had. It settled in his chest like a weight – fear.

His body felt broken, inactive… like… like a body rather than an entity. He felt like the cadavers he was trained to dissect at college.

Victor swallowed and immediately discovered a second warning signal.

The mouth guard between his teeth.

As the room slid into focus around him, the rest of the emergency bells began to sound in his head.

That clinical, almost acrid smell. Like rubber and bleach and ammonia.

The leather restraints around his ankles and wrists. Another two around his bare waist and shoulders.

The tube in his arm that was taking blood instead of giving him fluids.

Pain. So sharp and nuanced, radiating from–

His eyes narrowed onto the polished metal ceiling above him – reflecting back the warped and distorted image of him strapped down to the medical examination table, stripped of his shirt and splashed with the dark ink of his blood.

“Good evening, Mr Vale. So good of you to join us.”

His eyes briefly flickered over to the far right, where a man dressed in a white lab coat was sifting through a table of instruments. He turned and smiled at Victor, his dark, beady eyes magnified by thick, square glasses.

“My name is Dr Haverty, and I’m so pleased to meet you.”

Victor ignored him, just kept staring up at the polished metal and tried and focus. He’d need something to focus on for what was about to begin.

The thin, precise slits along his skin stung with each breath he took, the blood already starting to clot around small metal conductors that pinched onto muscle.

The doctor chuckled breathily and turned back to the table where metal jingled as he chose a tool Victor couldn’t see.

“So much like your friend.”

Fear spiked through Victor then, suddenly remembering Sydney tied to the chair, the smoke, and the darts – she’d been so scared…

But then he continued, “Or, should I say, your arch-nemesis, Mr Ever.”

Interest, disgust, and something just short of concern all flickered in his stomach at the mention of Eli. Was he here in this facility?

Like the doctor had read his thoughts, he continued,

“Of course he’s at EON HQ down at Merit. Stell refuses to let him out of his sight. But he was my prized subject.” And here, the doctor’s voice grew dream-like, entranced. “A body able to regenerate itself. Fascinating. Utterly ground-breaking.”

Victor wanted to roll his eyes, wanted to add a snide comment, but the mouth guard prevented that. He didn’t need to be a genius to recognize that the doctor liked the sound of his own voice.

“But then word got out about you and your little friend.” Haverty’s gaze dropped down onto Victor, and saw his fist clench. He let out another satisfied breath of laughter, his voice still feather-light.

“Oh yes, you’re an odd little family, aren’t you?”

Victor swallowed, gritting his teeth against the plastic mouth guard, but the beeping from the machine betrayed him.

“I couldn’t resist seeing it for my own eyes – pain and renewal. Death and resurrection. Rather poetic, don’t you think?”

Even if he could talk, Victor wouldn’t have said anything. He kept his eyes facing upwards, staring at his warped reflection. Tried not to look at the table of instruments.

By now the doctor was standing over him, watching Victor like two chemicals about to react. He reached down and lifted the oxygen mask long enough to remove the mouth guard.

“I figured a scientist like yourself would have something to contribute. At the very least, to have an appreciation for what I am discovering.”

Victor’s cold glare met the doctor’s and for a moment he said nothing.

“You flatter yourself.” His voice was dry but still held enough malice to make the doctor grin.

“Ah, he speaks. I wonder then, what you have to say about your little friend?”

Victor remained silent.

“Really? Nothing at all?” Haverty’s eyebrows shot up before he moved behind Victor, out of sight.

He heard keys being typed, and then the short man reappeared on his left side.

“I’m intrigued by you. I know a great deal about you – your past, your skills, your preference of working for you and yourself only, for the sake of self-preservation. And then I thought to myself – ‘why don’t we put that to the test?’ So I want to conduct an experiment,” Victor didn’t doubt that. “I’m going to offer you a one time only deal.” Haverty drew a screen towards him on an extendable arm, showing Victor security footage of a large white cell, divided down the middle by a wall.

They were mirror images of each other, except the one on the right was furnished with a small bed, a chair and a desk. The other held a lone occupant. Victor’s eyes immediately narrowed in on Sydney, sitting tucked into the corner on the floor, her knees drawn up to her chest. She’d never looked so alone since the first time he and Mitch had found her on the side of the Merit freeway.

Victor didn’t have to say anything for Dr Haverty to know he was invested.

“We’re still a relatively new compound here. Cells are still under construction. What I’m willing to offer will benefit only one of you.”

Victor already knew what he was going to offer. Was already willing to agree to it, no matter what the catch was.

Haverty had halted the IV that was taking blood from his arm, but kept the needle in. Victor could only watch in the reflection above him as the doctor mixed something in with his blood hanging in the bag behind him before reattaching the tube. He kept the pressure valve on, halting the flow so that the dark liquid hovered ominously.

“Eli Ever was such a learning experience. As were the many other EOs I studied.” Haverty moved around him, inspecting the machinery and science equipment.

“They taught me the limits of pain, the thresholds that the human body can withstand before it blacks out. How much pain someone can take before it kills them. You’d be surprised at how much the human body can withstand.” His beady, depthless eyes narrowed down on him and he cocked his head like a bird until Victor met his gaze.

“I guess you know all about that though, don’t you – being an expert in the field. I can only assume then,” The doctor raised an eyebrow, “that you’d be able to withstand a great deal more.”

The damned beeping betrayed Victor further. He took controlled breaths of the putrid gas Haverty was feeding him, swallowing the bile that crept up his throat.

Haverty straightened and continued his work of switching on machines; untangling wires; splaying Victor’s arms out on the adjustable table.

“The deal is simple – either you both get exactly the same treatment, or, you have the choice of sacrificing your comforts for the girl. She’ll be fed decent meals, have a bed to sleep in, and be warm. I will never lay a finger on her.” The doctor spread his palms in a silent promise. Victor’s gaze shifted from the screen to the doctor, waiting for the inevitable ‘but’.

He began attaching electrodes to Victor’s skin. Some were stick-on receptors, while others were tiny wires that he attached to the conductors already lodged into the pre-made cuts. A cold sweat broke out along the back of Victor’s neck, and a raking, bone-deep shudder made his breath hitch. The pinging on the monitor began to speed up.

“However,” the doctor continued, the beginnings of a wicked grin behind his eyes, “you must take her spot in my lab. No arguments, no hesitation, no struggle.” He flicked switches with every condition. “You must come willingly any and each time I summon you.”

Something dull and blunt stabbed through his gut, twisting and writhing its way from the small of his back and up his spine. Fear mixed with something else – hatred? Nausea? Protectiveness?

Dr Haverty finished tweaking his machines and finally let the valve open on the IV. He looked down at Victor with expectation.

“Those are my terms. What do you say?”

The first dregs of the mixture made it through Victor’s drip and what felt like acid started coursing through his veins. He buckled against his restraints, neck arching. A swallowed groan was muffled beneath the mask, before he panted for breath.

Victor grimaced, opened his eyes to see the image of Sydney in her cage still staring back at him. As the blood mixture spread through him, the screen’s glare intensified as his eyes began to water.

“Done.” Victor spat out from between gritted teeth.

The doctor grinned, pushing the extendable arm holding the computer screen away and replaced Victor’s mouth guard.

“Excellent,” He turned a dial and Victor heard the familiar hum of electricity. Somewhere deep inside, he was already screaming.

“Let’s get started then.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

It had been five hours since Sydney had been transferred to this new cell. It was still white with artificial lighting and odd, fibreglass walls, but now she had a cot bed with a blanket folded neatly on top, and a little wooden desk and chair that sat opposite. The blanket and bed covers matched her grey clothes she’d been assigned along with the cell, and a cup, seemingly made of the same plastic material sat on the sink in the corner in the world’s smallest bathroom.

The only way Syd knew the time was because the woman who had transferred her from the old cell to this new one had worn a watch – a military style one with a digital face, reading 12:50. The same woman now appeared holding a tray the size of a paperback with food. She slid it onto the tray in the wall, and Syd caught a glimpse of the woman’s watch under her cuff and the name RIOS embroidered onto her uniform.

18:10 

She could hardly believe it had been less than twelve hours since they had been caught and locked up. It felt like so much longer, especially without knowing where Victor was. Being alone with your fears and endless thoughts made time stretch longer than even Dom’s shadow world. Was this what solitary confinement was like? How did Victor stand it for five long years?

Sydney was worried about Mitch – she felt his second-hand guilt for leaving their last conversation as an argument – and a petty one at that.

No. Not their last.

But Syd was also terrified for Victor. All she could see in her minds-eye was him collapsing at her feet through the haze of the smoke. The smell of it still lingered in her hair, in the back of her throat, and on her skin. And that horrible man.

Just thinking about him made her shiver. He reminded Sydney of a dinosaur – like the conniving Velociraptors from Jurassic Park who watched from a distance before attacking in the most terrible, violent way possible.

Too sick to eat, Sydney left the tray of food on her desk and sat on the bed instead, tucking her knees up to her chin. She wanted to see Victor – she needed to know that he was okay, even if that meant he was locked up the same as she was. She needed to know she wasn’t alone in here.

As if EON had read her mind and granted her wish, she flinched as the wall beside her slowly became transparent, and she was met with the image of her previous cell – the one empty of everything except the tiny toilet and sink hidden by tiles in the corner mirroring her own. She knew it was the very same, because she saw the little folded up page from her notebook on the ground. Her hand automatically came to her new pocketless grey uniform – she hadn’t noticed it fall out when she left.

But her gaze jerked from the note when a panel in the opposite wall slide open, and Sydney’s breath was ripped from her when Victor appeared through the door.

Victor’s usually composed face was now permanently strained with lines of pain, and blood stained his skin under the grey uniform and tinged his lips – his white-blond hair fell messily over his forehead. Sydney gasped and pressed her palms to the translucent wall, tried to call his name but no sound got through.

The guards pushed him into the cell and she saw just how much he was relying on them to hold him upright. When they let him go and the panel closed behind them, Victor slid down the wall with a grimace. He clutched his ribs as he doubled over on the floor, and Sydney’s pounding heart echoed in her ears.

What have they done to him? Has he been out there the whole five hours?

Anger and sadness made her eyes fill with water and she called his name again. And maybe part of her voice got through the wall, because Victor’s eyes flickered up slowly, like it hurt just to look at things.

But Victor’s gaze was glassy and it slid over her before he sunk to the floor, purposely turning his back to her as he curled up on his side.

Sydney’s breath fogged up the wall, before it started to return to its solid colour again, Victor disappearing from view on the other side.

No!” she screamed, “Victor!”

But Syd was alone once more.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

It was sometime during the night when the lights suddenly came back on.

An hour or so after he was brought to his cell, Victor felt his powers slowly return, felt the dial become his again, and he groaned with relief when at long last he was able to shut off the pain. He took a deep breath, and while he felt the sensation of his broken ribs creak and rub, he was finally free of the constant ache.

Soon after the lights went dark, Victor got to his feet and studied his new cell. Four white fibreglass walls, floor, and an odd spongy looking ceiling. In the dark, the surfaces took on a strange moon-like glow, like they were luminous from within. It was a far cry from the isolation cell Victor had been held in for five years, yet somehow, it held a much more sinister intent. It looked and felt exactly like what you’d expect in an insane asylum, but instead of a straight jacket, he had a grey cotton uniform. This at least, he was used to.

He washed his hands and arms from the blood that still stained his skin in the small basin in the corner before sliding down the wall opposite; almost in the same corner he had first seen Sydney tucked in on the security footage. Victor’s hand brushed against something on the ground and he looked down to find a small folded piece of paper, easily camouflaged against the egg-white colour of the tiles. Resting a forearm on his knee, Victor squinted to read the small handwriting in the dark, before a ghost of a smile quirked at his lips. He spared a glance at the now solid wall beside him where Sydney lay behind, and rested his head against it as his eyes closed…

Now the glaring light made his eyes snap open, and the wall separating their cells was clear again. Victor didn’t know how long he’d been asleep for, but seeing as Sydney’s cell was still dark, the small girl on the bed not yet awoken by the lights on his side, he knew it was hadn’t been long.

A voice came through a small speaker in the ceiling – the same voice that had tormented him for five hours earlier and sent a spike of fear up Victor’s spine.

“Mr Vale, please proceed to the door and kneel in front of the tray.”

Victor’s jaw tightened, allowed some of the pain back, and let it spur him forwards with contempt.

There was a soft light beckoning her forward. Sydney knew she shouldn’t, but she tried to push her way through the haze to the light. There was a distant buzz, but to her it sounded like it was right by her ear. She jerked awake just in time to see Victor’s cell lit up like it was daytime, and his tall frame being led out of the sliding panel. And just like that, the lights went off and she was plunged back into the dark. The wall remained clear and Sydney, heart pounding and teetering between unconsciousness and suddenly awake, watched her own door, terrified of when it would slide open and summon her to a mysterious room.

Mitch waited in the van for the red-eye to land, his fingers still rapidly typing across his laptop before his eyes caught sight of the familiar shaved head and snaking tattoos.

Noah saluted him through the driver’s window, and lifted a pair of sunglasses onto the top of his head, even though it was three in the morning. That same easy, unhinged grin dripping with confidence made Mitch wish he wasn’t working alone.

“Someone call for a profesh’nal?” There were times, very rare times, that Mitch actually missed that smug Cockney accent. “Where’re the others?”

Mitch’s grim face made the kid frown, and something like concern crossed his expression.

“That’s why you’re here, kid. I’m desperate.”

Noah stuck out his bottom jaw before going round to get in the passenger seat.

“I ain’t gonna like vis, am I?”

Mitch started the engine and dumped all the files he’d found so far on Noah’s lap.

“Nope.”

Victor had expected the “experimenting”, as Haverty called it – a great big umbrella term for high-grade torture, essentially. He’d even expected interrogations, or threats, blackmail or ultimatums. Not these insufferable… conversations. If there was one thing worse than what Victor expected EON to do to their test subjects, it was Dr Haverty.

