Had We All The World Below

"Quinn, get your skinny little ass down to the engine room and get me full power. I want to crush those midgets who denied us the prize of their power plants and weaponry, and take it from them by force. Overwhelming force. Superior force."

Quinn smirked and hightailed it down the stairs.

"Lift those legs high and get your thighs better toned, Cheerio!" Captain Sylvester called after her.

"Now." She stood and began to circle Kurt. "Do you know what this, my beautiful, beautiful baby Jean can do?" She patted the ornately carved wooden wall of the ship. "It is the fastest, most armored, most long-ranged, most powerful ship that has ever existed on the surface of this miserable planet. And all of its guns are currently pointing at your birthplace, Lady Face."

Kurt's eyes grew wide.

"That's right. And now that my Cheerios have your 'twinkly' dance moves, we will be an unstoppable force. We'll move onto Lima from Kinley, and then when I subjugate the local Fleet to my indomitable will, I'll move on to the rest of the world, and I will be the Captain Of The World. Yes, Twinkly-Toes, you've helped me to dominate the entire world."

His breaths grew shallower.

"Oh, and once I get my ship up to full speed, we'll crush Kinley at oh, four o'clock or so. I'll make sure that my Cheerios have you set up in a room with a view, so you can enjoy the sight of those lovely high towers with their apartments of weak, pathetic people, getting vaporised by These Very Hands."

She left, the door closing behind her.

Kurt sank back until his gaze matched the beams on the ceiling, listening to the thumps above where the Cheerios were clearly strapping themselves into battle harness. His breaths came shallowly, and he clutched at his heart.

No. Kinley. Kinley, where he had grown up, where his teacher had left him, where he had friends and big Finn, who was like the brother he'd never had. And Mercedes. His best friend. Where the Schuesters had found him, before Sue Sylvester blew them out of the sky.

A rumbling started, low under his feet. Just as suddenly, it stopped.

"So, Quinn," Santana said, falling into step behind her as Quinn descended into the bowels of their airship, "How are we doing today?"

"I'm doing just fine," Quinn said, giving the other girl a slight smile that revealed no genuine emotion. "How are you feeling, after that nasty fall in front of Sue - I mean, Captain Sylvester?"

Santana's face revealed nothing, but a flash in her eyes let her know that the blow had struck.

"Just fine," she forced out. "And where are you off to?"

Quinn shook her head. "I'm on business for the Captain. I don't need you with me."

"You're headed for the slave compound, aren't you?"

"I would think that it would be obvious, given where I'm walking."

"You'll need backup."

"The Cheerios on shift at the door will help me. If I needed it. Don't you have something else to do? Balance practice, maybe?"

Santana gritted her teeth.

"-Brittany, maybe?"

Exploiting Santana's quirk of fury, Quinn patted Santana on the head and stalked off, adding sway to her hips.

Santana stayed perfectly still in the middle of the corridor, her fists clenched and her teeth gritted. Her wingshot expanded in regard to her fury, and she aimed unwaveringly at the back of Quinn's head with the gun that replaced her gauntlet.

Working her jaw, she fought to get back under control. The gauntlets flowed away, up the wires wrapping around her wrists, and vanished into the butterfly-variant harness at her back.

"I'll get you one day, Quinn," Santana vowed, quietly. "One way or another, you will know pain."

The ship rocked. Kurt rocked with it, his body sliding down the long beams of wood until he collided with the opposite wall. One of the larger-than-life portraits of Captain Sylvester quivered in its frame, but stayed on the wall. Kurt clapped a hand to his chest in relief. What Captain Sylvester would do to him if she saw that a picture of herself had broken wasn't even worth thinking about, for sheer horror.

He was suddenly aware of a growing hum under his legs, under his body, that scaled from a teeth-chattering frequency into an audible shriek.

His arms were yanked upward. Metal was cold around his wrists.

"Ow!" he said, and looked up. Two Cheerios stared at him, equally blank-faced. Their harnesses were active, small bumps of wings visible behind their slim builds. Their gloves, palms of indigo-black steel, closed around his wrists and pulled him to his feet.

He made no protest. They would not have listened, regardless.

