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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Archie looked tense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then she did the same with the collar.

Lynn stepped through the airlock, a smirk across her face. Who wouldn't be happy? She'd never have another collar on for the rest of her life. Or for a few more hours - whichever was longer.

"Oh motherfucker," Lynn muttered into her biscuit and Leotard started rattling off codenames. Who showed up and started giving people nicknames? Was this second grade? She wasn't going to take the biscuit on general principle, but the snowy air cut through her jacket and she felt her stomach rumble a bit. It looked warm. Lynn ate the biscuit with as much angry dignity as she could muster. Fuck that's actually good. Do his dorms have a kitchen?

Then Leotard pulled another surprise out of whatever superhero underwear he had on, which was homemade explosives. Lynn took the napalm cautiously - not out of fear that it might kill her, but out of a bewildering sensation that there was actually a redeeming quality about the man she had first met wearing a leotard. Lynn rolled the satchel over in her hands, processing through this for a moment. If I find myself respecting him, we might be really fucked. Lynn looked down at the bag, taking a moment. Okay, but no self-respecting man should've had a satchel in the first place. "Uh, thanks," Lynn said, unsure entirely of how to respond to being given explosives. I mean shit at least he did his homework.

Spoons had piped up about the nicknames, which Lynn was grateful for. Leotard did something useful and I'm agreeing with Spoons. Christ, this really is the end. Lynn opened her mouth to speak again but the raw skin on her face bristled with pain as she did. "Ah, shit," Lynn muttered, wincing and rubbing at the sides of her face. Light burns speckled across her body from going from total immunity to regular mortality. The collar had done nothing to nullify the heat she'd generated. Even the inside of Lynn's throat felt like she'd gargled with sulfur, and she could feel her stomach roiling with pain from the internal burns as the heat worked its way out. Had there been no one around, Lynn might've stuffed her mouth with snow, but she was in no way going to let Leotard change her codename to, like, Ice Chipmunk or something, because she did that.

Lynn looked over at Eli, who had given her a very Lucy look upon receiving the napalm. She stayed close, Lynn thought, for a brief moment, and he did too.. To no one's surprise, Boat Farmer went along with the nicknames. Lynn walked over to the manhole as Packet opened it up and gave him a withering look before going down the ladder first. Anyone with an iota of reason could have potentially seen the flaws in this, however Lynn was operating on two primary principles: the sooner she got through these tunnels, the sooner she had the collar off, and at no point in her life was Lynn going to afford anyone any opportunity to interpret her actions as being those of a little bitch.

Lynn hit the bottom, nose bristling at the smell. The biscuit turned over in her stomach. Everyone came down and Packet started fucking with the lights. This guy totally hacks the nudes of the girls on his floor, Lynn thought idly. Good thing her flip burner phone couldn't be hacked. Not that he'd want mine anyway. Lynn followed along, doing her best to mask her shivering and clutching the sharpened toothbrush in her pocket. Actual weapons were pretty difficult to come across on the Promise, and Lynn had not even deemed it worth it to pocket a spare knife from the cafeteria. She, however, refused to be stripped of her powers and be completely defenseless.

Packet casually threw out the fact there might be people wandering around in the sewers and Lynn managed to bite back both a slew of insults and urge to kick him into the stream of nearby sewage. That was the sort of thing you brought up before you were in the sewers without a collar. Did he know what those escaped convicts were like? Did he know what they'd do? What they'd already done? They were gonna rape him, Lynn thought, blood thundering in her head and a sudden urge to see if she could whip Packet's ass back to the Stone Age clenching her fingers into fists. Lynn scanned her surroundings, not fully trusting in Packet's ability to blind the cameras to their presence. As if a sign from God that Packet was a narc, a rat scurried past them, and Lynn instinctively stepped up as she saw Archie flinch. The little plague carrier ran past her and Lynn watched it for a moment. Maybe he's one of the escapees, like in that wizard movie. Lynn watched it for a moment vanish into the dark, the group moving past her for a brief moment. Lynn was used to having to hustle to stay apace with a group when walking, just as she was used to stretching to make her feet touch the ground when she sat.

