Author's Note: In which we learn things about vent-crawling, a few things come to light, and Beach Head's PT pays off.
First—obviously my treatment of Lifeline here is inspired in equal parts by CrystalOfEllinon and willwrite4fics, both of whom delight in putting our favorite little medic through the wringer at every possible opportunity. Lifeline's act in the closing moments of the chapter derives from a running gag in Crystal's fics. Secondly, we can all expect this fic to be moving a lot faster from now on; I've got the end in sight, and am raring to finish. This does mean that my other fics are going to get short shrift for a while (I haven't updated RSVP in a donkey's years, and might not 'til this is done) but on the other hand, since this fic has taken over three years to complete, I think any increase in speed is good.
Disclaimer: G.I. Joe and all associated characters and concepts are property of Hasbro Inc, and I derive no profit from this. Please accept this in the spirit with which it is offered—as a work of respect and love, not an attempt to claim ownership or earn money from this intellectual property.
Chapter Nineteen: Hertz Donut
She took it back. Everything she had ever said about the ninjas—their sneakiness, their rudeness, their creepiness—she took it all back. Because apparently, they could wear all black, crawl through the Pit's air ducts, and not get dirty.
Even with her makeshift keffiyah, she could barely breathe. The Pit had at least six subterranean levels, all of them serviced by a massive network of vents and air shafts, and it would've needed a cleaning crew the size of the NFL to keep all of them clean all the time. Worse, the Joes had only recently moved into this Pit, and it had been de-mothballed rather hastily. As she crawled, eddies of dry gray dust puffed and whirled around her, and occasional tumbleweeds composed of dog hair and more of the evil dust went pinwheeling past. Once, her knee went into a strange pool of sticky liquid, which she hoped was oil. Prayed was oil, really.
And not only could the ninjas do it cleanly, they could do it quietly, which was proof that they were actually magicians as far as Annie was concerned. Commando-crawling through cold mud was no fun, but the worst mud ever made was the odd 'splup' noise. Every time she moved—every time she breathed—the duct seemed to take it personally and would respond with the most godawful rattles and booms she'd ever heard.
At least Beach Head seemed to have anticipated this kind of thing. It was a rare day when his PT didn't involve some kind of weird test or horrific challenge, and Annie had already had the pleasure of traversing his mudpits and obstacle courses with, yes, one hand tied behind her back. Her cast made the most godawful racket imaginable, but it was nothing next to the white-hot pain creeping back into her arm with every motion; it was actually a relief when she was able to stop, tear another strip off the hospital gown, and use it to strap the arm to her side.
She had one other stroke of luck: the ventilation system wasn't exactly quiet itself. Every few minutes the fans would rumble to life in different parts of the Pit, bombarding her with fresh showers of dust but covering most of the noise she made.
As Annie crawled onwards, she hit a sort of rhythm. Push, grip, push, grip, stop, pant, repeat. She tried chanting the sequence in her head until she realized how creepy it sounded and stopped. But the rhythm persisted, and after a while, she seemed to push through the pain and hit some kind of strange calm zone. As long as she kept moving, she'd be okay.
Light bled into the ducts from the vent grilles, giving Annie small glimpses of the rooms beyond. Offices and storage rooms mostly, on this level, but a few bunkrooms as well. One of the empty rooms she passed had a locker with a neat "Lifeline" stenciled on it, and she held her breath and crawled as quietly as possible until she was past it . . . just in case.
Moving between levels was the hardest part. Only the largest vertical vents were intended to be traversed by the maintenance crews, and she had to crawl what felt like miles before finding a suitable one which ran parallel to the elevator shafts. Then came the glorious experience, never to be forgotten or (hopefully) repeated, that was climbing a ladder one-handed up a massive metal tube that echoed with the bangs and rumbles of the ventilation and elevator systems. While concussed.
By the time she slithered back into the horizontal vents, her head was swimming, and some traitorous part of her was wondering if it wouldn't be easier to let the goddamn full Joes handle everything. That was their job, right? They were spies and ninjas and commandos and shit. They had names like Storm Shadow, Rock'n'Roll, and Roadblock. They ate traitors and terrorists for breakfast. (Well, not literally. They ate waffles. Or in Storm Shadow's case, granola and/or blueberry bagels . . . why was she even thinking that? Hrm, some of the meds must be still in her system.)
