He’d picked up the gas mask in Reno. It had saved him then too, when a resistance group had been gassing butchers and he’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time. He wears it now only long enough to get to the vent controls, and then he sets out to find a familiar face. There has to be one; given how many butchers are down here, someone who didn’t know the house wouldn’t have made it on time. He knows, given how they’re spread out, that they were already down here when the gas went on.
He’s pretty sure he knows who it is, too. Which a part of his brain (the part that was Peter O’Brien, the socially awkward philosophy major, if he had been inclined towards specifics) finds appropriately ironic, given that whole subjective and transitory thing where the nature of ‘who’ was concerned in this place.
He’s right, of course. He finds her in a long white dress, sitting comfortably on the edge of the walkway. She looks like she’s asleep, and somehow that isn’t a cliche - the way she’s sitting makes him think she must have gone to sleep on her own terms before the gas set in. He remembers confronting Claire Saunders, taunting her, but not cutting her again because at least then, even if she’d been crafted by someone else to someone else’s standards, she still defined herself. Whiskey was easy to cut because that peace is so off, so wrong. And he can’t miss Whiskey, but he almost misses Claire, who had so much more steel in her than the physician he’d known down here, that old man who had smelled vaguely like stale flavorless toothpaste.
He almost misses Miranda, too, although he never knew her. Miranda Anne Keele. He’d found out her real name (three names - always a good sign, Paul Ballard points out sardonically, and the two share an almost-laugh inside his head) when he’d first stolen her imprint to use on Echo, the first time he’d come back in to claim the princess he didn’t realize he’d already lost.
Nobody misses Whiskey.
No, that’s not true. Alpha misses Whiskey.
Not the composite Alpha, of course; the Alpha that had, however briefly, come before. The Alpha that had eaten pancakes and swam in the pool and tried to be his best, the Alpha that now only exists as the space between his many minds - that Alpha misses Whiskey, in the only absent, unaware and transitory way he knows how. But that Alpha only knew Whiskey; that Alpha never met Claire Saunders even though he opened the door to her existence.
Did Topher make Claire Saunders, or did he? Not that it matters, since Saunders has been dead for years, and she isn’t, because she’s filed away on a drive and Whiskey was never like him, never like Echo, never really Number One. She could have worn any body until he cut her, and then the scars traced an edge of who she was and now even if the drive is there Claire Saunders is only as real as those scars.
And the scars are gone. He wonders when that happened.
Echo wouldn’t be who she is without those lines on Whiskey’s face. He wonders who was more relieved when they were finally erased. He doubts it’s the woman who had to bear them.
He cleans up all the butchers first. He wants the violence out of this place before she’s laid to rest. She deserves that much, at least - not that she’d know the difference, but he’s dealt her enough horror, and at least thirty-seven of his brains are willing to pretend that this will help him move forward. He considers putting her in one of the pods and sealing it up, but he knows that’s impractical.
He can’t bury her outside, either. The butchers will find her and dig her up, and while the old Alpha would have relished the idea of those zombies staggering around full of Whiskey (he always did appreciate a good pun, and the name offers so many) it makes his stomach roll now. Whether it’s at the idea itself or the fact that he might once have relished the savagery behind it is immaterial.
He burns her, carefully, spread out on layers and layers of all the tinfoil that he can find in the kitchen. He takes her ashes up to Adelle’s office and lets them drift out the window.
He knows, from what Echo’s told him, that even before everything that started the war she hid herself away in this place. He doesn’t think of it as liberation, really. He is not that merciful. Echo’s coming home; he can always tell. They’re about to remake the world. You were the first step then, he thinks. You’re the first step now. Get back out there.