Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Mcmolly
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Mcmolly
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Mcmolly D-List Cryptid

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On the clearest morning in months, Hovvi was cast in a shadow. Aerie Station hovered in low orbit, aligning itself with the town as the body of its crew—numbering more than the whole population below—scurried about, preparing to disembark.

In the hangar belly more shadows were cast. A trio of giants, flesh scored and twisted with strange metal, stood aboard the quarter-mile disc of the elevator platform. Soldiers swarmed at their feet, as military vehicles and containers full of all manner of equipment were loaded into place. More than a thousand men, and that would only be the first drop. But those giants, the Saviors, they were an army a piece.

“C’mon, Besca! Are you sure we can’t bring Dragon down? Like, not even just for the night? It can come back up in the morning before the singularities open!”

Besca Darroh wished she’d brought her cigarettes. People looked at you funny if you drank this early, but no one gave a shit if you smoked. She scrolled absently through her tablet, septuple-checking the inventory, and looked up to see Dahlia giving her the eyes. A good effort, those usually worked on her in every matter that wasn’t piloting, but even if she wanted to let the girl into the cockpit—which she didn’t—she couldn’t.

“Sorry, Deelie, orders are from on high. Dragon stays in orbit unless it’s needed.”

Dahlia lolled her head back. “But isn’t this supposed to be, like, a display? I should be down there!”

“You’ll be down there.”


They came to a stop beside Grauritter, the Savior belonging to Hadrian Ghaust. The modium growths about its legs and arms were thick—thicker on one arm than the other—and coupled with the reinforced plating, it almost looked armored.

“You saying Ghaust and the others can’t handle this?” Besca teased. When Dahlia didn’t bite, she threw an arm around the girl’s shoulder and pulled her close. “It’s a mild singularity, and you’re right, it is a display. But the world already knows what you can do, hm? What it needs to know is what RISC can do without you, so that they don’t even want to think about what happens if you do get involved. What’s the best weapon?”

“The one you never use…” Dahlia mumbled.

“Atta girl,” Besca said, letting her go. “Now you’re gonna be down there, and you’re gonna enjoy the party. Do you know how weird it is having to twist a teenager’s arm for that? There are poor, bored children out there who have homework, or are grounded, who would kill to go out and get as drunk as you and Safie are gonna get.”

Dahlia’s face flushed the way it always did when she was about to lie. “W-we don’t—”

“And tell your dad I said hi. If things slow down I might take him up on that fishing offer. The lake down there, oof, just beautiful.”

“Alright, alright.”

“And also there’s that new lady in medical? Hathleen? She’s about his age and she does yoga.”


“I’m just saying, she’s single, and the pickings are slim. We could get him office work right next door, and the dorms are coed.”

Dahlia plugged her ears. “Nope nope nope! I don’t hear this! I don’t hear you trying to hook my dad up with your coworkers! Again! I don’t hear it and I’m walking away!”

Besca grinned, watching her scamper off, satisfied that her mind would be off piloting long enough to touchdown. This wouldn’t be the first singularity they’d run without her, but it would hopefully be the next in a long line of them to come. Ghaust was seasoned, Lucis and Safie were young but they were still adults. Dahlia might have been their trump card, but she was a kid.

Sometimes it seemed like noone else remembered that. Not even Dahlia.

Three hundred and sixty-four days out of the year, Hovvi had a population of five thousand people, with a modest bump in summer months from lakeside tourists.

Today that number was doubled.

When word spread that RISC was turning the singularity into a veritable military parade, flights to Hovvi sold out in hours. By the time the blockades went up to stymie traffic, ten thousand people had made it into town. The streets were filled to bursting with Runa cityfolk, with opportunistic vendor stands hocking seafood and confections and trinkets made as far away as Tohoki. Hundreds upon hundreds of pilot hopefuls flooded the Community Center; queues to the simulation rooms ran for hours, with the highest scores carrying priority interviews with RISC recruiters.

Erected all along the boardwalk were massive walls of screens; some played archived footage of the RISC Saviors repelling invasions all across Runa, others streamed from the empty quarry on Hovvi’s outskirts, where the singularity was supposedly meant to open. RISC had set up a barricade on that side of town, unequipped at first, and lightly-manned—until the space elevator landed.

With the lake to the west and the quarry to the south, RISC anchored in the north, in a wide cattle-field. Hovvi had its Community Center, but beyond that, technology was still largely Pre-Accord. Hardlight, beam-alignments, all foreign machines to people who lived beyond the cities, to say nothing of the things the elevator delivered.

The platform came down in a soft-light cage, carrying Soldiers in powered suits wielding weapons that, in some cases, didn’t even look like weapons. They rode in armored vehicles, on tanks or hovering stages toting artillery the size of houses. Ammunition in trunks as wide as cars with bullets just as long. Chainguns mounted atop spray-steel walls, with feed-belts that could have spanned entire neighborhoods.

Then the Saviors came down. The RISC duo of Grauritter and Jubilee were first, and their pilots, Hadrian Ghaust and Safie Calhan, were received with the applause and adulation expected of national heroes. They boarded their giants, and walked off the field and around the town to the southern barricade as the elevator rose back up to Aerie Station.

Magnifique, the Casobani Savior, came down with the last of the equipment. Lucis Abroix stood perched upon its shoulder, smiling and waving as the crowd below exploded with riotous cheering. Fans, paparazzi and foreign journalists had been among the first arrivals to Hovvi, eager for the album debuts Lucis tended to drop at events like this.

With a showman’s bow, Magnifique joined the other Saviors quarry-side.

By mid-afternoon, Hovvi was surrounded by the might of the RISC. The tourists loved it, of course. The locals were mixed; business boomed, lake-tours and restaurants filled out and stayed filled. Some places saw more money come through in hours than they’d see the rest of the year.

People walked the neighborhoods, eyeing old houses and talking loudly about how yes, they loved the city, but wouldn’t living here be delightfully quaint? Most decided they’d rather just summer. They went to the lake houses instead.

The hours went. Stages rose, the air filled with the sound of music and the clamor of too many people in too small a place enjoying themselves too much to care.

Besca stepped into the back lot of the Community Center and leaned against the door with an exhausted sigh. Late afternoon now, she’d been conducting interviews since morning. There was only so much she could take at once, only so many times she could ask the same questions—and get the same ‘this is what you want to hear, right?’ answers—before the names and faces all blurred together. There’d been promising candidates, she didn’t remember them anymore. Not that it particularly mattered.