The rat moved back into the dark and there was -

Brown hair and the outline of something in the dark, grizzled, scars -

Lynn's hand was out in front of her clutching the makeshift shiv before she'd realized what was going on, her heart thundering in the back of her head. There was a flicker and shimmer of light, like fire, like

-a living elemental. She pulled her hands away from her face, revealing eyes that were so bright that they were painful to look at for long. “I’ll kill you!” She roared, lunging for Lynn with a molten arm cocked backwards -

Lynn stepped back, shaking. She was dead. She was dead, this was - there was something. It was her mind playing tricks on her. Lynn stared for a moment more, clutching the shiv, staring into the dark, but nothing came. Not her, Lynn thought desperately, the weight and cold of the collar around her neck seeming to tighten and tighten like a noose pulling taut, But someone.

Lynn walked backwards slowly to the group, eyes staring into the dark. She diverted her attention for a split second to flash a scowl at etc. "You forget there's escaped murderers and then you take us fucking trailblazing, great." Lynn spat. "We go right like Anderson says, I don't trust Discount MapQuest as far as I can throw his pocket protector." Lynn turned back towards the dark, eyes dancing for any sign of movement, any sign of anything. Lynn had fought before, with a collar. Many times.

She had always lost.

"And we go now," Lynn said, looking back into the dark, shaking no matter how hard she clenched her muscles. She's dead. It wasn't here. Whoever else it is it isn't her. She's dead. "None of you lose your shit on me, but something's back there. Unless Pocket wants to flip the lights or Codename Antenna happened to catch that rat with his NSA shit, I say we haul ass."

Lynn glanced as Denim approached - although she wasn't much living up to her namesake today. Lynn's fingers unclenched as she recognized Keaton, turning back to Packet. She looks like she let Spoons pick her outfit. Lynn scowled. Well shit, I guess she kinda did.

"Keat," Lynn said by way of greeting as she approached. "Not really." Packet had been fairly quiet which she chalked up to his bizarre relationship with the Toaster. I bet this guy fuckin' rooted for that dude in the suit when he watched the Matrix, too. "Just, you know." Lynn shrugged. This was a weird situation. Small talk, which Lynn was ill-suited for at the best of times, seemed especially pointless right now. A moment later Spoons came rolling up, waving. For once, Spoons looked like she was really in the mood to punch a hole through a horse or something equally destructive, which is what Lynn wanted. About time, Lynn thought. She looked pretty badass with the vest on. There was more movement and Lynn turned, seeing something she recognized as Eli after about three seconds of squinting through her healing eye. Did everyone but me agree to dress like a fucking ninja or something? The good news is I can count on Leotard to show up in a corduroy morphsuit or some shit. Lynn gave Eli a nod as she drew closer. She lit a cigarette by striking her thumb against the tip and puffed it idly for a moment, the nicotine calming her nerves a bit. Cigarettes truthfully didn't do too much for her - she burned through them about as quickly as you could chew the sweetness out of bubblegum, but if she focused on relaxing her power a bit, she could get a buzz.

Then Archie came along, and a stray spark or two flickered off the cigarette as she took it out of her mouth, giving him a nod. Just about the whole crew, then. Lynn turned towards Packet, feeling as though - not that Lynn had ever had occasion to actually do this - she was watching the people in line for a terrifying roller coaster sidle ahead, one by one. knowing her turn was coming up.

Eli murmured to her quietly, and something about it felt like the dressing room again. Lynn nodded, crushing the cigarette in her hand and letting the soot fall aimlessly to the ground. "Yeah," she muttered back. "Guess so." Archie placed a hand on her back and Lynn felt something like a jolt. There was a part of her thinking about the sharpened toothbrush in her waistline thinking about what inch of Gennedy was mortal, what weak spot she could find - and another part thinking about how close Eli was, and Archie, and how steady his hand felt. Some part of her blurted out that he was standing next to her and not Spoons but she had no idea why she'd even thought that.

