Awkward Silences and Uncomfortable Reunions
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Up on the stairwell between Floors -1 and 0, two adventurers trudged up the steps for the last time in forever.

One was a gorilla with a helmet, wearing a large jacket that seemed to almost rip every time he moved from step to step. He wore a worn pair of blue jeans along with it, which he always insisted on using since they’d left Greattown. His face was drawn, old, aged, though you wouldn’t be able to see it through the glass of his helmet.

Behind him, a girl walked silently- once eight, then eleven, and now fourteen. She’d been the gorilla’s ward for six whole years- and had many experiences between them. Around her she wore a simple red hoodie, hiding her bright blonde hair from any who wanted to peek in on the pair. A small battery-operated light (she called it a lantern) was pinned to her hoodie. One of the sleeves, the right, was empty- a reminder of times long past and memories that were painful to remember.

She looked up at her guardian, the gorilla (she’d once called him a monkey) who’d guarded her so faithfully for six whole years.

They hadn’t spoken in a few days. Not directly, anyways. When it came to times like these, he would always just sign her to do what he needed her to do- scavenging, cleaning, eating.

Her stomach rumbled. They’d gotten by on scavenging for the past three years, when in the three years before that, they ate like kings- on cheese balls, mostly; but cheese balls were divine.

Keyword on were. Siggy thought to herself.

She remembered a time when they used to talk a lot. Not anymore, though.

But hey, she could still try.

“Hey, Robo?” She said.

“What?” Robo said, his voice level.

She smiled to herself. He’s less grumpy now. Good.

“I’m hungry. You got any of the goods in your pocket?”

Robo stopped, then looked back at her. After six years, she could read his once-unreadable body language, which served in place of his lack of facial expressions. This, she thought, meant that he had some.

Siggy smiled wider. She put out her good hand, cupping it in an effort to beg for some food from him. “Pleeeeaaaase?”

Robo sighed. “Floor 0 is still a ways away, kiddo.” He paused, looking at her as if he was considering something. “But…”

She put her finger up. “Or… you could give me a chance just this one time and let me heqat a feast for us.”

Robo’s body language turned serious. “And what would you summon? Cheese balls?”

Siggy’s eyes fell just a little bit at the mention of her once-favorite snack. “Ch-cheese balls?” She scoffed. “No, but I mean…”

“No.” He said firmly. “No magic.”

Siggy did a mock-sigh. “Worth a try.” She looked up at him hopefully. “But you got good stuff in your pack, right? That last cafeteria had some killer chocolate in there.”

Robo looked at her again. “Oh damnit, Sigg-“

She put a finger up in the air in a mock imitation of Robo. She made her voice just a tiny bit deeper. “Arup! No, Siggy, you can’t have chocolate. It’ll rot your beautiful face and your brilliant mind. Also, you can’t swear, but I can, just like I did six years ago!”

Robo scoffed again. His tone became just a little bit lighter. “Pssh, ‘beautiful face and brilliant mind’. As if I ever said that.”

“You did!” Siggy said, chuckling. “Remember Chancey?”

Robo’s body language lightened up as well. “Heh, Chancey. That boy had a big crush on ya, if I remember correctly.” He turned around, and started continuing up the stairs again. “Was it love at first sight?”

Siggy’s eyes widened as she parodied being offended. “Woah, look at the big kahoneys on this boy! ‘Love at first sight’! Dude, you gotta stop being all romantic and stuff. Chancey liked me, that’s all.”

“Liked you? Damn, you sound almost as nersisistec as you look.”

Siggy chuckled. “Nersisistec! That’s a really silly word. What does it mean?”

“Damn if I know!” Robo said jokingly. “As if the Library folks said anything ‘bout what they said.”

“Crap, remember when we were leaving the Library? You absolutely were smitten by Ulman, weren’t you?”

Smitten?” Robo said in the most theatrically incredulous way possible. “I wasn’t smitten!

“Yes, you were! And back up in the almighty Greattown, with Alina, you were so-“

Robo immediately stopped. “Hey.” His tone was grave again.

Siggy instantly paused as he did. “What? Was it something I said?”

“Just…” He sighed. “Don’t mention that, yeah?”

He continued up. Siggy followed.

The conversation now thoroughly dead, the silence continued.

It was deafening.

And after I got him to open up again, Siggy thought. Damnit, this mouth.

