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The Last Man Standing

(VI) Week 29 Submissions Thread


Couple of hours to spare this week. Apparently, its either the last moment or way too early for me.

This week was lots of solid investigation with very minimal gay monologues. This story is moving forward wooo!!

Spoiler! :
Anna smiled. “Well I suppose then that just means all our theories are likely to just lead all the way back that so why don’t we all just get back and file these reports, get what little work we can do and end for the day. I think you guys deserve to go home.”
Serafina just nodded. Sally frowned. That look was recognizable. For all the unreadability the girl possessed Sally knew that look all too well. It was a look that was very common within this agency. The one that suggested Serafina would be spending quite a chunk of her time at home pouring over the case instead of resting as she should be.
Sally didn’t mention it, however. There was a very real rush for this case, so perhaps this time a single night of pouring over information especially when it would be something of an early dismissal was probably not the worst idea.
“Shall we then?” said Sally stepping up. “I think we can all take a solid fifteen minutes to quickly file all of our reports and just do all the boring number crunching for the computers to handle overnight and then we can meet up again for a quick sort of debrief slash discussion before we’re all going home?”
Anna nodded. “Yeah, that sounds great. Let’s do that.”
Serafina nodded once again, as did Safi this time. With that, the four of them continued their walk all the way back to the control room that this had all started out in.
It didn’t take long for them to all settle down into stations to begin the inputting process. Sally herself sat down beside Anna, trying not to peek over as she typed up her own report. Technically since Anna and Sally hadn’t exactly found any separate findings, they didn’t actually even have to be so careful about submitting this individually but Anna insisted they keep it separate. Sally had a very hard time saying no to Anna, especially when Sally herself did in fact agree. In the battle of to be lazy or not argue with Anna, not argue with Anna, and see that smile generally won.
Sally did however end up typing a slightly shorter report than normal, given her unique insights into this particular case were a little on the lower side. That was troubling in terms of how long this case might take to solve. The clues that Serafina and Safi had been quite so excited about was all that made Sally think they still stood a chance of dealing with this quickly.
Sally finished up the rest of the procedure as quickly as she dared. She didn’t want to spend too long wallowing in just her own thoughts and typing things up. Or maybe she just needed a break. She had been summoned in on her day off after all. She was allowed to feel like this.
Sally tried not to think too far down those lines as she finished things up and set the system going, turning off her own individual station to survey the progress everyone else was making. Anna, unsurprisingly, was still typing away, focused intensely on her screen. Safi and Serafina, however, were a different story. They seem to have finished up even faster than Sally because they’d retreated a little further back into the room to talk in whispers, their stations already off. Sally did her best to turn back to Anna and wait for her to finish instead of spying on what that whisper conversation might be about.
It took most of Sally’s willpower, especially after the way those two had landed earlier, but she managed and Anna finally seemed to finish up and submit her own report. Anna did of course also have extra work to do given she was the team leader.
Anna got up from her seat and looked around, clearing her throat. It had the intended effect, Safi and Serafina looking up from where they were and walking over as Sally scooted her chair closer to Anna’s.
“Alright, looks like everyone is done with their reports for the moment. I think we can try and have maybe half an hour’s worth of discussion or slightly more, depends on what we come up with and then y’all can go. I might stay behind to log in any bigger revelations we come to but everyone else is free to go and you should go. That last little encounter is enough for one day.”
No one seemed to have any objections. Anna let the silence build for just a little bit longer before she started talking again.
“Alright. Lovely. Then who wants to begin. I believe we were trying to think of species and behavior of that final encounter. I feel like we could probably focus there given we already had a semi decent debrief of most of the other discoveries.”
“That sounds great,” chimed in Safi. “I think those creatures might just play a pretty important role too.”
Sally nodded. “It certainly was quite a noteworthy incident.”
“That it certainly was. So Serafina, why don’t you start us off here since you did have the closest encounter with one of them?”
“Sure. I don’t really have much to add now. I’ve run through that mentally many times. It just doesn’t seem like it was attacking me like an animal would and neither of the others attempted an attack. I think someone wanted to hold us there.”
Safi gasped. “Sorry. But. I just thought of something.”
Everyone immediately turned to her.
“What if they weren’t even trying to box us in, but just slow us down enough that something else that we didn’t notice I dunno documented us or tried to sterilize the scene.”
Sally almost gasped herself. That was some good reasoning. Excellent reasoning in fact.
“That is incredibly likely. I would to confirm that right now but I am going to stand by my decision to stop for the day.” Anna let out a sigh. “We’ll look into that tomorrow. We’ll know species and many other things by that point when the systems have all finished processing it all.”

