Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Insert Random Scream of Pain Here (part 2 of 5)

Ben groaned and cracked open one eyelid. He slammed it shut again almost immediately. The light hurt almost as much as any given mauling by Shirley.

He lay there for a moment longer, trying to ignore the pain. Suddenly, his eyes snapped open and he shot up.

"Bella!" He shouted desperately.

He was still lying on the ground in the hall where Ekard had ambushed them.

Ben looked around wildly, but it was far to late. Neb and Ekard had already vanished, taking Bella with them.

Ben hauled himself to his feet, groaning. His stomach and head still ached from where Ekard had hit him. He moaned and leaned up against one of the rows of lockers. What was he going to do? Knowing Neb he wouldn't hesitate to kill Bella given the slightest provocation. And just how exactly had Neb found this world? Ben hadn't told anybody about it, and had Bella used her powers, the Society would have found the place long before Neb. Questions: Many. Answers: Zip.

Ben slammed a fist against the lockers in frustration, the metallic sound crashing through the abandoned hallway. Why couldn't he have been faster? Or smarter? Maybe if he went for a physical attack rather than one of his powers he might've been able to catch Ekard off guard. Maybe with both Bella and himself, the could've held Drake's twin off and gotten away...and maybe Shirley would become a nun.

Ben sighed. Sitting here feeling sorry for himself wouldn't help Bella at all. He pulled his generator from it's holster and opened a plothole.

Neb had said that a spy from the Pro-Cliche Society would be entering the Anti-Cliche Society soon and Ben was to obey them. But if Mr. Leather-Fetish honestly thought he was going to roll over and play slave to this guy, he was sorely mistaken. He was going to have a long chat with this person when they showed up...


Bella jerked awake. She looked around disoriented for a second, before realizing she was blindfolded. Her head was still throbbing painfully. She tried to move, to pull the blindfold off but her arms and legs were bound. She'd been gagged too and her mouth was dry. She was sitting flat on something, tied to something else rough, that was all she could tell. She hoped Ben was alright, had he been captured too?

"...can't believe it took you so long to catch one Mary-Sue and an unarmed Agent."

People were talking.

"Hey, why don't you shut it before I shove a nuke up you-"

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, please. There's no need to be unpleasant."


"You sure this thing'll work? Ben might be a little thick, but what if the Librarian figures out what's going on?"

It seemed Ben was safe then, Bella sighed with relief. But just what was going on here? What did these people want with them?

"Don't worry my friends, so long as we have his lady, Ben will be absolutely no trouble at all, I can guarantee that."

So that was it. Bella was being used as a bargaining chip to ensure Ben's cooperation.

Don't worry about me, Ben! Bella thought, trying to shift to a more comfortable position. Just do what you have to and stop these guys!

"Ah, speak of the devil, it appears our guest is waking up!"

There was the sound of footsteps and the blindfold was removed.

Bella blinked, trying to refocus her eyes.

"Water?" The vague form in front of her offered.

Bella blinked a few more times waiting for her eyes to fix themselves. They were somewhere dark, that much she could tell.

They suddenly adjusted.

Bella's eyes widened.


Ben exited the plothole still deep in thought. Neb hadn't said exactly when this double-agent was supposed to enter the Society, so chances were he had a little time. The first thing he needed to do was-

"Oh my god, Ben! What happened to you?"

"Huh?" Ben turned at Tash's gasp to see the blonde leader hurrying towards him, a horrified expression on her face.

"Your nose!" Tash exclaimed.

Ben swore mentally. He was so concerned over Bella's plight, he'd forgotten about the nosebleed Ekard had given him.

Internally cursing the Protection Society Agent, Ben grinned weakly.

"Oh, it's not that bad," He said, trying to sound casual. "I... uh, just ran into a wall is all."

"Not that bad, my foot!" Tash exclaimed, grabbing Ben's head, holding it still so she could get a better look. "You should see yourself! You look horrible, you're all pale!"

"I'm fine!" Ben insisted, trying to pull his head free. Tash let him go, but she still looked concerned.

"I at least want you to go see Valerie about that." She said firmly.

Ben groaned internally. The last thing he needed was contact with the empath right now. Maybe after he'd calmed down a bit it'd be all right, but at the moment he was too wound-up.

