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PROJECT: Incarnation

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PROJECT is the perfect fusion of one's supernatural essence with advanced weaponry and body augmentation. This linking of technology and energy allows extraordinary hosts to channel their essence into physical manifestations and, in rare cases, transcend the corporeal plane. Only subjects possessing extremely focused inner essence and exceptional physical attributes can unlock the true power of PROJECT.

But what happens next? 

You lose everything. Your free will, your ability to think rationally, your ethics, and in certain cases when you are not being cautious enough, your very own soul. You become a machine, a vassal to your masters. A toy in their hands to play. A weapon formed against Valoran. This is all you are to them. 

Until one day. 

One day you snap out of your endless slavery when you realize you've been betrayed. You run away. And you endeavor to make them pay for the pain they caused you. Because they were under the impression you were just a machine. Does a machine incorporate feelings, though?

They were foolishing themselves, believing they had vanquished this little «malfunction», as they like to call it. Oh, how mistaken they were. And now, they are going to pay the price for it. The human soul isn't something solid you can capture or destroy. They must learn that. 

And so they will, no matter the cost. 

Eleven initiates. Eleven new, powerful weapons to be used in the haunt for totalitarian control. Eleven simple humans, augmented with the latest PROJECT technology, became tools in the hands of PROJECT Inc. Perfect, unbeatable machines. 

Not without their glitches in their programs, however. 

Those glitches were what saved Shauna Vayne from slavery. They set her free. Free to roam in the shadows, waiting to strike those who enslaved her, to bring an end to PROJECT and the technology that haunts her soul. A soul they never managed to capture fully. 

Same glitches did make other initials more dangerous than before, however. 

That's why Shauna Vayne emerged from the shadows to give a warning. 

"Aren't you being a little overdramattic here, Vayne?"

Vayne furrowed her eyebrows in response. "You saw with your very own eyes what Khada Jhin is capable of. And he won't stop until he gets to what he truly desires, detective."

The woman standing before Vayne was tall and imposing but didn't seem to get under that thick skull of hers what the vigilante was trying to tell her. She was so stubborn and refused to listen. Maybe that's what made Vi such an effective enforcer, though. 

"Look, I'm not gonna overlook the fact that Jhin is dangerous," Vi admitted. "But why do you insist on accepting that upgrade? I don't trust 'em. For all I know, PROJECT Inc. are probably seeking for a new weapon after you slacked off. You said it yourself that they would stop at nothing."

Vayne signed in utter frustration. The enforcer was intelligent yes, but wasn't perspicacious at all. She couldn't see how this would benefit her long-term. 

"I understand your concern, given of what I just told you. But the ATLAS gauntlets are a masterpiece designed for destruction. In wrong hands they could be extremely dangerous. If anyone can keep them safe with getting corrupted, that's you, Vi."

"You give me too much credit," Vi responded. "I'm just a cop, not some super hero dedicating their life into fighting super villains."

"A cop that has not be affected by those chrono-agents bastards who focus only on what's happening in any other realms other than this one," Vayne growled. "Most police officers have been approached to work in the Agency and are not as efficient as they should be or they're just corrupted."

"Well, that's true," Vi admitted. "Can't count how many of my colleagues were transferred into the Agency because they pay better... Good cops are few and far between these days. In any case, I still don't think I should pick up those gauntlets. Mine are perfectly fine as they are."

"I don't doubt that," Vayne noted. "But keep in mind of what I told you about Jhin. He won't stop until he gets his hands on those gauntlets. I'd feel safer if someone of your ethics used them."

Vi raised a questioning blonde brow. "You put so much trust on my shoulders, yet you met me barely two days ago. Are you sure about that?"

"Absolutely," Vayne noted. "Think about it but hurry up. Khada Jhin can be quite unpredictable."

"Thanks for the warning and... Well, y'know. Saving my ass back there. I never really got the chance to express my gratitude towards you properly."

"Don't mention it," Vayne waved her off as she hopped on her bike and a glass appeared out of her helmet that aimed to protect her face. "In case anyone asks, you never saw or heard of me, if you value your life."

"Whoa, wait a sec. Where do you think you're going, missy?" Vi said. "Without even taking into consideration that you are a wanted deviant, I ought to arrest you for owning and using unauthorized technology."

"Are you sure this is what you really want, officer?" Vayne inquired coldly. "After all, I did save your life. I think you owe me a debt."

"Like hell I do," Vi growled. "Go before I change my mind. But next time I catch you wandering around..."

"There won't be a next time, officer. I can assure you of that one," Vayne noted. She paused "Take care, Vi."

"You too, Vayne."

And with that, Vayne accelerated and drove off towards an unknown destination, leaving Vi watch her as she disappeared in the mist of the night, slightly more puzzled than the previous nights. 

"What the hell," she murmured softly to herself as she walked away. Dealing with a deviant and a massive murder wasn't the definition of a typical evening for the enforcer. Usually, it consisted of last minute's reports, emergency calls or alcohol. She certainly looked forward for the last one but it wasn't her number one priority at that specific moment. 

She needed to decide what to do. 

Vayne's warnings were reasonable but what reasons did Vi have to trust her, aside her saving her life? Vayne's motives were probably aiming only on killing Khada Jhin. Speaking of the devil, he was now an added thorn in her sides she had to remove. And the gauntlets, those damn things. What she had to do with them? Accept them? Turn them in? Let the physco have them? No, she couldn't allow that, Vayne was clear. He couldn't lay a finger on them. But she couldn't throw away either. Leaving her with only one option. 



The Wardens' headquarters was located between several other business dedicated buildings and didn't really different from those, yet it wasn't easily confused with the businesses around due to the large neon sign placed right over the entrance: “Central Police Department of Piltover”. You couldn't miss it. 

Vi walked casually over the entrance and the automatic doors slid open for her to pass. There weren't so many people there at the moment. Most of them had finished their shifts and returned safely back to their families. The reception was empty - if we expect the permanent hextech android that was always ready to serve - and there were no other signs of life except the iBlitzcrank robot that was busy accomplishing its task; moping the floor. Vi headed towards the lifts, giving the golem one last glance. She had the suspicion that she shouldn't be here at that moment, considering that this was the time for the everyday cleaning up. But this couldn't wait any longer. 

The lift stopped on the third floor and the enforcer rushed out of it, walking over the end of the corridor where her office was located. She passed by her colleagues' offices, taking a gleam over the windows. As she had predicted, most had already fled home but a few offices still had the lights switched on. Once she reached her office, she placed her hand over the digital recognized device and waited to have her fingerprints scanned. The procedure didn't take more than a few seconds. 

"Identification completed. Access granted," the digital voice announced and the door slipped open with a slight hiss. Vi entered and the door closed behind her. She traced the wall next to her until she found the switch and turned the lights on. Pressing another switch, a shutter shut down, denying any access from the outside to Vi's office through the window. Only then she felt safe enough to approach her desk, a messy piece of furniture filled with unfinished paperwork and reports, pens and packets of cigarettes. And of course, the gauntlets. It was risky to leave them in the open space like that but she couldn't have placed them anywhere else. The drawers couldn't fit them in any way and she couldn't risk stumbling on them. 

She walked over the oak desks without touching the PROJECT technology rather than admiring it. In front of her self-made gauntlets that were made literally from nothing, those babies were a total masterpiece. They were well-designed, specifically created to smash everything, even steal. The material they were made from was unknown to Vi but it did gave them a golden colour - even if they weren't really made out of gold. Also, these gauntlets were enhanced with the latest PROJECT technology, designed by PROJECT Corporation. The temptation to touch them was huge but Vi's had to restrain herself. She needed to take consideration a few more factors. 

If she accepted this gift from PROJECT, what did that mean for her? Did she immediately become a member of their Command Line? Would she be left in their mercy to decide her fate? No, she would never allow that. She wasn't a dog to be trained and used accordingly. She was an independent entity and she would whatever the fuck she wanted with those gauntlets, even PROJECT liked it or not. And besides, to become a PROJECT trace, you needed first to be augmented in the PROJECT laboratories, right? All she had to do was refuse the augmentation and... 

She shook her head. There was no way PROJECT would let a target slip like that nor they would ever allow one of their greatest technological achievements lay around like a gift. That's why they had send Khada Jhin after the gauntlets, after all, to retrieve them. It wasn't PROJECT Inc who sent those gauntlets. 

"To hell with that bullshit," Vi said to no one in particular. She carefully removed her old gauntlets and picked up the new ones. The steel under her touch felt cold but that was exactly what excited her. It was time for a change. 

"Here goes nothing," she murmured as she wore them. They closed around her arms with a small hiss and a release of some steam. They were ten times more lighter than her old ones and it almost felt natural having them on. She couldn't wait to try them out. But not in there. 

"Hell yeah baby," she admired her new toys. "That, that's some good shit right there,"

"Analysis completed," a digital voice said completely out of nowhere. Vi assumed it came out from the gauntlets. Before she could react, a sort of metallic armor started unraveling from the gauntlets and soon it covered most of her body. She shrieked in utter surprise and tried to remove the gauntlets but it was already too late for that. A mask covered her eyesight and all she saw was her surroundings into a golden colour while she noticed that the mask functioned like a small computer that analyzed everything within its ratio. For example, when her eyes landed on an empty cup of coffee a note popped up on the screen, informing her of the type of coffee, how many sugars had been used, when and where it was produced. 

"Woah," Vi was impressed and surprised at the same time. This kind of technology was known to be accessed only by superior members of the police. No wonder why they were so efficient at their jobs. 

Suddenly, the screen informed her for an imminent scan on the user - herself - and before she could react to this new development, everything became dark. These things were beyond her control for the time being and her last thought before fainting was that she needed to find a way to gain control over the machine. 

 

Chapter Text

Vayne never really cared about the speed limit. Her major priority was to reach her hideout as fast as possible without getting detected, screw the highway code. After all, all her life had been controlled by rules and restrictions. She was done being  a tool in the hands of others. 

Located nearby the outskirts of Piltover, her hideout was merely an abandoned, old basement. Couldn't risk finding an apartment. She chose to live like a rat, in the darkness, away from any sort of civilization. She wouldn't come out until the night's vale fell. Night was her natural habitat after all. Only at night did she feel safe. 

She stopped her vehicle on the side of the road and dismounted. Pressing a few buttons on her arm, the bike vanished. She used a quick scan on the area before she proceeded towards the basement that had been her home since she became a deviant. That should have been precisely eighteen months. 

Home? The terminology wasn't unknown to her by any means.  A home, or domicile, is a dwelling-place used as a permanent or semi-permanent residence for an individual, family, household or several families in a tribe. Did this basement acquire those characteristics? Was this basement her actual home? It was just an empty place where she organized her plans and hid, all by herself. Did this render it her home? Could she ever call it that? 

Emotions are so perplexing and confusing, Vayne concluded. And the last thing she needed was to lose focus with those. She needed to concentrate on her goal. Vengeance that is. 

After she made sure that the door was locked and no one would have access to the basement, she had to make an review over the past few days; risk her head over an unimportant cop, almost captured and killed Jhin (that “almost” really irked her) and prevent the ATLA gauntlets from falling into the wrong hands right on time. The last part wouldn't have even occured if those irresponsibles hadn't gotten in the way. What they were even thinking in the first place? The whole revolution thing was pointless anyways. Why they insisted on recruiting more members instead of focusing on what really mattered? Their only goal should be ending PROJECT's domination, not being quixotic and walking straight towards their doom and an inevitable bloodshed. As if those G/NETIC rebels understood what bloodshed and loss meant anyways. They were just a bunch of ignorant idiots that risked their heads for nothing. Eventually, they would end up back from where it started. This time though PROJECT will make sure that there will be no malfunctions on their codes and the revolution would end there once and for all. 

Speaking of the devil, she received a call from a unknown source. Rolling her eyes, she picked it up by pressing a button on her arm and a hologram of a woman Vayne despised so much appeared. Vayne despised her because this so called woman was behind the establishment of G/NETIC and was probably the greatest fool among her team. 

"What do you want, Ashe?" Vayne growled at the hologram. 

"I just wanted to express my gratitude for what you did with the ATLA gauntlets," spoke the digitally transmitted voice of Ashe, a once prodigious PROJECT marksman. 

"Well, someone had to act upon your foolishness quickly before the gauntlets fell in Jhin's hands," was Vayne's response. "I'm still wondering what exactly were you thinking by stealing the gauntlets and giving them up to a random cop. Risking everything just to approach new members is utterly pathetic"

"Bitter much?" Ashe sneered. "I won't have my decisions questioned by you, Vayne."

"Most certainly not. But friendly reminder that if said gauntlets were to return back to the PROJECT headquarters, they would have tracked you down and discover you. At the best situation, most of you you'd be killed. At the worst... You'd be thrown back into oblivion, right from where you started."

"Why do you care so much of what would have happened if things had gotten wrong?"

"I don't," Vayne responded. "I'm just pointing out that your actions do have consequences, Ashe, even if you realize that or not. It was foolish of you to approach the cop. It almost cost her life."

Silence. Ashe stared back at Vayne with a cold look. Cold just like the killer she could become. 

"Why aren't you saying anything? Hmm? Is that because you acknowledge my being correct?" Vayne inquiried. 

"I'm wondering since when you care about anyone else but yourself, Vayne. You seem to be fond of that cop."

Vayne had experienced feelings only a few amounts of times in the past, including this time during her call with Ashe. She could characterize that fire as fury. How dare she! She knew nothing, she was yet another foolish initiative that should be shut down permanently before she caused more harm. 

"Do you realize that you put an innocent's life in grave danger?" Vayne spoke clearly, in contrast with the storm in her system. "Or do I need to explain that to you, too? The only reason why Vi wasn't killed is because I interfered and didn't allow Jhin to act! Also, did I mention an officer died, too? He's name was Mosley, just in case you want to add him to your long list of victims!"

Ashe remained silent, perhaps because she didn't know if she should respond to that or she actually didn't know how she should answer. 

"Don't ever call me again. I'm done being part of your foolish schemes!" were Vayne's last words before ending the call. 

"System destabilization," a digital voice inside Vayne's ears rang. The indicators on her screen noted raised blood pressure, increased heart beat and heavy breathing, all associated with “anger”

"Holy fucking shit," Vayne murmured softly in the darkness. This was too much. She had enough of this stress the past few days. Stumbling through the basement, she found her way towards her “bed” (not that she needed any sleep but she needed to clear her mind off things for a while).

And so, she laid down and pressed a few buttons on her arm before closing her eyes. This could be risky but she was so done with everything. Besides, there was no chance anyone could locate there down there. 

System shutdown. Re-initialize in twenty four hours

 


A couple of miles away from Vayne's hideout, in the basement of an old ship that had dropped an anchor on the port years ago and hasn't set sail ever since, Ashe looked at her arm, straight on the spot where Vayne's hologram stood a couple of moments before. Said ship had served as the 

G/NETICS hideout for too long - it might as well be their house at that moment. The only place in the entire city that they were allowed to feel relatively safe.

"So, I guess that Vayne's still pissed?" Ekko inquired as he watched his leader shut down the communication channel. 

"Vayne is always pissed and querulous, that's not something new," Ashe shook her head in disregard. "My communication system can't detect her signal anymore. It might be due to another change of IP."

"I will try to break the code again to gain access to the new IP," Ekko said as he walked over a complex device that could be called a computer but it was nothing like the common hexetech devices you came across more often than not. The design assembled those that were used in large companies, but that specific model had been enhanced by Ekko himself, a prodigious hacker that is. 

"You do that," Ashe nodded. "Lucian, do we know if the ATLA gauntlets had been activated yet?" she addressed her other surbonite. 

"They just did," Lucian informed from his chair. He was also busy staring on a screen. 

"Good. Let's see how well our new friend can handle the PROJECT technology," Ashe mused as she peaked over Lucian's shoulder. 

"Do you think it is a good idea to turn her into a PROJECT?" 

The new voice belonged to a warrior that stood in her bulk armor on the corner of the room with arms crossed, her shield lying lazily next to her. 

"She's not going to become a PROJECT with the exact meaning of it," Ashe turned to face Leona. "She's barely going to be augmented like we were. She will take her sweet time to learn how to control this gift instead of letting it rule her. She's a fighting spirit as much as we can tel.l"

"What if we were wrong, though? What if she can't control it?"

"She doesn't have a choice," Ashe growled, turning her face away from Leona. "Either she does that or she becomes a mindless being."

"And who is going to control her if we come to that?"

"Whoever gets their hands first on her. But I don't think we'll ever come to that," Ashe assumed. 

"You know," another voice spoke up. "There are times that I believe Vayne is right, you know? We are impetuous and make rush decisions that can lead to unwanted results, and for what?"

"I understand Fiora," Ashe nodded without turning her head to face the Grand Dueler. "I'm not going to lie that this was a risky plan baser only on luck, something I shouldn't have done. But knowing Vi, she will eventually come to terms with it. I believe it's better to risk it rather than having Jhin steal this piece of technology."

"You sound like you knew Vi before," Fiora pointed out. 

"I sort of did," Ashe confirmed. "My memory data base includes a specific partnership with a cop, one year and a half ago. There was trouble with gang members stealing hexetech technology from PROJECT and other corporations. I was assigned to assist said cop. She wasn't very happy about that," she chuckled. "After doing some digging, I discovered that she had lost a loved one because of some PROJECT initiate."

"If that's true, how do you expect her to help us out with our purpose?"

"Because her heart is seeking for revenge from those who have forsaken her. She seeks revenge from PROJECT Inc, we want to bring them down. Our purposes align."

"Have you ever been told that you are a manipulative bitch?"

Fiora only meant it as a joke, of course, and Ashe wasn't even offended. She chose to reply with a tease herself. "Someone has been stalking my calls with Vayne."

Fiora shrugged her shoulders. "We are all curious of what's going on with that deviant. She's such a lonely wolf, I wonder how she survives."

"It's a good question, really. But it doesn't matter. Vayne is never going to be one of us nor help us out. She's obstinate and would never swallow her pride like that. Instead, I'd suggest we focus on the next part of the plan, shall we?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"No sign's of Vayne's new IP," Ekko denounced. "If I had to make a guess, she's shut down for the time being."

"That's dangerous. Why would she do that?" Fiora sounded sceptical. 

"Vayne is an individual that takes her own decisions. We should focus on officer Vi," Ashe noted, not wanting to waste anymore time onto that unbearable deviant. 

"Well, good thing that we got a signal of activity by the ATLA gauntlets right now," Lucian spoke, interrupting the conversation. 

"Finally," Ashe mused. 



Chapter Text

Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. Time is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience. Time is often referred to as a fourth dimension, along with three spatial dimensions.

That fragile enigma, time, was called to be protected by no one else than Pulsefire Caitlyn, a legendary chrono-agent who relentlessly pursued those who dared threaten its integrity across time and space. 

It's one of those fugitives that brought her back in her initial timeline. 

It had been a while since she last been there. Not that she missed it much, her reality was full of faults, faults that could be avoided if the right choices had been made in the past. Of course, by unlocking the secrets to time traveling, there was a chance to fix certain unpleasantries, but there were always limitations to that because it wasn't rare that paradoxes were created due to excessive time traveling. Caitlyn knew even so well. 

And she was responsible to prevent those paradoxes from happening. 

Her long absence had rendered her a legend in the Agency. A couple of her fellow colleagues had attributed her inhuman abilities that she had gained in her missions. For example, her unreachable sniping ability. In all of her career, she had never missed a target, not even once, nor she had ever failed in any assigned mission. That good of an agent she was and she wouldn't settle for anything less. Her fame reached a point that people saw her as a goddess. She was far from that, being a consumable human herself but she didn't even bother to gainsay them. Let them believe whatever they wanted. At least, they couldn't reach the truth and she always had the advantage of surprise against her enemies. 

So, when that morning she stepped in the Agency for the first time in years, the clicking of her boots turned many heads towards her direction and murmurs began in an instance. Caitlyn didn't pay the least attention. She kept her eyes locked with her target, which in this case was the elevator. She didn't even have to wait long before the doors slipped open and she entered. She pressed the button for the 100th floor and the doors closed immediately. The trip upstairs was quick and it didn't last more than three to four minutes precisely. Elevators were designed to be fast and comfortable, with their lousy music and LED colours. Caitlyn didn't flinch at the sudden stop of the machine. A digital voice announced; 100th floor, Administration, Board of Directors and other offices. The Agency of Timeline Protection wishes you a good day. 

Caitlyn stepped out and the doors closed behind her for yet another time. She scanned the corridor for any other forms of life but there was none - nor humans nor robots. She turned to the left and continued her way. 

At the end of the corridor there was a circular lobby with several comfy sofas and a dark, oak desk settled right next to an also dark door with a golden sign placed on it that wrote with calligraphic letters; Tithonus Cayton, Administrator. His secretary was nothing more than an enhanced PROGRAM robot that served both as the secretary and his personal bodyguard. It many occasions it had proven to be quite useful in both of its roles. 

A PROGRAM was a hexetech robot that was created entirely to look and function like an enhanced human. It didn't differ much from a common man but the significant detail that separated the human kind from those machines was that a PROGRAM didn't need to sleep or eat. In other words, a PROGRAM could be characterised as an enhanced with technology human. Of course, the PROGRAM's weren't the only type of machine that resembled the human nature. The PROJECT traces were also a type of robots, created for entirely different purposes however. 

Caitlyn reached the front desk and the android raised it's gaze. It was a young woman with blonde hair and grey eyes that scanned the agent from head to toe in a matter of seconds. 

"Pulsefire Caitlyn," she spoke. Her voice didn't sound digital like in the elevator. It was closer to being human. "Mr Cayton isn't expecting you. Where do we owe the pleasure?"

Caitlyn reached for the PROGRAM's hand and captured it into her gloved hand, never averting her gaze. The PROGRAM blinked a few times before it spoke again. 

"Very well, then. I'll inform Mr Cayton while you wait," she said before picking up the phone. Caitlyn nodded and went to sit on one of the sofas. 

Perhaps this was another reason why she was considered inhuman. The technology she was equipped with was way ahead of any other agent there. Her white bodysuit worked pretty much like a computer. So when she touched the android's hand, her report was digital transferred to the secretary. That was an ability only andoirds possessed between one another. 

Apparently, it wasn't. 

Caitlyn didn't have to wait longer than five minutes. Not that she would mind waiting longer. She was a sniper after all, a good one that is which required patience. The PROGRAM secretary motioned at her that she could proceed. Caitlyn stood back at her feet and walked over the black door and knocked. 

"Come in," a male voice called from inside and the agent pressed the door open. 

The first thing the eye notices is the huge glass windows that stand behind Tithonus Cayton's desk, offering a breathtaking view all over Piltover. Then, it was the expensive furniture. Mr. Cayton has a thing for elegance and it would be a crime if he didn't decorate his office accordingly. His wooden desk was scalped with geometrical shapes, giving a more Shuriman note. The floor was covered with a heavy Demacian carpet. In the corners, there were pots that served as homes for exotic plants from Ionia. On the one side of the wall, there were drawers that beholder the Agency's top secret data, only accessed by the current administrator. The other one was filled with painting that depicted scenes from the recent history of Piltover, all of them authentics of famous artists. Underneath the art, there was a small piece of furniture with glass cupboards, behind of which all sort of drinks were prepared; excellent Freljordian vodka, high quality Noxian wine and rum from Bilgewater. 

If Caitlyn hadn't been raised in luxury herself, she'd be impressed. 

The man himself was an imposing figure. Tithonus Cayton was a man in his middle fifties but there were so little white strings in his hair that people who didn't know him so well always mistaken his age. Once a prodigious agent himself, he had worked hard and climbed the ranks until he became the administrator of the Timeline Protection Agency or TPA in brief. He was well - respected for his efficiency as a CEO. 

"Agent Caitlyn," he said once he acknowledged her presence in his office. "Please, have a seat," he motioned at the two leather chairs that were placed in front of his desk. Caitlyn oblliged. She wasn't used to following orders but this was entirely different. Because this man was first and foremost her boss. 

"I'm quite surprised to see you here today," Tithonus spoke first. "We're not used to your lovely company."

The man was a sweet talker, but that was clearly for professional reasons, to keep the typical pretensions. Caitlyn wasn't a fool. She could make her self-criticism and she was well-aware that her company was far from being relatively anything near «lovely». She had very few friends because of that, though this served her well for her career. The less attachments she had in each reality, the better. 

"Where do we owe the pleasure?" Tithonus asked eventually. 

"It is related to my last assignment, sir," Caitlyn responded, getting straight into the point. "I'm sure you know how I've been keeping myself busy tracking down that fugitive named Ezreal," the nod she received made it clear that Tithonus was very aware. "My sources point that he's currently hiding in this realm."

She paused, waiting a while to see her boss' reaction. Upon receiving none, she continued. "My sources also present a connection with a police officer downtown. I'm here to ask for authorisation to extend my haunt further, sir."

"I see," Tithonus spoke the truth. He understood perfectly well. He rested his elbows on the desk, keeping his fingers intertwined as he rested his chin on his palms. "This case needs to come to an end, sooner or later. Our little friend is trying his luck by coming here. I'll grant you the authorization you need and make a few calls over at the chief of the police to arrange a meeting with said officer..."

"Thank you, sir."

"...in one condition."

Caitlyn was taken aback from that, though she didn't show it. Her only reaction was to raise her brow questioningly. 

"What condition, sir?"

"Now, I don't want you to misunderstand me nor any of the world that I will speak. You're probably my best agent out in the fields. You succeeded where others failed. You're more efficient than anyone could hope for."

"Your words flutter me, sir."

"The thing is, this case has been going about for too long. The Board isn't pleased at all. We had to waste a lot of our sources to fix paradoxes this Ezreal boy created because of his carelessness. The more his capture is delayed, the more difficult it becomes to prevent those paradoxes from happening."

"Where are you going with this one, sir?" Caitlyn struggled not to snap at him. This was outrageous. After all her successful missions, the Board couldn't be possibly considering to replace her, right? 

"As I stated, the Board isn't pleased with the turnout of events, thus they're not pleased with you, Caitlyn," Tithonus said. "I managed to persuade them that you're the only capable one for this mission and so, they won't remove you from this case. Yet."

Caitlyn let out a breath she wasn't aware she had been holding. 

"They insisted in one thing though, which I found completely logical and accepted without a second thought," Tithonus continued. "We agreed to assemble a team to assist you with your undertaking."

"What?"

She blurted that word without a second thought. It was too much of a shock to handle calmly. Caitlyn wasn't a team player. She was a lonely wolf. She didn't need a team to work this out and Tithonus knew that very well. That was a hit under the belt. 

"Yes." Tithonus nodded. "This is only for the best, Caitlyn. I hope you understand. We've wasted too much time on this. It's time to put an end and quickly. Besides, it's only temporary."

Caitlyn pressed her lips into a thin line. The frustration within threatened to burst anytime soon but she knew better. "Who will be assisting me in this mission?" she inquired eventually. 

"You know them already, I suppose." Tithonus said. "Three members of the Pulsefire squad, very efficient in the fields lately."

Caitlyn's heart sank under her chest before he even spoke their names. "Riven, Shen and Tobias Fate, though he goes by the name Twisted Fate these days."

Caitlyn suppressed the urge to roll her eyes at him. Her very first group of colleagues, seriously? She hoped to never see them again after her promotions. It seemed she wasn't the only one advancing. Perhaps her long absence had left her behind in terms of what was going on in the agency. She could see Shen as a Pulsefire actually, he was very composed, silent and skillful. Riven though was completely reckless despite her skill. And let her not start with Tobias. He was an entire different story. The man used to be a criminal that betrayed his own kind to survive. 

"Is that all?" Caitlyn asked eventually. 

"Yes," Tithonus nodded. "You'll find more details about your partnership down on the reception. I'll have to ask you one more favor," he added, rubbing his black beard. "Be cooperative for as long as it takes. I know you prefer working alone but the circumstances don't always allow us to get what we want."

"Yes, sir."

"Excellent. You're dismissed."

Caitlyn stood up and made her way towards the exit before she'd blow up.  This couldn't turn worse. The only option she had was to go along with it. 

"Oh, and Caitlyn," Tithonus' voice behind her back made her stop on her tracks. She span around to face him. "Hurry up. We are running out of time."

"Don't worry, sir. I know how it is like working under pressure."

"I'm sure you do better than anyone else, dear," he smiled at her before resuming at whatever tasked he was preoccupied with before her arrival. 

She exited the office and closed the door behind her softly, despite having the great urge to slam it. She walked away without giving a last glance behind her. 

Dammit! 

She'd never imagined how troublesome this case would be for herself and her career. And all this because of an immature boy...

