Chapter 1: The Lab
Depth Charge was woken up by the dull chime of his phone from the nightstand beside him. He waited a moment. Wondering if he could get away with going back to sleep, and saying the alert hadn’t woken him up.
It was past midnight, but that meant little when Rugby was almost an entirely nocturnal operation. Really the fact he was trying to sleep at night was wishful thinking in itself, when in a couple days time, he would have to reverse all of his efforts to assume a socially acceptable sleep schedule.
His room was pitch black, the streets that were usually too loud to allow any type of rest during the day, now quiet. The only light drifting through the window emanating from a streetlight on the corner. And his phone of course. He didn’t want to get up. Especially with how his body ached from his last mission, despite it having been a couple days ago.
He’d had this job at Rugby for about two years now - three, if he was to count the time before he transferred, and was still at Omicron. He’d brought in a lot of subjects on their orders. Almost all of them were no big deal. A strange creature - usually from a lab somewhere - that just needed to have bait set, and a net thrown. Rarely did they have the intelligence to evade a skilled hunter like him. This most recent one included. It fell right into the palm of his hands. It smelled the bait, walked into the cage, and by all means should have been trapped, but whoever wrote the report didn’t feel the need to note that it could crush steel with its bite strength, and it tore its way out, and tackled the agent, who had walked a bit too close under the illusion of safety.
To keep things short, it beat the shit out of him before he could get the tranq round in it, and even then, it continued to beat the shit out of him until it properly kicked in.
He got paid extra for not managing to harm the subject, then compensated for his injuries, but such a bonus was wasted with the copay on the painkillers he needed.
His phone chimed again.
Depth Charge groaned, reminded of its existence. Blindly he swung an arm towards it, nearly smacking it off the table, before managing to grab it properly, and pull it on over.
‘Agent Depth Charge, you are needed in tonight.’
‘Reply when able.’
He dropped his phone onto his chest and groaned again. Louder, as if it would somehow make the problem go away. He was supposed to be off today. He was supposed to be off all week. Nonetheless, he turned his bedside lamp on, and replied.
‘What for?’ He typed up. It took entirely longer than it should have.
He nearly dozed off again in the time it took for his boss to reply.
‘Omicron’s server went dark an hour ago, but the rest of the facility is online and responding. We are waiting on a file. We need someone to collect a physical copy instead.’
Depth Charge rolled onto his chest, and sighed. Omicron was an old building. Things broke more than they should, and with several big monsters lurking in the Dungeon, no one really wanted to take the building out of commission long enough to fix things the way they should be. Leading to problems like these. Something breaking at an annoying moment.
‘I’ll be ready to go in thirty minutes’ and with that, Depth Charge stumbled out of bed, and straight to his coffee machine.
The drive to Omicron was nostalgic. A frequently traveled path. Though he noted with disdain that the only place along the way that sold food and coffee 24/7 was replaced by a restaurant that was definitely not open. Somehow the ride felt longer without the stop, but it didn’t detract from the familiarity of it.
His move to Rugby had been solely because it was closer. A two-minute walk from his apartment, as opposed to a forty-five minute drive, however the cover was different. Omicron was a bounty hunting office. Rugby was - well, its proper name was ‘Dr. Rugby’s Animal Rescue Clinic’. One could imagine.
Similarly, they both handled different types of monsters that rather fit their cover - apparently, it was easier to acquire the necessary tools if your front dealt in something similar. Omicron handled sapient things. Stuff that could outsmart a hunter. Usually humanoid, but it wasn’t exactly a rule. Rugby captured non sapient entities. Animals that had been experimented on, on one occasion an alien pet that had been dumped on Earth, wildlife that took a mutation for the gruesome. That type of stuff. As much as Depth Charge loathed to accept such things as real, they were unfortunately his life now. And that is what he was heading over to deal with now.
A reclassification. Omicron had a humanoid subject that needed to reclassified from sapient, to non sapient. Someone made a snap decision, and observed it through an anthropomorphized lens. It happened sometimes. The thing was an animal that just so happened to walk on hind legs, and have thumbs, and an expressive face and thus, needed to be moved over. Omicron just went down before the paperwork could be transferred.
The thing wasn’t even supposed to be moved tonight. Safe. Friendly. Just a bit of a drive, then he’d go back home, and try to go back to sleep.
Well, he hoped anyway.
Depth Charge fondly noted that he still had a titled parking spot at Omicron. The name was faded, not touched up nearly as much as the others, but it made him smile all the same. He could count on one hand how many times he’d visited in the last two years, but it was truly like he never left. The walk up to the building felt like home. The empty lobby that greeted him after he unlocked the door did too, although in a less warm and cozy way. It came accompanied by that feeling of uncertainty that came with his promotion to the new division.
He kind of wanted to check back in during the day. See if everyone still remembered him. See if he’d still get the warm welcome, and respect he’d gotten before the transfers. Internally, he made a note of it, as he walked through the building. B-line to the hidden elevators in the back.
He’d get lots of donuts and coffee, make it a treat to his old floor. Or… no… they were basically off brand cops. Donuts and coffee were a little too stereotypical. Maybe bagels, or muffins, and coffee?
He stuck his key card into the elevator panel, and with a lurch, it began moving downwards. To the Dungeon.
He continued to mull it over in his head.
He could go for an edible arrangement type thing, but those were so expensive, and no one really wanted the fruit that much. No one wanted to the person to take it apart and ruin it. Fuck it, he’d get bagels, muffins, coffee, AND donuts. He would be ex-boss of the year.
The elevator dinged, and the second the door opened a crack Depth Charge was hit with a wave of a strange metallic smell he recognized a bit too well. Blood. He was filled with dread in a mere moment, torn from his reverie.
He looked out on the scene as the elevator doors slowly retracted. His eyes went wide in shock at the extent of it.
Pools of blood littered the ground in chaotic patterns, most smeared as though the victim was dragged away. Decorating the sparse, visible tiles beneath were hundreds of boot prints, and something less human mixed around between them. Something happened - obviously- and whatever it was, was abrupt, and violent to the extreme. Something done by hand… there wasn’t a single bullet casing on the ground. But then again, there were no bodies, and gallons of blood on the floor. Such things could be removed.
He pulled his phone from his pocket. By some miracle, he was still connected to the wifi upstairs. It was spotty, but enough to send a message.
‘Containment breach at Omicron. Many injured, potentially dead. How do I proceed?’
Depth Charge waited. Not moving an inch as he did so. It was dead silent. Eerily so. He couldn’t hear any footsteps, or any signs of life really. Just the gentle hum of fluorescent lights and his own fearful breathing. He nearly jumped out of his skin from the vibration of his phone when he got his reply. Far quicker than before.
‘Forget the file. Neutralize the target by any means necessary. Reinforcements are on their way. Happy hunting, agent.’
He was painfully aware of how sore his shoulders were, how weak his body was from his last encounter. His self-confidence was painfully low, but he knew he had to do this, before the subject could find the way out. Whatever got loose absolutely couldn’t continue its rampage on the surface.
With a heavy breath to steady himself, he stepped out of the elevator, and took up his pistol. Holding it firm before him. Stance low, and slowly advancing. Careful not to step through the larger collections of blood as he did so.
He followed the path of violence, viscera, and clawed footprints, imagining it would lead to the target.
He turned down the hall, and hurried past open doors. Each one a mirror image of the last. Ajar to varying degrees. Empty. Desks overturned, gruesome sprays of gore covering the walls and floor. Most disturbingly were the cups of coffee, and meal trays left out, and half-eaten. Phones and books were left abandoned. In one of the rooms, a laptop was still playing music. The tune of it was upbeat enough to make it morbid. No one had seen this coming. All the emergency weapon racks were still locked up. Not a single alarm was triggered. Despite the mess, this creature was careful. That, or had some powers up its sleeve. Utter silence, invisibility, or mind control were the only things he could think of, and all of them made his skin crawl and peak over his shoulder.
When he finally stopped, it was in front of the security office. He had planned to make a pit stop there before he even saw the state of it. He imagined the security footage it contained would provide a well needed advantage, but it was closed. The only closed door. All the trails of gore lead under it, and a couple desperate hand prints on the door frame showed signs of resistance - the first ones he’d actually seen thus far. It practically had a flashing neon light on it, saying ‘monster here’.
He was reminded of the way he would lay traps for his targets at Rugby. A small confined space, that was of importance to the target in some way. Decorated to draw its attention. Filled with something it couldn’t resist. He had always thought that the creatures were just stupid, giving into baser instincts, and desires without analyzing a situation properly. It never occurred to him that perhaps it was a lack of alternatives.
He cursed to himself silently. Of course it was the only room with only one way in. There were no vents leading in there, no back doors, no vulnerable walls he could break down. It was intended to be the safest room in the building. Currently, the least safe.
Whatever had gotten loose was intimidatingly intelligent.
After properly bracing himself, and taking the safety off his gun, he kicked the door open, hoping to catch whatever was inside off guard long enough to get some lead in it. Inside was a pile of bodies. Around twenty, he guessed just from the height of it. His eyes were glued to it a moment too long, and was punished for it by not noticing the blur of motion to his left until too late.
He managed a step back, but before he could even make a move to defend himself, it was lunging at him with inhuman speed. He caught a glint of a familiar shade of green shining back at him, and fired his gun into the impossibly fast form prematurely (he hoped it at least grazed it), but ultimately it was too late to make a difference.
