Chapter 110:

Chapter 110 - Clean Slate


The sub had undergone some changes since its first voyage out onto the seas of Old Enfield. Upon returning to port, Montrevi had elected to scrap its rusty, dented hull and remake it from the ground up. After several weeks in drydock, it emerged; sleek, black, and twice its original size, the submarine had completed its transformation from a simple exploratory vessel into something else–something grander.

The Reminiscence, Montrevi called it. And, from that point on, what had started as a simple relationship between contractor and employer became… Murky. Things got more organized. Montrevi gave their outfit a shiny new name–”The Guardians of Prosperity”–and put Morgan and the rest to work making his wingnut vision of society a reality.

Rather than watching over engineers and academics while they sifted through the muck at the bottom of the ocean, Morgan and a growing crew of new hires were made to stick their noses into political matters. They destabilized economies. Abducted people of interest. Assassinated journalists and leaders–anyone who got in their way, really.

All in the name of global peace and order. That was the line Montrevi had fed him, anyway. It was only when it became clear that they were intentionally starting wars that he began to question things. He was never a dyed-in-the-wool true believer like some, but the reassurances that they were doing good helped him sleep at night–helped him look Gloria in the eye and promise her nothing was wrong.

But one day, something inside him just… Broke. He couldn’t do it anymore. He started planning an exit strategy. He called in favors from like-minded folks on the outside. He took stupid risks.

He endangered his friends.

“It’s time,” Gio announced from his place by the door. Morgan rose from his bunk without a word, laying the photo of his family aside.

He wouldn’t need it where he was going.

Gio escorted him through the bowels of the sub, down the wide, curving hallway that led to the interrogation room. It was a path that many of their past victims would’ve walked before, totally oblivious to the fate that awaited them there.

Morgan himself wasn’t so lucky. He knew what those poor people didn’t: that the possibility of being roughed up and grilled for information was the least of their problems. In that room, people were emptied. Hollowed out. Unmade.

And now it was his turn.

“I want you to know that I won’t give you up in there, Gio,” he murmured, mindful of the many open doorways lining either side of the hall. “Not you, not anyone. This is my mess, and I aim to take the blame for it.”

That earned him a snort in reply. “Ya don’t need to tell me, chief. I know I didn’t look like much when ya brought me into the fold, but I’ve always been a pretty good judge of character. I’d never have gone along with all that ‘resistance’ junk if I thought ya’d sell me out.”

Morgan nodded, trying his best to walk tall. “No hard feelings if you drop it once I’m… Gone.”

“I don’t see any other way,” Gio said with a shrug. “I don’t know what you know, and, besides that Luca kid, your contacts don’t know me. From what I hear, the boss has already clipped most of ‘em anyway.”

“...So it’s over, then.”

“Pretty much,” the younger man agreed. “Don’t feel bad, though. Ya had a good run. Did more than anyone else to mess up Montrevi’s plans. Think of this as your well-earned retirement.”

They arrived before the interrogation room. Despite his mounting fear, Morgan didn’t even think of running. As close as he and Gio had become, he knew the man would chase him down without hesitation.

It wasn’t personal; it was just survival. And Gio was nothing if not a survivor.

“Look, chief,” he said, turning awkwardly to face him. “This ain’t easy for me to say… But ya picked me up when I was at my lowest. Gave me a job–a purpose. I know ya probably regret it now, but still… I’m grateful.”

For the first time in what felt like weeks, Morgan smiled. “You’re a good kid, Gio,” he said. “Stay out of trouble. Hope I get to see you again on the other side.”

Gio grimaced at that, laughing bitterly. “I kinda hope ya don’t, chief. Take care.”

With that, Morgan approached the doors and flung them wide, striding on into the room beyond with what he hoped looked like courage.


Morgan groaned loudly, coming to in the passenger seat of CJ’s shoddy scrap car. His head hurt like hell. In fact, his entire body hurt like hell. The hows and whys of it were slow to come, given how vivid that last dream had been. It felt like he still had one foot in the past–like his parting exchange with Gio was real life, and this was the fleeting nightmare that he’d wake up from any minute.

That was just wishful thinking, of course. The shattered windows and caved-in frame of the vehicle he’d woken up in were far from illusory; the latter, in fact, had come close to crushing his legs. By the light of the moon, he could see that the area beneath the dash had been warped by the force of some terrible impact–an impact that had very nearly killed him, judging by the overwhelming pain in his muscles and joints.

He almost didn’t want to check on the others. It was a safe bet that they’d be worse off than him, and he didn’t know that he could stomach the sight of it. As he sat there ruminating, the details of the crash started coming back to him: he recalled the cliff at the end of the canyon, and the messy tumble of boulders that had been piled up beneath it. A long-neglected attempt at a dam, maybe? Whatever it was, it had saved his life. The rock pile made for a bumpy ride into the dried-out riverbed they eventually crashed in, but it beat the steep drop they would’ve suffered otherwise.

Alright. Enough stalling.

It was time to assess the damage. Little by little, Morgan turned his head. There, in the driver’s seat, sat the slumped-over form of Catastrophe Joan. She was silent and deathly still. In the darkness, he couldn’t even tell if she was breathing or not. Her forehead rested atop the car’s uncushioned steering wheel. Thankfully, he didn’t see any obvious signs of head trauma; maybe she’d just chosen to rest it there after the crash?

He lifted his stiff, throbbing arm to wave a hand in front of her mouth, and was pleased to feel the tickle of slow, regular breathing against his palm. She was alright then, more or less. Maybe, like him, she’d have some aches and pains. Whiplash, possibly, or a concussion. Surely nothing lasting, though…

…That was what he thought, at least, until he took a closer look at her legs.

The vehicle’s frame had crumpled more severely on her side. Her lower body was almost entirely obscured by dark, jagged protrusions that sat too low for the moonlight to reach. As a result, he couldn’t get a good look at the damage… But he didn’t really need to. The diagnosis was clear:

CJ wouldn’t be walking anytime soon.

“It has been some time since the crash,” Marka said softly from behind. “If she is still breathing, I would guess that the metal missed her vitals.”

Morgan rasped a chuckle. “Didn’t figure you for a doctor.”

“I am not,” the big man replied. “But I have split more men in half than most.”

Hard to argue with that. “What about you? You holdin’ up alright?”

“I will live.”

That answer didn’t do much to allay Morgan’s worries, but it would have to do; in his condition, he wasn’t about to try craning his neck to get a look at the backseat.

“Glad to hear it,” he said. “Surprised to hear Roulette hasn’t spoken up yet. She doin’ okay back there?”

A long pause set in. Then:

“She is gone.”


“Before we crashed, she leaned out the back window to return fire. I did not see what happened, but I heard her fall to the rear of the car when the Niners rammed us.”

Morgan felt himself blanch. “...And after that?”

He heard Marka shift uncomfortably. “It would be best if you looked for yourself.”

It was a big ask, given the way his muscles were quivering, but curiosity won out in the end. He poked his head out the window to find that they were moving; not under their own power, but as a burden borne on the backs of several shadowy, skittering shapes.

Spiders. Their spindly chrome exteriors glinted in the moonlight every now and again, revealing the true extent of their numbers. There were dozens. Maybe hundreds, stretching back several car lengths like some kind of twisted parade procession. And theirs wasn’t the only vehicle being carried along by the tide.

The Niners’ car, looking about as damaged as theirs, rode the wave a good fifty feet behind them. And there, strapped to the roof of it, was a pale, motionless figure tinged black, pink…

…And red.

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