Silence continued for the next few minutes.

“I…” Robo started. “I’m sorry that I shut you down. Immediately.”

Siggy made an attempt at smiling as she shook her head. “No, it’s alright. I get it. Because of what happened there, right?”

Robo sighed. He didn’t respond.

Siggy smiled sadly to herself. “You still haven’t told me what happened.”

“It isn’t worth discussing, Sigg.”

“No, I understand, but just…” She sighed again. “I wanna know what happened to… Lana. And Alina. And Lana’s baby.”

“You’ll be meeting them soon, or they’re dead, no doubt about either.”

Siggy blinked. “M-meeting them?”

Robo looked up, and Siggy followed his gaze.

On the wall, painted in faded black, was a number. One large 0.

“We’re coming up on Floor 0 in a bit. Everyone from Greattown’s probably there already.”

“H-how do you know all this?”

Robo sighed. He listened for something in the air, then pointed up. “From her.“

It was then that they heard steps from above them.

What should we do? Siggy mouthed to Robo.

He turned to her and shook his head. Nothing.

“Heya, strangers.” A familiar voice said, getting closer and closer as she came down the stairs. Her footsteps were heavy, as if she was wearing boots.

“Wh-who’s there?” Siggy said, her voice trembling.

Robo didn’t look at her, and leaned on the railing instead, crossing his arms.

“It’s me,” The voice said, turning the corner.

Then, in the dim light of Siggy’s lantern, she saw her.

Tall, muscular, blonde hair falling just short of her shoulders. She wore grey military fatigues- a contrast to the last time they’d met. On her face, she wore an easy smile, a smile now worn with time and a large heaping of stress.

“Alina…?” Siggy said, not being able to believe that she was in front of her.

“You two are noisy like the Fourth o’ July.” She chuckled, though there was something missing. “Remember when I said that?”

“B-but…” She looked to Robo. “Robo…?”

“Remember when I was gone for a day, a week ago?” Robo said sullenly. “Well, I found her scavenging for food in one of the cafeterias. We talked.”

Alina continued down the stairs with a smile on her face, and at once Siggy took a step back.

Her voice was trembling. “I… I’m sorry for last time, Alina.”

Alina crossed her arms. “It’s alright. Me and Robo discussed it.” She chuckled. “Over gunpoint, I’d like to mention.” She chuckled again. “You don’t need to-“

Without any warning, Siggy charged forward at her, wrapping her arms around Alina.

“I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

Alina patted her on the head. “You’re a big girl right now, aren’t you? Last time we met, you were half my height. Now, you’re almost up to my ears.”

“Shut up.” Siggy said, hugging her even tighter. “I’m just really, really sorry.”

Alina looked to Robo, then back down at Siggy. “What do you remember? What are you sorry about?”

Siggy wouldn’t let go. “Betraying your trust. Blowing up Lana’s house. Making you chase us.”

Alina bit her lip. “Ah.”

“I’m sorry for all of it.” Siggy said, nuzzling her face into Alina’s shoulder.

“There’s better people to say sorry to, Sigg.” Alina said, taking Siggy by the shoulders and gently pushing her away. “You’ll be getting that chance now.” She looked to Robo. “Right, Robe?”

Robo silently nodded.

“See?” Alina said, smiling. “You’ll be alright.”

She looked up. “Floor 0’s just a few flights from here. You can walk that far?”

Siggy wiped her tears, smiling as she did. “Of course I can. I’ve been walking flights since I was 8.”

Alina laughed. “I sometimes forget that you grew up here, kid.”

“I’m used to it.” Siggy said, grinning back at her.

Alina held Siggy’s hand as she started up the stairs, with Robo silently trailing behind.

They went up one flight silently.

Then two.

All the while, Siggy’s thoughts were racing. What if Lana doesn’t forgive me? What if I hurt her? She said that I was… She sighed. …but I’m not what she says I am. I’m sure it’ll be alright.

Alina looked back at her. “You alright, kid? You seem to be deep in thought.”

Siggy shook her head. “I’m alright, ‘Lina. I’m just… thinking.”

They went by another flight. Up above them, Siggy could already see the door that would lead to Floor 0.

“Well, don’t. It’ll be alright, don’t worry. It’s not as if everyone knows what you look like- you’ll be fine.”

Siggy laughed. “It’s like you’re talking to a child.”

