Run Blind, I


colette_icon.gif judah_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif

Scene Title Run Blind, I
Synopsis Colette attempts a daring rescue of her adoptive father, Judah.
Date September 6, 2011

Dinner sits neglected on the table of Tamara's current room, as forlorn as the various colors of paint and paper that cover its surface. One bottle of paint, open and askew, leaks a pool of ebony that has finally oozed its way to the edge of the table, and over it. Drops swell, separate, plummet to the unadorned concrete below in intermittent succession.

Plip… plip… plip.

These irregular, wet noises weave around the more consistent ticking emitted by the clock on the wall, analog hands noisily counting off every second. None of it registers in the seer's awareness — not the rhythmic patters of sound, not the vestigial aromas of a meal now well on its way to cold, not the unforgivingly stern concrete under folded legs where the skirt of her white dress provides no insulation. These things do not matter.

Somewhere far distant in space, yet infinitely close to Tamara's heart, threads set in motion months before converge upon their long-delayed resolution. She wants — oh how she wants — to be there, leveraging her ability to weight metaphorical dice and steer the course of fate, plucking improbability from the spread of potentials and forcing it to become reality. But even the sybil can only be at one place in one time, and right now, that place is not there.

Not with them.

It could have been. She could have been, and Tamara knows that intrinsically, although the whys and wherefores of her choice are now hopelessly lost to the seer's fractured memory. Responsibility for this day — the sense of possible, probable impending failure — is not hers alone, but its burden weighs heavily upon her soul nonetheless. Sitting distant vigil as possibilities collapse towards a final, singular certainty is the very least of payments that can be made on the price she owes.

Route 98

Just Outside of Buffalo, New York

A streak of red cuts against the darkness, accompanies by the high-pitched whine of a small engine. A red and white dirtbike cuts across a snaking country road, flanked on both sides by pine trees that whip past at a reckless pace. The stubby tires screech and skitter across the slick asphalt as the bike’s driver attempts to make up for lost time.

Up ahead, the dark of the night is cut open by an ambient glow of nearby habitation. The town of Batavia, a suburb of Buffalo, rapidly approaches. The bloom of the town’s lights is diffuse in the air in the dense fog that has collected this evening. The same fog that the tail light on Colette Nichols’ dirt bike cuts a glowing path through. No head lamp lights the young photokinetic’s way, she’s forsaken the need for lights to guide her for a while now, and the less people that are aware of her approach through the city the better.

As traffic lights at a four-way intersection begin to come into view, Colette eases back on the throttle and brings the bike to a stop on the side of the road. The heel of one of her boots digs into the soft, wet earth as it does. A misting rain collects on the visor of Colette’s helmet, one gloved hand sweeping it clean before it retrieves an old, battered cell phone from inside a zippered jacket pocket. Flipping it open, Colette checks an old text message timestamped from a few weeks ago.

4250 Federal Dr, Batavia, NY 14020
Don’t go alone.

Elizabeth Messer was a relatively new addition to the Ferry, but one that Colette had discovered was a repository of useful governmental information. After Judah was arrested, Colette exhausted her Ferrymen connections trying to determine where he might be held. Several dead-ends led to burning favors and bridges in equal measure. But it was an off-handed comment by Messer that put Colette back on the track. In a run-down of DHS facilities in the greater New York area, Messer mentioned an old detention facility in upstate New York that was once used by ICE before the bomb. When she said it was just outside of Buffalo, Colette recalled the cryptic last words she’d heard from Tamara months prior.

”Jupiter was barking up the wrong tree. You need the ice, not the ground inside the fence. That's where to chase the buffalo.”

It had always been there, waiting for her. Tamara had told her months ago where and how this would end, and once she was able to squeeze the address from Messer, it was just the matter of a long back-roads drive from New York City to Buffalo. It’s been months in the making, months separated from friends and family for a rescue mission literally no one else would authorize. The Ferrymen were circling the wagons, no one had time to rescue one person. Colette wasn’t about to fail her father, he wasn’t just one person. Not to her.

