The Darker Side of Summer Camp Who: Tatum and Norman When: Flashback - The Summer Camp Incident Where: Summer Camp Warnings: Violence
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. His mother’s voice filtered through his mind, but Norman couldn’t breathe. If he took a deep breath, if he drew in positive thoughts and exhaled negative ones like his mother taught him to do, that would be the last thing he ever did. That thing would hear him and he’d be done for. So he was trying very, very hard to breathe as little as possible. That decision wasn’t helping him keep his cool.
The lab table provided very little coverage, but it was better than the open desks lining the classroom. And to think, just a half hour before he’d been a big fan of this classroom. It was kind of crazy how things could turn to shit in such a short amount of time.
He’d been working on his latest project with Juan, probably the coolest counselor at this summer camp. Juan knew everything there was to know about soldering, repairing stripped or broken wires, and...yeah, looking back at it now that really should have been a tip-off for Norman. No one who looked like Juan, as cool and suave and traditionally awesome-looking would ever know how to do the nerdy things he’d been teaching Norman in this laboratory.
Norman was in the middle of an exhale when he realized that it was quiet in this classroom. Like...really quiet. That was never a good thing. He’d been successfully hiding from Juan, who was probably actually identified by some crazy long string of numbers and letters, for about twenty minutes now. Right after Juan had...changed. It was really the only way Norman could explain him. One minute, he was joking with Juan and being reminded gently to be careful with the soldering iron, and the next he was listening to Juan ask him a series of very pointed questions.
State your name and identification number. State your purpose at this establishment. Information incorrect. Trespassing is not allowed in this establishment. Extermination program engaged.
Norm had laughed a little at first, thinking that Juan had been making a joke. Some sort of Terminator or cyberpunk joke or something. But when he’d seen Juan stand up, straight as a board, and lock his eyes on Norman and he knew. He’d known something was wrong. And if there was one thing Norman was pretty adept at, it was running away from situations that were just wrong. You didn’t get to keep your lunch money by sticking around to get the shit kicked out of you.
He’d circled back to this classroom after discovering the other doors on the hallway were locked and he’d hoped he could use the time to figure out a plan. But he’d been too late. He’d been able to sort of track where Juan was by the busting down of other classroom doors, hearing the banging sounds get louder and louder with each deserted room. It was the door to this room, the loudest bang he’d heard so far, that had him catching his breath and willing himself to just become invisible. Too bad he didn’t have a real invisibility cloak. He should have been investigating how to make one of those here… The silence was broken by the screech of the lab table, something so heavy Norman could never have hoped to move it himself, as Juan dragged it across the floor and away from the huddled mass of Norm on the floor. Two big steps toward him and Norm felt the crushing fingers of his once-favorite camp counselor grab his neck and lift him up, impossibly high, before shoving his back into the wall and pinning him there by the throat.
His feet dangled and kicked, struggling as his lungs seared in their attempt to fill with air, but it was useless. He was so weak and really, who the fuck could have seen this coming? It wasn’t like he was preparing for Juan to snap and go all robot-speech then try to kill him.
These are some really pitiful last thoughts, Norman… He really should think about something else. Images of his mother and sister, smiling bright at him from their living room, filtered into his mind. These were better last thoughts, He decided.
Juan’s voice, metallic despite the fleshy coating covering his robotic interior, sounded out as programmed. “Extermination program executing. Thirty percent complete.”
It was safe to say that Tatum was not enjoying camp anymore. She had been – it had been great, really, exactly what she'd wanted when she'd asked her mom to sign her up for it. She'd been learning oh so very much, and she had felt like something she'd come back for again next year, if the program survived.
Only that wasn't going to happen, because everything had gone to shit so fast that there was still blood on her shoes from the girl who'd had the bottom bunk in her dorm, Danni. There could possibly also still be eyeball stuck to the bottom of her bare feet. Tatum was a mess, really. Dirty, scratched up all over the place, burns in various places on her bare arms. Her hair was a curly halo around her head, wild and messy as she stalked Them.
This place was supposed to be high tech, it wasn't supposed to go all Robot Army on them and she didn't appreciate it one little bit. But when things had turned sideways, instead of running and hiding, Tatum had taken out the robot who'd once been Ashley, the perky counselor who had been having a perfectly normal conversation with her and a few others. Normal right up until she'd started to spout nonsense, and squeezed the face of Danni. Tatum heard the bones crush and her jaw come loose with splinters and rips, and she'd acted before she even thought about how to make sense of things. Her brain had simply screamed 'THREAT' to her loud and clear, and Tatum had gone into fight mode quicker than one of the others in the room peed her pants and ran.
Later, she would probably have to work out why it was she not only handled that in a vicious, lethal way without hesitation, and why she opted to go on the offense and not run and hide, but she was busy now. She'd downed the first impostor human and screams from other rooms alerted her that it wasn't just the sparking blonde at her feet.
That had been what felt like forever ago, but was in actuality not long at all. Tatum had on her hairspray, a barbecue lighter, a length of solid, thick steel pipe, a screwdriver and a hammer.
She was silent when she padded, bare feet keeping her quiet, up behind Juan, and she alerted the 'Bot to her presence with a blow to the back of the jaw with the pipe, followed quickly by a blast from the improvised flame thrower. It's synthetic skin went up with it's hair, and it slowly turned it's head toward her. She quickly jammed the screwdriver into it's eye, and bodily rammed her shoulder into it's, to get it to drop the guy who she really hoped wasn't dead yet.
