Hackers with(out) Remorse - (Book 4 of the Marvelous 3 Saga)

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36a. - This Is What You Wanted Pt. 1

“One, two, mic check. One, two mic check. This is Cain. Come in HeaTWave. This is Cain. Do you copy?”

“Yea, yea, we hear you. Fuck, Cain,” Roger muttered into his mic as he followed David down a long marble corridor.

“Cain to HeaTWave, drop the needle on the record, what, Cain to HeaTWave drop the needle on the record whooooo!”

“Cain, I swear if you don’t shut the fuck up,” David snapped.

“You and your damn show tunes,” Roger laughed.

“Show tunes? Fuck, show tunes. This isn’t Broadway. It’s a rap,” Miles snickered.

“Use that word loosely, Cain,” David smirked as he walked into the elevator. David checked the time and watched the elevator floor numbers change.

“So, this guy Mickey Boyd,” Roger said to David. “What if he’s not open to our deal?”

David shrugged nonchalantly. “Then I’ll persuade him. As I did the others.”

“I just got into the cameras on the 25th floor,” Miles said. “He’s on his way... Looks like he’s accompanied by two other goofy-lookin’ goobers.”

“The more the merrier,” Roger sighed as he tapped the suitcase handle in his hand.

“You have aerial access?” David asked.

“Yup!” Miles said, leaning back in his chair.

David thought to himself before speaking. “How’s Tiana?”

“Locked up in the room where you left her.”

“I know you have feelings for her but... you’re still getting rid of her after she takes down the firewall, right?” Roger asked.

“He doesn’t just have feelings, he’s fucking in love with the bitch!” Miles snickered.

“Nero, that’s... messy,” Roger sighed.

“I don’t remember asking for anyone’s opinions,” David snapped.

“I’m just saying, she’s a liability. We should have killed her and her idiot friends a long time ago,” Roger said.

“And that’s why you’re no fun, Cryptonic,” Miles said.

“We need her,” David said.

“You mean you want her,” Roger said annoyed. “Look, I’m just looking out for the team. I can kill her quickly myself if you just-”

“No!” David snapped. “Anyone touches her, and I’ll snap their necks!” Roger sighed as David spoke into his mic. “Cain... go get her. I want her to see this...”

Roger looked at David warily. “You sure that’s a good idea?”

“All my ideas are good,” David said. “Cain, go get her. Make her watch.”

“Welp!” Miles said, getting up from his seat.

~

Tiana’s fingers bled as she messed with the wires of the computer. She had been trying to rewire the cords to the computer for nearly three hours, but there was little she could do with what she was given. Her mind was still fuzzy from the drugs Miles would inject in her every couple hours just to keep her weak and tired.

But she refused to give up. “Come on, girl. Come on. No red. No green. Blue on yellow. Fuck!” She licked the blood from her cuts and tried to wipe the wires so it would stop slipping through her bleeding fingers.

She looked up when she heard the sound of footsteps. Quickly pushing the wires back behind the dresser, she ran to the bed. She tucked her feet underneath her and waited. The door opened, and her jaw tensed when she saw Miles walk through the door.

“Eeesh! Look at that face. You act like I kidnapped and drugged you or something,” Miles snickered as he walked towards her.

Tiana glared at him as he approached her with a rope. “Do you seriously fucking need those?” she snapped at him.

“I thought your kinky ass liked being tied up,” Miles grinned. He moved behind her and pulled her arms behind her back. “Just pretend Tyler’s head is between your thighs,” he said in her ear before he laughed. Miles tied the rope significantly tighter than usual before he pulled her off of the bed.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked, stumbling off the bed.

“We’re gonna watch a movie,” Miles said, pushing her out of the room. Tiana immediately tried to take in her surroundings. The room was at the end of a long hallway which consisted of several doors. She couldn’t hear anything from any of them, but she figured one of them had to be an exit.

Miles dragged her inside another room crowded with computers. He sat her in a chair with wheels and tied her to the chair as well. “Deadass. You’re doing the most for no reason, right now,” Tiana said annoyed. “What the fuck do I look like? The hulk?”

