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“We have to kill him.” As she made that flat announcement, Sierra stood in the kitchen of the Banners household, staring at her other self, her sister, her… whatever Paige actually was at this point. She had been the person Sierra–then Roxanne, had been intended to replace. She had hated the girl, had been created to hate her. They had hated one another, and had fought for quite some time within that single orb. Her job, her purpose, had been to erase Paige and replace her. She had thought that their father, Benjamin Pittman, actually cared about her. She thought he would be proud of her for doing her job properly, unlike the ‘traitor’ she was replacing. But in the end, she had been just as expendable to him as Paige was. Between that and the acceptance she had found here with these people, the newly-dubbed Sierra already held nothing but hatred and disgust for the man she had once been loyal to.
But now? Now he had gone too far. It was hard for her to admit it, but Sierra had been looking forward to meeting Irelyn. She had memories from Paige about the other girl, but they weren’t really hers. She had truly wanted to get to know the girl who was essentially as close to a ‘big sister’ as either of them had, even if Irelyn wouldn’t have been able to know the truth about her.
And to be honest, Sierra had been pretty sure it wouldn’t take long for them to tell Irelyn the truth. Or for the other girl to figure out there was more to be told. She wasn’t dumb, after all. Especially after everything she had obviously been through already. Something would have happened to make them tell her who Sierra really was. And she had been looking forward to that, secretly.
But now–fuck. Now Pittman had retaliated by setting off a biological attack, killing Paige’s adopted parents–Irelyn’s birth parents– and about a dozen others, as well as putting Irelyn, Cassidy’s parents, and thirty-seven more into various stages of coma and/or delirium. Or whatever it was called when they were completely mentally absent and lost in some sort of fantasy or nightmare world. The point was, even the survivors were either unconscious or mentally absent, not to mention quarantined. And who the hell knew how long it would take for them to recover, if they even did. Sierra didn’t want to say that out loud in front of Cassidy and the others for obvious reasons, but there was a chance all of them would die. Including Irelyn.
Paige, for her part, simply gripped the sink she had been facing tightly enough to almost snap part of it off. She was staring intently into her own reflection in the metal faucet. “You mean our father. You want to kill Benjamin Pittman, while he’s on an island we can’t get to.”
“Fuck that, yes we can,” Sierra pointed out. “He told us where to go down in Utah to find that equipment for the teleporter thing, remember? Between that and the genius kid with her movement specialty, we can totally set something up to get over there, track that son of a bitch down and deal with this once and for all, the way someone should have a long time ago. If they just killed him before, none of this would’ve happened.”
“And you wouldn’t exist,” Paige pointed out mildly, releasing the counter as she turned to face the other girl. “But you’re right, we do need to do something about it. He went too far.” Her voice caught a bit and she closed her eyes before taking a breath and opening them once more. “We have to find a cure for whatever that stuff is. It’s the only way to help Irelyn and the others, the ones who survived. Like Cassidy’s parents.”
“Is she gonna tell people where this shit came from and who was responsible?” Sierra demanded. “That’s probably the best way to get actual help for them, isn’t it? You know, let the doctors know the source or whatever.”
“It couldn’t hurt,” Paige agreed. “The problem is they’re getting hundreds of tips, so we’re not sure how to get the info to them other than her showing up as a Paintball and telling the doctors directly, but that would open up a whole bunch more questions, especially if they actually listen.”
Sierra glanced away, frowning thoughtfully at her own reflection in the glass stove. It was distorted, but she could still see the intense similarities between herself and the girl they were talking about. “She wants to do it anyway, doesn’t she? It’s her parents. So how’d you talk her out of it?”
“We talked ourselves out of it together,” Paige informed her. “Mostly because we don’t think it would be that useful. The doctors have the samples to work off of. Telling them where it came from–it could lead to Breakwater dragging Pittman in to interrogate to try to make him give up a cure, but–”
“But that could be exactly what he wants,” Sierra finished. “He could have done this whole thing assuming they pull him off the island to make a cure and he could escape from there. Hell, he might even already have people in place to make that happen.”
Paige nodded. “Exactly. It’s obvious that he’s been planning this, or something like it, for awhile. That’s why the Banners disappeared for so long. He was probably having his people create this biological weapon inside them for that whole time. He had a backup plan to get himself off the island. Probably more than one, and this was a big part of it. He wants all of us to just react emotionally and have him brought out of there to make a cure.”
Wincing, Sierra asked, “Do you think he knows about Cassidy being Paintball, and the ‘guy’ he’s been talking to on the phone? Could he have deliberately targeted her parents?”
