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GM

 

The armor clanged all the way down the stairs. As she fell, she could feel the number of nanomachines slowly decreasing. All over the building, people woke with a shock as what seemed to be silver fluid drained from their bodies, falling inert to the floor around them. While Salvo had not been able to entirely destroy the nanomachines with her command, she was at least making them inert. Her plan worked. As she hurried down the hallway in the basement, dead, mutilated mice were all around here, lying in small silver pools. However the nanomachines had kept them alive until now, the removal of the nanomachines from their bodies had done the trick.

 

The door to the room was open. Inside, Nicole would find two figures. Rita, sitting on a chair, slowly shaking her head, a mouse lying in a silver puddle next to her. She seemed out of it, but she was getting better, at least.

 

And at the side of the room, Gary, sitting on his knees, his eyes wide open, staring deep into the open space before him. Silver fluids streaming from his eyes, ears, mouths and nose in seemingly unending amount, he had didn't even notice the massive Belios armor in the doorway.

 

Rita slowly stirred.

 

"Who... what's going on?" She noticed the Belios, and Gary. "Gary!? What the hell!?"

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Salvo

 

To no one's surprise Rita was confused and scared as she stirred back to consciousness, noticing both the heavily armored Salvo and Guy, who was drooling silver fluids from his orifices. As she began to speak, Salvo held out an arm to block her path towards Guy. 

 

"Stay back, Doctor. You aren't safe yet."

 

Salvo's voice was deeper, electronically altered to sound like another woman's voice. Salvo and Rita did not know each other but Salvo was a known hero, perhaps not so much in Emerald City as she was in Freedom City, but she hoped a calm tone would be enough to get Rita to sit still while she worked. She felt her programs run their course, slaughtering the nanomachines in their path, but she had to make sure the deed was done.

 

And more importantly, if there were any survivors left.

 

She glanced once more at Rita to make sure she was behaving, then strode towards Guy. And as if he were a stuffed doll, she lifted him up until he was level with her, his toes dangling against the floor. Silver fluids continued to leak down, spilling on her armor plating. Annoying, but she had more important things to focus on.

 

She peered at him as she prodded into the now broken nanomachines inside his body, and only then did her eyes widen with the realization.

 

"Damnit damnit damnit!"

 

Guy's body dropped to the floor as her systems overclocked to expand throughout the facility and locate the infected persons. She had to shut down the nanomachines' continuous replication, or else they'd kill their hosts in the process.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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GM

 

"Stay back...? What's going on?" Rita was clearly dazed, shaking her head, slowly standing up. "I know you... you're Salvo? Why are you here? Where's... Nicole?" She turned to guy's prone form on the floor and screamed, quickly backing away. "He got me! He's the one that did all this! He was in my head!" She pointed wildly at Guy as Salvo held him up, silver fluid dripping from his motionless body and onto the floor. 

 

One thing became clear to Salvo, as she held on to Guy. He was still breathing, still alive, even if he might prefer otherwise.

 

As Salvo's systems raced through the building, connecting and commanding, it seemed she was in luck. The nanomachines might have shut down in the infected, but they appeared completely inearth, unlike the ones that had been in Guy's body, and, compared to guy, she could only detect trace amounts of nanomachines, even fewer than the number she had found in Rita. 


So far, it seemed that Guy would be the only human casualty of his machinations. 

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Salvo

 

With her scans completed, Salvo stepped away from Guy's form and, with barely a glance at Rita to see how she was doing, strode towards the basement doorway from which she had entered. It would do little good to engage Rita in conversation when the doctor knew her civilian identity. She might let slip something and Rita could have suspicions. Even as bewildered as the doctor might be now, there was no need to engage in unnecessary risk.

 

So she ignored Rita's questions and Bellios' the heavy footfalls at first dominated the room.

 

"You're safe now, Doctor,"' she said as she passed by Rita. "Wait for the emergency services to arrive and you will find assistance from them. In the meantime, please stay put."

 

Just as she said this, her suit rang 9-11 and several other emergency services directly - emergency medical service and the police mostly. They service operators would find a prerecorded message in Salvo's voice waiting for them, informing them of a metahuman incident in the Archetech Emerald City HQ. Dealt with, fortunately, so they only needed to clean the mess and figure out what had happened.

 

That wasn't a job for someone like Salvo.

 

She reached the stairs and her suit began to fire again, targeting all recording systems within and around the Archetech pyramid. Then it found all footage of Nicole and of Salvo and imposed a new reality into the recordings. Nicole never scrambled down the hallway on the second floor. Guy never called to her as she had just entered the laboratories. Salvo never appeared where once Nicole had been. In fact, Nicole had reached the ground floor and instead of fighting her way through a passing horde of mice, decided to hide in a nearby janitor's closet.

