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The Product of Sacrifice

The Product of Sacrifice Buttercup lay on the cot in the cell, pretending to sleep. Though her heart had been nervously thumping in her chest for hours, she tried to remain realistic. What were the real odds of escape, that the Doctor had come up with a viable plan to get her out of here? Next to none. The man was intelligent, but emotional. Clearly, Buttercup reminded him of his daughter. It was depressing how easy people had become to read, like the world around her had morphed into a bad soap opera. Nothing was hidden from her view. Would it be any better outside? That was the one thing Buttercup couldn’t deduce. The seconds ticked away as she lay there in the dark, wondering when the Doctor would come, if he would come at all. Then, distantly, she heard it: a heartbeat. Fast, panicked, and coming down the hall towards her cage. She didn’t dare move a muscle. If they sensed and movement from her, any intention of escape, there would be consequences. Even when he opened the door, she stayed perfectly still. “I’ve disabled the cameras,” he whispered, and only then did she sit up and snap the chains that held her down on the bed, easy as breaking a toothpick. The Doctor gulped at the sight. “But we have to hurry,” he continued, “They won’t be down for long.” He threw her a bag, filled with clothes. “P-put these on,” he said, turning his back. “They’re my daughter’s. You’ll be a lot less recognizable with real clothes on.” It was true that the grey prison shift she had worn for god knew how long stood out quite a bit. Without hesitation, she pulled it over her head and began to dress. The underwear was scratchy—it’d been so long since she’d been allowed to wear any—and the shirt was covered in flowers that hurt the eyes. The Doctor turned back around, and smiled, bemused at the obvious reaction. “She’s refused to wear that shirt,” he admitted. “Says it’s too ‘kiddish’. I try but I don’t really know what nine-year-old girls want to wear.” He was the one buying clothes for his daughter. That meant she probably didn’t have a mother to do so instead, Buttercup inferred immediately. She wanted to ask about it, but this wasn’t the moment to pry. “Oh, your hair.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out two hair ties. She took them, and tied her hair into two small pigtails. “So the plan is just to walk out of here?” He nodded.

“That’s surprisingly clever,” she offered. “Though it still probably won’t work.” “W-what makes you say that?” he seemed concerned. “Pessimism mostly.” It was a lie, but it seemed to make him feel better. “A-are you ready?” he asked. He clearly wasn’t, but she didn’t mention it. Buttercup simply nodded, and allowed him to open the door. The Doctor nearly froze up, but when no alarms sounded he seemed to calm, and began to walk forward. Buttercup held his hand and together they walked down the bright, sterile white hallway together. For a minute, everything went according to plan. They walked achingly slow down the hallway, while Buttercup listened for the hum of the closest elevator. It was close, just at the end of the hall, right around the corner. But at the pace they were going, it would take an eternity to reach it. They were nearly halfway there when a woman in a lab coat turned the corner ahead of them and headed their way. “Dr. Hodge,” the woman smiled and waved. “Good evening.: But Buttercup tensed. She knew that voice. It was the woman that spoke to her over the intercom. But if she knew the woman, that meant that the woman also knew her. Buttercup buried her face in the Doctor’s side, trying to appear childlike with the added bonus of hiding her face. “Is this your daughter?” the woman asked, far too close for comfort. “Uh… yes,” the Doctor stuttered. “Her nanny was sick so I had to take her in with me.” “That’s a shame,” Buttercup could hear the woman shake her head before leaning over to address her. “Abigail, right?” she asked, but Buttercup dare not respond. The Doctor’s hand had become sweaty. “She’s a little shy…” But this woman was pushy. “it’s alright, dear,” she said, grabbing Buttercup’s free arm. “I’m a friend of your dad’s…” then, she pulled. Buttercup was trapped. If she resisted, the woman would know she was far too strong for a child her age, but if she saw her face… Buttercup let herself be pulled, hoping against hope that somehow the woman wouldn’t recognize her. But of course, the instant she saw her face, the woman straightened in surprise. “You…” she managed. “Run!” Buttercup commanded, and she and the Doctor took off towards the elevator. “Security!” The woman screamed, and Buttercup winced. The Doctor was slowing her down. Without him, she would be at the elevator right now. But she couldn’t leave him behind. He was an accomplice now. If they caught him… Buttercup didn’t want to think about what they would do. Two security guards had already fallen in behind them as they turned the corner. Ahead, there was one more, but he had been sleeping, for he blinked blearily and looked at the incoming cacophony in confusion. Buttercup briefly let go of the Doctor’s hand. Using the wall as a spring, she flew through the air and landed a roundhouse kick to the man’s jaw before he even knew what was happening. He fell to the ground, the second after the sickening crack reverberated through Buttercup’s leg. Without missing a beat, she grabbed the Doctor’s hand again and they ran into the elevator. “What are you doing?” The Doctor asked as Buttercup hit the button for the second top floor. “They’ll be waiting for us at the top,” she explained. “So we’ll go to the second floor and sneak right past—” But just then the door opened and the words died in her mouth. Because for the first time since becoming a Paragon, Buttercup had made a mistake, the only one she was capable of: she had underestimated the enemy. Twenty guards stood directly outside the elevator, pistols pointed directly at them. Buttercup raised her hands in surrender, but her heart dropped as she heard the click of twenty safeties removed. They weren’t going to give them a chance. “No!” she shouted, trying to throw herself in front of the Doctor. But he small body was never going to be an adequate shield. Even before she hit the ground, her own torso littered with bullets, she knew that he was dead, the absence of his brainwaves was deafening. ~~ o ~~ “I’d like to go over the events of three nights ago again for the record,” the woman in the lab coat sat across the metal table from Buttercup, who couldn’t help noticing the slight redness around her eyes, from tears or lack of sleep she couldn’t place. Possibly both. Why did I scream, I didn’t think they would kill him, this one was particularly easy to read. “Specifically in regards to the involvement of Dr. Aaron Hodge.” Buttercup took a deep breath. She knew what she had to say. “I used him,” she stated. “As soon as I caught wind of his sympathies towards me, I immediately began work on strengthening them. I reminded him of his daughter, it was child’s play.” The woman’s face hardened. Yes, that was good. Hate Buttercup. They already did anyway. “After that, it was an easy task to swipe the keycard from his pocket and escape my cell. I took the Doctor hostage in order to blend in. Unfortunately, the guards called my bluff and killed him.” A pause. She didn’t want to say this part. “He was slowing me down anyway.” The woman narrowed her eyes, a curious expression there. “That will be all,” she said, and stopped the recorder in between them. Then, not wasting a second, she leaned forward and said. “If that’s true, then why did you try to save him?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “You could have avoided getting shot easily, taken out all of those guards, and escaped without so much as anyone else hearing a sound. And yet, you jumped in front of Aaron instead. Why?” Buttercup watched her carefully. “Is it so hard to believe that I still have a modicum of human decency?” Though she opened her mouth, the woman quickly closed it again. She nodded, just once, and stood, making to leave. “Tell them what I told you,” Buttercup looked downwards. “Please.” The woman paused. “There’s a little girl out there named Abigail who’s now all alone in the world. It would be much better for her to go through the rest of her life believing her father was a hero.” ……….. “I will.”

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