New to the story? If so, please read the previous parts first! At this point, you REALLY should...
Evan burst into the room in a clear panic. "Greg, Harry, come quick! There's trouble out here!"
Harry ran out after Evan. I threw off the sheets and jumped out of the bed, most of my energy already restored. Other than a few sore muscles and nasty cuts, my body was working just fine. I don't know how I was able to recover within only a few hours, but I wasn't complaining. There was a large group of other hybrids outside the safehouse entrance; some arguing over what to do, others just silently watching the event unfold. An event I had a bad feeling about...
As I got closer to the group, I heard Ross' voice echo over the others:
"You BITCH! Get your damn hands OFF HER!"
As we all gathered around to witness the ugly situation at hand, it seemed that my hunch was right. Cali was indeed still in the base, and just happened to reach the safehouse as someone was coming out, giving her a small window of opportunity to sneak in. Fortunately for us, the person who left the safehouse noticed Cali and tried to fight her off. Fortunately for Cali, that person must've lost pretty quickly. Her left arm was wrapped around her hostage's neck while her right hand was being held right up to her hostage's head, glowing with red energy and ready to fire at the slightest sign of resistance.
And because the universe has an unhealthy knack for making my day go from bad to worse, the hostage was Kyla. All the shattered ice and puddles of water around them made it that much more obvious.
I forced my way to the front of the crowd, where I could see that Harry, Evan, and Ross had also gathered. They were actively trying to reason with or threaten Cali, though the unchanged blankness in her eyes assured me that their efforts were in vain. I stepped forward, and tried to appeal to any shred of consciousness that may be lurking inside my former girlfriend.
"Please, let her go. We'll let you leave safely, just let her go!"
That got me some funny stares from the crowd, though most nodded their heads in agreement, believing I was bluffing. But in reality, I wasn't. Enemy or not, I didn't want to see Cali harmed. There's still hope that she can be snapped out of this...
Kyla struggled in Cali's tight hold, trying to catch her breath. "I'm sorry guys, I... had to leave the base... to grab a med kit and... she jumped me..." She looked much more embarrassed than frightened, that much was certain.
All things considered, this was a very risky endgame that Cali brought upon herself. There was only one door leading out of the base from where we were, and even while holding Kyla, Cali wouldn't be able to make it there without risking being attacked. Nevertheless, she slowly inched her way towards the door, prompting everyone to close in and try to separate the two of them.
Again I tried reasoning with Cali: "Let. Her. GO. Please!"
Still nothing. But Kyla was still struggling to give answers of her own. "Don't worry... about me! Take her out! Use your... super speed or something!"
At those words, Evan foolishly tried to close the gap between us and them, whether from fear or desperation. But after he took two steps, Cali launched a warning shot, not at him but at Kyla, just barely missing her and leaving a nice new hole in the wall.
Kyla screamed. For that brief second, I completely lost my cool.
"RRRRRRGH!!! I SAID LET HER GO, CALI!"
Wait... Oh SHIT...
As quickly as that last word left my mouth, everyone in the room shifted their gaze away from the hostage situation and towards me. Most of them, Evan and Ross included, looked at me with confusion, probably wondering how I could possibly know one of our enemies by name. But two hybrids in particular had unique expressions of their own. Sensing my thoughts, Harry had a look that confirmed how much worse I just made this situation. Kyla on the other hand... She was just as shocked as I was during the 'Cali curveball', if not more.
Oh God, I didn't want Kyla to know... At least not now. I'm not ready to even EXPLAIN any of this to her at all!
While everyone was distracted, Cali made her move. She let her glowing hand return to normal, and nerve pinched Kyla's neck, causing her to faint. But before she could hit the ground, Cali quickly grabbed her by the waist with both hands and made a break for the door, just as everyone's senses decided to return to normal. Unfortunately, she was carrying Kyla in such a way that a clean shot to her body was out of the question. Harry and Ross tried to get a clear shot at Cali's legs, but that too proved impossible. The only option was to chase them, assuming Cali can't teleport while holding Kyla. If Harry can't do that, there's no reason she should be able to.
Now, I knew for a fact that Cali was only as strong as your average twenty-year old American woman, but thanks to her enhanced DNA, she showed no signs of letting up. To boot, she was just as fast as Harry was in terms of raw speed. As we pursued her, it became clear that Cali's goal was to use Kyla as a shield until she'd be able to escape the base, and most likely run right back to OGD's headquarters. However, just as she was nearing the main entrance, we could see a lone hybrid standing in the doorway blocking her path.