“She-hulk would be more appropriate,” Miles smirked as he sat in his own chair.

“Bitch, fuck you!” she snapped at him as he laughed. “Why the hell am I here?”

“Nero wants his girl to see him work,” Miles grinned. He put a headset on and pointed to the screen. Tiana looked at the screen. She saw David and Roger standing in a broad hallway surrounded by windows in a high rise building, talking to three men in suits.

~

“As you can see, it responds very well to human mobility,” David said, holding up a prosthetic leg. “It’s been designed to not only mesh well with the nervous system, but it also stimulates muscle rehabilitation. It connects with actual live tissue, ultimately killing all foreign biological offenses and preventing others.”

“That’s incredibly impressive, Mr. Michaelson,” the first man with glasses said. “I’ve never seen biotechnology like this before. It’s groundbreaking!”

“Why thank you, sir,” David smiled charmingly.

“It’s treacherous is what it is,” the other man said abruptly.

David looked at the man curiously. “Do you have concerns?”

“Of course I have concerns!” the man snapped. “Something like this has the power to reanimate the entire human nervous system into something they cannot control. It assumes prolonged life, but at what expense? A patient would relinquish their ability to control both their bodies and their minds.”

“That’s a rather inane and unproven assumption,” David said. “I’ve spoken with hundreds of government officials thus far who see this is the next leap in the evolution of mankind.”

“Inane?! You are tampering with the natural order of human development! This type of technology if weaponized can cause chaos and mass destruction on a global level. Young man, you must consider yourself some sort of mad scientist to create something like this and without the approval and review of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC-”

“The CDC,” David laughed. “Because they’ve done such a fine job already! They wouldn’t even know what to do with this sort of technology.”

“Because it is an abomination!” the man snapped.

“Neil,” his partner said hesitantly.

“I am sorry, Mr. Michaelson. But due to the rather hazardous and risky conditions of your... ‘creation’, we will have to decline,” the man said finally.

Roger raised an amused brow. David cleared his throat and put on a charming smile. “I appreciate your consideration at the very least,” David said, holding out his hand. “I hope this slight inconvenience does not soil any future business.”

The man sighed as he gave David his hand. “Perhaps. But I would suggest- AH!” He screamed out in pain as David squeezed his hand so hard he heard his bones crack.

“I do assure you we take all of our business very seriously,” David said, yanking the man forward. The man fell to his knees before David quickly pulled out a knife from inside his jacket and rammed it in the man’s chest.

The man’s partner looked on in shock as David spun the man around in front of him and grabbed his chin. He pulled it back before he slid his knife across the man’s throat in one swift movement.

~

Tiana’s mouth dropped in shock as she watched blood gush from the man’s sliced neck before David pushed his body to the ground. The third man jumped back and tried to make a run for it.

“They always run. Never fails,” Miles smirked. Tiana looked at Miles like the insane psychopath he was before she looked back at the screen. She saw David seamlessly throw his knife in the air and lodge it into the back of the third man. “Kill shot!” Miles yelled. “And he’s down for the count! A one. A two. A three. And he’s not getting back up. And the crowd cheers!”

Tiana felt like her stomach was about to drop into her butt. She didn’t realize this level of crazy existed.

~

David pointed to the third guy. “Go get my knife. I can’t lose that one too,” he said to Roger. As Roger walked to the other dead body to retrieve David’s knife, David looked at the second guy trembling with fear. “I do hope you’ll reconsider,” David smiled innocently. He wiped his bloody hands on a handkerchief and dropped it on top of the dead body in front of him.

“We’ll take 20 shipments,” the man said quickly.

David smiled as he held out his hand. “Wonderful!” The man hesitantly took David’s hand and shook it cautiously before quickly pulling his hand back.

“You might wanna clean this up,” Roger said to the man. “Dead bodies in your building can’t look good for business.” The man swallowed anxiously and quickly nodded.

“Cain,” David said into his mic as he grabbed his knife from Roger. “Set out 20 shipments for delivery.”

“You got it, Nero,” Miles said into the mic.

