CONTENT: Anxiety, nonbinary Zenith
It's been one week since Zenith was sealed into the pod. Bound up in fear and anger, Aubrey decides she can no longer sit idly by and wait for the situation to resolve itself. Moved to action, she seeks answers. What she finds will drive a wedge into the delicate balance her life has been hanging in all this time.
(Part five of Lost In Transit.)
You know you're awake before your eyes are open. You don't want to open them. That makes this real.
You do, eventually, because you can’t avoid it forever. You lie there, blink, stare up at the ceiling. Your AR feed is off. You know that you'd have had an alert if anything had come through in the night, but you're still clinging to your last vestiges of hope as you sit up and boot it that maybe there'll be something there. Maybe.
There isn't anything there. You have no new messages. You have no missed calls.
It has been one week since Zenith told you ze was safe.
One week since ze told you ze was going to sleep.
One week since ze told you ze would call soon.
You didn't think much of it for the first day. Things happen. They're busy people. You learnt your lesson and you wanted to put your trust in hir. It was the continued radio silence well into Tuesday that had you concerned. And when you tried to call, and the number didn't even ring out, but sent you straight to voicemail, that's when you knew something was wrong. It's not like you can lose or break a comm that's hard-wired into your skull without getting some very delicate brain matter ripped out in the process.
You've been trying really, really hard not to think about that.
You've been trying not to think about this at all, actually. Remember what happened last time? Maybe if you just wait long enough, ze'll pop up again, completely fine, just like before, and you'll be mad because you worried over what turned out to be nothing but it's better that than never hearing from hir again.
You left a message. Actually, you've left several messages, because it's the only outlet you have, and you gave yourself this ultimatum: if one week passes with no contact, then you're allowed to freak out.
Well, your week is up.
You have work. You need to get out of bed. You don't, though, instead falling onto your side and pulling your knees up to your chest. This tension has been building all week, winding your strings tighter and tighter, and you can’t take it any more. They’ve snapped. It takes a minute for you to realise that you’re crying, but when you do, you go from silent weeping to big, ugly sobs in a matter of seconds.
What if this is it, forever, and you never find out what happened?
It's been a long, long time since you felt truly, entirely helpless. It's not a feeling you've missed. For five years there's always been someone to catch you when you slip, someone to pick you up when you fall, even when it felt like your entire life was inches from collapsing. Now? Now you have nothing. Nobody knows about this. Nobody can know about this. And even if they did, they couldn't fix it.
You didn't think you'd have to live through another loss like this.
You sit huddled on the bed like a pathetic idiot until you run out of tears and your throat is sore. You're going to be late to work, but it's hard to care. Your feet feel unsteady beneath you as you make your way out to the kitchen and pour yourself a glass of water with shaking hands. Stupid shitty fucking tremor correction not working properly. You need to get it looked at. You'd also rather crawl right into a gigagiant’s mouth than let anyone pull your cybernetics apart right now.
You're already exhausted and you haven't even left the house. Crying has, though, cleared your head, you'll give it that.
This is exactly the same panic you found yourself in a week ago, and all you did then was sit around and wait. Sad, scared, anxious, and completely useless.
You’re not fucking doing that again. No. Look at you. You’re better than that.
You want to find Zenith, yes? Yes. Alright. You don't have contact details for hir friends, but you know their names, or their aliases, at least, and you know where people look when they need a shadowrunner to do their dirty work for them.
You still have your old Darkmovers account credentials from your ill-fated attempts at a couple of jobs as a teenager. It feels like such a long shot. Like, no way is it going to be this easy. But your login still works and you look for Dak Rambo and he's
Right. Fucking. There.
His profile is... something. A lot of jobs. A lot of reviews. Most of them bad. You have reservations. But Zenith is there in his connections, plain as day (no recent activity, because of course there isn't). So are the other runners ze worked with.
You consider the wizard. You think about some of the shit Zenith told you and showed you. You tap on Pox’s profile instead.
