V-Sign 01
Katherine Hana Li spin_kick_snap
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A Video Message, Friday Morning
After various attempts to get through, a video message made its way to the island and, from there, elsewhere in the multiverse. It had been sent to many people; students, teachers, townies, and alumni--pretty much anyone Kathy considered a friend.

The video opens on a small bed, practically a cot, surrounded by thin curtains to give it a modicum of privacy. Upon closer look, the curtains are revealed to be shower liners, vinyl sheets that can easily be taken down and hosed off. Still, they're bright and cheerful enough, almost drawing attention away from the heart monitor and IV stand on one side of the thin bed. From the restraints, currently unfastened, attached to the other side.

Maybe even from the girl, sitting in the middle of the bed, looking pale and drawn for a moment before she realizes the camera's on.

"Oh! Oh, are we recording?" Kathy asks, obviously trying to appear upbeat. She mostly just looks exhausted though, with pain lines bracketing her mouth, and dark shadows under her eyes. A hectic flush stains her cheek and there's a fine sheen of sweat covering her face, though she's shivering as well. Most importantly, at least to those watching, is the bandage over her right shoulder. A splotch of dried blood roughly the size of a half-dollar has soaked through the cloth. "A little notice might have been nice, Raven."

A grumble from behind the camera: "We might have had time for a little notice if you hadn't had to stop for every screaming person on the way over here."

She looks up to the phone that's recording her, eyes a bit glassy. They're having trouble focusing, pupils dilating oddly. Still, she gives the phone a bright grin and flashes it a victory-sign. "Uhh, hi guys," she says, ducking her head. "Ignore the grumpy blue girl behind the camera there. It's been a rough night." Her hand creeps up to brush over the bandage. "Well, no reason to hide it, I guess. I got bit. A few hours ago, currently we're in a makeshift clinic set up by the National Guard." She laughs, though the laugh turns into a sharp, barking cough about halfway through. "One of the benefits of wearing rainbows--I get my own room. Trust me, these curtains are more than what most other people have out there."

Her smile fades away, like she's too exhausted to keep holding onto it. "Not going to lie, it's gotten bad out there. Really bad. It's just a matter of time before LA is labeled officially lost; most of the politicians were helicoptered out this afternoon. Half of DC is on fire, the rest is overrun. New York is hanging on by a thread and reports stopped coming out of Boston when Zzzap showed up here to fight full time. There are exes--zombies--in Europe, Mexico, and South America now. Our quarantine failed before we even knew what we were fighting against."

"Kathy," Raven's voice says. "They don't care about the rest of the world."

"They don't?" Kathy sounds confused, then she shakes her head. "Of course you don't. Sorry. I'm just used to delivering status updates. In part, though, this is what this is. We've failed here. There's no coming back from this. My world is done. But we need to make sure this information gets out--have to make sure that the island is prepared, just in case. Portalocity didn't shut down until weeks after this started and the Causeway's a vulnerable point. So we're sending this video so that you all know what to watch out for, what to prepare for. Consider it our last ditch effort to keep this thing from spreading."

"We're sending this video," Raven says quietly, "because we're not coming home."

Kathy lists off everything she knows about the virus, how it works and spreads, the methods of transmission. Most of it is Hollywood standard, but there are some key differences. That the zombies clack their teeth, they don't moan. That the time between bite and death had started out measured in days, but is currently sitting at about twelve hours. That a strong course of antibiotics delivered immediately after a bite has been shown to cure it, but any non-magical healing administered after about three minutes ceases to be effective. It takes about ten minutes for Kathy to recite all of the information she has, including tactics that have proven to be effective and, more importantly, those that had not. Four times, Kathy has to stop to cough, deep wracking coughs that make her whole body shake. Twice, she has to pause, visibly struggling to remember what she is saying and what to say next.

By the end of the recitation, the camera is visibly trembling.

"So that's it, that's what you need to know," Kathy says, before she's interrupted by a cough again. This time, when she finishes, there is blood on her lips. She looks at the palm of her hand and tries to discreetly wipe it on the rough cotton of her pants. There is nothing discreet about crimson on white. "I know this looks bad," she says, offering the camera a smile. "I can tell by Raven's expression. I bet most of you are yelling at me right now. But it's okay! 'Genny's somewhere in here, healing up other victims. I only got bit a few hours ago, I have, like, eight left before I have to worry. And 'Genny will be here way before that. More of that preferential hero treatment, you know?" She wipes the sweat off her forehead, leaving another small smear of blood there, too.

