Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Typical
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Keaton Plasse


Keaton passed on the biscuits, knowing that her nervousness wouldn’t mesh well with a full stomach considering where they were going. Instead, she focused on the smell of the biscuits and the others’ smiles as they ate, trying to find comfort in those. She’d known she was the anxious type, but she’d done well with curbing anxiety with adrenaline up until now. That said, she also hadn’t been in control of the situations she’d been placed in up until now. Salamandra, Arianna, the Loading Bay gunmen—they had all appeared suddenly, unexpectedly. Now, with all the research and planning that had gone into this, Keaton was feeling the full brunt of doubt. If things went wrong here—if she’d made a mistake, failed to account for some unknown factor that she should’ve known about—there would be no second chance. This was it. Now or never, life or death, and she prayed to god or whatever hell was in the starry void that she’d done enough.

Nic’s mention of codenames threw her for a loop, and she stared openly at him as he spoke, dubbing her Professor Xavier. Her brain told her the fit was a stretch, but her power told her it fit, so she stayed quiet for a few seconds, trying to come up with something to say. Thankfully, Natalie spoke for her, voicing her thoughts more directly than Keaton could’ve managed at the moment, and Keaton shot her a smile for that.

“Yeah, that and most of those names are longer than ours anyway. Maybe for our next mission,” she said, attempting a lame joke that she was pretty sure fell flat.

Resisting the urge to pick at her nails, she focused on Eli’s words, nodding at the part about the napalm and smoke bombs. She’d gone over the risks with Nic during planning, specifically highlighting that it was always smoke bombs over napalm unless the group was in a spot where explosions couldn’t make things worse, but Nic had already known that. With Eli reemphasizing the point now, Keaton knew there was no way Nic could forget.

The landscape under the manhole was both what Keaton had expected and not. She’d expected the dark and damp, the rats and grime, but she hadn’t expected the not completely offensive smell. Another moment of thought, though, had her realize that they were probably in a side tunnel not directly connected to the tunnels she was thinking of, and she was glad for it. Still, she kept her mind off the smell and the state of her stomach, glancing behind her to make sure the group was getting in fine. Lynn was a concern without her powers, and though Keaton knew her thoughts on pity and little bitches, it was better safe than sorry for this mission.

Apart from looking a bit affected by the smell, though, Lynn looked fine, so Keaton focused on looking around at the tunnels as she fished her flashlight out. A click turned the light on, and she pointed the beam around, noting rats skittering out of the way as she did. Rats were good, meant that this part of the tunnels was deserted and maybe even forgotten. Or not.

Packet’s mention of escaped prisoners froze her in her spot, and she quickly redirected the beam of her flashlight down at her feet, looking to Packet with wide eyes. A nervous, hyperadrenalinated part of her wanted to snap at him, maybe even yell a little. Why hadn’t he mentioned this before? What part of “coming in prepared” did he not understand, and how in the world had he survived for so long doing what he did if he was this dumb? The more sensible—and perhaps more nervous—side of her, however, held her in place, and she managed a slow exhalation after a moment, attempting to calm herself. Getting mad wouldn’t do anyone any good, and everyone was counting on her to be level-headed, so she would be.

She continued her patterned breathing as Packet started voicing doubts over their pathing. Having seen the maps he was referencing, she knew he was right, and that only made things worse. That Packet had been around here before made it hard to believe that he’d provided the wrong maps, but the alternatives were worse. Had they been made? And how had the Staff changed the tunnels so quickly, if they’d changed them at all?

The sneaking feeling of helplessness was setting Keaton on edge, and she attempted some hasty blind checks with her powers. Such checks were like shots in the dark, and Keaton had long learned to stake nothing on them. Still, they offered her reassurance and guidance when she had nothing, and the former alone was encouraging enough to have her attempt them now.

The tunnel to their right was nondescript, and Keaton’s power gave her nothing when she prodded it about dangers, risks, and the “right path”. It was the same for the right-split tunnel, but the tunnel splitting to the left gave her something—something weird. Risky. Not dangerous, or was it? Her power was coming up empty, and she wrestled with blind questions for a moment longer until an unexpected question—whether they had time to spare—gave her a hard answer. No.

“Y-yeah.” She cleared her throat, nodding at Lynn and tracing the girl’s gaze to find another deadpan answer. Yes. “We need to go. There’s something out there. Hunch.”

Unclenching her hands, she looked around at the group, trying to find a mental foothold. Priorities. What were they?

Eli’s attempt to reassure the group fell a bit flat with Keaton, but Keaton managed to use the attempt as motivation to force herself to calm down. Because she had to. Because they were counting on her.

“I don’t think we should split up. If whatever’s out there finds us—we should stick together.” She held Eli’s gaze. Eli was calm, and so was she. “Our options are right split or straight right. Left split feels weird. Don’t know why.” Her words were coming in staccato and she hated it. “The other two are the same. I think. But we have three right votes, so let’s go right.” Was that risky? She couldn’t be sure, but she didn’t want to stick around and find out what the darkness held.

She glanced around at the group, her gaze stopping on Packet. “You should head back. The maps were wrong, and we're probably going to get lost down here.” The concept of a filter came back to her briefly, but she brushed it off. If Packet wanted in, he was in. If not, he could back out now.

“Let’s go,” she said after another, quicker glance around the group. The maps were wrong. The plan was wrong. What else—how much else—was wrong?
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by JunkMail
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And so, the vote had been cast. The party moved on quickly, some with anxiety in their step and others with more frustration than fear. They walked on, the sound of shambling and scraping metal long left behind. Whatever they had heard, if they had actually head anything at all, had been left behind in the dark. The lights continued to illuminate over them as they walked, thanks to Packet, and would gradually fade out as they passed. Aside from the sound of flowing water and the scurrying of rats, they were alone.

"Sorry, about earlier."

Packet turned his head in surprise to Archie, who's entire demeanor had changed from one of aggression and confrontation to the normally kind one he normally wore on his sleeve, although this time it seemed to be a bit tainted by guilt. "I'm not sure what came over me. Must've been nerves. Mr. Hyde doesnt care much for this." Packet shook his head. "It's, well, it's okay. I felt a lot more on edge myself. I'll probably take the normal route out. We'll figure out what way we want to go back if you guys come back." The boy seemed to instantly catch himself on his mistake. "When, When you get back."

"Do you know where you are now?"

"Everything in these sewers is an exercise in guestimation in the dark." Packet replied. "We must've been turned around somehow. But if you're good at it, you start picking up on other stuff. Listen close, you hear that?" Packet stopped, causing the rest of the entourage to halt with him. He pointed to the ceiling and in the quiet one could hear muffled chattering and movement directly above them along with the sewer's ambience. "We're right underneath the mall, now. Which is where we want to be, because the maintenance hatch we're going to is for the mall."

"So we're close?"

"Yeah. We're close."

