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Please change my username to "Luminous Beings" because I'm a filthy Yoda stan. Thank you.
Lynn


Lynn looked up at Amelia as she spoke, her eyes doing their usual routine of comparing the girl against herself. As per usual, Lynn came up short. Though Amelia was maybe four inches taller at most, she had a good twenty pounds on Lynn. Lynn tried to puzzle a birth year or something of significance from her as she spoke. She can't be much older than me, Lynn thought. Christ. As she glanced around, it was clear that passers-by thought similarly. They looked at Amelia differently, like she was a teenager, and the looks at Lynn were more mixed. Some looked at her height, or the skeleton arms that extended from the six-times-over rolled up sleeves of her hoodie, and some at her tattoos. I gotta start rolling with some blind motherfuckers or something.

Lynn smirked at Amelia's comment. Well, at least she got it. Getting it was a hard concept to explain. Lynn wasn't entirely sure that Amelia Got It, but she Got It more than Nat, or him, or most. For a moment, unbidden, the drunk-hazed over memory of Watch Boy blurred into her mind. He Got It, Lynn thought. She hadn't really tried to sift through the foggy recollections of that night very much, but as she did, she remembered distinctly thinking there was something about him. Yeah, he walked like he just got out of boot camp. Lynn filed it away for later. He might be something worth looking into. Or, if nothing else, that watch was worth a few days' work at Vaquero. Lynn listened to Amelia's words with great interest, though she continued to eat and rarely looked back up at her once she started talking. It's a joke. But I wanna know what you think the punch line is.

Lynn's attempt at getting a firmer grasp on just who the girl who could teleport anywhere and stayed on the Promise was snapped as soon as she started talking about the jacket. In her algebra class, Lynn felt firmly like someone had picked her up and dropped her into Russia. Lynn's academic career was, in a word, abysmal, and each class the Promise threw at her seemed like some kind of cruel joke. They were talking about all kinds of academic sanctions and other things, or even putting her back a few grades, just because she missed a few (read: all) of her assigned tutoring sessions. The only classes she eked out a respectable performance in were her power training classes and in Spanish, where the teacher at least acknowledged she had a very functional, if crude, grasp of the language. In power training, Lynn was reminded of some of the boxing gyms near where she lived. Those were one of the few ways to Get Out, to find something in your life that had some semblance of discipline and order and meaning. Lynn had always wanted to join. Che wouldn't allow it.

But none of her classes hit Lynn with that feeling of utter helplessness and complete, dizzying confusion as what Amelia was talking about.

There was not a single part of what she said that Lynn could grab onto to understand. Having parents that took you shopping. Their being the worst. Clothes fancier than department stores. Their watching closely enough to force your fashion. Someone shaping you into a lady, which was some ethereal idea Lynn had given up on attaining around the age of ten. Having the money to buy something like that casually - and younger than they already were.

Lynn had thought going up to the Promise was going to be something that was utterly unnerving, the sort of shattering change that upended everything. But it was just a nicer-looking detention center with a better view. The last thirty seconds jarred her more than the rocket trip, than the meetings spent handcuffed to a table talking about the Promise's rehabilitation rates, than all of it.

Lynn wondered what Amelia's parents looked like. Her mom was easy, just - her, but older, more wrinkled, maybe, probably saggy the way old people got. Her father was middling height, his face an unformed blur, the space beyond the edges of the map. Lynn could understand someone's parents being the worst - she'd seen a fair few like that, and to the extent Gary had been a parent, he'd certainly been a strong contender for the worst as well (Again, the thought of him catching justice in prison brought an unconscious smile to Lynn's lips, the mental image of him throwing up a worthless, burned hand to stop an ass-beating the only pleasant vision of violence Lynn's imagination liked to conjure up). But how could parents that took you shopping for clothes be the worst? Lynn had parents, for a bit, the way crutches give you a leg again when you've broken it through and through. Lucy - her family. That had been good. But then Lynn had burned their house down, and the fuzzy haze of what Amelia talked about, of what Amelia had, had burned with it. They'd never said that was why. They'd waited a few months. But the conversation had come with the coded words they always used. Financial limitations and better situation for everyone and you'll always be welcome here. Lynn was angry at Amelia's story, but not sure who to direct it at, which made her angrier.

Lynn stared back at Amelia. Does she have a reason? Is it just being a brat? Lynn's hunch that she hadn't ever seen anything in the way of real shit seemed backed up so far - although in fairness to the girl, Lynn thought that of most people. Maybe she had now. She'd seen a man get his head blown halfway to hell and not lost her shit. She'd stayed in the woods, when Lynn had bet fully on her running.

Lynn swallowed the chunk of her cheeseburger she'd been chewing on for a good minute. "Huh," she said, still trying to process all the nuances and implications of Amelia's story. The last, least important part of the story that baffled Lynn was why Amelia didn't just steal both jackets. That seemed like such a plain and obvious solution to her. She could teleport. The fuck? Had Lynn been given a private moment to jot down her thoughts in her notebook, she would carved out a column on the page littered with lyrics and idle charcoal sketches to label Amelia firmly under the "NO FUCKING IDEA" category of humans.

And last but not least, whatever Amelia thought was pricey was certainly going to be beyond the pale for Lynn. Looks like I'm stealing a jacket, she thought. I could probably turn out Fish and make a few bucks, though. "It's a cool jacket," Lynn said, her tone more or less neutral. When Lynn was busy thinking, she liked to throw out anything non-committal. If they knew what was going on, they had something over you, and she didn't want Amelia knowing how little she understood her. Lynn briefly considered saying something incredibly jarring, to try and see how the girl would take it, but she was too shaken herself to pull that off.

She looked up and saw Keaton and Eli across the way. A quick flash of not jealousy, because Lynn didn't care, but something - flashed through her gut. Well how come they're hanging out and didn't ask me? Lynn wondered. That would complicate things. She needed to tell Keaton about her suspicions about the docking bay. Lynn would not ever have admitted it to herself, but she was practically giddy to tell the girl something she'd puzzled out on her own. I'm not dumb, Lynn thought. No one gives a fuck about algebra or stupid British novels or biology anyway. "Do we get to haze the new fish at all? Maybe that break dancing bastard will come kick somebody again."
Lynn


Lynn looked up from the half-eaten sandwich (it sat atop five chicken tenders, fries, some egg rolls, a cheeseburger, and chips and salsa, all piled monstrously onto a cafeteria tray that even the strength-augmented Lynn seemed to have to trade off hands every few moments to hold steadily) she was chewing on to examine Amelia. Truthfully, Lynn had forgotten her nickname for her. Amelia was a tricky one for Lynn to pin down, which irritated Lynn to some degree. Lynn that she had Amelia on lock from that day in the woods - she saw too much, got scared, and ran on home. Lynn was fine with that, because running on home meant she wasn't in Lynn's way for anything. Admittedly, Amelia kept trying to start up conversations with her, which Lynn didn't fully understand. Lynn eyed over her leather jacket and thought for a moment as she chewed. As equal parts hunger and power move, Lynn rarely responded to people as soon as they talked to her when she was eating. In her experience, it fucked with them a little bit when they had to wonder if cafeteria food was more immediately important than they were.

But then Amelia had gone and not been an absolute pussy the night with Arianna. Neither she nor Eli had. Eli she figured was a fifty-fifty chance. The sheltered ones always think they have to play the hero. But Lynn had Amelia pegged as the type who liked to play at scoundrel but ran home when things got a little too real. She'd stuck around for the real. Lynn wouldn't have faulted anyone for leaving the mutilated Radvi when they saw that. Even for Lynn, that was some rough shit to look at. It made you kind of a coward, but that was Lynn's baseline for anyone who hadn't been to prison. Amelia had even come out into the woods after her, which irritated Lynn, but she had to admit that was because she had been a little bitch that night, and the presence of others to serve as witnesses to her bitchery only cemented it. Had they left her alone, she would've kept Schrodinger's little bitch locked in the box and away from prying eyes. Lynn knew the minute any of them thought she needed a get off the streets program or an inspirational talk about how much she could be, they would never leave her alone.