Alina smiled sadly.

“In many ways…” Her face was hidden from view. “I am.”

Her tone seemed sad, now. Siggy didn’t push it any further.

Floor 0 neared now.

Her last few steps seemed to be rife with anticipation. Here was the thing that she’d aimed towards all her life in the Site, from the time she woke up… up until now.

She looked at Alina, and back at Robo. Both had their faces hidden from view- Alina by position, Robo by darkness. She couldn’t tell what they were thinking.

They were on the last few steps, now.

Alina stopped. “You ready, kid?”

Siggy nodded, smiling. “Of course. I’ve been ready for this for the past six years.”

She took one step.

“Ready or not,”

She took another.

“Here we come.”

With a terrifying step, they finally set foot on the landing of Floor 0.

Siggy released her breath. She didn’t even know that she was holding it.

She was lost for words. “I-“

Alina stretched out her arms. “Welcome to Floor 0, kid. Home to the Front, my people, and our ticket outta here.”

She made her way to the door. She looked back at her, grinning.

“Don’t worry about it, hey? I’m sure it’ll be alright.”

“It’s just that, Alina-“

Before she could continue, Alina opened the door to Floor 0, opening Siggy’s life to the last chapter of its journey.

On the other side of the doorway, what Siggy could see was limited, but no less expansive. Unlike all the other floors, which were tiny and claustrophobic, or Floor -12, which was cavernous and epic in its size, Floor 0 seemed to stretch widely in both directions- but compared to -12, the ceiling was just several meters taller than what was normal. All around it, people were gathered into camps situated around stoves and campfires, cooking a variety of things with books, paper, and a bit of wood as fuel. For the first time since Greattown, Siggy smelled warm food- the ever-present stews, the smell of boiling noodles, the aroma of cooking canned fish. People ran to and fro from one place to another, rushing from this place and that, sheaves of paper in their hands.

Amazingly, far ahead, Siggy could see the glow of lightbulbs- illuminating the section further forward. Though she was too distant from it to see it, she could distinguish the grey fatigues of what must have been soldiers, guns held in the air. She noted that some were carried on stretchers by other soldiers, moaning and screaming, though from here she could barely hear them. As she watched, she heard the nearly inaudible sound of staccato gunfire, denoting just what this little camp truly was.

“Welcome to the Front, Siggy.” Alina said proudly. “The camp where the people of Greattown fight every day to get out.”

She continued through the door, and on either side of them, people raised their hands in a show of solidarity and recognition.

“Welcome back, Alina!” They all shouted.

Alina raised her fist. “I feel welcomed, you bozos!”

At that, everyone cheered, then went back to their chatter, talking about a variety of things that only they could've known about.

Siggy was speechless.

“Awfully popular ‘round here, are you?” Robo said, chuckling. It was the first thing he’d said in 20 minutes. “After what ya told me, you gave the impression that you were in deep shit.”

Alina laughed. It was full of mirth- the thing that was missing earlier. “Well I was in deep shit, but now…” She turned to them. “I think I’ve fully redeemed myself.”

She looked at Robo, then nodded her head to her left. “I think it’s about time you attend to your business, Robe. He’s waiting.”

In an instant, what looked at them was no longer a gorilla in a helmet, but a fat man in a jacket and jeans- Rob Wayne, returned from the dead.

“Looking appropriately dadlike, dad.” Siggy said sarcastically.

Robo half-smiled. “About time you called me that again, Sarah.

“Well, we haven’t had time to-“

Alina interrupted them with a whistle. She nodded to her left again. “Hey, Robo? Get to it.”

Wordlessly, Robo did as he was told, his hands in his pockets. Ahead of him, he looked forward at something that Siggy couldn’t see. He turned back towards them.

“Good luck, kiddo.” He said to Siggy, smiling warmly for the first time in a long time. He looked to Alina. “Safe travels, Gunpoint.”

“Pshh.” Alina said mock-dismissively, waving her hand in the air to send him away.

Robo smiled back, turned around, and was gone.

“Where’s he going?” Siggy asked.

Alina smiled. “Somewhere to a place where fourteen-year-old girls don’t go.” She laughed. “Now, you hungry?”

Siggy nodded, grinning. “I’ve been bugging Robo since we started going up the stairs.”

Alina laughed. “Always hungry, ah? Come on, I’ll get you something to eat.”

