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Was this what they called a bad premonition?

The day's events must have been even more taxing than he'd realized, because on any other day the nerves he'd been feeling when he hit the day would have kept him up all night. But, instead, he slept like a baby. A baby having nightmares, but still, a baby. Speaking of, Jeremy could really relate to why they cried so much right now, because he felt awful right now.

Was he feeling guilty? For letting Vic down, or perhaps abandoning his 'duty'?

Ugh. No. He wouldn't let those thoughts sneak their way into his mind. He was making the right choice going home like this. For both him, and Vic. He was sure of it. He had to be sure of it.

Still, he lay in bed for a while as he let himself suppress the ugly, awful feeling that remained in his chest. Vic was probably already up and about, knowing her, off either getting herself a helping of breakfast or doing whatever it was that she did when he wasn't around. He just hoped that she was having a better morning than he was, despite her obvious disappointment, there was a good chance she understood why he'd made the decision he had. She was always good at that. Understanding.

Eventually, he'd manage to hoist himself out of bed, throw on a pair of clothes, and find his way to the cafeteria. He and Vic would be leaving sometime today, but even if they were leaving, their hosts were kind enough to feed them first, it'd seem. He'd have to remember to thank them for being so kind before he left, even if he had his reservations about this child soldier thing.

"H-hey there, Vic." It was easy enough to find her, and easy enough to tell she wasn't feeling well. "Are you... Okay there? You uh, don't look well. Do you want me to get you some fruit?" Jeremy was concerned, of course, but things still felt a little awkward for him. "It might perk you up. Or um, something like that."

He could hear his sister cringing from here.

@simj22
 

GasMaskie

"Wait and Hope"
Morgan let out a quiet grunt as he felt the impact on his shoulder force him back enough for the girl to infiltrate his room. He rubbed it - he'd probably have to check for bruising later, and would have had something else to say about that shut door before she continued speaking her mind. He took a seat on the bed and listened carefully as she spoke. Naturally, she had given a lot of thought to the situation. It wasn't just something she could have immediately decided on the spot like he had.

He brought a gloved hand to his chin. In the darkness, it was harder to see her face and gauge her. Morgan tilted his head slightly and watched her tie up her hair with a certain curiosity. He shifted slightly in his seat as he considered her words. They had given them options, of course. But with the limited supply of pilots and the something that made them suitable, it painted returning to colony as a cowardly choice. One that meant that you'd be doing nothing when you could be doing something.

What sorts of things had she considered with this decision? Her family? Did she feel as if she had an obligation to Column? He seriously doubted that she went along with him for the headpats - as responsive as she was to that sort of gesture. The genius adjusted his gloves before gazing up to respond.

"Of course. We both know the risks getting caught up in something like this Ida Sommers, so I'll agree to abide by that. As for those 'psychos' as you put it, I'm of the same mind. Just how much that old man was actually hiding during that little question seminar is far too nebulous along with the fact that they already had a facility like this set up. And if others pilot the Husks, who knows what sort of dealings they'll do with them. When it comes down to it, the only people I can trust are you and Utsāha." He let out a soft yawn, speaking quieter than before. The boy had done checks for bugs and other surveillance equipment in and around the room much like he did at home, but with an actual likely chance of a third party observing him he was even more cautious. He slipped under the sheets and chose his next words carefully.

"If that's all for now then, I suppose I can only silently hope that you can sneak back to your room without alerting whatever sorts of measures they have lurking around the halls. Or, I suppose that the mental feedback from our Husk has put you off and you want to cuddle someone as you sleep." Morgan closed his eyes and scooted back towards the wall, opening the blanket slightly and patting the empty space to entice his co-pilot. There was, of course, no way she'd actually jump right in. His only hope was that the impact from her physical retribution would be enough to render him unconscious and asleep once more.

(Re: @Coin)
 

ElectricPizza

Lightning Fast Domino's Delivery
Kori "K.C." Chang
Of course I will, K.C.. I won't leave your side, no matter what happens. I promise.

That wasn't the answer I was looking for, Otto... KC kept silent as they were sent back to their rooms. As she slept that night, she couldn't help but have her memories resurface. Those were along the same lines as the promise Corey made to her, but these days, she's lucky to even catch a glimpse of him. People shouldn't make promises they can't keep. Especially ones that the other person bet everything on. If Otto didn't follow up...no. She had to trust him. He was a good guy underneath his cold exterior. He would never go back on his promise...

But the problem wasn't that he goes back on his promise...it was when the world decides to get in the way...

Next Morning
The following morning, Kori woke up a bit later than usual, but at least she wasn't as tired. The thoughts of last night were completely off her mind as she changed into a clean set of clothes and went out to get some breakfast. She took a plate of a rather simple breakfast and found Otto with an empty seat beside him. He was one to be alone, but Kori imagined that this time, that seat was left open for her. She sat down beside her partner and gave a short prayer before eating.

KC took a bite out of the food before speaking up. "Hey, Otto, you sleep okay? I know I pushed you into a corner yesterday. You wouldn't have said no even if you wanted to...Sorry about that...You can tell me how you really feel. I won't think any less of you if you change your mind. All of this is absolutely insane anyways."

Interactions: @Hextremus
 

Lucem Tenebris

Nine Thousand Club
His father's words did little to put him at ease. Even with the guarantee that no harm would come to him, the man made it clear that the same could not be said for the two adults. The wording made it sound as if they'd definitely face severe punishment. Weren't they supposed to be working in this building? If that was the case, why would they be harmed? The question remained on his mind, but others continued to fill his thoughts. If he were only a few years older, did that mean he'd be in danger as well? Simply for hearing what his father was saying? His status as a child seemed to be the only thing keeping him safe. Even if the earlier ceremony was a step toward the path to adulthood, it didn't seem to mean much when it came to how he and his friends were viewed by the colony. What did it mean to be an adult in their society?

Even as the green haze obscured his vision, Alex could still see the observation chambers and the shattered glass. While looking at them, he could only think of the creature that attacked him and Modestine. His father called them Entities. These things were machines, but also lived like any other organism. He said they were made by humans during the war, something that ended a long time ago. Why were they here? He could only imagine that they were being studied. Upon seeing that more than one chamber had been damaged, he feared the worst. It was possible that more of them still roamed the building. Maybe there was something even worse than the Entity from before. Maybe another monster like the one his friends had been forced to fight.

As they neared the lab, his father began to make less sense. Of course he had learned about symbiosis, but he didn't understand why he decided to bring up the subject. The question lingered for a moment, but quickly vanished, taking every other thought in his head with it and leaving his mind empty. When the door slid open, the answer was in plain view, but what the boy saw couldn't be described as beneficial in any way.

As he stepped into the office, there sat his father, still visible despite his attempts to shield himself from the small sources of light. No matter how much he tried, he couldn't hide himself, nor could he hide what had become of his body. It only took one look at the gray mass that was once his father's arm to make everything click in his empty head. Even if it was only a single piece of a much more frightening whole, he could still recognize it, unable to forget the last time he saw the unsightly form of the swarming mass that tried to take his life.

The seconds went by as he stared at what had become of the man he had hated for so long. He didn't make a single sound or move an inch, his expression remaining stone-like as if he hadn't yet realized what was happening. The sounds that came from Modestine went unheard. At that moment, he didn't even realize she was there. He wasn't even sure if he was still breathing. He continued to stare at what was in front of him, but couldn't process any of it. How could he? In an instant, he was taken out of the world he had known all his life and faced with something incomprehensible. Maybe it was because of that disconnect that his reaction was so subdued. He only focused on what he could still recognize. That was his father.

