“Witchblade” and its associated concepts are copyright to TopCow Productions/Image Comics, Marc Silvestri, David Wohl, Brian Haberlin, Christina Z and Michael Turner. Negotiated licence holders include Gonzo, Kodansha, Funimation Entertainment and associated parties.
For a time, she had dwelt in a formless, black place; occasioned by tremors and sweeping, rushing hail of visions; a discord of half born dreams which haunted her, time and again, before dimming. They were not the only things that fluttered here – some things more pleasant or mundane – though it remained that the echo of singular trauma may never fade. But, it was now and here as the blackness began to recede while a waking mind rose; like bubbles preceding something long anchored beneath deep waters.
Still. She was still – still and firmly bound. More so, she was upon her back and spread; a slowly receding numbness or stiff muscle alerting that she was without clothing, and what was bound to her was far in a way from clothes. Even more pressing, something heavy drew firm on her face; a feed of rich, cool air nurturing her breath, while her vision was dimmed by a dark visor of some sort.
A stirring, the only possible effort to rise, brought little save for a weak rolling of her hips, turning of ankles and flicking of fingers. And then something more she spied in her lethargic delirium.
From far off, but drawing closer were voices; feminine, and first one, then two raised in restrained interest, if not jabbing excitement.
“She... she’s awake...”
“What? Really? Thank God for that... I was beginning to think she’d never begin to pull it together, especially after that third trip...”
These voices were met with a growing report of sharp heeled steps as another voice made itself known, more pressing and encouraged as it got closer.
“Is... is she finally awake – I mean is she all there? Is she on track, Yuri?” The first, more reserved voice answered with a tentative conviction.
“Yes, yes I think so. I mean brain, heart and other systems are all reading green – especially considering the bumpy road we’ve been on. But, we’ve got there, at last... let’s hope...”
The third, more determined voice was silent for a while, as if musing in some ambivalent scrutiny, before answering with a flare of relish.
“Hmm... okay – okay, let’s... let’s see her then... let her see...” There was a flutter of clicking as if of deft fingers on a keyboard somewhere, and then the world about gave a firm shunt; the dull, but rising sound of mechanics and small motors in concert. It was here that the heavy thing which had sat, locked upon her face was lifted away; her face suddenly free to the air as lips stirred and eyes crept open. The world was a shadowy smear of shapes, though this register was soon broken as she, somehow, started to rise up, still bound as she became vertical; the whirring and dull moan of articulated mechanics stopping sharply.
Restraints holding her firm, she discovered that she was securely fastened in other places; fastenings holding her shoulders, neck and head, her back and about the thighs and arms too. Her vision offered little, save for a dim mind to peer out at a softly lit world of shapes. It was here that the voices returned.
Before her, she found three figures – or rather they could be figures: streaks of colour, sound and movement which were her audience. Of these, the middle one drew closer; seemingly the source of that confident, louder voice from before. The tone this time was peppered with a stern fascination as she considered what was held in front of her.
“Well... we’ve come a long way to get here, haven’t we? You should be proud, Yuri... this... this is incredible, and to just think of before...” The figure that was Yuri returned with a measured gratitude.
“Thank you... though... well... most of it’s down to her really, isn’t it? I mean the irony of what we’ve got... here, is biting. To think, just how far this could go – even to here, and we’re not even done yet. It’s incredible, and in a way... fitting too...”
The figure closest turned back from Yuri as the second voice gave a short snicker of humour. The third figure was closer still now, seemingly held by a taunt intrigue as what she beheld compelled her.
“To think... just think... it’s been... such a long time, and everything’s so... different now... still, at last, we’re here. At long, long last... we can move forward. It’s taken its sweet, fucking time, but... we’re beginning to get things in place... to really begin...”
The figure so firmly held and exposed to their singular attention and strange words offered little in return. Eyes which had only recently opened after so long twitched and blinked; pained and light sick as tears began to flow while a soft grunt voiced some of that irritation. The three figures before them took note; the most forward quick, though easy in her disdain.
“Oh... well, yeah. It’ll be like that for a while before things clear up. Best not... strain... not yet, I think. Still, a little celebration in its own way, huh... Yuri, could you...”