He started to protest, but Tash cut him off. "That's an order." She said, letting a small edge creep into her voice.

Ben sighed. "All right..."


Valerie looked up from her reading as Ben walked into the Hospital Wing.

"Oh, hi, Ben! What can do for you?" Then she spotted the trail of blood oozing from his nose "Never mind," She said as she marked her place in her book and got up. "Have a seat on that bed there."

Ben sat down as the healer wet a cloth with warm water and walked over.

"What did you do to yourself?" Valerie asked as she dabbed at the blood. "Did you set off one of Adrian's traps?"

"No, I ran into a wall." Ben muttered, not meeting her eye.

"Hmmm..." Valerie finished mopping up the blood around Ben's nose. "Is your nose broken?" She asked, prodding it gently.

"I don't think so-OW!"

"Mmmm... Not broken." Valerie murmured. "Just tender."

She frowned. Ben claimed he'd run head-first into a wall, but the shape of the bruises around his nose looked more like he'd been kicked by someone wearing boots.

She closed her eyes and placed two fingers on the bridge of Ben's nose. Slowly, the ache faded away until it vanished.

Ben rubbed his now-healed nose gingerly. "Thanks."

Valerie looked at Ben as he stood. She could sense a whirlwind of emotions from guitarist. Anger, fear, frustration and worry all competed for dominance in his heart.

"Is every thing OK?" She asked.

"Fine." Ben said shortly.

"Don't lie to me." Valerie said gently. "I'm an empath, remember? I can sense your emotions. C'mon, talk to me, there must be something I can help you with?"

Ben shook his head as he headed for the door. "No. There's nothing anybody can do. Nobody besides me."


The day after Bella's kidnapping Ben lay sprawled across a couch, earbuds firmly in his ears, volume cranked up at maximum. A thousand and one plans for Bella's rescue whirled through his brain, each rejected more quickly than the last.

He sat up, rubbing his eyes. He had had trouble getting to sleep last night. Only the exhaustion from being up all night before had forced him to succumb.

No matter how he looked at it, there was only one answer. He had to wait until this double-agent Neb spoke of joined the Society. That was his only clue to Bella. Until then, all he could do was wait.

"Ah, there you are!"

Ben looked up. "Oh, hey, Tash." He said sullenly.

"Feeling better?"

"Yeah," Ben admitted. "Valerie fixed me right up."

"That's good." Tash said, looking around. "Where's Shirley? I haven't heard you screaming or running for a while."

Even Ben was forced to crack a small smile at that. "She's still back at the mansion, working on the repairs. After what happened in Mega Man, I doubt she's taking any more chances."

"I'll bet. Oh, I almost forgot!" Tash snapped her fingers. "We've just had a new recruit join the Society."

Ben's head snapped up and his eyes narrowed. "Really?" He asked slowly. The traitor?

"You can come in now!" Tash called over her shoulder and a new figure walked in.

He was mid-sized and wiry with dirty blonde hair. His narrow eyes glittered with interest as he observed Ben. There was a smile on his face, but there was a trace of ice in his eyes.

"This is Repiv. Repiv, Ben." Tash introduced the two. "Since he's new here, I was hoping you wouldn't mind showing him around the Library a little, Ben."

Ben returned the predatory grin. "Oh, believe me," He said slowly. "It would be my pleasure."

Repiv didn't bat an eye.


Ben grabbed a fistful of Repiv's shirt and slammed him up against a bookshelf. Ben had led him back into the reference book section where nobody was likely to encounter them.

"Talk." Ben snarled. "Where's Bella? What've you done with her?"

Repiv snorted. "And what makes you think I'd tell you that?"

"This does." Ben snarled, pulling back a fist to punch Repiv in the face. Suddenly, there was a blur of motion and Ben found himself looking into the hissing face of a red-eyed albino snake wrapped around his arm.

"I'd let go of me if I were you." Repiv smirked. "Carl doesn't take too kindly to people threatening me."

Ben gave the traitor another shove for good measure before letting go. Carl slithered off his arm and around Repiv's neck where he settled, tongue flicking in and out.

"Fine. What do you want?" Ben growled.