Alex hadn't shown any change, yet his body moved forward on its own, tightening his grip on the hazmat suit in his hands. With each step, he got a better look at the older man, his features becoming clearer as he bent down. It had been months since he last saw him, but he seemed to have changed a lot. Silver began to take over his dark hair, the color having drained along with the life in his eyes. Even with a teenage child, his father had somehow managed to a retain a relatively youthful appearance over the years, but the draining experiences made him look closer to his actual age, if not older. Just by looking at the two, it was clear which parent Alex took after the most, only sharing the man's hair color and a few other facial features. For the first time, his father seemed to acknowledge that.

"You really do look like your mother." The words were just short of a whisper, slipping through his lips between deep breaths. Rather than the powerful voice that always spoke with coldness, only pain and exhaustion could be heard. More surprising than that, the icy expression had melted, his eyes showing little life. It wasn't merely the change in those eyes that was surprising. It was the fact that Alex could truly see them. For the first time in many years, his father looked at him properly. "Because of that, I could never face you." Just as he said that, his head began to sink, lacking the strength or will to keep it upright any longer. Even so, he continued to speak with his lifeless gaze directed at the floor.

"Losing her. Seeing her face whenever I looked at you. It was too much for me." It was the rambling of a man pushed to his limit, confessions from someone that felt that their end was near. Everything simply came out without pause, despite the pain's attempt at silencing him. "It was too painful. So I ran..." The pain was too much for him to bear, so he turned away from it. That also meant turning away from his son. Even though he knew it was wrong, he wasn't strong enough. He could only lock everything away and try not acknowledge it, attempting to remain as close to his child as he could. But it wasn't enough. He let things get to a point he couldn't return from and had no one to blame but himself. After seeing how his son used that damage as a means to better himself, he still chose not to do anything, letting himself believe that it was fine if it meant that Alex would continue to grow into a person that was the opposite of what he had become. That was a mistake. "I was too weak." Everything that happened was because of his lack of strength. His son and their relationship suffered because of it. "I'm sorry." Even if it didn't mean much now, the overdue apology worked its way out along with a small stream of tears from the coal-colored eyes. He wasn't crying, but the water still flowed, as if the bottled emotions were trying to escape any way they could.

It was something Alex had never seen before. To hear something like that from a person he could barely recognize as his father seemed unreal. While he didn't make much of a visible reaction, Alex bit the inside of his lip, trying to focus on what was important. Trying to process everything was taking its toll on him, but the current situation didn't leave a lot of time to sort things out. The toxins were still in the air and other Entities were possibly still in the building. As much as he didn't want to, he was doing his best to hold everything back and do what needed to be done.

Pushing the suit closer to his father, Alex tried to bring the man back to his senses long enough for the three of them to escape. "Hurry and put on the suit. We need to leave now or..." His words trailed off as the scientist began to weakly shake his head.

"I can't leave. Not like this." His eyes trailed to what was once his arm, an unreadable expression beginning to form across his face. This wasn't a simple issue. It was more than just his arm. There was much more going on than Alex could imagine. "I fear there's something far worse waiting for me. I feel like I'm losing my mind. So..." Just like his son, Adam trailed off.

Following those quiet words, Alex watched as his father began to give in to the exhaustion and other emotions that were plaguing him. It only took one look to see that the man had given up a long time ago, accepting what was happening as the best choice when faced with nothing but horrible options. Seeing him in such a state, Alex loosened his grip on the suit that his father refused to take. After taking a deep breath, he finally decided to let go.

After a moment of silence, life was forced back into Adam's eyes as his cheek flared with pain. His remaining hand slowly reached for the left side of his face, lifeless expression turning to one of shock as he looked at his son's clenched fist. As he resisted the urge to reel in pain, Alex met his father's gaze.

Despite being the one who threw it, the punch hurt Alex a lot more than it hurt his father, his arm having taken a lot of punishment since the ceremony. While he could've used his uninjured arm, he chose not to, the pain he was currently feeling being a small way to atone for what he just did. That was the first time he ever hit someone, and he hated it. Hurting a person was something he didn't ever want to do, not even someone he resented as much as his father. Even if he didn't use full force, only enough to shock, he still felt bad. However, something like this was the only way he could get through to him. Neither of them expected it.

Alex found it hard to be angry at his father when looking at his condition. He looked so defeated and tired, unlike anything he had seen before. Just like when he thought his father could have already been killed, seeing him like this made him feel guilty for having those feelings of anger. That only managed to fuel the frustration that had been growing ever since his father decided to be honest with him.

He was conflicted. Knowing the reason for his father's behavior over the years, he struggled, not knowing how to treat him now. Even if he handled it the wrong way, he had been suffering in silence, still hurting from a painful loss that left deep emotional wounds. He'd be lying to himself if he said that he couldn't understand. He did understand and his empathy made him feel for his father. However, knowing the reason for why things happened didn't change what his father did. Those years of neglect and isolation still happened. He still held unresolved anger, sadness, and grief inside of him. It wasn't as if he could suddenly forgive everything. Even if people wanted them to, things didn't change that easily. However, what was happening now meant more than those feelings.

"If you're really sorry, then prove it. Don't just apologize and give up like that. Make up for it yourself." He didn't understand everything that was happening. Perhaps talking as he did only made him ignorant and naive. However, this was the only thing he could do.

It didn't matter if he was hated or loved. It was irrelevant if he was human or some monster. Adam Kain was still his father.

"Stop running."

@_Line 213
 
Though his son's words shot clear and recognizable pain through Adam Kain's heart, his emotions showed upon his face with little more than a series of idle, downward twitches, as if the man had momentarily forgotten how to emote. He opened his mouth to speak, yet nothing immediate came out, save for the light, airy croak of a dry throat. His thoughts turned to the nearby equipment cabinet; he could perfectly picture the dart gun and serum within, both the spitting image of the weapons carried by his son and his former friend, if that. He hadn't had the will to use it. Adam Kain did not want to die.

But was death a form of running if it ensured his son's safety?

"...A...Adam?" Modestine, seemingly having recovered from her initial horror, had turned her attention toward one of the lightly glowing screens. The scientist's thoughts, along with his potential response, were cast to the wayside as he turned his head with what nearly felt like severe effort. Flickers of movement came from one of the security screens, likely the very same that the older Kain had used to track the movements of his son and his escort. Men, armed and armored, stepped through the decrepit conpound, beams of light attached to their weapons crossing back and forth through the open hallways.

Adam's eyes narrowed in both suspicion and in fear. "That's...civil protection," he managed, suddenly attempting to shove himself upward with as much will as he could muster. Though his human half struggled, the engineered monster comprising his other arm lurched with surprising force, causing Adam to let out a sharp cry of pain as the entity's increased ability to move nearly dislocated his shoulder. The two, though physically bound into a single being, were nowhere near as cohesive in actuality. Alex's father started upward again, more slowly this time, with his alien portion just barely managing to refrain from outpacing him. Its worm-like connections peeled away from the floor, folding and retracting into the main mass in order to become slightly more arm-like, as if knowledge of the man's movements had informed the entity of some of the intricacies of his physiology.

"If CP sees me like this, I'm never going to see the light again," Adam said, coughing heavily as he finally reached some semblance of his full height, hunching over and stumbling against the desk just behind him, desperate for support. "Even if I were...myself, I'd likely be taken away for a long time." He reached up, his "real" had clutching at his forehead as his visage scrunched tightly.

A moment more, and he shook his head, as if dispelling whatever pain had briefly racked his mind. "...I can't do very much like this, Alex. I..."

The man visibly choked on his words, his raspy voice returning, yet nowhere near its former, already weakened strength.

"...I need your help."
 
