Sometimes Things Break


kara_icon.gif taylor_icon.gif

Scene Title Sometimes Things Break
Synopsis Threads converge when Kara Prince must decide the fate of Taylor Kravid.
Date February 16, 2020

The drive uptown gives Kara time enough to think, her pace slow going through the ill-plowed snow. Only once she's well and away from the house did her hands start to shake, throat closing up over what nearly happened instead of what did. Her breath had finally exploded from her in an explosive cloud as she let herself feel on the trek back to her truck, packing it all away again by the time she climbed back into the cab, said a few reassuring words to the truck, and turned the key over.

She'd paused to consider the phone stored in the glove compartment, to consider phoning February Lancaster to let her know her lead was panning out, but it felt too soon— no point in getting her hopes up if tonight turned out to be a false start. Instead, she fished it out only to send a quick text to Noah, letting him know she'd made it safely into town but might not be able to meet with him that night. Something came up. Need to look into it first.

There was brief consideration given to trying to explain, but she had a hard time believing he'd understand.

Much less approve.

A pothole hidden by the snow jolts Kara's attention back to the present briefly, both hands tightening on the wheel. The truck keeps rolling, no fishtailing— thankfully. The sacks stacked in the back do their job. With a long exhale that still clouds from her even in the truck, she lets the vehicle roll to a stop at an intersection, blinker on even in the lack of traffic before she turns.

The painting of the woman with golden eyes resurfaces in her mind as she sees dual stoplights flick yellow well down the road. She frowns to herself, trying to figure out why the woman pictured felt so familiar. Thomas' failingly steady hands tempered photorealism in the paintings she'd seen, but they'd all been recognizably something, at least. And the woman…

Her eyes narrow at the light as it turns red. It's not quite the same shade of red as the shrieking cloud of energy the painting of the woman brought to mind, but…

Kara rubs her fingers along the side of her nose, applying pressure hard up into the bridge of it after the car stops at the light to wait. She needed to stay on track.

Church of The Ascension

5:16 pm

The church wasn't hard to find— because Kara had been to it a few weeks prior for a veterans' support meeting. If she's lucky, none of them are the ones that are volunteering tonight, opening the church's doors to those who need a place from the cold and haven't been able to, for one reason or another, find admittance at other shelters.

Kara certainly looks the part of someone who needs to get out of the cold, having parked the truck two blocks away and not gotten any decent heat of it besides. The last of the handwarmers she'd purchased are pitched in a streetside garbage can with grudging resignation of the death of the last bit of external warmth she'd had. It's been a long day, one that began early. One which might not end soon, should she find Taylor.

The lights inside the Church of Ascension are on, the stained glass on the front glowing in technicolor in contrast to the rapidly-darkening skies. There's no queue out front, so Kara makes her way directly to the front and pulls one of the sturdy red doors open to let herself inside.

The foyer of the Church of Ascension looks less enigmatic than many religious establishments prefer. There is no austere beauty here, except in the old woodwork and stone. The furnishings are a folding table with a nylon tablecloth upon which sits rows of donation jars with handwritten labels on them indicating a number of local charities. Cash fills the jars and a young teenage boy sits on a metal folding chair behind the long table. “Good evening!” He says cheerfully, but doesn’t goad Kara into coming over or otherwise bother her.

There’s a corkboard on the wall beside where she’d come in, filled with photographs. Some of the photos are a decade old and yellowed with age, others look to have been placed much more recently. A narrow table below the corkboard has a number of glass-ensconced mourning candles set on its surface, all burning softly. There’s poems, prayers from a half-dozen different religions, and little keepsakes pinned between the photographs. It doesn’t need to be called out as a memorial wall to be recognizable as one.

A banner hangs on the opposite wall from the entrance that reads All Are Welcome in English, Spanish, and Japanese. A pair of doors flank either side of the banner, leading into the chapel hall where Kara can see rows of pews and a much more conventional church in Catholic stylings. Though at the front of the church where a pulpit stands there is no religious iconography, no gigantic depiction of Jesus on a cross, nothing to indicate the faith of the structure.

Kara looks out over the pews for a long moment, a brief sign of respect for the space she's entered. The candles and photos, though, go unlooked at, her attention going to the boy behind the table. She inclines her head at him, keeping her distance for the moment.

"Hey there," she replies back to him, keeping her voice low, like the sanctity of the sanctuary might somehow otherwise be broken. It was different in the community room on the sublevel, but up here, it felt as though they might as well be in the sanctuary. "Someone told me there's shelter here overnight?"