~

Tiana stared at the screen completely stunned. She couldn’t comprehend what she was looking at. It didn’t seem real. Why and how the hell was she involved in all of this? “Do you know who Nero is?” Miles asked, turning to Tiana. Tiana looked at Miles and tried to answer, but her throat was dry with fear.

Miles rolled his eyes. “He was the most infamous Roman emperor in history.” Tiana watched Miles take out another knife and apple that he started to eat. This guy seemed to love apples.

“When he first came to power he was... generous... He shared power. He had a passion for helping others,” Miles continued. “But he was betrayed by those he trusted, and so reasonably, he had them killed.”

Tiana scoffed at his use of the word ‘reasonably.’ “He was beyond powerful, and people all over the world feared and revered him for the difference he made for the better,” Miles said.

Tiana shook her head in disbelief and finally found her tongue. “Nero caused one of the most brutal genocides in the history of the world!” she blurted.

Miles scoffed. “It was for a reason.”

“It was pure evil!” she snapped. “You idolize a man who murdered thousands of innocent people.”

“You’re missing the point,” Miles said, leaning forward. “In many ways, David is like Nero. His parents treated him like shit until he superseded them and claimed his own power. You may see him as a monster, but what he’s doing is for the greater good.”

“You’re fucking delusional,” Tiana said. “Cause that’s not what I saw. What I saw was him murder two people. I didn’t see any ‘greater good’.”

Miles shook his head as he stood to his feet. “You will.”

She moved her head as he brought the knife to her ropes. She marinated on his words and hesitated to ask the question on her lips. “...are you telling me... David killed his parents?”

“They were pieces of shit,” Miles said.

“So he killed them?!”

Miles pulled back and looked her in the eyes. “Yes,” he said with a menacing grin. “He gutted his bitch mother with a fishing hook right after he dismembered his abusive father with an ax. He burnt them and their house of horrors to the ground. He’s a fucking legend.”

Tiana stared at Miles in shock as he went back to removing her ropes. “David doesn’t kill without purpose,” Miles said. “If it weren’t for him, I’d be nothing.” Tiana furrowed her brow as Miles cut through another rope.

“My whore mother fucked so many men she couldn’t be bothered to give attention to the one she birthed. She and her bitch husband were the scourge of my life. It wasn’t until David helped me kill them that I actually felt some sort of peace.”

“Oh god...” Tiana said, shaking her head. Their level of crazy on the Richter scale continued its ascent.

“I’d kill them all over again if I could,” Miles said. “Sometimes I dream about hearing her screams.” Miles smiled to himself as if he were reliving a memory. “The way her neck felt in my hands as I choked her until she stopped hoarding all the oxygen she didn’t deserve.”

Miles looked at Tiana whose eyes were laced with fear. “Do you know what it’s like to shove a knife through human flesh? Through muscle and organ. To scrape against bone? To see the life drain from someone’s eyes? It’s cathartic...”

“Miles...” Tiana said, looking at him. “You need serious psychiatric help.”

“I tried a therapist. Her name was Rachel,” Miles said, releasing her. “Killing her was far more therapeutic.”

Tiana shook her head in disbelief when she saw Miles pull out another syringe. “Please don’t,” she said, squirming away from him. But he had already stuck her with the needle. Her eyes grew heavy and her body became limp as he picked her up and carried her back to the room.

~*~

“We’ve already checked this entire east side,” Tyler said, looking at a map. “Where the fuck could they be?!” Jason shook his head as he slammed a beer bottle down on the messy table scattered with paper. Their entire apartment looked like a tornado hit it with all the cords, papers, and empty beer bottles scattered around.

Joey, Tyler, and Jason had each assigned themselves to a different part of the city to look for the rest of their team. It had been so long that the hours were starting to blend. “They might not even be in New York anymore, Ty,” Jason muttered.

“Fuck!” Tyler said, putting his hands in his hair. When both of their phones beeped, they quickly checked them, hoping it was an update from Joey. Tyler looked at his phone confused. “I don’t recognize this number.”

“But look at the code,” Jason said. “That’s our code.”

“We created this code language when we were like...15,” Tyler said.

“Yea, you, me, and OWEN!” Jason blurted.