 

It was Salvo who appeared from nowhere, unbidden by anyone inside, just as she would disappear. Bellios banished back to whence it came from.

 

The lights of the whole building flickered, sending Archetech into darkness for a few seconds.

 

And as the lights turned back on, Nicole sat inside the janitor's closet, her eyes peered almost shut, gripping a lamp as a weapon in both hands, as she waited for emergency services to arrive.

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GM

 

Rita stared after Salvo as the massive machine left, but didn't call out. She still seemed disoriented, looking weakly around, trying and failing to rise to her feet.

 

---

 

As the suit targeted the recordings, she didn't just find recordings of herself to erase, but, curiously, also traces of others having tampered with the recordings as well, though the traces were all over them, making it difficult to find the exact point... Of course, Nicole might still be able to do just that.

 

---

 

It didn't take long for the emergency services to arrive, and eventually, the door to Nicole's janitor's closet was pulled open, an officer standing outside with a gun aimed at her. Seeing Nicole with lamp, the officer quickly put her put back in its holster and apologized profusely, but she had been creeped out by all the silver goop and dead mice everywhere.

 

Nicole was quickly led outside to an ambulance for a checkup, where she found Rita sitting, a blanket over her shoulders and a cup of coffee in her hands. Despite everything that had happened to her, Rita seemed relatively well now, a smile spreading over her lips. "Nicole!" She put the coffee down in the ambulance and hurried over, quickly wrapping her arms around Nicole. "I'm so, so sorry you got caught up in all this! What happened, did Guy get you too? I really hope he didn't infect you too, it was just horrible!" 

 

She let go of Nicole while she spoke and looked around, before sitting down at the ambulance's open door again. "Are you alright?" she asked, watching Nicole closely.

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Nicole

 

It was an odd sort of act, pretending to be merely a civilian bystander so soon after she had a hand in bringing the whole mess to a close. No matter how many times she's done the act, she knew she could never play the part of a civilian shaking in fear to the point of tears. She wasn't an actor but she felt that keeping quiet and out of the way was well enough to go through these situations. People were too busy on more important matters than one girl's way of dealing with the crisis.

 

But she too had other things to occupy her mind besides playing her part. When she had left, there were the telltale signs of tampering within the recordings. Done before she had attempted to, she had little time to investigate further before the police had arrived, pointing a gun at her face.

 

The mystery annoyed her, like an itch at the back of her mind she could not reach. Besides her pride lost at having been caught flat-footed, it posed risks to her identity. If someone had seen her in those recordings, which they most definitely had...

 

Nicole looked up at Rita's question. She blinked as she realized Rita had been speaking to her for the past few moments.

 

"Sorry, sorry. Just thinking" She shook her head as if to clear her mind, though it did little to dispel the thoughts. "I'm- I'm fine, I think."

 

She gave Rita a wan smile. "I just hid in the closet the whole time." She averted her eyes from Rita and looked at the scene around her. Then when she returned her gaze back, her face fell, hand going up to rub at her arm idly. "I'm so sorry I left you in the elevator. I thought I'd left you to die."

 

It was not a lie and so it was easy to say and show emotion for.

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GM

 

"Oh, its alright, don't worry about it," Rita smiled. She had to be a better actor than Nicole, since it barely looked like she was forcing the friendly smile on her lips. She shook her head and took a long sip from the big mug of coffee in her hands. 

 

She looked over at the building, where the changed rats were still being carried out in hazmat containers. She seemed entirely absent for a moment. She shuddered at the sight, before turning her attention back to Nicole.

 

"It wasn't like there was anything you could do anyway, and it all worked out in the end, didn't it? Everyone but Guy is safe, the infected rats are about to be destroyed, and I'm pretty sure that the board isn't about to let us move on to human testing any time soon, right?"

 

Her voice had slowly grown sharper, harder. She took another sip of the cup of coffee. "Honestly, you leaving me there was probably for the best, wasn't it? Who knows what would have happened if those rats had gotten to you? I guess I could say that you played your part perfectly."

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Nicole blinked, a slow motion that hid the whirring of her mind. When she opened her eyes again she saw Rita sip her coffee and Nicole followed suit.

 

"You could say that. I try my best to stay alive afterall." Nicole's eyes narrowed over the lip of her coffee cup. Maybe it was residual jitters, maybe Rita had just the most unfortunate turn of phrasing and language. That could have been it but Nicole was not going to discount a more nefarious motive underneath the doctor's words.

 

"There's going to be an investigation, you know," she continued. "How the facilities had let the infected rats escape, even with the assistance of an insider like guy. Gaps will close. Salvo might even come back to lend a hand."