They threw him into a tiny, dusty room, with a window that took up most of a wall and a bit of the floor. The only bit of furnishing he could see was a dirty white timepiece, that at least seemed to be working normally. The door slammed shut behind him, and Kurt heard the distinctive hiss-click of a pressure lock.

The world outside flashed by at an alarming rate.

He was more aware than ever of the rumbling under his feet, how the ship seemed to creak and sway as it staggered into full speed.

Clouds appeared in his vision, the unique shapes of it, familiar to him from long afternoons of sitting on the edge of Kinley, watching the long, long drop below him, and the clouds, aimlessly passing by.

The hills and the peaks of clouds emerged and vanished just as he passed by.

Kurt blinked and rubbed his eyes. Was that - was that the first of the security buoys that Kinley had out?

A flash of light erupted from somewhere above, reflecting red-pink off the clouds surrounding the ship, and the security buoy vanished in a plume of fire and smoke. Then it was gone, and Kurt sank to his knees and pressed his face and hands into the dirty windowpane, unwilling to look away.

Twenty minutes to four.

"Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you..."

As Rachel climbed the rickety staircase, that voice floated down to her from the rooftop. Rachel sucked in a minor gasp. To think, that she had found such amazing vocal talent from a Citizen! When she had been on the family airship with her two papas, they'd taught her everything they knew about droming, and about singing. After having travelled here and there, she had come to the conclusion that a talented voice was practically impossible to find.

The voice took an audible breath. "It's a beautiful night, we're looking for something dumb to do, hey baby, I think I wanna marry you-"

Rachel increased the pace of her steps until she was fairly running up the rickety steps. Oddly enough, they didn't creak.

Probably no one used it. Come to think of it, why wasn't she flying up?

...Oh, wait. The stairs must be flammable.

She winced.

"It's a beautiful night, we're looking for something dumb to do-" She could hear the smile in his voice, and the slight sorrow. He must be single! ...Oh, please, let him be single.

"-Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you."

"It's a beautiful night, we're looking for something dumb to do-" and the voice was getting softer.

The light was getting brighter, turning the stairs into something of a caricature of the films in the theatres, all black-and-white, the individual steps casting long black shadows on her torso and face. Rachel ran, using the gauntlets to boost her steps, not caring that she left scorchmarks on the ruined walls as long as the stairs didn't catch fire.

Panting a little, Rachel took the final step, and stilled.

"-Hey baby," the tall, muscular figure standing at the edge of the rooftop deck sang, staring out at the overdrome.

And holy shit, the overdrome. Rachel caught her breath. The overdrome loomed so large in the foreground - that 'magnifying glass', it must be...and the action roiling within it was furious, and fast. Laser lights danced within the aquamarine of the large overdrome sphere, and lines of bubbles clouded visibility as missiles blazed from opening ports.

The sky was so red and gold, but the rooftop deck was flooded with artificial light, pure white.

"-I think I wanna marry you," the figure sang. His voice was quieter, and then silent.

Rachel took a breath and smiled and started to walk closer to the figure. Really, the man was lucky; she knew that song. Her dads had sung it to each other on their anniversary. Every year. And she'd learned it, of course.

"Is it the look in your eyes? Or is it this dancing juice?"

And the figure whirled, and Rachel's breath hitched. He was...stunning. His eyes were wide, and he pressed his back against the deck's screen.

"Who cares, baby, I think I wanna marry you."

Finn's breath hitched. This beautiful woman, in a dress that was strikingly red, stood in the doorway down to Mercedes' bar. His knees were jelly. This lady...singing that to him.

"Well, I know this little chapel on the boulevard we can go-" Rachel sang, advancing on him and stopping with a hand on her hip, smirking at him.

He looked a bit like a paralyzed rabbit, all shocked and surprised. Rachel laid a hand on his chest, a bit surprised by her own daring, and trailed it along his chest as she twirled.

"No one will know-" Rachel whispered.

Finn licked his lips and swallowed and held onto this stranger by the waist and pulled her flush to him, singing to the rooftop in general.