So when Lynn looked up at Amelia, it was with a hint of curiosity. Was she growing some balls? Or did she just want to play a hero? And why did she keep talking to Lynn? Lynn couldn't figure that one out, either. She must've wanted her food. There's, like, literally infinite food over there, though.

"Love horse," Lynn muttered. "That's what I oughta call that hostess." she swallowed and rolled her neck, stretching idly. "Oh, you know. Just seeing the sights." Lynn baptized a fry in ketchup and chewed on it. "Maybe I figure when the next lizard rages out on day one they'll need me to kick his ass again." Lynn funneled more food into her mouth with no regard for table manners. "Or maybe," Lynn said, figuring she'd toy with Amelia - or, at least, get a feeling for what she was here for - "I want to see what kind of jewelry's all the rage on Earth now." she swallowed and slurped at the largest size cup the cafeteria offered, filling her stomach with Coke. "You know. Necklaces. Bracelets. That sort of thing. I hear the cops practically hand them out to paras these days."

Lynn picked up the burger, leaning comfortably against the wall. They had about an hour or so, Lynn figured. Waiting didn't bother her. She'd done a lot of nothing but waiting in juvy. Now, though, there seemed to be more...company...in her thoughts when she waited. She didn't like that. So if Amelia wanted to distract her for a minute, that was fine, but Lynn was still unsure of this girl's motives.

That jacket. Lynn looked back at her, curious. "That jacket," Lynn said, curious. "You..." she examined it for a minute. "That from like a motorcycle or something?" Those things could take a little punishment, tough leather, lots of pockets -

There was a click in Lynn's head, and she grinned.

Knight takes fucking pawn, Gennedy. She had an idea. As always, Keaton could workshop it. The jacket wouldn't matter if she got captured trying to slip into the docking bay, but still - still. Something there to tuck away for later.

"Where'd you get it? Is there a store for it here?"
Cordelia Lynn Holmes


Pork stuffed dumplings. They sat in the center of the table, sizzling hot. Lynn couldn't have any.

Archie had ordered them. Lynn sat next to Keaton, who picked at her meal dutifully, and Natalie rattled on about how she’d only told the truth. The truth, Lynn wanted to scoff, but knew not to start shit here, not when they’d just gotten in the clear for a few more precious hours. When Lynn moved her shoulder, pain rocketed down the joint, flaring up her entire shoulder blade. Lynn gasped with surprise.

“Aw, fuck,” she muttered, wincing and reaching with her good arm to massage it. How had she hurt it? She looked down at her arm, hanging limp and loose. The door, Lynn thought. Archie threw me into the door, I caught Spoons in the air. Lynn looked up, blinking. That wasn’t right. She still hadn’t been served yet, and the growling in her stomach grew louder and louder, like a prisoner rattling her ribcage like the bars of her cell. “Hey, how come - “

Archie was across from her. “"Shit, that sounds a lot like how dad used to be. Sorry you had to deal with that. At least the power was coolish, right?" Lynn zoned out for a moment, the gears in her head whirring as best they could with the pain of her arm, wretched and worthless, at her side. She’d heard all this before. She turned to Keaton, some kind of sinking feeling dragging down her starving stomach. “Keat,” she murmured, “I need you - I can’t figure out why - “

Archie had kept talking. “ - hope my incident on the first day isn't too much of a red mark. Worst I've had up until now on any kind of record was a detention in 10th grade." Lynn turned back and stared at him, ignoring Spoons and Denim alike. She could feel her hair, mousy auburn and not glowing at all, falling over her face in messy strands, disorganized as the thoughts in the head of the girl who had them. Why can’t anyone see my fucking arm? one half of her mind thought. The other focused on Archie. I don’t know if a deadbeat father is better than a revolving door of replacement ones. Or...Christ, nothing on your record until tenth grade? I didn't make it to tenth grade. Lynn could only think of her own record, a mountain of detention slips and elementary school write-ups before they’d transitioned to court orders and penitentiary forms. She bet Archie had good grades. Not as good as Denim, but okay, and okay was better than Lynn’s, and he probably never got in fights, he brought people flowers, and he never - the glass bottle hot as a sun for a moment before it burst, a shard firmly lodged in the bridge of her nose, clothes burning // a house, burning, burning more than a bottle of kerosone and dish soap should’ve // the gun barrel red as her hair, someone shouting “ìMátenlos, mátenlos!” and - //

Lynn remembered. This wasn’t right, there was going to be something bad, the breakout, or at least something like that. Arianna. The blue woman. She was small and scared but that wasn't right, the shovel, the flash, the burn. “Archie shut the fuck up, there’s - there’s a guy outside, some skull motherfucker, he - “

Keaton kept eating, and Spoons kept talking about some Spoons shit, the silver collar on her necklace beeping every few moments. Archie looked over at her with that look, bored and utterly fascinated all at once.

“Archie she’s - she wants to - “ Lynn couldn’t bring herself to say it. Her mind went to Gary, and the brutal shock he’d been in for when he’d gotten creative ideas, but Archie wasn’t like that. This was her. It had been the grace of God or the luck of the devil, whichever had felt more inclined to help Lynn that day, that had let her take out the lizard the first time. She could do it with a hand tied behind her back. Feverishly, Lynn tried to massage feeling back into her arm but it wouldn’t move. “Archie, please! Both of you, two, we have to fucking go!”

Archie turned to Lynn and gave her his characteristic, goofy grin. “Why?” he said, lighthearted as always. “You wouldn’t stop if we were here or not.” He looked down at the dumplings and shook his head. “You hate me. You burnt me.”

Archie’s chair was pulled backwards suddenly, and the legs of his seat were broken by a well-practiced axe kick, splintering the wood and causing the young man to fall onto his back as the seat fell apart. A hand, dark and glowing as magma fell against the table, and Lynn could- for the first time in her life- feel the heat behind her. She felt breath against her left ear. The drinks at the table were hissing as the liquids boiled. “You can’t burn me, though.”

Lynn turned to grab Keaton, to tell her to go, but it wasn’t her anymore, it was Lucy in an oversized denim jacket, threadbare and worn, a stained shirt pulling at the seams across her protruded stomach. Spoons was gone too, a Hispanic girl about eleven years old in her place, pulling at the cold silver around her neck. Lynn had the dropping feeling, the right at the top of the roller coaster drop feeling, of knowing that the worst is not about to come, that it’s there, waiting. She let her eyes pass over Archie - who should have been Archie - but it was Che, sitting as casually as he always did, his dark eyes boring back into her own and making hers look away, making them cold and small. The hand on her shoulder burned, and she understood why Archie hated her, why they all looked at her how they did. Lynn shrieked, trying to shove back but her arm wouldn’t work. It did nothing. Even if it would have the woman was too strong. Lynn struggled to push herself up out of the booth but a thunderclap of pain burst open in her knee and she crumpled back down, her right leg suddenly as worthless as her arm. “No, no, that’s not right, it - “ she looked down at her leg. All that remained of her kneecap was a bloody ruin of cloth and bone and bullet. Lynn wanted to look up at Salamandra, to stare her down as she did it, but her head wouldn’t turn. She couldn't look at Salamandra and none of them would look at Lynn as she looked to each of them, begging for help.

“You want so badly to be like them.” the voice said, still hot against her ear. “You want your perverted sense of normal. But you’re not. You wanted my help.” A hand, hot as burning coals against Lynn’s skin, grabbed her by the hair and twisted her head until she was staring down eyes as angry and yellow as the sun. There was a crunch of wood below her and the chair collapsed, but she was held up by whatever had its ironclad grasp of her head. She lurched, and was thrown away from the table like a dog discarding its chew toy. Lynn his the ground in a mess of limbs, but she had full view of Salamandra- the woman made of fire, with her foot against Archie’s chest and a predatory look on her inhuman features. The twin suns shifted from the boy to her once again, and she grinned. “You wanted to be just like me.”