Mercifully, she looks competent. But the contents of her profile fall away into the background of the job listing she has posted.
MISSING: ¥40,000 REWARD FOR INFORMATION REGARDING LOCATION OF ZENITH. LAST SEEN 8/15, HOUNDSTOOTH, AZ.
There's a photo attached: her and the wizard are cropped out at the sides to allow a smiling Zenith to take centre focus.
Okay. Okay. So she's not dead. Or, she wasn't, as of one week ago, when Zenith apparently vanished. She was alive long enough to post this. And maybe Zenith isn't dead, either. If she has faith, then you can too. Yes? Yes.
But if they don't know where ze is, then your job is about to get a whole lot harder.
So, what now? You could message her anyway. She knows who you are. Kind of. Maybe? She's seen you. She knows what you look like. Hopefully that recognition's enough for her to trust you. Maybe they know something useful. You'll take anything. You can ask them to keep you in the loop.
How deep do you want to get embroiled in this? Is it even worth it? Yes, your brain offers up as the immediate answer to that question, it is, because you haven't stressed yourself sick over this fucker for the past week only to cower from the opportunity to actually do something.
(Your Darkmovers account is still in your old name–you catch it and correct it before you actually send anything.)
You agonise over how to phrase it for longer than you really need to before deciding to cut straight to the point: I'm Zenith's friend. You saw me outside the hotel last week. Can you call me?
You spin up a softphone number, tack it on the end, and hit send.
And now, you guess, you wait.
You barely make it to work on time, and you hate that even after five years and enough opportunities to demonstrate with your cybernetics they still make you fuck around with a stupid arbitrary holster for a stupid arbitrary gun you don't need that you're still struggling to strap to your belt as you pile into the transport. (Yes, there are legitimate reasons to carry it, but it doesn't make it any less annoying). It's a short contract, just a few days for some conference you don't care to know the details of. Normally you'd be more attentive, but these aren't normal circumstances. All you need to know is where to stand and where all the doors are and whose legal team will have your head on a platter if they, specifically get assassinated.
You have a pretty good track record of not letting people die even when you're stressed to hell and back. Today might yet test you.
You've been doing an okay job of hiding all of your inner turmoil over the course of the week, because you have to. Explaining it to anyone is a slippery slope to your carefully-constructed life coming apart at the seams and rendering all of the work you've done these past five years pointless. These are extenuating circumstances, though, and you’re approaching your limit. You've been shot and lost your home and endured more mental and emotional crises than you can keep track of, but there was always a way to navigate through them. A way out. A resolution.
You don't have a way to resolve this.
Despite it all, you manage to hold it together until noon. People have flocked in, nothing suspicious has happened, and the worst anyone's dealt with is a few assholes getting pissy about weapon permits at the doors (they're lucky it's not you they have to answer to today). You've just about convinced yourself that you're acting normal and not at all like someone trying to hide a cornucopia of deeply upsetting secrets.
Then Pox calls you.
Well, no, it's an unknown number, but who the fuck else could it be? Seeing the alert pop up makes your stomach lurch. You're paralysed for a moment as you try to decide what to do. You could turn it down, ask her to call again later, but you don't know what's going to happen between now and "later" that could completely throw that plan, knowing what these people get themselves into. They might actually die before you get to call her back. Which means that instead, you have to make up an excuse to go and find a hole somewhere to shove yourself in where you can go and potentially have a little meltdown without being seen.
The excuse part is easy. The hole part is harder, but you manage to find a courtyard that isn't seeing much foot traffic, and tuck yourself away in the alcove of a closed-off doorway where you'll hopefully be left undisturbed.
You accept the call.
“Is that Aubrey?” The accent is English, so, definitely Pox. There's some scuffling and poorly-disguised whispering in the seconds that follow.
“Put it on loudspeaker.”
“No, hold on.”
“Yeah, it's Aubrey. Don't put me on loudspeaker.”