She turned to her left and began to walk, and it was at that moment that Siggy realized just how large the Front was.

Everywhere she looked, the tents seemed to stretch on for forever, housing a great many people- far more than they’d ever seen in Greattown. People were chatting as they passed, some boisterously whooping as they discussed their latest exploits. As they walked, more people seemed to get up and head to other places unknown, and it was at that point that Siggy began to realize that the Front wasn’t just some ordinary camp- it was a town unto itself.

Alina took notice of Siggy looking around, and whispered in her ear.

“So I take it you’re thinking of how many people are here?”

Siggy nodded. “Yeah. How do you feed them all?”

Alina put her hands in her pockets as she walked. “Well, what is there to say? Greattown was destroyed-“

“Destroyed by what?” Siggy asked, looking up at her.

Alina pursed her lips immediately. “By uh… chickens.” She cleared her throat. “After Greattown was destroyed, we decided to migrate everyone up here instead. There were no more chickens, so our bigwigs decided to go ahead and use the spare materials from the ruins to turn Floor -12 purely into farmland. That’s how we’re fed.”

“But why’d you move up here? Isn’t it smaller compared to down there?”

Alina smiled sadly. “Not enough people to run Greattown anymore, so we left people to man the farms and moved everyone back up here. Not much additional burden, it was only a hundred more people, so we were in good company.”

Just as she said that, an explosion rocked the floor, sending everyone staggering as the shock sent them off-balance.

Alina kept her footing, but Siggy fell- though the older woman caught her in time.

“Damn, you alright?” Alina said, hoisting Siggy up by the arm. “Explosions are getting more frequent, sorry ‘bout that.”

“More frequent?” Siggy said, raising an eyebrow as she dusted off her clothes. “What explosions?”

Alina laughed. “It’s a full-on war in here, kid! The enemy’s bringing all they got against us.” She punctuated it with the motion of a finger. “That’s another reason why we got people up here. So that we could hold more easily.”

They continued walking, and as they did, they found that the tents were starting to give way to a variety of clearings. One clearing had children below and at Siggy’s age marching around on it, being led by a screaming soldier that told them where to go. Other clearings had a long line of tables, where guns were laid down for people to take. Others had riot armor instead of guns, fatigues in lieu of armor, and a variety of other things that people probably needed in order to wage war.

“I… I’ve never seen war, Alina.” Siggy said, the innocence within her coming into full view.

Alina looked back at her, a comforting smile on her face. “Don’t worry, kid. It’ll be over soon.” She said, cryptically.

Then the clearings ended, and suddenly they came to a large variety of open tents, where vendors cooked food for those that couldn’t bother to cook for themselves. It was here that Siggy smelled the full range of the camp’s selection- no more canned goods, no more stews, no more chips. Here, she could smell the tantalizingly delicious aroma of salads, roasted meat, rice, and even exotic food, like fish and sushi and pie.

“Fresh fillet! Fresh from the aquariums of -12!” One vendor shouted from a stall, and Siggy could see his full selection- so many things she had never gotten to taste, so many things she wanted to eat.

“Get’cher pie here!” Another hollered. Before her was a large array of different pies, each beautiful to smell and to behold, with large slices taken from each as the vendor divided it up for her customers.

Right next to the pies, there were cakes- frighteningly less compared to the pies, but they looked even tastier. One had rare strawberries topped on top of it, delectable as she watched from afar.

Her mouth practically watered at the sight. In all her life, she’d never gotten to taste any of them before.

Alina smiled as she watched Siggy walk by the selection. “Whaddya want, kid?” She said, poking her with her elbow.

Siggy nearly jumped as she was brought back to reality, but she smiled as she immediately pointed at the cake.

Alina laughed, and shook her head. “No can do on the cake, but I can see that your eyes absolutely were slaverin’ over the pies. Want them?”

Siggy wasn’t even disappointed. She nodded eagerly, her head bobbing up and down with excitement as if she was eight again.

Alina smiled with a sort of fulfillment, then immediately pushed it down.

She dug into her pockets to take the caps needed to make her purchase, then approached the vendor.

“Whatcha want, ‘Lina?” The vendor asked. She was a large woman, and jolly in her demeanor. “Never saw you buy my pies before.”

Alina chuckled. “This little girl wanted some. Outlander, came from way down.”

