A Community That Cares


bf_cassandra_icon3.gif wf_lance_icon.gif wf_quinn_icon.gif wf_squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title A Community That Cares
Synopsis An infiltration team willingly surrenders to the Department of Evolved Affairs to gain entry to the Outer District.
Date March 20, 2018

Through the slatted, armor-plated windows the yellow-gray landscape of Staten Island rolls past like a desert panorama. What fire didn't destroy on this island, humanity did.

Amid the skeletal remains of bombed out buildings lay rolling hills of rubble made from broken concrete, loose earth, and the wreckage of cars. Morning fog rises off of the ground in shifting waves against the hot sun, and the haze of pollutants in the air leaves a pallid yellow cast to the sky. Even inside the prison transport, the acrid stink of chemical waste from the is pungent.

Inside the back of the transport, Robyn Quinn sits with shoulders slouched and head bowed, hands bound in zip ties. Beside her, a much younger woman sits in much the same fashion. The bruise of Squeaks cheek was delivered by the butt of a rifle for the simple crime of not keeping her head down while being loaded into the truck. Across from her, Lance tests the binding at his wrists, feeling the plastic bite into his skin. The interloper from another world, Cassandra, sits beside him likewise in bondage.

At the head of the truck, a man in urban camouflage with a respirator mask covering his face stands with his hand on a loaded sidearm, the other braces against the ceiling. Two more men, heavily armed, sit at the back of the covered transport, assault rifles in their laps and faces likewise covered by masks.

«Eyes down.» The guard at the front of the vehicle asserts to Robyn, unfastening the clasp on his hip holster. This was their plan.

They had to follow the rules.

The Outer District

Old Gate

Outside, the ruins of Staten Island soon give way to a blasted field of flattened buildings bristling with twisted metal wreckage of warplanes and ground assault vehicles; reminders of the futility of the brief war that raged when the dome first arose, and the handy defeat the organized resistance was met with. The truck rumbles past this quarter mile kill zone, past fields of razor wire and burned out hulks of cars, finally reaching a dusty plain of sandy concrete that gradually gives rise to a concrete tunnel that shuts out the acrid skies.

Under artificial lighting and in a two-lane tunnel, the hum of the engine is now a reverberating roar. The truck eventually slows to a stop and the rear guards open the back doors, greeted by a tall pair of wiry humanoid machines — Gen2 Centurions, Tin Men — carrying stubby assault rifles in their skeletal hands. The human guards climb out and motion for the prisoners to step out, while the rear guard inside unholsters his sidearm and points it square at Squeaks.

«All of you, out. Move.» His voice crackles through his respirator. «Eyes down, move out of the truck.»

At the sound of the distorted voice through that respirator, Lance pushes himself up to his feet slowly; wrists before him with the zip ties tight around them, his head and gaze down as he walks past the others to hop down from the truck. Straightening from the slight bend of his knees, he moves wordlessly as directed, gaze down.

This was the plan, even if it goes counter to all of his instincts. A part of his brain keeps calculating escape routes, but he smothers it. And the part of him that saw Squeaks take that strike from a rifle butt smolders hot in his belly, but he smothers that, too. They have to play along. Have to follow the rules.

Not looking at all of the things has always been a challenge. Squeaks didn’t mean to let her eyes wander, she especially didn’t mean to get noticed peeking. The ache in her face definitely made it easier to keep her head down and her eyes planted on her feet while the truck was moving. But it’s stopped now, and the voice draws her attention.

The girl doesn’t look so much as shift her weight before she registers the next command, her head still tipped down chin to chest. Eyes down, she gets to her feet to follow Lance off the truck. She keeps her eyes on his heels, not even sweeping a look side to side at the armed men she has to pass. She hops off the back of the truck and shuffles a step to catch her balance, then moves aside to wait for the others.

Normally, Quinn is full of quips. Sometimes song lyrics, sometimes borderline insane commentary about the current situation, sometimes a sarcastic observation. She's been quiet ever since the turn in, though. There's been moments when she almost broke her act, and offered her thoughts on a situation. Playing the part of both leader and coward isn't an easy pill to swallow.

With glances over to Lance and Squeaks, she rises up from her spot with her eyes lowered. Even the dirt looks uninviting out here, broken concrete marred with scorch marks and dust. A deep breath, and she rolls her shoulders. A thought, a song, wells up in the back of her mind, but she forces it away with teeth raking across her lip - a very real sign of nervousness mixed in with the act.

Going on a ride in a van, back home, was normally a good thing. Even in this new world, heading off on the bus with Eve and the gang was normally exciting but not entirely dangerous or deadly, and with Eve, there was at least a bit of the known in there to boot. This trip through the wasteland surrounding the dome could easily contain any and all of those in one tight little package.

Flexing and twisting her wrists, Cassandra tries to relieve the pressure just a little from the zip ties biting into her skin. Holding things at perfect angle gets blood into her hands, providing a rush of warmth that sets her skin to tingling. A bump gets her hands out of position which requires the twisting and placing again. This goes on for the entire trip.