"After I get healed, I'm done," she says, her smile faltering for a few seconds. She's looking at her hand again, that confused expression surfacing once more as she tries to remember how she got blood on her hands. "This is it, this is where I break. As soon as 'Genny heals me up, I'm grabbing my family and we're going. They tried to cut LA off from the rest of the state, but there are ways around it and most of the guardposts have been abandoned or overrun. It'll be slow going, for the most part, but in a few weeks to a month, look for an old, green Volvo making its way across the Causeway. We'll probably be cranky and overtired and hungry as hell, but we'll be home. And that's what matters."

She freezes, body stiffening, back arching. The camera jerks, a blue hand reaching out, and Raven can be heard calling for help. Kathy chokes on air, her whole body seizing up. The convulsion lasts for twenty agonizing seconds before she's doubling over and sucking in big, gasping breaths. Moments later, she's looking back up to the camera again, smile wobbly but affixed. But there's a new emotion in her eyes. It's fear.

"Pretty sure that's not what they mean when they say 'Carpe Diem,' eh?" she says, going for a joke. "C'mon, Raven? Not even a pity smile? Harsh crowd."

Raven's voice is either laughing, crying, or doing a sorry combination of both. "You're a dork, Kathy."

"That's why you love me," she retorts and her eyes are filling with tears, too. "Look, phones aren't meant to record forever and god only knows how we're going to get this out, since the lines have been stupid for a few days now. But there's one more thing I want to say, want to tell each and everyone one of you watching this." She takes a deep breath. "I can't say I don't have any regrets. I do. I regret hurting those of you I hurt, both with this and any time before it. If you think I owe you an apology, then I offer one now, the most heartfelt that I can make. I have loved each and every moment I've spent with you, the good and the bad and the downright terrifying. I'm looking forward to spending more with you in the future and making up all this pain and worry I'm causing now.

"I've always loved Winnie the Pooh--shut up, I can hear all of you laughing. But, for a lonely girl, those stories always resonated with me. And there are a couple of quotes that I think really, umm, really sum up what I'm trying to say here. 'If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.'"

It is a struggle to keep her voice even, to keep her smile on. But she does it. Her voice breaks only on the final word. “'How lucky I am to have people that makes saying goodbye so h-hard.'” She bows her head, takes some time to compose herself. When she looks up again, her smile is gone and she just looks exhausted. Exhausted and sick and painfully, painfully young. "This isn't goodbye. I'll be right as rain soon enough and banging on doors demanding that you feed me because we haven't had a proper meal since Fresno. I'm gonna go and lie down so Raven stops glaring at me and she's gonna send this off while we still have battery and signal. And I'll see you soon, okay? Until then, keep an eye out in Baltimore and be excellent to one another."

Once Kathy's done talking, the camera swings down and away. There are a few muffled words, then the rustling of plastic curtains, and the camera comes back up, focused on Raven in a dingy hallway. She's clearly been crying. "Hey, uh. It's Raven. I just -- Kathy's not going to -- Anders, Dante, Ringo, Mr. Spencer, Ms. Parker, everybody, I wanted to say she loves all you guys. And I'm sorry, I tried to keep an eye out for her, but I wasn't fast enough, and she's so stubborn -- But I'm not done. We're not done, not quite yet. I'll send more information when I can about how she's doing. But -- just in case. She loves all of you and she's doing what she loves doing and -- I hope that's enough. Um. Jalian, Hardison, if you two are watching, too, I'll try to get back, even if -- but if I don't, thank you. I'm going to miss you guys." She manages a small smile, looking off to the side. "So, yeah. That's Banzai and Mystique, signing off. Over and out."

The screen goes dark.

[Preplayed with the AMAZING tigerundercover. If you think you got this, you absolutely did. NFB, though interaction between recipients is encouraged! The video is, however, one-way and any attempts to call will result in this message. Trigger warning for fatal illness.]


