Petya’s a bloody liar and I’m going to have his backside for dinner. And not in a sexual way. I’m not attracted to assholes like him and I hope I’ll never see him again because I’ll probably murder him for all the stress he’s caused me-
Excuse me, diary. I got a bit carried away there. But, hey, at least I’m still alive. One more sunset I hadn’t expected to reach. One more night hiding away safe in my bed between freshly laundered covers.
I came home in a nondescript black car, clearly someone’s bargain buy several years ago with a dented bumper and old stickers proud of some graduate or another. I don’t remember the chauffeur’s face or name or anything. He hadn’t offered it. But I got home safely without Petya putting a knife in my back, and Mom greeted me home with open arms and… a knife sheathed in a paper holder shoved into her pocket.
Okay, okay, okay. It might not seem like an intimidating sight at first, especially since she’s my mother. But you see a hefty woman carrying a cheese knife with smeared mascara from crying in worry and come back and tell me that you wouldn’t be scared straight.
Mom and I hurried off to the cul-de-sac the moment I pulled away from her, the smell of laundry detergent on her shirt too overbearing for me. Dad was already there, eyes blank, a gun I’d never seen him have before in his hands. I wonder where he got it from. A black market dealer? A gun show where they’d be okay with only taking cash without registration? Maybe a human friend gave it to him as a present. There were at least twenty other people there as well, each armed with some sort of weapon- a baseball bat, a reinforced curtain rod with the decorative endcap taken off, pepper spray. A good old neighborhood block party without the barbecue or obnoxious country music or kiddie pool for the toddlers.
I think I almost broke down crying then just from looking around at all the people who came. I… Maybe I do like Heavestone after all, even if it is a little restrictive. I’ll defend this place until my dying breath.
The sky twinkled. Everybody looked up to watch the escape pod enter the atmosphere, glowing reds and oranges and careening towards us without a single regard for the shield that should have been protecting us from outside intrusions. I felt myself tense as it drew closer and closer, breaking through the cloud cover. It deployed its parachutes, plain white. My legs locked up. My palms began to sweat. Murmurs began to sprout.
It’s okay, Eponine. You’re not alone this time. You have Heavestone’s support, even if not everyone is ready and on the front lines.
God, I love this neighborhood.
The escape pod drew closer– as far away as a skyscraper, headed for the cul-de-sac’s center grass island. Neighbors rearranged themselves, trying to get out of the hulking metal sphere’s path, not wanting to be crushed. A metal egg the size of a room being birthed from the sky.
Ten seconds. Five seconds-
The ground rattled for a moment– you know, I’ve never experienced an earthquake before. They just don’t happen in Minnesota. There aren’t any tectonic plates near here that would cause any kind of actual disturbance. But some of the people were shaken off their feet, and others helped them right back up, those with guns pointing them at the escape pod, prepared to shoot down Amelia on sight.
The hatch on the side nlodged. Steam poured out, joining the clouds in the sky. The hatch, whining from heat damage, slid open-
And Serlis Greenland tumbled out.
She promptly collapsed onto the grass, the same long red wavy hair that had haunted my every single nightmare since coming back down to Earth mingling with the bright green of the grass and the honest brown of the dirt. Her Providence uniform was torn in quite a few places, a long jagged rip down her cape, effectively splitting it into two incongruous pieces. Her chest was partially exposed, betraying a makeshift bandage tied around her chest.
Of course, that was the perfect moment for me to lose all common sense.
I rushed over to Liv’s side, the gun-toters still on their guard. I rolled Liv over- there were bruises all over her face. Her bottom lip was split. A black eye had half-healed. The rest of her body wasn’t much better- her right ankle was twisted, and the bandage on her chest had long since been bled through, and…
“Oh, god, Liv,” I whispered. I think Mom approached me then, putting a hand on my shoulder to keep me from throwing up onto the grass right then. Liv was alive. Liv was alive and I wasn’t responsible for her death and there was probably still a chance that she could forgive me too.