And when she’s not relieving the pressure on her wrists, Cassandra dares to make glances from beneath her bangs, trying to see anything that might be interesting or useful. She had quickly grown bored of counting rivets in the plating of the floor, eyelets in the cover of the transport they’re in, and bullet holes in the thin metal of the cargo bay that they’ve been unceremoniously dumped into. Were the US government less insane or intact, she would have a stern word or two with her Congressperson, but as the dome draws closer, that pie in the sky dream seems exceedingly fleeting. Squeaks’ getting bashed by the butt of the rifle gets her attention to the floor again for the remainder of the trip.

“Eighty seven, eighty eight, eighty nine…” Cassandra murmurs to herself, blinking herself back to reality before rising to her feet at the barked command. She shuffles along with the rest of the people, the man with the gun at her back, and waits her turn to hop out of the truck. The robots with their assault rifles are noted before she leaps. When she does, it’s with a bend of her knees and scooting forward with a hop, extending her legs in a pistoning motion before she lands to absorb the impact, rising to her feet to stand with the rest of the group. She lifts her hands to attempt to brush her hair out of her face, shaking her head to try and get the unruly locks to behave so she can see.

The loading area is a bare concrete corridor wide enough for two of these nearly seamless and body armored transports to park side by side. At their backs, a pair of iron blast doors are sealed shut, and ahead a pair of metal-trimmed concrete steps lead up to a six foot high landing ringed with a yellow metal rail. The prisoners are brought up from the loading area, «Follow the yellow line» one guard instructs them with a crackle of his respirator’s external speaker. A scuffed yellow line is painted on the corridor’s floor, snaking through an open doorway and past a chain-link divided checkpoint where barking dogs rush to the fencing, snapping and howling while their handlers watch on dispassionately.

Fluorescent lights beat down from the twenty foot high ceiling, and small mechanical drones the size of a softball buzz around with monocular red camera eyes pointed down at the people being led in. Past the checkpoint, the group is stopped at a sliding metal door with a wire-reinforced window in it. There, another human guard with a baton walks past each prisoner, waving it up and down them as though it were a metal detector. It isn’t.

“They’re not chipped,” he indicates, “take them all to central processing.” The bearded guard slams his fist down on a metal plunger button, deactivating the magnetic lock on the door with a noisy buzz. Guards on the other side open the door and wave the group through and the armed guards that watched them on their journey see them off here, leaving them instead in the care of a pair of Gen 2 Centurions, carrying their sleek and stubby automatic weapons aimed precisely at center mass.

The yellow line continues, leading down a ramp and past branching pathways observed by sentry cameras at the high corners of the rooms. The centurions march wordlessly at the group’s back, until they pass through a metal-framed concrete doorway below a stenciled black sign indicating CENTRAL PROCESSING in block print.

Through the doorway to Central Processing is an enormous room the size of a basketball court, concrete floored and divided by a pair of chain link fences that go from floor to ceiling. Between them are armed centurions, patrolling the gated gap between the fences. On the side the prisoners arrive on are some metal benches bolted to the floor, a few sealed metal doors, and flat-screen televisions showing the eagle and helix symbol of the Department of Evolved Affairs against an animated American flag. On the other side of the fence are a handful of computers, a semi opaque plastic curtain, and beyond that a beige-leather padded examination table with arm and leg restraints. A white-coated doctor can be briefly seen flitting back and forth across the gap in the plastic curtains.

«Please. Sit.» One of the centurions indicates to the benches. «Await processing.»

This is harder than Lance thought it’d be. The teenager’s mind keeps dragging back to the concentration camp he was in for several months as he walks the line, as he keeps his gaze down, all the raw emotions of a younger self reaching for the surface to try and claw past the still facade. He swallows hard, the apple of his throat rising and falling as he walks, trying not to flinch at the sound of metal feet on the ground behind them.

He steps over to the bench, easing himself down to sit, bound hands between his knees and gaze on them.

Keeping her eyes fixed on the yellow line isn’t a problem, and the drones flying around are almost something she can pretend to ignore. But Squeaks startles physically when one of those lunges, all teeth and snarls and barking. Wide eyes take in the canid face for less than a second, the time it takes for her to swivel eyeballs back to the yellow line and hurry after Lance.

She lets out a slow breath as the floor changes a little bit. Her eyes lift off the guiding mark just enough to look at the shoes in front of her, trying to find some stronger confidence before settling again on the line. They can do this. They’ll all make it, they have to. She wishes she could tell the others that.

The robotic voice causes her breath to catch, and Squeaks chews on the inside of her cheek to keep from looking. She follows the instructions to sit, with toes touching the floor and bound hands held pinched by her knees.

Almost like a reflex against the silence, Quinn doesn't realise she's started humming until she's already started doing it. She's quick to silence herself, but she can't help but let a small grin slip to her face - it's the small things that make moments like this better.

