Adam shouted as a pair of hands grabbed him from behind, but his cry was muffled as one of the hands covered his mouth and nose. Adam’s enhanced muscles strained against the grip, but it held firm, far stronger than a normal human. Adam knew he was strong, but a full-sized adult with the same muscle fiber density would beat him in raw strength every time.
Trihalomethane, his various chemical receptors warned him. Chloroform. He slowed his breathing in an effort to take in less of the chemical. The light in the corner of his vision glowed a pale yellow, betraying his fear. What neutralizes chloroform? He clenched his jaw shut and searched his memories for the database of basic chemical interactions he’d picked up years ago. N-acetylcysteine. Can I synthesize that fast enough?
His desperate thought process was interrupted by a powerful electric shock that coursed through his body. His skin acted like a Faraday cage, shielding him from most of the harm, but he still sucked in an involuntary breath.
Not fair… His thoughts slowed as the world around him faded to black.
He awoke to the a dull, pulsating roar of heavy machinery above him. The floor beneath him vibrated against his body. He opened his eyes. The white walls that surrounded him bowed outwards into a rounded roof. He recognized the interior of the helicopter Lilith had used at the attack on the school. He was buckled into a seat affixed to one wall of the helicopter.
“-have to leave them behind. It’s a liability,” said a man’s voice from the cockpit.
“I had to make sure they wouldn’t follow,” Lilith’s voice came from the same direction.
“I had three of them taken care of,” replied the first voice. “They wouldn’t come after us.”
“They’re metahumans. They bounce back fast.”
Adam gripped at the buckle of the straps that held him into the seat and pressed the sides, but it was locked firm. He pulled hard on the straps, which creaked under the force, to no avail. He cast around, looking for something he could use to escape. His eyes settled on the slit in the wall the straps came out of. He reached behind him and dug his fingers into the narrow opening. Using his other arm to provide leverage, he pulled, and bit by bit the the plastic bulkhead bent out of place. As he’d suspected, structural integrity had been sacrificed to reduce weight.
Once the opening was wide enough, he reached through and groped around blindly. His hand landed on a thick cable humming with current. He wrapped his hand around it and pulled, pushing against the back of the seat for more force. With a snap, the cable came loose.
The helicopter pitched and spun as the tail rotor lost power. He could hear the shouts of panic from the cockpit, and Lilith appeared in the doorway between the two. She looked between him and the sparking conduit he held in one hand and her eyes went wide.
“Fuck,” she said, and the helicopter tilted sideways and plummeted to the ground.
The impact felt hard enough to shake the world.
When Adam recovered his senses, the the sound of the rotors had stopped, replaced by a faint crackling sound. The cabin of the helicopter was on its side, and at some point, the straps holding him in had been severed and he’d fallen to the bottom of the cabin. The stench of burning electronics filled the air, making him gag. He stood, knees shaking, and climbed out through the hole that had been torn in the side of the helicopter. When he pulled himself out of the fallen helicopter, he spotted Lilith standing over the body of a red-haired man- the one who had grabbed him.
“He’s dead,” Lilith said without emotion. Adam’s stomach lurched. He moved slowly as he climbed down the side of the remnants of the helicopter. “Don’t worry, it’s nothing permanent.”
She kicked the body over to lie face-down and bent down down drive her fingers into the back of his neck. Adam looked away as the skin and flesh parted, then looked back, driven by morbid curiosity. Hands dripping with blood, Lilith extracted a thick black ring from the gash she’d made. She wiped it off on her pants, leaving a dark stain across her leg, before pocketing it. Adam jumped when the body flashed with heat and combusted, reduced to ash in seconds.
“And I’d planned to kill him anyway. Come on, we’ve gotta get going,” Lilith said, nodding her head towards the mountain in the near distance.
“Why?” Adam asked in a small voice.
“Why what? You’re gonna to be more specific than that,” Lilith said, voice still flat, but the white light in her right eye blinked rapidly. “‘Cause I think you know why we need to move.”
“We spent a year looking for you, ’cause I knew you’d escaped before we did, and when we found you, you took her away!” Adam said, close to tears. “You shipped her off to be some tyrant’s plaything.”
“I didn’t escape. He let me go.” Lilith’s voice dripped with venom when she replied. “When I figured that out, you think it didn’t suck a million dicks taking a circuit probe to my brain to figure out where the pieces connect so I could unplug the little lightswitch in my brain that would bring me running back to his heels when he pressed a magic fucking button?” She pressed a finger to her temple with a vicious twisting motion.
“But why?” Adam cried, “Why did you take her? You were free.”
Lilith grabbed Adam, pulled him close and hissed through gritted teeth, “You don’t understand, I’m trying to help you. I had to keep you two apart.” She pushed him away and he stumbled, falling.
“So that nobody could get all of his notes? That doesn’t make sense! You’re doing that now, if you’re bringing me to Metatron.”
Lilith put a few paces between them and took a deep breath before replying. “This is different,” she said finally, her back to Adam.
“Because you’ll be on the right side when Metatron takes over the world?” Adam sneered as he climbed to his feet.