"Oh, I'll let you know when the time comes." Repiv said, stroking Carl's head idly. "Until then, be a good little boy and stay out of my way."

"I'll kill you." Ben threatened.

"I don't think so." Repiv brushed him off. "Firstly, I doubt our dear Tash and your other friends would take too kindly to that. Secondly, if you do, you sever any chance of seeing Bella again."

Ben growled.

"Ah, ah, ah..." Repiv waved a finger. "I'm not finished talking yet. Thirdly, if I don't report in when I'm supposed to, our pals in the other Society will know something's happened to me and will end up bumping Bella off anyway."

Ben's hands curled into fists and took a step forward.

"What's going on here?" Ben and Repiv turned to see Shirley trotting down the row towards them.

Ben scowled. "When'd you get back?"

The Cliche Stick put her hands on her hips. "Nice to see you too, jerk."

"So you're Shirley." Repiv said. "I've heard a good deal about you!"

"Back off." Ben snarled.

Repiv raised his palms in a conciliatory gesture. "Hey, all I'm doing is saying hello!"

Shirley scowled at Ben. "What's wrong with you?" She demanded.

"Nothing." Ben said. And with that, he spun on his heel and stalked away. Shirley gave one last backwards glance at Repiv before following.

Repiv may not have realized it, but he had given away a very vital clue. He was still in contact with his Pro-Cliche superiors. And if he had some way to contact them, there was some way to trace them.


Repiv chuckled to himself quietly as Ben stormed off. Far too easy. Now that Ben was out of the way, he could get back to his mission.

He slipped through the Library quietly, slipping into the shadows when anyone passed.

Finally, he found the set of stairs he was looking for. With one last furtive glance to make sure nobody was around, he slipped down the stairs. The staircase was rather long and by the time he got to the bottom Repiv was panting slightly. He squinted in the dim light.

There in the shadows was his target. The Room of Things Man Was Not Meant to Know.

Repiv stepped off the last stair and started towards the door, studying it closely. He briefly wondered if it was possible to blow it open when a voice spoke behind him.

"Who are you?"

Repiv jumped, turning to find a tall boy with white hair standing behind him, a bare sword in his hand.

"Geez." He said as Carl hissed at the newcomer, putting a hand over his rapidly beating heart. "You startled me. I'm Repiv, this is Carl." He gestured to the snake around his neck. "I just joined up today. And you are...?"

"I'm Adrian. What are you doing down here? This area is off limits."

Repiv narrowed his eyes. So this was the infamous Librarian... "Oh, sorry, I didn't know." He said sheepishly. "I was just looking around and I found myself down here."

Adrian frowned. "Shouldn't someone have been assigned to show you around?"

Repiv bit his lip. "Yeah, but Ben kinda... wandered off..."

Adrian nodded, sheathing his sword. "I see. After you." He said, standing aside and gesturing at the stairs.

Repiv cursed himself as he walked back up the staircase. He could feel the Librarian's suspicious gaze burning a hole into his back. He shouldn't have been so careless. Now it was going to be harder than ever to get into the Room. Oh well, he had time. And with Ben's help he doubted anyone would ever know...


Tash sat at the kitchen table, finishing the last few pages of a stack of paperwork and sipping a cup of hot tea.

"How's business, Tash?" Valerie greeted as she walked in.

Tash looked up. "Not too bad. Tea?" She offered.

Valerie nodded and sat down as Tash stood and poured hot water into a mug.

"What's this for?" Valerie asked as she picked up a half-finished sheet of paperwork.

Tash looked over her shoulder as she made the tea. "Oh, that? A new member just joined the Society."

"Really?" Valerie glanced back at the paper. "His name's Repiv, huh?"

Tash nodded. "I assigned Ben to show him around and take him on his training mission in a few days."

Valerie nodded her thanks as Tash came back with the cup and handed it to her. She took a sip, frowning. "Have you talked to Ben lately?" She asked.

Tash shrugged. "Well, I introduced Repiv to him earlier and I sent him to you when he showed up yesterday with that awful nosebleed."

"Did he seem... strange?"

Tash thought for a moment. "Well, he did seem a little distracted earlier and he didn't really want to see you about the nosebleed until I ordered him to, why?"

