Our crossover with Ruby Nation is coming to an end soon.

Pato still has some though choices to make.

<< Part 3                                                                          >> Epilogue

 The M9 State

4. Taking chances.


“This is not what we agreed.”

I have entered the headquarters unceremoniously and face Jiro. He is not the least amused. Everybody on the room tenses at once.

“Good afternoon to you too, Pato. Feel free to interrupt our meeting.”

“We have not been allowed to see Any and Karla”, I say, ignoring the snark.

“It is for your own protection. We don’t want Any reading your emotions.”

“Or me being able to teleport into their quarters.”

Jiro straightens up and looks squarely into my eyes.

“Well, since you put it so bluntly, yes. Any possesses valuable info about Beagle that we cannot afford to lose. Not that you and Claudia have been very cooperative on that front.”

“They are my friends, Jiro.”

“You and your friends are responsible of decimating my team.”

“Please, Jiro, don’t go there”, intercedes Ruby, with a worried look.

“Why not?” snaps Jiro, not taking his eyes off me. “They engineered those creatures. I’m sure they have also engineered some way to eliminate our kind.”

I swallow and clench my fists. Of course he is right, and I have to live with that. Still…

“I won’t deny it. Still, I insist on seeing my friends.”

“I have jeopardized my people enough by letting you and Claudia roam freely around our complex. I won’t jeopardize them further by allowing you to contact the prisoners.”

“And I won’t let you carry a personal vendetta against my friends.”

“That’s enough, Pato. I have been patient with you, but you are overstepping your welcoming here.”

“Oh, you have been charming, indeed”, I retort.

“I’ll do what is needed to protect my people, Pato. If you don’t like my rules, perhaps you want to join your friends on the detention blocks.”

It is my turn to stand tall.

“Bring it on, then.”

Half a dozen guns are trained on me immediately, but Jiro makes a signal and walks calmly but purposely towards me. He makes to grab my arm. I react fast. I hit him squarely on his chin. Jiro is static for a second, looking at me. But then he reacts. He throws a backslap punch. He hits my face and I back-step and fall to the floor.

Jiro is fast. He moves towards me with methodic precision. I anticipate him and throw a kick, allowing me to regain my feet. The exchange is fast. He is obviously a trained fighter. I go for his stomach. He reaches my face a second time and I fall again. There is something hot at my nose.

A large-sized group surrounding us, and I think of a high school brawl. I mop my face as Jiro approaches again.

“Jiro! Stop it!”

Ruby jumps into the fray, standing between the two of us.

“That’s enough! She’s hurt!”

“She’s post-human, a bloody nose is far from ‘hurt’”, remarks Jiro.

“She is…” Ruby looks at me. She looks doubly imposing given her size and me lying on the floor. “You have not teleported.”

“Or used her absorbing powers”, says Jiro, looking at the intercoms.

“Smart, are we?” I smile. Ruby makes to grab me, but I teleport now.

My high school brawl has paid off. I materialize in the empty hall of the building, and check my own intercom. There is some noise as Clau enters the hall, floating. Along her float a couple of pods, in which our friends lay, in some sort of stasis.

“Pato! Are you OK?”

Clau lands next to me and I nod affirmatively.

“We should…”

I’m interrupted by the heavy sound of steps as the people at the meeting room catch with us. Clau is in alert at once as they train their weapons at us.

“You are being extremely stupid, ladies”, says Jiro.

“We are being loyal, as you are to your friends”, I say.

“They are not your friends anymore. That’s what Beagle does to people.”

“I’ll take my chances then.”

A couple of tense seconds go by. This can become ugly pretty soon.

“Stand down, guys”, says Ruby, calmly.

“You are not…” says Jiro.

“Yes, we are”, she says firmly.

Slowly, Clau makes the two pods float closer to us. I observe tensely. The guns are slowly put down.

“You won’t last alone out there, you realize that?” says Jiro, gravely. “Beagle is surely hunting for you.”

“Again, we’ll take our chances. There will be four of us when we get Any and Karla back. We’ve seen worst odds.”

Clau smiles and nods enthusiastically and, looking at her, I almost believe my own words. Yes. We have seen worst.

“You know, Pato, you have new friends now…”

Ruby approaches, and kneels in front of me. We are head to head now.

“…And you can come back to your new friends, once you get your old friends back, understood?”

I smile.

“You take care of these weirdos, sister.”

Ruby smiles and stands tall. Clau smiles back at her as she takes my hand.

Ruby is the last we see as we teleport into the unknown.

 Continue to Epilogue