The thing barreled into him, knocking him flat on his back. His head hit the tile with a painful, dizzying crack.
All the air was forced from his lungs, and his world went sideways as his attacker landed atop him - the monster was fucking heavy - his ribs groaned with the weight. Its knees pressing into bruises, and half healed wounds. He bit his cheek in an attempt not to scream out, and fired again. This one definitely didn’t hit, judging by the sound of it, but it earned a vicious snarl all the same. Immediately he regretted shooting blindly, as in a single, swift, and violent motion, the gun was torn from his hand, and hurled down the hall. He quickly looked out, trying to follow it, in hopes of retrieving it, but… no, it was at least a minute sprint from here, and in too many pieces.
Blindly he swung a fist up at the creature, and - once again, immediately regretted it. There was no give, simply an unyielding plane that barely budged. All he accomplished was an immediate ache in his knuckles, and another growl. It snapped its head back to him, and he was shocked to actually recognize it.
It was Prototype: X. He looked different. Larger. Utterly coated in gore. Sharper, somehow. But there was no mistaking it. It was X. That green visor, and massive maw, slightly parted in surprise were unmistakable.
It lifted a massive hand, wiping the blood away from his helmet, to get a better look at its victim.
“Depth Charge!” The voice was far too fond to match the violence of the actions.
He opened his mouth to say something. What, he wasn’t entirely sure, but all that came out was a wheeze. A terrified wheeze. He hadn’t seen X in years, Immediately he was struck with a wave of guilt. X slipped his mind within a month of having completed the assignment, and he had the awful feeling that the escape was entirely his fault. That guilt was swiftly replaced by anger. X was smart! He wasn’t some savage beast! Why would he do this?!
“I apologize, I did not know it was you, old friend.” The giant of a man moved. Shifting his bulk off of the agent’s ribs, and more comfortably distributing his weight. The way he applied himself kept Depth Charge pinned to the ground, and such a detail didn’t escape him. “I tasted your fear when you came in, but unfortunately, your aftertaste was too unfamiliar to place. I would have greeted you personally!”
“What did you do?!” Depth Charge accused loudly, his voice wavered. He still hadn’t caught his breath, and the chaotic brew of fear, anger and guilt did nothing to help.
X didn’t answer immediately. Seeming distracted by the agent at the moment. The monster trailed his hands upwards from the agent’s shoulders, up to his neck. Depth Charge went deathly still in terror, as the claws grazed his throat, but they did nothing more than pause there thoughtfully. They came to rest on his face. Cupping his face like one would a loved one, and Depth Charge felt sick when he felt X’s claws smear blood onto his cheeks, and neck. Even sicker when he felt a few chunks in it. He tried not to let himself consider what they could be from.
“You look… different. Older.” Depth Charge gave a huff. Wonderful. Now even a monster was commenting on the bags under his eyes. He cleared his throat, and got X’s attention back with that it seemed.
“Oh, I thought it was quite obvious, friend. I killed them all. I escaped. Or… well, that is generous use of the past tense. I am escaping.” X stated matter of factly, with a laugh. “But… you weren’t here. I found no trace of you in my exploration.” He paused for a moment. ”They moved you to another location, didn’t they? It would certainly explain why you never visited me, despite your promise.” Depth Charge couldn’t listen to what he was saying anymore. .
He reached up to roughly pull X’s claws off of him. That was a battle he won. X was pliable in his hands. Completely willing to move away without resistance. He wiped away the blood quickly, while X tilted his head in uncertainty. Settling his claws onto the agent’s shoulders before Depth Charge could shove him away further.
“You shouldn’t feel guilty, you had no hand in this. Besides, this is the fate they deserve. This is good.” X stated softly. Suddenly the tasting of emotions stopped being a neat trick. It felt invasive. Depth Charge was disturbed by how little the implications of his actions affecting him. Depth Charge had killed before. He’d killed the irredeemably guilty, who would have killed him first, and that alone had cost him his sleep for a month.
“No! They didn’t deserve to be maimed, and tossed into a pile! You could have just asked to see me, or something -”
“I asked to see you every single day. For my trouble, they tore me apart, and muzzled me! At least I had the mercy to make their deaths swift.” X was becoming defensive, as if he thought he was the righteous one here… Did he just not realize..?
“No you don’t understand! They are gone! They aren’t going to get back up or anything, they’re dead!”
“No, you are the one that doesn’t understand, old friend. They killed me over, and over, Depth Charge. Again and again, day in, day out for sadistic pleasure - they ENJOYED IT. So I killed them. One death each. A swift end, to ensure they could never hurt me, or anyone else again. I know they can’t regenerate like I can, and I don’t want them to!” X roared back.
Simple. Easy. Black and white. Still, Depth Charge felt a simmering hatred.
Depth Charge didn’t know how to argue. Perhaps that is because he couldn’t argue. He couldn’t admit X was right - he simply couldn’t, but what else could he possibly say to make X realize..? He knew these people. Sure, they weren’t exactly friends, like his coworkers at Rugby, but he knew them. He worked with them for a year. He didn’t know them all personally, and he had never read their psyche profiles, but he spoke with them enough to know that they wouldn’t torture a guy for kicks. He knew that much and to see them like this… To listen to a monster tell him that they were the monstrous ones, and that they deserved death…
Then again, many murderers could hide their natures. He’d seen that himself. When he worked in Omicron’s front division.
His knee-jerk reaction was to accuse X of lying. Somewhere below that was pitty, but along that same level was a desire to kick X in the gut. He shoved both as far down as he could. Instead, he thought of how he could use the situation to his advantage. He couldn’t fight X right now, let alone survive X, if he started a fight. He needed to play this smart.
That hatred dimmed. Dissipating to be replaced with a cold acceptance, and determination.
“Prove it.” was what Depth Charge finally said when he did speak up.
X looked surprised, and delighted. Depth Charge had to stop himself from grimacing at the enthusiasm. The monster was on his feet in moments, and lowering a hand down to Depth Charge to help him up - one he took, and immediately regretted, when he once again found blood on himself. He wiped it off onto his leg, and groaned at the soreness, and dizziness that rushed him. His head felt light and wobbly, his body felt like it was made of lead - and ugh, his back…
“You are in pain.” X observed flatly.
“No shit. Just get moving.” Depth Charge snapped, holding a hand to his forehead until he steadied.
After the order, X started moving along as soon as the agent was standing on his own two feet. Leading Depth Charge down the hall at an uncomfortable pace that forced him to occasionally break into a jog to catch back up. He wasn’t too worried about being left behind, with how X frequently turned around to ensure he was still following, but at the same time, he didn’t want to be too slow. He had a feeling X wouldn’t have too many qualms with carrying the agent over his shoulder or something.
After walking for a few minutes, X guided him through an open door, and down a flight of stairs. The hall at the bottom was refreshingly clean. Dust clung to the corners, but it was far better than the blood puddle that was the floor upstairs. He let out a relieved sigh when he saw the expanse of white tiling before them. Depth Charge had never been to this wing - which felt odd. He’d been here for a year, and he never saw these rooms… An entire floor he hadn’t been privy to.
When he realized a lab was what occupied this floor, he reconsidered his suspicion. He wasn’t a scientist. He was a hunter. He had no business here, was how he internally justified it.
Or at least he thought it was their lab. He saw beakers, and a microscope, and made the assumption there. But he saw some other tools he didn’t recognize, or know the names of. He even saw living creatures he’d never seen before, suspended in solution like some B-Grade horror film. Though his attention was quickly drawn elsewhere: the weapons lockers along the back wall.
They were higher grade than the ones upstairs. There were many to choose from, but one particular heavy-duty shotgun was what caught his eye. A shot from that thing could take X down for the count, he wagered. Though he was uncertain for how long… He couldn’t remember his file well enough to remember the rate of his regeneration, but he was confident that one or two shots would be all he’d need to knock him down long enough to handle him properly.
He had a plan. Barely even half brewed at the moment, but a plan nonetheless. He would get X into his cell, if it was still in working order, and wait until reinforcements to arrive. Really there were quite a few places it could go wrong. He didn’t think he could overpower X, if things got too close, and he wasn’t totally sure if he would be able to go back for the gun. But still, a dangerous, and flawed plan was better than completely winging it.
“So… you know your way around pretty well.” Depth Charge observed as they turned into another hallway. This one wasn’t as pristine. There was a singular blood splatter on the wall further down, and some broken tiles around it. He could picture the scene in his head: some poor scientist being thrown like he weighed nothing. Hurled into the tile, never to rise.
“When I was carted around, I always took note of my surroundings. I let them think the sedative worked, and I learned, and observed. And this time, when they leaned in too close, felt too confident -” X made a sharp movement, swinging a set of claws upwards in a violent jab. “ - I punished them.” He let out a sharp laugh, and Depth Charge felt more of that cold rage wash over him. He forced himself to calm quickly. Knowing it would do no good to show that. He got quick glance from X, but otherwise nothing else.
“Here we are.” X stated. Coming to an abrupt stop in front of a metal door that was torn open. It had been a sliding door from the look of it, and rather than pry it open, X seemed to have just clawed through it. X didn’t hesitate in climbing through. Depth Charge had a bit more caution. Peaking through - and with disdain, noting he’d be stepping into a room full of more bodies. These not yet stacked into a pile that he could look away from with ease. But he was oddly glad to note that none of them were people he recognized. Oddly validating as well. Maybe the people he knew weren’t the bad ones here. Maybe they had been unfairly lumped with the others.