The message from the Board was clear, despite Tithonus' best efforts to hide it; they had lost their faith in her. How easy it is to lose faith in someone but how difficult it is to gain someone's truth? Not fair at all. 

But it didn't matter. She'd win their trust back. She wasn't some random agent and no one undermined her abilities and her reliability. She'd carry out this mission with or without a team. 



Chapter Text

"So uh... How have you been, Caitlyn?"

Normally, these words would be perceived as simple, friendly care. They were just a hopeless try to spark a conversation, though. Riven stiffened even so more when she never received a response. Sitting next to Caitlyn on the uber driver didn't make things easier. She glanced at the back seat where her companions were seated, sharing equally the same uncomfortable feelings as she did. Their expressions betrayed so. Caitlyn, on the other hand, chose to remain silent and expressionless, which was way more terrifying to her team than actually talking. 

The uber vehicle rolled smoothly into the city's roads without human maintenance. Another miracle of the technological advance. The touchscreen showed then a precise map that informed them that they'd be arriving in their destination soon enough; more or less in eight minutes until the Downtown Police Station.

"Why are we going there in the first place?" Riven asked when the vehicle came to a stop in a red light. 

"Weren't you told?" this was the first time any of them listened to Caitlyn's voice and they all jumped in utter surprise. 

"No, we weren't." it was Shen's turn to speak. "All we know is to follow orders from you for now on, until further notice. We only know we are after a chrono-deviant."

"Which, apparently, doesn't make us any less clueless than we were before." Twisted Face sneered in pure sarcasm, crossing his arms. 

Caitlyn let out a frustrating sign. As if all her troubles weren't enough, they assigned her a complete clueless team to work with her. It wasn't any of their fault, she knew well, but she couldn't help but feel infuriated. 

"There's a fugitive named Ezreal." she began her explanation as she pressed a button on her uniform. A picture of a blonde, young man appeared on the touchscreen of the uber. "He somehow managed to retrieve an outgrown Pulsefire uniform and use it exclusively for his own advantage. That said, he has been collecting all sorts of technology in various dimensions, actions that unfortunately have caused catastrophic paradoxes. I've been on his tracks for a while now and each time I'm getting closer to him. My newest sources claimed he re-appeared on this dimension, which happens to be his initial. I was planning on continuing the investigation on my own, but apparently the Administration and the Board find it imperative that we work together on this case for faster results."

"That's absurd!" Riven exclaimed. "You're the best agent the Agency has! You don't need us!"

"As much as I'm flattered by your words, I must agree with the fact that I don't need you." Caitlyn spoke casually in her cold tone as the image of Ezreal disappeared and the map resumed on the screen. "It's beyond me, however. We are here following orders. Do as I say and we'll be done in no time."

Twisted Fate huffed. "No need to explain yourself to us. It's obvious you're not excited about this partnership, and so are we."

"I appreciate the honesty." Caitlyn responded. "At least, there won't be any delusions that we are back at being partners."

A small uncomfortable silence followed before Riven spoke up again.

"Say, why are we heading to the Police?"

"Ezreal used to have a couple of connections here and there." Caitlyn replied. "One of them is a cop named Vi. I felt it was urgent that we spoke to her."

"Wait, the PROJECT cop? She is his acquaintance?" Riven's brows almost disappeared under her white hair. 

"Vi is a what now?"

"A PROJECT." Riven nodded. "It's been a couple of months since she's been assigned downtown. I've heard she used to work on Central - before she went PROJECT, I mean. She had a reputation for her hextech gauntlets, self-made and all, used to beat the crap out of criminals."

»But that's not even the coolest part," Riven whispered enthusiastically like a child that was about to meet their hero. "No one knows how or when she became a PROJECT, not even the company themselves."

"Wait, is this for real?" Shen piped up. "I was under the impression it was just rumors."

Riven shook her head, smiling. "There was never an official announcement about a PROJECT addition to the police force, neither from the force themselves nor the company. They managed to cover it up and transfer her downtown where she'd draw less attention from the media. But no one has a single clue how she became one."

"That's great." Twisted Fate huffed again. "All we needed was yet another PROJECT out of control."

"Another?" Caitlyn furrowed her brows. "What do you mean “another”?"

"It all began eighteen months ago." Shen said and his façade became dark. "When a group of PROJECTS was exterminated during a mission. Only their leader survived, who also happened to be a PROJECT initial. She went deviant after that, seeking revenge from those who betrayed her. Soon after, more PROJECT initials went deviant too and escaped the corporation's control. As far as the public knows, there are only three PROJECT initials left completely faithful to the company but they are extremely dangerous."

"What happened to the deviants?" Caitlyn asked. 

"They disappeared. No one is aware of their whereabouts. Only the very first deviant is known for her activities around the city. She keeps herself busy by sabotaging PROJECT Inc."

"I've missed too much." Caitlyn muttered to herself, rubbing her forehead. 

"And since we know absolutely nothing about Vi," Shen continued. "It's best if we don't put too much faith on her. We can't trust her. For all we know, she's either part of PROJECT Inc games or part of the deviants' plan. Tobias is right."

"I told you, my name is Twisted Fate! Why can't you get that right?" Twisted Fate exclaimed in annoyance and his partner just rolled his eyes. 

Fortunately for the remaining passengers, they journey came to an end, prevention an imminent fight.

"I'll take care of the negotiations." Caitlyn stated as she stepped out of the car before anyone could react, staring over the police station with her piercing blue eyes. The Downtown Police Station wasn't a very impressing building itself. In fact, there wasn't any distinctive characteristics that separated it from the rest of the area's buildings, aside the neo sign which was only partly working, with only a few of the letters still illuminating. Progress wasn't smooth to every single part of the city.

The four Pulsefire agents entered the building and they were surprised by the chaos that thrived in there. To start with, the place itself cried out for renovations and upgrading. It had stuck in time, back in the days before the developments in technology. The elevators and probably all of the hexetech equipment was obsolete but no one seemed to care. They were probably so used to it that they didn't even need to ask for a change. There was also in the air the distinctive smell of smoke, a clear indicator that these people didn't give a damn about regulations. 

"And these people are supposed to enforce the law? Tsk." Twisted Fate whispered as they passed on their way to the reception by a duo who were smoking casually, ignoring their existence. 

"Excuse me." Caitlyn was the one to speak to the receptionist once they reached the front desk. "We are the agents sent by Timeline Protection. We're here to interrogate officer Vi."

The woman was probably somewhere in her middle fifties, dark hair, skin and eyes, a pair of eyes hidden behind hideous red glasses. She glanced at her over the skeleton and motioned towards the stairs. 

"Second floor, third office on your left. You can't miss it." she said indifferently as she picked up the ringing phone. 

"Thank you." Caitlyn nodded and motioned at her team to follow her lead towards the elevators. The four Pulsefire were a total disruption to the normal, quite environment of the station with all their advanced equipment but no one even turned their heads towards them, only those who were too curious. As if they were expecting them to show up. And they probably were. Not even when they stepped out of the elevator at the second floor did anyone flinch. As if they were invisible. The silent treatment had a very clear message; they weren't welcome there. 

The receptionist was right when she pointed out that they couldn't miss Vi's office. Not because the cop herself was standing outside the office door talking to a colleague of hers, but because of the large, bronze sign plastered in short on the door that stated the name and the position of the enforcer. The pre-mentioned cop was standing imposing in front of her colleague in her dark suit and golden gauntlets, her short, blond hair left loose. Her mask was lifted upwards, rested on her forehead. Caitlyn found herself being somewhat magnetized by her imposture. She expected her to be more... Machine? She was surprised when she noticed how more of a human she looked when she turned to face them with her dark blue eyes. 

"Hey, you must be the guys from the Agency." she recognized them with a smile. "A'right, I'll talk to ya later Lopez, as you see I'm quite busy right now." she addressed her colleague, who nodded in understanding and walked away, eyeing the new arrivals carefully from head to toe, the only actual attention they received. Vi opened the door of her office and motioned at them to follow inside. It wasn't anything special; just another narrow room with a simple desk and tonnes of paperwork piled up, covering almost every single corner of the office. 

"My apologies for the mess. I'm not a tidy person." Vi chuckled as she pulled  her chair over the desk for Caitlyn to seat. "Sorry guys but this is the best I can offer." she said apologetically to the rest of the crew. 

"It's fine, really." Riven assured as she managed to find a surface on the desk that wasn't covered with papers to sit. Shen and Twisted Fate simply nodded as they both pressed their backs against the walls. 

"Lieutenant Pierce informed me that you were willing to talk to me." Vi pointed with open arms. "I'm all ears."

Caitlyn pressed a button on her uniform and a hologram of Ezreal appeared shining bright, in contrast with the dark room. "Do you know this man?" she asked straight away. 

"That's Ezreal." Vi stroke her chin. "Damn, are you after him?"

Caitlyn nodded affirmatively. "He's wanted for breaking several chrono-laws, including unauthorized use of disposed technology and theft, alongside being responsible for several unpleasant paradoxes."

Vi furrowed her brows, clearly processing the newest information. Caitlyn waited patiently, in case she had any more questions. 

"What do I have to do with all this?" the PROJECT cop eventually asked. 

"We are aware you and him are acquaintances."

"Friends, in fact." Vi corrected. "Though, I'm not sure what exactly is our relationship these days. You see, I haven't seen Ezreal in what? Two years?"

"What happened between you two?" Caitlyn continued after she closed the hologram.

"Nothing much. Two years ago, he announced that he was close to finishing another of his explanations that would bring in the surface «invaluable treasures». Not sure if he was talking literally or figuratively, but I haven't seen him ever since."

"How was your relationship before his disappearance?"

"Preety good actually. We had worked together in several cases back when I was still in central. Ezreal had always been an exuberant explorer, troublesome, foolhardy and impetuous, you know what I mean? He was zealous about exploring, always putting his nose where he shouldn't, to a point that it caused him tones of trouble with the law. He worked as my partner for a few months to avoid prison."

"Interesting," Caitlyn hummed. "And you said you haven't talked to him ever since he left two years ago?"

"Isn't that what I just said?"

"Did you know he was back in Piltover?"

Vi was obviously taken aback. She blinked several times, still not believing in her ears. "Wait, Ezreal is back in town?"

"It seems so."

"Is that why you are here? Because you believed that I helped him in?" Vi inquiried accusingly, loosing her cool tone. 

"No one ever implied that." Caitlyn rushed to reassure her. "Considering your past, we thought he might have tried to reach out to you."

"Well, he hasn't, for that matter." Vi crossed her arms. "He wouldn't risk it, knowing that I'm a cop and everything. Though, I doubt it would be my authority to do anything about him, but still..."

The sound of a ring cut her sentence mid-air. A message was displayed on a holographic screen on her left arm and she raised it to read it better. She furrowed her brows. 

"Nevermind what I said about Ezreal and the law." she growled. "A warrant was just given out."



Chapter Text

There wasn't anything more beautiful and pure than the golden and fierce colours of the sunset. The sun shone bright as it slowly died behind the horizon. Ezreal had forgotten how beautiful it looked over Piltover and he remained still, just for a moment, to recall and enjoy. 

It had really been long. 

He had been too preoccupied the past few years to think about his home. The adventures he had, the treasures he collected, all those seemed so far away now from his current reality. He couldn't stay there long, standing still and watching the sunset. There were other priorities ahead, more important and significant, and if he really wished to see the sunset again, he had to hurry up. He was running out of time. 

He had been a selfish, arrogant prick for most part of his life, always seeking to satisfy his curiosity and greediness. However, the last two years had been quite critical to his perception of the world. He had discovered truths that were scary, terrifying and almost unavoidable. If anything, after all this time-travelling, he believed that there was a way to prevent a catastrophe before it happened. Though, it wasn't simple. He was a runaway, with a heavy criminal record, he couldn't just walk into the Timeline Agency and warn them about the incoming storm. Not that they would believe him in the first place, even so if the Agency was just as corrupted. It had crossed his mind to try and reason with his hunter, but it seemed just as impossible. She wouldn't lose time to listen to his conspiracy theories and would arrest him in no time. Who was he anyways to destabilize the faith of the best chrono-agent? No, there had to be another way. 

His suspicions were confirmed by rumors about PROJECT deviants. That was the first step towards the storm. But if anyone could prevent chaos from happening, it was them. It wasn't probably the best idea to rely on machines but there was no time left to waste. He finished preparing his Pulsefire suit and gauntlet, and managed to look away from the sunset. In a while, darkness would prevail and he'd be safer to walk around Piltover. Not absolutely but definitely safer than under the sun's light. 

Once the dark veil of night covered the sky and a thick mist slowly slid between the streets, rendering visibility impossible over five meters, Ezreal finally crept out of his safe zone and became one with the darkness. His destination was yet to be clear but he was positive he would eventually find them. He was so close to discovering their hideout, heck he let himself believe he could even meet them tonight. He couldn't let his arrogance get the best out of him however, so he moved around the city with great consciousness, avoiding public places. 

His legs guided him to the port, a place he had been searching thoroughly for a while now. Piltover's harbor was a great deal of a trade center and it covered most part of the city's coast. The area he had to cover was huge, but in the end he knew it was worth all the trouble. That night, he knew exactly where he should focus his search on; the old harbor. A place on the west, pretty much abandoned for a decade or so. The old harbor had basically turned into a ship graveyard, a perfect hiding place in Ezreal's opinion. Who in their right mind would search there out of all places for a group of PROJECT deviants? Only him, of course. Because he believed he was the only one who could understand the urgent need to hide well from the rest of the population. 

Despite the fog, it still took Ezreal a while to reach the boundaries between the new and the old harbor. Once he did, he began moving a lot less carefully. Besides, there weren't any other traces of life there, as far as he was aware. He remained on the alert, though. The dark always upholds the unexpected, after all. 

He walked silently all the way down, carefully examining the shadows of abandoned ships, once used to carry valuable goods for trade, now left to dissolve miserably. They could be hiding in one of them, Ezreal was aware, but which one? All of them seemed like a good hideout for him. If he was a PROJECT deviant, where would he hide himself and his possible companions? Obviously, in the largest and oldest one, where no one would ever think of searching. 

So, that's what he was looking for. But the darkness, who usually was his friend and companion, wouldn't be a helping hand this time. Thankfully, his suit provided him with a sort of night vision, so that would do the trick. With that, he began wandering around Piltover's old harbor, in search of a big, old ship. Whenever he heard some sort of unidentified move, he'd jump and hide away, only to find out it was just a stray animal or rats. After a while he got used to those sounds and proceeded with his search while being less jumpy. 

How long had it been? Hours possibly. But in the end, his search wasn't fruitless, not at all. Ezreal smiled a big smile as he stood in front of «Morning Star», an enormous ship that looked like it had emerged out of a thriller. The absence of lights, the rusty parts, the creepy rustles and the endless spider webs gave it a haunted aura. Ezreal gulped. This could be it, the right place, but it made his blood run cold. He could imagine the ship devouring him once he set a foot onto the deck... He shook away the childish thought. He couldn't afford being a coward now. He needed to focus and find a way to the deck. 

There was no apparent way to get onto the ship the normal way, so Ezreal tried to be conventional. He quickly noticed that the anchor was dropped near the platform. Perhaps, he could use the chain as a way to climb up. He walked carefully near the edge of the platform, examining the distance between him and the chain. It wasn't that far, but perhaps he needed some sort of boost if he didn't want to fall into the water. He took a few steps behind and then ran at full speed. Then, he jumped. While mid-air, he performed an Arcane Shift with the help of his enhanced Pulsefire suit in order to reach the anchor's chain. Which he did and he held onto it for dear life. Slowly, he climbed up, filled with determination. Once he reached the top, he grabbed onto the rusty railing and pulled himself up, a risky move considering that there was a high possibility that the railing wouldn't handle his weight. It did though, and he he was very glad of that. Now, he was standing on the deck. 

He scanned the area for any possible foes but there was no signs of life there either so he moved on. He discovered a metal door that led down, straight into the insides of this monstrosity of a ship. He gulped as he opened the door and stared down at the metal stairs that led straight into the darkness. Forgetting about his fear, he proceeded and closed the door behind him, allowing the darkness to shallow him completely. 

With each step he made, he could feel and hear the metal floor cracking and he cursed under his breath. If it was up to him, he wouldn't want to create any sort of noise yet. He didn't want to be discovered like that, like a thief or murderer. It could end up to a great misunderstanding. Too focused on his thoughts, he almost missed the sound of more steps coming his way. Unconsciously, he pressed himself onto the wall and raised his right arm where he wore his gauntlet, ready to fire on spot. He opened his ears, trying to figure out the nature of the incoming danger. It was perhaps two of them, coming possibly from different directions because the noise was completely erratic. He cursed as he realized he was actually trapped like a rat. 

Before he could re-evaluate the situation, he felt a figure showing up in front of him, raising his two shining guns and pulling the triggers. Ezreal rolled down to avoid the two orange flashes of light before they hit his head and lushed his own attack towards his new-found enemy. The incomer dashed forward, dodging Ezreal's Mystic Shot but putting him into a great disadvantages, Ezreal realized with a smirk. Before his opponent could shoot again, he Arcane Shifted behind him and knocked him off his feet with another Mystical Shot. He immediately span around upon hearing more footsteps coming but he was too slow for the blade that stop on the nip of his throat. A blade than shone pink, just like the mask of the dueler. 

"Tsk, how cliché." he noted silently as he stared down at the blade that threatened to cut his throat open. 

"State the reason of your intrusion." a mechanical yet cold, female voice spoke, slightly accented. Oh, that was turning out wonderfully. 

"Look, I don't want any trouble man." Ezreal said as casually as he could master. "I just wanna talk with your leader or whatever you guys call 'em these days..."

"Why shouldn't I kill you on the spot?" the woman questioned. "After all, you did hurt my companion over there." she added, pointing at the man who was getting on his feet again. 

"I panicked, a'right?" Ezreal said in utter panic and anxiety. "I heard you two coming and all I could think of was how to defend myself."

"Come on, Fiora." the man who Ezreal knocked down before spoke with his own mechanic voice. "He's just a child. I'm pretty sure Ashe would like to listen to what he has to say before we execute him."

"In case you didn't notice, Lucian, this «child» managed to get that far inside the ship." Fiora argued. "I'd say he's not as helpless as he likes us to believe he is."

"We don't kill in cold blood anymore, Fiora. Unless it's completely necessary."

"Ashe ordered us to keep any intruders away."

"Keep them away, not kill them." Lucian reasoned. "Let's get him to her and let her decide his fate."

Fiora only sighed. "Fine. You heard him." she barked at Ezreal. She certainly wasn't satisfied with how things turned out. "Move it!"

"Ouch! Fine, don't push me, I can walk, goddammit!" he complained as he moved forward.

"Don't try anything fishy, or else you'll force our hands." Lucian warned as he aimed his left gun on Ezreal's back. 

"I would never." the Prodigious Explorer responded graciously, albeit with a smirk. 

The three of them moved on a line, with Fiora on the lead, Ezreal on the middle and Lucian right behind him. Even though there was a chance to escape, Ezreal decided that it was the best not to attempt it. Right in front and behind him walked two PROJECT initials, indicating that he had come closer to their hideout than anyone else. If anything, he should play their game for a little while longer. The two PROJECT's led him through a labyrinth of corridors and he was certain that it could take him hours to get out of there without guidance. Even if he did managed to escape them, there was no way he could find his way out quickly enough. He was pretty sure that they were going deeper and deeper inside the ship as they moved on, too. 

After a while of walking around, Fiora pushed a door open, a door that wasn't visible, at least not to Ezreal, and motioned at him to get in. He obliged with much conscience, preparing himself of what was awaiting behind that door. 

He had expected anything except that;  a fully equipped hideout, with the latest advances in hexetech technology installed all over the place,  instead of massive machines that would be able to make the ship float smoothly onto the water. The place had been specifically modified to give access to the outside word without requiring anyone to risk their heads by coming out. Ezreal wondered if they had managed to build some of them on their owns or stole most of their equipment. Two PROJECTS were responsible for monitoring them. The rest were resting around, but as soon as they stepped in they all became denser. 

All together, along with his guards, they were ten. It never crossed his mind that they were that many. Even better. 

"We brought some company," the deviant named Fiora said sarcastically. "He's all yours, Ashe."

Ezreal's only guess was that this Ashe was their leader or something similar to that. She stood from her current position and stood tall above else; she really was imposing, to Ezreal's eyes at least. She wore a hoodie that covered most part of her head and a hexetech eye-patch on her left eye, possibly used to enhance her aim. She wore a crossbow on her back, which confirmed his theory. Her entire body was covered in a metallic armor, just like everyone else in that room. 

"Let's not be rude." she spoke and there was something cold in her voice. "Ekko, bring our guest a seat"

A PROJECT that stood in front of one of the computers pressed a button on the keyboard and the hologram of a chair showed up in front of Ezreal before it quickly transfigured into an actual chair. Ezreal eyed him from the corner of his eyes. He had dark skin and hair that reminded him of a parrot. He seemed pretty young, too young to be involved in an organization like PROJECT. He wondered what reasons brought him there. 

"Please, do have a seat-" Ashe spoke again. "-so we can have a conversation comfortably, do you agree?"

"Absolutely." Ezreal responded as he made his way around the chair to sit down. Chains immediately emerged from its side, keeping Ezreal still. Ashe pulled her own chair closer to his. 

"So, what's your name boy?"

"I'm Ezreal." the Prodigious Explorer introduced himself. "And I'm pretty confident that we are going to get along very well."

"And why is that, Ezreal?"

"Because," a smile played on the corner of his lips. "I'm a runaway, just like you lot"

Everyone seemed to be hanging from his lips, just like he expected. Now that he had peaked their interest, he was more confident than ever. 

"Like us." Ashe repeated sceptically. "What made you become a runaway, Ezreal? Old ideals? Bad decisions? A job that didn't turn out to be as you had expected it?"

"None of that, though it isn't too far from the truth. Perhaps, something or someone that is not exactly satisfied with how I've been functioning the past few years," Ezreal responded diplomatically. 

"That doesn't explain why are you here or why we should trust you."

Ezreal now smiled for real. "Perhaps if you'd let me elaborate with my story, you'd get all the answers you need."

Ashe paused for a brief moment, examining him carefully from head to toe. Ezreal suddenly became nervous. So far he'd been doing well but anything could go wrong from this point and after. Finally, Ashe spoke again, much to his relief. 

"We are all ears."



Chapter Text

Vi had always liked simplicity but her life was anything but simple. Especially the past few months when her life became a total mess due to her decision to pick up the ATLA gauntlets. Did she regret it? Sometimes, she did. Especially when she received completely random calls from G/NETIC, those fucking assholes. Of course, they wouldn't call unless it was an emergency. It got Vi worried. And pissed for interrupting her simple, quiet Saturday night. 

All those months, she had been struggling to control her new enhanced gauntlets. She had done a very good job by now, far better than could anyone expect. However, her problems didn't revolve around controlling the PROJECT technology only. She had drown unwanted attention onto herself which ended up to her transfer downtown. What a shithole this place was. To add to her problems, she had to keep an eye on this Khada Jhin bastard while at the same time persuade her superiors she had no business with the PROJECT deviants. Ironically enough, everything she did was connected to them because, willingly or not, she had become one of them now. Their insight to the outside world. A fate not chosen by herself, but the sense of duty called upon herself. She knew there was something bigger behind the story of the PROJECT deviants. She was willing to fight alongside them because there was indeed something completely odd going on in this godforsaken city. Something that threatened all of them. Khada Jhin was just an indication of what they were called to fight against. 

She didn't mind fighting or risking her life for G/NETIC but these late night calls needed to stop. She was just a human after all. She needed the extra rest whenever she could get some. But here she was, sneaking inside Piltover's old harbor. It could have been easier if she wasn't being stalked. Vi wasn't sure who but had several ideas who could have sent them. PROJECT Inc was keeping an eye on her. After all, hadn't she received a “gift” from them without the company realizing it? They needed to know how it worked so far and get her if possible. Vi huffed at the thought. She'd like to see them try. But right now, it didn't matter. She had to focus onto getting inside the hideout without getting detected. It helped that there was no signs of life nearby this late into the night. 
She usually preferred to gain access through a nearby ship and that's exactly what she did that night too. 
She jumped onto the deck and landed perfectly onto the wooden surface while checking behind her back. Still nothing. She moved towards the door that lead to the insides of the ship. 

After walking in the darkness for a while, she finally reached the lowest point of “Morning Star” and pushed a door on her left. After coming here so many times, she knew exactly its position and she had no trouble finding it. She stepped inside casually. 

"You'd better have a good reason for interrupting my beauty sleep." were her first words to Ashe as the later approached to greet her. 

"Come, we have a visitor," the marksman said, ignoring Vi's comment. The enforcer raised a questioning brow. 

"A visitor? I didn't know we were open to the public now."

"We're not," came the response from Fiora. "This sneaky little bastard came here completely uninvited," she added as she pointed at the person tied to the chair next to her. 

"Wow, that's rude- EZREAL?"

"Vi?" the blonde man asked back. "What on earth are you doing here?"

"Funny thing, I would ask you the same thing." Vi huffed before she turned to Ashe. "What the fuck is he doing here? Do you realize he's a wanted man?"

"I do, he told us everything." Ashe nodded. "He has some very interesting things to say that concern all of us, including you."

"You could have told me via phone instead of making come here this late to see his stupid-ass face." Vi hummed in annoyance. 

"Hey, I'm right here y'know!" Ezreal complained. 

"Oh yeah? So you're here now?" Vi mocked him as she walked closer to him. "After two years of senseless time-theft, you decided to come back? How cute! I'm glad you called!"

"I couldn't risk it, I was being tracked down-"

"How convenient! But you don't speak a word that I didn't already know of!" Vi exclaimed. "The Time-Line Protection Agency came to me the other day looking for you! Oh, I'd like to see their faces once I arrest you and bring you to them."

"You wouldn't," Ezreal whispered. "You can't."

"I can, Ez boy. And do you know why?" she brought her face so close to him that they were practically breathing the same air. "Because there was a warrant given out and I'm fucking glad they did," and she spat at his face. 

"Hey, easy there now." Ashe pulled her away. "I'm afraid we can't let you take him. His life is already in grave danger."

"Because Pulsefire Caitlyn is on his track, yeah I know. Don't pity him though, he brought that upon himself," Vi said, crossing her arms. 

"Why the fuck are you so mad at me!" Ezreal shouted at her face. "I did nothing to you!"

"You left, that's what you did!" she shouted back. "You left and disappeared without another word! The next time I hear about you it's from agents that are after you because you have been stealing again! I thought you were done with this bullshit!"

"I'm not proud of what I did," Ezreal admitted in shame. "I'm nothing more than a filthy thief. But I'm here to change that. I gained vital information during my time travels. Please, you have to listen to me." he ended his small speech with a plead. 

"And why should I listen to a low-life, untrustworthy, piece of shit like you?" Vi narrowed her eyes. 

"Because I'm your friend. Or at least, used to." He shrugged. "And because it's important."

Vi didn't respond for a moment. Her fury towards her old friend was getting the best out of her but she couldn't allow her anger to control her. She inhaled deeply before she spoke again. 

"Fine, but make this quick. I'm fucking exhausted."

"I'll get straight into the point." Ezreal nodded. "It turns out that PROJECT Inc has been preparing an army of clones."

"An army of what?"

"Clones," Ezreal repeated. "These guys' clones." he motioned with his head at the rest of the G/NETIC gang. "Imagine, several more Ashes or Lucians or-"

"Yeah, I get it," Vi interrupted. "Move on."

"They created the initials to have prototypes to clone." he explained. "And to see how things were going to work out. Eventually, they were going to use the first PROJECT traces to lead their clones under their command, of course. They would unleash the PROJECT power to the world and take over Valoran." He shuddered. "And they were not planning to stop there. Their plan was to gain control over all timelines, using the Timeline Protection agency. See the irony."

"A'right, that's officially fucked up." Vi concluded. "Why would they do that?"

"Isn't it obvious? Control, power. Who wouldn't be thirsty for those? Each generation has their tyrants. PROJECT can turn out to be our tyrant if we don't stop them."

»Also, the ATLA gauntlets weren't a random design. Haven't you noticed how similar they are to your own ones?"

Ezreal was right. Of course she had noticed but it never crossed her mind that it was something more than a mere coincidence. 

"They were designing a new series of soldiers and planning to use you as the prototype. They were excited with how well you worked." Ezreal continued. "My last travel was just to ensure that. They were planning to abduct you, Vi."

"Why do I only first hear of this now?" Vi asked Ashe, completely shook and scandalized. 

"We had no clue." Ashe shook her head. "Not even back in the days when we were PROJECT's pawns. If anything, they are very good at keeping secrets. We didn't have the free will back in the day to investigate further either."

