Marina Archer felt very uneasy about the entire situation. The deeper they went into the depths of the Speedwagon Foundation, the more she realized how little she knew about anything they were doing. It was unsettling to say the least. She waltzed right into a top-secret building that might not have a mind to let her leave if their meeting didn’t go well. On top of everything else, these bastards knew about her mother’s feather. Well, not her mother’s feather . It was a feather her mother owned. Cynthia Armstrong Archer died when Marina was eight years old. The truth is Marina couldn’t remember much of anything in regards to her. She couldn’t recall her voice, her face, or her scent… It was just too far back in her life. But the feather in her pocket was a direct connection to her mother.
Madam Dolly lead them through various twists and turns. It eventually came to the point where Shizuka marveled at the woman’s ability to memorize such an elaborate labyrinth. It makes sense when you consider how many decades Dolly had been walking these halls though. After a decent exercise they arrived in some sort of rec room. There were couches, tables with cards, bookshelves, and even a Dance Dance Revolution mat in front of a large television. On the far side of the room rested a small bar filled with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Most remarkably, however, was the man sitting on one of the couches. Shizuka could spot the garish red coat anywhere. Her jaw dropped as she stepped forward.
“Dad?” She asked in disbelief.
Joseph Joestar was sitting before them. Jotaro couldn’t believe it either. “Jiji.” He approached the couch curiously. “What are you doing in Washington?”
“Don’t Jiji me you little punk!” The old man smirked. His voice was just as scratchy as always. It resembled tires rolling over gravel. “I’m supposed to be the one taking my little girl across the world on an adventure.”
Shizuka didn’t wait another moment. She ran forward and wrapped her arms around Joseph in a big hug. “Dad!” She shouted, tears welling in her eyes. “Oh my gosh, I didn’t think… I didn’t expect you to be here!” She buried her face in his big red coat. She was soothed by his familiar scent. He’d never leave the house without his favorite cologne brand “Silver Fox.” Joseph was practically the backbone of Silver Fox’s sales. When they were facing financial troubles he bailed them out himself. He said that he’d been smelling the same way for fifty years and they weren’t about to change that with shoddy business practices.
“Oh Shizuka.” He cooed, running a hand through her hair fondly. “You have no idea how much I worried about you. I couldn’t sleep for days. You nearly dug your mother an early grave!” He said with a hint of amusement.
“I’m sorry Dad. I had to go. You knew it, I knew it… We all knew it.” She mumbled into his coat.
“I’m just sorry I couldn’t go with you. I started practicing Hamon seriously again when we adopted you so these old bones could stay strong a little while longer; but I still barely have the stamina of a man in his seventies. I’m just glad Jotaro was free.”
Jotaro smirked. “Nothing could keep me busy enough to ignore your kid being in danger. Call any time, Jiji.”
Joseph pouted a bit. “Oh, I know you’re not very busy! You still call Suzy Q every month and ask how she’s doing! You do that like it’s a damn religion! And Holly told me that you call her every week! What does an old man have to do to get some attention from his dear grandson?”
“It’s because you keep me on the phone for hours, you old coot. I could have gone my entire life without knowing who won season five of The Bachelor.”
“Jessica Bowlin is a pistol and you know it! And stop ignoring the funny videos I email you. Shizuka showed me how to use Youtube for a reason.” Joseph threatened.
Jotaro hid his eyes with his hat. “Yare Yare. Can you just tell me what you’re doing here?”
The old man let out a sound of embarrassment. “Ooh! Right! I never mentioned that, did I?” He thought to himself for a moment. “Dolly called me this morning. She said that you guys were going to be here and invited me down. I hear you’re interrogating a member of some terror organization? Hermit Purple would probably help!”
Josuke finally stepped forward with his hands in his coat pockets. “Good to see you, old man.” He bowed quickly. “I planned on leading the interrogation. I need to put his tongue back in his mouth with Crazy Diamond. And besides that, I’m the only one here with any actual training.”
Before Joseph could protest, Dolly spoke up. “Let the children have a go at it Joseph. I’d like to talk with you for a bit anyway. It’s been too long since we’ve had a glass of wine.”
Joseph considered it for a moment. “Oh alright. But I’ll be catching up with you later.”
Dolly wrapped her arm around Joseph’s and lead him out of the room. For a moment Shizuka wondered how they were supposed to find Wagner without her. However, Agent Ripley entered the room through a sliding wall a few seconds later.
“Joestars, please come with me.” She spoke with more respect than before. It seems as if Dolly struck the fear of god into the agent for the time being.
Marina rolled her eyes. “I’m already getting sick of being lead around like a little tot on a fieldtrip. Are we almost there?”
Agent Ripley was used to dealing with difficult people. She just flashed a fake smile and nodded. “Yes, Ma’am. We’re almost there. Follow me.”
The crew arrived at a large room with one-way glass in the middle. Wagner was strapped to a chair on the opposite side. Agent Ripley approached Josuke with a small white box. “Here’s his tongue, Sir.”
Josuke rolled the box in his fingers curiously for a moment as he inspected it. “Why didn’t you attach this days ago?”
“We did.” Ripley said dryly. “He kept biting it off. Eventually we just put it on ice.”
“Jesus.” Marina sighed. “He’s determined. You’ve gotta give him that.”
“The only thing I’m giving him is a broken nose. Jotaro, stay close.” Josuke approached the door. Then, after a moment, he entered.
Shizuka looked over to Agent Ripley curiously. “Why isn’t he fighting back with his Stand?”
Ripley had her arms crossed as she watched through the glass intently. “The perfect mix of about ten different drugs is keeping him right on the verge of consciousness. We never let him sleep. He’s too exhausted to do anything meaningful with his power. And if he tried we’d stop him.”
“That doesn’t sound like a long term solution.” Marina mumbled.
“Oh it’s not. Not at all. He’ll die from this after another week or so. It’s purely for interrogation. The only Stand user you can keep in a cage is a dead one.”
Shizuka rubbed her thumbs together nervously as Josuke approached the groaning man. Wagner looked at him with wicked eyes. Those eyes had thick black bags underneath them. That wasn’t what was so unsettling, though. His eyes had some sort of satisfaction within them, like he was happy with his current position. Josuke presented him with the box.
“I’m putting your tongue back in, Wagner. Bite it off again and you’re going to choke on it. Understand?” He said firmly.
Wagner was unresponsive. His eyes didn’t follow Josuke. He didn’t nod, or do anything else to show that he understood. Josuke knew it was going to be one hell of a time getting anything out of this creep.
Joseph sat down in a comfortable lounge chair across from Dolly. He took a sip of his wine and looked around. “It’s been ages since I’ve come down here.” He smiled. “The place seems bigger than before.”
Dolly got comfortable. Well, as comfortable as she could possibly be on her aching hip. She stretched a bit before speaking. “We’re constantly making additions. Bigger staff means bigger base. We’re getting more members every year. Not just soldiers and scientists either. Ever since your grandson brought us the arrow from Morioh we’ve been slowly creating a team of Stand Users.”
“That’s good. You can’t always rely on outside help for Stand emergencies. I know Jotaro was relieved to get fewer calls.”
