Senseless Indulgences: Chapter 7

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Senseless Indulgences: Chapter 7

Chapter 7

The killjoys awoke to Cy calling their names. Poly was the first one in the room, terrified that something may be wrong. "What's the matter?"
 
"Good morning, Sunshine!" Cy smiled. "I was trying to get someone up because I'm hungry. I fell asleep before dinner."
 
"Oh." Poly leaned her forehead on the door frame, a small smile gracing her features. "Okay." She pushed off the door and met Jet in the hallway.
 
"I heard Cy shouting. What's wrong?"
 
Poly continued to smile. "Nothing. She's hungry."
 
Jet's eyes widened and his entire body relaxed in relief. "Oh! I'll get her something."
 
"Okay." Poly turned to go back to Cy, but Kobra Kid grabbed her hand and dragged her down the hall.
 
"Doc's checkin' her out now, but he says she should be able to be moved today."
 
Poly's brow furrowed. "So soon?"
 
Kobra nodded. "The growth agent has been doing its job, so the external damage is mostly healed."
 
"And the internal?"
 
"That's gonna take a little more time." Kobra pulled her into Cy's new room where the rest of the killjoys were busy arranging her furniture. "The cream healed the outer layers. Once we move her, she's going to be taking the pill every four hours to heal what's left of the hole on the inside. That's why she's going to be restricted to the bed."
 
"Oh. Okay." Poly set to work making the bed and decorating the shelves. Party Poison waited until Poly was finished with the bed before setting two boxes of Lego’s on the pillow. Poly looked at him in amusement. "Lego’s?"
 
"Well, I can't exactly give her car parts to play with," Party smirked. "She might build another car and run our asses over."
 
Poly giggled. "Yeah, especially for using Neon Nights while she's bed ridden," she whispered.
 
The five men groaned, earning a laugh from Poly. The room was arranged the same way as Poly's room, but the desk was covered in wood burning equipment and a sewing kit sat on the dresser by the bed. The sheets were hot pink and an electric blue rug lay in the middle of the floor.
 
"I'll go see if she can be moved," Party said once the room was finished. The other killjoys nodded as he left the room and walked down the hall to the store room. Doc met him in the hallway. "Can we move her?"
 
Doc nodded. "Yeah, you've just got to be very careful with her. The external damage is healed, but one wrong move and you could cause a tear, or increase the internal damage."
 
Party nodded. "Alright. You go make sure the room's okay and come back to supervise the move, okay?"
 
"Yeah. Don't move her until I get back."
 
Party nodded as the doc left. He entered the store room and sat by Cy. "Hey. How are you feelin'?"
 
"Like I'm missing a piece," she said through a smile.
 
Party smirked. "More like a couple pieces."
 
Cy turned serious again. "How's Poly doin'?"
 
"You've talked to her. You know how she's doing."
 
Cy just shook her head. "For being just like her, you're not very observant."
 
Party looked confused. "What are you talking about, Cy?"
 
"Haven't you noticed that nothing she says to any of us is the whole truth?"
 
The redhead nodded. "She's got too many secrets."
 
Cy shook her head. "The secrets aren't even what I'm talking about." He still didn't get it. Did she have to draw him a diagram? "She's a lot like you Party. Hell, now that I think about it, she's a lot like Mad."
 
Party quirked an eyebrow. "Get to your point, Cy."
 
Despite being in pain and still feeling tired, Cy let out an exasperated sigh. "Let me put it this way. When Poly says, 'I'm okay,' that's when you know she's not okay!" She lowered her voice to a harsh whisper. "She doesn't let anyone see what she's really feeling. She's just like you, Party! It's great that she's been able to bond with Ghoul and Jet and Kobra so easily." She shook her head. "But it's not enough. You need to get through to her. You need to open her up. You need to open your heart out to her and actually let her in."
 
"Alright, Cy," Party started, frustration written plainly on his face, "since you seem to know so much, why don't you tell me why I've gotta be the one. Why not Lost?"
 
"Because Lost isn't like Poly. He's paranoid as fuck and he doesn't trust anyone, sure, but he doesn't hide his feelings." She sighed again. She was beginning to hate how often she was being forced to make that sound. "Look, when I get out of here, I'm going to take her to the store to meet Serene. Poly's more likely to take a shine to Mad than she is to you. But you still need to let her in. She looks up to you. Your approval will make her feel comfortable here. And, trust me, she will tell you a lot more if you actually show you're willing to listen."
 