At least until one of them probably puts a rifle butt in the back of her neck for not being quiet. She tries to mask it with a sigh, a low, quiet one made to seem equally as reflexive, and falls silent afterwards.

She keeps most conscious of keeping her hands and fingers at her side and still. To these people, she finds that fingers are like guns when it comes to the evolved - you never know when someone may raise a hand and pull a proverbial trigger, with the extra bonus of you don't always know what you're going to get.

Doubly so if they have any idea who she is.

In the world before this one, Cassie spent her time looking for patterns, learning from them, and, with the help of her ability, teasing out secrets that might normally remain hidden from view. While being negated does cut off one of her avenues of investigation, the others, honed over years, are still there and are just as razor sharp as they were before. The scuffed yellow line means that this was painted once and then left alone, with thousands of feet passing along this same corridor to the interior of the dome. The fences and dogs were designed for maximum intimidation - something that was working rather well, she would tell the designers. Squeaks’ startling back has her lift her hands to lightly touch the younger woman on the shoulder, a reassuring gesture that is quickly broken up by one of the guards with a baton, leaving Cassie’s arm stinging from the impact. She remains standing back, listening and watching, trying to pick up the song that Quinn is humming. Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me? M-I-C, K-E-Y, Mouse. She finds herself smiling a little at the absurdity of it all until the song is cut off thanks to an enthusiastic guard’s interaction, wincing sympathetically at the blow.

The wanding passes without much fanfare. Like the chips put in the back of dogs’ necks back home, the whole process was observed quietly, the man behind the respirator looking bored with it all, even though it was life and death for those moving through these halls. Her hands stay down as they move into the Central Processing area, the size of the room breathtaking, as they shuffle to the seats.

“I wonder if there’s going to be a cartoon.” she says softly at the sight of the screens.

The ominous Doctor and padded table is pointedly ignored. This doesn’t promise to be pleasant.

As all of the current attendants are shuffled into their seats, the centurions move to the corners of the room and watch vigilantly. In the interim, whatever video was playing on the screens — that ended in a panorama of the Outer District — restarts with a drum beat and loud fanfare, culminating in a banner scrolling diagonally across the screen that reads The Outer District is a Safe Zone, and the banner soon wraps around the lower arc of the DoEA crest.

Then, the image fades to show a young redheaded woman kneading dough in a kitchen. Lance’s chest tightens the moment he sees his sister staring back at him on the screen.


“They say nothing comes easy and looking back, it's hard to disagree.” Hailey Gerkin flashes a warm smile as she continues to knead floured dough in a kitchen that looks like it belongs in the 1950s. “The mornings that felt like night, the days that melted into months and years. Here at the Department of Evolved Affairs we understand that life today may look a little different, but we believe that it is better.”

On the screen, Hailey stops kneading the dough and walks through the kitchen, stepping past a window framed by iron bars. “You will live a beautiful life here and you will live it to the fullest as part of a real community. A community that cares.” A centurion walks up into view on the screen, and Hailey rolls up her sleeve and presents a visible plastic port to the machine. It presses some sort of pneumatic gun to the port, and Hailey’s smile briefly turns into a grimace before settling back again.

“So to those who say the best days are in the past, we beg to differ. Today your life is just beginning and you are being welcomed into something special.” As Hailey talks on screen, the very real doctor steps out from behind the curtain and motions to Squeaks. One of the centurions springs to life and advances on her with a gleaming red eye.

«Proceed to the medical bay.» The centurion bellows as it trains it's firearm on Squeaks. «You will submit».

“Today and every day in the future, you will live a life worth celebrating. A life here in the Outer District.” Hailey says with a bright smile, and the video fades to a panorama of a city.

At the sound of the voice, Lance’s gaze lifts to the screen… and he just watches his sister smile and promise that everything is going to be well, that they’re part of ‘a community that cares’. His jaw tightens, but he tries not to give anything away, even as fingernails dig into his palms.

As the centurion swings its weapon towards Squeaks, he finally speaks up in protest, “We’re cooperating! We came in willingly, there’s no need to point your damn guns at her— “ He looks back to Squeaks, tilting his head towards the doctor, “It’s okay.”

He hopes it is. Eve better know what she’s doing.

The voice on the screen is familiar enough that Squeaks lets herself take a look at it. It couldn't hurt, right? They'd want their new… community members to get the full introduction, or they wouldn't have those screens. Her brows knit seeing Hailey there, looking so happy that it even prompts a darting glance toward Lance.

For a half second, she even considers giving him a nudge for encouragement. That scary red eye and gun leveling at her erases all thoughts and she nearly freezes in panic instead. Somehow, with her brother’s prompting, she manages the smallest of nods.

As she stands, Squeaks does manage to nudge Lance lightly. It's going to be okay. She takes a breath and looks away from the Centurion to the doctor and takes a deep breath. The first step is the hardest — she's afraid, there's no faking that very real emotion — but she takes it, and then the next and the one after that. Each in turn into the medical bay. Without looking back.