This wasn’t her job. It should be—she managed the pilots, she should have a say in who got in and who didn’t. But at the end of the day RISC would choose someone based on a checklist, and a scoring system she’d skimmed once and never looked at again because it didn’t work. The last two pilots were disasters, but they’d lucked out with Safie. Now they thought they could do no wrong again, and chances were they’d be leaving Runa with someone who would be dead in two to three months.

God, who did she have to kill to get a smoke around here?

Lucis smiled into the mirror, checking his teeth and smoothing the last of the moisturizer onto his cheek. “Saff, you are an absolute miracle worker! Honestly, with talent like this you’re wasted as a pilot.”

Safie giggled, fluffing out his hair. “Just wanna make sure you look good—you don’t make that too hard. Oop, close real quick for me.” She came around and Lucis shut his eyes so she could work on the eyeshadow. “But hey I heard the demos. You could walk out there wearing a trash bag and those songs’ll still kill.”

“Ugh, I could kiss you but I’m not gonna waste your gloss.”

“Oh, you seen Ghaus by the way?”

Lucis scoffed. “Out past the checkpoint, of course. I practically begged him to come on to the Chloe and Road interview with me, and do you know what he said?”


“He said nothing! He just stared at me like some kind of chiseled homunculus. I’m trying with him, Safie, I really am. I’m not saying we have to be best friends, but a little camaraderie, you know, it’s good for appearances.”

Safie leaned back, appraising her work. Lucis must have sensed she was done, and opened his eyes. He blinked happily into the mirror, nodding approval. “He’s just not comfortable with that sorta stuff, Lou. But I’m sure he appreciates you trying to include him. I think that’s sweet.”

“You’re an angel, Saff. Sure you won’t come on stage with me?”

“Can’t, can’t. Deelie’s dad really wants to take us out fishing.”

“Mmh, scheduling can be such a pain,” he said, standing. He hugged her lightly, kissed the air on either cheek. “Give me two or three minutes to draw the crowd.”

Safie smiled, nodded. She put on her hoodie and sunglasses, which was usually enough subtlety when Lucis was around. With a wave farewell he left the trailer, and as the door shut there was an almost deafening roar of excitement from the nearby crowd.

When the coast was clear she scurried out unnoticed, and made for the docks on the far side of town where Dahlia was meant to meet her.

Along the waterside cliffs, where the roads were narrow and beaten and missed even by locals, where a lone house, modest, without windows on its second floor, stood quietly at the face of the lake, something had happened. Something more miraculous than the singularities, or the Saviors and their famous pilots, and all the forces of RISC that came with them.

On their way out of town days prior, the residents—a mother and father, by only the most technical of definitions—had made their first mistake in many, many years. A small mistake, a simple mistake, and one that would carry incalculable consequences for them, for Runa, and in fact for every last soul on Illun.

They’d left their daughter’s door ajar.
Hidden 6 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Lemons
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Quinnlash stared at the door.

She hadn't seen it open without Mom or Dad there for...a long time. A really really long time. Years? Ever? She didn't know. The two of them had always been there, hovering around her, making sure she was safe. Where did they say they had gone? A science thing somewhere? She didn't quite know where they were, or for what. But she was a good daughter, like they'd always told her to be. So she shouldn't leave. It wasn't safe out there, she knew that.

But still. She couldn't help but stare at the door.

The little stack of plates in the corner had been scraped clean of food, and in the other corner, another stack—uneaten—was covered, prepared for the next few days until Mom and Dad got back and could make fresh food again. And she knew they'd be back before the food ran out. She trusted them completely. After all, without them, what would happen to her? She'd be totally lost, like they always said. The world was scary and dangerous. She didn't want to go outside anyway.

But the open door still niggled at her

That was the last time, wasn't it? When she'd seen the world out there just that once, and her eye had exploded. It had hurt a lot. But...if they were telling the truth and it was because she looked outside, then why could they go out and be fine? It somehow didn't make sense to her. She obviously knew they couldn't be lying. Why would they ever lie to her? They'd never lie to her. They cared about her so much. But...maybe they were wrong?

The open door beckoned.

She shifted slightly from where she sat on her hands upon the small bed, fidgeting as she stared. She'd been staring at it ever since she'd noticed it earlier that day.

She stood, walking slowly, hesitantly, to the door. As she stood before it, she grew more agitated. She shouldn't even be thinking about this. Mon and Dad would be mad if they saw her, she knew. They would yell at her for a long time. She nudged it slightly with her foot, jolting back as it creaked open just a little bit more. They would super mad. But...they weren't here right now, were they? She'd go out, see what the rest of the house was like, then come right back and close the door. After all, it was just a little peek, right?

She stumbled backwards, heart jumping into her throat and hand pressed to her chest, as the door opened with a deafening shriek that echoed through the empty house. She hugged herself on instinct, tensing up for the inevitable: Quinnlash Loughvein, what do you think you're doing?!

But no shout came. It was silent as the grave. She gradually uncoiled herself, hesitating before the threshold of her room—her world—and the scary outside world. It's...it's fine. It's just a peek, right? It's just a little peek. Just to the...what did they call it? The 'living room?' She thought it was a silly name. She lived in her room. Shouldn't that be the living room? That made more sense, right?


...She didn't know what she'd expected. Did she think it would make a different booming noise or something like that? It was just a normal step, like all the steps she took in her room. So the next step was easier. And the next after that, as she walked down a wooden-paneled hallway. The closer she grew to the opening at the end of the hallway, the quicker and easier the steps came, as she chased a half-remembered vision of a sunset. Until, at long last, she emerged into a different light than she'd ever known. It was brilliant. It was wonderful. This was what they called 'noon,' she thought, the time when the sun was the highest in the sky, and the light was brightest. All trepidation forgotten, she ran to the window, pressing her hands up against it. She'd never seen anything so beautiful than the moment.

In front of her hung the edge of a craggy cliff, falling away until it met water with a blue so intense she wanted to shield her eye. The sky above was a brighter, more shocking blue that ran off to the horizon, speckled with puffball clouds. By the time she realized she'd spoken, she'd already moved on, trying to take in the whole world around her.


Before her brain could catch up to itself, she'd already stepped towards the door, holding a hand out, eye still glued on that distant, magical horizon as the noontime sun flashed and whipped across the waves.


Her hand stopped. She swallowed, suddenly very aware that she was breaking all the rules. All of them. Just a peek. She was just taking a peek. She couldn't actually go outside. It was really dangerous, right? If she went out, she could be hurt really badly, or even killed.


Her hand moved again.

They were gone. They'd be gone for a while, if the amount of food left was something to go on. She could go out and come back and they'd never know, right? She wouldn't get in trouble. Just for a minute. Out, in, just to see what it was like out there, in that majestic and terrifying world out there.