"Look, Cy, I know you like this one, but why are you pushing so hard on this? With Jet, I understand, but you usually just let us all have our differences. What's changed?"
 
Again, she sighed. "She's got a lot of baggage. We all do. Obviously. But she's got something she really needs your help dealing with. I don't know what it is, but you're the best at getting people to talk. It's gotta be you." Cy's face took on a pained expression. "Otherwise, I think she'll crumble."
 
The doc entered the room and nodded to Party Poison. "It's adequate. I made some small adjustments where I thought a problem might occur, but otherwise, you boys did an excellent job. We can move her now."
 
"Alright, so how do we do this?"
 
"You can pick her up bridal style, just be careful not to disrupt her injuries."
 
"Okay." Party stepped up to Cy's right side. He wormed his left arm under Cy's back, wincing when he accidentally brushed her chest wound. When he had a firm grip on her upper body, he snaked his right arm under her knees and gently lifted her off the bed. The doc walked behind him and supported Cy's upper body, while Cy held her left arm across her chest, her right clinging to Party's shoulders.
 
The three killjoys made their way to Cy's bedroom using extreme caution. "Close your eyes," Party instructed.
 
"Why?"
 
"Just do it. Trust me, you'll be grateful." Reluctantly, Cy did as she was told and closed her eyes. Party gently put her in the bed and stepped back. "Alright. Open them." When she Cy opened her eyes, they instantly grew wide. She took in the colors of the room, the sewing kit, the wood burning kit, and the Lego’s, which had all been moved to the dresser by the bed. Party smirked. He leaned over to the doc and whispered, "I can see why that would've caused a problem. Smart thinking."
 
"Well, I am a doctor, you know. It's my job to think of those things."
 
"So?" Poly asked, bouncing excitedly. Party couldn't help but smile at her. She'd only spent two days around Cy and she was already gaining the same enthusiasm. "What do you think?"
 
Cy's face turned serious. "I like it and all, but you could've added a little more blue." She giggled when Poly stuck her tongue out. "Harassing the patients now? Doc, you gotta keep your employees in line."
 
Doc smiled. "It'd be a little easier if the patient wouldn't harass them first."
 
"Aw!" Cy pouted. "Spoil all the fun."
 
"Well," Jet began, "Dr. D wants to see us, so Poly and I have to go."
 
Poly hugged Cy before she and Jet left the room. "So, what does Dr. D want us for?"
 
"Well, we need to practice your shooting today." Jet glanced at Poly's left arm. "How's it feel?"
 
"I think I may have slept on it, but it's okay."
 
"Do you need aspirin?"
 
"It might not be a bad idea."
 
Jet nodded as he stepped into the store room. He grabbed two aspirin as Poly reached into her room and grabbed her water bottle. When she'd taken her aspirin, Jet and Poly headed out to Neon Nights. The red Mustang was waiting patiently at the concealed entrance to the bunker. The two killjoys donned their bandanas and sunglasses and lit out toward the diner.
 
The drive went by much faster than it had before. Neither killjoy spoke, but the silence was welcome. Poly watched the road behind them, mulling things over in her mind. She needed to ask why that killjoy was so important, but she respected Dr. D too much to offend him. She needed to ask delicately, without becoming invasive; she just didn't know how.
 
The diner was quiet as usual. Jet and Poly left Neon Nights out front and made their way to the broadcast room. Jet knocked on the door and entered when he heard Dr. D's gruff summons. "You wanted to see us?"
 
Dr. Death Defying was sitting at the broadcast desk, facing the two killjoys. He pointed to a small table in the far corner of the room. "Take that to Cyanide when you go back to the diner." Poly walked over and found two boxes of Kinex sitting on the table. When she quirked an eyebrow at Dr. D, he said, "A little care package from Serene."
 
"Oh."
 
It was Dr. D's turn to look puzzled. "You know about Serene?"
 
"Cy's told me about her, yeah." Poly grabbed the Kinex and made to leave. She turned and looked to Dr. D. "She's more than just a friend to Cy, isn't she?"
 
Dr. D shook his head. "That's gonna have to be something you ask Cy herself."
 
Poly nodded, leaving to put the Kinex in the car. When she went back inside, the door to the broadcast room was shut and locked. She walked to the back and headed to the firing range. Getting impatient, Poly pulled out the raygun and began assaulting the mannequins. She only used her right hand, keeping her left in her pocket as she had done the day before.
 