“I’m trying to save the world.” Lilith said.
“From what? Poverty? Corruption? Freedom? You know that never-”
“From him.” Lilith interrupted. “I’m not taking you to Metatron. We’re going back to the compound so I can erase his files.”
“What? You’re gonna kill me?” Adam’s eyes went wide.
“No! I would never do that. Fuck, you’re my brother.” Lilith turned to face him, expression hurt.
“Then… why were you working with Metatron?” Adam asked, fear and anger slipping away into confusion.
“So I could do the same for Eve,” Lilith explained. “I needed to separate you two until I could figure out how to erase that shit, and I figured across the goddamned Pacific would be far enough, but by the time I’d worked out how to fix you two, Metatron had gotten Eve. I had to get to her before Metatron got too much of Destructo’s notes. After that, I kinda got… stuck. I couldn’t leave Metatron, so I had to figure out how to get to you without tipping her off to what I was planning.”
“So at the school…” Adam trailed of, stunned by the revelation.
“I didn’t want to hurt any of your friends, but I know you- that was the best way to get you to come with me without being able to explain everything to you. I was hoping you’d come with me peacefully. Then I’d ditch the Archangel Metatron had me leashed to and take you to the compound to erase those files. Now come on, we need to go,”
Adam stood silently, still processing. It made sense- what she’d done, the person he’d thought Lilith had become, it didn’t fit with what he remembered of her from his childhood.
“Can’t we meet back up with the others?”
“Remember the Cherubim I had? They don’t really take orders from me. There’s still one left, and I bet it’s on its way.”
Adam took a deep breath. “Okay,” he said, with a small nod.
Lilith smiled and broke into a jog, with Adam following close behind. Soon, they reached a running pace. They ran tirelessly, cybernetically enhanced bodies pushing far beyond the point of normal human endurance. The edge of the field rushed past, giving way to a conifer forest, so they ran on the side of the road to avoid having to dodge trees.
“This is what it should be,” Lilith said between breaths. “Just the three of us, the whole world in front of us.”
“Three of us,” Adam agreed.
The mountain rose up ahead of them, bare of trees. The blasted stone was still covered in gouges all these years later, torn into the mountainside during the battle that had killed Dr. Destructo a decade ago. Adam shivered as he recalled that day. The memories were still fresh in his mind, the unfortunate result of an eidetic memory. Lilith ran across the rocks where the soil had been scoured away, and Adam followed, more cautious than his older sister.
Lilith stopped next to a boulder that rested on the rocky slope. “Here,” she said.
Adam leapt over a small ravine and landed next to her. She shoved a pile of small rocks into the crag to reveal a hatch recessed into the mountainside. She wedged her foot under the edge of the hatch and kicked it open. Adam stepped towards it, then stopped.
“I haven’t been back since we left,” Adam said.
“Yeah, I wish this wasn’t necessisary,” Lilith said. “But we need to make sure nobody gets those files. You ready?”
Adam swallowed a lump of fear and nodded. Lilith jumped down through the entrance to the underground complex. Adam approached the hatch and lowered himself down to the ladder. He hesitated. Every one of his instincts resisted him as he tried to work up the courage to continue.
“I know it’s hard,” Lilith called up from below. “That was part of why it took me so long to figure out how to fix you. Convincing myself I had to come back here…” Lilith trailed off. “But it worked. It’ll be worth it in the end.”
“O- okay,” Adam said, steeling himself. He pushed down his fear and continued down e ladder, one rung at a time.
At the bottom, he found himself on a tiny island of light cast through the open portal, surrounded by darkness. His eyes adapted quickly, though, and soon he could make out the hauntingly familiar white-and-red hall around him. He followed Lilith through the darkened halls, heart racing. He still didn’t know the full extent of these tunnels- they’d never found a map of the complex, but Lilith walked with purpose.
“Almost there,” Lilith said. She waved Adam forward from where he’d fallen behind.
“I just keep expecting to turn a corner into a Destructobot patrol.” Adam’s voice quavered.
“Don’t worry, they all ran out of juice years ago. Without the big man around to keep everything charged up, it all just… ran down.” Their footsteps echoed oddly off the composite ceramic walls as they walked. “Sometimes I wonder why we didn’t do the same.”
“I dunno,” Adam said. “And I don’t want to.”
“Amen to that. ‘Psychopath,’ doesn’t begin to cover it,” Lilith stopped by a set of blast doors wedged partially open by an overturned cabinet, dim light sifting feebly through the gap. “Here we are. Come on.” Lilith squeezed through the opening and helped Adam through into the lab beyond. The lab was as he remembered it. No dust had settled om the pristine white floors or the shining chrome equipment. Adam’s heart soared when he saw the diminutive, white-haired figure standing in front of one of the apparati.
“Eve?” he said, and took a hopeful step forward.
“Sorry, bro,” Lilith whispered. “This is the only way.”
“‘Hello, Adam,'” Metatron said. When she turned to look at him, her once-opalescent eyes were dull and cold.