"Can they have access to my gauntlets now?" the enforcer asked looking down at them, suddenly feeling contaminated by a rare disease. 

"At this point, I don't think so, Vi," Ekko piped up. "They can't control you through them. These are the prototypes and they got no means of accessing you at this point."

"Yeah, even if they wanted to, I doubt they'd be able to. The ATLA gauntlets are pretty much yours now," Leona commented from her corner. 

"She made them hers," a male voice spoke. Master Yi. Vi didn't usually get the chance to hear his voice. He was so quiet. "Even if they managed somehow to hack them, I don't think it could get them anywhere. Vi is a completely individual entity which they can't control because of their own technology."

"Yeah, I get it now," Vi assured them. "Is that why they sent Jhin to retrieve the gauntlets? Because they were the prototypes?"

"Pretty much."

"But he tried to kill me."

"Vi, you shouldn't forget that Jhin has always been a little bit of psycho, even before he became a PROJECT. He's erratic. That said, he's not exactly following orders rather than modifying them in the way he pleases to. And if he wanted to kill you, then he'd try to, even if his orders were just to kidnap you." Ashe explained. "Same goes for Zed but he's never been a psycho. He's just violent."

"Yeah, because that makes him any less dangerous," Vi sneered. "Anyways, that's besides the point. They tried to get me and they failed. But doesn't that mean that they'll do everything to get you guys?"

"They will keep trying." Ashe nodded. "And we'll keep fighting back until we bring them down."

"The vicious cycle of the cat and mouse game," Yasuo commented dramatically. "Very familiar with it. It doesn't exactly end like that, Ashe."

"As long as we stick together, we'll be fine," Ashe reassured him. 

"What are you going to do now?" Vi asked Ezreal. 

"I guess I'll keep hiding." He shrugged his shoulders. "Look, the Time-Line Protection Agency are aware of my activities and I'm pretty sure they've informed PROJECT Inc already, though I highly doubt if there's any difference between those two anymore. That's why they've sent their best agent to capture me. If it comes to that, they'd probably torture me to find what I know, then kill me."

"Look, you're an asshole and everything," Vi began. "But we can't let this happen. We won't."

Ezreal smiled sadly. "Highly doubted. We are talking about Pulsefire Caitlyn here, Vi."

"I can lure her away if necessary. Or tell her the truth, I'm sure she'll understand straight away-"

"No!" Ezreal exclaimed a little bit louder than he had intended to and everyone turned to stare at him. "Sorry. It's just that, you can't tell her anything about this Vi. No agent knows anything. If she finds out, they won't hesitate to take her out of the picture, along with everyone else that she was involved with-"

"Okay, I get it." Vi raised her hands in defeat. "I have a feeling we'll be working together on locating your sorry ass, Ez. I'll try my best to keep her away."

"You could lose your job, though."

"There are more important things than my career, Ezreal." Vi stated firmly. "Ashe is right. As long as we stick together, we'll be safe. You'd better stay here too, Ez boy. I can't think of a place safer than this"

"To that, I agree." Fiora interfered. "Here, we are all safe for now. But those who are not within the walls of “Morning Star” are not."

"What do you mean, Fiora?" Ashe inquired. 

"That Shauna Vayne is in grave danger too, that's exactly what I mean."

 

Chapter Text

Honestly, Vayne really wished that
G/NETIC would not bother her again. Ever. But, apparently, she hoped for too much. Those loathsome assholes contacted her for one more time, asking for a meeting. She refused to get to them, like a dog running back to its owner. 

Instead, she stood in the darkness of an alley, awaiting for them to come to her. How convenient, someone would think, but coming here before night fell completely was absolutely dangerous. It was late in the afternoon and the city was barely illuminated by the sun's burning colours. The dark, narrow alleyway was barely visible under the buildings' shadow, yet it still unnerved Vayne. She didn't feel safe.

Deep inside her, she had regretted her decision to come already, but she was told it was important and it wouldn't be wise if she didn't give them a chance to speak. Maybe it was actually something really significant, even if she highly doubted it. But still, she couldn't take any risks. She had to be sure. 

She rested her back on the wall, arms crossed, while she waited in the dark. Her sharpened ears were ready to detect any sort of abnormal noise that would suggest she was in danger, and her enhanced vision was constantly scanning the area. Honestly, she didn't feel safe or sure at all. That unsettling feeling hadn't abandoned her since she first received that damn call the very same morning... 

Self - maintenance had always been a very important part of Vayne's routine, especially after a twenty-four-hour shut down of her system. She needed to make sure that all systems were working just fine. Despite her deviancy, she still wasn't functioning as a human being yet. There were many details she needed to remember in order to live like a human again. For the time being, she took advantage of the technology she was given in order to be able to survive. Human nature could wait for a while longer. She kept herself busy that morning by just doing that, when all of a sudden she received another call. 

Her fury about Ashe and G/NETIC returned full-force. She had been clear, why did they insist so much? She answered the call, ready to give Ashe another piece of her mind but she froze when she noticed that the hologram didn't belong to her, rather than another member of her team, which was odd. Ashe usually made the calls herself, not assigning this errand to others, at least Vayne recognized that sense of responsibility. Vayne narrowed her eyes at the hologram. She had seen her before, of course. A very young and strong female dueler, carrying the code name Fiora or something similar to that. Very skillful with that blade of hers. She wondered briefly for a moment why she was the one being bothered with Vayne in the first place. 

"I hope I'm not interrupting something," Fiora spoke first with a very characteristic accent but Vayne couldn't define where it was from. 

"Apart from my self-maintenance, no. Nothing important," Vayne responded sarcastically. 

"I'm sorry," Fiora apologized. "But this can't wait. We need to talk."

"I'm done with talking to you lot, you can ask your leader."

"It's important."

"Then, why won't she tell me herself?" Vayne huffed. 

No response. Vayne sighed in frustration. 

"Tell Ashe I'm done playing her games and if it's really that important, she should speak to me herself-"

"Can you come to find us? It's urgent that we talk somewhere in private."

"Not a chance." Vayne sneered. "I don't trust you enough. Who guarantees that this isn't a trap? The fact that she didn't bother to call me is fishy on its own."

"Fine, I'll get to you then," Fiora deadpanned, not seeming to be disgruntled by Vayne's refuse. "We'll meet late in the evening. You'll set the place. Send the coordinates on this IP address and I'll see you there."

And with that, the call was over. 

It was bold and quick. Vayne wasn't sure if she liked it or not. It was certainly more preferable than Ashe's usual rumbling. She prefered things to be said straight forward, just like Fiora did. 

She heard footsteps and raised her bow in an instance. A figure showed up, keeping a hand near the handle of her blade but not quite holding it. Her silver hair danced lazily under the wind's music. Her neo-pink mask always lowered to cover her eyes. Vayne lowered her weapon. 

"My sincere apologies for the inconvenience," Fiora spoke first as she walked closer. "But you must understand that it's vital."

"Just get over with it." Vayne huffed, crossing her arms. Fiora stopped just a couple of inches away from her, away enough not to cross her personal space but too close for Vayne's liking. 

"Alright, here's the deal," and with that she began explaining the entire situation to Vayne, not overseeing even the slightest detail. Once she was done, she observed the other PROJECT deviant closely, awaiting for her reaction. 

"Are you absolutely sure about this?" Vayne inquired. "Are you sure that-"

"Our sources point that the boy is reliable," Fiora cut her off. 

"No offence but I struggle to believe that the same company that was supposedly solely seeking our extermination was actually seeking to manipulate the whole of us." Vayne crossed her arms while Fiora leaned onto the wall. 

"It's hard to believe, I understand that. But our top priority at this moment is to keep low profile and stay safe," Fiora stated. 

Vayne narrowed her eyes. "Is this why you're here? To warn me? Or there's something else?"

Fiora stared back intensely. Vayne could only wish she was able to see her eyes, to make sure that her gaze was just as piercing as she imagined it. "We aren't playing any games here, Vayne. I'm here with a warning and an invitation. Trust me, it's better if we stick together."

"Absolutely not." Vayne deadpanned. "I appreciate the “concern” but I will never become one of Ashe's pawns-"

Vayne didn't quite expect Fiora's reaction and so she shuddered slightly when the later slammed her palm against the wall, right next to Vayne's head. Shauna realized at this moment how much taller and imposing she was in comparison with herself. 

"You're so fucking stubborn, it's frustrating," the dueler hissed. "This is not about ideas and beliefs. This is about survival and doing what is right!" 

"So, G/NETIC is changing direction?" Vayne sneered, regaining her confidence. "Abandoning the whole “revolution dream”? Gosh, it was about time."

"This isn't a joke," Fiora hissed. 

"I'm not joking," Vayne defended. "You finally saw the truth I've been trying to enlighten you about all along."

"You might have chosen a different path from us-" Fiora stated. "-but that doesn't mean you're right. This hatred of yours is going to be your doom. Vengeance can be understood but not justified."

Vayne huffed. "Because you wouldn't have done the same thing, right Fiora?" she took a step closer to the other woman, pushing her slightly. "Because you're the saints-" she pushed her again, harder this time. 
"-and I'm the devil, right?"

She was about to push her again but this time Fiora reacted. She grabbed both hands and held them on a tight grip. Vayne tried to free herself, but found herself unable to do so under Fiora's unexpected strength. 

"This is not about who's right and who's wrong, Shauna," she spoke and her voice came out unexpectedly soft. "Innocent lives are at stake. We can offer you protection, we can stop them together-"

"No." Vayne shook her head. "No, we can't."

Fiora was so astonished by such response that she unconsciously let go off Vayne's hands. 

"Why?"

"You wouldn't understand."

"That's doesn't justify your decision-"

"Fine!" Vayne let out an outraged exclamation. "You want justification? Here's your justification!"

»The last time I cooperated with someone, it didn't end well for them." she confessed coldly. Images of their dead, bloody bodies flashed before her eyes and immediately her throat became dry, as if she had swallowed a stone. She suppressed the sorrowful feeling that threatened to take control over her body. "My answer is still no and it will remain that way."

Silence followed. The two deviants stared at each other, weighing down their options and analyzing one another. Vayne wondered if Fiora would drag her away by force, despite her wishes. The latter didn't even flinch. What was going inside her head was a complete mystery to Vayne. 

"Fine then." Fiora backed off, raising her hands in defeat, slicing through the silence that way. "You still need to be careful though."

Vayne rolled her eyes at her. "I've been at this cat and mouse game for longer than you, Fiora. I know how to survive."

"I'm pretty sure you do." Fiora nodded and her expression didn't betray any of her feelings, except maybe that imperceptible smile that was playing on the corner of her lips. "I'll keep an eye on you, though."

"I don't need a babysitter," was Vayne's response and for the first time in ages, she had the most human reaction ever; she smiled a genuine smile. 

"Didn't say you do. Just a helping hand in case you need it." With the eyes of imagination, Vayne saw her winking at her under the mask. "See you around, Vayne. But let's hope not."

With those words, Fiora turned her back at her and walked away, disappearing in the darkness, just like she had first walked into the scenery. Vayne let out a sigh she didn't realize she held back. All these emotions triggered by this small conversation with Fiora came down to her like cold water. Not that she needed all this pain, this sorrow, this regret. She remembered feeling that altogether when her team was slaughtered before her very own eyes. It was the pain that woke her up, releasing her from slavery. But from that point and on, she had refused to let herself feel anything because it was too much to handle. Maybe that was the price she had to pay for her freedom.

Upon realizing that she had been staring into the void, she snapped her head. Too lost into her own thoughts, Vayne barely noticed that now she was completely alone and exposed in that alleyway. Silently scolding herself, she left, cursing at the same time that PROJECT Fiora for triggering again those thoughts and emotions. Right now, she had a more material goal to achieve, a goal that didn't involve a harsh past getting in the way. After all, Vayne had been right about one thing; that PROJECT Inc. had to be stopped once and for all, and since she now had a base motive aligning with her revenge, she had to come up with a plan and it into action, no matter what the G/NETICS decided to do. After all, she was an independent entity. 

Chapter Text

Confused. Baffled. Troubled. That was all Caitlyn was after the meet-up with the PROJECT cop. She had hoped that the talk with her would answer some questions. Instead, it spawned a dozen more. 

A police warrant for a case that concerned the Agency solely was not usually tolerated, unless the Administrations had collaborated in advance. Was it like that, then? Had the Agency actually collaborated with the Police Department? It was a rare phenomenon and it didn't occurred due to an ostensible superiority of the first, caused by arrogance mostly. But what was the case there? Why did the Agency allowed the police to intrude into their case? What was their deal? 

Clearly, it had nothing to do with Caitlyn's reliability rather than with Ezreal himself. They were rushing to arrest him? Why though? He was neither the first nor the last chrono-fugitive that had appeared. Why in such a hurry? Unless there was a ulterior motive to arrest him fast and quietly. 

Suspicious. 

"You've been awfully quiet. Are you alright?"

Riven's voice snapped her train of thoughts, much to her dismay. Caitlyn chose to respond with a nod, clearly not in the mood for chit chatting, not even after the four of them had split up in order to search Ezreal's possible hideouts more quickly and effectively. The two of them were heading towards his main apparent, though none expected to find any traces of life there. What they did expected to discover was a clue about his actions and relationships around the city. In other words, a piece of the puzzle they were trying to solve.

Their uber driver pulled over right outside a residential building. They received several glances once they stepped out, most likely due to the fact that they weren't used to visitors by the Agency. 

"Move it," Caitlyn told Riven quietly and at the same time sharply. Riven nodded and followed her inside the building. 

"What floor are we heading to?" Riven asked when they stepped inside the elevator. 

"Fourth."

Riven pressed the according button on the board and the hexetech elevator brought them to their destination in no time. They existed the elevator and they found themselves in a long corridor with doors on each side. Caitlyn walked confidently on the left side of the lift and Riven rushed to catch up with her before she stopped right outside the apartment that carried the number 452.

"Is that it?" Riven breathed in. 

"Yes, it is," said Caitlyn before she withdrew a device from a pocket and placed it onto the locker. Said device unlocked the door without further delay and the two agents stepped inside the dark, dusty apartment that once belonged to Ezreal. The smell of decay hit their faces and Caitlyn wrinkled her nose in disgust.

"I bet that something died in here," Riven mumbled, trying to keep her nose shut in order not to inhale such awful smell. 

"And not quite recently may I add," the brunette commented as she traced the wall with her fingers, searching for the switch. Surprisingly enough, considering that no one lived in this apartment for the past two years, the lights were turned on, elumimating  the living room and the kitchen, finally giving them vision. The place was dusty and in a mess because of the rats. Especially the kitchen's cupboards were full of holes or others were somehow opened. The couch on the living room had also been destroyed and all around the carper there were faecal matter and rats' corpses

"That's gross," spoke Riven. "How did they end up here in the first place?"

"They're rats, not a big deal for them," Caitlyn responded as she walked around the decayed body of the deceased rodent. "One of Piltover's greatest problems. The chemical release from Zaun forced them to find shelter in Piltover's sewers."

"Not a necessary information," Riven shuddered. "Should we start searching up the place?"

"Sure, I'll take the bedroom, you can start here. Be careful of the-"

"-the rats. Yes, Caitlyn. I'm not blind," Riven cut her off in irritation. "Even if I was, I would smell them from miles away," Caitlyn heard her mumbling to herself before she walked inside Ezreal's bedroom. The room wasn't any different than the living room and the kitchen. A dead rat was laying onto the abandoned pillow and another on the sheets, sheets that had been bitten all over. There was an office on the other side of the bed and Caitlyn sincerely hoped that these rodents hadn't found their way into the drawers. She walked over there, careful not to step on anything unpleasant and opened the first drawer. It was full of pens and other office equipment. Not finding anything interesting there, she proceeded to the next. The second drawer was filled with notes and papers but unfortunately some of them had been eaten by yours truly, the rats. Despite that though, Caitlyn picked some of them and schemed through Ezreal's messy handwriting. There were notes about valuable artifacts and in some cases he had drawn very accurate sketches of them. 

"Now, that's interesting," she said to herself as she placed those notes on the inside pocket of her uniform. She proceeded on the next drawer and discovered, much to her dismay, that it was locked. 

"What are you hiding, boy?" Caitlyn questioned as she reached for another hexetech “locksmith” device and placed it near the drawer's lock. The next moment, the drawer was open, relieving more dust. Coughing, Caitlyn reached inside the wooden piece of furniture and pulled out a large, dark brown, leather notebook. She blew much of the dust that was laying onto the leather cover and swiped the rest of it with her palm. There was no title but she could already guess what it was; a diary. And because of that, there was another lock on, hexetech this time that demanded a password to open. Caitlyn placed the diary onto the desk and started looking around for anything that would help her discover the password. There were small notes all around the desk but she guessed that Ezreal wouldn't let the password to his diary lay around. It was possibly camouflaged between numbers, notes of information about artifacts that had disappeared centuries ago and more sketches. She took a closer look on those notes. There were many dates included on said notes, noting the year of craft or discovery of the treasures. It could be one of them but it would take her a long time to discover it like that and Caitlyn preferred to win time whenever she could. Time was precious to her. She schemed through the notes again, looking for the most valuable artificial Ezreal had ever searched for. There it was, on the right corner. Caitlyn recognized it for she had seen it at use before. It was his faithful gauntlet, the original one it seemed. She bet that the one he currently used wasn't the same as the original but it was still just as fatal and useful. She scanned the note quickly, looking for numbers. One the bottom was written a date: 2156. Not wasting more time, she tried it out on the diary and it finally opened with a small hiss. More notes unravelled before her eyes, this time more organized than the notes on the desk, detailed and enhanced with perplex diagrams and more detailed sketches. The text wasn't readable, however. It was written in some sort of code that needed to be deciphered. Caitlyn flipped through the pages for a while longer before she accepted the fact that she wouldn't get anything out of the diary right at the number so she closed it up and returned to the living room, hoping that Riven's own research had been more fruitful than hers. 

"Did you find anything interesting?" she asked and her voiced echoed through the empty walls. No paintings, no photos, no nothing, they were pretty much naked. 

"As a matter of fact, I did." Riven walked out of the kitchen holding a leather gauntlet on her hands that had imprinted the logo of the police department. "It was stuffed between some pans in a cupboard. I'm surprised the rats didn't destroy it." She handled it over to Caitlyn, allowing her to give it a better look. As an aspect of a quick view, it looked pretty similar to the original version but it was slightly different. Possibly he had tinked with it a little bit and improved it even more slightly. The logo of the police department confirmed Vi's statement too. 

"We should head back to our quarters, see what else we can learn from it," Caitlyn pointed out and Riven agreed with a nod. 

"What did you find?" Riven asked in her turn. 

"This." Caitlyn showed her the leather diary. "It's written in a code but I hope I can decipher it. Let's head out and see what the boys found."

"Definitely not rats," Riven murmured under her breath while she followed Caitlyn outside the apartment. Meanwhile, the latter called her partners that were headed literally on the far side of the city. 

"Shen, we're done here. How you two are doing down there? What did you find?"

"Nothing more than dusty manuscripts about ancient artifacts and a couple of notes. Not something specific. I hope you guys were luckier than us."

"More dusty manuscripts ahead. Found his diary and an old gauntlet of his. Let's meet up back at the quarters to examine what we found."

"Roger that. We'll see you there."

Once the call was over, the uber driver pulled over at the side of the pavement and the two agents were gone as soon as they had came. Truth be told though, they're sudden visit hadn't gone completely unnoticed. 



"Targets just moved north. Should be safe for me to go out"

"Good. Are you sure you won't have any trouble?"

"No. Technically, I'm authorized to investigate due to the warrant."

"Alright, cool. Go ahead and find out what the agents discovered. We shall be in touch again soon."

Vi hang up and revealed herself from the darkness. Finally, she thought. She had been standing there for a while, keeping her eyes open for the Pulsefire agents. They eventually showed up, not to anyone's surprise. What they were worrying about was what the two agents found inside Ezreal's apartment. She crossed the street quickly and entered the building fast in order not to draw more unwanted attention. 

She reached the fourth floor and opened the door to Ezreal's apartment with a key he had provided. Once the card was scanned and the door opened with a small hiss, she literally busted in but the smell of decay slowed her down. She closed the door behind her and proceeded inside. 

"This place is a fucking mess. Are those dead rats I see? Yikes!" she commented loudly on her mic. 

"Yeah, we always had a major problem with the drainage in the building," came Ezreal's voice through the speaker. "Go ahead on my bedroom first," he instructed. Vi did as she was told, trying to avoid several rats' corpses in the process. She walked over the desk that was placed on the other side of the room and realized that the third drawer was left wide open. 

"It seems like they got something out of the third drawer," she informed Ezreal and she heard him curse. 

"It was probably my diary! It was locked though. See what else they searched for."

"There's a mess of papers on the desk. What's that?" she asked to no one in particular as she picked up a piece of paper with a gauntlet drawn on it. "Looks like they were interested in your gauntlet, too"

"Bloody hell! They got the password for my diary! Let's hope they won't be so lucky deciphering it."

"Damn, she's good at this," Vi mused. "Alright, is there anything else?"

"Actually yeah, there is. Go to the kitchen and search the cupboards."

The kitchen wasn't any better than the rest of the house. Vi wrinkled her nose in disgust as she found more dead rats inside cupboards and they're components. 

"A'ight, what am I supposed to be looking for?" she asked. 

"My gauntlet, you moron. The one I used when I worked with your sorry ass."

"Not to disappoint you pal, but there's no gauntlet here. Only dead rats and dirt."

"That ain't no good..."

"Yes, it's not." Ashe spoke again. "Vi, leave the house now and return here. We need to format a new plan."

"With pleasure. If I stay here any longer than necessary I think that this gross smell will suffocate me."

Chapter Text

During those past six months, Vi had self-doubted a lot, more than she had ever did in her entire life. She couldn't completely understand what she was anymore, a human or a machine? After allowing herself to use the ATLA gauntlets at their full potential, she had found herself getting lost into oblivion. That was at the beginning, though. These machines were powerful but she was more stubborn. With Ashe's advice and the rest of the G/NETIC's, she had managed to wield them. There were times that she felt like she was about to lose control. But these occasions became more rare as time passed. Slowly, the power of the ATLA gauntlets became hers. Was what happened with the rest of the PROJECT initials? Possibly. But her greatest worry was whether she was doing the right thing or not. If she was told that once day she would join the PROJECT team in a mission to save the world, she'd laugh and punch them straight in the face. Who would ever imagine her, one of the greatest haters of the PROJECT technology would become one of them? After all, wasn't one of the initials who killed her sister? She wondered what she would say about all this. Problem was, she wasn't aware which PROJECT initial had murdered her sister in cold blood. It could be any of her current “friends”, if she could ever call them that. 

Yeah, Karma is a bitch. 

But there were ideals far more important than her vengeance. Vi realized that. She might didn't know where she belonged yet, but she knew exactly what path she was supposed to follow. She had already chosen that path and there was no coming back, no matter how dark her thoughts would become. She struggled to free herself from that self-doubt and self-pity. She struggled from letting herself flee from the guiltiness that filled her heart since that terrible night. If there was a possibility that the gauntlets could delete those memories, she'd choose to forget. Maybe. Did it even matter anymore? 

"Excuse me, officer Vi."

The sharp and cold voice brought her back. She turned to face the agent, trying not to look surprised. There she was again, that mysterious beauty. She wondered for how long they were going to meet like that. 

"Good afternoon, agent. How can I be of use?" she asked casually as she leaned against the wall of the Downtown Police Precinct. It was cloudy but wasn't raining yet. There was an persistent air though that was blowing everything out of their typical place. Leaves and garbage rolled all over the road and pavements. 

"I have a couple more questions I hope you can answer," Caitlyn explained the reason of her new visit. She was alone this time. Vi wondered what her partners were up to. 

"I'd be happy to help in any way. Let's head over somewhere warmer. My office preferably."

"No need to," she interrupted. "It won't take long." She added and handed over a hexetech machine that Vi would recognize immediately. "Do you know what that is?"

The enforcer turned it over to have a better look around it. "Of course. That's Ezreal's gauntlet, the one he used while we were working together."

"Do you know how it works?"

"I built it up myself. I think I know a thing or two." Vi nodded as she examined the gauntlet. 

Caitlyn furrowed her brows. "How many gauntlets are there?"

"Three. The original, this and the one he is currently using," the cop replied. "Alright, here's the deal. The gauntlet is fueled by a rune, which is placed right here," she explained, pointing on a small hole on top of the palm area. "Then, the user charges the gauntlet and through those mechanisms on the knuckles and palm they can charge different kinds of energy blasts. I think you know how those look like."

Caitlyn nodded in understanding. "Is that it?"

"Yeah, that's pretty much it." Vi handed the gauntlet back at her. "Though, I'm not sure how's that going to help you with finding him."

Caitlyn did not respond to that. "Thank you, officer. We'll keep in touch if you're needed again."

Vi huffed. "You call your showing up communication? Please."

Caitlyn raised a brow. "Are you questioning my methods?"

Vi pushed herself off the wall and stood in front of the Pulsefire agent. For some odd reason, she felt irritation building up inside her. There was something she despised on that woman. She was taller and thus looked more imposing. "Pretty much, yeah. You're going straight into a dead end if you keep it like that. I can help you."

Caitlyn didn't hold back a laugh. "No offense officer, but me and my team can handle it just fine."

"Don't underestimate me, agent."

"I don't underestimate you. I just don't want a machine involved into my business."

Vi narrowed her eyes at her even though the Pulsefire couldn't quite see them. "You don't know what I am."

"And I really am not fond of finding out," Caitlyn deadpanned. "I already got enough problems even without you around. So do me a favor and stay out of my way or suffer the consequences of it. That's my case, officer."

"Oh, I see what the deal is. Your pride is at stake, of course. How didn't I see that?" Vi faked a facepalm. This was what irritated her. Her demeanor and behavior, her pride. She couldn't stand this kind of people. "Listen here, missy." she took a step closer to the Pulsefire, almost invading her personal space. "Be careful otherwise your pride will be your downfall."

Caitlyn starred back. There was such an intensity in her voice that she almost sounded completely human. Somewhere deep inside her she had already regretted calling her a machine. Was she scared though? Not really, no. Just overwhelmed. 

"I just wanted to say that same goes for you. Don't forget that there's a warrant, meaning that I got every right to investigate, a right I'm going to use at its full potential. Get in my way and we'll have trouble. Savvy?"

"Yes, of course." Caitlyn replied coldly. 

"Good." Vi backed off. "And if you want my advice, you're looking it the wrong way. If you really want to find out what Ezreal was interested in, you should check out the museums. That's where he sold most artifacts he retrieved."

Caitlyn furrowed her brows. "Why are you telling me this? I thought each of us was going to mind their own business."

The corner of Vi's lips curled up into a mischievous smile. "I'm just giving you a heads up so you have a chance of catching up. Later, agent." she added as she turned her back at her, waving. Caitlyn stared at her back with a piercing look before she left herself. 



Back at their headquarters, the rest of the team was working hard on deciphering the diary. It was written in such a complicated code that so far they had made little progress. Their only lead was the gauntlet. When Caitlyn stepped inside, they turned to face her. 

"So, what did you find?" Riven was first to ask. 

"Not something we wouldn't have guessed by ourselves." Caitlyn huffed and placed the gauntlet onto the table. All around there were notes about their clues. The room itself was well equipped with the latest trend in the hexetech technology that enhanced the agents' ability of tracking down criminals. "There's something else that bothers me, though."

"And what's that?" Shen inquired as he raised his head off the diary and the notes accompanying it. 

"She mentioned something about Ezreal selling those artifacts in museums." she explained, refusing to use Vi's name because that way she'd lose her cool again. "So, my only guess is that Ezreal was some sort of illicit dealer in antiquitie?"

"That would explain his troubles with the law. Illegal trafficking of artifacts... Sounds fruitful." Twisted Fate mused, stroking his beige. 

"That could only explain his troubles with the law." Shen completed the thought. "That does make sense."

"That creates another issue, however." Riven pointed out. 

"What is it?" Twisted Fate asked curiously.

"What if the only reason he returned back in Piltover was to sell one of his  artifacts? Wouldn't he leave right away?"

"You're not mistaken." Caitlyn praised thoughtfully. "But we can't be sure unless we check it out."

"That's right." Shen agreed. "I think here we should split up and start picking up museums. That way we're going to cover more ground, and most importantly, fast."

"But there are dozens of museums in Piltover. It's going to take us ages to investigate them all!" Twisted Fate complained. 

"So will the deciphering of the diary." Shen argued. "We're going to collect more clues that way. I'll stay behind, see what else I can discover from it."