The doctor acted like they were both studying something together, like Victor wasn’t the one under his knife, but the one asking where to cut next. It was its own specific type of torture, one that made Victor pray for earplugs instead of a mouth guard.

Today, he got neither.

Haverty watched in awe from a separate room as the live feed from his altered MRI machine showed the brain light up in the most unusual way. Adjusting a dial here, some buttons there, Haverty’s fingers danced from one control to another – each activating a different pressure point on the subject. The foot arch, the ribcage, inner thigh, forearm, back of the neck.

All the while, he watched the scans that fed through to his laptop – frowning or grinning depending on the results. Haverty didn’t always like to be separated from his experiments in action – he much preferred to be standing over the results, watching the exact moment his hypothesis was corrected and being able to tell them as much. But this part of the testing required the MRI machine in order to supply evidence of what he was discovering – besides, this way he didn’t have to think over all the screaming.

He scribbled everything into the little blue notebook, drawing little arrows to connect ideas, underlining something he thought was significant, before concluding with his next hypothesis. He radioed in one of the EON guards, not even looking up from his notebook as he started to hurriedly write down the beginnings of his next idea.

“Take him away for now.” He waved a hand dismissively.
“Why don’t you just keep him here?” The EON agent sighed, “Aren’t you going to make us get him again in the next couple of hours anyway?”

Haverty spun in his chair and eyed the young man.

“Exactly. How else do you break a person than by picking them apart bit by bit?”

The guard – an ex-soldier named Holtz frowned, before shaking his head,

“Whatever, man, it’s your time.”

The doctor turned back to the viewing window, eyes narrowing on his newest project as he stumbled from the table, and a smile split across his lips.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Victor’s cell was still dark when the door slid closed behind him.

He guessed it must have been close to four in the morning, and he saw through the wall that seemed to be permanently clear, that Sydney was still safe and asleep in the small cot. Relief flooded his veins, and Victor used it to propel himself forward towards the sink.

Everything ached – his bones, his skin, his kidneys – Victor felt like he’d been broiled, and as much as he craved sleep, he moved stiffly to the tiny sink and turned the tap on. He’d been issued with another grey shirt, but he scrunched it up and let it soak in the cold water, ringing out the fabric until it was damp. Victor let it hang on the edge while he doubled over – dipping his head forwards under the tap and shivering as the cool water washed over the back of his neck. It trickled through his hair and down his face. He cupped his hands, drinking until he inhaled too fast and started coughing, wincing when his ribs protested. Finally straightening, Victor pushed his wet hair back and relished how the water dripped down his tender back. He forced himself to sip slowly from the plastic cup supplied to him, before he could stand no longer.

Victor folded himself onto the ground, back pressed against the cool tiled wall and he took a shaky, deep breath as the first trickles of control slowly came back to him.

Sydney was being pulled from her cell kicking and screaming, the EON guards deftly depositing her in a tiny metal room. Her heart pounded as she spun back to the door, screaming for Victor or Mitch or Dom – anyone to help her, to get her out–

“No one is coming, child.”

She gasped and turned to see Dr Haverty emerge out of the shadows, a cold-blooded smile cracking open his mouth.

“It’s just you, me, and my newest assistant – I believe you’ve already met?”

Sydney’s eyes widened as she watched Eli step out of the shadows behind the doctor, that handsome, dangerous grin shining in his eyes–

 

Sydney lurched forward, not realising she’d fallen asleep until she was so violently pulled from it. She panted for breath before looking around herself.

Through the clear wall, the lights were still dark, but Victor’s cell was empty.

She felt tears prick behind her eyes, trying not to think of what they were doing to him out there. Her mind raced with possibilities and fears.

Were both of their powers were weakened in here? What if they transferred him someplace else? Was Dom still undercover here somewhere? What if they’ve discovered he’s an EO too? What if they killed them both and she was never able to bring them back…?

Movement caught her eye over by the tiled section of the adjoining cells, and she flinched, heart still racing before Syd realised the room beyond wasn’t empty at all.

Victor.

He was sitting on the tiles, head tilted back with his eyes closed. Syd wanted to rush to the wall, to knock and get his attention, but she stopped herself when she thought of him collapsing to the floor the night before. He was in pain – for some reason his powers were still gone and he was being hurt, over and over again.

But just as she was about to look away, he spoke,

“Are you alright?”

Sydney dropped from the bed and crawled towards him to kneel on the floor. She held a palm up to touch the wall between them and watched him. A bare shoulder showed raw marks tracking down the length of his arm, the colour harsh against his pale skin.

Victor didn’t move, didn’t open his eyes. Had she imagined it?

“I’m scared.” She finally answered. “I’m scared of what they’re doing to you. Of what they’re going to do to me.” Her voice had trailed off to a squeak, and she was sure he hadn’t heard her.

Syd saw his jaw work before Victor rocked his head to the side, eyes opening to meet hers.

“They’re not going to hurt you.” His deep voice sounded slightly muffled through the wall, but she still heard the strain in it – the rough edge. She stared at him.

“How do you know?” Syd felt the trepidation of the question sit uncomfortably in her stomach.

Victor didn’t answer immediately. Up close, she could see the rings under his eyes, and the pain shining in them, the blue dimmed almost to a cold grey.

“Because I made them a deal. One they couldn’t resist.”

She frowned, wanted to ask him what sort of deal this was, what it meant, but Victor turned away from her. He reached over and grabbed his shirt, hanging damp on the edge of the sink, and Sydney gasped when she caught sight of fresh stitches, bruises blushing an ugly shade of blue, and burns smattering his skin. She blinked and they were already disappearing under the grey shirt as he stood, but she caught Victor flinching when he tugged it down too fast.

He raked his wet hair back, and when Sydney didn’t move from the ground, he knelt in front of her.

“You should get some sleep.” He offered.

Syd made sure he held her gaze, so that she could look into his eyes properly when he answered.

“What are you not telling me?”

Victor smiled. She knew that smile – it was kind, and touched his eyes – it was almost genuine. Almost. And Sydney knew he was lying.

“Nothing.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Dominic knew he couldn’t be sick from work forever. He was sure someone would draw a connection between his bout of sudden illness and Victor’s capture (probably Rios, who was he kidding), so he spent his day off desperately trying to practice the charade of healthiness.

It was damn hard. But the only thing that got him through it was the knowledge that because he could feel this, it meant that Victor and Sydney were in danger – potentially worse. He needed to get back in there and get as much information as possible to give to Mitch and Noah for their plan.

There was a concerning lack of respites of Victor coming back ‘online’ as Dom had deemed it, and they were fleeting at best. Haverty was keeping him weak, with only a handful of hours or less between sessions, and they seemed to be dwindling. Dom was going to have to make sure he was as prepared as he could be to get through tomorrow without raising suspicion.

In the space of a day, Sydney saw Victor appear back in his cell only a handful of times – each time in a worse state than before. The guards deposited him off by the sliding door, and it was there that he sunk to the floor and waited to be collected again.

Sydney didn’t know whether to be heartbroken or angry at him for still keeping things from her despite it all. But she knew that it was a hollow anger, simply masquerading as her fear of EON, of Haverty. She felt helpless watching Victor being dragged off time and time again; wishing that she had some sort of power like Victor’s to fight back–

At last Sydney had stumbled upon what had been bothering her with Victor all this time. Just from the tension in his face and mannerisms, she knew that at least once, Victor had managed to get his powers back from whatever Haverty had given him. So why the hell wasn’t he fighting back?

That evening, Syd watched the panel open once more and flinched when Victor was dropped bodily to the floor, bloodied and limp. His arms shook as he tried to push himself to his knees, growling through his teeth before spitting out blood. It slowly began to pool beneath him, and Sydney couldn’t tear her gaze away from the man that was ordinarily so put together, someone who was sharp and collected. It was so jarring to see Victor suddenly reduced to being at the mercy of EON, and it terrified her to see him just allowing it.

Tears were already spilling down her face, and her anger shot her forward to her feet, pressing both palms to the clear wall.

“Why aren’t you fighting back?” she demanded, hating how the tears made her words whine.

Victor’s gaze was glassy and unfocused, just like that first night, but this time he frowned at her, bloodied lips pressed into a grim line. She knew he didn’t need her yelling at him – she didn’t want to be yelling at him – but how could he just sit there and do nothing?

“You started to get your power back, right? So why, when they came again, didn’t you just drop them all? Why are you just letting them hurt you?” Sydney sobbed.

Victor closed his eyes and didn’t answer.

Syd slammed a palm against the wall, but flinched when a warning sound went off. Her heart hammered and Syd spun to stare at her own door, waiting for it to slide open and for the guards to drag her away. She waited what felt like hours, but no one came.

When she turned back to Victor, he had turned away from her again, head and shoulder pressed against the wall, facing his door and waiting for his own collection that seemed to run like clockwork.

“This is going to get me access into the system,” Mitch held up the compact thumb drive, “put it into any desktop computer and I’ll be in in seconds. That way I’ll be able to help you out, okay?”

Dominic nodded.

“You said there are others?”

“Yeah,” Dom said, trying to focus on intel that he already knew rather than the slowly growing pain in his back. “It’s still a small complex – there’s only room for six prisoners and we already have five EOs. Unless they have them sharing a cell, I don’t know where they’d be keeping Victor and Syd.”

“We’ll figure it out – right now the first steps are to get eyes on the inside and start talking to your fellow EOs. Oh, you’ll also need this.”

Dom held out his hand and Mitch dropped a tiny earpiece into his palm. It was even smaller than the compact USB – Dom knew the sight of it immediately.

“Mitch, this is military grade tech – where the hell did you–?”

But the ex-prisoner held up his hands in innocence, and Dom saw a terrible grin spread across the face of the true criminal of their group.

“You can fank me la’er.” Noah winked, resting his feet on the bench and tilting his cap.

Dom blanched. “God help us…” He whispered.

The sound of the door woke Sydney with a jolt. It couldn’t have been later than one in the morning, and both of them had seemed to be starting to get the beginnings of sleep, when Victor had been taken away.

Sydney stirred, unable to get back to sleep now that Victor was gone. Her guilt and fear sat inside her like a stone, and she tossed and turned, before getting up to pace out her frustration in her cramped cell.

It wasn’t until her fourth round of pacing that Sydney caught sight of it through the clear wall. The unlit cells made it hard to make out, but when Sydney rushed over, she knew immediately what it was.

There on the ground of Victor’s cell, was her page of words she had written for him and dropped when she was transferred from the cell.

Line after line was blacked out, not with ink but with dark blood, and the result was messy and sinister looking, with smudged fingerprints along the edges.

Blood and ink blurred into one through her tears, and she winced when she thought back to her accusing him of not doing anything – of not trying.

The four remaining words that stared up at her made her drop to her knees and she let out a hiccupping sob – the whole horrible picture sliding into place:

 

BETTER ME THAN YOU

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Victor was brought to the same room he had first woken up in, except this time he was sitting upright in a chair similar to one found in a dentist’s studio.

The EON guard, a man named Holtz, secured his hands and knelt to slide the restraints around Victor’s ankles, a permanent frown creasing his face. He was usually accompanied by another man – a crueller, younger looking soldier named Bara, but this morning Holtz was alone. He looked tired and troubled, and Victor always caught how he flinched whenever he saw the doctor.

The soldier glanced up at Victor now and their eyes held for a moment. Holtz couldn’t help the guilt that churned inside his stomach. This was the first time he’d witnessed the experiments since Haverty had been transferred up from Merit, and every instinct was screaming at him that it was wrong. For the first time Holtz seriously questioned his role here at EON. He believed in their goal – in trying to help EOs to return to society as safe, responsible citizens, or even to become successful soldiers in the long run.

But this? This was something totally different.

Holtz didn’t doubt that these people were powerful – someone you’d want to have as an ally, not an enemy. But torturing them in the name of science was not the way to do that. Holtz had seen a lot during his deployment overseas, and this was something he thought he would never have to witness again, let alone be involved in it.

Before he could stop himself, Holtz felt an overwhelming sense of compassion towards the EO, and he surprised both Victor and himself when he said, “The Doc isn’t coming for a while,” he whispered, “I’d get as much rest as you can.”

Victor blinked, before nodding slowly.

“I’m–” Holtz cleared his throat, glanced at the door before shaking his head. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, pretending to tighten the zip-ties around Victor’s wrists. Dark thoughts punched him in the gut. “But if I have to bring someone to this room, I’m grateful it’s you and not the girl.”

Victor stared at him before his eyes wandered away. His voice was rough when he replied, “You and me both. Let’s try and keep it that way.”

A smile tinged with respect and sadness tilted the soldiers’ lips up and he stood.

“You got it.”

“Mate, you need some sleep,” Noah chided, squinting through bleary eyes at the glare of Mitch’s laptop. The bigger man didn’t reply, just kept pounding away at the keys.

Noah’s phone read 2:22am and he knew they had a big day coming up. Even though Mitch would be behind the computer for most of the time, he knew the guy had to get some sleep to recharge.

“Mitch…” He rested a hand on his shoulder on his way to the fridge. “C’mon, you can’t ‘elp ‘em right now–”

“No. They shouldn’t even be there in the first place,” Mitch snapped. Noah glanced over at him from the cupboard where he collected two glasses.

“Listen mate, gripin’ at me ain’t gonna make vis fing be’er.” The attitude in his own voice would have been enough to start a full-blown argument between the two, but instead Mitch let out a heavy sigh and sank his face into his hands.

There was silence between them as Noah climbed onto the kitchen stool opposite Mitch and filled both glasses with chocolate milk. The other man peered at him through his hands, looking like he was about to object to sharing, but Noah didn’t notice.

Mitch huffed, softening when the kid pushed the glass closer to him.