2016-04-22 02:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

It'd been a fucked up week. Couple of fucked-up weeks, actually, and Dante'd been running himself ragged trying to keep distracted. An hour ago, it'd been the music that did it - some Spotify random playlist he'd hit on on his phone. He'd passed out, eventually, and now he was curled up in bed with his earbuds in. Funny: he could sleep straight through the loudest techno imaginable, but the combination of some weird, soft indie track and the incoming message noise roused him instantly.

He squinted at his phone. Took a few seconds before he was awake enough to realize who the sender was, and by then he'd already thumbed the message on automatically. Aw, fuck. He hadn't wanted to acknowledge her bullshit again. Easier that way. Better to ignore everything that was coming in and act like she was just-- gone. Poof, out of his life, whatever, like so many other people who'd disappeared down the hall and just never came back.

But now the message was playing. And Kathy-- Kathy looked all fucked up.


No-- 'Course she did. This shit had been inevitable from the moment she'd decided to stick around. He'd meant what he'd said to Anders a couple of days back. Wars of attrition didn't end well, especially when you thought you could fix anything. He'd been surviving one for his entire fucking life, and he was still getting worn down. Still figured he wasn't going to make it, eventually. So-- yeah. This shit was inevitable. He'd expected it. He'd tuned it out because he'd been expecting it.

And yet seeing her like that still hurt. Coughing, rasping, bleeding, shaking. Not lasting. For all her superpowers back when, she was just a little girl now, strength seeping out of her with every breath, afraid and... alone... and...

"You're such a fucking idiot," he muttered, poking at her face on the screen. "Now you're wasting our fucking time with this speech non--"

Midway through, he realized was talking to a fucking phone.

He clicked the message off abruptly, halfway through I've always loved Winnie--. Tossed the phone onto the bed, the music taking over. It wasn't helping. It wasn't helping at all.

He sighed. Picked up the phone again. Hammered his thumb against it until the music stopped and the video was back. Let the rest of the message play, but there wasn't much.

He couldn't invest much more. He had a hole in his fucking stomach and anything he'd been feeling before, that had bled right through, he was done.

He held the damn phone in his hand for a while. Sucked in a breath. It didn't go in right, felt raspy. Stupid. He hit a couple of buttons, called up the number he'd gotten this from, but got nothing but empty answering machine bullshit. Tried again, same thing.

"No fucking point."

No fucking point. Not since the beginning. Dante had to remember that.

He tried again anyway.

Nothing. Just empty words. Just. Just fucking stupid.

No fucking point. No fucking point.

He rubbed at his face so violently it left red streaks behind. It stung like shit now.


Pain sure as fuck beat tears.

(No fucking point.)

Edited at 2016-04-22 02:50 pm (UTC)


2016-04-22 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Ringo wasn't sure how long it was from the time she saw the message to an actual coherent thought, but that thought came eventually. And she found herself standing up and walking.

Kathy had asked her for a favor, the last time they spoke. The last favor she'd asked.

That was what led her to Dante's door. That favor. Not a need to share the pain. Not the half-realized hope that they'd get into a fight and give her somewhere to vent the roil of emotions swirling around her chest. Just the favor. Not because she suspected that Dante knew some tricks to dealing with that pain that she didn't.

She didn't knock. Just walked into his room and looked around.


2016-04-22 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yeah, Dante knew a way or twenty-five to deal with this kind of shit. That was why there was an open whiskey bottle sitting on his nightstand already.

"Ever heard of knocking?"

It was also why he sounded like perfect fucking sunshine when he opened his mouth.


2016-04-22 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Dante got a look, then a shrug. Then Ringo's attention turned to the bottle, which she walked over to and picked up to examine.

"This stuff is supposed to help, right?" she asked, eyeing it critically.

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2016-04-22 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Anders didn't get the message until relatively late in the day. When he got it, he behaved rationally.

Which was to say he avoided his room, because his room would mean talking to Dante and the last thing he wanted to do was talk to anyone. Instead, he went out into the preserve, crackling with magic he barely had under control, and screamed himself hoarse.

He wasn't even sure there was an Anders anymore: There was just a moving shell made of mourning and if-onlys and should haves. (And yes, Kathy said she was going to be healed and come home, but given the way, oh, every single other fucking thing had gone so far, he didn't expect that to work out. She was gone: Whether she died of this bite or healed up this time and got killed on her way to the island was academic.)

