31 - To Shreds, You Say

After Psychotic's arrest the mountain of evidence, backed by Cataclysm's own willingness to testify, makes her fate inevitable. She is kept in the Millennium City Jail pending her transfer to Stronghold. Some of her cybernetics such as her claws and wings have been removed, but the remaining systems are too well integrated into her biological systems. It would not be possible to remove them without risking the prisoner's life so she is kept in a reinforced cell. Psychotic's cybernetic enhancements are clearly top-shelf ARGENT work, never seen outside of their own operatives, but there is nothing linking her to them. They deny all knowledge and make no effort to help her, such as by funding her criminal defense. Zoe refuses to say anything relevant, speaking only to deliver bloodthirsty tirades on the vicious revenge she will take on her enemies, who appear to be pretty much everyone.

The Maniacs are torn about Cataclysm's testimony, since turning rat isn't normally considered acceptable, but Psychotic has become an enemy of the gang so they don't freeze Cataclysm out again. Things have thawed a bit between Cataclysm and Witchcraft. There are still problems, but it's mostly Cataclysm's own personality. She continues to suffer from PTSD after Menton and refuses to get help.

Cataclysm muted the TV in annoyance when she heard the knock at the door. She debated about ignoring it, since anyone she knew would have called first, but decided to see who it was. She opened the door and was surprised by who was standing in the hall. "Witchcraft," she said. "What are you doing here?"

"May I come in?" the woman asked hesitantly

"Yeah, sure." Cataclysm stood aside to let her in, studying her demeanor. Witchcraft looked worried. This didn't seem like good news. "Can I get you something to drink? Or I was about to make some supper. You want to send out for something?"

"No," Witchcraft said distantly. "Nothing for me. May I sit?"

"Of course," Cataclysm said, growing more concerned. "What's going on?"

The two women settled and Witchcraft seemed to be searching for words. "As you may know," she began, "prisoner transfers are not announced ahead of time. So I was not aware that Psychotic was being transferred to Stronghold today until just a short while ago."

"Okay," Cataclysm said, confused why Witchcraft was being so hesitant.

"She was loaded onto a Stronghold air transport early this morning along with two other superpowered prisoners, accompanied by agents from the U.S. Marshals Service. Everything seemed fairly routine, at least until the transport failed to check in with the tower in Topeka. Local law enforcement was alerted immediately and a police helicopter backtracked the flight. They found the craft had apparently made an emergency landing in a field."

"She got away?" Cataclysm asked incredulously.

Witchcraft put a hand up to silence her. "It's more complicated than that. You see the police found two aircraft in that field. The second was an ARGENT transport. It's unclear if the ARGENT craft attacked the Stronghold craft and forced them down or if they landed after the plane crashed for other reasons. When the police landed they saw that there had been a firefight, but again they are still trying to collect evidence about what happened."

Cataclysm tried to make sense out of what she was saying. "Wait, I'm confused. What did the marshals say? ARGENT? Surely someone is talking."

Witchcraft swallowed. "The police are unsure if there are any living witnesses."

Cataclysm blinked. "Unsure?"

"Yes. They believe everyone...nearly everyone...was killed but are having difficulty determining the number of dead. The phrase that stood out on the initial census of the bodies was 'torn to shreds'. They are, to be blunt, literally counting heads."

Cataclysm's mouth worked soundlessly for a moment. "And Zoe?"

Witchcraft sighed. "The one thing they definitely have not found are any pieces of a cybernetically enhanced individual."

"Jesus fuck," Cataclysm breathed. "So a huge half-metal woman is roaming the wilds of Kansas tearing people to pieces and nobody has seen her?"

"Apparently not, though all local, state and federal authorities have been alerted as has the local media. She hasn't anywhere to go. They'll find her."

Cataclysm ran her hands through her spiky hair. "I should have killed her," she said. "Rid wanted to but I pulled him off. No, I said, we don't do that." She shook her head. "I should have killed her."

"No, Cataclysm," Witchcraft said quickly "It's not our place. It's not our decision to make."

Cataclysm leapt to her feet. "Should I go tell that to the families of those people she just slaughtered?" she demanded. "It is our decision to make. We make that choice whether we choose to kill or not. And people suffer either way. She's a monster. Why shouldn't I kill her?

Witchcraft said, "Because that's why we have a legal system. To be fair we don't know she was responsible for those deaths."

"Don't hide behind technicalities," Cataclysm snarled. "I know of deaths she is responsible for. And there are more in her future. For fuck's sake the cops had her and she escaped three times. What kind of body count do we need before we decide it's the right thing to do? Those people are dead because I didn't do what needed to be done." She turned away, fists clenching at her sides.

Witchcraft rose and put her hand on Cataclysm's shoulder. Gently she said, "You can't blame yourself for what she did. These are her actions not yours. Don't sink to her level."

Cataclysm whirled on her. "Her level? I came from her level. You keep trying to elevate me but that's who I am. You said to me once that anything I did you would have to live with, remember that? Everything that happens from now on is my fault." Witchcraft tried to speak but Cataclysm said, "No. I've heard enough. I've done it your way. Repeatedly. It's time to remember who I am. I'm going to find her and this time I'm going to stop her."