“Don’t,” Lynn said, her voice croaking as she suffocated on the smoke. Salamandra stomped down on him - but she couldn’t tell if it was Che or Archie, or if there was any difference anymore. Keaton sat, pregnant and tired-looking, doing nothing as it went on. Behind her, the back of the restaurant was full of Christmas trees, and Salamandra had lit them all ablaze before walking in. Or did I? Lynn tried to remember. She burned a Christmas tree, one time. It had burned the house. It was Lucy's house. Her brain wasn’t working. Somewhere, deep down, she knew none of this was right - she should be healing, she shouldn’t be burned, she - Salamandra should be dead - but her brain was a small scrap of meat being pulled at by the mad dogs that were all the injuries on her body. Lynn struggled to pull herself up with one decent arm and leg and couldn’t, even with the wall behind her for support. She turned, grateful at least that it was her useless arm that had been scalded, and saw a dent in the restaurant’s wall, where someone had smashed something into it again, and again, and again. The linoleum floor below it was melted and hardened back over, an ugly scar of synthetic magma. Lynn looked back. “I didn’t…” she wasn’t sure what she wanted to say. She was going to be sick. “Che,” Lynn said, feeble even to herself. He was under Salamandra’s foot, looking at her, bored and fascinated at once, and pulling the petals off flowers. He held them against the woman's skin one by one and they caught fire, ash dusting down over him. He didn’t see to mind. “I need your help with something, Lynn.” He'd said that before, too, she knew.

“Che, Che I’m gonna die, she’s gonna - “

“The warehouse. I need you to come down with me and take care of something.” His voice was the way it always was. His tone was completely urgent and completely relaxed. She didn’t have a choice, because you never did with Che, but why would you want one, because he knew what the right thing was, and he had kept them all together so far. You just had to trust him. Even if it seemed wrong, it was right. For a bewildering moment, Lynn’s dizzy eyes noticed the hint of pudginess on his features, and the quality of the clothes he wore. That’s not right, though, Lynn thought. We had to steal just to get by, that’s why we all went hungry - he wouldn’t have...he didn’t have any more than we did. He rolled a quarter over his hand, because he was always doing something like that, fidgeting or playing with one thing or the other. Lynn felt like he was always bored with life, even though she had seen him angry, so furious he put holes in walls, or so furious he didn’t even raise his voice, he just spoke in a tone so cold and neutral they all wanted to curl up inside themselves. They had to do that sometimes. Lynn taught Clarita and Megan. When you saw things you weren't supposed to. You just went somewhere else. But that didn’t matter, because - well, his voice was never sweet, but there were times it was something like that, and that evened it out. But this Che was more like Archie, she thought, and she didn’t get it. Che would’ve helped fight Salamandra. Would he? Lynn thought, trying to remember. He didn’t at the end. Something at the end went wrong. None of them would help. Some sobering thought came. They wouldn't help, she remembered. They fucked me over. All of them fucked me over.

Lynn knew that had happened before too, they’d gone to a warehouse, it was the one the fight club was at, but she couldn’t remember what or why, or why Che wouldn’t help her. Salamandra was going to kill him, and she was going to do things to Archie, but he just kept pulling flowers, doing nothing. Amelia wasn’t even here. Eli was somewhere, and Lynn tried to figure out how she knew both that Eli existed and that she hadn’t met Eli yet. Lynn’s orange jumpsuit was singed and shredded, struggling to offer her any privacy, and she could see through the window a crowd was gathering, staring. Lynn turned back to Salamandra. “You were gonna kill me,” Lynn said, her voice wheezing. “You - when Gennedy put me away. You would’ve shivved me.” It sounded like a lie, even to her. She knew it was at least a little true. She knew because she would’ve done the same thing to her. “I…” Lynn’s voice trailed off, lost between the pain in her knee and her nose and her shoulder and all the burned skin on her neck and arm, the scarred marks where Salamandra had lain her fingers.

“I told you to leave.” Salamandra said to her. Archie, or Che, or whoever it had been was gone now. “But you didn’t. I didn’t kill you.”

There was an earth shattering roar from somewhere within the bowels of the restaurant, out of view. It was enough to make even the living flame before her uneasy. Salamandra shook her head and locked eyes with Lynn. “I didn’t kill you.”

She approached with purpose to every step until she was right on top of Lynn, six or seven feet over the girl on the floor. Lynn threw her good hand and the woman didn’t even attempt to block it, her hand hitting the woman’s calf and doing nothing. She had Lynn by her collar- somehow burning the skin against her knuckles but not the clothes she wore. With her off hand Salamandra forced her against the wall where the dent was. For a brief moment, Lynn was aware of how painfully tight the skin around the bridge of her nose was, of how opening her mouth to scream pulled the gash apart even further - but then the woman’s burning fingers were on her throat and smoke was in her mouth and she could not even scream. Salamandra had her by her hair, the slight sting of knotted tangles being ripped lost in the frenzy of everything else. Through Salamandra’s legs, she could see Archie on the floor, unharmed but for a hand that was completely burned off. Keaton and Natalie had just gone. The crowd outside lost interest, and the Christmas trees burned farther and farther away as Salamandra’s hands tightened. She saw shapes, but it was hard to make out where colors began and ended. Lynn couldn’t hear in the ear against the wall anymore, and was only vaguely aware of something running out of her ear and down her cheek before sizzling and scalding her skin.

“I didn’t kill you.”

Somewhere, Che was telling her she was a pussy, that she wasn’t even fighting any more, but Lynn’s fingers couldn’t find anywhere weak or exposed on the woman, everywhere she touched only burned.

She felt the pull of her hair again and a pain in her eyes as she realized they were boiling, and the world was dark and on fire before her skull dented the wall again, her throat tighter and tighter.

“I didn’t kill you.”

Again. Lynn didn’t feel the pain in her knee any longer, and she could remember the warehouse and the pistol blast for only a moment before it was gone too, and her weak arm wasn’t even her weak arm anymore, because the other one was burned useless from trying to pry the devil’s hands off her throat. She didn’t feel anything but her head, the way the skin on her lips peeled back and the blood thundered in the vessels around her skull.

“I didn’t kill you.”

Lynn felt her head go back against the wall one more time and blinked.

She was on the floor of her dorm room. Her clothes were burned off. She had not woken in a cold sweat, but her whole body was steaming, and there was the smell of burning synthetic fabric from where she’d scorched the mattress before falling over. The back of her head smarted from where she’d hit the floor, and Lynn pulled herself up against the base of the bed, knees to her chest, gasping. She’d disabled the fire alarm on her room on day one - one of the few security oversights the Promise had caught and fully decided to ignore - and Lynn was free to fumble at the pile of belongings next to her bed that had scattered when she fell. She grabbed a pack of cigarettes and got one into her mouth, the end lighting as soon as her fingers wrapped around it.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Lynn muttered, rocking back and forth. The Xan was right there. Right there. She just had to grab it and take one and she could go back to sleep.

Lynn grabbed the bottle and hurled it across the room. She’d probably ruined the fucking thing with the heat anyways. The cigarette was burned out about thirty seconds after Lynn put it to her lips, and she grabbed for another one, breathing deep. As she did, her skin and hair shimmered like coals, surging back to life with a blast of air and dying back down as it went away. Lynn idly ran her thumb, nail chewed to the cuticle, across the jagged scar on her kneecap.

Lynn sat still for a few minutes, breathing. She grabbed for her phone and flipped it open, eyes watering from the bright light. ”Hey I know this is really weird but can I just come over and sleep on the floor or something I won’t make any noise I just - Lynn stopped, watching the line flicker as she thought of the next letter. She deleted the message and shut it, putting the phone back down.

She climbed back into bed and stared up at the ceiling.

After an hour of that, she got her things and went to the gym.

in collaboration with JunkMail


---

The time in the hospital had been frustrating. The doctor patiently explained the concepts of healthy self-image and proper, balanced diets to Lynn, and marvelled at how quickly her appetite seemed to return. Lynn's stay was only two days, but she was able to have a bit of fun with it. Lynn, in a tearful display of thanks, palmed the doctor's wallet from his lab coat and ordered flowers to her own room. She left the wallet on the table next to some brochures ("I'm so forgetful!") and went down to the front desk.