“See, she can hear you, shut up,” Pox hisses. It'd be funny if you weren't so tense. She jumps straight to the point. “Have you talked to Zenith?” she asks, and she sounds so hopeful, it crushes you to have to say,
“No. That's what I was calling you about, actually. I haven't heard from hir since Sunday, and then I saw your ad on Darkmovers…”
“Sunday? That's…” She mutters quietly to herself for a moment. “Wow. Yeah. I guess it's been a week already.”
“Since what?” You can't stand this anymore. The tremor in your voice is obvious despite your utmost efforts to keep it at bay. “What happened?”
“Should I do this–you know what? I'm gonna go in the back.” She's talking to the others again, you think, so you wait. There's some dull thumping before Pox eventually speaks again. Her voice echoes slightly, like she's in a much larger space.
“Sorry, I had to go to the trailer.”
“It's okay. I just…” You trail off. What do you even want out of this? What did you expect you would get? They're in Arizona. You're in Maine. What are you supposed to do from all the way over here? “Ze said ze was just going to sleep. I've been trying to call hir all week. What happened?”
It takes her a moment to respond, and her answer comes slowly, but she tells you about the three of them heading down to the town for ice cream and returning to find no sign of Zenith whatsoever. No tracks. No witnesses. Not a trace. A night-long search of the area turned up nothing. Unless someone was lying through their teeth, ze may as well have vanished into thin air.
“...And you definitely don't know anything?”
“No. Nothing, I swear.” You shake your head, even though she can't see you. “That's all ze said, that ze was... safe, and going to get some sleep. Nothing happened before that? Before you left hir alone, I mean?”
“No, I…” Her voice peters out; you can hear her stutter faintly, as if she's not certain she wants to continue, but then she does: “That was, um. I don't know how much ze told you.”
That's when it dawns on you, and you feel like a total dipshit. “Oh god, right, the whole thing with–yeah, um. Your dad?”
“Yeah. That happened. But after that, we were all sitting on top of the truck, and Tech even made us a little star show, and it was like… I dunno. It felt like everything was gonna be okay. Then we got back, and just… nothing's felt right since then.”
A silence hangs between the two of you for a moment, filled only by the dull rumble of the truck's engine and tyres against the road in the background.
“Will you call me?” Pox asks, quietly. “If you do hear anything?”
"Yes. Yes. First thing, I promise. I'm not even in this for the nuyen.”
“We're pretty fucking rich, now. I can still pay you, if you want.”
“I'll. Um. I'll think about it.” It'd feel dirty, taking payment, but 40k would almost quadruple the emergency escape fund you’ve been quietly paying into for the last five years, and you have a horrible feeling that you might actually need to use it in the not-too-distant future, if things carry on like this.
“Cool. Hopefully Dak doesn't gamble it all away before you have a chance to find anything. I should probably go back and–”
“Wait.” You do actually know what you want out of this, now. You can't stand to bottle it up any longer. “Can we just. Um. Talk? For a little bit?”
“Sorry. This has just–I've been going kind of crazy over this, you know?” You laugh weakly. “It's, um. Nice to actually speak to you. Zenith told me a lot about you guys.”
“Shit, I don't know–ze told me about the thing with your dad, and Dak's kid, and Tech Wizard’s… I don’t know, whatever he has going on. Ze was kind of vague about it. He got shot or something, in Denver?”
“Yeah, he’s been going through it. It’s a long story. We’ve pretty much had people trying to murder us constantly for the last three weeks.”
“That's… rough. I mean, it’s not like I don’t meet plenty of people who want to do me grievous bodily harm, too, but not that much.”
“What do people want to kill you for?”
“...I'm a security guard.” As expected, she snorts with laughter.
“Wow, I bet you would hate us. We have a bad track record with security guards.”