Is that... It is!
It was Francis! Where the HELL has he been all this time!?
Momentarily throwing my relief out the window, I called to him: "Stop her, Francis, don't let her get past you!"
But as Francis calmly started walking towards Cali, we could see another hybrid approaching him from behind. And this one was wearing a helmet and black body armor.
"Shit! Behind you, Francis!" Harry shouted before I could.
Bizarrely, Francis didn't react. He definitely heard us, but he didn't immediately spin around and skewer the lone OGD soldier behind him. Instead, he simply stepped to the side, giving the OGD a clear line of sight at Cali, who quickened her pace since the exit was in sight. I faintly heard Francis utter the words "Go for it" to the enemy behind him.
And before any of us could say anything else, the OGD soldier clenched his fist, formed a long, blunt rod of ice in his hand, and threw it right at Cali's head. A more perfect shot to the temple couldn't have been asked for. The resulting impact shattered the ice weapon and stopped Cali completely, causing her to drop Kyla. All of us, Francis and the OGD soldier included, crowded around the two leopardesses. It seemed that everyone's focus, my own included, was now drawn to this unlikely alliance between HAC and OGD rather than apprehending Cali.
Francis took a hold of Cali's wrist and checked her pulse. "K.O. Nice shot, Arthur." Francis said to the helmeted individual.
"Thanks" he replied. "Felt kinda good, actually. I never liked her anyway."
His shift changed from Francis to Harry and me. "I guess I lied when I said you'd never see me again. But given the circumstances, I don't think you'll be too upset with me over that."
Again, Harry spoke up before I could. "Wait... I remember your voice. You're...!"
The OGD soldier took his helmet off and tucked it under his arm.
"Indeed I am. Hello again, Harry. Greg. You two must have much more questions to ask me now, huh?"
~One hour later~
Once again, the tables have turned. This time, the person unconscious in the recovery room bed was Kyla, and I was the person waiting for her to wake up. But things weren't completely the same as they were earlier, oh no. Because in the bed opposite to my unconscious girlfriend's was my also unconscious ex-girlfriend, though she looked much worse than Kyla. The doctors removed the remnants of her armor, and I could see cuts and bruises all over her that I most likely caused during our fight.
But the worst part was when the fabric around her arms was cut away. There were three large scars reminiscent of bite marks on her left arm, removing any remaining doubts I had in my mind that this actually was Cali and I'm not completely insane. It seemed that whenever OGD turned her into a hybrid, some of the tissue missing from her arm grew back, but not all of it. The scars weren't ugly, but they were noticeable. Other than that, all she had on were tight shorts and a scrap of fabric barely keeping her breasts under control. Again I tried not to get a good look, but I couldn't deny that no matter what species Cali is, she'd always be amazingly beautiful.
But those scars... Me nearly killing her and putting her in this hospital bed... It's all my fault. If I could've gotten that zombie away from her sooner, she wouldn't be like this. If I made her stay in the car or the apartment, she wouldn't be like this.
A world of 'if's' populated my mind, just daring me to find an excuse and prove that I'm not responsible for everything Cali's been through. Words couldn't possibly describe how guilty I felt and how much I wanted to apologize to her. And Kyla... I still don't know what to say to her or what she'll think about all this when she wakes up.
The human doctor stopped fiddling with the machine controlling Cali's IV drip and turned to Francis and I, rousing me from my thoughts. "Well, they're both stable as far as vitals go. Theta Twelve--"
"She has a name, you know" I interjected.
"---A name that I don't know. I was going to say that she'll wake up any time between now and a few hours from now. The other one... Well, this might sound a little weird."
Francis chuckled. "Come on, Curtis. What part of our daily lives hasn't been weird for the last thirteen months?"
Seems Francis has more friends than I thought. The doctor named Curtis smiled and responded with "None, man. None at all. But that's why I love what I do; there's always something new around the corner."
"Hang on" I said. "What's weird? Was I right about the mind control?"
There was a knock on the open door. The three of us turned and saw that Harry and Smith had walked in, knocking to get our attention. Hopefully, Smith can shed some light on Cali's current predicament.
"So, how are they, Doc?" Harry asked Curtis.
"Before he answers that, what were you two doing all this time?" I asked.