Dolly crossed her legs and took a sip of her drink. “We’re working on something else. Something bigger. I wanted to discuss it with you.”
“Oh?” Joseph raised a brow. “Of course.”
Dolly’s face changed from happy to serious in a single moment. She placed her drink down and folded her hands. “I’m going to need a pint of your blood, Joseph.”
Josuke was growing tired of Wagner’s attitude. The prisoner still hadn’t acknowledged his presence ever since the wicked glare at the beginning of the interrogation. Of course, Josuke was hesitant to get very violent with his little sister watching. Not only that, but he hardly had the stomach for full-on torture. He finally sat down across from Wagner and groaned.
“Let me tell you what happens from here.” He said calmly. “You won’t give me any information. I can tell. Which means you’ll probably just bite your tongue off again the second I leave. That means they won’t get anything out of you either. That just leaves an irritating and dangerous Stand user catching dust in this underground base. They can’t imprison you. Stand Users are held to a different set of laws than normal people. That means they’ll kill you.”
Wagner finally looked up into Josuke’s eyes. The sergeant knew he had some momentum now.
“If you spill your guts, we don’t spill your guts. It’s pretty simple.” Josuke said calmly.
Wagner couldn’t help but laugh. His stoic facade finally crumbled. He was laughing his ass off. Tears welled in his eyes as he giggled and squeaked. It was all just so funny. He couldn’t contain his pure bliss for a minute more. Josuke leaned back a bit in shock.
“You… You Joestars! Do you think you’re better than the rest of us? Strength isn’t a birthright. It’s earned! What have you shitstains ever done in your lives to earn your strength!” His eyes darted to the glass wall as if he could see through it. “Jotaro Kujo! The ability to stop time on a whim!” Then his eyes moved to Josuke. “Josuke Higashikata! The ability to fix anything that’s broken and reform it to your will!”
His laughing didn’t cease as his eyes met Shizuka’s through the glass. “And Shizuka Joestar. The power to manipulate light. All of you control the fabric of the world, yet you fail to appreciate the weight of it! Time! Creation! Light! None of that matters! I’ll tell you what this world really needs! It needs CHANGE!”
At that moment the lights began flickering. Shizuka felt her stomach drop. All of the adults were frantically discussing what was wrong with the lights. That didn’t matter to her, though. Something was bothering her. Something was clawing at the back of her mind. She heard herself say,
“How does he know Ultra Violet’s power if he’s been locked up this whole time?”
That caught Jotaro’s attention. Her tiny voice carried such an important question that it pierced everything else and took priority in his mind.
“That’s a good question.” He mumbled, pointing to Ripley. “Who’s been in contact with Wagner? Who feeds him? Who helps him use the bathroom? I want to know everyone he could have gotten this information from.”
Ripley looked genuinely disturbed by this breach of information. “No one, Sir. Absolutely nobody. I’m the only security agent with the clearance to enter this room. I’ve been his caretaker.”
“Then how in the hell does he know about Shizuka’s Stand?” Marina demanded.
“I don’t know.” Ripley quietly admitted.
Josuke slapped Wagner to stop his excessive laughter. “Quiet!” He demanded. “Why are the lights flickering? What’s going on?”
Wagner was rocking back and forth with glee. “It doesn’t matter now. I’ve waited patiently, and it’s finally time. We’re finally making our move. Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited to say that!? The world is changing, Josuke Higashikata!”
Marina shoved Ripley against the wall; her hands grabbed the woman by the collar of her dress shirt as she shouted, “Who could have told him this? Who has the clearance!? Who besides you!?”
Ripley was staring a thousand yards into the distance. She seemed almost unreachable. “The Joestars! No one else would be allowed in here.”
“Try again!” Marina demanded.
“I’m telling you. Besides Madam Dolly herself, no one else is allowed in here! I’m the head of security, and the chief interrogator! What do you want me to say?”
Marina let go of the woman and looked over to Jotaro. Despite their silence, an entire conversation took place between their eyes.
“Go.” She said firmly.
Jotaro sprinted out of the room and down the hallway. He was gone like the wind in seconds. Shizuka was still trying to wrap her brain around what just happened. All the while Josuke and Wagner screamed at each other on the other side of the glass. Ripley cupped her face in her hands, her back slowly sliding down the wall. It all made sense now. It’s why she couldn’t interrogate Wagner herself. It’s why she was told not to injure him. It’s why no one else was allowed to see him. She knew it to be true, but she still couldn’t believe it. Madam Dolly had betrayed the Speedwagon Foundation.
Joseph and Dolly stood in a lab on the other side of the underground base. A doctor had drawn his blood a few minutes prior. He watched her carefully as she typed away at a keyboard.
“Dolly… You know I’d bleed for the foundation without question. But, if you don’t mind my asking, what is this for?”
“Shhhh.” She raised a finger in dismission. “This is a very complicated process. But if I do this right, it will benefit the both of us.”
Doctors were coming in and out like greased lightning. Occasionally one would measure a part of Joseph, get a sample of saliva, or perform some other random medical task. He felt like a guinea pig. Not just any guinea pig either. He felt like the subject of an eager middle-schooler’s science fair project. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience.
“I’d like to know what this is about, Dolly. It seems like you’re getting ready for something big.”
“It’s nothing to worry about, Joseph. Just let us work. It’ll all make sense shortly.” She said in an apathetic tone.
Joseph put his foot down. “Dolly, I’m about to walk out of this room right now. If I’m just here to be a blood donor, I’ll donate it to a cause I understand.”
“I know about the cancer, Joseph.” She sighed, pulling her hands away from the keyboard for a moment.
Dolly looked over at him sadly. “Your doctor works for the foundation. I don’t know why you’re surprised. Of course he told me that Joseph Joestar had lung cancer. Is that why you’re aging again? You can’t properly use Hamon?”
He didn’t know what to say. “Suzy Q doesn’t know. None of the family does.”
Dolly turned toward him completely now, leaning against the desk and sighing. “And why’s that? I’ve never understood why men prefer to suffer in silence.”
“I’m old, Dolly.” Is all he said.
She couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh come on Joseph. If you’re old, I’m old! Why do you have to say such things?”
He shrugged. “I couldn’t get the treatment if I wanted to. My body wouldn’t be able to survive. Sure, I’m as spry as a man in his seventies now, but I haven’t used Hamon in months. I’m going to see a staggering jump in age sooner or later.”
“Lucky for you, I have a solution.”
“You have a cure for cancer?” Joseph joked.
“In a sense. It’s something I’ve been working on. It was just meant for me…” She reached over and took his hand. “But I know what Robert would say.”
Now Joseph was even more concerned. “You have cancer!?”
“The world has a cancer, Joseph. And I’m going to cure it. All of it. Now let me work. It’ll all make sense soon.” Dolly turned back to the computer and got back to work.
Jotaro knew the way. Well, he knew enough about this base to get around. He’d check the few possible places Dolly and Joseph could be. He wasn’t exactly sure what he’d do next, but that would be a problem for later. After turning a few corners and slamming through a few doors Jotaro was no closer to finding his grandfather.