The boy nods, reaching to a stack of flyers beside the donation jars to take one. He then slides out of his chair and comes around the table beside Kara, offering it out to her while at the same time moving a hand to one of her elbows in a gentle and practiced gesture. A casual glance shows Kara that the pamphlet is a list of phone numbers, resources for homeless or at-risk citizens. There’s an emblem on the front, a symbol printed in yellow. It looks kind of like a fish hook.

“We have a shelter downstairs,” the boy says with a warm smile. “My name’s Tommy,” he adds while motioning to the nave of the church. “I can show you where the stairs are, if you need help. There’s a pay phone at the bottom of the stairwell and a jar of quarters next to it if you need to make a call. Mr. Pines isn’t here, but we have some volunteers on tonight who’ll help you.”

It's adorable, actually, how the boy tries to make himself useful. Kara accepts the paper, skimming the notes and letting her eyes settle on the symbol before folding the paper twice, shoving it back into the pocket of her jeans for later. She looks ahead to where Tommy leads her, only shaking her head. "I think I'm all right, Tommy. Thank you. You've been very helpful." She looks down to him with a small smile.

Almost certainly he could use hearing it. Kids loved to know they added value.

"I'll head on, though," Kara tells him, then lengthens her strides to get her to the nearest stairwell more quickly, feet echoing on the steps as she heads down.

The church itself is quiet as Kara enters, distant lights at the back reminiscent of candles but clearly battery-powered for safety reasons. The door to the basement is clearly marked, precisely where the boy said it would be, propped open by a plastic bucket of rock salt, probably for the front steps. The concrete block walls of the stairwell are painted a canary yellow and the handrail looks newly installed. At the bottom of the stairs, precisely where she was told it would be, is a payphone. A plastic tupperware with quarters in it is set atop with a piece of tape across one side that has IF YOU NEED IT, JUST TAKE IT written in black sharpie.

Kara’s familiar with the space, but she feels like she’s seeing all of this with fresh eyes. Just past the payphone the wall goes from yellow to concrete gray. The doorway to the small room where the veterans meeting is held just beyond that line. There’s no one in there now, chairs all folded and hung on a rack on the wall, even the table that normally has coffee and donuts is missing. It feels empty in there, lonely. She can remember some of the things the others said in those walls, the things she chose not to say.

“Hey,” pulls Kara out from that observation, “do you… need help?”

Standing in the doorway to a larger space lined with cots is a young woman somewhere in her twenties. Taylor Kravid’s thick mane of dark, curly hair is held behind her head in a bushy ponytail, the olive drab jacket she wears looks a bit too big for her. The name PINES is sewn into a patch on the chest.

Kara's head moves first, her brow lifting at being acknowledged and pulling her from her reverie. She's paying attention, she means to convey, even though she's not entirely. And then when everything clicks into place, the present becoming the present, there she is.

"Sorry, first time."

She blinks hard, looking back to the empty room, and then to the one with the cots, finally settling back on Taylor and the jacket and the name pinned to it that sits over her like an additional shroud of sanctuary. Kara forces a small smile. "You the welcome wagon?" She imagines she looks a little out of place, a little uncertain. It'd not be a lie.

“As close to a wagon as it is,” Taylor says with a lopsided smile, one hand on her hip. “C’mon,” she says, motioning to the door behind herself as she turns towards it. “We just started serving dinner, Stephen’s got a mean corn chowder going.” She notes, walking through the doorway into an open space that may have at one time been a storage area beneath the church.

The shelter below the Church of the Ascension is very clearly a basement and little has been done to change that appearance. The ceiling is low, making the whole place feel smaller than it really is. Exposed beams are hung with white Christmas lights to give a sense of atmosphere. Sometimes wrapped in a tight coil around metal support columns.

“We’ve got some beds over there,” Taylor says, motioning to rows of narrow cots lined up on a far wall that lacks any windows to the outside. Sheets hang between the cots on clotheslines to add a sense of privacy, while milk crates double as storage and seats. A few long cafeteria style tables fill the majority of the floor with a handful of people seated at them. “Soup’s that way,” she says with a gesture to a serving cart on wheels, plugged into the wall and providing piping hot meals.

A gray-haired man in his late sixties stands behind it, spooning out chowder into small bowls that all look second hand; not a single one is part of a matching set. He adds a square of cornbread with it along with a grandfatherly smile. That must be Stephen.

