Stryker, Episode 4: Together at Last

"I can't believe you're making me wear this in public," complained Dana, still dressed in the Strykers pajamas from the night before.

"Not my fault Supergirl," replied Betsy. "You might be skinnier than you were before, but I'm a stick compared to you. And, you don't know your own size anymore. So, it's either pajamas to the mall or no mall and no new clothes."

Dana sighed. She knew there was no point in fighting the inexorable force of Betsy's logic. After all, what choice did she have?

Betsy locked the car and the two began walking towards the mall. Dana looked back at the old Pinto that they had ridden in. It was a miracle that the damn thing could still run after the accident. If she looked carefully, Dana could almost see the outline of her hand in the hood. Yet, somehow, she hadn't been hurt at all.

Still, Dana didn't feel well. She wasn't sick, per se, but something just wasn't right. It was like she knew something was coming. The dream from the previous night still stuck with her.

"You figure out what you're going to do next?"

"I'm sorry," Dana replied. "I was miles away."

"What are you going to do next?"

"I don't know. I suppose I should go and see my mom. She'll be worried sick about me. After that, maybe I should go back to the lab and try to figure out what happened to me."

"Do you really want to? What if they want to reverse it?"

Dana sighed and kept walking.

A scream broke through the noise of the parking lot and two men came running past Dana and Betsy. They turned and saw something horrible. The creature looked almost human in shape, yet was almost twice the size of a normal man. It's body was covered in bizarre growths and tumors. In odd spots, its skin split and tentacles of muscle emerged from the epidermis. It's face was almost completely obscured beneath a mass of flesh.

"Please do not flee!" called Carrion after the running men, "I come with good news! Your suffering is over! I will free you of the curse of individuality!"

Betsy turned to Dana.

"Go get him," she said. "You could kick his ass, Supergirl."

"Are you crazy? We've got to get out of here!"

Suddenly, Carrion saw the two of them. A tendril launched from his body and wrapped around Betsy's ankle. It pulled her towards the monster and dangled her in front of his face.

"Excuse me, miss," Carrion said, "I was hoping you can help me. I'm looking for a being not of this world. Our configurations, you see, are actually one and the same. After you help me find her, I'd happily induct you into our collectivity."

Dana was off her feet in moments. Somehow, she was flying. She hit the monster as hard as she could. The force of her blow sent the monster hurdling through the air. He dropped Betsy almost immediately and Dana ran to where her friend hit the ground.

"Told ya you could kick his ass," said Betsy. She sounded groggy and there was a bruise forming where her head hit the pavement.

Carrion, however, returned quickly. The next thing Dana knew, she was being lifted into the air. Tentacles were wrapping around her arms and legs, holding her steady.

As the two floated above the parking lot, Carrion glared at Dana. "I wonder why you chose to do that. You should not have done that. It is not in your amalgamation."

Dana felt rage boiling inside her. "You don't get to hurt my friend!" she growled. A bright red light shot from her eyes. The light cut through the tentacles and Dana could smell burning flesh.

Almost reflexively, Carrion punched her. The blow took her off guard and she plummeted towards the earth. She landed on someone's car and felt it collapse under her weight. For the first time since she had woken up in Betsy's cabin, she felt pain.

Carrion returned to the ground and stood over her. His mouth opened to say something, but Dana didn't let him. She fired her heat vision again and the monster howled in pain. As it recoiled, she leaped to her feet and struck him again. Carrion was sent flying.

Dana wasn't about to let him get back up. She pressed the attack, alternating between her heat vision and her fists. Every time Carrion started to get back up, Dana knocked him down again.

"I yield!" Carrion shouted suddenly. He spat blood. His bones cracked audibly as he attempted to stand. He looked beaten. He flesh was bruised and torn and he looked liable to fall over at any time. Dana merely stared at him, unsure what to do.

"I promise, you may trust me. Too much sustenance has been consumed. There is no fight left in this configuration."

Dana took a step forward. Suddenly, new tentacles shot from Carrion's battered form and ensnared her. He struck her three times, so fast that she barely realized what had happened. The blows were nowhere near as powerful as the first time he had hit her, but she still felt dazed.

She felt something else too. Carrion was trying to absorb her. His tendrils were eating at her flesh, adding her body to his own. There was something else too. A voice, calling to her. It told her she was going to be ok, that everything was going to be fine. She didn't have to be alone anymore. There was a part of her that remembered her life before the explosion. That part of her wanted to go. That part of her was afraid to be alone.

But, she remembered Betsy, alone on the pavement with a head injury. She could be dying. And, there was no one who was going to stick around long enough to save her. That settled things.

Dana heaved with all of her strength and felt the tendrils around her arm break away. She had one shot. She threw a punch as hard as she could at Carrion's chest. At the same time, she fired her heat vision at the same spot. Carrion's flesh began to melt and Dana's hand easily forced its way through the slushy mess. Carrion screamed as Dana's hand wrapped around something. She pulled as hard as she could. Carrion's body collapsed and fell to the ground.

"Your amalgamation," he growled as he lay on the pavement, "will never be a part of the collective." Then, his eyes closed and his body stopped moving. Dana couldn't hear a heartbeat anymore.

Looking at her hand, she saw what she had grabbed. It was a mass of flesh, things that might have been skin and muscle and veins at one time, now melted into a mess of undifferentiated slush. Yet, there was something solid at the core. It was pair of dog-tags, encased in some kind of fleshy substance. It was as if Carrion's skin had somehow grown over them. Peeling away the tissue, Dana read the name on the tags.

Roman Vitebsky.