Rainbow Riot had just finished putting her one month old son down for a nap. The child looked just like his father and she had named him Zachary just like he had requested she did. Sitting next to his crib in the house that had been quickly built for her, she gently stroked the side of his infantile face. He had chubby cheeks and a little snub nose. His limbs were so chubby they looked like could be sausage rings. There were few other words for the child than adorable and happy and this was enough to keep Rainbow Riot from spending all of her time grieving over the death of the child’s father.
While Rainbow Riot missed him every single day, after the initial grief had passed she had realized the best way for her to cope would be to celebrate Vengeful Venom’s life and the sacrifice he made in an attempt to save his family. She knew that there were many people who didn’t understand why he ran back to Better Living Industries in an attempt to redeem himself from the things that haunted his past and while it had taken Riot herself a long time to understand why he’d made such a needless sacrifice, particularly since he had known she was pregnant, she had finally come to terms with it.
Vengeful Venom couldn’t live with the guilt of what he had done when he’d let the triplets who had later become the IOD project live when he’d had the chance to kill them. He had known that his lover would have a child, a son no less, and when he thought of the future that he had provided their child with, all he saw was death and the hell they would have to suffer through at the hands of Better Living Industries and the IOD project. While it had been foolish to go into the City on his own to try and stop them single handedly, he had made a difference in the long run.
Riot would spend every day she had left in the Zones, praising his name and telling people of his story. When she wasn’t raising her son, she left him with a babysitter, one of the other girls in the eastern camp, Vanilla Octopus. The girl was more than happy to spend time with the child so that Riot could become more active within the Killjoys.
Now that a good amount of the Draculoids had been working on their detoxification of the standard issue Better Living Industry drugs, many of them had come to the camp either to apologize or to join the Killjoys in their attempts to rebuild the camps that had been destroyed in the final battle or to make amends for the wrongs they had done underneath the thumb of their pharmaceutical overlords.
While most of the Killjoys had no patience for the Dracs who had supposedly come clean, Rainbow Riot had a soft spot for those seeking a second chance. She’d always been partial to those looking to make amends with their past and ever since she’d met Vengeful Venom those many years ago she had been even more driven to help them get the chances they deserved. Riot felt that people were generally kind hearted and well meaning and knew that sometimes everyone made stupid decisions and their whole lives shouldn’t be decided by one poor decision, even if that decision led to working for Better Living Industries.
“Would you mind watching him for a little bit while he naps? I’ve got a few things to do around the camp and while I won’t be long, I would prefer if he not stay alone.” Rainbow Riot had given birth to the first child amongst the Killjoys in many years. Most children were born in the City or in the zones closer to it. The Killjoys had spent too many years being exposed to the toxic chemicals in the outer zones and getting into danger that anyone who had become pregnant before her had either lost the child in a dangerous battle or had miscarried because of the toxins in their blood.
Most couples knew it was too risky to get pregnant this far out in the zones and had managed to responsibly keep it from having a chance to happen. Rainbow Riot had spent so long underground with Vengeful Venom and generally did her dirty work from far distances, so when she had found out she was pregnant she had done her best to stay healthy and to stay out of the line of fire.
“Of course! Go ahead. I’ll be here anyway. I didn’t have any other plans today.” Vanilla Octopus looked up from the newspaper she’d been reading that was dated two weeks earlier from the City before folding it up and setting it aside on the table. Vanilla had become Rainbow Riot’s roommate which Riot had been glad for. It was nice to have a friend to help her out with Zachary and to keep her from getting too lonesome now that the man who was supposed to help raise her son was no longer with her.
Vanilla even went with her weekly to visit Vengeful Venom’s grave and pay their respects. Good friends were hard to come by in the Zones and since Frenzy wasn’t up to the task of child rearing and grieving with Riot, Vanilla Octopus had filled the role.
“Thank you so much, I swear I won’t be long. I just need to talk to Jet-Star about something.”
“It’s no problem. Take your time” Vanilla scooted over on the couch and glanced over at the bassinet that Phoenix Fury had built for Rainbow Riot to let her son sleep in, making sure she was aware of the child’s position and current state so she could properly keep an eye on him. Without another word, but giving the girl a polite smile, Rainbow Riot left the small house and headed out into the wind.
“Another dust storm?” Riot sighed and headed hurriedly back into her house to retrieve her rainbow colored scarf to wrap around her face so that she wouldn’t breathe in the toxins in the air and the dust from the ground that would be kicked up.