He saw a terminal at the end of the hall and approached it. Upon his arrival a projection screen appeared at eye level. It contained a detailed map of the underground base. There were even heat signatures identifying every human’s exact location. He saw two red dots on the opposite side of the map and determined they were the most likely to be his targets. Oddly enough, however, there was one room that was completely colored red. There must have been a large amount of heat coming from that area. He didn’t have time to worry about that. He just needed to find Dolly.
A warning signal appeared on the screen. It seemed like someone was using it remotely. Jotaro saw multiple touch points glowing and activating. He watched for a moment as a password was typed in. Then, a worrying text-box appeared on screen.
Are you sure you want to redirect power from Block B to the remaining three blocks? WARNING: This will result in catastrophe. Only do this as a last resort.
Jotaro’s eyes widened when the “Yes” box was selected. There wasn’t much else to do as the hallway was submerged in darkness.
The interrogation room seemed crazy before the outage. Once the lights were killed, however, the real panic set in. People bumped into each other, and everyone tried to take charge. Shizuka knew nothing would get done with total blindness, so she summoned her Stand. Ultra Violet cut through the darkness in an instant. She didn’t fill the room with light, but she provided a powerful glow that allowed everyone to see. It was on a similar level to a flickering flame.
Ripley looked like she was about to faint. She slowly picked herself off the ground and leaned against the wall. “The lights are out? The lights have never been out. In seventy years these lights have never gone out!”
“It’s okay! I’ve got light. We just need to wait for them to come on again.” Shizuka tried to calm the agent down.
“No. We need to go now. We have to contain it. I need to give the lights power!” Ripley began to walk out of the room.
That seemed to be a weird way to phrase it. It was almost like she had a way to power the lights herself.
“Shizuka just said the lights aren’t important. What’s your issue?” Marina grabbed Ripley’s arm and prevented her escape.
The agent slapped Marina across the face. “Not the overhead lights! The lights keeping him asleep. We’re all in danger. And we have to go NOW. Follow me if you want to live.”
“What about Josuke?” Shizuka asked as she looked through the glass.
Ripely groaned in anger. “The interrogation door is magnetized shut. It needs electricity to open. He’ll get out when we’re done.”
“But, he’s in there with-”
“ SHIZUKA! I’m going to need your ability to see. Come with me right now!” Ripley grabbed the little girl and dragged her down the hall. With a bit of reluctance everyone else followed.
Why would lights be keeping something asleep? Why was Ripley so utterly mortified by the idea of something waking up? Didn’t she know that Jotaro Kujo, Josuke Higashikata and Joseph Joestar were all under the same roof? They’d be able to handle whatever was waking up. Wouldn’t they?
Jotaro was fumbling around the pitch black hallways to the best of his ability. He couldn’t see a damn thing. How could the power have gone out? No, he knew better. He witnessed the power being manually shut down. It was getting harder and harder to deny Dolly’s malice. He needed to save the old man. She was just trying to slow him down. It wouldn’t work. He’d burrow through the walls until he found light. The power was only redirected to another block. It was still on everywhere else.
Star Platinum began to punch the closest wall relentlessly. It seemed impossibly thick. Even though he was tearing through the thick steel there was always more behind it. Eventually he had to take a breather. Was this hall encased in some thick blast shield? Why would that be? It was all beginning to feel like an elaborate cage. Why would Dolly want the Joestars caged up while she had Joseph to herself? He gritted his teeth and punched even harder. He would get through. He had to.
Agent Ripley was bounding down the hallway with Shizuka being dragged behind her. It was hard to ignore the potent fear she was emitting the entire way. It began to rub off on the young girl. What on Earth could such a badass agent be this afraid of? Eventually they arrived at a large door. Now, this door was seriously bigger than any door Shizuka had seen before. Not only that, but it was bolted shut in several places. Ripley touched a dead computer screen and watched as it came to life instantly.
“Wait.. How are you activating that? And how do you plan to turn the lights on?” Shizuka questioned.
“It’s my Stand. I can’t explain everything right now. It’s important that we get in. But this damn thing needs to boot up!” Ripley slammed the wall with her fist.
Marina, Pepsi and Shirlie all caught up a few seconds later. Pa-Pa-Power manifested. The others groaned as their Stands clumped up the limited space around the door.
“Put your Stand away, Shirlie.” Marina groaned.
“I can’t. He’s scared. I need to calm him down.” She pulled him down to her level and rested his face in the crook of her neck. “It’s okay, Power. We’re gonna get the lights back on soon.”
“He’s scared of the dark.” Marina covered her eyes with her hand and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Makes perfect sense. He does realize that when he’s put away it’s nothing but darkness, right? Nonexistence until the next time he’s summoned?”
Power stared at her in total horror. He clung to Shirlie even harder.
“Well good going, Marina! Now I’m never getting him to go away! It’ll be like that time he spent a month out because he watched Taken and was afraid he’d get kidnapped!”
“You’re projecting your fears into an unintelligent, insentient manifestation of strength! Work out your problems!” Marina groaned.
“ SHUT UP.” Ripley shouted sharply. She raised a finger to silence the ridiculous argument. “I can’t put the danger we’re facing into words. But let me promise you that none of our Stands are capable of fighting what’s dwelling in this room. Our only hope is to restart the lights.”
“Wait, the thing is in there with the lights? I thought we were trying to activate the power again.” Shizuka said in confusion.
“Forget the power. There are thirteen lights we need to turn on, and I’m more than capable of activating them with my Stand. That’s all that matters.”
The door opened, sending shivers down everyone’s spines. They couldn’t see inside. It seemed unbelievably dark. The room was absorbing and nullifying Ultra Violet’s glow. Shizuka was finding breathing very difficult. She realized after a moment that she was paralyzed with fear. When a powerful enough being has the intent to kill you, it’s nearly impossible to miss. She was trembling. Everyone was trembling. Ripley stepped away from the door.
“He’s out.” She said in a shaky voice.
“He?” Shizuka whispered, fully piecing it together.
She’d heard enough of Joseph’s stories to know where this was going. Over sixty years ago her father had defeated something terrible. Its body was laid to rest deep underground; forever to be kept under powerful beams of light so its flesh could never reform. A man of stone… A Pillar Man.
“ Jo…….joooooooooooo…” An impossibly deep voice growled from within the room.
Shizuka gasped out loud. That’s the name her father used for her. Something about ‘ Shizuka Joestar’ being able to be pronounced ‘ Jo-Joestar’ in Japanese. Could the creature be speaking to her? It couldn’t be.
“ You.... You smell like Jojo.” Powerful steps grew closer.
They still couldn’t see through the door. It was completely engulfed in darkness. The overpowering aura of the Pillar Man was somehow defying physics and absorbing the surrounding light. The closer he got, the less everyone could see.
“Wh-Who’s Jojo?” Marina stepped back cautiously.
“That’s a loaded question.” Shizuka admitted. “My dad, Jotaro, Josuke.. And me.”
“He doesn’t seem to be a fan.” Marina quipped.
No one was doing anything. Everyone was going to die. Ripley could just watch and dry heave as she stared at the door. There wasn’t anything anybody could do to defeat him. They needed to run. They needed to hide. She found a strength within herself that she didn’t know existed until that moment. Her hand reached forward and pressed the “close” button on the screen. Then, she turned the computer off.