The vendor laughed as she regarded Siggy. “This is a little girl, Alina? She’s nearly as tall as you.”

Alina turned to Siggy, and smiled. “She’s a good girl, no doubt about that.” She turned back to the vendor, forking over the caps. “40 caps for two slices, right?”

The vendor nodded. “Yep!” Looking down, she then began to take her knife and slice one of the pies, taking two large slices from it and putting them on a plastic plate. She handed it to Alina, who took it from her in turn.

Alina looked back at Siggy. “Come on, let’s head to the tables. I got a spot we can eat at.”

The tables in question were just a ways away from the food stalls, and were occupied by a few other soldiers and conscripts who were practically pushing each other off the table as they horsed around.

As Alina and Siggy approached the table, they immediately stood to attention, saluting their superior officer.

“Ma’am, good day, ma’am!” They said.

Alina grinned back, and saluted. “As you were, boys and girls.”

They immediately sat back down, and began horsing around again as they did.

Alina settled herself down on a bench a bit a ways from the rest of them, placing the plate in front of her. Siggy sat down across from Alina, licking her lips as she savored the moments before she dug in.

Then she stopped, and looked up at her.

“What’s the matter?” Alina said. “Can’t dig in?”

Siggy laughed, then shook her head. “No, it’s just that it’s my first time eating without Robo here.”

Alina crossed her arms and leaned back. “Damn, you miss him already, huh?”

Siggy slowly nodded.

“We’ll meet back up with him later. Until then, eat. You’re starving.”

Siggy nodded again, this time with a smile. She took the pie from the plate, and took a little nibble off the end.

It was absolutely divine- even more than the stews she had in Greattown. Each bite brought a new sensation, and she absolutely loved it. She could taste hints of meat in it- she didn’t wanna know from where- which complemented the flavor amazingly.

Alina watched her sadly, then took her piece of the pie from the plate and began eating it too.

They ate for a few minutes in silence- Siggy making sounds of delight as she ate her piece of the pie, while Alina watched her silently as she took bites from hers.

The atmosphere was the same as it had been when they were at Greattown, yes, but to Alina, it seemed… more solemn.

She watched the girl as she ate.

She’s enjoying it so damn much. She said, looking on. God, I feel like I’m feeding a lamb prepped for the slaughter.

She shook the thought from her mind. There wasn’t time to dwell on plans, not now.

A young, teenage soldier sat beside her, tired from training, shaking Alina from her reverie.

“Heya Ma’am Wojcik,” Chancey McMillan said. “Who’re you eating with?”

Alina’s eyes widened as recognition dawned on her face. She looked at Siggy, still eating the pie.

Alina began to speak. “I-“

Chancey chuckled. He looked at Siggy, still eating with her hood over her face.

“Heya,” The soldier said confidently, leaning forward. “You’re kinda cute, what’s your name?”

Siggy froze.

Alina did as well.

“Chancey-“ She started.

Siggy immediately dropped the pie onto the table, using her good hand to cover her face.

Chancey’s eyebrows knotted, but his curiosity was piqued. “You alright there, my lady? Can I see more of your face?”

Siggy shook her head silently.

Alina tried to take him away. “She’s kinda afraid to talk to anyone else right now, so let’s go somewhere else, Chan-“

Siggy turned her head just a little bit to look at Alina as she tried to leave.

Then Chancey got a glimpse of her eyes.

He froze.

Then suddenly, the boy who fought at Greattown all those years ago came out.

“I-I know those eyes. Those colors. It looks just l-like…” He said, his stutter returning for the first time in three years. “S-Sarah…?”

Alina looked at the two in barely contained panic.

She sat back down, and sighed.

“Keep your voices down,” She said urgently. “We don’t want to attract attention.”

“B-but…” Chancey said. “Sh-she…”

Siggy looked back at him. “I… what?”

A moment passed.

“Alright, Siggy,” Alina started, sighing again. “How much do you remember from Greattown?”

The girl looked from Chancey to Alina, then Alina back to Chancey. “Just… Lana, then the house exploding. That’s it.”

Chancey scoffed. “Th-that’s it? N-nothing about what you did to my d-“

“Nothing about what happened after?” Alina said, cutting Chancey off.

Siggy immediately began to look guilty. “Nothing. Robo just said that he carried me out and you guys chased us out with torches and pitchforks because I was a…”

Skip, Alina thought, completing Siggy’s sentence in her head.

