This post has the following content warnings:
Oct 22, 2021 5:06 AM
you can't take my sis from me
Next Post »
« Previous Post
Permalink

River Tam has been away from home for nearly four years, now. Her seventeenth birthday passed unremarked by their parents, who had at least made something resembling a nod to their daughter on her fourteenth and fifteenth. (She's in good hands, and they're loyal citizens. Worrying would be gauche, especially when their lives have gotten quite lucky ever since they signed their youngest daughter over to the government's academy).

She sent her older sister a letter on her own birthday, though - and on Ellie's birthday, too, and one responding to Ellie's letter to her. 

The food is still pretty boring here. Wish they'd let me put ghost pepper on it. Do you remember that - street stall I think it was, we split the curry, you turned bright red... Wish they had food like that here.

(Their parents have never let them eat street food.)

Have mom and dad let you get a puppy, yet? If they do, you should name her after me, so I can bite you in spirit.

(River had briefly wanted a puppy at six, but - the thing she'd spent most of her time bothering their parents for was a kitten.)

(Those aren't the only things wrong. It's been four years of slightly off - unverifiably wrong - memories and references, and woven through it...)

Do you remember when we went ice skating, that one time at great-grandma's? Do you think her house is still there? I'd like to go back, sometimes. It was a lot of fun. 

(River had fallen in, and her older sister had saved her life. River hadn't gone near water again for five years, and had still been avoiding ice when her sister last saw her.)

 

The probable location of the government academy is in the Herald system, in the same cluster as Ellie's school - two hops away, through wormholes placed conveniently closely to the planets. It's a quiet place, more tightly guarded than any prison Ellie has ever seen. It's plain. Sterile. Boring, but - threatening in its simplicity. Brutalism's descendant, grown up into a bully.

The security is thorough. 

Ellie is smart, though, and important people aren't questioned quite as much, and, well. There are quite a lot of planets containing quite a lot of politicians, some of them involved in projects like this. Some of them pretty similar in appearance to Ellie.

Total: 436
Posts Per Page:
Permalink

The trick is, once you're inside, walk like you own the place. That plus some judiciously forged documents will get you pretty far.

All the way to where River's room should be, even.

Permalink

The doors on the hall - well spaced apart, never two across from each other - are made of a cool, smooth plastic pretending to be glass, set firmly into their frames. They're opaque, frosted, no indication of whether there's a light on inside or any inhabitants. No labels on the doors. No consistency, even, to the internal layout. No maps for emergency evacuation. There's a keypad hidden in the wall by each door - Ellie had to forge quite a bit more than just documents to get a physical key, a password, and then her biometrics into the system without raising any flags. The biometric scanners can detect signs of nervousness, she was warned. They won't let anyone who doesn't seem perfectly calm, sober, and alert through. 

The hallways are dim, lights behind thick shatterproof glass, with frequent doors of the same material as the room doors requiring her to scan through. She's seen one of the rooms checked, in passing - the door can be turned until transparent, one way glass. They're incredibly, harshly bright inside, and the workers examining them wear mirrored glasses. (She didn't see or hear the room's occupant.) There's no cameras, though. The scanners on the doors report access, but on a randomized delay - usually short, but long enough to be very strange for what's clearly a high security facility. 

Ellie hears nothing but the tap of her own boots, the beating of her own heart, when she isn't near the staff, and what little noise there is doesn't echo like it should. She hasn't seen a single vent, and the air feels stale, thin.

(The people who helped her in profess no knowledge of what's going on in here. It's a black box, and so far anyone who's gotten in has just vanished. They didn't tell her much at all, because of that. No sense in giving a dead woman walking the potential to leak information, is there? But a desperate sister is convenient enough, and if Ellie survives, they have indicated they'd appreciate information.)

 

Here's River's room, indistinguishable from the others. Ellie knows it only because she has been counting turns and doors. The keypad is in the same location as the rest have been, and - hopefully - the system will keep assuming Ellie belongs here. 

(She knows it because it feels right, like a familiar whisper, a gut instinct that led her along the tenuous chain all the way here. She knows it the same odd way River's letters leapt out at her in a code no computer could break. It whispers help.)

Permalink

She slides the keycard through the scanner, punches in the code-

-takes a moment to steady her breath, still her heart-

-places her palm on the scanner.

Permalink

The door goes transparent. 

And in the blinding white room - 

Ellie's little sister, strapped into a chair, blindfolded, a mask over her mouth - head turned towards Ellie as much as she can with the chair facing sideways from the door. Her body language feels happy, though. Something relieved in the line of her shoulders.

Ellie's contacts didn't know how to get the 'students' out of the rooms, once you get this far. Ellie can tell, though - it feels obvious, which new sequence will open the door.

Permalink

She can't react just yet because she still needs to fool the scanners.

Ellie impatiently inputs the code to open the door.

Permalink

It slides open. 

There's a nicely obvious catch on the straps, tucked away behind the chair. River's tense. 

Permalink

"River, it's me," she says, striding quickly into the room and around the chair. "I got your letters." She releases the catch for the straps, fiddles with the gag, the blindfold.

Permalink

They come off.

"Knew you would," River mutters, voice cracking, expression distant and hazy, almost stunned. "You always will."

Permalink

"Always." She moves around to the front of the chair. "Always, always. Can you stand?"

Permalink

"...Maybe. Is fuzzy. Stand - we'll stand - " She squints. "...Wrong planet, where we're standing."

"We need to - leave, don't we?"

Permalink

She is going to come back with explosives and tear this building down. She is going to hunt down everyone involved and kill them slowly, with a knife.

"Yeah, River. We need to leave. Here, take my hand."

Permalink

She takes Ellie's hand. 

"A sniper rifle will work better than a knife," she tells her sister, solemnly. "They'll be dangerous to get close to."

Permalink

-she didn't say that out loud, she thought-

Permalink

"But I want to see them bleed." She pulls River up, hugs her close.

"I'm sorry I didn't come sooner."

Permalink

Snuggle. 

"It doesn't work sooner," she says, sounding exhausted. "I don't know enough, sooner." She turns her head into Ellie's shoulder, crying. 

Permalink

Ellie pats the back of her head. "Shh, shh. I'm going to get you out of here now, okay?"

Permalink

"Yeah. Okay."

Permalink

"All right. Let's go." Ellie will mostly carry River out, if she needs it.

Permalink

River needs only a little help walking. 

- And she starts issuing instructions to Ellie, though they're sometimes garbled. Right here. Wait here. Left - walk quickly...

Permalink

Ellie will trust her sister's guidance.

Permalink

They seem to be passing very near people a lot, especially towards the end - River drags them through a kitchen in a brief quiet spell between people, someone coincidentally facing away - 

And, finally, a fire door. 

"It screams," River whispers. "But quietly. But there's no people. We can run."

Permalink

"Stay close." Open the door, and out.

Permalink

She clings to Ellie, giving rapid - but increasingly fragmented - directions, heading towards a part of the city that's less well monitored - and there's a commotion behind them, someone yelling -

Permalink

"Time to run now. Ready?"

Permalink

"Ready," she says, a bit wavery.

Total: 436
Posts Per Page: