Part 8: One Last Task
The next morning, S was shaken awake. He opened his eyes to see Excel standing over him. He sat up to find himself in Vengeance's house, which happened to be closer than the base. And seeing as Scourge finally passed out halfway there, Vengeance offered for them to just stay at her house for the night instead of traveling all the way to base.
S had fallen asleep on the couch while Crusher sat in an armchair, Venom and Scourge shared Venom's room, Vengeance had her own room, Shock slept on the second couch, and Excel... well, S couldn't be sure he ever saw when Excel went to sleep, so he wasn't sure where he slept overnight.
S rubbed his eyes, "What is it?"
Excel smiled, "There's something I want to show you."
S looked at the sleeping Shock and Crusher, "What about the others? Aren't they coming?"
Excel glanced at them, "They'll join us later. This is something you have to see."
S wasn't sure he trusted that answer, but he stood up and followed Excel outside. They walked for a good while before Excel stopped, "Close your eyes."
S didn't like how that sounded either, but he did as he was asked. After all, he still owed Excel, so the least he could do was trust him. Excel led S to their destination while S kept his eyes shut.
S groaned, "I can trust you're not about to have me walk off a cliff, right? Might I remind you, I'm not disease anymore and Venom has half my power, so I'm not really a deadly threat anymore."
He heard Excel chuckle, "Yes, you can trust me. I promise."
S shrugged, "Just checking."
Soon, Excel stopped, "Alright, open your eyes." S opened his eyes and gasped.
They now stood in front of a cute little blue house. The roof was black shingles, a brick chimney was on the left side of the house, and flower beds and white fences gave it a homey feel. S was shocked, "The little blue house." He even smiled, "Mia."
Excel smiled, "I thought, seeing as you both did make a promise, you might like to keep it."
S just stood there, looking over the house he only ever imagined, "Wait, you mean... is she..."
Excel smiled, "Go in and find out."
S was hesitant, but he then walked up to the house. He stopped in front of the door and raised his hand to knock, but stopped. He was nervous, as if the whole thing would disappear the moment he touched it. He took a deep breath and knocked three times.
"Come in," was heard from inside, making S's spirits rise. He opened the door and walked in.
Inside was as cute and homey as outside was. Shelves and tables were covered in picture frames and other personal items. There were even large display shelves covered in trophies, medals, and awards. S walked in, taking everything in. After all that time dreaming of that little house, he finally had the chance to see what lied inside.
He turned to see an old woman sitting in a rocking chair. Her skin was dark and wrinkled and her long hair was pure white. She smiled a tired smile that made S sure of who she was. He smiled, "Mia?"
She chuckled softly, "Hello, S. Its been a long time."
S wasn't sure how to feel. He was so overjoyed, yet so unsure if any of it was even real. He walked over, "Is it really you?"
She smiled and nodded, "Yes, it is. I know its hard to tell looking as old as I am, but it's me."
S chuckled softly, "No, you're still very beautiful. I just... I didn't think I would ever see you again. Especially when I learned it had been fifty years."
She smiled as he walked over, "Yes, its been a very long time. I didn't think I would make it this long, but I knew I had a promise to keep. I knew that one day you would be back, so I had to be here to see you."
S smiled warmly, "You always were determined, Mia."
She nodded, "And I never break my promise." She sighed, "Though, I fear I won't be able to give you the tour I wished to give you. I'm in no position to take you anywhere."
S sat on the couch next to her chair, "That's alright. Why don't you tell me about your life? After all, it has been fifty years. Surely a journey through your past is a tour in itself."
She smiled, "Alright." She weakly lifted her arm and pointed to a cabinet, "Look in there. There's a large book. Do bring it, please."
S walked over and opened the cabinet and found the book. It was a large grey book with the word "Life" on the cover in beautiful gold letters. He walked over with it, "What is it?"
She smiled, "Open it."
He sat back down and opened the book at about the halfway point and gasped. It was full of pictures. He looked over the many pictures, "Pictures?"
She nodded, "Its a photo album, my dear S. You can keep pictures of your life and its many memories inside."
S flipped to the first page to find Mia as a young woman in them. She looked exactly like he remembered her, "Did you start this after you escaped the ARK?"
She nodded, "Yes. After that event, I knew life was too short to waste. And after meeting you, I decided to live my life to the very fullest. I traveled the world, did great things, and helped everyone I met along the way."
S smiled, "You managed to fill this entire book with memories?"
She chuckled, "Not quite. I only filled half of it. The other half is empty."
S looked at the pictures and spotted one with her holding a beautiful gold medal, "What did you do to get that medal?"
She looked, "That was shortly after leaving the ARK. I was awarded a Medal of Bravery for all I did in the Space Colony. The other scientists had greatly looked up to me when we were on the ARK, and most believed I had been the one to stop Maria, not you. Even as I told people it was you, most didn't believe me."
S smiled, "That's ok. You earned that medal anyways." He noticed another picture, "What about this one?"