It's really not okay, but Robyn keeps that to herself. This was the plan, after all. She offers a look towards Squeaks, watching her as she makes her way to the medical bay. "Lance, we need to have a talk about your sister," is muttered under her breath, punctuated with a deep sigh. She had recognised the voice pretty quickly. It had left her with a disappointed feeling in her stomach.

How many of them had turned like this?

She almost doesn't want to know.

Teeth rake over lips, looking back over towards the medical bay. Listening for any sort of - trouble. It's an instinct at this point, and here, an anticipation, mixing with a fear of the unknown that was the inside of the dome.

"Be safe," she mutters under her breath, eyes flicking to look over at one of the centurions.

The propaganda video - what else could it be - is watched dispassionately, Cassandra angling her hands to keep the blood flowing to them. The woman on the screen - she’s heard the voice over the radio before. Before showing up here, a point was made to let them hear what was coming out, and aside from the static, she could make out that the person on the screen - Lance’s sister, it seems - was who was on the radio, sans static. As she shifts, one of the sentinels moves slightly, then returns to its position on the wall. Apparently that movement isn’t threatening, so the sentinels with their guns leave her mostly alone, staring at the group with an unblinking red eye.

When Squeaks rises to her feet, Cassandra almost goes with her but pushes down that instinct, remaining still as the youngest of them makes the short trip to the doctor’s table, fighting back the very real terror starting to build in her stomach, leaning forward to try and calm herself, breathing through her nose, out of her mouth, her eyes clenched closed before she finally sits up. “Be strong, Squeaks. It’ll all be okay.”

Two of the Centurious pivot firearms at Lance when he speaks up, and for the barest of moments any number of nightmarish scenarios is possible in their eyeless faces. Once Squeaks rises and moves to the gate to the lab, the Centurions lower their firearms and withdraw on clacking feet.

For Squeaks, the approach to the gate where human soldiers patrol feels like a death march. The gate is opened and Squeaks is urged through by a rough-handed guard who hands her off to another armed soldier and is escorted past the plastic curtain to the medical office where a doctor — maybe ten years older than her — is cleaning some sort of chrome pistol-gripped injector.

“Climb up on the table, please, or Klein here will put a bullet in your head.” The doctor confesses with a blasie tone, as if bemoaning the weather; what can you do about it?

“I'm going to be implanting you with an identification chip, and administering a stronger dose of adynomine.” The doctor turns, watching Squeaks. “Tomorrow they'll schedule the installation of your permanent pump.” All very clinically related, all very simple, clean. It's for the best, his tone implies.

Out in the paddock area where they sit on the metal bench, Robyn, Lance, and Cassandra watch a group of prisoners who were here earlier be escorted out the other side of the room through a wide door into a well-lit hall. They can see what's happening to Squeaks, the plastic curtain doesn't hide much.

“Yeah,” Lance mutters, hands resting back between his knees as he sinks down again, lowering his head as he watches through the curtain— frowning at the whole situation, falling silent again.

Not fully silent, though. Maybe never again.

Be safe, be strong, it's okay. Those words keep Squeaks’ feet moving forward instead of turning around at the gate. It's okay when she's jostled one way and pushed another to be delivered to the doctor. It's okay.

Trembling hands brace against the foot of the table as she complies with the instructions. Very carefully, intentionally, she keeps her eyes from the plastic sheeting. Pushing against the table she hops onto it as instructed and turns so that she sits with feet dangling off.

A look slants very briefly toward Klein, toward the firearm with its promised bullet. Then Squeaks’ eyes dart away to find the doctor with his own gun. The sterile chrome is worse than the matte black. She looks away to a spot just aside of the doctor. Her jaw tightens a tiny bit, and her teeth grind against her rising terror. Be strong. She might be sick.

Unlike Squeaks, Quinn steels herself and watches what she can see of the process, a quick glance offered over to the prisoners being led off to an unknown fate. Hopefully, that wouldn't turn out to be one of them.

SHe would like to say she watches out of curiosity and for a sense of understand, but there's a sense of fear behind her eyes, jaws clenched as she keeps an eye on Squeaks. And when she can't watch anymore, her eyes grift to look around the area around the medical pavilion, though her gaze never quite drifts away from Squeaks.

It’s all so matter-of-fact with the doctor. The film’s attempt at soothing their fears did no good, since the promise of instant death was given with such a nonchalant tone, and Cassandra can only sit and watch through the curtain as Squeaks complies with the instructions.

God, she knows the girl is scared. She’s scared. She can barely hold still but, somehow, through sheer force of will, she does, Cassandra maintaining eye contact with Squeaks for as long as she can. At least the chrome implement seems to be sterile, the way it’s being cleaned. Probably the first sterile thing to hit any of them in a very long time.

“Good girl,” the doctor says behind the plastic curtain, approaching Squeaks with the haste of someone who has no time to spare in a day. As he approaches her, one gloves hand comes up to firmly grab her jaw, turning her head from one side to the next. He has no gentle touch, no grace, no bedside manner as he checks her for obvious injury, examines her eyes, opens her mouth and profs around with latex-gloved fingers at her teeth. “Good condition, too. Remarkable, really, for out there.

