|Sun, 7 Nov 1999
DuAnn Cowart <Ibelieve@rocketmail.com>
No Night For Gin [The Authority, PG-13]
Disclaimers: The Authority was created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch and belongs to Wildstorm/DC Comics. It is, incidentally, quite a worthwhile book. If you haven't given it a try yet, I recommend that you do so. No ownership or authorization is is hereby claimed, and no copyright infringement is intended. This is an unauthorized work of fiction, and no consideration of any sort is rendered or received in any form or manner in exchange for any part of this story.
This takes place a few hours after The Authority #8, parts of which are cited herein. All standard disclaimers apply.
This story is rated PG-13 for language and references to violence.
Many thanks to Matt Nute, Alicia McKenzie, Kaylee and especially Falstaff for background information and betaing for this story. They were instrumental in assisting me in this story. I, however, take full responsibilty for any errors in characterization and/or storyline that may occur herein.
Feedback would be greatly appreciated, as this is a first effort with these particular characters.
No Night For Gin
"By now, everyone on that piece of land is exploded and frozen, unprotected in space. . ." -The Doctor, Authority 8.
Angie knelt over the toilet, bare forehead pressed against the cold ceramic surface, the Doctor's words reverberating through her mind. She closed her eyes and, strained muscles cramping in protest, again emptied the contents of her stomach into the bowl.
Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she leaned back, bare legs curling underneath her on the Carrier's alien floor. It was over; they'd done it. As Jenny had so proudly proclaimed, the team had finished what it had set out to do. They had 'changed things for the better', whatever that meant. Regis was dead. The Blues were destroyed. There would be no more disgusting rape camps, no more torture or murders under the iron rule of the Blues, either on Albion or on their own Earth.
She shuddered, remembering Jenny's heated words about the atrocities that had been committed, Jack's hushed descriptions of the horrors the Albion cities had conveyed to him. No, she had no doubts that killing Regis and his minions had been the right thing to do.
At least, that's what she told herself, when she wasn't fixating on the enormity of what they'd done. The Authority had reshaped an entire planet to be the way they thought it should be. They'd rebuilt a world in their own image, played God with an entire civilization, and in doing so they'd wiped out most of the parallel Earth's version of Italy.
'We did what we had to do,' she told herself sternly. 'We wiped out their central government- the peninsula was predominantly populated by the Blues. . .' The thoughts turned darker. ~And their slaves, and those poor women imprisoned in the rape camps, and whatever other innocents were trapped in the country through no fault of their own. . .'
She rose unsteadily, balancing against the sink with the palms of both hands. After washing her face, she lifted a pointed chin to glance at her reflection in the mirror. The woman staring back at her was pale, haggard, and looked as if she hadn't slept in weeks.
'I look like shit.'
Snorting humorlessly, she left the room behind to wander restlessly around the alien quarters that had been outfitted for her use. Shortly after Jenny had recruited her into The Authority, she and the Doctor had found the Carrier and made it their base. The Carrier itself had welcomed them, proving itself more than amenable to adapting itself to fit the needs of the human beings now living on board. The curves of the walls, the sheen of the material were all still inherently alien, but at least the place now felt more like home.
To her, anyway. Jack and Jenny and Shen had been so busy over the last few years with StormWatch Black that they hadn't had much time to give thought to such matters. The Midnighter and Apollo had lived on the streets so long that 'home' didn't really have much meaning to them. All they cared about was that they had each other.
And the Doctor? She shivered again.
She didn't really give a fuck about what the Doctor thought.
'Damn, it's dark in here,' she noted absently, flicking on the overhead lights of her small living room, though the dimness better suited the decidedly grey state of her soul. She blinked, more in habit than in actual need to compensate for the sudden brightness. Ever since her home computer had filled with the first Engineer's research, incorporating her own research into humanotech fusion, every part of her life had been diametrically changed. Augmented eyesight and reaction time was among the least of those adaptations.
'Yeah, that's it, Angie.' Her eyes narrowed disdainfully. 'Consider the data, analyze the reaction time so you won't have to remember what actually happened back there. . .'
Frozen and unprotected. Those had been the Doctor's words as he killed them . . and the bastard had been grinning while he did it. Grinning as he described mass genocide; laughing, even, making it into a joke.