But if there really was a spy in Joe, it could be any one of them. The thought chilled her, and added the little extra adrenaline she needed to keep moving. The long-timers might not suspect each other, but the way Annie saw it, longtime Joes might have more reason to snap. Stress, PTSD, resentment . . . or maybe just a plain old payoff from Cobra. For all anyone knew, Storm Shadow might not have really switched sides after all. She desperately wanted to be back in her infirmary bed, not sucking dust through a scrap of thin fabric and praying she didn't pass out or give herself a blood clot, but she had to do something.
At least if she did get a blood clot, she'd have more time off PT. Granted, she'd probably also be off the Joes . . . but that was looking better and better at this point. She could still get her freaking college stipend in the regular Army, and do it someplace quieter, too. Like Afghanistan.
Speaking of Afghanistan, she still had an actual keffiyah in her locker. She should probably grab it if she planned on doing more vent-crawling.
Finally, after what felt like years, she thought she reached the right spot. Stopping to peer out of the closest vent grille, she saw mops, boxes, and a posted list of precautions in case of disaster and/or evacuation. A janitor's closet, the vent-crawling fugitive's best friend. Shuffling along to the next grille, moving as cautiously and silently as she could, she spotted exactly what she was after: the office of quartermaster affairs, or QMA for those in a hurry. A guard (she recognized him vaguely as one of the pigeons from Psyche-Out's office) was posted at the door—required, poor bastard, to stand watch over the precious inventory records that no sane person would actually steal. He must've ticked somebody off to get that job. Annie carefully backtracked to the janitor's closet and levered the grille out of place.
Getting out of the vents, head-first, was actually harder than getting into them. At least nobody was around to see her trying to get her head out of a bucket one-handed.
Before stepping out into the hallway, she took a quick inventory of herself. She was wearing the shredded remains of a hospital gown, plus standard-issue olive-drab sweatpants and a bright yellow sports bra. No shoes. She could take some of the janitors' spare coveralls (there were several pairs neatly folded on the shelf in the closet) but the shoes would be hard to explain . . .
Fuck it. This was a place where people wore lime-green quilted jackets and bright red jumpsuits with words printed on them. She shucked out of her pants and gown, pulled on the coveralls, wiped most of the dust and sweat off her face, and stepped out into the hallway. The floor was cold under her bare feet, but compared to the throbbing pain in her arm, it was actually kind of nice. Even better, she was a little small for the coveralls, and they obscured her cast nicely.
The MP at the door of the QMA gave her a slow up-and-down, and not the kind that went with a sexy dress, either. He leaned around her and studied the dirty footprints she'd left in the hall as if they were a rare objet d'art, his poker face magnificent in its detachedness.
"Huh," he said.
"Short Stack, 92G," Annie said, showing her dog tags. "I need to check the kitchen duty logs for the last two days."
"Huh," the MP said again. According to his name tape, his name was Long Arm, but in Annie's opinion it should've been Deadpan. "I recognize you." A trenchant pause. "Is there a reason you're not wearing shoes?"
"I got caught kicking the back of someone's seat in the mess," Annie responded sulkily. "Sergeant major said that boots were a privilege, and if I didn't understand that, I needed to learn it."
Long Arm glanced down at her bare toes, and Annie grimaced. "Socks are also a privilege."
"You guys never learn," Long Arm said, but he motioned her inside anyway. Annie saluted and tried to look put-upon. It wasn't hard.
Inside, the QMA was essentially a paperwork cocoon surrounding a couple of harassed file clerks. The back office was the realm of Storage Vault, the legendary head quartermaster, but the door was closed. He was probably down in the armory working on another ulcer, Annie guessed.
It was the work of a moment to request and get the kitchen duty logs. They wouldn't be open to just anyone, but Annie was a quartermaster, even if an irregularly-dressed one. With her nerves jangling the way they were and her knowledge of the high-speed gossip networks inside the Pit, she was half surprised they didn't tell Long Arm to collar her—but then, they didn't look like they'd left the office all day. For all they knew, she might've been released already. She thanked Beach Head for this unexpected bounty of luck as she quickly flipped through the duty logs.
On the day in question, the log had been filled out by Whiskey Down. Murphy checked in early, followed a few minutes later by Shingle and SOS. Her stomach dropped a little at the next line, though: Eighty-Six and Chopper had both been over thirty minutes late, and severely reprimanded for it. There was no specific reason given for their lateness, just this cryptic note in the margins: Discipline becoming a problem.