With his other hand, he presses the injector gun up to the side of her neck. “Really, I wish more of you people were like this. I'd have to hose down the room less frequently.” At his feet, there's a drain stained rust red at the edges. Maybe not rust.

“This is going to pinch,” the doctor says before depressing the trigger.

One Hour Later

EVO Transport A7

The Outer District

Squeaks lowers her fingers from a swollen red welt at the right side of her neck. One by one they'd all been chipped and inspected, hurried through processing, stripped of clothes and possessions, sprayed down with acrid chemicals to kill dermal parasites, and then clothed in processing jumpsuits, matte gray zip up jumpsuits with serial numbers on the back.

After being loaded into a bus, passed through the wall to the interior of the dome. At no point did they see how they got through the dome, it must have happened in the original, windowless transport. Out the bus windows, Lance, Squeaks, Robyn, Cassandra, and twelve other recent acquisitions watch a neon-lit city roll by. Steam rises from sewer grates, people crowd the streets, and the ground-level life looks like the worst of New York in the 1970s; a decaying cesspool.

But beyond this poor neighborhood they're driving though, the skyscrapers to the east rose up like glittering steel knives. Drones buzz through the sky, and video billboards spew with constant DoEA propaganda. It's hard to appreciate the view as it rolls by, though, with several people on the bus sobbing, others staring vacantly out the windows.

They shouldn't have come here. This was a mistake.

Despair fills the streets like a thick fog, soaking into everything and bleaching the very walls with its presence… and it feels like the bus they’re on is filled with it. Lance reaches over to lightly touch Squeaks’ arm with one finger, forcing an almost-smile to try and reassure the younger girl.

He tried to talk her out of coming, but in the end, the Lighthouse has never had a chain of command since Brian was taken. They’re all equals, and he couldn’t stop her.

The smile’s not very encouraging, but he tries to keep what he’s feeling from his eyes. For her sake.

From the angry lump on the side of her neck, Squeaks’ fingers next inspect her wrists in small movements. She traces the fine red lines left by the zip-ties until finding the hem of her jumpsuit sleeves. Then they tug at those and fuss at a crease or seam like maybe it would make things less worse. The clothing is wrong and irritating, but a vague distraction from the depressive mood.

Her hands go still at Lance’s efforts of reassurance.

After a second, the younger teenager looks up at him. There’s a tightening of her mouth. It’s not really a smile either, not even an attempt at one. But it’s an acknowledgement. Nothing could have prepared any of them for what they’d just gone through, and the memory of it is haunting and fresh. She isn’t feeling very brave right now. Her gaze returns to her hands and the horrible, vexatious gray cloth, she shifts in her seat so that her shoulder rests just touching his.

Sitting one seat ahead of Lance and Squeaks, Quinn also stares down at her own hands. She contemplates what she's just given up - for God knows how long - and why. Her ability had been a large part of her identity the last few years. Does she regret giving it up so… callously? Of course. Her hands shake, fingers twitch in that passive way they do when she's trying to make light. But, predictably, nothing happens.

The "why" isn't elusive - she was here, as she always is, to help others like her self. To protect the people she loves, people like Eve, Eli, Peter, and Lynette that fight with her; people like Elaine, Sable, and many others that she's lost track of; people like Gillian that they've lost. To put an end to this.

So, why, then, does this suddenly feel like it wasn't worth it, like the weight of their mission is suddenly weighing on her normally carefree shoulders.

She furrows her brow, and looks back towards Lance and Squeaks. She'd have time to worry about this later.


All through the processing, Cassandra almost felt like she was outside her own body, watching what was going on. The examination of her teeth and naked body for scars, wounds, or injuries. The ‘delousing’ that wasn’t really necessary, and the vicious blasts of treated water that left her skin raw and red from the high pressure. It was the most degrading thing she had ever experienced, reminding her of cattle being prepared for slaughter or the stories she read in history books so many years ago. Processing like this, with tattoos and tags instead of tracking microchips, that nearly exterminated a race of people from the earth.

Exactly what’s being attempted by the surviving government in this world.

Her neck aches where the injection went in. She lifts a finger to hesitantly touch the tender skin, the microchip there, but not anywhere that can be felt from the outside A little throb that she knows is there, but can’t find unless she presses really, really hard, and it hurts when she does that, so she doesn’t do that very much. The clothes they were given, gray and shapeless, would have to do until they managed to find something else. There are so many unknowns that she can barely hold it together.

“1984.” she murmurs softly. “It’s just like 1984.”

The bus starts to slow down as it approaches an internal wall, not nearly as high as the soaring concrete palisades of the District’s perimeter, and looking more like a temporary concrete slab barricade that became a permanent fixture. Two square guard towers flank the rusted iron gate at the entrance, searchlights following the bus as it moves down the street and comes to a stop out front of the gates. There's a hiss of hydraulic brakes as the bus driver puts the vehicle in park and opens the bus door, then puts both hands on the steering wheel.

