Bianca Tallin/The Zig
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
September 18th, 2006 was a pivotal moment in Bianca Tallin’s life. She was not present for this event, which might sound strange at first, but the moment occurred during the judgment of a pre-trial motion for her pending court case. As with most defendants in such matters, Bianca’s presence for the judgment was not necessary. During the proceeding, she was represented by her court-appointed public defender.
Following the events at the Terra Volta Nuclear Power Facility, Bianca had been charged with nine counts of first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and two counts of domestic terrorism. The grand jury found sufficient evidence to hand down an indictment for prosecution on August 17, 2006. The district attorney entered a motion to have her tried as an adult on September 12th. Bianca’s attorney attempted to have Numina’s testimony that Bianca was under the influence of a malevolent entity at the time she committed the acts in question into consideration.
Judge Daniel Hawthorne rendered the following judgment in the matter:
“Due to the particularly brutal nature of the crimes in question and the callous nature with which the accused was alleged to have performed them, I find the arguments of the state persuasive in this matter. And though I find the expert testimony of Numina regarding the state of the accused at the time of the acts to also be persuasive, I believe that testimony should be a matter for the jury to consider and that said testimony must be open to cross-examination by the prosecution. Therefore in the matter of whether the accused may be charged as an adult, I find in favor of the state of Rhode Island.”
At that moment, Bianca Tallin ceased to be a youthful offender in the eyes of the world and became a criminal.
She was sentenced to a total of 437 years in the Ziggurat, mainly because the state of Rhode Island did not have a death penalty. And though there was no sign that she still possessed the abilities that fueled her rampage through the nuclear plant, as a matter of security, the judge placed her in the only facility that was certified to incarcerate paranormals. Her defense attorney assured her that there was plenty to attempt to appeal, but Bianca resigned herself to reality.
She was going to spend the rest of her life in the Zig.
During her processing, she met Sergeant Enrico Escobar.
Standing in the midst of the other twenty inmates, she felt the eyes of the stocky, sort of piggish man light upon her several times. In a flat monotone, he listed off the rules that would govern their lives in this place. Most of the other guards in the female wing were women, but there were a few men in the room with them. As the others were being led out, the sergeant blocked her path with his baton. He waited until they were alone to speak.
“I’ve been waiting for you, “ he informed her.
Bianca said nothing, just kept her eyes to the floor.
“See, “ he continued, “when I knew they were gonna send you here, I worked a transfer to the women’s wing.”
Bianca still said nothing. She had heard enough during her time in the holding cell to know that the guards had nearly unlimited latitude in dealing with prisoners. She did not want to provoke one who already seemed hostile to her.
Escobar offered a grim smile, “My cousin Jose… he worked security at Terra Volta, you scar-faced freak.”
Bianca looked up for the first time. She saw in his eyes the promise of something.
“Can I go?” she mumbled.
“Sure, “ he said after a moment, “go ahead. We got all the time in the world.”
The first month was uneventful. She learned her place in the food chain. Whatever was once inside her was obviously gone, but they slapped one of the power governor belts on her just the same and demonstrated to her the painful electric shock she would experience if she tried to remove it.
The other inmates were somewhat leery of her at first. Her reputation preceded her. She had been convicted of nine brutal murders. Finally, though, she was tested… and because she was small and seemed physically weak, she looked in many ways like easy prey. She found no ready protectors and the few who offered wanted things from her that she did not want to give.
So she fought again. Most of the time out of the sight of the guards. She often lost, but the savagery with which she always defended herself made most of them lose interest in her quickly enough. She knew that eventually she would face a choice though. No one could exist in this world forever without a gang at her back.
Eventually, she would draw the wrong kind of attention and then she would be dead. The equation was simple.
Finally, after that month passed, the day of reckoning came.
Gail McVries had also been convicted of murder. She also had a life in prison awaiting her. Unlike Bianca, Gail had already spent twenty-two years of that life in the Zig. Hence, Gail had nothing to lose. Though the older woman never verified it, Bianca would later suspect that Escobar hired Gail to attack her.
She came at Bianca in the cafeteria with a homemade blade. Bianca saw it coming out of the corner of her eye at the last possible second and spun just enough that the blade glanced off of her ribcage instead of penetrating her liver. Immediately, the rage blossomed inside of her as it always did. She got the knife away from the older woman. She started to go to work with it.