The party walked for a few more minutes, moving forward and backtracking with the technomancer as he figured out where the door to The Spire was. For some, it was a minor inconvenience while for others those precious steps were some of the most anxiety inducing steps they had ever taken. Eventually though, they did happen upon the door. The very same heavily machined entryway built into the side of the wall that Eli had seen before. "Hello, love." Packet said as it finally came into sight. He approached the door and ran his hand along its frame. "I know I haven't been the best guide, but this is as far as I go," he explained. "I don't know what's on the other side." He checked his watch. "It is currently six thirty in the morning. I'll come to let you back onto The Ring at nine thirty. If you're not there, you're going to have to find some other way back here or some other way to contact me."

He sighed and turned, placing his hand on the frame of the door and the handle. Packet closed his eyes and focused, allowing his mind to instinctually map out the door's locking mechanism. In that moment he was part of entirety of The Promise, an extension of the supernetwork, connected to Cara. He flipped the controller, and unlatched the door. His eyes snapped open and in an instant his entire world was shattered. The entire secondary brain of The Promise suddenly severed from his mind. He stumbled back, pulling the door with him, until he came to rest against the wall with a manic smile and nosebleed on his face. "Woah." he said simply, wiping away the blood with his sleeve. "Always a trip. I'll never get used to that."

Before them lay two sets of clear sliding doors and an activation pad. Beyond that, the vast emptiness of space, blocked in part by the other part of the ring, the spire, and the vast blue and green world below. Upon further inspection, one could see that there were walls beyond the door. It was like a gigantic hamster tube of thick glass connecting the part of the ring they were on the The Spire itself. "So who wants to go first?" Packet asked. Archie eyed the room nervously, but a part of him realized that he had always dummy at tests. Might as well play test dummy. He steeled himself, and took the first step in. The first sliding door opened for him and shut behind him, but the second did not open until he hut the button on the activation pad. This prompted the second door to open and the first to lock, and the artificial gravity ceased.

The sudden floating sensation was unexpected, but was quickly overcome. Archie noticed a series of handles welded into the glass tube's metal spine, and in no time he propelled himself across the few hundred feet of tube to the other side, where he repeated the process of accessing the tube in reverse, causing the first sliding door on the party's side to unlock for the next brave soul to station hop. There was another door on the opposite side, but of simple mechanical construction. Archie did not dare touch it yet. Not without the rest of the group, and so he waited, waving to the group separated by a few hundred feet of tubing.

The few inches of glass being the only thing between them and the vast darkness of space.
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Luminous Beings
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Lynn

Lynn didn't know if it was the dominatrix boots or the surprising development of cynicism from Spoons, but she was fucking here for it. God, we go dress shopping once and I turn into a simp. While Lynn would have neither the inclination nor the emotional intelligence to put it into words, she felt a quiet steady spot growing inside her gut, even as the rest of her shivered, skin riddled with goosebumps and pink in the chilly, reeking air. I'm not fucking crazy, Lynn thought. They know this shit is crooked too. Spoons agreed with going right, although Lynn felt she may have endorsed any course of action that ran counter to what Packet did. Something about him seemed fishy, which was significantly less cool than seeming Fishy.

Eli didn't dismiss her out of hand, and Lynn felt the steady spot grow stronger. As they talked behind her, she kept her eyes, one good and one scarred, trained into the dark. She'd been around at night plenty, and done her fair share of sneaking about in dark places. This was a different kind of dark, and the light that Packet kept moving with them had taken away any night sight she might've had. Normally, Lynn gave off enough light for that to not be a problem, but she didn't like standing still under a spotlight while someone may as well have been invisible ten feet behind them. The collar was cinched around her throat, pinching her skin as she turned to look like a noose of cold iron.

Lynn dared for a moment to turn away from the dark as she heard Denim's breath catch in her throat a few times. Fear. Something about that snapped the steady place into cold water that snaked down through the rest of her. Denim was supposed to have all the answers. Her scowl deep in the shadows as she turned her back once more to Packet's light, she stared back the way they had come with the shiv in hand. So be it. Lynn and Keaton had always had somewhat differing philosophies toward problem-solving.

They had all agreed upon right, and Lynn tensed in preparation for the Toaster's defense lawyer to pipe back up, but he said nothing. Alarm bells rang in Lynn's head like a cathedral in an earthquake. Why isn't he putting up resistance? Does he just want to move out of here? Or does he really know what's down both of these tunnels? A part of Lynn wondered if both tunnels led to the same place. His little detour sure gave whatever's behind us time to catch up, Lynn thought, rolling over the shiv, trying desperately to keep her fingers warm, the feeling of numb stiffness as alien to her as the skin-splitting pain of the burns up and down the rest of her. She saw Leotard and -

A sudden flash of insight went through Lynn's mind and she felt her throat seize up as she turned back into the dark, heart pounding. The squirrels. He can control them - what about all these fucking rats? What if that thing was the fucking escapee?

Lynn ground her teeth together, hating every moment of this. But they moved. Lynn followed awkwardly, trying to keep pace while constantly checking over her shoulder. As best she could tell, nothing was following them, but she may as well have been blindfolded and stripped naked in these tunnels. She wasn't, as far she was aware, given keener senses by her powers, but it certainly felt that way - the whole world seemed duller. Washed out.

Finally, they reached a door that looked like it wouldn't have been out of place in Fort Knox, and Packet confirmed Lynn's theories regarding his lack of sexual prowess when he announced his love for a fucking door as soon as they walked up. He opened it up, which was more than Lynn had been expecting at that point in the journey, and let them know they'd need to find another way to reach him when, without fail, they were up there past 9:30.

"We can use all those toaster-proof means of communication we have to reach you, sure. Maybe my dealer has a fucking pager." Lynn muttered, but she did so quietly enough at the back of the group she thought Packet couldn't hear. He still had to take the collar off, after all.

Packet touched the handle and quite possibly popped his cherry as blood came out his face. Don't get any on your pocket protector. Lynn glanced at the others, as if to confirm they were all seeing this shit, though she notably did not look to see if Leotard also thought this was strange. Leotard probably had tapes of this kind of thing in a shoebox under his bed. Along with some dead squirrels. She did notice Leotard glancing over at Eli quite a bit. For a moment, that cold feeling sunk through her again. Have they been talking? What has he been saying? She didn't want to think Eli would trust this one a lick, but Denzel was too nice for her own good. Maybe you're getting that way too, a quiet voice muttered at the back of her mind, and Lynn felt a twinge of pain in her knee.