"He's not supposed to have visitors," they told her.

"Please," Lynn said. "I helped save him and I just want to be sure he's okay. I promise I won't get him sick. My temperature's too high."

The woman relented - Radvi had stabilized, after all - and permitted Lynn a short visit.

"I think the docs here are as dumb as the cops," Lynn said, throwing the flowers down onto the bedside table and lounging in the chair next to Radvi. It seldom happened that Lynn was wrong - in her experience, she was right about nearly everything - but she had been wrong on this one. He had survived. His face was bandaged and gauzed so heavily you could barely see the eye that he had left, and he had all those Darth Vader machines hooked up to him. "You shitting in a bag and all, I guess?" Lynn asked, staring at him. No response.

"Well, I'm a woman of my word. Flowers. You can thank the pediatrician they have on staff. If I really wanted to do Arianna's job for her, I'd just get him assigned to take care of you." Lynn stared at the body and the machines that breathed it. "Jesus. You're fucked." Lynn leaned back in the chair, resting her feet on the hospital bed. "You know, I figure this is the safest place on the Promise right now. This room. Because I remember - " she almost said Keaton telling me, but Cara was always, always listening. Her gloating had almost gotten her. "I remember someone telling me that after that little event at the mall, the cops had come after that robot. And yet you come running through the woods with him. And Gennedy tells me that robot's dead when he did his illegal shakedown, which you seem to be fine with." Lynn rocked back and forth, sipping on the weight gain shake she was required to drink every four hours. Admittedly, they did taste good, but Lynn was sure that was only because that doctor had nothing to do with their preparation. She brushed a glowing white strand of hair out of her face and kept talking. "So I think maybe all you uniforms aren't on the same page. I think maybe you found out some shit, which is why only you came out in the woods, what with those trackers and whatnot. So if I was Arianna, and I'm not, for whoever's listening - I'd try and make you look as crazy and dumb as possible. Which is pretty easy, given, you know." Lynn shrugged. Lynn chewed on her lip. It wasn't fun when he was asleep. In fact, she felt like a bit of a bitch.

Not enough to stop, but still. Lynn crushed her guilt, the way you were supposed to do. He's a part of it, Lynn told herself. It doesn't matter Eli doesn't see it in him. He kills kids.

Then it felt sweet again.

"You know, I didn't get a good look at you in the station. Surprised I'm not already hauled back in. Probably guilty of keeping too much blood in your body or something. But you're older than I thought. I guess, you know - " Lynn shrugged. He would've gotten it if he was awake. "But still." Lynn leaned over and picked up his hand. Cold. "No ring. So - " she paused, looking. On the table was a necklace, which men shouldn't wear in Lynn's opinion unless they had giant clocks attached to them or were made of pure gold, on which a ring rested. A bracelet, too, not entirely unlike - Lynn shifted on her feet, letting Radvi's hand fall from hers. She hadn't pulled that bracelet out in...in a while. Lynn looked back at him, embarrassed for feeling embarrassed in front of a half-dead man. "...divorced, then?" Lynn asked. "Not surprising. Probably a revolving bedroom door back home when you're up here and she's down there. Shame about the kid though." Lynn stared down at him, feeling her blood literally boil. How do you be a part of this when you have a fucking kid, Radvi? Lynn stood up. The nurses would come soon. She looked down at him. He looked weak and broken and pathetic. It scared her. That taser, she thought. That taser is the only thing between you and him. Except they won't spend the money to keep you alive.

"I don't know your first name," Lynn said softly. "Don't really give a shit. But I'll level with you. If you hadn't come, there's a good chance Arianna kills me. I'm not saying I owe you one. Maybe so, maybe not. There's a lot more on that scoreboard to sort out. But when I see her, I'll get one in for you." Lynn put her hands in her pockets and turned to walk away.

"Because fuck knows you won't be able to shoot her."

---

The restaurant was busy, as always.

Lynn was scraping food off into the trash. How do people throw away this much? Shit doesn't grow on trees. Well, she supposed some of it did. Not the chickens and cows or whatever thou-

"Ignacio," Lynn asked, eyes widening. "Where do they keep all that shit?"

Ignacio looked at her tentatively, not willing to give an answer that may incriminate him in a court of law.

"I mean, like - food."

"The fridge."

"No, fucker, I mean, like - " she paused, mind racing. Of course. It's how D got on. "Where - where does all this come from? Do they grow it here? Like is there a farm section with cows and stuff?"

He looked at her like she was insane. "They just ship it all up. I've got a friend who helps move all that stuff. Para. Strong guy. It's easy for him."

Lynn turned back to the plate, grinning. "Huh. Interesting. Where do they unload it?"

"I guess same place the kids come on, I don't know. You going to do your job or you gonna ask about how they keep the lights on next?"

"No problem," Lynn said, smiling.

---

Lynn knelt in the forest, rolling over a tape measure in her hands. The taser had been gone when she'd gone back. She'd scoured the area, but someone else had gotten it. Arianna. She turned her mind to the question at hand.

"This is fucked up," she muttered to herself. "Alright, I guess a twelve year old's probably, like, I dunno. Four and a half feet?" Lynn looked at the tape measure. "Well, shit, I could've just laid down." She knelt, staring at the tiles, visualizing it. "And maybe, like, a foot deep?" she chewed on the back of her hand. "I'm not really a good frame of reference there. But would they...would it be in like a pod? Like some Matrix shit, or..." Lynn's mind wandered off. They'd need to move people in bulk. They got food in on the Promise once a month. Would they move in more people with the other students? That was probably too high-profile. Or was that exactly the point? To smuggle in the test subjects while everyone else was having fun?

Lynn drummed her fingers on her hands. Kids are gonna die because you're too dumb, a voice told her. It had a vague South African accent.

Lynn stared back at the dirt. "So...I guess this doesn't matter if I don't know, like, the ship size." she closed her eyes and tried to remember the shuttle up. They'd fit about fifty kids in there, she thought, but maybe more or less. Surely they could fit more if they were all unconscious. "No, they have to be strapped like that, or they'll just get killed by the recoil when they hit space." Space recoil. That wasn't right. She needed to bounce this off Keaton. "So...are there secret shipments? I'd hide them in the other stuff, personally. So they must be paying off these dock workers." Yeah, that seemed right. "Even if, like, there's just two really strong motherfuckers carrying all these bodies, they gotta - " Lynn stopped, thinking. No, that wasn't right. If it was hidden as something else, maybe they really wouldn't.

She hadn't established much, least of all the volume of a twelve year old, but it was a start. While Lynn's spatial reasoning needed fine-tuning, she was confident she was on, if not the right trail, at least a trail that might at one point intersect with the right one. She'd need Keaton for the rest of this.

---

"Be at the loading bay or be square!"

Lynn had looked at her phone. "Huh. So Cara was white."

---

Lynn leaned back against the wall of the Loading Bay. She felt safest with her back to a wall. "They really cleaned this motherfucker up, huh?" she muttered, looking around. She was waiting for the new arrivals, a tray of food from the cafteria in one hand, the other shoveling it into her face. Lynn did not turn down any opportunities to eat, particularly if it was out in public. I just need to shut that doctor and his emails up. Lynn swallowed. She would rather have been around the more private areas of the loading bay, but they were tricky to get to, and security was too high since the breakout. Eyes were everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. This would have to do. She could pass something useful along to Keaton if nothing else. I'll count the number of kids, Lynn thought. Maybe try and get back towards the shuttle if I can. I bet I could get one of them to claim he dropped something in the hallway back. Lynn didn't like that. Too many things could go wrong. Still, Lynn was starting to bet against the Promise's security whenever she could.

She leaned back, chewing, the fork and knife on her plate unused and forgotten. There'd be something useful out of this.