She stared out at the world.

The world glistened back.

Yeah. They wouldn't know.


A rush of wind blew over her and she gasped, taken aback, and stepped forward without thinking about it.

The walls fell away, and the outside world enwrapped her. She twirled slowly, trying to take in everything. The cliffside. The lake. The pastel forests. The ramshackle road. And at the end of it...

She'd never seen anybody besides her parents before. And down there? It was a hum of activity. So many people, she couldn't even hope to count. A huge structure that went up-up-up into the sky loomed, and...


Those are Saviors.


Step, step.

Quinnlash ran.

Her breaths came fast and heavy, braid thumping against her back and whipping about behind her as she bolted down to the city. Town? Village? She wasn't sure. But she wanted to see it all. She couldn't run for long, and it turned into a shaky laugh as she stumbled to a stop. There were so many people. So many houses. Soldiers, Saviors, pilots. She didn't know that much about them, but she knew that they saved the world, and they were amazing! There was nothing she wanted to do more right now than walk down through that crowd, see everything, hear everyone.

The world was so big, and she wanted to see all of it.

So she heaved in a last unsteady breath. It wouldn't be more than a few minutes until she got there, right?

And she started walking.
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Mcmolly
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The wind seemed keen to hurry Quinn along. It whistled playfully by her, pushing at her back when she slowed, or carrying up myriad scents to entice her. Normally Hovvi smelled like the lake, like boat and brine and fish. But in the afternoon sun, with the impromptu market bustling and the legions of foodcarts and vendors hard at work, the air had new things to bring her—things that were new even to the Hovvi folk themselves. Saffron, grilled onion, caramelized bananas and apples, garlic, honeyed ham, the tongue-sweet smells of chocolate, of dusted sugar and fresh maple.

The wind made promises to her ears as well. Beneath the heavy current of thousands of voices were the waves of music, the cheering, the thumping that seemed to touch her all the way to the bone.

The sights of the world had enwrapped her, now the rest of it rushed to bring her in.

Her road was unbarricaded, and delivered her to the bright alleys behind a row of restaurants and trinketeers. Beyond them the street was teeming with bodies, all moving past or across one another seamlessly. Everyone seemed to be going somewhere, but no one seemed to actually get to where they were going.

Navigating was difficult without the experience one gets from being literally anywhere but their own room for sixteen years straight. The excitement made people pushy, made them impatient, intolerant for clumsiness. Along the sides, carts blocked in the road like barricades themselves. Vendors barked louder than the shouting and the music, waving their food and wares out at anyone who looked like they could afford it. As such, most didn’t give Quinn much more than a glance.

The lake was close, the boardwalk wall of screens would only get brighter as the day waned. Plenty still screened the empty quarry, but now, with speakers rolled out beside them, many displayed what must have been the stage further into town, packed so densely with people that even the ants couldn’t get closer.

A young man stood on the stage, accompanied by a backing band, but the lights were on him. He sang and played guitar, and did both exceptionally, though it seems clear that even if he didn’t, the crowd would be just as excited.

Further down were the docks for lake-tours, with big ferries chugging in, vomiting out people before more piled on. Past that was the local marina, which was decidedly less crowded, and anchored there were a few dozen smaller boats. A few were scattered out across the lake, likely townsfolk who would rather fish than deal with the mass of tourists.

On the opposite side of the street, signs were erected pointing further into town.




Earlier there would have been a line to the Community Center reaching this far back, but by now many of the applicants had either been seen, or decided they didn’t want to miss the party waiting for a job they probably weren’t going to get anyway.

So, with a world of choices now open to her, Quinn was suddenly faced with another.

What to do?
Hidden 6 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Lemons
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It was all so overwhelming.

Not in a bad way. Not really. On the contrary, Quinn loved all the (very loud!) sounds, all the sights, all the delicious-smelling food (she had no money, did she...?) that she had no way of identifying, the crush of people, no matter how perhaps rude they were...it was all wonderful, and she found herself popping out of the thick of it with a smile on her face that she'd never worn anything like before. But still, overwhelmed she was. And the stage, with all the lights and music...was just a little too much for her

And that was when she saw the sign: RISC PILOT INTERVIEWS, and the smile on her face grew even wider. She didn't know what interviews entailed for RISC. And she didn't know what "compatible applicants only" meant. But That didn't mean she couldn't find out, right?

There was a little line waiting in front, so she took her place, looked up at the puffy clouds in the blue sky, and advanced whenever she heard the line go forward. People were muttering all around her. She barely even listened to what they had to say—sims? Qualifications? There was that word 'compatibility' again—and what she heard, she didn't understand. So she tuned them out, looking at the town where...she guessed she lived? Hovvi, right? It was really pretty, so colorful, so far unlike the four white walls she'd look at for...forever. The road under her feet was rough, and she laughed to herself as she scuffed her feet against it.

It was one of those foot-scuffs that tipped her off balance, sending her forward with a yelp and subsequently bonking her head into a doorframe. "Ouch!"

She took a moment to recover her footing, rubbing her forehead and laughing, before she properly aimed herself the door and into another building. Following the line still, she walked through an other door, this one labeled Administration. What was a community center anyway? It didn't seem like it was at the center of the community, and it wasn't something she'd ever looked up before. Maybe like a city hall? But it didn't seem big enough. What were they administrating?

"Here, young lady."

She jumped, knocked out of her thoughts by an older man with silvery whiskers. She'd somehow come up to a desk-booth-thing without noticing. He'd slid a clipboard and pen underneath the clear glassy wall, giving her a nice smile. "Fill this out, the interview comes later."

"Oh. Okay! Thank you!"

Holding the clipboard in both hands, she trotted over to a seat and sat, looking over the paper with the pen in her hand.

Name? Quinnlash Loughvein!
Age? She was sixteen, right?
Sex? Female!
Date of birth? She paused, looking up at the ceiling. She'd never had a birthday party or anything. She thought it was maybe in the summer? But she wasn't sure. So she jotted down The summer, I think and moved on.
Address? Uh...hmm...she...she really didn't know. She lived in the house on the cliffs, but that didn't seem like a proper address. She chewed on the back of the pen for a moment (it was oddly satisfying to gnaw on) before shrugging and writing, I dunno.
Contact Information? Oh. She didn't have a phone or anything. She didn't have an email. She'd never needed one, she'd only talked to Mom and Dad, and they'd only been a room away! Another chew, and she answered, I don't have one. That would be fine, right? Not everyone had one. But maybe she should get one someday. That sounded cool!
Oh, there was that word again! Compatibility Status? Honesty was best, right? So she wrote in her messy, slanty handwriting, I don't know what that is.
Medications? Nope! She'd never taken anything like that!
Emergency Contacts? Oh, that was easy! Mom and...

