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Scene Title 27
Synopsis After nearly getting killed, Chess Lang finds herself struggling to save one life as she lingers in the shadow of a life she could not save.
Date April 4, 2018

One moment it is suffocatingly dark and silent.

An old, dilapidated wooden door rests crooked in the frame of a run down brownstone. Paint curls in sheet sfrom the walls, blisters in other places. The windows are nothing but wooden framed with ragged teeth of glass jutting from them. The door jostles when it's struck from the other side, its hinges rattle.

The next moment the sky is alight with the streaking plumes of fire and smoke from battery-launched missiles.

Another slam, and dust settles off the door's surface. A third slam, and the hinges break, sending the door collapsing down onto the scraped floor. A woman's silhouette stands in the doorway, barely able to keep the slouching and limp frame of another woman in a blood-soaked fur coat held up at her side.

The rockets scream through the air, launched from a dozen batteries situated on a barren hill. The trail of fire and smoke from the missiles illuminates the hillside, illuminates vehicles and rows of soldiers moving into position. One by one the missiles strike another hillside less than a half mile away, the ground shakes, Chess' body vibrates with the concussive force of the blasts. Flames, earth, smoke, all rise up into the air. Then, under the cover of darkness, the gunfire starts.

Coming from the west over a hill, a platoon of infantrymen. They lead off with several RPG rounds that strike the missile batteries. People are screaming, there's gunfire exchanging on all sides. Flood lights are coming on, popping loudly as they cast scalding illumination across the cold frost-glittering hills. Chess can see Mitchell's forces moving in a desperate pincer attack. There's a whining roar of a jet engine in the air as a vessel streaks overhead, laying down a line of fire across the ambush. People are cut down row after row.

Raven Rock is on fire in the distance.

Chess' boots scuff and stomp across the hardwood floor, dragging the other woman's motionless body inside. Rainwater and blood trails across the hardwood floor. She lays her down on her back, spreading her fur coat, searching for injuries. The brunette is Chess' age, same hair color, similar cheekbones, similar build, damn near same height. Her clothes beneath the jacket are blood soaked, her body is cold to the touch.

The kinetic charge on a throwing knife detonates against one of the infantrymen desperately trying to stop the batteries. The blast tears him apart with such ferocity that he simply stops being where he was. Pieces of him made so small and scattered so far its as if Chess just denied that he was ever there at all. There's more gunfire, all around now, her ears are ringing. They'd snuck up on the batteries, the Resistance had gotten cocky in the final hours. They didn't expect a suicide rush.

The fur coat comes off entirely, thrown to the floor with a wet slap. There's the first injuries, a deep gast along the outside of her right bicep, another along the forearm. A deeper cut across her palm and fingers. Her entire right arm is covered with defensive wounds. The other arm is ok, though Chess notices a thick-lined black tattoo at the woman's wrist. The roman numeral IX.

More gunfire, this time Chess feels a sharp pain in her leg. She should feel more, except she's been struck bodily by another soldier. She falls to the side, then falls forever and lands o far away from the battle that the sounds of explosions, gunfire, and jet engines feels distant. It's dark here, on another sparsely wooded hill under spotty moonlight, so cold that their breath is showing as silvery gouts of steam. Miles stares in Chess' eyes, arms around her waist, brows raised in worry. "Chessie," he exhales. She feels warm in his embrace. It's blood.

Lower, Chess finds another deep cut on Alix's right thigh down to her knee. Pale jeans are soaked dark red and brown from the blood she's lost. There might not be coming back from this for her. She's breathing, but it's shallow, her face is ghostly pale. The rain is hammering down on the brownstone's roof, gusting in through blown out windows. It's so cold Chess can see her breath in silvery gusts.

Miles slides off of Chess, exhaling a deep breath. In the moonlight she can see the dark spots on his chest and side. Bullets meant for her. His fingers wind with hers, gripping tightly. He's smiling.

