[AC] Mysteria #9 By Robert Flynn

Artifice Comics artificecomics at yahoo.co.uk
Sun May 23 10:39:58 PDT 2004

Artifice Comics - http://www.artificecomics.com


Emma Randolph hummed a song she had heard on the radio as she dug the
sword deeper into Layla Burke's shoulder, Layla's screams providing an
imperfect harmony.

Emma smiled wide, her eyes gleaming as curses rolled from Layla's
mouth, growing faint as the pain tried to envelope her thoughts. Layla
started to slump, and Emma's smiled faded slightly.

She tugged on the sword, Layla's head jerking back, her mouth gaping
in a silence that boiled out of her throat into a loud scream.

"You better hang on, Layla," said Emma, leaning close with her wide
smile again spread across her lips. "You wouldn't want to miss seeing
Vicky one last time, would you?"


Mysteria #9 
"Welcome Wagon" 
By Robert Flynn 


Mysteria felt the young girl's silent sobs as she held Didi in her

She wasn't exactly sure what to do, simply stroking the back of the
young girl's head gently, cooing to her that everything would be okay,
that she was safe now.

Mysteria's eyes rested on the teddy bear that lay on the ground beside
them: its light brown cute exterior a facade for what lay beneath, the
mechanics of a machine that represented the dreams of the previous

The product of a company that was now her responsibility. 

"They're going to kill me," cried Didi into Mysteria's chest,
burrowing closer as if to hide there.

"Shhh," said Mysteria, looking back to the girl, stroking her hair,
hugging her tighter. "No one's going to hurt you."

"They will," said Didi with a sniff, looking up into Mysteria's eyes.
"They're going to come after me and kill me."

Mysteria pushed loose strands of Didi's hair out of her face, tucking
them behind the girl's ear and trying to give her a warm, sympathetic

"They aren't going to hurt you," said Mysteria. "No one's going to
hurt you. I'll keep you safe.

"I promise." 


Layla cried out as Emma wrenched her to her feet by her hair. 

"Stand up," stated Emma, letting go of Layla's hair and grabbing her
throat to hold her upright. "Stay up," she said through clenched teeth
as she leaned close.

"Please," whispered Layla as tears ran down her face. 

Emma stepped back and twisted, planting one foot and swinging the
other around as she spun, catching Layla squarely in the gut and
sending the woman crashing back into the wall.

Layla started to slide down the wall but caught herself as the tip of
Emma's sword dug under her chin.

"Stay up," Emma stated with narrowed eyes that stared at Layla down
the length of her sword.


Jack Crowley closed his eyes and hissed a curse as the phone rang
again. He stubbed out his cigarette and looked at the clock as the
phone screamed again.

He snatched the phone from where it lay beside the arm chair. 


"Jack, it's me." 

Of course it is, he thought. 

"Vicky," he said, forcing a smile on his face, "where are you?" 

"Working," Victoria Burke said quickly. "I'm bringing by a friend who
needs a place to stay."


"I just need you to watch over her for me for a bit," said Victoria.
"Some folks might be after her, and I just need a place for her to
hide out while I go talk to Romanova. It shouldn't be long."

Jack smiled while trying to envision this friend of Victoria's. He
tried to gleam some picture of her from Victoria's mind but couldn't
pick up on much for some reason.

"Yeah," he said, glancing over his shoulder towards his bedroom door,
"bring her by. Also, Vicky, we need to talk..."

"We will, Jack," Victoria hurried. "We will. Later, though." 

Victoria hung up, and Jack nodded to himself as he did the same. 


"Is he nice?" asked Didi as she clutched onto Victoria's hand while
they walked towards the apartment.

"Very nice," said Victoria, giving the girl's hand a confident
squeeze. "One of the nicest. I promise he'll protect you no matter

The child reluctantly nodded and hugged her teddy bear even closer. 


Jack Crowley walked to the bedroom as he tapped a cigarette out of its

He pushed the door open as he lit the cigarette, inhaling deeply as
the naked woman in the bed rolled over and looked to him.

He blew out a plume of smoke and jerked his head towards the door. 



Layla Burke's body tumbled through the air, crashing into the coffee
table that splintered upon impact.

"None of this is yours," Emma Randolph said as she waltzed into the
living room, dragging the tip of her sword along the floor behind her,
digging into the hardwood floor and then tearing into the carpet as
she moved.

Layla didn't even try to get up, curling up and crying as she wished
it would all stop--the pain, the suffering.

"None of this is his," said Emma as she stopped by Layla and dug the
toe of her boot into Layla's chin, pushing her head back and allowing
Emma to the press her foot into Layla's throat.

Layla gurgled, blood bubbling at her lips as she tried to plead while
Emma applied pressure to her windpipe.

"None of this is hers," spat Emma as she twisted her foot. 

Layla gasped as Emma pulled her foot from her throat. Emma knelt down
and leaned close to Layla, her lips hovering by her ear.

"You're going to die tonight, whore," she said. "Slowly and

Emma stood back up and narrowed her eyes. She spat into Layla's face,
her saliva mixing with the woman's blood as it ran down her cheek.

"But not before you see your bastard daughter die," said Emma,
bringing her sword around to play some more.


"I don't like you." 

Jack Crowley had been glared at like this before. This was nothing new
to him. What was new was the age of the woman doing it.

"Likewise," he said as he shifted in his armchair and tapped ash into
the ashtray on the table next to him. "Go watch cartoons or something,
just get out of my hair."

"I don't want to," she said, her glare getting slightly harsher. 

"Kid," said Jack, leaning forward and taking a quick glance at the
spare bedroom where Victoria was straightening up. The door was still
closed. "Don't fuck with me," he said with his best evil grin. "I've
made bigger people disappear for less."

