lb_lee: A happy little brain with a bandage on it, surrounded by a circle and the words LB Lee. (Default)
[personal profile] lb_lee
The First Rule of Blackmail
Series: Battle the Universe
Words: 2000
Summary: Tank lies in a hospital bed, and Lucinda and Kara plot what to do next.
Notes: This story makes reference to ‘the Gynecologist.’ You’d be best off reading at least that story, and probably ‘The Choice’, ‘One Step Ahead,’ and ‘Hamster Man’ as well. This story was prompted by [personal profile] mirrorofsmoke and [personal profile] kaylin881 , and sponsored by the Patreon crew! The scene with Zambi and T, believe it or not, was actually one of the first things we ever wrote involving Tank, so this story has been a long time coming! We hope you enjoy it.


As the All-Seeing Eye rolled off, Kara lay in the hospital bed and thought hard. Lorry was still out cold, half-sprawled on the front, and probably would be until pain and exhaustion passed; Kara certainly wasn’t going to take on the added inconvenience. She was angry enough as it was.

But this was an opportunity to prove that she’d been right all along, that she was the only person who could truly manage the group. Lorry had lacked the intelligence and creativity. TJ was a child, probably sobbing in panic and fear in back right now. The Zombie needed no explanation. And as for Lucinda…

“Well?”

Kara snarled, but that was all she could do. With Lorry down and her own strength exhausted, she was trapped at front, unable to do anything. It was difficult to even mentally see, in her position; Lucinda seemed only an ominous silhouette behind her. Kara didn’t like it.

“The moment we’re out of the hospital, Law and Justice gives us the eject,” Kara sneered. “Ungrateful insects.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured, what with Hyde and all. But that’s not what I’m here to talk with you about. I know about the gynecologist and the blackmail, Kara.”

Kara didn’t bother denying it. It was beneath her. She merely smiled at the memory.

The Zombie was useless for everything but base animal survival, but at that, it rivaled even her. With its assistance, Kara had carved a swathe through the gynecologist’s building, blasting through walls and furniture, all while the Zombie handled physical momentum, making that unending howl humans found so bloodcurdling.

Kara wasn’t much of a fighter, but she didn’t need to be. Creating force was much harder than redirecting it; as long as medical personnel had kept trying to bulldog her, she could redirect the force of their bodies and weapons to maintain damage and keep them away from her. She could be the eye at the center of the hurricane.

It had been a long time since Kara had been able to really let loose like that, and the Zombie proved a helpful host when its goals aligned with hers. Once out of the building, she had let it handle the escape… into the sewers. That had been disgusting, but thankfully, she hadn’t had to deal with much of it. The Zombie, it seemed, had a very good sense of direction, even underground.

The whole thing had proved satisfying. The only drawback had been limited gloating opportunity; the Zombie never seemed to remember anything for long, and wasn’t much of an audience anyway.

The first letter had arrived within a week. Kara had intercepted it while Lorry napped, read the demand (which boiled down to “pay, or be outed as the new Hyde”), then snorted and shredded it. The first rule of blackmail was never to give in; everyone knew that. Besides, one of the few things everyone in the group could agree on was never admitting to their multiplicity to outsiders. It was an easy decision.

After that, she’d made sure to shred all future demands before anyone else could see them. It’d been easy. With the Zombie’s agitation and stealing shreds of time to hoard food and rearrange furniture, it had proven an excellent scapegoat, and Lorry had never suspected anyone else of taking advantage of the confusion—or that the Zombie might’ve had any reason to be more agitated than usual. On the whole, Kara thought she’d handled it very well, without any other system member noticing but the never-sleeping, never-speaking Zombie.

She’d caught it watching her a few times, but whenever she’d glared at it, it’d shambled on. She’d presumed it wasn’t worth worrying about, but...

“Who told you?” Kara asked. “Don’t tell me the Zombie talked...”

Lucinda ignored her. “This predicament is your fault. You set up the appointment. You destroyed the place, and you hid the blackmail from the rest of us. You have utterly failed at keeping our people safe, which even the Zombie can pull off.”