“Run!” Ripley screamed.
No one needed to be told twice.
Josuke was leaning against the glass wall in boredom. The maniacal laughter of Wagner had gone from unsettling to annoying. He groaned to himself as he stretched his arms. “It’s hilarious. I get it. How about you knock it off now?” He demanded.
Wagner calmed down for a moment. “Two…. No, maybe three.” He whispered.
Josuke raised a brow. “What?” He called into the total darkness. He couldn’t see Wagner, but he felt the prick’s arrogant smile as it happened.
“Maybe even six. What do you think, Higashikata? Could it be six?”
“I have absolutely no clue. Maybe if you’re in the mood for a conversation you could actually let me in on it. Or is this another way to waste time?” Josuke grumbled.
“You could go at any time, Sergeant. Just break the glass.” Wagner offered.
“Yeah right. I’m not an idiot. You could escape with your Stand at any time. Ripley was either lying or wrong about your medication. It doesn’t matter now. My little sister beat you with a folding chair. You’re no match for me face to face. So we’re going to hang out right here until the lights are on.” Josuke crossed his arms and rested a foot against the glass.
There was silence for over a minute. No laughter, no counting… Just the sound of breathing. Finally, Wagner broke the silence. “What’s wrong with your bloodline?”
Josuke lifted his head curiously. “Wrong? What do you mean?”
There was more silence as Wagner searched for the right words. “I wouldn’t expect you to know. It was more of an open ended question. I’ve pricked dozens of people with the arrow. About half of them lived. The ones who were worthy manifested pitiful Stands. The ability to tell a lie anyone will believe… The power to manipulate gravity, but only for yourself… The ability to withstand any temperature…”
“All of those sound helpful to me.” Josuke shrugged.
“But none of them compare to the Joestars. None of them are as potent and as expansive. Star Platinum has inhuman precision, strength, and can control time. That’s not even human. Crazy Diamond has immense strength, speed, and can fix anything. Don’t you see? You’re not normal. You’re not standard. So I’ll ask again: What the hell?”
Josuke allowed himself to slide down the wall until he was sitting down. “Beats the hell out of me. Why do you care?”
“Because you’re a shining example of humanity. The pinnacle of evolution! Your family controls the elements of reality! Red Eden respects you. All of you.”
Josuke snarled. “We don’t respect you.”
“Okay, seriously, what are you counting?”
A sickly smile crept onto Wagner’s face. “How many of your friends are dead by now.”
Utter panic. That’s the only way to describe the state of Shizuka’s group. They all scattered. She didn’t want them to scatter. She believed they were stronger together. Not only that, but none of them had lights. She couldn’t see anybody. They were all gone. Pepsi had engulfed Shirlie in their shroud. Would they ever be seen again? Maybe it would work. Perhaps the Pillar Man would completely miss the twins due to MIST’s power. Ripley and Marina were also nowhere to be found. Shizuka was alone in the dark. There was no one to help her. She couldn’t think. There was nothing to see beyond Ultra Violet’s dim glow. Nothing to hear besides her own heartbeat. The air was cold and thick. They were cut off from the outside world. She felt stuffy… The air around her was completely still. She’d kill for a draft. Was this where she died? Trapped in an underground research facility? All alone? Would she ever learn about her mother? Perhaps she’d see her in another life. A smile slowly dawned on her face at the thought. Yeah… Maybe she’d see her Mom again.
Then she came crashing back. The only face she could picture was the old, warm face of Suzy Q. THAT was her mother. Would she ever see her again? What about Joseph? He was so close, yet so far away. She wanted to see her Mom. Not some fantasy woman who didn’t raise her for a day of her life. She wanted her mother. Tears welled in her eyes as she looked around. Where had everyone gone? Did she seriously have to defeat this being on her own?
That’s when heavy footsteps began to approach her. She knew it was time. She looked into the darkness and wiped her eyes. Ultra Violet towered over her as she prepared herself for the upcoming battle. After what felt like an eternity, he walked into view.
“Santana.” Shizuka said firmly.
Yes, Santana the Pillar Man had finally awakened. After decades of rotting beneath the surface of the nation’s capital, Santana had been given the gift of life once more. He’d been turned to stone by Joseph Joestar and Von Stroheim and sealed away by that wretched Speedwagon. But now he was back.
The enormous man looked down at her in fascination. His piercing eyes seemed to be studying her carefully. And when he spoke his words were slow, methodical, and calm. “You’re not Jojo, though you just smell like him…” He marveled. “How are you glowing, little human?”
It occured to Shizuka that Santana wasn’t a Stand user. He couldn’t see her Ultra Violet. That could be an advantage. There was also the possibility that he’d go easy on a child, but she wasn’t going to count on that. She just needed to stay calm.
“Who knows?” She spat, standing tall. “What’re you doing down here, Mister? Need directions or something?”
Santana looked around curiously. “I’ll make a trade. Information for your life.” He offered graciously. He didn’t even wait for an answer before continuing. “Where have I been brought, and how long have I been here?”
Shizuka was in no mood to answer this monster’s questions. Despite that, she needed to buy some time. Ripley had to be looking for a way to get the lights back on, right? She couldn’t have just abandoned everyone down there. Shizuka pointed at Santana with a hand on her hip.
“You’re two-thousand feet below the earth right now, Santana. And in the six decades you’ve been here, a lot’s changed.”
“Dec. Cades.” He said slowly. “Deck… Cades. Decades. Decades?” It seemed like he was still getting a grasp for the specific complexities of Shizuka’s language. “How many rotations of the sun is that?”
Shizuka was caught off guard. “What…? The sun? I don’t know.”
“So I’ve been down here for a very long time. I have two more questions. Why do you reek of Jojo, and how do you know my name?”
She was finding it harder and harder to keep her cool. Malicious intent was practically oozing off the giant man as he glared down at her.
“Joseph Joestar is my father… And he told me about you.” She admitted.
“I see.” He hummed in a deep tone. “Bring me to Joseph Joestar. And that wretched old man. We have unfinished business.”
Shizuka wasn’t an idiot. Her father wouldn’t stand a chance against Santana now. She had to protect him. If no one else was going to stand by her side, she would do it herself.
“No.” She said firmly.
“No?” He echoed her curiously.
“I’m not going to bring you to my father. He’s already defeated you once. It’d be boring. I’ll take you on myself.”
The eyes of a killer scanned her body once more. This time, though, he was assessing her as a threat. He walked around her cautiously; circling her like a predator sizing up its prey before the attack.
“Your father surprised me with his ability. I’d never before met a human who could do anything but soil itself and die. My arrogance and curiosity lead to my defeat. Let me assure you, tiny human, I will not hesitate for even a moment. Bring me to Joseph Joestar, or die.”
“Maybe the humans of a thousand years ago were scared of you, but I’m not.” Shizuka growled.
And so her fate was sealed. Santana took a deep breath as he weighed her options. Then, he lunged forward to attack. In less than a second Shizuka had created a light dummy over herself, turned invisible, and side-stepped out of the way. Santana’s ribs protruded from his body and stabbed through the light dummy. He raised a brow when nothing happened. Then Ultra Violet began to pummel him from behind. The ribs made a jagged turn and stabbed right behind Santana’s body. Once again, they hit nothing. Shizuka had slid between his legs and stepped out of the way.