"He was very upset when I spoke with him." Valerie confided. "He wouldn't even look at me."


Valerie nodded. "I haven't seen him this troubled since he killed Bella."

Tash rested her chin on her fist. "I wonder if there's anything we can do to help?"

Valerie shook her head. "He wouldn't tell me what was going on, even when I straight-out asked him."

"I see. I guess we've just got to let him deal with whatever it is he's dealing with." Tash sighed. "But I'll keep an eye on him anyway."

"Good idea."


It was a few days later. Ben paced back and forth, wearing a groove in the floor in the Science Fiction section. His brain was working overtime. So Repiv was still in contact with his superiors, that was both good and bad. On the one hand it meant that the slightest transgression on Ben's part would be instantly reported back to Neb and that would be the end of Bella. But conversely, it meant that there were clues to be found. If Ben could just figure out where they were keeping Bella, he'd fall upon them with the fury of an ocean.

"Hey, Ben!"

Ben looked up from his musings to see Adrian walking up.

"Have you seen Repiv around?" The Librarian asked.

Ben shook his head. "Not lately."

Adrian frowned and folded his arms. "He's been vanishing a lot lately."

Ben nodded. "Yeah, I noticed."

Adrian raised an eyebrow. "You did? Then why didn't you ask him where he was going? You're supposed to be in charge of him, until he completes his training mission, remember?"

Because he's a traitor and if I don't submit to his demands Neb's gonna kill the girl I care for who just so happens to be one of our enemies who I was ordered to capture but instead I helped to escape. That's why.

Outwardly Ben shrugged. "I mean to, but it kept on slipping my mind."

Adrian shot Ben a piercing look. "Hmm... well, when he get's back tell him to stop slipping off. Keep a closer eye on him too. I found him at the Room of Things Man Was not Meant to Know the other day, and there's a reason we named it that."

Ben's eyes narrowed. The Room, huh? "I will." He assured the Librarian.

"And report to Tash once you find him," Adrian added, turning to leave. "We've got his training mission lined up."

Ben nodded and headed off in search of Repiv.

He found both him and Shirley at the kitchen table, laughing like old friends, Carl curled up on the tabletop.
"There you are!" Ben hissed, stalking towards the two. "Where've you been?"

Repiv looked up. "Shirley was just telling me some stories about you." He chuckled, wiping a tear from his eye. "Were you really almost sold to a Chinese sweatshop once?"

Ben blushed and looked away. "Shirley..." He growled. "I thought I told you never to mention that!"

"Oh, come on, Ben!" Shirley smirked. "If it weren't for me, you'd be making Panasonic DVD players for 15 cents an hour!"

Ben blushed even deeper. "Whatever." He gritted out, turning back to Repiv. "Adrian's been looking everywhere for you, you know. They've found someone for your training mission."

"Oh, why didn't you say so?" Repiv demanded, Carl sliding back up his arm to his usual position around his neck as he stood. "Let's go!"

"You need to stop slipping off like that or you'll get both of us in trouble!" Ben muttered as he fell instep beside the traitor, Shirley following behind.

"Oh, don't worry about it, Ben." Repiv smirked. "I was just checking in with some old friends."

Ben shot Repiv a look. "Oh, really?" He asked, trying to sound casual. With Shirley around he couldn't exactly ask Repiv straight out.

"Oh, by the way, your girlfriend said to tell you hello." Repiv snickered.

Ben's eyes widened.

"Old girlfriend?" Shirley asked darkly. "Ben, have you been sneaking around behind my back?"

Ben chuckled weakly. "Umm... no?"

Shirley didn't reply, but she gave Ben a hard look.

"So... you went to visit them?" Ben asked.

"Yeah, I told you I would be." Repiv said off-handedly.

Yeah, but I didn't think you'd be doing it in person! That's the worst possible way!

Up until then, Ben had been assuming Repiv communicated with his superiors via communicator or something, if that was the case, Ben could just eavesdrop on their conversations and pick up some clues on where Neb and the rest were hiding. But since Repiv went in person it would be next to impossible to trace, not to mention it was risky on Repiv's part, his absences were too easily noticed.

Ben grimaced. If he really was going to track Neb and Bella down, he'd have to-

"Everything alright?"