A fucking joke.
She felt bile rise again in her throat. There had been no attempts at negotiation, no warnings, no attempts to free the innocents before Jenny had given the word and the Doctor had just raised his arms to hold an entire country in place while the world revolved around it. An entire fucking country, gone, in the twinkling of an eye. Just like that.
Not just the evil and corrupt government, not just the Blues- that she would understand. Over the last few months she'd come to learn much about the necessity of war. She still didn't like it, still felt like a rank novice fighting alongside the experienced veterans that made up the rest of the team, but now she at least understood that sometimes unpleasant measures were required in order to save lives. She was becoming a soldier. Soldiers fought wars, and in wars people sometimes died. She accepted that. It was the cost of building a better world.
But not like this.
A soft knock sounded at her door, interrupting her bleak musings.
"Go away," she muttered, the nanoload that replaced nine pints of her blood unconsciously seeping out of her pores, covering her body with liquid mercury armor. 'No. No briefing, not now, I don't think I could stand it-'.
"It's Jack," the words were muffled through the Carrier's alien walls. "You still up?"
'Jack,' she groaned, rubbing silver-tipped fingers over tired eyes. 'Jack. Not you. Not tonight. . .'
". . . Hold on just a minute." She finally answered, tightening the belt of her short kimono. Drawing a deep breath, she consciously pulled the nanites back inside her body, patting her hair as the Engineer's elaborate headpiece and corded wiry hair gave way to her own smooth skin and thick black locks.
The door opened to find Jack Hawksmoor, barefoot as always, silhouetted against the dim light of the hallway. "Hey," he greeted her softly, running a hand through close cropped, faintly receding black hair. "Is this a bad time?" He shifted uneasily, and she could see that the worry lines that creased his face were even deeper than usual this evening.
"Hi, Jack," She looked up at him, managing a wan smile for his benefit. She stepped back from the door, which closed automatically. She motioned him inside. "No, of course not. Come on in."
"Sorry come by so late," he apologized, dark eyes instinctively darting around her quarters, searching for hidden threats. Finding none, he turned to her, studying the dullness in her red rimmed eyes, the uncharacteristic slump in her shoulders, her faintly detached expression. His brow furrowed in concern.
Too tired to even notice his gaze, Angie motioned to one of the chairs in the small sitting area of the room. "I couldn't sleep anyway," she admitted ruefully, walking over to the small makeshift kitchen area. "Can I get you a drink?"
"Please," he muttered, lowering himself hesitantly onto an ornate wing backed chair, eyeing it askance. "Bourbon, if you have it. . ."
"Scotch close enough?" She asked, holding up an already opened bottle for his approval.
"Right now, paint thinner would do just fine," he noted wryly, grimacing as he tried to get comfortable in the straight backed chair, hurriedly pasting a pleasant expression on his face as she returned with two crystal tumblers full of a dark viscous liquid that sloshed slightly as she walked. She eased herself onto the battered couch opposite his chair, tucking her legs under her, and they clinked glasses.
"Ahhhhhh. Hits the spot," he murmured approvingly, then glanced at her drink. "No gin and bitter lemon for you tonight?" he teased gently, remembering the conversation they'd had only a few scant days ago about the life she'd left behind.
She shook her head tightly, face contorting in a frown. "No. This is no night for gin- there's nothing to celebrate." She sipped the drink slowly, grimacing as the strong liquor burned her throat, a dark expression on her face. "At least not for me."
He quirked a raven eyebrow, studying her intently. "Jenny would disagree with you there."
Angie's shoulders stiffened at the name. "Did she send you in here?" Her fingers clenched around the thick crystal of the tumbler. "If you're here because she's worried that I-"
"No!" Jack snapped, eyes glowing red for the briefest of moments before returning to their usual deep brown. "Nobody sent me down here, Angie." His voice was tight and controlled, but she could hear the undercurrent of barely contained frustration.
Angie was silent, unwilling to meet his gaze.
Rising from his seat, he sat his glass down and jammed his hands in his pockets, voice rising angrily. "Fuck. This was a mistake. I'll . . . leave." He stared at her another moment, spine stiff and straight with unspoken words. "I'll see you tomorrow," he muttered through a clenched jaw, and turned to go.