"Oh, come on - girl -"

"Who cares if we're trash, we got a pocket full of cash, we can go-share some," Finn held this beautiful woman in his arms, who wasn't struggling to get out, and joined his voice to hers. They soared together, and Finn breathed in her scent. Gods above; she smelt like...like...he couldn't describe it. Soap and...and...some kind of fruit he hadn't had before.

"Scenes in the overdrome," Rachel sang, shutting her eyes tight at adding something different. Instead the man behind her chuckled and pulled her closer to him. Rachel relaxed. She felt so safe for the first time in the City, encircled by his arms and his warmth.

"Ah, and it's on - girl," Finn sang to the girl in his arms, looking out at the doorway. Mercedes stood there with her mouth agape and her hands together, but knowing better than to interrupt. Mercedes facilitated moments, not spoiled them.

"You'll say no, no, no, no no," the man holding her sang mischievously, and Rachel laughed.

"Just say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah yeah," she sung back, knocking her head back against his chest and peering up at where his face would be with her eyes still closed. She didn't want to forget this forever.

"And we'll go, go, go, go go-" Finn sang, amazed that this lady matched him in time perfectly. They fit together; her voice filled in the rough spots where his tone couldn't cover, and he made her more solid, and the curve of her fit against him... "-If you're ready, like I'm ready."

"If we wake up, and we wanna break up, that's cool," Finn sang, knowing he was skipping about half the song, but he wanted to test her, he wanted to know if she knew it. And she did, he guessed; she joined in on 'that's cool' - "No, I won't blame you, 'cause we're stronger."

He sang with such meaning, Rachel absently thought, her mind mostly fully sank into the song. He sang as though he were saying each word...to me. To me! Her heart beat faster and she turned to wrap her arms around him, pressing their chests together so their hearts could beat in time. And so he could feel what he did to her. She pressed her head into his shoulder and breathed him in.

...That sounded a bit off.

But it was true, because he smelled like the fruits her father would hang off the ceiling of their ship, 'to perfume the air' - a little musky, a little bit sweet, but distinctive beyond belief. She hadn't thought anyone could smell like this outside of her fathers' airship.

"'Cause it's a beautiful night," they sang to each other. Rachel's breath came faster, shallower. "We're looking for something dumb to do...hey baby, I think I wanna marry you."

"Is it the look in your eyes? Or is it this dancing juice?" and Rachel opened her eyes and looked directly at this stranger man, and his eyes were dark, so dark and looking at her with unfamiliar emotion, and she was suddenly a little bit off-balance, a little unsure of herself. Why...Citizens!

"Who cares, baby," Finn sang gently to the lady in red in his arms, her eyes soft and her smile inviting, and cupped her chin in his hand so that he could look directly at her. "I think I wanna marry you."

He lowered his head and kissed her, their last notes spiraling away into the air around them.

Fourteen minutes to go-thirteen minutes to go.

Tick-tock tick-tock, the racing clock.

Kurt closed his eyes and made himself sink into memory. The ship dipped, and began to sink down, down below the docking level for Kinley, almost down below the City itself.

"Calm yourself," his teacher said. Kurt raised his eyes, jumping up and down as high as his twelve-year-old legs could take him.

"Teacher! Teacher! Teach me the next steps!"

"Calm yourself," the blonde woman said. "You'll only achieve true. Striking. Power. When you're totally focused on your objective. Pick -"

"I don't want any philosophy!" Kurt growled, his nose wrinkling. "I want to move! I want to dance! I want to make! High! Kicks!"

As he attempted to kick, his foot slipped on the polished terracotta and sent him toppling backward.

"Ow," he said.

"Patience," his teacher said, but he could see that she was giggling.

Sourly, he climbed back to his feet. "This isn't fair!" he said, crossing his arms. "I demand that you teach me the moves, right now!"

"Oh?" his teacher said, her eyebrow rising. "Have you mastered your previous stances?"

"Yeah," Kurt said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Duh."

"Alright," his teacher said, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Show me."

The hand on his shoulder wasn't comfort, it was a counter-demand. Kurt followed his teacher outside, into the garden, where a series of hovering platforms took off, off the ground at different heights.

