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Don’t listen to him, I’ll be your GREAT GRANDPAPPY
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𝐒𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐤 𝐎𝐍𝐂𝐄 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐟𝐮𝐧, 𝐓𝐖𝐈𝐂𝐄 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐠𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐥𝐮𝐜𝐤
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1 mo ago
I LOVE OPEN MIC NIIIIIIIIIGHT
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Just a little bit worse than someone getting kicked in the face.

“WHAT THE FUCK!”

Trevor’s exclamation of shock over the comm line was sudden and effective in making D spring into action. He was on the upper level overlooking the left side of the loading bay. The invading group rushed out of their hijacked shuttle, quickly entering into the crowd and unloading into them with their own array of firearms - rifles and machine guns. One of them took the initiative to look up and start firing into the gathering above. D lept back, as did several attending students, all bolting for the exit to the cafeteria. Four of them went down, one attempting to crawl away, but ceasing movement seconds later.

“Jesus CHRIST, DO SOMETHING!”

On it, Mister Norton.

D, still low to the ground, paused for just a moment to browse his options. The assailant most likely still had a bead on the upper level. So, a distraction would be in order. And he had just the right item for the job.

D placed both of his hands on his head. A few quick clicks and whirs sounded from his neck, as the space between his head and his torso suddenly became vacant. He detached his head from his body manually, in the place of the open neck space emerging a small, disc-shaped module on the end of a rod - a secondary visual device, just peeking out of the jacket collar.

D reared his arms back, head in his hands, and then proceeded to fling his big red mug over the railing and into the crowd. The sight of the head immediately caught the attention of the assailant who’d been watching the upper level, firing at it as it sailed through the air. Only seconds later was his firing interrupted upon the headless body of D rapidly descending from on high, tackling the assailant to the cold, blood-stained floor. The bodiless head of D, meanwhile, landed away from the ensuing craziness and, in the middle of his roll, popped out from the opening at his base four quintuply-jointed metal legs. A feature that he hadn’t made use of until this moment, and that Trevor had remained unaware of given his abstaining from rooting through D’s head. The bodiless head immediately began skittering away, at a remarkably quick pace no less, away from all the danger.

D’s headless body, on the other hand, stayed behind. He took the pinned assailant’s head in his hands and slammed it on the floor several times, until he was out cold. It was then that he turned his attention towards the next nearest enemy, who’d taken to looking the same way just in time to see his ally’s unconscious body, and the headless robot standing over him. And with no hesitation, he turned his rifle on D and began firing.

Bullets went both flying by headless D, and straight into him as well. Sparks flew out for everything hit that wasn’t protected by the thick gel coating, more bullets getting lodged inside. D jerked from side to side with each impact, pace slowing just a little before reaching his target and tackling him to the floor, just as he did the last one. Once he was pinned underneath the robot’s weight, D began connecting his fists to the assailant’s face in rapid succession - until he was interrupted by a sudden noise.

The man pressed a black spot somewhere on his own vest. Scanned his fingertip.

Three rapid beeps, followed by a long one at a slightly higher pitch. Orange lights accompanied each beep.

And then - boom.

Explosives, in the assailant’s vest. Activated manually.

A mixture of blood, viscera, clothes, equipment, and mechanical components flew out in all directions.

One assailant was dead. Another was unconscious. And the headless body of D was destroyed.

The bodiless head, however, was elsewhere.

And the screaming, the shooting, the chaos - all went on yet still.



D had arrived at the loading bay ahead of schedule. Thus so, he resolved to just wander around some before things started happening. It was gonna be an eventful first day for a lot of newly-enrolled parahumans, but sadly for them, none of it was gonna involve any of their faces getting kicked or any Archies hulking out or what have you, the exciting stuff. A shame - but also a necessary acceptance. D, for the first time in a long time, was gonna be on his best beha-

“Hey!”

D turned his head. Two security agents - a man and a woman - had approached him from behind, the man-one calling him out. D immediately lifted himself from his lax stance and stood upright. An admittedly weak attempt to pass off as nothing but a cold, unfeeling automaton.