Because he saved her.


Park Slope

Embers are all the remains of the fire Chess started in the brownstone's old hearth with broken bits of furniture. Birds are chirping out on the street, some in the upstairs of the house as well. There's a steamy haze of mist clinging to the streets outside from the last night's rain storm. Warm sunlight fluoresces in the mist, makes everything seem brighter than it really is. Dewdrops collect on overgrown grass on the edge of the sidewalk, on the pain-chipped window frames and water-spotted broken glass.

The old armchair she'd fallen asleep in is tattered and dusty, soft enough for the situation. Alix lays on the floor where Chess left her, bandaged in strips of shredded curtains, wrapped in an afghan that had been set on the back of the collapsed sofa and left in front of the fire. She's sweating, profusely, in spite of the cool morning air but remarkably survived the night.

Chess can see her eyes open, partly, looking blearily around the abandoned brownstone and over to where Chess has just woken up. She tries to talk, but only a hoarse sound escapes her throat. Both of them made it out of that night alive. That much is a start.

“Hey,” Chess murmurs, her own voice rough from want of use. She frowns as she studies the other woman, noting the sweating and weakness. “You need some water.”

And antibiotics, stitches, and a lot of other things Chess isn’t capable of providing.

Water, she can provide.

Chess slowly gets up, sucking in a breath through gritted teeth, her own body battered and achy from the struggles of the night before and sleeping fitfully in a chair in a cold house. She reaches for the recycled bottle she’d filled with run-off water sometime in the night, then kneels beside Alix, tucking one arm under the other woman’s neck to raise it while bringing the bottle of water to her lips.

“And a doctor. I can see if I can get someone to pick us up. Elmhurst is pretty far away,” Chess says, quietly. “Unless you know someone who might help us.”

Alix chokes on the water, partly her own fault, turns to the side and winces in visible pain. “Can't— hospital…” is a less hoarse warning, if only just. “They'll find me, kill me. Kill you,” comes with more emphasis, green eyes opening to regard Chess with palpable fear.

“I— I can't go to a hospital.” Alix reaffirms, urgently. But it limits their options, limits what can be done for her that won't end up with her buried behind this house in a shallow grave beneath an overgrown lot. One trembling hand reaches out for Chess, “Please.”

The words kill you bring a deeper frown to Chess’ face. “I’m not a medic. I can’t fix this…” she says, sharply, eyes darting to where she knows the deepest cuts are, beneath the layers of blanket and bandages.

A little more gently, she adds, “You need antibiotics. I can maybe get some on the street but if you’re allergic or it just doesn’t work… You’re already feverish. I have a friend who was a medic in the war, but she’s… I don’t know. She’s friends with SESA.”

Which brings the other pressing questions back to the forefront, and Chess sits back on her heels, resting her arms on her knees as she stares down at the woman claiming to be her sister. “Who are you people, and who’s they, who’s looking for you? Why are you looking for me? If you’re my sister — why now?” There’s anger in her tone — now that she’s taken care of Alix, the fact she could have died is starting to catch up to her. Her dark eyes narrow as she stares down at the same delicate features of her would-be murderer the night before.

Closing her eyes, Alix rests the back of her head against the floor and exhales a shuddering sigh. “I have to trust you,” she weakly offers, in regards to everything. To the SESA-aligned doctor, to the questions. Alix opens her eyes, slowly turning to regard Chess again,hair plastered to her brow by sweat.

“Praxis Heavy Industries,” Alix rasps the name. “They made us,” the word made has so much weight. “Th— the— they made Ivy. They've been looking for you since you and— and your sisters escaped.” The look in Alix’s eyes is a weary one, pupils unfocused. It's clear she's either delirious with fever or in shock from the blood loss — or both.

Swallowing dryly, Alix pulls back her untaken hand and rests it at her chest. “There were twenty-seven of us,” she admits with a shaky exhalation of breath. “T-three batches of nine each.” Green eyes close slowly, then open again, brows furrowed and she's struggling to put the pieces together to explain this with any coherence.

