Don't Date Your Nemesis... And Other Helpful Hints For The Modern Superhero

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Hint 34. Tell The Truth

It is a cold, nightmare filled night that I spend on the floor of my cell. I curl into a ball, hugging my knees to my chest, and wish Shark were here but, of course, he cannot hear me and I don’t even know if he’s still alive. There is no Vex to channel The Lady’s messages and when I call out, no one comes.

When I wake, it is early morning. There’s a scream on my lips, smothered down into a gasp when I gain control of my body, but I do not feel ashamed. There is no one here to care. At first I believe the light has woken me, a weak grey affair that slips almost apologetically over the rubble, but I very quickly realise that it is the cold. Winter takes a long time to leave the city and the chill drags at my bones almost immediately.

Jack Docklen must be stopped.

I shudder at the power of my own thought, the first conscious concept to drift across my mind. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. Time has passed but I still cannot scrub those images from my brain. Even while I slept, they plagued me, just a microsecond of time that has been burned, irreparably, into the permanent lining of my soul. I can relive that moment in its entirety. And I do. I thought, at the very least, that wakefulness would allow me some relief from the dreaming world, that I would somehow be able to choose a different thought, a different memory, but this is not the case. I have been awake barely a minute, haven’t even dragged my aching shoulders up from the floor, but I’m already thinking about it, already standing back there at Jack’s side and watching the world collapse around me.

I pull myself to my feet, for lack of something better to do, but I regret it immediately. I was warm enough, down there on the ground, but it’s even colder up here. Jack must have taken the heating out with his impressive display of destruction.

It is not the same as it was the last time Jack tore holes in Facility property. Nothing has changed from the night before, nothing has been fixed. The rubble has settled, dust lying thick over the remains, and it has allowed the cracks in the ceiling to become clear. I can see great grey swathes of empty sky. It’s not raining, not yet, so there are some small blessings in the world.

Pressing my palms up against the blue of my little cube, I allow the field’s energy to pulse down my arms. It holds strong, as strong as it ever did, and I sigh. The Facility must be in a real state if no one’s even passed this way to see where I am or what happened. I really don’t want to die in here. The concept of sitting back and allowing myself to starve is repulsive.

I return to sitting, attempting to scrounge up the remainders of the heat that my sleeping body left behind, but the floor has already surrendered up its warmth so rapidly that I can’t even work out where I was before.

The day progresses, a light breeze drifts down into the room. I watch the sun as it tracks a path across the floor, wishing I’d been a girl guide so I’d have some idea about how much time is passing.

I whine as my stomach rumbles. I feel like someone’s abandoned pet.

All that answers me is the skittering of loose rubble. It is, however, the biggest response I’ve received all day, and the day has been a long one. The shit girl guide in me has taken a look at the sunshine and she reckons it’s probably about two in the afternoon. My stomach reckons it’s dinnertime already but it would also accept breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea.

I stand, peering out into the piles of collapsed ceiling, trying to make out what caused the disturbance. I’d take anyone other than Jack right now, anyone as long as it’s not just a trick of the wind. I can’t bear this much longer, I really can’t.

More noises drift out of the silent room, scraping wood and eventually the tapping of footsteps. I’ve never been so relieved in my entire life. There’s at least two people, walking together, so I know it can’t be Jack. I’m saved.

When Ripley ambles into my line of sight, accompanied by a young Facility guard, I’m so happy I might faint. The guard is armed to the teeth, a heavy machine gun resting against his shoulder, but Ripley has always been at ease around armed men and he seems easily as in charge here as he does back at the station.

They draw up to the edge of my cell and Ripley turns to his companion.

“You may leave,” he says.

“I have been instructed to remain at your side.”

“Listen, son, your entire institute has been half reduced to rubble. Don’t you think there are more useful things you could be doing than prancing around with that stupid gun?”

“I have been given my orders.” The boy shuffles his hands on his weapon, obviously uncomfortable with Ripley’s tone.

I lean my arm up against the barrier, furrowing my brow.

“Do you even know who you’re talking to, kid?” I ask. “That’s Chief Inspector Ripley, of the 2062 incident. Do you really think he needs an escort? He could have that gun out your hands and up against your throat before you could even blink.”

The guard turns to me and scowls, familiar Facility petulance drawing his lips tight together. “I know you’re trying to scare me,” he says, “and it’s not funny.”

“Go and stand by the door,” I say.

“That’s an order,” Ripley adds.

For just a second longer the kid looks between us, eyes narrowed, and then he turns on his heel, retreating at a pace that’s just slow enough to be calm, just fast enough that it doesn’t insult.

“Smart kid,” I say.

Ripley just grunts.

“Fucking hell, Kurtis,” he says. “What the hell happened here? I arrived at 8am, took me three and a half hours just to get through to you. Half the Facility’s been torn down, the whole place is in uproar.”

I curse my shit girl scout, she’s useless at telling the time.