The words of this figure punctuated as she drew back and turned; the one that was maybe called Yuri silently followed through the request; a switch pressed as those mechanical sounds were heard, a shunt felt and then the figure held was reclining again. The world growing dimmer as her sore eyes eased until she was upon her back, where she had begun. Having only emerged into this muddy, dim consciousness minutes earlier, the need to withdraw and sleep was gnawing as those same wet eyes closed; that mask lowered on a robotic arm to again seal over her face. Still now and the world growing distant, that more peppery voice rose again and followed her down with a thrusting promise.
“Rest now, grow strong... stronger still... it’s been a while, but welcome back to the world, Dr. Nishida...”
She wasn't sure how long she slept there; time had no purchase here, but the occasionally punctuated black that had been her dreams was different now; colours took shape, shapes had dimensions, dimensions had texture... There were voices, figures, faces... and then them; those figures, not born from a dream... they were real... but why were they real?
Three figures... the one that snickered, the brasher one and the one called Yuri...
She... she remembered someone called Yuri... It was from before – before... before she... before the world... and... and the pain... before...
But, there was now...
With a dull sigh cresting in a murmur, the captive woman awoke. The immediacy of her reality brought a weak start of struggle before realization returned. The mask clamped over her face, itself part of some wider restraint which locked about her head, neck and shoulders, was met with impotent frustration, and yet even though tired still, she loathed to return to sleep. At last lucid, there was a driving need to know: know why, and where and when. A little grunt was all she could offer, though it seemed that her earnest need had been answered before she knew it. The mechanism about her head seemed to unlock and the mask rose up and away; a dim world opening to eyes that, though still a little pained, were now clearer.
Moments later, the bound woman was rising again; eyes darting around to find herself splayed in the middle of a great, circular mechanism now being raised vertically up by unseen motors. A grunt came at the slight stirring of faintness before eyes peered about a softly lit world that was familiar as a place of science; the equipment crowded, low vaulted and drab colours of a laboratory, albeit in need of some maintenance. Though, blinking to focus, she found her attention drawn to the figure dwelling near a cluster of monitors; one hand intent on a keyboard before she turned fully to consider the restrained subject before her in silence. Drawing closer now, the woman so held saw that the figure was the feminine shape of a young woman; simple fashions half masked by the long white of a lab coat while a cascade of long dark hair flowed down one shoulder. The other woman’s eyes lingered on their subject as she looked up a little at the still, but tense and confused form she saw.
“Wwww-wwwng! Iaaa-rrrrgh! Yoooddd...”
The bonded woman made to speak but the only sound was a crackling croak and sting of pain; the act bringing a disproving, gentle wave from the white coated one.
“No, no – it’s best you don’t try yet. It’ll come back soon, just don’t push it now. Your vocal cords haven’t atrophied and are fine... considering. But, they’ve gone unused for a long time, so not much’s gonna come from there for a bit. Here...”
Drawing back to her station, hands fluttered about some keys as one mechanical arm, attached to the dense frame, flexed and rose into life; now curling around to proffer the tapering tip of a fine tube. The woman made to draw back in fear as narrow eyes flicked to the other woman, her words disarming.
“No... believe me, no. It’s just water. Please, drink as much as you like; we need to get your system working on something...”
Moments later, the other woman was grudgingly drawing on the straw; a need suddenly flourishing as she greedily drew ever larger mouthfuls, so much so that some flowed and ran down her chin and jaw. The watcher was silent as they regarded what had been for so long, and would remain for long too, their captive patient. With a few heavy breaths, the other woman drew back, eyes closed and head heavy before composing herself. Opening her eyes, the mechanical arm folded away as the white coated one stood before her again.
The still, tense intimacy lingered for a while as both parties variously took each other in, albeit one only beginning to comprehend, while the other found fulfilment, maybe.
“Do... you know who you are? Do you remember your name?
The question lingered before a gently knotted expression of a pained throat brought a gentle nod and narrowed eyes from Dr. Rie Nishida. The standing woman nodded with a soft smile.
“Good... you’ll probably recall more when your system is fully up and running, though for the time, we’ll settle on a few facts. My name is Yuri Jollenbeck, and I remember you, even if you don’t recall me...”
Yes. Yes... that was it. Suddenly that name was given shape and history as Rie recalled her, albeit dimly, from the immediate past. Though that succeeded in only squeezing further hot questions to the fore of her forming mind.