“I’m sorry. This whole thing is my fault.”

Noah raised his eyebrows,

You turned ‘em in to EON…?”

“No, of course not. But this,” Mitch gestured to his laptop, “this is what I do – it’s my responsibility. Not only was I not there when they were taken, but the fact that they were found in the first place is my fault. So yeah, I guess you could say that I turned them in,” He growled miserably. “If there’s one thing I can do well, it’s this. I don’t know how they found them but I intend on finding out so that it never happens again.”

Noah was silent as Mitch sighed sadly, cradling his glass between his huge hands.

“If you were vere, fen I can almost guarantee vat you woulda been killed. An’ you ain’t got much use to ‘em dead, mate. Plus, I’m pre’y damn sure Vic and Syd are glad you weren’ vere to get hurt so you can start by le’in vat shit go.”

Despite himself, Mitch chuckled at Noah’s outburst, his accent thicker in the heat of the moment.

“As for all vis hackin’ shit – Christ mate, you couldn’t’ve known. Vat’s the whole point of hackin’, innut? Look – we get ‘em out. Ven you can restart from scratch tomorrow. Make it be’er.”

Mitch nodded slowly, the lack of sleep hitting him like a wall.

Noah finished his drink and winked.

“An’ ah, maybe re-do mine too, yeah…?” He grinned and Mitch matched it, a rumbling laugh making his shoulders bounce.

“Yeah you got, kid. Thanks.” He drained the glass and closed his laptop.

Dom got up earlier than usual. It was still dark when he got on his bike and headed to work. He took the route slowly, grimacing every time his bike went over a bump or flaw in the road.

He pulled up to his usual spot and took a moment to catch his breath.

“You reading me?” he asked as he unclipped his helmet.

“Loud an’ clear, bruv!” Noah replied.

“Oh no, I am not spending the day with your voice in my head. Where there hell is Mitch?”

“Relax, he’s ‘ere too, I just wan’ed to hear the panic in your voice.” The kid laughed. Mitch could be heard shuffling in the background,

“Noah, move over… give me that– Dom, are you in?” Mitch came online and Dominic breathed with relief.

“I just got here, I’m about to head in now. Stand by.”

“Okay, let me know when you’re getting me online.”

“Will do.” Dom took his helmet off and walked stiffly to the glass doors.

The sun was just beginning to rise on a new day. He took a deep breath.

“I got parts,” he reminded the security guy who nodded him through – a part of Dom still stiffened, waiting for them to catch the earpiece, to finally realise that they had an EO walking amongst them – but he walked through the scanner without a hitch.

He greeted his teammates with careful, practiced calm, forcing a smile when he was screaming on the inside – but they bought it.

Everyone except for Rios.

She watched him like a hawk and he tried to not look suspicious. Was he sweating? He felt like he was sweating. Jesus, how did she just appear like that?

“Dom… who is that?” Mitch asked, and Dominic could hear the rapid sound of typing behind his voice.

“Agent Rios,” he muttered when he could. “Something about her just doesn’t sit right…”

“Hold on, I’m looking her up.”

Dom glanced around himself before ducking into a computer lab. He quickly selected the computer in the back row that had a dodgy keyboard and creaky chair that everyone hated using. Sparing another glance towards the door, Dom slipped the tiny USB out of his breast pocket.

“Mitch, you’re about to be online in three… two… one.”

He heard a low whistle over his earpiece, and took it as a good sign.

Now that the part of his role that could get him fired and potentially exposed was done, Dom felt a weight lift off his shoulders, but he wasn’t done yet.

He quickly logged into the computer and let Mitch guide him through the mainframe and databases until he found all he needed to know about the other five EOs they had in custody. While Mitch went after the security cameras, Dom skimmed over details in the files like age, race, gender, and powers before he fell upon two words that made his eyes light up.

Bingo.

Dominic jumped as the door to the lab was flung open, a thumping heartbeat away from escaping into the shadows before he saw the concern knitted across Holtz’s brow.

In his ear, Dominic heard the typing stop abruptly and Noah start swearing colourfully.

Sweet mother of god…” Mitch sounded like he was going to be sick.

“There you are,” Holtz breathed, and Dom took the second’s lull to quickly log off.

“What’s up?” Dom asked both Holtz and Mitch, trying to sound upbeat.

“Dom… Jesus Christ, you need to get to the lab.”

“I need your help at Haverty’s lab,” Holtz told him and it came out like an order. The tone in Mitch’s voice paired with the look in his friends’ eye made Dom’s stomach plummet.

The dull pain woke Victor, who had been so tired he hadn’t even noticed when he’d been moved from the chair Holtz had left him in.

Now, as he staggered upright, the gas Haverty had pumping through the overhead fans highlighted the accumulated injuries he had been dulling. The zip-ties had been replaced by modified handcuffs with a longer chain, and for a moment, Victor was transported back to the police car at Lockland.

A new EON guard, a woman Victor didn’t recognise, attached his cuffs to a heavy length of chain hanging from the ceiling. His ankles were still chained and he stood on a section of floor made from a metal grill – the type designed to catch fluids and for hosing down prisoners. Victor felt his heart stutter as he stared down at his bare feet locked to the grate. He was the least secured he’d been yet outside of his cell, but it brought with it a new type of fear of what was to come.

The guard left, and Haverty stepped into view. It was confronting to be standing so close to him rather than tied down under his knife. It wasn’t hard to be shorter than Victor, save for Mitch, but the doctor held so much power, so much sinister authority that he had the presence of a tall man. He was menacing and he knew it, a grin breaking out across his round face.

Victor lifted his jaw stubbornly, holding himself as straight as he could with broken ribs and a hole in his side. The chain fell low, his wrists hanging in front of his waist, which allowed him a decent amount of movement. Haverty was no fool though, and remained at a safe distance, a small medical table between them.

 

“I’ve learnt so much from you as an EO,” the doctor told him, his light, inquisitive voice like nails down a chalkboard – but if Victor had learnt one thing, it was that the doctor loved to talk, so he always let him. The more he talked, the longer Victor had to catch his breath.

“Your blood, your scans, the discoveries I’ve made thanks to you have been unmatched since my time with Mr Ever. You’ve given me more information than any of the other EOs here.” Haverty spread his hands and grinned, like he had found his golden goose, and with a dull thump of his heart, Victor realised exactly what that meant. He had won the place of Haverty’s project for the foreseeable future. Or until it killed him.

Haverty read the realisation in his eyes and he chuckled, his own eyes glinting with ambition.

“We are going to change the world.” His voice was dream-like yet intense at the same time. “Of course, I can’t continue my studies here. All my notes and equipment are back in Merit.”

Victor flinched, his eyes widening as his tired mind pieced it together. Haverty grinned and nodded. “That’s right; my collection will be complete at last. You, Mr Vale, are the second butterfly to my display.”

No…

Victor’s head spun; his stomach dropped. He took a staggering breath through dry lips before fury overtook fear. Dozens of images flooded through his mind and he gritted his teeth.

Eli fucking Cardale. There was no way in hell he was going to become a guinea pig alongside that bastard. Let Eli suffer at the hands of this maniac, he didn’t care, but Victor was not going to be there to suffer with him. He was not leaving Sydney alone here as he was transferred away–

He flinched at the thought and he must have gasped because Haverty looked pleased.

“But,” he held up a finger, halting the sickness rising in Victor’s throat, “I am giving you a chance to show me your skills. Not as an EO, however – no, I’ve already studied those at length. I want to see your skills as a fellow scientist.”

Haverty pushed the small steel tool table towards Victor and he peered down at the contents on the tray.

A beige file, a mouth guard, and a scalpel.

“Lucky me,” Victor said flatly.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

As Victor turned the pages of the file, he was assaulted by graphic photographs of blood and muscle, skin being held open, and exposed bone. He was used to seeing these sorts of images, but it was another thing to know they were his own – to feel every wound with every turn of the page. Then he got to the scans and x-rays. Some were from the MRI the day before (it felt like a hundred days ago now), and he had to agree with the doctor – he had discovered some remarkable results.

Admittedly, these tests would have been something he himself would have done if the roles were reversed. A way to see how the brain reacts to fear and pain – two seemingly connected traits required for trauma to produce an EO. Or the way it works in real time throughout the nervous system, even the neurological reaction from different stimulants. The list went on and on.

The difference between Haverty and himself, however, was that Victor hadn’t been interested in studying and dissecting EOs. He could have, back in college, when Eli first told him about his thesis. He was training to be a doctor after all – it was what he was best at. But Victor wanted to know – to truly understand the process and result. Victor didn’t just want to conduct an experiment; he wanted to become the experiment. He wanted knowledge, in its truest form.

Haverty wanted something much different. He wanted a source for his power, while Victor wanted to be the power source. He wanted to be the electrical current.

 

“I designed those myself,” Haverty said proudly, when Victor got to the x-rays and held them up to the light. A dark object, like a rod with a coil attached, sat in plain view in all of the images, and Victor’s eyes narrowed, disgust coiling in his gut. There were six in total spread throughout his body: lower bicep near the elbow; outer abdominal oblique; glutus medius; trapezius; deep in the vastus muscle of his thigh; and finally his shoulder – sitting just under his right clavicle.

“They’re improved versions of the ones I put in Mr Ever.” Victor’s ears pricked up at that. “They still act as trackers, a GPS system if you will – but with an added kick.” Haverty withdrew a smartphone from his pocket and touched a button.

Victor seized as a current took hold of him from within, the papers falling to the floor as he cried out. He tried to grasp the chain for support as his body buckled, before the electricity stopped just as suddenly. Victor panted, grimacing as several of his fresh stitches pulled and his ribs ground together as he doubled over, his muscles shuddering. Clutching the chain for stability, he remained hunched, not just from the pain, but also to study the dropped papers one more time.

“I’m giving you this one opportunity to attempt to remove them – just like I gave Mr Ever.” Haverty instructed, and Victor realised that the doctor didn’t think he would be able to. Twenty-year-old competitiveness burned at the back of his skull – without his powers to turn down the pain, there was a large chance he’d pass out before he could get them all. Hell, even with his powers, blood-loss could still make him pass out. Clearly, Eli had succeeded though, and Victor was determined to do so as well.

“Well, we’ll see about that.” Victor flinched at the ghost of the boy he had lived with during college, leaning casually against the wall with that tell-tale smirk of his. He tried to violently shove Eli out of his thoughts, but he only reappeared next to him instead, crouched to inspect the papers himself.

“You didn’t think I wasn’t going to miss this, did you? Oh Vic, you know we always made the best team in lab pracs.” The boy grinned and Victor ground his teeth.
“As you can imagine, Mr Ever had a great advantage, but he also had twice as many as you do. He was my main project after all.” Haverty chuckled proudly and Victor set his jaw as he finished memorizing where each tracker was and did his best to ignore the delusion his mind was playing on him.

Stubbornness and defiance reared up inside him and when Victor pulled himself back upright, his face was cold and unreadable.

“I do have to admit, I have you to thank for getting this son of a bitch away from me. I’d say you have no idea – but I guess you do now. Welcome to my world, Vic.”

“All I can say is that if you are not successful, well – it won’t leave you in a good position at Merit…” Haverty shrugged, but Victor didn’t take the bait. He wasn’t going to Merit – he was staying right here with Sydney and Mitch and Dom – right after he killed Haverty and brought this place to the ground.

Victor looked down at the only two implements he was given on the stainless steel tray. The task wasn’t whether or not he could do this; it was gauging which trackers to get to first.

“I’d be interested to see how you get the one in your shoulder blade out with your hands chained…”

“I don’t ‘attempt’ things, Doctor,” he spat, and the other man grinned with satisfaction.

“Don’t disappoint me.”

Victor slid the mouth guard between his teeth before picking up the scalpel. He tore through the fabric of his shirt with the knife – up the front and down the sleeves – and it slid away from him before he immediately got to work.

Blood dripped freely down through the metal grill of the floor, and as Victor sliced into his skin, he was reminded of Eli sitting in their kitchen, dragging knives through his skin like butter, the blood spilling onto the floor around him. The memory, along with the unwanted hallucination sitting next to him, only fuelled Victor onwards, and he groaned through the bit between his teeth as he drove the blade deeper.

Victor had begun by making all the incisions first. One only required reopening the stitches in his side, another splitting open an already healing wound in his left arm. Then came the harder ones. There was one buried in his thigh, but his chained wrists prevented him from reaching that far. His shackled feet made it awkward, so he wheeled the small tray over and threw it down its side, propping his foot onto the cool metal. Haverty let out a small laugh of fascinated glee, as Victor managed to bury the scalpel far enough into his outer thigh to make him choke out a gasp – the material of his trousers quickly soaking a deep red.

His hands were slick with red by the time he drew out the first one from his leg, grunting through his mouth guard the whole time. Hands trembling from the adrenaline and shock, leg fucking burning, and head reeling, Victor threw the device away and it clattered against the metal grill. The blood poured down his leg and his foot slipped from the metal table, and Victor grimaced as his weight pressed down onto his injured leg.

“One down, five to go.” Eli’s voice had a singsong lightness that made Victor growl with frustration.

The second one came from the back of his hip in the soft skin just below his kidney – the added struggle coming from the angle he had to twist at in order to reach it with his injured ribs.

Wiping the sweat from his face with a forearm, Victor managed to slide the third one from his bicep with the opposite end of the knife. His head was still spinning and despite never in his life feeling squeamish at the sight of blood, the lack of sleep and food made Victor want to throw up.

Grunting around the mouth guard, with pain bursting like flashing headlights behind his eyes, Victor dug his fingers into his abdomen. Balancing on his good leg, he kept staggering, before slipping on his own blood, almost dropping the scalpel.

“If you actually listened to me rather being so damn stubborn, you would have done this one first.”

Shut up.

