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May 29, 2022 5:38 AM
bliss stage girls
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Dramatis Personae:


- Savitree Sirikhan, mad scientist who reverse-engineered mechs and keeps doing Experimentation with the pilots (17/24)

- Daniela Lowman, her girlfriend. Ops specialist who runs the day-to-day stuff, insofar as that's separate from the mad science (17/24)

- Hitomi Inoue, who reacted to the world ending by learning pharmacology about it; the local doctor, the closest thing they've got to a politician, and the only person here who has ever heard of research ethics (15/22)

- Joan Kramer, who reacted to the world ending by fucking off to the mountains and not coming back until she was starting to run out of bullets (17/24)

- Rin Yoshida, blissed (16/??)

- Val, ex-soldier (15/22)

- Ayako Yoshida, pilot who takes her responsibilities extremely seriously (8/15)

- Percy May, who is really too young to be a mom friend and yet (7/14)

- Inaaya Sedna, pilot who barely remembers the world that was and isn't sure what she thinks of the world yet to come (7/14)

 

This thread works in a somewhat unusual way, where instead of each tag following chronologically and causally from the one before it, this is just a bunch of snippets of AU strung together in a fairly nonsensical order. This is mostly a hack for how I've noticed that I can write longtags much more easily than other fiction. Make of it what you will. 

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> t minus ten minutes.

"Right. Starting up. Capacity double checks, first turn."

> 100%

"Capacity double checks, second turn."

> stop and restart

"Why, what are they at?"

> 99.97% but they need to be at 100

"Daniela, I really don't think point-oh-three percent capacity is going to be what makes or breaks this." 

> they need to be at 100. restart.

"...Okay. From the beginning. Starting up, capacity double checks, first turn."

 

After two more run-throughs it's t minus two minutes and even Daniela admits that they probably don't have time for a third relaunch so Inaaya will just have to launch with Sedna's engines at only 99.98% spin. Everything else is perfect, though, so Daniela goes and checks on Ayako and how Callisto's electrotoxin capacity is doing, and Joan takes her place at the anchor's headset. "Hey."

"Hey," Inaaya says, running her hands over switches and buttons she won't use when she's actually piloting but which form beneath her fingers during launch. "Did Daniela seem like she was more nervous about this one than usual to you or was it just me?"

"Not just you but you know Daniela."

"Still, it's evidence. —don't tell me it's worse if I freak out, I know that and evaluating evidence isn't freaking out—"

"Chickadee?"

"—yeah?"

"I wasn't going to."

"Oh," and that's all Inaaya has time to say before it's t minus thirty seconds and the countdown begins.

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It takes a few years for Percy to leave her hometown, when the world ends. 

Even once the dying off properly starts, once people's kitchens run out of nonperishable food and the other seven-year-olds start learning why no you can't just run off to the park and hunt deer like in My Side of the Mountain, she does alright for herself. There's a group of teenagers from the church down the road who have made it their mission to make sure every kid they can find is fed and as healthy as possible, and both of the gangs that sprung up in the immediate aftermath decided she was off-limits because she was so young in the early days and by the time she's eight she's basically grandfathered in as the exception to the rule, the one kid who both can and does turn up at either group's meals and be welcomed there.

So she keeps her home base, and when she's hungry she walks to the church for a handout from a stressed-out sixteen-year-old or sits in on Crow or Lion gang meetings and trades hugs and a helpful ear and whatever knowledge she's picked up from library books for a chance to eat their snacks, and she doesn't try anything obviously stupid like deer hunting. By the time she's ten she's the only kid her age or younger around.

She grows up her whole neighborhood's little sister, welcome in every clubhouse, a dozen eyes watching out for her. And when an alien drone takes out half the neighborhood, the Crows and the Lions and the teenagers from the church all three--

Percy takes a week to stay in place and grieve, and another two days to remember what happened the first time she lost everyone, and she gets moving just like she did then.