“But, even if that’s the case, you will I think remember this, know this...” With a slight flare, she raised her right arm at the elbow and tugged the sleeve down to reveal a very distinct sight. Upon her wrist was a sliver grey bracelet which sat firmly; the slender work of seeming metal meeting in a contoured crest, in which was set a pearly, fine blue gem stone. The sight of this was not a surprise, per say, though the immediate, pressing fact was still enough to widen, and then narrow Rie’s eyes. The watching Yuri nodded. Yuri Jollenbeck, neo-gene and clone blade of the once National Scientific Welfare Foundation. The same NSWF which Rie had once commanded before... before...
Yuri lowered her arm and replaced her sleeve, seemingly satisfied in having left a suitable impression.
“Good, but still there’s nothing to fear, per say. Your welfare has been my... has been our cause for quite a while and it’s quite honest of me to say that seeing you so... improved, brings a sincere smile. The fact being, Dr. Nishida, that this is the longest you’ve been conscious in over seven months... since... well, since everything fell to pieces, I suppose... partly of your making, and others... but that’s for another day...”
At this startling fact, Rie’s features strained and a pained, loud croak rumbled in her throat as she stirred against the restraints.
“Know too, if you haven’t recognized it...”, the white clad Yuri continued, “That this is the Hota facility of the southern Boso peninsula; if I recall, a favourite facility of yours, sparing the labs in Tokyo, of course...”
The woman’s words brought a stern, stiff recognition as she was right; this place was the Hota facility, far south east of Tokyo; a secretive, relatively hidden NSWF centre that Rie had made her own in those days before. But, and coldly paramount now, was the fact of her captivity here; in a place reserved for some of that organisation’s most advanced, and dubious research – a fact that recalled a good deal of it had been her own – and now under the sway of unknown leadership... There was so much she didn’t know...Yuri went on.
“Well... there’s much I could tell you, but we’ll have to save that for another day. For now, let’s be... content that you’re on the right road back. But, there is also that issue...” Drawing back, she tapped away at the keyboard as the mechanical arm which once offered water returned; its articulated head rotating to offer a larger tube with a filtered head to the watching, silent Rie.
Yuri drawing away as she made to leave the lab turned briefly to find the filter head under hostile scrutiny from the narrow eyed patient. The white clad woman offered a weary smile as she spoke; her tone flat, though disarming.
“It’s just semi-solid food, doctor. A compound which I assure you is safe to take, and something you need to start on...” The tight faced Rie turned her cold gaze to the watching neo-gene, the expression a mingling which Yuri thought she recognised.
“Oh... well... I don’t think it’s wise to let pride dictate your behaviour here, Rie; understand that this is the very least of what could be done, if chosen... and I don’t think you need the additional discomfort of another tube or feed buried in you. So... please, eat. Believe me, you will need it...”
With that she turned and strolled out of the lab; doors closing with a mechanical hiss behind her to leave the doctor alone with the proffered food; the tubing filled with a dim, orange substance punctuated with denser, darker chunks. Regarding it with a dim hate, she sighed and pressed her lips to the filter head. With this, she began to suck; chewing the firmer morsels that flowed between her lips while closing her eyes. At least, she dimly mused, it did not taste bad, even if so degrading. Still, the mysterious Yuri was right; she had to start thinking, focusing in a world she had, incredibly, been absent from for the best part of a year. And now captive at unknown behest. She continued to suck and chew until what there was of hunger subsided and she drew back; sleep coming soon and, thankfully, without dreams.
It had been more than a week since Rie had stabilised, with regular patterns of waking and sleeping hours. These days, however, brought their own trials as, becoming more aware and lucid, the doctor began to appreciate more and more the fearful gravity of her situation; her mysterious captors, lingering figures from her own past, doing little in the way to reveal what had become of the world since that night the Witchblade, as incarnate in Masane Amaha, had brutally fought both clone blade and I-Weapon in Tokyo’s streets. These things tantalised her terribly, though then too as a reminder of her present predicament.
For the moment, what she found was the extent of their interest in her. The articulated, circular frame about her worked to both maintain and analyse the subject restrained within. Rie herself was studded with attached sensors and plastic insulated probes which flowed back into the frame in a tangle of wires; its arc studded with computers, sensors and instruments within folded recesses. Splayed and naked as she was in her bondage, it came as no surprise that no consideration had been given to either dignity or modesty here; the fact of very visible tubes which had been inserted to deal with waste and even a probe set in her womanhood ensured that all possible data could be recovered, at greatest cost to her ego. Still, even if that last fact burned, she knew she had to steel herself for potentially worse – though just how was not something she wanted to dwell on...