“I don’t think he needs to know about that to deliberately target them,” Paige pointed out. “He knows they’re the Ministry, the leaders of the Ministry even. He hates them for what happened to Anthony and his parents, since they were supposed to fund his research and all that. I’m pretty sure he targeted them because he expected the rest of the Ministry to react as soon as we told them who was responsible. He wants us to reveal his identity to the authorities and for the Ministry to find out, help yank him off that island, and then… well, then he can do whatever the rest of his plan for escaping is. But what matters is, he obviously wants us to react emotionally. That’s why he called us, so we would be absolutely certain he was responsible.”
“If he wants an emotional reaction, I’ll show him an emotional reaction,” Sierra snapped. “By breaking every bone in his fucking body.”
“He doesn’t even know you exist,” Paige pointed out. “I mean, that you still exist. Which is a good thing. We might be able to use that when we do–I mean… obviously we have to confront him at some point. This whole thing–you’re right, we have to go there and find him. We have to deal with this. But he’s probably expecting that too. If we don’t immediately have the authorities drag him off the island, he’ll expect us to use that equipment to go there, and he’ll be ready.”
Sierra gestured idly with one hand. “That’s why we get the kid to modify it. He probably expects us to show up right where he wants us, but she can adjust it to move us somewhere else.”
“Even if we do that,” Paige reminded her, “he probably still has verbal codes to take control of us. How much good could we possibly do there if he can just say something to shut us down or even make us hurt our friends? You know, the whole reason Cassidy doesn’t let us hear him on the phone. I know we’ve been trying to expunge all that extra programming, but I’m not completely positive that I’ve found all of it, are you?”
Sierra’s mouth opened, before she caught herself and gave a heavy sigh, followed by several curses. “Fine, no, I’m not positive. Not completely. But we’ve gotta do something about that son of a bitch, Paige. Look at what he’s been able to do while trapped on an inescapable prison island! He’s still got people working for him, not to mention the Biolems he must still have access to. Being trapped on Breakwater slowed him down, but it hasn’t stopped him. He’s just going to keep doing shit like this until someone kills him. I say we stop waiting and find a way to make that happen.”
Paige met her gaze for several long seconds before exhaling. “Yeah, we do need to end this. Let’s just be careful about it and take the whole thing one step at a time, okay? We don’t want to blunder right into his trap just because we’re pissed off.”
Sierra made a fist and punched it into her palm hard enough to hurt. “So what exactly are we going to do? And I swear to fuck, if you say ‘sit and wait…’”
“I’m not really in a waiting mood either,” Paige informed her. “But I am in a ‘don’t make things worse’ mood. So the first thing we do is give ourselves options. Starting with that teleporter. You’re right, we need it. We’ll go down to Utah and bring it back for the kid to look at, after we make sure Dad didn’t leave any tra–” She thought better of her words and amended, “After we remove the traps Dad definitely left on it. Maybe we’ll end up going there to… finish this problem ourselves.”
“Cassidy’s gonna want to go,” Sierra pointed out. “He put both of her parents in the hospital. You really think she’s going to be okay with what we have to do?”
“I don’t want her to be okay with it.” Paige’s head shook. “Cassidy… Cassidy needs to stay the person she is. She can help a lot of people. Not just with her power, but with who she is, everything she is. She just needs to get better, stronger, all that without changing everything about her. When Anthony died, it–” She grimaced, glancing away. “Cassidy almost fell apart. But she would have gotten better. She was getting better. She was starting to move on. But then they erased her memory. They didn’t give her the chance to finish processing it. It’s been stuck in the back of her mind this whole time. She’s been feeling that pain, even if she didn’t know where it was coming from. That’s why she didn’t have any close friends, why she kept everybody at arm’s length. She never had the chance to go through all the stages of grief and move on. They erased the memory and by doing that, they took away her chance to understand and accept it. Now that she knows the truth, she’s started to get better, started to heal that damage inside that she didn’t even know was there before. But she still needs time. And now if her parents die, or even one of them, I don’t know what’ll happen. All I do know is that I don’t want to find out.”
“You don’t just want to go there to kill him,” Sierra guessed.
“No.” Paige turned to walk out of the kitchen, heading for the elevator that would lead down into the main workout gym. “I want to force him to tell us what he was planning to do to cure these people, including Irelyn and Cassidy’s parents.”
Following the other biolem girl, Sierra demanded, “And what do you plan to do about that whole programming thing you were talking about? You know, the thing where he can shut us off with a couple words.”
Paige grimaced. “Well, my first instinct is to say we don’t give him a chance to say any words. But I suppose we have to let him talk at some point.”
The elevator door opened then, allowing both girls to step off and walk into the gym itself. It was larger than what most would consider a ‘home gym’ to be, with enough space for a full wrestling or martial arts mat, three stationary bikes, an elliptical machine, and a treadmill taking up one half to the left of the elevator doors, while the right half of the room was filled with two rowing machines, a Touched-Tech bench press with the capacity to simulate weight up to several thousand pounds, and another mat about three-quarters the size of the other, this one surrounded by racks full of various melee weaponry. Some lethal, some not.