It was so stupid. He hated Kathy for throwing her life away like this. And in that moment he was pretty firmly determined to never care about anyone again. There wasn't any point.


2016-04-22 02:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Venus had just gotten off patrol and was actually in the control room conferring with Artemis when the message pinged her communicator, and Minako called for a ten to take a Skype break, shoo-ing the feline pest out so she could have some girl-time.

It was Venus who called Artemis back into the control room moments later, and it was Sailor Venus -- general, goddess of war, solider, and guardian -- who watched the transmission in silence.

The screen had been dark for hours (seconds?) when Venus stood up. "We initiate lock-down procedures immediately," she said, voice empty of all emotion. "I don't want a single portal touching our universe that I don't know about ahead of time. I want a list of every single portal that's connected to us in the last month, and I want the passenger manifest."

"Any potential yoma displaying any of the signs Banzai mentioned will be routed to me, not to Sailor Moon or the rest of the senshi. This is non-negotiable. I must insist that the Queen put all her processing power to work on this task, and we must prioritize this over restoration of Serenity's memories."

"Minako--" Artemis started, but was cut off by a wave of Venus' hand.

"This is not negotiable," was all she said, mask sliding back into place. "She got us the intel. Put it to use, Artemis. I'm going back out."


2016-04-22 02:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Long, silent minutes passed after the video finished playing. Minutes that Ringo didn't really feel. As awareness slowly came back to her, she realized that her jaw was clenched painfully tight.

She forced herself to take a slow, deep breath and relax those muscles. Then another one of those breaths, as if the extra air would dissolve the lump she could feel swelling in her throat.

It didn't.

Ringo had known that Kathy and Raven weren't exactly doing the safest stuff out there. She'd told herself that they were smart and skilled and competent, but that she was totally prepared if it turned out that smart, skilled, and competent weren't enough.

She wasn't. Not even close.

It hurt. It hurt in ways Ringo wasn't used to. Physical pain, that was familiar and easily dealt with. This? This was something different. It tore at her, making it hard to breathe and hard to see, but the pain wasn't actually coming from anywhere. There was no part of her body that she could concentrate on ignoring to dull the pain.

This was the pain she'd always turned to Crazy Apple to deal with. Intensely rational and a little bit cruel, her other self was adept at not feeling. And Ringo spent a long while contemplating calling on her, fleeing the pain that still seemed to be building. Ringo could feel that it was going to get worse, a lot worse.

But in the end, she didn't retreat. No. Instead she embraced the pain. Let it wash over her in pulsing waves. Hugged it close and allowing herself to feel every sharp, jagged edge of it.

She couldn't run away from that pain: it might just be the last thing the first girl she'd loved would give her.


2016-04-22 04:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sparkle had been sitting around, bored, wondering if maybe he should start dinner prep early or something just to pass the time today. So, when he got the message, he was happy to put everything down to watch it. A distraction? Great!

He wasn't certain he'd entirely processed what it was he was watching, by the time he got to the end of it the first time.

By the third time, it was burned into his memory. The information about the virus, the look on Kathy's face, the way she'd convulsed and that tired and done look on Mystique's face when at the end, she'd said the words he'd need a few more hours to re-play in his head before he'd really let himself believe any of it.

Kathy's not going to--

"Fuck," he choked under his breath. And then he said it again, his voice getting louder and more choked up with every repeated syllable. "Fuck, fuck, fuck. Fuck, Mouse! Why? Why the fuck did you have to be the fucking hero? I can't--"

His voice failed him then, and he sat there watching the video play through one more time, mouth forming meaningless syllables, before he abruptly stood and went to get three things. A bottle of something hard, it didn't matter what. A deck of Uno cards, one they'd played with a dozen times together. And a lighter.

He'd teased her for her fashion sense, not-so gently making a scene whenever she put on something that offended his sensibilities.

He made his way into his room.

He'd tailored her first uniform when she'd ever so proudly showed it to him, all jagged stitches and colourful trim.

He shut the door behind himself and opened the box of cards.

He'd used her to get what he needed for Gaunt, had implicated her in his crimes for his own gain. They'd almost died together in a goddamn nightclub in that same Los Angeles that was now overrun by fucking zombies. She'd understood when he was angry and he'd lashed out, after Lewis had cost everybody a home.

