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Fic -- The Ghost In The Machine
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Title: The Ghost In The Machine
Rating: Mature
Word Count: 1543
Characters: Hartley Rathaway and Roscoe Dillon.
Summary: Two former Rogues must save the day when violence strikes close to home.
Warnings: Violence, killing, profanity.
Notes: Set in an RPverse; all you need to know is that Roscoe works at Hartley's company called Hamelin. In case you aren't familiar with the creepier aspects of Roscoe's abilities, here are a couple of canon examples of his ghost leaving a host body. As you can see, the body immediately collapses without anyone in the driver's seat.

"Get down on your knees and put your hands up!" the gunman shouted as he fired into the air. Most of the employees at Hamelin hurried to comply, but Roscoe stood in place, glowering.
"Did you not fucking hear me?!" the man demanded, pointing the gun at him, and Roscoe simply leered in response. He'd seen Hartley dash to his office when the intruder had burst in, and hoped to buy some time for whatever the boss had planned.

"Just do what he says!" pleaded his executive assistant, Asma. She didn't want to watch a co-worker die, and had no idea that he'd already died multiple times before. His expression softened slightly at the distress in her voice, but somebody had to take a risk, and it might as well as have been him. To him, death was mostly an inconvenience.

But suddenly a previously unseen gunman pushed Hartley down the corridor towards them. "Found the CEO," the newcomer said brusquely as Hartley was forced to stand in front of the intruders. The two ex-Rogues glanced worriedly at each other, and Roscoe slowly knelt down on the floor. Everyone was acutely aware of how vulnerable Hartley was at that moment, and Asma began to sob.

"This can go easy, or it can end in blood," the first gunman told Hartley. "All we want is the plans and prototype for the A-55 Project, and if you give them to us without any trouble, nobody has to die."

There wasn't any question that Hartley would comply to save his people, as no technology was worth a single life. "Of course,” he replied as soothingly as possible, hoping to calm the men. “But you have to understand that I can't just hand them to you in an instant; they have to be retrieved from multiple levels of security."
The leader pointed the gun at Roscoe and replied, "Right. Well, the clock's ticking."

At that moment the company's security guard jumped out from behind cover to shoot at the first gunman, the slug bouncing wildly off his body armour. The second intruder shot at him in turn, and the guard collapsed with a bright spray of crimson from his forehead. Most of the civilian employees screamed and now several were crying, and the gunmen seemed deeply agitated.

"Fuck!" the leader shouted, more freaked out than the Rogues had expected. "That wasn't supposed to happen!"
"It's the logical outcome of waving guns around and threatening people," Hartley said furiously. Roscoe's eyes glowed brightly with anger of his own, but he was now concerned that the rattled gunmen would start shooting the others at random. It was best to see what they'd do next before deciding how to fight back.

The leader took a few moments to think about his next course of action, but when he spoke there was more desperation in his voice. "Everybody into the boardroom."

All the Hamelin employees were herded into the company’s meeting room, and the gunmen locked the door before tying their hands. Roscoe shuffled himself protectively in front of Asma, while never ceasing to glare at the gunmen. He was now very, very concerned about the situation.

"My comrade's going to take you down to the safe and you've got fifteen minutes before I start executing these people," the lead gunman told Hartley. "Somebody's already dead and we've got very little to lose, and our client will be furious with us if we don't hand over that prototype."
Hartley swallowed worriedly, knowing there was a good chance he wouldn't be able to retrieve everything in time. "Please. You can kill me if you must, but spare my people."
"Tick tock," was all the man said, so Hartley hurried out with the second gunman right behind.

Asma was praying quietly behind Roscoe, who continued to glower at their captor. He weighed his options, also well aware that Hartley probably couldn't get all the items by the deadline. If he attacked the gunman, even with his psi powers, it was likely that the man would still be able to shoot someone. He would definitely be shot down if he tried to run (or spin) for the door, and then wouldn't be of use to anyone. But there was one other alternative he could think of; he didn't like it much and it was a gamble, but this was a desperate situation.

