And here we are at the conclusion. Anything after this point is play logs.
Possibly, I will try to write up such play logs from time to time, but no promises there.
â€œOwww...â€ Groaning softly, Jamie shoved a girder out of his path, taking a deep breath of relatively clean air and grabbing bits of scrap metal. â€œNote to self. Next time, don't be inside the building you blow up.â€
â€œJamie!â€ For a moment, he thought that the volume controls on his radio were busted. Then he realized that Hephaestus was just yelling very loudly.
â€œTone it down, Heff.â€ He muttered. â€œMission accomplished. Just gotta go drag my carcass out of here.â€
â€œAccomplished.â€ Hephaestus said bitterly. â€œJamie, I would like to know at exactly what point killing every single person became the best way to solve this problem.â€
Jamie sighed heavily. â€œCan this wait? I'm at about 20% efficiency. If my cybernetics weren't actively rerouting systems, I'd be dead. If I weren't divinely boosted, I'd still be dead. Maybe you can berate me for not magically understanding your incredibly vague instructions while I'm repairing myself, huh?â€
â€œI don't think that's an appropriate way to talk to your god, Jamie.â€
â€œSuck it up, man. You don't own me.â€ Reaching the edge of the devastation, Jamie turned back to survey the ruins of the facility. He sighed heavily. â€œThere goes my life. If I show up alive, people will want to know how it is I'm the only survivor.â€
â€œJamie, I rather specifically do own you. You are my divine champion, which means that your actions are at my direction.â€ Hephaestus pointed out.
â€œNope.â€ Jamie answered.
â€œThis should be good.â€ Hephaestus said. â€œHow did you come to this conclusion?â€
â€œSimple.â€ Reaching the shelter of the treeline, Jamie collapsed to the ground, working his metal into very rough tools as he spoke. â€œYou can run interference, but if you come down and mess me up directly, Ares'll find out. And he'll wonder why. Plus, I'm not sure you can act that directly anyway, or you wouldn't need proxies. And I know you can't take these powers away.â€ When Hephaestus didn't immediately answer, he smirked. â€œTold you. You don't own me. Look, Heph. I appreciate what you did to me. Saved me life, gave me something sweet here. And I recognize that I still owe you big time, and I'm happy to work for you. But none of this 'minion of the divine' crap, okay?â€
The silence stretched for a minute, as Jamie tested his makeshift repairs. Just as he thought the god had left in a huff, Hephaestus finally spoke. â€œIt matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll. I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.â€
â€œOkay, you lost me.â€ Jamie said slowly.
â€œIt's from a poem.â€ The god replied. â€œInvictus, by William Ernest Henly. Look it up.â€
â€œI'll do that.â€ Jamie smiled, starting into a jog through the woods. His legs sent shocks of pain at the effort, which he pushed aside. â€œSo we're cool, right?â€
â€œThere are conditions. If you break them, I will consider it worth the problems necessary to remove you as my disciple.â€ Hephaestus warned him. â€œThe process is very lethal.â€
â€œGotcha. What are the conditions?â€
â€œNo more killing people, unless doing so is absolutely the only way to save many more.â€ Hephaestus said firmly. â€œYou're not a thug any more, Jamie. You have to be someone better.â€
Jamie sighed. â€œLook, Heph. I gave it a try, but the instant that Simon Tate died, there was no one on that base worth saving.â€
â€œQuite a few people would say the same about you.â€
Jamie stopped. He frowned up at the sky, then shook his head and started running. â€œOkay, fine. Murder bad, got it. For what it's worth, I'm sorry that I got some of the others killed, too. Anything else?â€
â€œI will continue to need your help from time to time. In return, I will help you when I can. Is that agreeable?â€
â€œAbsolutely.â€ Said Jamie, back on solid ground. â€œWhat do I do in the mean time? I mean, I can probably fake up some ID, but somehow I don't think it'd stand up to a full police background check, and I can't imagine that you want me taking mercenary work. And I'm pretty much only good at fighting things.â€
â€œI think you'll find that you're good at quite a bit more, now. You could be a phenomenon on stage, and any technology company would be happy enough to have you as a researcher.â€ Hephaestus pointed out. â€œOr would it be better to say, you're only really happy fighting things?â€
â€œI like a good brawl.â€ Jamie admitted after a moment. â€œI like other stuff too, though. Cooking. Girls. A job that made money would be nice.â€
â€œI really think the choice is obvious.â€ Hephaestus said.
â€œI don't follow.â€
â€œThink, Jamie. What profession involves large-scale combat against beings who could stand up to your pounding, the adulation of crowds â€“ if you do it right â€“ and is still in line with my ideals?â€
â€œUh, nothing? Except superheroes, I guess, but I'm no...â€ Jamie trailed off. â€œHang on.â€ He stopped dead again. â€œI am, aren't I? I mean, put a cape on me and I'm basically already there.â€
â€œExactly. Choose a moniker, make some speeches about protecting the public, actually protect the public â€“ they'll lap it up. The usual stresses of the profession are not things you tend to worry about.â€
â€œI like it.â€ Jamie said slowly. â€œAnd I think I already have a moniker.â€
â€œNothing that references me, I hope.â€ Hephaestus said quickly. â€œI'm still a silent partner in all of this.â€
â€œNo worries, boss.â€ Jamie smiled. â€œI was thinking, 'Invictus'.â€
â€œHm. It could work.â€
Jamie started into the trees. â€œBoss, I think I'm going to like my new life.
It was so hard to breathe, hard to move. Hard to think. All she could remember was that she had been so close. So close to proving that she was better, that she was good enough for anyone. And then he took it all away. And now there was nothing to do but wait for the pain to stop. For everything to stop.
â€œI am very impressed, Sarah.â€ The voice brought her back from the brink. She tried to focus, but there was only darkness around her. â€œI never would have thought anyone could survive the nanite detonation, let alone having a military base fall on them. You are truly amazing.â€
Thank you. She wanted to say it, but she couldn't speak. She held onto the sound, devoted everything to it as it continued. â€œI can take you out of here, Sarah. Make you better. You'll be strong enough to fight him, beat him. Whatever you want to do, you can do it. Of course,â€ It added offhandedly, â€œI will expect you to be properly grateful for my assistance. There are certain things you will need to do for me, before we deal with him. Can I count on you, Sarah? Can I trust you?â€
â€œGood. Come with me, Sarah.â€ She was lifted from the pain, felt soothing power envelop her. â€œWe're going to be very happy together, I can already tell.â€