He stopped himself from thinking that. Reminding himself it changed nothing, and such a thought made it seem like these people deserved death in the first place.
After sighing, and closing his eyes for a few moments to brace himself, Depth Charge followed. Stepping in after X, and looking around.
The descriptor of torture chamber would have been quite fitting. There were several surfaces for someone of X’s size to be strapped on. One vertical, one horizontal, with metal cuffs to restrain him. There was a toppled tool tray, where bloodied scalpels, and strange looking clamps spilled onto the floor. There was even a rack of muzzles. Though really, what really caught his attention was the color of the tiles. The whole facility was white. This room? A lightish pink. Enough blood was spilled to stain every surface. Even the ceiling was speckled.
Depth Charge cringed, and reminded himself that this changed absolutely nothing.
“This is the room where they ‘played’ with me. They unwove me, fiber by fiber…” X trailed off, looking back over to Depth Charge. Likely tasting his discomfort. “... But I can tell you more of that, when we’re free.”
“Actually… can you show me where they put you, first..?” Depth Charge spoke slowly. A carefully constructed tone of caution. X stared. Visor unreadable, and so he continued. “I doubt you know much about the law, but, this is inhumane. If I can get proof, I can make sure this place goes under.” It definitely wouldn’t work like that, but he knew it was something he would have wanted to hear, if he was in X’s position, so he lied. He felt no guilt for doing so.
“You’ll get to go free. You’ll get to live on the surface.” Depth Charge added. That was what finally got X’s interest.
“Really?” X replied hopefully. Disbelievingly.
“Uh-huh. Just lead the way.”
X nodded, and led Depth Charge back to the hall, and took the agent a mere door down - he supposed keeping the test subject close to the testing room made sense, but he had hoped it would be further… Every second he spent walking around aimlessly, was a second closer to his backup arriving.
The door was open, and the cell inside was pitifully small. Barely enough room for someone X’s size to pace. The walls were littered with frenzied gouges, and more deliberate designs. Delicate swirls etched into the wall, equally inter spaced with savage claw marks. It was sad, and interesting at the same time.
Depth Charge looked to the door panel. A simple key card scanner, with a number pad for additional verification to unlock it. To lock it? As far as he could tell, merely a push. Now, he just had to get X back in there… Guns definitely weren’t an option. He couldn’t run for anything now. Too long of a run to the weapons lockers. He would undoubtedly be caught in that long stretch of hallway. A quick glance back to X revealed a rigid, anxious posture. He would retaliate, no question about it. So overpowering him was out of the picture. Never really was in the picture to begin with though. Deceit it was.
“Alright. I’m gonna take a picture.” Depth Charge began, fishing out his phone. “You should stand in there, you know. For scale. It’ll show everyone how small it was for you.” Depth Charge hoped it was convincing.
“Can’t you just take a picture like this? I don’t want to set foot in there again.” X sounded a bit shaken.
Well then, that wouldn’t work. Maybe deceit paired with brute force?
“It would just be for a second. Or - wait, actually all I need you to do is stand in front of the door. That would be good enough.” Depth Charge compromised.
X let out a heavy sigh, and a noise of uncertainty, but complied. Albeit hesitantly. It felt like an eternity for Depth Charge, who was struggling to seem calm, and nonchalant. X trudged forward a few steps until he was in the doorway. Depth Charge almost felt bad for a second. His posture looked miserable. Slumped, and anxious.
That same thought from the night they met cropped up.
Would letting him go really be so bad? This place was awful to him. Inhumane, and cruel. He could understand his motive, and his desire to be free so much. The fixation was sad as well… To form such a bond with someone who he had only known for a few hours. To form such a one sided bond…
“A little to the right, you need to be lined up.” Depth Charge requested. Eyeing the distance between his shoulder and the door frame.
He almost felt pity. Then he remembered the dead bodies.
Depth Charge didn’t even bother making a show of taking a picture. He just dropped his phone, reeled back, and launched a kick at the center of X’s chest. One that never landed. X saw it coming. He twisted out of the way agily, and grabbed Depth Charge’s leg as it flew towards him. One set of claws latched onto his calf, the other, his thigh. It was still for a moment. Depth Charge getting a single moment to feel his regret and terror before he was yanked violently. Flung into the cell.
Depth Charge landed with a shout, and scrambled to his feet as quickly as he could. Powering through the wobble his knees gave in protest. Every fiber of his being was screaming out in adrenaline and fear. He was cornered, with a monster who would likely want him dead, and he had no weapons.
He turned. Expecting a spiky, bloody ball of rage to be launching at him, but instead, all he saw was a door slamming shut in his face.
Depth Charge rushed over, and threw his full weight of the door. Hoping to catch it before it locked. When he touched it, his entire side lit up in pain. An intense, burning vibration that earned yelp of shock before he managed to yank himself away. He stumbled back. Falling onto his ass, with a grimace as he felt his organs riot inside him from the sudden electrocution.
“I’m sorry, but I won’t be locked up again.” X said quietly. Apologetically. “Your friends will find you, but they can’t find me. I can’t do this again.”
“X! Open this door...” Depth Charge had wanted his voice to be an aggressive hiss, but a groan was what happened instead.
“I couldn’t if I wanted to.”
He heard X’s footsteps trailing away. Depth Charge forced himself to standing once more. Leaning on the wall.
“I’ll find you.” Depth Charge shouted the threat as loud as he could manage. Hoping to catch X’s attention.
X stopped. He succeeded in that at least.
“I’ll find you, and make you pay for what you’ve done.”
Depth Charge sat in a chair in his boss’ office. A cup of coffee in his hand. Clenched in a vice grip as he stared absently at the floor. His boss was talking to him - or at him, rather - about how important he was to the organization. It was truth, as far as the agent had heard, but he’d long since stopped listening. His mind was elsewhere. His boss’ words passed right through him.
He brought his cup of coffee to his lips, and took another gulp. He winced at the near boiling heat, but swallowed anyway. It was his third cup in an hour, but he felt he deserved it. It was necessary.
Depth Charge heard his boss begin to go off on another tangent on his impressive track record, likely with the intent to circle it around again to some other task. He took a deep breath and let himself shut his eyes for a few seconds. He deserved that too.
He’d spent about 5 hours trapped at Omicron. In Prototype: X’s cell. No possible means of escape, and no way to communicate with the outside world, with his phone abandoned outside the cell. Even if he had it, he likely wouldn’t have been able to do much more than distract himself.
For 5 hours, it was just four walls, a thin cushioned pad on the floor, and an electrified door. He regrettably had tested the door a few more times after the initial jolt. Hoping that like most electric fences, it had down time to save on the electricity bill. He was incorrect, and earned some pretty nasty burns for his trouble.
Rescue should have come within minutes, but as he’d found out later, X had needed to kill said rescue party to make his escape. He hadn’t heard it happen at all, and yet he had been so certain something awful had happened that he could scarcely even think about sleep. He should have been angry about it, but he wasn’t really. They probably attacked X on sight. X retaliated. X just wanted freedom. He could understand the motive. It didn’t change the simple fact that X no longer deserved it after the stunt he pulled, but he understood. What little confusion he had left, the cell helped clarify.
He had just paced like a caged animal for hours. A routine X must have preformed millions of times. It was exhausting. Mentally at least. Yet he couldn’t relax enough to lay down. It wasn’t like he would have been able to manage to rest anyway. Not on the mere inch of foam That was supposed to be a bed.
X was far heavier than him. He wondered how X managed to sleep on that damned thing...
God, how he was looking forwards to getting home and throwing himself at his bed, and sleeping for as long as he could. He doubted even the copious amounts of caffeine in his system could stop him now.
“Are you falling asleep?”
Depth Charge jolted awake. Opening his eyes, and righting his posture, that had become slumped without his notice.
“No, I’m awake, Continue.” Depth Charge corrected. Taking another sip of his coffee. He looked down with a grimace, realizing he’d spilled some onto the chair when he’d drifted off.
His boss looked at him for a long moment. Casting a disapproving, but appraising look the agent’s way, before it softened to be almost patronizing.
“This is what I mean. This is why I can’t put you on the hunt for the rogue variable.” Depth Charge froze. Suddenly wishing he had been paying attention. He leaned forwards. Depositing his cup of coffee onto his boss’ desk.
“What do you mean you aren’t putting me on the hunt? I need to track down X!”
“You aren’t fit for work - you won’t be fit for work for months!” She reminded. Her tone admonishing. “You push yourself hard, and work yourself to death, and get sloppy. Everyone needs to take breaks, even you. So. I’m giving you a month’s leave.”
Depth Charge nearly sputtered. Voice caught in his throat for a moment. By then X could be miles out. Under the jurisdiction of another branch. Or on another murder spree in another country - or even captured again!
“Y… You can’t…”
“The only person I’ve ever met who would turn down a paid vacation…” his boss mumbled under her breath.
“No, you don’t understand, I need to bring him - it - in. I can lure it out, and I know how to fight it.” Well, the last part was a lie. But it sounded good.
“And so can my other groups of agents.” His boss reminded with a shrug.
“But not as good as I can.”
