Lisa's text of 'meet me outside loser I have Mcdonalds' greeted me when I left my crummy apartment's crummy little shower- and man my mom was probably disappointed with my word abilities. To be fair, considering my last shower had been before Leviathan, the crummy little shower felt like heaven.
I replied for her to give me 5 minutes and then looked at myself in the mirror as I towelled myself down. My body was lean now, the body of someone who regularly ran. I had a similar build to Sophia now, I could probably keep up with her on the track, if that was what she was doing nowadays anyway.
I chucked on some clean clothes, locked my apartment's door and was greeted at the entrance to the building by Lisa, sitting behind the wheel of a car, probably second hand if I were to guess, but a good way to make it blend in with all the other cars in the bay.
"Nice car" I commented as I slid into the passenger seat.
"Thanks, I'm gonna call it the Tattle-mobile" she said with a grin.
I paused and rose my eyebrow at her "that sounds like the mascots car in a PSA about strangers"
Lisa giggled, again in that unsettling way before then cooling her features "your right…" she trailed off into thought as I pulled my seat belt on. She handed me a brown paper bag with the Mcdonalds logo.
"I didn't think we had a Mcdonalds in the bay" I said as I opened the bag.
"We do now, but at a cost. We lost Fugly Bob's"
I looked at Lisa, faux (and maybe a tiny little bit actually) devastated "No, not Fugly Bob's"
"Afraid so, closed down a few years ago. Damaged in the fight between Alexandria, her capes and Lung. Awful collateral"
"Gone before its time" I murmur as I inspect the fry "this is probably the first time I've ever had Mcdonalds"
"It's basically Fugly's, but less greasy"
I take a bite and realise two things. It is just a less greasy Fugly Bob's, and also I am really hungry. I begin to devour the meal quickly, the car ride passing in relative silence before Lisa broke it.
"I know… you think I'm a little unhinged" Lisa eventually said, glancing at me before back at the road "and maybe you're a little right. I… don't know which stage of grief I was on, a mix between anger and depression probably. So seeing you alive again, knowing the others are as well… it's a shock… and part of me is still scared that this is all fake, and I'm gonna wake up in my bed back in the PRT headquarters, alone. So just… bear with me, I'm making the most of this"
I was silent for a moment, thinking about how to respond.
"It's okay… I know what it's like… to lose people. I'd probably be a little unhinged around my mom" I replied, shooting her a smile. A smile lifted her lips. I settled my expression back to serious "so, where we going?"
"We're getting the other Undersiders, and we're going to bring them up to speed. Then, we need to plan how we're going to break this universe"
"How long do you think we're gonna be breaking universes for?" I asked, trying not to contemplate that that was a question I was genuinely asking.
"Hard to say. Glitches will become more prominent as time goes on. But time definitely goes way faster for us in here then it does outside, so it could be a while"
"Great" I grumbled, shoving the last fries into my mouth.
"We'll get out though, eventually. The more we cause chaos in here, the more we break stuff out there"
I grunt before looking at the surroundings, noting we were going toward the parts of town that just bordered on the bad parts. That zone where the Protectorate still patrolled, but you shouldn't rely on them (if you could in the first place).
"Who are we grabbing first?" I asked.
"Rachel, she'll be the easiest to convince to come with us" Lisa scrunched her mouth to the side as we stopped at a red light "probably, anyway. You'll probably be able to convince her"
The building was similar to what Rachel's previous dog den had been. Except this one was actually finished. A roof and a concrete walled yard. Using my bugs I could see the dogs that were inside, the people as well, handlers playing with balls and other such tools.
"Come on" Lisa said, walking toward the doors.
I followed her. Opening the doors revealed a bare bones lobby. A neglected plant in the corner, some chairs. A desk at the front with a very bored looking secretary, browsing his phone with an uninterested expression.
Lisa confidently walked up to the desk and leaned on it. I followed behind her, standing in the background. After a moment I crossed my arms and leant back on my feet.
