now we spin laps around the sun

r | mentions of violence



It's me.

She doesn't get a chance to panic, the words flashing in her head only a second before a strong arm wraps around her waist, before a large hand clamps over her mouth. Relief eases some of the tension from her body.

I don't know what happened. This whole being-able-to-communicate-telepathically-through-the-morphogenetic-field thing is still somewhat new to her, but her thoughts always seem to be able get through to him.

I do. It's not your fault. It's going to be okay. We just have to be quiet. Phi has a plan.

Rationally, Diana knows it's good that Phi is here. If anyone can devise a plan to get them out of this mess, it's Phi.

Emotionally, she wishes their daughter had stayed in the car.

I know. I do.

He slowly removes his hand from her mouth, giving her shoulder a reassuring squeeze as he presses a soft kiss to her top of her head. Diana does her best to control her breathing, but each inhale and exhale sounds like a thunderclap in the silence of the hallway.

Try to relax.

Easier said than done, Sigma.

I know.

The dinging of an elevator bell in the lobby sends her heart racing. He grabs her hand, pulling her in what seems like the wrong direction. The elevators are too risky, but there's a stairwell in the east wing; he's dragging her into the west wing of the building, towards what appears to be a dead end. But he had studied the same map she did, and she trusts him.

They duck into a room just as they hear the distant sound of the elevator door opening. Even though neither of them have been there before, even though the lights are off and there's only the dim light of the moon to guide them, he knows exactly where to go. He pushes her into the closet first and then steps in, closing the door behind them, pulling a gun out from the waistband of his pants.

He's bigger, stronger, and better armed, so it makes sense for her to be pressed into the back corner of a cramped supply closet with him in front, prepared to confront anyone who finds them. It's logical.

But it's hard to resist the desire to put herself between him and danger, to try to protect him with her smaller, weaker body, to shield him from blows or blades or bullets.

"Fucking bitch couldn't have gone far!"

She clamps her own hands over her mouth to prevent a frightened gasp from escaping. Sigma keeps his gun trained on the door.

Diana, there's going to be a very loud noise in about twenty seconds. Don't panic. It's Phi.

She nods, even though he can't see her. The twenty seconds stretch out forever, the yelling in the hallway getting louder, closer. The people pursuing her call out threats, explaining exactly what they plan to do with her when they find her, and she can feel rage coming off Sigma in waves.

Even with advance notice, the sound of a muffled explosion startles her. After a moment, she hears fire sprinklers coming on and an alarm blaring. An automated voice begins issuing evacuation orders. Sigma isn't moving, so Diana stays where she is. There's another loud bang, then another, and a third.

It's okay, Diana. It's just Phi and a little C4. We're not in danger. Trust me.

She does, so she remains still. She can hear water hitting the floor, the klaxon of the alarm, the evacuation instructions continuing, this time in Spanish. What she doesn't hear is any sound from the men who were looking for her.

"Stay here," he whispers, as he cracks open the door. She doesn't want to, and he must sense it, because he follows it with, I'll be alright. Trust me. Call Phi. He steps out into the room, leaving the closet door open just enough for her to keep an eye on him.

Biting her lip so hard she can taste blood, Diana lets her mind slip more fully into the field. The connection with Sigma is so strong and so overwhelming that it's like a bright blue light, blinding her as she tries to find Phi's mind. She's still struggling to learn how to use his power to amplify hers, instead of hindering it. She tries to put the same thoughts out into the field, over and over.

Phi? We're in Ward Five, Room 524. Be careful.

Suddenly the door to the room bursts open, slamming into the wall behind it. Sigma lowers his weapon even before a flashing red light falls across the intruder's face, revealing her identity.

"Move it, grandpa! This way!"