Couple days ago, Trevor had given D some recorded responses in his own voice to work with, in case of an event such as this. Time to put them to use.

“Pre-recorded response, addressing security.”

“Yeah. Robot. Right.” The first agent said, “What are you doing here? Eggheads trying to get you to do guard work now?”

“Pre-recorded response, indicating this unit is acting solely within Promise security-established permissions.”

“Course you are.” The agent said as he stepped further towards D, very close now, “Whatever asshole in R&D is controlling you, let’s make sure they listen - you stay out of our business. No goofy-looking robots are getting in our way, you got that?”

“Pre-recorded response, recommending you to go fuck yourself.”

“The HELL did you just-”

D got right back in the agent’s face. He dropped the soulless automaton act for just a brief moment.

“Pre-recorded response, reminding present security personnel that if you damage this unit, which is protected under official orders, then Chief Gennedy will have you strung up by your nuts until they turn black and pop off like raisins - so back the fuck off.”

Prepared for all situations.

The guard took a cautionary step backwards, his girl buddy watching all the while. “Just…” He said, raising his finger under D’s chinny-chin-chin (that didn’t exist), “Don’t go doing anything stupid. You stand there, and you watch.”

They both stared each other down a moment as the agents proceeded to pass by D, turning their backs to him. The moment he felt assured that neither of them were gonna look back, he proceeded to vigorously wave goodbye, do a little dance, and top it off with a raising of his two favorite fingers - and a squat.

He stood back upright as the agents both walked away, oblivious to D’s mockery. He put his hands on his sides and turned to observe the loading bay’s grandeur.

Which, admittedly, there wasn’t that much of.



2024. Eighth of August. 11:04 pm.

Richmond, Virginia. Somewhere out in the woods.

Clark. Parchek. Stromeyer. Roman. Haines. Radvi.

Six men stood before the condemned. They were by a lake, in the dead of night. Three cars parked nearby. Welles hung from a lonesome tree, but not by his neck - they would not let him go so easily.

He was bound, and gagged. He’d killed fifteen people earlier tonight. He was crying.

Haines - the boss - stepped forward. He’d lost his wife just hours ago. He had a small canister of gasoline in his hand. Walked up to Welles - almost said something. Didn’t. Just stared him down before twisting the cap off of the canister. Doused Welles with most of it. Everyone heard him struggle.

“Clark. Matches.”

Clark stepped forward and handed a pack of matches to Haines. He was the only one out of the group whose family wasn’t dead. Welles was caught before that could happen. He felt guilty among his friends.

Haines lit a match. He sheltered the flame in his hands, as if reluctant to let it go just yet. Welles struggled still. Haines whispered to himself.

“You deserve this.”

He was convinced. He was just. He was good.

He threw the match and backed away. Welles lit up instantly. A light in the dark, isolated in the woodland, no one to witness it but the six men.

“Let’s go.”

Five of them turned towards the parked cars. Seen all they had to see. Radvi stayed and watched Welles burn. Burn and scream. Flesh melting. Flickers of light falling down onto the dirt beneath him.

This wasn’t right.

He took out his gun. He kept his eyes on Welles. This wasn’t right. He slowly raised the gun, his breaths becoming louder. Aimed at Welles’ head. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t-

“Sir?”

Radvi’s eyes went wide. He turned around. There was… a child? A young boy. Short, narrowed eyes, unkempt brown hair. Collared shirt, tie, vest, dress pants and shoes.

“Wh-” Radvi stammered.

There was no child there. There was never a child there. This wasn’t how it happened. This was wrong. Radvi stood with his gun lowered, between the child and Welles’ burning body. His head began to hurt. He breathed, and he spoke.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Matthew. I’m a bit lost.”






“Testing, testing, one-two-three-”

“A-B-C, one-two-three, baby, you an-”

“Okay, yes, great, thank you, shut up.”