1,027 words


I didn't get to the point that I'd have liked, but this group's at least not arguing anymore! Sheesh, there are few worse possible combinations that could have occurred.

Spoiler! :
“I’m… not cooling off while you’re…!”

“Good riddance,” Dare says. They’ve risen and walked over to stand in front of Felicity, their arms again crossed. Nodding first at Sapphire and then at Coil, they say, “Hey, thanks.”

Sapphire smirks and nods back, but Coil is furious. “If you two want to make futile attempts at murdering each other,” he seethes, “do it on your own time!”

Dare gives Coil an unimpressed look. “You’ve obviously never seen a fight before if you thought that was going to lead to murder.” They point at him. “But keep talking down to me like that and you’ll get a chance to throw down too.”

Gazing between Coil and Dare in concern, Sapphire says, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I’ve already got one angry teammate restrained. I could grapple both of them at the same time, but they’re the zapping type.”

“Let go of me already!” Felicity shouts. She struggles a tiny bit to emphasise her point, but it’s obviously in vain.

“Do you mean to tell me,” Coil says softly, glowering at Sapphire, “you would rather pick their side?”

She looks confused. “I’m not picking sides?”

“Oh, that must have been my mistake,” he says, his tone dripping with sarcastic politeness. “There is no possible way that the discussion of a team member’s immobilisation between two individuals entails the exclusion of the discussed team member. But should you decide that you will join forces with them, know that I will not shy away from any resulting conflict.”

Dagger raises a hand, as if to ask permission to speak, but nobody notices the action until he does actually speak. “Could we… refrain from attacking each other?” Under the combined stares of Coil and Dare, he falters and ducks his head somewhat, but he gathers a tiny amount of courage and quietly adds, “Please?”

Sapphire nods. “Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to get very far like this.”

Dare scoffs. “I’m all for working together as a team. But I’m not taking any shit from those two.”

“Perhaps you lack the ability to objectively assess a situation,” Coil remarks, somewhat more composed than before. “You first attacked Felicity, and it is also you who consistently and flagrantly shows a disregard for the expectations of your fellow team members. Do not act as if you have had the cohesion of the group in mind all along.”

They groan. “That’s rich. All you care about is bossing us around like you were elected leader. Strutting around in your fancy suit and tie, barking orders, thinking you’re smarter than everyone else. Whatever status and money and shit you might’ve had in life, you don’t have here. Grow up.”

Coil shakes his head. “I see there is no reasoning with you. Nevertheless, as you have now mentioned it, perhaps we would do well to elect a leader. Five individuals doing whatever they personally deem fit has clearly only resulted in discord and violence. I nominate myself, as I do, in fact, have actual experience in leadership and organisation. You may not wish to admit it, if you even remember at this point, but it is my guidance that resulted in the five of us being united. And I have had absolutely no problems when interacting with either Dagger or Sapphire. Feel free to ask them if they have simply been following my every command.” He looks between Dagger and Sapphire and then back at Dare.

“Well?” Dare asks.

“Get the fuck off me already!” Felicity shouts.

“He does come off as a bit bossy,” Sapphire admits, looking down at Felicity and only slightly adjusting her hold, “but he did get the five of us together. Credit where it’s due.”