“Oh fuck,” Tyler said, looking at the phone again. “He timestamped it over 21 hours ago. It’s gotta be David or Miles’ phone because only an encrypted phone would have a lag this bad if we’re just now getting it.”

Jason mumbled as he read the coding. “He said they were drugged. Took their phones. Gonna try and get him and Tiana out of there, and that if we don’t hear from them...” Jason looked at Tyler. “... we know why...”

“Fuck no,” Tyler said. “Run a track on that message. Find its origin while we still can. David or Miles clearly don’t know he sent that. We gotta work fast.”

Jason hooked his phone up to one of the computers and furiously tapped away. Tyler sat on the floor rocking back and forth as he chewed on his bottom lip. Flashes of his brother came to his mind as he tried not to panic:

“You eat like a fucking pig, bro!”

“Look who’s talking!” Tyler laughed as he threw a rolled-up napkin at Owen.

Owen smirked as he swallowed down the last bite of his burger. “This shit-”

“-is fucking good,” Tyler said, licking his fingers. “I swear you should just open up your own restaurant.”

“Bitch, do I look like Gordon Ramsay?” Owen asked with a raised brow.

“You sure act like him, you asshole,” Tyler smirked.

“Fuck you,” Owen grinned. “Look at this.” Owen and Tyler leaned towards each other on Jason’s living room floor. Owen clicked on his phone to demonstrate his newly created app. “You click this button, and it shows you the nearest shelter. This one contacts a paramedic. This one the cops. And,” Owen said, sliding his finger. “Even voice records on touch.”

“That’s sick,” Tyler said. “I’m surprised something like this doesn’t even exist yet.”

“Seriously. With the high rate of domestic violence victims, you would think, right?” Owen said, shaking his head. Owen looked at Tyler and caught the frown on his brother’s face.

“Just wish something like this existed when Ma was...” Tyler trailed off.

“Well, it’s gonna help many more people who are victims of abuse,” Owen said.

“I should have protected her,” Tyler said, shaking his head. “I should have stopped him sooner. I should have turned myself in. I should-”

“Shoulda, woulda, coulda,” Owen said, punching Tyler in the shoulder. “You’re a fucking hero. You saved us both. Stop moping about it. We made her a promise. We’re gonna get her out. Right?”

Tyler gave Owen a small smile. “... right...”

“You punk ass bitches ate all of those burgers without me?!” Jason said, walking into the living room. “I house you! I clothe you! I feed you ingrates, and THIS is the thanks I get?!”

“There’s two more in the microwave,” Owen said.

“SHWEEEEET!” Jason said bee-lining for the kitchen. Owen shook his head and Tyler laughed.

“Come on, Owen,” Tyler cradled his head as he tried to fight back his tears. “I have to find you. I will find you. I will...”

~*~

Owen’s eyes tightened before he slowly opened his lids. He felt an unbearable shocking pain in his shoulder that radiated to his head, neck, and chest. The remnants of the drug injected in him still clouded his mind. It took him a few seconds to adjust to his surroundings when he started to remember what happened.

“T-Tiana...”

Owen groaned in agony as he tried to set himself upright on the cold, wet ground he lay on. He tried to look around, but it was rather dark and his mind was still hazy. He went to move his arms but that shocking pain in his shoulder hit him again when he realized his arms were chained behind his back.

He took deep breaths as he forced his body to sit up. It was then that he got a better look at his surroundings. His eyes immediately widened at the first thing they landed on. “DARREN!” he shouted.

Owen ignored the pain in his shoulder and crawled on his knees to Darren’s unconscious body on the ground. He looked him over. Darren’s face was sweaty with a few cuts and his shirt was soaked with blood. “Oh, no, no, no,” Owen said, nudging Darren. “Come on, buddy. Come on, Darren, wake up, man.” Tears brimmed in Owen’s eyes at the fear that one of his closest friends may be dead.

“Owen?”

Owen quickly whipped his head around and felt that shocking pain in his shoulder again. He saw Anna curled up in a corner. “Anna?!”

“Owen!” Anna cried. Owen quickly moved on his knees towards Anna, but the chains stopped him as he fell backward.