D was strolling along the ring as Trevor spoke to him on the other end of the line. In the weeks that had passed since Homecoming night, Promise security had been told D was no longer a threat, and to further extent, was on their side. They’d been told he was a robot, not a man. They’d been told to stop trying to apprehend him or beat him senseless or rip his head off. And, for the most part, they listened, barring a few hiccups and misunderstandings in the days immediately following the announcement. Few of them liked him, more still wanted to kick his metal ass, and others felt threatened that automatons taking their jobs were on the rise. Gennedy put all of that noise to rest and told them to just let D be, and that he was very much under control, on a computerized level - which, of course, was a lie.

But none of them needed to know that.

“New arrivals are coming in at 1.” Trevor said to him over the communications line, “I want you there to keep an eye on things, since fuck knows what’ll happen - maybe Jello Bitch will show up after another long break, maybe some parahuman shit-kid will start trouble themselves, I don’t know.”

Yup. Newcomers set to show up on this joke of a station, as if never told that the metaphorical train had flown off the tracks and into the spiraling winds of ‘Good God why are there so many bodies’. Oh, well - D couldn’t say anything, he had no standing to object upon. He just smiled and went with it.

“You’ve got your own taser now, you’ve got a PSI chip, you’re as good as you can get for the time being.”

D patted the taser hidden in his pocket, extra charges tucked into his coat. Trevor had whipped up a copy of the prototype for him, as it had worked well enough against Arianna to warrant keeping in play.

“We’re not far off from rolling out a better version to the force at large. I’m also still working on something for you personally - sound frequency tech to better stop Jello Bitch in her tracks, since you’ve shown me that works. Won’t be ready for a bit though, so make do. Just don’t blow anyone’s ears out.”

A low chuckle from D in response. Blasting memes and music to destabilize Arianna - good times. Kinda wished he could go back to them.

“Anyway, I’ll let you go. I’ll be watching when 1 rolls around, make sure you’re at the loading bay by then. T out.”

And he was gone. D continued his casual stroll, on his way to the loading bay and whatever stops in between.

Smile on his face.

Happy’s back.
- The morning after Homecoming night -

R&D.

Gennedy stepped in through the door.

“Alright Trevor, what did-”

His words came to a halt the moment he noticed there, in Trevor’s workspace, was a seated Freaky-D by the back wall. All lights off.

“What the hell?”

“Relax.” Trevor said, swinging around in his chair, “He’s in sleep mode.”

“What?”

“Wake up.” Trevor said to the seated D, who promptly arose as directed, all lights coming to life. His helmet was still cracked and damaged, the image of his default face broken in several spots. “Jacket.” Trevor added, to which D proceeded to raise his hands up towards his collar. Gennedy watched with some mix of caution and confusion as D opened up his jacket to reveal…

“You’re joking.”

Metal. Wires. Components. A mechanical endoskeleton, all wrapped in a body-shaped mould of translucent, near-black gel. Visible damage was present in several areas, the gel having been distorted and somewhat cleaved away to get to the center.

“He’s a fucking robot?” Gennedy said.

“It actually makes a lot of sense, after everything he’s been involved in.” Trevor said, “His physical abilities, the impacts he’s gotten right back up from, how certain parahuman abilities didn’t work on him. And it explains how he seemed just fine after security spaced him.”

“This is a different entity from the first one altogether.” Gennedy said, putting two and two together, “A backup.”

“Yep. One of - I’m not sure how many total.” Trevor continued, “After he was arrested last night, some of your boys decided to take him somewhere private and rough him up a bit - real professional, by the way - and that led to trying to get his helmet off. Stuck on there pretty tight. They wouldn’t tell me what exactly they did, but eventually they made their way here with the helmet in one hand, and the headless body in the other.”

“What then?” Gennedy asked.

“Dug my fingers into him.” Trevor said, passing by how wrong that sounded, “Overwrote his systems and made him only able to act on direct orders. After that, I spent all the time figuring out how he worked. The riot gel coating his limbs and torso protects the endoskeleton against severe impacts. Batteries are connected throughout his head and gut on a separable cord. Figured he must have been sapping power directly from the station, he has adapter systems in both of his hands. And his feet - built-in skates and boost modules.”