Each tracker was the length of his little finger, and the one in his side kept slipping just out of reach.

Victor recognized the heavy woozy sensation filling his head and dulling his hearing, so he tipped his head back and breathed in through his nose and exhaled slowly, letting his eyes focus on the chain hanging from the ceiling above. He took a moment to collect his breath and clear his spinning head, before digging deeper – white noise filled him as he screamed and gagged against the mouth guard. In his head, he heard Eli tsk-ing him.

Finally, mercifully, Victor’s shuddering fingers grasped the tracker and he wrenched it out, letting it fall with the others. Groaning, he lost his footing before being knocked in the face by dizziness like an uppercut.

Before he knew it, he was on his knees hyperventilating. Victor tried wrapping his blood-slicked hands around the chain to haul himself back up but his arms ached too much, his legs too weak, his head spinning too fast.

“I hate to say it, Vic, but it’s not looking good…”

No, not yet… not now.

Four down, two to go.

“Two too many.”

As if on autopilot, his trembling hands somehow still gripping the blood stained scalpel, he forced them towards the fifth tracker in his shoulder.

“If you use you left hand, you wont be straining.”

He growled at the intrusion, but Victor took a breath before manoeuvring the knife to his left hand and angled it towards the opposite shoulder where he had made the preliminary cut. His cuffed hands made it difficult, and with the added difficulty of it being buried close to the bone, Victor knew he was treading a thin line.

There was already a keyhole-sized mark from where the doctor had injected it into him, but he’d need a bigger one in order to get it out as crudely as he was required to.

The blade dug deep and his eyes watered and his head spun, and fuck, he wasn’t going to make it, he couldn’t breathe, but as the lab around him tilted, Victor could still hear that arrogant voice laughing at him, criticising his technique, his inability to complete the task – and Victor forced the knife deeper until the tip nicked bone and he screamed. 

For a few moments, Mitch couldn’t do anything other than stare in horror at the screen while Noah swore.

He was numb as he watched his best friend collapse to his knees, utterly drenched in blood. A man he recognised as Haverty – the one Dom had warned him about – shook his head off to the side of the frame before walking away.

Noah was a blur of curses behind him, his cap pressed down against his eyes yet he was still pacing,

“Jesus fuckin’ Christ! This ain’t no Barney, nah mate, this is some serious tom tit, Mitch! Christ above, I can’ even fuckin’ look! Tell me Dom’s vere, tell me vey’re doin’ somefin’,” he moaned, and he looked like he was about to throw up.

Mitch suddenly found his voice again – managed to look away from the awful sight just as Victor fell limp, and slid his hands over his shaved head.

Fuck…”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

They were met with a scene Dom expected to see in a horror movie. Or a war zone, and neither were something he wanted to be in, let alone find Victor caught up in.

“My god…” Holtz gaped, and Dom looked around for the doctor – ready to punch his way through this.

He found him shaking his head at the back of the room, muttering about it being a disappointment.
“Hey.” Dom started towards him, rage momentarily dulling his pain. All he wanted was to see this man hurting for the things he’d done.

Haverty barely spared them a glance.

“Hose him down and take him away.” He waved his hand dismissively, opening a door to a small dark office.

“No, you listen here, you sick bastard–”

Dom was a foot away from grabbing the collar of his lab coat when Holtz called out, “Rusher.”

Dominic froze, knowing he had to keep up appearances at least for the next few hours. God, it was harder to let this monster go than it was to pretend he wasn’t in pain.

“He needs blood, urgently,” Holtz finished, and Dom glanced back to see him assessing Victor, fingers at his pulse.

“Give it to me,” Dom ordered the Doctor.

“He failed the test,” Haverty muttered, his eyes barely even focusing on Dom.

“I don’t give a damn what happened! He is first and foremost property of EON, therefore we determine what they do and do not need, not you.” He slammed his fist against the desk and the Doctor flinched. The outburst surprised both of them, and Dom fought to catch his breath as he was handed a small bag of blood from Haverty’s office.

“He’s lost a lot of blood, but he should be okay once we get him back to his cell and hook him up,” Holtz explained, and Dom was heartened by the compassion he was showing towards an EO. It gave him hope.

“Unlock his feet while I get the water.”

Dom crouched in front of the man who had given him back a life he never thought he’d have again and his chest ached.

Victor’s wrists were chained above his bowed head and he was slumped forward unconscious on his knees, a bloodied scalpel in front of him.

Oh Victor….

Dom lent around him and got his master key out to unlock the shackles around his ankles while Holtz tested the water from the hose he dragged over. He let the room temperature water gently wash the blood away from his skin, revealing fleshy wounds still weeping fresh blood.

The water got a reaction from Victor and Dom’s eyes lit up.
“Hey, easy…” He bit his tongue before he could reveal something incriminating, and watched Victor’s eyes roll back into his head, but by the time they had freed his wrists and he dropped to the metal lattice, he was unconscious again.

“Okay, lift him gently – ready? One, two–” Dom grunted as he helped shoulder Victor’s dead weight off the ground.

“Thanks for helping me,” Holtz said, and Dom was too busy holding back the curses to reply. “I knew you’d be… I don’t know, normal about it. Bara doesn’t really get it, you know?”

“Bara’s an asshole,” Dom spat before he could think about it, and Holtz laughed.

“Yeah, he is.”

Dom didn’t know where they were keeping Victor seeing as they were still low on cells, but as Holtz led him to their last remaining cell, Dom’s concern shifted to Sydney. It wasn’t until Mitch’s voice came through his ear that he winced.

“Dom, heads up – they’ve got them both in a cell – there’s some sort of glass between them.”

Fucking Haverty, the cruel son of a bitch…

His mind was racing on how to deal with this, how to try and shield Sydney from what they’d all witnessed – and everything else that it implied. But the real winding blow came a second before the sliding panel opened.

This isn’t even the first time.

Dom gritted his teeth and counted down the hours until he could watch this place burn.

 

It was still early morning, but Sydney was awake – sitting on the floor with her knees tucked up under her chin. That was until she saw them. Saw all of them.

Dom tried to give her a reassuring look, but she was staring at Victor much the same way he had done when he opened the door to the lab.

Holtz, bless him, had his back to her, trying to use his body to shield her view, and began giving Dom instructions.

“Alright, set him down nice and easy against the wall…”

Dom mirrored him, but he couldn’t hold back a grating groan as glass shot its way up his leg, through the patchwork of his pelvis and climbed up his back.

“You alright?” Holtz frowned, and Dom quickly reset his expression, nodding.

“Yeah. He’s heavier than he looks,” he hedged, before unclipping the pouch of blood from his belt. “You reckon you could convince the medic to let us use a drip stand?”

“Sure, I’ll be right back.” Holtz nodded, already heading out the door and it slid shut behind him.

Dominic instantly crossed the small space to where Sydney now stood behind the transparent wall.
“What happened to him?” Syd whispered, tear tracks shining down her face. She couldn’t drag her gaze away, so Dom crouched stiffly in front of her, forcing her to look at him.

“I promise you, it’s going to be okay,” he said gently.

“He was protecting me,” Sydney sobbed, “and… I yelled at him. I– I didn’t know.” Her hands covered her face and her shoulders shook, and Dom winced, wishing he could give her a crushing hug. He frowned at her words, and something like relief tentatively began to rise in him.

“No one’s hurt you?” he asked, and she shook her head.

“No. I’ve just been stuck here the whole time.”

Dom let out the breath he’d been holding in since he’d found out they had been caught.

Thank the lord.

“Victor, you noble bastard,” Mitch muttered in his ear, the sigh of relief tainting every word.

“We’re gonna help him – don’t worry, kiddo.” He smiled at her, wanting to tell her that they had a plan, tell her that the crazy British kid was back, tell her anything, but instead he stood and returned to kneel at Victor’s side.

Dom had just found the shallow pulse at Victor’s neck when Holtz returned, carrying the mini IV stand and a first aid kit the size of a briefcase.

“The IV’s in the kit – start hooking it up while I try and stop the bleeding.” Holtz threw open the red box and grabbed a wad of bandages and a surgical stapler.

“Careful,” Dom warned, before he could stop himself. Pretending to know nothing about Victor was something he thought he was going to be better at.

“Why?” Holtz frowned. He’d cleaned the wound in Victor’s side and was about to staple it closed.

“His power is pain right?” Dom said, himself hesitating before inserting the needle. “How do we know he wont turn it on us?”

Holtz shook his head. “Don’t worry, whatever serum the doc gives him, takes about an hour to wear off.” He lent down and pressed a staple into his skin – Victor remained still.

No wonder it lasts so damn long.

Dom inserted the IV needle and watched Victor’s blood flow back into him before helping Holtz clean the remaining wounds, and wrapping his arm.

It was here that their military training really came into play – they each had a sense of understanding, a deeper level of communication between them of what needed to be done, and doing it as fast as possible. Returning to Victor’s right to check the IV and add a compress to his shoulder, Holtz made quick work of tearing a slit down his ruined pant leg to attend to the mess of his thigh before Dom thought he caught movement behind Victor’s closed eyes.

Holtz had just pressed a fourth staple onto the bleeding wound when Victor flinched, eyes snapping open before a hand shot out and wrapped around Holtz’s throat.

Whoa, hey settle down, Victor,” Dom cried, one hand splayed out towards his friend, the other automatically going to the stun gun at his belt. It was EON protocol, but he left it sheathed, and he saw Victor glance at him, recognition crossing his face.

“C’mon, let him go,” Dom continued, and Holtz gagged, clawing at Victor’s hand. “We were just trying to help.”

Pain and something else laced through Victor’s eyes and they dropped a little, his hand falling away from Holtz. The guard doubled over, coughing and gasping for air, and Dom rested a hand on his shoulder.

Victor reached up and removed the mouth guard from between his teeth like it was a weight, and took a shaky breath. Dominic watched him and they shared a silent nod. Victor was even paler than usual; Haverty’s treatment had washed out his sharp blue eyes until they were the colour of rainwater in the puddles of shadow that surrounded them. He’d gone from lean to gaunt, powerful to frail, dangerous to haunted; all within 72 hours, and it left Dom feeling genuinely scared for the first time. More than someone realising he was an EO, more than the plan to break everyone out. It scared him to think of what would have happened if he hadn’t come back today – if Holtz had called on Bara instead of him.

“These wounds need to be wrapped,” Holtz explained.

Victor shook his head once, still too weak to move.

“Leave me alone.” His voice was grating.

“But–” Dom started but Victor cut him off.

“There’s still two left. I need to get them out…”

Dom frowned – was about to argue, when Victor glared at them.

Go.”

They were silent. As Holtz packed away the first aid kit, Dom grabbed the rest of the bandages and left them with Victor.

Sparing a last glance back at Sydney and Victor before the door closed, Dom had never felt like more of a traitor.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Looks like a lot’s been happening in the one day I took off.” Dom tried to make it sound light, and to his credit, Holtz gave him a small smile.

“Man, the amount of times I’ve been back and forth with this doctor… I feel like I’m in a different dimension I’m so tired, and I’m not even the poor SOB who’s being experimented on.” He rubbed his face and his hair stuck up in all directions.

Dom winced, but tried to angle to get more information.

“What do you mean? Why is he doing it to him?”

“That mad bastard Haverty gave him an ultimatum,” Holtz explained and Dom stared at him, hanging on his every word.

“An ultimatum?”

“Himself or the girl. So now the good doctor is taking every advantage he can get to try and break him.”

Dom flinched. “So the girl is a bargaining chip?”

Holtz shrugged. “Pretty much – Haverty gave him the option to save her and he took it–” he snapped his fingers, “just like that.” Holtz shook his head. “I mean shit. If I hadn’t read their files, I would have pegged them for family or something.”

We are. Just not your ordinary kind of family…

“He’s either mighty brave or downright stupid for taking the doctor on like that. None of us knew what he was capable of until we saw it with our own eyes.” Holtz came to a stop and dropped his voice, glancing behind them. “Personally, I don’t like it. This isn’t what I signed up for, and it makes me sick. Torturing people? Hell, kids? It’s fucked up.”

Dom felt like hugging him then. Maybe there was hope yet. He sighed and shook his head and whispered back, “Me too. If something doesn’t change soon, I might just do something about it.”

Holtz raised both eyebrows and stared at him, weighing his words.

“Seriously? Like what?”

“I don’t know,” Dom lied. “But it ain’t gonna be pretty.”

With his eyes closed, Victor could almost believe he was alone back in his own bedroom.

But he could hear Sydney’s silence beyond the partition – he could hear her guilt and fear leaking into his section of the cell and it made him want to disappear.

Finally, he opened his eyes and looked down at the bandages Dominic had left him. They weren’t going to be of any use to him at the moment, but the IV stand might be.

Victor hauled himself up using the stand as an aid, wincing and groaning until he was on his feet – albeit hunched over and limping. Pain made his head spin, but Victor wheeled the short drip over with him to the tiled section of his cell, limping over to the steel toilet before collapsing onto the closed lid. At last, he was shielded from Sydney’s gaze, and she from his, as he quickly got to work.

Grabbing the hard plastic cup from the sink, he set it upside down on the floor before lifting the IV stand above it. Gripping the pole with his better arm, Victor steadied himself before slamming it down on top of the cup.

Once, twice, and the plastic began to splinter.

Victor was already sweating, but two more swings later, and the cup split into pieces.

 

Sydney flinched at the noise, tried to press herself against the wall to see if Victor was all right, but the tiled wall cut off her view. When it stopped with a sharp clatter, Syd could hear him moving again, and wondered what it meant when Victor had told Dom he needed to “remove them.” Something told her it wasn’t going to be good.

As soon as Holtz declared he was off for a break, Dom was quick to begin his next part of the plan.

“You ready?” he whispered to Mitch as he crept along the maze-like hallways. He glanced at a security camera, knowing Mitch’d be watching and getting ready to make the switch.