“Hey, Anna! Are you okay? Are you hurt? Talk to me,” Owen said frantically.

He could hear her sobbing in distress. “We’re gonna die here, Owen,” she said. “We’re all gonna die.”

“No, no,” Owen said, shaking his head. “Don’t think like that, okay? I’m gonna get us out of here. I promise. Can you move? How badly are you hurt?”

“She sliced my leg,” Anna stammered. “And she... she...” Anna immediately started crying and Owen tried to shush her.

“It’s okay, Anna,” Owen tried to comfort her. “We’re gonna get out of here. Just stay strong okay? I will get us out.”

“Well, I certainly didn’t fall for you for your lying skills.”

Anna and Owen quickly looked up. They saw David and Kaya walk into the room. “You piece of shit!” Owen spat at David.

“Kaya, go play with your new toy so I can have a chat with my inspiration, here,” David grinned.

“Gladly,” Kaya squeaked, walking up to Anna.

“No! No, no, please!” Anna begged as she tried to move back.

“Leave her alone, dammit!” Owen growled.

“You know... Dante was never receptive to my advances,” Kaya said, touching Anna’s face. “I tried kissing him. Flashed him a few times. Even locked myself in a room with him. But he was just so... resistant...” Tears streamed down Anna’s face, mixing with the blood caked on her cheek.

“I’ve hated you... for sooooooooo long,” Kaya said with a sinister smirk on her face. “Valentine’s Day was always so lonely without my cute little Dante. Cause he was always thinking about you.”

Anna’s eyes widened as she saw Kaya pull a crossbow from behind her back. “Let’s play another game where we put an arrow in cupid’s heart,” Kaya giggled. She grabbed Anna by her hair and dragged her to the door. “You can be cupid.”

“NO STOP, PLEASE! OWEN HELP!” Anna screamed.

“LET HER GO! FUCK, DAVID, JUST LET HER GO!” Owen shouted.

David sighed. “Don’t kill her, Kaya.”

“You are so not fun,” Kaya pouted. “Fine, I’ll just give her a head start. Plenty of other non-lethal body parts to aim at.”

“NO!” Anna screamed.

“ANNA!” Owen growled before David closed the door behind Kaya and Anna. Owen closed his eyes shut as he heard Anna screaming behind the door.

“Don’t worry. She won’t kill her,” David said. “Cause that’s just the kind of nice guy I am,” he smirked.

“Fuck you!” Owen snarled at him.

“I wanted you to,” David said as he approached Owen. “But you were far more preoccupied with Tiana.”

Owen glared at David. “Where is she? What did you do with her? What the fuck do you want?!”

“Questions, questions,” David said. “No ‘hi, how are you, David.’ ‘I missed you, David.’“

“I swear on my life I will rip you limb from fucking limb,” Owen threatened him.

“If it weren’t for the murderous look in your eye... I might actually be turned on by that,” David laughed.

Owen’s nostrils flared in anger. “Why... are you doing this...?!”

“The million-dollar question!” David said. “Tiana asked me the same thing, and it just... didn’t hold the same weight.” David leaned in and looked Owen in the eye. “You... Owen. I’m doing this because of you.” Owen looked at David confused as he stood to his feet and put his hands in his pockets.

“Several years ago you were a young budding writer,” David said. “Barely in college, yet so passionate about the issues that plagued society. Do you remember that piece you wrote about a dystopian world stricken by poverty, famine, and warfare because of the government’s misuse and abuse of power and resources?”

Owen shook his head confused. “That was years ago. I barely remember-”

“It was one of the most inspirational things I’d ever read,” David smiled. “It was one of the main pushes for me to continue on my path. It gave me more purpose to continue this work despite the obstacles.”

“You mean using biotechnology to hijack the human body?” Owen scoffed. “I read your notes. You’re a fucking psychopath.”

“I’m a fucking genius,” David snapped at him. “And you and I are one and the same, Owen. We have the same values. The same goals.”

“The fuck we do!” Owen snapped. “You can’t help people by playing God, David!”

David laughed. “I’m making gods! You think it’s crazy, but I’m doing the world a favor. Tiana of all people will appreciate this once I tell her.”