But a powerful, male grip closed around her wrist before she could.
She looked up and saw Escobar smiling his grim little smile down at her.
“Thirty days, “ he announced, “in the hole.”
Solitary confinement was actually better in certain ways. She was not under the constant threat of attack. And isolation was isolation. Since the other had been pulled out of her, she always felt alone anyway. There was nothing to do in the darkness except to listen to the weeping of the other women who had been placed in these tiny, claustrophobic cells.
But Bianca did not weep. She only waited.
Escobar wanted her down her for a reason. She knew that whatever he had planned was coming soon enough. And on the fourth day, she presumed because these sorts of things took at least that long to execute, it did.
Co-ed prison facilities, it went without saying, were a rarity in the United States. However, the Ziggurat was one of the few because it also possessed the quality of being one that catered to super-powered criminals. Though there were many more men and the male cellblocks were more prevalent, there was no shortage of female prisoners at the Zig.
As might be expected in such an environment, a sort of shadow economy had grown with the tacit (and occasional active) participation of some of the guards. Officially, contact between the male prisoners and the female prisoners was completely forbidden. Unofficially, contact could be established through a route established years before if the price was right.
Escobar needed the four days of lead-time in order to grease the wheels of what he had planned. Even the more mercenary and cruel of his fellows might have balked at nothing more than the risk of what he had planned. However, with the correct infusion of cash and the assurance that nothing would ever be discovered, the two guards in the solitary confinement wing after midnight on November 29th were nowhere to be found when Escobar and four prisoners from Cellblock D of the male wing made their way into the female solitary confinement wing.
They stopped outside cell 14. Bianca, lying on her mat, rose when she heard them coming. It was hot in the cells. And wet. For the first time, she noticed how wet.
“Gonna pay for what you did, you little freak, “ she heard Escobar muttering as he used his keycard, “been waiting a long time for this.”
“I’m here, “ she promised him softly.
There was a pause. Outside Escobar licked his lips. Of course, she had shown no signs of the power she possessed that day at Terra Volta, but suppose she had been concealing it all this time? If she had, things could…
“Can we get on with this, homes?” a bored voice asked behind him. Julio Morales. Escobar had chosen him because he was a convicted rapist. He would have no qualms about hurting a woman. He would probably, in fact, enjoy it a lot.
Though the others behind Julio added nothing to his statement, the sergeant could see that they easily echoed the rapist’s sentiment. The sergeant was suddenly cognizant of the fact that even though he was the only one armed in the room, he was alone with the four of them. It was best to accede to their demands.
He opened Bianca’s cell door. It was so dark that none of them could see inside of it. Her voice drifted out of the blackness. It was a grating snarl, “If they come in here, at least one of them isn’t coming out.”
That drew a laugh from the convicts. The largest of them, known universally around Cellblock D as Big Lou, told her, “Get real.”
She stepped into the light of the doorway. She willed the green fire of death to come, but it, of course, did not. She was tiny compared to even the smallest of them. Lou dwarfed her, “I am.”
The utter certainty of her statement took the big man aback for a moment, as did something else. He turned to the sergeant, “Jesus Christ, Escobar. This is a kid!”
“You got a problem with that?” the sergeant demanded.
“I don’t, “ Julio told him with a grin.
Escobar had selected Louis Cisson for no other reason than the sheer size of the man was so intimidating that the sergeant believed the big man could control such a small girl without any trouble. What he did not know about Big Lou is that the man had two teenage daughters of his own at home and would probably associate doing whatever they intended to do to Bianca with doing the same to either of them.
Julio took a step toward Bianca, lowering his hand to his belt to unbuckle it. That was all the girl needed to see. Without thought, the rage exploded inside of her. She launched herself at the rapist, her teeth closing around his cheek and her ragged nails tearing four deep scratches in the side of his neck. The movement was so abrupt and violent that the others took involuntary steps backward.
Julio howled and tried to fling the girl away from him, tearing a jagged flap loose from his cheek in the process. Escobar stared in shock, then grabbed at the taser at his side. Lou noticed.
“Think they might notice burns on her, boss?” he asked. “Ask where she got ‘em and such?”
“Then do something, “ the sergeant snapped at him.
