23. The Ring Dings XII – “Isaac vs Harriet”
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Season 1, Episode 3 - The Ring Dings XII - "Isaac vs Harriet"

Harriet concluded her tale. "That's why I need to win, here and now. That's why I'll win."

"Fantastic story, lady," Alfie said sarcastically.

"I understand that's a very sympathetic backstory," Isaac said. "But it's not too late. Why don't you work with us?"

Harriet shook her head. "And become a slave to the establishment? That man will create an entirely new system of equality. The elite classes, abolished. Wealth returned to the people who actually created it. No more corrupt politicians, no more State Police, no more feelings of emptiness. As a nation, we'll feel whole again."

Red energy swirled around her arms. Box-cutter blades slid into each of her hands.

"I'll feel whole again."

"There are flaws in the system, sure," Isaac admitted. "And it can be a shitty world. But that doesn't mean you have to be a shitty person. No offense, but it seems like all you've done is been self-destructive and blamed everything on everyone else and then put your hope in a random guy who quoted poetry on a rainy day. It's not too late, though. Have you ever considered trying anything else? Working within the system? Or something as simple as making friends to start?"

"Shut your damn mouth," Harriet warned. "How can you work within a system that's inherently broken?"

"But think about all the innocent people who don't mind the system as it is. They'll be uprooted and they'll suffer just because you think the only way to change it is to overthrow it."

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots from time to time."

"But they're not patriots! They're just people who want to be left alone! If it was war..."

Isaac approached some realizations he didn't feel comfortable with.

"War's one thing," Isaac said slowly. "This is another. Yeah, things aren't great right now. But think of the innocents! We can solve this another way without hurting people. You think everyone struggles like you do? You think selling drugs to fund a revolution is a good thing? Don't you think there aren't any other ways to solve this?"

"This is the only one way," Harriet said firmly.

"Jesus Christ," Alfie interrupted. Hands still in his pockets, he lifted himself off the wooden crate he had been leaning against. "This is going nowhere. All you two do is talk in circles. I'm going to say my spiel, then after that, either you surrender or we fight."

Alfie took a step forward.

"It pains me to say this, but Isaac's right. I get where you're coming from, lady. No system is perfect, and some are worse than others. But you know what I did in my broken system? I tried to find something to keep me going. Something non-destructive. I didn't let myself get filled with thoughts of vengeance of hatred. I would've burnt my own flame out that way. I focused on working hard and earning my freedom. Escaping that system by finding my own way. That's what I did. I'm not saying it always works...but you didn't even try something like that. And now you're going on about some guy. You placed all your faith in him just because what, he showed you some psychedelic vision? Don't you see the irony in this? You hated being enslaved by the establishment...but now you're enslaved to him."

Harriet yelled and charged.

Alfie grinned. "Finally."

He raised his finger gun, but he had to quickly avert his head as a thrown box cutter blade narrowly avoided his face, slicing through a trailing strand of hair, implanting itself on the wall behind him.

Before Alfie could raise his finger, Harriet was on him, slashing wildly, recklessly, full of hatred and anger.

Isn't that ironic? Alfie supposed as he dodged each strike. I always hated the system, and now here I am, being a representative of it to her. It's like my mother always said-

Golden energy flared out of Isaac, and two streams of energy currents in particular flowed toward Harriet, coalescing into clones on either side of her. Both of them had energy concentrated into their right fists, intending to strike at the same time-

In one swift moment, Harriet twirled and slashed one clone's neck with a pen and the other with a paper clip. Both clones vanished in defeat, but the distraction had given Alfie enough time to raise his finger gun.

Harriet conjured a huge stack of manila envelopes in her hands, letting them fall around her, so concentrated and so thick in number that they withstood the blast from Alfie's finger. When the flames disappeared, Harriet conjured a ruler and sent it flying toward Alfie, but the New Yorker had already gotten out of the way, sliding over to a new position in the room.

Isaac was on her now, golden energy in his right fist, but Harriet stabbed his eyes out with a pair of highlighters, but Isaac suddenly evaporated, revealing it was just a clone, and another one came after her. Harriet dodged his punch, kicked his legs out from underneath him, then slammed down a pair of scissors into his heart. This Isaac also evaporated.

"Christ, Isaac, do you know anything else besides punching?" Alfie questioned, sending another blast of flame that Harriet deflected with a shield of binders.

"I haven't exactly done a lot of training!" Isaac protested, dodging a row of flying protectors, their sharpened edges narrowly missing him with an intent to kill.

From the looks of it, Harriet possessed the ability to conjure office supplies out of both sleeves, enabling her to send projectiles flying at both Alfie and Isaac at the same time. One particular pencil was about to stab its way through Alfie's eye when suddenly, in a flash of golden light, a clone appeared in front of him and took the blow, disappearing shortly afterwards.

Alfie didn't say anything and just looked as Isaac, who gave him a nod.

But the projectiles were on them again.

Alfie groaned. "Where's the Military Police? Do they expect us to do this by ourselves?"

"They're probably still in a firefight upstairs! And yes, they do! This is our job!"

"Getting killed is our job?"

"What makes you think we're gonna die-"

Harriet stabbed her way through a clone and Isaac realized she was on him. She slashed his stomach with a ruler, throwing it away after to free her hand. With that free hand, she grabbed Isaac by the collar and lifted him (lifted him!) into the air. At the same time, her other hand was a blur, nearing his mouth.

Isaac blinked, expecting some sort of stabbing. Instead, the hand at the front of his mouth held a stapler, and inside the two jaws of the stapler was the thin flesh of Isaac's cheek.

Isaac braced himself, but the jaws remained open for now.

Harriet tilted her head back towards Alfie. "Stand down, or your friend gets it."

Now, in another life, in another time, a woman holding him in the air by his collar while forcefully giving orders might have awakened some sort of primal fetish in Isaac. But the stapler in the mouth aspect of the current situation dispelled those thoughts.

Alfie smiled and shrugged. "He's all yours. He's not my friend. Did you notice how where I've been moving myself to?"

Both Harriet and Isaac looked past him. Behind him was the secret exit used by the man in the white trenchcoat.

Isaac wanted to say a lot of things. They'll shoot you was the first thing in his mind, both out of concern and an angered sense of betrayal.

"Who says I'm doing anything bad?" Alfie asked aloud, as if reading Isaac's mind. "I'm just retreating. Seeking backup. You were still alive when I left. Hell, I could say you even ordered me to stay back for my own safety. I'm only telling the truth.

"I mean, it's the truth, isn't it? I mean, we're both in this for ourselves, right? I'm not trying to die or get maimed by office supplies down here. I don't have any attachments to you. Or to anyone here, for that matter. Why should I have to risk myself? What, am I supposed to see myself as some sort of bad guy just for abandoning someone who I fought alongside with, who protected me...that doesn't make me a bad guy, just a realist."

Isaac and Harriet gave side glances at each other as Alfie kept explaining his thought process aloud.

"So what if you're the first person who showed me any kindness? Saw me as more than a weapon, or just some expendable poor kid born in the wrong tribe? I'm just doing what I know. I mean, I know now that maybe, when you're fighting with someone, it doesn't matter who they are or where they came from, because the only thing that matters in a shared foxhole is whether or not he'll fight to protect you..."

Alfie grinned and shook his head. "God damnit, Isaac. I suppose it would be pretty shitty of me to just run off like this. Damn your charisma."

He raised his finger gun, pointing it at Harriet. "You know, it's like my mother always said-"

"Enough!" Harriet roared. She pushed a little harder on the stapler-

An explosion rocked the room, temporarily loosening Harriet's grip on Isaac's collar. The explosion blew the shattered remnants of the metal doors into the room itself, and in poured Military Police officers, led by none other than Captain Kelb.

Kelb and the soldiers realized the situation and raised their guns-

Harriet raised her hand and fired off a round of sharpened pencils, flying directly at their hearts-

A sudden fireball blew the projectiles away.

Kelb and the MPs looked at Alfie in a brief moment of realization before turning their attention back to Harriet, who was now in a desperate situation of her own.

Isaac, the grip on him temporary loosened, delivering a strong, energy-filled backfist to Harriet's face, knocking her away. Isaac fell to the ground, sighing in relief as the stapler clattered away. He rolled to his right, narrowly avoiding a ruler that implanted itself deep in the floor where he was a moment ago.

By this time, all the MPs had their guns trained on Harriet. Alfie joined them with a finger gun of his own.

Harriet took stock of the situation, then started laughing.

"This is too rich. It looks I never could escape the military establishment after all."

"Come quietly," Kelb ordered, he and his soldiers slowly advancing.

Harriet narrowed her eyes and red energy exploded all around her. Kelb and the MPs began firing, but she quickly organized a constantly-regenerating shield of binders and notebooks that, when combined, were thick enough to withstand all the bullets.

As she moved towards the secret exit, Alfie came at her from behind and sent a fireball, but without even looking, she raised another shield. When the fire receded, that shield temporarily opened and through the gaps came a broadside full of scissors, forcing Alfie to retreat behind a rack of metal shelves.

Isaac realized that Harriet was about to get away and readied himself.

What did Leekman say?

The heart of a warrior, the mind of a monk. A heart tempered by the mind. Working in tandem, one with everything.

Probably not exactly correct, and definitely vague-sounding, but...you'll know when it happens.

Because who knows how many Esthers there were in the world, people who would fall victim to hate and crime just because Isaac let Harriet get away? He thought about Audrey and Reed, feeling safe in their homes right now, safe because they believed in the people who were supposed to protect them.

Isaac was one of those people. And there wasn't a chance in hell he'd let her get away.

Isaac felt the energy course up his arm. Easy there. Guide those emotions...and let it rip!

Racing forward toward Harriet, Isaac raised his arm, golden energy exploding outwards in random flares...but all those flares seemed under control, circling back into his arm, strengthening it, fueling it, reminding it of everyone who believed in him and the justice he himself believed in.

Harriet saw Isaac's approach and conjuring a length stack of paper-filled binders, reinforced by notebooks-

Isaac slammed his fist into the shield, urging it onward, knowing exactly what he wanted the outcome to be-

Harriet tried to raise further defenses, but the fist kept coming, it was about to break through-

A line of energy suddenly shot out of Isaac's hand, smashing it's way through the last of the defenses.

A clone! Harriet realized too late.

The clone materialized only inches away from her, inside the thick shield. Before she could react, the clone landed a devastating uppercut to her chin, sending her upwards, off the ground, her eyes going blank as the world went black.

Harriet fell on her back, down for the night. The Rddhi coursing through all her conjured notebooks and binders and pencils and pens disappeared and they fell in a circle around her.

Isaac and the clone high-fived-

Harriet was not, in fact, down for the night. As the MPs quickly approached her, one of them carrying an anti-Rddhi containment device, a pencil emerged from her sleeve.

"I'm a slave to no one," she simply said with all the finality in the world. And then she slashed her own throat.

Isaac, the clone, Alfie, Kelb, and the MPs stood in a circle around Harriet, blooding pooling out of her. Her hand seemed to reach for something, but it dropped the pencil and collapsed to the ground.

The only sound they could hear was the slight drone of the fluorescent lights.

"...ain't that just the way," the clone finally said, before disappearing back into Isaac.