“Not if you tell her everything,” Owen said. “The part you played in the deaths of hundreds of people. She will never forgive you if she doesn’t already hate you by now. She trusted you! I trusted you!”

David shook his head. “Just like you trust those fucking Richardsons?! Yet somehow I’m different? They’ve killed just as many people as I have, if not more.”

“They don’t kill innocent people!” Owen snapped.

David scoffed. “Innocence is subjective, Owen. In the end, we’re all sinners. So don’t come at me with that moral relativism bullshit.” David crouched down and looked Owen in the eyes. “You could be so much more if you weren’t weighed down by the morons you call ‘family’. But, you clearly don’t understand me like I thought you would.”

David looked down at Owen’s lips. “I wanted you. Badly. And we... we could have had something. The three of us… You… me... and Tiana.” He leaned in and pressed his lips to Owen’s. But he barely savored the moment before Owen bit down on David’s lip and headbutted him so hard in the face, David stumbled backward.

“Fuck! You!” Owen snarled at him angrily as he spit some of David’s blood out of his mouth. David wiped the blood from his nose and lip and gave Owen a crazed look. He leaned forward and pushed his finger into the bullet hole in Owen’s shoulder. Owen shouted in agony.

“You’re fucking selfish, you know that?” David snarled before he shoved his fist into Owen’s gut. Owen coughed up blood as he tried to catch his breath. David stood up and wiped the blood from his nose with a handkerchief. He whistled and three men came running into the room. “Take care of him,” David muttered.

He turned on his heels and walked out to the sound of fists meeting Owen’s body and face.

~*~

Tiana’s fingers were stained with blood. She was back at it, messing with the wires. She had splashed her face with cold water to try to stave off the effects of the drug Miles had injected her with. She rewired the number pad to work like the keyboard of a cellphone in using the alphabet to spell words. She had nearly leaped for joy when she got past the first firewall and was already sending an SOS out to any open network.

She raked through the files of the limited computer until she was able to access Miles’ database. She would have patted herself on the back and done the crypt walk if she wasn’t so terrified for her life and the lives of her friends.

Tiana’s face went through a range of emotions as she accessed the different files. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Her heart beat so fast she could hear it in her ears, and she immediately started to hyperventilate. She again heard footsteps, but the door was already opening before she could hide what she was up to.

David walked through the door holding a tissue to his nose when he saw Tiana practically under the desk with the monitor and open keypad. Tiana expected him to attack her, but instead, he chuckled with great amusement. “Why am I not surprised,” he said, walking to the bathroom.

She hesitated as she heard the water turn on and off before he walked back out. “Your brilliance never ceases to amaze me,” he said, looking at her. “But you’ll only find what I want you to find on that server.”

Tiana tried not to pop off at the mouth for fear of his unpredictability. “...what happened to your face?” she asked, eyeing the tissue in his nostrils and the cut on his lip.

“Owen,” he said, taking off his jacket. “Owen happened to my face.”

“He’s awake then?! He’s okay!”

“Well... he was...” David said, taking off his shirt. Tiana immediately lost her smile as some color drained from her face. “I don’t know who plays harder to get: you or him,” David said, sitting on the bed as he cleaned off his nose.

Tiana swallowed hard as she moved from underneath the desk. “I need to see him,” she said.

“No.”

“David, please.”

“I said ‘no’.”

Tiana’s lip tightened with angst. Trying to get through David was like trying to get through a brick wall with a plastic spoon. “I found out about you,” she said to him.

David looked at her intrigued. “Oh, yeah? And what exactly did you find out?”

“That you work for BioPharma Tech,” she said. “The same company that was supposed to help my dad. I found out... that you created a vaccine for the disease to sell at a ridiculous mark-up price.”

“Ah...” David nodded.

“You’re a fucking monster,” she said angrily.

David shrugged. “The vaccine was purely for profit. People are easy to sell to when they’re desperate and think they can buy their way out of dying with the rest of the world... But it wasn’t my endgame.”

Tiana tried to swallow down her frustration. “Then what is your endgame?”

David looked at her as if it should have been obvious. “To save mankind.” Tiana looked at him severely confused. He sighed as he leaned on his elbows.