She cleared her throat. “Well, a lot more happened than that, and Robo… he wanted me to tell you while he was gone.”

Chancey looked at Alina. Who’s Robo? He mouthed.

Alina ignored him.

“Gone?” Siggy said, her eyes widening. “Why, what happened?”

“Well,” Alina bit her lip. “The reason why Greattown got destroyed like it did was…”

She sighed. “It was because of you.”

Siggy froze.

The remains of the pie fell from the table and to the floor.

She looked at Chancey, who stared back at her with a mix of grief, anger, and fear.

“W-wh-what?” Siggy said, stuttering as her lips began to violently quiver. “B-b-but… Robo told me that…”

Chancey started, stumbling over his words as he raced to speak. “I-it was you who summoned all the bears, and the chickens and the-“

Alina cut him off again. “It was you who caused it. You were tricked by another skip into destroying everything and… you almost did. You did things to everyone in Greattown, Lana especially.” She looked to the boy beside her. “And… Chancey.”

Chancey looked back at Alina, and in those eyes, she could only see old wounds being reopened.

Siggy’s eyes widened even more. Her heart sank down to her stomach. “Wh-what happened to Lana?”

Chancey quietly slammed the table with his fist, trying to restrain himself as much as possible. “N-no, Sarah.” He said, his eyes now burning with anger. “W-what you n-need to ask first is what y-you did to m-me.

Alina turned to Chancey with a glare, and he immediately shrunk away. She began to speak in a warning tone. “I know how aggrieved you are right now, but if you don’t fuckin’ get ahold of yourself, I will deal with you the same way I deal with any other little bitch.”

That shocked Chancey to silence. Instead, he resorted to glaring at Siggy with burning anger, gritting his teeth as he literally shook with barely repressed emotion.

Alina sighed, turning back to Siggy. “You burned Lana’s arms off with magic, which mutilated her for life.”

Siggy sat there, frozen, as she mulled over what she was told.

A moment passed.


“Y-you’re s-saying I-I…” Her head turned to Chancey. “t-tortured Lana?”

Alina crossed her arms, and sighed.

“And you also sent other skips against Greattown, destroying much of it and killing nearly three hundred of our people.” She looked to Chancey. “Including Chancey’s father.”

Siggy’s eyes began to tear up. Her lips began to quiver even more. “Ch-Chancey, I-I-“

Y-you’re sorry?” Chancey said. “Sorry doesn’t cut it, S-sarah!” He shouted, nearly lunging from his seat before restraining himself. “My dad died because of you. My dad.”

“I-I’m sorry, alright?!” Siggy said, nearly shouting back. “I’m sorry!”

Alina looked at the other soldiers at the end of the table, who were already starting to take notice.

Chancey shot back. “Nothing that you ever say will make a fucking difference. Nothing!

“Kids…“ Alina started.

“T-tell me what to do.” Siggy said. “I-I’ll do anything!”

Chancey began to raise his voice. “Short of resurrecting my dad with those powers of yours, yeah, you can’t do shit!”

“Kids-“ Alina tried to cut in again.

“Just tell me what I can do. Please!”

“S-sarah, you can’t do shit!”

“It’s Si-“

Then, suddenly, both of them felt a strong tug on their ears as Alina dragged them from their seats and immediately pulled them away from the scene. Both grunted with pain as they were dragged behind the former Scout, past the curious, onlooking people surrounding them.

“Alina, where- ah!- are we going?” Siggy asked as she meekly followed behind her.

“Somewhere where you can shout in peace, you little shits.”

They quickly walked past a variety of tents, drawing the attention (and scattered laughter) of even more witnesses.

Siggy felt humiliated.

Then, they stopped right in front of a tent- a large one, situated right at the edge of where the camp is. It was only then that Alina finally let go.

“Son of a bitch, Alina!” Siggy said. “That… that hurt!”

“Embarassing, too.” Chancey said, rubbing his ear. “That hurt more than anything Ma’am Wojcik could have done to me.”

Alina sighed, put her hands on her waist, then turned around. She gestured to the tent beside her with her head.

“Get in, you two. I got you an appointment.”

Siggy raised an eyebrow. “An appointment?”

Alina nodded. “Yeah. Now get in.”

Siggy and Chancey exchanged glances, the tension from their earlier confrontation now temporarily vanished.

They glared at each other for the better part of three seconds, then both sighed angrily at the same time, proceeding inside the tent, Siggy before Chancey. Alina followed in right after them.

The tent that they had entered was big- bigger than anything Chancey had ever been in outside of his corp’s meeting place, and bigger than any tent Siggy had ever seen in general.

“Why do you want us here?” Siggy said, looking up at Alina. “It’s not as if-“

“Look forward, kid.” Alina said, walking right past the two of them.

Siggy audibly gasped.

Right in front of them, an aged, armless woman with nearly singed black hair sat on a rocking chair, staring at nothing in particular. Her grey-green eyes were vacant, like no one was on the other side, and a large part of her neck seemed to be dappled with burn scars- a reminder of an event three years ago.

“L-Lana?” Siggy muttered, not believing who was in front of her.

Off to the side, Siggy was made aware of another presence- one far smaller, sitting on the floor with a toy car in her hands and pushing it to and fro. As they entered, she looked up, and smiled at Siggy, her black hair and icy blue eyes regarding her with a childlike kindness and innocence.

Alina tutted as she walked past the two, looking at Bothild with a pitying gaze. She squatted down, looking at the four-year-old in front of her.

“Did Doctor Earhart leave you, kid?” Alina said. She sighed. “Probably left to get you some food,” She muttered.

“'Lina.” Bothild said, reaching up to touch Alina’s face.

She felt the touch on her face and smiled, scooping her within her arms as she stood back up.

"I'll get Earhart." Chancey declared, turning to walk out of the tent.

"No, you won't." Alina said, giving him a threatening look. "You will stay here."

Chancey looked over his shoulder, sighed, and crossed his arms, leaning against the fabric of the tent.

Alina looked right at Siggy, who stared at Lana with wide eyes.

Without saying a word, Alina moved to Lana’s side, touching her shoulder to rouse her to reality like one would an old woman. At her touch, she stirred, and a hoarse voice came out.

“Whaat is… it?” She said slowly, looking back up to Alina.

“Trondeheim,” Alina said, cupping Lana’s shoulder with her free hand. “Siggy’s here.”

Lana looked at Alina, then slowly turned her head to regard Siggy.

“Ssiiggy?” She muttered weakly.

Siggy stood still, tears in her eyes. “Lana?” She asked.

Lana gave no response, staring at Siggy with empty eyes.

Then, suddenly she spoke again. “Siggy…” Clarity had begun to make its way into her voice.

Siggy stepped closer. “Yes, Lana, that’s me.”

It was at that moment that something happened.

For the first time in years, Lana Trondeheim began to smile.

At once, the cloud that had settled over her eyes started to withdraw, and soon her gaze became one of regret and recognition.

“Siggy.” Lana said, with full clarity, slowly standing up. “I’m sorry.” Tears began to stream from her eyes. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Beside her, Alina sighed. “Take advantage of it. She won’t be lucid for long.”

Siggy didn’t hear her. At once, she ran towards Lana, wrapping her arms around her with all the longing and regret that she’d saved up over three years.

“I’m sorry, too!” Siggy said, tightening her grip with both her good hand and her bad hand. “I’m sorry for hurting you, for hurting your people, for… for…”

“It’s alright,” Lana said. She chuckled. “It’s a shame that I can’t hug you for real, but…”

“I’ll make up for it, don’t worry.” Siggy said through rapidly falling tears. “I’ll make up for it all. I’m so sorry, Lana, I’m so, so sorry!”

Behind her, Chancey scoffed.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking over the years, and…” Lana breathed in again. She seemed to be short of breath. “I pushed you away too harshly, Siggy. And…” She took another moment to breathe. “And I wanted to say sorry, too.” At that, she started to cry loudly, burying her face into Siggy’s shoulder.

“I took both your arms, Lana! I took both your arms and now you’re sick, and…” She bit her lip again. At that moment, she didn’t seem to be the teenager that she was, but as the hurt child who cried out in frustration back in Greattown.

She said her next words with all the pain and guilt that she ever knew in her life.

“And now you’re dying, aren’t you?”

Lana tried to chuckle, but started coughing halfway through. Blood came out from her mouth, though Siggy didn’t notice it.