"You're absolutely right." Caitlyn stepped in, putting an end in the argument. "We're starting now. Riven will cover the west side while Tobias the east. I'll take the north and south. No more messing around. Let's get cracking." she ordered and turned her back to them while she walked outside. 

"Caitlyn, wait a sec!"

It was Riven that ran after her. Caitlyn paused for a moment to allow her to catch up. 

"Is there a problem?" she asked. 

"I don't know, you tell me." Riven deadpanned. "You seem kind of off since you returned. Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine." Caitlyn responded coldly. "Is that what you wanted to tell me?"

Riven got offended. "Is that a bad thing now? Sorry, I didn't know."

"I really don't have time for this..."

"I know that the council puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders but you need to ease off a little. You don't get to boss us around. We're your partners, not your subordinates." Riven stated matter-of-factly. Caitlyn narrowed her eyes at her. She really wasn't prepared for yet another overwhelming situation but since this was inevitable, she had to respond. 

"And you really don't get to tell me how to behave. Both you and that cop are under the impression that you're allowed to scold me off."

"Is that what this is all about?" Riven crossed her arm, raising a brow. "About what she told you?"

Caitlyn felt like a little child caught doing something mischievous. However, she didn't hesitate in front of Riven. "Nothing that's of your concern, I assure you of that."

Riven huffed sarcastically. "Oh yeah sure. I'm pretty sure she insulted your pride, didn't she? In that case, I praise her. Someone needed to put you in your place."

The sniper got outraged. "How dare you?"

"How dare you?" Riven argued back. "You're still bitter after all these years. We get it, what happened in Bellmoor was mostly our fault but you can't keep acting like a child, Caitlyn! And I think you keep forgetting your fraction of responsibility. It's never only one's fault! But you're pride doesn't allow you to accept that!" 

Riven literally screamed in Caitlyn's face. As a result, when she stopped she tried to catch her breath while glaring at the sniper. Caitlyn glared back. A fight between two intense gazes. 

"You know what? Forget about it. It doesn't matter." Riven said, slicing through the thick silence that fell between them. "No matter what I say, it's still the same for you. So, let's just get this done as quickly as possible."

"Never have I imagined I could agree more to that statement." Caitlyn nodded. Riven stormed off, leaving her alone with her thoughts. 

Your pride is going to be your downfall 

She clenched her fists. Everyone kept talking about her pride, while in fact it had absolutely nothing to do with it. They knew nothing. And she had zero obligation to give explanations to people that didn't even care. She had to focus to achieve her goal. No matter what. 

Chapter Text

Rarely did Riven get upset but whenever she did it lasted for a couple of hours before she calmed down completely. That confrontation with Caitlyn was different though because it brought back memories she struggled to erase. She realized Caitlyn's point, she admitted to herself Bellmoor's failure, she could still hear the screams and she the endless rivers of blood in her dreams and sometimes she could even choke on her regret but that didn't give the other Pulsefire agent the right to act the way she did. It wasn't fair. She was just as charged guilty as herself for the Bellmoor massacre. The result of that was that Riven couldn't concentrate properly on the task at hand, so her visits at the museums had turned out to be completely fruitless, thus she returned back to the headquarters more frustrated than ever before. 

"You're back already?" Shen raised his head off the diary to look at her while she stormes inside. 

"What do you think?" she spat as she dropped herself on a chair, crossing her arms. 

Shen raised a brow. "You seem upset. Did something happen?" 

Riven blew some of her hair strings off her face. "Nothing happened."

"Both you and I know you're a terrible liar." Shen abandoned his task and went over to seat opposite her. Riven sighed. 

"It's Caitlyn." she admitted. "I just can't stand the way she's treating the whole of us! Like we're some pieces of garbage! Everyone makes mistakes, bigger or smaller, why can't see realize that?"

It was a desperate cry for justice. Riven could understand Caitlyn's anger up to a point. From that point and after thought, she found her behavior completely unfair. Riven had paid the price for her mistakes. She didn't need Caitlyn to confront her more. 

"I see now." Shen nodded in understanding. "It's about Bellmoor, isn't it?"

Riven huffed. "It's always been about Bellmoor. Don't tell me you haven't noticed."

"I have. Now do tell me what happened between you two." Shen insisted and so Riven narrated their confrontation outside their headquarters.

"I see..." Shen said sceptically. "And you told her that her pride..."

"...will be her downfall." Riven completed his sentence, slightly annoyed. "I literally just said that."

Shen smiled. "Well, you're not absolutely wrong. Though, I must point out that there are things you don't know about Caitlyn."

Riven was caught off guard. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover if you want to be adjective."

"I don't care about having an adjective view on her. It's pretty clear that she's a bitch-"

"Look." Shen interrupted her rant somewhat impatiently. "The thing with Caitlyn is that she doesn't easily open up, thus there are aspects of her life you've never even heard of. Don't be quick to judge. I know it's not fair that she treats you and the rest of us the way she does and I totally get it, but I'm not so mad at her as I probably should be. "

"What are you talking about?" Riven narrowed her eyes at him. "Is there something more you know that me an Tobias don't?"

"Actually, yes. But only because I put my nose in places I shouldn't be." Shen admitted. "Anyways, point is that after the whole Bellmoor disaster Caitlyn's behavior really surprised me because I always thought of her as a composed and logical person. I did some research on my own. And well, to be honest I don't exactly blame her at this point."

"I still don't understand. What's so special about Caitlyn that excuses her behavior?"

"I didn't mention anything about excuses. Nothing can excuse her. I'm just trying to help you understand her." Shen pointed out. 

"Don't try to use the «sad story» card on me because I'm seriously going to-"

Shen ignored her. "Her father was a prominent politician. Her mother, on the other hand, was a prodigious inventor. She pioneered in time-travelling technology and much of the equipment we use today is her inventions. Unfortunately, they were killed in a terrible accident years ago. I'm not sure how old Caitlyn was when this happened but my guess is that she was fairly young."

Riven was left speechless. All her hatred towards the sniper's face was replaced in an instant with sympathy. But it didn't last long. 

"My guess was that she became a chrono-agent for one and only reason. To find out how her parents were killed and perhaps revert the result." Shen elaborated. 

"She can't do that, can she? It's against the Agency's policy."

Shen nodded in confirmation. "Technically yes. However, I'm convinced that she believed she'd get the authorization to do so if she became the best out of the best, do you understand me?"

"Like some sort of favor, right?" Riven inquired. She had already started understanding what was really going on. "But Bellmoor was a complete disaster for her career. It would stigmatize her forever. Is this why...?"

"She put the entire blame on us while avoiding any responsibility? Yes." Shen nodded. "And our superiors were willing to believe her word and not investigate any further. You know the rest of the story."

"I don't fucking believe it." Riven murmured. "We spent months and months behind offices, endlessly trapped into office tasks, away from the fields, just because she..." she trailed off. 

"It sounds selfish, I know." Shen ran a hand through his hair. "But I feel like I can understand her up to some point because I chose this career path for similar reasons." he let out a sigh. "Do you understand now? Everyone carries their own demons, others more monstrous and others less."

Riven understood. She remembered him explaining once when she had asked him why he had joined the Timeline Protection Agency. She remembered briefly his expression, similar with the one he wore at this moment, when he talked about his missing father. 

"Have you got any news of him?" she asked softly. 

Shen shook his head no. "There's nothing. It's like he's vanished. Sometimes, I beatify Caitlyn because she is aware of her parents' fate. On the other hand, I still live in the darkness with probably a fake hope that he's still somewhere alive. I wish I had the guts to do what Caitlyn did. Maybe then I would have answers. But she's always been far more ambitious than I've ever been."

"You'll find the truth." she reassured him. "And you don't have to become manipulative like her to find your father. You're better than that."

"Thanks," he said gracefully with a said smile. "I hope now you know the full story you won't be quick to judge her."

"My opinion on her hasn't changed." Riven declared. "I can understand why, I might be a little bit more empathetic towards her, but it's still no excuse. I'm still mad."

"And you got every right to be." Shen nodded. "Anyways, I need to get back at it." he motioned at the open diary. 

"I'll help you!" Riven exclaimed. "The museums I visited had no exhibits sold by Ezreal so it's basically a dead end. It's the best I can do right now." she explained with a shrug. 

"Help is always welcomed." Shen smiled at her while he stood up off the chair. 

 



"This is our last chance, guys. If we fail again, then there will be a price to pay. Caitlyn, we are counting on you to land the shot."

Shen's voice was commanding, yet it almost sounded soothing. As if he was trying to reassure her that everything was going to be fine so as not to miss. She wouldn't miss, for that she was certain. What she was uncertain about was what would follow. They've tried so many times and always failed miserably. This was their last opportunity and she'd make the best out of it. 

"Embrace yourselves." she spoke to the mic one last time. She heard her team members heavy breathing as they anticipated together. Herself she held her own breath back and tried to calm her heartbeat to a minimum, to the point she could barely feel it. By now she had already gotten used to the procedure of concentrating on her target. 

Then, loud banging filled the air alongside screams. She saw him. Zero hesitation to uphold her, she pulled the trigger. 

But it didn't stop him.

She knew she hadn't missed, yet she couldn't comprehend how this thing was still moving and killing. She saw Riven lashing herself at him and Shen assisting her but he was fast and flexible. Four shots, four victims. He didn't care about the agents that struggled to stop him. He managed to trap them and continue his 'art work'. Tobias teleported behind him and tried to stun him. But he had predicted this move. He stunned him as well and prepared to end it all for Tobias Fate. But not under Caitlyn's watch. This time however she missed, for the PROJECT trace had moved just in time. 

"You lack elegance." he spoke with his mechanic voice. "But it's not what bothers me. These people are criminals, you should be eliminating them instead of protecting them."

Caitlyn cringed. She couldn't believe in her ears. Kill innocent people for the simple reason they weren't as lucky in life as others? She refused to respond. So did he. His only words were, "I have an artwork to complete."

And then, there was endless rivers of blood. And Caitlyn lost all focus. 

 



Caitlyn never had a problem with concentrating. This absentminded attitude of hers was something completely new to her. And she knew all too well why she was in such position. Even though she investigated thoroughly a couple of museums, at the end of the day she realized she'd need to investigate again, for she hadn't been paying much attention to details as her mind was traveling somewhere else, somewhere she wished to forget. Because Riven's confrontation had rang unpleasant memories. 

Memories that consisted mostly of endless rivers of blood and screams. 

It was getting dark in Piltover. Most people had withdrawn back to the safety of their homes. The only sound that could be heard as Caitlyn walked down the pavement was the clicking of her boots. Yet, in her ears all she could hear was screams and pleadings, children crying, asking for their parents... And then, all out of a sudden, one of the children was herself... Caitlyn stopped abruptly. She didn't dare to close her eyes as she knew what she'd see with the imagination eyes... She didn't want to look back at those memories. Instead, she tried to put her focus on something else. She looked forward with her piercing gaze, trying to slash through the fog that had appeared out of nowhere. A very common phenomenon for that region of Piltover since it was located near the coastline. Inside the fog, her inner demons yelled relentlessly while she fought against them, alone. 

Alone. 

Alone. 

She hated being lonely. 

She hated being alone and scared to death. She clenched her chest. The weight in it was almost unbearable. 

So many mistakes. Mistakes made in order not to be alone no more. Yet, she was more alone than ever before. She had pushed everyone away. And now that the reminiscing of the Bellmoor fiasco was knocking on her door once again, she was more lonely than ever before. And she was terrified. There was no one out there to care about her well-being.

Caitlyn realized her mistakes. She wasn't that blind nor that arrogant to believe that Bellmoor was exclusively her team's fault. Because she was part of said team, she was literally right there. Bellmoor wasn't just a minor setback to her plan, it was almost determining factor to show her how far she was willing to go. 

Apparently, too far. 

And yet, here she was. Alone and scared. Just like she was twelve years ago. 

And whose fault was it again? Right. Hers. 

She made choices and those choices had irreversible results. Instead of looking back, maybe she should focus on what's important now. She was aware of her goals. After all, she got nothing else to lose. Only gain. She lowered her hand off her chest. Her heartbeat had returned back to normal. The voices had faded away. She looked over her shoulder. A black cat ran across the street, her eyes glimmering. She looked again in front of her. There was only mist. She couldn't see too well in a great distance, just as she couldn't see her future. But if she was sure about one thing, that would be reaching her goal. No matter the price. And in order to do that, she had to capture Ezreal. 

 

But first, there were some things she needed to fix. She wasn't completely heartless. She knew how sensitive Riven could be and she felt guilty for treating and talking to her like that. An apology was on the line as well. 

 

Chapter Text

Darkness had always been her good friend and companion. This case wasn't any different. Stake out nights were part of her daily routine after all. Shauna Vayne watched from the shadows, careful not to miss a single detail. From where she stood, she could monitor the entire process of transpassing guns for the PROJECT corporation. Tracks were filled in quickly, then moved towards the company's headquarters somewhere on the east. Not an illegal action but what had driven Vayne there was the presence of two specific traces; Zed and Katarina. Vayne wasn't foolish enough to believe that Zed and Katarina were there just for decorating purposes. Why would PROJECT need their two best robots present in an every day matter? Unless there was something else hidden there, there was no other reason.

That 'something' had been located. It was a track that wasn't either getting loaded nor moving. Vayne got suspicious immediately. She had to get closer in order to find out but without getting spotted. The roof she was standing on wasn't good enough to provide her with sufficient answers so she withdrew back to the ground.

Except the two PROJECT traces, there were more armed guards spectating the whole procedure. Those were easy to get rid off. Vayne's major problem was Zed and Katarina, both fatal assassins. It seemed though they were mostly patrolling around the truck that was her target. The way there would be much easier than she had initially anticipated.

In the meantime, she had to knock out a few guards in order to proceed. But in the end, she didn't manage to get close enough to the truck. It was impossible. She stared at it from the alley she hid. If she made the mistake to approach any further, she'd be spotted immediately. Now it looked like a good time to use all the technology that was available to her. She scanned the truck from a distance and discovered that there were actually people inside it. She narrowed her eyes. If anything, she needed to find out what the conversation was about. Perhaps it could provide her with vital information. She drew out a small device designed exclusively for eavesdropping. It looked more like a hexetech spider. Vayne placed it on the ground and it walked over the truck, looking like a bug. She saw it disappearing under the truck and waited till it was attached. A few moments later, she had audio access.

"...this is very important, do you understand? There are no chances of failure available for you."

The voice belonged to a man she had never heard of before. But this wasn't what bothered her.

"Yes, sir."

She cringed as she recognized the digital voice. Khada Jhin.

"The truck will get you at the Runetteran museum without anyone getting a hint. Retrieve the gauntlet by any means possible. After loosing the ATLA gauntlets we can't afford another failure."

"I understand, sir."

Vayne didn't need to listen more. She had understood enough. It was clear that blood would be spilled unless the appropriate measures were taken. She had to inform officer Vi. After all, the Runetteran museum was her territory. She withdrew back in the darkness without calling the hexetech machine back. She'd use it to track down the truck while it moved through the city.

The far side of the alley ended on a road. There she let her motorcycle unravel before mounting it. She had already called Vi's number and was already trying to get through.

 


 

 

The Runetteran museum was a true masterpiece of archaeology, a true gift to the city. Home of fifty thousand exhibits, it was the largest museum in Piltover. Said exhibits were collected from every single corner of Runettera and all were very valuable, their worth not only high in money but in civilization level as well. Caitlyn so far hadn't completely understood Ezreal's obsession with artifacts except maybe the profit he gained through them, but now that she stood in front of such majestic stuff she could get a hint. These were the proof of civilizations that existed eons before theirs, proof that had survived through the centuries. Despite the fact that travelling in time was a common thing in their days, they couldn't appreciate the previous civilizations.

The director of the museum had been kind enough to give her a small tour around the place, mostly concerning exhibits that were brought to the public by Ezreal, that by her request. The man spoke high of the boy, even characterizing him as a gift for modern archaeology. Caitlyn restraint herself from making a sneer comment about it. What really caught her attention was that specific exhibit; Ezreal's original gauntlet.

"Ezreal recognized its historical value so he gifted the gauntlet to the museum." the director explained with a smile. Caitlyn examined it through the glass. It wasn't too much different than the one they had discovered in Ezreal's apartment but it certainly wasn't the same. But why would he want to 'gift' it at the museum? Wasn't it more useful if he kept it? Or maybe he wanted to protect it that way. Besides, he had Vi manufacture another one for him, possibly better. But still, there was something that bothered her.

Her train of thought was abruptly interrupted by a gunshot and panicked screams. Herself and the director turned out to see what the problem was. People were running towards the emergency exits while the security guards ran to stop the intruder.

"Stop right there!" one of them shouted at someone Caitlyn couldn't see with his gun raised. There was no response. Just another gunshot, the bullet of which bounced on all four guards, killing them in an instant.

"Hide!" she ordered the director who looked at the bloody corpses utterly terrified. She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him right behind the gauntlet's show case, both kneeling down in order to hide better behind the wooden base. Another gunshot and the glass was shattered into a million pieces, falling like a rain all around. The thief's goal was clear; the gauntlet. Caitlyn couldn't allow him to get his hands on it

"Go hide and call the police." she instructed quietly the director. "I'll cover you."

The man was terrified but nodded nonetheless. Caitlyn unstrapped her rifle from her shoulder and took it in her hands. The same feeling of determination filled her veins, the one she got every time she touched her gun. Without hesitating she stood up, aiming her gun at the presumptuous thief.

She was utterly surprised when she noticed that the thief wasn't any random thief. It was a PROJECT initial! What was the meaning of all this? No time for that now. She had to concentrate at the task at hand.

"Don't move." she ordered with her icy voice. The PROJECT stared at her. Or maybe he would stare at her if he had an actual face. There was a screen where his face should be. His facial characteristics were lost in the oblivion. Now it was only a screen, he was just a machine, at least in her eyes.

Footsteps were heard and Caitlyn knew that was the museum's director. The PROJECT turned his head at him and she read his intentions. He was about to shoot him at cold blood but she was faster. She shot first. The bullet lodged inside his shoulder, making him step backwards. She had given the director enough time to disappear out of the PROJECT's reach.

"The police will be here soon," she spoke again. "I suggest you surrender now."

The first time the PROJECT made a sound was a sarcastic digital laugh. "Oh really?" he asked, feigning curiosity. "How naive of you."

Caitlyn furrowed her brows slightly. He might have been a super machine but that didn't mean he was invincible.

"The thing is," he continued. "I'm an artist. And an artist has every right to admire art."

"Stealing is now 'admiring art'?" she mocked.

"As said, you're naive." he insisted on his statement. "So, I'll suggest that you move out of the way before you regret it."

"Too bad." It was Caitlyn's turn to smile. "I don't get orders by a machine."

In an attempt to surprise him, she launched a net in order to capture the PROJECT. Apparently though, he had predicted it so he moved aside to avoid it. She was quick to find cover behind another show case.

"Not going to lie, that was an ambitious shot," he praised. "But it lacked the delicacy. Killing is an art."

Paranoid that he was, there was no doubt. Caitlyn shuddered. Why was this thing on the roads anyways?

Another shot. More shattered glass. Caitlyn had to cover her head. She peaked over her corner to see where he was but no one was there. Only silence met her. She understood immediately. She turned around in the blink of an eye only to find him on her back ready to shoot at her head. She was fast but not fast enough. Her only hopefully chance was to bring him down alongside her so she prepared herself for the last shot.

More shattered glass. But this time not from a show case rather than the opposite window. The sound of glass shattering was accompanied by a fiery battle cry. The PROJECT turned to see what the problem was before a giant metallic gauntlet met his face half way, knocking him off his feet, a few meters away from Caitlyn's hiding spot.

"I told you, Jhin. You don't get to mess around in my city."

Caitlyn knew that cocky voice as well as she knew those gauntlets. Officer Vi stood tall before them, ready to punch again Jhin if he pushed his luck more. She walked away her, completely ignoring Caitlyn's presence in the scenery. She looked intimidating. But Jhin wasn't intimidated in the slightest. He laughed hysterically as he stood back on his own two feet. Caitlyn couldn't spot him from where she was as all she could see was Vi's back.

"To the rescue, I see?" he mocked. "Should I remind you what happened the last time we met?"

"No need to. Once I'm done with you, you won't even remember your own fucking name."

"Touchè," he responded. "Too bad for you though. This traitor isn't going to be here to save you when I'll plant a bullet into your thick skull."

"I don't need a babysitter. And my advice would be to be conscious of your own skull, Jhin."

Sirens sliced through the air. The police was finally there, Caitlyn mused. All they needed to do was put Jhin down in order to end this madness. She remained kneeled down with the hope that the PROJECT had forgotten about her. She stood up to remind him of her presence, that he was trapped like a mouse.

"More came to join I see," Jhin commented on the arrival of the police. "I'm afraid I'm not a big fun of that big audiences. That's my call to leave."

"You ain't going anywhere," Vi growled.

"Till next time, Vi. Four!" he shouted and a thick smoke filled the room, blocking their vision. Coughing, the two women tried to make through the smoke but it was already too late. The PROJECT was already gone.

"Fucking hell!" Vi exclaimed in frustration.

"What was all this about?" Caitlyn inquired as she strapped her rifle back onto her shoulder. It was only then that Vi seemed to notice her.

"I don't fucking know," Vi murmured. She looked over her at the sniper cautiously. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I can't say the same about the security guards though." was Caitlyn's reply as she remembered the four lifeless bodies slamming down onto a pool of blood that belonged to them.

"What happened to them? Never mind, I don't wanna know." Vi sighed. She looked over at the broken show case of the gauntlet. During the whole affair, it had remained untouched. "I see you didn't loose your time and followed my advice." she smiled even so slightly.

"I needed to check on all the clues available," the chrono-agent simply responded. "And by the way, thanks for the help. Both for the clues and with... Jhin or whatever he is. You saved my life."

The truth was undeniable. Vi scratched nervously the back of her neck.

"I was just doing my job," she responded casually.

"For that I'm sure," Caitlyn remarked. "Maybe I got you all wrong."

"Did you now?"

"Most certainly."

"And what made you change your mind so quickly?"

"The fact that, first you were willing to help me, and second that you proved your not half as bad of an officer as I had expected."

"Is that a praise or an insult?"

"What do you think?"

"Hey!"

Caitlyn smiled slightly. "I'm messing with you. Calm down. Here." She added as she drew something off her pocket and handed it over to Vi. "In case you still want to help us."

Vi gave a quick look the digital card. "Sure. Once I'm done with this mess," she said, showing over the pieces of glass scattered all around the floor and the smoke.

"No presure on you. You know where to find us."

 

With those last words, she walked away from the crime scene, allowing the police to do their job. Too many unexpected turns of events but at the end of the day, she left with the impression that Vi maybe wasn't that bad and with a imperceptible smile on her lips.


 

 

Vayne awaited patiently for Vi in the darkness. The whole ordeal wasn't anything small with four people getting murdered in cold blood just like that. The tragedy was huge. She only wondered how it was going to be handled by the press - if the incident was going on the news in the first place. 

"Sorry I'm late. Paperwork is still paperwork, even so when you unnecessarily break a window."

The voice now rang familiar in Vayne's ears. She eyed the cop carefully. 

"What happened there?"

"Exactly what you had predicted," Vi said. "Jhin showed up out of nowhere. He was determined to get an artifact. No hesitation. I wish I arrived there faster. Maybe those guards wouldn't be dead now." she shook her head, sounding remorsefull. 

"Well, obviously. That's what his orders were," Vayne murmured. "Did he get it?"

"The artificact? No. There was a chrono-agent at the museum at the time of the attack. She managed to keep him away from it."

"A chrono-agent?" Vayne furrowed her brows. "What on Earth was she doing there? Don't tell me she's investigating on Ezreal?"

"She is but how do you know about him?" Vi asked suspiciously. 

"Ashe sent Fiora, didn't she?" Vayne responded. "Let me guess. You had no clue."

"I'm not supposed to know everything that's going on in G/NETIC." The cop shrugged it off. 

Vayne decided not to press on the subject more. It didn't matter anyways. "So what happened when you arrived? Why did you break through that window? Because I'm pretty convinced that's what happened."

Vi chuckled. "You got me there. Jhin was about to kill the agent too, though. Couldn't late him 'paint' with more blood-"

"Right."

"-plus this agent is an acquaintance of mine."

"Listen, I don't know what game Ashe got you involved with," Vayne warned. "But if you're working too onto that Ezreal case then you should be careful not to trust that agent."

"I know what I'm doing, Vayne."

"I know you do, Vi. Just friendly advice."

"Appreciated."

"So, what artifact did Jhin try to steal?"

"Ezreal's first gauntlet." Vi deadpanned. 

"What!"

"You heard me."

Vayne cursed. "Goddammit. At least, this proves that the kid isn't lying."

Vi's voice darkened. "It also proves that there's some conspiracy going on around here."

 

Chapter Text

The Timeline Protection Agency was located on one of the most impressive and new buildings in all of Piltover. There was nothing that could be compared between their facilities and the police, Vi noted, not really appreciating the discrimination. She stood right outing the HQ in her shining metal armor, an anomaly in between the agents that entered and exited the building in their characteristic white suits. She was completely out of her waters and she didn't feel comfortable at all. She stood there for a while, just staring at the passing crowd and the construction before her before deciding to just go for it. 

Once she stepped inside, all looks were drawn on her immense presence in an environment that most definitely didn't suit her at all. It was by far the most noticeable visitor they received lately. Vi was uneased. She never particularly enjoyed when all the attention was drawn know herself. She kept walking, trying to ignore those piercing gazes that were trying to pierce through her armor, to study her, to understand the purpose of her presence in that particular environment in that specific day. Vi got the impression that these people only perceived her as a research subject. The entire main hall was suffocating. She remained unnerved as she approached the information desk. Thankfully, the receptionist was just a Program, offering Vi the absence of human contact she was striving for. 

"Excuse me, I'm looking for Pulsefire Caitlyn and her team."

In her mind she sounded so stoic that she cringed internally. Last thing she wanted was to confirm those theories about her not being human. Yet here she was, speaking like a machine to another machine. She felt the glares stabbing her back like a knife. 

"You'll find Pulsefire Caitlyn and her squad on the third floor, office number 31A," was the response from the Program clerk. Vi debated whether to thank her or just proceed. She decided on the latter and headed to the stairs, avoiding the lifts on purpose. Last thing she needed was to get stuck in a small place full of agents that wouldn't hesitate to show their disgrace and truth be told, her tolerance was almost non existent at this particular point. As she passed each floor, she took notice of the expensive technology that was available to use in the Agency, even if that was just a small portion of what it was actually used. It was really no wonder why the bureau was more respected than the police department ever did. They had the means and the people to get the job done and they never failed to do so. Meanwhile, the police was equipped with officers like Scully or Hitchcock that could barely catch a simple mugger.

Upon reaching the third floor, she immediately started looking for office 31A. Across the room, all offices were labelled with the letter 'A' and her instinct commanded her to get across the hall, which she did, the clicking of her boots being muffled under a dark blue synthetic carpet. Now, she only had to locate office number 31. Picking a side randomly, she went to the left and kept walking. Luckily enough for her, the office was indeed at that direction and it didn't take her long to eventually find it. But now what? Knock as if they were still living in the Middle Ages? There was a screen on the side of the door which Vi realized as the fingerprint lock that only the agent were able to unlock. However, there was an orange button called 'doorbell' which indicated that the doors could be opened from the inside as well. Without hesitation, she pressed the button and immediately took notice of her reflection. She looked utterly terrifying in that mask of hers. It was completely unnecessary to have it cover her eyes, so why was she wearing it at all times in the first place? Awkwardly, she pressed a button on the side on the mask which retreated as soon as she did, exposing her dark blue eyes. 

She didn't have to wait long. The doors whooshed open with a small hiss, revealing the inside of a huge office, no. As far as Vi could tell, this was no office. It was more like lab. However, she couldn't get a better view for the figure with the white hair that was leaning against the door. 

"Officer Vi," Riven spoke. "I admit, we most certainly did not expect you here."

"Your colleague told me to drop by to lend a hand with Ezreal's case," Vi responded, slightly uneased by the agent's piercing gaze. Riven was about to protest when a disembodied voice interrupted. 

"For the love of God Riven, I invited her here. Stop wasting time and let her in."

Vi's heart fluttered for reasons that remained unknown as she recognized 
Caitlyn's voice. 

"Why didn't you say so? Come in." Riven motioned. 

Vi was not just impressed by the amount of hexetech technology available in the room, she was fascinated like a little child. This was no office, this was a laboratory of the sort. Computer, machines, printers of the latest technology and any other machinery that the police was striving to obtain was literally right there before her eyes. 