“All right, “ Lou told him. He turned back to the unfolding scene. Julio had adjusted to the fact that part of his right cheek was missing and was poised to rush the girl, who had landed in a heap a few yards away. She rolled over and kicked outward as Julio rushed, connecting squarely with the fork between his legs.
Big Lou almost laughed.
The other two convicts appeared to be having doubts about this entire idea.
Escobar noticed and snapped, “I’ll double what I offered.”
That settled their doubts. They moved forward with the big man in the lead. Bianca backed into her cell, “I’ll kill all you all.”
“No you won’t, “ Lou told her.
She kicked at him, but having already seen her choice of target, he turned slightly. Her foot rebounded ineffectually off of his outer thigh. Bianca bared her teeth and swung at him, but he easily caught her fist.
“Kill you, “ she half-screamed, realizing that her brief moment of defiance had been futile after all.
“Cut it out, kid, “ he told her somewhat regretfully.
He pushed her back. She fell back onto the mat, was back on her feet in a second, but took a hard blow to the head from one of the others. For moments after that, it was the same, the rage was all consuming, but it was wasted. She fought as hard as she could, but they were too big… too many of them…
She flailed. She clawed. She bit. None of it did any good. She fought them so hard that she nearly forced them to break the arm that Louis Cisson heard snap. He winced. He leaned down and whispered into her ear. She did not stop at first, but finally she quieted as he kept whispering. Behind them, they heard the scrape of metal as Julio picked up the metal pipe he had brought for this occasion.
Big Lou did not participate in what happened next as the others did. He looked away so that he would not see her accusing eyes. But he held her down.
“Oh, my God, “ the intern said when he saw the state of the girl laying before him. He glared at Escobar, whose ripped shirt and disheveled condition somewhat verified the sergeant’s lame tale of the girl going wild and attacking him during her nightly exercise session. The sergeant’s condition in no way explained the human wreckage lying on the bed in front of him though.
The sergeant said nothing. He stared back at the doctor levelly. He offered no justifications. He figured that that would be best… not to attempt to justify what should need no such excuses. He was the guard. She was the prisoner. She had attacked him. He had been forced to subdue her.
The intern continued his examination. Multiple broken bones. Half of the teeth along the right side of her jaw line shattered. So many bruises he could not even start to catalog them.
“There is no way…,” he began.
“I’ll remind you, Doctor, “ Escobar told him flatly, “that this girl is a mass murderer. I did what was necessary. That is all.”
Then the intern saw. The inexcusable. His jaw dropped open. Furiously, he turned toward the sergeant again, “Sergeant, this girl has been r…!”
“Look again, “ the sergeant told him with a curious lack of intonation.
“What?” the doctor demanded. “Sergeant, I am more than capable of determining…”
“No, Doctor, “ Escobar said, holding the doctor’s clipboard out toward him, “I don’t think that’s true at all. I think you are mistaken.”
“What do you…?” then the doctor looked. Twenty faces of Benjamin Franklin stared back at him. The doctor licked his lips nervously.
“Just ask her, “ Escobar offered with a strange little smile. “Here. I’ll do it for you. Bianca, did anything like that happen to you?”
A gurgling hiss issued from the shattered girl’s mouth. She slowly shook her head. What the big man had whispered to her echoed through her mind. She shook her head again.
“See?” Escobar asked the doctor cheerfully, “Nothing like that at all. She’s crazy, Doc. She did what crazy people do. And I explained to her that that sort of thing wouldn’t go around here. Forcefully, yeah. But I did what needed to be done. Right?”
He patted the briefcase, his hand coming to rest on the stack of bills there, “Now… why don’t you patch her up and write up the report just like things were?”
The intern stared down at the battered girl, then back at the sergeant. That much money could make his life easier. Yes, it could. And maybe it could help him get out of this place. He pulled it briefcase and everything on it away from the sergeant, “Fine. You might want to leave, sergeant. I have work to do.”
Enrico Escobar relaxed… releasing the tension he had not even realized he had been feeling. It was over. It had cost him just about all of his 401k and he would remember everything that had happened down in those black cells for the rest of his life, but he had done it. He had avenged the death of Jose.
He had gotten away with it.
She was a long time healing.
During her second week in the prison infirmary, she had a visitor. Normally, there were rules and regulations associated with all visitations, but Paragon City prized its heroes. When as august a visitor as Numina chose to visit a convict at the Ziggurat, doors were opened. Rules were politely set aside for the day.
