Escape From Bitch Mountain


kyla_icon.gif odessa_icon.gif pete3_icon.gif

Scene Title Escape From Bitch Mountain
Synopsis Odessa hatches a plot to find freedom and is confronted with a harsh reality.
Date January 6, 2020


With her chin propped up in her hand and her elbow propped up against the arm of her chair, Odessa reaches out with her free hand skips her red token in a diagonal over three black ones. “King me,” she demands as she picks the black chips off the board and stacks them on her side of the table in a tidy little tower.

“This isn’t like you,” she follows up with as he turns over her token, exposing the crown on its flipside. “Are you letting me win? You know I’m not gonna actually shank anyone with a coffee cup.” She pokes fun at her own outburst from two days prior. “Everybody knows I made a shiv out of my toothbrush for that.”

“If I had the capacity to care about this game,” comes from across the board, “I wouldn’t let you win.” Pete Varlane practically radiates a depressive aura these days. It is greasy and oily and heavy like the air around a deep fat fryer. Slouched in his armchair he waves a hand at the checkers board, blowing a spluttering sigh out pursed lips.

“Checkmate or whatever,” Pete groans, “just please for the love of god let me choke on a corn muffin and die at dinner.”

“No,” Odessa spits back immediately, lifting her head from her hand. It’s no fun playing the game when he doesn’t want to play, but the real point isn’t to play anyway. It’s routine. They stress how important routine is here. And a break in her routine is the last thing Odessa needs right now.

Not with what she has in mind.

“You know we’re next, right?” Judging from the cloying aura around him, she suspects he has an inkling. “Liberty Island was just the first step.” Maybe she sounds a bit like she should be donning a tinfoil hat, but she doesn’t much care. “They’ll be on our doorstep before we know it.” Whoever they are, anyway. Odessa leans forward. “We need to get the fuck out of here.” To put it simply.

Pete laughs, “Oh, I have a pretty good idea who they are.” His mood shifts, still sunken in that deep fat fryer of depression, but now there’s spicy fries cooking in it. Now he’s got something interesting him, even if his sole motivation feels like spite.

“That blue-eyed man in the pictures?” Pete folds his hands and hunches his shoulders forward. “Baruti Naidu. We had eyes on him back when I was with the Institute. He was continents away, so it wasn’t a concern, but we inherited his dossier from the Company. Naidu…” Pete laughs bitterly, “Naidu’s a part of Mazdak, Odessa. Fucking Mazdak.” No longer the sheltered wallflower, Odessa knows the name.

“If Naidu’s here,” Pete says with a wave of one hand in the air, “if he’s coming for us? It’s all too fucking late. How do you think a group of Evo Supremacists are going to take the work we’re doing here? Sure,” he says with a bluster, “maybe they’ll break us out of prison. But you know what they’ll do? Haul us out in front of a camera and execute us as traitors to our genes or some shit.” Paranoia and fear lace through Pete’s emotions, a sour-sweet smell like rotten eggs.

Odessa must be hungry, everything feels like food now.

“Jesus Christ,” Odessa hisses without hardly moving her mouth. Mazdak is a problem. And they have Woods, if they haven’t…

No. Odessa refuses to entertain the notion. It makes her almost as sick to her stomach as Pete’s tumultuous emotions do. “That’s why we need to get out before they show up. We can… We can find some place to hole up. The government clearly can’t protect us.” Liberty Island should have been the best defended stronghold against invaders like that.

It clearly wasn’t.

“We’re not doing this research because we want to,” Odessa reasons, already coming up with excuses like the weasel she is. “Maybe… Maybe they’ll understand we’re worth more alive?” She can’t even look Pete in the eye when she says that. She doesn’t believe it. “Look, you said we could… activate Kyla? If we can get word to the outside, I could get in touch with some people. We can get a jump on this.”

