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Viewing Single Post From: V4 Epilogue: Peace Accords
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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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When they reached the main ship—what looked like a repurposed cargo vessel or tanker of some kind—the transfer became somewhat awkward. Kimberly was entirely unable to climb ladders, and, for that matter, had pretty severely limited mobility overall. In the end, two of the bulkier soldiers carried her in several places. She wasn't sure who found the situation most disagreeable, but everyone involved seemed united in their displeasure over it all. Sonia stayed at the front of the group, walking the halls without ever seeming unsure of the direction, though Kimberly couldn't discern any landmarks whatsoever.

The boat was a cold place, steel and grey and lifeless, and she found herself shivering more than she had on the boat. The blanket had been left behind somewhere, and even with her hat her ears felt a bit chilly. She tried not to show her discomfort. Bad enough she was relying on these people to survive. No need to also fall back on their pity. Even after everything that had happened, she wasn't that fucking weak, not yet. Kimberly made sure to walk wherever she could, even though it hurt, even though it slowed their progress.

Sonia seemed to be in something of a hurry, but she never complained when Kimberly faltered. The terrorist simply slowed her pace the bare minimum required to let Kimberly and her guards catch up again, then increased her speed once more.

It probably only took them five minutes to reach the small room where everyone but Sonia and one of the guards split off, but the journey felt interminable. Kimberly was still having something of a hard time coming to grips with the reality of her own continued existence. It wasn't something she wanted to ponder, not at too great length, not with the way everything had played out. At least the pain kept her from focusing too well.

It took Kimberly a second to realize that something was changing. She was almost too tired to care, but she'd be damned if she was going to make this easier on her captors than was absolutely necessary. She couldn't collapse, not yet. Maybe someday in the future, when her world included more than this ship and these people. That was her goal, now. She'd once wanted to die without regrets. Now it was time to swallow some destructive impulses and live. She wasn't going to make it easy on them, but she wasn't about to get herself killed just to piss someone off, not unless she thought she'd be dying anyways. Her life was rapidly becoming a series of situations not quite worth dying over. She just hoped this newest one would continue the trend.

The room was fairly uninteresting, just a metal bench against the wall and a few cabinets across from it. The walls were metal, lifeless, painted a sterile white. Nobody was moving anymore, so Kimberly just stood there, looking around.

"Have a seat," Sonia said. Kimberly sat. The other guard, a surly looking woman with a mole on her lip, stood to the side, gun at the ready. Kimberly was pretty sure she hadn't been there at the docks, but it was hard to say. It had been pretty dark, the woman was androgynous, and Kimberly's uncorrected distance vision wasn't good.

Sonia turned to the cabinets, fiddled around a little, and muttered something under her breath. Kimberly could catch enough to know it was Vietnamese, but couldn't pick out the words. She wondered if she'd missed a little show on her behalf, if Sonia didn't know to what degree Kimberly was fluent, or if it had just been a little habit of the woman's. No way to tell without context. When Sonia turned back, Kimberly realized she didn't much give a fuck. It was completely irrelevant compared to what the older woman was holding.

Scissors and a flashlight. Plenty to make the rest of Kimberly's life short and painful. She sucked in a deep breath, tensed, but didn't make a break for it. This wasn't certain doom yet, but pissing off the woman with the assault rifle would be.

Not worth dying for. Yet.

Sonia's eyes flicked from Kimberly's face to the rifle to the door. Her lips turned up a bit at the corners.

"Good choice," she said. "Play things right and you'll be fine. Now, focus on my finger."

Kimberly did as instructed, wondering what sort of torture awaited, but Sonia simply clicked the flashlight on and held it off to the side, shining it into Kimberly's eyes at an angle that, while not exactly pleasant, certainly did not qualify as painful. She examined Kimberly's eyes carefully, then reached out and pressed her hand to Kimberly's throat, feeling under her chin, almost massaging with her hand.

That was what finally sparked the vestigial memories that had been boiling under the surface in Kimberly's mind. It was as if the whole scene changed hues as she recalled visits to the doctor's office, strange little rituals that never made much sense to her.

With the realization that Sonia was probably trying to make sure she was okay rather than attempting to hurt her in some way came a surge of relief and what almost felt like gratitude. Kimberly tried to force it down by examining the woman's face more closely. It didn't help. She looked like a normal person, like someone Kimberly would actually go to for a checkup, not like a terrorist. She was the first of them Kimberly had seen in the light, in detail—at least, since the briefing, and there she hadn't been paying much attention. She'd been too focused on the words, the video, the teachers dying.

"What's the prognosis?" The words were just a further distraction, a way to force Sonia to respond and hopefully reassert herself in a way that would erase this momentary confusion.

The woman did not disappoint.

"You'll live long enough to attend the meeting we've got scheduled for you," she said. She started to say something else, but Kimberly cut in.

"I thought you were sending me home. I thought the winners went home."

Sonia's face darkened, and it wasn't so hard to remember she was a killer now, and then she said, "They did, and you will too. Eventually."

She paused there. Kimberly realized she'd just lost this round, that Sonia wasn't going to feed her any more information unless she asked for it. She considered going without, but she had never been a patient person, and now wasn't the time for self improvement.


Sonia's expression held a shadow of a smirk.

"Some things happened, so you're going to be spending a couple weeks here. Don't worry; we have one of the best field hospitals in the world. Comes with the territory. We'll make sure you get good treatment, and we'll make sure you get home. In return, you won't cause us trouble or do anything stupid."

"Right," Kimberly said. It didn't have quite the edge of defiance she'd hoped for. More than anything, the single syllable sounded flat and dead.

"I'm going to check your arm," Sonia continued. "If anything had gone too wrong, you'd be dead by now, but I want to make sure you don't need any more immediate treatment."

Again, Kimberly didn't thank her. In fact, as Sonia came closer, Kimberly tensed a little bit. She knew what was coming, had considered doing it herself a time or two, but that didn't make it any easier.

With quick, efficient movements, Sonia cut Kimberly's sweater off, then removed the bandages on her shoulder, checked the wound, and redressed it. Somewhere in there, she'd put on gloves. Kimberly hadn't noticed when. She'd been too focused on the loss of her sweatshirt. She didn't give a fuck that she was dirty, that she stank, that her sweater had been torn to fuck and soaked in gasoline, that it had been falling to pieces even before. It had been nearly a part of her, a sort of extension of her body, warmth and comfort in the nights, and now, without it, sitting in a plain black t-shirt, she felt horribly exposed.

"Calm down," Sonia said. "The clean up crew found your bag. You'll get new clothes after the meeting."

"Good." Kimberly spoke as though accepting an apology, and actually managed a smirk at that one. Fuck Sonia. Fuck this mess. Kimberly knew wordplay, knew how to take a little power back, and who gave a shit if it didn't matter in the long run?

This time, Sonia's face didn't so much as twitch.

"Give me your leg," she said. Kimberly stuck her right leg out, and with a few snips and a tug, Sonia removed the right leg of her jeans just below the knee, jerking the bottom edge from Kimberly's boots. It was Kimberly's first look at the wound on her leg, and it provoked a surge of adrenaline she didn't know she had left in reserve. Things looked worse than she'd imagined. The edges of the cut were raw, the scab barely formed, a small strip of skin hanging loose. It made Kimberly feel a little ill, but Sonia remained impassive as she said, "It won't kill you. Are you up to date on your tetanus shots?"

"The fuck do you need to know for?" Kimberly said.

"It's your health," Sonia said with a half shrug.

Of course, the reason was obvious to Kimberly. There was no reason to pour unnecessary medicine into her already-damaged system. Her reaction had sprung not from curiosity or rebellion but rather from a need to stall for a few moments to think. The horrible truth of it was, after the last two weeks, she could barely remember what Bayview looked like, never mind what had happened at a doctor's office sometime in the past three years or so. She tried to pull up the appropriate memories. She'd had shots in the last year, yeah, and her grandparents always worried about her health. She had physicals every year or so. Okay. Safe enough bet. It was disturbing as fuck that she had to think about this.

"Yeah," she said. "I am."

Sonia nodded, stood, gestured for Kimberly to stand as well. After that it was another march through more halls. As soon as they left the room, three more terrorists fell in with the group, clearly having been waiting outside the entire time. Kimberly was struck again with the odd level of security; they seemed to be prepared for physical resistance when she could barely muster the energy for slight meanness.

She didn't have long to reflect, though. It wasn't long at all before she found herself walking down a corridor that seemed subtly different from the others, just that little bit cleaner and warmer, somehow.

Sonia paused, said something to one of the guards, and then turned back to Kimberly.

"Good luck," she said. "I don't feel like dealing with Greynolds, so this is goodbye. Enjoy your reward."

"See you," Kimberly replied. It felt like a plea for reassurance. Something about Sonia's phrasing was very discomfiting.

"I doubt it. I've got a helicopter to catch." Then she was gone, stalking back down the halls.

Kimberly blinked as she realized that the woman's footfalls made almost no noise.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
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