She thought about the news broadcast. She thought about BL/Ind. She thought about her father. She thought about everything and everyone she ever hated and she poured that hatred into every shot. She never missed.
 
"You okay?"
 
Poly jumped when she heard Jet's voice behind her. "Uh… yeah. I'm fine." She turned and put the raygun down on the table. "Can I talk to Dr. D for a minute?"
 
"He's broadcasting right now, but you can try and see if he'll let you in."
 
Before Jet even finished speaking, Poly was making her way into the diner and knocking on the broadcast room door. She could hear music coming from behind the door. "Yeah," Dr. D summoned.
 
Poly poked her head inside. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
 
"Do I have a choice?" Dr. D drawled.
 
"You could say no."
 
"And how long until you ask again?" Dr. D smiled a half hearted smile. "What's your question?"
 
"Silent Fury."
 
Dr. Death's eyes grew cold and weary. The mask of his strength vanished. "That's not a question."
 
"So, they are important to you."
 
"The more killjoys disappear, the harder the resistance becomes."
 
"Yeah, I get that, but you were practically crying on the radio when you announced this one was missing." Poly stood with her hands on her hips, leaning back against the door. "There's something different about this one."
 
"I was not crying," Dr. D glared.
 
"For a man who shows as little attachment to people as you do, the cracking in your voice last night? Yeah, that's as good as setting off a solar flare."
 
Dr. D's eyebrow quirked. He crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair. "Alright, you tell me why you ran, and I'll tell you about Silent Fury."
 
Poly bit the inside of her lip. Dr. D watched as her mouth scrunched to one side, her eyes narrowing. She was sizing him up. Party Poison had done the same thing when they first met.
 
They'd just been attacked by a group of Dracs trying to force them into Battery City. Kobra Kid was bleeding and Jet Star was supporting Fun Ghoul. The Dracs were much less pathetic then, but they got out of hand far too quickly. They had nearly beaten Fun Ghoul to death and they didn't even try to let the four men follow them before they shot Kobra Kid in the shoulder. There weren't even killjoys then and BLI was treating everyone like criminals.
 
Dr. D told them he knew where there was a doctor who had escaped the clutches of BLI, but Party Poison was cautious. That one moment had sparked his transformation into a killjoy.
 
Party Poison had always been perceptive, but he'd only ever used it passively. Now, he would have to start using his skills more actively. He couldn't risk another incident like the one they'd just had. He studied Dr. D. He saw defiance, strength, and wisdom. In him, he saw hope.
 
Poly saw much the same thing. She saw strength, courage, and caring that she used to see in her grandfather and once in her father. She missed that. She needed that.
 
Poly grabbed a chair from the far table and sat across the room from Dr. D, her elbows on her knees. She rubbed her hands together, wondering where to begin. "Um," she hesitated. "I can't tell you everything. You know that already, don't you?"
 
Dr. Death nodded. "I figured as much. You are going to have to tell me eventually."
 
"I know." Poly looked at her hands in shame. "Some of it, I'm not ready to tell."
 
"Then start with what you can."
 
"Alright. I come from a rich family. I'm sure you've guessed I don't like BLI." Dr. D nodded in reply. "Well, we all decided to go to Battery City together. I was reluctant, but I had my reasons. I've wanted to leave for a while, but I couldn't."
 
"Why not?"
 
Poly stared the older man in the eyes, her jaw set and eyes hard. "I had my reasons." She left no room for discussion as she plowed through the rest of her story. "BLI is starting a new program. I was going to be first in line for it. I knew then that I had to leave."
 
Dr. Death furrowed his eyebrows. "What sort of program?"
 
"A breeding program." Poly watched as hatred filled his eyes. She knew it was coming. The same hatred filled her own eyes when her father had told her he was making her the first candidate. "Shall I explain?"
 
"Yes." The response was forced- ground out between clenched teeth.
 
"When BLI brought people to Battery City, they gave everyone an ID card. It has their name and picture, but it also has a barcode. That's the important part. That holds all the information there BLI has about that person. Everything they know about you is on that barcode. That's also how you get into your housing unit, room, dining hall, everywhere you need to go. But do you know what else is stored in that barcode?" Dr. D quirked an eyebrow- his only signal for her to continue. "They prick your finger and your DNA profile is stored in that barcode."
 
Dr. Death ground his teeth in anger. "Tell me more about this program."
 