“This is ridiculous.” Gennedy replied.

“Agreed.” Trevor said, “He’s ridiculously sophisticated compared to most publicly known robotics companies’ projects.”

“Where did he-… where did it come from? Who the hell sent robots to this station?”

“That, I’m still trying to figure out. He has files in his head, but a lot of it’s either encrypted or corrupted. What wasn’t though, was footage from last night. He got another solid look at-”

“Arianna. I know.”

“Look, you saw it, you have to understand by now. What happened to Radvi happened because of her. The bodies, the breakout, you have nothing short of a direct confession to pin it all on her.”

“Yes, Trevor, I understand that.”

“And all it took was Radvi nearly getting killed to sway you?”

Quiet. I will be putting more effort towards finding and apprehending her, and I expect you to maintain directing your attention towards null tech development. Wrath is pleased with your taser’s success, so he’s likely to give you more resources and manpower to work with.”

“Great. Awesome. ‘Bout damn time. I’ve still got plenty of ideas I can get rolling.”

“Good. Speaking of, where is the taser?”

“It got lost out in the field, but I’ve got a tracking chip in it. I’m gonna send D to fetch it, make sure he’s working right. To that end, from here on out, I’d appreciate you telling security what the deal is and to not try arresting him anymore?”

“Fine. As long as you can guarantee he’s under control.”

“Well, this one is. I don’t know how many other backups are hiding out there, but if I can get my hands on them and they’re relatively not fucked up, I can bring them all in line too. Once you get inside his head, it’s pretty simple, long as you know what you’re doing.”

“I’ll take your word for it. When you find out more about where it came from and why it came up to this station in the first place, I want to know. But don’t let that take priority over the null tech.”

“You got it.”

“Good. That’ll be all.”

Gennedy took his leave. Trevor watched as he did, out the door and out of sight. After a couple minutes passed and he felt certain the Chief wasn’t gonna come running back for any reason, he slowly took to saying, “And… he… fell for it.”

D slumped his shoulders, letting out a few broken sounds that might have been some random sound effect, were it not for his busted head.

“I didn’t have very high hopes, but it looks like you’re in the clear.” Trevor said, turning around to face D, “If the Chief’s true to his word, security shouldn’t be on your ass anymore.”

Still slumped, D responded with a thumbs up. Seemed sound clips were out for the time being.

“Now do keep in mind I very much could have cracked whatever system you’ve got in that big red head of yours, put you under my command...” Trevor added, “But I didn’t. ‘Cause Rad, against better judgement, trusted you. And I trust him. So, vicariously, I trust you. For now.”

D didn’t respond any, just listened.

“Rad… Jacob’s out of the game, for the time being. But you and I are still in, so we gotta do right by him and get this murdering bitch. I don’t know who the fuck’s behind your controls, or if you’re just some crazy AI up here for no good reason, but whatever you came up to the Promise for at the start, you’ve done enough to prove you wanna help stop Arianna more.”

A nod from D.

“So that’s what we’re gonna do, and with Rad on the bench, you’re gonna be my new guinea pig for testing any null tech me and the other eggheads cook up. And you’re a robot, so that gives me room to take some normally implausible liberties. Gonna be fun.”

A short, distorted laugh from D.

“First thing’s first, though. This you is pretty fucked up, and I don’t really know how to repair you, so maybe consider bringing another one of your duplicates up to bat.”

A thumbs up from D.

“And after that… you’re gonna go get my taser back.”



- About half an hour later -

Back at the scene of the crime.

D - a different D, third iteration, the previous and more damaged one still residing within Trevor’s workspace - dug his hands through some dirt by a tree, as the tracking chip’s signal dictated the approximate location of the taser to him. Trevor was beaming the signal to him through his somatic predecessor.

He held the broken components in his hands. Looked at them for just a moment before pocketing them both and standing up. Before heading back to Trevor’s office within R&D however, he turned in the direction of the forest deadfall, wandering towards it.