For a moment, the steel under Lynn's skin that held her face in an iron scowl seemed to soften. She opened her mouth, just barely - savoring the sight of the rush of steam that came as her superheated breath met the freezing air - and felt as if she was back in the changing room, feeling immensely stupid, naked even in a new dress, not wanting to open the door and see Nat and Keaton's faces. As quietly as she could, Lynn murmured, "Stay close," although to Eli or Archie or both she couldn't have said.

Then the year in juvy and the years before it came back, and Lynn stomped the jitters in her stomach down the way you stomped the sparks out of a campfire in the morning. Lynn took the collar from Packet, biting back the urge to remind him that she was fully capable of shoving that collar up his ass, powers or no. She took a moment and a few deep breaths, trying to bring her body temperature down as low as she could. The fire in her hair seemed to flare and recede with each breath, as if the bellows of a furnace were somehow drawing the fire out instead of making it rise higher. When her hair and eyes were down to a muted yellow, she pulled her scarf loose, and with her teenth clenched, snapped the collar around her neck.

The effect was instant. Visible agony flashed across Lynn's face, although she ground her teeth so tightly no sound escaped. Her skin immediately turned pink as her body was no longer immune to her superheated blood and the convection air around her. The color and light died, leaving her hair a ratty auburn mess. Her good eye blinked a few times, desperately batting away the tears as the sharp pain of burning seared across all her skin, inside and out. Without the firelight, Lynn seemed smaller - the freckles and deep bags under her eyes faded into visibility. She gripped onto the collar for a moment, riding out the transition. She could feel the heat - at first intolerable, liking having the still hot coils of a convection oven wound through her skin - fading rapidly, and then the cold set in. She was thankful for the clothes Keaton had helped her get, though there was only so much they could do for a ninety-pound girl in the snow.

After about thirty seconds, Lynn took a deep breath and seemed to steady herself. Any damage the heat had done to her would be undone once she had the collar off, but she had known it would be unpleasant until then. All her skin pink and the tips of her hair singed, Lynn shook her head like a dog and turned back towards Packet with a look that could very charitably be described as righteous fury.

"Let's get this over with," Lynn said, her voice as hoarse as if she'd just swallowed a gallon of boiling water. "Who the fuck wants to live forever."

..bably won't ever get this, but, yeah. Sorry. Ly -

There was a knocking at the door and Lynn started, the hair bound back in boxer braids going from the gentle shimmer of dying coals to snakes of orange and red. The pen and paper in her hands fell to the floor. Lynn sprang up, heart pounding, thinking for a half second the knock on the door had to be Salamandra, and an instant later she was as convinced it was Gennedy.

Leotard, Lynn thought. That Judas motherfucker. Lynn grabbed the duct-taped handled toothbrush shiv she'd been idly crafting the night before and slowly approached the door.

"Lynn? Lynn Holmes?" The voice was a man's, high-pitched and reedy. Emotionally, it provoked the same response as the person at the DMV calling your name over the intercom.

Lynn paused. An illusionist. Her heart folded over on itself and then sank, her face and fire flickering. Eli...? Eli wouldn't... Lynn stared at the door, heart thundering in her chest and in her skull.

"I, uh, was coming by as scheduled. For your follow-up. You're late."

Lynn blinked. It was like five in the morning. Follow-up, was this...wait, no...

"We just wanted to touch base and make sure you've been eating three square - "

"Oh, son of a bitch," Lynn said, opening the door and slipping the toothbrush behind her into the waist of her jeans.

There was no one there. Immediately, Lynn's mind surged back to illusionist, and she stepped backwards, trying to keep her senses primed for a ripple on the carpet, the smell of aftershave.