"BLI is big into eugenics. They think optimal breeding pairs will bring about a better society. They match you via your barcode- by your DNA." Poly stared hard at her hands, not daring to look at her mentor. "My father told me he arranged for me to be among the first to join the program. I knew, if there was ever a time to leave, it had to be then." She looked up at Dr. D, her eyes brimming with tears. "I couldn't-" The hatred and fear she had felt before came flooding back.
 
Dr. Death watched calmly as Poly cried. He didn’t blame her. With how much she held herself in, she'd go crazy if she didn't let it out every once in a while. He knew she hadn't told him the only reason she left, but what she had told him was enough. If she was ever going to feel comfortable telling them anything, they would have to let her in and tell her something about themselves as well.
 
When Poly calmed down, Dr. D sighed. "Silent Fury is the first killjoy I look to for information about the inner zones. I owe her a lot." Poly looked up in surprise. She never thought Dr. Death would owe anyone anything. He seemed too tough to need help from anyone. "She saved my life once. It was early 2014 and BLI was growing, rapidly. I didn't even expect it. Whoever they had in charge knew what they were doing." Poly swallowed hard. She knew who was behind it all and it made her sick. "It was just me, Party Poison, Jet Star, Kobra Kid, and Fun Ghoul. We hadn't found Lost Star or Cyanide yet. We were in Zone 3 when Korse found where I was broadcasting from and swarmed the place. Party and the rest were keeping them at bay, but for every Drac that fell, another ten took their place. Silent Fury came out of nowhere, blasting them with a bazooka. She wiped out almost half of Korse's reinforcements before they even made it there."
 
"So, how did you guys make it out?" Poly was now leaning forward, hanging on his every word. "Korse doesn't just leave, you know," she added, shaking her head.
 
"No, he doesn't. Fury heard the BLI transmissions over the radio. You can't hear them out here, but in the inner zones, you don't have to deal with as much static. She heard we were being targeted. She gathered reinforcements. After she eliminated the Dracs coming to back up Korse, the killjoys she'd gathered together took care of the rest. Korse left before we could get to him."
 
"You didn't stop him?!"
 
Dr. D held up his hand and silenced Poly's outrage. "Korse wasn't as notorious then as he is now. Besides, we were a little busy with the Drac that snuck up behind me."
 
"Trying to take you with them," Poly stated, matter-of-factly.
 
Dr. D nodded. "The boys were trying to intimidate him, but By that point, the meds were already too strong for that. Fury came around the side of the building and shot him in the side of the head. She's been my scout in the inner zones ever since." Dr. Death sighed- the first weary sigh Poly had ever heard from him. "With Fury gone, our intelligence is severely crippled."
 
Poly nodded. When she looked into Dr. D's eyes, her face was stony. "When I can shoot, I'll be your scout in the inner zones and I'll look for her."
 
A look of genuine surprise crossed Dr. Death Defying's face. "What?"
 
"Look, I came here to help. I heard there was a resistance against BLI. I wanted to join that resistance. I want to help." Poly's words were forceful. She wasn't going to bow down to anyone anymore. "I'm going to fight. I'm going to learn how to shoot and then you're going to send me out there on my own. If you're missing a scout, I'll be her replacement until we find her."
 
"Alright, fine," Dr. D acquiesced. When he looked up again, his eyes were stern. "But, I'm warning you. I still don't completely trust you. So don't expect me to send you out into the inner zones when you first learn to shoot."
 
"I know. My secrets make you guys uncomfortable and what I know makes me a difficult person to trust. I understand that. But you have to understand that I'm in the same boat. Too many people close to me have betrayed my trust, so I'm having trouble convincing myself that I'm really in the right place. For all I know, you could be a BLI hallucination or something."
 
"We're real. Sometimes I wish we weren't but we are." Dr. D turned back to the broadcast desk. "You should go practice. Jet's probably wondering what's wrong."
 
"He's actually more likely wondering who's killing who," Poly chuckled as she stood up and left. "See ya, Dr. D."
 
"Yeah."
 
***
 
The next two weeks blended together for Poly and the other killjoys. BLI hadn't made any more moves in the outer zones and no killjoys had any trouble with their missions. All was well. All was quiet.
 
"Perhaps, a little too quiet," Poly thought aloud as she came back from her first solo mission. She had been in the northeastern region of Zone 6, scouting for Drac activity in the area. She found nothing. Even the BLI outpost was vacant.
 
Poly rapped on the broadcast room door. When it opened, she was shocked to see Show Pony standing there. "You're late." He was tense and it came through in his words. Something didn't feel right to Poly. The whole thing seemed wrong.
 