“Ready. Dom, you’re about to become the invisible man in three, two… now.”

Dom made quick work of getting in to talk to the five remaining EOs.

There was the girl, Tabitha, who could set herself on fire – still in Cell Eight since he’d first started. Being here that long, Tabitha knew that he was different from the other EON guards, and he counted that as a blessing when she actually listened to him instead of shutting off.

He quickly explained to her in hushed whispers through the transparent panel of her door that Mitch now had control of.

Tabitha still eyed him suspiciously until he proved it – glancing around nervously out of habit before walking through the shadows – appearing to her as suddenly jumping from the left side of her door to the right. Her eyes widened and a smile began to creep upon her lips.

“Hell yes.”

 

There was a man around his age, who at first refused to show himself until Dom began talking – reassured by Mitch that the invisible EO was actually inside the cell from the heat signature he had hacked.

Simply telling him what Mitch was seeing through his hacked system was enough to convince Jacques to appear – a bright-eyed young man with honey skin and a long, vicious scar tracking down his face and disappearing under his uniform.

Jacques was eager to be given any opportunity at an escape and he only laughed with excitement when Dom proved that he was one of them.

Dom gave him the basic details, told him he’d know when the signal happened, before moving on to the next EO.

 

Dom’s stomach knotted – not because he was afraid of this EO, but because he was gambling Victor’s health on her.

Rina was the youngest EO here aside from Sydney. At twenty-three, she’d also been one of the most willing to comply with EON.

She wasn’t a healer, not really, but compared to what support they had, Rina was the best they were going to get.

Dom wasted no time in telling her the plan, but she watched him steadily, like she still didn’t trust him, even after her proved he was an EO.

“Why now?” she asked, and Dominic stepped closer and lowered his voice.

“Because you don’t want to know what Dr Haverty has in store if you stay,” he warned. “I’ve seen it. I have two friends here, and one of them has been unlucky enough to become Haverty’s play toy.” Rina set her jaw, almost shrugged until she heard what Dom said next. “The other is sixteen. She’s alone and scared, and frankly, I don’t want to wait to see what happens to her if something isn’t done right now.”

He watched her flinch, and her whole demeanour shifted. Finally, she nodded.

“Okay,” she whispered.

Dom let out a relieved breath.

“There’s one more thing,” he added, “I need a favour…”

 

The fourth EO was also crucial to their plan – he was the one that leapt off of the files Dom had found moments before Holtz had found him.

Two words had made him believe this could really work – not only work, but succeed:

Electricity manipulation.

Sean Sable was sitting on the bed in the corner when Dom appeared at his cell – the EO looking up when the section of wall became transparent.

Besides from his intimidating height and build, it was hard to look past the steel collar around Sean’s throat. He glanced up at Dom and practically sneered at him.

“What the hell do you want?”

“I don’t want anything – I’m here to offer you a deal,” Dom replied carefully, making sure Sean was watching him when he stepped into the shadows. To Dom, the constant show was making him light headed; the weight from this side weighed in his chest, dragged at his legs and sucked at his clothes. Every movement felt three times as slow with the pain dragging him back, but to Sean, it still only looked like milliseconds by the time Dom appeared by his door.

The EO stared at him, then stood sharply and crossed to stand directly in front of him. The panel separated the two men, but Dom still felt intimidated as he stared up at the six foot three tower of pure muscle. EON must have had their work cut out for them the day they brought him in.

Dom glanced at the steel collar around Sean’s neck. A blinking green light sat on the side, preventing the EO to use his powers and simply walk free of his cage.

“I’m listening,” Sean growled, and Dom wasted no time.

“I get that collar off, and you shut this place down.” He shrugged.

The other man stepped back and raised his eyebrows like he’d been struck, before a smile began to creep onto his face.

“Why?” he finally said.

Dom gestured to himself. “To take revenge on EON and the bastards who hunt us.”

Sean shook his head, eyes narrowing on Dominic.

“No. I’ve seen you around before – why now?”

He sighed, allowing his mask to slide a bit.

“I’ve got friends here. I just carried one of them back to his cell because that monster they call a doctor wants nothing more than to experiment on us. And I don’t want to see him setting the standard.”

Sean’s eyes wandered – he’d heard about the doctor’s arrival and the rumours that came with him. He’d been brought to his lab the day the new EO’s had been brought in – and Sean had been dismissed as soon as Haverty heard the news.

“They’re your friends? I heard there was a girl.” Sean finally looked back at Dom and something in his stance had changed.

Dom nodded, a wince in his eyes.

Sean muttered a curse word in a language Dom couldn’t catch and nodded.

“Okay, I’m in. But how do you expect to get around this?” He gestured to the steel band around his neck.

Dom keyed his mic. “Hey Mitch, you reckon you could help our friend out?”

“Ahh, that’s not directly connected to the mainframe, Dom. It might take a while.”

Sean looked around himself, as if Mitch was going to suddenly appear in his cell and Dom turned to him.

“We’re working on it – I’ll be back soon, I still have one more person to talk to.”

“I’m trusting you, space jumper,” Sean warned.

Dom smiled at him.

“Don’t worry, you’re the only person who can do this.”

 

Vivian Jones had arrived only two weeks ago, so Dom hadn’t had a chance to encounter her yet. When he first read her file, he knew he wasn’t going to have to do anything to convince her, which made him more at ease heading into her cell.

When he saw her, Dom was reminded of the women from the thirties and forties, with her rich chocolate waves and warm porcelain skin. She looked young for thirty-six, had a heart shaped face and almond eyes, but a calm, calculated gaze like she could see everyone’s poker hands and where they kept their hidden ace. Which she did.

Vivian was also the only other EO to have visited Haverty’s lab, and she still had dark burn marks along her hairline.

“Oh my, we meet at last.” She smiled slowly, fox-like.

“You already know who I am then,” Dominic guessed.

“Absolutely. And to answer your question – yes. Anyone who hasn’t agreed to your offer is a fool– Oh but I see no one has.” Her grin turned into a frown. “I’m last on your list?”

Dom couldn’t help but cringe away at the intrusion on his thoughts.

“Don’t take it as an insult,” he said, shrugging.

Vivian’s laugh was light and bubbly.

“I see. You thought I was an easy win since I’d already know everything before you even opened your mouth. I have to admit, this plan of yours is truly a good one – I’d be interested to meet this young man who can move the earth.”

Dom snorted.

“He’s not that amazing.”

Vivian was already sorting through the rest of his thoughts; he could sense it like a feather-light touch of fingers through his hair. He let her, and watched when she gasped, knowing exactly what she was seeing.

“Yeah. Now you can see why we have to do this.”

Her eyes turned steely and she pressed her lips into a thin line.

“Indeed.”

When it didn’t look like she was about to say anything else, Dom turned to leave – had just reached the outer door when her voice was suddenly in his own head.

“It’s nice to finally put a mind to the face I’d seen.”

Dom frowned and turned back.
“Seen where?” he asked – or rather thought.

“In the other EO guard,” she said simply, and she turned to him again, that all-knowing grace arching an eyebrow.

Dom stared, his mouth dropping open as his mind reeled. Something that Vivian caught notice of – it was like someone had switched twenty TVs on at once inside her head.

“You didn’t know?” she asked incredulously, this time aloud.

Dominic managed to catch his breath, and gasped through his dry mouth.

“W-who…?” He frowned, but as soon as the question had left his lips, he knew.

Vivian watched the realisation cross his face – could read in his eyes as clearly as she could in his mind – and she smiled at him.

Rios.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Victor looked down at the shattered bits of plastic and selected two pieces. One was long and still had a bit of the base of the cup attached, so it had a natural hook at the end. The other was a sharp triangle that looked like a spearhead. The IV bag of blood had run dry, so Victor unhooked the tube and pulled the needle out. He tore off a piece of the bandage Dom had left with his teeth and pressed it into the crook of his elbow, tying it in place with another length and got to work before he could overthink it.

The tracker in his back was just under the skin, and Victor could feel it when he bent his arms back in an awkward angle that made his shoulder burn. The soft skin parted easily, and he felt the warm blood spill down his back. Victor was covered in a cold sweat by the time it popped out and fell to the floor, and he tried to wash the wound as best he could.

A dull dread had settled in his stomach when he thought about probing around for the last one in his shoulder. He’d only managed to push it in further, and Victor didn’t want to spend his day passing out in his own blood. He also loathed the idea of leaving it there, so he took a deep steadying breath and sliced the wound open further, following the curve of his shoulder. His hands were already trembling and he groaned in frustration as his left hand shook uncontrollably when he brought his makeshift scraper to the bloody opening.

Distantly, he could just start to feel the beginning of his power ebb back. It would still take some time until it was totally his again, but he focused on anything he had to turn down the pain. It was the equivalent of taking paracetamol, but it was enough to give Victor a sense of control. He swallowed back a cry as he dug the plastic into the muscle under his collarbone and angled it up, desperately searching for the metal rod.

What felt like hours – days – passed until Victor reached in further, and felt the plastic tap against metal. His fingers were slick with blood and he struggled to hold onto the plastic hook that was almost completely submerged, but he had it, he had hooked it around the coil, and he began dragging it out, he was so close–

“Mr Vale, your attempts are worthless after the test has finished.”

Haverty’s cold voice through the speakers made Victor flinch, and he dropped the bloodied plastic shard, his arm limp from the exertion. A frustrated snarl grated through Victor’s teeth as he looked down at the bloodied wound and saw the thin coil jutting out between the flaps of skin.

Well beyond the point of any form of exhaustion he had ever experienced, Victor tilted his head and bent down to rip it the rest of the way out with his teeth – spitting it out onto the floor.

“Perhaps you’d like to try again?” God, he hated that prick’s voice.

Fuck off,” Victor spat, blood staining his teeth. Panting, he slumped against the wall and wiped the blood from his face with the back of his hand but only smeared it further.

There was a moment’s silence, and in that moment, two things happened.

The first was the feeling of Victor’s powers flickering to life, like a spark finally catching onto kindling. He breathed it in, managing to muffle the pain somewhat.

But the second thing made his pain disappear all together.

The sound of a cell panel sliding open – ready for collection. But it wasn’t his door that opened.

Horror punched through Victor’s chest so hard, it launched him onto his feet immediately.

“No…” he breathed, eyes wide as he ran to the wall separating Sydney’s cell and saw guards standing beyond. He saw Syd’s petrified expression turn to him and his stomach plummeted.

NO…!

Haverty tsk-ed him over the speakers,

“‘No arguments, no hesitation, no struggle. You must come willingly any and each time I summon you’. I do believe those were the terms we agreed on Mr Vale…”

Victor’s head spun, reeling from the horror of what he’d just done.

No! Take me!” He screamed at the camera in the ceiling, but there came no reply.

Sydney was frozen in place, and the look on her face fucking destroyed him. Victor couldn’t breathe, couldn’t say anything – he could only press a bloodied hand up to the wall and feel like he had just ruined them all.

Bara and another guard came over when Sydney wouldn’t move and took out a pair of handcuffs when Victor snapped.

“Don’t you fucking touch her,” he snarled, slamming his fist against the wall and they actually flinched when he manipulated Bara to throw the cuffs away. A warning sounded at his outburst, but fury and sickness and panic drowned it out.

“We had a deal! Take me you sick son of a bitch.” Victor glared at the cameras but Haverty wasn’t listening anymore.

Bara grabbed Sydney by the arm instead and she cried out, trying to pull free and Victor saw white – he reached out and lit the bastards up.

Sydney’s feet slid backwards away from the guards and towards her bed, while the two guards dropped like stones, screaming and spasming. Victor kept turning the dial up when a second warning sounded before the wall and floor came alive with electricity and he crumpled.

Victor screamed, falling to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut, as black spots clouded his vision. By the time it stopped and he choked for breath, Sydney was gone.

Nonononono…

Hyperventilating, Victor dragged himself to his hands and knees, slamming his fist against the ground as he screamed – screamed at EON, at Haverty, at the guards – but mostly at himself. All he could hear was Sydney’s screams echoing in his head over his own; see that monster grinning as Victor failed his one role, just like Haverty had planned he would.

Numb from the pain and horror, Victor stumbled to the sink and stared at the wall were the mirror should have been; hot, bubbling, choking guilt finally hitting him. But instead of shutting off the pain, he let the burn in and clicked the dial up until all of Haverty’s work was burning like fresh wounds. Victor kept going and felt his skull ache sharply, and his knees go from under him – his whole body seized and his heart jack-hammered until Victor switched it off with such abruptness, his ears rang with a high pitched screech.

As Victor struggled to breathe, his throat raw from screaming, he felt tears streaming down his face. He turned the dial down so low he became numb, but he let the tears fall. Sagging against the wall, Victor fisted his fingers into his hair, leaving streaks of blood behind, before crumpling forward, sobbing into his knees.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The domino effect spread throughout everyone.

The disappointment that had swelled up in Haverty from Vale’s failed test quickly manifested into anger as he watched Victor in his own cell. He had been in the top percentile of EOs the doctor had worked on, and to see it crumble was infuriating. Vale was almost as strong as Eli Ever – Haverty was convinced that if he had been twenty-five years earlier, the two of them would have made fine subjects indeed.

But now Haverty realised Vale had just opened up the opportunity he had been waiting for – now failure, for once, had gotten him exactly what he desired. Haverty knew deep down that Vale would slip up sooner or later – no one could last under these conditions without failing at something. Now he finally had the opportunity and means to study the girl, and Vale had no one to blame but himself.

Holtz had been standing outside Victor’s door when it happened. He’d been called back from his break and tasked to collect the EO for another session. Every cell in his body wanted to say no, every instinct was telling him that if he did this, Vale wasn’t going to survive the day, maybe even the session. Holtz found himself standing outside the door to the cell, struggling to find meaning in his job that three weeks ago hadn’t made him question everything he thought he knew about the world. Part of the door was already becoming clear, and he winced at the EO inside, guilt tugging at his lungs and stomach before he realised that something was going seriously wrong inside.