“Sure, but why would I put my best hunter at risk, over a lone rogue? I can risk taking you off of the field for some time. We have enough agents now.”
“But they’re rookies! You saw what he did back at Omicron! They’d be slaughtered!”
“You’re being put on leave, Depth Charge. That's final. Go home, get rest. Go to the doctor, you’re practically falling apart.”
She wasn’t wrong. Between the stitches, the burns, and the bruises, he was battered to hell and back. Every muscle in his body was sore, but he still wanted to find X. This whole situation was his fault. He needed to fix it.
Depth Charge wiped a hand down his face with a sigh. Getting the sense this was one of those arguments he couldn’t ever win. It wasn’t fair. But what could he do? He let out a sigh and nodded.
“Fine. But I’m coming back as soon as I’m healed.” Depth Charge stated. Pointing at her, in an almost accusatory manner.
“Sure, and I’ll happily take you back. Just be sure to empty out your locker before you go - oh, and talk to the other hunters. I think some of them made you a care package.” She informed.
Depth Charge almost sort of smiled at that, but quickly quashed it. Because of course they would. He hated those sorts of things - charity cases, and accepting help in general - but he couldn’t deny he needed them. Without the guiding hand of a cafeteria to provide food, and designated lunch hour, he was rather lost as a person.
He got up when he was dismissed. Grabbing his drink off her desk, and finishing it in one fell swoop, before tossing the cup into the garbage can outside, in the waiting room. He headed downstairs, to the Rugby Dungeon. He was hoping that he could slip in and out unnoticed. A long conversation standing between him and his bed was the last thing on his list, but ultimately, it was unlikely.
Omicron needed to be shut down for a few months to be repaired, restaffed, and upgraded. Which meant all the monsters, and all the documents needed to be put somewhere. The monsters hadn’t been moved yet, and likely would be distributed across several branches with the facilities to contain them, but for now, Rugby was handling the files. Omicron was still on physical documentation. Which unfortunately meant now Rugby had to scan thousands of documents to be entered into the organization database.
It made him glad that he was a hunter, not a secretary.
He slipped in easily. The three agents who were most likely to pull him into a conversation were hunched over the scanner printer as it made a concerning grinding noise. He emptied out his locker in a span of seconds. Simply dumping the spare set of clothes, and shoes into a plastic bag. He took his backup firearm to his belt, and he was done. Retracing his course through the building.
He nearly cursed when someone looked at him and waved when he passed through the main room again.
“You look like shit DC!” Called one of the people hunched over the printer.
“Thank you. I’d say the same for you, but I’d be lying. You’re a couple steps below that.” Depth Charge quipped back, without as much as slowing his pace.
“Oof! Cruel! Hey, wait up a sec -” Depth Charge cringed “- can you bring that box over real fast? The one by the door?”
Depth Charge grumbled knelt down to grab the box with his free arm. Really, it was less of a box, more of an entire filing cabinet drawer that had been taken out. He was about to let out a complaint, when something a little too perfect caught his attention. A folder that was overfilled, poking out above the others.
Depth Charge glanced back. His hands and the box would be completely hidden from the security cameras, with the way he crouched, that, and no one was looking anymore. So he did something very illegal that would absolutely get him in trouble down the line. He shoved the file under his coat, and proceeded to carry the box over. Leaving without a comment afterwards.
Depth Charge only pulled it back out to examine it when he got back from the short walk to his apartment. He opened it to its first page as the door shut behind him, and recognized it immediately. It was the same file he had been given on his first hunt for X, only this time, with none of the black ink, and quite a few more pages than he remembered.
Depth Charge smiled to himself.
He’d known he wasn’t going to drop his hunt for X just because something as small as orders not to. He’d known that even before vacation had been brought up. Depth Charge would have hunted X even if he’d been hospitalized for his injuries. Perhaps the leave was ideal. Enough time to do all the research he’d need, and more information than he logically - or legally - should have. The only problem would be the lack of equipment, but he was a smart guy. He’d figure that out.
The file had every detail was documented. Physical to psychological. Every trial, every study, every strength, every weakness. Habits, preferences, diet, and care instructions. This thing being in his possession was what was going to get X locked up. Sure, he felt a little bad that he was taking such relevant information from their hunt, but when he thought about it, no one would have been allowed to see it anyway. The hunters would see the copy in the system now. Mostly classified. Just enough info to capture X if he got out.
He walked to his desk. Carefully hiding it in one of the lower drawers, under a pile of old rent and utility documents, and with that, threw himself onto his bed. Utterly uncaring that he was setting himself to sleep in not only a leather jacket, but also jeans, and a pair of heavy boots.
It definitely didn’t matter, because he was asleep in moments.
Depth Charge woke up a bit past noon, and was quick to jump to his usual morning routine. Checking the news, taking a shower, making coffee - unfortunately the last of it, skipping breakfast despite feeling guilty and knowing he should, and then at the end, heading to work. However, this time, work took a bit of a different direction. That ominous folder.
He retrieved it from his desk, and flipped through the pages with a deep breath. On one hand, he liked when his research was so forward, and he didn’t need to dig around for hours for just a tidbit. On the other hand, the density of the folder was a bit daunting, and the obnoxious length of some words was rather intimidating. Still, he was feeling good about the lead. He was feeling good in general really. He slept for the longest time he had in months, and could actually ignore his aches enough to throw himself at this task, like he threw himself at all things. With totality, and determination.
Getting halfway through the lengthy document took hours. Between the sheer amount of text to go through, and the jargon he needed to google, it was quite a length process. Nevermind the poor structuring that required referring to four different entries to understand a single one, it took quite some time, effort, and rereading.
About a page in, he began filling up a notebook with what he knew, in layman's terms. To spare his rising headache. He was beginning to doubt he could retain the information otherwise.
It was quite a bit to stomach, and parse. For one, he finally figured out what X was. An alien with a bit of human DNA mixed in. An amphibious species that was recovered as an egg, and genetically altered to be better suited for prolonged removal from water, to endure living in a lab. The main goal of the project wasn’t to learn about X’s species, or protect him in any way. Quite the opposite. The scientists wanted to test the limits of his natural regeneration. To attempt to isolate it for human use, of course.
His species were apex predators, omnivorous with a strong preference for a fish, and ‘emotion’ based diet. The base level telepathy was still a mystery to the scientists, but they were certain it developed to assisting communication in pack dynamics, or to track prey. His ability to sustain himself by sensing emotions was just a stack of ‘possibilities’ that all sounded a bit ridiculous to Depth Charge.
As far as scientists could tell, X could recover from anything, as long as he had enough sustenance to fuel the regeneration, and his heart remained in his chest. Even then, he could be brought back from a complete flat line after starving to death. The scientists really did anything they could think of to him, but made no progress in isolating whatever his ‘immortality gene’ was. Instead, they just took to harvesting organs, and testing the limits of his pain tolerance.
The more he read through it, the sicker he felt. Decapitation, starvation, suffocation, blood loss, even exposure to disease. Anything they could manage. X came out alive at the other end, so why stop there? Once or twice he caught himself being glad such monsters were gone, but he was quick to shut down such traitorous thoughts.
The only thing they prohibited was electrocution. X was apparently highly sensitive to electric shock, and it was one of two behavioral deterrent the scientists could find. They wanted to use it as long as they could before the novelty broke, it seemed. Voltages that would stun a human could knock X out cold. And so, Depth Charge bought a taser.
The other behavioral deterrent was… a little too personal, but it made everything make sense.
The scientists acted like Depth Charge was there. Like he was overseeing everything, and the scientists would relay his ‘thoughts’. Simple things. Promoting good behavior by saying he was proud of X. Shaking episodes by reminding that Depth Charge wouldn’t like it. They’d only begun weaning him off of it over the past two months. They noted a spike in bad behavior, and rebelliousness as they stopped mentioning Depth Charge, and far more interest in seeing him.
It was disgusting…
More importantly, it was starting to feel like it really was Depth Charge’s fault… He should have pushed harder to see X. Instead he let it slide after asking twice… He didn’t remember exactly, but he hadn’t even been scolded. He just dropped it like that. And now everyone - not just the psychopaths in the lab - were gone.
He didn’t know what to feel. What to think.
Luckily, he had a distraction. He was out of coffee. Over the course of the last entry, he had finished his cup, and effectively killed the last of his pot of coffee, and he’d be damned if he was gonna crack into the stockpile of tension tamer tea his coworkers had gifted over the years. So a small walk was in order.
A welcome break, really. All the reading was getting to him. Too heavy, and too much, all at once.
X was crouched in an alleyway. A dark form hunched over, and shielded from the streetlights by the buildings. Hidden from sight as he worked. He was occupied by rummaging in a strange type of dumpster he hadn’t seen before. He’d hoped for food, but all he was finding were clothes. It would have been welcome, his clothes were shredded by buckshot and bullet holes, and soaked in blood from many sources, but… well, everything was too small for him anyway. Even the largest items were dwarfed by him. Too tight, or too short, or not broad enough - it was always something, and while this hadn’t been the goal he’d set out for, he found himself annoyed by it all the same.
Why were humans so small..?
Or rather, why was he so big..?
He tossed one of many shirts aside that was far too small to even consider, and examined his own clothes. They were disgusting. X didn’t really think he had too many standards regarding the concept, but they were torn, and blood clung to the fabric incessantly, which in turn, had sand clinging to it. A combo that was weighing it down tremendously. He could live with that if he needed to. What really bothered him was the way the crusted mass scraped against his injuries - which refused to heal.