When at last coherent, if pained, speech returned, it was one of the first things on her lips to ask aloud...
It had been the cool figure of Yuri to whom she had spoken, considering that this place was seemingly her lab now as the neo-gene had demonstrated. Watching with tense eyes from her vertical prison, Rie moved to speak as Yuri tapped upon a console.
“W-wh-why? W-why... why...why here? T-tell me...” Yuri turned to coolly appraise her subject before smiling as the doctor’s speech began to return.
“Ah! Good, it’s good to see that you’re speaking again. And a question too... well, Dr. Nishida... that’s a long story – one that you could tell, in the beginning, I’m sure...” Rie continued with a hard swallow.
“W-w... I...I...what-what happened? I’m-I’m...ah....” Yuri drew closer as the woman’s words stalled.
“What happened? Well... what happened was because of you, Dr. Nishida – at least, it was partly because of you. To answer, a lot happened that night, but we’ll go over that soon...” Wrestling with the frustration, Rie’s eyes stilled and then swelled as a thought pierced all other need; eyeing the watching face with urgency.
“W-w-witch-blade... witchblade! T-tell me! What happed t-to it?! The witchblade?!” Noting the need of her patient, Yuri was silent for a moment as her own eyes narrowed in a clinical disdain, peppered with intrigue.
“Hmm... amazing. After all this... you’re still that same woman, aren’t you? Still, after all, it’s the Witchblade. Well, in some ways, it’s to your credit, I suppose. To answer your question, Dr. Nishida, the Witchblade, the thing you so desperately sought, is gone.” Her words cold, though they melted Rie’s expression instantly; those features now a swirl of desperation, denial and anger, voice hoarse and chest heaving.
“N-nh-nh-no. N-no. No. No. No. It-it’s...ah... can’t... it’s not-not po-possible! It’s not! It’s...” Somewhere off, a screen reported a sudden spike of blood pressure and heart rate; things which Yuri casually eyed before turning back to the struggling Rie, with a thin smile.
“No, Dr. Nishida – it is gone. No more. Seemingly vaporised, that night back then...” The watching doctor gave a raspy moan before eyeing the white coated Yuri again; her eyes needy of knowing, and something the other woman coolly obliged as she stopped beside a certain computer panel, tapping away thoughtfully before continuing.
“The Witchblade – that pen which authored so many of our lives, here and now – was destroyed that night. Masane Amaha, the woman both Douji Industries and the NSWF obsessed over, took it with her to her grave in final battle. Defeating the rogue I-Weapons and that trio of abortive neo-genes; the psychotic little puppet, Maria, and her unwitting, empty headed peers, Aoi and Asagi. All three, it’s my pleasure to say, dead by the witchblade’s power. To save Tokyo from the horde of malfunctioning I-Weapons, Masane focused and unleashed that arcane power, in her last moments. It seems that little, if anything, remained after that; the Tokyo tower vanishing in a brilliant glow as millions watched the media spectacle...”
Yuri watched the etching of fear and then heavy resignation impress themselves on that face as final despair took shape; a soft moan the only punctuation before Rie closed her eyes tight. When she opened them again, Yuri had trotted to another computer station as she considered a few screens before continuing, her inflection sharp with acrimony.
“Hmm... yes. To think too, how elect you must have felt back then when Maria slew Furumizu – maybe commendable in retrospect – but let you live. Though few could have believed what that would have lead to... still, come time, you did – didn’t you, Dr. Nishida? The disgusting little Maria allowed you de-facto control, and so it was with the psychotic and her paper crown, you did as you pleased, but in the end, it was all the same: all for the Witchblade. And now... irony would have it that your obsession nearly killed you – would have killed you a few times over in fact, save for your rescue. Rescued by the people you and yours betrayed...”
Drawing close with slow steps, she considered the mingled expression of the captive Rie before sighing; her eyes and voice more set now.
“Don’t linger to long on that, doctor... it will all become clear in a while, but you will need to focus that keen mind on more pressing things – here and now. That is what you will need.”
To the despairing, angry Rie the fact that so many years of work, of dedication, of singular obsession had vanished was agony; a final, deep thrust upon her mind in this world turned upside down.
In all, Rie did not have to wait too long. One week later, the awake and sharply lucid Rie found the platform following through its motions from horizontal to vertical; her vision cresting upon the world of the lab, familiar now, but with an unfamiliar party waiting. Clad in a sharp, fashionable style, she was a young woman with a short crest of rich blonde and eyes which lingered with hunger upon the captive sight before her. Though Rie was prepared to speak with Yuri, this stranger was a nervous revelation.
Fixing Rie with a humourless smile, she raised her hands in some affectation of surprise before dropping them and then spoke.
“Today’s a really special day – very special. In fact, it feels almost like a birthday or a graduation, to me, Dr. Rie Nishida...” Within moments, Rie recognised the stranger; it was the same eager voice she had heard when first regaining herself, the same who had called out to her that time. Rie swallowed hard as the woman watched.
“You... I know you. I recall your voice from before, that was you, wasn’t it?...” The woman nodded.
“Yes, and I’m glad you do remember me. Introducing myself cold would’ve been a bother, before we could have gotten down to things...” Drawing away her jacket, Rie found the familiar colours and style of a NSWF blazer; the usually sharp contours softened with wear as the figure turned to face her again.
“My name’s Emily. Emily Fukazawa, proud neo-gene gifted with the clone blade and graduate of the National Scientific Welfare Foundation.” She flicked her wrist as a cuff slipped back to reveal a similar blue bejewelled silver bracelet to the one Yuri had revealed earlier, confirming the facts of her identity. Letting the cuff slip back as that hand curled into a fist, she sighed as those eyes weighed down upon the captive woman.
“I know you’ve many questions to ask, who honestly wouldn’t in your position, but you’ve got to know that you – you, Dr. Rie Nishida – have so many things to answer too, so many... confessions to make here... and to me...”
Rie was silent in her recognition and thoughts as the blonde Emily drew back a bit to loosen her blazer, before continuing.
“Okay... let’s begin, shall we, doctor...”
She was tempted to temper her words, though the weight of so much unknown forced Rie’s lips in almost naked want.
“Why? What... what’s happened? What happened to the NSWF? Why I am here? What...” Her words slowed to silence as a trembling last need was painfully born.
“W-what’s... why’s this happening to me?” She coarsely whispered in an urgent voice.
With a cold smile rising, Emily was all too happy to elaborate on the singular history of the last eight months...
Joining and rolling her fingers, the blonde neo-gene considered her audience before, with a firm pleasure, she spoke with a conviction that had been building for a long, long time...
“Very well, Dr. Nishida, let me begin. You’ll recall, I think, that last night: crisis, chaos in the streets, three way war between the Witchblade, clone blades and I-Weapons. You, obsessed and driven, were compelled ever closer to the sight of final combat; so entranced were you that you didn’t notice your own danger – an I-Weapon rolling over to crush your car, before an explosion erupted...”
The silent, watching Rie offered only a dim nod with narrowed eyes: yes, she recalled. Sometimes, too vividly, would those images return; mingling utter shock, with horror and a finale of chaotic pain... Emily continued.
“Well... in the chaos, as war raged in Tokyo’s streets and both the NSWF and Douji Industries were poised to fall, a group of neo-genes – a handful of those survivors from Maria’s whimsical genocide – went in search of answers that night. Locating that car, a miserable, smoking mass of crumpled steel, it was thought that Rie Nishida was surely dead. But, not quite... You see, even though the car was crushed and torn, there was a pocket of sorts that had remained and within this was you, dear doctor – broken, crumpled and burnt but barely alive. Truly, a fucking eyeful... Eventually, metal was peeled back and what remained of you was scooped out. We thought it a fool’s errand really, back then... you would probably be dead in minutes, hours if lucky... and still, why preserve the life of someone who should suffer an agonising death, hmm?...”
The captive, watching woman was still; looking away for a moment before returning to her watcher. Nothing was said before Emily continued; easing back a mouthful of water from a nearby bottle, then going on.
“Then... yeah, we were really surprised; you lived to get here, the Hota facility where we retreated to as Tokyo went mad. Planting you down and considering what there was, there was some doubt as to why the hell we would work to save you – a point well made when you, fresh from the accident, had a heart attack. You were set to die, there and then... and I would watch. But... things went another way and we laboured to save you, just barely. But, what was to be done in the days after? Everything the NSWF was, the legacy of the Witchblade, the secret history... so much was laid bare – and we, the neo-genes, lost everything...”
The watching Rie was simply firm faced as the inflection of the woman’s words turned biting, tempered by a rich anger. Rolling her tongue across taunt lips, Emily continued.
“Everything, Dr. Nishida. Everything. All that was accorded to us was gone in a matter of days. We, who had called ourselves the best, the remarkable, the exceptional... now, in the glare of the public eye, we were horrors, and the last generation of neo-genes especially so. The dignity, the respect and awe we once had gone, what remained of the NSWF went underground and the remaining neo-genes, our sisters, scattered everywhere. But... in the mean time, three amongst them worked to inherit much of what was lost when the NSWF fell – myself, Yuri Jollebeck and Zoe Vega. And, in turn, what we would do with you... the architect of so much betrayal, pain and humiliation... what would we do with Dr. Rie Nishida?...”
The doctor’s weary brown eyes were still; trying not to betray the swirl of thoughts behind as to what this trio of neo-genes had done...
“Then, after a long night of discussion, we set ourselves to a plan; a plan we would faithfully carry out as to ensure the greater design, maybe even a measure of vengeance against the world... but, of course, you need to walk before you can run, and you my dear doctor, could barely breathe, back then. So... what could we do? The answer came with a sick, brilliant dose of irony – like a shot of tequila after a night with intolerable company. But, even that didn’t prepare us for the strange miracle that was going to unfold...”
Turning back, she nursed another mouth of water; leaning against a nearby computer terminal as she sighed; moving then to eye her captive with a glittering intent, as if baring a great secret...
“To save your life, doctor, we used your very own research; that same work which used gene therapy, conditioning and enhancement to create the better of our sisters, and more so the radical new techniques you were considering before... before crushing irony got the better of you.” Smirking at her mean pun, she indulged a little snicker. “So, we did – Dr. Rie Nishida would become her own creation, she would become a neo-gene...”
The revelation that had crackled and sparked suddenly was born like a lighting strike in her thoughts; heart racing and face twisted with incredulity before she found her voice.
“WHAT?!! YOU-YOU STUPID, IGNORANT BRAT!! DO-DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT COULD...could... you... have known what might-“ Her dimming words were broken by a sudden buzz of pain as her features contorted and she cried out before slumping a little with slurred breath. Emily was sat upon a nearby desk, whimsically putting aside a remote control before she continued.
“Shut up, Rie. You were always a little too high and mighty, for your own good, but still, you didn’t let me finish. You see... there were little... hiccups here and there, but successes were gaining. Admittedly, you nearly died a third time due to nervous shock, but that... mistake would not be repeated. Then we began to notice something... strange, incredible... The restoration was taking a new path; not simply restoration or regeneration, but rejuvenation too... The broken, mangled and burnt thing we wheeled in here became more of what had once been and then, astonishingly, even more: taller, fuller and younger...”
Swallowing hard, Rie looked upon the other woman with malign incredulity.
“What? That’s... how? I didn’t – I mean I didn’t have any indication when I began, so...” Emily grinned as she shrugged.
“Oh, yeah... you haven’t seen yourself, yet, have you? Well... seeing is believing, right? Let’s just say that Rie is still Rie only so much better, and minus a decade or more. I still have to catch myself, a bit like Yuri sometimes; admiration for the thing that we rescued becoming so incredible, before our very eyes... ”
Getting up, having divested the old NSWF uniform, she strolled closer to the captive doctor.
“To think, of what we’ve created... to just think... that you... well... our new sister would become so singular... you – well we, broke so many barriers giving you this life - even that fateful curse of degeneration with the clone blade: solved with a painful and simple irony. But, what good is it when so little else matters. Really, what’s it mean when you have power, but the world’s crumbled to dust, instead?” Silent for a few moments before perking again, Emily focused. “But now, what you’ve become continues to amaze, even to this day... A life that belongs to us, and as you just felt, still belongs to us...”
Rie swallowed gently as her brown met the other’s blue eyes; both striving to be beyond the divination of the other, even if it was ultimately futile. Her words cold and features tense, Rie gave voice.
“This life? And-and where does this life go now? If anywhere?” The watching neo-gene nodded as she perked an eyebrow.
“Oh? Well, that’d be telling. Best to keep you curious. But, just to illuminate my point about where you are now, let me show you something, and tell me what you think...”
Closing about a nearby console, she tapped quickly before the mechanism surrounding Rie seemed to lower and lean forward. Unknowing, Rie had little to suspect before Emily suddenly moved with more than just human speed. Her motions brutal and precise as she slammed a fist into a bared stomach and then thrust a hand, sunk in her blazer, over the woman’s mouth and nose. Reeling, the other woman could do little but struggle weakly as her lungs began to burn. Emily snarled in her torture as the blue gem of her clone blade began to burn bright.
“Well? Well? Tell me, doc – tell me! What’s it like? What’s it like to have no control? To feel the world speeding by? To know you’re gonna die as nothing! To know everything’s gone and there’s nothing you can do about? Humiliated! Tell me! Tell me you fuckin’ snake!...”
With a sneer, she suddenly drew back; the release bringing the bound Rie to cough, splutter and finally draw desperate breath as tears streamed about trembling lips. Watching this, Emily soon turned on her heel and left, the familiar hiss of the lab doors marking her departure. Her breath laboured, no one knew of the poisonous glare Rie sent after the neo-gene.
Well... her fellow neo-gene now...
Her steps firm and with a cold smile as she walked, Emily Fukazawa felt in the right about her pleasure; in those moments, Rie had only caught a glimpse of what Emily and the others had endured and the blonde could not deny sweet vengeance on the party so responsible for much of it. Ahead, a door slid open and Yuri emerged; stern faced and lab coat clad as she approached. Meeting shoulder to shoulder, they stopped and for a moment there was a tense silence. Seemingly, Yuri had spied what her fellow neo-gene had loosened from a security monitor feed.
“Is there a problem?” Emily’s word marked by a soft glare. The slightly taller Yuri did not return the expression, though her words were leaden.
“You were careless...”
Emily offered a cold smile in return. “It doesn’t matter – it shouldn’t matter if she’s worthy of us. And that’s just a pinch of what she deserves. Also... I didn’t fucking ask for your opinion, Yuri...”
“No... but, it doesn’t help if you forget the game plan – it doesn’t help you or anyone else, which is what I thought you wanted...”
Emily loosened a bitter sigh. “Listen – play mad scientist all you want with her, but you remember what we’re doing...”
“You think I don’t hate her as much as you?”
“What do you think?”
Their words were cut short as a third figure came with sharp, brisk steps from the opposite direction. A well dressed, dusky skinned young woman with a rich crest of dark hair. Drawing close with a questioning look, Zoe Vega arrived.
“Hey! What happened? I felt someone stirring when I just got back...” The concerned Hispanic woman was met with a roll of Emily’s shoulders as the blonde spoke, while Yuri seemed a little weary.
“Eh...no, no... it’s fine. I just... lost my temper a little with our pet project; nothing to alarm you... or others... But, you’re back at last; so, how’d things go?”
Zoe drew a few of her bangs back; her ambivalent expression not the greatest forecast.
“Well... I finally did manage to get in contact with two of our more... eh... errant sisters. They were hiding out up north, a place called Ichinoseki. Unfortunately... they declined my offer.”
Emily’s expression tensed as anger narrowed her eyes. “D-declined? But... did-did they understand what you’re offering, what we can do now?” Zoe nodded though her words did not brighten.
“Yes, they understood... but still, no. They... they’ve just had it with Japan, the NSWF, everything. They’ll be trying to catch a flight to Seoul and then somewhere else, but they would not return.”
Yuri’s expression was still as she glanced at the now more sombre blonde; the latter giving a nod as she grit her teeth. At last sighing, she gently waved as she spoke.
“No, no... I get it, I get it. It’s... it’s okay, not your fault. Still, can’t help but think that these older girls would have had more backbone...” Yuri, now tapping her chin in habitual contemplation, offered some thought.
“Hmm... well... does this mean we have to... press our schedule a bit? She’s made vast progress, and would probably be ready; the next generation blade is showing high compatibility, as expected...”
Emily mused for a moment. “Yeah, just push the timetable a bit. Project Invidia is still a go, though putting even more eggs into one basket doesn’t exactly make for rosy thinking... still let’s keep on at it... either way...”
End of Witchblade: Ecdysis (Part One)