Phi: D plus 02h : 17m : 09s and counting

pg | no warnings apply

Phi was so very done. Screw saving the world. Screw all this shit.

Sigma wasn't the same guy she remembered from the Moon. The connection was still there. She still cared about the stupid prick. But instead of being an exuberant, juvenile soul in a decrepit shell, he was a bona fide old fart occupying his younger body. He had been more serious before they arrived at Dcom; now he was just flat-out grumpy with a side of suppressed fear.

Oh, and there was the matter of Luna's fucking human twin sister.

Phi had stopped short when she first saw Diana. So much so that Akane had walked into her and nearly knocked her over. Sigma had stared at her so brazenly and for so long that Phi doubted Diana had even noticed that. Sigma had answered some of her questions -

Is that Luna?


Is she human?


Did you know she would be here?

Yes. (After the kind of long pause they call 'pregnant' although Phi didn't know why.)

Why are you so surprised?

I'm ... I'm not.

- but then Akane noticed that Tenmyouji was here. Both Sigma and Phi were surprised that she was surprised. Phi had assumed that whoever hacked the experiment to add their names had given Akane the full list, or at least would have said something to her, in lieu of their past. Sigma theorized that "Aoi" - whoever that was - had purposefully hidden it from her; Akane insisted that couldn't be true.

Everything left Phi feeling uneasy. She hadn't gotten to know Akane well enough during their time on Rhizome 9 to really be able to trust her. But she trusted Sigma, with her life. He had faith in Akane, so Phi had followed both of them here. Perhaps foolishly. Now both Sigma and Akane were off-kilter thanks to new variables in the equation and Phi didn't like it at all. There were too many unknowns, too much to try to figure out. She didn't like not knowing where Sigma's and Akane's heads were.

The orientation wasn't helping, either.

After a brief getting-to-know-you session and having their blood taken, the nine participants were now sitting in cheap plastic chairs at cheap plastic tables, arranged in a U-shape so that 'everyone can learn everyone's faces', as Greg had put it. There were only nine damn people in the entire experiment. Even someone with prosopagnosia would be able to navigate this.

Greg had gone over the basic rules, which she presumed everyone already knew. Hell, even she and Sigma knew this shit, and they had been awake in this history for all of, what, nine hours now? Afterwards, a bubbly blonde stepped to the front of the room. Her nametag read 'Becky!' and she reminded Phi of every cheerleader who had ever annoyed her in high school. She could hear Becky! ending every sentence with an exclamation point, regardless of correct grammatical structure.

"Okay! I'm going to go over emergency procedures! Thank you so much, Greg! Your presentation was fantastic!"

"Just kill me," Te- Junpei, she had to get used to calling him Junpei, muttered as he put his head down on the table. Carlos, the guy sitting next to him - who reminded her of every naïve do-gooder who had ever annoyed her in high school - elbowed Junpei, who reluctantly sat up.

Phi could empathize. She was ready to release Radical-6 herself just to end this crap.

Becky! wrote 'The ABCDs of First Aid!' on the white board. "Okay! Who knows what these are! Someone other than Carlos or Diana, please!"

Nobody spoke up. Mira - who reminded her of every uber-popular girl who had ever annoyed her in high school - seemed to be taking notes, but Phi suspected she was actually doodling. Eric - who reminded her of every really-trying-too-hard-to-get-people-to-like-him guy who annoyed her in high school - was staring at Mira. Diana - who reminded her of, well, Luna, obviously, but something else she couldn't put her finger on - was dutifully writing something down. Q was on the other side of Diana, his fingers dancing along what appeared to be a blank book but was probably Braille. Every once in a while, Diana would tap his arm twice and he'd flip the page. Akane was staring at nothing; Sigma was staring at Diana.

Given that Diana's reaction on being introduced to Sigma was it's nice to meet you and not oh what are you doing here or I haven't seen you since that chem class we had together or you piece of shit you swore you'd call and you never did I thought you loved me, Phi theorized that either Sigma spent the entire Dcom simulation mooning over her and then built Luna to satisfy his unrequited love, or the two of them ended up getting it on in a supply closet and maybe Diana had been the woman behind the curtain during the Nonary Game on Rhizome 9.

Although the latter seemed unlikely. Maybe she was the kind of person who would make an AI take on the form of a pun-making rat-rabbit, but she really didn't seem like the kind of person who would be on board with creating murder bracelets.

"Airway, breathing, circulation, defibrillation," Mira said, finally.

"Are you sure it doesn't mean you're adorable, beautiful, cute, and darling?"

Sigma and Junpei groaned at Eric's comment, almost in unison. Carlos and Diana made the faces nice people made when they were trying to not think mean things about irritating people. Akane - apparently no longer oblivious - sighed at Eric, while Mira rolled her eyes and Q just kept moving his fingers along in his book.

"That is just super cute, Eric, but Mira is correct! We are not going to cover how to use the AED -" She was interrupted by a small snort from Sigma and Phi kicked him under the table. "- because it's literally idiot-proof."

"Good thing," Junpei said, earning an actual frown from Becky!

"We are going to go over the basics of CPR and first aid and then we will go over the dos and don'ts of appropriate behavior!"

"Are we doing fucking sensitivity training?" Phi asked Akane. She thought she was speaking low enough to go undetected by Becky! but apparently not.

"Phi, that is not appropriate language for this experiment! Think about how you must have just offended your fellow participants!"

"Nah," Junpei volunteered.

"I'm fine," Carlos said.

"Doesn't bother me," Eric declared.

"Or me," Mira said.

Akane shook her head. "I'm not offended."

"I've heard worse," Diana said, to which Sigma replied, "I've said worse."

"And Q doesn't even know what's going on," Phi pointed out.

Becky! looked genuinely angry at the prospect that they weren't deeply hurt by Phi's utterance of the f-word. It provided a bit of entertainment. There was still the matter of the impending global pandemic, her distracted co-conspirators, the fate of the human race, the frustration that came with not really knowing what the hell was going on, and the possibility that Becky! might have them do some stupid bullshit like trust falls.

But for the moment, Phi smirked at Becky! in amusement.