The Pillar Man growled in frustration. “Humans have once again evolved. This time they’re even more annoying.”
It felt like this could really work. Shizuka was feeling a bit of confidence. Santana was ready to crush that misplaced emotion. “I see you can manipulate light. That’s why you were glowing. And now you’re hiding from me with refraction. What an annoying trick.”
Shizuka gritted her teeth. Ultra Violet wasn’t capable of producing might light of its own. It mostly resorted to bending existing light in the room. Shizuka was exhausting a lot of energy to keep the area lit for their fight. If she could create pure ultraviolet light rays, she’d be able to fry Santana back into his stone shell.
“This strategy of yours might work in an open space. But in a corridor like this it’s weak.” Santana bit his hand so hard it began gushing blood. Then he began swinging his hand around violently.
A drop of blood landed on Shizuka’s invisible body. She quickly hid it with her power, but it was far too late. Santana grinned, lunging forward and grabbing Shizuka by the throat. She appeared before him once more. Her legs were swinging wildly as she attempted to break free from his grasp. His fingers sunk into her neck, and she could feel her energy being siphoned into his body.
“You have a lot of power for a human…” He mumbled under his breath.
She spat up a bit of blood as Santana drained her life force. Her futile attempts at punching and kicking the colossal man slowly ceased. She just hung uselessly from his hand like a corpse. Santana’s eyes widened a bit as he continued his attempts to absorb all of her energy.
“You.” He said calmly. “That explains it. You’re not human. Not fully, at least.”
This sparked something in Shizuka. Her attention was fully focused on his words. Not human? What could that possibly mean? What else would she be? Her vision began to blur as more and more of her power was drained. That’s when she heard rapid footsteps coming from behind Santana.
“Here, you giant prick!” Marina screamed.
Bubblegum Bitch’s bat connected perfectly with Santana’s face. She took it all the way to the wall with a loud crack. The wall shattered upon impact, but his head remained stuck to the layer of steel on the other side. Shizuka fell to the floor as this happened. She was struggling to remain conscious. Bubblegum Bitch swung at each of Santana’s limbs, sticking him to the wall. He struggled against it for a moment. His dark eyes fixated on Marina.
“Another human? How are you hitting me from over there?” He asked in a bored tone. “This is getting extremely annoying.”
Marina sank to her knees and rested Shizuka’s head in her lap. She gently shook the small girl. “Hey. Hey, Shizuka. C’mon, dear. Up and at ‘em. We don’t have time to nap right now.”
Shizuka’s big eyes slowly adjusted to the sight before her. Ultra Violet was still dimly lighting the room. She could barely see Marina’s face.
“You didn’t leave me.” She whispered weakly.
“Course I didn’t. I was waiting for the right time to strike. Then he started to kill you, so I decided to attack early.” Marina brushed the hair from Shizuka’s tired face with her hand. “C’mon, Jojo. We’ve gotta take care of this twat.”
“Jojo...” Shizuka mumbled as she came to her senses. The only people to call her that name were close family. It was strangely endearing coming from Marina, though.
She fumbled to her feet with Marina’s help. They looked over at Santana cautiously.
“Think that’s actually going to hold him?” Marina asked.
Shizuka could only shrug. “There’s no real way to know. I wouldn’t count on it though. Did you see where everyone else went.”
A somber smile came to Marina’s lips. “The twins are gone. I saw Pepsi grab Shirlie before they both disappeared. Ripley might come back. Who knows? Maybe she’s grabbing some plasma cannon they’ve been developing down here?”
“Maybe.” Shizuka said sadly.
They both stood upright as Santana began to struggle even harder. He thrashed and growled as his body was kept against the wall by Bubblegum Bitch’s adhesive power. “Humanity… Is so… Aggravating.” He shouted. Then, all at once, he tore himself from the wall. Blood poured from his back, and the two aggravating humans were forced to witness his unsightly mess all over the wall. He’d torn himself away from his own back. Half of Santana was still stuck to the wall! Muscle, organs, bones… All of these were connected by threads of blood as he approached them in shambles.
Marina was speechless. She had no idea such horrors existed in this world. This was different from flashy spiritual Stand powers. Santana was a pure, raw monster. There was no fantasy to his presence. Only violence and death.
“Free my back from the wall at once.” He ordered.
Death. That was the only word running through Marina’s mind. She had spoken up a mad storm of confidence with Shizuka moments ago. That was just to encourage the girl to get back up, however. As she stood before the Pillar Man she felt nothing but hopelessness. If he could still stand proud despite the brutal injuries he inflicted upon himself, what would they possibly be able to do to him? She had no ideas. There were no clever tricks to outsmart him. He was stronger than them. Maybe he was the strongest being in the world. The Life Divine.
Joseph watched as Dolly placed herself in a large medical chair. Several doctors were hooking her up to various pieces of futuristic equipment. He couldn’t imagine what she was doing. Why did it require his blood? None of it seemed to add up. He had no doubt of her loyalty in his heart though. Dolly Harris was one of the few people in Joseph’s life who never faltered for a single moment. He’d never seen her show a single sign of weakness. She was dynamite, plain and simple, and he held her in the highest of high regards.
The idea that Dolly was betraying the Joestars didn’t even tug as the most cynical depths of his mind. Still, he was perplexed by her behavior. He wanted to understand.
“Dolly, would you just talk to me?” He said softly.
Her eyes opened slowly at his words. They drifted over to him with a strange sharpness. Something was flowing through the tubes connected to her bloodstream.
“Joseph, dear. My friend.” She waved her hand dismissively. “Just sit down. Please. I want to make it all better. I want to make you whole again.”
Santana towered over the two girls before him. There wasn’t a hint of mercy in his gaze. As he analyzed Marina closely, though, something seemed to spark in his eyes. His nose began to wiggle. “Human.” He said calmly. “Your name. Now.”
If it meant she wasn’t going to die for another minute or so, Marina was happy to speak to the man. “It’s Marina.” Her voice was shaky and erratic.
“ Marina. ” He mumbled. “Tell me, Marina. This girl reeks of Joseph Joestar. I can understand that. But why do you,” He grabbed her swiftly, swinging her against the wall and getting right up in her face. “Smell like Kars!?”
Marina couldn’t speak. She struggled to break free from his iron fist, but to no avail. Her ears rang with static white noise after being slammed against the wall so forcefully. Kars? She’d never heard such a name. Or was he implying that she had a lovely new car smell? That didn’t seem likely. She coughed and spat a bit as she struggled to catch her breath.
“ SPEAK, Marina!” Santana screamed into her face. “Has my master awakened? Has he claimed the world as his own, surpassing the sun!?”
“Kars is dead!” Shizuka shouted loud enough to get his attention. “Wammu and Eisidisi too!”
Santana ceased all movement for a moment. This child knew the names of his masters. That meant that they must have risen from their slumber. Her words couldn’t be true though. There was just no way. “Silence.” He swatted her with his free hand hard enough to send her into the opposite wall. Shizuka was already dizzy from having her life drained. She wasn’t getting back up for at least a minute.