Kicking off the ground, Colette re-alights the bike and pulls the throttle, peeling off down the rain-slicked road. It was coming down harder now, heavy droplets of late summer rain. Colette wasn’t heading to the intersection ahead, though, she slows again on reaching a right turn on to Federal Drive. At that moment, the girl and her dirt bike shimmer away like a mirage, leaving only tracks in the wet road and the rumble of an engine to identify her passage. Colette takes the dirt bike another few hundred feet, right up to where an abandoned Comfort Inn sits in dilapidated disrepair. She pulls around the back of the old motel, looking to the lights from the detention facility less than a thousand feet away. Searchlights lined the checkpoint, she could hear dogs barking in the distance.

Within the spherical field of invisibility Colette maintains, there is no light. It's all bent away, creating an illusion of whatever is on the opposite side of her field, a trick that has saved her life on more than one occasion. The darkness in the sphere isn’t any more a hindrance as it was on the road. Colette can feel the light beyond her invisibility sphere, she can feel colors, feel light above and below the visible spectrum the way that someone with synesthesia might see sound.

Colette slips off the back of her dirt bike and keeps her motorcycle helmet on, retrieving her courier bag where its strapped to the back of the bike. From inside the bag, she takes a small handgun and checks the clip by touch, then slaps it back inside. She moves with an anxious trepidation, crossing the parking lot of the motel and moving through the dark, wide-open field between there and the next spot of cover. She leaves wet, deep footprints in the rain-soaked earth, but she’s come too far to turn back now because of the weather. There’s only one chance at this.

Hesitantly, she crosses behind an old and repurposed automotive repair garage that now stores armored riot-suppressing vehicles. At this hour of night, none of the maintenance crew is in and the doors are locked. She creeps up on an old Buick left in the parking lot and crouches behind it, pressing one hand to the door lock. There’s a crackle-snap and the scent of ionized metal as she cuts through the door lock with a beam of concentrated light that penetrates her illusory veil ever so briefly. Popping the door open, Colette slips inside the car and shimmers back into visibility while tucked under the driver’s side dashboard. In a few short minutes, she’s able to pry off the panel below the steering wheel and expose the wires necessary to hotwire the car. She won’t be bringing Judah back on her dirt bike.

Once the car is ready to serve as her escape route, Colette slips out of the vehicle and back into the rain. Disappearing from sight as she moves forward, closing fast across another wide-open and grassy field. Her footprints are deep and quickly collecting rainwater, but the tracks are behind her. Colette is more single-minded in her focus on the tall concertina-wire fence partitioning off the grounds of the DHS detention center and the field. The checkpoint is to her right, about 200 feet away, far enough that they might not notice her as she becomes visible again.

Back to the fence, she looks straight up and then pivots into a crouch facing the chain link. Her brows furrow, one finger pressed to the metal mesh. She once again concentrates light into heat at the tip of her finger. That finger traces a circle in the chain fence, leaving a molten arc of orange light in its wake across each link as a concentrated laser cuts through the aluminum like butter. Veins bulge at her temples from the strain, and just a few seconds later she's sliced a two and a half foot wide hole in the fence.

Without taking a moment to catch her breath, Colette doesn't wait to see if the guards noticed her, either they did or they didn’t and it's too late to turn back regardless of the result. Colette slides through the opening and projects another sphere of invisibility as she quickly moves along the perimeter of the fence and then across another wide-open field to an unmanned security door near a loading dock lined with white Institute vans. As she moves in personal darkness, Colette pulls her handgun from her waistband and swipes rain off of the visor of her motorcycle helmet again.

One thumb click to turn off the safety.

The Commonwealth Arcology

Below Cambridge, Massachusetts

Far away, slim fingers pluck fitfully at the end of a carmine sash, worrying its end into a tatter as ragged as the spread of outcomes the seer perceives. Most interweave into a thicket of brambles, myriad permutations that for all their variety coalesce down to one common end; a bare handful of offshoots stick out forlornly, thin rivulets of brightness winding through an otherwise forbidding landscape.