He stood on the edge, looking down at the exact location where last night’s events had all gone to hell. Where he watched helplessly as Radvi nearly bled to death, but thankfully, others were there to save him. Some of his blood was still on that damn rock, as a dried up stain.

He just… took in the scene, for a moment, and thought. He’d originally come up this station to have an all around good time, the tensions between humans and parahumans be damned. To just enjoy himself, screw with people, run around and be a fool.

Funny how intentions can change, just like that.



- Later that day -

Radvi was asleep.

He lay on his bed, all manners of medical equipment surrounding him. Monitor keeping track of his vitals, tubes feeding him nutrients intravenously. A nice, cozy blanket covering him. Head turned onto its left. His right - all patched up in white, the damage inflicted days ago obscured from view. He was still.

His necklace rested on the bedside stand. Still connected to his wife’s ring and his daughter’s bracelet.

Trevor was at his side, seated in a chair he’d pulled up. He watched Radvi for a while after entering the room, taking his time to think - about whether or not he should just leave, or… say something. His words might fall on deaf ears, but…

It felt right.

“So… hey, buddy.” Trevor began, “Lookin’ good.”

No response from Radvi.

“Last night, the uh… the taser worked. That’s good. Got lost somewhere, but it’s fine, D took care of it. He and I have teamed up, he’s gonna be my new field tester.”

No response.

“I, uh… saw it all. Last night. D managed to get me the footage. Little messed up but still got everything. You should work on your trigger discipline some time, man.”

Trevor chuckled for just a brief second. No response.

“Anyway, some good did come of this. Gennedy’s all in now, force has started taking Arianna seriously. All it took was you getting your face split open. Bitchin’, right?”

No response.

“And Wrath was impressed with the taser’s success. He’s, uh… putting more resources my way, giving me more folks to order around. Get projects done faster. Not gonna lie, makes me pretty giddy. Might just let all the power go to my big bald head, right? Heh?”

No response.

Trevor paused. Sniffled a bit. Took a moment to find his words.

“You’re, uh… you’re out for now, but I’m still in. D is too. And your, uh… your various parahuman friends, I guess. Arianna, she’s still hiding and… planning who fucking knows what. But it seems like you sold pretty much everyone on her being top priority. So… good job, man.”

No response.

Moment of silence.

“You’re just about the only person on this shit heap of a station that I’ve been willing to call a friend, so I promise you… we’ll find her.” Trevor said sternly. “We will find her and we will annihilate her.”

He raised his finger to Radvi.

“I. Fucking. Swear it.”

No response.

Trevor gently placed his hand on Radvi’s arm. “Wake up soon, buddy.” He said quietly. Moments more passed, and then it was time for him to leave.

And Radvi was… almost, alone.







“Might this provoke… intervention?”

“Maybe. Time will tell.”




Written with @JunkMail



Weaving through the Homecoming crowds took longer than Radvi wanted. Even with his ATV’s sirens blaring, people were slow to make way - either out of innocent hesitation, drunken confusion, or outright malice. Tensions between students and security were still very much high. But to Radvi, that didn’t matter. None of it. Just Arianna - finding her, catching her, making her confess to what she’s done and why she did it.

Was the evidence against her absolute? To most, no. Against any notion of putting two and two together, why she had murdered a staff member day one and no better ideas of how the prisoner outbreak could have been perpetrated, no one else was doing a fucking thing. Just a small group of ‘core components’.

Radvi was sick of this. He wanted an ending to it.

And D? D was more so just... happy to be there.

They made it down to the woods. Once they were close enough, Radvi and D dismounted the ATV and hoofed it on foot, Radvi leading the way. His glasses were displaying the location up ahead, where Arianna had remained still all the while. He had no idea what to expect, save maybe Eli’s presence. His taser was drawn, his gun was at his side, D was right behind him - he steeled himself for the worst.

They both bolted right through the party in the woods. The thirty-or-so people gathered together, just minding their own business, not expecting a cop and a vandal to come rushing through without stopping for any of them. Radvi paid them zero attention, D forwent any usually expected gestures like feverishly dancing or pretending to have a drink - he was, in this moment, all business.