If Morgan's words were true and the only two people that he trusted was a stranger and a robot, Ida kinda felt sorry for him. It did make Ida wonder, though. Who could she trust now that her world had taken a nosedive? Ida had no reason to trust any of the adults in the facility, and she wasn't even sure that she could trust her fellow classmates either. Any of them could suddenly snap under pressure and do some real damage, especially in a Husk. At least in the cockpit, Ida knew that her life was in Morgan's hands, and his life in hers. It was jarring to think about, but perhaps Ida could trust no one more than Morgan and Utsāha after all.

"I'd sooner die than get in that bed with you, you lecherous wastrel," Ida scoffed, her lips pursed into a scowl as she crossed her arms across her chest at Morgan's suggestion. The very thought of her cuddling with him made her want to retch. Despite their less-than-ideal scenario stuck to each other, Ida was perfectly fine denigrating her copilot if it meant her might possibly be serious for more than five minutes at a time. "Plus, it's nearly morning already. There are others already up and about. Get up and meet me at the commons area, it sounded like something was happening. "

Ida twirled around, her ponytail swinging behind her as she made for the door, "I'm going to leave first. Wait a few minutes before following me in case someone sees me leave. The last thing I want is to see me and you leaving this room together and getting ideas. Got it?"

With her hand on the doorknob, she paused before exiting, looking just barely behind her shoulder, "And uh, thanks. Thanks for hearing me out." With that, she hurried out of his room and quickly shut the door behind her.

((Re: @GasMaskie))
 

simj22

Outdated Gachabait
Cain“Jerry!” Her reaction was a mix of both surprise and joy. She hadn't seen him coming up to her, and the piercing migraine she was suffering from was not about to subside any time soon. Seeing him alone dulled the pain more than her pressing ever could. “I’m…” she paused, then dropped her hand to her side, “I’m fine, Jerry. I just didn't get much sleep last night. Been wondering how mom and dad would react to us coming back.” She couldn't tell him. She couldn't let him worry. Jerry had always been worrying about her, and she couldn't let him do that. Not any more.

Where had that realisation come from? She felt like she discussed this with someone. It certainly wasn’t with Jerry himself, but more like someone else. When she thought about it, another sharp pain crossed through her head. This time, she was prepared, and barely flinched. She shook her head at Jeremy’s suggestion, flashing him a grin, in spite of the piercing pain. “Nah, I’m not feeling hungry. You ought to get something though. It’ll be a long trip back home, I’d expect.”
 
The light, clinical clicking of a nurse's feet against the floor sounded from around the bend. It had been a fair bit of time since the children had managed to wake, perhaps just enough to allow them to converse and take breakfast for themselves, if they so cared to. Despite what the children had been told the night before, and the choice that they were asked to make, the facility maintained an odd sense of slowness, as if the building itself seemed out of time. Perhaps that was simply due to the nature of the structure; its pristine nature--and equally spotless caretakers--was a far cry from the used, homeley feeling of Column, even if the dominant architecture of both remained roughly the same, modular architecture.

The nurse came to a halt in front of the group; it was a different woman from the night before, and though she offered a polite bow to the group as she arrived, the arguably motherly air that surrounded last night's escort appeared to be missing from her replacement. "If you are all awake, I will escort you to your respective cars. If any of your number are still sleeping, I would appreciate it if you woke them." Her tone, much like her appearance, and indeed her words themselves, was quick and to the point, sparing any detail and warmth that might have befit a more familiar face. Yet, she waited for the children to prepare themselves before starting off down the unguarded, empty hallways, albeit in a completely different direction from last time. This new path led the children downward, a short walk through the halls bringing them to a winding staircase that led down to the garage underneath the main areas.

It was bright, and empty; the harshness of the pure white lights overhead accentuated the barren, organized nature of the wide, open space. Cars, perfectly spaced and parked in neat rows, dominanted the area, yet people were sparse, with only a few drivers milling around near their charges. The collection was nothing if not a fleet, yet there was nowhere near enough drivers for all the vehicles present.

The nurse came to a curt stop, gesturing toward the near wall. "If you'll be heading to the valley, please line up here. Those that are due to head back to Column, please line up against the opposite side--"

Right before she finished her instructions, a low, momentary, booming rumble echoed througout the space, the ground and the facility vibrating ever so slightly from the momentary burst of muffled sound, permeating the structure from the unseen outside. The nurse glanced around in confusion, briefly looking to the children, before glancing to the drivers, who seemed just as confused as she was.

---​

The mayor stared at the line on his desk.

He had been expecting a call for the last half hour, and it wasn't like his contact to be late on his check-in. Were he younger, and his informant far nearer, he would have simply risen from his chair, gotten into his car, and checked up in person. Yet, despite his years of service to Column and its community, he found himself growing increasingly nervous with each passing minute. Within the solitude of his office, the aging man did not mind allowing his composure to slip slightly, his normally calm demeanor easing into a wrinkled frown as he continued to watch and wait.

The vast distances between individual colonies made quick travel impossible; though he was old, the overseer was nowhere near old enough to be alive during civilization's height. Though they had changed the curriculum since he was a boy, all children now, just as he had back then, learned about the times when people of all races and creeds could cross into each other's countries in anywhere from an hour or two to a day or so at the most. There was a time when it took not even half of one's lifetime to travel the globe and see all that there was to see. Now, things were slow, insular; human vision had been reduced to the edges of the shepherd's pen, yet not even the shepherd himself had seen what lay beyond the grazing fields.

Slowly, the mayor reached forward, picking up the phone himself and painstakingly dialing a long-memorized number. It wasn't the one that he sought, but it was close enough.

"Morrigan. I want you to check on the status of the Combine facility."
 
Vic's tough-girl attitude never wasn't frustrating. One of these days he was going to have to find some sort of chisel to chip away at that mask of hers, but for today, Jeremy just set out an internal sigh and returned her smile.

"Well, if you're sure. I'll be right back." He replied with an unusual curtness, and headed towards the breakfast spread. Or he started, rather. Before he'd even made it halfway across the room, a woman who seemed to be modeled based on the dictionary definition of 'ideal adult' joined them, and started to usher them out. Looked Vic wouldn't be the only one making the trip back home hungry, though he supposed that wasn't an entirely awful thing. Mom was probably going to try and feed him half the pantry when he got back.

Following after the nurse, Jeremy was taken a little back at the setup the facility had. He wasn't even sure if there were this many cars in Column, and that wasn't even mentioning the scale of the parking garage. The kids who'd chosen to stay, that was to say 'everyone else', would at least be living nicely, if whatever group this was had the resources to build something like this. Which was a comforting idea, to some degree.

Though, a less comforting one was that a organization with all this funding couldn't do anything to combat those monsters; Yet he was still running away.

Roughly, he shook his head, admonishing himself quickly before turning to usher Vic towards the car. Started to usher, rather, before being interrupted for the second time this morning. This time by an eerie rumble, rippling through the building. Something weird was happening again. This definitely, absolutely wasn't fair. What had they done to deserve this?

"U-uh, Miss?" His voice was shaky, but some lingering ember of yesterday's confidence kept him talking. "What was that? Is everything okay?"

@simj22 @_Line 213
 

GasMaskie

"Wait and Hope"
"...Just seeing you leaving my room would give them the wrong idea..." He muttered those words softly to himself as he turned in his bed. Despite the fact that he had managed to get a good night's rest, it seemed that the genius was intent on sleeping in. For a few more minutes he lay still in the foreign bed - basking in the warmth of the sterile sheets and comforter. With a yawn, he finally got up. Not because he was obeying the wishes of his co-pilot. But he had a creeping suspicion that he'd end up in that gun-wielding Husk once more today. He was concise in his morning preparations and silently joined the group of detained teenagers. The same faces as before, of course, and he made sure to pick out Ida's in the case that something happened.