“So,” Taylor says turning around, fidgeting with the zipper on her jacket, “if you need any help with housing, we’ve got a social worker who comes by, helps people get into Settler’s Park. S’easier if you’re a Slice. SESA sends a welfare agent down weekly.” Her smile is an honest, if tired one.

Kara breaks off her observation of the space to return that smile, small and commiserating. "Well," she supposes without missing a beat, "the government tried to commit genocide on them. Least they can do is send them a special social worker and be glad no one is asking them to say sorry in a more meaningful way."

You know, as they might, she indicates with a tip of one shoulder. As gracefully as possible she segues away with, "I'm okay as I am, but I appreciate the information anyway. Thanks." Kara looks back to Taylor, inclining her head just slightly to acknowledge her. "I'm Terry."

She hesitates for a moment, but ultimately says, "You look a little young to be someplace like this." It's a careful kind of lie. She knows better— the war and its aftermath did not age discriminate. But maybe this way, she can keep Taylor talking.

Taylor manages a lopsided, if somewhat awkward, smile. “I only look young. People always say that,” she says with a laugh. “I’m almost thirty, if you’d believe it.” Taylor continues to walk slowly, but still guiding, deeper into the shelter. It’s a conversational walking pace.

“I’m just a volunteer,” Taylor continues, tucking her hands into her pockets as she walks. “I live out on the coast with a friend. Hoping to get a place of my own one day, you know, eventually. Shit’s been hard for a lot of people. Hell, my life hasn’t been sunshine and rainbows, that’s for sure.” She smiles in spite of it. “But you gotta do what’s right by people, yeah?”

Realizing something, Taylor pauses and laughs to herself, then offers a hand out to Kara. “Name’s Taylor, by the way. It’s nice t’meet you Terry.”

Have to do what's right by people.

Kara accepts the hand offered to her with a firm shake. "Good to meet you too, Taylor." She wonders about that line, about being just a volunteer, but at the moment opts to let it alone. Instead, she wonders, "You from this way, or just end up out here? I'm from the Midwest, myself." Somehow, after so long, after all the way she's come, that starts to feel like a lie too, though.

Her expression mellows, her pace a slow lag next to Taylor's. She looks to the beds, counting the number of them against the number of bodies present. Would there be enough, especially if Kara took up a space she didn't really need?

Maybe if she was lucky, an opportunity would present itself before that became an issue.

“I’ve been around,” Taylor says noncommittally, and Kara can see where the walls are in her social presence. The walls that keep her true identity concealed. The question looks to put Taylor a little on edge, though it’s subtle. Kara can feel her withdraw a little.

“I’ve gotta start doin’ some dishes,” Taylor says with a motion toward the back of the space, toward where large sinks are set against the concrete block wall. “But help yourself, get some food, and pick a bed. If you need anything, just ask. Even if it isn’t here we can try and figure something out.”

"Sure," comes from Kara. She hears herself say it, but that's the extent of her commitment to forward movement. The furthest she makes it physically is a look back in the direction of the food line. She should go on with her night, with keeping an eye on Taylor and biding her time, waiting for the right moment.

But she can't make that next step. Not physically. Not metaphorically. She can't bring herself to go through with it, not even knowing what was at stake— but also especially because she knows what's at stake.

Her facade falls, all the ways she's felt lost at sea making themselves plain as she stands at the crossroad of this moment. A tiredness comes over her, heaviness visibly sinking into her features. The time it takes for her to breathe in again feels like an eternity, even though only seconds pass. "Taylor?" Kara asks, looking back to the younger woman with a slight furrow to her brow.

"Could… I talk to you, actually?"

Tension rises in Taylor’s expression, jaw set and one hand jammed into the pocket of Pines’ old coat. Taylor turns, back to the kitchen, dark eyes locked on Kara in silence for an uncomfortable moment that clearly reveals her anxiety.

“Sure,” Taylor says with evident tension in her voice. Her eyes dart past Kara, around the room, at exits. But she stays grounded, firmly planted. Kara knows this isn’t a woman who suspects something, but rather a victim of abuse trying to suppress a panic attack.

Kara thinks on it for a moment then gestures with her head back to the hall before her feet lead her that way as well. It lends to them the facade of privacy, one which she confirms with a glance up and down the hall before settling just outside the doorway, hands shoved in her own pockets.

"You…" she starts, then takes a moment only then to collect her thoughts. There's no way to go about this gently, in her mind. No way to ease Taylor's anxieties when every single one of them are justified. So Kara attempts kindness through directness. "I'm sorry."