Bianca did not notice Numina at first. Her world was a haze of darkness and pain. And deep inside where only she could feel it, the simmering promise of what was eventually going to come. It was not until she felt the cooling balm of the other’s mind touch hers that she realized that the other was there.
She did not feel comforted though. She felt panic. If Numina could read her mind, the heroine would know what had been done to her. Bianca managed to crack open the one eye that would actually open at this point. She saw no alarm in the heroine, only concern.
“I heard, “ Numina told her, “that there was an incident…”
“Inssssdnt, “ Bianca repeated.
“You attacked one of the guards?” Numina asked her reproachfully.
Bianca hissed silent laughter at that. The heroine’s eyes narrowed slightly. Though she had hope that with the banishing of the warped death spirit, this girl might somehow be saved, the girl’s actions were troubling to say the least. She did not, however, regret speaking for the girl at her trial. She had told nothing but the truth.
“Why, Bianca?” she pressed.
The girl said nothing, merely shook her head. Telling others never helped. It only made things worse, “Sssty ot ‘f my minnn…”
“I will not read your mind without permission, “ Numina assured her. “I only came to see if there is anything I can do for you.”
Numina leaned close, “Tell me.”
“Yuu, “ Bianca grated with hatred, “t’lll him… I havn’t frg’tn… my prmisss. He btter not fr’get ei’ser.”
She rolled over after that and pointedly ignored Numina. The heroine gazed down at the girl with tremendous sadness for a long moment, then turned to leave.
After a month, she was released back into the general population. Escobar was no longer assigned to the women’s wing, having been transferred to Cellblock D. Even though Bianca was deemed well enough to be released, it certainly did not mean that she was healed by any means. Her injuries had been catastrophic. It would be long months before she began to feel anything close to well.
It was, however, only a week after her release that the Arachnos forces arrived to engineer the breakout.
The entire structure shuddered at the force of the explosion that rocked the outer walls. Bianca was in her cell at the time. She shuffled to the bars and looked out. She saw one of the female guards shot dead in front of her. She glanced at the body without much reaction, then turned to the wolf spider who had shot the woman.
“Bianca Tallin, “ he asked.
“What do you think?” she asked.
“Considering I am here to get you out, “ he told her, “you might try another tone.”
“You’re here to get me out, ” she repeated.
“That is what I said, “ he answered.
“Good, “ she said, “could you open the door then?”
He seemed briefly amused, “Sure.”
As if on cue, all of the cell doors on the block opened simultaneously. Bianca blinked, “Nice trick.”
“Thanks, “ he said, “this way.”
“No, “ she correct, “that way. You stay here.”
“I’ll be back in a bit.”
“We’re on sort of a time frame here, “ he complained.
She didn’t answer. She exited her cell and shuffled toward one belonging to an inmate named Cindy Pearce. She knew that Cindy happened to have a boyfriend over in the male cellblocks and availed herself, (for a hefty price), of the hidden pathway the guards used for that sort of thing.
Cindy never saw her coming. She was just exiting her cell and looking around with some curiosity when an implacable force slammed her into the bars.
“Oow, “ she started to yell, but stopped when she saw Tallin’s dark, dark eyes staring up into hers.
“Tell me, “ Bianca snarled, “where the tunnel to the men’s cellblock is.”
“Wha…?” Cindy started, but paused when she felt the point of the shiv the girl was holding press into the side of her neck.
“I don’t care about hurting you, Cindy, “ Tallin told her. “I don’t really care about you at all. You know something I need to know. Tell me and you won’t die.”
“It’s beneath the laundry, “ Cindy told her, feeling very cooperative all of a sudden. “Behind the big dryer under the floor panels. You can’t miss it.”
“Thanks, “ Bianca told her, releasing her and limping toward the laundry. She felt a strange heat inside of her, but didn’t consider it so intent was she on what was to come. Amid the chaos caused by the Arachnos soldiers, she made it to the laundry, even in her slowed, weakened condition in a few short minutes. The tunnel was where Cindy said it would be. It was about fifty yards and opened up into what appeared to be the men’s laundry.
Two convicts were in the midst of stuffing the body of a guard into one of the dryers. When she emerged from the tunnel, they regarded her curiously for a moment. Bianca stared back at them.