“Have you got any food, Chief?” I ask, diverting the topic away from the things Jack has done. “No one’s fed me since yesterday. I’m starving.”

“Even if I did have something, Kurtis, I’d have no way of passing it through this…” Ripley waves his hands dismissively over the surface of the cube, “…crap.”

I sigh. “Oh well. I’ll starve.”

“I’ll talk to someone on my way out,” Ripley snaps. “I didn’t come here to girl gossip about your empty stomach.”

“I thought you’d just come because you missed me,” I say. “How’s Amber?”

Ripley ignores my question, reaching a hand across his body to pull out a folder he has tucked beneath his left arm. I quirk an eyebrow questioningly. That’s evidence for… something.

“I need to talk to you about this,” Ripley says and I nod my assent, waiting for him to flip it open.

Ripley holds the folder up so that I can see. Inside is a single photo. It is my own arm, Jack’s handprint clear against my pale flesh. I don’t know who took it or how it came into Ripley’s possession but there is no denying that it’s there.

“I’m going to ask you this in increments, Kurtis,” Ripley says, “a series of very simple questions because I want to ensure, absolutely, that I’ll know if you’re lying. Do you understand?”

I nod hesitantly, dragging my eyes from the image of my wrist and back to his face. At my side the real wound throbs in sympathy but I resist the urge to reach for it. Instead, I shuffle slightly, drawing my arm further behind my back, not enough to be suspicious, just enough that it looks casual. Or, at least, this is what I hope.

“Good,” Ripley says, gaze dropping immediately to where I fumble. I sigh. He already knows it’s me.

“Is this your arm?” He asks.

“Yes,” I say.

“Good,” he nods slowly, thinking. “Are these Jack Docklen’s fingerprints on your arm, Kurtis?”

I pause a second but he already knows the answer, otherwise he would have phrased the question differently.

“Yes,” I say.

“Is Docklen the Card Shark?”

“No.” I scowl as Ripley’s eyes narrow suspiciously. “Shark would never hurt me,” I say.

“Is he… the other one?”

I don’t answer.


Jack’s secrets are his own… but he must be stopped.

“Yes,” I say. “He’s the other one.”

Ripley seems to think. The realisation must be a massive one for him but he’s well practiced in the art of interrogation and he gives nothing away, just nodding slightly as he mulls over my words.

“Don’t go after him,” I say, “whatever you do. Don’t let him know that you know this. He’s unstable.” I pause a second, my eyes flicking out across the devastation of the room in which we stand. Ripley doesn’t miss the movement, throwing his gaze over his shoulder to survey the aftermath with me.

“I understand that this is a delicate situation,” Ripley says. “The only ones that know about it are you and I.”

“Keep it that way.”

“It can’t stay that way forever but, for now, I can promise you I will not act until I have given it due consideration.”

“He took out the whole Facility,” I remind him. “How many operatives is that? Sixty? Seventy? Don’t forget what he can do. He’s chaos, Ripley, in all its forms.”

“I won’t forget, Maya,” Ripley says, voice softer as he uses my first name. He turns to leave, tucking the folder back beneath his arm, but I call out one final time.

“I want out,” I say.

Ripley turns back towards me. His face is perfectly schooled, no hint of emotion playing out across his features. It makes me a little sad. I’m on the other side now, behind the bars. I don’t get see the openness he so regularly displays. I miss it, even if that openness is most often manifested in the form of anger.

“If you’re going after Jack,” I say, “you’ll need me. I thought that if I took myself out of the equation, things would calm down. I thought that violence begot violence, so I stopped fighting. It was the wrong decision. I don’t deserve to be here, and I’m one of the few people that can help you.”

“It’s out of my hands, Kurtis. You know this.”

“It most certainly is not out of your hands,” I reply.

Ripley sighs. “I’ll think on it,” he says.

“Think carefully,” I say.

He turns back to the door but I can’t let him leave. I have one last thing to say.

“Trust Shark,” I tell him. “Shark’s the good guy, I promise. If he…” I’m about to continue but something in Ripley’s expression brings me to a premature halt. “What?” I ask.

“Have you been talking to him?”

“No, I’m isolated. The only one that’s been to see me is Jack. It didn’t end well.” I narrow my eyes. “Why do you ask?”

“No reason,” he says. I’m not fooled. He’s hiding something from me.

“Did he approach you?” I ask. “You have to trust him. He knows what he’s talking about.”

“I don’t want to talk about this right now, Kurtis,” Ripley says. “I have a lot of thinking to do. I’ll consider both of your suggestions but I warn you, I have my reservations.”

“I know you’ll do the right thing,” I say.

Ripley just grunts, finally managing to leave without interruption. A minute after he disappears from my line of sight, his voice drifts back across the broken rubble.

“I’ll get them to bring you some food, Maya,” he says. “Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be alright.”

And the beautiful thing is that, because it’s Ripley, I believe him, even though I’m alone again and the horrors are already beginning to crawl back in.

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