Haverty’s voice suddenly cut through his thoughts.

“Get the girl.”

Holtz flinched, and for a moment he couldn’t speak before instinct took over like a knee-jerk reaction, and he shook his head rapidly.

“No. What? No– I–I can’t. I refuse.”

The only reply he got was the hurried footsteps passing him down the corridor to Sydney Clarke’s side of the cell. Holtz’s vision became tunnelled – he couldn’t believe what was happening. His feet were frozen where he stood, numb as he watched the terror and panic cross Victor’s face as the girl’s door opened instead of his. He heard the girl yell and kick as she was dragged out of the cell, while Victor collapsed to the floor screaming. Then the wall returned to its solid colour, blotting out the scene like a bad dream.

What have I done?

… 

With his heart in his throat, Mitch froze when the plan upended itself in front of him. His fingers were a blur as he tried everything to prevent the guards taking Sydney – he disabled key-cards, triggered their earpieces to emit ear-splitting interference, and even managed to disable the pin pad. But there was only so much he could do to defend against a lock and key.

Mitch slammed his huge fist down onto his laptop before he covered his face and yelled into his palms. Fear and guilt and panic overwhelmed him and he felt a sob rake up the back of his throat. Sydney was the purest thing that had ever happened to him – she was this impossible girl who had managed to stitch their lives back together. If it hadn’t been for her, Mitch and Victor probably would have parted ways years ago, purely because they thought it was the right thing to do. That was the thing about Syd – she made all of them feel like they had meaning again – a purpose outside of themselves.

On one of the security video grids, Mitch saw Victor loose control and collapse against the wall, sobbing. Never in all these years had Mitch seen Victor cry, and it made all the guilt and sadness inside him turn into something hard and solid and coursing with revenge. Snapping the laptop closed, he swept it and all the items around him into his arms, heading for the van as he called behind him.

“Noah, get ready! We’re going in earlier than planned.”

“What the fuck happened?!” Dom had been feeling good for the first time in two days – Victor had come back online, his pain was fading and the plan was in motion. Clearly it seemed that too many good things meant that something had to give – but not in this way. Dom would have taken any other way but this way.

Holtz was still in a bewildered state and his reply was flustered.

“I– I don’t– I have no idea… It happened so fast… I didn’t think he’d actually do it. I’ve never seen this happen before, not without authority from Stell.”

“How long?” Dom demanded, running a hand over his close-cropped hair and brushing sweat from his forehead.

“Maybe ten minutes ago.” Holtz’s voice was gaining confidence again – he was resorting to autopilot, like he did in emergencies, like he did in battle.

In Dom’s ear, Mitch told him the plan had been moved up – they were on their way. This was going down right now.

“Alright, listen to me, Holtz.” Dom grabbed him by the shoulders and held his gaze. “I need you to do exactly what I say, okay?”

Holtz nodded.

“I need you to get the hell outta here, and don’t turn back. No questions asked. You have to trust me on this.”

Dom expected resistance; he expected questions or suspicion. He didn’t expect Holtz to frown and say, “You’re getting ‘em out, aren’t you…”

It wasn’t even a question – he just knew. Dom suddenly felt like a traitor – not to EON, not even to the government, but to his friend. Maybe he shouldn’t have put so much faith in Holtz showing compassion to EOs…

But then Holtz added, “I wanna help.”

White noise thundered in his ears.

Victor figured he must have passed out, because he came to with a jerk, still numb and bleeding and heavy.

The white cell was a blur around him, his eyes still cloudy with tears and exhaustion. Despite having turned the dial down so low his whole body was senseless, Victor was aching. There was something fundamentally broken inside of him that not even his dial could mask, and for quite possibly the first time in his life, Victor had absolutely nothing to drive him.

He couldn’t move – wouldn’t move – from his spot on the floor, curled up against the wall feeling utterly hopeless. Victor didn’t think he had ever really felt depressed, not even after grieving for Angie alone in his hospital bed, but now he felt like something was irrevocably missing. It could have been hope, or self-respect, or determination – but whatever it was, it had been shattered. Victor felt empty – broken.

“You know, I’ve only ever seen you cry once,” a voice mused.

Victor closed his eyes at that voice. He tried to clear his mind – tried to shove it away so that when he reopened them, maybe he wouldn’t be there.

Not again.

But Eli was still there, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, watching Victor like he was trying to figure out a maths problem.

“Get out of my head, Eli,” Victor grated.

Across town, watching five things at once on his laptop while trying to alter security footage, Mitch frowned when he heard his friend muttering to himself.

Victor and Eli had gotten drunk together many times throughout college – but there was one time during their second year that had brought them both closer together in a way that Victor had never expected, and Eli had never experienced.

Victor tried to think back to that cold autumn night, when they had gotten so drunk that neither of them could stand, so they had resorted to lying on the living room floor while listening to Victor’s warped records and reciting poetry to one another. Victor had finished the bottle off and closed his eyes, listening to the slow jazz echo around them, before he felt the cool moisture pool under his lashes and fall into his hairline. Lying half under the coffee table, Eli looked over at his best friend and watched the tears run. He didn’t say anything, and they lay there until the record finished, but by then both boys were asleep on the floor, like parenthesis around the mess they had created.

“You’re a very melancholic drunk, you know that?”

Victor didn’t reply – to this day, he couldn’t remember what had made him cry – he could barely remember the night itself. It had been the first time he cried since he was a young boy. But not the last.

And because Eli was now a part of his subconscious, when Victor followed that thought trail, so did Eli. They both saw the scene in the lab come together – they watched as the girl they had both loved – no, that wasn’t true; the only girl Victor had ever loved – turned the dial higher and Victor screamed, tears streaming down his face.

“Huh. I stand corrected.”

Victor scowled, shoving the memory back down, but Eli continued.

“I wonder, if only you hadn’t been so god damn suborn and determined to do it on your own, and only waited for me – I probably would have survived your little outburst… and maybe Angie would still be alive.”

Victor sneered at the thought.

“You would never have helped me. You wanted all the glory for yourself and you know it.”

Eli only shrugged, as if he would have considered changing his mind. He pushed off the wall to face Victor. Eli was wearing the same outfit he’d had on the night he shot Victor in their dorm – the only thing missing was the bloodstain along his front where Victor had buried the knife into his stomach.

“I guess we’ll never know, Vic. Because as always, you have to call the shots. And look where that’s gotten you – alone in a cell, with someone you love paying the price. Again.”

Anger and pain and loathing bubbled up so fast inside Victor that he felt something snap, just when he didn’t think there was anything left to snap. White-hot fury launched him to his feet and he screamed, hurling the IV stand at the hallucination. Metal crashed, cracked and shrieked – the noise rebounding throughout the cell before another warning alarm blared from overhead, signalling that he was treading a thin line. Victor flinched bodily away from the wall, his skin twitching and trembling from the adrenaline and the emotions still coursing through him. His eyes were so heavy they burned every time he blinked, his muscles ached like they never had before, and his temples throbbed so deeply he could feel it in his teeth – but Eli was finally gone.

Victor took a deep, pained breath and set his jaw – cold eyes levelling on the door in front of him. He was going to fix this. He’d be damned if he was going to let Sydney become another Angie.

Sydney couldn’t stop shivering, and it made the handcuffs rattle around the metal chair like dentist tools on a tray. Her teeth were chattering around the mouth guard, both from fear and from the cold. Haverty hovered around her, adjusting the helmet-like monitor he was strapping under her jaw to measure brainwaves, and snapping switches and buttons. The metal room she’d been brought to felt like a giant fridge, and the cold leeched right through the thin grey uniform and into her bones. Syd tried not to look at the machinery around her – she avoided catching the gaze of the doctor, so instead she closed her eyes, willing herself not to cry, but it was hard to hold down the stinging tears after Bara slapped her. Granted, she had bit his arm hard enough to draw blood, but he deserved it.

Something beeped loudly behind her neck and she flinched, eyes snapping open to discover her chair was beginning to lower through the floor. Haverty had been muttering on about testing for something, but she’d always been good at blocking people out. Now she wished she had listened to what he’d said.

It was getting darker the deeper the chair lowered and her breathing became faster, panic rising when the monitor around her head began to whir.

“Better save your breath, child,” Haverty called down to her and she looked up at him as the ground rose above eye level. He gave her a malicious grin. “You’ll need it.”

That was when the water began to rise around her feet.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The van rumbled along the road, and Noah gripped his makeshift seat as he was tossed around, trying to not come in contact with any of the cargo they were transporting. It was bloody freezing back here – but at least it numbed his sense of smell.

Their early morning expedition just after Dominic left for work had led them to the outskirts of town where they’d found the one thing missing in order to complete their plan. At the time, Noah thought it was great – genius, even. He’d had a blast (ha!) working his magic and causing a genuinely authentic earthquake – nothing huge, but just enough to cause an evacuation of the building. Enough for Mitch and Noah to slip in dressed as emergency services to “assess” the building’s structure, and leave with what they needed.

“You alright back there?” Mitch called back now, hurtling around a corner and Noah cried out as one of the bags rolled towards him. “How’re our friends doing?”

Noah shifted uncomfortably, tucking his jacket closer to him so that it didn’t brush against the body bags, in case it tainted him with sort of death germ.

“Vis is so fucked,” he growled back bitterly.

When Dominic got the call to bring Victor back in, he was hardly surprized. The only difference now was that he knew that it was going to end in his favour. They were less than thirty minutes out from Mitch’s ETA, and Dom still had a lot to orchestrate from the inside. At least now he had Holtz to help him.

He had no idea what to expect when he arrived at Victor’s cell, but what he found made him flinch. There was blood smeared across the walls, pooled on the floor – it streaked his bare chest, smudged his face and even ran through his hair. He stood facing the door, eyes flat and dark and barely registering that he was looking at a friend. Victor looked like a wild, distraught animal with power and ferocity rippling off of him like heat waves. If they weren’t working together, Dom would have been terrified. Hell, he might still have been a little terrified.

Without needing to say a word, Victor stalked towards the door and they stared at each other for a moment. Dominic swallowed when he looked into the cold eyes of someone who had just lost everything, and wasn’t going to show mercy to anyone who got in his way. He reminded Dom of the characters in Sydney’s comics, which made him thank his stars that Victor hadn’t ended up like Eli, because he would truly be a fearsome, unstoppable force.

“You better tell me you have a plan, Rusher.” Victor’s voice grated as he turned and knelt in front of the opening.

Dom’s hand reached forward through the gap, holding the needle containing Haverty’s power suppressant – and emptied the contents over his shoulder. Victor watched the projectile blue liquid arch through the air beside him before Dom leant in close to slide the handcuffs around his wrists.

“I have a plan.”

This is your great plan?” Victor sniped, limping down the corridor as Dominic led him from behind. “I could be helping you.”

“Shh,” Dom hissed, glancing around him as they shuffled along. Trying to keep up the pretence that Victor was weak and powerless, he had reluctantly turned the dial up on himself. He didn’t have to turn it far before he was hunched and struggling to keep his breathing even.

“Do you want to make them suspicious of all of us, or do you want to take them by surprise?” Dom whispered, not giving Victor a chance to reply before adding, “Don’t worry, Mitch knows what he’s doing.”

Victor didn’t care how they did it, as long as he got to watch Haverty and Bara burn.

 

Dom didn’t lead him to the lab. Instead, he stopped outside a heavy door and seemed to hesitate before swiping his key card. The lock flashed green and he opened the door to reveal a tiny concrete cell. Victor was suddenly thrust twenty years into the past where he had called his solitary confinement home. Only this room was smaller and colder and there was a chain hanging from the exposed wooden beam in the vaulted ceiling.

Victor shivered, but for the first time, Victor felt ready – ready to be underestimated, weak, and left for dead. Ready to prove them all fucking wrong.

Dom swallowed as he closed the door behind him and moved Victor under the mechanism, a heavy weight settling in his chest despite knowing that he’d be back for him within fifteen minutes. It was those unaccounted fifteen minutes that had him feeling sick to his core. Dom mechanically heaved the length of chain down with a series of heavy metallic clacks, and winced when Victor offered his chained hands to him.

“I don’t know what he has in store, Vic, but he’ll be in soon.” Dom whispered, catching his eye as he raised Victor’s hands to the chain that swung between their faces. Victor watched him evenly, but there also seemed to be a knowing, trusting look there too, and Dominic tried to take comfort from it.

“This works on a ratchet mechanism – if you pull hard enough, the chain will lengthen. I’ve already taken the gas out of the air con, so you’ll be in control.”

Victor nodded appreciatively. There was no metal lattice this time, but Victor had no doubt about what was going to happen. Dom spared a glance at his watch as he turned the crank on the back of the door and the chain rose until Victor’s hands were just above his head. He couldn’t bear to do anymore. Dom had never been tasked to bring anyone here before – it was only used in worse case scenarios – but he got shivers every time he walked past the heavy, soundproof door.

“Not long now. I’ll be back soon, I promise. After that, wait for the signal.”

Victor winced as his shoulder pulled, and he shifted his weight onto his good leg.

“And what’s the signal?”

Dom swiped his card through the lock of the door and spared him a sly grin.

“Oh don’t worry, you’ll know.”

Sydney gasped, coughing and spluttering as her head broke the surface of the cold water for the third time. She’d been under for almost three minutes this time, and her lungs were burning.

“Excellent, truly excellent.” Haverty was furiously scribbling in his notebook, his eyes wide and full of excitement behind his wide frames.

“You–You’re in–insane…” Sydney accused between heaving coughs. She sagged as far forwards as her chained wrists would allow, her shoulders shuddering.