"A little of this, and a little of that" Smith answered. "Mainly meeting with your de-facto leaders and telling them everything I know about OGD." He pulled a small flash drive out of a compartment on his chest plate and held it up to us. "Before I left my base, I hacked into OGD's mainframe and copied everything I could onto this. Most of it I couldn't decipher, but we were able to find some people here that can. There's information about OGD's history, experiments, members, and just about everything else on here. With this intel, you can mount a full-scale attack on them and win easily."
"Don't you mean 'we?'" Francis replied. "You ARE changing sides, right?"
Smith sighed. "Yes, for all intents and purposes, I'm on HAC's side now. But that doesn't mean I'm about to go running around and killing my former allies. I never really agreed with OGD's motives in the first place, but some of those people are still my friends. They've been misguided, yes, but they're not irredeemable. You guys can understand that, can't you?"
I stepped up and offered Smith my hand. "I completely understand. If we ever do assault OGD's headquarters, just tell us who not to kill. But for now, welcome to HAC, Arthur Smith. We're all in this together."
He shook my hand eagerly. "I'm glad we're still cool, Greg. I was looking for you during the battle earlier, but I found Francis first. According to Harry, you were most likely unconscious at the time."
"Yeah. Cali did that."
Smith took a good, hard look at the unconscious leopardess. "I've never seen her this docile before. She was one of OGD's most powerful and ruthless members, but now she looks as harmless as a kitten. No pun intended." He then pointed to Kyla. "Is she the one---"
"---that I went crazy and might have killed you over? Yeah. I'm still very sorry about that. But that's all in the past. Right now, you HAVE to fill me in on whatever's going on with Cali."
"Right" Smith continued. "As I was stealing the data from OGD's mainframe, I took the opportunity to read some of the files that weren't encoded. That's how I was able to deduce that one of my own partners was actually your revived girlfriend. Cali's file explained how OGD got their hands on her, while your own file gave me the rest of the info I needed to make the connection. I was already planning on leaving OGD, but this was the icing on the cake. The fact that those people went so far as to remove her free will and turn her into a silent killer was bad enough, but I learned that she wasn't the only one. Nearly half of our soldiers suffered the same fate."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Granted, I was already pretty upset with OGD for their near extermination of HAC and everyone associated with it, but this... this just made it personal.
Smith concluded his story. "But here's where it began to get interesting. I found out that the mind control imposed on Cali and the others has a fatal flaw. Their conditioning of silently and ruthlessly following OGD's orders is itself another superpower. Or close enough to one that it can be temporarily suppressed with a reverse-engineered dose of the formula that gave all of us our abilities in the first place." Smith turned to Curtis. "You guys have that here, right? We had a lot of it, so I'm willing to bet HAC has at least some."
Curtis walked over to a nearby medicine cabinet and pulled out a syringe filled with a light blue liquid. "We call it 'inhibitor serum', but yes, this does exactly what you just said. The problem is, we do actually only have some of this stuff. The HAC higher-ups ceased production of it when it became clear that everyone's superpowers were stable and didn't need to be turned off at any time."
"Wait, why is only having a little of that stuff a bad thing?" Harry asked.
"Because depending on how potent the mind control conditioning is, she'd need a new dose of inhibitor serum every time the previous dose wears off, and that's every two to three days. Plus, she wouldn't be able to use her pyrokinesis and teleportation abilities either. But if we're lucky, I can analyze her blood and use Smith's stolen information to remove her conditioning completely. It would take a while, especially with the small amount of working equipment we have, but it can be done."
Turing back to me, Smith patted my shoulder. "Well Greg, your girlfriend, your call. What're we gonna do?"
After several minutes of injections and small tests on Cali, Curtis pressed a series of buttons on the medical console and rested his finger above the last one. "All right, I'm going to wake her up now. On the off chance that the inhibitor serum doesn't work, shoot to kill. Because you know she'll do the same."
I took a deep breath. "All right. Do it."
Ready or not, here she comes...
He pressed the final button, and I could see a clear liquid starting to flow into the IV tubes. "Give her about a minute to come to."
The five of us waited in silence. Francis and Curtis looked calm and collected, while Harry and Smith looked ready to attack Cali at the first sign of danger. Oddly, the only thought on my mind at the moment was how Cali would react upon waking up, given that she'd be in the right state of mind. One human doctor eyeballing her is no big deal, but the sight of four human-animal hybrids will probably freak her out, and the fact that she herself is a hybrid now wouldn't help either.
...Any time now...