"Use everything," his teacher said, then sat back.

Kurt looked up, and up, and up. Some of those platforms were, like, as high as the Tower in Kinley! Thousands of feet up! Higher than that! It was impossible!

"No way," he said, crossing his arms. "No way."

For all that his teacher was really fun, she could be a really hard taskmaster at times.

"You're not getting anything else until you finish this course."

She closed her eyes and swallowed. Kurt sucked in a breath, involuntarily.

"Do you want your mother to be proud of you?"

Kurt set his feet into the first stance and leaped.

And fell.

And leaped again.

"Holly," Will said. "Can I talk to you for a second?"

As Kurt's stepmother watched his progress with a concerned eye, her wingshot expanded, Kurt's stepfather took his teacher aside to talk to her.

Kurt watched them from the highest platform, trying to read lips. They seemed to be getting argumentative.

He battled with himself, half-wanting to go down there and distract his stepfather so that he wouldn't take him away from Miss Holly, and at the same time wanting to keep out of the fight. His time on the streets just taught him that getting into unnecessary fights was a good way to get hurt.


He closed his eyes and leapt, whirling in mid air, his limbs crossing over each other's.

"Will!" Terri gasped from where she was watching, her main rocket flaring in alarm and lifting her off the ground.

Will Schuester turned around and snapped his gaze up, to where Kurt seemed to float through the air without wings. His next comment about safety died, unuttered, on his lips.

Kurt spun, boneless, his momentum carrying over two platforms, before he landed safely on another. Under his impact the platform swayed from side to side, but Kurt counteracted it, leaping off it the moment it settled, into a full, gravity-defying forward flip.

"That's his true style, Will," Holly said quietly beside him. "Believe me. After his mother..."

"Kurt is not his mother," Will said, his smile polite but nothing more. "And this goddamn foolish stunt could cost him his life!"

"You can't coddle him forever," Holly said, her gaze piercing. "Let loose. Live a little, Will."

"The tournaments are over now, Holly," Will said, trying to impress on her how stupid she had been, to force a twelve year old into the danceset, as if those killer games were still at their height. "I wanted to save Kurt from that life..."

"You can't," she said, blowing strands of hair out of her face. "But you can try. I'll make sure he can survive, at least."

"Do you know what you're doing?" Will said. 'This time?' his eyes asked.

She looked at him, so different from the hedonistic, purposeless waif he had been teammates with years and years ago.

"Do I know what I'm doing?" She met Will's eyes steadily. "Yes."

Kurt relished the feel of flying through midair, the flips and kicks and spins, relived the feeling of that entire routine in his memory. The ship shuddered again, and Sue Sylvester's magnified voice echoed through the ship.


Eleven minutes, really.

Eleven minutes to go.

In the instant before the missile detonated, Artie's life flashed through his eyes.

Everything centered on his accident. But despite the sheer despair he had after that, his happiest memories were because of his accident, and how his friends and family had come through for him.

Mike, who he'd once taught to dance, binding his legs to put his considerable dancing genius into figuring out a way to move without his legs, a way to use wingshots without his legs. The funniest moment of his life was when Mike had finally figured out how to front-flip, wingshot-assisted, without using his legs at all. Midway through the flip, his wingshot activated the wrong way. Artie had watched in mounting hilarity as Mike flew straight ahead, past two apartment blocks, all upside down and with the most comical look on his face. Tina pulled him down before he got too out of control.


Oh, Tina.

She'd never known him before the accident. The first time she saw him and Mike, he was in bed, watching the readouts on his hospital screen. He still remembered - he remembered Mike, his head bowed, praying to all the seventy-five heavens and hells that Artie would recover, the routine words backed by emphasis and force. She'd come in to see her grandfather, he recalled, and had stopped outside their door.

"It'll get better," she'd said.

And it did.

Oh, Tina.

Matt Rutherford, one of his best friends before his parents shifted him beneath the security blackout of one of the Outer Districts. Last they'd all heard, he'd become a guard on the outskirts of the City. Despite what he'd done he was still -

Something within him pinged, and it wasn't the readouts on his heart or his legs. He'd never see Matt again.