"You're not safe. There are people looking for you, and they have good intel on you. You're not safe." She looks back to the converted shelter space and then back to Taylor herself with a shake of her head. "Here is not safe."

It's with a twinge of visible regret Kara repeats, "I'm sorry."

Taylor’s breath hitches in the back of her throat, she freezes in place, and suddenly everyone and everything is a suspect. Her eyes well up with tears, throat works up and down in a dry swallow, and she takes a few shaky steps back from Kara.

“What the fuck.” Taylor says in a way that isn’t so much a question as it is a plea for this to be a joke. For Kara to be unwell and trying to drag Taylor into her paranoid delusions. “Why would you say that?” Comes shaky from Taylor, who desperately clings to the possibility that this isn’t real. That her worst nightmare isn’t coming true.

"Because you don't deserve to be at their mercy. Neither do the other people under their thumbs, but I'm not sure I can help them," Kara explains with guilt in her heart, even as her hand is clasped tightly around the taser in her pocket, that option still just a jerk of a motion away. "You, though— you can get away from them. From the people who had you before, from Shedda, from … whoever else it is that wants you, because of whatever it is you can do. Whatever it is that makes you special to them." Her words become a bit more urgent, a plea of apology in them. "I'm saying this because I know how close they are to finding you, and I can't— I can't just do nothing with that, knowing the types of people they are."

Jaw set, she decides she can neither just drop this life-changing information on her and walk away and hope for the best. Kara looks directly to Taylor. "Do you have anywhere else you can go? Anywhere not the Safe Zone? Do you have a car you can use to leave for there?"

She asks, even though she fears the answer to all of those questions are no.

It’s hard to tell what Taylor’s answer really is, she never gives one. Tears could no longer be restrained after Kara said the people who had you before. It took until the rest of Kara’s sentence for Taylor to cover her mouth with one hand to muffle a terrified keening sound in the back of her throat. Perhaps that was the answer Kara needed.

Taylor backs up until she bumps into one of the metal support pillars, eliciting a yelp of shock. She turns around sharply, wide-eyed, and then quickly jerks a look back to Kara. “I’m sorry,” she manages to say, though it’s more a reflex than anything. “I— have to— ” and Taylor weaves around Kara and starts running for the door to the stairs.

In the same moment, Kara sees movement out of the corner of her eye. But when she looks, it’s nothing. Just the semi-reflective surface of a stainless steel refrigerator.

It's a long enough distraction that Taylor makes it past her, though not far before Kara rounds back to follow her. Her hands come from her pockets as she rushes after her. "Taylor, wait—"

Taylor does not.

Kara follows her out of the shelter, into the concrete hall where Taylor sprints down the corridor and nearly collides with the wall where the hall takes a turn. She pushes away from it, scrambling up the stairs, taking in panting breaths.

It'd be easy to just let her go, to trust that somehow she'd end up fine in the end, but Kara can't convince herself to do that. If she's going to commit to this, she's committing to it. Her, her larger wingspan, and the physical training she's not let lapse.

Her footfalls are heavy and powerful, steps leapt up multiple at a time to make up the little distance she'd lost. "Taylor, please," she insists, right before she grabs ahold of the younger woman's forearm to keep her from fleeing. There's better things she could do to handle this, but there's also worse, and she's just glad she's decided not to reach for the latter. She doesn't let go as she tries to reason with her: "If you run without thinking, that's worse than just—"

Kara shakes her head hard, abandoning the rest of that thought. It's not helpful to her now. "Breathe. Okay? Just… breathe."

Struggling in the stairwell, Taylor lets out a shrill cry of fright. “No!” She shouts. “Let me go! Let me go!” She twists and thrashes, panic in her eyes, a burning desire to put distance between herself and perceived threats. She has the leverage of height on the stairs, but Kara has considerably more strength.

Taylor jerks her arm back, trying to slip out of her jacket and leave Kara there holding an empty olive-drab coat, but the grip on her forearm is too strong. “Let me go, please! I’m not going back!” She screams, her voice echoing in the stairwell.

It's the sound that breaks Kara's heart. It's one that tells her this is the right choice to have made.

"You're not. You're not."

She pulls Taylor closer to her only so she can wrap both arms around her in a tight embrace. It'll either hopefully calm her… or close the last bit of distance needed to forcibly calm her, move her. Kara hopes for the former, all while the echoes of Taylor's screams send her heart racing. There were only seconds before someone came running.

"Taylor, you're not going back."

Taylor is trembling like a frightened animal, frozen in Kara’s embrace, stiff like a corpse. There is a small silhouette at the top of the stairwell, a little, tentative shape of the boy watching the donation stand. He doesn’t have enough context to know what’s wrong, or why, but his small voice calls out in innocent concern: “Are you okay?”

Behind her, Kara hears footsteps coming from the direction of the shelter, at least two people, probably more. She only knows one way out, and that’s up. Taylor isn’t fighting her, isn’t screaming anymore either, but what she is doing is sobbing.

What had they done to her?

Kara's anxiety doesn't manifest the same way Taylor's does. The gruffness of her embrace conveys sturdiness, her arms a protective cage rather than an indecisive one. In the moment, her eyes shut hard, hearing the approaching footsteps, hearing the voice that calls out from above.

Her heart comes to her throat, and she swallows it back down only barely. Lifting her head away from Taylor's smaller form, Kara looks up to the boy at the top of the stairs. "We're okay," she assures, even though that may not be the case just yet. "We're okay, Tommy."

Every footfall she overhears screams for her to move, but…

Looking down at Taylor, her embrace shifts just slightly, hand soothingly rubbing on the younger woman's bicep. She has to take in a steadying breath herself, nodding down at her, hunched slightly. Everything about her reads supportive instead of confrontational, which she hopes will be enough for whoever storms around the corner momentarily to not tear them apart.

God, she hopes they won't.

"I want to help, if you let me. I don't want you to go back. You deserve better, Taylor."

Taylor is quiet for a time, feels small in Kara’s arms, feels as young as people always assume she is. “Where do we go?” She says into the embrace.


Taylor?” Stephen, the tall, gray-haired cook, had heard the cries. He stops a good distance away, still dressed in his apron, holding a kitchen knife in one hand for lack of anything else to defend himself with. “Is everything alright?” His grip on the knife is tight, anxious. He prays the answer is—

I’m fine.” Taylor calls out from inside Kara’s protective embrace.

Stephen doesn’t move, not immediately. He looks to Kara, suspiciously.

"We're good," Kara promises with a look back his way. "We just… Old wounds." For more than just the younger woman, she realizes with a blink. "Caught us both by surprise." Letting Taylor go, she draws herself up, brushing the corner of her eye with the back of her thumb. When did that moisture get there? What emotion prompted it, she wonders? She'll figure that out later.

"—see about talking to someone for help." The first sounds of what she means to say don't make it out, but the message at least isn't diminished. "Take us both to the Benchmark. They've got… people, resources. Former Ferry who specialize in help for problems like ours."

Ours. She wasn't going to leave her hanging in the wind, if she could help it. And if there was anyone to trust to offer Taylor the support she needed, it would be Ferry like Lynette Rowan. At least, that's Kara's belief.

She offers her hand to Taylor, a silent request of trust in that belief.

All of it washes over Taylor like so much churning surf. Even as Stephen is hesitant to leave, Taylor disentangles herself from Kara’s arms. “No,” she says with a shake of her head, “no more— no more centers and institutes.” Anger fills her as she turns sharply to Stephen. “D’you mind!?

Stephen sucks in a breath, ducks his head in apology, and turns. For a moment Taylor thinks she sees someone behind her, reflected in the surface of the kitchen knife as Stephen turns away, but it’s just a trick of the light. It’s her anxiety playing games with her mind.

“I can’t do that,” Taylor says, hands balled into fists. She backs up the stairs, trembling again. “I can’t do that. I can’t do this.” Kara knows those eyes. They are deer’s eyes.

She’s going to run.

Kara's next look to Stephen is one of apology in the form of a shake of her head, tempered to a still when she catches that flash again. It doesn't feel like a coincidence the second time.

If Taylor's going to run…

"Okay. Okay. No centers." In her agreement, she starts to reach for Taylor's shoulder again and then lowers her hand, instead jerking her head in a nod both toward the stairs and up them. "I'm still with you."

As Kara begins to walk, her hand slides back into the pocket of her jacket.

“You don’t get it,” Taylor says with a tremor in her voice. “I’m not— I can’t stay in the city.” She tries, every way she can, to stop from shaking. But the adrenaline won’t let up. “The people who’re after me, if they know I’m here— they’ll kill everyone who— ”

Taylor goes silent. Her stare on Kara becomes laser focused. “How did you find me?” She suddenly has the frame of mind to ask. “Who— who are you?” The fear, again, this time of the unknown and falling into the same traps as in her youth.

“Show me your badge.” Taylor demands, asserting her assumptions on Kara’s identity.

Kara's movement arrests after only a step, her gaze drawing back to Taylor. With plainfaced calm, she tells her, "No badge. But I'm not homeless either. I'm just—" Her gaze roams for only a second before she shakes her head, returning it to the younger woman. "Someone who wants to do the right thing. Someone who those people will have to work very hard to kill."

A beat later, one shoulder lifts up in an gesture of acquiescence. Disgruntled, her offer of, "I have a truck. Money I'd saved up. It's yours, if you want it." all sounds honest enough. It's even followed with a weightier "If…"

"If you let us go talk to that Ferry contact before we leave town. Because I know my limits— she might have more she can offer you in the long run." Kara quirks her head to the side, brow arching up. "What do you say?"

A long silence hangs between the two, and Kara can see nothing but nervous strength in Taylor’s eyes. She is tense, like a greyhound ready to run, but there’s no mechanical rabbit to chase here. Mustering up her courage, she extends a hand.

“Keys,” is her answer.

After a moment of consideration, Kara nods. The old truck's keys are fished from her pocket, offered and hovered over Taylor's palm. "I'll let you drive us over." That was the deal, after all. One corner of her mouth pulls up in a gesture of good humor. "It'll be good practice in the snow."

Taylor’s brows furrow, determination remaining. “Not us,” she says, “and not there.” It becomes clearer to Kara that she’s looking for a fast exit, rather than going where Kara’s been trying to guide her.

“I can drop you off somewhere, or I can take my chances hitchhiking.” Taylor says with a tension in her voice.

“Your call.”

Kara's smile fades, her humor and her attempts to gently guide Taylor's course losing entirely. "Alone, you're going to run into this again. And next time, the next person looking for you isn't going to offer you a hand like this. Either accept the help, the money, the vehicle…" her brow arches at that particular commodity. "or resign yourself to the nightmare you don't want to go back to."

"It's your call, Taylor," she echoes back at her, more solemn than before. "But I'd vote to give yourself the better chance."

Breathing in deeply, Taylor lowers her hand and takes one step back and up the stairs. Tears well up in her eyes as she shakes her head. There is a line, it would appear. One she is unwilling or unable to cross.

“Sorry t’disappoint you,” she says with a tightness in her throat. “Thanks for the warning.” Taylor takes another step up the stairs, looking away from Kara, away from a life she had just started to settle into, and then squares her eyes down at her feet as she turns her back on the one person she might have been able to trust.

But sometimes, trust is impossible.

And one should act accordingly.

Everything Kara had done here had been in the hopes of building trust. But if that failed, then securing her safety, her person, became the next goal. She waits only long enough for Taylor to head partway up the stairs before looking back at Stephen with a shake of her head, pocketing her keys back. She waits a beat longer before heading up the stairs after, footfalls quiet enough.

Why does this have to be so hard, even doing the right thing, Kara wonders to herself. Her hand closes around the taser in the pocket of her coat once more as she follows at a distance.

Taylor makes it up the stairs and through the foyer of the church with Kara hot on her heels. When she crosses through the foyer and out into the snowy street beyond. As Kara moves to follow her she’s blindsided by someone who walks straight into her, somehow managing to tangle the strap of her messenger bag into Kara’s leg and take them both down on top of the donation table, which folds up at the middle and crashes to the floor, causing the jar on top of it to shatter.

Tommy scrambles away from the table when it collapses and Kara can see the woman who crashed into her rolling onto her back with a pained look on her face, heel of her palm against her forehead, glasses crooked on the bridge of her nose. “Oh fuck, Jesus,” she says in a flinty voice, looking like she took that fall harder than she’d expected.

Nearby, Kara hears the front door of the church close.

So focused on what's ahead, she hadn't even paid attention to her periphery. Now, now she'd pay for that.

But not just her. Taylor would, whatever happened to her now.

Fuck sums up her thoughts on what's happened, as well, but she keeps the thought to herself, even if only just barely. The strap of the bag wrapped about her leg keeps her from being able to pursue, even as she struggles her way back to her feet. Her brow furrows sharply at how tangled she'd gotten caught up, finding something off about it, but she settles for simply freeing herself.

In the process, the bag's contents go spilling while Kara stumbles back to her feet.

A lighter, two spiral-bound notebooks, a scented candle in a glass sconce that has a label reading ocean breeze, a copy of Wolves of Valhalla, and a plastic baggie full of cashews spill onto the floor. The woman caught in the entanglement apologizes profusely, trying to hastily clean up the mess. “I’m sorry, I’m so fucking sorry.”

She starts shoving the things back into her bag, but also leaning in such a way as to be between Kara and the door. “I wasn’t looking where I was going, that’s all my bad. I’m sorry.” She notices Tommy looking at the shattered donation jar, then glances up at him. Sorry Tommy, I’ll help clean up.”

“It— it’s okay. I’m okay, Ms. Bradbury.”


“Can you help me with this? I’m so sorry.” Lisa says to Kara, indicating the collapsed table and all the spilled money.

It's with a grit of her teeth that Kara considers the situation, only after looking back to the church door again. "Sorry," is even partly-earnest, but doesn't stop her. Doggedly determined, a terrible feeling still clawing her gut, she tries to maneuver past Lisa for the door.

Lisa doesn’t fight the disentangling, just flashes an expectantly disappointed look at Kara as she makes her way for the front door. As Kara pushes her way out onto the street a wall of cold air welcomes her, along with the crunch of pedestrian-trampled snow underfoot. She looks around, spotting a couple walking down the street, another person across the road brushing snow off their car. A truck rolls by with its plow down, scraping snow up onto the sidewalk in a gray-white tide.

Something sinks into the pit of Kara’s stomach as she wheels around. Up one side of the street past the church and down the other. There’s no sign of Taylor, she’d pushed too hard and the girl was in the wind like a sheet blown free from a clothesline. For a moment there’s someone in Kara’s peripheral vision to her right, but it’s just her own reflection in the windshield of a parked car.

The sinking of street sleet onto the sidewalk from the plow dashes Kara's hopes of making an informed guess based on tracks left in the snow, and for just a moment her eyes go to the person across the street … then she catches sight of her reflection on the car cleared of snow stationed before the church entrance.

"Fuck," she does breathe out now, to no one but herself and her reflection. "Fuck. Fuck."

Instead of lashing out, she only stumbles back and sinks down onto the wet concrete of the church's doorway, head dropping and eyes closing. She rests her elbows on her knees, bringing her hands up to her face to massage them with the flat of her palms.

She can only hope she sent Taylor spiraling in a direction that will actually keep her safe. But she doesn't know one way or the other whether that's true— if the forces that compelled people like her, like Rue, to chase after her would not somehow find her again. She's only seen the very edges of that tapestry, and from a distance at that.

Her stomach twists as she thinks of what she's done to herself as much as Taylor here. Would Yi-Min have understood?

Kara finds it hard to believe she would. When Yi-Min's mind was made up, she followed through. She'd done so in sabotaging the virus that could have killed everyone like Kara, and she'd done so in leaving Providence and Kara behind in the aftermath of her choices.


Lifting her head up, she looks across the street one last time before pushing to her feet, feeling the weight of her decisions and the messy trail of mistakes behind her. She decides to try and resolve at least one of them, pulling the red door of the church back open to glimpse into the lobby with its broken jar and table and Ms. Bradbury and Tommy. After the glimpse, she pulls the door open the rest of the way to step back inside, doing a poor job of wearing a poker face. Her somber is evident, as is her regret.

Lisa is doing her best trying to stand the table back up. The nylon tablecloth is cast on the floor still. Tommy is picking up the money, and neither seem to judge — or fully understand — the emotion that grasps Kara so hard. There’s a noisy pop-click that comes from the table as Lisa gets the brace in the middle set again.

“See?” Lisa says to no one in particular. “No damage done that can’t be fixed later.” Noticing Kara come back in, Lisa motions over to a small wooden door in the foyer. “If you’re not too busy, could you grab me the broom out of the closet so we can sweep up this glass?” She pays no heed to Kara’s own somber attitude, pushing forward like a conversational freight train.

Kara looks where Lisa indicates, nodding shortly after. "Sure," she mutters gruffly, leaning in that direction and gingerly opening the door once she's stepped close enough for it. Pulling out the broom with dustpan clipped to its body, she turns to look back at Lisa, at Tommy.

"You all right?" she asks all too belatedly while she makes her way back over. Prying pan and broom apart, she opts to begin gently sweeping shattered glass herself rather than put that burden on either of them. "You took a hard fall."

“So did you,” Lisa says, sidestepping the point. “But you look like you’re made out of more muscles,” she adds with a flinty laugh. “I’ll be fine, I’m used to tripping over things. Dad said I was born with two left feet, it cursed my career in dancing.” She notes with a wink.

Tommy has finished collecting all of the money, piling it up on the table, though he seems hesitant to leave it in search of a new donation jar, just yet. Lisa gives him a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and he seems familiar with her. “I’ll go get one in a minute,” she says, “why don’t you go take a break, kid. You’ve been sittin’ here all day, pee or something.”

Tommy grimaces, scratching the back of his neck, then nods and ducks away, leaving Lisa and Kara alone.

“You find whatever it was you were looking for here?” Lisa wonders, setting her courier bag on the newly-righted table. “I mean, most people come here lookin’ for something.

Kara watches the boy head on his way out of the corner of her eye, head turning back to the broomwork. The question put to her by Lisa is pointed, the same way her comment to Tommy had been. She has an appreciation for it— it's deft in a way she'd failed to be. Eyes down on the glass, she comments only after sweeping a bundle of it into the pan held in place by her boot, "Yes and no."

"What I found wasn't what I was looking for, but it's… something nonetheless. A reminder of who I am, when I lost sight of that. I just…" Tapering off into a sigh, Kara pauses to look up, glancing first to the bag on the table and then its owner. She segues easily into brusque but earnest concern in the form of: "Your candle end up all right?"

“No,” Lisa says with a small smile, looking at cracks in the glass, then up to Kara.

“But sometimes things break, and that’s ok.”

Two Days Later

The Ruins of Trenton

New Jersey

4:12 pm

No one has tended the roads in Trenton outside of the central freeway artery cutting through the bombed-out shell of the city. The skeletal shells of skyscrapers are few and far between here, Trenton was never a particularly large city. It just so happened to rest between major warzones. Now snow drifts line the dunes of desert sand in the vast open spaces between buildings, from the collapsed husk of the Department of Labor to the eviscerated floors of the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, reduced to so many layers of concrete and broken glass.

Three bridges once connected Trenton with the city of Morrisville in Pennsylvania across the Delaware River, now only one remains. The Lower Trenton Bridge’s steel scaffolding is bent and twisted in places, so much so that the asphalt buckles and warps in ways that makes it unclear if the bridge will remain operational for much longer. The burned-out shell of cars line the bridge, where the war stripped them of paint and glass in an explosion of violence and fire.

With a backpack over her shoulder, Taylor Kravid comes to stop in the middle of the bridge, turning to look at the shattered span of larger Trenton-Morrisville bridge beyond. With the sun now at her back, Taylor approaches the bent railing and regards the some two-hundred foot gap of the larger bridge that was torn away by catastrophe during the war. She smiles, awkwardly, and turns to keep walking.

The sound of an approaching vehicle gives her pause. Taylor ducks down behind the rusting hulk of an old pickup truck with no wheels, swinging her backpack off of her shoulder and unzipping the top, carefully winding hesitant fingers around the grip of a pistol within. She can hear the vehicle getting closer, and rising up just enough to peer through the broken windows of the rusted truck, she can see an old Volvo rolling up.

Taylor relaxes some, seeing the car come up and try to navigate the buckling in the road. She looks to her side, to the long road ahead, then back to the car making its way down a road almost no one traverses. Swallowing down her fear, Taylor rises to stand and steps out in the path of the oncoming car with her hand up.

The Volvo comes to an abrupt stop, and Taylor makes an apologetic face as she runs between the dead vehicles and the newer one, offering a smile to the sky’s reflection in the driver’s side window as it slowly rolls down.

“Hey, ah, sorry I— I’m fucking walking and I could really use a ride as far as you’ll take me.” Taylor says with a look back the way the car came, then back to the driver; a woman around her age.

“Where’re you headed?” Taylor asks, awkwardly smiling so as to seem non-threatening.

The driver looks lost at the question. “I’m… I dunno.” They exchange a wordless stare.

“But if you wanna see how long a tank of gas lasts…” the driver says, unlocking the car’s doors. “…you’re welcome to tag along.”

Taylor flashes the driver a smile and raps her knuckles on the roof, then runs around the front of the car to open the passenger’s side door and throws herself in before she lets out what little heat has accumulated in the cab. The driver rolls up her window, and Taylor offers a gloved hand out.

“Taylor…” She starts to say, swiftly adding, “Pines” to the end of her introduction. “Thanks.”

The driver takes Taylor’s hand and shakes it with a laugh. “No problem,” she says, shifting the car into drive again.

“Name’s Cassi.” She says with a relieved smile.

“Where ya headed?”


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