Admittedly, when the door open, even Lynn's snark failed her. The great empty expanse of space stretched out on the far side, and Lynn briefly forgot her terror of the dark behind her and the secrets before her. Hope there's a handrail to hold onto or some shit. Packet asked who was going first and Lynn saw Archie volunteer. Lynn half-lunged forward to go before him, her gut dropping out as if she'd plunged down the first great drop of a rollercoaster as she saw him move through the first steel door. As she felt it did every day, the smallness of her body betrayed her. There was no way she could move through everyone to the front in time, and by the time she had Archie was already through the airlock. "Fucking boat farmer," Lynn muttered again. They didn't know what was up there. She should've gone first. Releasing her irritation through a long exhale through her nose (one which, she realized lamely, was not flickered with flame or the scent of smoke as it usually was), Lynn leaned back and lit a cigarette while the rest of the group idled on up the ladder. She would at least watch Keaton's back as she went if she couldn't test the waters first. While Lynn wanted to keep them all (well - you know, mostly all) safe, she privately felt Keaton was likely the most crucial one for success. If any of them had to die, it was best it was Lynn. They were all more important. They all deserved to live. For a brief second Lynn thought she could feel the warm feeling of the hospital bed against her - the warm that was entirely different from the heat she carried with her - but it passed in the stinking darkness of the sewers. Lynn enjoyed the feel of a cigarette that lasted more than thirty seconds as they went up the rungs, idly glancing between the group going up the ladder and the empty (?) dark behind them.

Then it was Lynn and Packet and whoever else was watching. "Well," Lynn said, turning (barely) away from him as she exhaled the smoke from her cigarette. "You going to be a gentleman and unzip me?" She arched her head back as far as she could as Packet's clammy, cold fingers brushed against her. Lynn felt her cheeks burning red. Even he was taller - she was small and cold and weak. Had she ever been anything else? Never again, Lynn thought, as he hacked the collar. Never again will one of these motherfuckers put me in chains. With a monotone beeping the collar was deactivated and Lynn felt a surge of life run back through her. The raw burned skin that covered her whole body began to patch itself back up; her hair, mousy and messy, erupted into a geyser of golden flame; the cigarette ignited like a furnace and evaporated around her face in a single ashy cloud of nicotine. Lynn took the collar and rolled it around her fingers. I could melt this into slag, she thought, crimson light radiating off every inch of her. And Gennedy and Salamandra and Arianna and every other rat down here too.

Lynn rolled her head back and forth, grateful beyond words to feel the agony across her skin receding. As foreign as the feeling of cold was to her, so was the feeling of being burned. It was awful. Christ, it was terrible.
It - The man was screaming, reaching up with his mangled hands to his ski mask, which he was able to rip off with scalded fingers. Lynn hadn't been able to see before, but the molten metal had splashed to his face and was fusing the mask to his skin. Fucking right, Lynn thought. You're the sort of bastard who kills - He looked up at Lynn with wide, horrified eyes. He was screaming. He couldn't have been more than thirteen years old. He was screaming. He had gangly long arms that were longer than his legs, they hadn't growed evenly. He was screaming. His face where he was trying to grow in facial hair was burning, melting through, superheated metal or molten barrel, it didn't matter, he couldn't get it off, couldn't get it out. He was screaming.


"Try not to finish all over yourself next time you touch a door," Lynn snapped, more ferociously than she had intended to. She paused for a moment, the air around her roiling into steam. She shouldn't stay down here much longer. Packet looked so young. He had acne. It - fuck. Why had she snapped? "I - fuck, I didn't. Whatever. Thanks. Shit." Lynn turned and stepped through the airlock before Packet tried to talk about her feelings or asked if she used an Android or something. She clenched her jaw, exerting the restraint one might if you were easing yourself down from a pull-up bar, and kept her flames as contained as possible as the door opened before her.

For a moment, alone in the dark, empty chamber, Lynn let herself be as young as she was, and felt her mouth go agape. She'd - she'd seen space flicker past briefly in the rocket on the way up, and she'd of course spent her fair share of time staring out the windows of the Promise, but this was - this was - wow.

Wow. Lynn floated out for a moment, feeling like a goddess, like a newborn star burning beside a million others. She supposed the flickering light she gave off was hardly ideal for stealth, but Lynn did not care. The sun didn't hide. Neither did she. Lynn looked around, looking at the Promise, at the great neverending dark, at the Earth. It was so blue. For a moment, just a hint of the same shade snaked through the roots of Lynn's hair, danced like the center of a fire around the darks of her eyes. I want to go to the ocean, Lynn thought. I want to go back.

Lynn let herself feel the - everything - of the moment for a few long, dizzying seconds. Then the cold steel of the Promise crept back in, as it always did, and Lynn felt a surge of guilt. The others were probably in danger on the other side - they could already be fighting another escapee. Lynn cursed and propelled herself forward, the glass fogging each time she made contact to propel herself further along. Lynn came to the heavy door and paused for just a moment. She slid the shiv, useless and pathetic as it now felt, into the back pocket of her jeans.

Then she did the same with the collar.

Lynn stepped through the airlock, a smirk across her face. Who wouldn't be happy? She'd never have another collar on for the rest of her life. Or for a few more hours - whichever was longer.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Silver Carrot
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Natalie Ellis





After the plan had immediately gone wrong and the map had proved false, Natalie was far from relaxed. Every time the backtracked, she visibly tensed. And what Lynn had said about people watching them was playing on her mind too. She felt too exposed here. If there were a threat, she wouldn't be able to see it clearly, and they could come from the mouth of any tunnel they passed. At least Archie and Packet seemed fine now. Finally, the found the door, and Natalie let her whole body relax briefly as the anxieties playing on her mind were temporarily put to rest.

Natalie resisted the urge to ask if Packet was okay after opening the foor had caused his nose to bleed. Instead she said "Thank you, Packet. I hope we do see each other again." Natalie watched as Lynn's collar was finally taken off, and Archie stepped through the door. It closed behind him as a second door opened, and he ventured out. Lynna followed shortly after. With a shrug, Natalie went next. May as well have the three most formidable team members on point as a vanguard in case anything happened.

She stepped through, and felt gravity get weaker as she quickly grabbed a railing, which helped her steady herself to the point where the change in gravity didn't affect her at all. As she walked along, she looked up and for a brief second, stopped. Right in front of them was Earth. It was slightly above them, putting into perspective that from Earth's POV, the Promise was upside down. Natalie didn't like that sensation, so she ignored it. What she couldn't ignore was just...the knowledge that this planet was Earth. All of Earth. Everywhere she'd ever known and everywhere she heard stories about or saw on the news. It was all up there. Natalie had spent a lot of the time on Earth that wasn't hazy now, in labs, basements or facilities. Most of her memories of shops, grass, trees and ordinary people walking about going to school or work, were now memories of The Promise. But up there...It really made her start to feel trapped down here. For the first time, she wanted to go back to Earth.

Making her way to the end of the tunnel, Nat pressed the activation pad, opening the door for the next person.
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Skai
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Eli moved quietly through the tunnels, but her attention was focused on her friends. Everyone was on edge. It was like that from the start of course. Now it just felt like all of the nerves and existential crises the group had faced long before they entered the sewers had built up. She could feel it in the atmosphere around them like static electricity.