When she'd seen them winking back and forth, she'd assumed Chopper and Eighty-Six were just a good ol' Joe-style case of frat reg violations. Which, come to think of it, was a perfect cover for doing something equally as rule-violating but not nearly as easily ignored.
Chopper, the nice easy guy. The ex-biker who'd had the suspicious bullets in his cupboard.
Don't be stupid, her brain told her. He wouldn't be that careless. What would he have to gain?
Don't rule anything out, her inner paranoid shot back. G.I. Joe is supposed to be super-secret, everyone is screened out the wazoo, and they STILL have a traitor problem. All bets are off.
Annie grunted a little as she handed the duty log back to the file clerk. She hated it when she argued with herself and lost.
Edwin Steen, alias Lifeline, was annoyed. He was annoyed because infirmary escapes were becoming a regular pastime. He was annoyed because Ace was placing blind-bag greenie bets again, and if he thought Lifeline didn't know that, he should be checked for head injuries. But most of all, he was annoyed because while he was in his office, he'd gotten a phone call instructing him not to exert himself preventing his patient's escape.
Lifeline didn't believe in violence. After the upbringing inflicted on him by a supposed man of God, he had long ago decided that the only real way to benefit his fellow man was to do harm to none and heal without fear or favor. Unfortunately, his pacifism was sorely tested by an entire unit full of soldiers who viewed "doctor's orders" as "doctor's suggestions." Even the ones who were more likely to malinger in the infirmary than escape from it (step forward,Shipwreck) got a kick out of the various shenanigans perpetrated by commandos and Rangers who were supposed to be healing quietly.
But orders were orders, so he'd taken his time in his office before 'discovering' that she was gone. (Like anyone could miss that escape; she'd sounded like a drunk moose, banging around in the vents.) Once that time had passed, though, it was all fair game.
Black ops were a fact of life in G.I. Joe, and Lifeline knew very well that people were going to get hurt no matter what he did. He was a combat medic: much as he would have liked to haul people out of the fray entirely, half the time it just meant patching them up enough to let them dive right back into it. He understood that.
Once someone was in the infirmary, though, they probably weren't going to be dashing out onto the battlefield that second. And if someone had two broken bones, a concussion, and probable PTSD and delayed shock? That person needed to stay put. End of story. Allowing someone to escape, even for the sake of some kind of mysterious plan going on inside the Pit itself, went against everything Lifeline believed in. He might not be able to stop sick men from putting themselves in danger on the front lines, but he could damn well do his best to prevent it right here in the Pit.
Beach Head bullied people ruthlessly because he wanted them strong enough to survive. Lifeline kept them bed-bound, with tranquilizers if necessary, for exactly the same reasons. The irony of the comparison was not lost on him.
He wasn't a high enough rank to know the details of the black ops currently causing his patient to make a racket in the ducts, but Doc had hinted that it was something to do with the kitchen. So he dispatched Kitbag to watch the kitchen, Stretcher to patrol the corridors, and himself to lie in wait near the quartermasters' bunkroom.
Annie desperately wanted to just walk, but she couldn't chance being spotted by any angry medics. Once back in the janitor's closet, she stuffed the remnants of her mutilated hospital gown into the garbage and appropriated some cleaning rags and a proper dustmask from the stock on the shelves. Somebody would eventually notice the missing items and have to fill out the proper forms. Annie silently apologized to the custodial department for being the cause of paperwork . . . and, considering the dirty footprints she'd left in the hallway, regular old work too. If she didn't get thrown out of Joe or killed soon, she'd help them with the mopping and the forms.
Once into the vents (easier this time—stacking boxes and buckets until she could just wriggle in) she used the rags to strap up her bad arm and set off again. She'd got the hang of crawling now, and adrenaline or sheer exhaustion seemed to be taking the edge off the pain.
Unfortunately, when the pain's away the concussion will play. Annie stopped at the edge of the long vertical shaft and rested her head against her one good arm: her head was swimming again, and a horrible sickly sensation was building in the back of her throat. She didn't want to find out what would happen if she threw up into a dust mask, so she awkwardly wrenched it off and immediately regretted it. A fresh spasm of coughing convulsed her, and the sounds echoed up and down the shaft.