She paused.

No. She couldn't write Mom and Dad's names. If they knew she'd snuck out, they'd get really mad, and RISC getting in contact with them would definitely let them know! But they were the only people she knew. So she just wrote, I don't have any.
Handicaps? N—oh, never mind, she almost forgot! Missing my right eye.

And there was the line for a signature! She swished through it with a flourish, then marched back up to the man behind the counter. It had only taken her a few minutes, and she was excited for what came next. "I'm done! Do I sit down again?"

He looked at her strangely "Yeah, kiddo. Take a seat, they'll call your name when your interview's up."

She waved at him, then plunked herself back down, content to wait and smile still glued to her face and ignoring the glances that came her way. She didn't mind. They'd all gone through what she was, right? They should get it!

More time passed. She didn't quite know how long, but she spent most of it thinking about what she'd seen and very pointedly trying not to think about going back home. She knew she'd need to, but she'd like to stay outside as long as she could before she had to go back into her room. She hoped she could remember the sights and smells, whenever it happened. It had been so nice to breathe the fresh air. She'd never realized how stale it was at home!

"Ms. Quinnlash Loughvein?"

She jerked her head up, then hopped to her feet. "That's me!"

This would be fun!
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Mcmolly
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Besca dumped her clipboard on the counter, tossed her RISC coat off, and punched out on the tablet. Done. Finished. An entire day in this building talking to every flavor of yokel aspirant and city-slumming, wannabe celebrities. She’d written down the five or six that seemed genuine, and was confident the suits above her would ignore them. Fine. Whatever. She’d be mad about it later; right now all she wanted to do was get her hands on some street food and relax, maybe catch the tail-end of Lucis’s show, or swing by the marina and see if Colm had taken the girls out fishing yet.

She could do with a beer and a quiet drift on the lake.

“Doctor Darroh.” One of the employees approached her holding an application. Volunteer tag, not RISC.

“Uh—yep, yeah, no. Doctor Darroh just left, actually. Yeah. Damn, just missed her. If you scan in whatever you got there, though, I’m sure she’ll check it out first thing tomorrow.”

He gave her an odd look, but when she started walking away, he followed. Damn.

“There’s uh…we were told to come get you if there were any, uh, weird things.”

“Weird things.”

“Just…” he held the sheet out. “Just look at this.”

Besca shut her eyes, tried not to imagine the ‘sold out’ signs on all the food carts, and took the sheet. A quick scan didn’t find any problems; no empty fields, decently-sized answers where there ought to be…and where there ought not to be. And, actually on second sight, there were empty fields, they just had answers in them anyway.

Date of birth—summer, I think.

Compatibility status—I don’t know what that is. Yet she’d come to a pilot testing interview.

Ah, there it was. She’d skimmed it the first time. Age—sixteen.

“So, uh…what’s the plan? Do I just kick her out?”

“Yeah—no. No, uh…no, I’ll take care of it. Thanks. Room four? Right, good.” Besca left him there and made her way back down the hall. She knocked, waited, then went in.

“Quinnlash Loughvein,” she said, feigning like she was still reading the sheet. The girl sat at the desk inside wasn’t much to look at; she was on the short side, and a tad scrawny. Her hair was long though, and her eyes were exceptionally yellow—oh, wait, no, not eyes.

Besca tapped her own eyepatch. “Hah. Twinsies,” she said, and took the seat opposite her. “You know, I gotta say, I’ve been reading a lot of these applications today, and this is definitely the most interesting one we’ve gotten. Really good stuff here, funny, seriously. So what brings you down?”
Hidden 6 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Lemons
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As she was led back into an interview room, Quinn was left on her lonesome, sitting down in the chair, bouncing a little in excitement. A few minutes later, a woman with an eyepatch—just like hers!—walked in, started talking, and sat down across from her. Her smile brightened.

"You can just call me Quinn, if you want!"

This woman intimidated her for some reason.

The eyepatch—it was nice to see someone else with one, really. And the 'twinsies' did seem like she was trying to put her at ease.

But something about her made Quinn feel like she was being judged. Well, of course she was being judged. It was an interview, after all. Being judged was the whole point. But...judged judged. So for the first time since she left her room, she let herself slow down a bit, and collect her thoughts a bit more. And she tilted her head a bit at "funny," let that bright smile dim slightly. Did she do something wrong? She didn't want to be yelled at.

"Well, it's my first time outside, so I was wondering what was happening in town. I've never been, and it looked like a lot of fun. Then I saw a sign for pilot interviews! I don't know that much about pilots or Saviors or anything, but I..."

She trailed off. She didn't really know what the question was, but that felt like the wrong answer. What should she say to this woman?

Ah, that's what the judge—y was reminding her of. It was kind of like the way Mom looked at her, every once in a long while. She definitely reminded her of Mom, at least just a little. But she loved her Mom. She frowned. So why did that look make her feel so ill at ease?

"...I—I don't—I'm not used to all these people, and the dock was really busy and loud and kind of overwhelming, so I thought this would a little quieter?" That wasn't the right answer either. She looked stupid. This woman was going to get mad at her, she knew it sure as she'd ever known anything. Her words started to stick in her throat. "And I—well, I still don't know much about pilots, but I guess I've—" No. No. That answer was bad too. She was starting to feel a little bit dizzy and lightheaded. Her stomach felt...strange. Off, somehow. Like it never had before. She couldn't explain it. It didn't hurt or anything. It just felt different, a twinging feeling from right down in the pit.

A deep and elemental fear began to build in her. Maybe this woman was hurting her. She acted nice, but why else would she feel like this? Maybe Mom and Dad were right and the people outside were going to hurt her. Maybe they were right, and it was going outside at all that was hurting her. It was making her sick. She never should have disobeyed them. She could feel her breaths turning shallow in her chest, and her heart was pounding in her ears. Her hands clenched into tight white fists on the table in front of her, and she stared at them. She thought she was about to pass out.

She thought maybe she was about to die.

"Sorry," she muttered, voice shaking like a leaf. "I don't—feel quite right."
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Besca had expected…well, she didn’t know what she’d expected, exactly. Some strange interview strategy, or a sort of protest like they got recruiting city-side now and then, or maybe just a prank.

What she didn’t expect was for the girl to start collapsing in on herself right away. She did her best in these things to come across easy, to make it feel like a coffee house meet rather than a proper interview, but now and then people cracked anyway. Normally it happened after the icebreaker.