Phi points with the baseball bat she's wielding, but doesn't wait for them, darting off to the left. Sigma grabs Diana's hand and yanks her through the spray from the sprinkler, into the hallway. Phi is already halfway to the stairwell and he wastes no time in following her. It's as if he's forgotten that his legs are longer than Diana's, that she doesn't have their daughter's athleticism and swiftness. The fact that the sprinklers are going off in the hallway, causing water to gather in puddles everywhere, doesn't help; Diana stumbles and nearly falls.

Sigma stops for only a moment, and then in one quick movement, he ducks under Diana's arm and hauls her up onto his shoulder in a fireman's carry.

"Really?! I'm not that slow."

She only gets a grunt in response. It feels somewhat demeaning, sprawled out over his shoulders, head hanging upside down, with her butt sticking out, as Sigma flies down the stairs. She's very glad at that moment that Phi had disabled the security cameras and there wasn't going to be a visual record of this anywhere.

"Phi, look out!"

There was little need for Diana's warning; Phi saw the man at the same time she did and she takes him down with a single swing of the bat. His gun flies out of his hand, clattering across the floor. That sound, or maybe the sound of the man's body hitting the floor, earns them more unwanted attention. Diana can hear shouts of "what was that?" and "over there!"

"Shit, shit, shit! This needs an actual key? Sigma, kick in this door."

He bends over to set Diana on her feet and then complies. The door doesn't open after the first kick, or the second, but when he throws his weight against it, it finally yields. Diana finds herself being picked up again, in spite of her protests that this wasn't practical.

After another set of stairs, another door, and a dash down a (thankfully very dry) corridor, Diana can see the exit. She fumbles to get the stolen keycard out of her pocket to give to Phi. Phi's hands are shaking as she tries to swipe it and the first two tries are unsuccessful.

"Shit! Do you think they reprogrammed the doors already?"

"No, it says 'card read error', not 'access denied'. Just don't go so fast."

Diana barely heard what they were saying. There was a door off to her right, so close that she almost can touch it. Images flash in her mind, of the door flying open, of a man coming through it with his gun drawn, of him firing right at them. Without even realizing she's doing it, Diana reaches into her other pocket to retrieve what was there.

The next few seconds seem to be in slow motion. Phi saying, "Thank god." Two beeps from the card reader. The swishing sound of the exit door sliding to the side. Diana extends her arm towards the other door, before it even starts to open, and as the man from her vision comes through it, his neck meets the end of her stun gun. He didn't even have time to yell in surprise before falling unconscious to the floor.

Nobody moves for a moment. Then Phi punches Sigma in his chest, hard enough to cause him to stumble. From her precarious perch, Diana clutches at his arms out of fear of falling.

"You gave her a fucking stun gun?"

"Could we get the fuck out of here, please?"

Even before Sigma was done saying it, both he and Phi were out the door, with Diana ducking down to narrowly avoid having her head collide with the doorjamb. She expects him to put her on her feet once they are outside, but he carries her that way all the way to the car.

Once they were on the highway and Phi said she was sure they weren't being followed, she smacks Sigma on the back of his head.

"Hey, I'm driving here!"

"You seriously gave her a fucking stun gun?! I think everyone in this car has some very bad memories of that fucking stun gun."

"It's not the same one."

Phi throws her hands up. "Oh, well, then, that's okay. I was just worried that you had stolen property from my evil twin brother in another timeline. But if it's not the same one, then everything's fine! It's not like I was worried about you re-traumatizing her or anything."

"Look, she needed something to protect herself, and whatever else you want to say -"

"Could you guys not talk about me like I'm not even here?"

"- you can't deny that she knows how to handle a stun gun," he goes on, as if Diana hadn't even said anything.

"She shouldn't have even gone in there in the first place! I told you this was a bad idea!"

"I'm sitting right here!" Diana pounds her fist on the dashboard for emphasis and the other occupants fall silent. She starts to shiver - either from the adrenaline or the wet clothes clinging to her body - and presses a few buttons to turn on the car's heater. She stares out the window, trying not to cry.