"I quit," she muttered hoarsely as the coughs subsided. "I signed up to cook food. Period. Here's some food, Annie, put it in a pan until the salmonella's dead. I don't care if Sergeant Major Asshole and the entire mystic ninja squad calls me a pussy, I'm gone. This? Is not salmonella." She coughed again and wiped her mouth. "Could be TB, though."
At which point she remembered that the vents carried all kinds of sound, and very gently banged her head against the wall.
It took a few minutes for the world to stop spinning, but it felt like years. While her sense of equilibrium was shot, the rest of her brain still seemed to be functioning, and it was spending the time berating her in language she hadn't thought she knew. The gist of it: you're ignoring the real problem, you dingus.
Ever since she'd gone to see Carter Hall with a carton of ice cream in hand, the entire world had gone completely Twilight-Zone-cuckoo, and she'd gotten caught up in the crazy. Now she was hanging out in a dusty air duct, waiting for the dizziness to subside so she could go interrogate a fellow quartermaster about the possibility of him being a spy. A fellow quartermaster named Chopper, who came across as one of the nicest, most guileless guys to ever bisect bones with a meat cleaver. Yeah. She was quitting.
Eventually, she managed to get her head clear enough to start the careful, painful ascent up the ladder. The bunkrooms used by support personnel tended to be locate on or near the level where they worked, which would make it easy to scope everything at once, but there were still multiple floors between the infirmary level and the kitchen level. She awkwardly wiped her face against the shoulder of her stolen coveralls and kept climbing.
It was a tricky business. Sweat was making her hands and bare feet unsteady on the rungs, and her good arm was aching worse than her bad one. As she hauled herself up past the second level, both feet slipped at once, and Annie let out a squawk as all her weight pulled down on her one working arm.
"Hate my job hate my job hate my job . . ." It became a mantra as she got her feet under her again. She didn't have to worry about people hearing her; she barely had enough breath to whisper, let alone yell. It would've been nice to yell.
After what felt like another eternity, she reached the right floor. Maybe. Her vision was blurring, and it was hard to be sure, but she sure as hell didn't have the strength to go any further up. Scrambling back into the horizontal ducts, she lay prone for a few moments, panting behind her dust mask. She didn't have any breath left for any more hate my jobs, but the feeling was there. More and more, she found herself wishing she'd never left her tiny town and crappy family diner job.
Even Sergeant Major's PT had never exhausted her like this. Maybe if he was crawling through the ducts after her, yelling at her to crawl faster, gawddammit, ya damn slug of a cook . . . The thought made her smile a little, to her surprise. With PT pains, she had someone to blame. Now there was no one to hate except herself.
Well, herself and the spy. And Zartan. Her tight little ball of rage had been diminished by exhaustion, but it wasn't quite gone, and at the thought of Zartan it flared up again. Annie lay prone for a few minutes, feeding it: the memory of the humiliation, the pain in her broken arm, the sting of being declared a possible security hazard (well, to be fair she was AWOL from the infirmary, but she had a damn reason), the double sting of being locked out of the kitchen, and the steak sandwich. Carter Hall . . . He made her stomach clench, but with regret instead of rage, so she pushed the image of the dead toxo-viper aside and focused on the things that made her angry. There was quite a list at this point.
With renewed rage came a surge of adrenaline, and Annie started crawling again. Somebody really must be watching over her, because she'd picked the right floor. Only a few minutes of painful inching along brought her alongside the first of a set of familiar-looking rooms.
Storage C. Storage B. The blocked-off vents that would lead to Storage A, AKA the meat locker and walk-in freezer. The ducts branched, and Annie turned right, certain it would take her to the quartermasters' bunkrooms.
Fifteen minutes later, she was back where she'd begun, considerably dustier and with her temper hanging by a frayed thread. Stupid misleading mental floor plan.
Finally, she found what looked like the right vent. She paused next to it, took as deep a breath as she dared, and put her eye to the slits in the metal. There it was: the quartermasters' bunkroom, her own bed with the locker at the foot of it, Eighty-Six's little pictures of saints and celebrities, Eighty-Six wrapped around-
Holy shit. Annie jerked her head back, almost giving herself another concussion on the low ceiling of the duct.
This unit. Seriously. Frat regs didn't stand a chance. Not that Eighty-Six and Chopper were technically fraternizing—there was no Army regulation that specifically said you weren't allowed to spoon naked and enjoy afterglow with another soldier, after all—but . . . okay . . . seriously? Annie could feel her face and neck warming, and she covered her eyes with one dusty coverall sleeve, sure that she was turning red enough to give her away right through the vent. Awkward. Awkward with a capital A.