“I used to work with the man who owned BioPharma Tech. His name was Lionel Reed and he ran one hell of a dynasty. Had access to anything and everything. Kind of a sick bastard with a crude sense of humor but... he got me. He understood my vision. He allowed me to use his technology to conduct my research in return for my... unique services. He was the only Elite member to work with me. Not even my own uncle could be bothered with me,” David scoffed.

“We had a good thing Lionel and I,” David continued. “Until that fucking Beaumont and the damn Richardsons killed him, his sons, and destroyed his entire empire. They liquidated all of his subsidiaries and those that weren’t, they acquired under their ownership... including BioPharma Tech.”

David looked at Tiana. “This... disease your father had was created before I even met Lionel. It was tested on ill war veterans because they were already nearing death. It made for an easy cover-up to say they died from a war-related disease than a man-created virus.” Tiana looked at David in shock.

“Lionel did have a vision for it. This disease was adaptable. Would adjust to the conditions of any medication attempting to cure it, thus, making it...incurable. But a vaccine would prevent those who haven’t been infected from getting it. So after he died, I continued the operations of BioPharma Tech. I controlled where the disease spread. And every time that annoying doctor was close to finding a cure, I just altered the virus again and redistributed it through my networks.”

Tiana looked at David incredulously. “But that’s when it gets better,” David said quickly as he showed her his phone. “My prosthetics are the real remedy. They are built to sync with human biology. It can prevent this disease and others like it. It’s basically the cure for all human ailments.”

“David...” Tiana said, looking at his phone. “This claims people won’t need to eat, sleep, drink... what the hell? Are they still human after this? Are you just gonna force people to chop off an arm or a leg for your prosthetic so they can achieve some false sense of immortality?!”

“Humans are not evolving fast enough, Tiana. Don’t you get it?” David said to her. “Plague after plague, we are wiped out. We are dying because we are weak and dependent. This... this changes all of that!”

Tiana looked at him like he was crazy. “You’re the cause of this outbreak!”

“To prove a point,” he clarified. “I had to cause mass hysteria and provide a solution. No one gives a shit if you cure the common cold or the flu. But a lethal, widespread disease?”

“David! HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE HAVE DIED!”

“It’s just a means to an end, Tiana,” David said firmly. “Their sacrifice is for the greater good. I am doing the world a service. I am making people better. Almost... superhuman.”

“You’re fucking crazy!” she blurted.

David looked at her annoyed. “You of all people should appreciate this. Your parents-”

“My father died because of this stupid disease! I’m about to lose my mother too! And you-” Tiana’s eyes widened in shock once it finally hit her. “This is why,” she said. “This is why Dante joined HeaTWave. To stop you! He knew you were connected to the same company that killed my father and is trying to kill my mother! He wasn’t betraying us, he was trying to protect us from-”

“DANTE WAS A FUCKING PARASITE!” David yelled at her. Tiana stumbled backward as David leered over her. “He betrayed me! I thought he was my friend, my brother! He made me believe he had faith in my vision! And then he fucked me over! His sabotage set me back YEARS!”

Tiana swallowed hard as she looked up at David terrified. She knew this guy was off his rocker and ready to commit atrocities on a global level. There was only one way of surviving him. “David...” she choked out. “My father... is dead. My mother... is dying.”

David’s face softened as he looked at her a bit more tenderly. “It was... an unfortunate circumstance. I didn’t plan for them to be casualties.”

“If not my parents... then it would be someone else’s,” she said.

“It’s for...the greater good,” he said firmly. “What are a few lives compared to the vast improvement of thousands more?”

Tiana tried to ignore the unadulterated cruelty in his words. “Does this mean you can save my mother?” she asked him. David said nothing as he just stared at her. “David... if I lose her, I’ll have no one,” she pleaded. “I can’t lose my mother, David. I can’t.”

David searched her eyes before he looked away.

~*~

Blood spewed from Owen’s mouth as he felt another gut-wrenching kick to his stomach. He lost track of time in how long they had been brutalizing his body. He tried to keep his mind on Tiana. About how to get back to her. How he could escape and save his girl and his friends before they were all killed by these psychos.