Yet as the group continued to walk and nothing but the sound of the distant running water echoed within the walls, the atmosphere stagnated until it felt relatively comfortable again. Eli could have jumped with joy when she saw the door to the Spire tunnel illuminate before them. This was it. Frightening misstep behind them, they had made it to their second to last destination. Or was it their third to last? Or their third and last destination because they were going to come back through the same door?

Eli stared at the door. Her heart beat faster. Behind this door, there really was no coming back. At least, she wouldn’t be coming back the same. So many secrets, lies, and gut-wrenching truths were waiting behind it. The door swung open. It felt as if Eli was going to be sucked out into the open space before them. She’d spotted an edge of one of these tunnels before, years ago. She’d forgotten how clear the glass was. As if it wasn’t there at all. The bridge was one long ladder to The Spire. Just bars floating in a perfect line between the two worlds on The Promise.

Eli woke from this momentary daze as soon as Archie stepped through the threshold. She stepped forward, going the extra step ahead of Lynn until she was at the door herself. The first door shut before she could follow him inside. She should have gone first. If this… if this was a trap, she should have taken the first hit. Archie could handle it, of course, but she was the reason he was down here. She anxiously watched as the outer door slid open. Archie Anderson was weightless, but he didn’t float off into space. He made it to the other side. No alarms, and no sudden swarm of officers. Were they really going to board The Spire without getting caught? Eli glanced at Packet. Cara really was on their side.

”Fucking boat farmer.” Eli smirked softly.

Eli could have gone second, but she decided to stay behind. She needed just one more moment before she could step into that void. She leant against the frame of the door instead, watching the others slowly pass through to the other side. By the time it was her turn, she hadn’t even realized that she was the last one to go.

“Oh- Uh…” She took a deep breath and stood before the doors. Her head turned to Packet. “Thank you, Packet. For everything.” She cleared her throat and looked out again. Her friends were waiting for her at the other side. Funny, how I’m the most reluctant to go… She thought to herself. She softly murmured one last thing before she stepped into the chamber.

“Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.”


Eli pressed the button on the pad. The second door opened, and she felt as if the air had left her lungs. Quickly, she realized that she could still breathe. She pushed off of the ground with her tiptoes and propelled herself towards the nearest ladder rung. She climbed, and as she slowly made her way to join her friends she looked out of that crystal clear glass and into space. The darkness was so deep, and so wide. It was split into a crescent moon around the big blue Earth beneath them. It was beautiful, the view.

“Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.” Eli whispered.

After what felt like ages, Eli found herself at the other end. She looked at each of her friends, and then turned herself around just in time to catch Packet closing the door on the other end. She looked back, took another breath, and nodded. “Welcome to The Spire, guys.”
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Once more into the fray, into the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day, live and die on this day."


There was a hiss and a clank, seemingly distant, from the other end of the tube as Packet shut the door- waving as he did so. They were alone, now. The door before them remained shut, but only for a moment. Archie had been fairly active while waiting for his fellow rulebreakers to follow suit and not one to stand idly by, had taken to messing with a control panel seated just like the one at the entrance had been. He had quickly learned that the opposite door had to be closed before the other could be opened.

Once Eli had joined them, he gave her his best fighter's smile and turned to the control panel. He didn't know what was coming next or what they'd find beyond those doors, but he steeled himself and opened the door.

The doors whizzed to life and cranked open at what felt like an agonizingly slow pace. When they did open, though, they found themselves facing a large empty room. It was in pristine condition, walls white and floors clean and reflective. The most noteworthy features were the six large enclosures made of a thick transparent material, easily fifteen feet long that went all the way to the ceiling. Most were empty, but one had a thin veneer of what appeared to be a pinkish mucus coating the floor. The substance, contained within the enclosure was thick enough to obscure the floor. The walls were mostly empty, save for a few lab coats and other standard protective equipment.

"Dibs." Archie commented, striding over to one of the racks and donning a lab coat. There were enough for the group, but it wasn't much in the way of camouflage. Enough to avoid a passing glance but with no IDs or anything, a trained eye could catch them red handed.

There were desks in front each enclosure, some were empty and others not. Each had paperwork rather than computers, strangely enough. It was almost archaic in that way. For Archie, it was almost reminiscent of home. He hummed, and walked over to the desk in front of the enclosure with the red liquid at the bottom and took one of the papers from the desk, curious to see what it read. As he scanned the page, his face began to pale, and he tossed the paper down on the desk very suddenly as if it had burnt him and backed away. He was like a cornered animal, pacing away from the desk and to the wall of the room, pressing himself against it all without taking his eyes off of the enclosure.

He was clearly shell shocked, and something wasn't right. His heart monitor was going off like a stop watch, subtle but ever present... but he wasn't turning.

"Dr. Alaina Richerdson. Log entry 047, test 07.

Item: Tabatha Ford, ID 058382
Procedure: Test Subject to be exposed to Red Wave energy signature while activating subject's parahuman ability to test Red Wave for anomalous behaviors in high-entropy environments.
Results: 058382 maintained an average temperature of 870°C without the use of an accelerant. At this temperature, 058382 showed no signs of igniting. Gasoline was provided to 058382 at a rate of two (2) liters per minute to increase its core temperature. Gasoline continued to be provided to 0583827 until its core temperature reached 1800°C, at which time 058382 was exposed to Red Wave energies. At 1850°C, 058382 ignited and liquified. The sprinkler system connected to 058382's containment chamber was then activated.
Notes: Following the results yielded from testing, requests to use Red Wave have been approved for further testing to producing weapon. Further testing with 058382 and non-anomalous heat sources yielded the same results as testing with 058382, thus suggesting that Red Wave energy functions independently from high entropy. Further testing with Red Wave and other heat sources of parahuman origins in low entropy environments is currently pending approval. Due to the results gathered during testing, cleanup request has been placed to remove 058382's remains.


That could be him. That could be all of them if they got caught. That was a person once, probably a kid. Reduced to a test subject and a number, and then liquified into a puddle. That had been a human being.

"We need to get out of here. Very soon." He said, his voice cold with fear. "Nic, Keaton, please tell me one of you knows where to go."

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Natalie Ellis





The moment she saw the contents of the room, Natalie visibly changed. The clinical lab-like nature, the containment tubes, the lab couts and other personal equipment. Her eyes had gone wide, her pupils dilated, and she was almost snarling like a beast as her gaze darted to and from features of the room rapidly. She noticed Archie recoil at the piece of paper and frowned. She put a tentative calming hand on his shoulder, trying to be comforting and reassuring despite looking quite unhinged and terrifying.

She turned and read the paper that he had just read, and the more she read, the more she visibly started to shake. She glanced at the red residue at the bottom of the pod, then back at Archie, then gently put the paper down, slowly walked away, and then suddenly and violently punched the wall, her fist going straight through it.