“Didn’t you specifically find us?” Dare asks Dagger.

He grimaces. “That is true, but Mister Coil gave me very clear instructions on how to do it and how to report back after I found someone. He wanted to ensure we did not needlessly stray too far apart.”

“So you two are happy to follow his orders if he starts being more domineering? Wouldn’t you rather that we agree as a group on what to do?”

Coil scoffs. “Your ostensible interest in democracy is merely a thinly veiled attempt at maintaining anarchy. You have a dislike for authority that you cannot unlearn even now. It is simple: there are those who lead and those who follow. Not in all possible situations, of course. But right now, there are three individuals who have cooperated well, and then there are two individuals who have done nothing but argue and tantrum. Since you are disinclined to take on a leadership position yourself, I suggest you concede defeat.”

“Fine!” Felicity calls out. “You wanna be leader so badly? Tell her to let me go and prove you know how to keep that asshole from attacking me again.”

“Oh, but it is a simple matter,” Coil says condescendingly. “Walk on opposite sides of the rest of us and you will have the least possible amount of interaction. Could you two perhaps agree on that?”

Dare rolls their eyes. “Sure, whatever.”

Felicity groans. She then hotly says, “I get to walk on the right.”

“As you wish. Sapphire, thank you for steadfast handling of the situation. I think Felicity and Dare will behave now.”

Sapphire releases Felicity and steps back. “I sure hope so.”

Felicity practically leaps away at the first opportunity, first glaring venom at Sapphire, then Coil, and finally Dare. She stalks away past Coil, only too eager to put as much distance between her and what might amount to her rival.

“Now that we have all reached an agreement,” Coil says sweetly, “young Dagger, would you be as kind as to resume scouting the area for us? Due east, as it were, remains as our best direction for the time being.”

Dagger nods. “Of course.” He leaps onto the roofs to his right, relieved to be on his own to some degree again. He never got the impression that that other participants would be this hot-tempered. He was actually looking forward to meeting some of the more tranquil ones, like Lotus or Tiara. He felt like he had some connection with them, but so far, only Sapphire really feels like she wants to try her best and work together.

It's 1056 words!


Spoiler! :
When I was seventeen, and my mom had long since abandoned the house for a new one, and all the old neighbors had moved away, the only thing that remained constant in my old neighborhood was the tree. It stood, towering, swaying, splitting two yards. I drove down that road sometimes, just wanting to see the house, to see her. I’d park across the street and roll down the car window, but only a little—never enough that she might reach through and touch me. Never enough that she might blow my brains up.

And I’d sit with my window rolled down, the car off, the only movement a faint breeze that drifted occasionally. I’d stare at the tree, and I’d watch her, watch those memories; I’d replay those scenes in my head, jumping in puddles and climbing the tree, arguing that I’d choose a gun, I’d always choose a gun, and maybe then it wasn’t because it was guaranteed to kill, but I wonder now if it was, because it’s effective, and it’s the most dangerous, and maybe I just—but Dessie hadn’t seemed worried about that. She’d only been angry I hadn’t been more creative. I should’ve chosen a sword, or a lightsaber, she’d argued, swinging through the branches and pulling herself up higher and higher with ease, giggling, hair crazed and wild, eyes bright and shining, and then a snap. And everything had gone still. That moment where she lay on the ground, quiet. The next one, when she cried out in pain. The run to the front door, telling her mom, the ambulance, the hospital visit, the mouthfuls of chocolate, the boom—I just blew your brains up.

And maybe she did. But she was a child, and I can’t blame that on her anyway, and I was still a child, just seventeen, and I couldn’t think of that.

I should’ve been thinking about girls. I should’ve been thinking about grades, or college. But when I drove down my old street—our old street—I wasn’t thinking about any of that. I wasn’t thinking about the next smoke when I rolled down that window and stared at that big tree, that beautiful, enormous, living tree.

I guess I lied. I was thinking about girls. Girl. I was thinking about her.

I always was. I always am.