Burt Hummel, who just lost his son, watching him with the most content smile Artie would ever see, connecting his legs to the capsule, fitting him with the wingshot that he would wear for the rest of the days of his life.

Droming. All the rush of it, all the fear and the longing and -

Mike - Tina - Matt -

Thank you-

Eight minutes.

"Now, now, now!" Captain Sylvester roared, and Quinn sprinted toward the edge, her gauntlets flaring once, twice, her main rocket materializing a column of semi-solid flame. Pushing off the launching pad with muscled thighs, Quinn spiralled up through the air, using her rotation to scan her situation, 360 degrees.

Guard tower, north by northwest referenced from the ship, bearing three-one-five degrees, positive thirty-two degrees on the Z scale. Suppressing fire erupted from the posts, a mix of concussive shells and lasers, and Quinn began evasive maneuvers. Her squad juked about, dodging the scream of the shells as they passed and the wash of heat from the lasers.

Out of the corner of her eye Quinn saw one of her command do a thoroughly complicated flip they had recently learned from the Prisoner and dodge three shots aimed directly at her.

Where she would have resented it, before, especially since Captain Sylvester was watching, now she bared her teeth in a triumphant grin. "Good dodge, Lesley!"

Lesley shot her a smile, then flamed in the direction of the guard tower, making a trio of shots count before swerving off.

"After Lesley!" Quinn shouted. "Target and break! Pair one!"

Klaxons sounded.

In the middle of the main security compound, Matt Rutherford rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. His pallet was hard and his back ached. The steel walls were cold. And for some reason, everything was red and there was this annoying noise...Mike had said, once, that he slept like the dead. Apparently he woke like that, too. His mind was just sluggishly beginning to work. They were in the overdrome today, but he was on shift, just an easy one at midday to get his feet wet. What-why-

"Rutherford! On your feet! Attackers! You're on the announcement board! You're trained, right?"

"I'm going solo?" Matt's eyes snapped open and he rushed to get his uniform and regulation harness on.

"Not enough people! Get!" His lieutenant ran out of the door at full trot, the fastest he'd ever seen his lieutenant move.

"Shit!" he muttered, forcing his arm through the harness and boosting out his window, heading for the announcement center.

His main booster sputtered out halfway, and Matt cursed, reforming his regulation gauntlets so that they provided the maximum power. He turned his fall into a glide, thanking Artie in his mind for being disabled. They'd all gotten secondhand wingshots to help him out, even if their wingshots were pieces of shit which got them all into every plausible impossible situation.

He'd lost control of both gauntlets due to flying accidentally into a wireless DC current, had the gyroscope on the main rocket fixed on one particular orientation and never stopped boosting, had girls slap him because his boost had delayed, and then taken off at exactly the wrong time and he'd gotten a peek up their skirts. Granted, that was something that Matt wouldn't have minded repeating - and would've faked, if he'd had a chance. A moment later he wrenched his mind away from those kinds of thoughts, like any other thoughts of his old friends. Fun, fun, he'd only cared about fun, unlike them.

He regretted that now. And he wished -

Matt turned his fall into a roll onto the transceiver's outside deck, shaking the gauntlets off his hands. The regulation harness, made so that it didn't sync with individuals too much, responded belatedly, the gears creeping up the wires around his arms, tooth by tooth.

He ran into the automated office, and manually overrode the main announcement board by jacking in with a wire.

The announcement post near them crackled, and Mercedes looked up in shock, bracing herself. The two lovebirds standing near the window hadn't noticed yet - actually, judging by the accent and carriage, she wasn't sure that the girl knew about the warning system. Finn was oblivious, obviously. Mercedes sighed and shook her head. That boy.

The buzz of static echoed through the overdrome, where the large cloud of bubbles from the explosion was only just dissipating.



The announcement posts around the city activated all at once, whether they were in the air or near buildings. From their widely varying messages, they all synchronised at once, and Matt Rutherford's voice blasted out from every post. Citizens broke off from their work. As one, the City looked out their windows.

A great shape, a large shadow, blocked out the grandiose sun.

Propellers spinning lazily, smaller shapes of individual flyers could be made out, backlit by sky the color of freshly spilled blood.

