Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
“Miss Ellers,” the Surgeon continued. “I’m here to offer you my services.”
“Are you saying I need a nip tuck?” Cheryl asked.
“I’m not that kind of surgeon. I’m more...experimental. Cybernetic implants, that sort of thing.”
Cheryl stood quiet and regarded him.
“If you’d just come with me,” he gestured toward a black Cadillac with tinted windows.
“Right, I’m going to get into that mob mobile with a guy who walked up on me on the street and calls himself The Surgeon.”
“I believe you’re familiar with one my most famous clients. I did my best work on Simon Vyx and I’ve only gotten better.”
Cheryl looked down either end of the street. She looked at the Surgeon sidelong for a moment.
“What the fuck. I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she slipped into the back seat and the Surgeon closed the door behind her.
Five robots walked shoulder to shoulder down a busy Center City street. Their movements were synchronized like a destructive troupe of Rockettes. They let out a periodic wail in unison. With each pulse, the fleeing citizens and the police who formed a circle around them would stagger, dizzy. The robots continued their march flipping cars and smashing the buildings in key structural areas, shaking them and breaking loose bits of stone and shattering windows as high as five floors.
Cheryl’s Pontiac came to screeching halt at the police barricade and the Menagerie hopped out. Carl climbed from his trailer and his mech suit unfolded and attached itself to him. They approached the barricade.
“I was wondering when you’d show up,” a police officer said jogging toward them.
The robots belted out their wail. Everyone’s knees buckled and they clutched at their heads, except for Cheryl.
“What’s with the Klaxon Five?” she asked the quailing officer.
“I don’t know their…” he succumbed to the sound again, “destroying everything and that sound...”
It bellowed out again.
“Yeah, that’s pretty annoying,” she said.
“Maybe I can counteract it,” Ian said and began to play fluttering arpeggios.
“That’s pretty annoying too,” Cheryl said.
The gang, gasped with relief, wringing out their ears.
“It’s only temporary. We should act fast,” Ian said.
“Alright, Carl. You’re up,” Cheryl said.
“I’ll open ‘em up like cans of tuna,” Carl cracked his neck and leaped toward the robots.
The robots turned at once and directed their blast at Carl. He staggered backward and crashed through the lobby of a bank. He crawled out clutching his head.
“It seems to get worse the closer you are,” Ian said.
“I think I got this,” Cheryl cracked with electricity and lifted off the ground toward the robots. She zapped them with blue arcs. The arcs collected and funneled into lenses affixed to their necks.
They robots swung their arms at her. She darted back to the gang.
“EM shielding,” she called down to them.
“Why isn’t that noise affecting you?” Sophie asked.
“Implant,” she tapped her temple.
“Now you're putting things in your head?” Sophie slapped her hands to her head as another blast went off.
“They seem to occur in fifteen-second intervals in three-second duration. If we can manage to execute something in that window…” Ian reeled from the sound.
“I got a plan…” Cheryl said as Sophie darted toward the robots. “Wait, Soph.”
“I got an idea.”
“Wait, you’ll get yourself killed.”
“It’s okay. I know what to do.”
Sophie stopped and held her ears. A blast went off and she doubled over. She recovered and ran in front of the robots and fired off five arrows. Each one striking the lenses in their necks. The lenses shattered and sparked. The robots became dim and lifeless. Sophie bent over, her hand on her knee, panting and flourished with the other. The police applauded. Cheryl lowered down in front of her, glowering.
“What’s that look for?” Sophie asked.
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?” Cheryl barked.
“I saw an opportunity and took it.”
“Going off half-cocked?”
“Isn’t that what we do?”
“It’s what we do. Not what you do.”
The returned to the basement and Cheryl threw her duffle bag down on her workbench.
“I don’t think I need to be lectured by someone who performed surgery on their own head,” Sophie said.
“I didn’t do it myself. I found a guy,” Cheryl said.
“A guy? Where do find a guy out of the blue who will agree to perform elective surgery on the down low?”
“He approached me after the Jumping Guy gig.”
“You just went off with a strange guy from the street who offered to perform surgery? That’s not a very Cheryl thing to do.”
“Like possibly running in to get yourself killed? You’re the one who’s always harping about teamwork.”
“It was a team effort. I watched their behavior when you and Carl attacked it. Ian figured out the window of opportunity on the mind-numbing sound and I just put the pieces together.”
TJ Washington, detective and voodoo practitioner, walked up to the basement doors of Bart’s shop. A commotion was erupting as heated voices challenged each other. He crouched by the doors.
“Fischer?” TJ called into the open basement door. “You ready for your lesson.”
“Yeah, Mr. Washington,” Sophie replied. “Just give me a minute.”
“It’s detective,” TJ descended into the basement. “I didn’t spend all that time in detective school so you can go calling me mister.”
“I just need a minute. My sister lost her mind,” she slapped Cheryl on the arm.
“Stop trying to make this an afterschool special,” Cheryl barked.
“Do you think I’m making too much of this?” Sophie said to TJ.
“I don’t even know what you two are going on about,” TJ replied.
“She’s was performing surgery on herself…”
“Respect,” TJ stepped back.
“Now she has some shady guy doing it for her.”
“What do you need surgery for?”
“She’s having cybernetic implants installed.”
“Oh man, that reminds me of a dream I had. I was this bounty hunter in the future with a fishbowl on my head. Boy, I’ll tell ya, the things opium makes you dream…”
“Except this isn’t a dream, it’s a nightmare.”
“Give me a break, Soph,” Cheryl said. “I got this under control.”
“She had this surgeon she just met on the street put something in her head,” Sophie yelled at TJ.
“He’s not some shady back alley surgeon. He’s done this before, successfully.”
“On who? What nutjob clients has this guy had?”
Cheryl fell silent.
Sophie stared back at her, mouth agape, “Simon Vyx.”
Cheryl remained quiet. Sophie rolled her eyes and threw up her hands.
“Wait a second, my name’s Paul and this is…” TJ held his hands up.
“It’s not even between us,” Cheryl said, “it’s my business.”
Sophie glowered at Cheryl for a long moment, “You know what?” I’m done. I’m out.”
“What do mean you’re done?” Cheryl said.
“I’m off the team. I’m not watching you do this to yourself. And since you’re clearly not going to stop regardless of how anybody feels…”
“...then I’m done.”
“So you’re just going to quit?”
“If you don’t care that I care about…” Sophie choked back a sob, “...I can’t stay.” She grabbed her bow and walked toward the basement door.
“Are you going to be a solo magic girl act now? I still have the rest of these misfits…”
“You know,” Hunter interjected, “if she’s leaving…”
“What? You don’t even like me.”
Cheryl looked at the floor, “Having trouble arguing that.” She looked at Ian, “I guess you’re going with your buddy.”
“It is the more attractive option,” Ian said.
She folded her arms and turned her back to the group, “Okay, go. At least Carl is still on the team.”
“For now,” Sophie said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“He’s not too happy with your current path either. He’s just too nice to say anything.”
“Close the door behind you.”
The four emerged up the steps and onto the sidewalk. Sophie flipped the heavy metal doors of the basement and let them slam. She let out an aggravated grunt and put her hands to her head.
“Just us now,” Hunter said.
“We’re doing this without Ellers?” Ian asked.
“We’ll be fine,” Sophie said over her shoulder.
“Will you?” TJ asked Sophie.
“Will I what?”
“Be fine. That was pretty heavy.”
“I just need to concentrate on my work. Let’s start that lesson.”