Morgan resisted the urge to click his tongue in disdain - the amount of walking they had done this early in the day was far too much for his sedentary tastes. That slow monotony that permeated life at the facility; the doldrums that left ships stagnant in the waters, all of that came to a sudden end with that noise. The pale boy staggered slightly but soon resumed his normal posture and yawned. Without missing a beat, the genius made his way to Ida. Their path had already been set - but his eyes fell upon a certain yapping puppy.

"That's destiny knocking on your doghouse's walls. Are you going to keep trying to run? Fate's got a collar on you already." It seemed that the other boy was intent on heading home. There was a good chance it was an ABE, but he couldn't be sure. Regardless, more Husks meant a better chance of survival. For the girl who had chosen to pilot with him, he'd make sure to maximize her chance to live.

(Re: @The One Eyed Bandit @Coin)
 

simj22

Outdated Gachabait
CainThe headache persisted. In fact, it seemed to intensify the more she made up her mind that she was heading back with Jeremy. She could not hide the grimace on her face any longer, and the scowl emerged as she followed their attendant down to the cars. It only started to fade slightly, just in time for her to catch the quakes that made the room they were in shudder. She glanced at the adults, and noted that they were wearing faces of confusion and concern. This was unprecedented. They didn't know this was going to happen. Strange. Then it also meant that if they stayed her any longer, Jeremy would be in danger. They couldn't tarry. She took hold of Jeremy’s hand, and started to lead him to one of the cars. That was before Morgan spoke up again. She dropped Jeremy’s hand, and stopped where she was. The headache was nothing more than just a faint drumming now, replaced by a ringing sound and a strange wave of emotion running through her head, washing away the piercing migraine.

This would be the last time he saw his face anyway. If they were going to save the world and what-not, and she and Jerry were heading back, they would only return after the world was indeed saved, and that would probably take longer than just a few days. She clenched her fists, then strolled up to Morgan. With one hand, she pulled Jeremy back slightly, away from the other boy. She leveled her eyes with Morgan’s smug mug, and said nothing. Without warning, she jabbed forwards, a vicious hook straight into his jaw with enough force to send the boy sprawling to the floor. “We’re going, Jerry.” Rubbing her knuckles, she turned and grabbed Jeremy’s hand, tugging him towards the car. She turned to glare at Morgan. “Let’s not see each other again.” With those words, she opened one of the car doors and started to usher Jeremy into the car.
 

Lucem Tenebris

Nine Thousand Club
Alex flinched a bit as his father released a sound he had never heard before. Just like when he first saw him sitting in the dark after entering the lab, he had never seen the ordinarily stone-faced man react in such a way. Although, his surprise from seeing his pained expression was dwarfed by the mix of confusion and worry that accompanied the arrival of Civil Protection.

Seeing the armed men make their way into the building only added to the many questions that had been accumulating since his own arrival. Modestine had made it sound like she and his father were doing ordinary work under instruction, but the older Kain's comments made it seem like that wasn't the case. While he'd like to believe that CP would protect them, he could understand why his father's current state would put him at risk. However, upon mentioning that he'd still be in danger even if he was fine, his confusion only continued to pile up. Was the work they were doing illegal? Were they doing research without the government's knowledge? How and why did things get to this point? Was this the fate his father was taking about earlier? The questions didn't stop there, but like the many others that remained unanswered, they needed to be shelved for now. Right now, his father was in trouble and they needed to avoid Civil Protection. Those were the facts.

Standing straight, Alex looked away from the monitors and faced his dad. Watching as the gray mass convulsed and changed shape, he was taken back to that memory from not too long ago. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't at all unnerved by the monstrous limb. Just looking at it reminded him of that life-threatening situation and the potential dangers of being near it. However, compared to that worry, his father had to deal with far worse. That's what he was mostly concerned with. While there were still plenty of feelings that hadn't been resolved, only pushed aside in order to focus on the current situation, his desire to help someone in need outweighed all negative emotions at that moment.

"Just tell me what you need." Getting closer to his father and the entity that had taken over his arm, Alex spread out the hazmat suit in his hands. "But you need to put this on first." As he grabbed onto the taller man, Adam watched his son in silence, biting his lip to resist letting out any more cries of pain as his damaged body moved about. Although, he did manage to weakly raise a brow after noticing his son trying to do the same.

With the weight of his father and the creature pushing down on his shoulder, he could feel the pain in his arm flaring up once again, something he wasn't able to completely hide. "You call this fine?" While his injuries were covered by the material of the suit, he could still tell that his son's condition wasn't as good as he tried to make it seem.

After being called out, Alex could only look away as he finished getting his father in the suit. "Like you're one to talk..." Adam was even worse when it came to downplaying his injuries. He seemed to acknowledge that with a weak smile born from a mix of surprise, sadness, and amusement. He couldn't really talk back after that.

@_Line 213
 
Ideally, Ida just wanted to enjoy her breakfast of an apple in peace. She knew that was no more than pipe dream when she saw Morgan stroll out of his room and towards Jeremy and Cain. Even though she had only known him for the better half of a few days, she knew that look on his face. He was about to say something really stupid, and unlike herself, Cain wasn't one to put up with his idiotic remarks for more than a breath. Ida sat the apple down and sprung from her seat, but she was too far away to stop Morgan from doing anything, lest she broke out in a full sprint. She settled with a hastened fast-walk.

Whatever Morgan had said, Ida did not hear, but it apparently was heinous enough to earn him a hook to the jaw from Cain. Ida was far too late, but just the sight of seeing her copilot eat the dirt like that made her blood boil. She had seen Ana do something similar to a boy who just couldn't take no for an answer, and the way Morgan fell to the floor in a heap reminded her of that moment. By the time Ida arrived on the scene, she glanced down at Morgan, back to Cain and Jeremy, then back to Morgan again. She had a snarl on her face, and her eyes dripped of venom and rage. What was she to do? Help Morgan up and shuffle him away as if nothing happened? No, that didn't feel right. Should she fight Cain for what she did to Morgan? The other girl was a few inches taller than her, and was just as riled up. White-hot anger boiled over as she lost the feeling in her finger tips from balling her hands into fists.

"Hey!" Ida called out at the top of her lungs to get Cain and Jeremy to stop. "If you two are running away from all of this and going back home, fine. The two of us are staying so there's a home for everyone to go back to! The least you could do is ignore Morgan when he opens his stupid mouth, we're already risking our lives so you get the choice to run!"

((Re: @simj22 @GasMaskie @The One Eyed Bandit))
 
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Alex's father struggled with the suit in places; his "arm," though it had finally taken on a shape slightly more befitting of the word, still moved as if it were separate from the rest of Adam Kain. Where it had once crudely mimicked the shape of an arm before falling into line, now it crudely mimicked the movements, drunkenly swaying as it attempted to adjust itself to this new method of locomotion. The limb's smaller footprint ultimately allowed it to slip into the hazmat suit, though Adam's turned-away face shifted away from his acknowledging smile, expressing equal parts disgust and pain as he felt the limb press even closer to his form, even if only for a brief moment.

Every so often, though without much subtlety, Adam's gaze flicked toward the screens to his side, watching for more flashes of suited movement. Modestine glanced down at her weapon, her twisted, frustrated yet frightened mien quietly betraying that her sleek, clinical weapon would not do much against the members of Civil Protection. Yet, underneath this outward reasoning lay a field of doubts as to whether or not harming another person was really in the cards; no one in that room had ever killed another human being--many in this age of peace failed to even have the thought of such.

What were the boundaries, now? Where did necessity end and morality begin?

"Adam," Modestine called, "is there any way that we can get out without going through Civil Protection?"