Tash looked at Ben exasperatedly. "I just finished telling you what you need to do. You remember everything?"

Ben cursed himself. He'd been so deep in thought he'd daydreamed clear through the entire mission breifing.

"O-Oh, yeah, I got it." He stuttered.

"You sure you're OK, Ben?" Repiv asked, a false look of concern on his face. "If I'm gonna get through this in one piece, I'm gonna need your help!"

Ben set his jaw, ignoring Repiv's taunts. "I'm fine." He gritted, firing his plothole generator.

Tash watched the two jump into the portal, Shirley in tow. She turned away as it closed. Time to take care of some business...


Tash knocked on the door to Camille's tech lab, prompting a symphony of shouts, crashes, a few minor explosions and what sounded a cat yowling.

Camille opened the door, hair smoking. "Yeah?" She panted.

Tash stared, wide-eyed. "Um... you ok?" She asked."

"Oh, yeah." Camille turned to look over her shoulder. "Hey, Doyle! Watch out for that glycerin on the edge of the table!"

Tash gulped as the tech turned back. "What can I do for you?" She asked.

Tash blinked once before remembering the purpose of her visit. "Are you still working on Bahamut?"

"Yeah, I'm almost finished, why?"

"I need a favor from you..."


Ben staggered out of the plothole. He bent over, gasping for breath as sweat poured off his brow.

"What the hell were you thinking?" He demanded.

"I'm sorry." Repiv said mildly as he emerged from the rift, an innocent expression on his face. "It's my first mission..."

"Don't give me that!" Ben panted. "I told you to hang back! We could've ambushed that Stu and captured him before he knew what hit him. But no! You had to charge in screaming like a maniac and give us away! If I hadn't nuked those boulders when I did we'd be pancakes right now! Do you have any clue how hard it is to nuke a moving target?" Ben barked, grabbing Repiv's shirt. "If not for you, we might've captured the guy!"

"Geez, Ben, go easy on him!" Shirley said, emerging from the plothole as it closed. "You made some pretty bone-headed moves when you were first starting out too!"

"Shut up."

"What did you say?"

"I said shut up!" Ben roared, grabbing Shirley and yanking her up to his eye level. "I've had it with you nit-picking at every single thing I do! I can't get a single moments peace without you constantly harping on this or that! Now shut up and leave me alone before I nuke you!"

Shirley stared into Ben's eyes, too shocked to be angry. Ben had never spoken to her, or anyone for that matter, like that before.

Ben noticed movement out of the corner of his eye and looked around. It was only then that he realized he'd blown up right in the middle of the common area.

Tyler was frozen in mid-step, staring at him wide eyed. Drake was leaning back in his chair as if he'd been physically pushed back by Ben's rage. Aster was reading yet another manga, totally oblivious to anything else.

Ben put Shirley down, spun on his heel and stalked off.

"Watch it!" He barked as Pete bumped into him in the doorway.

"Sorry." Pete muttered, shooting the retreating Ben a glance.

"Sorry you guys had to see that." Repiv mumbled, eyes downcast.

"Don't worry about it." Drake said. "Ben's been acting pretty weird lately."

"I wonder what's eating him?" Tyler asked.

"Beat's me."

Aster looked up from her book. "Kyaa~? Did I miss something?" Everyone ignored her.

Shirley stared blankly after Ben, stunned.

"Don't worry about it." Tyler said to Repiv, bracingly. "There's not many people who catch their target first mission out. C'mon, know a way past one of Adrian's traps. Feel like some Oreos?"

Repiv shook his head, the very picture of dejection. "Thanks guys, but I think I'd just like to be alone for a while." He mumbled, but he was smiling as he turned away.

Now's my chance to get another crack at those doors...

Ben flopped onto his bed, staring at the ceiling. He felt bad for yelling at Shirley, it wasn't her fault. He'd just been so wound up lately over Bella. He'd have to apologize to his muse later.

Ben sighed. What was he going to do? Bella could very well already be dead for all he knew. Neb and Repiv could very well be stringing him along for all he knew. Just what were they up to anyway? Repiv hadn't done anything so far other than bungle missions and mock Ben constantly.