The world felt really strange to Norman. His vision was starting to black at the edges, his throat hurt from the furious fingers crunching his windpipe, but mostly he felt really light-headed. And then he dropped, hitting the floor hard with an audible coughing, sputtering gasp. The heat from the flamethrower warmed his back, but he wasn’t expecting to see Juan collapse in a pile of melting, twisting, unnatural metal right beside him. “Holy….shit….” He murmured out between gasps, hands reaching up to protect his throat as he glanced up at his savior.
Maybe it was the near death experience. Maybe it was the heat radiating from his attacker beside him. Maybe it was everything combined, but as Norman gazed upon the gorgeous, glorious Amazon-warrior badass chick standing in front of him, he felt his heart flip again and that lightheadedness returned. Wowza. Was he actually dead? Maybe he’d died and this was what heaven was like…
She saw that he was still alive, and staring at her, so that was good. She heard him speak and that was a good sign too, though her job wasn't actually done. She dropped quickly down onto the machine to straddle it, the hammer coming into play now. She started to slam it down into it's face, pounding metal framework and it's ceramic teeth down into it's 'throat'. The flames were still there, even if they were starting to die out, and it reached up with a hand to clasp against her arm, burning her with it's fingers.
The hiss of her flesh was audible and she growled hard against the pain, but she just redirected the hammer then, to the 'wrist' of the monstrosity beneath her.
Oh no! Wonder Woman was hurt! Norman was pretty delirious at this point. The lack of oxygen was really doing a number on him. Well that plus the raging crush stirring in him thanks to his heroine. And she was hurt, but what the hell was he going to do about it? He sure as shit couldn’t save her like she’d saved him. He did look around for something to throw, though, because he also sure as shit couldn’t just do nothing. Finding the only thing nearby that looked like it would help, a big textbook discarded on the floor, he crawled over to it and chucked it right at the head of Once!Juan, trying something, anything in his attempt to help.
It didn't so much help in a practical way, and caught fire only moments after the book landed, but it was distracting enough that Tatum managed to wrench her arm free – not without damaging it, but it was better than allowing herself to be hurt like that. She was up again as quickly as she could be, and it was back to the pipe, beating the thing as hard as she could until the machine stopped moving, only flaming quietly. Standing over it, breathing heavily, blood dripped from her arm to the floor, and she looked like she was done – but she hit it one more time for good measure before she turned to the boy. “Are you hurt?” she asked after she swallowed hard, still a little out of breath.
Well, diversion tactic success. That was better than nothing. Norman scrambled to sit up and finally stand up when he was spoken to, trying not to stare awkwardly at the girl in front of him for too long. He tried to speak but his throat really hurt and, in turn, his words came out all gravely. Normally it might sound kinda cool. He might even be ok with it. But right now, it just sort of sucked. “Y-Yeah. I’m good. Not..You’re worse,” He said, gesturing to sort of...all of her before looking around. “No real supplies here…”
“I'll be okay,” she assured him first. She did look down at her arm, though, knowing stopping the blood flow and trying to cover that burn was a good plan. She glanced around, then sighed and ripped a little of the hem of her shirt and she wrapped it around her arm, holding it out to him. “Tie it, please,” she said, knowing she couldn't do that on her own. It was good enough for now.
Tie it. Oh, tie it! “Yeah, I can do that,” He said, energy returning to his voice even though it still sounded crackly and gravely. “Too bad we don’t have a medpack, right?” He asked, smiling a little as he quickly and efficiently tied off the piece of shirt, trying hard not to check to see if her stomach was now bared. Before thinking about it, he reached for his cloth belt and pulled it off, wrapping it above her injury, using it to create a makeshift tourniquet. “This should help for now.”
She eyed the tourniquet, but then nodded, not noticing that indeed, a bit of her stomach was now visible. “Alright,” she said. “Thanks,” she added. She gathered up her weapons again, then handed him the hammer. “Take this,” she told him. “Stay back unless you think you have a clear shot that isn't going to hit me, and use this in emergencies. We're going to have to move, and I don't feel like it's safe to leave you here. I'm going to need you to listen to me, and if I say something, do it, question later if you have to.” She paused then reached out to tip his features toward hers so she could make and hold eye contact. “With me so far?”
Taking the hammer, Norman felt better with something in his hands. It probably wouldn’t do him much good but at least it wasn’t a book or anything. At least it was a stick of metal. He was listening, but eyes stuck on the body of Once!Juan on the floor before she tilted his head up and he felt those ridiculous butterflies start in his stomach again. Swallowing hard, he nodded. “Yeah, I’m with you. I’m good at following orders,” He blurted out, and instantly regretted it. “I mean...with the...yeah, I’m with you. But what’s your name?”
She didn't look like she thought his admission of being good at following orders was weird, she merely took in the information with a nod. “Good,” she said, knowing that would make it a lot easier. Not having to worry about what he was doing was going to help. “Tatum – yours?” she asked, heading for the door.
“Norman,” He said, following along as he gripped the handle of the hammer tight between his fingers. “Got any idea what’s going on right now? Did Skynet finally cave?” It was meant to break the ice and come out like a joke, but sort of fizzled into a too-close-for-comfort feeling that left him a little nauseous.
She gave the ghost of a smile. “I don't know. But right now it's us against them, and I don't want any of these things escaping and wreaking havoc out there,” she said. “So, we're going to take them all down.” Her voice was clear, and confident. This wasn't a suggestion. It wasn't even a command. It was certainty on her part. There was an unspoken air of 'we can do this' that touched every word.
That certainty filtered into Norman, making him feel like the two of them really could take them all down. Little did he know that there were darker things waiting outside of this laboratory, but even if he had known it wouldn’t have mattered. He would have followed Tatum anywhere.