"I've been mulling it over," Adam replied after a moment of silence, finally fully suited thanks in part to his son's efforts, "there's a back entrance not too far from here, though we'll have to get closer to Civil Protection before we can get farther away. Staying here is...a dead end." Slowly, the father made his way toward the detox lock, his steps slow and stumbling, as if taking them for the first time all over again. "We only built this place with so many exits, after all." He turned around briefly, taking one last look at the screens, only for his face to visibly freeze behind his visor.

"...Endo?"

Modestine wheeled around as well, though whereas the elder Kain froze, she seemed to snap into action. "We need to get to that exit, now," she stated, virtually pushing Alex toward the chamber, had he not followed his father toward it already.

"How did the two of you get here?"

"We took a car, but it's at the other entrance." She herself seemed to freeze up slightly as the realization dawned on her that the only way out of here would be a run through the woodlands--assuming that they passed the freshly-created clearing--but she didn't stall quite enough to be pushed into inaction. She slammed a hand against the console, and the small room immediately sealed itself shut, spraying the group down. Adam Kain looked nervously down at his other arm, though the perfect insulation of the hazmat suit seemed to ensure that none of the now-dangerous liquid touched his alien appendage.

"DT: Clear."

The doors pushed themselves open once more, revealing the long and empty hallway before them. "How many Entities did you come across on your way in?" Adam asked, taking his first, unsure step into the now-unfamiliar ruins of his former workspace.

"One, why?"

The researcher pursed his lips. "Because a lot more got out than that. Unless a lot of them merged, they might be...in our way."

Slowly, the man picked his way along the hallway, constantly struggling with his steps, yet refusing to slow down. The journey through the ruined inner sanctum was wordless, not a single utterance coming from either adult until they reached the bright light of the first detox chamber.

"I'm going to need you to do something for me, Alex," spoke the father, briefly glancing over his shoulder at his son following a long moment of silence. "The locks on the emergency entrance are in failsafe mode. You...might have been able to notice by now, but this entire place is built to keep the Entities in, even if it means keeping everyone else with it." The chamber doors slid shut, and that same purifying liquid entered the chamber as old, gassed air was vented and replaced with a more breathable variety. "It's a bio-lock, just like what you encountered getting in here. At this stage, it's only going to answer to the two of us."

"DT: Clear."

"The facility branches out into two main pathways," Adam said, stumbling out of the small box of a room and out into the main receiving area, "if we waste time undoing the locks on each side separately, Civil Protection is going to have twice the time they need to find us. I..." he trailed away; the latent dangers of the facility and its former occupants were still a wild variable. The choice felt selfish, in a way, yet logical all the same. Though he forced himself not to show it, Adam found himself afraid that his son would reject his reasoning.

"...I think we have a better chance at making it through this if we split up. I'll take one side, and you and Modestine--"

"Adam, what?" Modestine interjected, "you can barely stand on your own, and you want to go alone? You're not going to stand a chance by yourself--"

"Neither is Alex, Modestine." As soon as the words had left his mouth, Adam found himself immediately regretting them, the stain of such plainly visible on his face. It had been so long since he felt that he had to care that it felt as if the motions had been forgotten, instead replaced by clumsy, easily misconstrued words.

"Then we go together," Modestine replied, clenching her jaw.

"We don't have that kind of time, Modestine!" Adam barely had the energy necessary to be upset, yet he pulled forth what he could all the same. "Do you really, really think that this choice is easy for me?"

"It's not easy for ANY of us!" In an instant, tears had welled in Modestine's eyes. "Nothing, NOTHING, Adam, nothing has been easy for ANYONE today!"

Their argument was interrupted by the sound of a gunshot echoing off the walls.

---​

Endo recoiled, sickened as he watched the body of his fellow man slump to the ground in a heap. Red slowly dribbled from beneath the man's head, running along the side of his Civil Protection uniform.

He had always hated the Need To Know protocol. Every fiber of his being protested against the action every time he took it, but that was the way things were. Quietly, he stepped over the body, the clinking and cracking of broken glass shifting beneath his feet echoing off the walls as he took long, cautious strides through the halls. In his dominant hand he clutched his lightly smoking firearm, and in the other, the same smooth white gun that dotted emergency caches throughout the facility, seeming like little more than a toy next to the discharged pistol. Slowly, he slipped the revolver back into his jacket pocket, shifting the plastic replica into his dominant hand as he continued forward. Civil Protection wouldn't attack on sight, but he couldn't say the same for the mindless Entities, their numbers and positions unknown.

The officers had already fanned out within the structure; Endo had half a mind to tell them to pull out back at the office, yet entry into an operational, unmarked building was already grounds for NTK. Taking them out one by one or two by two in the hallways would be far more manageable.

His thoughts slowly turned over to the classmate the other children had mentioned earlier that day. Modestine's record mentioned former professional ties with the boy's father, ties that bound them to this very facility. His footsteps halted, the man inwardly horrified at the idea of protocol entangling with a colony's children. His thoughts paralyzed him for quite some time, the aging executive staring down the strobe-lit hallway as the light flickered across his face and away again.

He knew what the Initiative Board would say. Children are important, but the Initiative itself moreso. Humanity needed more than A Future. It needed a sustainable one. An expandable one. A future of thorough, proper choice and possibility.

Children alone would not create such a dawn.

Slowly, Endo's pace resumed, light glinting off of the glass beneath him as he continued on, stepping lightly and quietly through the halls.
 
Oh no no no. Why. He just wanted to go home in peace, so why?

He could understand getting upset with Morgan, but, but... Hitting him like that was crazy. It'd be a lie to say that seeing him fly through the air like that wasn't a little bit satisfying, but they were so close right now. They just needed to get in one of those cars and they'd be home free.

This wasn't the first time he'd asked, but why this couldn't have happened next year, or the year previous?

He hated it. He hated it so much. That everyone was just laying down an accepting the fact that they were being asked to give up their lives. That Vic was suffering, and that this was the way that she was choosing to let it all out. Morgan lashed out with his mouth. Vic lashed out with her fists. Ida jumped in between them like some sort of protective sister. Was that the difference between him and them? Morgan was just being Morgan, but Vic and Ida were both trying to defend someone.

Yet, he...

"You're all insane..." At first he'd speak under his breath, but with each word that left his lips Jeremy's voice would rise. "Can't you people just talk? Do you really have to hurt each other like that? What's so hard about just saying what you think without wrapping it up in some snarky bullshit?" He himself was hardly the model of a steely-spined or brass-balled truth teller, but that didn't matter right now. "Is it so bad to be scared? This is serious, isn't it? Those things aren't toys, they aren't even machines, they're monsters. There's no way you guys can be fine with just hopping back inside of them. Isn't it just a death sentence?"

There was no way he was the only one who was scared by this. There was no way that he was the only one that wanted to run away. He just wanted to go home, have a meal with his family, and then wake up the next day and go to school. But because of all this he couldn't even have that.

Maybe he'd have his family, but his classmates would be gone, their seats empty like some sort of reminder of their sacrifice; Or his lack of.

This was all just... Too much.

@simj22 @Coin @GasMaskie
 

simj22

Outdated Gachabait
CainThat was it. That was the last goddamn straw. Not only was Ida trying to guilt trip Jeremy, not only did her head hurt like a million headaches, the final nail in the coffin was Jeremy’s pained expression. She clawed at her own head, trying to push back the headache, before launching into her tirade against Sommers.