If nothing else, she wanted to see the ones who came on in chains, in collars, who had as much hate across their faces at this pretty prison as she had.
Cordelia Lynn Holmes


Lynn had seen and done a lot in her sixteen (potentially - Lynn's birth records were neither the most accurate nor the most accessible) years, both those spent on the earth and above it. She had many what she may call "four a.m." experiences - those being times or instances when something was so strange and twisted and warped, it could not have happened at any other time. It was the sort of thing you could only experience with someone else because it was so singular - just a brief, fleeting minute. Seeing a crackhead in a Gravity Falls t-shirt trying to break open a soda machine for money and getting baptised in Fanta. Seeing someone attempt to start a riot, slip, and instead create a strange, prison-wide moment of unity in laughing. Seeing a boy turn into an eleven foot tall lizard after a metallic robot dropped down, music blaring, and kicked him in the head.

"We should - "

Lynn was in the hospital. It was four a.m. in her head.

Lynn would've felt bad for Radvi if he was awake, because she instinctively seized as tight as she could onto whatever she was holding, which happened to be an exposed part of his jawbone. Lynn had taken some nasty punches that left her head spinning but nothing like this. The air was all of a sudden different, clean and sanitized and bleached, and there was fluorescent light stabbing into her eyes, and they were surrounded by people. It was like going from being asleep to all of a roller coaster in under a second, and when the rollercoaster ended she was back asleep in a bad dream.

Lynn stumbled up from the body. Had she entered the doors normally, she would already have been restrained by doctors and checked for injuries. As it was, the sheer element of surprise had stunned the nurses nearby and Lynn was able to make it to the closest trash can where she hurled what little material was still left in her stomach. Lab coats had swarmed Radvi already and taken him away, and Lynn washed her hands of it. He was a dead man, but the others were welcome to try their best. She planned on walking home, showering, and sleeping.

"Go straight to hell, Amelia, what, what the fu-" Lynn's chest clenched. Her chest and belly were sore from the vomiting and she heaved again, her heart rate finally starting to slow down from the complete panic.

Lynn turned and looked up, thin wisps of smoke curling off her lips. A doctor had turned the corner due to all the clamor. Wait, she recognized him. The motherfucker with the puppets!

"Lynn," he said, a look of concern on his face - one slightly more paternal than any given person may have at seeing a person covered in blood. He fumbled in his pocket for a brochure, one she'd read out of boredom and burned out of greater boredom - Healthy Weight Goals and Dangerous Weight Loss. "You don't need to vomit, you -"

"I hate this motherfucking station," Lynn whispered to herself, fingers bending the metal of the trash can.
Cordelia Lynn Holmes


"Yeah, she's getting help," Lynn said, fortunate to have someone else here with her. "Grab your t-shirt or something and hold it on my back for a sec then - " Lynn turned back to Eli, but she was in some kind of trance, crying and completely zoned out, shaking and trembling. She'd seen it before. Amelia in the woods last time, for starters, but a lot of times before then. Him trying to run in the restaurant or Spoons up and leaving. At least that was a little better. This looked worse, and Lynn had seen that too. That feeling of "Fuck me," Lynn muttered to herself again, turning back to the dead man. Lynn had seen a great number of injuries, and cared to a great many more. Not with any real semblance of medical expertise, mind you, but she may have qualified as a nurse in the Revolutionary War or something similar.

Besides, there were always people who would take a hideous scar and a few seconds of searing pain over a hospital visit that ended in handcuffs. This was...hideous. He didn't look human any more, and had it been any other time, the irony of that may have made Lynn laugh until she cried. Lynn had no love for Radvi, and didn't delude herself into thinking she was helping Radvi for any particularly altruistic reasons, but this was horrific. And she was in it. She was in him. As he breathed, his skull shifted, and she could see bone and sinew pull from one another each time he did, the ruined mess of his face shredded and bleeding out over Lynn's hands. She was soaked to her forearms in blood, and the ground she kneeled in was quickly turning into crimson mud. What was left of one of his eyes spilled over her knuckles. "What the fuck, Cara, hurry up!"

Then he and Natalie arrived. Lynn couldn't turn away without taking too much pressure off, but he started shouting like he fucking owned the place. Call Cara? I did. And he was sitting there comforting fucking Eli while she tried to stop Carrie with hemophilia from gushing out all over her face. Lynn's face was inches from Radvi's mutilated skull. She could smell nothing but iron and blood. Behind her, she could hear Archie's voice rising in pitch and intensity. You absolute bastard, she wanted to shriek, biting her tongue only because she knew it would kill them all faster. You come down here only to kill us all. Lynn felt the heat in her chest longing to be let out, to dance down her fingers and scorch away all the open spots, but she knew better. When he dies of burns they'll say it was me. They'll say he would've lived. No shit he was hurt, no shit D needed to be getting help, no shit they should call Cara.

"Someone fucking help me," Lynn muttered. Christ. She was in a pit full of mouthbreathers, and she counted the one who tap-danced on kids' faces among them.

Then out of the continuous meandering of panic came one person with their shit together and Lynn could not believe it was Amelia fucking Nelson. Vaguely, Lynn tucked away a reminder to herself to perhaps reappraise her opinion of the girl. Maybe she found the balls this guy probably shot off himself in the woods back there. She appeared, which may have startled Lynn more had she not been wrist deep in a man's skull, and wisely pointed out that she could carry them all back. "Fucking do it," Lynn said, not thinking of witnesses. He was going to flip any time soon and she wasn't going to be stuck in the death pit with the lizard when it did happen. Eli was cool. She didn't want to leave Eli to the wolves. But she couldn't die in here. There were people. People with dolls. She had to keep from losing it.

Lynn lost it when Denim came and opened up Cara.

"No fucking shit!" Lynn snapped back at Cara. "Which wounds need focusing? Bitch, there's a hole in his head! No, scratch that, he has like 10% head and 90% hole! It looks like Gennedy skullfucked him harder than he tries to fuck us!" It was more than this. She felt naked in here with all of them, with her, and with Denzel sitting there on a vision quest or some shit, after - how much did she remember? What the fuck did I tell her? - and a robot confirmed dead and back to life more times than Elvis staring wordlessly at them the whole time. How many times does this bastard have to be at the scene of a crime before we stop getting hauled in, huh? All of them just standing there. There was the steel staccato beat of her brain running through the ways they could pin this on her, what would happen if she went down now that Keaton was on the scene, if Arianna came back, if Salamandra still had people in prison. And in the dark part of her brain that ran through that, everything else was soaked in this cop's blood and brain matter, and everyone behind her seemed to be having a tea party behind her.
And on top of that, he was here, and he meant a great many things, Godzilla chief among them. Eli started talking about where the bullet hit, which seemed like the most no shit Sherlock analysis to Lynn, until she realized she must've been using illusions on him. Why? Lynn wanted to ask, from the only cold place in her body at the moment. Why play tricks on a dead man?

The dude from earlier - the watch guy - Shit, was he Fossil? joined the party, and Lynn nearly evaporated the deadfall into steam. We can have a class reunion but not a single one of you can get your hands bloody, is that fucking it? She turned back to the half-skull ahead of her, Radvi's eyes aimlessly staring back into hers. She'd - she'd seen gunshot wounds before. Lynn found herself rocking back and forth trying to keep as much pressure on him as she could, her stomach churning inside her. Lynn had an iron stomach, and was not about to let any weakness seep out in front of any of them, but there was nothing but liquor in her belly and nothing but bad memories in her head. Lynn had been shot before. Worse than this guy, she would argue, even if she still had her face attached afterwards.

"Anything obvious?" Lynn shouted. "You could grab a tampon from any one of these pussies and come fucking staunch the bleeding!" Lynn shouted, her hair flaring with purple light. Let me hear it, Spoons. Let me hear you say you're worried about my flipping out. And, oh, you saw me here first, didn't you, maybe I had something to do with this.

And then the kicker.

He grabbed Eli in his arms, sending another corkscrew into Lynn's gut, and fucking gave her orders. Looked at her and barked at her. Like a dog. Like his bitch. It was the first time he'd looked at her all night. So he could carry 5'8 and beautiful to the fucking hospital? What was wrong with her? I fucking faced her, Lynn wanted to scream. Who do you think was dead if this dipshit hadn't shot himself first, Anderson? Did you look in the woods? Did you ask? Did you see if I was fucking shot? But you're taking her to the hospital, aren't you?

Lynn looked down at the body before her. You're a get out of jail free card, Lynn said. I don't expect anything more. I've got a pretty good idea of how people on this station say thank you. You stop a lizard, they haul you in. You kill a - Lynn's mind slipped for a second, like static on a tv, and there were four people, gone, vaporized, ash, and the feeling of her jaw shifted out of place by an elbow, and then she was back staring at Radvi's mangled jaw, shaking as she pressed down harder. She'd seen enough people hurt to know when one was no longer a person, and instead a temporarily breathing body. The for-now person's tongue and the muscles of his cheek and bits of bone were pressing into the palms of her hands, like when she was little and she'd cover Lucy's mouth with her hand to shut her up, and Lucy would lick it to make her let go. Through it all, she kept her power in line, not once burning a single cell on his dead man's body. Not one. Not that it would matter. Lynn could make fire, but you should see what Gennedy could pull out of thin air.

A thought came to her, from him, from the last time in the woods, from hospitals, from gunshots, from Che. It and the laughter hit her as suddenly as the gunshot that put this dumbass on his ass. "I tell you what," she murmured down to him, watching him gurgle and cough by pure reflex. "If you survive, I'll bring you flowers in the hospital."
CORDELIA LYNN HOLMES


Lynn was getting sick of this shit.

There was rustling in the woods behind her and Lynn tensed, primed to grab this bitch and rotisserie cook her ass. You two dipshits, Lynn cursed. One of you can teleport and the other can do illusions and you come sprinting out the fucking woods? Lynn's mind quickly disregarded that - no, it couldn't have been them, it was a third party - or Arianna's back up, or dipshits from the hangout in the woods. Either way Lynn moved forward. Arianna had failed Lynn's little test. She wasn't a prisoner here - and if she was willing to lie to Lynn, she merited an ass-beating.

Behind her, a voice shouted for her to move. Holmes? Lynn obliged, moving to the side in such a way she could keep her eye on Arianna while watching this newcomer. The cop? Rafferty? And the cyborg dancer. Interesting, Lynn thought. Gennedy had told her that the robot was dead, and she'd seen him before in the mall, but Keaton said the other cops had chased after him. But now he was working with one. Division in the ranks, Lynn thought, a smile stretching across her flushed face. Lynn was not entirely sure which people were putting pieces on the board, but she was starting to get an idea of who the players were. If this cop wanted to take the fall for attacking her, Lynn wasn't going to stop him.

He drew out a taser but - no. That wasn't a taser. Lynn had been shocked by enough of them to know. Fire dancing across her shoulders, Lynn felt her blood run cold. Those fucking bastards, she realized, eyes widening. I hope they both die. I hope they both fucking die. Radvi shot her with the taser and the woman simply disintegrated into blue goo. Does it do that to every para, or just her? Lynn wondered, feeling her feet dance in her shoes. If Radvi turned to her she wasn't going to take chances, not with that fucking thing in his hands.

But he kept going. Lynn followed cautiously. He reloaded. He'd shot twice. Lynn tucked that information away for later. As far as she was concerned, this situation had just become a win-win. Gennedy's attack dog dying, Arianna dying, Arianna getting apprehended, Arianna just showing off her abilities - whatever information Lynn got was useful, and Keaton could process it better than she could. Lynn stayed close - far enough to duck behind a tree if Radvi tried to tase her, close enough that no witnesses could claim in good faith that her actions were construable as those of a little bitch.

Radvi went out into the woods, D close behind. Then Arianna trucked him. She threw the robot down the deadfall, and Lynn's eyes narrowed. Strong and fast, Lynn thought. And there's two of her. She flipped Radvi like - Salamandra and grabbed the taser, snapping it in half. Well, there's at least one good thing that bitch did. Radvi's pistol fired off and she took the shots like they were nothing. Lynn was still confident she could win that fight - a statement that applies to literally anyone Lynn is considering fighting - but she was going to be tough. When the shots hit her, she rippled like jelly. There had been some kind of blue slime back there, too. This bitch is Flubber, Lynn thought.

Arianna threw him down the deadfall too, and Lynn braced herself to get involved. There was one more gunshot, but there was no way that Radvi could have - "Christ, they're all as dumb as Gennedy," Lynn muttered. She stayed low and still, watching. Arianna seemed to melt into the dirt, and after a few moments the forest returned to normal. Lynn cocked her head, waiting for the woman to reappear, to materialize behind her, but it seemed she'd gotten while the getting was good.

First things first.

Lynn went over to the broken taser and grabbed it, examining it gently in her hands. She was far too hot right now to risk holding it for long, so she scrambled over to a tree a few yards out the way and tucked the remaining pieces under a rock. This wasn't the best hiding spot, but Lynn was slightly drunk and there wasn't a lot of time. She was more than likely going to be interrogated for this, and she didn't want that on her when it happened. Still, it could be useful. Maybe Keaton could reverse-engineer it or do some science shit to it. She made a mental note of what the tree looked like - exactly like every other tree, it seemed - and stood back up.

Then Lynn went over to the deadfall, looking down. Her body cast enough light in the dark forest that she could see well enough, and she looked for a moment for a clear spot. Even the robot looked severely fucked up. I take it back, he and Cara should hook up. Lynn took a step or two to the side and then jumped down. As she jumped, a surge of warm hair seemed to burst up beneath her and she fell at perhaps half the speed the laws of physics would normally dictate that she should, walking out of the six foot drop. She looked around for a brief moment, wondering vaguely how she was supposed to get out.

"Shit," she muttered. She turned back to Radvi. He'd really managed to fuck himself. There wasn't a much better way to put it. Lynn went to pull the sleeves up over her hands but her hoodie was back in the dorm room. Damnit. Not that she was getting a real trial here, but she wasn't leaving fingerprints. Lynn kneeled down before Radvi, the smell of iron and gunpowder overwhelming. Lynn had seen people get shot before - for a brief moment, Lynn heard a scream, like hers, just like hers, and she was younger, and she was cold, colder than she had - but no one had managed to shoot themselves to this degree.

"I don't know if you can hear me," Lynn said, looking down at the mangled bloody ruin of Radvi's face, "But if you keep doing stuff this dumb, you'll have Gennedy's job in no time." Lynn considered cauterizing it but that would basically just mean burning off his face at this point. Lynn, for all the ire she held for the powers that be on the Promise, was not about to not help this man. She was far too implicated at this point. It took only a few seconds of mental calculus to decide on that. She could be placed here by Eli and Amelia, one or both of whom would definitely flip. Wasn't Eli talking to this cop before? Yeah, it wouldn't take much convincing there. They leave, gunshots, dead cop, Lynn over the body. If she was in prison, she couldn't help Keaton. Helping him might even get some of the heat off her back, and give them more wiggle room for their investigation. Plus, there was the robot there. She didn't know if he would narc or not - he assaulted children, so she leaned towards no - but she'd have to melt his ass too, and that would for sure put her at the scene of the crime.

And, a very quiet voice, one that sounded like Lucy, or maybe Eli, or maybe Keaton, reminded Lynn it was the right thing to do. Even if he lived, he wasn't going to be back in action anytime soon. He wouldn't be hurting any kids. A cog out of the ugly, rusted machine that let Arianna murder hundreds and kept children locked up (upstairs?) was happening either way.

Lynn closed her eyes for a moment, knowing that time was of the essence, but hating herself for what she was about to do. All she could think of was Che walking to the edge of the deadfall, looking down, shaking his head. God, if anyone she knew from juvy knew about this.