After the single longest minute of my life, Cali's eyes slowly opened. But this time, there was life in her eyes. Life and conscious, rational thought. She stared at the ceiling in confusion, probably trying to figure out where she was. I've seen her confused look before, and this was exactly the same. The cold-blooded assassin that tried to kill me, my teammates, and Kyla was definitely gone. All that remained was the woman I fell in love with.
In every way possible, this meant my most heartfelt wish had been granted; despite all logic and common sense, I had my Cali back. I just wish I wasn't caught in a love triangle right now...
She squinted after a few seconds due to having not adjusted to the light in the room yet. "Where... Where am I?" she asked very wearily.
Smith answered her for us. "You're someplace safe, Miss Greenlaw. At least you are now. But we need you to stay calm and not freak out."
Still confused, Cali slowly sat up in the bed. "Why would I---"
And upon seeing us for the first time, she did the exact opposite and started to freak the FUCK out.
"Oh... My... GOD!!! What the hell ARE you!?!? What the hell... Wait... Oh my God, I'M IN HELL!!! You're demons and I'M IN HELL!!! That zombie bit me and... and... I'm DEAD? I'M FUCKING DEAD!!!"
Honestly, this was kind of funny, given that Cali was one to often overreact. Some part of me deep down wanted to just burst out laughing from a combination of joy and hilarity. But the other parts of myself quickly reminded me that this was serious. Harry on the other hand was trying not to laugh, much to our chagrin. I gave him a quick elbow to the ribs to snap him out of it.
Still panicking and trying to keep her distance from us, Cali's rambling went on. "Oh DEAR GOD, I'm sorry about EVERYTHING!!! I'm sorry I stopped going to church! I'm sorry I always ignored that homeless guy outside the 7-11! I'm... I'm sorry I had sex with Greg so much before we actually got married!!!"
The mentioning of my name felt like a punch in the stomach.
"You were already thinking about marriage?"
Wait... Christ, not again! I HAVE to learn to shut up...
She held out a trembling arm and pointed at me. "W-w-w-why do you sound just like my boyf---" But upon getting a good look at her arm, which happened to be the one with the three bite scars, she stopped dead in her tracks for a moment, then gave the rest of her body a quick look-over while feeling her face. She gasped for breath, trying to rationalize what she had become.
"Beautiful, to say the least" Harry said with a smile.
This time, both me and Francis elbowed Harry in the ribs. "Oh come ON, you guys! I'm just trying to ease the tension is all! 'Cause Romeo over here isn't exactly doing the best job at it!"
Okay, that made me mad. "How hard do you think this IS on me?" I shouted to Harry while gesturing towards myself. "I'm THIS close to freaking out just like SHE is! You can't POSSIBLY understand what this is like for me!"
In response Harry stood on his tiptoes, trying unsuccessfully to gain an edge on me. "I don't HAVE to understand, I just have to want to help! And I do! But I'm trying to help in the best way I know how. So stop taking it the wrong way!"
"I... Okay. You're right, Harry, you're right. I'm sorry."
Just then, Smith stepped in between us and turned our attention to Cali. She looked confused again, trying to make sense of me and Harry's argument. "Now that you two are done bickering, I'd like to point out that our new friend stopped panicking a few seconds ago." He then turned to me. "This would be the best time for you to explain to what's going on to her, since you're probably the only one she'll trust. We'll step outside."
I nodded in approval, and walked towards the bed, stopping about two feet in front of it just in case Cali started lashing out. Smith, Harry, Francis, and Curtis exited the room, leaving the two of us alone. Cali wasn't as edgy as she was a few minutes ago, but she still looked very uneasy. Nevertheless, she recomposed herself and spoke calmly. "You're not Greg. You sound like him, but I bet it's just to try and make me drop my guard. Well, it's not gonna work. So I'll ask you once: am I dead and in Hell?"
I put on a long-overdue reassuring smile. "No, Cali, you're not dead. Far, far from it. You're in a secure part of an otherwise ruined pharmaceutical complex, so don't worry about the zombies, if there are even any around here at all anymore."
Trying her best to remain calm, Cali pressed on. "Then if you... and me... aren't demons, what ARE we?"
I had to think about that one for a second. "I'll try and explain this as simply as I can: we were all regular humans before the zombie outbreak, but now we're human-animal hybrid creatures, including you. There are two companies; Human Advancements and Optimal Genetic Developments, who recruited people from shelters and off the streets to take part in experiments that made us who we are right now. These bodies make us immune to the infection and give us super-human abilities."