 

She set down her coffee mug and forced the biggest fake smile on her face. "The biggest question is why Guy or the mice or whatever chose to strike so openly then. Nothing was happening but you and me going through the testing facilities."

 

She cocked her head slightly at Rita. "You have a guess?

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GM

 

"Probably, yeah. It would be weird if they didn't have an investigation." Rita looked rather serene for a moment, as she emptied her cup. She held it up and looked into it, frowning at it being empty, before sitting it down next to Nicole's. "I'm sure they will find out just how Guy did all of it, and then I can get on with my research. obviously wouldn't know anything about what happened."

 

She stood up and placed her blanket behind her, then dusted herself off, moved closer to Nicole and placed a hand on her shoulder, leaned in close, her voice barely more than a whisper. "Still, I think it would be a real shame if Salvo showed up to help. As good as that armor is, I'm sure they would be able to dig up all the copies of the videos from the security cameras. Like how someone crawled into that armor." Her tone was friendly, jovial even. "It would be a shame if something like that would get out, right?"

 

She stood back up, not giving Nicole a chance to reply before she started walking back towards the building. "Aaaany-way, I'm sorry you got caught up in all this! I'm sure the company will pay for you to take some days off and start feeling all better, probably get someone to talk to and everything. Take care now!" 

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Nicole

 

Nicole sputtered into her coffee cup as Rita stood back up and the doctor took that chance to walk away.

 

"Wait, what the hell?!" Nicole started forward, wanting to chase after the doctor, but after a moment's hesitation stopped herself. Her hand curled into a fist and she rapped it against the armrest of her wheelchair. There was no denying what Rita had said. A naked threat, a way to stave off her inquiries as both Salvo and Nicole. And if the doctor was as competent as she seemed she was then the ensuing investigation would find nothing but Guy in the middle of the broken threat. The reports would praise Salvo, maybe a piece in the newspaper here and there, and everyone would get on with their lives at the end of the day.

 

Rita would walk away.

 

And if Nicole cared enough about her identity and everyone connected to her identity then she would let the doctor walk. It was enough to make her fist curl even more, pressing her fingernails deeper into skin.

 

What. The. Hell.

 

She breathed out, slowly, and with some effort uncurled her fists. She needed to think, recoup, and find another way to tackle the problem. A few days out of work would do the trick, and maybe even more than that.

 

A thought crossed her mind that made her grimace. Rita had Guy working under her, an unwitting pawn from what it looked like. One man in the cog of her machine, so how many others were left, waiting to be called to act? She did not even know if Rita was the mind behind all this or if the doctor was just one more layer over whatever machination was going on.

 

It seemed that Nicole was just as unwitting as Guy was.

 

So a retreat would be good for her. She needed way more than a few days, not just to clear her head, but to find out what the hell was going on. And she needed to do it without Rita, or anyone else connected to her, finding out.

 

She rubbed her face with both hands, up and down, until her cheeks were red from the hard rubbing. She couldn't stay. ArcheTech wasn't safe, not when one mouse, or person, or whatever little creature, could sneak up on her and take her by surprise. There was no infiltration or access or battle here when they knew about her and she nothing about them.

 

That stung most of all. That she would be forced to leave because of the enormous disadvantage she found herself in. She loved the work she was doing for ArcheTech, the science and the discovery and being so close to the cutting-edge. And she swore to herself then and there that she would unravel this one day. She'd get Rita at the very least and bring her to justice and as much of her accomplices as she could find.

 

One day.

 

But for tomorrow?

 

Her resignation. Her letter of defeat. The bitterest pill to swallow. She'd bite the bullet.

 

What the hell. 

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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GM

 

Rita kept the smile from her lips as she walked away from Nicole. It had all worked out just as she had hoped. The fact that Nicole turned out to be a super hero had just been icing on the cake. What could possibly be better than a super hero swooping in and helping save the day from the big, evil Guy? Yes, Nicole had played her part even better than Rita could have hoped for.

 

Oh, Rita was sure that Nicole was absolutely livid. She should have left it at that. No need to drop any hints, no need for the veiled threat, but she really could not have Salvo showing up for any further investigations. With Guy revealed as a crazy would-be super villain, all support for rushing the project would dry up. She could keep doing this right. No more mistakes, even if that mistake she had introduced turned out to work so well. A little bit of extra code was all that it took, and the nanomachines did exactly what she wanted them to do. Not just curing patiens, but controlling them, reusing their bodies...

 

It had been a rush controlling it all.

 

Maybe there were other things she could use the nanomachines for, after all.

 

Maybe it would soon be time for Rita Lang to take control.

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