What if worst came to worst and the rest of the Society found out? They'd probably think he'd betrayed them, which, he had. What if he ended up having to fight his friends? He was reasonably certain he could hold his own against Tyler and maybe Drake. Marcus would be a problem with his ability to split himself in half, but for the fact he disliked violence. Doug and Christoph would be a handful, what with them being fully trained warriors. Aster would definitely be too much for him in her fae form. He'd probably lose to Tash too, not to mention Michael.

One thing was for sure, though, he didn't want to go up against Adrian. The Librarian would totally destroy him, then use his mangled carcass to mop up his own blood. And what about Shirley? Whose side would his muse be on? He doubted she'd believe anything he said, especially after how he treated her earlier, not to mention everything he'd kept from her.

Maybe it didn't have to end in violence. What if he just told the leaders of the Society what was going on? Ben rubbed his eyes. That wouldn't work. Oh, sure they might capture or kill Repiv, but the end result would be the same. They would either leave Bella to die at Neb's hands, or they'd mount an assault, capture her and throw her in jail. And as Ben had already decided, either was unacceptable.

A knock at the door snapped Ben out of his thoughts.

"Go away." He moaned, he wasn't in the mood to deal with people right now.

"It's me." It was Doyle. "Camille has news for you."

Ben sat up.

"She's fixed Bahamut."


Camille was glaring at a clipboard when Ben walked in. "Everything OK?" He asked.

Camille looked up. "Huh? Oh, yeah, we've just had a couple of Plothole Generators go missing is all."

She set the clipboard down on a workbench and led Ben over to a table.

Bahamut lay gleaming on the tabletop, good as new. Better in fact, since Camille had given it a fresh polish.
"She looks good." Ben said admiringly, picking his weapon-instrument up and stroking it fondly.

"Take better care of it this time. I don't want to have to go through this again." Camille growled. "It took me forever to piece it back together, and it nearly blew up in my face twice when I was working on it."

Ben chuckled weakly.

"But with some of the new features I've included, that shouldn't be an issue."

Ben slung Bahamut over his shoulder, neck pointing down and to the right as always. "What new features?" He frowned.

"I'm getting to that." Camille took a deep breath and started to explain.

By the time she'd finished Ben was grinning. Maybe he would be able to take Adrian on after all...


Repiv was leaning against the wall when Ben came out of the tech lab.

"I see you've got your little toy twanger back." He sneered.

Ben turned, the smile vanishing instantly.

"Quiet you." He growled. "I know you bungled that mission on purpose."

Repiv shrugged, Carl winding and re-winding himself around his neck. "What did you expect? I'm from the Mary-Sue Protection Society, remember?"

Ben narrowed his eyes, one hand dropping down to grasp Bahamut's fretboard. "I could kill you, remember?"

Repiv rolled his eyes. "We've been over this already." He sighed. "You kill me, they kill Bella."

He pushed himself off from the wall. "C'mon," He said, "There's something I need your help with." He turned and walked off.

Ben gave a long look at Repiv's departing back, before starting after the traitor. If nothing else, his cooperation would buy both him and Bella a little more time.

Repiv lead him down into to the Room and pointed at the reinforced door. "Nuke it." He said.

Ben frowned. "Why?"

Repiv rolled his eyes. "Because I think it would look lovely mounted over my fireplace mantle."

Ben glared at him.

"I want in, why else?" Repiv returned the glare. "It really isn't really that difficult to figure out."

Ben ignored that last comment and turned back to the Vault door. "Won't someone hear the explosion and investigate?"

Repiv rolled his eyes. "With the amount of nuking you do, I doubt anyone will pay attention. Besides, I know you can contain the size of your blasts. All I need is a localized explosion, now get a move on!"

Ben slowly raised a hand. There was no going back after this. Forgive me, everyone...

He took a deep breath. "Don't mess with-"

"What're you doing?" Ben and Repiv whirled. There was a young girl with light brown hair on the stairs, peering at them curiously.

"E-Emily! What're you doing down here?" Ben sputtered.

"I saw the door open and wondered if someone was down here." She frowned. "What were you doing?"

"Oh, nothing." Ben was getting alarmed. Repiv just rolled his eyes and sighed. Things were going south fast.