Poly's reply was equally terse. "It's a long drive and I needed to gas up Neon on the way here." She shifted her weight from her left foot to her right and stood with her hands on her hips in defiance. "Besides, I was being thorough. I didn't want to come back with false information."
 
"So, how did it go?" Dr. D interrupted before the two killjoys tore the diner down on each other's heads.
 
"It went well, until Mr. Cranky Pants over here interrupted me while I was searching the outpost." She glared at Show Pony. "You know… IF there had been any Dracs there, I'd be a corpse right now."
 
"I wouldn't have interrupted if you hadn't taken so fucking long to report."
 
"Enough!" Dr. D casually rubbed his temple. He was sitting in his broadcast cast, leaning back on his right arm. "What did you find, Poly?"
 
"Absolutely nothing." Poly pulled a wrinkled envelope from her pack. "No sign of BLI anywhere."
 
Dr. D's eye widened slightly. "None?"
 
Poly shook her head. "None. It's like they all just pulled out. Everything's empty. The outpost, the hospital, everything."
 
Show Pony looked at Dr. D in confusion. "Why would they just pull out like that?"
 
"I don't know."As he took the envelope from her hands, Dr. D nodded. "Thanks Poly. The doc radioed in and told me to warn you that Cy's up and moving. She wants to visit the store."
 
Poly nodded. "Consider me warned," she chuckled. "I'll play chauffer."
 
"More like whipping post," Show Pony grumbled.
 
Poly left the two killjoys to discuss her information. She was chuckling as she fired up Neon Nights and began the drive to the bunker. Party Poison met her outside. "Hey, Party. What's up?"
 
"Cy's not too pleased that we've been using Neon." He waited for Poly to catch up with him before he opened the door to the bunker. "I thought I might warn you that she may overreact when she sees her." Poly nodded. "Did your mission go okay?"
 
"Yeah. I little too okay, but I'm not too eager to get into fire fights, so I'm not gonna complain."
 
Party nodded. "Yeah, it's starting to worry me too."
 
"Is she okay?" Cyanide questioned Poly, the minute she set foot in the room. "She's not dented or scratched is she? Is her paint fading? Is she running okay? There isn't too much dirt caught up in her engine is there? What's wrong? You didn't wreck her did you? Were there blast holes? Why aren't you saying anything?"
 
"Because you won't let her," Fun Ghoul laughed. "Take a breath before you bust a lung!"
 
Poly chuckled as Cy shot Fun Ghoul a dirty look. "She's fine, Cy. She's been well taken care of."
 
"Good!" Cy stood up, not bothering to take it easy. "I wanna see her. Besides, we're going shopping."
 
"Okay." Poly followed Cy as she left the room. They passed the doc on their way out. He shouted for Cy to take it easy, but she wasn't listening. Poly took two steps for every one of Cy's just to keep up. When the made it to the door, Cy sprinted to Neon Nights. "Cy! You're supposed to take it easy!"
 
"Did my baby miss me?" Cy asked Neon, her voice dripping with concern. She circled the car, inspecting every crack, every angle, searching for any new deformity the other killjoys may have created. "Yeah, you missed Mommy, didn't you?" She ran her hand down the length of the car with love. "I guess they didn't treat you too bad, huh? Nobody treats you like Mommy does, though. No. No one treats you better than me."
 
Poly eyed Cyanide with concern. "Are you okay?"
 
"What do you mean?"
 
"You're whispering sweet nothings to your car," Poly deadpanned.
 
"Well, we missed each other!" Cy looked at Poly like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Poly merely shook her head and walked to Neon's driver side door. "Wait. What are you doing?"
 
"You're not cleared to drive."
 
"But I'm all healed!"
 
Poly cringed at the look on Cyanide's face. She looked like Poly had just killed her favorite puppy and spat on its collar. "You're not cleared to drive," Poly said, shaking her head. "Until the doc or Dr. D tell me you can drive, you don't drive." She sat in the driver's seat and started the car. "You coming, or are you gonna stand there and pout all day?"
 
As Cy reluctantly sat in the passenger's seat, she asked, "Why can't I drive?"
 
"The doc doesn't want you to drive until the meds are completely out of your system." As the two killjoys sped toward the store, Poly glanced at Cy. She looked sad, but relieved to be out of the bunker. Poly's gaze softened and she glanced back at the desert ahead. "Hey," she called, softly. When Cy turned and looked at her, she held her gaze as she spoke, slowing to a stop. "You're going to be okay."
 