The rising flagship of Sue Sylvester, Captain of the Jean Sylvester, the last Stallion-class airship from the Fall From Grace.

"What is she thinking?" Kurt whispered to the glass. "She can't take on a City with only this ship. The Cheerios aren't big enough, won't last long enough against Kinley."

He blinked. His eyes narrowed, and he squinted past the clouds. That wasn't a Cheerio -

Who -

Klaxons sounded.

The figure in silver was already moving, the tight body armor emphasizing his muscles as the figure sprinted through the corridors. Fleet armor and rank cascaded down his shoulders and melded into the ornate gauntlets of an independent operative, who slid down his visor and leapt off the launching pad.

He fell the four storeys needed for his gauntlets to activate and took off, into the golden sun.

Behind him, Fleet assembled.

"Who, Silver?" the operative's communicator crackled.

"Sylvester," the figure said, his voice velvet and warm. "Targetting Kinley."

"...Shit," the tower said, and a flurry of men broke out on the deck, the massive Fleet airships beginning to undock.

"Language," the figure said, before his gauntlets flared, and took him out of Fleet's private channelspace.


Matt had left the recording to play incessantly, and individually directed the streams of evacuees toward the bunkers in the middle of the city, under the heftiest of guard. The littlest children and the oldest of men and women unwilling or unable to fight stayed in their homes under the watchful eyes of their family, spreading it out so that if Sylvester captured the city she'd have to find all of the families individually.

"Red Four," he said, "Move to Sector Two-Five-Alpha. There's a blockage on Mulhober Street, and there're dependents in the area."

"Understood," the emotionless voice said, and on Matt's screen the icon for Red Four blinked over Sector Two-Four-Beta, before beginning to move.

Matt kept an eye on the outskirts of town, where the icons for the Cheerios had begun to multiply, and outnumber the guards.

He saw Outpost Eight-Two vanish off his screen.

That...Iris, one of his ex-girlfriends, had been assigned to Eight-Two.

Matt buried his regret deep within him, and focused on the minute icons on his screen. They all trusted him to do his job...

Four minutes.

"Strange," Ken said. "Fleet hasn't responded yet."

"Give them a little more time," his wife said.

"It's been four days," Ken said. His mouth worked into a snarl. "Something must have come up."

"But what?"

Ken stared straight ahead. "Pirates."

His wife laughed under her breath. "What else? It's Fleet, after all."

"No," Ken said. "Not pirates, Pirates."


"After the Fall From Grace, during that chaotic period, when Fleet was first founded," Ken said. "There were a few Pirates who were tournamenters. Sue Sylvester was only the most famous of them. There were others, as well, and they flocked to her banner."

His gaze went blank, and the channel on the wall flipped without his touching it.

"All units to Kinley," the Fleet operator commanded, as klaxons blared behind him. "All units to Kinley!"

"Kinley," Ken said, and remembered a man named Will Schuester. And how his wife had looked at that undeniably charismatic, smooth-talking wretch, like Will Schuester was better than him.

"Kinley." He bared his teeth in a snarl.

That was the biggest fucking airship Puck had ever seen in his life.

Who the hell built that damn thing?

Puck came to a standstill, floating upright relative to the land beneath him. He'd been flying for days and days and days and days and...okay, four days, but still, a long fucking time.

Beyond the massive ship, a City loomed. Outposts, buoys, and platforms spun in mid-air, exchanging lasers and shots that distorted the air and clouds with what looked like very fit girls with tight uniforms on. Puck smirked and zoomed in on them.

Yep, very tight uniforms. Good stuff.

It was loud. It was so fucking loud. Screams and harsh cries, shells being fired in massive concussive sonic booms, a crackle of announcements from the City itself, played from the few loudspeakers that were this far out. Lasers hissed by, silent as death itself, but brought with them heat. Past the uniforms, Puck watched the battle in interest. It was like watching one of the tournaments on widescreen on his family's airship, except live. And it was magnificent.

A shot screamed past.

Puck jerked, and spun away from it.

This was starting to look...awfully familiar.

"Fuck," he said. "Not again."