It took the receptionist a while to finally look up at us, and he didn't look too impressed.
"Welcome to Hell's Hound, how can we help you today" he spoke in a dull monotone.
"Hello sir, would you happen to know where one Rachel Lindt is?"
The receptionist looked between us with raised eyebrows. I hung back, pulling my usual intimidating look but this time without bugs, I don't think it was anywhere as successful.
"Are you… expected?" he asked.
"No, we just want to see her" Lisa said with a shrug.
"Right" said the receptionist, looking between us "and… which gang do you belong to?"
Lisa and I looked at each other before Lisa responded "none of them?"
The receptionist actually looked surprised for a moment before shrugging "well, saves on cleaning up the blood" he murmured before smiling a fake smile "would you like to book an appointment?"
"Sure" Lisa chirped.
"Okay, what's your names?"
"Lisa Wilbourn" Lisa said with a smile.
"Lisa Wi-" the receptionist fingers froze on the keyboard. In fact, the receptionist froze completely, as did everyone I had tagged with my bugs, all pausing for the barest microsecond before continuing. I glanced to Lisa, only to see that her smile and gone full grin. In any case, it was easy to tell who Rachel was now, she had been at the very back of the building, a dog loyally marching at her heels. It was no dog breed I recognised, too large, it came to her waist but wasn't in any way grown with the tell-tale sign of Rachel's power.
I had some flies do a halo in front of Rachel. She stopped mid-step. Said something, then changed direction, coming toward us.
"Uh… what relationship do you have with Rachel Lindt exactly?" The receptionist asked.
"We're friends. She'd know us right away"
"Right…" the receptionist seemed sceptical "well, if you could take a seat"
We took our seats and Lisa glanced at me.
'Find her?' she mouthed.
'Yeah, she's coming' I mouthed back.
The building was continuing as normal, one of the handlers seemed to be searching the building for something, or more likely Rachel herself, to give her the message we were here. Another was going to a secluded closet and pulling a phone, making a phone call to someone.
When Rachel stepped into the reception, the receptionist looked surprised but didn't speak up., refusing to make eye contact either. Me and Lisa both stood and I took in the girls appearance.
She still had her Butch appearance, but she made it work well, despite having no care for her appearance. Her hair was still cut short, a messy pixie cut with no real style but familiar. Her face was less squarish. The familiar scowl with those familiar thick eyebrows was fixed in place, though it lessened upon sight with us. She wore a spiked choker that I suspected was all the rage with goths and other such crowds. A green fur lined jacket over a grey vest. Military style black boots and camo cargo pants.
The dog wasn't a dog, it was a wolf. Where Rachel had gotten it from was beyond me, how she had even trained it beyond me even further.
"R-cherry" I said, as soon as we made eye contact.
"L-brick" she responded with.
"Nice dog" Lisa commented, crouching down and extending a hand hesitantly. The wolf sniffed, but otherwise took no threatening moves, allowing Lisa to pat it's head gently.
"His name's Bastard" Rachel spoke "because he is one" she looked between us "don't remember what happened"
"From what point?" I asked.
"Felt pain on my back, the wall moving behind me, did my dogs survive?"
"No, only I did" Lisa said.
Rachel scowled further "what the fuck is this?" she asked.
"I will happily explain, but first let's pick up Brian and Aisha" Lisa spoke, turning on her heel and leading us back to the car.
The receptionist stood as Rachel began to follow us "Uh, Miss Lindt! Where are you-"
"Fuck off" Rachel grunted back to the confused receptionist.
That ended that line of conversation very quickly. I turned to look Rachel over. She had no obvious injury, though she had wrappings around her knuckles and her body was more scarred, I guess from working in Brockton Bay (and I guess dogs probably also had something to do with it).
"How are you feeling?"
"Confused. Pissed off about my dogs. Can we kill the…?" Rachel made a vague gesture.