From outside, an armed security officer steps up into the bus, assault rifle held to his chest and pointed toward the ground. “Everyone out!” He barks, and the back door of the bus is wrenched open by two more soldiers who just start grabbing nearby passengers and hauling them out. The soldier up front at least gives people at the front the option of coming out on their own accord.

This doesn't feel right.

“C’mon,” Lance hisses under his breath as he pushes himself up from the bench seat, grabbing for Squeaks’ hand in the process, moving towards the front to try and lower the chance of being hit or hurt or - worse - pulled apart and separated. He keeps his head down as he tries to obey, though there’s something that doesn’t feel right. “Try not to draw attention, just— obey and keep your head down.”

A question begins to form as the bus is brought to a stop, unspoken but plain on Squeaks’ face. This can’t be right, can it? She looks across the aisle first, confused as she looks at the unfamiliar buildings and the towers that stretch out of sight, then turns just enough to catch a glimpse of the commotion at the back of the bus.

She stands as Lance does, a little slower while she still wonders about the yelling and the bodily removal of people behind. Is this supposed to happen? The younger teenager looks up at the older when he grabs hold of her hand. There’s some small comfort in that, they’ll stick together for as long as possible. Confusion is pushed aside for silent obedience, and she lets her brother guide her while she keeps her head down and eyes watching all the feet shuffling ahead.

Quinn stares out the window with a growing sense of uncertainty, watching the armed men outside for a moment before she rises up to her feet. "Hope y'didn't expect ribbons an' candy, folks," is muttered just loud enough for Lance and Squeaks to hear as she steps out into the aisle.

Still, the armed guards had her slightly worried. They'd been so thoroughly and invasively checked out, powers disabled… what cause was there for this? Besides the fact that all of them, perhaps her most of all, were considered wanted fugitives by the rulers of this monument to tyranny. Maybe that was reason enough, but something just doesn't sit right with her about. But what can she do? Argue?

Even Robyn Quinn isn't that stupid. Not yet at least.

Cassandra remains close to Quinn, Lance, and Squeaks as they stand, shuffling steps moving her down the middle of the bus, following her companions in whatever direction they go - hopefully toward the front of the bus. “Not even a welcoming delegation or a banner. This welcoming committee needs work.” Cassandra replies, deadpan, trying to bring a little levity to a very serious situation.

If her hunch is right, this is home for the time being. Temporary housing that's become anything but. A pen for the negated evolved. Guards are counted quickly with glances from beneath her hair - they seem to be here for a show of force to the populace surrounding the place and to keep the people inside in check in case of incidents, but guns vs. no guns is a bad situation for those on the no gun side.

She can't help but worrying - it's her default status that started the second Eve announced this plan. Are the guards posted to keep them here, to protect the populace outside from the evolved inside, or to protect the evolved from the people outside? The drive, short as it was, allowed her to see what she thought were people staring at them with cold, hatred-filled eyes as they made their way past. Another bus of people that caused this hellish war. Another bus load of problems that were the reason for all of our troubles. Another bus load of problems to be taken care of.

“Try and stay together.” Cassandra says to Quinn, Lance, and Squeaks. “Try.”

As the prisoners file off of the bus, it's apparent that it was stopped at the gate house to a walled neighborhood. An enormous, rust-streaked sign above the equally rust-streaked gate reads HEARTLAND VILLAGE in block text. Two square watchtowers loom over the entrance, floodlights angled down on the bus masking whatever might be in them.

From the back of the bus, Robyn’s group hears a few yells and shrieks, and the disturbance is enough to send a chill down everyone’s spine. Something is very wrong. Looking around, they see that the gate is a narrow, concrete-walled slot that leads into the high partition around the gated community. Some of the passengers from the bus are being separated and moved over to the wall. A sole centurion marches along with the guards, rifle in hand.

At that scene plays out, a uniformed officer comes marching over to the passengers who had been removed from the front of the bus. One of them, a short and thin man with a scar at his mouth walks close to each prisoner, looking them up and down. He pauses at Lance, looking the young man in the eyes for a moment, then looks past Squeaks to Cassandra. He steps over ‘to her, looking like he’s seen a ghost, but then catches view of Robyn in his peripheral vision.

Her.” The Officer says, and two men step forward and grab Robyn from the line by the arms, intending to drag her to the others they've been separating.

As the officer stares at him, Lance’s fingers tighten on Squeaks’ hand anxiously; swallowing once as he looks right back, only breathing when the man moves on. He turns his head a little, watching him move, and then—

Oh no. As they move to grab for the team leader, he doesn’t move. He can’t, or he’d endanger the entire mission. If there even still is one.

The chaos all around and the near panic in the air keeps Squeaks practically glued to Lance’s side. She chances a look around once off the bus, while crowding close to the members of this harebrained mission. This isn’t right. Anxious eyes follow the centurion and the guards, but only once they’ve marched by and can’t see her taking a look.

As the officer comes by she’s quick to look down again. She watches his shoes as he slowly walks into their midst, and her hand shakes in Lance’s grasp. The younger teenager’s head lifts a teeny bit when she sees those shoes shift away, daring to take a peek. But when Robyn is selected, she clamps a hand over her mouth to silence the protest that creeps up.

Her head swivels around until she’s looking up at her brother. While he may not be an official leader, she and all the Lighthouse siblings often turned to him for direction. Even now, those habits show as Squeaks spends a second to follow the older teen’s lead. Squeaks’ hand comes down from her mouth and those words of protest are swallowed. She looks down again, to stare at the ground with wide, frightened eyes.

Quinn has done her level best to keep quiet and keep her eyes down, but when one of them says her - so clearly designating her, she goes into a bit of a panic. Her eyes widen and she looks back up. Ultimately, she's not surprised someone would want to pull her out of line, but that doesn't stop her from- well, she doesn't argue, but she's clearly a bit obstinate, feigning confusion.

"W-whoa-" she stammers out as arms snatch her and start to drag, her feet offering just the slightest resistance. "I- look, this ain't m'stop, I-I think y'might have the wrong person. Just want some peace an' quiet an' a guitar m-m'bbe…"

She clams up after that, though, not wanting to offer them further reason to take issue with her. She doesn't look back to the others. She doesn't want to out them as her friends, just- in case that's a problem, because she has a feeling.

It's not a good one, and it isn't long for that feigned fear and confusion to become very real.

Cassandra remains silent as the man shifts past her, glancing down to see if he has a name tag or anything that can delineate him from all of the other faceless guards here. He may know this world's Cassandra, and that might be a good thing to have in your back pocket.

Robyn being separated from them, being pointed out for whatever fate mint be in store for her, draws a thought of protest, and she very nearly says something, instead following Lance’s lead and hanging back. The separation is being watched by everyone, just about. She feels sick. What do they need Robyn for?

The guards who have separated Lance, Squeaks, and Cassandra along with a half dozen other passengers move them back by the side of the bus. There's a sense of authority from them, but no real fire to do much, and it's clear this isn't standard procedure. The short man with the scar is pacing back and forth, dragging prisoners over by the wall with angry expletives and in one young man’s case right by the hair.

“Captain,” one of the guards says to the scarred man, “these prisoners are bound for the relocation center. We need to have—”

Stand aside,” the Captain hisses, unholstering his sidearm as a threat. The guard backs off and the centurion on site raises its rifle as if to back up the Captain’s order. When the guards have finished dividing the bus, the Captain motions to the tower guards to direct one of the floodlights down at the wall.

“There is no Resistance!” The Captain shouts, brandishing his firearm around. The centurion behind him paces a few steps at his heels in lock-step movement. The people under the floodlights look tense and awkward, some openly sobbing. “The Resistance was defeated! The Resistance is dead!” He shouts, motioning to the centurion.

The centurion pivots toward the wall and readies its rifle.


The French-manufactured FAMAS fires roughly 950 rounds per minute. The lone centurion armed with that weapon sprays a steady stream of bullets from an extended clip across the wall in a perfect horizontal line, pausing on each target for half a second to ensure multiple strikes. Concrete pops behind the line of prisoners, blood sprays against the wall in violent splashes.

Screams end after the eruption of automatic gunfire.

Robyn Quinn lays dead among the others, missing an eye among other horrifying wounds.

Lance realizes just in time what’s about to happen. This isn’t the first mass execution he’s seen, although his skin turns parchment-pale anyway at the realization, and he reaches over very firmly to pull Squeaks his way and turn her away from the wall.

“Hey,” he hisses, trying to catch her gaze, “Hey. Look at me, okay? Just focus here. Don’t— “ Gunfire roars through the air. “— look over there.”

The shouting words draw Squeaks’ head up and her eyes find the guy with the scar again. She follows his movement, each step he takes hammering the weight of dread deeper into her gut… until she’s pulled and made to face Lance. Shock and terror have fixed her expression, she’s likely figured out what’s about to happen even without an explanation.

But she stares at her brother, following him just as she always has.

She doesn’t scream when the gunfire erupts. Squeaks physically jerks at the sound as though it were electricity striking her body, and her hands clamp tightly against her ears. Color drains from her face, her hands don’t muffle all the sounds.

Wait, this couldn't possibly be happening, could it?

Cassandra takes barely half a step forward, shrinking back against the bus when the Captain's sidearm is unslung, the plate steel cold through the thin cloth covering her bare back. She isn't lucky enough to have Lance nearby to tell her to look away or to hide her eyes from what is about to take place, so she gets to witness it unfiltered.