And I would stare at that tree, and that memory, strikes of violet lightning, would shock me, electrocution circulating behind my eyes, lighting them aflame, and it was like I could see her again. Like I could see her in front of me, just a few yards away, climbing that tree. Talking to me. Swinging back and forth and causing chaos, completely free. And maybe she wasn’t in front of me; maybe she was just in my mind. But it felt the same. It feels the same.

And I say ‘when I was seventeen’ because I think that that’s around the time I started doing that, but maybe it wasn’t, maybe I started when I was sixteen, or fifteen, or maybe I started it when I was eight, when she was eight, when we were both eight, and it just never stopped, it never ended, and in that small way, she was still there. But when I was seventeen is the right place to start anyway, because that’s when the accident happened.

I wasn’t there; I wasn’t watching. But I went later that day, not because I knew anything, not to see it: just to see her. But when I arrived, I knew something was wrong, because black skid marks swerved on the road, led up the sidewalk, across those beautiful, long roots, the ones that split the sidewalk and drew our lives together, and up to—

The wreckage wasn’t there anymore. But one of the neighbors was, one of the kind ones, the one who had defended me when another neighbor had wanted to call the cops, one who had been there when I was a kid, distant, but there, and who knew me, even if I didn’t really know them. And the neighbor came up to me, and he told me what happened. That there was a wreck. That the tree had been hit. Somebody swerving, not paying attention maybe, or a new learner, someone going too fast on a neighborhood road.

There’d been a boy in the road, the neighbor told me, or maybe it had been a girl, but there weren’t any girls living in the neighborhood right now, so it was probably a little boy, even though the driver swore the kid had long hair. They were small, hadn’t been paying attention. The driver had swerved to avoid, and had gone full-speed into the tree. It had totaled the car. It was like nothing I’d ever seen, he was sure of it, just such a terrible, terrible sight, that wreck, and one of the worst he’d seen too, which was saying something, because he’d seen pictures from the car crash his aunt had gotten hospitalized for, and that one had three cars, and this one only had one car—one car and a tree.

He told me nobody knew for certain who the child was, but that the most important thing was that they were safe; and then he fell quiet, that sort of quiet when someone realizes they said something they think they shouldn’t have, something that will call someone else out, and then he said quickly, “Not that you wouldn’t know that, of course.” And then he said he had dinner in the oven, and he had better go check on it. And he left me alone.

I sat for longer than usual that day, staring at the tree. And at first I didn’t see Dessie; at first, I thought she wasn’t there anymore. But there she was, sitting on one of the branches, swinging her legs and leaning against the trunk, looking somber as she stared at the ground below. And then she raised her eyes, and they connected with me, and it was like lightning split me in two, because suddenly I understood, and suddenly I felt victorious, completely elated, and I slammed my hand on the dashboard, and then I began crying.

Because she’d won. She’d won.

She wasn’t there anymore. She wouldn’t be anywhere anymore. But in that tree, just a little bit of her stayed safe. Just a little piece of her would forever stay there in my memory, swinging on those branches, that wild grin on her face. That tree, the one tree that held those memories, that shimmered purple in the dawn, had remained untouched. Not a scratch. And somehow, that little miracle, just that small piece, overwhelmed me, consumed me completely, and I sobbed in the car, my head in my hands, and I hugged myself, and I realized I was trembling, and her voice, her high, clear, voice, the one that would never age, that would never get older, that would never mature to be a mother or a teacher or an adventurer or a—and it rang in my head, so calm, so present.

And even now, I still can’t quite remember what she was saying. Maybe it was some old, faded memory, one covered in cobwebs, the colors bleeding away to gray, one that the rest of my mind had forgotten, maybe even chosen to forget.

1227 words


Chapter 7: Regulus, Part 4, covered in stickers, and damn you're old.

1,024 words (30,052 total), 20 lines, and 49 lines (2,243 total), respectively.

If you run now, you will be running the rest of your life.
— Reborn