Lisa paused in consideration before then looking at Rachel "actually, yes, anyone attacks us, feel free to kill"
"The simulation won't see that coming, we never killed anyone before. Rachel's the one who's got the least qualms about doing it-"
I turned on my heel sharply, pointing between them "No! No killing" I said, firmly looking between them.
Lisa held her hands up "okay, boss"
"Fine" Rachel grunted "but I'm gonna hurt the fuck out of whoever's responsible"
"And I'll happily cheer you on" I mutter as I turn back to the car.
Brian lived in a nice area of Brockton, not part of E88 territory. Though I supposed that everywhere is now E88 territory. Wasn't that a depressing thought?
Though to be fair to him, it had been hard to track down a specific address, likely Faultline's influence. But we had Lisa, so it didn't really matter since she cracked it in the space of ten minutes. We pulled up to the front and climbed out, Rachel going around to the boot and opening it to let Bastard out. I didn't care how much Rachel complained, we needed to fit five people into the car, so he went in the fucking boot. He could poke his head up over the seats anyway, so it didn't matter.
We entered the apartment building and ascended up the stairs. Number twenty five.
"So, who wants to knock?" Lisa asked.
I looked at the door, felt the familiar anxiety, and turned to her "You do it"
"Okay- hey!" Lisa frowned as Rachel reached between us and knocked on the door, looking back with a scowl at our looks.
"Took too long" she said, Bastard sitting at her feet.
The door swung open and we were faced with a woman. Shorter than all of us, brown hair and brown eyes and a general mousy look. I recognised her from the research I had done yesterday, she had been on Brian's Facebook as Kayden.
"Hello, we're friends of Brian" Lisa stated with a smile. For some reason the woman- upon taking in in Lisa's appearance- paled, taking a step back from the door "we just wanna talk"
"Who is it?" A familiar deep voice asked and Brian appeared. He was massive now, built like a freight train and tall to boot, at least six and a half if I were to guess. His face hadn't changed much, but he'd always had a more mature face then the rest of us. His hair was in the familiar cornrow style tied off into a small little bun at the back. He had stubble growing on his face, just long enough to not be a five o'clock shadow.
"B-rose" I spoke.
His eyes widened upon seeing us, but a tension seemed to leave his shoulders "N-ladybug. You're alive" he breathed.
"We're all alive" Lisa grinned.
"Brian? Do you know these people?" Kayden asked, looking between us.
"Yeah, they're… old friends… from work" Brian emphasised the last word in a way the woman understood as she nodded, seemingly readily accepting that.
"Ah I see, well, I was leaving anyway. Let me gather my stuff and I'll be out of your hair" Kayden paused as she looked us over, eyes landing on the wolf in the room "is that a wolf?"
"Don't worry, he's trained" I said, patting the wolf's head.
"He is trained right?" Lisa whispered to Rachel when Kayden turned her back.
"Of course he fucking is" Rachel hissed back.
The apartment itself was nice, not too high end, but nothing like my crummy one. Kayden eft through a different door, I was able to catch a glimpse of a bed.
"Nice place" I commented to Brian as my bugs mapped it out. He gave a distracted nod, looking between the three of us and then Bastard, who was sniffing the couch.
"Yeah" He responded absently, his eyes flicking toward the door Kayden had gone through.
"What's up Brian?" Lisa asked, stepping toward him with a concerned expression.
Brian grabbed Lisa's shoulders and brought her close "help" he whispered "I have no fucking clue what's going on, I remember getting rammed by the Merchants, and then yesterday woke up naked in bed next to her" the last part was a strangled noise, barely recognisable as his eyes flicked to the room Kayden was in.
Lisa's eyes narrowed "I can explain everything when we get your sister, who is she?" she asked quietly, eyes glancing to the door with the familiar blankness telling her power was now in use.
"Purity!" he hissed.
I tensed up, feeling my body revert to a ready stance, eyes now fixed on the door like it was about to explode. Rachel beside me was her usual self, except the eyes that were now focused on the door. Lisa was frowning heavily as she looked between the door and Brian.