Kara bristled. She opened her mouth to release a tidal wave of acid… only to realize she had nothing to say. She certainly couldn’t blame the Zombie; she might as well blame the family dog.

“What do you want?” She said finally.

Lucinda smiled. “I want to make a deal.”

Well, Kara had to applaud her audacity. “Don’t be absurd. You crippled me. I had everything under control before you and your knife showed up--”

“No you didn’t.”

Kara fumed, and headspace writhed around her. “This is an expression of your own incapability,” she raged. “You’re only offering a deal because you can’t beat me. You’re useless, corporeally.”

“Yup.”

“You’re the weakest one here. Even TJ can front and get our powers to work every once in a while. You can’t use them at all.”

“True.”

Lucinda’s equanimity was grating. “What makes you so certain I’d make peace with you? What can you possibly offer me?”

“Success.”

Kara paused, but Lucinda said nothing. Such a blatant power ploy, such obvious bait, but-- “How?”

“You’re smarter than me, Kara… in some ways. But you’re terrible at common decency. You can’t get anyone to obey you without force, coercion, or manipulation. I can.”

“Everyone manipulates. I’m just honest about it.”

“Well then, I’m sure you’ll do just fine handling the press conference all on your own. Have fun dealing with Martial Law’s buzzwords and business-speak. TJ and the Zombie certainly aren’t going to do you any favors, after how you flubbed the blackmail.” Lucinda made as if to leave.

“Wait!” Kara hated the desperation in her voice. But... “You have a plan to deal with the press conference?”

Lucinda turned back to her. “Of course I do.”

“What is it?”

“Not yet. First, we need to get something straight between us.” Lucinda crouched down between Kara and Lorry. “Before I came here, I know you ruled the group with an iron fist. And that didn’t work. Everyone hated you; nobody could succeed at anything, because we didn’t have our business in order. It was chaos.”

Kara said nothing. It was true, and everyone had long since agreed on that, even her. She didn’t need to repeat herself.

“Then I came here, cut you down to size. We built the calendar, the rules, put Lorry in charge.”

“That didn’t work either,” Kara said.

“No. It didn’t.” Lucinda’s expression and tone didn’t change, but her hand came down, stroked Lorry’s hair. “I love that boy… but he ain’t too bright. He never should’ve been left in charge of a job this political. He’s better off being the action man, not the planner.”

“I agree,” Kara said. “So? Don’t expect me to believe you should be in charge next.”

“No,” Lucinda said. “I’m not strong enough. And the Zombie and TJ aren’t capable. No one of us should be in charge; it needs to be a group affair. We’re multiple; it’s time we started taking advantage of it, instead of wasting energy acting like we’re not. This whole mess could’ve been avoided that way. I’ve already talked to TJ and the Zombie, and they agree. Do you?”

Kara glanced at Lorry, still out cold across the front. “What about him?”

Lucinda’s face remained expressionless. “I can get him in line. He trusts me.” She looked hard at Kara. “After the gynecologist, you said that you’d been trying to build trust here. Now’s your chance to use it. Are you willing to work with us?”

Kara thought for a moment. She liked getting her own way, but she liked success far more. And since her crippling, she had been mostly ignored or resisted, reduced to an organizer. She had low opinions of democracy, but any power was better than none. “It benefits me, so yes. You’re right, the old methods aren’t working. I agree to your terms. Now, tell me about the press conference.”

Lucinda told her.

Kara’s smile reached past her ears. “I like it.”

“I thought you might. Any suggestions?”

It was the first time in ages that Kara had been asked for her opinion on anything of significance. “Put TJ in front of the camera,” she said. “Zie comes off genuine...”


Meanwhile, outside town, two street vigilantes were watching TV in a junkyard.

The scrapyard had been in Zambi’s family for years, and since her crime-fighting job was common family knowledge, they’d had no objection to her using the office for her and her fledgling vigilante partner, T. He’d repaid the trust by fixing the TV, which he was currently staring at, rapt.

Zambi sat at the desk, sorting through papers and websites on a local con artist. She was trying to ignore the TV.

“You know Hero News is just fluff, right?” She said. “Please tell me you know that.”