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"Have you thought about the thing I said?" Joan says, when they're next alone.

It's late enough that they've finished up everything they're supposed to be doing that day. They haven't needed to launch in two weeks. Objectively speaking Joan picked the perfect time to bring it up. Inaaya still isn't sure what to say.

"...yeah," Inaaya says, which is true, she has, and in fact since Joan brought up the subject she's had a hard time thinking about anything else. "I'm... worried about it."

"Mm?"

It's a quiet evening. No music from Ayako's room down the hall, and Val is either out or busy with things that aren't talking. Inaaya sits crosslegged on the bed she and Joan share, holding a hairbrush she isn't using.

She takes a deep breath. "I'm— worried about promising I'm going to do something important with you and then not being able to, and I'm worried about having a kid with you and then missing most of their childhood, and I'm worried about what would happen to you if we got halfway through the pregnancy or six months into having a newborn, and then I blissed, and it was just you and this baby who you wanted to raise with me except I wasn't there. And— I'm worried that you're going to be expecting this child to be a piece of me, in case I die or bliss, and— they're not, they're going to be half you and half Daniela, if I'm not there and don't know them then there isn't going to be any me there, and I don't know if that’s actually what you want—"

"Oh god," Joan says, "not while you're still piloting, christ, that would be a terrible idea."

"—oh."

Just like that all her momentum vanishes and Inaaya's left sitting there, awkward and tangle-limbed on their bed with her hair loose around her shoulders.

"But," Joan continues, "if you make it to eighteen, and you don't die or bliss before then, and you get to put piloting down— I would like to have a family with you."

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Some people respond to the end of the world by panicking, or praying. Some stockpile ammunition; others canned food.

Some people go around their neighborhoods looking for kids too young to know what's going on or be able to take care of themselves at all, or try to organize friends and acquaintances into something that might be a society if any of them had any idea how to grow anything.

Some people decide now is the time to carry out their half-baked zombie apocalypse plans and try to raid the guard armory, as if that'll do them any good, or loot game stores, even though a video game console might as well be a brick now that the electricity is down.

Some people think if they just wait the grown ups will wake up again and everything will fix itself, and they'll have power and internet and everything back, as long as they just follow the rules so they don't get arrested once everything's over.

Savitree Sirikhan (seventeen years old, one month younger than the cutoff to stay awake and alive, almost done with undergrad) and Daniela Lowman (two months younger than her) break into the City Hall building to try to figure out where the municipal natural gas main is and turn it off before something explodes. This winds up being a scavenger hunt that takes them through three government buildings and two people's houses but, you know, they get the job done.

It's not like they have any other option, than to get the job done. It's not like there's anyone for them to rely on but each other at this point. It would be nice if there was, but 'it would be nice' is not how anything works anymore.

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> first round of adjustments

> tell me if it feels weird

"I'm in the pilot's chair. It always feels weird."

> okay well tell me if it feels weird relative to how piloting always feels

"It's... you know the thing where there's something loud enough you can feel it in your chest? It's like that, but the color pink."

> right ok. it shouldnt be doing that

> dialed down the volume some, that better?

"Thaaaaat made it worse. Or not worse, I guess, but more."

> volume back up. hows the etxn

"Same as always."

> still same as always?

"No."

> comfortable? un?

"...hard to tell. It— god this isn't going to make any sense."

> itd be concerning if it did

"Right. Uh, the electrotoxin feels like what I imagine making out with a battery would feel like if I was a cartoon character."

> you were right that didnt make any sense. thank you

"Is the testing done now."

> nope

> any complaints so far

"No."

> remember how i promised i wasnt going to take actions about your complaints including telling hitomi unless i sincerely thought it would be good for the project as a whole

> and you didnt need to worry about which things to tell me because i wasnt going to compromise anything for you regardless

"...yeah."

> repeat: any complaints so far

"It's, um. It's kind of stupid. The new interface is way less saturated and I can still see the difference between the buttons but it's harder? ...also there isn't anywhere to put a water bottle anymore."