“Don't most shadowrunners? I don't know, you seem okay.” You actually smile for what feels like the first time all week. “But, yeah, most of the time when I bump into runners, it's... not on friendly terms. It pays, though, and it's–I mean, it's all I really know how to do.” You're painfully aware of how quiet your voice becomes as the sentence tapers off. You’ve never spoken out loud your justifications for doing what you do, and now that you have, you’re struck by how pathetic it actually sounds. Wow. “I'm not cut out to be a shadowrunner, but... y'know. This kinda work is, um. Kinda comes naturally to me.”
Another silence falls; you're eager to fill it with something, anything. “I'm... sorry. About your dad. He sounds like he was a piece of shit that got what was coming to him, but... still. You shouldn't have had to do that.”
“...Thanks.” All her bubbly energy seems to have dissipated in an instant. “He was. Like. He was... evil, but–”
“You don't have to talk about it, if you don't want to.” You can hear the wobble in her voice, and a pang of guilt strikes you. “Sorry. I didn't mean to kill the mood like that.”
“Yeah, but you're right. He did deserve it.”
“Sure, but–like–” Time to overshare? Fuck it. Why not, at this point? How much worse can anything get? “I always, like, wished I knew who my family were. Even just one parent. So, having that, and then having to kill him because he was such a fucking monster, like... I can't imagine how hard that would be.”
“...Yeah. I–Yeah.” You feel shitty for obviously making her cry, but you want her to know your sympathy is real.
“What about your sister? Like, with him dead, I guess–do you have any way of getting her out, now?”
Pox gasps excitedly, like she just remembered something important. “Yes! She got out! Or, at least, I think she did. We went and spoke to this lich, and they showed us–”
“A lich.” A lich. A lich.
“Yeah, but they seemed cool–we gave them back this gem thing from one of their followers–and they showed me that she was, like, running away from the house–so I don’t know how, but I think she managed to escape.”
Is she always like this? Like, just–like this? She's not going to go into any more detail about the fucking lich?
“So–okay, well–have you been able to contact her?”
“...No.” All the vigour drains from her voice again. “She doesn’t know my number now, and she didn’t even have a comm when my dad was… keeping her down there.” She sighs quietly. “I don't know when I'll get to actually talk to her. I just hope she doesn’t think that I ever… forgot about her.”
That stings in a way you didn't anticipate it would. It reminds you of… well. Are you going to cross that line today, too?
You glance nervously around the courtyard. It's empty.
“...I think I know how you feel.”
“Have you got someone waiting for you, too?”
“...Yeah. Yeah, my–my sister. And my brother.” Your voice shakes as you admit their existence out loud for the first time in almost four years.
“Are they with Legacy of Adam?”
“No. I mean, I hope not. They're out there, somewhere, probably. Assuming nothing bad happened to them. We. Um. Escaped together. Us, and a few others.” It feels like you’re doing the impossible, finally speaking about them, about the truth of them. Pox’s situation is fucked; you knew that, the abstract of it. Being faced with it, though, one-on-one, the reality of it, it's dawning on you that you share more in common than you initially thought.
“You said you didn't have a family!”
“I don't! We weren't, like, related.”
“I think you can still be a family without being related.”
“I meant, like, a family before Legacy. Anyway–we split up after we got out. We thought they might come looking for us and figured it'd be harder for them to track us if we were all going in separate directions, so… that's what we did.”
“You couldn't even message each other?”
“No. We were really scared that if they found one of us, they'd use us to trace the others. We scrambled all our contact information. I don’t think Legacy went looking for us–they never came for me–but I don't know where the others are now.”
“You could put up some ads. If you’ve all got the eyes and the arms and–”
“I wish it was that easy,” you laugh feebly. “Nobody here knows anything about where I come from. I can't risk blowing up my whole life like that.”
“Well, what do they look like?”
“Your brother and sister. What do they look like?”
“In case we see them.”
You blink at the wall you’ve been staring distantly at this whole time. Wait. Back things up, real quick, just for a sec. You need a moment to process the offer she's making.
