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A Perfect Disguise Above

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They cleared out long before the Feds arrived. She may not remember much but you can't forget stupid, and hanging around a building full of bruised up suits when you're a week out of the Tower on a fake pardon is stupid.

Even if you're handing them a corrupt federal marshall on a platter. Maybe especially if you're doing that, because two dead terrorists are a lot easier to bury than one live traitor with a mouthful of inconvenient names. They could do things that make her stay in the Tower look like… Shit, she couldn't remember a better place, but anything had to be, compared to the Tower.

So no, they didn't stay to watch the show, Justice sweeping in with black metal wings and glinting news cam eyes. The compound's garage was full of useful vehicles for an extremely polite ground assault, dark, fast cars and armored SUVs with a polish that belied the careful distressing of the compound's exterior. She even passed a tank on her way to the back of the garage, an honest-to-god, state-of-the-art urban combat vehicle straight out of her training (if only she could remember what the fuck she'd been training for) and really, what the hell had they been planning out here?

The other woman was impatient, shifting from foot to foot as she stood next to the motorcycles. She'd thought at first the woman didn't speak, that maybe she'd left her words behind in the Tower when the marshall had dragged her back into the sun, but she'd spit some out as they planned their assault. Terse, harsh phrases, spoken in a way that perked her ears. Kinda made her want to salute, and even if she couldn't remember her training, she knew it had included listening to people who'd been trained themselves to speak orders with the expectation that they be obeyed.

In the absence of any damn idea of where to head from here, she fell back on following orders, and the other woman seemed to accept her obedience as a given. Maybe she remembered her training, or maybe she was just feeling around the edges of memory, too.

Hell, maybe she just liked being in charge. She'd known a few like that in her time. Probably. She kind of hoped she had, anyway.

The woman waited by the bikes, though, in a way that made it clear that she was waiting for her. Checked the tires and the gear on the wall, made sure the tanks were full and stopped for half a second just to make sure she was being followed as she rolled her bike outside, back into the dust and sun. Didn't look back, the other woman, just paused; kept walking because she knew she'd fallen in line behind her with her own bike.

She wanted to ask her what she knew, what she remembered. Whether it came back, all at once or in pieces, those things the Tower had taken from her blow by blow, month by month. Whether she was just making the best of it, same as her, head full of weapon specs and schedules but no fucking clue of how it all got there or what it meant.

Instead, she rolled the motorcycle forward at her back, started it up with someone else's familiar fingers. She didn't know where she was going, only that it was time to leave and the woman half a second before her seemed to have a direction in mind.

"Hey," she said. It went nowhere, choked in dust and the lingering smell of smoke from the smouldering ruin they'd left of the front gate. She cleared her throat and tried again.

"Hey." The woman turned, dark hair slipping over her shoulder as she paused in the motions of twisting it up to tuck under her helmet. She knew at the arch of an eyebrow that she was being tolerated, and barely; every second without a word a waste.

"You got a name?"

"Most people do."

Then she shoved her helmet on and started down the dirt road, an order as clear as any even as the cloud rose in her wake.


It's been hours now and if no one's following, it just means no one's following yet. There's a gas station on the road ahead but she isn't allowed within sight of it until she's waved in. Makes sense, once she saunters into the gloom of the road shop - the TV screen behind the bored attendant is dark, the rack of magazines dusty enough to be several months behind… whatever month this is. She's sure the news will make it here eventually, but from the looks of the professionally bored attendant behind the counter, it's not gonna stick around.

The bathroom is around the back, and she scrubs down at the sink with a handful of brown paper towels as best she can. Blood, soot, road dust swirl down the drain, dripping on the floor, making grimy trails across the tile. She'd pity the attendant the cleanup job later but the state of the sink already makes it pretty clear he doesn't consider it a calling.

Stings like shit when she cleans her wrist, the burned flesh still tender where it stands out in stark, reddened lines. Her life is in there, maybe, names and dates and places. She must have them.

Most people do.

The barcode is a mystery, just like everything else, and it hadn't really seemed like a great time to ask just what exactly it meant when they were searing it into her skin with a fucking brand. There were more important things to do then, like getting the hell out of the Tower and not asking any questions, just in case too many questions got you right back in. The door shakes with a heavy thud and she knows there's more important things to do now, too, like clearing the bathroom before the woman on the other side of the door decides she's done waiting.

"Get what you need," she says in passing. "We're leaving when I'm done."

The shelves of the store are on the useless side of bare, dented tins of meat and cans of soda without names. She gets what she can - a toothbrush, some water, a box of hair dye so sun-faded she's not quite sure what color it promises. A pocketknife. She lines them all up on the counter and the attendant scans them one by one, avoiding eye contact in case it mistakenly indicates any interest, in the items or in the customer.

She's halfway out the door towards where the other woman is already waiting by the bikes, her bag bumping against her legs as she turns.

"What's your name?"

The man behind the counter straightens defensively, his eyes narrowing in line under his lowering brow.

"Why? Are you from Corporate? Look, I know I forgot the greeting-"

"No, forget it." She shakes her head, already shoving her back against the door. Already half a step ahead, half a step behind.

"I was just wondering."