The Pillar Man’s hand carefully reached down to Marina’s pocket. His massive fingers couldn’t fit into the fold, though. He groaned in irritation, using one of his sharp ribs to slice off Marina’s left pants-leg. He lifted the cloth up and analyzed it closely. It was resonating with him. He dumped the pocket’s contents into his palm, dropping Marina to the floor.
Santana eyed the handful closely. Marina’s pocket contained a seven pence, a receipt from McDonald’s, and the black feather. Santana gasped when he saw it. “This feather belonged to Kars.” He looked down at Marina. “Where did you get this!?”
Marina was holding her head in pain. “Kars? That feather was my mother’s…”
Santana kicked her in the stomach. “Where did your mother get it, human?”
Her stomach absorbed the blow for a moment before sending it right back to Santana’s leg. This caused him to stumble a bit in his footing. Bubblegum Bitch swiped the feather from his hand and morphed back into Marina. She was holding it once again. She looked seriously pissed off.
“This feather isn’t yours. And I’d like to see you try to rip it from my cold, dead hands.” She spat.
Santana was cautious again. It was obvious that humans could have a large variety of abilities now. None of them seemed as dangerous as Joseph Joestar. Still, it couldn’t hurt to be careful. Blood was still oozing from the gaping hole in his back. He was very low on energy after his decades of slumber. He’d have to devour some living organisms to heal.
“You clearly have no concept of my species, nor Kars. I’ll have to dispose of you and find someone who does.” He said calmly.
Marina wasn’t fast enough to stop his swift attack. He lunged forward and grabbed her. She was shoved into his chest and felt as she slowly sank into his body. Her eyes widened. She was being eaten by this monster. She closed her eyes and focused her Stand ability. Her body turned to a rough, rubbery texture. Santana was struggling to digest her. He pulled her out of his chest in annoyance.
“Even if you’re inedible, you’ll still die.” He growled.
He grabbed Marina’s head firmly, then her feet. If she was sticky and rubbery, he’d have to get creative. His muscles flexed as he pulled her two ends further and further from one another. Then, in a horrific turn of events, Marina was torn into two halves. The split occurred in her stomach. She didn’t seem to be bleeding. Bubblegum Bitch sealed both ends of the wound quickly, making them sticky as well. Still, her bottom half couldn’t live very long without the top. Santana cast her legs aside, lifting her upper half higher.
Marina’s screams filled the black halls. Her shrill, hellish cries bounced and echoed off of the concrete walls, piercing the ears of anyone in the vicinity. It seemed that while she wasn’t bleeding out, the experience was still horribly excruciating. Agony consumed her mind. She was no longer present in her own head. Santana’s words simply rolled off of her like water on a raincoat.
“These new humans have interesting quirks, but none of them can stand up to me.” He stated as a matter of fact.
He took the feather from her hand, throwing her torso in a different direction from her legs. After that was dealt with, he looked to Shizuka. “You’re next, unless you take me to Joseph Joestar.”
Shizuka was still reeling from before. She swayed back and forth as she sat up against the wall. Things really weren’t looking too good. At this rate, it really might be the end. Santana’s ears perked up for a moment. Something wasn’t right. Then, in the nick of time, he caught a large piece of debris. It had been going at unbelievable speeds. He looked at it curiously. He’d caught it on reflex alone. He hadn’t even seen it coming.
Powerful footsteps filled the hall. The walking was filled with purpose as it approached through the darkness. After a few moments Shizuka could see the source. Jotaro Kujo stood at the edge of the darkness with hands in his pockets. His eyes drifted to Marina’s two halves. He then noticed Shizuka’s neck-wounds.
“And who might you be?” Jotaro asked in a low drone.
Santana turned to him curiously. “You also smell of Joseph Joestar. Will you bring me to him?”
Jotaro wasn’t satisfied with that answer. He walked closer with his hands in his pockets. When he was about a meter away, he looked up at the towering man.
“I’d like to find the old man myself. It seems like I’m stuck with garbage duty first though.”
Jotaro wasn’t about to take any chances. Anyone who could do such a thing to Marina was dangerous. He knew what he had to do. Star Platinum appeared and balled a fist. Santana didn’t look at the Stand at all. Despite that, Jotaro shouted, “Star Platinum: THE WORLD!”
A ripple enveloped the entire hallway. Without a moment’s hesitation Star Platinum began punching Santana right in the head. He never let up either. Jotaro gave it everything he had for three seconds of frozen time. Once the flow of time resumed, he expected to see the man’s head explode.
Santana was sent back with great force. His feet skidded against the ground as he drove a hand into the wall to slow his momentum. He didn’t even fall over. That clearly didn’t have the desired effect.
“This guy’s head is as hard as steel.” Jotaro groaned. “No, harder than that. What the hell’s going on?”
In a flash Santana was standing in front of Jotaro once more. He was only inches away. It took a lot to make Jotaro Kujo feel small. However, this man was twice his size. Santana towered over him with zero sympathy in his eyes.
“This human annoys me.” He growled.
Star Platinum punched him in the face again. Santana grabbed Jotaro’s arm and pulled hard. It snapped almost instantly. Jotaro shouted in pain, falling forward into Santana. With a single swipe Jotaro’s arm was removed from his torso. Santana held it like a weapon. “Let’s see how you enjoy being hit.” He growled.
Jotaro tried to protect himself, but Star Platinum was now missing an arm too. He was taken by surprise as his own arm slammed against his fist. Santana relentlessly beat Jotaro with his large heavy arm before swinging it like a bat the knocking the man over. He stood above the injured man and swung the arm directly against his stomach several times just to make sure he stayed down.
“These evolved humans are starting to bore me. Take me to Joseph Joestar. NOW.”
Marina was split in two, Jotaro was amputated on the spot, and Shizuka was trying to stop the bleeding from her neck. Needless to say, the situation was beginning to look very grim. None of them seemed to be in any position to fight back. If even Jotaro Kujo couldn’t take on Santana, who stood a chance?
A very strange hiss filled the hall. It echoed off of the walls. Then, a light could be seen. It was circular, and seemed to be incredibly bright. It seemed to be in someone’s hands too. Upon closer inspection, one could vaguely see Ripley’s face lit up by whatever she was holding. The machine made a science-fiction-like drone as it was ready to fire. Santana turned to face the new threat with apathy.
“And what’s your ability?” He groaned.
“This big fucking cannon.” Is all Ripley said before firing.
An enormous blast of potent energy soared through the air, cutting through everything in its path until it struck Santana. The impact struck everyone’s ears as a massive banging sound filled the room. Santana was sent flying down the hallway and out of Ultra Violet’s glow. Everyone just stared in shock.
“I knew it…” Marina coughed. “She was getting a plasma cannon!”
Ripley shrugged. “It’s a supersonic energy blaster with quad-dimensional enhancements powered by my Stand’s electricity. But plasma cannon sounds way cooler.”
Jotaro sat up against the wall, clenching the stump on his shoulder with his remaining hand. He let out an excruciating groan. “I’m bleeding out. The heart is only a few inches from my wound. We need to close it now.”