Alix’s words draw a headshake from Chess. “I didn’t escape anything. I think you’re confusing me for someone else,” she says, though her words are gentle.

The woman on the ground is probably dying so she isn’t going to argue with her about it. “It doesn’t matter. You need help. I’m not sure I can get a hold of the medic anyway but maybe a friend can come pick us up or something.” It’s skeptical; the roads are rough and the cell towers weak. Chess moves to where she’s hung her courier bag over the back of the chair and pulls out her cell phone, quickly surveying the screen for bars as she types in a message.

911. Need help/medical. Not for me but someone else. Can’t go to hospital. In Park Slope. She adds the street name but not the address for now.

Yingsu,” Alix emphasizes, expression pleading. “No it's— it's true. All of it. You're— we were too young to remember you and your sisters. I think— you might be the last one left.” There's a troubled look in Alix’s eyes. “We have to… y-you need…” She looks faint, letting her head rest against the floor again.

Swallowing noisily, Alix struggles to remain conscious. “The board wants… they’re uhh… they…” She stops talking, eyes fluttering shut as they roll back in her head and she blacks out.

There’s no signal — Chess didn’t really expect it. She looks from her phone to Alix, frowning as the woman passes out again. “Shit.” She rummages in her bag, finding a receipt and a pen, writing on it in a frantic scrawl. Went to get help. She adds one of her business cards which has her phone number on it but no name.

The water bottle is left next to Alix, as is the blade she’d taken from Ivy. Chess stands again, glancing around until she pulls a fireplace poker from a rusted stand — this she’ll take with her.

She heads to the broken door — there isn’t much she can do about that; Chess can only hope that she can get back before anyone looking for Alix finds her. Out on the street, she breaks into a run, cold, sore, and bruised muscles protesting at every step.

Outside Raven Rock

Blue Ridge Summit


January 18th, 2014

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In the distance, plumes of smoke and flames rise up from the forested hills. Stick-bare trees are silhouette by fire and shrouded in smoke. Screams of both man and machine howl into the starless night sky, and there is a cloying coldness in the still air. Though far from the fighting, jets streak overhead, and death looms in the firelight shadows.

On his back in the frost-glittering grass, Miles Dylan is dying. Blood soaks into his clothes, breathing ragged and shallow, silvery gusts of breath visible at his lips in the frigid January air. Though he has the strength, for now, to clutch one hand to the woman leaning over him that he was able to save. Fingers laced together, Miles manages a pink-toothed smile to Chess.

Sorry,” Miles hisses, brows momentarily pinching together when pain comes through the shock. “I uh, zigged when… when I should’f,” he winces again, eyes clenched shut and breath hitching in the back of his throat.

The heat of her tears streaming down her face is the only thing Chess can feel; everything else is numb from cold and shock. Her own injuries ignored, she’s still trying to put pressure on the wounds but there are too many and she only has two hands — one now that he’s grabbed the other, her blood-stained fingers interlaced with his.

“Sh-hh-hh,” comes out in syllables broken by tremors and sobs; Chess slumps from the crouch she was in to be closer to him, cradling his head and shoulders onto her lap. Tears fall, glittering in the short distance between her face and his. If it were one of the princess movies she’d once watched, so many years ago in Denver, that would be enough to save him.

“Don’t leave me,” she whispers, her breath catching like his, but on sobs and tears instead of blood. “I can’t-” she swallows the words, and sobs again. “I love you,” is whispered, quickly, before it’s too late to say it one more time. One last time.

Miles manages an awkward smile through the pain, clutching Chess’ hand as best as he can. “Hey, hey…” there’s a weariness in his voice, an almost put out tone, don’t cry, it urges. It’s as though he expects this to just be a passing problem. He faces his own mortality with the same carefree ease that he does the rest of his life. What of it he had.