He started pulling out the cards one by one, lighting them on fire and throwing them into his little metal wastepaper bin, punctuating every other card with a deep swig of whiskey.

He wasn't drunk enough to cry yet. That would change before too long.

One of the benefits of wearing rainbows.


2016-04-22 06:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sparkle's phone would beep with a message eventually, after Venus had satisfied herself (as much as she could) that there were no ex-humans in Tokyo, and most likely all of Japan.

The few yoma that had crossed her path had been dealt with using extreme prejudice. There were more than a few would-be muggers and gangsters currently tied-up and awaiting the police, with broken ribs and black eyes.

But Minako couldn't be Sailor Venus forever, no matter how much easier that made things. And it was a powered-down Minako sitting on a roof-top, texting Sparkle.

U awake?


2016-04-22 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Might never sleep again. Sleep's stupid. U?

Sparkle was making good headway on that bottle. Maybe that was apparent from the way he was going to ask the person who just texted him if she was awake.

There was a neat little pile of ashes in the bottom of his wastebin, and his bedroom and his clothes stank of smoke and alcohol. If they were having a video chat, he'd have a fair bit to answer for. He looked like shit about as badly as he felt like it.

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2016-04-22 06:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

There was a particular expressionlessness that came over Eliot's face when he suddenly had to deal with something particularly dark. He had enough experience with compartmentalizing and tamping down his own overt emotional reactions in order to be able to keep fighting at peak efficiency that it'd become habit, and then instinct so ingrained he could have trouble fighting his way back out of it if he wasn't careful.

There were only a few situations in the last several years that had been big enough to break through that facade of composure. Standing in a park in DC and confessing his association with a world-renown arms dealer and terrorist to his team, expecting them to reject him outright when he was done, that was one. Showing up at his dad's place to make amends and not even getting a damned answer was another. Eliot only ever broke for family.

He broke not even halfway through Kathy's video.

He slammed the laptop shut on the blue girl's face when she said his name, not ready to hear some second-hand goodbye, and had to stop himself from throwing the whole computer across the room. Instead he shoved away from the desk, leaving the chair on its back on the floor, wheels slowly spinning, and stormed out, hands clenched into fists, breaking into a run the moment he hit the open air. Not running to or from anything, just running.

"I'm just going to run around Baltimore a lot until I'm too tired to be worried about stupid dreams. That normally works."

"It's always worked for me."

"I should be more like you. Can we add Life Lessons with Eliot to our normal knifework classes?"

Running was how they dealt with nightmares. This fucking qualified.


2016-04-22 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hardison got the video, too. And while he was distantly fond of Kathy, Raven--Raven was his TA. They'd bonded, he'd been proud of her and excited for her and cared about her. And now she was stuck in some other world, surrounded by zombies and unable to come home. Sure, she said she'd try, but right now, Hardison didn't have the energy for hope or belief.

He sat on Eliot's stoop, feeling and looking lost, his arms around Val. He didn't know what else to do.


2016-04-22 08:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Eliot was sweat soaked and panting by the time he let himself head back towards his own house again. His damn knee was pissed, throbbing in time with his elevated heartbeat and none of it was enough yet to distract him, make him stop replaying conversations over and over in his head.

He stumbled to a stop when he saw Hardison, confused for a moment before he remembered that the blue girl (Raven, her name had been Raven something, shit, what was her last name?) and Hardison had been close.

He almost turned and ran away again. But he'd run hard enough already that if he tried, he'd probably just throw up.

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2016-04-23 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Zoe was always wary when videos popped up on her laptop, but it didn't take long for her to wish she was looking at some kind of terrible spam instead. It didn't seem real, the things Kathy was saying, but Zoe could see how sick she was and...

...there would be paperwork to deal with, surely. Files to update and things to handle that would make all of this very real. Today, however, Zoe was just going to embrace the sad feeling in the pit of her stomach and think about the two students that had been lost. It had been a long time since she'd had to deal with this particular pain, and she wasn't looking forward to dealing with it at all.


2016-04-25 04:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Hanna wound up in the woods. Like she always did, when upset. Then up a tree. Then curled into a tiny ball, shaking.

She didn't come down until alien spaceships showed up the next morning.