She closed her eyes, exhaling sharply. "Jack, wait," she finally murmured, stretching out a hand to stop him. He hesitated, broad shoulders squared as if awaiting a harsh rebuke. She sighed, shaking her head, dark hair obscuring her face for a moment. "It's been a long day. I didn't mean to be rude. I'm sorry. . ."
He was still for a moment, then turned around to face her, arms akimbo. "No problem," he allowed, visibly relaxing. "We're all still pretty keyed up over this whole thing. Don't worry, it happens." He walked back to his seat.
"Yeah, but that's no excuse for me to act like such an iron-clad bitch- no pun intended." This time, her smile was small, but genuine.
Jack's lips twisted in a lopsided grin, and he laughed, a low rumbling deep in his chest. A few moments passed, and they sat in companionable silence, nursing their drinks. "Angie- I really did have a reason for stopping by tonight-"
"Other than to drink my liquor and deprive me of my beauty sleep?" The corners of her eyes crinkled in a smile, and he responded in kind.
"Like you need either one," he muttered under his breath. "No, seriously. I know you were upset after what happened today-"
She snorted, good humor evaporating like the morning mist under the hot desert sun. "Figured that one out all by yourself, did you? Don't worry, I'm fine." She shrugged in an attempt at indifference.
He saw the misgivings and uncertainty beneath the bravado. Leaning forward in the chair, elbows balanced on black-clad knees, he looked her square in the face.
"You're not the only one with doubts about what happened today. Cities died down there today, Angie," he murmured bleakly. "Whole cities- gone." He reached down and took his glass, tipping it back, relishing the slow burn of the liquor as it coursed down his throat, closing his eyes against the remembered death wail of the cities, the final howls that only he could hear as they cried out and then were no more.
Angie nodded slowly, stomach clenching again in nausea as the Doctor's words again reverberated through her mind. Glancing up at him, she saw her own anguish mirrored in his dark eyes; she felt a lump form in her throat. "I know," she whispered. "I was there. . ."
He continued as if he hadn't heard her, staring at a point on the far wall, curiously distant. "I felt them die," he stated matter-of-factly, but she could hear the aching edge to his flat tone. "Venice, Rome, Genoa, Florence, Firenze- a thousand more- I felt their spirits wrenched away, and couldn't do a damn thing about it." He looked down at his drink, clenching the glass tighter in his hand, burning with an impotent anger. "Not a damn thing."
"Jack-" Her voice cracked. "I don't know what-"
"Let me finish," he interrupted, voice harsher than he'd intended. He swallowed tightly, then turned to face her, finishing with difficulty. "But. . . what I came here to tell you was . . . it was worth it."
Time slowed to a crawl. She shook her head incredulously, hissing "How can you *say* that?" She choked, hands clenched into fists, fingernails digging perfect crescents into her palms. "How do you know that? Who the hell are *we* to make those kinds of decisions?"
"Who *else* will if we don't?" He pounded a fist against his knee, words pouring out in a cathartic rush. "Angie, I meant what I said earlier about saving two worlds. Yeah, those cities died, but they knew their death meant something! In that last second, they knew that all that was left of that bastard Regis and his ilk were dying with them, and they were *glad*. They were sacrificing themselves for the rest of their- not to mention our- world, and they were fuckin' *glad*!"
"How?" She demanded, somehow finding it absolutely imperative that she know, that she understand what had happened this day. "How could they *do* that so easily? Give up life? Give up *everything*, just like that?!?"
This time, it was Jack who drew back, and when he answered it was in hoarse, choked whisper. "You didn't see what they went through. Angie, the shit they showed me- the horrible things that happened to them-" His eyes gleamed red in the darkness, and she felt his hatred, was shocked by the complete and utter fury in his voice. "I'd nuke our Earth myself before I'd let those bastards get ahold of *my* cities. There's worse things than death, Angie. . . for the cities *and* for us."