"Wait…you can’t…DON'T!" Her words do nothing as it all seems to happen in slow motion, right before her eyes. The simple, brutal act of violence is etched into her memory, the sights taken in from unblinking eyes as intense as any vision she might have witnessed from before she was negated. Cassandra can feel each shot’s shockwave punching her in the chest, a light tap that would be far more lethal if she were on the other end. She is helpless to watch as the centurion pivots smoothly down the line, pausing halfway to reload, the poor soul next in line helplessly watching as the empty magazine is dropped and a new one is loaded in before methodical the slaughter continues. The lack of sound when it's over is what shocks her into movement. At some point she collapsed to her knees, her hands covering her mouth to keep the building scream from getting out. The gentle tinkling of brass cartridges on shattered concrete once the cacophony trails away is almost melodic, a siren's song of death sung out as she slumps to her knees, tears streaking down her cheeks, any other words she might have had dying in her throat.

That could have been them. That could have been Lance or Squeaks or Cassandra on that wall, but it wasn't by way of them leaving the front. That flicker of what could have been recognition from the Captain might have been the only thing that kept them breathing.

This made no sense. They were in the dome. They had surrendered. This was a senseless massacre, seemingly instigated by this Captain.

Cassandra will remember this.

Tommy Alton, Jack Landis, Aaron Michaels, Amy Langston, Jamil Parn, Robyn Quinn.” The Captain recites the names as he stands in the searchlight, holding a digital pad produced from his jacket in one hand, gun in the other. “Facial recognition scanners picked them up surrendering. But the Department of Evolved Affairs sentenced them to death for acts of terrorism!” He brandishes the tablet like a pastor with a bible.

“The Resistance is dead, their members surrendering, trying to hide in our protection!” As the blood of the dead commingled in the street, the Captain treads through it leaving dark bootprints on asphalt. “Let this be a reminder to you all! This was a war and the Resistance lost!

Finally, the Captain lowers the tablet and motions to the centurion. It pivots and trains it's gun on those lined up against the bus. “There is no forgiveness! There is only justice!” There's a moment where it seems he’ll order the machine to fire again, but when he motions to it instead he just says, “at ease,” and the machine adopts an at-ease stance with its rifle at its shoulder.

“Get them inside,” the Captain then mutters to one of the guards.

“You heard him back on the bus!

“It’s okay,” Lance lies, wrapping an arm around Squeaks’s shoulders and pulling her in closer, “It’s al— “ He sees the centurion’s gun turning their way, and his heart skips a beat as he stares down that barrel, his arm tightening around the younger girl, “— alright. It’s gonna be alright.”

Then the moment passes, and he breathes out a trembling breath, gaze dropping away from the gun— then lifting, searching for a name on the uniform with a flicker of cold hatred in his eyes for just a moment or three before moving to guide Squeaks onto the bus, moving to keep himself between her and the carnage.

With her hands still pressed hard against her ears, Squeaks doesn’t nod to acknowledge anything she’s told. But she’s still staring up at Lance, until she lowers her forehead into his chest and her eyes squeeze shut. Everything is shut out, even if she can still kind of hear the muffled yelling, it’s happening somewhere else.

Woodenly, she moves when she’s prompted. Her eyes come open but stay on the ground to follow the feet in front of her. There’s no need to look back, the dark, damp footprints from the commander person tells her what she already knows. Her hands remain covering her ears until she’s on the bus again. They drop and she reaches for Lance’s sleeve as she slides into an open seat.

It takes a little while for Cassandra to get moving. She just watched a woman she laughed with only a few nights ago gunned down for crimes against the state. She's in shock, still covering her mouth, her eyes wide. It takes a swift kick and a threat from one of the guards before the person behind her helps her to scramble to her feet and onto the bus, her cheap plastic shoes skidding on the broken concrete as she moves.

Finally, on the relative safety of the bus, Cassandra takes a moment to try and calm herself, breathing slowly.

It's not helping. At all.

“They won't even be buried.” She whispers, closing her eyes. “Tommy Alton, Jack Landis, Aaron Michaels, Amy Langston, Jamil Parn, Robyn Quinn. I'll remember those names. I'll remember them.” She opens her hand to reveal one of the shell casings glimmering there, before its secreted away.

The bus, having been idling all this time, begins to lurch forward with a hiss of hydraulic brakes toward the gate. There's a loud clang sound from outside the bus, and the gates to the walled community slowly rise up like an iron portcullis on an old castle. The solid steel block, toothed at the bottom to fit into grooves in the concrete, locks into place revealing a tightly-packed, cookie-cutter brickfront tenement buildings. Metal signs just beyond the gate designate the area as EVO SETTLEMENT.

Immediately beyond the checkpoint past the gate the Outer District transitions from a technologically advanced dystopian metropolis into a third world country. The gate area of Heartland Village has deep potholes in the road, and dusty-clothed residents watch as the bus passes by as they make their way down the street. A few stray dogs gallop alongside the bus, barking excitedly, and the hum of AETOS drones buzz overhead, zipping from one side of the settlement to another.

Up ahead, a wooden arch over the main road through the neighborhood recalls the words Hailey Gerkin said in the propaganda video. The white on black sign reads plainly:

Welcome to Heartland Village

A Community That Cares.

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