"Be brave, Asma," he said, and his ghost left its body. The body immediately collapsed, dead without the spirit inside to animate it, and Asma screamed in horror. Startled, the gunman hurried over and examined it, finding no pulse or heartbeat or signs of breathing. He kicked the corpse in frustration, figuring the man must have had a heart attack out of fear.
"Too bad. I wanted to shoot that son of a bitch first."

The ghost easily passed through the locked door, and searched for the dead security guard. The man lay where he'd fallen in the corridor, and Roscoe paused for a moment with some regret, as the guard had always been friendly to him.
"My apologies, Dave," he muttered, words inaudible to the living. He didn't see Dave's spirit anywhere around, so his soul must have already travelled to the realm of the dead, probably with the assistance of one of the psychopomps. And so with a silent prayer that this would work, Roscoe jumped inside the empty shell.

Bright lights and loud noises assaulted his senses, and he let out a yelp of pain. As a ghost, the world of the living felt muted and distant to him, and taking a new body brought everything screaming back into focus.
"Whuh. Oh God," he muttered, shaking himself violently. He was still bleeding and his head ached badly from the gunshot wound, but he had to focus.
"What was I doing..?" he asked himself, confused, but then remembered the attack on the office. Hartley and his co-workers were in grave danger and needed help.

He picked up his gun -- Dave's gun -- or was it actually his? That didn't matter right now. The body felt like a suit of ill-fitting clothes as he stood up and took a step, but it didn't take long to limp to the boardroom and pause outside for a plan. He could see the gunman inside with the other hostages, although Dave's vision wasn't perfect and his broken glasses lay in the pool of blood behind him.

He will die for what he did to Dave.

He smashed the window with his fist, and the gunman turned around to fight back. Roscoe's first shot hit him in the jaw, and when the man went down clutching at his face, Roscoe shot him again. His co-workers had screamed at all the shooting, but now they stared silently at the apparition in front of them: a dead man covered in blood, staggering around like he was ill.

"I'm so exhausted," Roscoe murmured, and left Dave's body, which immediately collapsed. He wasn't sure if he could get back into his old body, but desperately wanted to go to something which felt like home and wasn't stricken with a fatal head wound. Everyone was shocked when Roscoe's body suddenly twitched violently and began to breathe again, but he remained lying on the ground with his eyes closed.
"I'm so exhausted."

Hartley returned twenty minutes later, breathless from running and dreading what he'd find. But when he saw that his employees were still alive and their captor was apparently dead, it wasn't hard for him to take down the one remaining gunman on his own; it had been the leverage over his people that had hampered him from fighting back earlier. He tied the second gunman with the bonds that had held Asma, and freed all his employees.

The others were clearly in shock, and everyone seemed bewildered by what had happened. Hartley called 911 while Asma attended to Roscoe and a co-worker who'd been pistol-whipped, and Roscoe softly murmured nonsense to himself as he lay on the floor.

"I'm okay," he mumbled as paramedics lifted him onto a stretcher. "Dave said it was okay. We saved people."
"We can talk about it later," Hartley reassured him as he ran around making sure everyone was looked after. "I don't know what you did, but I'm sure it was good."
"You did good too," Roscoe said quietly as he was wheeled away, and Hartley ran a hand through his own hair with a deep breath. Whatever he'd done well, it would never be enough for him. He was his own worst critic, and this incident would haunt him for a long time.

The paramedics insisted Hartley be taken to hospital too, and he didn't protest because he could be looked at and make sure his people were being properly cared for. As he rode in the ambulance with the man who'd been pistol-whipped, he reflected that nothing would quite be the same after this. Roscoe had always tried to hide the creepier aspects of his nature, and his co-workers were now talking amongst themselves about how something was really strange about him. But that was a problem to be dealt with another day. For now, everyone needed to recover.


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