“I love…” Miles’ brows knit, eyes unfocused, “you too, Chessie.” He manages a huff of a laugh, it doesn’t seem to hurt him anymore in spite of the dark red spots at his side. She can feel his fingers slacking, lips parting to say one last thing.

He never does.

Park Slope

Present Day

Chess watches the wet world slide by through the passenger window her forehead leans against; fatigue and exhaustion have settled into her muscles and bones now that she’s no longer moving, after running most of the way to Elmhurst to call Luther. She didn’t give him a lot of explanation: she was attacked and someone else needs her help, but she can’t go to the hospital.

“Turn here,” she murmurs, when they come to the final turn. Her hand’s already on the handle of the door, ready to pop it open once she tells him where to go. Halfway down the block, she sits up. “Here.” Once he slows, the door is already swinging open and she hops.

One hand pulls out a heavy rock, rounded by time and water, to fill her palm — between Park Slope and finding a signal in Elmhurst, she’d restocked her bag of tricks. She hurries to the open front door, but then slows, peeking around the doorframe cautiously.

Already a man of few words and fewer questions, Luther didn’t need any but a rough greeting on the other end of the line when Chess called to know one thing. She needed help. Really, she had only needed to mention ‘attack’ and the man was moving. The car he uses, an older but functioning sedan with a muted blue paint, pulls around the turn and slows enough to let her out. Luther pulls the parking brake on the way to lock up.

The man steps after her but a few paces behind, having grabbed a duffel that serves as a bug-out bag and happens to contain the essentials. A first aid kit for one. When he catches up to Chess, he stays just an arm grab away, his tall frame hunched but looming, pressed up against the side of the darkened wall in cautious defensive posture. For the sake of stealth, he says nothing, moderating his breath even to shallow, slow flow.

The house is a disaster, peeling paint and rotting wood, blown out windows and ivy intruding through every gap it can find. There is also an either dead or dying woman in her mid twenties laying on the floor wrapped in what remains of a curtain. Nearby, a fire in the hearth has burned down to embers. She is ashen in coloration, glistening with sweat, and otherwise stationary, with dark hair plastered to her brow and cheeks.

Luther’s seen people who died from traumatic blood loss before. She’s either already there, or close enough to look the part.

When she’s not ambushed by “Vi,” Chess rushes in to where Alix lies on the ground, pressing her lips together as she falls into a crouch next to her. A shaky breath fills her lungs as she stares down at the injured — dead? — woman.

Worry contorts Chess’ face, and there’s a threat of tears in her dark eyes — more so than there would be for any ordinary stranger, as Luther knows from fighting with Chess in the war. She’s seen death too often, been too numbed by the bloodshed of battle, to cry over every fallen stranger she sees. It isn’t apathy, but survival.

Her hands tremble a little as she reaches for Alix’s wrist, to feel for a pulse

WIth the floor creaking beneath his boots, Luther zeroes in after Chess to the young woman laid out on the floor. The man’s brow furrows deeply as he unshoulders the duffel and sets it down, moving to the other side of Alix and kneeling. The first things he extracts are the first aid kit that’s more of a toolbox with a sharpied cross on it, and the noisy solar thermal blanket that’s promptly unrolled and handed out to Chess. “Here,” he says, “Get this on her.”

He doesn’t wait for Chess to comply, but then turns to the kit and flips open the lid, revealing an array of bandages, gauze rolls, alcohol wipes, medical tape, whatever has been salvaged from his outings for spare supplies. Rummaging towards the bottom of the box, he pulls out what appears to be blood transfusion equipment: needle, tubing, etcetera. “Did you find a pulse?” he asks as he preps, words steady and trying to be calm. For her sake. A little bit for his too.

At first, no. There's a sick feeling that twists in the pit of Chess’ stomach when she feels how cold Alix’s wrist is. There's nothing, just the cold and clammy skin of a corpse. But then a flutter, a faint pulse of a body struggling to survive. She’s still alive, but only barely.

Chess doesn’t answer, reaching with one hand for the blanket while she forces herself to steady her own hand to feel for that hint of life in the woman — her sister? She shakes her head slightly but then nods. “Barely,” she whispers. Like speaking aloud might scare that thready pulse away.

She turns to look at him, eyes widening slightly at the sight of the tubing. “What… I don’t know how…” she begins, her own pulse speeding up with fear. “I don’t know her blood type. Maybe we should just get her to the hospital — she said they’ll find her, kill her, if we do but…”

But she’s dying anyway, goes unspoken.

Shaking his head, Luther is avoiding looking at Chess even if he can feel the distress. “Not you,” he says after focusing on sanitizing the setup. Then he strips off his jacket, its weight slipping onto the floor and pulls off the longsleeved shirt layered over to expose his arms. “She might not last on the way there,” he adds and finally looks up to Chess, grey eyes steadying on hers. “I need you to tie this, just long enough.”

A rubber strip gets passed over, and Luther offers out his own arm. Then, a dry smile that’s meant to be reassuring comes up on his face. “Universal donor, that’s me,” he says.

This would be serene, in other circumstances. The visual texture of peeling paint, intruding ivy, and the songs of birds outside set against morning mist steaming off the asphalt and golden rays of sunlight. But there is a woman dying on the floor, trembling and unconscious, lips as pale as the rest of her with an ashen shade of gray.

There’s a slow, stupid blink for a moment as Chess pulls the pieces together. “You’ve done this before?” she asks, a little dubiously — but he has the materials in his first-aid kit for a reason.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” she adds — medic stuff wasn’t her forte by any means in the war, though she’s stitched wounds and bandaged her friends up from time to time.

Still, she takes the rubber strip and does what he says, her dark eyes darting up to his face to see if she’s done it right. With any makeup she’d been wearing long since washed away in the rain and her face pale from exhaustion and fear, she looks younger than her years, much like the young adult he’d known during the war.

“Tie right there,” Luther helps with the verbal direction, gently though, recognizing Chess’ distress. “And yeah, from Trish. She’s the one who figured out my type. And it took us a bit the first time she had to plug me into— there.” The anecdote, meant to be a distraction, cuts off when Chess is finished tying off the tourniquet. Then Luther goes about finding spots on himself and Alix’s cut up arm where he can safely insert the other side of the transfusion set up. And once the line of red fills in, Luther settles down beside the girl, hovering his hands over the thermal blanket. His fingers glow slightly, offering light and heat to warm the cold air trapped beneath the metallic sheet quicker. Chess has seen him do that trick plenty of times in the years past.

And then, they wait.

“So. What happened?” he asks after a beat, after the sheet feels warm enough.

On examining Alix’s arm, other than the defensive wounds, he notices a tattoo on the inside of her wrist, a Roman numeral IX. It doesn't look artistic, and it's faded and stretched. Given that she looks to be in her twenties, that tattoo would need to have been put on her as a baby to get that distorted.

Now that there’s nothing to do but wait, Chess sits, huddled, arms around knees, knees pulled up to her chest, one hand clasped on the opposite wrist as she stares at the woman on the ground. The question is heard; there’s a slow blink of response, but she doesn’t speak for a long minute.

When she does, she doesn’t look at him.

“She was in the Armory entryway like this. I went to help her and her sister was there with a knife. I tried to fight her, but,” she frowns, shaking her head at the memory. “The other one — Ivy I think her name is, I think she absorbs kinetic energy. Not a good match-up for me. I threw…”

The tears that have been too close to the surface suddenly break through it, filling her eyes as she turns to look at the courier bag she’s dropped on the floor nearby. Her hand unlocks its grip on her wrist to scrub over her face, like she’s embarrassed at the tears, especially over an object.