"I see you didn't lose any time." Caitlyn appeared to greet the officer. 
Vi almost rolled her eyes at the irony of it. 

"Bold of you to assume I'm an idle person," she deadpanned. On the agent's lips appeared an imperceptible smile that didn't go unnoticed by the cop. 

"Since we'll be working together on that case, I believe that we need some proper introductions. These are my partner, Riven." She pointed at the white haired woman who smiled warmly at Vi and the officer was quick to return the gesture. "That's Shen," she added, pointing at a man that was sitting in front a computer, analyzing some data. He nodded in acknowledge. "And Twisted Fate," said said, pointing at the other man who wore a moustache.

"Nice to meet y'all. I'm looking forward to our partnership," Vi spoke, her heart twisting inside her chest. "So, what have you guys come up with so far?"

"Allow me to show you." Caitlyn lead the way towards the desk Shen was working. "We paid a visit to Ezreal's apartment and discovered a diary and the gauntlet I showed you. Following your advice, we also visited several museums in order to understand Ezreal's activities in the city. All we know so far is that he is well respected around the archaeological community, though his methods of retrieving artifacts remains unknown."

"To them," Vi added, shaking her head. 

"Well, obviously."

"What we fail to understand-" Riven interfered. "-is how he managed to promote his discoverings. Surely, he couldn't just go and sell the artifacts. Someone had to help him, at least at the beginning."

"You are right, Riven," Vi applauded. "I did some digging myself and I retrieved some very interesting information."

Caitlyn arched her brows. "Would you be so kind to share?"

"There's this guy named Vito Randall, major personality of the underworld."
Vi elaborated. "He's been arrested a couple of times for drug trading and human trafficking but was released from all charges due to lack of evidence." Her tone became somewhat darker. "Anyways, point is that he discovered in Ezreal's face the opportunity to expand his activities from drugs and prostitution to illicit trade in antiquities. A very profitable business. Ezreal was talented in his eyes so he used him accordingly. I assume that a part of Ezreal's income returned back to him."

"That's quite interesting." Shen mused, stroking his chin sceptically. "Do you know where we can find him?"

"I'm afraid I don't. He's pretty much a ghost and I've only seen him once when he was first arrested. Rumor says he's constantly changing his appearance so as not to be caught." Vi shrugged. 

"So it's another dead end." Caitlyn stated matter-of-factly. 

"Actually, no." Everyone turned to look at Twisted Fate who shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "I know where we can find Randall."

"Really?" Vi sounded impressed. "How come? He's been bothering the police for a while now and now you tell me you know where he's hiding?"

"Currently, no. But I know where he usually hanged out with his gang. It's a head start."

"So, we need a plan to bring him into custody," Caitlyn pointed out. "Any ideas?"

"We should go undercover," Vi suggested. "Problem is that none of us know exactly how Randall looks like which could get us into trouble."

Twisted Fate looked more uncomfortable than ever before. "Uh... I might or might not know how he looks like. I know he changes his appearance quite often but I think I'd recognize him if I saw him."

It was Vi's turn to arch her brows. "I'm impressed. I mean, you could prove useful to the police, being able to recognize Vito Randall and such. May I ask, how do you know him? Are you acquaintances?"

Twisted Fate avoided her gaze. "That's none of your business."

"It is," Vi stated, matter-of-factly. "Because if you're involved with a criminal, I can surely arrest you on spot."

"Alright, that's enough," Shen interrupted, raising his voice slightly. "So what if he happens to know Randall? You don't have any evidence that he has worked with or for him."

"You're right, I'm sorry. I got carried away." Vi retreated from the argument. This was clearly not a good time to question Twisted Fate's reliability, even though she'd gladly investigate on this block more. At this point, she was convinced that 'Twisted Fate' wasn't his real name. She wondered... 

"Well, since Twisted Fate is capable of identifying Randall, he should be the one to go undercover. I don't think any of us can be of use to him, except for backing him up of course," Caitlyn remarked. 

"I have to agree with Cait here," Riven piped up. 

"It's settled then." Shen clapped his hands together. "Twisted Fate, I think it's time for you to start preparing yourself for an undercover mission."

Twisted Fate facepalmed, cursing himself under his breath. "Why do I feel the need to talk so damn much?"



The downtown was an inhospitable place for those who wanted to live their lives quietly and with honesty. In order to survive, there was no place for honesty but only the constant struggle for survival. There were no ethics in this struggle with the only rule being the stronger defeating the weaker. Jungle the upper city liked to call it but for Vito Randall this was a way of living. Survival for those privileged like him was easier. For others, it simply wasn't. That was the way it was. Some would call it luck. But it wasn't coincidental that he was able to build an empire, to rule the streets of the downtown. It was simply his ability to manage and scheme. And no fucking PROJECT cop had been able to put a stop to his business. He was untouchable. 

Vito Randall was proud of himself and, in his eyes, it was not without reason. 

So as he sat at the corner of his bar/ strip club, he observed carefully his customers as beautiful creatures surrounded him. These desperate women had come to him, begging to help them survive. And he did help them survive and now they were forever vassals to him. Prostitution in order places was much more barbaric and violent. They should be grateful. And they were, for that they made sure to show their gratitude. You ask for something but in the long term you have to give something back. Basic law of survival, accordingly to Vito Randall. 

And he remained true to his beliefs, for that was the reason exactly why he had created such a place. A place where all his men could relax and enjoy good alcohol and majestic women. They deserved it after all. They worked had every day for their boss, bringing him profit and he was sure to pay them back, not only in money. He was the ruler everyone wanted to serve. A master of manipulation, if you must. But he didn't see himself as such. No, he saw himself more like a hero to those desperate people. 

The 'hero' was enjoying himself alongside his servants, but not as much as he'd like. There was something that was bothering Vito. A figure on the corner of his club, sipping from his glass, a figure he hadn't seen lately but he was certain he had seen him before. He examined him carefully. There was no chance this hat belonged to someone else rather than him. He took a quick decision. He waved off his girls, he knew they were capable of finding a more interesting company tonight. He was aware that he was being inferior to his normal charming attitude but tonight he couldn't concentrate due to that wanker. 

Standing up, he realized that he had grown fatter. No wonder, he hadn't been doing any field work as all the work was done by his men and he was the commandeer while enjoying the good life in the meantime. It took him more time to reach the loner's table than he had initially calculated but it was worth the trouble. His suspicions were confirmed as soon as he did. 

"Well, well, well. What a surprise," he exclaimed over the loud music. "If that ain't the infamous Tobias Fate."

The man observed him over his glass. "Vito! I swear I didn't recognize you with that beard of yours!"

"Well, where's your beard, Tobias? What's with that terrible moustache?" Vito took a seat without even asking Tobias if his company was welcomed. "Dead men tell no tales but you sure as hell are not dead. What's your tale, Tobias?" He asked, pointing at the man with the hand he held his glass of whiskey. "What the hell happened to you?"

Tobias took a sip off his own drink. "Had to sluck off for a while. Till the steam was blown."

"You've been gone for years, Tobias." Vito stated the obvious. "Rumor claimed Malcolm murdered you on the way to prison."

Tobias chuckled. "Bold of you to assume I was ever even caught."

"Still full of yourself I see," Vito bemused. "Though, I've got to admit that you managed to slip under those police dogs' noses perfectly well."

"Changing appearance is always a good card to use. Apparently, 
you've noticed yourself." Tobias pointed at Vito's beard which was now painted red. The man unconsciously stroke the hair covering his chin. 

"You could say I got jealous over your beard." Vito cracked a joke that made Tobias chuckle again. Then, he leaned over the table so as to be closer to the other man's face. 

"What brings you here, Tobias? This is a dangerous place to be," Vito questioned, dropping his voice into a whisper. "Everyone more or less knows how you ditched Malcolm in order to save your sorry ass. In other words, no one trusts you around here."

Tobias peeked over at a group of men that were laughing uproariously under the effect of alcohol. "In order to survive in this world, sacrifices need to be made. You said so yourself, Vito."

Vito chuckled. "You're a good listener, Tobias. Yes, I did said that. But what makes you think I'll trust you ever again? And say I trust you, I doubt you're so foolish to believe anyone will do so. You've been out of the game too long."

Tobias sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Look, I'm pretty wasted at the moment and I'm desperate for a job. The only true talent I ever got was gambling. You can't deny I was your best gambler."

"Indeed you were." Vito leaned back. "But my business do not only include poker games, Tobias. I've mood into a much more profitable sector."

"Besides drugs?"

"Besides drugs," Vito confirmed. He reached inside his pocket and withdrew a packet of cigarettes. "Want some smoke?"

"Sure," Tobias accepted the offer gladly. Vito was kind enough enough to offer some of his fire as well. 

"So, what's that business of yours that is more profitable than drugs?" Tobias asked. 

"I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise." Vito beamed. "But I'll let you try and guess."

"Let me see..." Tobias mumbled thoughtfully. "The only business you weren't involved into is illicit trade in antiquities."

"Blimey, you're smarter than you let on, Tobias," Vito praised. "Well done. There's this gifted child that brought my attention to this type of business but that's as far as I can tell you."

"Why? Because you don't trust me?"

"Let's not fool around, Tobias. You've been missing for way too long. I admit your will to survive, but that doesn't change the fact that you betrayed your best friend, someone who was almost like a brother to you. How am I supposed to trust you?"

"You're right." Tobias nodded in understanding. "All I'm asking is to give me a chance."

"And a chance you'll be given. One last chance, Tobias," Vito warned. "Graves was one of my best men who ended up in prison because of my best gambler. It's ironic, really."

Tobias grinned. "You'd say it was a twist of fate."

Vito didn't have the chance to respond as the front and back door suddenly busted open and cops fled the place, catching the crowd off guard that didn't even bother to resist. Panicked screams filled the air, glass shattered, painful cries covered the music. And on top of everything, their leader was that filthy PROJECT cop.

"PDD! You're all under arrest!" she shouted. Others froze at the sound of her voice, others tries to flee, only to bump into more cops. Vito turned furiously at Tobias, only to find the man pointing a gun at his face. 

"You son of a bitch-"

"C'mon Vito." Tobias wore an amused smile. "This is all about survival. I thought you'd understand. You knew I was alive and you'd try to kill me the first chance you got. I couldn't let that happen so I had to take a decision."

Vito cursed out loud. He had lost in his own game by Tobias bloody Fate. "You two-faced bastard, I hope you eat shit and die."

"Send my greetings to Malcolm when you reach Stormford. I'm sure you'll meet there."

"Trust me, he will be thrilled to see you're still the same snake you've always been, you cunt," were Vito's last words before two bold police officers grabbed him by the armpits and pulled him away. Meanwhile, Vi approached Tobias, looking over the arrested godfather cautiously before turning her attention to the other man. 

"You did well," she praised him. "This is a great victory for the police."

"Whatever you say," Tobias grunted, waving her off. "Now the entire of Vito's gang is after me."

"Not if they are locked inside a cell," Vi pointed out. "Don't worry, you'll be fine. We got your back."

"Thanks." This was somewhat weird for Tobias. He was being applauded by the same cop that a couple of days ago was doubting his reliability.  "Listen, I know you've got every right to be suspicious of me due to my previous life but this life of mine is behind me."

Vi smiled genuinely. "I know, dude. Now, let's get out of here. We got job to do."

 

Chapter Text

The interrogation room was dark with the only source of light being a bulb that was hanging over the table which separated Vito Randall and Vi. They kept staring at each other with such intensity that someone would think they were trying to kill each other only using their eyes. Randall was handcuffed on a metal handle on the table so he couldn't attempt to escape. Not that he would have any luck with that but just in case. Vi, on the other hand, was free and in front of her laid a file that belonged to Randall's criminal past. 

"Is this how we are going to have it, Vito?" Vi inquired, leaning back on her chair. "Remain silent?"

Vito chuckled softly. "I don't have to say anything. You'll have to talk to my lawyer."

Vi slammed her palm into the desk. Vito didn't even blink. Any other in his place would jump, considering the amount of power that was pressed against the furniture by the cop's gauntlets. "Listen here, you rat," Vi spat, leaning forward again, pointing a huge metallic finger to Randall's face. "I'm done with your little games. You're speaking and you are doing it right now!"

Vito remained unfazed, as if none of this were any of his concern. It seriously pissed Vi off. 

"As I told you before, you're only speaking with my lawyer. Until she arrives, there's nothing else to say."

Vi let out a frustrated sigh. "A'right, here's the deal pal. The entire of your gang has been arrested and they are soon to be transferred into Stormford and so are you. Most of your safe houses are being busted as we speak. Your 'business' is going to be exposed and there will be enough evidence to lock you up in prison for the remaining of your days. We only needed your confession about all those people you assassinated. Remaining silent only worsens your current position. So you'd better stat chanting, little bird."

"You're baffling. There's no way you've managed to get into all of my safe houses." It was the first time that Vito sounded somewhat nervous. 

"First step, denial. We've all been there. Accept your fate and confess your crimes." Vito didn't respond but Vi could tell he was nervous as he sweated a lot. "The faster you talk the smaller your conviction will be. It's simple, really."

"I'm not saying anything until my lawyer arrives," Vito insisted, regaining his confidence. 

Vi pressed her lips into a thin line. "Fine. Suit yourself."

Meanwhile, behind the glass window Caitlyn witnessed the entire interrogation skeptically. If this man refused to open up in front of a cop like Vi - who was most certainly somewhat terrifying - she wasn't sure if she'd manage to retrieve any information for Ezreal. Or maybe Vito Randall was just reluctant to confess his crimes. Talking about Ezreal was an entire different case. She watched as Vi packed her papers and exited the room to come and meet her. 

"As you noticed for yourself, he's not exactly the communicative type." Vi motioned at the man behind the glass. 

"I saw that. But let's see how he's going to behave to a new person while being intimidated."

"He's not intimidated." Vi frowned. "He's just nervous because there's a huge chance we might have finally put an end in his business for good. Anyways, not the point. Let's get this over with."

When the two of them entered the interrogation room again, Vito raised his eyes and made eye contact with Caitlyn. There was no emotion in his expression, however Caitlyn knew he was intrigued by her presence there. She and Vi sat on the two chairs opposite Randall. Herself had a couple of notes that she laid on the table. He kept staring at Caitlyn, now somewhat curiously. 

"I was wondering how you were able to track all the safe houses. Well, now I know for sure," Randall said, motioning at the Pulsefire. 

"Mr Randall, I got a couple of questions for you," Caitlyn began after taking a quick glance at her notes. 

"As I told your 'buddy' right there, I ain't saying anything without my lawyer."

"No need to get defensive. It's not about your undeniable criminal activities around Piltover," she assured him before drawing out a photo from her notes and showing it to Randall. "I would like you to tell me everything you know about this man."

Vito furrowed his brows. "What does he have to do with anything?"

"The Agency is after him and our police associates had information that Ezreal was somehow linked to you." Caitlyn placed the picture down. 

"And why should I care?"

"Because you're time in prison will be significantly reduced if you help us. Bonus if you confess your crimes."

Vito chuckled in amusement. "You and your friend right there are desperate." He pointed at Vi. 

"Not quite. We got ten hours to make you speak, lawyer or not." Caitlyn smiled but it wasn't genuine. It was probably more mischievous. "Oh, and something else. Vi from here might be patient but I am not. So my question here is-" Caitlyn leaned forward, her fingers intertwined. "-do you prefer the good cop or the bad cop?"

Another staring competition which Caitlyn was sure she'd win. Her piercing blue eyes were enough to scare off even the toughest of guys. 

"A'right, a'right." Vito backed off. "I'll tell you everything that I know about Ezreal."

"See? It wasn't so difficult." Caitlyn leaned back. 

Vito glared at her but didn't comment. "He came to me God knows how. I was hiding well then. The police was at my track once again. I realized he was a clever boy so I let him tell me what he needed from me. He needed someone to help him promote his findings into the black market or even in museums. Somehow, he knew I had associates that could do this job. At first, I didn't believe that he even had found artifacts valuable enough to go into the market but he proved me wrong in just our second meeting. Not gonna lie, I was impressed. So I did help him and we both had profit out of this business. In return, he owed me a favor which he paid off later when he worked as a cop. He was my snitch in the inside. His information was useful and helped me escape many times." Vi cursed under her breath. "Though he did lie to me a couple of times for reasons I failed to understand, but it didn't even matter because at the end of the day I got what I wanted; freedom."

"So you introduced Ezreal to the black market and in exchange he paid you back both in money and information?" Caitlyn asked. 

"That sums up what I just said, yeah." Vito nodded. "At first, I believed he was a real prodigy. He brought in artifacts that were thought to be lost  or artifacts that belonged to civilizations thought to be lost in time, buried deep in the ground. I didn't know how he retrieved them. He never told me. Whenever I asked, he dodged the question. But now I know. Your presence here confirms my suspicions." He pointed at Caitlyn. "He time traveled, didn't he? Is this why you are after him?"

"I'm asking the questions here," Caitlyn snapped. "When was the last time you saw him?"

Vito thought a little bit before answering. "I don't know, it's been a while. Probably two years ago? Before he disappeared, he told me he was on the verge of a very important discovery that would change the world. If you ask me, he sounded more like one of those psychotic scientists in those films."

"Yeah, well no one asked you." Vi interrupted. "Did he tell you what this discovery was?"

"No, he never did." Vito shook his head. "And then he disappeared without further notice. Haven't seen him ever since."

"Are you sure?" Caitlyn inquired, leaning forward. "Because I think you're lying, Mr Randall."

He looked surprised. "Why the fuck would I lie? Ezreal ditched me. I don't care if you catch him or not. He's dead to me and probably dead to the rest of the world soon enough."

Caitlyn suddenly slammed her hands onto the table, catching Vi off guard. She looked at her, surprise painted all over her face. What on earth was she doing? 

"You're lying," she hissed. "I know you met him a couple of weeks ago when he returned in Piltover, begging you to hide him from us. You refused, not wanting any trouble. And now you're here, lying to my face and talking about Ezreal like a traitor while you're the only traitor I see in this room."

Vito was shaking all over. It was the first time Vi ever saw him that terrified. Now he was truly intimidated. "How... How did you know that? He told me no one saw him, how could you possibly?-"

Caitlyn grinned in satisfaction but her smile had no humor in it. "I wasn't sure, it was a mere suspicion. I baffled. And you fell straight into my trap. Thank you, Mr Randall. Your statement will be useful."

"I didn't help him!" Vito panicked. "I swear to God, I didn't! I knew I was going to get into trouble for this son of a bitch!" He exclaimed in exasperation. "All I ever did wrong in my life was drugs, human trafficking and kill some people!" And then he bursted into tears. 

"And here's the confession," Vi announced. "I think our job here is done, agent."

"To that I agree, officer." Caitlyn nodded before standing up. "Now, if you excuse me." And with that she left the room. 

Vi picked up the crying Randall and returned him back to his permanent cell. In the way he kept moping 'Please, don't let them take me' and similar stuff that were completely nonsense. 

Vi rolled her eyes at him. "Relax, dude. The agency doesn't have authority on you. Don't think of yourself as someone special, you're just another common criminal," she told him before throwing him into the cell. 

What's gotten into him? 

She was wondering if Caitlyn was really that terrifying after all, so terrifying that she had scared Randall off. Or maybe the prospect of being arrested by the agency was. What the hell were they doing to their preps that made Randall shit his own pants? Speaking of which, she almost forgot that Caitlyn had stormed off and Vi still had questioned. She literally ran her way downstairs, hoping she'd catch up with the Pulsefire. Thankfully, she found her outside waiting for a cab to pick her up. 

"Hey," she managed to choke out, her voice coming out hoarse. "What the hell was all this about? How did you know Randall had seen Ezreal?"

"I spoke with some of his men before the interrogation. They weren't sure themselves but it got me suspicious." Caitlyn shrugged her shoulders. "So I decided to risk it and baffle, which worked wonderfully."

"Except for the part where you broke one of the most vicious criminals of the city." Vi pointed out. "Damn."

"I didn't do it on purpose," Caitlyn defended. 

"Yeah, well he started crying like a baby, begging not to be taken away by you. In all honesty, I don't understand why. No offense, but you aren't that scary."

"None taken," Caitlyn assured. "Look, it's probably some sort of rumor going around about us being ruthless with our perps. I wouldn't know, I've been gone too long. You should ask the others."

"I will at first chance." Vi smiled. Surprisingly, the agent returned the gesture even if it was imperceptible. 

"Not so aloof after all, huh?" She thought to herself. 

"I think that we'll need to interrogate him again." Caitlyn interrupted her train of thought. "Since he got indeed in touch with Ezreal in the first place, I'm convinced he might know where he went next."

"Will do." Vi nodded. "But this time I'll do it alone. You're going to freak him out and that's the last thing we need."

"Fine, I'll leave you up to it."

The cab arrived and put a stop right in front of Caitlyn, pulling over smoothly. The agent went over and opened the door but hesitated. She looked over the PROJECT cop, examining her with her piercing gaze. Vi wondered what was crossing her mind but Caitlyn would never reveal her thoughts that easily, especially to her. "I'll see you later," Caitlyn goodbyed before entering the taxi. Vi waved at her and waited until the cab was completely out of her sight. Even when it was gone, she stood there frozen, gazing into emptiness, lost in her little world until she snapped out of it. 

"What the hell am I doing standing here like an idiot?" She cursed herself under her breath before re-entering the building. 



Caitlyn arrived at the centrals of TPA a while later, both excited about her new discoveries and somewhat concerned about Randall's outburst. She might have not showed it to Vi but she was alerted. He had no reason to be so scared of being taken away so why did he panic like that? She shook her head. She didn't need more clouds in the already existing fog of her mind. Right now she needed to concentrate on what was important, which in that case was updating her team about the newest developments. 
She walked right through the main entrance and headed over the lifts. She was about to press the fifth floor button when she received a message. Curiously, she drew out of her pocket her phone and opened the message straight away:

Dear Pulsefire Agent Caitlyn,

Administrator Mr. Tithonus Cayton has requested your presence in his office as soon as you can.

Sincerely, 
Department of Communication,
TPA

Caitlyn furrowed her eyebrows. Tithonus calling her in his office was never a good sign, she had learned the hard way. Instead of pressing the fifth floor button, she went straight for the hundredth one, hoping there would be no delays on her way there. There were another fourth elevators available, they should be able to serve the building until she was done. Moments later, she found herself walking over the Administrator's office. She went under the typical check-up by the secretary before entering the enormous office. 

Tithonus Cayton wasn't alone. In fact, he was accompanied by a man dressed in black from head to toe. Himself acquired a darker skin so Caitlyn barely even noticed his presence in the room as he chose to stood in the dark. 

"Good evening, Mr Cayton," Caitlyn greeted, trying to avoid the man in black even though she had a feeling this meeting would be about him. "I came here as soon as I received your request."

"Good evening, Caitlyn," Tithonus greeted back without looking at her. He was too busy going through a pile of papers. "Please, have a seat."

Caitlyn did as she was told. As she sat, she took closer notice of the man. He wasn't part of the Agency, she was sure of that. Heck, she had never even seen him around there even though there were hundreds of employees hosted under the same building. But the chances of him belonging in the Agency were low. So who was he and who he worked for?

"I called you here for a matter of urgency," Tithonus placed his papers on his desk alongside his reading glasses. 

"Is it about the case, sir?" Caitlyn asked. 

"No, nothing like that. Don't worry about that, the Border is so far pleased with your progress so you shouldn't worry about that at all," He reassured her. "It's about another incident you were involved. This-" he pointed at the man. "-is Xavier McCarthy and he works for PROJECT Inc."

Now this was getting interesting. Caitlyn decided to act dumb. "Did I do anything that upset the corporation during the Runetteran Museum incident?"

"Aside from trying to shoot one of our traces, no," Xavier spoke and his heavy, dark voice was filled with sarcasm. 

Caitlyn huffed in annoyance. "Well, I didn't. I wouldn't say your trace was so unlucky. He killed four innocent people that were simply doing their jobs at the time and attempted to steal a valuable artifact. I think you should be concerned more about how your trace behaves rather than how I choose to do my job, Mr McCarthy."

McCarthy was about to respond accordingly but Tithonus interrupted. "Caitlyn, please. This is not about reprimanding you or anyone else." He glared at Xavier. "In fact, it's about asking for a favor."

"A favor?" Caitlyn arched her eyebrows, looking over at McCarthy. 

"The press doesn't know the truth about the Runetteran Museum incident and it shall remain that way," McCarthy explained simply. 

"So you want me to hide the truth about what happened? About how four people were killed in cold blood just because you have no control over your traces?" Caitlyn inquired, crossing her arms. An artery was bumping into McCarthy's bold black head. 

"We can't allow the city to know the truth. Panic will only lead to riot. And that's the last thing Piltover needs," McCarthy tried to explain without sounding infuriated but failed miserably due to the screeching of his teeth. "This is all about the general interest."

"Caitlyn please," her boss pleaded. "The company is working on fixing the problem. We shouldn't be a further burden to them."

Caitlyn considered telling him off and speaking her mind but that wasn't probably the wisest thing to do. Tithonus Cayton was her boss. Even if she didn't particularly agree with his tactics, it wasn't her place to argue with his decision. "Fine, I'll keep my mouth shut."

"Excellent!" Tithonus praised. "How about we celebrate our collaboration with a toast? I have some wine that answers to the occasion-"

That was too far even for Caitlyn. "I'd love to stay but I have some work to do, if you know excuse me, sir." And she stood up, ready to head over the door when her boss gave the signal. 

"Understandable. What about you, Mr McCarthy?"

"I'm sorry Mr Cayton but I have to return to PROJECT Inc." McCarthy turned down politely his invitation. 

"Well, that's too bad." Tithonus clapped his hands together. "Perhaps some other time, then."

"I'd love to, sir."

"Dismissed."

McCarthy held the door open for Caitlyn. She thanked him with a nod which he never returned. They walked over the elevator together in complete silence. Only when the doors were shut did McCarthy spoke. 

"Listen agent, I know this was just a little theatrical performance in front your boss. You might think yourself as an ethical agent or some sort of other bullshit, but I'm warning you. I don't mess around. If you speak about the incident to anyone else, your family won't live another day to watch the sun rise. Did I make myself clear?"

Caitlyn smiled. God, how many times had she smiled like that? She had lost count. "Joke's on you, Mr McCarthy. I don't have a family."

McCarthy wasn't taken aback. "You sure as hell have friends. Open your mouth and we'll harm everyone you love and care most about."

"Too bad for you because I'm a lone wolf." She turned and looked at him straight in the eyes. Blue met black and not even one flinched. The elevator came to a stop when it reached the fifth floor. "Have a nice evening, Mr McCarthy," were Caitlyn's last words before exiting. 

The doors closed behind her and she was released from McCarthy's gaze. As she walked casually towards her office, she struggled to put the turmoil of her thoughts into an order. There was no way she could talk about this with her squad but she knew one person she could discuss this about without risking their head. Surprisingly enough, it was a person she barely even knew. 

Vi. 

 

Chapter Text

Caitlyn returned back to their office/lab clearly struggling to keep her composure. The whole ordeal with Xavier McCarthy had really shook her core, which lead her realize the length of trouble she was into. She might not have a family or be a 'lonely wolf', as she claimed, but she couldn't endanger the crew's life. She was stuck in the middle of something that was far greater than her and the only person she could find closure to about the subject was that bloody cop who also happened to be a PROJECT trace. She had decided to trust her but going that far was unknown waters for her. But for now, she had to keep her mind of that, just for a little bit until she found out what to do. 

"What took you so long?" Shen asked when Caitlyn entered the room. 

"Cayton wanted to see me," she vaguely responded. 

Shen raised a brow. "About?"

"The case." Caitlyn took a chair. "So, I guess you'd like to know what we got out of Randall."

"To be honest with you, I don't really care if this rat lives or dies," Twisted Fate declared. "But do share."

"Right. So it seems that Vito knew Ezreal since a long time and they worked together. Vito promoted the kid to the black market and together they made money out of selling artifacts in the market and in museums," Caitlyn explained. "That before Ezreal suddenly disappeared two years ago, claiming that he was on the verge of a discovery that would change the world. When he returned in the city, he first seeked Randall's help but he declined."

"That's interesting," Shen mused. "But that doesn't tell us where he headed next."

"Correct. Vi will interrogate him again before they send him in Stormford, see what else she'll find."

"So, do you trust her enough to do that on her own?"

The question was made by Riven who was standing a little bit further away with arms crossed. She made eye contact with Caitlyn and all their previous tension built up again almost immediately. 

"Yes, I do," Caitlyn stated. "Do you got a problem with that?"