She was breathing funny, and her hands were wound up for a fight. Besca could almost see the gears in her head churning, choking her with smoke. The things she said were strange, almost nonsensical. One thing became perfectly clear to her—this girl had not left home today wanting to be a pilot.

Which was good, because sixteen was too young. Not by management’s standards, maybe, or by the standards of any other country, but Besca would burn this girl’s application in a trash fire before she put it into the system. She’d done as much in the past, and even just today she’d managed to ‘lose’ a few sheets from interviewees who’s ages began with “1.”

So then, if neither of them had any intention of seeing her pass this thing, what was the point of putting her through it?

I don't—feel quite right.

That’s because you’re having a panic attack, hun. Hey,” she leaned over the table, smiled. The girl was almost as young as Dahlia had been when RISC picked her up—she’d had troubles like this, too. “Breath.” Besca took a few deep breaths to demonstrate. “You didn’t do anything wrong, alright? I didn’t come in here to get mad at you, I just really liked your application. I wanted to say hi, that’s all. Quinn. That’s a pretty name. My parents called me Besca, sounds like a soda brand. Where’re your folks?
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The woman's voice echoed down to Quinn like it was moving through deep water, almost hard to hear over her heart thundering against her eardrums. Having a panic attack. Breathe. She watched the woman's deep, exaggerated breathing as though from very far away, and started to follow suit, trying as best she could to stop the fevered pace of her breaths and bring them in line with the woman—Besca.

She started to feel better—not a lot better, but a little better—and the faraway look in her eye slid away some as she focused on Besca's own. She was nice. She was really nice. She'd never heard anyone talk to her so gently, and for some reason she couldn't understand, it made her heart hurt.

"Where are your folks?"

For just a moment, she was caught between concern and dread, and her breathing hitched. Something really was wrong with her. Mom and Dad loved her. Why was she so scared thinking of them all of a sudden? It didn't make any sense. They loved her. She knew they loved her. They told her they loved her, and they kept her nice and safe. She loved them too. But for some reason, the thought of them coming home made her feel like she was going to choke. She screwed her eye shut as she tried to answer. Her voice wasn't shaking as much as it had moments before, but it was still a long way from steady.

I—they're scientists. They went to...” Where were they going? “They went to do a...science...thing. I don't remember where. Or they didn't tell me.” They didn't tell her. “I—” She was all alone. “I—” She was a bad daughter. “I shouldn't—” Her breaths started to catch—

She remembered what Besca had said, and forced her breathing to slow down.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

It really did help, didn't it? But still, the words tumbled out faster than she could stop them.

I shouldn't have snuck out, and I know that, and they're going to be really mad at me if they find out, but they left the door open and...I guess I just wanted to see what was outside.

Her eye opened, and she looked down at her hands again. They were still trembling, but they were relaxed now. She felt a little better, not so much like the walls were closing in on her. In. Out. She tried smiling. Her lips twitched, but it didn't quite work. She felt the rising tide of panic gripping at her legs again, but she ignored it as much as she could.

...Your name is pretty too.
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Well, that raised more questions than it answered, but fine, answers were secondary. For the moment it looked like Quinn wasn’t going to combust from panic, which was at least something. As for her parents’ absence, and that odd bit about sneaking out—it was beginning to sound a bit like she was dodging a grounding.

Fair enough, Besca thought. If she lived in a place like Hovvi, and got grounded from the biggest social gathering the town had ever seen, she’d probably have snuck out too.

Well,” she said with a shrug. “You didn’t put down any contact information, so, looks like even if I wanted to rat you out, I couldn’t.

She folded up the sheet and put it in her pocket, then got up from the desk and stretched. “God. You know, I’ve been stuck in these rooms all day—they’re kinda stuffy, right? Been wanting to get out into town but, honestly? You’re right. The dock’s crowded, the streets are even more crowded. So I was thinking about heading down to the marina, actually. I’ve got some friends down there fixing to head out onto the lake, go fishing, relax on the water. I don’t think anywhere within a hundred miles of here is necessarily ‘quiet’, but it’s probably as peaceful as it gets."

Making her way around, she opened the door up and nodded to her. “Not a big boat, if I recall, but plenty of room if you wanted to come along.
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All at once, Quinn's mind ground against itself, spat out a few sparks, and stuttered to a stop. She blinked once, twice. There was no way this was really happening. There was no way. It was impossible. Besca was—she was—it didn't make sense. Nothing about it was right. This couldn't—it wasn't—she blinked again. A fourth time, still sitting in the chair and staring like she'd seen a nightmare. Besca was—holding a door open. She was HOLDING A DOOR OPEN. FOR HER.

I..don't understand.

She shook her head, like she was trying to clear fog out of it. Doors weren't supposed to be held open like that. They were supposed to be shut all the time unless Mom and Dad wanted to give her food or talk to her. She was using the door wrong. But before she could open her mouth, the vivid image of the door to her room standing open flashed behind her eye.

I...” Was...was this what it was like to be...invited somewhere? She reached up a hand to ball her eye, not really believing what was happening. But when her hand fell again, Besca was still there.

She blinked one more time before her lips turned up in an unsteady smile. “I think I'd like to go. If your friends are all as nice as you, I think I'll like them a lot.” Then, from a part of her deep down that she didn't recognize, she added, with just a pinch of vehement energy: “I don't think I like being stuck in one room very much either.

Her stomach felt odd again. It felt like something inside her was...coming unknotted, maybe?. She huffed in a tense breath through her nose, then blew it slowly out. In, out, just like Besca said. It'd pass soon enough, right? She hoped it would pass. The panic still nibbled at her feet, but the breathing was helping. It was helping a lot.

She loosened the muscles in her legs that she hadn't known had been straining, and with a bit less energy than before, she hopped to her feet. She hoped Besca's friends were nice.

Then she smiled again, and walked out through the door.
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Besca led them out the back, and onto the crowded streets. She hadn’t been to Hovvi since the year after Dahlia got picked up, and then it was only a brief, subtle affair for the girl to see her father.

She’d been born in a place like this; her home had been on the Gideon Sea, though she only spent a few years there before moving in with her father. From then on, it’d been Westwel military bases, and eventually the Aerie. When she let herself be optimistic, she liked to imagine retiring somewhere like this, spending her days fishing and drinking that hoity-toity sparkling water ‘cause by then she’d have given up booze, again, and for real.

When she took her head out of the clouds though, she knew hardly anyone that got involved with Saviors retired.

The day was turning to evening.

