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(Split into two parts)
Once again, the ghost of silence haunted the cramped rotting space. It left an icy touch; so cold, it caused Frank’s grip around his gun to quiver. Korse calmly pushed away the remnants of the killjoy’s strength in a seemingly long, painful minute.
“Ah, thank you.”
The bald man straightened his clothing. Fun Ghoul stood there motionless, as his gun hit the dusty floors. “Well now, it’s much better to explain properly rather than with a futile threat up on your nose, eh?” No one managed to answer, not even a foul word. They just waited, their thoughts speeding up like their Trans am in the desert. Clearly, Korse enjoyed having the killjoys looking that way. Power, manipulation, whatever it was. He basked on it for a moment until a gaping smile made its way on his lips.
“Have you ever heard of a saying back before the fires?” he asked, though obviously needed no answer as he continued, “‘Fight fire with fire’. It’s odd. It doesn’t make much sense for us in BLi.”
Ghoul, being the impatient one, blurted out, “So what’s that to do with all of these?”
“Well, I managed to apply that in life.” He smiled nonchalantly again, “We, the Better Living Industries, have been fighting for every unneeded emotion that makes life stressful and such. Medication, therapy, even reprogramming units made it possible. But not that possible as they are some… radicals who are persistently dim-witted enough to want such pitiful life out of Battery City.”
The winds beat, hurling grains of sand on the Dead Pegasus.
‘Storm coming,’ Kobra Kid thought. ‘Not my idea of white Christmas.’
“So we decided, we fight fire with fire.” The exterminator’s eyes twinkled. “Fight the unnecessary emotions with the same unwanted emotion. That’s when we started studying you killjoys; your actions, attitude, behavior and reaction to your surroundings.”
The killjoys stared, perplexed and bothered at the very idea of being watched like laboratory rats. Korse let out a throaty chuckle. “Do you know, Kobra Kid, that you are emotionally unstable? It’s somehow a miracle that you are not losing your dyed killjoy head.”
All pairs of eyes wounded on the killjoy looking mortified. Seemingly pressing his lanky figure down, he cringed.
“I—it never really left me,” he confessed, “That depression and whatnot from the fires, it never left. B-but, it does not matter. I’m used to it.”
“M-mikes,” Party Poison touched his shoulder, not knowing what to say.
“Anyway.” Korse cleared his throat, regaining attention. “We wanted a perfect specimen to test our technology; someone innocent, young and hopeful.”
He moved towards Jet Star and bent down on his knees. Another hollow grin creased his face as he spoke to the one hiding behind Jet, “Such a wonder you are, little girl. To remain full of love and hope for something that will not exist anymore.”
“That’s why you kidnapped her?” Jet Star protectively pulled her closer to him. “So you could do your freaky little experiment?”
Korse looked up to him. “And of course, you killjoys were there to ruin things, a futile endeavor that lead to a greater realization that the scarred are better for it.” He turned to see Party Poison. “So much pain, anger, expectations and longing.”
He stood up and walked around, his footsteps echoed emptily. Fun Ghoul picked up his gun and launched towards the exterminator. They landed on the floor heavily. But there was no sound at all, as if they have gone deaf. Not a sound, not even their attempts to breathe normally. In fact, every little sound in the room seemed sucked out into nowhere. Somehow, too much silence could affect greatly.
Jet Star, out of all those who loved the silence, could not tolerate it anymore. He stepped back and looked at the window, “We could be rude, or even ruthless.”
Korse smiled. “I think the appropriate term is annoying.”
Eventually, his smile was corroded by the killjoy’s sharp glare. He pursed his lips and nodded for him to continue. A gesture Jet could have missed if he hadn’t torn his gaze away from the approaching headlights lost between the sand and the darkness.
“What I’m trying to say is,” he proceeded as he turned back to the window again, in search of the vehicle coming. He was so sure that it had to be a BLi patrol car.
‘Of course, even the head exterminator needs backup,’ he thought as he secretly gripped his raygun.
“We are the killjoys, your enemy… But we still need some sort of explanation for this,” he prolonged what he was saying, not caring if he made enough sense. He spotted a white hood that came with the headlights. ‘White car, ha,' he thought. 'There’s a ninety percent chance that it belongs to BLi.’
“And we don’t want your mind fucks. Tell us what you did to him.”
“Very well, it seems you are all impatient. We’ve put a chip into your friend’s brain. The chip is sort of like a magnifier. It magnifies those hidden doubts, doubles or triples confusion. The chip is the very reason why he had been troubled with his own perspective. BLi is not brainwashing him, more like making it clearer to him.”
“Do you even realize that it might cause some sort of mental disorder?” Ghoul shook him, spittle flying. “You fucking psycho?!”
Party Poison pulled his comrade away from the bald man. Korse stood up and dusted his clothes. He then, smiled and nodded to him.
“Gerard, what the fuck?” Ghoul slapped his hand away. Awkward silence ruled. Korse laughed softly, opening his arms, “Now that’s over, shall we proceed with faking this holiday spirit?”