"Cordelia Lynn Holmes," Cara's voice said. "I was just fucking with you. Packet wished for me to ensure you were awake at this time."

Lynn stared incredulously up at the ceiling.

Fucking toasters.


Lynn stood looking in front of the mirror in her room. She didn't recognize herself, although Lynn wondered, in a rare moment of genuine introspection that was most certainly not brought on by feelings of impending doom, when she ever really had.

Her hair was a muted blue, like a gas fire whose valve had been turned almost all the way off. Her hair was mousy and her thin frame was entirely masked under the mountain of clothes she was wearing. Lynn had a wifebeater under a button up shirt, with a baggie hoodie on top, and the wool jacket that Denim had picked up. Keaton had also insisted on a scarf, which Lynn thought was both utterly useless and stupid, but she had worn lazily around her neck anyway. It was a simple gray, which was as far as Lynn would go in terms of fashion (old habits of avoiding bright colors died hard). She wore the pair of jeans that had the least amount of holes, and the singular pair of thick wool socks she had purchased made her feet snug in the stolen shoes she wore.

Lynn slipped the shiv into her waistline where she could grab it more easily. If Leotard gets any ideas when that collar's on, I'll fuck him right up. Lynn stared at the mirror for one minute more, then reached up slowly and pulled the bandages off from around her head and eye. It took a few minutes, moving gingerly, but they came away.

The left side of her skull had pinkish skin, scar tissue that looked as if the gunshot had been a decade ago. The hair under the bandage was growing back more slowly, and did little to cover the wound as well as she liked. Inside the socket was an eyeball, vaguely formed and webbed white as if it were blinded by cataracts. Slowly, Lynn put her hand over her right eye. The world was blurry and halfway-defined, murky gray and distant.

But there was something.

Lynn took her hand away and took a deep breath. She grabbed the letters and a bag which she slung over her back. Inside the bag, a change of clothes was wrapped in a trash bag, because Cordelia Lynn Holmes was not going to die soaked in sewer sludge and smelling like ass. There were a few bottles of rubbing alcohol, a can of hairspray, and a big roll of duct tape. Lynn felt privately that covered every possible contingency she could foresee. Last but not least, buried at the bottom of the trash bag was the softest blanket she could find and a teddy bear. Since you lost yours in the woods.

Lynn took a deep breath and walked out, coming to the exit of the dorm buildings. She dropped three of the letters in the box, her fingers hesitating to let go of the fourth. She considered burning it, just while she could still burn anything she wanted for a few more minutes.

"Fuck it," Lynn muttered, dropping Che's letter in the box and walking away. It was still before the dawn, and Lynn's whole body steamed as much as her breath misted before her as she walked through the quiet and the snow.


Lynn walked up to behind the coffeeshop, teeth clenched as tightly as her fists. Packet was sitting alone, which about figured. Lynn eyed him for a minute, pacing around. Lynn didn't see anything out of the ordinary. She'd circled the coffeeshop a few times before approaching, glancing around for anyone hidden, any Promise security lurking. There was nothing.

Lynn stood a few feet away from Packet. This was weird. As she stood still, the snow near her misted and melted.

There was a pregnant quiet. "So," Lynn said, looking around. She had absolutely no idea what to talk with this guy about. Well. Hmm. He did, like, computer and machine stuff. That was something. "You ever on Soundcloud?"
I'm brainstorming characters and will join if one comes to me