What the hell is your deal?! The least HE,” she directed a finger at Morgan, “could do was shut up and leave Jeremy alone! You gonna tell me he didn't deserve that after all that heckling he gives Jerry, huh?” Her voice rose in pitch, and it shuddered with anger. No, it was something much deeper than just anger. She had been called, in everything but the word itself, a coward, running away from her duty as a citizen of her Colony. The worst of it all was Jeremy was not taking it well either. “Don’t try to guilt Jeremy into joining your goddamn double suicide, Sommers. You wanna eat shit out there and never see your dad and mom ever again, be my goddamn guest, but don't drag Jeremy into that mess. That’s MY job! You think I’m not aware that I dragged him into this in the first place? That’s why it’s MY responsibility that I see him home safely again! I CHOSE not to put him in any more danger! THAT is my choice!” She paused for just a second to catch her breath, before continuing. “I want Morgan to remember that punch. I want YOU to remember that punch, Sommers. Save the world all you want, lord it all over us COWARDS as much as you want, but you’re still human. You’re not untouchable, surprise!” She turned to the rest of the other kids, snarling. “The rest of you feel like chiming in from your moral high grounds, huh? You think we’re running away, huh? Jerry just wants to go home. I just wanna go home. You gonna fault us for that, huh? Fault us for normal human emotions?
 

Lucem Tenebris

Nine Thousand Club
Alex barely had any time to react. While he had been following his father, he froze for a moment when a familiar face appeared on the monitor. Not a second later, Modestine was urging him to continue, but his thoughts still raced. If the mayor himself was here, then the situation had escalated. But if he was here to deal with them, then why hadn't he arrived with Civil Protection? Unfortunately, he didn't have the luxury of dwelling on that.

As the three of them were sprayed down, his father confirmed his earlier suspicions. Several other Entities had escaped. As they traversed the ruins once again, every dark corner looked as if it could've been concealing a gray mass. It was likely that they'd encounter one for a second time. If not, then the creatures may have found a way to escape on their own. It was hard to decide which of those two possibilities was more concerning.

The threat posed by the Entities continued to weigh on his mind as they walked, lasting until his father finally broke the uncomfortable silence. Although, what he had to say was even more worrisome than the lack of noise. Before the man even finished his sentence, he could tell what he was going to say and it made his stomach churn. It only got worse when he continued from where he trailed off, and Modestine clearly wasn't happy with his conclusion either.

Replacing the earlier silence, there was now a heated back and forth. While the two adults argued, he could only grit his teeth. As much as he didn't like it, his father's proposal made sense. He understood where he was coming from, making the least difficult choice in a situation where they had little options and even less time to bicker. However, it was only natural that Modestine would refuse. He felt the same way. He understood both of them and why they were putting their feet down. For that reason, he struggled. It was like having to choose between getting punched in the face or the gut. He either had to let his father go alone and risk getting killed, or put everyone in danger by sticking together. No matter what he decided to do, he'd still be left with regret in the end. It felt like his skin was getting hotter. Flames continued to crawl up his back and across his ears as Modestine's yells got louder and louder until all the noise was killed by an echoing bang.

While it wasn't exactly the same, he recognized the sound that brought the argument to an end. It was a gunshot. Did that mean CP encountered an Entity, or was it something much worse? Regardless of the reason behind it, the sound was like an alarm that let them know that time was running out. They had to come to a decision now. If there was any silver lining, it was that the newfound silence allowed him to think.

There was a thought in the back of his head that he had ignored, knowing that it wouldn't be well-received by either of the adults that were firm in their own choices. He had been wracking his brain for anything else that could lead to a compromise, but in the end, this was all that came to mind. It was the only way. Even if neither of them would have been receptive to it beforehand, the gunshot should have let them know that the most important thing was to escape. Thanks to that interruption, along with the familiar sight of Modestine's tear-filled face, his hesitation was gone.

"I'll go alone." He met his father's tired eyes with his own, his tone letting the man know that this wasn't a mere suggestion. "I know that's not what you want to hear, but how do you expect to do this by yourself? Ms. Kent is right. You can barely stand and you can't defend yourself if something goes wrong. You'll never make it to the locks." Compared to going in a group and doubling the time needed to exit the building, his father's plan was more logical than Modestine's, but he also seemed to be ignoring the third possibility. Despite saying that he didn't stand a chance on his own, Alex didn't think his father couldn't acknowledge that he was in an even worse position.

"You need someone with you. And it can't be me." They needed to split up in order to get the exit open. Modestine had to be the one to go with his father. "It's like you said before. I'm a kid. They won't hurt me." If his father was right about Civil Protection not wanting to harm him, then he was in a safer position than the two adults. However, that was only if he was dealing with a human. He realized that he was out of his league when it came to dealing with Entities, but compared to his injured father, he probably stood a better chance of surviving alone.

Gripping the weapon he had been handed earlier, Alex turned to face the older woman at his side. "None of this is easy." Repeating the words she yelled with tear-stained eyes, he tried to make her understand where he was coming from. "But we don't have time to argue." Despite knowing that he didn't have any leverage in this situation, his tone was firm, his seriousness not betrayed by the gentle voice. "Please look after him."

After asking his favor, he turned back to his father. Given nothing but terrible options to choose from, this one seemed like the best. Even if nobody involved liked having to make this decision, it had to be done. To him, this seemed to be the most logical thing to do and it had a lower risk compared to the alternatives. However, like the two adults, he wasn't being entirely selfless. He just wanted everyone to be safe. That was all. "Trust me."

@_Line 213
 

GasMaskie

"Wait and Hope"
"...You can run all you want, but you've already been altered by the Husk, you braindead gorilla. The moment you decided in to indulge in your curiosity, you sealed your faith. You and that puppy." The genius wiped the blood from his mouth - as expected she packed quite a punch. But he had already transcended pain like that. Compared to grabbing onto Utsāha's controls for the first time, it was tolerable. Or, at the very least, something he could tolerate as he held onto the girl for support as he stood back up.

"Go ahead and run. Go home. You're no longer just human, so see how long it takes before home isn't home anymore. I wouldn't want shitty pilots like the two of you watching our backs anyways - 'double suicide' you say? That's putting the horse before the cart - you're the type who'd lie down before the enemy and wait for death. We all know the risks - but that doesn't mean we'll be dying just like that." Morgan spit on the ground - a mix of spit and blood came out as he adjusted his gloves and turned on his heel. A gloved hand wrapped around the girl's - the pale boy gave it a soft squeeze.

"Ida Sommers - we should get ready. That's more likely than not an ABE. The faster its brought down, the lesser the casualties. I've already wasted enough brain cells on these two."

(Re: @Coin @The One Eyed Bandit @simj22)
 
The two adults froze as they looked to Alex. Modestine, in her stasis, refused to accept Alex's decision, holding resentment even as her visage gave way to pained acceptance. Adam had made peace with the boy's decision everywhere except the deepest recesses of his heart, where worry remained dominant. Yet, it was his plan all the same, and there was no way that he could avoid going through with it.

"We're going to have to hurry," he stated, perhaps needlessly, as he began moving toward the door. Modestine quickly went for his side, looping one of the mans' arms around her neck as she held him up herself. "Modestine, you won't be able to shoot--"

"We can worry about shooting when that's relevant. Right now...right now we just need to move, alright?" The edge to her voice remained, though she struggled to keep herself from sounding angry. Not again. The father and son were right; if they took their time, then there was no chance of them getting out at all.

She grit her teeth, fibers twinging along her jaw. She didn't want to think about the odds.

The two stumbled out of the sanctum's entrance, once more entering the halls of the wider facility. Adam stifled a cough, despite the muffling nature of his hazmat suit. They'd have to discard the clunky garments later; there was no time to take them off, and maybe--though it might be a reach--it would delay the deadliness of the entities, should they attack. It wasn't long before the group of three finally came across a split in the hallways, though there was no telling how much time they had ultimately loss due to Adam's injury.