He needed to eat, but everything he found so far simply hadn’t been enough. Small morsels that were burnt up quickly, and the occasional larger meal that had sated him at the time, but not for long enough. The energy was routed somewhere else. To injuries that had evaded his notice, most likely. Still, it was frustrating to be left with the most irritating ones, and an incessant hunger.
X opened his mouth slightly, scenting the air. There was definitely food in there somewhere.
With a tired sigh, he reached back into the dumpster, yanking another black bag out onto the concrete, and smelled it.
Oh, he smelled a human. And not just the residual odors left on the clothes. A fresh scent. One with food. Close by, too. X went still, and stared at the end of the alley. Willing the human to pass by without noticing him. Now that he was paying attention, he could hear the quiet footsteps growing closer. He could taste a small spark of annoyance that felt like a feast to his growing hunger. He forced down the desire to chase them, to milk as much emotion as he could from them. Negative emotion wouldn’t keep him full for long, he knew that. And it would get him caught. Foolish in all regards.
The person was about to walk past, when it struck X that he recognized the flavor. The aftertaste was intimately familiar.
A familiar face stepped out in front of the alleyway. Walking past without notice, or issue. He looked peaceful. Not exactly happy, he seemed annoyed at something as he dug through a plastic bag in his hands, but content enough. Not in anger, or fear. The only thing he showed X upon their last meeting.
“Depth Charge…” X whispered to himself, mostly. But apparently not nearly quiet enough. He tasted a spike of confusion, and curiosity, watched as the man doubled back, looking back into the alley. Staring at X. His emotions were blank for a moment, then overflowing with confusion and a bit of anger.
“Depth Charge!” X announced, louder this time. Hurriedly bounding up to meet him.
The agent reached to his hip - a familiar motion he saw quite a few times during his escape. The motion to draw a gun. X instinctively recoiled, until he saw he that hand fumble at his hip. Failing to find its goal. He was actually unarmed! There was a flare of fear from Depth Charge at that. Helplessness too, but X ignored it. He had no intentions of hurting him, and personally, was quite relieved.
He wasn’t in the mood for dying, or getting shot tonight.
“So you did get out! Good. Good.” X observed.
“What are you doing here?” Depth Charge asked, in a cold, harsh tone. He took a step back. X followed.
“Looking for food. I’ve been having bad luck tonight. I’m starving…”
X barely had time to register the unexpected flood of fear, before Depth Charge dropped his bag and took off running. It left him stunned for a moment. The taste washing over him, and filling him up. But he was sated for only a moment. His body stole the energy away quickly. He felt several wounds on his chest close just from that, and it was intoxicating! It prodded at his ravenous appetite, setting his senses on fire. Tempting him. A temptation his body gave into with ease.
He launched himself into pursuit. Excited for the thrill of the chase. Excited for the inevitable meal. He watched with joy as Depth Charge glanced back to realize how much speed X had on him. He laughed out loud when Depth Charge unknowingly chose a dead end to flee down. He reveled in the evolution of fear to terror, as he realized his mistake. Stopping like a deer in the headlights. Oh, how delicious his friend would be…
The most fulfilling feast… All of that emotion, all of that -
No. He didn’t want that!
X wrangled his unruly instincts back, and stopped. Nearly toppling with the aborted momentum. He slid to a halt mere inches in front of Depth Charge, and once more, felt the agent’s fear wash over him. But it wasn’t such a joyous occasion this time. He countered it with a cocktail of regret, and anguish.
He didn’t know what to do.
X was frozen. Staring face to face with Depth Charge, who was similarly locked into place, though of course for different reasons. X was stuck. Should he leave? Should he just stand there?
After a moment too long spent thinking, Depth Charge answered for him. Launching a right hook at X’s throat.
Oh! that was easy.
X took the blow, wheezing in genuine shock, before over exaggerating his reaction. Stumbling back far enough to give the agent an escape route. Depth Charge hesitated. Clearly noting the fake reaction, and not wanting to run into a trap, but after a moment’s thought, he did run. And X did nothing. Remaining in the alley, and letting him go. As hurried footsteps faded away. Quickly covered up by the sounds of the city.
Oh, how he was furious with himself…
Depth Charge was scared of him enough as is… Like he needed that extra reason. Sure, the meal was nice, but at what cost? Any shot he had left at talking to his friend again? He was already hungry again too! What a waste! Meeting Depth Charge out here could have fixed things! They could have spoken, and had a night just like the first one, but no. X was a wild animal who couldn’t control his impulses…
In his frustration, he punched the wall beside him, hissing at the pain for a brief moment before he walked off. Back across the street.
He initially intended to just cover his tracks, and shove everything back into that unlucky dumpster, but found himself distracted by Depth Charge’s abandoned bag. At first, he walked past it. Ignoring it for now. Foolishly thinking that maybe Depth Charge would come back for it, and X could have a second shot.
By the time he brought the alley back to its former glory, the promise of food overrode that. Depth Charge had good taste - the last meal they’d had proved it. He was practically guaranteed something of quality. He grabbed the bag. Appreciating the weight of it and opened it excitedly. A half of a sandwich caught his attention - he recognized those. They were common place in the lab. The scientists ate it more than anything else. As far as he could tell, the other stuff wasn’t food - or it didn’t smell like it at least. So he grabbed that first. Lifting it up out of the bag to give it a sniff.
Depth Charge wouldn’t be too mad if he ate it, right?
X leaned forwards, peeking out the end of the alley, and looking down the street, half expecting (and mostly hoping) to see Depth Charge returning. But alas, he really was gone. He felt a pang of sadness as the reality of the situation set in. He didn’t let himself dwell. Quickly he shucked the plastic wrapper, and ate the thing.
He quickly decided that he didn’t like bread, but he couldn’t argue. Especially when it was the thing that finally kept the agonizing hunger at bay. He gave a content hum as the last of his damages were patched up. It would last for a few hours at least. Well, unless he got hurt again, which was always a possibility.
He grabbed the bag. Deciding he would look at everything later, and headed back for the place he’d stayed the night.
The walk there was long, and stressful. Keeping himself hidden from cars was easy, they never looked around enough to notice if you stayed away from where they stopped. Walking humans on the other hand had no choice but to look. They always reeked of anxiety, and looked around too much. So he needed to stay hidden. But there was only so much he could traverse by side passage, and unlit streets. It was dangerous, but sometimes he had to duck his head, and cross the street as quickly as he could. Carefully scenting the air for a spark of fear that would spell his doom. His heart nearly stopped when a man he walked past gave a passing compliment to his helmet. Thankfully he didn’t press any further. Thankfully he didn’t notice his mouth somewhat parted, or the blood on his clothes in the dim light and kept moving as if he hadn’t said a thing.
He really needed to stop venturing into such populated places.
As X got closer to the beach, it became quieter. The usually overwhelming amount of scents narrowed to just one. One that inexplicably comforted him: the ocean. Unfortunately. The closer he got, the more wide open it was. Walking across the expanse of sand to the water’s edge was both cathartic, and anxiety inducing. He looked around. Expecting a lurking agent’s sleep dart to hit him at any moment. He didn’t see any people out, but the scientists that had overseen him always tried to spook him with stories of the agents. Things like invisibility cloaks, and stun guns that would keep him down for days. But… he didn’t smell any humans. Invisibility was one thing, he didn’t think they could mask their scents too. He let himself be put at ease by that idea.
He bitterly noted his trail of irregular footprints as he walked. Most of them were too far out for the tide to wash away, and decided after today he would find a new sleeping spot, but he’d savor it for one last night.
He stopped at the water’s edge. Stopping between two docks that ran much further out into the ocean. Letting the lazy tide run up to greet him. The water gently running over his feet was comforting. It dug up instincts he’d never felt before. There was a compulsion there he couldn’t deduce or understand. Just a pull to the water.
That's the reason he’d stayed out here. The reason he allowed the risk.
He didn’t know why, but he felt it was important. Necessary. He needed to be here for something he couldn’t understand. Like something would happen here, and it would be wonderful.
X let out a content sigh, and dropped to a crouch. Setting his hand into the water. It was an interesting sensation that followed. It wasn’t directly caused by the water it seemed. Maybe a reaction to it. It was a tingling sensation that shot up his spine. One he was most accustomed to feeling when his body finished repairing superficial wounds. It was nice. He resisted the urge to jump in - he didn’t know how to swim anyway - and stood back up. He was about to shake his hand off when he noticed the water simply get absorbed through his skin. Curious.
He tore himself away from experimenting with it further and looked down the beach. Happy to find he’d actually arrived quite close to his makeshift den. A space under one of the more poorly maintained docks The last one in the row, and the furthest one from civilization. He slept under it. Hidden away by walls of empty boxes and barrels. It was big by his standards. He could sleep without curling up, and if he stood in the center, he could stretch both arms out fully without hitting anything - massive - but not too big to leave him feeling exposed. It set new standards, and he almost felt spoiled by it. He knew he couldn’t settle for dumpsters again after sleeping here.
He climbed in, temporarily shoving a crate aside to do so, and immediately dropped himself into the welcoming sand. Lazily pulling the crate back into place as he settled into the divot he’d carved away the night prior. A hollowed out portion that fit him comfortably. Something else he had been compelled to do for reasons beyond his understanding. Baffling. He’d never even seen sand, and his first instinct was to make a pit.
