The Aftermath Academy - CH21 (Olivia)

“Look, this is just getting embarrassing for the both of us,” I tell Hope. “You keep acting like I’ve never had my powers suppressed and been tortured before. Growing up this is what I called time out.” Plus sides of time out, it didn’t hurt as much as Hope’s methodology. Downside, my mother’s suppression of my abilities left my emotions perfectly intact. So sure, my current state was even more mind-bendingly agonizing, but Void’s total removal of my abilities left me somewhat indifferent to that fact.

“I would think someone of your academic accomplishment would better understand the gravity of your situation,” Hope says serenely, running her scalpel along the bottom of my foot. I laugh in her face.

“Seriously, that tickles. Are you going to tickle me to death?” I ask cavalierly. For the record, it does not tickle, unless you enjoy being tickled by sharp objects. “Look, someone of my academic accomplishments is smart enough to know you can only keep doing this as long as you can afford for Void to stick in range of me. Now maybe fucking Jarvis over there keeps this room in range of your more public domain, which means you could keep me around longer than a day or two. But it would still be stupid of you to do so since you couldn’t send Void to deal with any external threats without me instantly busting the hell out.”

“My name is Geoffrey,” Jarvis says.

“No it’s not, because I say it isn’t,” I say petulantly, raising my remaining middle finger. I refuse to even wince as Hope flicks it off with her scalpel, sending a roaring burn through my system. On a scale of one to how badly I already hurt that was at best a two point five.

“You’re assuming that I can’t leave you in a state that’s unable to do anything,” Hope says, the barest hint of a question in her statement.

“You’re assuming that I can’t regenerate,” I sneer at her. I totally can’t regenerate. Not in my repertoire. I would give what’s left of my left arm to be able to regenerate. For that matter, I would give all of my limbs and my remaining organs because if I could regenerate them I’d get all the damn things back! Sadly, the black organ market for regenerated limbs is rather small given their high chance of causing incurable cancers and the cheap cost of printed stem cell parts or high quality cybernetics.

Hope looks ever so slightly perplexed, but not terribly concerned. This is a game between us; do I last until she has to off me or do I die with tortured screams? Or does she rip out my vocal chords and sew my mouth shut the instant I cry out in pain so that she can savor her victory in silence for a while before finishing me off? Based on the state of her other living statues, I’m guessing that last bit is likely.

“You are a very strange friend, Princess Adaliah. I do not think I have ever had one who was as lackadaisical about their own mortality as you are,” Hope tells me. “I do so wish that you were not right about our time together. Were it only that we could spend eternity with one another. That is something that you deprived me of with my other companions.”

“I’m sure they’re heartbroken about that whole ‘not being tortured forever and ever’ thing. I’ll try to be more considerate next time I come across a room full of body horrors.”

“That’s all I’m asking,” Hope says sweetly. “Not that you’ll get the chance to again. I find it puzzling though. It is common for my friends to beg for death, shouting for it until I tire of their cries. But it usually takes longer than a few hours.”

“Is that all it’s been?” I ask her. “It’s felt like an eternity. I’m honest to God not sure why I haven’t already died of boredom. The real torture here is listening to your insane psychobabble. Seriously, haven’t I already asked for a book? Or at least some music. If you’re going to slowly dismember me, then the least you could do is get a DAMN SOUNDTRACK.” My vote is for September Follows Form. Their over-the-top industrial punk style with hip hop influences would be a great complement to the mental screeching I’m holding back.

A look of actual annoyance crosses Hope’s face for the briefest of moments and I know that I have her. “Why do you persist in these delusions?”

“Which delusions?” I ask innocently. “My perpetual belief that I’m the center of the world for my imaginary audience members? Probably a psychological reaction to an incredibly abusive childhood born out of my self-help attempts at mental well-being given my diplomatic status resulted in a lack of oversight by properly trained psychiatric resources. Possibly a substitute for all my dead siblings and/or a supplement to the only people I’m still close to given their own difficulties with emotional connection. Or maybe it’s just because I fucking love having an audience and having someone to perform for keeps me from breaking down on a daily basis.”

Hope looks ever so slightly confused and moves to speak. I cut her off “Oh, you mean the fact I think you’re boring? Yeah, that’s not a delusion. You’re a cliché of a proper super villain with no real personality of your own. Were you driven mad by your powers, were you driven mad by The Plague, or were you always just a crazy bitch? Does it really matter at the end of the day when the truth is you’re just a spoiled narcissist acting like a sadistic child?” Hope’s eyes widen slightly and she moves her hand as if to strike me, but I don’t stop my soliloquy.

“My mother was a petty tyrant with more ambition than sense, but at least she had more vision than your short-sighted idiocy. You use your city like a personal bank account to buy gaudy shit and interesting people to be your amusement. But you’re too stupid or cowardly to even make the most of the power you have today, much less expand your influence outwards. You’re too stubborn to make use of better advisers and you limit the synergies of your ability to your immediate security. You’re the decadent king of a rotting court that should have taken generations of decline to end up at, not a couple of decades. I would call you as dumb as the Zebras you look like, but that would be insulting to the Zebras you one trick pony whore.”

I’m panting with effort after my speech, wondering if I should rub Hope’s incompetency in any more. But it’s exhausting to yell in a forceful and effective manner when you’ve had both of your lungs removed and regrown repeatedly. I can’t help but wonder if she’s selling organs from people then resetting them with her power. It might not be a bad idea… you could probably get around some of the issues with regenerated flesh when using her abilities. Not sure it would be worth the effort given all the alternatives, but I will have to keep this in mind later.

Assuming I live and all, which is kind of up in the air right now. Kind of like I am, hanging here from your standard creepy dungeon room chain set. I’m not sure how Hope could have gone a more clichéd route, but I am honestly impressed by her dedication to stereotypical villainy. Maybe she went mad from too many movie marathons. Maybe she sat in her rooms, feeling confined, and just said ‘Fuck it, I could do better than that bad guy.’ Unfortunately for her, she is doing better than no one. Absolutely no one.

Hope’s hand is trembling, and whatever she meant to say before has died on her lips. She tries a couple of times, small stutters approaching a sentence. Each time words fail her. She is so used to people being sycophantic insects that she no longer knows how to react to someone laying into her.

“I regret the very thought,” Hope finally gets out. “But I believe you might be right that we can no longer be friends.”

I don’t see the signal. Perhaps the words themselves were what told him to act, but Void finally stood from where he’d been sitting and pulled out a pistol. He casually aimed the barrel towards my face and pulled the trigger while I plaster a smile on my face.