The Cherubim released Lilith and she dropped to the floor. She crossed the lab and stood over Dr. Destructo’s cooling body.
“Fuck you,” she spat, and kicked him. “Fuck you!” she shouted, louder. She drove her foot into his head. His skull rebounded off the concrete floor, and she did it again, and again. “Fuck! You! Fuck! You!” Her curses became a mantra, that dissolved into a wordless screech of rage. The light in her right eye shone a bright white.
Then all at once, she stopped. The light in her eye winked out and she stood unnaturally still, no trace of the violent fury she showed moments ago. The mask on the Seraphim clicked shut, freeing the heroes to move again. Raine swayed on her feet as she regained free agency, then stumbled to the side. She caught herself on the lab table and leaned against it, legs weak.
“What… who was that?” she said, pointing to Dr. Destructo’s corpse.
“You would know him as Metatron,” Lilith said, voice eerily calm. “This is who he really was, when he wasn’t possessing a little girl.”
Jessica fell to her knees and threw up on the floor. Kismet crouched beside her and put a comforting arm around her shoulders. Legion looked away, uncomfortable.
“Is he…” Plateau said, unable to look away from Adam, who lay on the metal countertop, metal spike through his eye.
“H’s dead,” Lilith said. “But if we’ve learned anything today, it’s that death is only permanent if you’re not ready for it.” She stepped over Dr. Destructo without a second look to approach Adam’s body.
“What?” Jessica looked up. Her eyes were already reddening.
“Destructo designed a way to back up memories so he could store a copy of himself in case he died. It was designed so he could back himself up, but he wasn’t going to use it on himself without testing it. He never finished it.” Lilith grunted as she tore the metal spike out of Adam’s skull. “But we all had it built in.”
“The cortical stack,” Raine said, nodding. “The black box of the brain.”
“When the compound was compromised, Destructo backed himself up into the only available place: these two. Since I flushed him out, though, the only thing left in the stack should be Adam.”
“So if all of his memories are backed up, you can bring him back too?” Jessica said, hope blossoming.
“Well, yes and no. Yes, in that it is possible,” Lilith flipped Adam over to lie on his stomach. “No in that we just killed the only guy who knows how it works.”
“Oh.” The tinker’s face fell.
“That’s not true,” Raine said.
“It’s not?” Lilith turned away from Adam to give the Japanese woman a curious look.
“I know someone back in Japan- Rokuro. He set up hacked backups for us so that we could restore without Metatron spying on us. It didn’t work, in the end, but-”
“But he could bring him back if we get him Adam’s memory bank?” Jessica said,
“Possibly. He cobbled together a neural bridge from a bunch of salvaged parts. If we can contact him, he might be able to do it. If anyone can, he can.”
“That’s good,” she said, then spoke to the heroes. “You might not want to watch this part.”
Lilith dug her fingernails into the skin on the back of Adam’s neck and pulled it apart. It didn’t part like normal skin would- instead it bent outwards with a creak, like metal. Legion watched with morbid fascination as she reached into the back of his neck and tore out his topmost vertebra. Jessica retched, though she had already emptied the contents of her stomach.
“Ugh, I really need to wash my hands. I’ve had to do this twice today.” Lilith wiped the lumpy black disk on her jeans and pocketed it. “Oh and my dampening is about to run out, so-” The light in her eye flickered back on and she cut off mid-sentence. Her breathing picked up to the point of hyperventilation and her eyes went wide as she sank to the floor. “Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck,” she muttered under her breath, running her bloody fingers through her pale green hair, leaving wet trails. She slowed her breathing from panicked panting to deep, slow breaths as she tried to calm herself down.
“Thank you,” she croaked with a cracking voice. She peered up at Raine through the crook of one arm. She pulled herself to her feet and looked down at Adam with a sad smile. “I thought the little bastard had finally managed to get himself killed off for good.”
“What about Eve?” Kismet asked. She stood, leaving Jessica sitting on the floor, shellshocked.
“She should be okay, once she wakes up,” Lilith said, voice tight. “Physically, at least. It’s not fun, but electricity won’t kill us.” Lilith walked over to where Eve has collapsed. “Psychologically, she’s probably a train wreck, just like the rest of us.” A chuckle escaped her lips, then a deeper laugh that bubbled up against her will. She leaned against the counter next to Raine and shook with a laugh from deep in her chest.
“We made it,” she said. “We all made it.”
“We need to go to Japan to bring Adam back,” Jessica said, standing.
“We do,” Lilith said, sobering. “God, it’s going to be one of the biggest humanitarian clusterfucks ever. Try telling two hundred million people you’re going to take away their immortality because of a security flaw.”
“Two hundred-? Immortal-” Legion spluttered, turning towards Lilith.
“Security flaw?” Jessica asked.
“That’s how Metatron took over Japan,” Raine said. “She- he promised immortality through cybernetic augmentation, then used it to control people. The Prime Minister, the police, the wealthy elite, one day they were all in his pocket. When Tokyo was destroyed by the Avatar of Anarchy, it was Metatron who rebuilt it. When construction was done, she was the one sitting in the center of the capitol.”
“Pronouns, are weird,” Kismet muttered.
“Avatar of Anarchy? I thought you said Japan didn’t have Nightmare events?” Kismet said.
“That was the first and only one,” Raine said.
“Oh my god,” Jessica said. “It makes sense. If Metatron was Dr. Destructo, or even had his schematics, he would have known how the Nullifier worked. He could have blanketed all of Japan in a null-field and nobody would have known the difference.”
“The null-field! That’s why my power didn’t work!” Plateau said. “When I saw the Seraphim, my first instinct was to put up a wall, but it didn’t work.”
“That’s not-” Kismet said, then stopped. “Oh wait, you’re right. Maybe I don’t have a concussion. Yaaaay!”
“Damn, if I hadn’t been paralyzed by that glowy thing, I’d probably have done something really stupid,” Legion said.
“Yes, you would have,” Kismet said drily.
“Can we… get out of here?” Jessica said. “I don’t like it.”
Lilith bent down and lifted Eve’s limp form off the floor.
“I was thinking the same thing,” she said.