The Moon was almost full and shone brightly in the sky. On the roof, Nobody had enough light to work with without resorting to a flashlight and giving away his position to whoever could be watching. He had the contents of the container spread out before him. The procedure was a three stage process. Each step would be exponentially more painful than the last. He would have much preferred to do this at his safe house, but he didn’t have the luxury of time.
He undid the latch on the first syringe. The pictograph instructed him to apply directly to an arm vein near the bicep. Once he started there was no going back. An incomplete application of the regeneration mixture meant terrible consequences. He took in a breath and pushed the needle into his arm on the exhale. The sensation was immediate and intense. It felt like he was injecting liquid fire into his veins. He breathed slowly, squeezing the plunger of the syringe until the contents were gone. His skin burned. His senses flared. His entire body was pulsing with sensations varied and unpleasant. He waited the 60 seconds until the feeling started to leave him.
He undid the second latch. The pictograph instructed he aim for his neck. Vein placement didn’t matter. He swallowed and breathed. He focused on his goal. He had to see this through. He had to finish this. He stuck the needle in his neck and squeezed. His organs began to shift. His muscles melted, hardened, and melted again. The interior chrysalisation of his body had begun. This would be necessary to fully manipulate the bone structure in order to set it according to his genetic blueprint. This stage would take three minutes. All the while, Nobody fought to keep from screaming.
He couldn’t black out. If he didn’t apply the third stage at the right time, he would be stuck as a human shell, unable to move or breathe. The healing mixture would keep him alive for weeks until it was completely used up and he slowly suffocated. For a moment he wished he hadn’t sent Bell away, but Bell didn’t have the stomach for this kind of thing. His medical contact was out of town and he was too far away from the underground clinic to have gone and seen them in the first place.
Two minutes, fifty two seconds. He undid the third latch. This syringe had to be shoved directly into his stomach, where the inner chrysalis was weakest. Already his arms and joints were stiffening. He had to time this right. Two minutes, fifty nine seconds. He lifted his shirt and took a deep breath. His arm clicked. He could barely move it. He dropped the syringe in his other hand. No time for a wind up. He stabbed the needle up into his stomach. His fingers clicked one by one. He couldn’t push the plunger of the syringe in. He was stuck. Nobody panicked. Then he came up with an idea that was way dumber than he wished it was, but he was out of options and out of time.
He got on his knees and then, before his hips locked, he fell forward and let gravity do the work. The needle pierced his stomach and the syringe caught on the interior shell of the chrysalis, preventing it from going all the way in. The plunger depressed and the third stage of the mixture was fully administered. Nobody fell on his side, silently screaming since his jaw had locked and his lungs could no longer take in air.
This next part would take ten agonizing minutes. In that time, as his body slowly reset, Nobody flashed in and out of consciousness. His mind wandered.
Peterson and Cook waited near a police scanner. No reports of a gang war or an upswing in gang violence. The safe house they had been hiding in was threadbare. Barely stocked with essentials. Peterson saw it as more of a shack. That and the fact that it was located near a rail yard put this experience near the bottom of the worst of the worst for the erstwhile mayor. He hoped a call would be coming soon from his special phone but it remained silent.
A knock on the door broke the monotony. Cook looked through the peephole. A brief exchange of call and response followed and Cook opened the door to a hulking figure in a burned up army jacket and tattered executioner’s hood. The two men recognized him right away.
“Hello, gentlemen. Mind if I crash here for a bit?” The War asked.
“You… you’re…” Cook stuttered.
“Why the hell are you here?” Peterson asked.
“I’m cleaning shit up. Your shit,” said The War, walking inside and closing the door.
“I had a handle on it until that Mr. Nobody fucker showed up. I can still finish the mission,” said Peterson.
“What do I look like to you? A jury? I’m here for one reason. I think you know what,” said The War. Peterson and Cook looked warily at each other. “Chief Cook,” said The War.
“What? Yes?” Cook replied.
“Give me your piece,” The War said. Cook’s hand went to his gun.
“Your piece. Hand it here,” The War said, hand extended. Cook swallowed hard, sweat beading his forehead.
“You heard the man,” Peterson said, a smug look on his face. Cook nodded sullenly and handed his gun over to The War.
“Thank you,” said The War. He turned and offered the gun to Peterson. “Here.”
“What? What am I supposed to do with that?” Peterson asked.
“You have two options. You end your life or I will. I’ll give you a second to decide,” said The War. Peterson’s face turned beet red.
“You sadistic bastard. You can’t do this to me. I’m an executive,” said Peterson.
“Oh, this wasn’t my idea. This comes straight from the top. Or did you think your monumental fuck up was going to go unpunished?”
Peterson looked to Cook who was looking at the floor.
“I’ve done so much for the Order. I’ve sacrificed so much,” Peterson began to say.
“Champagne and caviar. What a pauper’s lot you had here. You ran this town like it was your own little kingdom. You forgot what we’re fighting for,” said The War.
“I’m a man with appetites. Sue me. I still bled for you people. I got the job done,” Peterson said. The War nodded. Peterson had made his choice.
He grabbed Peterson’s face and waist, took a knee and placed him on his raised leg. He slowly, very slowly, started bending Peterson backwards. Cook didn’t watch, but he could still hear Peterson’s muffled screams.
“Congratulations, Chief Cook. You just got promoted. As an executive, you’re going to have a few new responsibilities but you’ll get brought up to speed on everything you need to know. The Jet City jurisdiction is yours.”
Peterson clawed frantically at The War as his muscles and tendons stretched past their limits. Cook had never heard muscle snap before. Now he had.
“I’m… I’m thankful for the opportunity,” said Cook.
“I need you to ready any assets you have in the area.”
Now the bones were starting to go.
“I have a few Spiders I can call who’ll work for cheap,” said Cook.
“The details are your problem now, buddy. I’m just the arrow pointing the way,” said The War. Peterson finally stopped kicking. The War kept going. “This part always surprises me. How long before they give. It’s different for everybody.” There was a loud pop. “There it is! Man he had a lot of cricks in there. He should have gone to a chiropractor. Carried all that stress in his back. Now, what say we go round ourselves up a vigilante? Yee haw!” The War crowed.
Cook started crying.