“I threw the Shakespeare.” Her words are flat, but artificially so. “She… I don’t know. I don’t think she’s gone but she disappeared. The pen is mightier than the sword.” The attempt at a joke comes with no expression, no mirth or smile.

Since he has plenty of time to examine Alix, Luther does so to take in the other wounds and that peculiar marking. His brow furrows deeply. It doesn’t smooth out either when Chess explains the events of the evening. At the point of ‘absorbs kinetic energy’, his grey eyed gaze widens a bit. He understands the implication. The distinct weakness that someone fighting Chess might exploit.

But worse, the words that come from her next. “Shit,” he grunts, and there’s a moment of silence for the object. Or rather, the death of the concept behind the book. He doesn’t point out her tears, since she’s making a move to wipe them, but he does nod over to his duffel, granting her access to its contents. Likely there’s tissues in it too.

“This Ivy,” he then says after some thought. “Why would she attack you? Or, her own sister? Did she say something…” He looks from Chess to Alix, briefly listening for any change in the unconscious woman’s breathing, and then it’s back again to Chess. “How bad off’s the other one? Trackable?” Obviously now he’s turned toward a different thought. Protective, but dark. Find the threat, eliminate it.

Chess is unintentionally spared having to, immediately, answer those questions by a small noise. The tiniest groan of awareness comes from Alix, though her eyes struggle to open. She isn’t strong enough to move, not more than a curl of her fingers against the emergency blanket and a visible tension in her jaw and neck. She’s awake, though barely. When her eyes do open enough to look around, she is staring blearily and unfocused, not wholly aware of her surroundings.

If she was about to answer, it doesn’t show; Chess’ dark eyes dart back to where Alix moves, and she reaches to take the hand that isn’t attached to the arm getting pumped full of Luther’s blood.

“Hey. Shhh. Just relax. We’re helping,” she says quietly, before she looks at the tubing that tethers the frail woman to one of the only people she trusts in the world. “Be careful. Don’t give too much, Lu. You know when to stop?” Her eyes, shining wet with those momentary tears, already gone, look up into his face.

“Thanks,” Chess breathes out, suddenly, without letting him answer the last question. “I owe you.”

He doesn’t look it yet, but Luther is also tiring. The transfusion is doing its job though, and he keeps himself plugged in, so to speak, until there’s the sign of life from Alix. And some life in Chess too, for that matter. His head nods slowly, the movement lolling off to the side a little. “I’m alright,” claims the man as he blinks down at the young woman waking.

He’s fine, really. Especially as he reaches to check on Alix’s pulse. Luther stays quiet for the moment, letting the pair re-acquaint themselves with each other’s presence. And there’s but a short shake of his head for Chess’ words. No need for favors or keeping tabs yet.

Only now noticing that she has a needle in her arm, Alix tenses and then relaxes back against the floor. Bleary eyes square on Chess, half seeing her. She doesn’t look well, though there is a small measure of better could be incrementally applied. “They wanted me… to kill you…” Alix’s confession sounds like an apology, as best as could be made. “I— I helped them find you. But I couldn’t… I can’t.”

Brows knit together, Alix swallows dryly and with difficulty, turning her eyes up to the ceiling. “I’ve lost so many family members already. But… a half-sister like you,” weary green eyes level on Chess again. “They knew I’d come to warn you. They… used me to pinpoint where you were. I’m… so sorry.”

Chess’ dark eyes dart back to Alix’s face when the other woman speaks, her brows drawing together in a strange mix of fear and relief. She glances up at Luther — so much for keeping this (questionable) sisterhood secret — she wasn’t going to tell him just yet. If at all. “So… I’m adopted,” she says, a little wryly, as if that’s something she needed to have told him before.

Normally it wouldn’t be.

Looking back at Alix, Chess raises a brow. “Well, thanks for not killing me. Why is anyone else trying to? And Vi… she’s not dead, right? I’m guessing I just stalled her.”