“Where is Escobar?” she demanded.
One glanced at the other as if wondering whether it was a good idea to answer her, then shrugged and told her, “Down at the south end of the block. Might wanna hurry, girl. He ain’t exactly popular.”
Bianca nodded and limped out of the laundry room while the two returned to their previous activity. All around her, elated with their sudden freedom, convicts were engaged in the start of what would be a massive riot. After a moment, she saw her target. He was backed into a corner. In front of him in what appeared to be a defensive posture were Big Lou, Julio and another of those who attacked her down in the cells. Several others were poised to either attack or flee or were in the midst of attempting to persuade Lou to abandon Escobar’s defense.
“Sorry, “ Big Lou was in the midst of saying, “I know he’s a scumbag, but he offered me ten g’s.”
“C’mon, Lou, “ one of the crowd shouted, “you can’t spend it if you’re dead, man.”
“Sorry, “ Lou repeated, “I gave my word.”
“Gave, “ Bianca started, paused when they all turned her direction, then continued, “gave it to me too.”
The crowd did a collective double-take, most unable to process the presence of a sixteen year old girl suddenly in their midst. Lou sighed, “Kid… you really don’t need to be here…”
The burning sensation came again. Bianca staggered. Suddenly it appeared to dawn on several of the crowded inmates that she was, in fact, female. And that… that perhaps might be a fortunate turn of events for them. She glared.
“Don’t, “ she warned, but that did not good.
Approximately half of the crowd shifted targets from Escobar to her. The heat increased. Bianca felt the rage grow. The green. The green was back. She did not know how, but it was…
The nuclear fire rolled from her. Two of the approaching would-be rapists were obliterated instantly. She screamed.
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime…
She did not know how this could be, how it could come to her without the [I]other[/I] inside of her, but it did not matter. She knew what to do. It was change. All change. And she was the fire-that-kills. Her eyes found Julio. She remembered the pipe and she remembered what he did.
And then Julio screamed.
It was a ghastly sound, lingering and full of all the agony of the world. She made it last as long as she could and by the time she was done, only Escobar and Big Lou were still anywhere within 100 yards of her.
“Get out of my way, “ she ordered the big man. There was strength in her voice for the first time in a long, long time.
“Kid, “ he said to her.
“You were the one who told me, “ she raged at him, “down in the darkness, you told me, ‘kid, I understand why you’re fighting, but you’ve got to be smart. If you die, you’ll never fight again. You’ve got to pick your shot. Heck, I’ll even help you when the time comes.’ You said that, right?”
Lou nodded quietly, “Yeah, I did. I told you that, but I was trying to…”
“Are you an honest man, Big Lou?”
“I’m a criminal, kid.”
“That’s not what I asked, “ she snapped. “Are you an honest, man?”
Louis Cisson sighed, then nodded, “Yeah. Yeah, I am.”
“Then keep your word, “ she told him, “You know what he did to me. Get out of my way.”
And Big Lou did.
Bianca Tallin went to work.
When she arrived back at her cell, the wolf spider was on the verge of simply pulling out. When he saw her and the big man, he snapped, “It’s been thirty minutes! I told you…”
“YOU, “ Bianca snarled, the green fire flaring around her, causing him to take an inadvertent step back, “don’t tell me. I had something to do. Something important. Now let’s go.”
“Who is this?” the wolf spider demanded, indicating Lou.
“Big Lou, “ she told him. “He comes along.”
“Fortunata Kalinda mentioned nothing about tag-alongs, “ he shook his head.
“He comes, “ Bianca repeated.
“You don’t understand, “ the wolf spider insisted, “if my mistress is disobeyed, she will be disappointed.”
“Life is full of disappointments, “ Bianca answered. “She’ll deal with it.”
On the helicopter as they ascended away from Brickstown toward the distant Mercy Island, Big Lou asked her, “Not that I ain’t grateful to you for getting me outta there, kid, but… ummm… why?”
Without looking at him, she answered, “Because every time I look at you, I’ll remember.”
“You’ll remember what?” he asked.
“I’ll remember that when I was weak and helpless and about to die, “ she said, “you gave me the best advice of my life.”
“To stop fighting?”
“No, “ she answered.
Not an Ending.