God, she felt creepy.
She waited until the footsteps, shuffling, and low-voiced words told her that the two of them were up again and dressed. Then she carefully peeked again, still red-faced.
Eighty-Six and Chopper weren't acting like conspirators. The big ex-biker tickled her, and she giggled and swatted his hand, calling him something obviously unprintable in Creole French. Annie covered her eyes again and scooted away from the vent as quietly as she could. Somewhere, Ma Gorshin would narrowing her eyes, sensing that her daughter was doing something She Really Oughtn't Be Doing.
After what felt like an embarrassing eternity, the door opened, and the heavier of the two sets of footsteps tapped away down the corridor. Annie dared to peek again. Eighty-Six was sitting cross-legged on her bunk, looking a little ruffled and dreamy. If she was a spy, this would be a perfect chance for her to start searching peoples' lockers and bunks . . . But she didn't, just sat there for a couple of minutes before getting up and leaving the room as well. Probably staggering her exit to avoid being seen leaving with Chopper.
Annie fell out of the vent, trailing dust. A momentary glimpse of herself in Eighty-Six's mirror made her yelp: she looked like the Cave Monster of Sandstorm IV, gray with vent scrapings and littered with paint chips and sweat patches.
"Graarrrh," she said, making claws out of her hands and growling at the mirror. The effect was actually quite impressive, though it sent yet another wave of pain through her exhausted arms. Grunting a little, she dropped her hands again and flopped down on her bed.
I hate my job I hate my job I hate my job.
After a few moments of staring at nothing, she reluctantly hauled herself to her feet again, wiped her hands clean on a rag from her footlocker, and—and oh god, this part felt really wrong—went over to Eighty-Six's bunk. The other woman's own footlocker was sitting there, innocuous as ever, and Annie had to steel herself before she could open it. Well, that was it: once it became known that she'd done that, she was out of G.I. Joe. Might as well make good time of what she had left, right?
But there was . . . nothing. Clothes. Books. A Game Boy, of all things, with a copy of Super Mario Land still loaded in the cartridge slot. A few letters, all written in a mixture of French and English, their contents innocuous. A jar of dried peppers. Another jar labeled "Mama's Cider," but Annie didn't even need to sniff it to recognize the color and texture of apple-pie moonshine. Probably the good stuff, too. Maybe she should talk to Eighty-Six about her sources some time.
Souvenirs. Trinkets. The pieces of a life which were, quite frankly, none of Annie's business. And not a single sign of treachery or spying.
She put it all back, of course. As carefully as she could, making sure not to drop or tear anything. Then she sat back down on her own bunk, vaguely aware that she was leaving gray smears on the blankets, and wondered where to go next.
Go back to the infirmary? Tempting, especially since the world was beginning to spin again. Some part of her really, really wanted some goddamn morphine already, and never mind the lecture she'd get from an angry medic or two. But she still didn't have her hands on a spy, and that meant it could be anyone. If she went back to Lifeline . . . oh, hell, could Lifeline be the infiltrator? A long shot, but not an impossible one. He was trusted, after all, and seemed to have been with the unit a long time. And he was a pacifist. Maybe the constant grind of war had worn him down, and he was willing to take peace at any price, even if it meant shutting down the Joes?
Granted, she had absolutely nothing to base that suspicion on. But paranoia doesn't really need evidence.
Unless—a thought seized her tired brain, and it felt like a lightbulb had appeared over her head. General Hawk.
There was nobody higher in G.I. Joe, and nobody else she could trust. Hawk might be a little cracked himself, but he'd never betray the unit; as far as anyone could tell, he was the unit. And she was a quartermaster who'd already met with Psyche-Out, which meant it would be easy for her to get into the administrative level. She should go straight to him, and bring him all the evidence she had.
Which wasn't much, true. But momentarily invigorated by the thought, Annie scooted down to the foot of the bed and pulled open her own footlocker. There was the feminine-hygiene box, lying innocuously on top of some jumbled clothes, exactly as she'd left it before going to see Carter Hall. From the look of things, it hadn't been touched, and she let out a small sigh of relief as she dug into it for the opened bullet.