“Careful, that wind sounds nasty.” Vanilla added as she walked out again. Riot nodded in response and locked her door behind her. The Killjoy camp was under heavy construction but it had been going smoothly over the last few months. Every Killjoy with any skill or experience in building structures of any kind had volunteered their services to rebuilding the camp.
Party Poison had managed to make a deal with the City that in exchange for the work he did they would be provided with supplies and finances to rebuild what had been destroyed during the final battle against Better Living Industries.
So not only had the rebuild provided more reliable homes and living situations for the Killjoys but it had also provided them with jobs so they could buy things legitimately from the City rather than break into places and steal things the way that they had once been so accustomed to.
Hurrying past the row of houses that had been built for the Killjoys who had needed them the most, Riot continued past a few storage buildings and over to the extensive infirmary that had been amongst one of the first things built. It had been nice to know that they had been dedicated to providing higher health standards to the Killjoys now that they’d had the funds to purchase proper building materials.
Jet-Star had been managing to train some Killjoys in the art of medicine in his spare time, but Riot knew that this time of day, Jet-Star was usually filling out his paperwork. Screaming Extinction had taken to working with him in the infirmary with the filing and today was a day no different than any other. Having never quite recovered properly from the injuries he’d sustained in the final battle, Screaming Extinction could no longer fight out in the desert, so he’d instead decided to study beneath Jet-Star.
Hurrying in to avoid the very first gusts of the dust storm that would still take a few hours to arrive, Riot unwrapped her scarf from around her face and greeted Cosmic Karma who sat at the front desk, listening to the static of the radio and waiting for new patients to come in and out and to answer any questions any visitors may have.
“Hey Riot, how’s Zachary doing?”
“He’s doing well. Thanks for asking” Rainbow Riot smiled cordially. “I was actually hoping that I could have a word with Jet-Star… Is he around?”
“Yeah he’s just hanging out in the back with Screaming Extinction getting some of those charts filed away. Extinction’s got this system back there that none of us really understand and well… Jet’s trying to make heads or tails of it.”
“Oh, good luck to him.” Rainbow Riot chuckled.
“I can go get him if you like. I’m sure he’d take any excuse to get away.”
“No, I’ll go back there myself. Thanks though”. Riot smiled politely and then took the nod from Cosmic Karma as a clear signal to head back to the records room. When she’d given birth a month prior, she’d become familiar with the layout of the new infirmary since she’d had to stay in the hospital for a week afterward. Walking past the front desk and down the hall to the left, she saw the open records room. Screaming Extinction was sitting on the floor, surrounded with paperwork from the week’s medical exams and Jet-Star was standing in front of the filing cabinet against the wall, literally banging his head against it.
“How could this have gotten so out of hand, Extinction?”
“Out of hand? It makes perfect sense to me!”
“How on earth does having the Q’s next to the L’s make sense in any universe?”
“My system works! It’s foolproof.”
“Oh, right. My mistake.” Jet-Star rolled his eyes, then felt the familiar nervousness of eyes on him and turned to see Rainbow Riot in the doorway. “Oh hey, Riot… everything alright with you and Zachary?”
“Yes, yes it’s fine.” Riot smiled in response. Jet-Star wiped his hands of the dust that had accumulated on the shelves that he had often let Screaming Extinction take care of on his own. That was what had gotten him into his current situation.
“What can I do for you?” Jet-Star smiled politely, though he looked secretly relieved that he had an excuse to leave the organizing of the records room to Extinction again.
“Do you recall what I had told you about Zachary after Vengeful Venom passed away? Do you remember what he told me before he died?”
“Yes, I do.” Jet-Star had wondered when this would get addressed but hadn’t wanted to rush the woman since she’d just given birth a few weeks prior. He knew the child had to be of a certain age before they could start trying to discover what immunities were hidden within his genetic lineage.
“I was wondering when we could start discussing how to start that up. I know that it seems soon and I don’t want you to think that I’m eager for anyone to poke and prod my son but I was thinking about it… and perhaps we should do it before he’s too old to start having memories of it. I won’t hide from him that it happened, but I don’t want him to think that his only purpose in life is his immunity. If we could just… get that out of the way before he’s too old to start forming his first memories around it then… well he could live a normal life.” Rainbow Riot tried to explain her train of thought.