You know, statistically, that it’s unlikely they’ll just come across either of them wandering around in the wild. But it was statistically unlikely that you and Zenith just so happened to be in the same convenience store at the same time, too, and even more statistically unlikely that you’d just happen to be in the same hotel in the same nowhere town in Utah a week later. Statistically unlikely things seem to be happening to you a lot lately.
You’re putting a lot on the line, here, by walking down this road. If they find anything, you will have obligations. Those obligations will eventually pull the ugly truths of your life into the spotlight and force you to do the unthinkable.
Can you stand the alternative, though?
You made promises. Keep them.
“Um.” You have to force the words out. You’ve trained yourself so hard to not talk about this that talking about it now takes concentrated effort. “My brother’s an elf. He's Black. Kind of amber-brown eyes, black hair. He’d be 23, same as me. He was trans, but they wouldn’t let him have T or surgery or anything, so… he might have done that by now, or he might not. I don’t know.”
“Mhm. Mhm. Your sister?”
“Half-ork, half-elf, really, really pale. She hasn’t just got the one eye scar; she’s got these two other massive scars across her face from when she got attacked once. It took out her other eye, so she’d have two drones, too. Really distinctive. She was younger than us, so she’d be, like… 18, 19 by now? Maybe she had a growth spurt, but she was always really small for a half-ork.”
“Big scars. Two drones. Really small. Got it.”
“Okay. I. Um. Thank you.” There’s a huge lump in your throat all of a sudden, making it difficult to talk again. “Like, I don’t… nobody even knows I have siblings, ‘cause I can’t tell anyone without people asking questions, but–I miss them. I really, really miss them. I wanna know they’re okay.” And if they’re not, you want them back here, with you. Where you can protect them from all the things you couldn’t back then.
“I can’t make any promises, because we have a lot going on,” Pox says gently, “but if we hear anything, I’ll let you know.”
“Thanks. Really, it means a lot.” You wipe at your right eye with your sleeve. You probably look like shit. Perhaps you can slip away to a bathroom and wash your face off before you go back to patrol so it isn’t blatantly obvious you’ve been crying.
Pox is silent for a couple of seconds while you recover yourself, then speaks again: “Can I tell you something?”
“...That we won't find Zenith.” You can hear the rustle of fabric, and her voice becomes muffled. You can picture her bundled into the huge coat you always saw her wearing in videos despite the summer heat. “I don't… understand. I don’t know why ze would leave us.”
“...Yeah. I don't... I don't know, either.”
“Was it the stuff from Fyre Tower? Do you think…” Her voice stalls before she can finish the sentence, but you know exactly how it was going to end. It’s why you’ve kept the truth of your past under lock and key ever since the day you dragged yourself out of that ice cold water. Does Zenith feel the same? It’s a struggle to imagine, given the life ze leads. You of all people should know how well a person can hide their feelings, though–and how irrational those feelings can be, sometimes.
“There’s gotta be a reason. Ze–ze loves you guys a lot. You know that?”
“So why couldn't ze tell us where ze was going? Or tell us ze was leaving at all?” Her voice cracks. The sound of it is piercing. You don't want to admit that the same fear is looming in the back of your mind. “It’s like with my sister, and your siblings. I just…”
“You just wanna know ze's safe?”
“Yeah. Me, too.”
This time, you let the silence that follows be. It's not comfortable, per se, but peaceful, if sombre. You wish you could hug her. You wish she could hug you, actually. You have all the support in the world in every other aspect of your life, but for this? Nothing. You'd kill just to embrace someone who knows this specific pain: this specific grief, for this specific person.
“Can I ask you something?” Pox murmurs, after several minutes.
“What is it?”
“How much did you know about Zenith?”
“What do you mean?”
“We went to that Sons of Adam place in Neo New Mexico. Y’know, when they were talking about tours and clone memories and everything–did you know about that when you talked before?”
“...Yes. I mean, kind of–like, not specifically about Zenith, but they put me through all of that, too, and I didn’t get my memory wiped. I grew up in Canada, though, not Thailand.”