"Yes, you were." Emily said, accusingly. "You were trying to break into the Vault, weren't you!"


"I'm telling!" Emily turned and started to run back up the stairs, but Repiv was faster. In a flash, he unwound Carl from around his neck and hurled the snake at the fleeing girl. The snake wove itself in between her legs and she fell.

Repiv was over her before she could move. Emily started to scream as Repiv yanked her to her feet, but he quickly clapped a hand over her mouth, stifling her cries.

"Forget the nukes, someone will have heard that." He growled, dragging a struggling Emily back down the stairs.

Carl slithered up her leg and around her neck, pressing his fangs onto her artery.

"Make another sound," Repiv murmured into Emily's ear, "And Carl presses down just a little harder and you'll be dead before you can take another breath."

Emily didn't move, just stood there, petrified with fear.

Repiv jerked a head towards the stairs. "Get up there." He growled.

"What?" Ben asked blankly. All he could think was that it was all over. Neb would undoubtedly kill Bella, and if the rest of the Society didn't kill him, he'd be thrown in the jail with the Sues!

"I said, get up those stairs and warn everyone!" Repiv snarled. "Play the good guy and cover me if you have to! Now move!"

Ben turned and dashed up the stairs two at a time, nearly barreling straight into Charis at the top.

"Woah!" Charis staggered back. "What's going on?"

"Where's Tash? Or Adrian?" Ben gasped.

Charis blinked. "I saw them that way." She pointed behind her. "Is everything OK?"

"C'mon!" Ben growled, sprinting off again.

"Wait up!" Charis called, following.

Ben burst into one of the common areas to find Tash reading a book. A purring Adrian had his head in her lap and she was stroking his ears absentmindedly.

"Tash!" Ben gasped, bent double for breath.

Tash's head snapped up. "What's going on?" She asked, her hand ceasing it's ministrations of Adrian's kitty ears, causing the Librarian to meow in protest.

"Repiv... me and Emily... found him trying... to break into the Room... Things Man was not Meant... to Know..." Ben sputtered out, still straining for breath.

"Where's Emily?" Adrian asked, having snapped out his stupor instantly upon hearing the news.

"Repiv's... got her."

The two leaders shot to their feet and raced off, Ben and Charis close behind.

"Charis!" Tash ordered. "Find everyone else and fill them in on what's going on!"

Charis nodded and veered off.

"Kyaa~? What's going on?" Aster asked as they rounded a bend.

"Hostage situation!" Tash called over her shoulder.

"Wait for me!" Aster called, joining the chase.

When the reached the stairs to the Vault, there was already a small group gathering.

"Wait here!" Tash commanded, "You all," She pointed at Shirley, Ben, Drake, Aster and Tyler, "Come on!" And with that, they barreled down the stairs.

"Listen, Shirley," Ben panted as they descended the staircase. "About earlier-?"

"Save it." Shirley snapped. "We'll talk later."

There may not be a later! Ben shouted mentally, but he nodded nonetheless.

Repiv didn't appear to have moved at all, one arm still wrapped around Emily's head, trapping her in a headlock.

"That's far enough!" He said in a harshly. "Take another step and she get's it!"

Everyone froze.

"Let her go!" Tash ordered.

"I don't think so." Repiv scoffed.

"Why are you doing this?" Adrian asked quietly.

"You fools never got it, did you?" Repiv sneered. "All this time, and you never realized who I was! You really are idiots!"

"What are you talking about?" Ben demanded, keeping up the part of an innocent bystander.

Repiv rolled his eyes. "Think about it. What's my name?"

"Repiv." Tash said, confused. "Why?"

Repiv raised an eyebrow.

"Repiv, Rep...iv..." Tash repeated, then trailed off.

"Viper." Drake breathed.

"Exactly." Repiv hissed. "Need another clue?" With his free hand, he fished a card out of his pocket and held it up.

"Is that a Space Hammer card?" Shirley demanded. "You're with the Pro-Cliche and Mary-Sue Protection Society!"

"Duh." Repiv rolled his eyes as the card shifted into a knife, which he pressed into Emily's throat.

"You won't get away with this!" Drake threatened. Ben noticed his and Adrian's hands both subtly reaching for weapons.