Besca felt a rumble that she couldn’t hear over the crowd. She took a detour, ushering Quinn along with her, and came up to a food cart selling something that smelled as good as it looked unhealthy. Fried sweets of just about every kind. She ordered the cook’s choice and charged it on the company card, which she would continue to do until they extended lunch breaks.

She handed a paper basket with fried cookies dusted in sugar to Quinn, along with a cup of water. Licking her lips, she plucked one up and popped it into her mouth.

God, they don’t serve stuff like this up there. I mean, they shouldn’t, we’d all keel over from heart disease, but damned if they couldn’t splurge on some decent desserts now and then. Go on give’em a shot.

Stepping onto the boardwalk, Besca led them behind the rows of people standing before the screens. Lucis’s show was over, or on intermission, or something. They were showing battles now, ones that mainly showed off the prowess of Grauritter, Jubilee, and Magnifique, like she’d suggested. Some intern had tried to slip in footage from the Dotsockett singularity, where they’d lost Safie’s predecessor, because it was the first time he’d seen Dragon in action and it was special to him. She’d nearly thrown him in the airlock.

The further they went, the thinner the crowd got. The marina wasn’t far, but she couldn’t spot anyone yet.

You like the water? To be honest, I’m total crap at fishing—too antsy. But I like being out there, just sitting. The rocking, the little waves hitting the side of the boat, the open air. It’s nice.
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Happy to follow Besca (who seemed like she knew where she was actually going), Quinn tailed her down through the streets, panic falling behind as she craned her head around. There was just so much to take in. The sun was going down over the lake, and the whole sky was starting to flame with brilliant reds and oranges. Quinn stared openmouthed. It was just so beautiful.

She'd seen pictures and videos of sunsets before, obviously. But that was evidently no substitute for the real thing. The puffball clouds overhead had changed from white to a pretty dark gray—she pulled her braid out from behind her for just a second, comparing the color intently—limned with fire. She almost forgot where she was going before she almost bumped into Besca, as she turned onto a side street.

It was evident where Besca had been heading, as she stopped by one of those food stalls that lined the road, paying with a fancy credit card like she'd seen online. As she spoke—Quinn didn't really get what she was saying—she handed Quinn a little paper basket filled with round brown food. They looked kind of like pancakes, but...thick. Whatever it was, she seemed to be enjoying them. So, mimicking her, Quinn picked one up, turned it around to look at it, then crunched down.

It was like nothing she'd ever tasted. So sweet! So tasty! She couldn't imagine anything in the world being so delicious. Before she could really process what was happening, she'd chomped down a few more, disregarding the drink for a time. She didn't want to wash down the flavor quite yet!

When she started really paying attention again, they'd passed the stage where the music had been playing earlier, and the crowd was smaller. She took a deep breath. The people were nice, but it was also good to have room to think. As Besca asked her about water—ah, if she liked being out on boats! She wished she could say she had—she turned her attention to the drink. As much as she loved those cookies, they were kind of gumming up her mouth and it felt weird.

She looked down curiously, then scrunched her brows together. “Um, Besca?” She swirled the water around, quirking her mouth to the side. “Is there something wrong with this water?

She flicked the side of the cup, then looked down at it again. “It's so clear.
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It looked like Quinn approved of the sweets about as much as Besca did her first time. She let the girl chomp through the rest of them—probably for the best she didn’t get too used to them again herself anyway, considering she’d be back on the Aerie tomorrow.

Is there something wrong with this water? It’s so clear.

Uhm.” Besca looked down at her own cup. Yep, clear. Like water. Probably bottled like every food cart supply here. She cocked a brow down at Quinn. “No it’s fine that’s…uh…that’s how it’s supposed to look. They’ll have other stuff at the boat though if you’d rather that. Soda, fizz—Saff likes juice so there’s probably juice, too.

A weird thing to ask, but, Quinn was certainly a weird girl. Chances are with an eyepatch at sixteen, she had to be. Besca had wanted to ask her about it, but if their brief conversation at the Community Center was anything to go by, it was probably best if she was conservative with her questions. Quinn didn’t need to be interrogated, she needed some air.

And evidently some clean water.

Eventually they came to the marina. Most of the people here were locals, scattered about the docks on folding chairs, or in their own boats, keeping a vigilant watch out in case any tourists decided to come by. Eyes narrowed at the pair as they passed, which was fair for Besca, but she wondered why they gave Quinn the same hesitation.

“Couple’a pirates,” someone muttered on the way. Besca made a hook with her finger and “Arr”’d at him. Chuckles were exchanged, a modicum of goodwill afforded.

At a sailboat on the far end, a trio waited. Two were young women, one not much older looking than Quinn herself. With them was a rather large man, tall and broad in the shoulders. Most of the hair on his head had migrated to his eyebrows, or his salted beard, and left his scalp with a thin layer of fuzz.

The girls brightened when they saw Besca. The older gentleman set about untying the mooring lines.

Besca!” shouted the younger girl, as both ran over. She threw her arms around Besca, who squeezed an arm around her in turn. The other girl gave a quick hug as well, but her eyes went curiously to Quinn.

’Lo girls, Besca said, then gave a wave over at the man, who waved back. “’Lo Daz. You all have a good time so far?

Mhm! It’s been a blast. Dad took me to see everyone from the old neighborhood. They made barbeque, like, the good kind.

Missed the cookout? Ah, damn. Well, here for the good part at least. Oh, girls, met my long-lost smaller self back in town. Her name’s Quinn—if you have trouble telling us apart, she’s the one with the cooler eyepatch. Quinn, this is Dahlia, and that’s Safie. The fella over there who looks like someone’s ancestor is Mendas, Dahlia’s dad.

Dahlia gave a sincere, if somewhat shy smile and a bow of the head. “S’nice to meet you!

The other girl, Safie, hunched down to Quinn’s level and let out a low oooooh, before a much less reserved smile broke out across her face. “Oh my gosh I love your hair!” she squeaked. “Your braid is so beautiful, did you do that yourself?

Easy now, lil’ space, lil’ space, Besca said. “Quinn’s a bit over all the hubbub back in town, looking for something a little more mellow. Thought she might join us on the lake, if you all don’t mind.

Dahlia and Safie shared a brief look, shaking their heads.


Absolutely sure!” Safie beamed. “There’s supposed to be fireworks later, and they’re gonna be ohmygosh pretty out on the water!

Besca shrugged. “Great, when I don’t catch anything I can just say the fireworks scared the fish off. Still want to come, Quinn?
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Quinn cocked her head as she started walking again, her eye straying for just a second back to the cup in her hand.

That was how water was supposed to look?