“It’s Tank,” T replied, fiddling with the TV antennae.

“T, I’m sorry,” Zambi said, “but he’s a godawful showman. He’s just another white-bread brick, and he can’t even act!”

“All of this is true,” T admitted, “but he’s hot, he’s apparently single, and I’m positive he’s trans. I’m willing to watch Hero News for that.”

“That’s conspiracy bullcrap and you know it. Next thing you know, you’ll be going on about how Martial Law’s a lizard person...”

The news reporter on the screen cut her off. “Today, in the midst of controversy regarding his fitness for service, the Chicago hero known as Tank is hanging up his cape and resigning from Law and Justice after disclosing the possession of multiple personalities.”

That made Zambi sit up straight. “Wait, what? Turn it up.”

As T did, there was a clip of Lorry Hammond at a podium, sweating in uniform. He looked like he desperately wanted to be anywhere but there. Even though he was out of the hospital, there were still bandages on his face. When he spoke, his voice was high-pitched and wooden, his knuckles white. He seemed to be reading off a teleprompter in his head.

“I tell you this not for myself, but for everyone who’s told they’re weak, ill, broken, or too dangerous to be trusted to take part in society. I tell you this to say, it’s not true. You too can be heroes.”

“Oh my god,” Zambi breathed. “He’s interesting.”

“Sh!”

A cut to ‘Dr. Colin J. Berenworth, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Monster Within: The Hyde Story.’ “I realize Tank means well, and he has done great things for our community. However, to tell desperately sick people that they should put on capes and masks to perform acts of violence is appalling.”

Back to the newscaster. “Law and Justice had a press release about Tank’s resignation today.”

Martial Law at a podium this time, in a business suit and his usual mask. He looked far more at ease than Tank had, with a carefully composed expression of remorse. “We are sorry to see Tank go. He was a great hero who in his short time contributed much to our team.”

“Wow, that is impressive horseshit,” T said. “Also, what’s the right pronoun for a multiple, anyway? Should we call him ‘they’ now?”

Law continued on. “However, our personal differences were irreconcilable. We wish him luck in Chicago, and we urge our viewers, if they should have multiple personalities, to seek professional counseling.”

Back to the newscaster. “Next up, we’ll be talking about the Hyde story. It’s been eight years, and superheroes have never been the same! Is Tank the next Hyde? Tune in after the commercial!”

The TV cut to a jingle about toothpaste. T and Zambi stared at it, floored.

“Huh,” she said. “Well, I’ll be damned. He’s still a terrible actor, but I actually care about him now.”

T groaned, fell to his knees, and threw up his hands. “Damn it, I liked him! He even had the guts to come out on national TV! Ugh!”

“Mm,” Zambi said, patting his shoulder and reaching for the phone. “I’m going to call Incog. This seems like it’d be of interest.”

Date: 2017-02-21 03:47 am (UTC)
mirrorofsmoke: Text icon: I can't believe we're still protesting this shit. (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorofsmoke
I screamed like a little girl. This was amazing. Thank you! Hell yeah! More multiple superhero awesomeness!

-Axel

Date: 2017-02-21 12:53 pm (UTC)
mirrorofsmoke: Text icon: I can't believe we're still protesting this shit. (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorofsmoke
It definitely made our day!

Date: 2017-02-21 03:29 pm (UTC)
we_are_spc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] we_are_spc
Holy shit finally. xddd I've been waiting on this thing forever. xdddd

Thank you. :)

-Fallon~

I fuckin' love this shit-read it like a damn kid. o.o

-BJ~

Date: 2017-02-21 11:06 pm (UTC)
weareangels: A white wolf mid-stride on a white background. (LC)
From: [personal profile] weareangels
Oh man the intervention Lucinda had. I feel that so much.

Also aah! This was so cool! I always love reading Tank's stories.

Date: 2017-02-24 06:32 am (UTC)
weareangels: A white wolf mid-stride on a white background. (LC)
From: [personal profile] weareangels
Lucinda is definitely the fave~ Glad she got some spotlight!
Page generated Apr. 30th, 2017 04:40 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios