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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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"Those were blanks, you know."

Kimberly's escort to the medical bay turned out to be Richards and a much shorter man with shoulder-length blond hair and a good amount of stubble. He looked disconcertingly youthful and wore a bandage on his right hand. He was the one who'd spoken.

"Shut up, Baines," Richards said.

Both men were armed again. Kimberly was having trouble standing straight. Her ankle felt worse than ever. The urge to shake or vomit was nearly overwhelming. She just considered herself lucky to not have pissed herself at any point there. Looked like dehydration had a couple upsides after all.

"Blanks are, like, bullets that don't actually shoot anything. Did you notice that they didn't make any holes in the walls, or ricochet around and kill you both?"

Kimberly didn't say anything, just kept up her stagger. Baines was standing behind her, while Richards was taking the lead. Already Kimberly found the pair grating. Their banter was constant.

"Did you know they were blanks, Richards?"

"Of course I knew. You think I wanted to be in there with a dull knife and fucking blanks? I mean, aside from my pistol and the other knife."

"Poor you," Baines said.

"I know Greynolds doesn't like running everything, but I mean the least he could do is take this serious—" Richard's complaint, however, was cut off when Baines made a hissing noise.

"Later," he said. "When we're done with her."

Kimberly tried to pretend like she wasn't there. She wanted to sink into the floor, to fall asleep and wake up to something better, to no longer be in the charge of these people who'd caused so much wrong. She didn't want to hear them joke with each other like they were friends, didn't want to know that they didn't all agree with the people in charge.

The rest of the walk passed in silence, except for the noise of three pairs of boots against the metal floor.

Finally, when they reached the end of their walk, Richards gestured to a door and said, "Right through here. Try to relax. They really do know what they're doing."

Baines had already started moving, back the way they'd come. Richards waited a few moments, allowing some distance to accumulate, then leaned down and mumbled to Kimberly, "It wasn't anything personal earlier. Good luck."

"Thanks," she said, again realizing what she'd done just a second too late.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
Library Vee
Misty Browder drawn by Ryuki
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