She swallowed tightly and nodded, meeting his eyes. "I know that," she conceded grudgingly. "I *know* that, but. . " Her chin dropped slightly, and stared at him through lowered lashes, "But we didn't- Regis was *dead*, Jack, you killed him yourself. We could have waited- we should have tried something else, anything but-"
He shook his head sharply. "And give them time to regroup, time to get away and do it all over again? No. Jenny knows them, Angie, knows what they're capable of. She knew better than that- taking them by surprise like this was the only way to make sure the bastards wouldn't survive." He paused, then continued in a sure voice. "She's been doing this a long time, Angie. She knows exactly what she's doing."
The woman didn't say anything, just stared into what was left of her drink, swirling the remainder of the liquid around in the glass, still lost in uncertainty and doubt. It was testament to how much she'd changed that she didn't even give thought to the fact that she was aboard an alien vessel sailing the higher dimensions, discussing the sentience and morality of cities of a parallel earth with a neohuman who derived his powers from extensive alien experimentation.
"We did the right thing," he repeated huskily, smoothing out nonexistent wrinkles in his tight black tee shirt. "We might have killed, but how many lives did we save by what we did today? It wasn't easy, but we did the right thing."
"Did we?" She asked slowly, thinking aloud. "Did we really? You weren't up there. You didn't hear the Doctor's laughter while he did it- shit, I think he was still high the whole time!" Her face contorted in an anguished expression. "You didn't see the look on Jenny's face, like she *enjoying* it, enjoying seeing the face of a *world* change, Jack, and the tone in her voice when she issued those ultimatums-"
Jack shook his head sharply. "Jenny has a lot of bad history there, I won't deny it, but. . . I've been working with her a long time. I know her better than that- she'll do what it takes to get the job done, but even she wouldn't drown a whole country out of pure spite." At her dubious expression, he continued gently. "I know you might not see it like that right now, but that's where it gets into trust." His eyes clouded over, and he shook his head regretfully. "If there's anything I've learned by working with Jenny and Shen, it's that."
She was silent a long while, struggling to come to terms with what they'd said here tonight. "Jack?"
"Does it ever get easier? This life, I mean. Do you ever get used to it?"
There was a awkward pause, and he answered honestly. "Shit, Angie, I can't answer that. My life has hardly been what anyone would call normal. . . I've been doing this shit for as long as I can remember. I wouldn't know easy if it jumped up and bit me on the ass."
She just shook her head, trying not to flinch at the unspoken pain in his words. "Maybe there's *not* an answer," she said softly, harsh realization beginning to dawn. "Maybe there's only questions, and we just have to do the best we can to answer them."
He tipped up his glass, draining the remainder of the drink. "Maybe so," he acknowledged, then sat the empty glass down with a dull thud. He rose from the uncomfortable chair and stretched. "All I know is this- tonight what's left of Albion is sleeping free for the first time in generations. Tonight *our* Earth doesn't have to worry about invasion by another world," he growled. "We won't have to worry about cleaning the filthy bastards out of *our* cities. And that's enough for me."
Angie raised her head thoughtfully. "Maybe you're right," she observed carefully, rising to her own feet a bit unsteadily. She yawned. "I'll . . . think about it."
"You should," he grunted. "You did a good job today. We all did," he hurriedly added. "And I know it's not easy. Just . . . think about that when all that other shit comes rushing in, OK?"
"I will," she assured him softly, "Thanks, Jack." Even though there was no magic answer for the questions that plagued her, no anodyne for her troubled soul, she found herself breathing easier, tense muscles relaxing ever so slightly. With something resembling her usual wit, she smirked. "You can pay me for that drink later."
He laughed. "Deal." Silence reigned for a long moment. "Well. . . it's getting late." he inclined his head awkwardly toward the door, dark eyes flickering in the light. "I should be going."
She waited a heartbeat before answering slowly. ". . .Yeah, I guess you should."
For a moment, he looked as if he wanted to say something else, but his expression darkened and he stopped himself. "Yeah." There was a moment's hesitation, then he mumbled "Goodnight." With a deep sigh, he pivoted sharply and left the room, the door automatically closing tightly behind him.
"Goodnight," she breathed, staring at the closed door, lost in thought. With a sigh, she turned and flicked off the lights, staring into the blackness a long while before she turned to go to bed. She fell asleep almost instantly, but before she did, she looked back into the dim room.
Somehow the shadows didn't seem quite as dark as they had before.