"Not a single one."

"Good."

But the undeniable tension remained in the air. Shen and Twisted Fate tried to ignore it but they were both very unsettled by the whole situation. Caitlyn debated with herself for either she should talk to Riven right now while the tension was strong or if she should leave it as it is and talk it through some other time. However she realized that if they refused to cooperate, this could harm the case and that was the last thing they needed. 

"Can I talk to you privately?" she requested eventually. Riven seemed to be caught off guard but didn't refuse. The two agents went to the back of the room away from their colleagues, getting the privacy they needed. 

"Get over with it," Riven said sharply, keeping her hands crossed. 

"I owe you an apology." Caitlyn's tone was stone-cold and anyone who didn't know her well enough would think she didn't mean it but for Riven that wasn't the case. "The way I behaved and treated you was inappropriate and unprofessional. I should have realized that sooner. I acted childish and completely unprofessionally with putting all the blame of Bellmoor on you three. I have a portion of responsibility in this situation as well and by no means should I be excused. I'm sorry for insulting you in every single way I have so far."

Riven was slightly taken aback. She probably hadn't expected such a brief apology from Caitlyn. Instead, she had probably expected another explosion. She shook her head, chuckling softly. 

"Apology accepted," she said eventually. "But I owe you an apology too. I was being harsh at you and said things I shouldn't have. I didn't consider how difficult it must have been for you." Riven offered her hand. "So uh... Are we cool?"

Caitlyn gazed down at the hand before she shook it. "Yes, we are 'cool'


, if you set it that way."

"Good. Cause we got a bad guy to catch." Riven grinned. 

 

"What a dejavu this is, huh?" 

They were back at it again. Vito Randall stuck in the interrogation room, handcuffed to the table and Vi standing opposite him, a satisfied smile playing on the corner of her lips.

"What do you want?" the man groaned. "I gave you all the information you needed."

"No, you didn't," Vi hissed. "The only thing you proved is that you're an untrustworthy piece of garbage."

"I'm a criminal, for fuck's sake. I don't know what you expected."

"It's worse when your lies are exposed, though." Vi took a seat. "Now, if you please let's get this over with quickly."

"She's not here, isn't see?" Vito looked around slightly nervous. 

"Who? Caitlyn? No, she isn't," Vi said. "But if you don't cooperate or lie again I'll make sure she's the next to interrogate you."

"No!" Vito exclaimed. "Please, whatever else you need except that!"

Vi wanted to laugh at his panic but decided against it. Instead, she asked; "Why are you so scared anyways? If you think of it, they're just time-traveling cops."

"If you had heard the rumors then you'd be scared for life too," Vito mumbled. Vi decided not to press the subject. That wasn't the point anyways. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table. 

"I need you to tell me everything you know about Ezreal. Everything."

"I pretty much did! What else do you want me to say?"

Vi slammed her palm on the table. "Ezreal didn't work only for you. Who were his buyers?"

"I can't tell you that."

"Yes, you can and you will. Start giving me names before I get pissed off."

Vito sighed. "Look, I don't know all of them, just a few. Most of them were museums or a couple of super wealthy guys like Mallory Sims, Nelson Hills, Charles Hensen, Norman Rose. Y'know, the typical Godfathers."

"Mallory Sims was murdered in prison, Nelson Hills was killed in a drive-by and Charles Hensen hung himself in prison," Vi informed him. "So you're just naming dead men. Not the type of information I asked you about."

"Yeah but what about Norman Rose? He's still alive, ain't he?" Vito was visibly sweating by now. 

"As far as I'm concerned, yes."

"I've met him once. He was one of his first customers," Vito said, now more eased. "His probably the most dangerous Godfather of them all. He's extremely rich and powerful and he paid quite the money for the artifacts he bought. As I said though, I've only met him once and I'm not sure if Ezreal contacted him ever again or if they were any close. That's all I know."

"Well, now we're getting somewhere." Vi smiled. "How do we find him?"

"Oh but you don't find Norman Rose. He finds you," Vito said. "But my advice is, don't mess with him. He was a large network of informants all around the city. He knows everything that happens. You can't approach him unless he wants to."

"And to think that you were impossible to catch," Vi joked. 

Vito let out a laugh. "Trust me, I'm nothing in front of those guys. I'm just the appetizer. They are the actual meal."

"That's an interesting way of describing it, I'll give you that," Vi praised. "I guess that will be all. Have a fun time in prison," she added while she stood up. 

"Are you so foolish to believe I'll remain alive to arrive in Stormford after talking to you about Norman Rose? Please!" Vito laughed wholeheartedly. "If I won't get murdered on the way there, the moment I set foot in Stormford I'll be a dead man."

Vi paused for a second, thinking. "We'll protect you then."

"I thought you were a clever cop, Vi. I mean, you managed to arrest me inside my own shot hole. Don't undermine yourself," Vito shook his head. "My job here is done. I've always been dispensable. Now that you've arrested me, it's over. It's been an honour, officer Vi." he motioned at her. 

"That's not the last time you've seen of me, Vito," Vi promised before heading out. 

He smiled. "I highly doubt that."

Vi exited with more questions than others. Her first move was to order extra protection on Randall but she failed to understand why he attempted to suicide by talking about this Norman Rose guy. Vito Randall had fought for his survival and freedom for so long and he suddenly gave it all up just like that. Was he that scared of the Timeline Protection Agency? She decided not to give it too much thought. She had stressed herself a lot lately and she needed to take it easy. She had decided to act upon this plan until she received a message from agent Caitlyn asking to meet her. Vi furrowed her brows. Why did she want to meet up all out of a sudden? Had something happened? Well, she couldn't just stand around and wait for the universe to give her the answers. As soon as she was done with her business at the precinct, she grabbed a cab and headed towards the coordinations Caitlyn had sent. 

The cab pulled over near the beach. Vi paid off and continued the journey by foot, looking for Caitlyn. She spotted her leaning against a small wall down of which the waves splashed with force. The colours of the sunset illuminated her face and Vi came with terms of how beautiful she actually was. It was the first time she had managed to appreciate her beauty after the first time they ever met. Vi coughed slightly to win her attention. The agent turned to look at her. 

"Hello, officer," she greeted and straighten her body up. 

"Evening, agent," Vi greeted back. "So, what's the emergency? Did you find anything else about Ezreal?"

"No, I was hoping that you would fill me in since you got the chance to interrogate Randall for the second time. But that's not why I called you here."

Vi furrowed her brows in confusion. "Then, what is it?" she asked. 

"It's about the Runetteran Museum incident," Caitlyn exclaimed. "When I returned to the TPA HQ, my boss called me in his office and introduced me to a man that works for PROJECT Inc."

Vi didn't like where this was going but she didn't interrupt her. "Yeah, and?"

"The company wants to keep the incident hidden from the public, or else there will be severe consequences, according to Mr McCarthy. I was wondering if you were treated similarly?"

"Kind of," Vi grimaced. "What basically happened was that my boss called me in and told me to keep my mouth shut about what happened or else he'd fired me and turned me into a trash can." she laughed at the last part. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because it's eating me alive and you're the only one I can talk about it without putting your life in danger."

"Because it already is, am I right?"

"Because you already know the events but I guess that's also true." Caitlyn sighed. "I'm not worrying much about myself for I've got nothing to lose. I'm more concerned about my crew. I don't want them to get in the middle of it when it's not their fault and at the same time I can't protect them either."

Vi understood that Caitlyn was lying about the 'got nothing to lose' part when she started talking about her team. She was secretly scared that something bad would happen to them because of her. 

"I'm glad you came to talk to me instead of sharing with someone else. That would be dangerous."

"Please, I'm not a child," Caitlyn huffed. 

"If you want to protect them then it's better not to talk about the incident. I know it's difficult, I mean four people died after all. But more will be added to that if we won't be cautious."

"You're right," Caitlyn agreed. "Thanks for listening to me. It was kind of important to me."

"Anytime." 

They smiled at each other. That was probably the first actually bonding session they ever shared and it was actually pretty nice even none of them would admit it openly. 

"How about you feel me in about your findings from our friend, Mr Randall?" Caitlyn asked eventually. 

"Right. So according to him, Ezreal had connections with Godfathers. Most of them are dead already but the most dangerous among them is still out there and he's our only lead."

"Who is this guy?"

Vi shook her head. "I'm afraid I can't give you a name here or I'll put us both in grave danger."

"I get it," Caitlyn nodded. This was the mafia they were talking about. 

"Thing is, there's no way we will be able to track him down. He's not anything like Vito. To quote him, we don't find him but he finds us."

"That doesn't sound good for us," Caitlyn grimaced. "Isn't there any way to track him down?"

Vi shook her head no. "We can't but I know someone who can."

"Like a headhunter?"

"You could call it that."

Chapter Text

Piltover fell in a deep sleep when the moon rose in the sky. Seemingly there were no signs of life for most citizens had withdrawn back in the safety of their apartments. The sprawling city gave vibes of a ghost town, but if you'd pay closer attention you'd realize it really wasn't. 

Darkness had always been Shauna Vayne's best friend. For as long as she could remember, she always worked in the dark. Nowadays the dark veil of night was her primal protector from her enemies. Vayne could always feel safe when she was hidden in the dark. 

Tonight it wasn't the case. 

She wondered why she was even doing this. She was being yet another pawn for G/NETIC's games, willingly or not. It all started as a favor for Vi, but Vayne was well aware that the cop wouldn't be asking her something so extreme if it wasn't involved with Ezreal's case. She tried to remind herself why she had agreed on searching for one of the most dangerous Godfathers the city had ever had. 

The search hadn't been very fruitful at first. Norman Rose was basically a ghost man, but so was Vito Randall, according to Vi, and yet he had been caught. The cop was determined Vayne could find him. She wasn't wrong. It had took her awhile but the Night Haunter had indeed managed to locate Norman Rose's whereabouts. The rat was hiding outside Piltover, far away and hidden from civilization, living in luxury. Not that Vayne had expected anything less from a criminal of his size. 

Tonight Vayne had managed to come closer than she had ever been to his manor. It hadn't been easy. The entire area was heavily guarded not only by humans but also from Programs; a very specific design of robots called “Camille”. Camille was mainly an assassin but she could play the bodyguard role just as effectively. A real thorn in Vayne's sides. She was the main reason why she couldn't approach the manor in the first place. Surprisingly, Camille was nowhere to be found tonight, which was odd, but gave Vayne the opportunity she was looking for and she had jumped straight at it. 

Her enhanced vision allowed her to inspect the security around the place. After a week of doing so, she knew which places to avoid and which places served as good hiding places if she wanted to come any closer. She still wasn't sure how exactly she'd enter the building since there were a lot of things that could go wrong. However, Camille's absence gave her the right opportunity even if it meant risking everything. She couldn't tell when she was going to get another chance like this. Vayne was cautious enough not to play around with her luck. 

Tonight was the night. 

The manor was surrounded by a huge wall, up to four meters high. The wall wasn't even close to being one of Vayne's main problems. She could easily jump over it. The issues began after the wall. The yard was huge, filled with armed guards. The only thing that could offer some protection was the extensive presence of plants in the garden, especially that fence made out of bushes that lead towards the main entrance and sprawled all around the yard, creating a sort of labyrinth, and her ability to turn invisible for a brief moment. It was risky and the chances of getting caught were high, but Vayne was sure she wouldn't get another opportunity like that. She decided to proceed with the plan. 

As predicted, the wall wasn't much of a big deal for someone like Vayne. Any other human being wouldn't be able to jump as high as she did and grab onto the edge of the three meter wall, pull themselves up and roll over the other side silently. She drew her crossbow and remained on the alert as she walked around crouching. All of her senses were on the alert as she slowly approached the massive building. Once again, her enhanced vision assisted her in locating all of the guards and avoiding them as much as possible. She wouldn't want to bump into someone and have to kill him. Even this could create a bigger fuss than necessary and ultimately would lead to her being discovered. As she came closer to the manor, the number of guards increased significantly. Vayne was obligated to use her special power to pass through them successfully. Her invisibility was such a great gift, her creators wouldn't even realize. Eventually, she managed to come close to the building without being detected so far. The next obstacle she had to overcome was breaking inside the manor, which seemed like a piece of cake after Vayne crossing the entire yard undetected. She looked for a back door that she could go through or perhaps even an open window, but that was as far as her luck went. Her only option was to break into through a window and it had to be quick. She glanced behind her back to check if anyone had noticed her presence, but none of the guards seemed to had actually done such a thing. Then, she quickly picked up a small hexetech device out of her pocket and installed it on the window before her. It took only several seconds before Vayne heard the characteristic sound of a window being unlocked. She pushed the window open up to a point were she could barely fit in and slipped inside. 

She found herself in a long corridor, covered in a thick red carpet that muffled her footsteps. Vayne slowly closed the window and proceeded with great cautiousness. Her invisibility was down and would need some time to recharge until she would be able to use it again. Until then, she was completely exposed and vulnerable. She ran a quick scan around the building and realized there were more guards here and there alongside the stuff that worked for Norman Rose. Still no sign of Camille. So far so good. 

Vayne's primary mission was to locate Norman's office where it was sure he stocked all his files and consequently any information concerning Ezreal. She had to retrieve them and disappear as soon as she could. But the manor seemed to acquire too many rooms to search them all in one night, so she'd had to take her chances. She couldn't know where the office was but was prone to find out. She moved carefully towards the far end of the corridor, silently praising Norman for his choices in carpets. There were numerous paintings hanging on the walls all the way down the corridor alongside other expensive decorations. Vayne wondered if any of those had been sold by Ezreal himself. It was a possibility. 

The corridor ended in a door. Vayne ran a scan again. The door lead onto the main hall and therefore the grand staircase that lead to the upper floors. The place was also guarded. There was no way she could just walk inside and head upstairs. She'd either have to take the guards down or find another way. She looked back. There was another door at the other end that she hadn't noticed before. According to her analysis there was another pair of stairs that was probably used by the stuff to navigate around the building. Exactly what she needed. She headed back quickly and disappeared behind the door. She kept her guard up, for there was a chance someone to show up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Thankfully, she met no soul until she arrived upstairs where she presumed it was the second floor. She ran a quick scan again for guards. This time she'd had no choice but to take them out, quickly and quietly. Much to her surprise, the second floor was empty. There weren't any guards, which was odd to say the least. Was Norman foolish enough to believe that no one would go as far as to reaching the second floor without being noticed? It was possible, considering the amount of guards in the garden and on the lower floors. Despite this, Vayne remained cautious. She pressed the door open slowly and slipped inside the corridor. 

Another scan showed people inside a few rooms. They weren't guards but Vayne definitely didn't want to come across them at any cost. She moved quickly. There was another door ahead but she decided against crossing it. One of the rooms she passed by could be the office she was looking for. She needed to find a way to search without being spotted. 

Before she even had a chance to form a plan, she felt something sharp coming for her back. If she was a normal human being, she would already been stabbed. But since she was a PROJECT, her senses were enhanced, which gave her the ability to dodge. She rolled onto the carpet and immediately span around, aiming her crossbow at the upcoming enemy. Despite the fact that her senses were sharpened, she did not see that one coming. Camille hadn't been discouraged by her failure to backstab Vayne and was already half way through her next attack, launching herself at the PROJECT trace using her ropes. Vayne tried to push her back with her crossbow but it was already too late and soon her consciousness abandoned her...



Vayne didn't know for how long she had been out. The only thing she knew was that in all her existence she had never experienced such an intense physical pain. Her vision was slightly blurry but it was slowly coming around. She realized she was tied down on a chair and behind her stood Camille, ready to slice her throat open if she even attempted to escape. Not that Vayne had any chance of breaking the chains that pinned her down anyways. She was anything but foolish. Besides, even if she did manage to break the chains there were four heavily armed men standing at the corner of the dark. room. She couldn't see them but she could feel their presence and hear their steady breathing. The only source of light was a LED bulb aimed at her. The room was more like a humid basement as far as Vayne could tell. Where the hell was she? Was she even any near the Rose manor anymore? For the first time in forever, she felt panic emerging. 

"Looks like our birdy is awake."

The voice belonged to a man, not one of those standing on the corners of the basement though. Despite the darkness, Vayne watched him as he approached the circle of light surrounding her and eventually emerged from the shadows. He was tall and imposing, dressed into a dark red suit in contrast with his jet black hair and moustache. His green eyes sparkled under the light as he studied his capture in utter satisfaction. 

"What do we have here?" he asked no one in particular as he walked around the tied up Vayne, examining her from all perspectives. "I thought Camille was mistaken, but I should've known better. A PROJECT trace. That's not something you see everyday."

Vayne barely suppressed a growl. Norman Rose touched her gently with his delicate fingers but she sincerely wished he didn't; it unsettled her. 

"What are you doing so far away from home?" Norman inquired. "Why did PROJECT Inc. send you here?"

This time Vayne wasn't capable of withholding a snort. "I'm not here by their request, I assure you of that."

"Then who do you work for?"

Vayne paused. "No one," she said eventually. 

"A loose PROJECT trace? Now, that's getting even more interesting," Norman said as he stood in front of her. "I'm convinced you were seeking for information that you could of use for your advantage, am I right?"

Vayne refused to answer. This was clearly an interrogation, but she wasn't planning on revealing more information than necessary. Her panic started ceasing. She knew he wouldn't kill her, not yet anyways. And there weren't many ways of torturing a PROJECT. 

"What happened? Did you swallow your tongue?" Norman joked. "Well, that's too bad then. In that case I'll have to kill you eventually, considering you're pretty much useless to me."

Vayne remained stoic. "You're not planning on killing me. You're not foolish enough for this."

Norman smiled. "A clever one, aren't you? Yes, you're correct. I can make good use of you if I find who send you here and for what purpose."

"Try as you must. I'm not talking."

Norman frowned. "We won't get anywhere like that. Perhaps Camille could help you talk."

As of instinct, the program appeared from the shadows, revealing it's sharp blades. Vayne was still not intimidated. This was her game and they were going to play by her rules. 

"Death does not scare me, especially while knowing it won't serve anyone but me," she responded coldly. "Maybe you should try to step up your game, Norman."

He tilted his head to the side, examining her like a child discovering something new for the first time. Vayne felt slightly irritated by his behavior. In his eyes she was a mere toy. 

"That's the first time someone has told me they're not scared of death," he admitted. "I'm impressed. Though I shouldn't be surprised, considering you are Shauna Vayne."

Vayne clenched her jaw. How on Earth did he even know her full name? Vi did mention he was dangerous and held a lot of information around the city but she couldn't imagine he'd go as far as doing research on PROJECT initiatives. What purpose did that serve? 

"What? Surprised I know who you are?" he chuckled, mocking her. "Oh trust me, Shauna." He touched her chin. "I know more about you than you'll ever know."

Vayne jerked her head away. "Don't touch me," she hissed. 

"You asked me to step up my game and I always like a good challenge, so here's the deal." He smirked devilishly. "In exchange for the information I asked you before, I'll reveal all your past. I'm sure you're dying to know."

Tempting as it was, Vayne wasn't distracted. She knew this was part of his game, but she wouldn't break. She'd always been curious about her life before PROJECT but she'd never go as far as to betray Vi, especially for selfish purposes. However, the overwhelming feeling that took over her nerves was enough to set her off. Under other conditions, her face would betray her turmoil. Thankfully, it didn't, but it didn't prevent her from being upset. 

"Oh come on, Shauna." He faked a disapproving tone. "Don't you want to know who you are?" He began walking around her. Vayne refused to follow him with her gaze. "About your family? About your home? Your career? Your lover?"

Vayne cringed. How did he have access to this type of information in the first place? She was convinced that her personal data was sealed somewhere in the PROJECT Inc. Headquarters. Either this guy had infiltrated everywhere or something else was going on. He came to a halt in front of her again. 

"It's alright, you don't have to answer right now," he assured. "I'll give you twenty four hours to decide. But remember this-" He brought his face close to her. "-you're still a little machine under my mercy. This is your last chance to speak." And he spat at her face before storming off in the darkness. Vayne heard a door opening and the closing again, allowing the silence to become deafening. 

She found herself in a dilemma. There was absolutely no chance of ditching Vi, but on the other hand, she didn't really have much of a choice. If Norman got pissed with her eventually, he'd allow Camille to kill her off. She needed help from the outside, but she doubted if her coordinations application would be able to locate her down here. And even if miraculously this happened, who would she call? Vi was out of the question but she didn't really have any other acquaintances willing to risk their lives for her either. Her last option would be G/NETIC and she'd rather let herself get killed before asking for help from them. Though, her death wouldn't benefit anyone, she preferred dying in vein but in dignity rather  than being saved by those arrogant idiots. 

Just a helping hand in case you need it. 

Vayne frowned. She couldn't understand why this particular statement popped up inside her head, especially knowing who had spoken said words. She still didn't like the idea but Fiora seemed be a far better option than alerting the entire 
G/NETIC gang. She grimaced, displeased with herself. When did she become attached and dependent on others? First it was Vi, now it was Fiora, who also happened to be part of Ashe's despicable group. What her life had come to? She laid herself back, starting the locating progress without anyone realizing it. Camille was a Program but she wasn't designed to be able to make this type of analysis on other machines so she couldn't know what Vayne was doing. The guards couldn't know either. Vayne only prayed on Lady Luck to be on her side for this one because she would need all the luck she could get to get out of this alive. 

Chapter Text

Vayne remained tied in that basement for the next twenty hours without any signs of help coming at her rescue. As time passed by, she was growing more and more desperate. It wasn't like she couldn't break free and run for her life, it was that if she did, then all this would go completely in vain. In order to accomplish this mission, she needed outside help. Help that didn't seem to be coming, which was only rendering her nervous as the hours passed in a torturing pace. 

She had made the calculations over and over again. She could take all the guards out of the way swiftly and quietly but her major problem was Camille. The Program had already managed to capture her once and Vayne was sure it wouldn't hesitate to kill if it came to that. And dying right now by a Program would be such a great waste for her. On the other hand, she suspected Norman would try to torture her to get information before handing her out to PROJECT Inc. if he was a clever guy. And there was no doubt that he wasn't. This was the last thing Vayne wanted so she had to take action. She had to fight her way out.

She decided that she would deal with the guards first. It would be easier and faster. Then she'd deal with Camille. She needed to figure out a way to stay away from her sharpened legs that reminded of scissors. It was a miracle how it could even stand in the first place. Without her crossbow it was almost impossible to defeat the Program. Perhaps she could delay it somehow and then run off. Fighting head to head wasn't ideal in this particular situation. So, she waited like a predator awaits for their prey. She still got another four hours ahead of her and patience was always awarding. 

The basement remained dark and quiet, with the only lights being on Vayne. However, this wasn't a problem for her, acquiring that enhanced vision that differentiated her from common humans. She could see the guards' figures as well as she could had seen them in the daylight. They were armed but this wouldn't be a problem for her if she was quick enough. 

A knock came on the metal door that separated the basement from the rest of the world which startled the guards, peaking Vayne's curiosity. They probably weren't expecting any visitors down here, taking into consideration the orders their boss had given. Camille, however, kept her gaze locked on Vayne. The guards shared confused looks with one another until one of them found the guts to approach the door. He peeked over his shoulders at his companions, asking for consent to do so. They nodded in approval, remaining on alert with their guns ready. 

“Who's there?” The guard asked at the door but received no response. “I'm warning you, I'm armed and I won't hesitate to shoot.”

Still no response. Then, the guard opened the door slowly, preparing himself to shoot but he was too slow for the upcoming blade that slushed through him. It was so quick that it could easily been missed by an untrained eye, like those of the guards’, who hadn't at first understood that their partner was already dead. Only Camille did, but even her response time was too slow for the swift pink-neon blade that burst through the basement, slushing through the rest of the guards swiftly. Only the last of them made a desperate attempt to survive, shooting at nothing more than the floor before he dropped dead. The blade's next target was Camille who wouldn't be as easy as the guards.

The Program attacked the dueler, trying to cut her throat open with her sharp legs, but the only thing she managed to do was to clash with the blade. She tried again but Fiora blocked. The dance of blades continued on for a while until the PROJECT finally got through Camille's guard and thrust her blade across the Program's chest, putting an end to its functioning and allowing to fall lifelessly on the ground. Fiora withdrew her blade and gazed over at the tied up Vayne. 

“Took you long enough,” The Night Hunter spoke first. 

“My apologies. It was slightly difficult to determine the coordinates I received. Plus, it took me a while to discover this basement,” Fiora responded casually as she walked over her. The chains that kept Vayne tied down on the chair fell groggily to the ground with a simple hit by Fiora. Vayne stood up, rubbing her wrists. 

“Thank you,” she expressed her gratitude, rubbing her wrists. 

“Thought you'd need this,” Fiora said, handing Vayne her crossbow. The Night Hunter didn't even question where she had retrieved it from. She only gave her a nod as she strapped her weapon on her back before studying Camille. 

“Impressive,” Vayne praised. “Myself couldn't have dealt with her, at least not with such ease.”

“It wasn't much of a deal, considering she was caught off guard,” Fiora shrugged it off. “Come on, let's get out of here before more company arrives at the spot.”

“We can't leave just yet. There are some files I need to retrieve first. If I don't get them, all this would be for nothing.”

Fiora sighed in frustration. “You coming here alone was madness on its own and now you want to expand your stay?”

“It's not like I have a choice,” Vayne deadpanned. “The more we just stand here arguing the more time we lose.”

“Why are you doing this?” Fiora questioned. 

Vayne raised a brow. “I'm doing this as a favor for Vi. Didn't you know?”

Fiora shook her head no. “I had no clue. We haven't contacted her in a while. Ashe believes she is handling the situation just fine.”

“That doesn't mean she can't use a helping hand and so can't I,” Vayne said. “I called you here for a reason, didn't I?”

“I bet you did.”

“Good. Stop asking so many questions and being a waste of breath.”

Fiora let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine. Where are the files you're looking for located?”

Vayne was pleased that Fiora went straight into the point. “I suspect they are stored somewhere in Norman's office.”

“There's no possible way we can get there without making a fuss.”

“We don't have a choice then. We'll make a fuss.”

“This is reckless.”

“Do you think I don't know that already?”

Fiora eyed Vayne for a brief moment. “Fine. Let's do it then.”

They rushed to exit the basement and climb the stairs that lead back to the mansion. They met no other soul, for Fiora had taken care of everyone on her way down there. Vayne couldn't deny to herself that she was impressed. It wasn't just one guard or two, it was ten. And she had brought them down all on her own. Impressive, really. When they finally returned to the main building, they came across the two guards that were guarding the grand staircase. However, their response times were just too slow for the two PROJECTS, so Vayne and Fiora passed through without much resistance. The first floor was completely empty and they passed through without any problems and they kept climbing the stairs. Until they bumped into someone that definitely wasn't a guard. The woman noticed their unusual presence and paled. She tried to run off but Vayne was faster. She grabbed her and brought her to the side wall, making sure to cover her mouth to muffle her panicked screams. 

“We won't do you any harm,” Vayne assured her as the woman struggled under her. She never hesitated to kill but she didn't enjoy murdering innocents that happened to be in her way, just like this servant. “Tell us where Norman's office is and we'll let you go.”

“Third floor, second door on the left,” the woman breathed, fear evident in her brown eyes.

“Keep quiet about it and you'll survive,” Vayne let her go with a warning. The woman stormed off downstairs, obviously upset but at least she wasn't screaming for help. 

“You scared the shit out of her,” Fiora pointed out. 

“No time for regrets. Let's get going,” Vayne motioned as she was already a couple of steps ahead of Fiora. The other PROJECT followed swiftly behind her. 

So far they hadn't had much trouble moving around the house. However, that wasn't the case with the third floor where Norman's office was located. There were at least five of his men guarding the floor but Vayne and Fiora did not have a chance to hesitate in front of the five armed men. With Vayne's crossbow and Fiora's sharp blade, they got the guards out of the way before heading to Norman's office where the servant had instructed them. Vayne put her hand on the handle but she was abruptly stopped by Fiora's grisp. 

“What?” She asked in annoyance. Honestly, Fiora was triggering so many emotions in Vayne - not necessarily pleasant - and she wasn't sure if she liked this or not. 

“We haven't seen Norman in a while. How can we be sure this isn't a trap set by him?” Fiora inquired.

Vayne ran a quick scan. “No one’s in there. Let’s get over this quickly.” Fiora simply nodded.

The door screeched as it was pushed open. The two deviants creeped inside the dark room and closed the door behind them. Vayne looked out for a switch to turn on the lights. When they were switched on, they illuminated a serious office consisting of an oak desk, a huge library on the left and several drawers on the right.