To Luther she adds, “You got any antibiotics in there? Once she’s ready to move, you think we can hole her up wherever you’re staying?” Her, not Chess.

Turning his gaze back to Alix when the woman starts to speak, Luther looks like he’s about to shush her and tell her save her strength. But what she first says in confession cuts that whole thread of thought off. His mouth closes, forming into a frown and half-lidded eyes switch back to Chess. A brow ticks up with the note about half-sisters and adoptions. That’s new. “And now you’ve got sisters. Trying to kill you. Or not kill you.” A low noise hums deep in his throat and chest for the implications.

“Nothing recent in there,” he answers on the antibiotics in the duffel. “I’ve got some back at my place though. The hospital sent me home with a few packs of ‘em.” After he was shot, then showed up with the bullet wound that was patched up in an unclean ruin of an abandoned building. That was an interesting story to tell the nurse. Even more fun when they cleaned it out to restitch properly.

He nods slowly to the request for sanctuary. “It’s best she rest up for a few. I’ll check the company’s first aid station. But, she really should see a doctor ‘bout those cuts.” He’s definitely not equipped to do any sort of medical operations. Once there seems to be enough color and warmth to Alix, and a strengthening of the pulse so she’s not on the brink, he moves to extract the transfusion needle. Before he does so, he turns to Alix and asks, “How many are out there? Does ‘Vi’ have more backup? And… how did you find Chess?” It might be important to know.

Alix smiles wearily as she looks down at the IV going into her arm, then up to Luther with a floaty and disconnected expression. Closing her eyes, she rests her head back against the floor with a soft thunk. “There were… twenty-seven of us, originally.” She keeps her eyes shut while she talks. “Three sets of nine, each… each engineered in a laboratory. One— one pod was lost entirely, a train derailment. No survivors. One pod was smuggled out of China in the 90s…”

Swallowing dryly, Alix opens her eyes and turns her head to look at Chess. “Her… her pod was the one smuggled out of China. We didn’t think any she or any of her sisters survived. I… I came from the third pod of clones, there’s… there’s only a few of us left.” Brows furrowed, she makes a soft, pained noise in the back of her throat and winces, but then seems to recover. “Yingsu— Chess… did something to get on our owner’s radar years ago. We’ve been hunting for her ever since. I…” Alix looks over to Luther. “I can see things. People and places, at a distance. I’m their tracker.”

Though she’s more aware of her surroundings, Alix is also visibly delirious and her focus swims when she speaks. She may be out of the immediate threat of death, but infection and septic shock could still easily take her life.

“Clones…” repeats Chess, eyes wide and tone dubious. She sits back on her heels and pushes her hair back from her face; it falls back down as she stares down at Alix with disbelief — even so, she frowns with worry as the other woman seems about ready to fall unconscious once again.

“And here I thought I was just another unwanted second child. Turns out I’m one of 27. I’d say she’s hallucinating from pain or something but they both called me that. Yingsu. It’s some flower, if I remember right,” she says, more quietly, to Luther. Suddenly she stands, wincing as her sore joints protest. “Maybe they confused me for someone else.”

There’s something in her face that suggests she knows they haven’t. That this is true. Her family — one trying to kill her and one trying to save her.

“She’s going to die if we stay here,” she says, tersely, not trying to sugarcoat the words despite Alix’s consciousness. “We have to get her to the hospital. She says they’ll find us if we do, but…” she gestures to Alix. “Maybe we can get her a security guard. I can stay if not.” Despite the fact she’s in danger, too, if Alix is to be believed. “Should we make a stretcher or can you carry her?”

A low huff of breath rolls out of Luther, echoing the disbelief in Chess' expression. But he remains quiet, listening to every word Alix manages to tell them. It's all Luther can do now besides watch the young woman's physical state. What she says is so incredibly out there for both himself and for his friend. "So, not just ninja assassins, but clones. Pod people," he says as he reaches over to feel Alix's forehead for signs of dangerous fever. Or worse, if she's cold from the shock and blood loss.