She didn’t want to be one of those mothers that put her child through unnecessary medical procedures but it would be far too selfish of her to know that he could save them all from the toxins in the outer zones and the drugs that had once plagued their water supplies and everyday meals and keep him all to herself just for the sake of him not being prodded. It would cause him no long lasting physical harm to have these tests done, so she had no reason to avoid them. Besides, it was Vengeful Venom’s dying wish to see his child do some good in the world. That was the legacy he had left behind.
“Well, I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately too and to tell you the truth I haven’t done any procedures on babies before. It’s very new ground for me. I know that Bad Medicine, having worked in the hospitals in the City, has had more experience than I have had with children so I was thinking we could borrow her from Captain Phantom’s Crow’s Nest and have her help us out with whatever invasive procedures we may have to perform, including blood work. I don’t want to cause Zachary any unnecessary pain.”
“I appreciate that. But I would like to try to get the ball rolling on it soon. We just need to decide how to go about that.” Jet-Star nodded to agree with the young mother.
“I know that Agent Alpaca had expressed some interest in making this happen for the boy’s father and I know for a fact that Phoenix Fury is curious about the process. Since Party Poison has been busy and doesn’t seem to hold much interest in the technical end of this, I suggest you go talk to Phoenix Fury about the process.”
“Okay, I can do that.” Rainbow Riot nodded her head. She’d always thought highly of Phoenix Fury after he’d turned his life around but then again, she was partial to people who made the best out of their second chances, the way that Vengeful Venom had. “Do you have any idea where I can find him? The weather has taken a turn for the nasty and I would prefer not to spend my time wandering around aimlessly in search of a bright green mohawk if I can help it.”
“Oh yeah, definitely. Last I checked, he and Commander Cutlass were screaming at each other over at the Cafeteria. It’s almost done and they wanted to finish before the storm hit but it doesn’t look like that’s working out so they’re probably cleaning up as we speak.” Jet-Star chuckled. “Just try to stay out of the line of fire. Cutlass tends to throw things at Phoenix.”
“Yeah, definitely. Thanks for the heads up.” Rainbow Riot laughed and shook her head. Commander Cutlass had offered to lend a hand with rebuilding while his sister stayed at the Crow’s Nest to keep an eye on things going on near the entrance to the City. Just because Better Living Industries had gone under didn’t mean that danger had been averted entirely.
There were people who wanted to take advantage of the City in its destroyed state, people with intentions as wicked as Better Living Industries. Not to mention, there were still some high level soldiers who had worked for Better Living Industries that were still unaccounted for in the aftermath.
Unfortunately, Commander Cutlass had been one of the best builders amongst them, the best being Phoenix Fury himself and the two ended up working together to power through the bigger projects in hopes of expediting their plans. The two were constantly at each other’s throats. It seemed the twins from the Crow’s Nest couldn’t get past what Phoenix Fury’s men had done to them in the second zone during the chaos that had gone down during the rebellions. Not to mention, they had been frustrated in general in Phoenix’s lack of caution when it came to the way he’d run his Killjoys. He had, after all, allowed Dracs to infiltrate his men.
But, Party Poison had told them to both to suck it up, put on their big girl panties and get to work. Whatever feud they had with each other they would have to put aside for the sake of the Killjoys safety. While they agreed, there had been several incidents where one or the other had ended up in the infirmary from a wrench to the head or a “miss” with a hammer.
Rainbow Riot waved goodbye to Cosmic Karma as she passed the front desk and headed from the infirmary and walked through the dusty and bustling streets of the Killjoys eastern camp. People weren’t prepared to head inside yet but they were starting to tie down anything that could blow away in the gale force winds that often accompanied the dust storms. Until the dust itself started showing up in the camp, people would likely not bother to take refuge. Still not wanting to be caught out in the dust and the wind or any part of the storm in general, Rainbow Riot hurried through the camp, clear to the other end where the under construction cafeteria was being built.
It was nearly completed too, but she could see Cutlass and Phoenix covering up an open area with a tarp and tying it down securely.
“You call that a knot? Some pirate you are.”
“I’m a pirate as in… a looter, not one that ties down the sails on a boat you ass.” Cutlass rolled his eyes and mumbled something derogatory beneath his breath about what an idiot Phoenix Fury was.