“What should I be looking for?” Fiora asked. Vayne had already made her way over the first drawer and started searching.

“Everything connected to-”

“To what?”

Vayne immediately span around at the male voice, her crossbow aiming at Norman Rose who held a sharp blade on the base of Fiora's neck. 

“I would lower this down if I were you,” Norman warned, motioning at Vayne's crossbow. “Wouldn't want my friend to have their throat slit open.”

“Don't listen to him,” Fiora breathed, resulting in Norman pressing harden the weapon against her neck. 

“Haven't you been programmed not to talk during hostage situations?” he inquired. “Hm, you must be a faulty one then. Yet again, aren't the lot of you?”

Vayne cringed at his words but didn't respond. “Release her,” she demanded. 

“Not until you answer my questions,” Norman insisted. “Why would you bother to come here and get into so much trouble just to gain access to a couple of files? And what files do I acquire that interest you that much?”

Vayne glared at him, still not responding. This was a very dangerous situation and they were currently walking onto a thin line. She needed to be extra careful about her next moves. 

“What happened? Cat got your tongue?” Norman spoke again. “Perhaps if I kill your friend on the spot, you'll start speaking. But what am I even saying? You're machines, you don't have feelings and you most certainly don't form friendships. So what difference would it make if I kill this one right now?”

Vayne clenched her jaw. “You know absolutely nothing about us.”

Norman laughed. “I already told you, Shauna. I know everything about your past. I know everything about her past.” He motioned at Fiora who was struggling against his grip. 

“Quite frankly, I don't give two shits about my so called past,” Vayne spat. “Do me the favor and stop trying to bring it up?”

“So you're not here looking for your past?” Norman raised a brow. “Aren't you curious?”

“Not in the slightest.”

“Interesting…” he hummed. “Well, if that's the case, you wouldn't give 'two shits' if I killed your partner in crime, right? Unless you want me who you're working for.”

“Vayne, don't,” Fiora pleaded. “Don't give him what he wants.”

“Shut up,” he hissed but this split second was time enough for Vayne. Norman though seemed to have predicted it so he let go off Fiora and dodged Vayne's shot that lodged on the wall where previously his head stood. In the meantime, Fiora had moved out of the way and was clenching her blade hiding Vayne behind her back, realising that the Night Haunter didn't stand a chance in close combat. 

“Adorable,” Norman commented. “Perhaps I was partially wrong about you not having feelings.”

“Stay behind me,” the dueler whispered. Vayne felt irritated. She might have been at a disadvantage there but that didn't mean she couldn't handle herself or fight against this man. After all, it was two against one. Norman smirked. 

“The situation isn't really in my favor,” he spoke. “So, let's make a deal.”

“What deal?” Fiora asked, gripping her blade. 

“A duel, you and me.” He motioned first at himself then at Fiora. “If you win the duel, you take all the files you need and leave my mansion without making a further effort. But if I win the duel, then you'll do as I tell you, including answering my questions.” 

Vayne considered the offer. It was something legit, though she knew they couldn't trust him. He was trying to make game with his own rules which was what she didn't like at all. On the other hand, this was their only chance of getting access to Ezreal's files and, at this point, they didn't seem to have another option. Fiora eyed her, asking her opinion. Vayne simply nodded in approval. 

“You've got yourself a deal,” Fiora said. 

“Excellent!” He exclaimed like a child receiving a new gift for Christmas. “Now dueler, choose your weapon!”

Vayne rolled her eyes as she stepped back. She wasn't enjoying his theatrics and Fiora didn't seem to like them either as she clenched her blade. 

“The first to disarm the other wins. Fair and square,” Norman declared, taking position. Fiora did as well, lowering her knees and keeping her left hand behind her back, her blade not over the height of her shoulder. The positioning of their bodies wasn't random, Vayne concluded, even though she knew little to nothing about sparring. But if she had to make a guess, Fiora seemed to be natural at this. Her position was a lot more stable than Norman's. Perhaps it helped the fact that she was a PROJECT. Or maybe she was just that good at it. 

The blades clashed, making a characteristic piercing noise. They did again and again as their owners moved around in circles, trying to disarm each other. Norman was far than just a decent dueler and he was doing well, but he was no match for Fiora, for the simple reason she was superior. She moved gracefully, like she was dancing and not like fighting. Her moves were swift and precise and it was like nothing Vayne had ever witnessed. Fiora wasn't just a dueler. She was an artist with a sword, Vayne concluded. She felt herself being mesmerized by her movements until the moment was interrupted by Norman's blade falling to the ground and Fiora having the point of her blade near his neck. 

“Game over, Norman,” she hissed in her accent. 

He didn't seem to be thrown off by his defeat. In fact, he looked pleased. Vayne frowned at his smirk. There was something odd. 

“Of course. I couldn't expect to win against you,” he chuckled softly. 

“Then why did you challenge me?” Fiora inquired. 

“To see for myself if the rumors were true.” He shrugged his shoulders. “To see if the Grand Dueler had indeed turned into a machine-”

The Grand Dueler… 

Why did that sound familiar? 

He never got the chance to finish his sentence as Fiora swang the base of her blade over his head, knocking him out. Vayne had been scared for a moment that she had slashed through him but then she noticed him falling unconscious to the ground. 

“What the hell did you do that for?” Vayne asked. 

“I don't know,” Fiora sounded unsure. “I guess he annoyed me.”

Annoyance. At least, this was a common feeling they both could feel. That was something. 

“Let's find what we came here from and leave. We've already wasted enough time.”

Fiora simply nodded and went over to search around Norman's desk while Vayne returned to the drawers. She wondered why would Norman keep paper files in the era they were living and her only guess was that he didn't want to risk his files getting hacked. However, her search inside the drawers was fruitless; there was nothing on Ezreal there. Frustrated, Vayne turned to Fiora. 

“I didn't find the files but I did find his laptop,” the dueler said, placing the device onto the wooden piece of furniture. 

“Good job,” Vayne praised as she walked over and opened it. Hacking it wouldn't be a problem but they were still not sure if Norman had any files on Ezreal stored in the laptop. But they couldn't know if they didn't try first. As predicted, hacking inside the system was a piece of cake. Going through Norman's files though was hell, especially because they were just too many. But after a while, Vayne found what she was looking for and transferred the data into a drive. 

“Let's go,” she said but her voice was muffled by the shouts coming from downstairs. Fiora looked outside the window. 

“The guards are coming. Someone must have told them their boss is in trouble,” she said as she noticed the men that were guardian the garden rushing inside. Vayne's first instinct move was to lock the office door. “What are we going to do?” Fiora asked. 

Vayne didn't respond. She opened the window discreetly and then pressed a button on her belt. A wire appeared and she applied it onto the window sill. 

“Do you trust me enough for this?” She looked over the other PROJECT, who had probably understood what her plan was, even if it was complete madness. 

Fiora didn't hesitate. “I do.”

“Good. Come over here,” Vayne instructed as she swung her leg over the still and then the other so she could sit on it. Fiora mimicked her. “Hold on to me,” Vayne ordered and Fiora did as she was told, wrapping her arms around Vayne tightly. The next moment Vayne pushed herself over the sill, seemingly plummeting down straight into their deaths. But as they fell, the wire unwrapped itself until they reached the height of the first floor where the wire ended, leaving them hovering over the ground. Vayne unclipped it and the two PROJECTS landed on a bunch of bushes unharmed. They looked around but most the guards had rushed inside, leaving the garden open. They rushed to the wall on the far side and easily jumped on the other side, landing straight onto the side road. Vayne summoned her bike Fiora climbed behind her, wrapping her arms once again around Vayne. The latter didn't seem to mind and she drove off back to the city. 

Vayne dropped Fiora off near the old harbor where she could return back to her hideout safely. 

“Thanks for the ride,” the dueler thanked her as she dismounted the bike. 

“Thank you for coming to help me,” Vayne deadpanned. “I keep wondering, how did you manage to get to Norman's mansion?”

“I might or might have not stolen a vehicle for this,” Fiora responded. “What? You thought I came all the way on foot?”

“Highly doubtful.” Vayne shook her head. “Do your friends know where you are?”

Fiora shrugged her shoulders. “They assume I'm out on patrol.”

Of course. Why would Ashe ever send Fiora on her rescue willingly? Her and Vayne weren't exactly in good terms. Fiora had helped her under her own initiative but to go as far to lie? Vayne most certainly did not expect that. She studied the dueler. The previous posture she held during her duel with Norman was long gone. She seemed… upset? Bothered? She wasn't sure of the term that fit the situation. Was her place to ask?

“Are you alright? You seem… I don't know, slightly off.”

“It's nothing,” Fiora tried to shrug her off. 

“You've been like that since the duel. I could bet it has to do with something Norman said,” Vayne pointed out very correctly. 

Fiora sighed. “I know he's a Godfather and he's dangerous but come to think of it, he seems to know a lot about our pasts, maybe more than he lets on.”

“He was baffling, Fiora. There's no way this man knows anything about our previous lives. He tried to use that card on me too.”

“I don't think he was lying, Vayne. That's exactly the problem,” Fiora snapped. “Grand Dueler was a name I apparently went by before I became a PROJECT. Not many people remember the name, which only means he knows something.”

“Why do you care so much about the past?” Vayne inquired. 

“Why don't you? Don't you want to know who you were before all this started?”

“At this point, I don't think it even matters anymore who I was. Only thing that matters is who I am now. You didn't answer my question.”

Fiora eyed her carefully. “Perhaps because I want to know who the real me is. Because this-” She pointed at herself. “-is nothing more than a façade, a mask if you wish. This is not who I am. This is what others made me be.”

She had a point, a strong one that is. Vayne understood and it was scary how much she did. Her own past was haunting her - not the one before becoming PROJECT - and learning about it was a difficult and scary path. She wanted to say something reassuring but she wasn't any good at emotions. 

“If you want to find the truth, you can't believe every random criminal that claims to know it,” Vayne advised. “You have to find out by yourself.”

“I've tried but it's a dead end. It seems like my previous past has been erased from this world,” Fiora expressed her sadness and frustration. 

“You're right. Maybe you'll never find out but the past belongs in the past for a reason and maybe that's for the best. Maybe you should just focus on what you make now.”

Fiora remained silent for a little bit. “Thank you,” she blurted out eventually. 

“Don't mention it,” Vayne responded and unconsciously a small smile appeared on her lips. Why? Why now? For what purpose? She didn't understand but when Fiora smiled back she decided she didn't care. She drove off, leaving the other PROJECT behind. 

Chapter Text

The rain poured down on the city of Piltover with enough force to clean the dirt off the streets and at the same time creating the familiar mist that embraced the city whenever the weather worsened like that. It was exceptionally chilly and humid at the same time, normal conditions for mid October. Caitlyn walked down the wet street, her sniper rifle strapped to her shoulder. Normally, she wouldn't go "hunting" in such conditions as the fog was her enemy, her being a sniper and everything that went along those lines. The reason behind her presence outside the warmth and protection of the TPA headquarters was far more important that being afraid to catch a cold or not being able to shoot at her target, if the circumstances allowed such possibility to happen. She had received a call that made her know that the information she needed about Ezreal had been acquired. Vi had stayed true to her word, which shouldn't be so surprising for anyone that knew her well. Caitlyn couldn't categorize herself as such. The PROJECT cop was like nothing she had ever encountered through her countless years of time traveling back and forth. She had yet to figure out what Vi really was, a human or just a mere machine? Her very first assumption was that she was just another result of technology's latest advances, but she was proven very much wrong. Her body screamed machine, but her actions claimed otherwise. Never judge a book by its cover, they say. 

And Vi was an intriguing book, to say the least. 

Caitlyn found herself being curious, which was something that left her bewildered. Since the Runeterran Museum incident, when Vi had pretty much saved her life while having zero indebtedness towards her, she had caught herself contemplating about Vi more than once. The PROJECT was a mystery that needed to be solved, because Caitlyn was thirsty for answers. Not only to pleasure her human curiosity, but for more practical reasons, like how she should behave and treat Vi. Up to this day, she wasn't exactly sure, even now that she was heading to meet her again after their last encounter that had been only a week ago. She hadn't heard from the cop ever since and this was the first sign of life after this prolonged silence. Caitlyn had actually started getting worried that something unfortunate had happened to her. Obviously that hadn't been the case. 

She walked by downtown's police precinct, not bothering to stop there. as she knew Vi wasn't there. She had asked Caitlyn to meet in a more discreet location nearby and the agent kept walking, her boots clicking on the pavement and splashing some mud on them. She kept her pace as she turned on a small, dark alleyway which she crossed quickly and found herself on the other side. On the opposite side of the street there was bar called "Tony's" as the neon sign indicated. This was the spot Caitlyn had assumed Vi had meant in her call, but there was no sign of her. The agent looked around in hopes of the cop showing up eventually. She didn't like the idea of entering the bar that stood before her, for the simple reason she had never been a fan of such places. Thankfully for her, she didn't need to do that; Vi eventually showed up, jogging up to her from the left side of the pavement. 

"Sorry for the delay," she apologized. There was no sign on her breath that she had been running. "Typical Saturday nights."

"It's Wednesday," Caitlyn pointed out. 

"Yeah, and I was totally not using a figure of speech."

"And you never forget what day it is."

Vi chose not to respond, but Caitlyn was sure that if she could see her eyes behind her mask like,  she'd probably see them rolling. "Here," Vi said, handing her a USB stick. "All the information of our little friend on Ezreal."

"How did you get them?" Caitlyn asked, obviously impressed. 

"I told you, I got a friend that could help. As a cop, I got all sort of acquaintances that can help me through a case." Vi simply shrugged. Caitlyn didn't like the sound of that. 

"For a cop, you certainly have very... interesting sources."

"I don't know what you're trying to imply missy, but ain't no corrupt cop. I'm just doing my job here," Vi defended. Caitlyn observed her posture. Despite the fact that her body didn't seem to be human, she seemed slightly tensed. The implication that she might be a fraud upset her. Sensible to false accusations, she had struggled to be where she was standing today. 

"Of course you are," Caitlyn continued, even though she knew she was crossing a line there. She was swimming through untested waters which was risky but she needed to know how far she could go.

Vi sighed. The next moment her mask withdrew, revealing her eyes for the first time possibly in ages. She glared at the agent with said dark blue eyes. "I'm looking straight into your eyes and say this; I didn't not use unethical methods to retrieve this information, as you suggested."

Caitlyn stared back before speaking. "I believe you." And she really did. She hadn't expected Vi to show vulnerability. Because Caitlyn had seen it in her eyes, a thirst to trust and be trusted with ease. This was exactly what troubled her. One moment Vi would be sentimental and the next moment she'd act like a machine. Despite that though, and despite the fact that she was an intriguing book, she was also very easy to read, which had only just been proven to the agent. She had trust issues that were only ignited by her hard past. She must have struggled through most part of her childhood, experience several losses, get beaten more times that she could count. Yet she still wore that face of toughness and sassiness, or maybe it wasn't a face and this was how life had shaped her, but there was still the possibility that this was just a mere façade. Caitlyn needed more time to figure this one out. 

"Good," Vi nodded. "Hope you didn't tell your buddies the entire story..."

"I gave only a very brief explanation, but I'll have to go into some details soon when I show up with this." She motioned at the USB. "Thanks anyway. This is going to be useful."

" Yeah, no problem." Vi waved her off. Her tenseness was always gone. "I better be off. Got some errands to run."

"I have to return back and see what type of information you got for me."

"Oh, you'll be pleased." Vi smiled. 

"Let me be the judge of that," Caitlyn challenged, offering a very discreet smile. 

"Of course. Later, agent."

"Later, officer."

They both started walking towards opposite directions. Caitlyn could hear Vi walking in the distance till she suddenly stopped. 

"Hey, Caitlyn."

The agent stopped on her tracks and looked back. "Yes?"

"Be careful."

Caitlyn couldn't tell if this was just a genuine concern or even a friendly warning. Either way, she was pleasantly surprised. "You too, Vi."

She could swear the PROJECT had winked at her before her dark orbs disappeared behind the mask and her figure got lost in the fog. 

~•~•~•~•~

Vi wasn't exactly sure what had caused such a word vomit because that exactly what it had been, to her at least. Sure they were partners, but they weren't anywhere close to being friends, yet she had still allowed those words to slip her mouth. Sometimes she just wanted to punch herself in the face because of her idiocy. It was as if she lost half of her self control around Caitlyn and honestly, did anyone blame her? The agent was too mesmerizing for her own good. Vi actually felt guilty about lying to her. 

What other options did she really have though? The situation was already perplexed as it was, there was absolutely no reason to risk more innocent lives. With that in mind, she managed to swallow the feeling of guilt that had sat on her gut and continue her journey towards her destination, which wasn't too far away from the meeting spot she had set with Caitlyn. After making sure no one had seen her, she disappeared in the shadows of yet another alley. He was here, her enhanced vision could tell her as such so she didn't need to search for him. 

"I apologize for the delay but punctuality has never been my strong point," she joked as she approached the other PROJECT. 

She received no response.

"Not much of a talking type, huh?" Vi asked. "Here's what your leader requested. Send her my regards."

Master Yi took the USB flask and stored it inside his arm, nodding slightly. It was so imperceptible that Vi had barely seen it. She shook her head, wondering why Ashe even bothered. He seemed to be a lost case. Maybe the archer saw something in him that Vi couldn't. Still, Master Yi was way too quiet for her liking. For a brief moment, they both stood there, staring at each other. Though she wasn't sure if he was actually staring at her due to his mask. Vi felt completely uncomfortable by the piercing silence and she wasn't sure how she could escape it. She could leave just like that and her companion wouldn't even mind. And that's what she did. Master Yi mimicked her and departed towards the opposite direction. Vi concluded that she preferred Vayne and her sneers rather than this utter silence. 

Vi found herself back on the main road, walking under the soft drizzle that moistened the asphalt as she headed towards the police precinct. This was the very last place she wanted to be, but she didn't have another choice. At the end of the day, she was still a police officer, whether they liked it or not. And by "they" she referred to her fellow colleagues who seemed to despise her to no end. She huffed in annoyance. Jealousy. Fear. Skepticism. These were usual sentiments that conquered their minds whenever around Vi. She was an anomaly. She was a bloody machine that threatened their careers just because she could pull off double the arrests they did themselves in a week. Snobbish, uppercity pigs. 

Not that if Vi wasn't a PROJECT things would be any different. Raised in the chemically contaminated streets of Zaun, she had been merely an immigrant in her first days as an officer. Zero trust. With time and hard work, she had managed to win some respect which was lost when she turned PROJECT. Personal sacrifices for the greater good. Sometimes she wondered if this was worth it at all. Her colleagues despised her. The most friendly behavior they could muster was tolerate her. Given the circumstances, Vi could say her job wasn't exactly satisfying. Little one could do to improve it rather than tolerate it, just like her colleagues did with her. 

She walked through the main door of the department, ignoring the imminent stares and the not-so-discreet whispers of her colleagues as she passed. 

"Does the freak still work here? I'm surprised."

"I bet the captain is too scared to fire her."

Vi clenched her jaw, suppressing the urge to punch both straight in the face. She was more clever than that. Assaulting two officers could get her into serious, unnecessary trouble. 

Her destination was her office. She wanted to check in with the department, see if there were any other open cases left. Right now, she could do no more about the Ezreal case. It was best if she made herself a little bit useful around the precinct. However, her boss had other plans for her. The instant she set foot on the second floor, he called her in his office. Vi didn't have exactly a good feeling. Captain Fields wasn't fond of her and he didn't try to hide his detest. He merely tolerated her too. 

The reason for this meeting was exactly what Vi had expected, though it made her wonder if the captain had actually gotten into the trouble to read her very much detailed reports about the Ezreal case. He started barking at her about not making progress and how important this case was. If the police department managed to solve the case before the TPA this would be a great boost for their reputation and it could result in a boost in funds. Vi suppressed the urge to roll her eyes at him, even though he couldn't quite see them. He was such a dipshit, if he had actually bothered to read those godforsaken reports, then he wouldn't be complaining. But why read the reports of a machine? 

This city was full of shit, Vi concluded. 

When the lecture was over, she stormed off in search of the safety of her office. Not to rest, for she needed no rest anymore. She was partially machine now even if she liked it or not and her survival requirements were reduced to minimum. She needed a quiet place to contemplate at peace without having the stares of her annoying colleagues piercing her back. It had been a while since she last been there; she didn't stay around for paperwork anymore. Everything was digitized. The last time she'd been there was when the TPA agents came over for the first time. Inevitably, she wasn't surprised when she found her office just as messy and dusty as she had left it. Unlike other people though, Vi found balance in chaos. 

She threw herself onto the chair like a bag of potatoes, almost breaking it but she was so deep in thought that she didn't mind it. Since the day she accepted to use the ATLA gauntlets, her life had spiralled completely out of control. This situation was so perplexed, it made her wonder how she always got herself into so much trouble. How was she going to get out of this mess? And for how long was she going to act in front of Caitlyn and the others? How long before they realized the truth? 

Caitlyn...

Vi let out a frustrated groan. This bitch could be so fucking annoying and at the same time so fucking hot. Vi couldn't exactly wrap her finger around it, but she was aware she was infatuated by her divinity. And honestly, who wouldn't? But last thing she needed was her feelings getting in the way, so her only plan was ignore them, though she knew well that this wasn't going to work long-term.

What would her sister say about all this? About her joining those who murdered her and secretly work against TPA, trying to play hero? 

Jinx would completely lose her shit, that was for sure. 

Vi chuckled at the thought. Who would know? Her life was the greatest irony of them all. She wasn't sure if she should just laugh it off or be depressed. There were times she was a mixture of both, like now. Because, unlike the popular belief, she had reached a very dark point in her life. Now she was doing better, but she wasn't sure how much better. Those who associated with her knew her as the cheerful and uproarious person she usually was, but she wasn't just that. No one knew about this dark side of her and no one would probably ever know, for the simple reason Vi was alone. Lonely. Sometimes she missed her sister. She'd probably know how to deal with this mess. 

But she was dead. She'd been dead for the past six years. The PROJECT corporation made sure of that. Vi clenched her fists, barely shallowing the urge to punch something - preferably somebody. Though she was to blame as well. If she had been faster, if she hadn't hesitated, if she simply had been there, if... So many what if's but none of them mattered because the result was irreversible. 

Just how many more people Vi would lose? How many of them would die because she was a coward? She didn't want an answer. Salvation and vengeance was what she curved for and she would get them one way or another, even if she had to play the double agent. So be it. 

Hours pass and remains still, contemplating, analyzing, predicting. The possibility of said predictions being correct didn't go over 15%. Even the best of machines can't predict the future. Time is unreachable. To her at least, it is. For Caitlyn though, not so much. Her thoughts kept trailing back on her. Vi seriously had an issue. She groaned in frustration. 

But it was these little things that brought her some joy. The slight flirting, the secret gazes, even just those contemplations ignited in her something she hadn't felt in years, possibly since Jinx died. She couldn't quite define it, but she knew it wasn't anything bad. 

A knock on her door. She raised her gaze curiously. Who could it be? There was barely anyone coming at her office unless there was a serious reason. Her colleagues avoided her as much as they could and she preferred it that way. 

"Come in," she called, straightening up her posture. 

The door opened, revealing two police officers that she knew all too well. The one was slightly taller than the other, though they were both just as out of shape. She wondered how they were both up and functioning considering their age. They were some of the oldest officers there - if not the oldest. They spent most of their days doing desk office. Only captain Fields probably knew when was the last time they were on the field. 

"Officer Buckley, officer Jarvis. How can I help you?" Vi asked as kindly as she could muster. 

The door closed, allowing the room to fall into darkness. Jarvis was the one to approach her desk and slump his sweaty hands on top of the wooden furniture. The light made his bald head glow in the dark. 

"We know your little dirty secret, officer Vi," he whispered, his blue eyes glowing in the dark. 

"That's right, we do," Buckley agreed.

"Which one?" Vi smiled. Through the years, these two came up with a series of conspiracy theories and went straight ahead to accuse Vi personally. All the situations had been utterly ridiculous; one of them involving her being in a relationship with the PROJECT called Zed, even though they had never met before. 

Jarvis smirked. "That you broke into Norman Rose's mansion."

Vi jumped off her chair. There's was no chance these two buffoons could possibly know about the break-in. Right? And even if they somehow miraculously knew, they probably didn't have any proof to support their theories just like every other time. 

"How can you possibly know that?" she asked suspiciously. 

"Whatever concerns Norman Rose is of our concern, too," Buckley chipped in.

Vi's suspicious arose. What was the meaning of all this? Could those two be actually working for Norman? Were they frauds? It was a possibility. 

"What the hell do you want from me anyways?" she spat eventually. 

"Listen here, kid," Jarvis spoke. "Whatever you've gotten yourself into, it's going to get you killed in the long run, especially if it involves Norman Rose."

"I still don't understand." Vi was bewildered. 

"It's better if you follow us," Buckley suggested, pointing at the door. Vi was reluctant but she decided it was on her best interest to follow them. 

"Lead the way."

The two officers lead her to their office, a place so messy and dirty that the cleaning department didn't dare touch. Buckley and Jarvis didn't seem to mind the untidiness, but Vi couldn't understand how they could stand the smell. She wrinkled her nose as she first stepped inside the office. Jarvis walked up to the left wall and pulled down the tapestry, revealing a huge hidden board. There were notes and photos from a case that went back to at least thirty years ago. Vi stared at it in awe. There was a photo of Buckley and Jarvis, younger, way fitter and at their full glory. 

"Thirty years ago we got ourselves involved into a case that turned out to be the downfall to our career," Jarvis explained. "It revolved around Norman Rose, but we never managed to get at the bottom of it. When the case file was closed, we were transferred downtown, doomed to continue with the remains of our destroyed careers."

"We were mostly known as "The Fallen"," Buckley said. "No one trusted us. They believed us to be frauds and liars. We couldn't work properly on a case. Eventually, we lost motivation and we decided to change our game and stay confided in here doing paperwork."

"Wait a minute," Vi murmured. "I know you two. I've read all about you in the academy. You were the stars of your time! That, before the "Black Rose" case. Wasn't that how was it called?"

"Oh yes." There was evident melancholy in Jarvis' voice. "The most challenging case we ever encountered. The only one we ever left unsolved because the circumstances didn't allow us to investigate further."

"And by "circumstances" he means Norman," Buckley explained, scratching his grey hair in embarrassment. "He managed to trap us. He was always one step ahead. He was invincible. At least, that's what we thought then."

"We created a façade. That depression had destroyed us completely and rendered us useless. We haven't been on field work for fifteen years," Jarvis said. 

"That way Norman wouldn't think of us as a threat anymore. The moment he'd make a mistake, we would make him pay for it. We've been collecting information about it since then, awaiting."

"You sacrificed your career for this man?" Vi inquired. 

"He's not just a man," Jarvis growled. "He's a snake and he must be defeated at any cost."

"He's very dangerous indeed," Buckley confirmed. "However you managed to break into his mansion, he'll find out it was you and he'll go for not only you, but your friends, the agents."

Vi's heart sank in her chest. She didn't care much about herself, but she didn't want to drag the TPA squad into this mess. 

"If you play with fire, eventually you'll get burnt." Jarvis shook his head. "But if you wanted to break into his mansion so desperately, then you must have a very serious reason."

"I do." Vi nodded. 

Jarvis eyed her for a brief moment before making his way through the mess to a drawer. He drew out a file and gave it to Vi. 

"Here's everything you need to know about Norman," he explained it. "Use it carefully."

"Why are you doing this?" Vi blurted out. 

"Unlike what most people believe around here, we believe you're a good cop, Vi." Buckley smiled. "And if anyone can stop Norman Rose, that's you."

"But what about you? He's your arch-enemy or something. Wouldn't you want to be the ones to bring him down?"

"As much as we'd love to, we've grown grey and old. In a few years, we'll retire. It will bring us great satisfaction if we help the youth do it instead," Jarvis said. 

"Use the file wisely and also carefully," Buckley advised. "And for the love of God, don't let anyone know we gave you this. Understood?"

"Loud and clear. Thank you," Vi thanked them. Now she was sure they didn't have sinister motives and that she could trust them. 

"Now go and fetch us some criminals, will ya?" Jarvis winked and Vi let out a laugh before walking out of their office, being the most overwhelmed she'd ever been lately. 

Chapter Text

The duties of a leader are never ones to be underestimated. A leader is responsible for all of their team members and their well-beings. A leader is responsible to guide them and protect them from any harm. A good leader strives to act as such.

Ashe had learnt that the hard way.

