You've been seeing the doom coming for so long that when you first see the flicker of something else could happen here you don't believe it. This whole revolutionary ride has a clear ending, where SL dies and the rest of you are fucked, and with your visions you've known that from the start.
Until suddenly one night you don't know it anymore. You believe it, you expect it, you're sure it's the most likely ending, but you don't know it. You grit your teeth against the hope because hope always betrays you but you can't shut it out entirely. It dogs your footsteps as you work with the others, recording SL's sermons and uploading video clips, hacking into public systems to start playing his message of spectrum equality in the commercial break between blackrom dramas. You divert nutritive supplement shipments and the four of you distribute them in secret to inhabitants of the brown quarter. You keep one step ahead of the ruffiannihilators and tell yourself you're not looking for a way out.
You're lying to yourself through your overgrown, speech-mangling teeth.
It happens when you're sure you're all fucked, racing half-blind through the maintenance tunnels with a cadre of blueblooded killers on your heels, doom leaning in to grab the whole lot of you even while you unleash your psionics to blast them any time you can, and DC cuts down anybody who gets close. SL cries for the assholes, even as they're trying to kill all of you, and part of you wants to shake him for being too fucking nice but most of you is humbled so much you can't even speak. How does anyone feel that much compassion?
You blow the grate off the end of a tunnel and accidentally, coincidentally, knock a pair of hunterrorists off their hoverbikes. The timeline splits so hard you choke. The blue path goes where you've always known this was going. You take the red.
"Thplit up," you say, grabbing SL's wrist and pulling him onto one of the bikes with you. "Go to ground."
The ladies grab the other bike and they're peeling out almost before you've finished talking. You gun the engine of yours and SL locks his arms around your skinny waist and you take off in the opposite direction.
You're pursued, of course. As soon as they figure out what's happened they send drones to follow you, drones and more highbloods, baying for your blood. You try to outfly them, try to shoot them down with your psionics. "You idiot," SL yells in your aural, "let me drive!"
It's not a pretty maneuver, trading seats in midair, but you're both pretty damn motivated. You pull it off. He drives. You shoot.
He swerves back through the Capital, the crazy bastard, making a show of himself, and you would wring his neck if you weren't sure he was doing it to get attention away from DC and DL. You knock pursuing drones out of the air instead of yelling at him, and when you get close enough you take a potshot at the Hall of Justice, knocking some ancient legislacerator statute to its crunchy demise on the sidewalk far below. Your head pounds.
When you've made enough of an impression for SL's taste he wings outward, away from the city and across the water. Pursuit starts to thin as you get away from the city, but you're also slowing down, and one of the drones clips the bike's engine before you can knock it away.
The bike wobbles, dips, starts losing altitude at an alarming rate. SL uses language you frankly thought he didn't know. "I've got it," you tell him, raising your voice to be heard. "Keep going!" You're losing the last of your pursuers now, so you can put more of your energy into keeping the bike aloft.
He takes you at your word, and the two of you fucking go. With power amplifiers, psionics like you fuel starships. With just your own talent and the desperate desire to live? You can damn well keep a hoverbike in the air for a while.
The bike skims over dark water, a blacker shadow against the waves. The air is cold, and the wind cuts through your clothes. How far to land? You're not sure. You're almost certain the bike wouldn't float if you brought it down for a careful landing, and even if it did, you'd be easy prey for seadwellers, troll or otherwise. The endless motion is hypnotic, almost a distraction from the way your body is telling you in no uncertain terms—nausea, throbbing headache, that awful metal taste in the back of your mouth—to stop pouring your energy into the hoverbike's engine and save some for yourself. You lean against SL's shoulder and ignore your body's complaints. There'll be time enough to rest once you've gotten him somewhere safe.
"Hey," he says at some point, "how are you doing back there?"
You tell him that you're fine. The words sound a little far away. He says something back that you don't catch but it sounds dismayed, so you tell him again that you're doing all right. You think you do, at least. Your tongue feels sort of sticky. At some point you've closed your eyes and that seems like a good plan. SL takes hold of your wrist and squeezes. You hum.
The next thing you're aware of is a horrible series of rattles and crunches that jar all of your bones loose, make you feel like a sack of dice being shaken for luck. You make a noise like a dying bleatbeast as your momentum grinds out its death throes and slide down off the bike and land on something with a little more give than pavement. SL is apologizing and he sounds panicked so you try to tell him it's fine and you're still friends, but you've really overdone it this time and you feel awful, and you're not sure if you make any sense.
You black out.
When you wake up your head throbs and your mouth feels like that dying bleatbeast is still stuck in it. You swallow a few times to try to get the sticky feeling out of your throat, then make yourself sit up and peel back your ocular guard flaps.
"Oh thank fuck," SL says, and you turn toward his voice before you're really processing anything. "I wasn't sure what I was going to do if you didn't wake up."
You blink a few times and try to take stock of your surroundings. You're in a cave, slick and jagged walls of black stone around you. SL's cloak is draped over you and he's sitting just out of arm's reach. Beyond him there's the flicker of a small fire.
"We made it to land," you say, and wince both at the effort of talking and at how painfully inane that statement was.
"Yeah," SL says. "You got us here in one piece." He scoots over and reaches out to brush your hair off your forehead. Against all reason that makes your headache more tolerable. "How are you feeling? You want some water?"
"I feel," you tell him, enunciating as clearly as you can, "like fried asth. Refried, even." He laughs really quietly, this gentle sound that you know isn't laughing at you. "Water would be good."
He hands you a bottle. "Be careful with it," he says. "I don't know yet how hard it'll be to get more."
You nod and then wish you hadn't. Your brain is determined to exact revenge for being so hellishly overworked. "What'd I mith by being a vegetable?" you ask before you drink.
SL runs his fingers through his hair and tugs on it a little. It's one of his putting-my-thoughts-in-order gestures and it always makes you want to hold his hands so he won't cause himself even that little bit of pain. "We're on an island," he says. "Not sure how big it is, didn't get all that good a look while we were crashing. I don't think it's inhabited, or at least, I didn't find any signs of trollish life near here. I dragged the bike under a tree to make it less visible from the air, but it's fucking heavy and I was more worried about getting us out of the open before the sun came up. We have the water bottles and some nasty grub jerky from the bike's saddlebags, and after that...." He huffs a sharp exhale and squares his shoulders. "After that I don't know."
The water helps to make you feel like a real live troll again. You stop yourself at half the bottle, though. "Ith it nighttime again?" you ask. Silly question. He's awake, so probably, right?
"Yeah," he says. "You think you're up for coming out to take a look around?"
"Okay," you say. "Yeah." You get up with only one false start, and you have to duck a little bit to avoid banging your horns on the roof of the cave, but you follow SL around his campfire and outside.
The first thing you notice is that the air smells weird. Salt and some kind of flowery smell and no exhaust at all.
The second thing you notice is holy fuck there are a lot of stars. You knew that intellectually, obviously, and of course with the smog and the streetlights and the neon and everything visibility in the capital was bad, but wow. You stand there for a second just looking up at the sky, conscious of SL standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you, being your warm anchor when you have a moment of falling-up-into-endlessness vertigo.
The third thing you notice is that you don't feel doomed at all.
You take a deep breath. You think you could get to like the air here. "Firtht thing, we find more water, right?"
"Seems like the best place to start," SL says. You turn to look at him and he's completely fucking beautiful under the starlight, and you're both alive, and if you have anything to say about it you're both going to stay that way.
You take his hand. "Then let'th go."