The duo rushed further through the woods, until they reached it - the spot. There, together, were two figures, Eli not in sight among them. Just Holmes, and… her. In plain view, looking weak and vulnerable, masking herself as something far inferior to what all evidence truly painted her as. Radvi didn’t need or want to hear any excuses. His glasses showed him the blue outline highlighting Arianna, telling him everything he had to know - this was the enemy, and she was right here.

“GET AWAY FROM HER!” Radvi shouted at Holmes, taser pointed through her, straight at Arianna, who looked like she was about to speak. The woman’s eyes met Radvi’s, and without another word she pivoted on her heel and ran. Completely disregarding Lynn’s request or offer of help. She didn’t run back in the direction of the body- instead she ran perpendicular to Radvi’s position- deeper into the woods and parallel to the deadfall. With no further warning, Radvi went after her, taser raised. D followed behind, passing a glance at Lynn and nothing more. Brushing past the trees, Radvi caught sight of Arianna, and with no better of a chance likely coming, he took his first shot with the taser. Out went the dart, missing - inches away from the target’s shoulder. Second shot, aimed at the center of her back, and it landed.

It felt like fire. Cold, freezing fire that burnt away at her mind. It was almost like hitting one’s elbow at the wrong spot, but the feeling quickly encompassed her entire body. She felt herself falling apart. She felt every cell go radio silent. In her entire life Arianna had never experienced anything like this. She had been hurt before, but this? This was pain. She screamed, her body rapidly losing its rigidity and form, and fell. She hit the ground with a heavy and wet splat. The only thing left of her being a puddle of bluish goo. The forest was still.

A hardly noticeable look of shock found itself on Radvi’s face. Somehow, he was surprised Trevor’s invention worked to such a significant degree against his target. The feeling was quickly replaced with that familiar fervor to hunt her down, resuming his pace along the deadfall, towards the newly formed puddle. He popped out the front cartridge of the taser and replaced it with a new one along the way, two new shots loaded in. D followed Radvi close behind, not showing his excitement, yet it was certainly there.

A third shape surged from the woods with preternatural speed. It was unmistakably Arianna. A tad older in appearance, but less dirty and far more driven than her terrified doppelganger had been. She sped directly into Freaky-D like a bus, shoulder checking the vandal so hard that his entire body left the ground and tumbled down the deadfall. She turned, flowing and crashing like water, and drove her foot into the crook of Radvi’s knee. She pulled his head back with one arm, and with her other she grabbed the taser. She surged forwards from her position behind Radvi, using the taser as an anchor point, and flowed over the man’s shoulder. Her entire weight shifted from pulling the man backwards to throwing him forwards, and he was thoroughly separated from the weapon- now in Arianna’s grasp. Her expression was neutral, but in a fit of anger she snapped the weapon over her knee in a surprising show of strength and emotion.

Radvi quickly recovered from the ambush, though it was clear he was hurt. He then went for the only offensive tool he had left - his gun. Maybe it was the heat of the moment clouding his judgement, but he completely passed off any notion of what little damage such a thing would do to his opponent. He flicked the safety off, raised the gun towards Arianna, and began firing. Once, twice, thrice. They all hit home, her body contorting like ballistic gel, as she absorbed the shots. She surged forwards again, ignoring any further shots as if they were nothing, and grabbed Radvi by his vest. She threw her weight to the right, wheeling Radvi around with her and pulling him off balance. He went over her hip.

And down the deadfall.

Radvi went down, maybe just five or six feet. But when he did, all those racing moments in his body led to the mistake of tucking his arms in. His elbow - of the arm, with the gun still in his hand - connected with a stone embedded in the ground.

The barrel was underneath the right side of his jaw.

And the gun we-







Ages seemed to pass in a matter of se-





Everything was… blur-





Gurgling. A warm feeling, running out of the wound. Sight cut in half. Dropped his gun. Clutched-



What?