“I’m not dying, Siggy, I’m just…” She breathed in again. Her voice seemed to grow hoarser by the minute. “I’m just tired. I have been tired all my life.”

Siggy separated from her, taking a few steps back as she bit her lip to stop herself from crying again.

“You’re lying,” She said, with a mark of finality.

“You’re a really special girl, Siggy.” Lana said, before being interrupted by a coughing fit. “You don’t need me, for…” She coughed again, sitting back on her chair. “…for fuck’s sake.”

She looked up at her with those same eyes that they both shared. “You’re so much more powerful than you realize, even I can see that, and…” She meekly looked up at Alina. “Can I say it?” She asked, like a little child requesting permission to do something from their parent.

Alina nodded silently.

“The thing is…” Lana breathed in again. “The thing is, you never needed spells to harness your power. It was a way to limit you, to make sure you only focused on a few aspects that we controlled. Those limits were just lies we cooked up so that you wouldn’t destroy everything when you were a child.” She coughed. “But now…”

She looked up at her, and smiled genuinely for the first time since she joined the Foundation.

“But now… you’re a big girl now, Siggy. I trust that you know how to use it properly.”

Chancey's face immediately contorted into anger. "She obviously fucking doesn-"

Alina cut him off with a glare.

All the while, Siggy’s face remained unmoving, not being able to comprehend what Lana was saying. “You mean… I’m not a witch?”

Lana shook her head. “You were never a witch in the first place, Sig. You’re a reality bender, a powerful one, and you can affect anything you see and turn it into whatever you can imagine.” She breathed in again, and now Siggy could hear the faintest hint of a wheeze. “It’s why Clef wanted you all those years.”

“C-Clef?” Siggy said, still not comprehending.

“Yes, Clef.” Alina interjected. “You’re a vital piece in breaking us out of here, kid. Clef has formed plans around it, and has been for the last six years. It’s why we tried to take you back in -24.”


Lana spoke again. “You are here to get out, right?”

Siggy nodded. “Yes, but-“

Alina moved closer. “Then you must help us in breaking through the enemy lines. That’s the reason why Lana told you everythin’.”

“I have no objection to all of that, but…” Siggy scoffed. “But Clef tried to kidnap me. He tried to kill Robo. He killed Seth. I can’t just work with-”

"Hey!" Chancey angrily cut in. "You killed almost all of us three years ago. Best you can fucking do is this."

Alina sighed at Chancey's statement, then continued. “It was all so that we could get you to break us through. You’re our ace in the hole. Not taking you the first time was the reason why the war has dragged on this far.”

Siggy held up a hand in the air. “But wait, why are you all at war in the first place? Isn’t the Foundation on the other side?”

At her question, everyone went silent.

Siggy looked around. “Why? Was it something I-“

“You haven’t figured it out, haven’t you?” Chancey said in a mocking tone. “We aren’t at war with the Foundation. We haven’t heard from them since the CB.”

“We’re at war with the Chaos Insurgency.” Alina finished.

She continued. “They’ve been holed up in Floor 0 since the start, probably started the CB so that they could do so. We don’t know why, but…”

“We have theories.” Chancey said, crossing his arms.

“Which is why…” Lana coughed. “Which is why we want you to be part of our little fellowship of the damned. We just need you to cooperate, so that we could get out.”

Chancey scoffed. “Wait, we can just turn the war around in a single mission with just her on our side?”

“Yes,” Alina said. “Which is why we spent so much of our efforts on trying to get her.”

“And now it’s coming to fruition,” Lana said, wheezing as she talked. “You- we can finally get out.”

“Out of this godforsaken Labyrinth, that’s for sure.” Alina said. “Finally let the sacrifices pay off.”

Siggy looked from Lana, to Chancey, to Alina.

“Are… are you sure about this?”

Lana coughed again. “Yes.”

Alina nodded. “Of course.”

Chancey crossed his arms even tighter. “No shit.”

“Then…” Siggy breathed in. “Then fine. I’ll listen to your plan.”

A moment passed.


“Good,” A familiar voice said from outside the tent. “Then we can get to business.”

Siggy turned around and found Clef’s tall figure entering the tent, followed by Robo. Clef’s face was a mask. Robo, on the other hand, was grave.

Clef looked at Siggy, his expression betraying no emotion. “Ready to listen to my plan, 239?”

Siggy nodded slowly.

”Alright. Let’s hear it.”

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