He thought to ask the scientists why - they seemed to know almost everything about him. More than he did. But he caught himself. Reminding himself with glee, that they were gone, and he would never be locked up again.
X nodded his helm to himself, and dropped Depth Charge’s bag onto his chest to look into it. Digging through with careful claws.
There were two more things that Depth Charge had gotten, neither registered to him as food. Squarish bags, that were tightly sealed enough that no scent escaped. The two bags were almost exactly the same, and he would have swiftly dropped them if he hadn’t seen the pictures printed on the front. One of a bar of chocolate, the other a pile of nuts. He tore the former open, and looked quizzically into the bag of brown powder. It smelled nice, but nothing like the other brown powder he’d eaten once.
If Depth Charge liked it enough to get two, it must be good. And so he reached in. Scooping some up with his claws, and tasting it.
X recoiled. Dropping the rest of what he had grabbed. He set the bag down, and began childishly trying to wipe his tongue clean of the awful bitterness. Too much - definitely nothing like chocolate!
He coughed once or twice, and looked down at the powder with a look of betrayal.
Did Depth Charge really eat that stuff?
He was filled with awe for a moment.
Then he grabbed the bag again. Lifting it up to his visor to try to find any pictures that would explain how it should be eaten, but no. Just words. Too many symbols he didn’t understand, and likely never would. He folded it back up, and put it back into the bag he’d found it in. Deciding that Depth Charge could have it back next time he saw him.
X was hit with a wave of loneliness at that thought. He’d fantasized about it so long. He’d get out, and Depth Charge would gladly take him in! They’d get in his car, and Depth Charge would drive him around to new places. They’d look at lights, and strange buildings, and get some new exotic food from time to time, but it would have a happy ending. Depth Charge wouldn’t take him back to the lab - or in the rare compromises where he thought of the unlikeliness of that, then he thought about it just being occasional excursions from the lab. Like a reward for his good behavior. If he didn’t thrash too much during a test, then he’d get to drive around. Talk to Depth Charge, one on one. Just like that first night.
He sunk further into the sand. Rolling onto his side, to settle into the hole he’d dug.
What was the point of being free if Depth Charge wasn’t there beside him?
He needed to fix this. This was all wrong. But he couldn’t even fathom how to go about it. Depth Charge couldn’t feel emotions. He couldn’t just taste his longing, and know how badly X wanted that. He couldn’t taste the lack of malicious intent, or sense the joy he felt when he saw him. He was clueless... Words were what needed to be used, and - despite his impressive vocabulary - he felt as though he didn’t know the ones that could fix everything and make it better. Frustrating!
He had thought ‘sorry’ would work, but Depth Charge was too over full of anger. It rolled over him without any sign of recognition.
The next time he saw him, he promised himself. He’d make it right. No matter what it took, no matter what he had to surrender.
X woke before the sun came up. Startled into wakefulness by the echo of a distant car horn. At the sound, he jolted to a sitting position. Heart racing. Instantly awake. The sound reminded him of the buzz his cell door made before it opened. Luckily a quick look around was all he needed to calm himself. He wasn’t in his cell. He was under his dock, and that was a fact that he was happy to be reminded of.
He wasn’t at the lab. He was safe.
X lowered back down, with a content groan. Bringing his chin to rest on the edge of his nest. His claws burying into the soft sand once more, in a strangely comfortable, and familiar motion. Eventually he was digging the hole deeper without really thinking about it. Lazily scooping sand, and pressing it into the walls, until he felt it was perfect.
He settled back down, but struggled to find a way to rest his helmet that wouldn’t end up stabbing the carefully smoothed out walls. When X found the perfect angle, he was far too awake already. He tried to let sleep claim him once more, but after several minutes, he gave up. He was awake for good. He sat back up, and stretched. Looking around a bit this time. Looking out to the ocean, mostly.
The water was painted in yellows and oranges, cast by the rising sun, and it was gorgeous. In moments he climbed out from under the dock to see it in its full glory. Hauling his way up, and pulling himself onto the old wood that had an awful habit of cracking under his claws. It was the first time he’d actually seen a sunrise. He’d heard of them, yes. But never seen. He was never awake for one when he was free, and no one had ever bothered with pictures. He felt cheated to have been deprived of the experience.
X walked out to the edge of the dock, and sat down. Legs dangling over the water. Swaying peacefully as he watched the sun’s ascent, until a bit of movement below him caught his eyes. He looked down.
Below him, there was a small group of fish. They were circling the dock’s supporting post. Eating something off of it it seemed. He was entranced, even more than he had been with the sunrise. He was caught watching with rapt attention. Noting the way they swam with curiosity, until patterns started to become clear enough to predict.
When one rose up to the surface, X lashed out in a lightning fast motion before he could even consider what he was doing. It was automatic. The creature didn’t even have time to react, let alone release a burst of fear, until after X was holding it above water. Watching it flail helplessly in his claws.
He shifted it around appraisingly. Careful to keep his grip on the slippery thing as he examined his catch. It was a small creature. More bones than meat. It wouldn’t fill him up much, but he ate it all the same. Immediately filled with satisfaction, and pride.
Oh! He quite liked that! Both the taste, and the hunt. Far more enjoyable than anything a dumpster could offer.
He plopped onto his stomach. Hanging over the edge of the dock to watch his prey closer. They all were continuing to swim as if nothing happened. He tasted no fear from them. They didn’t know. X felt more pride at that. Deciding he must be a great hunter.
X plunged his claws into the water again. Grabbing another one. A larger one this time, that had the sense to stay lower. This time the whole school assaulted him with the taste of fear, but he didn’t care all too much. He just looked at the fish in his hands. Once again, proud.
He ate it, and went to lean down for one last snack, when he heard a board creak further down the dock. He froze. Listening. Tasting.
There was a human here. He’d been too caught up in his game to sense it.
Slowly, he looked over his shoulder. Fearful it could be an agent to take him in. However instead greeted by Depth Charge’s familiar face. The only agent he cared about. He looked quite striking, illuminated with orange light.
“Depth Charge..?” X had no idea how he’d been tracked out here so soon. But more concerning was the way he was simmering with cold determination, paired with the gun in his hand.
“Tell me, is it more fun to kill fish or humans?” Came the flat reply. The faint taste of doubt rolled along with it, and X would be lying if he said that didn’t excite him a bit.
X got up quickly. He didn’t want to waste an opportunity to make things right like this! He took a step forward, and got no further. Depth Charge must have had the same idea as him to not waste time, because one moment X felt a small stab in his chest, and the next, he was face down on the dock, locked up in agony. Every muscle clenched too tight to even let him writhe, or scream.
It felt like an eternity before it let up, but Depth Charge had only made it two steps closer. X forced himself onto his hands and knees despite the tension and soreness. Coughing all the way. His mind was screaming to run for it, but his body was slow, and noncompliant. He had barely half a mind to realize it wasn’t a gun, it was a taser, as he yanked the barbs out of by the wire with a shaky hand. He needed to run, or he would be captured again, but his healing was spread too thin to make any sort of recovery yet. He was weak. He was trembling, and coughing, and Depth Charge was still walking at him.
X sat up onto his knees, and tried to force himself higher, only to stopped by a boot to his chest, as Depth Charge tried to force him onto his back. The agent let out a growl when X threw a hand behind him as support, and was unmovable, even in his weakened state.
“D-Depth Charge! I just want to talk!” X wheezed out.
“Just like we ‘talked’ last time?” Depth Charge bitterly retorted.
“I did not mean for that to happen - I was hungry, I wasn’t thinking straight! I let you go as soon as I realized what I did!” X desperately explained.
“Which is exactly why I need to lock you up! You can’t control yourself. You are a hunter! Unpredictable, murderous, and a danger to this entire city.” Depth Charge’s determination grew tenfold.
“It was an accident-“
“And what happens the next time you get hungry, and have an accident, huh? You slaughter some innocent civilian?! Or how about when you decide they deserve it, so you go for more?!” Depth Charge spat back “I’m not going to let more people die because my fuck ups!” He shouted. Leveling his taser with X’s chest once more.
The statements hurt more than the taser had. The emotions manifested as a tight aching ball in his chest that he didn’t know what he could do about, but he couldn’t get caught up in that. He knew if Depth Charge shot him again, he’d be waking up in a cell without getting to say another word to the agent. So he did something he absolutely hated.
He grabbed Depth Charge’s ankle, and gave a hard pull. Yanking his other leg out from under him. The agent toppled immediately, with a sharp yelp, and a curse. He hit the floor on his back. The weapon was jolted out of his hands, and it slid across the boards. Just far enough to be out of his reach. Just far enough for X to make a move for it,
In a surge of motivation, and motion, X dove for it. Throwing himself past the man to grab it, and crush that awful tool.
He pounced, only to be launched off course by a kick to his side that nearly sent him toppling off the dock. He gave a startled shout, and reached out as quickly as he could to anchor himself. His claws carved canyons into the old wood. Tearing up splinters, and nearly breaking the board before he finally stopped, dangling dangerously over the water. He scrambled for purchase on the decayed wood. Desperately trying to pull himself up before he fell into the ocean.
Bad. Very bad!
“Scared of the water, fishie?” The comment was taunting, but the taste to it was off. Confusion. Concern. X barely processed it. Instead focused on trying to get a hand hold further up. The board was creaking. About to snap thanks to his weight.
Suddenly Depth Charge was grabbing him. Both hands on one of his wrists, and pulling him up. With the help, X managed to get up enough to swing his legs up and over. He rolled onto his back, and gave a quick sigh of relief.
“Thank you.” He said hurriedly, as he stared up at Depth Charge. He tasted the pity, and naively he jumped to the conclusion it was a change of heart. He was wrong.
X barely has time to register it when the agent was upon him again. This time with a pair of handcuffs. He caught one of X’s wrists before he had the insight to try and roll away, but it was too late. Depth Charge yanked him back into place by the hand, and latched the free cuff onto a ‘T’ shaped hook that was bolted onto the dock.
His heart skipped a beat as his situation set in.
“No no no no! Depth Charge! No!” X all but wailed, pulling as hard as he could on the cuff, hoping by some miracle it would break before his wrist did.
He looked back up at the agent, who was now pulling his communicator from his jacket.
“GET THIS OFF ME!” X shouted, his panic becoming more pronounced by the second. He leapt to his feet. Pulling against his restraint with all of his might. He heard the metal groaning, and the dock creaking but it wasn’t going to break fast enough. He changed his angle, reaching for Depth Charge instead. Claws latching onto the collar of the agent’s jacket. Depth Charge only had time to gasp before X pulled him closer.
“GET IT OFF ME!” He demanded, louder this time
There was a wave of fear from Depth Charge, then he twisted in his grip. Next X felt a fist to the side of his helmet that sent him to the ground with ease thanks to how unbalanced he was. Depth Charge was taken down with him against his wishes.
“STOP IT!” Depth Charge growled, and pulled away from X with a couple good kicks to his center of mass to help break loose, before X inevitably latched onto him once more.
This time, Depth Charge aimed higher, with an intent to hurt. He kicked X in the face, and in a moment of anger, and instinct, the monster opened his mouth, and bit down. Hard enough that his teeth scraped bone. Depth Charge failed in his attempt to choke back the scream.
X pulled away abruptly. Jaw parting to let Depth Charge go. The agent was quick to drag himself away, and X felt sick with the rolling brew of emotions.
Regret. Why had he done that? Depth Charge would never trust, or listen to him now.
Shame. Maybe Depth Charge was right. Maybe he really was a danger to everyone.
Then, anger. If Depth Charge wanted a fight so bad, he could have one! Why did X have to play nice, when the human could just beat him up all he wanted?!
X slowly stood up, as Depth Charge moved for his taser. The fear of going back to the lab was drowned out a bit at the moment, all he could manage was a flinch when that awful tool was aimed at him. He was frozen in place, but Depth Charge looked like he was too. The heavy taste of uncertainty from both of them clouded the air. They were just staring at each other now. Waiting for the other to say something. Anything. X was the one go break the silence.
“Depth Charge -“
He didn’t have time to finish. Depth Charge pulled the trigger, and X’s whole world was consumed by the feeling of burning, and the sensation of falling. Then everything went black.
X woke up to a pressure weighing down on him from all angles. Like he was floating with a heavy blanket, keeping him safe, and comfortable. The sensation almost lulled him back to sleep before the cold set in, and woke him up a bit.
It was freezing. Alarmingly so, despite it, his thoughts were calm. His instincts nonplussed. Telling him he was fine, that he was safe - and sure enough, the chill was helping. It it invaded his body, and flooded into his lungs. Easing the pain, and in turn, putting him at ease. A coolness that was filling him in every dimension. His regeneration noticeably accelerated. The damage of the taser was quickly being undone.
He only had the sense to ponder his situation when he gently settled onto the ground atop a bedding of something unfamiliar and… slimy…
Slowly he opened his eyes.
He was underwater. The realization should have been terrifying. He couldn’t swim after all! The scientists had always told him how dangerous water is. But that sense of safety remained. Fish swam above him. Light filtered down to him in interesting patterns. The plants he was resting upon swayed with the tug of the current. All of it was familiar in a way he couldn’t place. He felt… at home?
He debated just getting up, and walking along the seafloor. Never to bother with the land again, but… above him he saw the dock he had been standing on. He couldn’t see, or taste Depth Charge… concerning… he couldn’t have been unconscious long enough for him to leave.
X sat up, and looked down to his hand. Noting the handcuff still on his wrist, and the broken piece of wood attached to the other end. That certainly explained why he wasn’t in a cell. On the other hand were his… hands. A strange, unfamiliar webbing was stretched between his fingers. He brought a claw to it to fidget with it before he noticed more of the strange fins on his forearms, and legs. He could feel some trapped under his clothes as well, but didn’t care to explore any further, and leave the agent waiting.
He launched off of the ocean floor. Delighted by how easy it was to move down here. He quickly was reconsidering the belief that he couldn’t swim. It felt natural, and right. If his location hadn’t just been jeopardized, he would have wanted to stay here forever.
Understanding of how to move, and use his body to carve a path through the water came to X quickly, and he shot up through the murky water, all the way to the surface below the dock. X clawed his way up the support, and hauled himself up with haste just to be greeted with the upsetting sight of Depth Charge laying there unmoving. Still breathing, but evidently knocked out cold. A gash in his forehead being the most likely culprit.
X crawled closer. Hovering over Depth Charge as he searched for more injuries. There were lots to be found. Old, faded bruises. Scarred over marks. Dozens of scrapes. Most from past scuffles. X felt a slight pang of jealousy at the thought of Depth Charge hunting someone else, but he pushed it aside. Because the most pressing thing at present was still his head.
He… didn’t remember doing that to him… but a brief look around completely solved the mystery. The whole board X had been chained to was broken off. Shrapnel scattered on the dock, spread out far enough to prove the break had been quite explosive. Even as softened and decayed as it was, it could do such damage…
X gave a low growl at nothing in particular, wishing there was some way to impart his healing to Depth Charge, but stopped himself when the human shifted slightly. His face scrunched up a bit in annoyance, and he gave a soft groan. Discomfort, and pain radiating from him. X leaned in close. Helmet mere inches away as he whispered soft comforts.
“Shh… it's all right. Rest.” X said as he gently began gathering Depth Charge up in his arms. Careful, as though the slightest jostle would be what broke him. He hooked an arm under Depth Charge’s knees, then placed the other to support his back. He guided the man’s head to use his shoulder as a pillow, and X thought he might die right then and there when Depth Charge nestled in closer. X was dutiful in keeping the injury untouched. Still the human gave quiet whines as he was lifted.
“I’ve got you. You’re safe.” He continued. Rising to his feet.
He needed to take Depth Charge somewhere safe. He knew that, but… his options were limited. He refused to make the agent suffer by bringing him to a doctor, and he didn't know where Depth Charge’s home was, and he definitely couldn’t ask some stranger for help, as they would either panic, or direct him to the former… which left one option.
Depth Charge’s first conscious thought was how much his head ached, and foot hurt. The second was how comfortable he was despite that, and the spinning sensation that twisted his gut. Perhaps his standards were low. He’d had a rough time of getting comfortable rest lately. And this certainly was comfortable. His hurt leg was mercifully propped up, and whatever he was laying on was like the best bed ever. It fit his shape perfectly. He dug his fingers into it, and was mortified to find it was sand.
He opened his eyes to confirm his suspicions, and sure enough… he was under a dock. Tucked away into a thoughtfully made sand pit, in an oddly cozy space. Old fishing supply boxes stacked into walls to provide privacy. The tide rolled in a mere feet away… the stench of fish, and salt jarred him awake more than he already was when it hit him. He sat up quickly - regrettably, with the headrush that followed - and froze once he saw X curled up to him. The monster appeared to be sleeping. His back was turned to Depth Charge. Pressed up against the agent’s calf, the rise and fall of his chest was slow and even.
If he wanted to make a run for it, now was the time. Depth Charge shifted slowly. Careful not to disrupt the sleeping monster as he carefully pulled out of the hole he’d been laying in. It was dug out, and packed in with care around him it seemed, with a mound stacked up to keep his wounded foot elevated. How thoughtful. He almost thought it was sweet until he reminded himself X had bitten him in the first place.
Depth Charge couldn’t decide if this made his motivations perfectly obvious, or more confusing… it indicated he cared. But then why bite? He shook his head. Nevermind. Stupid question. Self defense. Like every other time he’d hurt or killed someone. And just like before, X stopped himself when it was Depth Charge at the receiving end.
Depth Charge reached down, feeling his coat for his comm, when he felt a hand wrap around his leg, he froze, and nearly cursed to himself and his bad luck to have woken him.
“Please don’t go…” a soft plead. Ridden with guilt and hesitation. Despite himself, Depth Charge didn’t follow his gut instinct and just run. He let himself settle into that pit of doubt that had been clawing at him for awhile now. The odd desire to see X as an innocent. He internally justified it by saying he just wouldn’t make it too far in his state, but he wasn’t exactly fooling himself either.
“I’ll need to leave eventually,” Depth Charge tested the waters. He wrapped a hand around the comm when he found it. Thumb settled on the side buttons. A single press to send out a distress signal if it went south. A nice reassurance.
“But not yet,” X requested, looking down at his leg, then back up to his face. His grip on Depth Charge’s leg tightened.