"Okaaaaaaay..." she replied. "On any other day I'd be skeptical, but when the dead are walking around outside, I'm ready to accept anything at this point. But you still didn't answer my other question. Who are you, and why do you sound like my boyfriend?"
Here it comes...
"Cali, I am your boyfriend. After I lost you and my parents on Z-Day, I was so destroyed that donating myself to HAC seemed like a good way to, well, end it all. But what I didn't know is that OGD got their hands on you, and saved you from death the only way they knew how. Now, both companies are at war, and OGD sent you to kill me. You almost did, too. But we captured you, removed the brainwashing effect OGD put on you, and here we are now. That's why you don't remember any of this; because you weren't yourself."
She stared at me with a look that said 'You, sir, are COMPLETELY INSANE.' Cali didn't believe me, and that was a problem. Luckily, I had a trump card up my sleeve. Not something that I should do, given my current relationship status, but something that must be done to earn her trust.
"If you don't believe what I'm saying, I have a sure-fire way to prove that I'm the one and only Greg Ossland. Just say the word, and I'll show you."
"Try me" said Cali with a smug smile. "I don't even thin---hmmpf!?"
Before she could finish her sentence, I used the little energy I had for a quick speed boost, and locked lips with Cali in the blink of an eye. She struggled at first, trying to break us apart, but eventually relaxed and moved into the kiss, recognizing my unique patterns and responding with her own. I broke it off after I felt I made my point, while uttering "Do you believe me now?" under my breath.
My God... I kissed her... I've only dreamt about that for so long, and now it just happened... But I can't think of the repercussions right now...
As we both pulled away from each other, I could see tears welling up in Cali's piercing green eyes, accompanied by her lower lip trembling and a renewed shortness of breath. She cupped my cheeks and peered right into my ordinary dark brown eyes. But inside them, she saw the familiar spark that confirmed I was who I said I was. My heart felt like it was starting to melt with each second she gazed at me like that. It reminded me of the good 'ole days...
Sobbing with joy, Cali threw her arms around me and hugged me tight, burying her head into my shoulder. "Oh, Greg, it IS you! You're the only one who can kiss me like that! I'm so sorry I doubted you!"
I couldn't take it anymore. I pulled her away from my shoulder and took a turn staring into her eyes. "It's... been so long since I've kissed you, Cali. I missed you so much... Oh GOD I missed you!"
Completely ignoring the events of this entire week, I pulled Cali back in and kissed her with enough passion and intensity to make up for our thirteen months of lost time. No words needed to be said; our lips and tongues did all the talking for us. We both went at it until we were out of breath, much like our first night together. After the kiss, Cali went back to nuzzling against my neck as I ran my fingers through her long, red hair. She savored every moment of it, but it couldn't compete with how much I was savoring her.
"How... How long did you think I was dead?"
I held back a tear at the thought. "Thirteen months, Cali. Thirteen long, agonizing months. For most of that time, I never thought I'd be happy again. So many mornings I'd wake up and pray that it was all a bad dream and you'd be in bed right next to me, only to roll over, see that I was still alone, and just start crying. When I found out you were still alive, I wasn't happy or sad, just shocked and confused. But now I know exactly how I feel. Elated."
Cali groaned with regret and hugged me tighter, trying to comfort me. "I'm sorry you went through all that because of me. But now it's all okay now, baby. Cali's back, and she's not gonna be going anywhere any time soon. I just can't believe... Oh, hi. I'm sorry, did I wake you up?"
That last part was... out of context. Who's she talking to?
I quickly broke our hug and turned around, and found myself looking right at a very awake Kyla. She looked weary and shaken up, but of all the emotions written on her face, the most prominent of them was anger.
"Yes, you DID wake me up with all your rambling." She sat up in the bed and folded her arms across her chest. "But Greg, would you kindly tell me just what the HELL you think you're doing kissing HER? I thought you loved ME now! You said you were ready to move on!"
I turned back to Cali. Now she had the same expression as Kyla.
I sighed deeper than usual. This is NOT going to end well...
And at last we've come to the inevitable love triangle. But let's face it, this wouldn't be an interesting story without one, right? Since there was so much going on in this chapter, it took a LOT longer to write than usual. And I admit, I slacked off a bit. I hate it when that happens...
In other news, how does LITA Origins: Smith sound? 'Cause either that or Chapter 15 is coming up next!
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