"You take the right passage, son," the man said, doing his best to turn and address his son despite his prone stance. Modestine restrained him lightly, attempting to calm him with a light call of his name. "With the facility in lockdown, you'll notice it due to a bright red light illuminating the system. There's a pad on one side, for identification, and then a lever on the other side in a glass case--"

A long, hacking cough interrupted his speech. He slammed his arm over his visor, pressing in as hard as he could to try and suppress the noise. It echoed all the same, and when Adam spoke again, his speech was noticeably faster--and more worried.

"...When the ID goes through, the lever will flip upwards. Break the glass, pull it down, and the light will turn blue if I haven't pulled my side yet, and green if I have, along with run lights on the floor. When you're done, follow the halls down to the next intersection, and wait for us there. Follow the lights, if they're on."

"If you see the lights, don't wait for us," Modestine added, her own voice carrying deathly seriousness. Adam opened his mouth to protest, yet ultimately foudn he didn't have it in him to do so. Instructions relayed, the two adults began making their way down the hallway as quickly as they could, not even offering a goodbye as they left the child to fend for himself.

---​

The nurse covered her mouth in wide-eyed shock as the blow from one child connected with another, knocking him plainly to the ground. She should intervene--she knew she should have--yet the suddenness of the motion, followed by the impassioned words from both sides, sent her into a moment of shock, as if she had forgotten what violence actually looked like until she received her potent reminder. It was ultimately one of the drivers, a brown-haired adult, that had to place himself between the boys and their respective defenders.

"Hey. HEY! This isn't the time to be doing this," he said, glancing from group to group with his arms outstretched, "if you're going home, you're going home, but if we're going to be doing anything, we have to do it as soon as possible." He paused, allowing for a moment of silence as he watched for reactions to his words. Another far-off rumbling boom broke through the silence before fading away. "If you're coming home, then come with me and get in the cars at the far side of the room. If you're going to the Valley, then stay here."

The gates of the garage slid open, revealing the morning light in preparation for the group's departure. It was far from blinding, thanks to the harsh overhead florescent, yet the tint of color now added to the flat white light nonetheless presented the room with greater dimension. Down and over the mountains, visible from the facility's summit view, was a mass of grey, solidified in structure and form. Four legs; strong, solid, yet not quite lumbering, and a sleek, refined upper body. What seemed like spikes or antennae of some sort from a distance jutted upward from its long back, giving it the appearance of some sort of spike-backed, knuckle-walking animal. A familiar orange pulsed along its body, and its movements seemed far more graceful and coordinated than that of the creature glimpsed yesterday. It was almost as if, somehow, it had learned from the failure of its predecessor, having been granted a stronger body and more fluid motions. The child before it had done the walking, and now it was able to run.

The driver's eyes widened ever so slightly at the view; it was something as alien to him as it was to anyone else, and if he was present for the encounter at Husk Valley, he clearly did not show it.

"Into the cars! INTO THE CARS NOW!"
 
This was the second time in such short order that the sirens of Column had wailed.

To even the oldest members of the Colony, it was a foreign sound until the day before, something heard only in classrooms for the sake of ensuring that all knew what the signal meant. Once again, streams of colony members began to file into the central library, the fortified building serving as a house of both knowledge and humanity in this new, dangerous time.

The mayor's bunker, sectioned off from the rest, was a quiet, secluded place; the lights, dimmed as per his request, nonetheless illuminated the aging man's frail face. The skin on his hands had begun to lightly bruise with the repeated nature of pulling and dragging on the coarse plastic fiber of his chair. It was only mere moments ago that he was forced to address the civil malcontent that had grown since this first unforeseen incident. Yet it was not the politics that bothered him so much as the lack of answers. The inability to tell a mother, unequivocally, that he knew how to protect her child. The inability to tell a family that he knew how to keep them together. The council at his back was of little help, and there was no point in attempting to shift some of the responsibility onto them, even if he wanted to.

He was the mayor. He was the face of Column. No matter how many mirrors he put before him, there was only one place the blame was going to go.

He checked the time on his tablet. Endo should have called in by now. If the children under his charge weren't prepared, then he was going to have to put some other plan into action. Evacuation to another colony was a possibility, yet whether or not a convoy would be able to outrun the thing now plastered on the many live feeds in front of him contained a wager of far too many lives.

Lives. What would the children themselves think of this? Of all the things they did not yet know?

He found his thoughts quietly shifting to the children Endo had mentioned before, the ones that had declined to fight alongside the others. He had received their test results from one of the nurses, as he had requested. The girl. Cain. She was a worry, yet at the same time a potential boon, if he was willing to go all the way.

The man looked back up at the screens before him, lip twitching downward in light disgust at the idea of potentially using one of his own children.

You're turning into Endo, Ignis.

Yet, what other options could there be?

---​

The drivers sped along the roadways as quickly as they could. Save for their brief moments in the Husks, and perhaps even then, this was surely the fastest any of the children had ever traveled. Even the sensation of movement granted by a bike was nothing next to a proper motor.

The drivers did not speak; rarely did they even look at the children, despite there being three or four of them per car. They focused on the roadway exclusively, and the longer the ride went on, the more apparent it became that they were trained to do little else. The amount of time it took to get to the valley felt both like an instant and an eternity, with the drivers failing to signal their arrival with even a single word. The cars slid to a stop, and the click of the locks on the door were the only signal needed.

The great machines loomed above their pilots, just as they had been left. Despite their dormancy, they did not seem restful so much as simply frozen in time, great figures left posed at the whim of some higher hand. The early morning light that glinted off of their now-exposed forms granted the formerly-overgrown machines a new sense of majesty, even as patches of green continued to cling to many portions of their unclean silhouettes. The sirens had not ceased even once on their way down the treacherous mountain roads, a sense of placement nigh impossible due to the constant thickness of the trees. Only now, beneath these great landmarks, did the land feel real again, even if memories of yesterday felt more like dreams than reality.

The nurse stepped forth from her own car, briefly watching as only one member of the cavalcade continued to speed past, making way for Column. One of the great machines, the gleaming, red-accented titan, would not be spinning up that day.

---​

And so, that lone car sped on, rocketing down the roadway at a breakneck pace. The great grey demon lumbering toward their home shifted in through the upper tips of pine trees, and though the car was firmly outpacing it for now, there was no telling how much time there would be to settle in with the rest of the settlement's residents.

Slowly, the trees parted, giving way to farmlands and open fields. The tall radio tower of Column, a marker of home, extended upward, and the wail of sirens pierced the ears of the car's passengers. The gates opened as the guards saw the car speeding toward the town, and shut quickly as soon as the vehicle had passed through into the illusion of safety. The car did not drop the children within at their homes, instead cutting through to the center of town and screeching to a stop before the library.

The door clicked as the lock released.
 

simj22

Outdated Gachabait
CainThroughout the whole journey, she could only look out of the car, watching the green speed by them as they made breakneck progress through the woods. Even with the fires of rage burning inside her, she could still note that this was a major emergency. It didn't take a genius to figure it out. Genius. Her nails bit into her palm, and the red of her knuckles turned white. If she ever saw his face again, she’d make sure she wouldn't recognise it a third time. What sick pleasure did he derive from screwing around with Jeremy like that? What gave him the right? Every time she turned to face Jeremy, she was reminded of Morgan’s transgressions against him, and she would feel the anger well up again inside her. And so she remained silent through the journey, unable to look Jeremy in the eye, and each reminder of that bastard cut into her palms just a little bit more.