Yes, still there: the long, thin rolls of crinkly yellow paper, punched with hundreds of dots, that spilled over her hands as she emptied the box into her lap. The halves of the bullet that had contained them plunked into her lap . . . followed a second later, to her surprise, by another whole bullet.
What? Oh, right! The one she'd had in her pocket when the others she collected had gone missing. Frowning, she picked up the bullet and examined it.
There were no numbers on this one's casing, but then, it had been in the steam tray for a while before she found it. The seam on its casing was there too, but much fainter and sleeker: this one looked like a professional job, maybe with a high-quality laser, while the other might've been done with a small-toothed hacksaw. It took Annie a few minutes of careful maneuvering with her dive knife to get it open.
Two tiny squares of paper, each no bigger than an inch and a half across, fell into her hands. Annie frowned at them. For a moment, the squares looked blank, but if she squinted she could almost make out little markings on them. One was covered in little pinprick-sized . . . somethings . . . and the other seemed to have some kind of geometric pattern, all squares. Weird.
After a moment's hesitation, she went back to Eighty-Six's locker and fished out the big jar of apple-pie moonshine. It was the good stuff, all right: orange-tinted but clear as water, guaranteed to put hairs on your chest and a fog on your corneas. She checked the lid, making sure it was on tight, before tipping it on its side and rolling it over the first of the two little squares. Bingo, a makeshift magnifying glass.
It took a few seconds for her to realize what she was looking at. The first paper was actually some kind of document, shrunk down to a microfiche square the size of a sugar packet. She pressed her eye to the glass and squinted, frowning.
. . . ssignments . . . sergeants Sna . . . nd Storm Sha . . . pushed back 72 hours . . . ituation is unstable, interference may not be required . . . nitor for continued . . .
It was a photograph of a duty log, stamped 'CLASSIFIED' in what must have been big red letters before the black-and-white microfiche copy was taken. And it was dated three days after Annie arrived at the Pit, perhaps one day before she'd fished the bullet containing it out of the steam tray.
This wasn't obviously devious or complex like the rolls of onionskin covered in code. This was something that had been grabbed quickly on the sly, probably because the situation was urgent. Someone on the inside had intended to tell someone on the outside where the ninjas were likely going to be—or in this case, not going to be. Sergeant Snake-Eyes and Sergeant Storm Shadow were supposed to be off-base on the following day, but the schedule had changed, and someone was trying to share that information.
And the next day? Pitfall.
It was with a strange feeling of nervousness that she rolled the jar over the other microfiche. What seemed at first to be a tiny pattern of little squares turned out to be floor plans for three separate levels of the Pit, all shrunk down for easy transport.
Annie's stomach twisted. No wonder Cobra's invasion of the Pit had been haphazard. The enemy forces were missing crucial intel.
Was it really that simple, though? She picked two bullets out of a steam tray and accidentally cut Cobra's lines of communication? Seriously? If that was all it had taken, then she was willing to bet that Cobra had more problems than just trouble keeping contact with its people. Why wouldn't a terrorist spy have a better way to contact his boss than this roundabout with fake bullets?
Well, Annie Gorshin wasn't any goddamn Sherlock. Frowning, she wrapped the microfiches up in one of the scraps of cleaning rag and stuffed it into her bra. The hygiene-box trick had taught her that if nothing else, whoever was burgling her own locker wasn't willing to get too personal, and this information had to get to General Hawk despite any stray pickpockets that might be around.
But it was a straight fact that she couldn't crawl any more. Her arms felt like they were made of hot lead, and the mere thought of getting back in those vents was worse than the thought of triple PT on no sleep. She'd have to go through the corridors, and brazen it out with anybody who tried to stop her. Pulling off her dust mask, Annie smoothed down her hair and poked her head out of the bunkroom door.
She immediately registered three things. One: the lights were incredibly bright after the semi-dimness of the vents and the bunkroom. Two: there was a tiny little flicker of colorful motion in the corner of her eye. Three, ow, that was a cold sharp pain in her neck-
The world blurred again, and Annie's legs suddenly decided not to support her. Frowning a little in dazed bewilderment, she flopped to the ground, blinking and trying to focus. Everything felt fuzzy, warm and a little soft, like wrapping herself up in a good fleece blanket.
A pair of red legs stopped in front of her. They looked familiar, and one had white lettering on it. Annie blinked, wondering if it was possible to stack concussions.
"I told you," the calm voice of an evil pacifist said. "No escaping."
Sleep. Sleep sounded really good right then.