But his body was breaking.

He was starting to lose feeling in one of his legs that had been beaten to a pulp with a bat. His shoulder was throbbing the most excruciating pain. He figured he had to have at least four broken ribs considering how much it hurt for him to breathe.

He could hear Anna’s screams every so often behind the closed door and prayed that Kaya wouldn’t hurt her. He tried to think about his brother when he felt a foot jam across his jaw. With a groan, he spit out some blood. He looked up at the only man left still going at him after the other two left. “You fight like a bitch!” Owen snapped at him.

“’Scuse me?” the guy scoffed.

“You heard me, you little weak ass punk ass bitch,” Owen snarled. “You can’t even fight me like a real man. You can only take me out with my hands tied behind my back? You fucking pussy!” The man snarled as he stormed towards Owen. Owen quickly rolled out of the way, letting the man trip over the bat he previously used on him. The man quickly fell to the floor and Owen kicked his boot in the guy’s face several times until he bled. He scooted closer and continued to kick his head, knocking it into the wall until the guy passed out. His head bled profusely on the floor.

Owen quickly searched the guy’s body, using his teeth to maneuver through the clothes until he found a phone. He immediately dialed Tyler’s number with his nose.

~*~

“My brother Daryl was born with an incurable disease that crippled his ability to use his arms or legs. He was in constant, excruciating pain before he eventually died. He didn’t make it past 7.” Tiana furrowed her brow in sadness as she sat next to David on the bed, listening to him recount stories about his family.

“My parents were scientists. They used to run tests on me all the time in an attempt to save their favorite son. As you can see... they failed...” David took a breath. “They were among the most infamous of the Elite because of how precise their work was. Everyone wanted to work with them... or for them. They were just... so good at what they did. Except saving my brother. Rather than mourn my brother, I suffered the brunt of their cruelty.”

“I got this when I was 8,” David said, lifting his shirt. He showed her a scar on the side of his waist. “My mother wanted to see how I reacted to one of her newly created toxins. So she sliced me open right here and left it stitched inside me for a week...”

Tiana felt like her brain was going to melt. She had never heard anything so sick in her life. “... a-and this one...?” she asked, lightly touching a long scar that went from the top of his neck down to his lower back. She wondered how she never saw these before. But then, they only had sex sober once.

“Surgical scars from when my dad broke my spine for not completing a task on time,” David said. “He used to say all the time... ‘I don’t tolerate lateness’... And now, I can’t stop saying it myself...”

Tiana swallowed the disgust she felt. “I’m... I’m so sorry, David,” Tiana said softly.

David chuckled. “What for? My parents created me to become the mogul I am today. I just became more powerful than them. More driven. Not even the Elite themselves dare to cross me. My own uncle only checks up every so often out of obligation to his shit-for-a-father brother. And now, I’m going to do for the world what my parents couldn’t do for my brother.”

Tiana could sense the bitterness in his tone and figured this was a weak spot she could try to break into. “Still,” she said. “You didn’t deserve any of that.” She took a chance and slowly slid her hand into his grasp.

David looked down at her hand before he looked up at her to see the softness in her gaze.

~*~

“I’m checking in with another source,” Jason said on his phone as he followed Tyler to their bikes. “Just let me know when you get there. And ask every son of a bitch. Don’t leave anyone out.” Jason sighed. His fingers were shaking, trying to hang up. Every second he couldn’t find the rest of his team felt like hell. The thought of not having Tiana in his arms made his heart wrench.

“I’m fucking tired of these dead ends,” Tyler muttered as he mounted his bike. “It’s like they keep moving.”

“That makes no fucking sense,” Jason said when he heard Tyler’s phone go off.

Tyler answered his phone from a strange number. “Hello?”

“T-Ty.”

Tyler’s eyes bugged out of his head. “OWEN!” Tyler blurted as Jason jumped up. “STAY ON THE PHONE! WE’LL TRACK YOUR LOCATION!” Tyler tapped on his phone until Jason heard a bing on his own phone. “Let’s go!” Tyler said as they revved on their bikes out of the garage.

~*~

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