"Why would they do that?" she murmured.
"What the fuck do you- hey sweetie, have a good day at work" the way Brian's attitude suddenly switched was nearly comical in how fast it took place, standing up straight with a smile.
Kayden smiled, shoulder her bag as she exited the room "you too, I hope whatever… this is, goes well" the woman thankfully didn't go in for a kiss, instead quickly walking to the door and leaving.
All was quiet for several long moments, before Brian collapsed onto the sofa and put his head in his hands.
"Why am I dating a nazi?" he moaned "she knows Aisha, she knows places she frequents and… and oh god she's twelve years older than me"
"Well done, you bagged yourself a MILF Brian" Lisa congratulated, clapping him on the shoulder.
Brain frowned down at the floor "that's not important" Brian looked up to glare at her "what the fuck Lisa, I expect this sort of thing from Alec, not-"
"Brian" I cut in, rain snapping to look at me "not so harsh, she's… been through a rough time"
Lisa rolled her eyes, pouting while crossing her arms "geez, make it sound like I have a tragic backstory why don't you?"
"Enough of this, Brian, come with us, do you know where Aisha is?"
"I can text her, if that doesn't work, I know her usual spots- which, by the way, I have memories I don't remember having, is that-"
"That's all of us, yes" I replied "now come on, sooner we get Aisha, sooner Lisa can explain to everyone what's going on"
Brian talked as he led Lisa to Aisha's location.
"Aisha is living with me in the apartment. Sometimes Kayden comes over to stay, she usually brings her kids, this time she left them at home with a babysitter- this left. Aisha's been thinking- I suppose was thinking now- about going to college"
"Yeah, well that won't be happening now" Lisa interjected.
"No… I suppose not. Next right and we should be there"
"Not to say it couldn't when all this is over, but right now it definitely won't be happening". Lisa turned the right, then had to stop at a red light. She was quiet for a moment before frowning. "Wait, I just thought of something" Lisa turned around in her seat to look sceptically at Brian, a sly grin on her face "you woke up yesterday, in bed, next to the woman you later found out was Purity. What was that little scene we just walked in on then? Did you sleep with her again?"
"Not in the way you're thinking" Brian snapped back, crossing his arms. "We slept in the same bed, nothing else happened. What was I supposed to do? I was still recovering from… a lot of stuff, and didn't want to… cause more issues before I knew what was going on"
"Fair enough to that" Lisa conceded, looking forward once again.
We were coming up to a park, a very nice-looking park. It was annoying to think that nazi influence was behind many of the changes. Lisa pulled the car to a stop near the side walk, next to a low wall where the unmistakable form of Aisha was sitting with some other girls. Lisa rolled down her window "Hey Aisha! I-blood!"
The girl was stunned temporarily before quickly replying "P-P-tomato. Lisa!? T-Taylor! Rachel! You're all alive?" The girl cried, eyes wide as she hopped down from the wall and looked into the car.
She was the most changed out of everyone. Still with the high cheekbones, that was the most recognisable feature. She was tall, but nowhere near as tall as her brother and still shorter than my own above average height. She had undercut her hair on both sides, though it was no longer possessed the familiar purple streak. She had several piercings, including one on her belly button. The crop top she wore as trashy as I remembered her dressing but showing off a lean build. It seemed puberty had been kind to her, though I was happy to note that her chest had stayed at the same development it had been at the last time I'd seen her.
"Wanna go fuck shit up?"
"Who are these losers Aisha?" one of the girls with Aisha asked.
"I don't fucking know you!" Aisha shouted back as she slipped into the back next to Brian, Lisa pulling the car away. I heard Rachel growl, not that Aisha seemed to care as she hugged the woman tightly.
"Oh my god, I thought you all died, or it was all a dream!" I coughed and spluttered in surprise as arms were suddenly wrapped around my neck, nearly choking me "oh, but your all alive. Taylor! Still keeping bugs in your hair, so creepy, but god I'm so happy to see you!"
Lisa held her hand up as Aisha released my neck (and I sucked in glorious air) "as much as I would love a hug Aisha, don't choke the person driving the car please"
"Would it even matter?" I asked.
Lisa hummed before shrugging "no, some ex machina would save us, I just don't want to be choked to be honest"
"What do you mean it wouldn't matter?" Aisha asked "and where's Alec?"
"Let's get somewhere where we can talk in peace"
"Fugly Bob's?" Aisha suggested.
"Closed, now Mcdonalds"
"No" she breathed, despair in her voice.
"'Fraid so, also, we want to have a private conversation, going somewhere so public is just asking for trouble" Lisa shook her head "with all of us gathered like this, yeah, something will take note of that"
"Lisa, Taylor, what are you talking about it? Care to fill the rest of us in?" Aisha asked.
"Yeah, as fun as all this is, can someone please explain what's going on" Brian spoke, an annoyed expression on his face.
"Gosh, is this what having kids is like?" Lisa mused.
"Welcome to my life" I muttered before turning "settle down, we'll explain soon. But we need somewhere relatively private"
"Ugh" Aisha collapsed back onto the back seat, between Brian and Rachel. Then she must of heard Bastard, because she turned and squealed "holy shit! Rachel you have a fucking wolf!?"
"Yes" Rachel grunted.
"What's his name!? Can I pet him?!"
"Bastard, and no"
"Ah, come on! Please, please, please, please-"
I tuned the girl out, seeing from the corner of my eye as Lisa smiled.
"You can't be serious" Aisha said, perched on the wall.
We had found a parking lot on the crummy outskirts of town. Parked near the back, a low brick wall circled the entire place. Aisha was crouching on top of the wall, Brian leaning next to her with a frown, staring at the ground. Rachel was scowling at nothing, her fists balled.
"I am, hundred percent" Lisa replied, leaning back against her car.
"But…" Aisha frowned, looking down at her hands.
"Do you have proof?" Brian asked.
Lisa began counting off her fingers "our inability to die, suddenly being in another universe seven years into the future, capes dying only to come back to life, Taylor's suddenly appearing bugs. The fact that nothing seems to go wrong for us, ever-"
"Except for the van, where the… simulation supposedly 'glitched'" Brian finished, sounding sceptical but concerned.
I glanced at Rachel who was now looking down at Bastard with a look I couldn't quite place "Rachel, what do you think?"
Rachel didn't answer right away, her hand idly running through Bastard's fur before she snarled, baring teeth as she looked back up "I hate this shit, words and trickery and… and fake worlds! I want to punch something"
"Amen to that" Aisha muttered.
"And you can punch something, when we get out" Lisa said.
"How do we get out?" Brian asked, crossing his arms.
"Well, the people who caught us want something from us, not sure what. But they don't want us dead. If we break the machine enough from in here by causing it to glitch more and more, they will probably let us out and that's when we strike" Lisa spoke, pacing.
"How do we make the world glitch then?" Brian followed.
"By causing chaos, doing things the simulation wouldn't expect. We got lucky the first time when the simulation glitched on its own, and we'll likely end up seeing more stuff like that as we go on. But we can speed the process up"
Aisha perked up "would the simulation expect us to take a sudden road trip to Canada? To look for Alec?"
Lisa frowned in thought, a smile slowly building on her face "because it's built on our memoires, and none of us except Alec have been to Canada. Suddenly dropping our lives and everything and just going to Canada would throw the machine for a loop. It would have to generate the areas between here and Canada, and Alec hasn't been to all of Canada. Good idea Aisha!"
"Road trip?" I asked, looking around the group.
"Road trip!" Aisha cheered.
"Still having a hard time believing this… but sure, road trip" Brian agreed.
"Whatever" Rachel grunted.
Here's a random horrible concept for you to chew on.
Sophia or Taylor singing How Bad Can I Be
Have a nice day : D