> got it

> okay should just be one more adjustment

> how is it now

"....oh. Oh wow."

> that a good wow or a bad wow

"Good wow. I feel like I can run a million miles."

> coolcool

> testing done now. have fun being human again

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One of these days she is going to put her foot down about experimenting on the pilots. If not on Pluto, who's older than Hitomi was when the bliss hit, than at least on Ayako, who's barely thirteen.

Hitomi's going to. One of these days. Really, honest, she is. It's just—

It's just that, you know, Savitree isn't wrong, that letting the drones run rampant isn't working. It's just that Ayako, who hasn't cried since Rin blissed, calls this place home, and if Hitomi gets kicked out she either leaves Ayako behind (unacceptable) or pulls her away from the only place either of them have been safe since the world ended. It's just that everyone here would be worse off if they didn't have someone who knew her way around a pharmacy, and that might be enough to counterbalance tiny Ayako in the pilot's seat of her mech, hooked up to IV tubes of what looks like pink glitter gel pen fluid.

It's just that Hitomi is exhausted, and has been exhausted for five years, and it turns out that there is a limited extent to which she can rewire her whole personality to run on loving her surrogate little sister and the satisfaction of a job well done. It's just that Rin's gone, and maybe they'd been a little unhealthily codependent or maybe this is just a normal way to feel when your girlfriend gets in a robot and falls asleep and doesn't wake up and then your not-quite-sister gets in the very same robot.

And she'd known she wasn't a very good person, she'd known since approximately month two that she was fine with letting other kids die because they weren't her people and you only get to care about so many things before it kills you— but there's a difference, or at least Hitomi feels like there's a difference, between that and letting someone pump a twelve-year-old full of electrotoxin so she can pilot a death robot.

They're rebuilding, she tells herself, they're rebuilding, they'll fight the drones off and have space and time to build a world again, and then they'll all have more slack and she can say no, seriously, Sirikhan, you have got to stop doing mad science to kids.

(She's not thinking about what kind of world they're going to build that way. Rin was always big on not asking questions you know you won't want the answers to.)

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Once upon a time, a teenage girl lived in South Dakota and dreamed about lesbian bars in San Francisco.

 

 

 

Essentially no one is as prepared for the end of the world as they think they are, with the exception of the people who think they'd die within a month, who are generally pretty much right.

Joan is not an exception to that rule. Some people have zombie apocalypse plans, and those are useless except when they're worse than useless, but Joan didn't even have those. What she had was a "make as much money as I can before I turn eighteen and then get the fuck out of South Dakota" plan, which is at least not worse than useless like the idiots who think you can live off bullets and gasoline— turns out gasoline degrades to the point of uselessness in about three to six months, which they'd have known if they had worked in a mechanic's shop, which Joan did and they did not— but it's pretty goddamn useless.

She at least knows how to build stuff, and she knows how to take care of a gun, and she knows how to hunt. That leaves her better off than a lot of people, not everyone but a lot of people. It leaves her with options after that first winter, when she and the other teenagers who'd taken refuge from the snow at a farm get to springtime and realize that oh, fuck, you can't actually get seeds out of the plants people plant anymore, and their long-term strategy is in fact extremely fucked. It means she makes it to year three, when the drones show up to remind the whole world that failing infrastructure isn't their biggest problem anymore, and learning how to eat without grocery stores and cars doesn't mean you're fine for the long haul.

So Joan moves around a lot, as settlements get destroyed by drones or mutiny or nervous breakdowns or chronic wasting disease or bad luck, and she keeps to herself. Befriends the cats, and not the humans, because the cats will tell her when there's a drone nearby and she needs to hide on the order of now. And she's not kidding herself about what she'll find if she goes for what used to be cities, but she still moves west, because once upon a time a teenage girl lived in South Dakota and dreamed about lesbian bars in San Francisco. It feels about as far off as a fairy tale, now.

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