Location: The Village, awaiting pickup flight to Primary Military Base, Sector 7
It has been, on the whole, quite possibly the strangest day Fiore has ever had. Not that that says much--at sixteen, Fiore hasn't seen much. And it's only the morning.
Life in the village is--was, she reminds herself, for today she'll be saying goodbye to her home of 15 years--a quiet affair. Yes, it is filled to the brim with scientists and researchers, but for the most part, they laid low. They had to, after what happened when the media got involved, when the government caught wind of the research. When the public's interest turned to disgust. Now, the SKINTIGHT2 labs are nothing but a cluster of tents surrounding the large box of a building that the more sensitive tech resides in. Fiore would know; she's visited them every day for the past 15 years, every since her father stumbled upon the compound and she was practically raised by scientists, in lieu of a mother.
Fiore pauses, her hands passing over the contents of her clothing drawer. She's sorting her belongings into piles now, one for taking and one for leaving behind. In case she comes back--in case somebody wants them.
The shirt is red and black, well-worn and with many loose threads. It's one of her favorites. It belonged to mother, once upon a time, and it remains perpetually oversized, but Fiore loves it just the same. The scent of her mother has long since left, replaced with the hospital smell of sterilizers, but Fiore likes to imagine her mother's smell is tucked away somewhere. Like if she tried hard enough, she could pretend mother was standing over her like she would've done. At least Fiore thinks she would.
But now is not the time to daydream. Now is the time to prepare herself. Fiore is determined to stand on her own two feet, to not worry father, to prove to the world she's not a child. Even if she may be as short as one.
The standard-size military suitcase is almost full by now. Fiore casts one last look around her small room, taking in her bed, the patterned curtains, the bedside lamp. That's right--she should pack an alarm clock. The trinkets on the top of her dresser are useless, expect for the special contacts case--but Fiore's already packed that, in a separate box, with utmost care. The rest of this is just junk, like shiny rocks or friendship bracelets made of colorful wire and screws. Trixie was kind to give her the extras. Should she take one, maybe another for Audra...?
No. Those are things of the past, things of before the war. Fiore shivers. That word will never end to unnerve her. She hasn't seen such bloodshed on her own lifetime, but she has seen the pictures, and they are terrifying. Is it only because her work relies on knowing the specifics of an injury does she continue to study such gory pictures. The nightmares have not yet ended, but Fiore can easily sacrifice an hour or two of sleep for information that could potentially save lives, and that is what matters. She has embraced her talents, and she will use them for good. That is the right thing to do.
Audra is waiting outside. She is done here, as is Fiore. The flight is at 6 o'clock precisely. She should go downstairs.
Fiore takes a deep breath, zips up her suitcase, and makes her way down the stairs. Everything is different about today--she wakes up early, before the sun peeks up from behind the wall of pine trees, and instead of going straight to the labs to read and research, she packs bags. It is unsettling and it fills her with both expectation and trepidation. Fiore does not know of the outside world, and as such, it is an unknown terror.
Her medical bag is sitting on her desk--the head scientist was nice enough to allow Fiore access to one of the computer-research stations, and she's been experimenting with some newly developed tools lately. She must remember to pick it up before takeoff.
Breakfast is on the table, abandoned and forgotten. Fiore was too nervous to eat. Even when living with hybrid robot-human killing machines, she has never been this scared. She has absolutely no idea what lies ahead.
Father strides up to her, a worried expression on his face. The gauntness of his cheekbones, the hollowness of his eyes--everything about him makes Fiore ache. She wants to stay. She wants to try and fix him, to find a cure for grief, but this new operation is more important. But what could be more important than one's flesh and blood? This world is confusing and frightening, and Fiore is made of glass.
She sighs, meeting Father's eyes. She will miss him--she will miss everything, from the cabin-in-the-woods houses to the shiny-sleek lab coats hanging on their pegs. This is her home, as strange as it might be, and Fiore tries to take as many memories with her as she can. Of the time Audra brought her up to the top of the tallest tree, then immediately fell and broke her arm as Fiore watched and cried. Of spying on training sessions, jealous of Trey for pulling his weight and jealous of Audra for holding her own while she remained weak and sickly.
"Hurry, Fiore. The medics have loaded your lab supplies on the plane already; your friends are ready to board when you are." He pauses. "Come home safely, my little angel."
Fiore blinks away tears, burying her face in his chest. His arms hold her tight. "Yes, father. I'll do my best."
"I know you will. I'm proud of you," he says, and Fiore tries to imprint this moment in her memory most of all. If she never sees him again, she wants to remember this for the days ahead. Her friends may stay beside her, and she's glad they do, but her heart will always stay with father. He is her family. She's going to make him proud, she's going to come home, she's going to make him happy...
She takes a deep breath, pulling away. The plane is waiting. The war has begun. This is it.