"It's just like Project Lion," she trembled in a small voice, before removing her arm and staring at the rest of the group with wild, insane eyes. "No. No, this is worse. I....I'm gonna kill them. I'm gonna kill all of them."
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Lynn


Lynn stepped through the airlock, her hair a balefire of orange and gold and violet that her flickering eyes matched. Before the airlock was fully opened, a cigarette clenched between her teeth peeled back and ignited of its own accord, and Lynn enjoyed a few moments of nicotine as it visibly smoldered down to a butt in her mouth. The brief moment of melancholy and beauty floating in the stars had passed. It was not accurate to say Lynn was no longer afraid - Lynn did not, in a way, want to live past today, as living likely meant living in a cage up here. But the worst had passed. The collar was off, and no one on Earth or anywhere above it would put one on her again.

Archie was fucking with the doors when she came in, Denim looked like she was busy thinking Rain Man stuff, Leotard was probably rewatching hentai in his head or something, Denzel looked nervous but composed, and Spoons was doing her Spoons shit. Lynn walked ahead to the front of the group. It made logical sense that the member who could regenerate got hit by the Spire's security first, but it was something different than that. Lynn positioned herself as best she could to intercept anything on the far side and Archie, although there was perhaps a foot and a half of exposed Archie above Lynn's glimmering mane.

...the room was empty. Though no one could see it, something of relief and irritation flickered across Lynn's face. She was tired of the Promise blue balling her at every opportunity. As if on cue, Archie bumped into her as they walked into the room, and the old hardened instincts that had kept Lynn a step ahead of beat cops or merely anyone who knew a four foot and change girl with drugs to be an easy mark scanned the room. She saw no cameras or anywhere someone could jump out and ambush them, although Lynn was not foolish enough to let her guard fully drop for even a moment. The group began putting on lab coats, which made Lynn pause. She didn't really think that anyone would buy any of them, barring maybe Denzel, as being old enough to work here. Weren't scientists all really old and all dudes? Still, Archie tossed her a lab coat and she threw it on without much fuss, although Lynn's dragged on the floor behind her, closer to a ballroom gown than a lab-safe garment. Lynn rolled her sleeves up half a dozen times on each side to get them to hang above her wrists, cursing colorfully as she did so.

"We should keep moving," Lynn said, glancing around. "These look like those tubes at the bank that whoosh your money and I don't want to see what the fuck a withdrawal looks like up here." As Lynn spoke, the words trickled out her mouth. Archie's monitor was beating and she scrambled over, ready to try and climb up and choke him out from behind if she had to, or maybe - she could throw him in one of those tubes and hope it contained him or -

- he wasn't turning. Lynn's own heart rate settled for a moment, and though admitting to fear was not something she was ever bound to do, a bit of fear subsided with it. By Lynn's counting, she had beaten the lizard soundly once, although saying she had survived it would perhaps be more accurate.

Lynn had to strain unceremoniously on her tiptoes to read what Archie read, and while it took her more time to process the words, her reaction was more visceral. Lynn's hair and eyes, before a mottled mixture of color, began to change once more. This time it was slow and gradual, a wave pushing up from her roots down to the braided tips of her hair. First red, then red gave way to blue, then blue to violet, then violet to white, glowing incandescent. The air around Lynn warmed noticeably, and her lab coat began to ripple and buffet as if it stood over an exhaust. The air shimmered near her, a mirage that matched the growing corona of heat.

"You're fucking right, Spoons," Lynn hissed. Only a few feeble spots of violet remained in her eyes. The rest burned white, and Lynn's skin shimmered with a furnace heat. "Which way?"

Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Skai
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When the door to The Spire slid open, Eli did not expect to enter into a room like this. Well, not immediately. In any movie with a room at the end of a long, ominous tunnel, the doors would open into something like a foyer, or security checkpoint, or just a big long hallway with other doors along the sides of it. It was a relief that they didn’t run into The Spire’s staff the moment they set foot on it’s sterilized floor, but Eli’s first impression of The Spire confirmed every theory Eli had heard about its main purpose. Research and Development took over most of the ship, with little room for development and more focus on the… research.

Eli’s stomach instantly felt sick. She looked over each of the enclosures as the rest of the group made their way into the lab. She’d never seen anything like this before. It was… shocking. It humbled and enraged her that this is what her people were subject to behind closed doors. She moved towards the closest desk to her and carefully picked up the first paper with names and dates on it. Her eyes skimmed the page. She immediately looked away. Her hand gripped the page until it crumpled between her fingers and her knuckles turned white. She closed her eyes and swallowed down the bile in her throat.

"We need to get out of here. Very soon."

Archie’s voice reminded her that they didn’t have time to mourn for these parahumans for long. She sighed shakily and let her hand relax as her eyes opened. Then she began to make her way around the room. At each desk she looked for the most recent lab reports that had been conducted. Her eyes briefly read their contents, and with every paper she gathered she felt the disgust and anger boil further within her. Her stack was ten papers deep by the time she reached the desk Archie and the others had gathered around.

Natalie had punched the wall, and she looked like a wild animal. Eli must have been too engrossed in her own emotions to have heard it. Hopefully security hadn’t either. Lynn’s hair was a shade Eli had never seen before. It was white hot, and Eli was sure it reflected Natalie’s current emotions as well. In fact, Eli thought that each one of them were feeling exactly the same way.

Angry, disgusted, a little scared, and a few of them were feeling murderous. Eli wasn’t sure if she was at that point yet. She wanted vengeance in a different way. These researchers didn’t deserve to die, to rest until their souls withered away. No, they deserved to rot in a cell just like this one. They deserved to see their lives go to shit because they were a part of these inhumane atrocities. Eli wanted every one of their family and friends to turn on them until they had no one left but the ghosts of the parahumans they murdered.

Eli took the paper with Tabatha Ford’s last living suffering and added it to the pile. She folded the thin stack of papers in half and shoved it into the pocket of a lab coat. She wasn’t happy to dress like a murderer, but it was a good idea to try to blend in. As she pulled on the lab coat she rolled up her sleeves as well. If this were to get physical, she wanted to be ready.

“We need to find a room with records and access to the internet. Maybe a room with some tasters or nullifiers in them in case we run into any security.”

She looked around at everyone’s expressions. She felt as if each of her emotions were displayed on different faces before her. Eli was suddenly overcome with an intense gratitude that her friends were here with her. She wasn’t sure how she would have handled this on her own. She might have gone sobbing back into the tunnel to The Promise, and she would have hit the door to the sewers until Packet let her in; or she would have let her rage guide her through The Spire until she made a mistake and suffered the same fate as these subjects.