“Do you know why they said ze's going to die?”
“...That's what they said at the shop.” She pauses, like you're supposed to know what the fuck to say to that, like you're supposed to know what that means at all. “Zenith didn't tell you that?”
“No? What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Okay, okay, so, look, I think it's total bullshit–” She’s flipping into damage control mode, you’d know that tone of voice in anyone, “–but the person in there, they said–they said Zenith had a life expectancy of eight to twelve months, something like that–”
The blood in your veins runs ice cold.
Whatever else she has to say melts into a sludge of white noise in your head. Eight to twelve months. Eight to twelve months. Eight to twelve months.
“Why that long?” Tremors have you quivering where you stand. “What happens then?”
“I don't know, that’s why I asked you! They didn't say, which is why I think it's fucking… made-up. They just told us to go to Los Angeles, or Buriram, or something, if we wanted to find out more.”
Okay. Okay. Twelve months is a long time. Eight months is still kind of a long time. But you don't know how long this could take to fix. Or if it's fixable. Or where the fuck Zenith is so you can start fixing it.
“Is this a–” Your mouth finds the question first, but when your brain catches up, you stop mid-sentence, unable to finish.
“Is it what?”
“Is it–is this a Legacy of Adam thing? Like, is this just Zenith, or–”
“–or does it apply to all of us?”
Pox goes quiet. Very quiet. You feel sick. You might be sick.
“...I don't know,” she replies, finally. “I'm sorry. I don't know.”
“...Sorry, I shouldn't expect you to.” There's tears flooding down your cheek again and you make no effort to stop them. What are you supposed to do? What's the protocol for this? “I just–fuck. Fuck.”
“Hey! Listen.” You slowly sink down against the doorway you've been huddled in as Pox gets right up into the mic on her comm. “Listen. I told you, that timeframe is bullshit. They don't know how long you'll live based on some numbers when they haven’t seen you in years! They don't know you!”
“They know everything about us, Pox!” God you hope there’s nobody around to hear you yelling. You don't want to scream at her but the weight of this whole week has come crashing down on you, backed by an avalanche, with a thunderstorm brewing in the sky, and she has no idea what she's talking about. “They raised us. They cut us up and put things in our bodies and our minds that we don't even know are there but they do. They know. If they said twelve months, tops, it's twelve months. And if they'd do that–put something that does that–into one of us, they'd put it in any of us.”
She falls silent again. You don't know what you want from her. You don't know what she could possibly do that would make any of this better.
(There isn’t anything. You know this.)
“It'll be okay,” she offers tentatively, in answer to your quiet sobbing. “We'll–we'll find Zenith, and we'll find out what's wrong. There has to be a way to stop it. There has to be.” Oh, she's trying so hard to convince you. To convince herself. “Can you, like–go to a doctor? I dunno, there has to be, like, some tests or scans or something they can do to see if anything is wrong with you, right?”
The last thing you want to do right now is think about subjecting yourself to medical investigations. She's right to bring it up, though. You know it's inevitable, too, which just makes you want to cry harder. (You don’t cry harder. You breathe in deep and force your diaphragm not to spasm and try to hold yourself the fuck together.)
“Probably.” You haven't let anyone do any thorough medical exams on you since you were hospitalised at the start of your employment with Zodiac five years ago.
“Okay, so, do that! And then if nothing comes up, you're probably fine, right?”
“Yeah. Sure.” It's not that simple, and you both know it, but her bold optimism is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
“Can you go and see them? Sons of Adam? Like we did?”
“No. I can't–I’m not going back to them. Ever.”
“...Okay.” You can tell she wants to say something but she’s smart enough to keep her mouth shut. “Well, if you do see a doctor, will you... tell us? Because it might be the same thing that Zenith has.”
“I–Yeah. I'll let you know.” Now you have to get checked out. You've locked yourself in. It's not just you who needs answers. Good job, saddling yourself with that responsibility.