Instead of retaliating, Haverty laughed gleefully.

“Yes, yes some may call this insane, but I simply call it progress.”

Sydney frowned and felt herself bristling with rage.

“Progress? You call the torture and slaughter of people progress?”

Haverty finally glanced up at her, looking genuinely hurt at what she was accusing him of.
“I am simply trying to gain insight into how NDEs affect the brain by attempting to recreate them. And oh, how it has taught me so many things.” Haverty spread his arms wide, and Sydney stared at him incredulously as he grinned. His eyes glinted and his voice became dreamy. “As for your accusation – well, my child – why on earth would I try and kill you, when my goal is to create my very own EOs…?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Victor let the uppercut to his diaphragm wind him, and rode the knee-jerk reaction down as he doubled over, trying to pull the chain hard enough to hear a clack from the ratchet above. But his bad shoulder was pulled at an ugly angle and he cried out, jeopardizing the amount of leverage he needed. Victor growled through gritted teeth, pain fuelling his frustration.

“This is for what you did to me earlier,” Bara spat, landing another blow into Victor’s stomach. He gagged and somewhere through his swimming vision and constricting stomach, Victor heard the long awaited clack from above.

Victor choked on the bile he threw up, his stomach too empty to have anything to bring up, and he spat out the dark muck. His knees were barely holding, and only because he’d turned the dial down enough to keep him standing for the moment.

“I was the one Haverty let in to see you while he finishes his experiments on your little witch friend. I told him I wanted revenge for what you did to me before – and now that we have two of you to play with, well, that means I don’t have to be careful anymore. Nothing’s off the table when you have a necromancer around.” Bara grinned sardonically and Victor gritted his teeth.

“You know you’re a lot like him.” Victor’s voice was hoarse and he slowly pulled himself upright, the skin along his jaw already tight from an earlier blow. “Neither of you can seem to shut up.”

Something dark glinted behind Bara’s eyes, and a vein twitched in his forehead before he brought a knee up and slammed his foot against Victor’s broken ribs. Bone slid through muscle and tissue, and Victor gasped low, crumpling forward as his right lung suddenly struggled to function.

But he wasn’t the only one reeling from the pain. He might have to take the hits Bara was dealing, but that didn’t mean Bara had to miss out. Channelling what energy he had left, Victor transferred some of his pain into Bara’s knuckles, knees, hips, and wrists. The ex-soldier seemed to ripple with rage as he rolled up his sleeves, confusion making him stubborn and more volatile. Keeled over, Victor caught a glimpse of bloody teeth marks along the inside of Bara’s forearm and his mouth split into a blood stained grin.

“You wont be laughing when you’re bleeding out on the floor at my feet, over and over again.” Bara shrugged. “I might make her watch while I’m at it.”

He dug an elbow into the wound at Victor’s side, and while Victor gasped as his staples tore, Bara groaned when the impact radiated up his arm and into his shoulder. The more frustrated he got, the more pleased Victor became.

Bara was furious. He knew the EO couldn’t possibly have its power back – what would be the point anyway? Why wouldn’t it have made a move on him already? No – this must have happened back in the cell – this thing had done something to him back there.

His hand trembled, he felt like he’d just slammed his hand against stone, and a grating groan slipped past his teeth.

Son of a bitch.

And the worst part was that it kept smiling at him, and despite Bara knowing it was powerless – that this thing was at his mercy, and not the other way around – the sight of it made Bara uncomfortable. It made him question himself, and he hated being left in the dark. He hated not having control.

There was a sound from the door and the soldier turned with a frown, cradling his wrist.

Rusher leaned through the gap and nodded at Bara.

“Rios needs you.”

Bara bristled. “Rusher, I’m in the middle of somet–”

“She needs you. Now,” Dom cut in. “That’s an order.”

 

Victor watched Bara hesitate for a second; watched Dom purposefully ignore him as Victor sunk to his knees, blood dripping from his mouth.

Bara finally figured it was best to not keep Rios waiting, and he shoved past Dominic.

Victor frowned when he saw Dom brush his hand down the side of the door, subtly leaving heavy-duty duct tape behind to hold in the latch – if he was still chained, an open door was still going to be useless to him. But Dom caught his eye and simply nodded once before turning away.

Much like Victor, Dom seemed to already be three steps ahead.

 

On his knees and heaving for breath, Victor closed his eyes, taking a moment to readjust the dial. He needed at least another hour, three at the most to get decent medical treatment, so he had to pace himself. Gritting his teeth and taking the deepest breath he could afford, Victor pulled on the chain and was finally rewarded with two more metallic clacks.

Finally.

Victor slumped forward, resting his forehead against his wrists – almost resembling someone deep in prayer.

But Victor did not pray. He waited.

Sean Sable sat on his cot, positively buzzing with anticipation. He wasn’t allowed a watch, and there was no clock in his cell, but he could feel the plan sweeping closer and closer to its arrival time.

Sean could taste the energy humming through the compound – he could sense the locking and unlocking of keypads, feel the security cameras being over-ridden and hacked. It was like a pulse inside him, throbbing and stuttering and slowing – he could sense it all. The new EO that Rusher was trying to rescue had a fierce energy source he could sense like a pulsating, unstable surge, just waiting to be let loose. Even the shadow walker let off his own type of energy, and unbeknown to him, Sable could sense every time he slipped from one part of the complex to the next. So he wasn’t surprized when Rusher appeared outside of his cell.

“Well?” Sean asked expectantly.

Dom checked his watch – it had become a nervous twitch that had developed in the space of a day.

“You ready?”

Sable raised an eyebrow. “Did Franklin invent the light bulb?”

Dom smiled, and touched his ear.

“Mitch, you get that?”

He must have gotten a reply, because he laughed and pointed at Sean.

“Ready in three, two, one…”

Sean heard a beep from the metal collar around his neck before it clicked open. He pulled it from his neck and touched the raw skin underneath where the metal had rubbed for so long. Sean stood and stretched, tilting his neck and rolling his head from side to side before a huge grin spread across his face.

“Let’s fuck shit up.”

It didn’t take much for Victor to act weak.

Haverty appraised him as he entered the tiny concrete room, bleeding and beaten, his hands trembling above his head as he slumped forwards on his knees.

“You know I had so much hope for you.” Haverty’s disappointment leeched into every syllable. “But it turns out Mr Ever really is the supreme candidate. Besides, I really do believe I’ll learn more from the girl if I take her in your place back to Merit.”

Despite himself, Victor reacted to the taunt. Even though he knew they only had minutes left, just saying Sydney’s name sent him back into self-doubt and guilt. He was the one who was supposed to be shielding her from this son of a bitch, not letting him turn her into his new experiment. The doctor laughed breathily at the reaction he got from him and leaned over him.

“That’s right – all this time you’ve stood apart, evaded EON and even Mr Ever with your skill – only to throw it all away for a human and a pathetic child. And for what purpose? Companionship? Love?” Haverty laughed coldly. “Your kind are incapable of love. That was your mistake – your ultimate downfall – thinking that you could feel again. Oh, how the mighty fall.”

Victor bored holes in the ground with his glare, and he became utterly still. If Haverty had been paying any attention, he would have noticed the energy in the air beginning to hum.

On his knees, Victor switched off the dial and let the pure rage course through him. As if on cue, a monumental boom reverberated throughout the complex, shaking the walls and sending the whole site into lockdown. The lights cut out and they were plunged into darkness before an ominous red emergency light illuminated the small space. This then, was Dom’s signal.

Victor didn’t waste any time.

Haverty spun when the electricity cut out – but the doors had already dead-bolted shut. He realised too late that he was stuck in this tiny cell, and when he slowly turned back around, Victor had silently risen to his full height. Victor stood over the doctor, awash in the glowing red light and it reflected raw, bloody murder in his pale eyes. Haverty stared at him in horror before Victor struck between one heartbeat and the next, wrapping the chain around his neck and cranking the dial up without hesitation or mercy.

Victor relished in hearing the screams, and finally being the cause and not the source.

“I might have fallen, Doctor,” he growled, “but the only mistake was you assuming I wouldn’t get back up.”

He watched the shock, the pain and then the almighty fear cross over Haverty’s face before he turned the dial higher still.

Outside, alarms screamed, explosions echoed and gunshots rang out.

Now. Now, they will get their reckoning.

Victor grinned.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Vivian Jones watched in delight as the door to her cell slid open a moment before the complex lurched into lockdown.

Without missing a beat, she strode out casually, but not before tipping an invisible hat to the camera along with a coy wink.

Two EON guards who had been taken by surprise by the explosions stumbled in the red-lit hall but still managed to raise their guns as Vivian sauntered past.

“Hey! Back in your cell! We are in lockdown!” one of them shouted.

Vivian smiled as she turned back leisurely, all curves and rolling waves and bow lips.

“Oh, I am keenly aware.” She carefully took another step towards them, watching the sweat drip down their faces and the trembling of their guns. Their thoughts were screaming at her in their fear, and her eyes narrowed as she listened.

“I know you fear us – and yet you show hesitation to me.” Her voice was like treacle, soft and enticing. She took another step closer, frowning as she dug through two lots of racing minds. “You think I’m different somehow – less of a threat.” She spared a breathy, ironic laugh and shrugged. “I guess you’re right – what can a telepath do except read your deepest, darkest secrets? I can’t shoot lasers or electrify people.” Vivian stepped closer still, and her grin started to turn into something with sharper edges as she found old thoughts in their memories. “Yes exactly – I just sit quietly and behave myself in my little cell all day, doing what you tell me. My power isn’t an overt one, and you’re trained to deal with conflict – not innocence.” Another step brought Vivian right in front of the barrel of the first man’s gun. They both stared at her and she spared him a warm, familial smile. “I mean look at me – what can I do…?”

Neither of the guards could answer. Something inside them both was screaming to move, to shoot, to do anything, but they just couldn’t. She was right, after all… wasn’t she…?

Vivian’s smile dropped then, as did all of the soft, warm light from her eyes as she cocked her head.
“Shoot him.”

Without hesitation, the guard turned and shot the second man. And just like that, the spell was broken. He gasped and recoiled for a moment, before spinning back to Vivian, gun up.

“Stop–!” he began, but she silenced him with a raised eyebrow and watched him struggle against her hold.

‘Tsk tsk,’ she thought to him. ‘That’s rude, Landon. I’m just… weak, was is?’

His hands turned.

‘A ‘low grade’ EO, that’s what you people call it. Wow, I’m insulted.’

The gun came to rest against his temple and Landon’s lip trembled.

‘Ah, finally you’re understanding. But I’m not done yet.’

His finger curled around the trigger.

Vivian plucked his set of keys from his belt and wiggled her fingers in a goodbye wave. Out loud she said,

“Let me show you a ‘low grade’ trick of mine.”

The pain coursing through the air buzzed and crackled like electricity, and Victor breathed it in as the dial clicked higher, feeling it fuel his adrenaline. Just like in the kitchen that fateful night with Eli, Victor clicked the dial up, he heard the strain in the screams, and he felt good.

Victor.”

Victor’s gaze fell onto Dom in the black doorframe, darkness bleeding in behind him, as Haverty’s choked screams began to peter out in gurgled gasps. The doctor’s dark eyes became blank behind his glasses and blood dripped from his ears, and as Victor finally let his body fall heavily to the floor, he felt a weight lift from around his chest.

Dominic was in front of him, swearing as he unchained his wrists before his hands swept over numb wounds. Victor ignored him and bent to pat down the doctor’s body, before finally finding what he wanted. He slipped the blue notebook out from Haverty’s inside jacket pocket and felt the weight of the little book in his hands. As much as he wanted to glance inside, the ribbon marking his latest notes made Victor’s heart tug with grief. He couldn’t bring himself to read the cold, analytical notes that this monster had made about Sydney. Not now.

Victor stood and cut Dom off by laying a hand on his chest.

“Where’s Sydney? Is she safe?”

Dom gave him a small, yet genuine smile.

“She’s gonna be okay, the kid is getting her out as we speak.”

Going to be. Which means she isn’t okay now.

Victor winced, but it quickly turned into a frown,

“Wait, what kid?” The words were barely out of his mouth before an almighty shudder made the ground lurch and he staggered against Dom. A grin broke across his face as the plan started taking shape before him.

“Mitch really was desperate.”

There was no need for introductions when a girl covered in flames saves your life. Sean spun, and his eyes widened at the sight of Tabitha, unable to stop the pun from spilling out of him.

“Gurl, you on fire.”

Despite herself, Tabitha grinned and her smile was quite literally white hot.

“You haven’t seen anything yet, sparky.”

Sean was about to reply with a snarky quip when they heard the sound of dozens of EON soldiers pounding down the corridors from either side of them.

“Keep behind me, and I’ll make sure the fire never touches you,” Tabitha instructed and Sean backed up so he was out of her way.

“You sure about this?” he asked, and her eyes glinted at the challenge.

“I’ve never been more sure. You might wanna cover your eyes,” she offered, taking a deep breath and feeling the fire within her flare.

“Light ‘em up!” Sean cried, just as the first shot was fired.

EON could never have been prepared for them. Dom had given Tabitha one instruction when she agreed to help in the plan, and she intended to live up to it: set the world on fire.

Despite his best intentions, Victor couldn’t deny that he was in bad shape, and his body refused to let him ignore it. Just because he was almost completely numb, didn’t mean that Victor was immune to the other things that didn’t cause pain. Things like the overwhelming, all consuming fatigue and hunger, and the collapsed lung that made his breath wheeze and his head spin.

“C’mon Vic, just hold on for a minute longer,” Dom pleaded, shouldering his weight as they limped through the shadows. Victor grunted in reply. They emerged inside the locker rooms – the red light was less intense in here with the skylight above them.

“I need you to stay here for a second, okay? I’m getting someone who can help… well, I’m hoping she can.”