He scrambled. He couldn’t get up. He twitched violently, trying to hold everything together. The open streak running up his cheek, his eye split open, ending in a hole above his right brow. Broken glasses on the ground beside him.

Everything spun. He couldn’t collect his thoughts. It was all going dark.

He saw a figure on his left. A dark, bent body and a head of blurry, broken lights and shapes. Stumbled towards him, hands hovering above him. Didn’t know what to do.

Needed help.







Help-




Beeping. From Radvi’s glasses, clipped to his collar.

“Alert. Target detected by other device.”

“SHIT-” Radvi called out in astonishment, eyes wide. He dropped his coffee out of his hands, spilling it onto the table as he scrambled to put the glasses on. D just watched in idle amazement. Radvi could see the readout indicating that the PSI chip he’d given to Eli had activated. The waypoint marker guided him upwards, to a spot further along the station’s ring, somewhere nestled in the woodland. A whole month of nothing, and suddenly this. Arianna was back, and Eli - maybe others as well - were in her vicinity.

In danger.

“C’mon!” Radvi said, bolting upwards and away from the mess he’d left his table in. D stood up as well, following behind. Radvi made it to his ATV and started it up, ready to roll out immediately - until he felt something clasp at his abdomen, and the sensation of something heavy on his back, static making his dreads lift up a bit.

“Wh-”

D was on the ATV too, seated behind Radvi, holding him tightly.

“You have rocket-powered skates.” Radvi said sternly, “What the hell are you doing.”

“I love horses.”

Radvi sighed, dropping his head.




Noelle was gone.

She had been for a while, actually. No sign of her anywhere on the station. Radvi had only noticed such a few days after the breakout. Once he did, he made a trip to the High Rise, only to discover that it had been demolished during the event. And it was pretty low on the priority repair list.

Now, it was back in business, but under new management. Some woman Radvi had never met before took over, saying that Noelle simply left because the Promise was going to hell. No notice, no goodbye, just… gone. An unceremonious departure.

Oh, well. She had her reasons.

Radvi got himself some coffee, the newly-managed High Rise being one of the few places still open during Homecoming. Somewhere to get drinks that wouldn’t completely wreck your head. It wasn’t busy, of course, and the new owner was mostly just lounging about. But hey, Radvi got his coffee, and that’s what mattered. He found his way back to a little alcove where D was seated. His ATV was parked nearby. He sat down, and forced himself to relax a bit. Sipped some of his coffee.

“So far, nothing’s come up.” Radvi said to D, who was just kicking his foot idly. “I’m starting to think this is just a giant waste of time.”

D turned his head, somehow exhibiting concern without any expressions to form.

“Almost all of the security force has written me off as a loonie and a traitor, for working with you. Because you’re still on their shit list ever since orientation. Why… why even did you kick Anderson’s face?”

D shrugged. He didn’t have any good of an answer.

“Hmm.”

Pause. Another sip of coffee.

“Wish you’d just tell me what you’re doing up here. Or how you survived getting spaced. Or who you actually are or, anything.”

A moment passed before D’s helmet blinked out, the default grin giving way to a dimly lit black surface. The sounds of… breathing, began to emanate from it. Strained, slow, as if being assisted by some form of medical equipment. And shortly after came the accompanying sound of a heart rate monitor, a constant beeping, evenly spaced out. He played these sounds for what seemed like years, even though it was only about ten seconds.

“...What the fuck?” Radvi muttered to himself.

After a few more seconds, the sounds stopped, and D’s face blinked back. The crosshair eyes and the giant, toothy grin. He turned his attention towards Radvi and just gave him a silent, unmoving stare.

“You are…” Radvi said, “All kinds of weird.”

D chuckled. Radvi sipped his coffee again.




“He’s down, he’s down!”

“Keep the rods on him, watch his hands. Stromeyer, gag him.”

Cloth, wrapped into mouth. Muffled screams, crying.

“Parchek, hand me the bat.”

“Here.”

“Hold his arms up.”

Swing. Impact. Crunch of bones. Screaming. Once more, other arm.

“Jesus Christ…”

“Focus. Roman, you have that nail gun?”