“Ripley, can you drag me over to Jotaro?” Marina requested.
The agent complied rather swiftly. Soon, Marina’s torso was lying beside Jotaro. Bubblegum Bitch appeared and placed its hand right on the stump. The wound quickly sealed up with a skin-colored rubbery paste. This didn’t stop Jotaro from vocalizing how painful the process was.
“Right then. That should hold. I have no idea about the possible side effects, and cannot guarantee it won’t infect you. Josuke will have to patch us both up. But for the time being, you won’t bleed to death.”
“Things are really looking up for me then, huh?” He moaned sarcastically. “Ripley, what is that thing? And did your gun stop it?”
“That was Santana the Pillar Man. He was defeated and turned to stone by Joseph Joestar in the thirties. His body was kept here under UV lights for decades.”
“You’re telling me the old man wasn’t exaggerating those stories? Gimme a break.” He leaned his head against the wall.
“The cannon shouldn’t have killed him. But it seems like it had the desired effect of getting rid of him temporarily. Don’t let your guard down. Who can still fight?” Ripley questioned.
An eerie silence fell upon the room. It was a reasonable question, to be sure. Still, with the sorry state of the crew they couldn’t help but find it amusing. None of them were exactly combat ready. Shizuka slowly stood up, still clenching a hand to her neck.
“I can fight.”
Jotaro wasn’t about to let her fight alone. “I’m fine. What’s the plan?”
The severed half of Marina capable of speech just raised a finger. “I cannot fight. But I can seal up any other amputations that happen.”
“I’m sure that will be helpful.” Ripley smiled. “Want me to toss your ass over so you can keep it safe?”
“Darling, you can do anything you want with my ass. I’m more focused on finding a way to walk with my hands.”
This actually got quite a loud chuckle from Ripley. “Duly noted. Think I’ll wait till it’s back on you, though.”
Marina just gave her a surprised look of recognition. It wasn’t often that women returned her direct and sexual attempts at flirting. It was especially rare for a woman she was as interested in as Ripley to do so. That would definitely be something to unpack once they somehow survived this hellish basement massacre, but it was something to stay positive for at least.
Powerful footsteps boomed through the hall. It was clear that Santana had gotten his footing back. Ripley armed the cannon once more in preparation. “I don’t think he’ll get hit by this twice. Not unless I shove it up his ass. He can any part of his body to dodge. You two are going to need to get me a shot.
Shizuka already knew what to do. Santana trudged closer by the second. He didn’t seem amused in the slightest. He was clearly done toying with them.
“Fire.” Shizuka said softly.
Ripley looked down at the kid in shock. “Didn’t you hear me, Shizuka? You need to-”
“Fire!” Shizuka barked.
Ripley’s finger instinctively pulled the trigger. The loud hiss began. Shizuka turned the entire cannon invisible along with Ripley’s arms. There was no way to tell which way she was aiming it. Santana growled.
“More light tricks? I’m getting sick of this.” Santana droned.
“Here we go!” Ripley gritted her teeth.
It was done. The procedure Dolly had prepared for over so many tedious years was complete. She stood up from the chair and looked at Joseph with a smile. “Do you see what I mean now?” She smirked.
Joseph was at a loss for words. “And you want to do this for me too?” Was all he could manage. When Dolly nodded, he laughed. “I couldn’t… What about Suzy? This doesn’t seem right.”
Dolly shrugged. “You can die within a year, leaving your ten-year-old daughter and your wife alone, or you can accept the procedure. I’m not offering this to anyone else, Joseph.”
She stepped closer to the ragged, old man. Her right hand rested on his chest, and her left brought his chin down so he was looking into her eyes. “It’s only for you.”
Joseph sighed. “Okay, okay. You win, Blondie.”
The cannon was ready. After a moment it let out a roar as the energy blast soared through the air. Shizuka turned the blast itself invisible as well. There was no way Santana could dodge such an attack. That’s what they thought, anyway. Perhaps someone with a calmer state of mind would have anticipated such an illogical being defying the impossible. His body stretched and morphed in a very unsightly way. It literally became a large open square hugging each wall, the floor, and the ceiling. The beam passed through the massive opening in the square without any issue. Santana reformed afterward with a dangerous look in his eyes.
“Joseph Joestar will probably come to me if I slay his kin.” Santana growled.
“ Right you are, Santana! ” A familiar voice boomed through the dark halls.
Everyone’s ears perked up at the sound. The voice was strange. Shizuka and Jotaro knew it well, but something was different. The tone and delivery was spot on, but the voice itself seemed so… Spry. Youthful. Their brains couldn’t properly register what they had heard. Santana, on the other hand, recognized it immediately. He turned around entirely to face down the hall. The injured crew could only see his bloodied, torn back.
Once again, all anyone could do was wait with anticipation as firm footsteps strutted through the darkness. These weren’t the stomping of a Pillar Man’s bare feet, however. Nor were they the confident glide of Jotaro Kujo. These were clearly the steps of a gentleman in dress shoes.
“He arrives.” Santana said proudly as he stared into the darkness with his enhanced vision.
A large young man stepped into view. He had styled brown hair, a white dress shirt with a blue tie, khaki pants with a fine leather belt, purple suspenders, and a snarky smile. He threw his garish red coat aside, taking a fighting stance. His light green eyes had a dangerous sharpness to them as he stared the Pillar Man down. Shizuka was staring in utter disbelief. She’d never seen this man before; but recognized him from photos on the wall of her home. If that wasn’t enough, the coat gave it away.
“Dad…” She spoke in disbelief. “You’re…”
He couldn’t help but smile. “That’s right, Shizuka dear! I’m young again! Joseph Joestar, Hamon warrior and slayer of all things Pillar-Men is back for one final show!” He pointed at Santana. “I’ll only need a second to finish you off.”
Santana glared at him with little emotions besides disdain. “Where are my masters, Jojo?”
Joseph laughed. “Oh, those guys? Took care of them myself! And you’re next. I can’t believe I almost forgot to finish the job. But fate always finds a way, doesn’t she?”
“If what you say is true, you’ll be sorry.” Santana warned.
“Sorry, pal! But we’re fresh out of time! I don’t even need a plan to take you down. I see your backside is stuck to that wall over there! That means you have an entire area of exposed, vulnerable insides!”
Santana’s eyes widened. Joseph’s Hamon could destroy him if it pierced the skin. He had planned on devouring some of the humans to regenerate his energy before facing the strongest of them. There wasn’t time though. His ribs came out, ready to pierce Joseph’s lungs.
Joseph just shook his head. He snapped his fingers, striking a pose. “Hermit Purple!” A spiked vine shot from his hands and wrapped around Santana. Joseph grabbed it with both hands and pulled with all his might. Santana was pulled straight over to Joseph, who caught him with a kick to the stomach.
“When we met I was just an English punk! But after sixty years in the United States of America I’m a wrangling cowboy!” He shouted, spinning Santana around with his Stand.
Santana slammed into the wall with a loud thud.
“Time for a classic!” Joseph snickered. “Your next line is: What’s binding me, you arrogant primitive?”
Santana struggled against Hermit Purple, unable to see the Stand. “What’s binding me, you arrogant primitive?” His eyes widened when he realized what had happened.