“I was trying to make a joke.” Phoenix sighed haughtily, paying no mind to Rainbow Riot as she approached, apparently unaware that she existed at the current moment.
“Yeah, well you suck at it.”
“Phoenix?” Riot called over the wind when neither man turned to look at the woman as she’d approached.
“If you’re looking for food, the entrance is on the other side. The cook is in there but she’s closing up for the day since there’s a storm coming so I’d hurry if I were you.” Phoenix didn’t bother to look down from his ladder at Riot.
“No, I need to talk to you.”
“Okay, give me a second. Cutlass, do you mind finishing up here?”
“Right, because I have nothing better to do right now than finish up your half of the work on this building. It’s not like I have to go home in this weather or anything.”
“Oh your bike wouldn’t make it in the dust anyway, so quit your whining.” Phoenix retorted as he climbed down the ladder. At the bottom he turned to look at Rainbow Riot who looked bored by the petty bickering. “Yeah? What is it Riot?”
“Jet-Star sent me to come and see you. He mentioned that you were interested in what we were going to do with Zachary. You know the whole thing with Vengeful Venom telling us that he was immune to the drugs and toxins out in the zones? It could be a pretty big deal and I’d like to get the whole process moving if I can… I was told to ask you since Agent Alpaca isn’t here and Party Poison is always busy with stuff for the City.”
“Oh yes, yes…” Phoenix brightened up, despite the cursing that came from behind him from Commander Cutlass. “Oh yes, I’m sure that’s going to help you, Cutlass.” Phoenix rolled his eyes and braced himself. It was clear that the two were used to throwing things at each other during their work day, but luckily Commander Cutlass wasn’t into the idea of potentially missing his target and hurting a single mother, so he refrained for the time being.
“So what do you want to do?” Rainbow Riot didn’t have all afternoon to sit and listen to the two argue annoyingly over nothing, so she pushed the conversation forward.
“I need to talk to Agent Alpaca about getting it going. Apparently Venom talked to him about it before he took off that day and so he has a bit of a better idea on how to approach this and since I’m kinda clueless about the medical end of it… I think he’ll have a better view of it. If you like, I can send word to him in the west and have him pay us a visit after this storm so we can figure things out.”
Sighing heavily, Phoenix Fury could see Rainbow Riot’s disappointment. It was clear that she thought she was being given the run around on the situation.
“Look, we’re going to do what we promised for Vengeful Venom.” Phoenix stepped closer and smiled kindly at the young woman. “Your son is a miracle and he’s still very little. I’m sure you want to get this done as quickly as you can so you don’t have to worry about it in the back of your mind. We’ll get this done but we want to do it the right way. Everyone working on this project should be in the know and aware of what they’re doing and the risks that we’re taking. Every step of this project needs to be planned out and done properly and I’m going to make sure that’s how things happen.”
“Thank you, Phoenix Fury.” Rainbow Riot’s face flooded with relief at his kind words. Phoenix Fury was relieved that his frustration with working with Commander Cutlass hadn’t altered his ability to be kind to other Killjoys.
“It’s really no problem. I’m sure you’re nervous about it.”
“You have no idea. I just want to get it over with and make sure I’m doing the right thing for my child and the man that I loved.”
“I understand that. So I’ll send a messenger out over the radios to get a hold of Agent Alpaca so he can head over here after the dust storm has passed. We don’t want him traveling in this nasty weather anyway. Besides, it’s not like this is going to be an instantaneous process. Cutlass, you can send Bad Medicine to help us tomorrow after the storm right?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Commander Cutlass joined the two in their conversation, wiping the dirt off of his hands fruitlessly. “She’s pretty eager to help with the project too, to tell you the truth. She keeps asking when you’re going to get the ball rolling.”
“Well, tell her to head to camp when the dust storm passes and we’ll all meet up to talk about what happens next.” Phoenix Fury folded his bulky arms over his bare chest and smiled pleasantly. “Now go get ready for the dust storm, that’s what we’re going to do here.”
“Thanks again, both of you.” Rainbow Riot smiled pleasantly at both of the men and waved, then wrapped her rainbow scarf around her face to cover up from the mess of dust starting to drift into the air.
“It’s fine.” Phoenix turned back to the building and started to clean up the mess of tools that Commander Cutlass had left as his responsibility.
Rainbow Riot headed back to her home in the wind, confident that the Killjoys were going to do the right thing by the man who had fathered her son.