Then, mournfully, "Pirates? But they're so good-looking..."

His eyes, still on magnification, tracked over the ship and past it. They tracked back.

There was someone in a room near the underbelly of the ship! Some kind of girl - and terribly good looking, too. She had on this expression of despair...

Puck turned his head.

Maybe it was a boy? Really feminine boy, though, that.

Two minutes to four.


"Would somebody shut that thing up?"

A passing Cheerio obliterated the loudspeaker.

"Brittany," Captain Sylvester said. "Earn your keep."

"Yes, Captain?" Brittany asked.

"Take out the transceiver for that message."

"What's a transce-"

"Shooting!" Santana said, hurriedly pulling Brittany behind her. "Your will be done, Captain Sylvester."

Captain Sylvester nodded. "See that it is."

Freedom. What good was it if not everyone was free?

Maybe it was a boy. But no one should be locked up, like that.

Puck shook his head fiercely to rid his eyes of magnification.

Flicking his gaze around to make sure that no one was looking, he flamed toward the airship, and toward the girl. Boy. Whatever.

"Tall, spiky looking building between the two floating rectangles," Santana said, peering out at the City, her goggles on 30x magnification. "The one with blue lights on every level."

"I see it," Brittany said, staring into her scope intently.

"Wind, forty-two klicks at two-one-three degrees relative to our orientation and negative zero-four-one."

"Understood," Brittany said.

The screams and cries around them from the wrecked outposts and dying guards seemed very loud even as Santana concentrated.

"Now," she said.

The rifle extending from Brittany's right arm cracked once.

A diluted milk-white arrowhead blazed from the barrel, leaping the distance in a millisecond.


Mercedes was in her element, herding the evacuees forming up outside her door inside and down the long, fortified staircase, to the bunker buried inside their artificial hill. Finn helped the frightened children when he could, while the new girl kept some of the loud adults busy. Mercedes could see her fear in her eyes, but she kept going. An unspoken respect bubbled up, somewhere in her heart. Mercedes had never trusted people easily, and didn't intend to start now.

"I don't even know your name," Rachel said to the large, comforting man beside her, who dealt with the children with steady hands and a ready smile. She touched her lips, the kiss still fresh on her mind.

"It's Finn," the man said, and smiled at her.

Rachel felt her knees go weak, and mustered up what she could to stay on her feet. She wouldn't be weak, oh, no.

"And you?" Finn said.

"Rachel," the highly attractive woman said, biting her lip.

Hell. He wanted to bite her lip. And then kiss her. And then -

Those kinds of thoughts weren't appropriate while he was still herding children, dammit.

"Match cancelled," the automatic voice said, but the Homedogs had already made their way back to their launch canal.

"Artie," Tina gasped, her capsule descending. "Are you alright?"

"What sort of question is that?" Mike asked, linking his capsule to Artie's. "Artie, speak to us if you can. C'mon, Artie, you can do it..."

"Artie!" Tina shouted. "Please!"

In his capsule, Artie slumped, a line of blood running from his forehead.


Glass exploded.

The force of the blast hurled Matt out of his seat. The concussive force exploded all of the screens near him and shut down the computers, the powerful hum of the transceiver dying in a split second. Everything muffled, instantly. Matt clapped his hands to his ears in pain and took them away, watching the blood pool in his dark palms.

A long piece of shrapnel pierced his legs and pinned him to his computer screen.

Matt Rutherford had time. Lots and lots of time, mostly filled with pain, in which to appreciate the irony, and his own personal hell, given what he had done in regards to Artie.

The walls shook. Twisted steel rods showed through the large holes in the wall.

"Good work, Brittany," Captain Sylvester said, watching the tip of the transceiver tower tilt over and fall off, the long steel rods smashing to the earth below them.

Countless pathetic people would be lying on the ground, groaning. Then the City would be left with less countless pathetic people that she'd have to systematically kill, one by one. Saved her time and effort, really.

Brittany beamed. "Thank you, Captain Sylvester! Um, Captain Sylvester, I think that the-"

Santana clasped her around her waist and threw them both off the side of the deck.

One minute to four.