"Oh, I think I will." Repiv cackled. "After all, we have people everywhere. Isn't that right...Ben?" He asked eyes glittering.

"Ben? What?" Shirley frowned. Everyone turned.

Ben stood to the side, staring at the floor, a single finger pointed straight at the rest.

"What are you doing, Ben?" Tash asked, her voice wavering, obviously caught off guard by this latest development.

"Come over here, Ben." Repiv commanded.

"Ben, wait!" Tyler called.

This couldn't be real, could it?

Ben walked over to stand beside the traitor slowly, keeping one finger on the group the entire time.

"How long has this been going on?" Adrian asked Ben in an icy voice.

"Oh, since before I joined up." Repiv said off handedly, which was technically true.

"But-you?" Tyler could only stare, his mouth hanging open.

Shirley didn't say anything. She just stared at her partner blankly, seemingly unable to take everything in at once.

"I'm sorry." Ben said sullenly.

Why?" Aster demanded. "Think about it! Be..." She gulped and caught over her words. "She wouldn't want you to do this!"

"You don't understand!" Ben shouted. "I'm doing this for her! If I don't-"

"Ben!" Repiv barked warningly. "Just one more word..."

Ben closed his mouth, staring at the ground sullenly.

"What do you want?" Adrian asked calmly.

"Open it." Repiv commanded, nodding towards the Room door. "And no funny business!"

Adrian nodded and with slow deliberate movements, made his way over to the doors.

"Take her." Repiv commanded, tentatively releasing his hold on Emily's neck, Carl slithering back up his arm to his own neck.

Ben wrapped his own arm around Emily's throat as Repiv moved over to oversee Adrian's actions, remaining just out of reach.

"I'm really sorry about this." Ben whispered in Emily's ear as he kept one finger on the assembled agents.

Aster was staring off into nowhere. She seemed halfway between understanding and not - as if she was searching an encyclopedia of confusing symbols in her head. "How could you? She wouldn't want this..."

Ben met the fae's gaze levelly. "I don't care." He replied. "It doesn't matter."

"What's taking you so long?" Repiv snapped at Adrian. "You should've had it open by now!"

"Sorry," The Librarian muttered. "I haven't opened it for a while, the door's being pretty stubborn."

"Like hell it is." Repiv muttered, leaning over to get a better look.

That was when Christoph dropped out of the shadows onto his back.

Everything happened at once.

Repiv shouted in surprise and staggered from the weight, trying to toss the ninja off, but Christoph held on grimly.

He raised a sai, the blade gleaming in the dim light. But as he prepared to bring it down, Carl flew at his face, preparing to sink his fangs into his neck. Only Christoph's ninja reflexes saved him. With a cry he threw himself backwards, tossing both himself and Repiv to the ground as Carl flew past.

Repiv lashed out wildly as he fell, his foot catching Christoph in the face, snapping his head back and stunning him. Repiv ripped open a plothole as he scrambled to his feet and threw himself in as Adrian made a futile grab for the fleeing traitor. Carl followed after his owner an instant later.

Ben whirled, keeping one arm around Emily, nearly twisting her head off by accident, but Repiv had already gone and the plothole was already closing. Ben was frozen for a second. What should he do? Repiv was his only link to Bella!

Then Emily bit down on Ben's arm. Hard.

He roared in pain as blood began to well around the wound. "Go!" He hissed in the girl's ear as he shoved her forward into the group of agents. Tash moved to catch her, Emily's momentum pushing the two of them back into the rest of the group, dissolving them into chaos.

Christoph and Adrian charged at Ben from behind, but Ben snapped into the first few movements of the Fast-Step and the two overshot their target.

Ben leveled a palm at the group, along with a finger. "My coffeemakers are not controlled by Hoover Dam computers! Don't mess with nukes!"

Ben leapt backwards over the rising floodgates and vanished into the plothole a split-second before it closed.
Adrian whirled, just in time to catch a blast of coffee full in the face, as the floodgates emptied into the crowded room.

Tash wavered, but the crush of people in the room kept her upright. "Quick!" She shouted as the flood ebbed. "We've gotta get out of the-"

That was when the warhead detonated.

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