Cy shook her head. "I'm not worried about me."
 
Poly's eyes squinted in confusion. "What, then?"
 
'I'm worried about you."
 
"Why are you worried about me?" Poly shook her head. "I'm fine. I'm learning how to shoot, I'm working on my driving, I'm performing missions. What is there to worry about?"
 
"I know what it's like to keep secrets." Poly abandoned her mask and stared at her hands. "I don't want you to feel alone." Poly played with her fingernails and bit her lip. Cyanide eyed her critically. Her mask hid most of her face, but her eyes clearly showed she was in pain. "You need to let us in." Poly let out an exasperated sigh. "Please."
 
"Alright, fine!" she yelled. Cy remained quiet as she calmed. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped."
 
And uncomfortable silence filled the car. Cy stared out the side window. "Let's head to the store."
 
The car ride was spent in silence. The only time the two killjoys spoke was long enough for Cy to give Poly directions on how t o get to the entrance. It was located in the basement of an abandoned house. One panel of the wall opened to the tunnel. Hidden by a line of bookcases, the only way to access it was by tipping one shelf up a few centimeters as a lever. The books on the shelf were real and could be removed and read at will, but if someone tried to remove the shelf, it would only tilt up and then fall back down.
 
The silence held through the long tunnel. Neither killjoy said a word to each other, just allowed the darkness to consume them both. When they reached the door, Poly knocked three times. A purple and red checker board mask stared at them through the open window. "Hey, Rain."
 
"Poly! Cy! How are you?!"
 
"We're fine." Poly gestured to the door. "We've got some shopping to do."
 
"Oh! Right! Duh!" Rain giggled. "Okay, come in!"
 
"Apparently I've missed a lot," Cy murmured as the pass through the door and into the store.
 
Poly shrugged. "Not really. I've just gone on a few supply missions. She's seen me come in a couple times on my own."
 
Cy nodded curtly. "Follow me." She began stalking toward the back of the shop.
 
"Cy, wait!" Poly nearly had to run to catch up. When Cy spun on her heel, Poly had to stop short. "Look, I really am sorry for snapping at you earlier. I was out of line and there was no reason for it."
 
Cy shook her head. "You apologizing isn't going to make me any less mad." She brandished her finger at Poly's chest. "I'll forgive you this time, only because I know why you did it. You don't like that I can see right through you. I get that. But I'm going to tell you right now. I'm trying to help you. So, you better not do it again." Poly nodded. "And I'm gonna introduce you to someone that you need to meet. But, I'm warning you, if you snap at her the way you snapped at me, she's not going to forgive you as easily as I did."
 
Poly nodded and they continued toward the back. When they reached the back wall, a young woman was sitting at a table next to a simple brown wooden door. Her crimson hair had a two inch wide streak of mud brown where it had grown out. She was wearing dark blue jeans, a crimson v-neck t-shirt, bright yellow fingerless gloves, and black combat boots. Her mask covered the top half of her face. The base color was scarlet and she had decorated it with yellow music notes, green hearts, and blue stars. Around her neck hung a dingy looking metal ball chain. It was wrapped around her neck twice to form a choker and a long necklace that disappeared beneath her shirt. Poly couldn't see what was on it.
 
She was sitting on a chair against the wall with her feet propped up on the table in front of her. On the back of her chair, she had draped a dark blue jacket with emerald green knit sleeves. She was knitting as Dr. D's radio station played on the radio behind her. Her feet were twitching to the beat and she bobbed her head. Poly thought she looked very pretty and natural that way. She estimated her age at around thirty years old, but sitting the way she did, she looked still in her twenties.
 
Cyanide approached the table with a pep in her step. "Hey, Serene!"
 
The woman looked up, surprised. "Hey, Cy!" she squealed. "Oh my god, it's been ages since you came on my shift! You have got to stop being such a stranger!" She talked swiftly, but not as swift as Cyanide when she got excited. She jumped out of her seat and began smothering Cy in a bear hug. Her knitting needles chinked as they fell to the floor.
 
"Careful Mad! You don't want to drop this too often." Cy bent down and picked up the knitting. "Whatcha workin' on?"
 
"Oh, goin' all country now, are ya?" Serene laughed, imitating the same fake country accent Cyanide used. Not that it was hard for her to fake. Serene had lived in the mountains of Virginia for two years before the disasters. Before that, she'd lived in a valley she liked to call "Hickville, USA." She was always making fun of herself as much as the other people living in the valley. Most everyone loved to hunt and fish and they all talked with thick country accents. Virginia wasn't deep south, but it was south enough for there to exist a distinct difference between it and the northern and western states.
 