“Hah! I still got it! Now let’s finish this! Hermit Purple and Hamon!”
The vine began to surge with the power of the sun, electrifying and melting the Pillar Man’s exposed insides. But Joseph wasn’t done yet. He held Santana against the wall with his shoe, readying his hand.
“ OVERDRIVE!” He shouted, jamming his fingers right into Santana’s eyes.
The Hamon surged through Santana’s skull, destroying him from the inside. In a beautiful, bright blast of golden energy Santana’s head exploded all over the walls. Joseph tightened Hermit Purple’s grip around the body, wringing it out and draining any remaining life. Without an ounce of resistance, Santana’s body turned to dust. It was over. The last of the Pillar Men was no more.
Joseph looked over to his family. “That was close! But that guy was pretty much a pushover!” He walked over to Shizuka, getting down onto one knee and offering her a hand. “You okay, Jojo?”
Shizuka just stared at him. Her father, a man she’d only ever seen in his twilight years, looked no older than twenty-five or so… He looked like the parents her peers would walk home with after school. He was young! Not only that, but he was strong. He’d just wiped the floor with the enemy none of them stood a chance against. She didn’t even feel herself reaching forward and hugging him. It happened all on its own. She bled all over his white shirt, but he didn’t mind. He just held her against his chest, nearly concealing her completely with his massive body. He eventually just scooped her into his arms and stood up. She couldn’t remember the last time he carried her. It had to be before she was even forming memories. She cherished the moment as Joseph walked over to Jotaro.
“Hey there, sport. Doing alright?” His eyes were glued to the amputated arm lying on the floor next to his grandson.
“Jiji?” Jotaro asked, wondering if the blood loss was causing him to see things.
Joseph laughed. “I wouldn’t call me that anymore! I’m younger than you now!”
“How did this happen?” Shizuka questioned.
Joseph’s smile quickly faded. He’d been so hyped up on adrenaline and youth that he’d almost forgotten what lead to this.
After Joseph had gotten the treatment, Dolly was waiting for him. He still wasn’t used to seeing her so young. It had been ages. She was quite tall for a woman, standing at 5’10. Her short hair was a magnificent golden blonde. It was shining, reflecting the lights from above. Her cheekbones were prominent, her lips were plump and soft. She had this elegance about her that Joseph had nearly forgotten about after all these years. She had curves in all the right places, and her eyes could read your very soul. Joseph admitted years ago that she was smarter than him. He never thought he’d meet his match, especially in such an unassuming woman. Despite that she slowly rose to the top of the foundation. One of Speedwagon’s final acts was appointing her as the new head. Joseph remembered that day fondly.
She smiled at him and complemented his appearance. He tried to play it off, but couldn’t deny that he was pleased to be so youthful again. After examining himself in the mirror for a minute or two, Dolly brought up quite the strange topic.
“You’re strong, Joseph. Even without a combat Stand.” She purred from behind him.
He made eye contact with her in the mirror, smirking. “Thanks, Blondie.”
She chuckled, leaning against the wall and crossing her arms as she sized up his fit new form. “That nickname died down years ago when my hair turned white.”
Joseph shook his head. “Well it’s back now, isn’t it?”
Dolly looked up at the ceiling for a moment in consideration. It seemed like she was torn on something. “Joseph… There’s a bit of a selfish reason behind the restoration of your youth.”
The young man sighed. “Dolly, if this is what I think… I told you I’m happily married. Maybe if I met you sooner, but I love Suzy. My only regret in life is my infedelity in Tokyo.”
Dolly waved her hand dismissively. “We’re not rehashing that discussion. This is different. I’m trying to change the world, Joseph. And I need your help to do it. That’s why you couldn’t die.”
Joseph finished straightening his tie, turning around curiously. “Changing the world?”
“Yes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone had a way to protect themselves? If the world was without weakness? No more suffering? No more fear?”
Joseph smiled fondly. This again. He just shrugged. “Well yeah, Blondie. That’d be great. But it’s impossible. Weakness is unavoidable. It’s the responsibility of the strong to protect them.”
“But what if someone strong isn’t nearby? What if someone is weak, and they’re being taken advantage of by someone stronger? One could argue that living in weakness and fear is worse than death itself.”
“You can’t spend your whole life worrying about these hypotheticals. It’s not like you can save everyone.”
A dark look appeared in Dolly’s eyes. “I meant what I said. I’ve experienced weakness. The way I was, I’d have rather not been living at all.”
Joseph looked at her with concern. “What are you saying?”
“Everyone deserves a chance. I get that. And I believe it. So why don’t we give them that chance? The decision to be strong. The opportunity to forsake their flaws and come out superior. Trial by Flame. The strongest souls are forged, not born.” Blondie said passionately.
“It sounds like you’re implying we should torture weak people to make them stronger.” Joseph mumbled.
“Not torture. It’s quite painless, actually. My solution is simple, possible, and clean. We infect everyone with the otherworldly disease found within the Stand Arrow. Those who want to live will survive. And the weak will wilt away like flowers in autumn.”
Joseph wasn’t pleased. “The very virus that nearly killed my Holy? Being worthy of a Stand isn’t the end-all defacto method of proving your strength. Holy is strong in other ways. She’s an amazing mother, a wonderful daughter, and willing to suffer through any pain to prevent her loved ones from worrying about her. This philosophical discussion is over.”
Blondie groaned. “The needs of few versus the needs of many. You’re being blinded by sentimentality. Just think of all of your family members who are worthy of Stands. Holy is a weak link. She’s a perfect representation of the problem mankind is facing. The weak get to siphon off of society like leeches, contributing nothing and draining the resources they’re incapable of gathering for themselves.”
Now Joseph was the one with a dark look in his eyes. “Deb.” He said firmly. “Drop this. Right now.”
Blondie was shocked to hear that name. No, not shocked. She was furious. “This is your last chance to be on the right side of history, Joseph. The next time we see each other, I’ll ask you again. Then, you can decide to join me, or be my enemy.”
Joseph scowled at her. “Where’s my family?” He demanded.
Blondie sighed. “In Block B, if they’re still alive. I had to keep them away from here for as long as I could. Wagner is unreliable. I couldn’t trust him not to give me away too soon.”
The newly renewed man grabbed Blondie by the collar. “What are you saying, you horrible woman? IF they’re alive? What does that mean?”
She just smiled sadly at the loss of her only friend. “It means that Santana has woken up for the first time in sixty years. None of them are hamon users, are they? You’d better get going.”
At that moment the door opened.
Everyone just waited in silence after Joseph’s story. None of them knew what to say. There was obvious pain in his eyes as he finished.
“So… Madam Dolly is Blondie?” Shizuka finally asked.
Jotaro stood up slowly. “We're in bad shape. We need to find Josuke.”
“Then we need to get out of here.” Joseph agreed. “I’ll go find him. Jotaro, protect everyone here. We’re officially in enemy territory now.” He said through gritted teeth. He looked to his daughter, then his grandson. Then, he thought of Josuke. All of them benefited directly from this organization in some way throughout their lives. That’s why it pained him to say it.
“The Speedwagon Foundation has turned on the Joestars.”