So they continued that way for several hours. Mia told S all about her life after the incident on Space Colony ARK, and S listened to every word. He was fascinated by it all. Besides, he was happy just being with her again. He even told her about how they had defeated Maria and the new friends he had made in the process.
Later that day, Mia sighed weakly. S noticed, "Are you alright, Mia? Do you need me to get you something?"
She smiled, looking very tired, "No, that's alright, dear." She sighed, "S, I've waited a long time to see you. In truth, I shouldn't even have lived this long, but I knew I had to wait for you."
S understood what she was getting at, but managed to smile, "And you did, and I'm grateful for that. You've kept your promise."
She smiled, "S, promise me something."
He moved in closer, "Of course, anything."
She smiled happily, "I want you to create your own memories. Live your new life to the very fullest." She looked at the album, "Fill the other half of that album with memories of your own."
She smiled at him, "Then one day, when we meet again, you have to tell me all about those memories, just as I have with you today. Promise?"
S nodded, hiding his sorrow behind a smile, and took her hand, "Of course, Mia. I promise."
Her eye lids grew heavy as she smiled, "Good."
S smiled softly as her grip lessened, "Goodbye, Mia. Thank you, for everything." Then she was gone.
Excel yawned, which got Scourge's attention, "Geez, I didn't think you actually yawned."
Vengeance, who sat on the grass next to Scourge, spoke, "Well, that's what happens when you don't get any sleep." She looked over at the blue house, "I can't believe you spent all night looking for S's friend from the ARK."
Venom was laying in the grass at Vengeance's other side, watching the clouds float by above. He still wore the uniform he got from Maria, but now he wore a black jacket with short sleeves over it and his old headset connected to the MP3 in his pocket. He even had one of his black snakes on his shoulder.
Excel shrugged as he sat on a low branch of the tree, "I figured he deserved it."
Shock was sitting under the tree, now with his arm wrapped and in a sling, as he worked on his touch pad, which Crusher held for him. He looked up at Excel, "How did you even manage to get her here? I should think the nursing home she lived in wouldn't let some stranger take her home like this."
Excel sighed, looking tired, "I made it look like a kidnapping."
They all gasped, "What!?"
He smiled, "I'm kidding."
Venom sighed of relief, "Don't joke like that, Excel. We thought you were serious for a moment there."
Excel sighed, "No, I got her legally." He smirked, "I told them I was her son."
Vengeance smiled, "You know, the same trick won't work twice, Excel."
Excel chuckled, "No, this time I'm serious. I claimed to be her illegitimate son."
Scourge almost choked on his chili dog, "Dang, man! There goes her reputation!"
Excel sighed, "Scourge, the woman is dying. What does reputation mean to a dying woman? She was happy to play along when I told her why I was doing it." He shrugged, "So, we signed some papers, bribed a couple government agents, and that was that." He mentioned the bribes more under his breath. He smiled, "I am now her legal son, by law anyways, making me her only living relative. They had no choice but to trust me with her."
Shock chuckled, "You sure went through a lot of trouble for S, boss."
Excel smiled, "Like I said, I think he earned it. She did too, seeing as she's waited all this time just to keep her promise to S."
Scourge sighed, "By the way, what are we going to do about Stinger?"
Excel was surprised, "Stinger?"
Scourge bit his chili dog, "Yeah. He's getting to be a little too tricky for my liking. He nearly got us all killed."
Excel cleared his throat. "We don't have to worry about that. Stinger's gone."
Vengeance was surprised, "Gone? You mean..."
Excel sighed, "He sacrificed himself to save my life last night. They dragged me off to kill me, and Stinger saved me. His life was the price." He leaned back against the tree, "Maybe if I'd have done things differently, maybe his life could have turned out better. If I had been a better mentor."
Venom spoke, "Excel, it wasn't your fault. You did everything you could for Stinger. He made his own choices and this is how they turned out. Those were his mistakes, not yours."
Excel wasn't convinced, "Maybe. Maybe it would have been better if I never met the kid. Maybe he would have had a better chance in life."
Scourge scoffed, "Are you kidding? That kid wasn't getting any better than you. If even you couldn't save him, I doubt anyone could. You're probably the best thing that ever happened to that kid."
Excel looked surprised, then grinned, "You're doing it again."
Scourge didn't like that look, "What again?"
Excel crossed his arms, "Praising me. Seriously, ever since I killed Jinx, you've been having these moments where you praise me. Either you're going soft, or I really am incredible."
Scourge shrugged, "Get what you want out of it. I don't care." He tossed his chili dog in the air and ate it.
Venom smiled, "I agree with Scourge. The fact is, you did give him a chance to do something with his life. He saved you, didn't he? After everything bad he did, he was willing to sacrifice himself for you. He turned it all around in the end, and I highly doubt the thief you met on the street would have ever done that for anyone."
Excel smiled, "I suppose."
Venom chuckled, "Well, I'm certain of it. And think about it. There's bound to be other kids out there with great potential, just waiting for someone like you to give them a chance too. You can't give up now. Not when there's someone out there somewhere who needs you."