Cy laughed. "Well, I guess I've been hanging around you a little too long."
 
"Uh huh." Serene took her knitting off Cyanide's hands and showed it to her. "Obviously, it's incomplete, but I'm still working on getting the pattern right."
 
Poly stared at the work in awe. It was a fingerless glove. The base color was blue, but it had a scarlet spider in the center. It looked as if she had pulled the spider off the top of Party Poison's Trans Am and transplanted it onto the glove. "Wow! That looks amazing!"
 
"Thank you," Serene blushed. "I've had to frog it so many times, it's pathetic. My patterning skills are less than spectacular. It's off center and the proportions are all wrong."
 
"I think it looks great!"
 
"Yeah!" Cy exclaimed. "I agree with Poly. It looks amazing!" At Serene's skeptic look, she added, "Besides, you can always knit more of them and keep adjusting it and you can sell the early ones. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would kill to have these." She smiled brightly at Serene and Poly nodded.
 
"Well, thanks, Cy." She smiled. "Now, since you caused me to be so rude," she scolded, glaring at Cyanide playfully. She then turned to Poly and extended her hand. "I'm Serene Madness. You must be the new killjoy I've heard so little about." She grinned. Poly noticed her smile was straight, a little yellow, but pretty. She was shocked to see her canines were longer and sharper than the rest of her teeth, vaguely resembling vampire fangs.
 
Poly shook her hand and introduced herself. "Hi. I'm Polyphonic Arrhythmia." She pointed to her canines. "I'm not trying to be rude, but did your canines grow that long naturally or did you have them filed that way?"
 
Serene smiled widely. Truth be told, she was proud of her canines. She used to hate her smile before 2012, but she always loved her canines. She made drastic improvements to her smile from 2010 to 2012, but they were the only things she never changed. "They've always been like that," she grinned in pride. "And it's not rude at all. I love them long and pointed. They earned me quite a reputation in school and I've always been rather fond of them."
 
Poly quirked an eyebrow. "That's unusual, but it's not the first unusual thing I've heard since coming here, so okay."
 
Serene smiled again. "I can see why Cy likes you so much." When Poly looked confused, she continued, "You speak your mind. You say what you think and you don't hold anything against anyone." She sat back down and went back to her knitting. "So, how'd you like the bathhouse?"
 
"It was nice to finally get clean," Poly smiled.
 
Serene giggled. "Yeah. I remember the first shower I took after I first escaped BLI's clutches. It was like the gods heated the water just for me." She looked up and smiled triumphantly, still knitting. "Cy and I do good work, don't we?"
 
Poly's head jerked back in surprise. "You're the friend that helped her make the bathhouse?"
 
She nodded. "Yup. I used to do home improvement projects with my dad before 2012. As I traveled to California, I holed up in libraries during the day. Much like our electric blue ray of sunshine," Serene smirked, "I love learning to do new things. Hell, with Cy's help I learned how to rebuild a car."
 
Poly turned a quizzical eye to Cyanide. "Did she help you with Neon Nights?"
 
"Yeah."
 
"Don't give me too much credit, though," Serene interrupted. "I only helped where two people were needed. She did about ninety percent of the work. I mostly watched."
 
"You did your fair share of the work!" Cyanide put her hands on her hips and stared at Serene. "I wouldn't have figured out the problem with the radiator if you hadn't been there to help!"
 
"Anyway…" Serene drew the word out to keep Cyanide from interrupting again. "Anytime something around here needs fixing, they call either me or Cyanide. Usually, though, they call us both."
 
"What Mad hasn't told you is that she spent months walking and driving from Virginia all the way to California." Poly looked from Cyanide to Serene with wide eyes. "She spent the nights traveling by foot, the days hiding in libraries and book stores, and occasionally driving in the daytime if she needed to. That leaves a lot of time to read up on subjects before she immerses herself into them."
 
"I like to know what I'm walking into before I try something." Serene never looked at her knitting as she spoke. The effect unnerved Poly a little, but she felt like it was something that she'd eventually get used to. "I learned a lot of things that way."
 
"Yeah. Like throwing knives!"
 
"Don't go gettin' all sarcastic on me, Cy!" Serene laughed. "I've offered to teach you!"
 
"Yeah, when you're drunk off your ass and I'm afraid you're gonna kill us!" Cy laughed. "I'd like to keep my eyes in my head, thank you."
 