Pete makes a noise in the back of his throat, sliding his tongue across the inside of his cheek. He grips the front of his chair, scooting it forward noisily so as to not have to whisper-shout across the checkers board at her. “Then what? Hmm? Nobody’s going to want to play hide the felon with me. You? Sure, maybe. But for how long? A week? A month? You go into hiding, you leave this place? You’re as good as dead. We both are.”

Pete motions around the day lounge with one, pale hand. “Take a look around, Odessa. It’s a fucking miracle either of us are alive and not on the end of a fucking noose. We aren’t patriots behind bars because we were trying to fight a tyrranical government like your fucking friends, we’re actual criminals who did crime because reasons.” He’s a little red in the face now, flush with fear.

“The second we give them a reason to put a bullet in our brain-pan,” Pete emphasizes this point by tapping two fingers at the side of his head, “those psychopaths in Wolfhound will rain hell down on us faster than you can say wanted dead or alive.” Pete starts to sit back, but then thinks of something else for his rant and lurches forward. “And we’re no better off with Mazdak either. You know what would make more sense?” Pete’s brows kick up. “Saying no and fucking dying here if that’s what they want.”

Finally, Pete slouches back into his chair. “I’m sick of running, Odessa. Fucking sick to my stomach over it. I’m not doing it anymore. I’m not running. I’m too old for this shit.”

Odessa presses the back of her hand against her mouth as if trying to keep sick down. Maybe she is. “So, what? We just sit around here and play checkers while we wait to be executed?” She can’t tell if it’s her own fear getting the better of her, or Pete’s. “We gotta try, don’t we?”

She shuts her eyes heavily. For a moment, she only focuses on her breathing. On keeping from tugging at her own hair and screaming with frustration. This can’t be how it all ends. Not in a goddamn prison.

Her ability narrows, narrows, narrows down to a pinprick until it’s just her. There’s a soft sigh of relief. When Odessa opens her eyes again, it’s without fear. “You know, they used to call me a patriot.” She smirks faintly. “Humanis, I mean. They couldn’t call me human, so they had to come up with something else.” It seems funny now. The things a person thinks about when they know they’re going to die are often strange things. She’s been down this road more than twice.

“If they want to kill us, I’m at least going to make them work for it.” She leans forward now that Pete’s leaned back, claiming the ground he’s given up. “At least help me get Kyla out of here before the shit hits the fan. She’s just a kid. She doesn’t deserve any of this. Not like we do.”

Exhaling a sigh through his nose, Pete Varlane stares across the divide in the room between he and Odessa and covers his face with both hands. “If you think for one fucking moment,” he says, muffled by his hands, “that I’m going to do one single bit of labor to help you on this you’re

Twenty-Five Minutes Later


Kyla Renautas stands ambushed in the garden outside of the PISEC cafeteria, dirt on her gardeners’ gloves and one brow raised. Pete Varlane stands across from her with his shoulders slacked and a frown so deep he looks like Beaker the Muppet. Odessa, a step beside and ahead of him, less Muppet-like in her demeanor and appearance. “You have to be mistaken,” Kyla says with a look past Odessa to Pete, who is also wearing gardening gloves, “he— Pete’s going to— help me plant the perennials for the spring?”

“Yes, he is,” Odessa confirms with a cheery smile on her face. “Pete loves flowers, don’t you Pete?” She leans forward a little bit. “Gardening is very good for the soul, you know. And someone like Mister Varlane here…”

Well, his soul needs all the help it can get.

“You up for it? It’ll be fun.

“I’m a regular fucking green thumb,” Pete says flatly, which just makes Kyla smile nervously, ducking her head down and looking to where she cleared away a recent coating of thin snow over firm ground.

“It’s… it’s hard work,” Kyla says, looking to the hand trowel and other tools near the cleared earth, “I’ve got some peonies I want to plant, so they’ll be ready to bloom in the spring…” comes a little easier, if still guarded. Kyla takes a knee by the ground and picks up a trowel, offering it up to Pete in a gloved hand. Pete, tense as a cat at the vet’s office, slowly reaches down and takes it while offering a side eye to Odessa.

“Peonies.” Pete says, equally as flat as his last sentence, before making a grunt of effort as he kneels down on the cleared ground beside Kyla. “Sure. Of course.” He looks like he’s never held a gardening tool in his life. Looks, in this case, aren’t deceiving.

“Oh, that will be lovely,” Odessa chimes as she comes to kneel on the cold ground with the other two. Of course, it’s highly likely none of them will be here by the time spring sunshine comes to kiss the frozen dirt with warmth and life again. Either because they’ll — hopefully — have gotten away from this place, or because they’ll be fertilizer for the garden.

“Kyla, I…” Odessa reaches over to rest a hand on the younger woman’s forearm. “I think Pete here can be a big help to you. But not necessarily with the peonies.” She gives a small squeeze and a small smile meant to be reassuring. She wishes she could gift her with some of her own confidence. “I want to do right by you. Can you trust me?”

Kyla’s wide-eyed look when asked to trust Pete Varlane is as much of an answer as she can give. In fact, Kyla freezes when Odessa asks her that question and there’s an immediate recognition from one abuse survivor to another of the nature of Kyla and Pete’s relationship. Given what she knows of Pete, likely verbal abuse, possibly violent. Erica Kravid may have been her only buffer, which isn’t a glowing endorsement.

“Sometimes you’ve just gotta—” Pete doesn’t finish that sentence, instead getting down in the dirt and forcibly grabbing one of Kyla’s hands. She starts to flinch away, but then freezes again. There’s no visible indication that Pete is using his ability, no lights, no sounds, nothing happens to his eyes. It’s all very subtle, so much so that it’s hard for Odessa to be sure he’s even doing anything. The only indication is when he moves his hand away, there’s a red mark on the back of Kyla’s wrist that looks like an allergic reaction — hives — puffy and red and roughly thumb-shaped.

Swallowing audibly, Kyla sucks back a shaky breath and stares wide-eyed between Odessa and Pete, but it doesn’t really look like she’s staring at anything in particular. Just staring.

“It’s okay,” Odessa says in a hushed voice. She keeps hold of Kyla’s arm, hoping to keep her grounded through whatever process it is that Pete enacts. “It’s all going to be okay now.” She looks over to Pete uncertainly, then loops an arm around Kyla’s shoulders.

A kiss is pressed to the girl’s temple. “You can hear him now, can’t you?” Odessa closes her eyes a moment and listens as though she might hear it too.

“H-hear who?” Kyla asks in a whisper, eyes still unfocused. Pete sits back, glancing over at an outdoor security officer watching them closely. He leaves his disapproval for this plan in his flat and frustrated expression.

“She should’ve metabolised it,” Pete mumbles, “might take a minute to— ” Kyla cuts him off with a sudden and sharp gasp, clapping a hand to her mouth as her eyes refocus and she looks with a sharp jerk of her head first to Odessa, then to Pete. “Kick in,” Pete adds flatly.

Tears well up in Kyla Renautas’ eyes and Odessa can feel her trembling. It’s clear that it worked. But she’s also gone distant and unfocused, shut off entirely from the outside world and lost in whatever mindspace she and her twin share. Pete exhales a suffering sigh and stands up, brushing the dirt off of his knees and eyeing another guard.

“This’ll cover her until they give us our nighttime dose,” Pete says to Odessa under his breath, bending down to pick up a trawl. “If you’re gonna phone a friend you’re gonna’ want t’wake Sleeping Beauty up and make it fast.”

“Kyla.” Odessa nudges the other blonde gently. “We need to look as natural as possible right now, or they’re going to know something’s up. This is a gift Pete has given us. We can’t squander it.”

Patting her gently on the shoulder, she reaches for the trowel and starts pushing at the dirt. “We want to get you out of here. Get in touch with your brother. Tell him we have to do whatever it takes to get you out of this place.” Even as she says this, Odessa realizes she has no idea what sort of life she’s going to push Kyla toward if they break her out. “You need to get a lawyer. You need to tell them everything.” But if they do this within the bounds of legality…

Maybe Kyla Renautas can have the life Odessa Price could never have.

Odessa,” Kyla hisses, balling her hands up tighter. “I already— I— I told them I’m— I won’t say anything. There’s too many people who will get hurt if I talk. People I was in contact with, people like you who were in hiding. People Ms. Kravid made me talk to.” Kyla keeps her eyes squared down at her feet as she talks, too afraid to look up anywhere near Pete.

“I don’t need a lawyer. They gave me one,” Kyla goes on to say. “I told them I wouldn’t help.” She blinks a look up to Odessa, shielding herself from the sight of Pete with a long curtain of hair. “I won’t give up anyone, Odessa. Even if I have t-to die in here. I won’t make anyone else suffer like this.” Jaw unsteadied, Kyla looks down again and swallows a lump in her throat.

She flinches, wrapping one arm around herself, eyes wrenched shut. “I— I didn’t ask you to do this,” she says with a crack in her voice. “Kyle… he betrayed all of them.” She opens her eyes, looking up to Odessa, and they’re reddened and glassy. “He told the government everything to save himself. All those people, Odessa. All those people in hiding from before the war, who just want a second chance, he sold them out.

Sucking back a sob, Kyla looks overwrought. She’d never mentioned any of this whenever she talked to Odessa, only about how much she missed her brother. But the context of that sadness, of that depression, of those complex feelings that Odessa could practically taste in the air weren’t as simple. Because for as much as Odessa understood them, she didn’t know their context. “He tried to visit,” Kyla whispers, “and I refused to see him.” A line of snot runs down her face, swiped away by the coarse fabric of a gardening glove.

I didn’t ask for this,” Kyla says more sharply, looking to Pete, who has turned somewhat red and looks… surprisingly emotional himself. Odessa can feel a thread of guilt behind his anxiety and fear.

This was… not at all the expected outcome. She had expected emotion, sure. Even the complexity of it. What she didn’t expect was… all of that. The notion that Kyla wouldn’t want to spare herself from this hell is an alien concept to Odessa. Her own self-interest runs so deep that while she understands selflessness on an intellectual level, and has even been known to engage in acts of it from time to time, she can’t fathom it as a general rule.

“I know. You didn’t.” Odessa’s own guilt mingles with that which radiates from Pete. She rolls her head from one shoulder to the other, as though it might loosen tangled thoughts along with the knots in her neck. “I’m— I just want to help you. And I… I’m not good at helping people,” she admits in a soft voice. “But damn it… You don’t deserve to be here. You don’t. You’re a good person and you should have your whole fucking life ahead of you.”

As far as Odessa’s concerned, those people that Kyla is protecting don’t deserve her. “I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do.” She knows all too well that she’s spent nearly her whole life doing as she was told, whether she wanted to or not. “But they’re coming for us, Kyla. I know they are. I don’t want the worst to happen to you.”

Bitter and not thinking about what she says or the impact it has, Kyla lashes out. “Good,” comes sharp and cold, “maybe some of us deserve it.” That’s the only time she looks at Pete, a withering and baleful stare of puffy eyes and curled lip. Pete shrinks in its presence, steps aside when Kyla pushes past him and storms off toward the exit from the common space. Pete, having anything he would’ve said stolen from him by that moment, offers a look down to Odessa.

“Maybe she’s right,” is all Pete has to say about that, and Odessa can feel his depressive spiral settling back in. “Maybe we do deserve this.” He slides his tongue across the inside of his teeth, then sighs and shakes his head.

“Maybe there’s no escape from Bitch Mountain.”

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