“Thank you.” And then she murmurs gently: “It really is gonna be okay. I promise.” She says it with such quiet but certain conviction that you almost feel like you have no choice but to believe her.
“You'll tell me if you find Zenith, won't you?” you whisper hoarsely. “I mean, if ze can't tell me, or…”
“Yeah. I'll tell you. When we spoke to the lich in Moab–” Yeah, you still can’t believe she’s just dropping that like it’s normal, “–they told us to look for a sigil guardian if we want to know about Zenith, and someone else told us where it is. That's where we're going to look next.”
Because that sounds totally legit. Sure. Okay.
“Where is it?”
“Point Reyes, or something? It's in California, and we're only a few hours from Los Angeles anyway, so…”
“Okay. Just. Um. You know. A fucking lich told you that, so, be careful.”
“The lich was nice! They didn’t try to kill us or anything. One of their followers did, but the lich was fine.”
“Do you get to go anywhere without someone trying to kill you?”
“...Not really. We're kinda hoping it'll stop when we get to LA.”
“Yeah. Me too. I like not having to worry that my... friends might be dead just because I haven't heard from them in a few days.”
“We're doing our best not to die, alright?” God, she has that same indignance about it that Zenith does, and you wonder if ze picked it up from her, or if she picked it up from hir, and it's enough to make you laugh despite the morbidity of the situation you find yourself in. Yeah, alright, you may as well just start cracking up about it at this point. Crying isn't exactly getting you anywhere.
“I believe you. But really. Be careful.”
“We'll definitely be careful.” She's a terrible liar but you don't tell her that.
Okay. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath.
“I should... go, probably. I'm supposed to be working right now. Someone's gonna come looking for me eventually, and I don't wanna have to explain this whole fucking mess to them.”
“Yeah, I don't blame you. I guess I'll... let you know what happens when we get to Point Reyes.”
“...Wait, just–just one thing.”
“What?” Your eyes dart nervously around the courtyard. You’ve already been here too long. Someone’s going to come looking for you eventually.
“We fought this technomancer, and they told Zenith there was… something living in hir cyberware? A organic matrix life form, or something like that. And I thought, like, maybe that’s what’s…”
“...Yeah. Like, I don’t know about this stuff, and I don’t think Zenith even knew it was there, but maybe that’s what you should get checked out first.”
You have feelings about this that are far, far too big for what little emotional capacity you have left right now.
“...Okay. Thanks, Pox.”
“I really need to–”
“–I'm sorry. About... you know. The Legacy of Adam stuff. What they did to you and Zenith is... it sounds fucked up. It's fucked up that they did all of that to you and it's fucked up that they made you fight in wars, when you were little kids. What happened to you, it's... none of it was your fault. And I think... you're probably a way better person now than whatever they tried to force you to be. Um. Yeah.”
Her words feel like a coin that the vending machine in your head refuses to accept.
For the first time in your life, someone is saying that you didn't deserve the brutality Legacy inflicted on you and you don't know what to do with this.
The tears are still running down your cheek, ice cold against your red-hot skin, while your left eye socket burns with the impulse to cry from long-excised tear ducts. People have told you before that you didn't deserve the things that have happened to you–but those people have all been fed lies. It was your 'family' that beat you down, shaved your hair, deprived you of emotional connection. None of them know the truth. None of them know what you've done.
Pox, though? She knows. Not like Zenith does, as someone who shared the horror of your experiences firsthand, but as someone watching the bloodshed from the outside. She still has sympathy (maybe it’s pity) for you. Her moral compass is, arguably, skewed, but she sees you.
So you do what you've always done: you run away.
“I have to go.” You hang up before you can even think about what you're doing, and you slam your head back against the brick, miraculously managing not to concuss yourself in the process.
Zenith might be dying.
You might be dying.
You're waiting for somebody on the other side of the country to confirm that based on whatever information they can pry out of someone they're visiting on the advice of a fucking lich.
And you have to get up and go back to work like there’s nothing wrong.