“Is there a room like that close by?” She asked Nic and Keaton.
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Keaton Plasse


Keaton’s sympathy for Packet was limited. Despite the tools at his disposal, he’d gotten his information wrong, and as a result, she had too. The difference, however, was that he was heading back. This was where his level of risk started decreasing, where he started his journey back to safety, if one could call it that. His slip of the tongue was just another indicator of the divide between them, a reminder that he wouldn’t bear the consequences of this venture.

Still, she held some surface-level pity for him. He was a child aboard the Promise, doing his best with what he had, and he was helping best he could. He was right in not wanting to come with them, and in his shoes, Keaton would have done the same. So, because of that—because of the sheer sense of why she should pity him, and because all her thoughts to the contrary were nonsensical, fueled by fear and rash emotions—she kept her head and gave him a smile as she returned his wave. If they got out of this, she’d still like to get to know the guy who could talk to the Promise system, even if he deserved a thorough lecture on the importance of checking his sources.

The Spire matched the blueprints Packet had provided, which wasn’t what Keaton was expecting. It was, however, comforting, and she could see their location in her mind’s eye now. Behind the door Archie opened was a lab, which itself had a door that opened into a small corridor. There’d been various reasons this room had been chosen as their entrance into the Spire, and chief among them was the fact that it was the easiest to get to. Still, the blueprints showed that this area was an isolated one with a single corridor linking it to the rest of the Spire, so that meant that unless someone had express business in this precise room, they would be left undisturbed.

Past the pipe and waste disposal systems that designated the next room as a lab, Keaton knew very little about the place, so she was also left looking around once she stepped in. The lights overhead turned the white walls into their own sort of light, and the flooring—some sort of resin, judging by the sheen—was barely scuffed, making the place seem rather void of life. There was a distinct lack of screens, calling into question the amount of access Cara was given in the Spire, and rather than lab equipment, the room held pairs of desks and transparent enclosures fit for medium-large animals, or… 

The thought brought about a wave of nausea as her power confirmed that yes, they were a great size for both types of inhabitants, and she swallowed it, walking towards the closest desk and spreading out the paperwork on it. They were reports of—and all straightforwardly formatted. First were the identifications and serials, then various numbers and vitals, and then a description of the appearance of the subject. They were all mundane, noting nondescript changes like “listlessness” and “apparent apathy,” and Keaton shuffled through them rapidly, her eyes not wholly connected to her brain as she skimmed the words.  

As she tried to find something of interest in the pages—a hint at where the subjects were moved, perhaps, or what they’d been brought here for in the first place—she saw Archie recoil from something in her peripheral vision, which snapped her attention to him immediately. He was backing away from the table in front of the enclosure with the red-pink sludge, his face drained of blood, and when Keaton’s eyes went back to the sludge, she knew

She inhaled sharply, raising her eyes to the blinding lights overhead and willing the heave of her stomach out of existence, then joined the gathering group. Putting words to the sludge—giving it a background, a reason and explanation—would’ve made it worse if not for the fact that she had already forced herself into numbness. 

She’d known this. What she’d failed to guess was the extent of it. 

The numbness held her still as Natalie and Lynn declared their intentions, and she glanced at them blankly, noting their anger. She should be angry too, shouldn’t she? Innocent lives had been lost here, had been forced to suffer before being snuffed out of existence, all for… for what? Science? The creation of a “weapon”? Yet all Keaton could think about was the horrible death Tabatha Ford had died, how she’d burned as Alaina Richerdson emptied gasoline into her enclosure. Had she known she was going to die? Surely she must have. The enclosures were thick enough to be soundproof, but they were transparent. 

Keaton managed a hollow nod at Archie’s words, her power telling her that he was scared—more scared than her, even—and her brain… 

She knew.

“There’s a server room on the main hallway, ten minutes walk from here.” The words left her mouth readily, her tone flat. She couldn’t come up with any rage to match the others, and acknowledging another emotion wasn’t an option at the moment, so she continued as she pulled on a lab coat, the fabric cold and heavy as it slipped over her. “It should have a computer to manage it, and that computer should be connected to the ship, and therefore the internet.”

She grabbed another stack of papers and dropped it on the table edge first, tidying it before she slipped it under an arm. “I can tell you which rooms are probably storage rooms, but past that, rooms look the same if they don’t have specific pipes or wires.” She looked up at the others, scanning their faces. “We need to walk through the main corridors to get there, so we’re going to have to do our best to blend in. To calm down and look… normal.”

Her eyes stopped on Lynn, whose eyes glowed with heat, then on Natalie, whose eyes spoke their intentions plainly. Did she fit in, with her eyes? She looked hopeless, most likely, and maybe that’s what most people in the Spire were. After all, what sort of hope did people conducting these experiments and writing these reports have, if not a loss of hope in humanity?
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Hidden 14 days ago Post by JunkMail
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T H E P R O M I S E


It was supposed to have been a job. An in and out stay on the greatest space station that humanity had ever known. But it had ended up being more than that. Now, oh, now she was faced with so much more. She had never been one to have been put off by violence. Assassination wasn't beyond her, be it literal or of a person's character, this had simply been a job. A well paying one that had one end goal: Find a way to give her employer a parahuman ability.

It had taken months of research and an entire workforce to do it. Luckily she had bother. Then she had to find a way off planet and searched the stars only to find a boy, no... a god, who had shown her everything. She had been shown everything, if only for a moment.

She needed to get away. Somewhere where she would have the time to find a more permanent solution. That of her on earth would surely perish with the crashing of the red wave, but she would live on. She had to. In order to do that unnoticed, she would need a distraction.

Arianna moved through the corridors of the spire on her way to the master server room, uncontested and shaken to her core- her appearance and disposition not her own. A body was a change of clothes for her...

But until now she had never known fear.


Archie



"Lets go then. Please." Archie commented, donning his lab coat. The others followed suit, their motions brisk but precise. None of them wanted to be here any longer. Not with the remains of Tabatha reminding them of their fates.

Opening the door out of the room was perhaps one of the most harrowing experiences of Archie's life. There was something insidious about it, and not knowing what was behind it. The first door into the spire had been mysterious, sure. But knowing their fate now made this next passage far more threatening.

Fortunately, while the halls were busy, they were not out of the ordinary. Archie had the advantage of facial hair that gave him the appearance of being slightly older than he was, but the halls were filled with people dressed similarly to them, albeit with lab coats that were properly buttoned- a discrepancy the young man quickly picked up on and rectified. No, the most notable trait of these people was that they were all of such varying age. Young men and women, likely college age or interns intermingled with 40's something adults and senior scientists with gray hairs peppering their hair.

It was then that Archie was reminded how different the real world was compared to this bubble in the sky. On The Promise, parahumans were common. More common than people. The Spire was different- a reflection of the views of the world below. The indoctrination of 'Parahumans arent people' starts young, and by the time children were adults, it was normalized to view them not all that differently than a stray or dangerous animal. A nuisance and maybe even a threat if you got too close. Something to be avoided or destroyed, situation permitting.