Plip… plip… plip.

A single, new drop falls in silence, caught almost thoughtlessly by the folds of the sash, liquid melding seamlessly into blood-red cloth worn this day with deliberate intent. It is only the first, and a trivial loss that passes beneath Tamara's notice, negligible compared to the threads now converging upon a moment that has been approaching for days, weeks, months — a chain of events playing out with all the horrific fascination of an impending train wreck.

But there are wrecks, and then there are wrecks.

Impotent, unable to intervene, the sybil can only watch, wish, and pray for possibility to resolve as she hopes — slim chance though that might be.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the improbable does occur unaided.

Buffalo Federal Detention Facility

Batavia, New York

A steel security door swings open into a fluorescent-lit hall, a glowing trail of molten metal dribbling out of the lock. Wet footprints are the only sign of Colette’s entrance as she shuts the unlocked door behind herself. All of the tiled floor and halls reminds Colette of a High School rather than a detention center, though the two are roughly analogous to her recollection. Advancing in her field of bent light, held shakily held out, Colette starts sweeping from hall to hall, trying to figure out where she’s supposed to go. What she’s supposed to do now that she’s inside. Her plan didn’t include a layout of the building, didn’t include anything about the security, or what could be expected on-sight.

Within seconds an alarm klaxon is blaring, the door she’d burned through triggered a security breach and the entire facility was about to go on alert. Colette scrambles as soon as the alarms go off, boots slip-skidding across the floor as she whispers a litany of profanity under her breath behind the visor of her helmet. She didn’t plan for this. Didn’t rehearse this. She’d gone against everyone's wishes for this.

Colette scrambles down a maze of corridors, skidding to a stop when she sees two DHS agents walking ahead of her. Squeaking boots draw their attention, and she panics. Her invisibility drops, thrown outward at the guards, folding them into a swath of lightless night. She fires then, wildly, toward where she can feel the guards inside of her invisibility field. Seven shots, and two men fall to the ground gurgling blood and dying. Her stomach turns, she lets out a wordless gasp of horror, then winds around another corridor as she spots a sign that says detention blocks.

Guards are coming, and Colette can hear their shouts. “Two down! Repeat, two down! Armed intruder in the detention wing!” Eyes already tearing up in fear, Colette runs by the doors of the detention wing, stopping long enough to look inside of each narrow glass window to see a frightened captive, a sedated form, or an otherwise empty room. Judah had to be in one of them, had to.

She finds him on the other side of the glass at the end of the wing, behind the second-to-last door in the moment that hope of ever seeing him alive again would otherwise flicker violently like a candle before being snuffed out.

There is no reason for him to be sedated; unlike most of the prisoners here, Judah Demsky lacks any ability to speak of, unless you count his sharp eye and keen attention to detail, two of the qualities that made him a good detective during his time with the NYPD. The government doesn’t.

He is nothing to the people here except for an anonymous serial number and a warm body in a prisoner’s jumpsuit that is somehow still several sizes too large for his broad frame. His shoulders rise and fall with every measured breath he takes, cuffed hands hanging in the empty space between his knees that he creates by sitting with his feet a comfortable distance apart.

Colette has seen this posture a few times before. Recognizes that his lowered head and closed eyes are an integral part of her adopted father’s meditation process.

His beard, longer and fuller than it’s ever been, and what looks like blood under his fingernails tell the story of why someone of Judah’s stature and doggedly persistent nature might want to withdraw inside of himself instead of fight.

In a place like this, it’s the only way to stay sane.

The sight of Judah re-kindles the fire of adrenaline burning in Colette’s chest. She reaches out and places a hand on the door, not even thinking about the limitations of her own ability. Her brows pinch together, veins bulge on the side of her head, and the coppery glow of what might as well be an arc-welder begins slicing through the locking mechanism. She tugs her helmet off, throws it to the ground with a clatter. Protecting her identity doesn't make sense anymore here, and a motorcycle helmet won't stop a bullet.

From down the hall, booted feet come slamming. They’re only a few halls away now and the alarms haven’t stopped. Colette lets out a pained whine, blood running from her nose in a dribbling trail down her lips and chin. The same red comes spilling over the edges of her right eye’s bottom lashes. She struggles for a moment, closes her eyes against the pain and pushes. There’s a loud clatter-clink as the lock’s internal components fall to the flood and white-hot metal drips in glowing beads on tile.

Colette tugs the door open, stumbling in to the doorway. She looks like death when she appears to Judah, bleeding from one eye and nostril, rain-soaked, tattered, frayed in ways physical and psychological. “Get up!” Colette screams, turning to look down the hall at something only she can see. “Come on!

Judah’s reaction is delayed on the account of the fact that he can’t be sure he isn’t hallucinating. His eyes open and he lifts his head just enough to focus on the space that Colette’s voice is coming from, expecting to see nothing – but there she is. Against all logic and probability, his adopted daughter is bleeding onto the floor of his cell.

It takes him a few more moments for the man to convince himself that she’s a tangible thing and not the cruelest trick that his imagination has ever played on him. Doesn’t even really believe it until he’s closed the distance between them and can put his hands on her. His palms cradle the teen’s face, tilting it upward, and he uses his thumbs to wipe matted hair and blood away from her eyes.

He’s dealt with his fair share of amateur shapeshifters and illusionists. It was their eyes that always gave them away. There’s just something wholly unique to every person that can’t be replicated.

Colette’s are the real deal.

He gathers her to him and crushes her body against his chest, trapping her in the unbreakable circle of his arms. Judah presses a kiss to Colette’s crown and holds it.

Judah,” Colette exhales the name against his chest, and for a moment she can’t hear the alarms, the shouts, the encroaching sounds of urgency hammering down on them. But that moment is short, fleeing, and never could be long enough. Wriggling out of his grasp, Colette looks to the hall she came from, guards not yet in sight but closing in. She looks ahead, past rows of cells where hands pound on steel doors and demand rescue. Colette looks back to Judah, eyes wide and fear causing her hands to shake. She didn’t think this far through.

Grabbing Judah by the wrist, in a more suggestive nature than thinking she could actually move him on her own, Colette aims to head deeper into the detention center. As she turns, Judah notices a handgun tucked into the back of her jeans; police issue, serial number on the grip filed off, probably stolen from a dead police officer. The details aren’t lost on him.

Judah’s fingers flex, wrestling Colette’s hand around so that he’s the one fastened to her. He grasps her forearm tightly enough that his knuckles whiten and the teen feels her hand go cold, numb beneath the pressure. There will be time to ask her about the handgun later.

Time to discipline. To apologize for disciplining. To renege on his apology. To do all the things that parents do, regardless of age or experience or social status.


“You don’t know where you’re going,” he says, and it isn’t a question. His voice is rough, raw from disuse and sounds alien to his own ears. “Colette.” The hand not grasping her by the forearm plucks the handgun out from her jeans and hefts the weapon, testing the weight as he quickly becomes reacquainted with the familiar sensation of holding it. “//Which way did you come from?/”

Wide-eyed, Colette flicks a look to the open door to their right and the trail of rainwater. “T-that way, it’s— I think there’s people— uh— four?” It isn’t clear how she makes that assessment, some unseen sense; a glint of light refracting off a raindrop like a mirror. “I— there’s a h-hole in the fence I came through, I— I’ve got a car, we— we just need to…”

It’s clear, now, that Colette’s alone. Barring Judah’s presence, there’s the distinct absence of Tamara’s planning in all of this. Colette should know where to go, how many guards there are, what way to get out. She’s running blind through this whole thing, acting on instinct and emotion. “I— I can hide us, w-we have to hurry!

Judah shoves down his frustration. Leaping before she looks is exactly the sort of thing Colette would do, and he has to remind himself that this is one of the qualities that endears her to him. His grip tightens even further on her arm, vice-like — the only body language that betrays the hot flash of anger in his chest and gut. He feels like he could hit her. Won’t.

“This way then,” he orders her, leaving no room or time for debate. His gaze follows the trail of rainwater. His feet follows his gaze. The arm not shielding Colette behind him swings up to point the handgun at the darkness opening up ahead. The other roughly hauls the teen along.

She’ll have bruises in the morning. Something else he can be sorry for.

Two men in fatigues pop around the corner, looking just as surprised to see Judah as he is to see them. As they raise their rifles, start to bark an order, there’s a disorienting dimming of the ambient light in the T-intersection they’re standing in. It goes from lit to impenetrable darkness in the matter of a second. They scream, panicked, and fire blindly out of the darkness. Bullets shatter an overhead light, send glass and plastic shards down onto the floor. Another hits a window, blows out the glass, leaving just an iron bar grating behind. A third series of rounds shatters floor tiles beside Judah’s right foot.

Colette presses herself up against Judah’s back in the chaos, eyes wrenched shut out of fear more than anything. But that doesn’t provide her any seclusion from what’s happening, she can see everything still. She’s still trembling in fear, still — in spite of her best attempts — a child.

Judah is trained for this. He does not hesitate. He squeezes the handgun’s trigger twice in quick succession. That he isn’t panicked gives him a distinct advantage over the enemy. A steady hand means level aim, and in this particular instance it means two more bodies bleeding out in the hallway.

He waits until he’s sure the men are down before moving forward again at a brisker, more purposeful pace. The only thing he wants more than to be out is to still Colette’s trembling; when they arrive at the end of the hall, just before the corner, he shifts their positions and hoists her up with the same care he might show a small, quaking animal. “Arms around my neck,” he says. “That’s a good girl. Hold on.”

Grabbing on to Judah’s neck and shoulders, one leg under one of his arms and the other hooked around his waist as best as she can, Colette looks tiny against her father’s back. As Judah rounds the corner, there’s shouts coming from the darkness behind him, but the cover of that photokinetic trick has them gaining ground and making headway toward the entrance of the detention center.

Thundering up a short flight of stairs, Judah and Colette come to the rear entrance that Colette had burned her way into. All the noise is coming from behind them, everything looks and feels like it may line up correctly — impossibly so. But then there’s a noise, something neither man nor vehicle. A clink of metal on stone, and a head that comes round the open doorway at knee level. It looks like the skinless skull of a cat, forged wholly from metal. Green eyes shine inside of its sockets, hydraulics whirr, and a mechanical snikt sound accompanies a syringe extending from its mouth.

Colette lets out a shriek when she sees the machine start to round the corner, rain pattering off of its metal chassis. A low, thrumming noise builds in it, and she collapses a shroud of ineffectual darkness on the robot. It doesn’t see the way people do, but neither she nor Judah have any way to know that. “Back! Back!” Colette screams, not knowing what else to do.

Judah steers a look over his shoulder at the stairwell. Back isn’t an option anymore. He forces Colette’s head down against his shoulder to stifle the sound of her screaming and sidesteps, putting his body between the teen and the robot. He can’t be positive that it’s seen them yet, although he’s been told how these things are programmed, what they’re trained to detect.

He isn’t in any danger. Colette is. “Quiet,” Judah murmurs against Colette’s ear. He can do little to comfort her except keep her close, and hope that his warmth and the familiar smell of his skin and hair will calm her instead.

He glances down at his feet and catches the glint of something else metallic flickering in the low light. It’s a piece of debris, and he kicks it down the hall away from them. Prays, then. For the first time in his life, to nothing and to everything.

But no one is here to answer those prayers. The sound that comes next is like a piece of construction equipment roaring to life, a flash of metal in the darkness and then searing pain. In a fit of panic, Colette drops the darkness and dazed spots of light swirl around in the air. But it isn’t her that’s been harmed, it’s Judah.

The beast has mistakenly driven its syringe into Judah’s leg, clamped on with a vice-like grip and backpedals like a hunting dog tearing a fox out of its hole. Judah is pulled off his feet, dragged backwards through the doorway and shaken from side to side with the tremendous strength of this artificial hunter. Colette is thrown during the chaos, lands hard on her side and struggles to push herself up.

After a moment of thrashing, the beast realizes its prey is in the wrong direction. Its eyes flicker, the hum-click-whirr of a machine emits from its neck as it looks away from Judah. Rain rolls in beads down its bare steel frame, these are one of the old models; slower, not as smart. It doesn’t realize Judah’s vice-like grip maintained a hold on the gun.

The hunter robot looks back for Colette, and she’s up on her knees staring the creature down from the doorway. But the pop-snap-pop of gunfire behind her sends her scrambling out of the doorway, and the machine comes bounding after her like a wild dog off of its leash. Her feet skid and slip across the rain-slicked pavement of the rear parking lot. Alarms are sounding everywhere, searchlights from the nearby guard towers are closing in.

Judah might not be Evolved, but that needle isn’t painless. His shoulders draw in, shuddering as he chokes off a curse and lurches to his feet after the hunter. The adrenaline coursing through his veins saves him from the worst of it and gives him the extra edge he needs to keep up. His injured leg drags a half step behind him, foot twisted at a strange angle, but that doesn’t matter.

Nothing matters except— “Colette!” Judah thunders and it’s a miracle that she can hear him over the din. The falling rain sounds like a hurricane in his ears. In the past, the number of rounds left in the handgun would be at the front of his mind. It doesn’t even occur to him now to check. He unloads every last bullet in the clip into the fleeing hunter.

Please. If you were ever there, if you ever listened to anyone. I’m begging you now. For the sake of goodness and Light and everything that she is.

The bullets make hard, resonant bangs against the hunter’s chassis. Hydraulic cables are severed, actuators are shattered into pieces, battered metal plating flies off like fragments of a car accident. It loses its gait, stumbles, and by the time it reaches Colette its rolling end over end. Somewhere between Judah and Colette one of its legs flies off, rattling and clattering to the ground before skidding to a stop at Colette’s feet. She recoils, breath caught in the back of her throat.

Judah!” Colette hurries forward as the bright beacon of a searchlight lands on her in the rain. Skidding to a stop she raises a hand, collects the light into a grain of sand in the palm of her hand and sends it snaking back with blue-white intensity. There's a scream from the guard tower as the serpentine hair of laser-light cuts through his hand and the searchlight swivels away from the teen and her father.

Distracted by the intense focus that requires, Colette fails to notice the four men approaching from behind her. Each one with a rifle raised to her back. They come out of the door firing, one round slams against her vest at her right shoulder and sends her spinning off of her feet and onto the ground. The others track wide in the rain and hit nothing nearby.

Colette looks back at the men, sees them training their rifles on Judah, and with a scream she raises both hands and creates a searing white flash in a cone, directed to them. They cry out in unison, gunfire peppering the sky, the ground, then just empty clicks. More men are coming, sirens are blaring. There's no time.

The world is moving in slow motion. This must be what having an ability must be like, Judah reasons. The distracted, lazy whirl of far-off searchlights. Rain streaking through the air like tails trailing behind comets. He breathes in, filling his lungs to capacity, only vaguely aware of anything except the distance between himself and his daughter.

The air rushes out of him as he splashes across the pavement, paying no mind to the broken glass under his bare feet or the blood pumping out of his leg. He is large. He is fast. He is two hundred some pounds of flesh, bone and sinew barreling toward Colette with the raw power of a locomotive.

There is time. There is always time.

Colette sees Judah — feels the way dim light reflects off of rain on his body. She pushes herself up to one elbow, starts to gather what light she can in her hand. Something moves in her periphery, a Jeep driving up from the gate. A soldier in the back has something mounted, not a gun, but —

A high-pitched sonic wail sends pain lancing through Colette. The-non lethal riot control technology sends a focused cone of howling noise that sends her onto her back, blood running out of her ears, test gnashing together, back arching, her scream nothing more than a tinnitus ring. She looks up, teary-eyed, screaming for Judah in a voice she cannot hear. Nothing else matters but — “Dad!

The Commonwealth Arcology

Below Cambridge, Massachusetts

Possibilities crack, crumble, and wither away, whole branches clipped and swept aside as if by the hands of some divine gardener, their remnant shreds dissolving into oblivion. Thus are all hopes dashed to utter ruin; thus does inevitability assert itself, infinitely patient and resolutely implacable, waiting for the present moment to catch up with the outcome that now must be.

The distant watcher bows her head, carries that motion through into a lean and fold that leaves her sprawled across concrete floor, the very picture of abject grief framed in pristine white and sanguine red. She weeps with the same soundlessness in which her vigil has been kept, and her sorrow cuts all the deeper for that silence.

"Goodbye, Judah."

Two muffled words given to the walls of her supposed cage, to the family of choice so far beyond her reach, to the relentless currents of time sweeping everything along; a farewell no one hears… and that no one will remember.

Buffalo Federal Detention Facility

Batavia, New York

It isn’t an easy thing for a bullet to pass through a body.

There has to be enough force behind it to pierce skin, cleave through muscle and bone, liquefying insides on its way back out the other side. Judah knows. He lived and breathed blood spatter analysis.

He would have a lot to say about the pattern his leaves on the pavement. He could tell you the exact points at which the hail of bullets — all fourteen of them — entered his torso and head. He could draw a clean line between the spot where he falls and the position of the feet belonging to the soldier who delivered the killing shot. He’d type it all up into a neat report and sign his name on the bottom line in precise blank ink for accountability’s sake.

Every body tells a story, he once said to Colette. You can learn everything you need to know about a person. All you have to do is look.

And she is looking now. Judah hits the ground a few meters from his daughter. The momentum he’d gathered along the way carries him the rest of the distance. When he stops, he’s within reach, one arm stretched out above his head, hand grasping at the empty air where her face should be.

Then it falls. His life empties out into the rainwater and he’s gone; all that’s left behind is the implied intent of his final actions.

Colette screams herself hoarse, breathless, writhing on the rainy pavement against the agonizing sonorous banshee wail of whatever weapon that is pointed at her. Soldiers encircle her with rifles trained down, she can see their lips moving, see the flashes of lights across her body. But all she can hear are the screams inside of her head, all she can feel is the pain of unfathomable loss, pain greater than any man-made weapon could inflict on her

Three more people arrive, spots of light blossom, snap, pop, and erupt around Colette like a violent aurora borealis. It lights up the parking lot in violent shades of red and purple, flags off of her body like a curtain or a shroud. She doesn't feel the test darts when they drive into her side, legs, and chest. Her body convulses, heart races, and then there is nothing but pain, and then darkness.

The Commonwealth Arcology

Below Cambridge, Massachusetts

In a subterranean room whose utilitarianism is only barely softened by touches of art and sentiment, a young woman wearily picks herself up from the cold concrete floor, pressing the end of a crimson scarf to her nose to staunch its bleeding. Her free hand brushes at saltwater tracks now evanescing from cheekbones and chin; she studies the dampness that sticks to her fingers as if it were a stranger, a puzzle, a mystery.

Once she can trust herself not to bleed on anything else, Tamara pads over to the sink, splashing water over her face and running it through the soaked end of the scarf. The flowing liquid drains away red, then pink, then finally clear; the cloth itself is wrung out as dry as it might be, and now only a very close examination could reveal the residual evidence of the sybil overexerting her power.

Uncaring of the food on the table, the paint still leaking out onto the floor, Tamara weaves her way through her quarters and flops down on the bed. Curling up into a ball, her head buried in her arms, she seeks such respite as sleep provides, the restoration of strength against tasks not yet done; and if there is now a hole in her heart that haunts the seer's time-slipped dreams, a void gaping desolate of both future and past, it is not the first. It will not be the last.

Plip… plip… plip.

Time flows ever on.

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