“What about the suits the kid put together for us?” Sierra noted, moving to take a bo staff from the weapon racks before spinning it around behind her back and around again. “The ones for Poise and Style, I mean. She could probably upgrade those to go selectively deaf whenever they hear his voice. We don’t have to hear his explanation about how to cure that shit he made, we just have to beat it out of him. Someone else can do the actual listening part.”
Taking another staff, Paige tapped it against her palm thoughtfully before taking a ready stance. The two of them nodded to one another, then went into a series of strikes and counterstrikes. To any outsiders, it would look as though they were seriously trying to injure each other. But of course, they were both simply that fast, and that good. They had to be, with the programming and enhancements they’d had. This full speed, full contact sparring was relaxing for the two of them. Or at least as relaxing as anything could be considering the circumstances.
“Yeah, you’ve got a point. If Wren can make the suits stop us from hearing anything he says, that’ll help,” Paige finally agreed after they had been sparring for a minute, both trying to get at least some of their aggression and excess energy out. “But we’ll need some backups for that. Special earplugs just in case we lose the suit, something to shut us down if Dad still manages to corrupt or control us, stuff like that. And we’ll need to figure out who else is actually going.”
The two of them talked a bit more about what they were going to have to get ready for that trip, but most of the planning would have to happen with the rest of the team. For now, it was time for Paige to go to the Conservators building again, this time as herself, and see how Irelyn was doing now that the doctors had agreed to let some people in. Part of her didn’t want to go in there and see the older girl like that until they had a cure, but she couldn’t put it off that long. Besides, at the very least, seeing Irelyn would steady Paige’s resolve about what had to happen.
Maybe if she was angry enough at her father, the thought of confronting him wouldn’t terrify her so much.
They wouldn’t let her all the way into the same room as Irelyn. There were still too many questions about how this stuff was transferred between victims. Instead, Paige had to stand on one side of a window looking into the hospital room where the other girl was lying on a bed. She kept muttering things that didn’t seem to make sense. Words like circus, boxes, coat, library, and other completely random things like that. The best the doctors could tell was that she and the others in the same condition were deep in some sort of dream state, and they were simply saying the things they saw. Or possibly the things they wanted, it wasn’t clear. Either way, they definitely weren’t resting soundly, given the way Irelyn kept twitching and jerking against the bed.
Seeing her like that, as well as what she had heard from Cassidy about her own parents’ conditions, made Paige tighten her hands into fists. Her father. He was the one responsible for this. All because he wanted to trick them into letting him out of that prison island so he could cure it. But there was no way in hell they were going to let that happen. If he could do this much damage from inside that place, the thought of what he could do if he was outside was enough to make her shudder.
No, they would get it out of him some other way, even if they had to start breaking bones until he coughed up the solution. Not that that was a prospect she was exactly afraid of. She just… she wanted to have a plan. If they went barging into that place and he managed to regain control of Sierra and her, Paige knew he’d never let them go again. He’d reprogram them, probably make them hurt their friends. And he’d–he’d find out about Cassidy. He’d make her hurt–no. No more. Never again. She would have been happy enough to leave the man there on that island forever. But now he had proven that wasn’t enough. He hurt Irelyn. He killed the people who–okay they had never really been parents to her, no more than he himself had been. But they had still adopted and raised her, in a manner of speaking. He murdered Irelyn’s parents in a way that put the other girl herself, and Cassidy’s parents in danger. And killed all those other people in the process, to say nothing of the ones currently affected who could still die.
Including Irelyn, Sterling, and Elena. If any of them died…
No, they would go to Utah, grab this teleportation thing, go to the island, and get answers out of her father. And then, once they got everything they needed out of him, she would make sure he was never a threat to Cassidy, or anyone else she cared about again.
Don’t worry, Irelyn, she thought to herself while staring at the squirming, whimpering figure in the bed. I’ll take care of this.
I’ll get the cure out of my father, and then I’ll kill him.
Welp, Paige and Sierra are in agreement! We’ll have to see how that plan goes soon enough. In the meantime, thanks to everyone for reading, and if you’d like to boost this story on Top Web Fiction by clicking here, that would be absolutely amazing. Also, your tags are: Irelyn Banners, Oh Yeah I’m Sure Going Down To Utah Is Going To Turn Out To Be A Total Milkrun- Wait‚ Milkrun? Oh No It’s The Dairy Mafia They’re Doomed!, Paige Banners, Really Is There Anything More Endearing Than Two Sisters Bonding Over Their Homicidal Hatred Of Their Abusive Father?, Sierra Nevada
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It’s Pandora. She knows that opening the box will release evil, and she will damn well do it.
Mass prison break from Azkaban in 1-2-3…
Gasp, this is slander against orbs!