"Gearbox," Lynn said, turning to Freaky D. Maybe he was a Roomba, maybe he was a parahuman, maybe he was a Decepticon, maybe he was one of those dudes from that band. Lynn didn't care, but didn't feel particularly inclined to treat him with much consideration. D was a staunch negative in her book. "I don't know if you have, like, 5G or some shit in there, but call some medics or some shit." Lynn pulled out her cell phone and turned it on, waiting for it to come up. Lynn scanned around for any cloth she could use. Her own clothes hung to her in shredded, smoking rags, and she resolved to get something heat-retardant. How come we don't have those X-men suits, huh? "Or start making a way out of here." she looked at him. Did this thing even speak English? "Like a ladder. Ladder." she mimed it. "And I swear to fuck, if you try to dropkick me like you did Anderson, I will melt you down into a - " Lynn paused. Damnit, she almost had it. She was still a little drunk, and her mind was racing. "Just...whatever." Lynn turned back to Radvi, offered the least convincing sorry in human history, and ripped off a chunk of his pants as quickly as she could. If he was awake or alive, that probably was not pleasant. Lynn balled up the cloth in her hands, noting that there was some dirt, but her options weren't really great. It quickly became warm in her hands anyway, and she hoped that was good enough. Lynn pressed the cloth to the open maw that was half of Radvi's face and tried to angle him so the blood flowed off him and not back down his throat. He'd probably already swallowed half his teeth or something.

Lynn's phone buzzed with a ringtone that had not been utilized in most phones since the late 90s. "Cara," Lynn said, her forearms soaked in blood. If I go to fucking prison or get the needle for this, I swear to God.

"Yes, Miss Holm - "

"Alert someone on security who's not a dipshit that there's a dipshit who shot himself. We need, like, help, or whatever. I don't know his name. You know where I am."

"Who else is with you?"

Lynn paused. She turned and looked at D, who was twitching. Even the fucking machines have panic attacks here. Lynn wasn't sure what the play here was. Did this guy want her to say? Lynn was not about to pin someone else to this scene. That was a major little bitch move. She said nothing. D could speak for himself. Well, figuratively. She didn't know if she had to knock on his head in binary or something to get a message through. "This guy's gonna be as dead as Gary if you don't hurry your ass up, Cara, maybe tell me how to put someone's jaw back on?"

Lynn felt her back uncomfortably open to the ledge above. If Arianna was waiting, trying to lure someone in, her plan was working. Why is it always terrible options? "You stupid motherfucker," Lynn muttered to herself, pressing as hard as she dared on Radvi's open face. "Christ." She had an eye on Radvi's pistol but had not touched it. If Arianna came back, she'd make good use of it. She'd eaten the bullets before, but bullets had a bit more kick around Lynn. Lynn was a firm believer that no one was ever improved by being shot a couple of times. Briefly, Lynn considered emptying the gun into the dirt to try and draw more help, but decided against it. This was as much as she was sticking her ass on the line for a Promise police officer.

Lynn was left, in the isolated part of your brain that thinks strange things in terrible times, wondering if she should get drunk more or less often.
Lynn

The girl's sputtering was wasted after the first few words. The heat in the clearing rose slowly but steadily, and Lynn's clothes started to smoke faintly. The acrid smell of burning cloth fumed up around her, and Lynn cocked her head to one side, looking up at the girl before her with a growing smile. She didn't have any scars. She didn't need her hair on fire to be healthy. Lynn, for a moment, was jealous, the sad kind that just sighs and goes along its way. There was too much else to linger on it.

"Funny," Lynn whispered. "I didn't get these tattoos in prison here. That's some shit my celly did because she got bored." She was dodging the question. Lynn took a step closer, fingers dancing. "If I can trust you, I'll cremate that fucking body. But I don't think I can. So I'll ask you again - if you were a prisoner here, what was your number? Six digits. Spit it."

Her eyes and hair were reddish orange around the tips, but a faint hint of blue lit the roots and center of her eyes. I do not have much in me, Lynn thought, merely tipsy rather than fully drunk. Just once, Lynn thought, she wanted a fucking downhill fight on this station. Regardless, there was no need for her to know that. Lynn knew far better, drunk or sober, than to let on you weren't half as strong as you acted. Lynn stepped forward with the confidence of someone two feet taller than her, hands ready to grab her. What had Keaton said about her? Something about alarms and that was it. Goo? Hrrng. "Six numbers. Six numbers and I'll do whatever you need me to. I don't love these bastards. But I'm not turning around to leave and getting a shovel in the back of my head." Lynn's expression almost softened. Maybe it was empathy. Maybe happiness. "Lemme help you."

Lynn

The girl was small, but even small was bigger than Lynn. Lynn looked up at her, a brief moment of empathy warming her features from titanium to mere granite. Lynn soaked in her details unconsciously, as she did with so many things. Growing up, not being able to recognize the same face twice walking down the street outside your house or not noticing who was throwing side glances at you in lock-up meant someone had the leg up on you. If there was anything about this girl that could give Lynn an edge - or even an idea of truth - she wanted to know. She spoke with an accent - Scottish or Irish or some shit, Lynn couldn't tell - and seemed weak. Tired.

Lynn wanted to believe her.

She stared at her, listening to her words. What they have upstairs? Lynn had no idea what to make of that, wishing for the third time in a minute she'd been born with Keaton's brain instead of her own broken one. Even so, this - this more than having to talk at parties and make sense of who was following her and keep track of how friendly she and Keaton seemed in public and what to make of everything she felt and didn't feel when she saw Farm Boy or Spoons - this made sense to her. It was just her sniffing out bullshit, and an ass-beating - Lynn's or Olivia Twist's - results-dependent. Lynn stared at her, loosening up a bit without realizing. She wasn't going to hurt her if she wasn't sure. Was she?

You weren't sure about Salamandra and you -
four people -
just a bottle, one little toss -


She was young. As young as Lynn. Maybe a touch older. Prettier. They all were. Lynn privately wondered if Amelia had gotten while the getting was good, and if Eli had done the same. She thought that maybe the latter of the two would stay, but probably not. It was her in the dark. Behind Arianna, a half dozen yards or so, Lynn thought she saw movement, but supposed it was a trick of the light. Lynn was not quite seeing double - she was sobering up, and fast - but she was still seeing reality a little fuzzier than it truly was. The girl looked hungry. Thin. She was little, like Lynn. Like a little sister, even if she was bigger. She didn't - she wasn't. Salamandra was because she had to, and those four - they were just there, and the people in the houses - but this was different. She couldn't...

Lynn stayed tense - even if this girl was on the level, there was a real good chance someone - or multiple someones - with a badge were going to come through here, and put a bullet in either or both of them for seeing too much. There wasn't much time to make things up. Lynn let her eyes fall to the girl's pants. What had Amelia said? Shovels? This girl certainly wasn't carrying one. And she was too small to be really using one. Strong? Like Natalie? Lynn wasn't sure. She stared at her a moment longer. If they tried to take her after the breakout, she was certainly capable of protecting herself. Why did she have a shovel out here anyway? Unless -

The washed-up corpse.

The breakout.

The woods.

The doll.

Keaton.

If Lynn had been a few decimal points' more drunkenness in her blood, she might not have remembered. She might not have bit back the smile. "I won't let them take you," Lynn said, watching her closely. She moved a step nearer to the girl, close enough that Lynn could lunge and grab her if she had to - Lynn supposed that the same was true, if not more true, for this girl. She certainly looked sober, and Lynn didn't count on her reflexes being as sharp as they should be. This girl grabbing her first was perfectly fine by her. As it was, she had her arms crossed - the second it took to uncross them might even things. Might not. She might be fast. She might be strong. She might get in Lynn's head. She'll have plenty of fuckin' company in there, at least. "We can't stay here." Lynn realized very suddenly she had not had any sort of idea of how to get back to the party, or even what direction went back to the facilities in the Promise. This was deeper into a forest than she had ever been in her lifetime, and Lynn had only one solution for finding a trail in a forest, and it was likely to incur significantly more costs than her job at Vaquero could cover.