She understands what Phi is saying. She's not really cut out for what Akane calls "field work". If this particular job hadn't been so time-sensitive, if it hadn't required someone with medical knowledge, if it hadn't required someone to steal the identity of a female researcher, Akane would have sent someone else. But as Akane had said, Phi wouldn't know what to look for and Sigma dressed as a woman would attract more attention than they really wanted.

Diana's heart had been racing the whole time. She hadn't really understood how this tied in to whoever it was who wanted to exterminate the human race, but she did understand that this was important to Akane. She had been terrified that the keycard wouldn't work, or that the codes Junpei had texted to her would turn out to be invalid. She had been afraid she would slip up and forget that her name was supposed to be Bridget Conner. Afraid she would suddenly be unable to remember the file names, or how to transfer them onto the memory card. Afraid she would drop the vials when she tried to put them into the metal case that was strapped to her thigh, under her skirt.

But she got into the building easily, didn't tremble when she showed the guard her fake ID, didn't break the vials, didn't forget to copy the relevant files, didn't blurt out her real name to the wrong person. Everything seemed fine, until she was almost done and got a message from Sigma, though the morphogenetic field, loud and clear.

Diana! They know you're in there! Get out of the lab and hide yourself. I'm coming.

"I'm sorry." She toys with the edge of the lab coat she still has on. "You're right, Phi. I messed up. This was a bad idea."

"No, wait, that's not what I'm saying." Phi slides up, a hand on Diana's shoulder. "You didn't mess up anything. Akane has a mole, a spy, in her group. Or I guess, had."

Diana twists in her seat. "What do you mean?"

"Junpei called us while we were waiting for you. They caught the guy red-handed, but he'd already transmitted the information. Akane's no fool - she only gives people the least they need to know for their job, and nothing more. So the guy didn't know your name, exactly what you were doing or what rooms you were going to, not even a physical description. He just knew somebody was going to be there tonight. My guess is they were doing a floor-by-floor search, comparing people's ID badges to the company records. Sigma and I tried to avoid the guards at first, until somebody got impatient and started just punching them."

"Hey, it worked, didn't it? Gah, will you stop hitting me while I'm driving?"

Phi winces as she rubs her knuckles. "So I wasn't saying you made a mistake. I just mean ... it's probably best if you stick to helping with the research. If for no other reason than because the minute we got the call from Junpei, this moron here was ready to tear down the building with his own hands to try to find you."

Diana glances over at Sigma, his gaze fixated on the road ahead of him. A stranger probably would have described his face as impassive, but Diana could read the fear and tension in his jaw, the corners of his mouth, his eyes.

"Thank you," she says softly. "Thank you for coming to get me."

"Well, it was a welcome change of pace from having to save my idiot father's ass all the time. You got what we needed, right?"

"Oh, yes. I think Akane's right. The data from the clinical trials don't make sense at all. I don't know what the researchers are actually doing, but it's not trying to treat neurological disorders. I got everything she asked for."

"You did a really great job," Phi says. "I mean it."

Diana smiles as rests her forehead against the window. She watches the trees and road signs fly by. Sigma must have done a U-turn when she wasn't paying attention; they were no longer headed north, but south, back towards home. It would probably take another hour to get to Phi's apartment, and then only ten minutes or so to get to their home. The metal case is cold against her leg, and even with the heat on full blast, she's covered in gooseflesh. She can't wait to be home, in a nice hot shower, with -

"Wait a minute." She turns around to look at Phi. "Have we been driving around with C4 in the trunk?"

"No," Phi says. "Of course not."

Diana gives her a dubious look before focusing her attention onto their driver.

"There has been absolutely no C4 in the trunk, I promise you."

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Sigma!"

Phi's exclamation is punctuated with a laugh; even Sigma has a hint of a smile on his face. Diana reaches over and puts her hand on the space in between their seats, and without missing a beat, he covers it with his.

Do I need to worry about our car blowing up in the driveway?

It's very stable, Diana. You could set it on fire if you wanted to. Or put it in the microwave.

Let's not do either of those things.

Understood.

(fin.)