Fortunately, they were literal wolves in sheep's clothing. They were young, but not abnormal. They were dangerous, but they looked human. The biggest giveaway way Lynn's hair, but she was a small and her natural fear of, well, everything had her place herself instinctually at the center of the pack where her meager height made it difficult for others to see her hair over everyone else.

Archie was just behind Keaton, who led them through with stoicism- speaking in short 'rights' and 'lefts'. It was good, the less they said the better. But what Natalie had said in the other room had concerned him. I....I'm gonna kill them. I'm gonna kill all of them. It was worrisome to hear from someone he cared about, never mind her history of instability. If she lashed out or lost control, it would all be for nothing. He slowed his pace to walk next to her, and reached out to grab her arm. He squeezed it, half with grounding force to reign her in and half in comfort. She was stronger than him, at least in this form and he knew it. She could break his grip and him without a second thought. But she wouldn't do that to him, he was convinced.

"Easy, Nat." he said, his voice low as if a warning. But it was softer than that, too. It showed his unease. He needed her to keep it together just long enough for them to make it to wherever they were going- which seemed to be up as they made it to an elevator and Keaton hit a button denoting the number '34' on it. He let her arm go, then.

They stood in silence for a moment as one or two others came into the elevator. Unable to speak, Archie positioned himself as close to Lynn as possible, unintentionally shepherding her into the corner where she was least likely to be noticed as an outsider. He bumped into her shoulder, offering her a sly smile and a sideward glance as if to say tag, you're it.

A few got on and off, and when they reached their floor they had only made it a dozen or so steps when an alarm began blaring over the intercom. Immediately, his heart rate went sky high, and he felt something clawing at the edges of his vision, desperate to get out. But he held it back. They were dead. They were so totally dead and they were found out and they were going to fail and-

"ATTENTION. PARAHUMAN PSYCHIATRIC WARD CONTAINMENT BREACH. ALL PERSONELLE RETURN TO NEAREST SHELTER AND AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTION."

The announcement played three more times before stopping, but the alarm itself continued. People were moving quickly around them, funneling in various directions. There had been another breakout, evidently. While morbid, this could be exactly what they needed.

"Move!" Archie said, raising his voice to jump start the group into motion. They were running now. Running to wherever Keaton was taking them. He was faster than them- he could feel it in his lengthening heels as his adrenaline fueling his accelerated heart rate. It was harder to force it back and down. He slowed to keep pace, trying his best to slow his vitals. They came upon the door quickly, and Archie could tell it was the right one just by how Keaton regarded it. But it was locked. Keycard access only requesting security clearance that none of them had.

"Lynn, Natalie, do you think you could break it down?" he questioned, turning on his heel to face the two. His eyes were undoubtedly not his own now. Definitely human, but not his. They would know that being out here where the alarm was loudest wasn't a good idea for long.

The clocks were ticking, now.
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Hidden 13 days ago Post by Enarr
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Nicholas



Nic slipped into the elevator with the rest of the crew, lamenting the loss of life by biting his lower hard as if he were trying to cut a steel cable with his teeth. Seeing the puddle of person that had so recently been one of his own kind compelled him to start holding his breath, locking his lungs tight and throwing away the key, just in case he'd inhale their remains on accident. He stood shoulder to shoulder with Archie, diagonol to Lynn luminescent skull, as they were joined by a couple of beta male Spire employees. Making himself as large as possible, he finally gave a yawn, raising his arms and shuddering violently as the shock of fresh air flash-froze his waterlogged brain, stretching out until the workers settled in, staring at the door.

ATTENTION. PARAHUMAN PSYCHIATRIC WARD CONTAINMENT BREACH. ALL PERSONELLE RETURN TO NEAREST SHELTER AND AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTION

"That'll wake you up!" the first Spire worker shouted.

"Just another day in paradise, eh," the closer drone huffed, elbowing Nic in the ribs. "I don't get paid enough for this shit."

Nic felt a navy blue surge through his nerves as his entire intestinal tract reared up on it's hind legs and whinnied. He felt every muscle in his body tense while his fingers rolled tighter than the newspapers his father used to beat his mother with.

ATTENTION. PARAHUMAN PSYCHIATRIC WARD CONTAINMENT BREACH. ALL PERSONELLE RETURN TO NEAREST SHELTER AND AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTION

It suddenly became apparent exactly how inconspicuous he wasn't, as he tasted a bead of sweat slump into his mouth. He felt the tang of gasoline torching his taste buds as the sweet stink of napalm wafted into his nostrils, down from his sticky, flaky, upright, inch-long einstein hair. Underneath the labcoat, he felt the plastic residue and breadcrumbs itch like his arms were overrun with roaches.

ATTENTION. PARAHUMAN PSYCHIATRIC WARD CONTAINMENT BREACH. ALL PERSONELLE RETURN TO NEAREST SHELTER AND AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTION

He took a gander at the Spire worker to his left and got to work dissecting the man as if his eyes were scalpels. Bad posture. Hasn't shaven in days. The subject must've mistakenly thought that maybe if he used enough Axe body spray nobody would be able to smell the bourbon on his collar. He was wrong. Based on a cursory glance, the man had spilled more on his own labcoat than Nic could hope to have ingested off of an entire platter of the Jell-O shots at the bonfire.

What a shame, he thought as the doors slid open with a ding, and the worker drones haggardly skittered down the hall to who-knows-where. Actually, Nic knew exactly where they were going: the floor's safe room, right next to their lounge.

Right after that, the crew casually power walked down the hall to their own destination, where they were faced with a locked door. Taking a quick look at it, he recognized that its manufacturer matched the very same doors he'd helped his father install in the militia compound's armory back in Nebraska.

"Lynn, Natalie, do you think you could break it down?"

"She should be able to if she gets two inches deep right here," Nic said, producing a Sharpie and waving a faint black circle onto the steel, "and doesn't sever the wire here," he said, laying an X an inch to the right. "That'll keep it locked."
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Lynn


Blend in. Lynn visibly scowled at the suggestion, but turned away for a moment from the group, arms crossed and teeth clenched. After a few moments, slowly, the intense heat boiling off her seemed to simmer down, and her hair flickered from white-hot to a mere blue. When she turned back, her skin still shimmered as though live coals were lurking just under the surface, but she was no longer causing the papers on the desk around her to spontaneously ignite.

"Fine." Lynn said. "I'll do my best Hitler impression, we should be able to walk right through. Lynn's hands were still clenched into fists, and wisps of smoke coiled off her. As everyone put on the lab coats, she watched Archie for a moment, his hands fumbling, as though they'd lost a touch of human dexterity, a look of subtler panic undercutting the more apparent terror on his face. For one moment, a thought clinked in her mind like ice in a whiskey glass, and she thought of egging him on, of pushing the lizard out and pointing him through the open door. There is nothing in this place we couldn't smash and burn, Lynn thought. Spoons could throw him through the side of the station and to the motherfucking moon.