That couldn't be right. Right? Every drop she'd ever drunk had always had a dark tint. Nothing major, but it had always been there. She'd seen water that looked kind of clear online before, but she always thought that it was just far away or indistinct so she couldn't see it clearly. And as much as she resolved to not look at it, she couldn't help it as they walked along. This was weird. Maybe it was just normal to Besca? She wondered if it would be strange to ask her friends.

The people they passed were staring at her. That gave her pause too. Was she so weird looking? Maybe it was the eyepatch, or the hair? Or maybe they could tell that she wasn't supposed to be out here. Or maybe not. Maybe she was just that weird looking. So she looked out at them and gave as bright a smile as she could muster.

Before she could really refocus her attention, she heard a voice call out from up ahead: "Besca!"

She snapped her focus back forward and saw a pair of girls running at them. Or, one girl and one woman? One of them looked like a grown-up for sure. Something about the shorter one looked very familiar, but she couldn't quite place—

She looked up at Besca as she accelerated. She was friends with Dahlia—um...Saint something?

"Cool," she breathed.

Besca and Dahlia talked for a bit, before she was motioned forward, laughing at Besca's introduction and waving with the hand that wasn't still holding the water. "Hi! I'm Quinn! Nice to meet you too, Dahlia! And you too, Safie!"

They were just as nice as Besca.

She really liked the taller one with the purple eyes, too. Safie, right? She stroked her braid proudly and made to respond before Besca stepped in. She was put out a little, but that faded quickly as Besca turned back to her, asking if she still wanted to go on the boat. Um, hello? Was that even a question?

She smiled hugely. "Are you kidding? This is the best thing ever! And," she turned to Safie as she started moving, "I love your hair too! It looks so good with your eyes!"

With that said, she trotted down to the side of the boat as it bobbed on the water, rolling her head with a satisfied sigh. So she just stepped down? It looked hard, and she really didn't want to spill the clear water. So she placed it gently down by the end of the dock, hopped off, and...


...Ungracefully faceplanted into the bench on the other side as the boat rocked under her. It was as hard as it looked.

Her head popped up. Then she righted herself on the bench she'd collided with, almost tipped over again, and laughed the whole way through. The way the boat moved under her was really fun. It was like—well, she didn't really have an experience to liken it to. But it was really fun!

Being outside was great.
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Besca barely held back her laughter. Safie didn’t, breaking into a fit of giggles and snorts while Dahlia worriedly scurried onboard.

Quinn! Are you okay?” but by the younger girl’s own laughter, it was clear enough that she was.

She’s just gotta get her sea legs!” Safie chimed. “Won’t take so long. I grew up seaside, used to looooove surfing, and it never takes people too long to figure it out.

As if to prove her point—or, Besca figured more likely, to be just a little showy—Safie hopped from the dock onto the narrow rim of the boat’s hull. With impeccable balance, she walked the railing like a tightrope until she had made her way around to Quinn’s side, then hopped gracefully down beside her.

See? That’ll be you. You’re spindly, like in the good way, you’ll be like a fox.

Dahlia eased, and threw open a cooler at the back of the boat. Inside were a wide array of cans and bottles, soda and water and a few plastic pouches of fruit juice. “Quinn, you want something to drink?

Daz finished with all but one of the moorings. He gave Besca a look, and she stayed put as he approached her, far enough from the boat to keep them out of earshot.

So who is she? he asked. He had a voice to match the rest of him, low, steady, gentle.

Local apparently—Quinnlash Loughvein. Don’t recognize her?

Daz rumbled in thought. “Know the Loughveins. Science types, live up on the cliffs. Don’t come down much, but nothing strange otherwise.” He glanced back at the boat, brief but intently. “Didn’t know they had a daughter.

Something’s up with her,” she said, and shook her head when Daz looked concerned. “Not bad, just…off. She’s strung up, kinda. Needs a few hours of anything but what’s going on back there. That alright with you?

Not one of your applicants, is she?

Besca gave him a hard look. He conceded.

Alright,” he said, turning back for the boat. “Good to see you again, Bess, by the way.

You t—” A buzzing from her pocket. She pulled up her phone and felt her heart sink into her stomach. She answered. “Darroh.

Dahlia caught sight of her, watched Besca’s brow sink, tried to parse out what she was saying. Only fragments.





Then she hung up. Dahlia gave Safie a tap on the shoulder, nodded as Besca came over.

What’s up?

Nothing, nothing. No. Just, uhh, Aerie’s got some readings they’re not sure about. Can’t check from down here, so I gotta run back up to the station, make sure it’s all sorted.

The pilots shared a knowing look.

Should we come with you?

No, really, it’s nothing. Just the universe smiting me down for daring to relax a few minutes. It’s fine. You guys go on out, I’ll try and be back down before the fireworks. Quinn, as the smaller, cooler me, it’s your job to have a good enough time for both of us, got it?

Safie put an arm around Quinn’s shoulder, her demeanor not at all withered. “We’ll make sure!

Alright, good. Good. I’ll see you all later then.

And with that Besca left them, marching off towards the outskirts where the elevator was anchored. Daz undid the final mooring line, took the wheel, and with a drowned humming noise the boat shuddered to life. Water splashed up from the turbine, the rocking steadied. They made their way out into the water.

In the twilight sky, the moon began to shine.
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As the shore receded and Besca with it, Quinn hummed with worry before throwing it from her mind. Besca was smart and strong. Whatever was happening, she'd be fine. She could handle anything that came at her, Quinn already knew with absolute conviction.

So instead of worrying more, she leaned a little further into Safie, looking at out the lake as the silver glint of the moon started to flicker over the surface. She tipped back, secure in the arm around her shoulder, and let her own skate over the water.

"It's so pretty out here," she murmured, voice taking on a dreamy quality. "I can't even believe it." She let her gaze wander up to the cliffs, then pointed to a fading white shadow. "Oh, you can see my house from here!" She stared at it a moment more, then let her hand drop as a cold shiver passed through her body. She wasn't sure why.

Oh, she'd left the cup of clear water back on the dock. Aww. But...there was water in the cooler too, right?

Shaking herself free of both the sight of the lake splayed out before her and Safie's arm, she stood up. She was wobbly for sure, but she managed to balance enough to slide down to the cooler and pull out a bottle of water, examining it.

It was clear as a diamond.

She stumbled again as she picked her way back to Safie's side, threading the top off as she sat. The water brimmed, almost overflowing, just in front of her. She was still thirsty from those cookie things, as tasty as they were. She glanced at Dahlia. She didn't see anything off, it looked like. She looked down at the bottle again, then shrugged a little bit. Just a little sip wouldn't hurt, right? She slowly brought it to her mouth and took a taste


She nearly dropped the bottle, then covered her mouth and focused hard on it. It was...