“You’re hurt… you need to stay here and heal.”
“A doctor can take care of me better than you can.” He stated, and X bristled at the statement. He gave a growl, and flared the spines on his arms and helmet. He held onto Depth Charge tighter. Depth Charge prepared to press the button.
“Don’t say that! You wouldn’t survive a doctor!” He all but cried. “I’m not letting you suffer like that.” He continued quieter, looking away as his tone turned miserable.
“A real doctor, X!” Depth Charge shouted. X flinched. He probably could have said it nicer, and quieter, but the thought that X would prefer to keep him in this sand pit rather than fix all of this was irritating. It was his idea of help, but still.
X was looking up at him. Confused probably. Depth Charge’s guilt only took a second to catch up, and soften him.
“The stuff that happened to you in that lab was awful! That's not normal, that's not what the world is like, and those weren’t doctors, those were just assholes in a lab. Real doctors help people, not cut them up.” He forced himself to explain. He lowered his voice and everything, but X dug his claws in anyway. Not enough to draw blood, but definitely enough to hurt.
“So you lied to me this whole time, huh?!” X snarled.
“Lied about what, X?!” Then Depth Charge felt his heart drop “oh- wait… wait, wait.” X loosened his grip somewhat. Mercifully deciding to hear him out before he proceeded with tearing the agent’s limb off - or whatever his plan was.
Depth Charge took a deep breath and shook his head. He knew he’d have to explain Omicron’s lies at some point, but he had no idea it would be so soon… he’d thought he’d be apologizing for it with X safely chained up in the back of his van.
“The scientists lied to you.” He began. Saying each word slowly in apprehension. God… there were so many bad ways for this to play out. “I read the file Omicron kept on you yesterday. I saw that you were told I was there, and that I spoke to you, and told you everything was fine, but I wasn’t.”
X was stock still. Depth Charge wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
“You were manipulated. I was never there, I got shipped to a different facility after I brought you back, and I wasn’t even told what they were doing. If I knew, I would have done something to stop them.”
X was very still for a very long moment. Then all at once he was pulling back. Shoulders slumped. Hands held in front of himself like he didn’t know what to do with himself. X sat like that for a only a moment. He sounded like he was going to say something, but he just shook his head, and gave a grunt. Instead deciding to turn away as if to leave.
Depth Charge was quick to reach out to grab him when X tried to back away. He meant to grab for his shoulder, but halfway through the motion he found himself putting a hand on the side of his helmet instead.
He froze for a moment at that. Unsure how to feel about that, or how to analyze his own intention. X took the opportunity instead.
“It was all fake then? I don’t know you at all, and you don’t know me…” X said.
“Yeah, it was fake, but that's bullshit. We know each other - and I’m not letting you run off just yet. We still have some important stuff to talk about.”
“So now you’re interested in talking…” despite the comment, X nodded, leaned into his hand, and sat back down properly with a low sigh. It looked like he was ready to listen, and so, Depth Charge started talking.
“I read about what they did to you. I understand why you’d kill them all - shit, I would have done the same thing too - but… You killed a lot of innocents too. People who likely didn’t even know you were there.”
He started with the elephant in the room, and was pleasantly surprised to find X taking it well. Just listening. “They’re gone. Good people, with families that miss them. They didn’t deserve it. Maybe before, I would have let you walk free, but… its too complicated now. I don’t know if I can trust you to be out on the street.”
“... If I had known their deaths would have made you so upset, I wouldn’t have killed them,”
It wasn’t a direct apology, or acknowledging of what he did. But Depth Charge could accept it. It was remorse. They could work on that. It was an improvement.
“But… I can assure you I wouldn’t kill someone else just for fun, like you seem to think.” X elaborated.
“Good. That's what I needed to hear.” Depth Charge voiced his approval with a smile, but X kept going.
“- they’d have to do something first. Earn my scorn. I’d only kill them if they have killed me.”
Depth Charge grimaced at first. Uncertain how to feel about that, before deciding it was perfectly reasonable. Just a little upsetting to hear.
With that, X stood up. Stretching out somewhat as he rose. He took two steps out before Depth Charge pushed himself up further to watch him.
“So that's it? All done? You’re going to run off now?” He accused.
“No, no… be patient friend…” X stated before he bent down to grab a piece of garbage out of the corner of his den. He returned with a plastic bag in hand. He handed it to Depth Charge who accepted it with uncertainty. X crouched down next to him, big green visor staring down at him eagerly. Watching and waiting.
With a inhale to brace himself, he cautiously peeked inside.
It was his coffee.
“Oh..? Oh you went back for my coffee?” Depth Charge was surprised, to say the least. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting. A bag of dead fish was pretty high on the list.
“Well, I was going to leave it for you, but when it seemed like you were not coming back, I took it with me.” X explained. “Also, I am quite impressed you can eat that stuff. It was far too much for me.”
Depth Charge blinked. Then he couldn’t help the short laugh, and stupid smile that came next. “You ate it?”
“It was disgusting, but yes.”
“Like just dry like that? X… No, you mix it with hot water, and then you put other stuff in it to sweeten it - you ATE it?” Depth Charge continued with a laugh. He was delighted, and disgusted in equal measures.
X didn’t answer this time. Instead just leaning forwards onto Depth Charge. Helmet resting on his side. Arms wrapped around his midsection in a loose hug. He tensed at first, before he realized the intention and settled down. X was somewhat cold, and very damp, but Depth Charge didn’t complain. He let X have this.
“I missed you.” X said quietly.
It made Depth Charge’s chest flood with warmth. And X must have sensed it, because then, he started purring. Depth Charge set the bag aside, and put a hand on X’s arm.
“I’ll make sure I get you a proper cup of coffee. There's a good shop on the way back with a drive through. Fast drive through too.”
X stopped purring almost as suddenly as he started. The moment utterly ruined. “When you take me back, you promise you’ll really visit this time, right?” X requested quietly. “I won’t run, or fight you at all. I promise.”
Depth Charge wanted to curse himself out. Why had he said anything?
He didn’t want to make a promise. Not with how everything played out last time. He’d be bringing X back, just to be thrown into a higher security cell, in an out of state facility. Who knew if he’d be transferred back to Omicron when it was operational again… X would be harder to reach than he ever was, and Depth Charge desperately didn’t want to lie again. He didn’t want X to sit there, waiting for years.
Once again, the option presented itself just to not bring X in at all. And it was more tempting than ever.
“You know, I’m not officially hunting you right now. I got put on leave two days ago for my injuries. I don’t have orders to bring you in.”
X looked up at him.
“What I’m saying is… no one knows I’m out here, and no one needs to know I found you. I’m not gonna take you back to the lab.”
He felt a weight lift off of his chest the second he said the words. Already the gears were turning on how to clear X’s name. All the scientists in charge of his experiments were dead, and according to the file, no other station knew what was being done. Even the supervisors didn’t know the extent of it. He could fix all of this. He just had to be careful.
X’s low rumbling purr came back in full force.
“Infact, if you let me up, I can take you to my apartment right now. You can stay at my place.” Depth Charge continued.
X tightened his arms around the agent, and pushed his helmeted head into his torso with enough abrupt force to leave him winded. It felt like he was squeezing the life out of him.
“Ouch - come on, the sooner you let me go, the sooner we can head over there.” He wheezed out. Tapping X’s arm in a silent plea to loosen up. X didn’t. He held him tighter.
“Nope. We’re staying here for awhile longer.” X spoke into Depth Charge’s stomach. A smile audible in his voice.
“In the sand..?”
“I’m not letting you go just yet.” X explained, and Depth Charge could only smile at that. He put a hand atop X’s helmet, rubbing his thumb in circles over the smooth plastic. He wasn’t sure if X could even really feel it, but his purring managed to get even louder when he did it.
Then X dug his claws in.
Depth Charge jolted. Hand atop X’s head quickly shifted from holding him close, to pushing him away, as he tried to wriggle away from the talons digging into his sides, and absolutely putting holes in his shirts.
“X! Claws! Claws!” He shouted, in alarm.
X immediately released him, and Depth Charge pulled away the rest of the way, much to the dismay of X, who gave a loud whine,
“I’m sorry! It was an accident. Can you lay back down? Please?”
“Nope. We’re heading to the car. You can cuddle - and poke holes in me - all you want at home.” Depth Charge ordered. Mentally noting to get some padded gloves, or something for him.
Depth Charge stood up, and looked around for some way out, but the stacked barrels and boxes offered no clues until X reached out and helpfully shoved a stack aside to make an opening.
Still, X seemed intent on getting him back into the sand pit.
“Three more minutes..?” He offered. Trailing close behind the agent. Head lowered to be level with his shoulder.
“Car.” Depth Charge pressed, as he took a limping step forward, only to be snatched up in X’s arms with a yelp. Held bridal style like he weighed nothing.
“Fine… which way is it?” X grumbled, despite absolutely being in a position to do whatever he wanted.
Depth Charge thought for a moment.
“Okay. Fine, three more minutes but that's it. Then we’re heading to the car.”
Ok so I still have a lot of ideas for this and intentionally left it open to make (yet another) continuation, that I’ll probably get to work on sometime after I’m done moving. Something more slice-of-life, and less narratively driven. Just these two idiots being gay, and adjusting.
Also, just for posterity, because I was asked like a week ago: I’m totally open for others to make content in this au!