No one answered but he ignored it, cheerfully staring at each of them. Then he looked like he remembered something, searching his pockets.
“Someone told me Christmas is for the young,” he approached the hiding kid behind Jet, “Well, a happy Christmas to you, little girl.”
She eyed at the man holding box enveloped in silver wrappings with a white bow. Jet Star hesitated as she slowly lifted her hand. She looked up to him, as if asking permission, her eyes shining with childish want. Jet sighed and nodded which resulted with a squeal of delight from the kid.
With eager hands, she snatched the gift and giggled. She stared at Korse and with another squeal, gave the head exterminator a hug.
Korse just knelt there, awkwardly patting the child.
He tried to smile as she let go. “Well, go on. Let’s see what’s inside that box.”
Party Poison was seeing spots.
His head hurt - no, hurt didn't even begin to cover it - it burned, his skull felt as though it were on fire, twisting, writhing, living flames which pushed against his thoughts, melting them into something of their own design.
The other killjoys, his brothers, practically, all watched him, expressions frozen in suspicion and horror. He should've known, should have suspected something when the migraines started. But this...this was nothing, nothing compared to that.
His eyes finally managed to focus on Grace's newly opened present, and at once a burst of white hot agony exploded behind his eyes. He could make out a toy, a small, white stuffed puppy with the BLind logo stamped onto its side. But it wasn't a toy, not really. He jerked his head up, looking at Korse, and the malignant, dark eyes stared back at him knowingly.
A transmitter, of a sort, that's what it was. It connected to...to that thing in his brain, made it more powerful, more dangerous....made him more dangerous.
So this was Korse's plan. The man wouldn't even have to lift a finger, just watch with satisfaction as Poison destroyed his own kin because of how he saw them now - as enemies.
No! His every instinct rebelled against the thought, and yet...he was distinctly aware that something else was controlling him, beginning to take power. He wasn't running this show, or at least, he wouldn't be soon enough.
Korse, as though sensing the decision Poison had made, rushed towards him, but he was stronger, fighting against the turmoil and forcing his feet to move away.
Go go go! he screamed inside his head. Out! He had no choice but to comply, stumbling outside the door to the diner, into the swirling, stinging sand and the impenetrable night. The other voice, the wrong one which was quickly seeming to be right, screeched at him in displeasure, trying to make him return to those who must be killed. No! he protested again, but it was weaker. Less certain, somehow.
Still, his feet carried him onward, into the sandstorm. He squeezed his eyes shut, grit collecting on his eyelashes and at his tear ducts, dust coating his skin and scarlet hair and slashing against his clothing insistently. His head pounded, the orders of BLind became more and more audible in between terrible periods of torment.
Headlights cut through the near opaque air.
The door to the diner burst open.
Poison lifted his head warily, hearing the voices of Ghoul and Kobra, the voices of monsters, or at least that was what his corrupted vision showed him. Desperate, angry, he fought against it still. There! The hallucination receded, and he could see their pale faces, drawn and determined.
The roar of a car was heard, the source of the headlights. Poison turned towards it. A BLind vehicle, circling the diner. A trap. This was all a trap.
And soon, he would be too far gone, far gone enough that he'd just be a part of this trap. He might even kill them.
He knew what he had to do.
A gunshot sounded within the diner, a high, wailing noise caused not by a bullet, but by the scorching light of a raygun. Someone fell against the windows - their silhouette was bald and dressed in a voluminous coat ruffled with lace. The body of Korse slid down, crumpling into a heap. The shadow of Jet Star approached him.
Christmas lights sparkled and twinkled from inside, casting their falsely cheerful rainbows across the ground. Ghoul started towards him, and Party backed away yet again. The squeal of tires and purr of an engine was not far away now, as the car was back, the Dracs inside ready to take orders from who would be their new leader.
The voice inside his mind was smug, knowing it had all but won. Korse hadn't come to kill him. He'd come to create a new leader for his sick organization. All his experiment needed was a little push from the transmitter.
But Poison hesitated one last time, hand pausing just before his yellow raygun.
Christmas. This was Christmas, the same holiday that had been celebrated in the old days, with lights and Santa Claus and trees and presents and dinners and wreaths. But there was something else, something important about this time, which niggled at the edge of his thoughts.
Family. He looked back at the diner, and he saw them, his family, the ones who'd been with him the whole way along this tragic road. Not Jet Star, Kobra Kid, and Fun Ghoul - Ray, Mikey, and Frank. His brothers, his best friends, the people he loved. And then, Grace, his little sister, peeking out from behind them with terrified eyes. This was what Christmas was really about. And he wouldn't end this Christmas with them dying.
The car sped up to the diner from the darkness, and the voice forced him towards the side of it, whispering orders to him, telling him his new name, promising him the rewards in store for the new CEO of Better Living Industries.
Poison walked towards the car.
And then, at the last minute, he dove in front of it.
The Dracs shouted and slammed on the brakes, the metal screamed - but it was too late. The speeding car struck the killjoy head-on, and he fell limply in front of the stainless white hood.
The voice went silent, and the lights twinkled like stars.