Leotard spoke but Lynn's mind would not focus. It was just thinking of Packet. Is he old enough to drive? Has he had his first shitty haircut? Is he old enough to want to fuck girls, or - Lynn's fingers tightened around her biceps as she stood in the gray camp shirt, watching Leo as he spoke. As he mentioned the limitations of his powers, Lynn privately halved them for her own personal memory. For the girl who had not seemed to remember a single theorem for any of her math quizzes that semester, she etched what the spore-flinger said into her skull. This one shouldn't be trusted, you fucking idiots, she wanted to hiss. Even she, however, had to admit they were up against some very steep odds, and if one were going into this ordeal with the goal of surviving, turning down this brat was less than ideal. Still, Lynn wished there had been a little more preparation for this. We shouldn't have brought him now. He proves his loyalty by getting this information. Now he knows the whole group and their names, their powers. She shot a glance at Keaton. Denim was the smartest person she had ever met - but she thought that she had, perhaps, never had the same kinds of lessons as Lynn had. Sharing information with the new guy so he was up to speed was the smart thing to do, but Lynn wondered if Keaton's power gave her an ounce of cunning. Maybe you were a meta after all, she thought bitterly to the old familiar voice wondering what use this pommel horse Judas had after he told them the ways in and out of the Spire.

"If you're going to take notes, keep a lighter or something on you to torch it if you get caught," Lynn said. "Wearing, I don't know, literally anything else might help with not getting caught, by the way." Lynn felt it strange she was lecturing him on this given she had a >1 felony/hr ratio that day, and was wearing an outfit that was rather plainly neither hers nor legally acquired.

Archie shot down going today, and Lynn felt a sharp flash of anger at him before it passed. It's not him, she thought, rubbing at her forehead. Three days. Three days of this. Her stomach rolling over. The - thinking about the hospital bed. Lynn blinked, realizing she'd been looking at Spoons. Still - four or five days was too long. Especially with Unknown Factor back handspringing his way through the Spire's security forces. Unless Packet started his work on Cara early, that was.

For a dizzying moment, Lynn had two thoughts that rocked her as if she'd had her skull blasted apart again. She could get to Packet first and convince him not to help - scare him shitless, anything - if she cared about this shithead teenager more than everyone at these tables.

Then the second: no matter what she chose, she was just using someone. Another kid. Which one? Who deserved to live? I suppose I should be the one to pick, after all, Lynn thought, her empty stomach threatening to heave, the socket in her head aching. I've got more experience at getting kids killed than any of them do.

"Less waiting the better," Lynn said, again so sharply and suddenly it surprised herself. "In the event you don't hear something related to - fucking gardening, I guess - from Denim each night, assume they got to her." Lynn didn't attempt to disguise her looking at Leotard as she said this. "Act accordingly." Lynn's tone left little room for ambiguity. She reached for another cigarette and cursed. Next time I rip that guy off, I'm not going easy on him. "Oy, Amelia, you got another one?" she asked, turning to Amelia. Leather jacket's better on her. I probably look like a six year old Hell's Angel in that thing. A pirate Hell's Angel. Christ, what if they shoot out the other one while we do this. I can't play the piano or nothing. Lynn scratched at the bandage, sparking a raw pain in the socket before she pulled away. It itched. "I'll help plan," she said. "And wouldn't be opposed to meeting Packet. Geek like him meeting two and a half teenage girls, probably like Christmas fuckin' morning for him." The candle flickered up and then the tree and - Lynn had not missed Leotard's reference to prompting cooperation from the kid whether he wanted to or not. Lynn's mind was too frantic, like a thousand steel ball bearings blasting against the inside of a shotgun barrel as it fired, to form any one single stance on the issue, whether it was worth scaring this kid shitless or not, whether any of this was right. "After that I'm going to the gym and I'm going to let Vaquero wreck me one last time, so, you know." Lynn stopped, realizing she'd been implicitly inviting the others to do this, like the time with Eli, when they'd giggled and made fun of the hostess. She scratched at her head. She'd need to eat a lot of food to be in fighting shape come three days time, but - but that hadn't really been why she'd set it.

"And getting absolutely annihilated isn't off the table either. Maybe if we're lucky we'll - " she paused short of saying make even more cops shoot themselves this time, remembering Denzel at the very last moment. I can't believe I just held back a joke about a fucking cop for these people. " - find some good shit, I dunno." she fumbled out, rubbing at her head.
u guys make me sad
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