Excel looked thoughtful, then he smiled, "You know what? Maybe you're right. I'll learn from my mistakes and do better the next time. One day, maybe I'll take on another apprentice, and this time I'll try to keep better watch over them. After all, once I take someone under my wing, they're my responsibility."
Scourge smirked, "Well, you're better than a lot of people, I promise you. Most would dump these stubborn kids on the butts in no time at all."
Vengeance looked towards the house, "I wonder how much longer he'll be in there. You said she'd probably pass away soon."
Excel nodded, "The nurses said once she was off the machines, she would only last a few more hours, so she's bound to pass soon enough."
Venom looked a little worried, "Are you sure we should leave him alone then? Wouldn't that be hard on him to watch her die?"
"Little late for that, don't you think?" They all turned to see S. He held a large book to his chest as he watched them.
Excel sighed, "Visit's over, I see."
S nodded, looking quite solemn, "Yes, she, uh... she's gone."
Vengeance stood up, "We're sorry, S."
S smiled, "Its alright. She kept her promise, so the least I could do was let her move on. I've held here back long enough."
Scourge finished his last chili dog, "So, her dead body is in there? Right now? You just left it there?"
S gave him a look, "What did you expect me to do? Cremate it?"
Scourge smirked, "Well, are you just gonna leave it in there?"
S scoffed, "I'm not going back in there. Dead bodies creep me out."
Excel pulled out a cellphone, "I'll call the hospital and let them know she's passed. They'll take care of it."
Venom noticed the book as Excel made the call, "What's that?"
S smiled, "A photo album. I made a promise to make something of my life, so I'm going to fill the second half of this album with my own memories."
Venom smiled, "Can't wait to see what memories you fill it with. We should get you a camera so you can get started."
Scourge made a tough pose, "Just be sure to get my good side." They laughed. He smirked, "You think I'm joking."
Vengeance kissed him, "Babe, every side is your good side. You're an all-around hunk."
Scourge pulled her close, "You're right. How silly of me." He brought her lips to his and kissed her.
Shock spoke up, "So, what now? Back to the old grind?"
Excel hung up, "They'll be here soon. We can head to base for now. I want some rest before they call me about the will reading. Seeing as I'm now her son, I have to attend. Maybe I can get in a couple hours sleep before then."
S smiled, "Thank you for all this, Excel." Then he looked confused, "And what do you mean you're her son? Not Mia's son."
Excel smirked, "I'll explain later. Let's get going."
As they walked, Venom walked at S's side, "So, you find it in yourself to forgive me yet?"
S was confused, "Forgive you? For what?"
Venom smiled, "When you and Maria were about to fall to your deaths, I wouldn't let you go. You said if I didn't let go, you'd never forgive me."
S remembered, "Oh yeah." He smiled, "Of course I forgive you. It worked out, didn't it? I not only saw Maria's defeat, but I lived to enjoy the freedom of it and see Mia one last time." He looked grateful, "Thank you, Venom, for not letting go. You easily could have. You didn't have to think about me. You could have gotten rid of Maria and kept from nearly getting killed yourself, but you didn't give up on me."
Venom nudged him, "Hey, we're brothers now. We have to look out for each other."
S looked surprised, then smiled, "Sure. Brothers. I'd like that." He grinned as he looked Venom over, "Especially now that you have some sense of style."
Venom looked at his clothes, "What was wrong with my old clothes?"
S chuckled, "You looked like a hobo, Venom." Scourge burst out laughing.
Venom looked at the others, "You guys didn't think I looked like a hobo, did you?"
Vengeance smiled, "Of course not! Though, I won't lie, I like this look better. That jacket you had used to belong to my dad, so it was kinda old."
Venom waved them off, "You guys have no sense of fashion." Everyone laughed.
Excel turned to S as they walked, "By the way, S, what do you plan to do now?"
S blinked, "What do I plan to do?"
Excel nodded, "Now that you have your freedom and are going to live your life to the fullest, where are you going to start? You have to start somewhere, right?"
S rubbed his chin, "Honestly, I have no idea. Where should I start?"
Venom smiled, "Why don't you stay with us?"
S thought about it, "Well..."
Excel smiled, "Look at it this way, you have incredible skills and assets that would serve you better as a bounty hunter, just until you decide on something new. It'll give you a roof over your head and a little money in your pocket."
S shrugged, "Well, I guess I have to start somewhere."
Excel smiled, "Then, welcome to the gang, S." He gave a mean grin, "But I'll tell you what I tell anyone who joins. You only get paid as well as you work. Mess up and I'm not paying you. If you mess up bad enough, I'm kicking you out. Got it? This isn't a game, its a job."
S shrugged, "Sure, I'm game." He caught himself, "I mean, I'm... job?" He shrugged, "You know what I mean."
Venom smiled, "Welcome to the team, S."
Excel grinned, "Hopefully you'll be better in your training then Scourge here was."
Scourge gave him a look, "Hey! I heard that!"
Excel smirked, "Good."
S watched them and smiled. He was confident he was in for one interesting ride. His new life was ahead of him. He could only imagine what was in store. But with friends like the Chaotix Gang, how bad could it be?