“Yeah.”

“Achilles tendons. Both of them.”

Piercing of flesh. More screaming. Twice done.

“Alright. Radvi, go get the rope.”

“...”

“Radvi. Radvi!”







Radvi shot awake.

He was sitting down at a table, in front of a shop that had been closed for Homecoming. D was seated across from him, hands folded, twiddling his thumbs.

‘BAD DREAM?’ flashed across D’s helmet.

“Yeah…” Radvi said, quickly regaining his composure. All the sleep he’d been losing was catching up with him, it seemed. Somehow, he’d let his guard down in the open enough to drift off. He didn’t even remember finding a place to sit down - did D take him there? No one else was in the immediate area to see them. He felt like he was starting to lose his mind for a moment.

“Sorry… about that.” Radvi said. D just shrugged, nonplussed. He was perfectly fine keeping watch while his buddy caught forty winks.

Radvi sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, rubbing his eyes.

“I need something to keep me awake…”




Homecoming was underway. All the station was lit up, all the occupants were celebrating, all the faculty were attending, all the agents were patrolling - Radvi included.

He’d taken a moment off his assigned ATV route to stop and observe the surroundings from an elevated level. His hands were on the railing as he scanned the vastness of the decorated ring. The absolutely boggling part of all this was that it was fulfilling its intended purpose - getting people to forget about the breakout. Maybe for most, it took a lot less time to pass an event like that from the mind. Maybe most hadn’t suffered any personal tragedies at all during the ordeal - just witnesses to other peoples’ loss, as well as the incompetence of the security force for getting locked up in the spire tubes.

Things were going to shit. And Homecoming was just a brief interlude before people resumed realizing it.

Radvi had the prototype taser fastened to his belt, along with a pack of extra projectiles supplied by Trevor. It didn’t function like a normal taser with wires and all, no current to bother running from point A to point B. But, as stated, it was a prototype. If anything came up, and there were no nullifiers around, maybe he’d get the chance to run the field test his R&D friend wanted so bad. And if Arianna were to show up - even better, despite voiced concerns. But if she did... why would it be tonight? Radvi had to accept the fact that he still knew so little about his suspect - who she was, what she wanted, why she wanted it. But he was still resolute in his belief that she was an enemy to this station, and had to be stopped.

Three. Hundred. Casualties.

Radvi sighed. He turned his head and-

“FUCK-”

D was suddenly there, leaning on the railing to Radvi’s right. Radvi, appropriately, expressed his startled shock and flinched backward. D’s response was just a soft, synthesized chuckle. No one else was in the immediate area to report the scene, thankfully. Too busy elsewhere, celebrating.

“God-… damn it!” Radvi exclaimed, as the jumpiness wore off, “What is with people popping out of nowhere today?”

D shrugged. Radvi sighed.

“Fine, forget it… What are you doing out here? What’s your plan?”

“Do I really look like a guy wi-”

“Okay, okay, nevermind, listen. I need to talk to you - the Chief told me he’s willing to give you a pass, ID and everything, so that security will stop chasing you.”

‘DO GO ON?’ flashed across D’s helmet in bright yellow letters.

If…” Radvi continued, “You can prove, wholeheartedly, that you aren’t working against us. You’re not an enemy of the station, you don’t have any nefarious plans.”

“Do I really loo-”

“No you don’t look like a guy with a plan!” Radvi interrupted, somewhat irritated at the repeating voice clips, “But the Chief is the one who has to be convinced here. You do that, you’ll have an easier time helping me get this Arianna woman. And that is what you want to do, right?”

Two thumbs up from D, and a little twinkle on his big dumb grin.

“Alright. We’ll work on it. You still have that PSI chip?”

D took his spare chip out of his pocket and held it up with a bit of flourish.

“Keep it plugged into...” Radvi continued, “Whatever device you have on you. If by some ungodly chance she shows up tonight…” He took the taser from his belt and held it up for D to behold. “We’ll be ready.”

D nodded his head. He liked Rad’s confidence. He shared it, even.
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