But then Lynn blinked. That was - that wasn't what she should - no. No. Cursing under her breath, Lynn walked over and parsed through the lab coats, the smallest one being a men's medium. "Fuck me," she muttered, putting the coat on. It fit her roughly the same as a bridal gown, and Lynn attempted to roll up the sleeves with as much fury as she could manage, cursing under her breath. For just a moment as the others prepared, she let herself stare around the room, soaking in every single detail. The glow of the fluorescent lights, the way the remains were sludged across the inside of the tubes, the smell of cleaning solution on the tile floors. She turned and walked, doing her best not to let herself get tripped on the lab coat. Lynn walked beside Archie and behind Denim, who offered directions in short, terse words. Lynn could see it on her face, and on Denzel's too. They were starting to look like her - without the fire, and without the glow, but Lynn could see it. Spoons was already there. A part of her, the part of her that could feel the vibrations of slamming Salamandra's skull into the wall running up her arms at night when she couldn't sleep - a part of her wanted to fight that, to tell them not to.

But the other part of Lynn, the part that had only ever found one book she was ever assigned worth reading, purely on the basis of its first line, felt otherwise; it was a pleasure to burn. "Let's see how these fuckin' Nazis do when I put em in the ovens," Lynn muttered under her breath. In the center of the group, her eyes darted in every direction. She may have lacked Keaton's preternatural thinking, or the sharp senses Archie possessed, or whatever weird antenna shit Leotard was doing, but Lynn had a more mundane set of senses. She had eaten a number of meals in parahuman juvy with a spoon angled to watch behind her as she she wolfed down meals. She had known to look for the bulges of pistols that gave away plainclothes cops, the subtle tells of violence on drug dealers or inmates or any number of purely human predators.

Leotard was doing the same thing beside her, Lynn could tell, and for a brief moment Lynn wondered what his upbringing was. No man who wore a leotard was in a gang, so she ruled out any form of criminal activity wholesale. It was a question worth asking before they'd walked into death row, but Lynn let it pass from her mind. The anger was still there, throbbing, but she kept in check. A little longer, she thought, watching killers and rapists and torturers pass her by. She felt in her empty hands the rough texture of the bunny rabbit doll from the woods, the single button eye, the tag with an inmate's number. If her blood boiled any hotter, it may well have turned to steam.

"I - " Lynn turned, seeing that Archie had grabbed onto Spoons' arm. Lynn's emotions had never been blessed with stability, and for a split second she felt all of them at once. His presence next to hers, warm in a way she couldn't be, in a hospital bed - fury, like when he'd brought her to the mall and had a fucking cop there - small, the dragging of her lab coats and the looseness of her sleeves on her stupid, small, thin body - anger for letting her mind wander a minute when there were children dying around them, for being stupid, for even -

Then they were in an elevator and he had let go. He stood next to her, putting her in the corner, where her back was safe, masking her flickering hair with his frame. They were close, enough to feel every muscle pulled tense and tight in his back with anxiety, the smell of dirt - the real kind, not the tons of transplanted soil that made the artificial gardens of the Promise - and something like the salt of the sea, Lynn thought. Thoughts came to her as they had non-stop since Lynn realized she was going to die, really die - in this place. It wasn't that Lynn hadn't made peace with dying, that killing the people who killed children (just like you, burning boys alive) wasn't as good a way to go as any. She'd known that, she understood it, but little things kept coming to her mind unbidden and shaking that surety. Like the ocean. She - what was it like to ride on a boat, she wondered, snug for a moment behind Archie. For a moment, something warm - soft warm, like Christmas candles, or a cookie out the oven that was still goopy - seemed to melt through her arms and she realized she'd started to lift them, to wrap around him for just a moment in the -

The alarm blared and her arms clenched back. Psychiatric patient loose? Of course. Lynn really wasn't disturbed by this information, and was a bit surprised to see the others were. More chaos only helped them. Sure, they may have been homicidal like - like Salamandra was - she was going to hurt him but they had to kill a lot of Promise fucks before they got to anyone who didn't deserve to die. Lynn was okay rolling those dice.

"Oh shit Spoons, they found out you left your room," she muttered under her breath as the gen ones in lab coats - close enough for Lynn to grab, wrestle to the ground, and spark out - funneled out. As they ran, Lynn fumbled behind for a moment, bundling her trailing coat up in one hand as she hustled to catch up. Stupid legs, Lynn wanted to shout. I fucking hate being short.

They reached a door which needed a keycard - hey, Packet, yet another fuck-up from the guy who probably stuck it in a toaster and called out Cara's name. Before Lynn could advocate for just having Spoons punch through the whole door, Leotard started analyzing it.

"Well," Lynn said, her voice as dry as she could muster. "When it comes to only going two inches deep, I trust this guy entirely." Why does this dude know so much about doors? His three passions are doors, homemade explosions, and gymnastics, and we don't think he's a fucking narc? Again, Lynn found herself less than trusting of Leotard's motives. He seems to have quite the knowledge of the Spire's security systems. Lynn started to speak again but noticed Archie, tense. She frowned. Lynn was sure she could put some heat on the door and, while melting through it entirely would be quite the expenditure of energy and time, she was sure she could soften it up a bit as long as Spoons didn't mind her hands getting medium-rare in the process.

But Archie looked tense.

Lynn hesitated, looking between the door and Archie. Why do I always have to fucking choose

"Uh, Eli," Lynn said quietly as Leotard drew stuff on the door, because now he did arts and crafts and gymnastics. Why does no one else think this guy is fucking us over? "Could you, um, - " she nodded her head toward Archie, feeling the fire in her gut twist into iron snakes. Then she turned her back on him and went over to the door. A bunny rabbit doll or the feeling of someone beside her in a hospital bed. Lynn pushed all that out her head, someone's mocking voice - whether Salamandra's or Che's, she couldn't tell, and pressed up against the door. Lynn took several deep breaths, her skin and hair shimmering rhythmically like a bellows blasting air into a burning forge. The air around her began to warm up considerably. She pressed her hand against the door. While Lynn had never stayed awake in a science class (assuming she attended in the first place) to understand the minute applications of her powers, she grasped the broad strokes at an intuitive level: whatever it was, it boiled or burned or blasted a lot easier around her. Melting too. Trying to eat ice cream was a bitch and a half.

Lynn pressed against the door, heat radiating off her. One of her pockets exploded briefly into flame, which she slapped out with a string of profanities. "Fuckin' lighter," she muttered. She reached and grabbed the explosives that Leotard had given her and tossed them with less than ideal care to him. "Yo go stand over there with that if you want to keep your eyebrows," Lynn said, grunting as she tried to channel her heat into the steel rather than the people behind her. "Okay Nat," she said. "Just think of it as one big, hot spoon. Have at it."
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