And then Mr. Greenland. The absolute last person I wanted to see right now- although that embarrassment didn’t last for long, because he took one look at his daughter and promptly fainted. I can’t really blame him. I mean, I’d faint too if I saw the wound of a pinky finger that’d been brusquely hacked off and the wound crudely sewn shut and I hadn’t prepared myself.
Almost as a last thought, I slid two fingers underneath her jaw by her ear, searching for a pulse. I couldn’t find it at first- panic streaked through my body, and I think everyone noticed, because the gathered people split, half of them breaking away to search the escape pod with several profane remarks and half of them coming in closer in case we’d need to seek medical help that we couldn’t provide here in Heavestone. Everybody was too shocked to speak. Both Providences seemingly lost forever- and both of them inexplicably back on Earth.
Maybe Amelia had sent Liv’s corpse down to prove a point, I thought at first– but rigor mortis would have already set in a long time ago, and the medical student whose name I can’t remember right now was massaging Liv’s limbs to try to bring heat back to her body and her limbs were still as pliable as they could be after who-knows-how-long crammed into an escape pod.
One of the searching crew jumped out of the escape pod’s entrance hole, doing a flip and landing on both feet. He waved a stack of papers in his hands. “Hey! I think we’ve got some classified documents here!”
Great. Absolutely great. Just another reason to be scared of Mordern coming after us.
“Eponine?” the medical student said, tapping me on the shoulder. I turned towards her. “I’m going to take Serlis to the local hospital right outside Heavestone. I understand there’s going to be some… difficulties since she’s Miralayan. Can I trust you to handle the press?”
My eyebrows wrinkled. “…Press?”
“Do you think we could turn this into an immigration case?” someone else butted in.
“Maybe there’s something in those papers she brought that we can use to file a lawsuit against Mordern!” someone else added.
“God, wouldn’t it be great if we won?” a third person said. “Finally being able to visit my online friends without worrying of being apprehended. Hey, one of them’s a lawyer! Maybe I could get something set up?”
“It might be best if she were awake and could testify,” I said. “But I don’t know too much about the legal system.”
Online friends. Someone mentioned online friends.
“What’s Limberstein doing?” I asked as the medical student sent someone off to retrieve her vehicle. “Aren’t they-”
“Technical difficulties with their stasis pods,” someone answered me. “They’re at the tail end of some tests to ensure that everything’s working before their first mission to establish their colony.”
“Can’t you look up some damn news yourself?”
“I’ve been… busy. With camp. And… you know…”
“Same as you’d expect,” someone else chimed in. “Busy with their Singularity, pretending not to give a damn about Limberstein, being secretive as hell, the usual.”
A van pulled into the cul-de-sac. Several of the people gathered around the medical student as she and someone else carried Liv’s limp body into the back of the van, where they secured her in the back seats. I watched as they closed the doors, as they drove away with Living Wasteland’s life in their hands.
I turned to Mom, who was wiping tears out of her eyes and smudging her mascara even more. “Mom?”
“I don’t want to go in the sleeping pod anymore. Can I go back to camp tomorrow instead?”
Mom was flustered for a moment, and then she clucked. “Who’s that friend of yours there? Memo?”
Mom nodded, and then we started to walk home. “I’ll have to talk to the Director about having her and someone else I can trust escort you everywhere due to some… safety concerns-”
I hugged her suddenly. Just threw my arms around her. “Thank you, thank you, thank you-”
Mom tousled my hair, slightly taken aback by the sudden display of affection. “Just stay safe.” I pulled away from her, and we continued to walk down the old sidewalks, the ones that I could remember in my earliest memories being swung by my parents’ arms and taking a little plastic bunny trinket for a walk. The same old sunset still greeted me. “Keep your head down. Don’t cause a ruckus. Stay away from Petya. And keep your phone charged and on you at all times.”