He nods in agreement with Chess, and pushes up slowly to his feet. All his movements are slow, careful, testing in case he himself starts to wobble from the vertigo of having transfused his blood into Alix. Once he's stable, Luther draws in a breath. "Maybe they are, but they came after you," he says quietly. "And we don't know why. What we do know? They want you either dead or in their hands." He frowns deeply, a flicker of protective anger creeping up into his expression.

"We'll get her to the hospital first," he concludes, a finality of decision made. "And if they come again, it'll be a big fuckin' mistake." Not just because of the hospital's own security. These mysterious would-be murderers have kicked a bear. And he's quite grumpy when awoken. On that note, he reaches into his pocket and tosses the car keys to Chess. "I'll get her. Grab the bag and get the door." Shrugging out of his large coat, he stoops to lay it over Alix and the thermal blanket and, as gently as he can without jostling her too much, scoops the young woman into his arms.

“Nn— noo” Alix tries to protest as she’s picked up, wincing when she is. “T-they’re… they’re not just— you can’t.” Alix swallows audibly and closes her eyes, trembling in fear though too weak to be anything other than carried by Luther. There’s not enough strength left in the young woman to survive another night here, let alone fight someone Luther’s size about where or how she’s moved about.

Desperately trying to think straight, the feverish young woman looks to Chess. “Yi,” Alix tries to explain to Chess while struggling to keep her eyes open. “Y-Yi is Yingsu. Ivy is four, and… and— Alix is nine. It’s— there’s…” too much exertion leads to a few shuddering breaths, and then Alix passing out in Luther’s arms, becoming a dead weight in his careful embrace.

“Don’t be racist. Wuxia. We’re not Japanese,” Chess murmurs, a slight joke despite all of the insanity surrounding them right now. Surrounding her right now.

She catches the keys and moves ahead to clear the way and open the car for Luther and Alix, scowling as the woman protests. She doesn’t notice that the woman has fainted again, and rants as she walks.

“Listen. Alix. Nine. You are going to die if we don’t get you help. As creepy but cool DYI transfusions might be, Luther doesn’t have antibiotics in his blood that are going to keep you from dying, I hate to break it to you, sister.” Even as she speaks, something clicks.

“Roman numerals, except Yi is one. I get it. So every pod has nine of us? There’s potentially eight other fucking mes out there?” Chess opens the backseat to the sedan, and only then turns to look at the unconscious woman in Luther’s arms, then back up to Luther.

“Maybe we can just get some antibiotics somewhere,” is a half-hearted suggestion.

A wry smirk is sent Chess’ way, though her joke is received well enough. Luther carries Alix out despite the woman’s fevered protestations, and eventually lays her down as gently as he can down into the backseat of the sedan, using the angle of the cushions to cradle her against the back. Once she’s there, though, he turns with a troubled look back to Chess.

“They found you, assuming they used her to do it,” he says of the tracker laying in his sedan. “Normally, I’d say we get the two of you far apart from each other and stay the hell away from any other girls who look like they’d have a passing resemblance.” The however lingers in the air. “We need more info.” Another beat passes, and he looks over back to Chess, his gaze softening briefly as he sees her attempt to cover up the distress. “And we need to take care of you too.” A lot of things still left to do, he wagers inwardly. Then with a short glance back to Alix, he turns to move to the driver’s seat. A hand holds out for the keys.

“My place,” he says as their first destination. “Grab a few things there. If you’re up to it then we’ll take her to Elmhurst. See if she’s going to make it through the night.” His brow lifts in silent askance. “Unless you got a better plan.”

“Normally,” Chess repeats in that incredulous tone. “LIke there’s anything normal about this.” She closes the door and gets into the passenger seat of the car, sitting sideways so she can keep an eye on the unconscious woman in the back seat.

She casts a glance at him. “If you even think of calling me Dolly, I will blow up your car.”

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