Jeremy wanted peace and quiet. She’ll give him peace and quiet. She won't let anyone hurt Jeremy. If he wanted out, then out was what she’ll give him. She leaned forwards in her seat, taking her eyes off the window, and clasped her hands together, staring straight at the leather on the back of the seat in front of her. Her thoughts swam wildly in her head. She wished she had called in sick for the ceremony now, to just sit at home and do a bit more of reading up on the laws. She wished she never entered that machine. She wished she never asked Jeremy to follow her lead. It seemed so long ago now that they had first entered that Husk. Damn it all. Did Jeremy hate her now? Now that she thought about it, he seemed pretty mad at her, for anything she did, really. Humor didn't work, anger for him was disastrous. Maybe he was stressed. Maybe she just didn’t deserve his attention.

Her grip on her own hand tightened. It didn't matter now. She got him into this mess. It was her duty to drag him out of it, even if it cost her everything, even if he hated her for what she did. She’ll protect him.

The car screeched to a halt, and the doors unlocked. Cain looked up, and found herself looking at the entrance of the library. Huh. Strange place to stop at. Maybe their parents were waiting for them inside. Whose parents though? Only hers and Jeremy’s? What about the other kids’? Did she have to break the news to them? Or would someone else do that? What would she do if they asked her questions? She straightened up on her seat, and opened the door. She’d just have to tell them the truth then. They chose to stay behind to fight monsters in giant robots. She stepped out, and held the door for Jeremy.

We’re back,” she said simply, her doubts of her relationship between her and Jeremy still lingering in her mind.
 
Jeremy's shoulders felt heavy. As his eyes trailed across the steadily-trailing landscape, Morgan, Ida, and Vic's shouting repeated in his mind. This wasn't how he'd wanted to go home. Not only had he put himself at odds with the others, but he'd dragged Vic into it too. He was hardly Morgan's biggest fan, but... A sigh escaped his lips. Despite his irredeemable personality, he'd have much rather parted ways with him on an amiable note. He, Ida, and all the other kids were probably going to die, after all. The only one he'd the slightest sliver of hope of ever seeing again was Alex, and even that seemed a far cry away from likely.

But the guilt of making Vic stand up for him made him feel worse than anything else. He'd been telling himself that this was all just reasonable. That, being asked to get back into those monsters to clean up an enemy that shouldn't have even been theirs to fight was absurd. But what if Morgan was right? What if he really was just running away? By no means was he convinced, but he'd hardly even tried to stand up for himself. Vic may have lashed out physically, but he'd done much the same emotionally.

Aha. It looked like he was a hypocrite.

As the car slid to a stop, Jeremy rose both from his pool of thought and his seat. They were home. The familiar sight of the town library towered above them, feeling a whole let less welcoming than he'd been hoping it would. His eyes rolled around their surroundings, and his ears couldn't help but feeling like the town was a whole lot quieter than it usually was.

"...Looks like it. Do you want to go inside? Maybe we should uh... Figure out what we're going to say to our parents, or something?" Jeremy spoke as he stepped from the car and onto the pavement that lined the front of the library, a, by his ears, far-too-loud-sounding clicking of shoes against concrete mixing with his words as he did.

After the big deal he'd made about going home, he was already feeling reluctant about fully committing. It was a sham and a half, he thought, but this was all he could think to do for Vic. Those words she'd spoken about craving freedom still felt fresh in his mind, and even if he thought them foolish, he'd practically ignored her side of things. Right now, he needed to apologize. It was the least he could do.

@simj22
 
The pain had subsided over the commute. Wringing his hands, the pale boy rubbed at his cheek subconsciously before silently exiting the car he had clambered into. After what seemed like an eternity of doldrums and unanswered questions, they had returned. He smirked as he traced a path back towards the gun-toting Husk - and naturally, Utsāha was right where they had left it. Though, without any pilots within its metal chassis, the green Husk looked as bare and nondescript as it had before all had happened.

He wasn't sure where she was at the moment - he had fallen asleep as soon as he had fastened his seatbelt. For all of his intelligence, he still felt the drain of a new environment and the intensity of a connection between three entities. Lingering thoughts of prior dreams came to mind briefly before he placed a gloved hand on Utsāha's cold hull. There was a slight dissatisfaction, however, when he craned his neck upwards and surveyed the Husk - he'd have to pull off some more vegetation that he had missed before.

In spite of its status as a war machine, the giant mechanical being had allowed him to connect with someone. A final lifeline of sorts. He wasn't quite sure what her feelings on the matter were, but she tolerated him enough. Responded positively to affection, at least. She didn't defend him at all, no, but she had felt the need to get involved anyways and speak her mind. Then, as if remembering something, the genius chuckled softly.


"...What sort of fifteen year old says 'wastrel'?" He made mental note to tease her about it later. At the very least, he'd try to keep her spirits enough to pilot the Husk - it seemed that there was more at stake in the coming battle than before. And if they had run out of ammunition, perhaps requisitioning Sehnsucht's equipment would be possible. There were likely more differences other each Husk's metallic skin, however. The blades he had noticed before would likely have to do. In the depths of the valley, the boy and the Husk awaited the last piece.

@Coin
 

dwif

I just love Brendan Fraser
The car came to a sudden stop. Seb climbed out and began to make his way over to Mitfühlen. The once peaceful valley was almost unrecognisable compared to their first time visiting it, the pleasing vista was now replaced with a scene of complete destruction; the once lush valley was now nothing more than a muddy plane littered with the splinters that were once great trees. That day seemed such a long time ago now, things had changed in ways nobody could have ever expected. He couldn't help but feel that those who chose to return home had made the right choice, there was a real chance that they could die out here and for what? Despite his doubts he pushed on, the others had more of a reason to return home than he did anyway. This had to be the easiest way for his family to no longer be viewed as pariahs by the community. He slapped his hands against both sides of his face, this was no time to be distracted by stupid thoughts, he needed to focus on what was about to happen.

He reached Mitfühlen and began to climb it's exterior to find his way back inside. It was strange. Not long ago he had always viewed these things as just simple machines of a bygone era. But the connection he had with it had changed that, it was almost alive. Was it alive? That's something for someone much smarter than him to figure out. As he reached the entrance to the cockpit he paused to catch his breath and nurse his still tender ribs. He watched as others began to make their way into the husks of their own. Cupping his hands around his mouth he called out to the others "We need someone to call the shots, I'd probably go with the husk with guns. You know, since they'll probably be further back and can see more. Just a suggestion." Not waiting for any acknowledgment of his suggestion he hopped down into the dark cockpit, and awaited his co-pilot.
 
Ida hadn't noticed until it was time to get out of the car, but she hadn't let go of Morgan's hand the whole car ride. She was absolutely numb, her fingers, her cheeks, her mind. Ida was scared out of her mind. Yeah, she had agreed to this, but there was no way she expected that they would be back in the action this quickly. Was this how it was going to be until they finally lost? Assault after assault, only barely coming out on top, until one fatal slip up? It didn't matter how much Ida told herself that that was exactly what she wanted, she still felt sick to her stomach. In the short time that she had known Morgan, for once, she was glad he was there in the car with her.

Before she knew it, they were at the foot of Utsāha once more, easing some of her nerves. Ida was well aware that time acted against, them, but she still had to take a moment to marvel at the Husk. This was the first and only tool she had to survive.

Ida turned to Morgan beside her and stared until his gaze met his, "Hey, idiot. You ready?"

Despite her apparent confidence, tears had already begun to well in her eyes. She wiped them away on her sleeve as the two of them got ready to ascend back into the cockpit. However, before they could climb aboard, someone from further down the valley called out an actually useful suggestion instead of the idle hot air she had listened to all morning. Her ears perked and faced Seb at the foot of his Husk, waving to him and calling out, "We'll do it! If you can somehow keep it still, I'll have a clear shot -- trust me!"

With that, Ida grabbed the first handhold and started the climb to Utsāha's cockpit.

((Re:@GasMaskie, @dwif))
 

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