It was sweet.

There was a bitterness she was used to in water that wasn't present here. It might have tasted like nothing, but to her, it tasted like...she searched for something to compare it to. It tasted like...that first step she took out of her house. That was it. Absolutely beautiful. Her eye darted between the two girls and the smile already on her face bloomed with untarnished happiness. She leaned back against Safie, taking another drink as she did. It was just as wonderful as the first. Okay. Clear water was nice.

"Does water always taste like this?"
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Dahlia gave Quinn a quizzical look, and Safie burst into another fit of giggles.

You’re funny, Quinn, no wonder Besca likes you.

Have as much as you like! We brought plenty,” Dahlia said. She glanced over her shoulder to Daz, and something substantial but unspoken passed between them. She took a seat opposite Quinn and Safie, punching her straw through the pouch of juice.

Yeah, but if you take some juice, don’t touch the melonberry—Deelie’s like a fiend for that stuff.

Dahlia’s face flushed up to her ears, and she hunched into her pouch. “It’s local! Theydontsellitanywhereelse…

Hovvi’s lake expanded around them, wide enough that it nearly touched the horizon. The water, while not as clear as the bottle in Quinn’s hands, was still sapphiric all the way to the bottom. Gloam painted the surface, cut the waves with sharp light. Far away, the larger ferries carved great wakes that leveled out long before they reached their boat, or the handful of smaller boats scattered around them.

Daz pulled them to a stop near the center. Hovvi’s shore was a thin, distant crust of lights and the faint humming of music. The cliffs were a rim to one side, and on the other, the elevator superstructure rose into the growing dark. The softlight cage around the platform traveled up until it was a pinpoint cherry dot, and then it blinked out of view.

From a panel in the flooring, he retrieved a set of fishing poles and set them upright in metal hoops bolted to the railing. As he fixed their lines with hooks and bait, Safie sprung up to her feet and pranced to the back end of the boat.

Ah, gosh!” She said, peeling off her shoes and dipping her feet into the water. “Deelieeeeeee! I’m so jealous—Queenshand is great but the water there is so murky. If I’d have grown up here I’d never have become a pilot. Quinn! Deelie and I can’t give this lake the attention it deserves, so you gotta!

Dahlia perched up on the railing while Daz cast his line out quietly onto the water, where it sank with a little plunk.

Have you lived here awhile?” she asked. “I used to think I knew most of the kids my age, but my memory is, ah, iffy nowadays. I’m really sorry if we met and I’m not remembering, I promise I’m not meaning to be rude.
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"No, no, you aren't being rude at all!"

She turned her eye from the seemingly-endless expanse of water that soaked in the dimming light all around her, and nestled down on the bench again, fully engaging with Dahlia.

"I've lived here my whole life, mhmm! I just never left my room, so you wouldn't have seen me." She trained her eye heavenward, marveling as stars started to speckle the darkening sky. "You're pilot Dahlia, right? I used to watch you online now and then. I didn't know that you lived here, It really is nice to meet you!" She looked over to the end of the boat where Safie was dawdling her feet in the water. Oh. that did look nice.

She popped her own shoes and socks off, then slowly slid down next to her, letting her feet join the older girl's. She breathed a soft sigh. It really was comfy. She pulled her braid over her shoulder and then fell flat on her back, still enjoying the sky. Pictures really couldn't do it justice. And she didn't want to slip into the water.

"You said you were a pilot too, right Safie? Is Besca one also?"

Another moment passed as the heavens wheeled above her. She reached a hand up from where it lay beside her, absently stroking her hair. "She's the nicest. I'm really glad I finally went outside today." She remembered her doubt looking at the slightly ajar door to her room. What had she been so afraid of? This was so much fun, it felt ridiculous looking back. Her stomach was even starting to feel better.

Oh, that reminded her, there was another thing that she wanted to do during her limited time outside. She tilted her head back, bending herself into an arch, until she could see Dahlia. "Dahlia—can I call you Deelie?—could I try the melonberry juice? I've never had it and it sounds delicious!"

I'm sorry, Quinny, but you can't have it. Please stop asking.

"Not that I want to take it if it's yours!" she added in rapid time, the faintest echo of panic creeping back into her voice as the sunny smile blinked out and she fell to her back again. "I don't want to take your things!"

Have some water instead. How's that sound, sweetie?
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Ah, a homebody,” Safie said. “Deelie’s like that, too. She’d wear her PJ’s in the cockpit if they’d let her.

It’s nice to meet you too,” Dahlia said, pointedly ignoring Safie’s comment. She smiled, relieved that Quinn recognizing her hadn’t devolved into an impromptu fan meeting. The thought made her feel ungrateful but…it was what it was. She preferred the quiet to the interviews and concerts. Lucis and Safie could have those.

You said you were a pilot too, right Safie? Is Besca one also?

Safie shook her head. “Nah. Besca, like—well she does a bunch of stuff, but mainly she just looks after us.

She’s like our manager. Takes care of the schedule, monitors the missions. If we have a problem we talk to her, which is totally fine with me cause I don’t really like dealing with administration.

Yeah she’s great! When I first joined, and I wanted to have Jubilee painted, it was like feeding paperwork into a shredder until I talked to her about it,” Safie said. “I mean, it was kinda a dumb ask anyway—do you know how much paint it’d take to cover a whole Savior? And if it gets damaged, like, the paint doesn’t grow back so you’d just have to recoat it and—like I said, dumb idea. But she managed to talk them into some designs on the face! Those lines and stuff aren’t natural, that’s all me baby!

Still waiting on your ideas for Dragon by the way,” Dahlia teased. Her attention shifted down to Quinn, good mood wilting a bit when she saw what looked like genuine fear in the girl’s eyes. “Wh—oh! Oh, no, of course! Safie was just joking around, it’s totally fine!

She hopped down from the railing and fetched another pouch from the cooler, sliding across the deck to her. “I’m surprised you haven’t tried it! They make it right in town. Used to be seasonal but it got so popular people buy it year ‘round now. I always take a box or two back with me when I visit.

Some of which goes in the fridge, some of which gets stashed under her bed.


More unfettered laughter from the older pilot as she pulled her feet out of the water. “No, it’s cute! I used to hide snacks in my hoodies when I went off to sim camps. You do what you gotta do.” She picked up one of the poles from the railing. “Hey Quinn! You wanna try fishing? It’s super easy. You just reel back, and then when you flick forward you press this lil’ button here to release the line.
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