The disgust Jared felt seeing his arm regenerate into a full body was immeasurable. But he knew he couldn’t afford to stick around to see how they handled the monster that formed from his body. His entire focus had to be on escaping if he wanted to live. He radioed for May to shoot through him so he could get out of his restraints, praying the bullets didn’t vivisect him or more of those monsters might form.
For a moment he thought he might be able to grab onto the helicopter base for a quick get-away, but then something slammed into his back and he was going down, heading towards the ground.
“Fucking traitor,” Diego said behind him. “Hope you enjoy the taste of pavement.”
“More than you will, I suspect.” Jared said. The wind whipped past them as they fell.
“Oh, I won’t be joining you,” Diego said, pushing off his back. Jared saw wings spread out from Diego’s back and his decent slowed. Jared was not so lucky as he slammed into the top of a parked car. The roof caved in and windows blasted out. Damn that hurts. This must be how Patrick felt in the museum. A pang of remorse went through him at having left Patrick behind. But if his friend was even still alive, there was nothing he could do for him now.
He pulled himself off the roof, broken bones mending as rolled off onto the pavement. He knew normally it would take him at least a minute to heal from this level of damage, but with the boost he was back on his feet in seconds.
He nearly staggered back onto his knees though as several quills suddenly protruded from his neck. His vision blurred and he wondered if it was due to the poison he knew the quills contained or because they’d severed his artery. The vision cleared almost immediately and he pulled the quills from his neck.
“That won’t work on me, Diego,” he said, looking at the man. His wings spread out behind him and Jared realized every single feather had poison quills at its center. Jared was pretty sure he was almost totally immune at this point, but he still didn’t fancy being shish-kebabbed by so many quills.
“Yeah, well I don’t have to stop you, just slow you down,” Diego said. Jared had to admit the man had a point. Diego’s wing flexed and dozens of the quills hurtled towards Jared. With a burst of concentration Jared brought Patrick’s power to the surface of his hand and incinerated the volley.
“I told you, that won’t work on me. I’m not nearly as strong as Patrick, but I can use any of his flame abilities. And I think Yves is a bit too busy to stop me.”
Diego was evidently unconvinced. He released another volley of quills at Jared, which were incinerated again by the wall of flame Jared brought forth. The wall seemed to waver though and Jared realized the boost might be starting to wear off. He had to get away before his powers ran out.
Diego launched another volley and another and Jared knew he had to end it quickly. He incinerated the latest round of quills and then refocused all of his energy into the point of his fingertip, shooting out a beam of concentrated fire. It caught Diego in his right wing as he tried to hit Jared with more quills from his left. The force of the energy spun him slightly and his aim went wide, spraying the remains of the car next to Jared with metallic quills.
Jared didn’t hesitate a moment, shooting off another beam into Diego’s left wing. Diego screamed as his wings lit up and Jared wondered if the poison was flammable. Pangs of guilt ran through him. He meant to disarm Diego, but if he couldn’t get the fire out this might kill him. I can’t worry about that now. He started running down the street.
“Get in,” May shouted from a car ahead of him. He climbed in and they were off, driving quickly down a road that was surprisingly deserted. Within a block May triggered another device Krieg had given them, slowly shifting the apparent make, model and color of the car they were in. It was sufficiently dark enough that onlookers shouldn’t notice the change but would soon be unable to identify the correct type of car they were in. If they didn’t hit traffic to blend in though he wasn’t sure it’d matter much.
“Well, that could have gone better,” he said dryly.
“Did you complete the mission?” May asked, her voice devoid of any emotion that would give away what she thought about the chances of success or failure of said mission.
“Depending on how you look at it.” May eyed him quizzically. “Hargrave is most likely dead, but they got Patrick. I’m not sure if he’s alive. Even if he is, Mirkov will probably kill him with the chip as soon as he realizes Patrick didn’t escape. And I left a ton of DNA behind… including some kind of abomination that resembled how I actually look. Even if Tasha hasn’t spilled the beans, I’d say there’s pretty good odds Black Rain figures out I’m not really Steve. And to be honest, I’m not sure they’ve ever intended on letting us live in the first place. I mean maybe it was unintentional, but they basically made Patrick into a bomb. If Yves hadn’t stopped him everyone in the building would be dead.”
Jared saw May’s grip tighten on the steering wheel. “I saw,” she said. “They look to have finally killed the monster. But what it did to those soldiers… well, Yves somehow directed enough of Patrick’s energy into it to incinerate every cell at once. At least that’s what I think just happened. But I couldn’t tell whether Patrick survived. Emilia’s taken down my copters now that she’s no longer distracted. What do you mean though that Hargrave is just most likely dead?”
“Patrick choked and didn’t incinerate him. Not really surprising, I’m not even sure I could have gone through with it in the end. But that guy Mirkov warned us about, Reacher, forced my hand. Literally. Hargrave got a round through my head. That was a pretty interesting experience I’ll tell you more about later, but when I healed from it and saw what was happening to Patrick I realized Black Rain probably didn’t intend for us to leave there alive. So I took a chance. On my way out I made sure some of my cells landed in Hargrave’s wound and then used Reacher’s powers to jerk the ice girl’s aim into his body to flash freeze him. The odds of my idea working are slim to none… but Doctor Marco was there, if he survived the fight. He’s supposed to be some sort of medical genius. I tried to stall decomposition and brain damage with the ice and he might have an incredible healing substance inside him, at least if I’m interpreting something Mirkov let slip correctly. Not worth more than a prayer in hell, but it’s the best I could do.”
Jared knew the odds of what he’d done working were almost inconceivably small. His cells should revert back to normal human ones outside his body, especially once the boost wore off. And if they didn’t, he now knew they might just turn Hargrave into another monster.
But it was an act of desperation. He’d always known Black Rain was using him, but the thought they were going to just discard him afterwards and he’d have no shot at finding all the bastards who’d killed his parents was almost too much. They can’t just win. They can’t just kill everyone they want to and get away with it. He hoped with everything in his being that Hargrave survived somehow.
His thoughts were interrupted by May suddenly jerking the car to the side and abruptly pulling onto the road’s shoulder. “You okay May? If the boost is wearing off I can take over driving to the rendezvous point.” May was more shaken than he’d ever seen her. She opened the car door and threw up and then she sat back up, panting.
“I think you’re right about Black Rain’s intensions,” she said weakly. “Because Kevin Knight just killed me. My real body. He just… I’m dead. I’m actually dead.” Jared suppressed a ‘been there, done that’ joke and just stared, completely at a loss for what to do as horrified questions passed through his mind.