"I was one too," Lynn said, pulling back her sleeve, showing off the crude prison tattoos she bore. "No names. It's safer. Cara might be listening," she said, "And she can tell names. But tell me - what was your number?" Lynn dropped her sleeve back down. "Your inmate number here." If she got it right, Lynn would hear her out. If not, there were graves.
Lynn

"What do you believe everyone is thinking?" the words seemed to float in-between the pond-ripples of drunk thought that were making Lynn's mind murky. The seven words skipped across them all like flat stones across the water, and Lynn had no idea what to say. She hadn't known how to say the confused mess she'd already said, and with the sudden arrival of another person she already felt like she had said too much, like someone had walked in on her naked, like some midnight spell was over and she was back to riding pumpkins pulled by rats. Still, the question hung in her mind. She...she knew what they were thinking. Why did Eli say it like that? Like she was stupid or silly for thinking that, like it was just in her head? It wasn't - it was what they thought, Gennedy and the doctors and Natalie and Archie and Keaton and Amelia and all of them, she could see it in their faces. Lynn didn't understand.

Lynn rubbed at her face for a minute, trying to sort out her thoughts. Puking had made her feel better, and while she was still too groggy to piece it together, igniting - however softly - had helped as well. The two were saying they were going to stay with her, which annoyed her for a reason she could not explain. Then people at the party would wonder what was up, and they would talk, and they would know. The thought rankled Lynn, even in whatever warm fuzziness remained of her earlier good mood. This is probably what I deserve for getting shitfaced to celebrate a dude's death, if we're really being honest here. She swiveled her head to look at Amelia. Bonding? Was that what this was? Lynn had reached her lifetime bonding quota, but felt any comment to that effect would be a Dick Move. They had come out to help her, as much as it annoyed (and confused) her.

Look for the noise? Lynn couldn't hear it - at first. She paused and strained her ears and picked up on it.

There were a great many things Lynn struggled at. Lynn was not skilled at diplomacy even at its most basic forms, and she was not skilled at schoolwork, and she was not skilled at, as some would call it, just chilling the fuck out. All of those were somewhat connected, and somewhat fed off the other, but the last was the one she was the most unskilled at. It was the most double-edged of the things Lynn was bad at, because it had kept Lynn alive in any number of situations - including some recent, reptilian-related ones - but it had caused more than enough problems that I doubt I need to specify.

Regardless, the part of Lynn that was always worried something good was only happening so something worse could interrupt it was never far from the surface. Even half-drowned in tequila, it was simmering, and it rocketed to the front of her mind, screaming at Lynn that it told her so, and that she was a fool, that she should've had her guard up, that now she'd finally die. Cops, Lynn thought at first. Busting the party. Lynn blinked, already on her feet, which were steady beneath her even if the world around her remained a bit wobbly. Lynn listened again, still slower on the draw than the two more sober girls with her. Lynn's mind raced for a moment, and the part of her that could not make the numbers on a math textbook page come together ran through some possibilities.

Lynn stumbled forward, her feet not wanting to lift high enough to clear the roots and branches on the forest, and Lynn bounced from tree trunk to tree trunk, falling into them as she tried to move relatively quickly.

"Alert: Target Within 100 Feet"

In a brief second, a half dozen thoughts flickered across Lynn's mind - a child's doll; Salamandra's head beaten against the side of the restaurant wall, melting and warping in the heat; a mall food court with two faceless men; an interrogation room, a cold steel table with Gennedy twisting the legs; the sight of the Promise with three hundred dead, full of screams and smoke; Keaton. Then, a plan. A wild, half-put-together, drunk plan. But something. Either Amelia runs and it works, or she stays and it works, Lynn thought, hoping there was enough adrenaline running in her to offset the liquor.

Lynn grabbed Amelia's arm and felt sick to her stomach, felt awful, felt like an absolute bitch. She came to help you, you asshole. But Amelia would understand fear and Lynn's brain was too drunk to find better words. Her mind was trying to put together the pieces but she wasn't Keaton, her brain was too slow, and she did not know what the right thing was. "Don't fucking leave alone," Lynn murmured, as quietly as she dared, as forcefully as she could. She knew Amelia was scared back at the station and she could see she was scared now. Lynn hoped she could make her more afraid of her than of the dark. Che taught you really well, didn't he? a little voice wondered. Would you have done this to Megan and Clarita too, if they started slowing you down? Did you? Lynn pushed it down. She could apologize or help Amelia sort shit out later but not if they all died right here. If Arianna hadn't seen the two of them yet there was a chance. "Stay with Eli like she fucking owes you money. If shit..." Lynn stopped, her stomach rolling over. "If shit hits the fan, go away fast. Find - " Lynn almost said Keaton but caught herself. There was a good, good chance that Arianna was looking for blood, and if so, Keaton needed to stay far the fuck away from here. She was the only one who knew. "Just go." Lynn had always viewed forests as oversized matchboxes. She would be alright alone, unless Arianna was a nullifier, in which case none of it mattered anyway. At least there will be trees over me, Lynn thought before she could force the useless thought out of her mind. It seemed that night as if her thoughts were bordered in velvet instead of iron, and it was starting to piss her off.

One hundred feet. That was so fucking close. Lynn staggered forward a few more steps, cursing her feet for being as noisy as they were. She grabbed onto Eli and clamped a mouth over her hand from behind - or tried to. Eli was taller. A lot taller. Lynn settled for whispering, "It's me. Go invisible right fucking now. Get to Amelia. Don't let her leave without you." Lynn paused, mind whirring as best it could. "Everything. Smell, sight, sound, get rid of it all. Amelia too."

Lynn stepped around Eli and moved forward as quickly as she dared, her mind still racing. There was - there was a way, she thought, maybe, to bring Arianna out of hiding. But it would mean saying things that Amelia and Eli would not be able to unhear. Lynn tripped and fell, fuming figuratively and literally. They'll think I can't handle my shit, Lynn cursed, standing back up and moving forward. I need them to go. I can't - four is too many I can't have six, and if I have to burn the forest down it could be - fuck, just get her and go, Amelia.

As best as Lynn's dizzy mind could tell, she'd put a good fifteen feet between her and Eli. Lynn stood up and gave herself a drunken moment to be pissed off at this, at the fact the odds were good she'd be alone in these damned woods bare-ass naked in a matter of minutes, maybe with Eli and Amelia watching, and then let the heat roll off her. In the dark woods, Lynn's hair was the only light for a hundred yards, blue, then orange, then yellow, then gold. She looked around, a hint of smoke reaching her nose, whose scar was deep and dark in the firelight. Lynn couldn't see shit beyond wherever her light cast, her eyes watering and smarting from the sudden light, but hopefully the same applied to Arianna. She could feel a sensation she had not felt before which was supremely unpleasant, which was the alcohol inside her stomach roiling in the heat and threatening to ignite. As Lynn drew on her powers more, her regeneration started to work, but she would not be fully sober for a while. As it was, Lynn swayed as she stood, and the world swayed with her. She tried to think of everything she missed but she knew her mind was not what she needed it to be. I need to talk to this bitch alone...but Eli won't leave unless Amelia makes her, and I need them to not get involved. Had Amelia said she was noisy when she teleports? Lynn couldn't remember, and what made it all that much harder to manage was the quiet voice reminding her of the way her nose felt when Salamandra's elbow broke it open, when she knocked a tooth clean from her jaw, when she'd flipped her to the floor. You had nothing to eat today, the voice whispered. And there is no lizard around to save you.

Lynn stood, moving in a circle as much as she dared to keep from being a completely sitting duck, but she wanted her to know where she was. "Oy," Lynn said into the dark, the shovel noises stopped - if that's what they were. Lynn wasn't convinced. "I want to talk to you," she said, letting the forest eat up her the soft slur of her words. Let's see what kind of person she is, Lynn thought. "I know who you are, and you know about me." Lynn could hear Salamandra's voice in her hear, sharp and laughing, that she didn't know who the fuck Lynn was, but that was good too, because it meant she and Keaton were under the radar, and that this bitch wasn't in league with Gennedy. And if she did know and wanted to talk, then maybe Lynn and Keaton were onto something.

And if she stepped out of the woods and put a .44 round in Lynn's chest, that would tell Keaton something too. Lynn wasn't a coward but she didn't like this shit, just standing and waiting.

The dark stretched on and on around her. "I'm waiting," Lynn said. There was too much she didn't know here. Too much her fuzzy brain couldn't figure out. Damnit, why can't I be Keaton, Lynn thought. Whatever I missed she wouldn't have.
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