"You don't scare me," Didi stated, standing her ground in the face of
a look that had sent grown men running in the past.

"Oh yeah?" he asked, leaning closer. 

"Yeah," Didi said as she stuck her chin into the air. "And I know what
you're up to."

Jack cocked an eyebrow. 

"And I don't like you messing with her, fuckface." 

Jack leaned back with a slight look of surprise on his face. 

"My, what language." 

"Okay, Didi," said Victoria as she stepped into the room. "You should
probably get some sleep now."

Didi turned as Victoria knelt down and rested a hand on the girl's

"If you need anything, just ask Jack, and he'll get it for you, okay?"

Didi looked over her shoulder to Jack who grinned and wiggled the
fingers of his free hand in a wave as he pulled the cigarette from his
mouth with the other. She narrowed her eyes and then turned back

"Okay," she said with a nod, and then she walked past Victoria,
dragging her teddy bear behind her, and closed the door to the bedroom
once she was in.

"Cute kid," said Jack as he and Victoria both stood up. 

"You sure you don't mind watching her?" asked Victoria as Jack stepped
to her and wrapped his arm around her waist.

"Not at all," said Jack, kissing Victoria on the forehead. "I think I
can handle a kid."

"Okay," said Victoria, giving Jack and quick peck on the cheek and
then walking towards the window. "I'll be back."

Jack nodded, and she stepped out the window and was gone. 

He turned back and stared at the closed bedroom door, taking a long
drag off his cigarette as he tried to figure out what to do about this


Emma stomped into the foyer, dragging Layla by her hair and tossing
her down, her head bouncing off the marble with a satisfying thunk.

"Oh, poor, Layla," said Emma as she pressed the tip of her sword into
Layla's cheek, moving it slightly, as if caressing her with the blade.
Layla remained motionless, her eyes closed, her breathing erratic and

"Where oh where can Victoria be?" 

The door to Burke Manor suddenly opened, and Emma spun around to face
this unwanted guest, her sword cutting through the air as she extended
her free hand towards the man.

"Alfonse," shouted the man as he stepped in, "do we have any
band-ai...." Then he saw her.

"Uh, hello." 

Emma stood still, studying the man. He shrugged off his suit coat and
let a blood stained cloth unravel from his arm. He wasn't a large man,
but if he was who his mask said he was, he might be trouble.

"Can I help you?" asked the man in the George W. Bush mask. 


Mysteria stepped into the mayor's office and looked around. 

The lights were on, but the office was empty. She shook her head and
chided herself. She should have expected it to be empty at this time
of night.

She sighed and turned towards the window, starting to step out when
she froze at the sound of a clearing throat behind her.

"Can I help you, Victoria," said a man's voice, a hint of delight
underlying it.

Mysteria turned around and hesitated, clearing her own throat and
finally finding her voice.

"The Siege Engine," she said finally. "Do you know anything about who
would have access to it, the mechanics and everything?"

"Well," said Erlend Romanov as he walked towards her, studying the
cigarette that burned between his fingers. "You would, for starters."
He smiled and looked at her, piercing her.

"Yes," said Mysteria with a nod, tearing her eyes away from Romanov
and then looking back to him. "But who else might have it?"

"Why the sudden interest?" Romanov stopped a few feet from Mysteria,
taking a pull off his cigarette and then gently blowing a stream of
smoke into the air.

"Do you know anything about a Siege Engine hooked up to someone's
head," Mysteria asked, "so they could control it by thinking?"

Romanov's face was unreadable as he stared at Mysteria. She repressed
the urge to shiver, wishing she was dealing with Anna Romanova

"I'm afraid I don't know anything about it," said Romanov, putting the
cigarette back into his mouth. "You should probably do more research
on your end, though," he said between puffs. "Lansing had quite a few
dealings outside of Cliff Jerrod."

Mysteria opened her mouth to speak but found herself again unable,
Romanov's gaze causing her to choke on her words. He stepped closer to
her and smiled.

"Why are you here, Victoria?" he asked as he pulled the cigarette from
his mouth and leaned closer.

"About the Siege Engine," Mysteria said, looking over Romanov's
shoulder and then closing her eyes as the man leaned closer still.

She felt breath warm on her cheek, gentle, goosebumps crawling up her

"Why else are you here, 'Toria?" gently sang a female voice in
Mysteria's ear.

Mysteria quickly turned and ducked through the window of the Mayor's
office, leaping out into the night.

And Anna Romanova smiled as she brought the cigarette to her lips. 


Emma smirked and stepped back, the interloper's knees giving way, his
body collapsing face first onto the floor, the look of shock spread
across his face.

She laughed and turned back to Layla. 

"Oh, Layla," she said as she approached her. "Poor, dear, old,
undeserving Layla Miguel Burke."

She stuck her toes under Layla's shoulder and kicked, rolling the
woman's body onto its back.

"You just had to go and die on us." 

Emma kneeled down and shook her head as she studied Layla's face. 

"And you never did get to see your precious Victoria, did you? 

"Well, don't you worry your pretty little head about it, mother
dearest," Emma said, standing up. "She'll be with you soon enough. And
you can be one big happy bastard family again."

Emma looked around herself, looked at Burke Manor, broken and bloody,
the wealth, the influence, the power, looked at all of it and sneered.

"You never deserved this," she said, looking back to Layla and then
turning to look at the butler that lay by the door. "None of you
deserved this."

She snapped her arm straight, blood flinging off her sword and
splattering onto the floor as an exclamation point to her thoughts.

Then she held her head high as she waltzed out of Burke Manor with a
smile on her face.

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