“Is she a healer?” Victor asked, gripping one of the locker doors that had been left open as Dom rushed over to his own and spun the combination. He tilted his head from side to side and winced a little.

“She’s the closest thing we have to a healer. If she can’t do this, then we’re in serious trouble.” He swung his locker open and pulled out a change of clothes.

Victor raised an eyebrow. “Well, thank you for those confident thoughts, Dominic.”

“Look, I’m doing the best with what we’ve got,” he said, piling the clothes on a narrow shelf. “Here, these are some of my spare clothes for when she’s finished – the ones you were wearing when they brought you in were pretty torn up.”

“Thank you. Go, I’ll be fine here.” Victor waved him off, and by the time he dropped his hand, Dominic was already gone.

The plan was to make it all seem like an accident, and so far, everything was going according to schedule. Mitch switched between laptops like it was second nature (which it was), and continued typing in code like lives depended on it (which they did). Security footage was replaced and the original wiped, internal wiring was over-ridden and warning signals were forced to send off every alarm possible. Everything Mitch faked had to stand as legitimate, because despite the plan to blow the compound, Mitch knew technology could never be truly destroyed. There was always a backup, a record, a safety guard, and if EON intended to put forward an investigation (which they would), Mitch’s forgery had to withstand even the best art critic.

That’s where the cadavers came in – it was Dom’s idea really, and it was a good one – an extra layer of evidence in their favour.

“So what’s your power? Technology or something?”

Mitch looked up to see Holtz return to the van and dragging out another body bag. He threw it over his shoulder and grimaced a little, trying best not to think about it too much.

“Ain’t got one,” Mitch replied, smiling a little at what he decided to take as a compliment. He returned to his rapid typing. “I’m just like you, pal. I’ve just had a lot of time on my hands.”

Mitch didn’t look up to see the look of incredulity make Holtz’s brows shoot up.

“Huh… well, it’s nice to have another member of Team Ordinary.”

Mitch’s rumbling laugh caught Holtz by surprise as he pulled the door closed.

“You’re taking this pretty well.”

Holtz would have shrugged if he didn’t have a dead weight draped across him.

“If something’s wrong, it’s wrong – I don’t care who it is. I’ve never really been one to stand by and do nothing.”

Mitch stabbed the enter button and swapped laptops again.

“I meant about Dominic.”

“Are you serious? If anything he just got about a hundred times more badass than he already was.”

Mitch paused to grin at him, and decided that this kid was a good seed.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Victor slid down to rest on one of the low stainless steal benches, closing his eyes against the reverberating explosions that kept shaking the complex. The vibrating shockwaves rattled through him, and his frown cut deep lines in his face as he struggled for breath.

Barely two minutes had passed, but by the time Dom had reappeared with Rina and Vivian, Victor was positively grey. He looked like a black and white photograph in a darkroom – the red emergency light making the blood look black and his pale tones almost invisible.

“Oh shit…” Dom’s heart was pounding; they were running out of time, he still needed to go help Holtz and make sure Sydney was alright – not to mention that he still hadn’t seen any sign of Rios or Bara anywhere…

“Stop,” Victor rasped, hating the way Dom’s hands were flittering in the air like agitated butterflies, not knowing what to do or where to go. Victor didn’t want fuss; he just wanted to be fixed so that he could finish what they’d started. “Just go, I trust you.”

Dom seemed to hesitate, but the woman behind him, the one with dark curls laid a hand on his shoulder and nodded.

“Do what you have to do – I’ll be here to help.”

Finally Dominic nodded, barely looking up from his watch before he disappeared.

Of all the people Sydney expected to see emerge from the rumble of the dungeon she was in, the raggedy British chav was the last person on her list.

“Hey, kid – let’s getcha’ outta ‘ere.” He beamed down at her through the dust still filling the air. An ominous red light followed him in from the hall and swirled around him like he had just opened the wall to Hell and let the demons free. From the sounds of the screaming and sirens, Sydney guessed that that was exactly what he’d done.

“Does this mean Mitch is here?” Her voice sounded tiny and flat within the now empty pit Haverty had left her in.

Noah let out a grunt as he landed next to her. “Sure does – Dom’s gettin’ Vic out as we speak.”

Syd felt like sobbing with relief, and let herself cling to Noah as he helped her up from the metal chair. The cold water had leeched all her strength from her and she looked up at the lip of the pit.

“Don’t suppose you’re strong enough to throw me up there, huh?”

Noah chuckled before holding her tight against him.

“Nah, but don’t stress – I’ve levelled up.” He winked.

Sydney had just begun to frown when she felt the ground rumbling beneath their feet. She couldn’t help the panic that made her heart pound, but before she could cry out, their heads had already reached ground level. As if they’d been in an elevator – albeit the worst elevator ever – Noah casually helped her step out onto solid ground.

… 

“Are you the healer?” Victor asked the woman. She looked around Victor’s age, but… lighter – like she had spent most her life smiling and happy instead of in prison and on the run.

“I’m not a healer,” The girl behind her snapped, not out of anger, but stress. Her delicate fingers squeezed her temples, and the other woman frowned at her.

“Rina, you’re the best option he has right now.”

The girl, Rina, looked over at Victor and she matched his frown. She couldn’t have been much younger than Noah, but while he was all sharp edges and a bark worse than his bite, she was almond eyed and agile framed. She was scared, Victor realised – and his hope began to rapidly peter out.

“I don’t know if I can do this…” She shook her head.

Oh, Christ…

Victor groaned in frustration, but she took it as a sign of pain and winced.

“I– I told him I wasn’t sure… I told Dom it didn’t work with other people–”

“But you did it to yourself.” The woman cut in, her eyes beginning to light up. “You healed yourself, didn’t you…”

One time,” Rina argued, but the woman held up a hand.

“Rina, listen to me – I’m a doctor, and if you don’t do this right now, he’s going to die.”

Victor might have been on his way out, might have felt like he was breathing air through a straw, but he was certainly not going to die in the next five minutes. But as if on cue, a new voice – the woman’s voice – was there inside his head.

‘Act like your dying.’

Victor didn’t even flinch at the intrusion – he simply glanced at her in a quick appraisement of her skill before indignation got the better of him.

‘I thought I already was.’

‘Well, do it better.’

She didn’t even look at him when her retort came back, and Victor would have grinned if he didn’t feel like death warmed up.

If there was one thing Victor was better at than science, it was lying.

“Forget it, I’m fine…” he rasped out loud, making to stand but letting the dial climb a notch instead.

Victor staggered to his knees, moaning as pain lit up his nerves – his hands were already trembling, and he didn’t have to pretend to make his teeth chatter or his breathing laboured, but Victor did let his eyes become unfocused. He tried to cough, and instead spluttered up more blood, which he let drip from his mouth as he sagged forwards on his hands.

The two women quickly went to lay him down on the cool tiles of the locker room floor, and Victor made his breath struggle and winced as he groaned again. Rina was panicking,

“C’mon, Rina, I know you can do this.”

Victor’s eyes were closed but he focused on the woman’s voice, feeling somewhat comforted by her steady tone. Being a telepath was somehow reassuring – if she knew this was going to work, then what doubt should he have…?

He sensed the girl become still, and she took deep breaths before Victor felt a feather-light touch at his ribcage, like fingers grazing piano keys until Rina found the broken ones. But then he felt them jerk as they were pulled outwards and he shuddered on the floor, the wet, choking cry the realest part of his act yet. Victor saw stars, and when he coughed out more blood, Rina shook her head furiously.

“I cant–! I could end up ripping his ribs right out of his chest!”

Victor’s breath snagged, and he couldn’t help flinching away from her touch.

‘I think I’ll just take my chances, thank you.’

But the telepath ignored him, and instead rested a hand on Rina’s shoulder, holding her gaze steadily.

“Don’t think about it as moving something. Think about it as reconnecting two things.”

They both watched as something crossed the girl’s eyes – some sort of illumination at her advice, and she nodded slowly.

“Okay… I can try…”

“What made you do it last time? What can you focus on from your experience?” the telepath asked softly, but Rina frowned.

“I don’t know… all I remember is the pain – it hurt so bad I thought I would die from it. Then… the next thing I knew, I’d healed myself – purely out of desperation to make it stop.”

Victor blinked and looked up at the two EOs.

“Forgive me, but I think I may be able to help with that.”

Considering Victor had just offered to project his pain onto her, Rina was gracious about accepting the new plan. Vivian heard the hesitation inside Rina’s mind, before she nodded okay. Watching the memory of her healing herself, and the other failed attempt that she tried to keep shoved away, Vivian figured that it could just work. She didn’t know what to do if it didn’t.

Victor caught her eye and nodded once at her before she heard him think,

‘She’s going to need your help – this isn’t going to be pleasant. For either of you.’

Vivian raised an eyebrow – she’d already seen a handful of memories inside his head and didn’t doubt that. She shrugged him off casually.

‘Yeah, well – what else is new?’

Vivian caught the way he flinched when Rina placed her hands on his skin and closed her eyes – his own narrowing gaze filled with trepidation as he watched Rina a moment before she whispered,

“I’m ready.”

Vivian took a deep breath and reached into the girl’s mind to help her focus. It wasn’t until the screaming started that Vivian realised that Rina wasn’t the only one who needed help.

Victor could feel the energy channelling through him and into Rina – mirroring the pain he was feeling into her own body until she was quivering and tears streamed down her face. He stalled; swallowing before he turned up the dial on wounds he’d forgotten were numb, and his own screams joined Rina’s. Undoubtedly, the telepath was not only hearing the cries, but also seeing and feeling them too, and Victor prayed that this plan worked, for all of their sakes. But then Rina’s hands pressed against him harder and Victor felt a whole different sort of pain.

Rapid healing wasn’t something he considered to have been painful, but since bones were shifting, blood was circulating faster than usual, muscles were being manipulated, and skin was stretching closed, Victor realised he’d fooled himself into thinking this was going to be easy.

But just as abruptly, the noise inside his head was cut off without warning, and for a disorienting moment, Victor felt deaf as he hyperventilated on the ground. Then he saw flashes of images in his head – a younger version of Rina, screaming and scared as she shoved an older man away, but her powers were too strong for her to control yet, and blood and gore sprayed– there was the telepath, strapped to the same chair Victor had been tied to, Haverty writing something in his notebook as she screamed– he saw his younger self buckling on a lab table, then himself now sinking to his knees after Sydney had been dragged away– he saw a man he didn’t know standing over him, heard the man call him Vivian and shove the handle of a wooden spoon between his teeth before grinning while Victor’s eyes watered over––

Finally, like a rubber band snapping, sound and feeling rushed back to all three of them and Victor gasped like he’d been drowning, his ears ringing. The pain was gone, like a snuffed candle, but something hollow and nauseating was left inside him instead. Victor’s head spun, and he looked up to find himself curled in the foetal position – his whole body was trembling while he had desperately clutched for something to grasp, which had ended up being Rina’s knees. She was doubled over him, also reeling from what they’d all just done to each other.

“I–I’m… I’m so sorry…” Victor panted, tentatively holding the girl’s shoulder as she sobbed over him. He made sure it was the last pain she’d ever feel, and Rina took a shaky breath as it ebbed out of her, a silent thank you for what she’d done for him. Rina had done more than heal his ribs. Victor’s lung was closed and free of blood and fluid, and his wounds were healed without even a scar to remind him of their presence. For someone with telekinesis, she’d done one hell of a healing job.

Victor sat up, and knew that whatever the telepath had done to them, they’d all shared some sort of mind-melding experience. Rina watched him and swallowed.

“Is he dead?” she asked softly, tears still staining her face. Victor frowned,

“What?”

“The doctor. Did you kill him?”

The stab of guilt made Victor remove his hand from her shoulder. He nodded.

“I did.”

Rina seemed to take comfort from that at least and took a deep breath.

Taking advantage of the lull, Victor grabbed the clothes Dom had left for him and changed quickly. He could still feel something pull awkwardly in his shoulder and leg from the muscle damage, but he could breathe and move without wanting to pass out. Victor caught his reflection in a tiny mirror above the sink and he was taken aback at his image. Blood stains smattered his face, which looked gaunter and sharper than usual, and it stained his hair that had become so white it almost looked silver. Victor scowled at himself, quickly turning the hot water on and splashing his face.

When he stood back up, Victor caught sight of the telepath in the mirror, hunched forward on the silver seats behind him, eyes a million miles away.

Just within this small complex, EON had managed to collect an insanely powerful collection of EOs, and that wasn’t counting Dominic. Distantly, Victor wondered if there was a reason they had all been thrown together – if EON had some secret ultimatum for them that went deeper than even Stell was aware of…

Turning, Victor watched the dazed and somewhat exhausted expression still etched on the woman’s face before he approached.

“Vivian…?” Victor guessed, his voice careful. She blinked and snapped to look at him before she realised just how he knew her name. She knew what he must have seen in that memory, and she looked away. For all her warmth and lightness, Vivian now looked somewhat dimmed – like Victor had given her some of his shadows. He’d known these two women for less than ten minutes and he’d already hurt them.

“No,” she answered, looking back up. Her eyes were unwavering, her face set. “Haverty hurt us. The people who made us this way hurt us. Not you.”

For the first time, Victor felt self-conscious of what they might have seen in his memories. What she might still be seeing. Instead he gave her a small, grateful smile.

“How did you…?” He tried gesturing, but failed to come up with a description of what the hell just happened.

Vivian shook her head once,

“I… I have no idea. That was the first time it’s happened…”

“And it’ll be your last.”

The three EOs spun around at the new female voice, expecting an EON guard. They weren’t wrong. But they weren’t expecting that EON guard to be ExtraOrdinary.

Rios stepped out of the wall she had passed through, but only Victor and Rina were taken by surprize. In his head, Victor heard Vivian groan, ‘Ugh, not this bitch…’