Serene put her hands on her hips. "I never miss a target when I'm drunk."
 
"Yeah, tell that to Rad."
 
"I hit where I was aiming."
 
Cyanide shook her head. She was still laughing. "You threw the knife into his hand!"
 
Serene's tone turned sassy. "Hey, I was aiming for his hand."
 
Poly's brow furrowed in confusion. "Why'd you aim for his hand?"
 
"He shouldn't have groped me," Serene replied as if it was the most obvious answer.
 
Poly laughed. She liked Serene. She was a no-nonsense kind of woman. She couldn't believe any she had done anything Cyanide had told her about.
 
"Well, we've got some shopping to get done. I've been bed-ridden for weeks and now all I wanna do is shop and sew."
 
"Do you have anything to barter?" Serene quirked her brow and looked at Cy expectantly.
 
"Get up front and you'll see," Cy giggled.
 
Serene pouted playfully. "Aw! But I wanna see it now!"
 
Cy shook her head. "Nope! You'll have to wait and see." With that, Cy and Poly turned and perused the store. Cy picked up little decorations to add to her new room, but mostly, she chose needles, thread, and fabrics.
 
"So you use the barter system?"
 
Cy nodded. "Yeah. Most of us collect whatever we can find that's useful or colorful and when we need something from the store we trade it. The most desperate of us- usually the ones in the inner zones that travelled out here- trade information."
 
"Like what?"
 
"Anything. Drac locations, supply lines, abandoned warehouses, abandoned BLI warehouses, whatever we may need to know. Abandoned BLI warehouses are the most valuable information you can have right now."
 
"Why?"
 
"Well, when Dracs abandon a warehouse, they never do a thorough job of covering their tracks. They leave all their supplies and merchandise behind, but most importantly, they leave documents. A lot of times it's just financial information on BLI, but if you're really lucky, you can find information on other warehouse and their supply routes."
 
Poly nodded. "I see."
 
When Cy had her fill of shopping, she led Poly to the front counter. Serene was standing there waiting. "So, what've you got?" Poly could tell from her voice she wasn't very patient. The reality was, she had a lot of patience, but Cyanide always bartered the best items when Serene was working and she was excited to see what she had.
 
Cyanide reached in her pocket and produced a key. Serene's face fell while Poly's gave away her confusion. "This key belongs to a little shop about thirty miles from here. It's in a two story house. There's no sign out front other than a faded one nailed to the front yard gate. It's a yarn shop." Serene squealed and snatched the key from Cy's hand, bouncing with excitement. "You're gonna need one of those old U-hauls."
 
"I don't care, it's yarn and you are the best!" Serene spoke so fast Poly could barely understand what she'd said. She ran around the counter and spun Cyanide around in her arms.
 
Cy giggled. "Glad I could make you happy." When she was set down again, she pulled a map out of her pocket. "This'll take you right to it." The three killjoys said their goodbyes and Cyanide and Polyphonic left with the promise to return and stay longer.
 
***
 
Korse glared at the Drac in front of him. "Useless." The Drac cowered at the simple insult. He was shaking. He needed stronger medication. It had been two days since his last dose and it had barely worked. Korse was livid. "You pulled out too soon. I ordered you to wait another two days."
 
"They were sending a reconnaissance team, Sir. We had to pull out early."
 
"Idiot! That team was one girl. The very girl we're looking for! I knew they were sending her there." Korse snapped his fingers and three more Dracs stepped in. They strong-armed the first Drac and strapped him to a gurney. "The scientists can have this one." The first Drac screamed the entire way down the corridor to the scientists.
 
Korse remained in the little white office. He thought over his plans and how best to execute them. Losing the chance at grabbing the girl was unfortunate, but it wasn't wholly unexpected. Korse always had a backup plan. For now, though, he would continue to use the media to his advantage. Christine Ward would not escape again.

A/N: Hi guys! Sorry this took so long. There was so much I wanted to put in this chapter and my job's been running me ragged, so it took a really long time to write. I kept putting deadlines on it, but I never seemed to make it. I kept hitting one roadblock after another. But! I finally got it finished! I'm not going to say too much about this one, but I will say something. I'm taking a break from writing the real chapters for now, because I'm a little fuzzy on how quickly things are coming. I've got several scenes in the works and I need to figure them out before I start on chapter 8.... It shouldn't be long before I finish one, but I wanna give you a heads up just in case.... Anyway, I hope you liked the chapter.