Being the second PROJECT to deviate from the company's constant manipulation, she had tried to help the others escape as well. It was a duty she had gotten upon herself because they deserved freedom as much as she did. Somehow, they had followed her, believing her to be the only stride of hope they had to be free again. After all, she had managed to break her chains all on her own. She had the key to liberty. Yet, she had failed them and the result of that was losing one of her closest companions, Katarina.

A day didn't pass without her reminiscing all those harsh words they had exchanged during their last encounter and how Katarina had stormed out, never to be seen again until later when she returned to being a PROJECT puppet. Ashe didn't consider herself a good leader for she had allowed her arrogance and her pride to cloud her judgement. She oathed to never make the same mistake again. There was no space for mistakes. The long path to incarnation ran through miles of clouded hell and she needed to be the right leader for the sake of her companions.

Trying to teach them how to be human again was especially challenging indeed. She wasn't absolutely sure herself how to function in certain circumstances but she tried to learn through her experiences and share them with her team. Others were easier to teach and others, well, not so. It took great effort to even teach them even the basics like how to smile. Ashe was convinced that this was way more difficult than any other mission they had gone through.

But if they fell a million times, they would rise a million and one.

Ashe had learned her lesson and she was being extra careful with how she was treating each of them. She knew all of their strengths but also their weaknesses and she could tell when someone was underperforming. No one could miss her hawkeye, not even the most discreet ones. That's why she instantly noticed when Fiora grew quieter - quieter than usual anyway. She remained silent and indifferent for the most part which was something odd, considering she always had an opinion on any matter. But now she didn't seem to care at all. She seemed to be lost in her own world of thought.

Ashe decided to approach her slowly and steadily. Fiora could be very bipolar whenever given the circumstances so she could never be exactly sure how the duelist would react. Fiora sat in a corner, away from her fellow companions before her leader joined her.

"Hey," Ashe spoke first. Fiora acknowledged her with a simple nod. "Is everything alright?"

Fiora didn't respond immediately. Her gaze remained locked on the floor, probably not even looking at it. "I guess so."

"You don't seem so, though," Ashe pointed out. "You can always tell me what bothers you."

Fiora hesitated but eventually spoke. "It's just that I'm having some flashbacks. Not anything specific - just a name. Grand Duelist."

Ashe let her finish first before asking, "What do you think this means?"

"Probably it's a name they used to call me in my days of glory. I don't know, I don't really remember," Fiora shrugged her shoulders. "And then there's a vague figure I can't wrap my finger around. I had a lover, as much as I can recall but I can't recall their face."

»The more I find out, the more I realize how much we lost, how much they deprived us from. A life, an identity. It's not fair, Ashe, and it enrages me."

Fiora clenched her fists. She was never one to show too much emotion but right now she was really upset, as far as Ashe could tell.

"It's not fair not just for us but for our families. This lover of mine, how do you think they might feel about the whole situation? How do you think they would react knowing I don't even fucking remember them?" The dueler growled. "PROJECT Inc has ruined more lives than they could ever take credit for!"

Fiora was breathing heavily but refused to look at her leader. The fact that she was so emotionally charged was completely understandable and it was the most human Ashe had ever seen her. She chose her next words carefully for the simple reason she didn't want to upset Fiora more.

"I know. That's why we are still here, still fighting. Because they need to pay for what they've done and because we need to make sure this-" Ashe pointed at the two of them. "-won't happen to anyone else again."

"Yes... No one deserves such a fate." Fiora shook her head. "What I really want to know is, how did they manage to fool all of us? How did they manage to deceive so many people and lead them to a trap?"

"I wish I had the answers to your inquiries Fiora, but I know just as much as you do." Ashe sighed.
"But if I had to make a guess, I'd go straight to what PROJECT Inc. is good at; lying." Fiora didn't respond but Ashe guessed she agreed with her statement. "I understand it must be really dreadful for you, all of this, and I can't promise you that things will improve. I'll have to ask you though not to allow yourself drown in your sorrow. We need you, Fiora."

"I'll try my best, captain," Fiora promised.

"Good. And just so you know, you can always come and talk to me about whatever bothers you." Ashe declared, smiling sincerely.

"Uh thanks. I... appreciate it," Fiora stammered, overwhelmed by the amount of sentiment used in their little conversation. She was still unfamiliar with conversation, especially when it revolved around her feelings. Ashe decided it was best to leave her alone for now; she needed some time alone to process all of these. Besides, she needed to check up on Master Yi's progress on retrieving the USB flask. Fiora watched as she stood up and walked away. She wouldn't admit it openly but she was relieved she did so. She really wasn't feeling anyone's company. The encounter with Norman Rose had triggered one too many feelings for her to handle.

One was fear. She hadn't never been scared before. When Norman retrieved that blade and threatened to kill both, her first instinct was to protect Vayne when she couldn't. They were half machines but they were far for being immortals. Sure they were a more durable version of a human being but under all the metal they were still flesh and blood. They could definitely outlive any other human, but were they severely injured, the chances of survival reduced. The weirdest part of them all was that she had been more afraid about her companion rather than herself and she barely knew Vayne. They weren't even close to being friends so she couldn't defy the feeling of overprotection that had taken over her at that particular moment and she was sure Ashe wasn't able to do so either. Then, it was Norman's words themselves. The Grand Dueler... She tried to connect the name with a memory but nothing occurred. She simply couldn't remember. She wanted to scream in utter frustration. A million questions she had and she couldn't answer any. She couldn't even identify herself. Who was she?
How was she supposed to act and feel?

Then she remembered Vayne's words;

Maybe you should just focus on what you make now.

A chance to start over. She really hadn't contemplated it. She had been obsessed with trying to find out who she really was that she never considered trying all over from the beginning. Maybe who she was didn't matter and Vayne was right. Who she was now was of importance and she needed some time to discover herself. But hell if they got enough time for that.

"Ashe, we've got a problem," Ekko's voice echoed inside the ship's basement. Ashe approached the boy and looked over his shoulder.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"I just received a message from Master Yi. He's been assaulted on his way here."

Ashe let our a curse. "We need to assembly a rescuing crew."

"Count me in." Fiora stood up almost immediately. Ashe eyed her briefly before nodding.

"I'll go too," Leona declared as she picked up her shield.

Yasuo made a move to stand up but Ashe prevented him. "No, Yasuo. I know you're eager to help but we can't charge in all together, it's dangerous. Fiora and Leona will go and I'll contact Vi to help them out."

He wanted to protest but he knew it was in his best interest if he didn't so he sat back down. Meanwhile, Ashe gave her last commands to the two PROJECT's ready to leave the safety of their base.

"It needs to be done quickly and as quietly as possible. Here are Yi's coordinates. Please, hurry up," she pleaded before the two PROJECTS ran off to save their friend.



Baker Street, one hour ago

There was nothing more dangerous than a PROJECT roaming alone in the dark and inhospitable streets of the City of Progress. But Master Yi felt no fear. In fact, he barely felt anything. It was dreadful but it was the painful truth. He couldn't feel a single thing unless something strong triggered the little bit of humanity that was left in him. Depending on the situation, this could either be a blessing or a curse.

He kept walking, unfazed by the humidity surrounding him. His orders had been clear; meet Vi at the specific location, retrieve the USB then return back to the base without being detected. It seemed simple and it should be so.

Despite the fact that Vi was a PROJECT like him, she was the polar opposite. She was loud and warm, unlike him. It peaked his curiosity when he first met her. Their second encounter hadn't been any different even though it was in the dark and it was only brief. She was the one to do the talking as he remained silent. He never really spoke unless it was completely necessary. After he received the USB and without further ado, the two PROJECTS parted their own separate ways. He chose a different path to return to the harbor just in case he had been followed or seen.

The quietness that surrounded him was deafening, even for his own standards. There was literally no sound of distant vehicles or noises originating from nearby bars. A couple of lights were switched off rendering the street dark. Not even the wind made a sound. The city seemed dead and it wasn't even that late in the night. Master Yi sensed something was out of place and he did not commend this at all. His hand unconsciously laid on the handle of his blade - a blade different than the one Fiora acquired, it was slightly bigger in length but just as deadly. They were two types of blade-wielders. Fiora was more graceful, she could be characterized as an artist. He was a mere assassin with no sense of art instead of that of killing.

His sharpened senses warned him from the incoming impact. He moved just in time to avoid the dagger piercing his body across the chest. He drew his blade while running a quick scan on the street to locate the threat. Though he didn't need the scan to spot them as they jumped onto the pavement from wherever they had been hiding waiting for him to arrive. Like a hunter and their prey.

"At least your reflexes are still as good as ever, Yi," Katarina snarled as she picked up her dagger. "Let's make this quick, shall we?"

"You always liked the quick, dirty way, Katarina," he spoke for the first time in forever.

Katarina refused to respond as she lowered her knees and prepared herself for battle. He had barely managed to finish his sentence when another dagger flew towards him. This time Yi chose to deflect it with his blade and go straight for an attack in Wuju Style, an ancient form of martial arts that he was the only one known to have mastered it during modern times. Katarina wasn't messing around either. She was determined to defeat him as much as he was. They danced for a while in the dark, managing a few blows on each other but the battle was far from over yet.

At some point they stopped. Katarina froze in her position and so did Yi. They remained still for a while, glaring at each other. Yi had already guessed what she wanted; the USB. But she wasn't going to get it, at least not without a fight. Besides, he had sent word to his companions that trouble had found him. She wouldn't be able to deal with all of them at once. He just needed to hold on a little bit longer - or just defeat her. That would be the best possible outcome.

However fate had different plans for him.

He was about to use his Alpha Strike against her when he spotted a shadow standing behind him and he had to step aside in order to avoid the upcoming attack. He was all well too familiar with Zed's shadows and his shurikens, fatal most of the times. A scratch of Zed's shurikens ruined a small piece of his upper arm armor but not something Ekko couldn't fix. Despite that, the situation remained still as critical. It was two against one and now it was Yi's turn to be at a disadvantage. He knew he couldn't defeat both, not unless paying a great price. He needed to win some time.

Katarina threw another dagger and tried to teleport on him while Zed used his shadows to attack again. Yi timed his Alpha Strike perfectly in order to avoid both attacks and give his opponents a taste of his blade. However fast he was, Zed was as well and he managed to cut through his other arm.

System malfunction: Left arm
State of injury: Not critical

The warnings flashed before him inside his mask but he paid them no mind. He didn't hesitate for a moment as he started sprinting down the street with unparalleled agility, leaving the other PROJECTS behind. As he ran, he could listen to Zed's shadows and Katarina's attempts to come closer to him with her Shunpo ability but to no avail. He was way too fast for them. The only thing Yi was concerned about was Zed's Death Mark which could easily bring him down shall his opponent chose to use it against him. Occasionally, he'd look back to see where his enemies stood and if he was coming any closer to escaping their grip. It was a temporary plan to help him gain some valuable time until his companions arrived at the spot.

His speed allowed him to escape from Zed's and Katarina's sight but only for a brief moment. He slowed down eventually due to the fact that the Highlander ability needed to recharge. He peeked over his shoulder to check if he was being followed but he only met the darkness. But this would turn out to be his greatest mistake, for he didn't watch his step.

The next moment he stepped on a trap and a gunshot followed, rendering him completely stunned in his place. The trap exploded like a flower, knocking him off his feet and he landed onto the hard asphalt.

Warning: Extended Damage

"Not so fast now, huh?" Jhin's voice echoed. "You're the same fool you've always been, Master Yi." The way he pronounced the word "Master" uncovered his hatred for the PROJECT laid in front of his feet. Yi struggled to get back on his feet only to meet the barrel of a gun aimed at his face.

"Give me the USB," Jhin demanded. Yi remained silent.

Start of data transition. Please do not remove the external disc.

"Give it to me!" Jhin barked, giving a kick to Yi's sides. He rolled a few meters away, clenching his blade harder than before. He stumbled back to his feet before Jhin had the chance to hit him again.

"Give it to me or I'll destroy you piece by piece," Jhin threatened.

"I'd like to see you try," Yi responded calmly. Jhin raised his gun but this time Yi was prepared.

Meditation: Ready

The next moment, Yi found himself hovering a few meters off the ground, his damages being quickly repaired on the spot. Jhin tried to shoot at him but the impact was minimum as the damage was repaired on the spot.

Meditation: 100% Completion
Data transition: 25% Completion

Yi charged at Jhin and managed a swift hit at him. Jhin backed off immediately. Close-to-close combat wasn't his style. Yi tried to chase him down but Katarina appeared out of nowhere and stabbed his shoulder. He trembled backwards slowly but he didn't have the time to recover as one of Zed's shurikens hit his back. He turned around to fight the PROJECT but he only found a shadow. A Shadow Slash and he was thrown of his feet.

Warning: System damage up to 56%
Data Transition: 47% Completion

"What a fool," Zed mocked. "Trying to fight three all once. Who do you think you are?"

"A failure, that's what he is. A failure as a master, a failure as a PROJECT," Jhin said. "Now, give the USB."

Yi silently gazed at them but he made no move of retrieving the the USB for them. Zed moved, grabbed him by his throat and launched him towards the opposite building. The blademan crushed onto the wall and sunk down on the pavement.

Warning: System damage up to 73%
Data transition: 53% completion

"You can't run and hide. No one's going to save you," Katarina spoke. "Cooperate and we might let you live."

Oh, Yi was well aware that they weren't going to allow that. They were going to bring him dead or alive - either way, it didn't matter - back to the PROJECT Inc. and have him reprogrammed and get the USB flask. No, that's definitely something he didn't want.

"The game is over, Master. Give the USB," Katarina demanded for one last time.

Yi considered his options. He really had nowhere to go or a way to win more time. He couldn't tell where his companions where at, his maps simply didn't work properly.

This was the end.

He slowly pressed his fingers against his arm and the USB flask was revealed.

Data transition has been stopped

"This is what you want," he croaked. "Come and get it then."

None of the other three PROJECT trails could have predicted what followed. Yi threw the USB seemingly towards Katarina's direction but the next second it was being cut in half by his blade, rendering it useless. Katarina let an outraged scream.

"Why you-"

"Kill him," Zed interrupted her coldly. "He's served his purpose."

"With pleasure," Katarina growled and prepared for the final blow.

Warning: System Damage up to 80%

Yi embraced himself. These were his very last moments and he wanted to meditate, contemplate his life so far since he got freed. It was the only period of his life that he could remember and cherish. The danger had always been present, of course, but the fact that he was surrounded by his friends made it better.

His friends. He never considered them as such. Not until now that he was about to lose himself once again. Death had an effect that could make anyone sentimental. Even Master Yi who hadn't felt anything strong until now. Katarina raised her arm. Yi blinked.

Then a strong light landed from the sky, almost burning, and the three PROJECTS were paralyzed. A shield landed straight onto Zed's head, knocking him down and a neon-pink blade blocked the dagger that was aimed at Yi's head.

"He's in a bad condition!" Yi heard Leona's concerned voice. She was one of the most sentimental ones, he secretly admired her ability to feel with easy, as if her soul had never been captured. "We need to get him out of here!"

"Easier said than done!"

The second voice belonged to Fiora. He was his closest companion - correction, friend - in between their group. He had taught her a couple of things and he had learned a few from her as well. She was an excellent dueler, an artist with a sword.

The small battle that erupted before him continued for a while but Fiora and Leona were at a great disadvantage since it was two against three plus they had to keep an eye on Yi himself who laid useless on the ground, unable to Meditate and repair some of his damage.

Another battle cry came across the street and Yi saw two gigantic gauntlets flying over Jhin's head and eventually smashing him on the ground, creating a small crate.

"Did someone ordered a pair of fists?" Vi sounded cocky and confident, definitely different than the rest of the PROJECT present in the scene.

"Took you long enough!" Fiora shouted over the fist of battle as she fought against Zed.

"Yeah, sorry I can't fucking fly!" came the response as she rushed to help the dueler.

Zed and Katarina realized they couldn't possibly win against them. Zed reached Jhin's unconscious form and grabbed him while Katarina moved swiftly around Leona who didn't manage to stop her and delivered the final blow to Master Yi.

"No!"

Warning: System Damage 98%
Upcoming System Shutdown in 60 seconds

Fiora and Vi abandoned Zed and Katarina who fled and rushed to Leona's side who had already kneeled down next to Yi, shaking uncontrollably.

"This can't be happening!" she whispered. "No, no! He can't die!"

Upcoming System Shutdown in 30 seconds

Fiora looked shaken as well. "Yi? Can you hear us?" Yi barely managed to nod slightly, a move Ashe had struggled to teach him how to use properly. "You have to stay with us! We'll get you to safely, I promise." Panic filled her voice. Yi might hadn't felt panic but he sure as well knew how it looked like. He was just glad he was surrounded by his favorite people at this critical moment. He wanted to say something but he had never been good with words.

Upcoming System Shutdown in 10 seconds

"Farewell," he managed to choke out faintly, his very first word they heard out of his mouth and the very last as it seemed.

System Shutdown

~•~•~•~•~•

Chapter Text

“Are you absolutely sure he's going to return back here?” Shen asked for the millionth time as he observed the surveillance video. Caitlyn had insisted to install a couple of surveillance cameras in each of Ezreal's places for she believed the boy would return back in the foreseeable future. 

“I've already explained, Shen.” Caitlyn rolled her eyes. “He will be looking for his gauntlet. He needs some replacements for his current one as it was damaged during our last encounter.”

“Is this why he returned to this realm?”

“It could be,” Caitlyn mused. “But I don't think that's the case. For starters, it's way too dangerous and second, if he wanted the gauntlet that badly, he would already have it. There must be another reason why he came here.”

“And why he hasn't fled yet,” Riven added. “I wonder, is he looking for something else?”

“It's a possibility,” Caitlyn agreed. “But we won't be sure unless we arrest him.”

Shen nodded in understanding and didn't ask any more questions as he focused his attention on his screen. Caitlyn turned her back on her team as she turned her own attention at the article she had been returning before her partner interrupted. 

MURDER ON THE ROAD

Gang leader Vito Randall was assassinated on his way to Stanford prison while he was being transferred. Police sources claim that the killing blow came from a sniper rifle. The investigation is focused on Randall's past criminal activities and his connections to the underworld. 

“This wasn't a random assassination,” claims a police official. “It seems like Mr Randall had quite a few enemies. He wasn't just trying to hide from the police.”

Vito Randall was arrested a couple of days ago in one of his illegal businesses by the Downtown Police Department and… 

She stopped reading there. She knew the details, after all she had been present to the event. She gazed at the screen, analyzing the situation at hand. Their prime suspect for the Ezreal case had been murdered on his way to prison. This turnout of events alerted her. There was a chance of course that the murder had nothing to do with her case, but on the other hand she couldn't be too sure. She needed to have a word with Vi very soon. 

“Vito's dead? What can I say? Karma is a bitch.”

Caitlyn almost jumped at the sudden sound of Twisted Fate's voice but she managed to keep her conclusion. “Did you know him well?”

“I knew him well enough to be aware that he was an asshole.” Twisted Fate shrugged his shoulders. “To be honest, I don't really care that he's dead. He was so arrogant that he thought of himself as a sort of hero and whatnot.”

“But you used to work for him.”

“It doesn't change a thing. He wasn't my friend, just my boss. Let me ask you something, do you think Cayton is your friend?”

Caitlyn paused to think. “Not really, no.”

Twisted Fate smirked. “See? Look, Vito was a rat and probably had it coming. I know it sounds harsh, but try telling that to all those people he killed.”

“No one deserves to die like that, no matter who they are or what they did,” Caitlyn insisted. “But you seem to know him better than I do, so I'm not going to try and change your opinion.”

Twisted Fate nodded but their conversation came to a halt abruptly.

“Caitlyn was right! Ezreal is here!” Shen suddenly exclaimed. Caitlyn rushed to his side to check on the surveillance video. Indeed, there was her prey, walking inside his apartment like nothing was going on. He seemed to be looking for something. 

“Let's go!” Caitlyn ordered as she grabbed her rifle. “Someone needs to stay behind so as to keep us updated.”

“I'll stay,” Tobias offered. “You go ahead.”

Shen literally jumped off his seat and followed Caitlyn and Riven outside. They rushed down to the garage to pick up a vehicle. These were much faster compared to cubs but were only used in special situations like this. The TPA valued its equipment tremendously. Caitlyn got on the driving seat, Shen next to her and Riven on the seats behind before they got off. 

“Tobias, what's his position?” Caitlyn spoke through their hextech headset. 

He's looking around the house, probably for his gauntlet. He's heading to the kitchen now.

“Shit,” Caitlyn cursed. 

“If he finds out that the gauntlet isn't there, he'll leave,” Shen concluded. “We need to hurry up.”

“That's as fast as I can go.”

And indeed they were moving pretty fast. The TPA vehicles were the latest models in the manufacturing industry but they weren't completely alone in the streets. There were other vehicles in their way and Caitlyn needed to be extra careful not to crush with anyone. 

It seems like Ezreal is about to leave,” Twisted Fate informed. 

“He isn't going anywhere,” Caitlyn pressed her lips and pressed the accelerator harder. 

“Watch out!” Shen shouted, pointing at the closed road ahead of them. It was surrounded by police officers and tape so no one would pass through. Caitlyn slammed the breaks. 

“Are you trying to get us killed?” Riven managed to whisper. Caitlyn profoundly ignored her. 

“Bloody hell!” She cursed before reversing and going around the block. “Tobias, what's his position?”

He just exited the apartment.

“Do you know where he's heading?”

“I'm afraid no. I don't have visuals from the outside.”

“We might be able to catch up with him. Keep going,” Shen advised. Caitlyn did as she was told and moments later they passed in front of the entrance of the building where the apartment was located. 

“Do you see anything?” Caitlyn asked as she slowed down the vehicle. 

“He can't have gone far. Go around the block,” Shen instructed. 

“Is that an alleyway?” Riven inquired, pointing to the left. 

Caitlyn pulled over. “Go and have a look. We'll pick you up on the other side.”

Riven got out of the car and rushed to the opposite side of the street before Caitlyn accelerated again. She turned left to the next crossing and went all over around the block. However, there were still no signs of Ezreal. If he had indeed gone through the alley, they would come across him. There was no other way he could have gone. Caitlyn stopped once again opposite the exit of the alley and waited for Riven.

“Do you got anything?” Shen asked. 

“Unfortunately, no,” came Riven's voice. “I ran a scan. He's been here but I don't know where he went afterwards.”

Caitlyn slammed her hand on the horn. “Fuck!” She exclaimed. “Where did that son of a bitch go then?”

“I have no clue, honestly.”

“It's alright. Come at the car-” Shen began to say.

“No,” Caitlyn interrupted him. “I want to have a look myself. He can't just vanish like that.”

Shen looked at her wearily but didn't object. “Wait for us,” he informed Riven before the two agents got out of the car. 

The alley was dark and narrow, stuck between two massive buildings. There were two green bins that emitted some very unpleasant smells and then there was Riven waiting for them. 

“There's no way he climbed up. Besides, I would either have seen or my Timer would have showed it.”

The Timer was a small hextech device that allowed the users to see previous actions that took place up to five minutes ago. It could prove to be rather useful for them. Caitlyn wanted to see by herself the events so she set on her own Timer. A hologram of Ezreal appeared on the far entrance of the alley who started walking towards them. Suddenly he stopped and kneeled down, picked something up then jumped down and disappeared. 

“You need to reset your Timer, Riven,” Caitlyn advised as she approached the spot where Ezreal's hologram had disappeared. Indeed there was a metallic door blocking the entrance to the sewage system. 

“Shit,” Riven cursed under her breath, her cheeks painted red in embarrassment, as she resetted the hextech device. 

“Help me move this,” Caitlyn requested as she bended down and Shen rushed to her help. Together they removed the metal cover, revealing yet another metallic ladder. Caitlyn went in first and the others followed closely behind. She landed onto a wet surface that dirted her boots, upsetting the surface of the dirty sewage waters. As predicted, the conduits smelled awfully but this was the last thing that concerned Caitlyn. She pulled out a flashlight and used her Timer again; Ezreal's hologram moved to the left and they followed it. They walked for a little while until they came to a halt when the conduit interchanged with several others and the Timer wasn't able to show them where Ezreal had headed to. 

“It's no use,” Shen spoke. “The sewage system is vast, it's wise if we don't go any further. We could easily get lost.”

Caitlyn sighed. “I'm afraid I have to agree, Shen. We should head back.”

“At least now we know how he moves around the city,” Riven commented, trying to bring the optimistic side of the case. 

“Indeed, though I don't know exactly how this is going to be of any use to us. As Shen said, the sewage system is huge. We can't search all of it.”

They returned back with their spirits lowered and their suits smelling like sewage. 

Guys? Are you there?” came Twisted Fate's voice. 

“Yes,” said Caitlyn. 

I lost you there for a moment and I got worried. Thought something happened to you lot.

“We went down to the sewage,” Shen explained. “Guess that there's no signal down there.”

I see. What happened? Did you get him?

Caitlyn greeted her teeth. “Unfortunately, no. He got away.”

Well, shit.

“We're coming back to reassemble. We need to figure out an action plan now we know how Ezreal moves around the city,” she informed him. 

Alright, good. I'll see you there.” And with that he hung up. Caitlyn started the engine and they soon left the scene behind. As they moved, they noticed the police presence on the other street and their curiosity returned. 

“What do you think happened here?” Riven asked. 

“A burglary maybe. Or at the worst scenario, a murder.” Caitlyn shrugged her shoulders. 

Riven raised a brow. “Hasn't that cop told you anything?”

“Why would she?”

“I don't know. You tell me.” Riven smirked mischievously. 

Caitlyn rolled her eyes. “Forget about whatever you're implying, Riven.”

“Sure thing, Cait.”

“Where do you think he's going to go now?” Shen changed the subject back to Ezreal. 

“I don't know but we should be alerted. He must be desperate to come here, otherwise he wouldn't risk it.”

“If he's desperate to repair his gauntlet, shouldn't he try to find replacements somewhere else? Like the black market?” Riven suggested. 

“Good point,” Caitlyn applauded. “Unless he secretly has another gauntlet, which I highly doubt.”

“Alright, so we need to examine his file again and see what type of connections he had in the black market,” Shen said. 

“Say we do. Then what?” Riven asked. 

“Simple. We go and ask a couple of questions.”

“Do you think it's that simple to just go there and ask questions?”

“Well, we won't go alone.” Caitlyn turned on the left. “We'll bring someone along to make sure no one tries anything fishy.”

“If you're referring to who I'm thinking you are, then you're just fueling my suspicions,” Riven teased. 

“Oh, grow up!”

Riven giggled while Shen laughed behind his palm. Caitlyn struggled not to show her embarrassment. She wasn't even close to having any feelings for Vi, what was Riven's problem? Or maybe she just needed to relax a bit. Riven was just being a teaser like she'd always been. It was her way of showing compassion towards her friends. 

Eventually they arrived back at the TPA and returned to their office immediately. On their way there, Caitlyn was left behind to call Vi without the endless amount of Riven's teasing. 

Officer Vi,” came the cop's voice from the other side of the line. 

“It's Caitlyn,” said the agent. “I got some news regarding Ezreal.”

Really? Do tell!

“He returned back to one of his apartments looking for his gauntlets. Unfortunately, he managed to escape through the sewage system before we were able to pursue him.”

Damn, that's unfortunate.

Caitlyn paused for a moment. “Well, that's not really the reason why I called you, if I want to be honest?”

Isn't it?” Caitlyn imagined her raising her eyebrows. 

“I wanted to call in a favor.”

Of course, anything you need.

“Ezreal had a few connections in the dark market. I need your help to ask a few questions.”

You do realize you just can't go in like that, right?

“Yes, otherwise I wouldn't have called you.”

I must warn you this is dangerous.

“I'm not afraid of a little bit of danger. Life would be boring without it.”

Vi chuckled. “You think so?

“I'm certain.”

There was a small pause. “Alright, I'll accompany you to this suicide mission, though I don't guarantee your safety.

“Don't worry about it, I can take care of myself.”

I know you do,” said Vi. “Did you hear what happened to Vito Randall?

“It was all over the news, what do you think?”

Vi sighed. “Imagine that I had ordered special protection for him.

“Really? And they still managed to pull it off?”

That's what pisses me off. He was afraid he was going to get killed and I tried to protect him. But whoever is behind this, they really must have wanted him dead.

“You did what you could.” Caitlyn wasn't sure why she was doing this but she felt like Vi needed some comfort because she probably felt guilty about it. “You said it yourself, if they wanted him dead this bad, you couldn't have prevented it.”

But that's exactly what my job is about,” Vi deadpanned. “Anyways, don't worry about it, I'll be fine. People die everyday. I'll meet up with you soon, alright?

“Yeah, alright. I'll see you soon.” Caitlyn hung up. She held her phone on her hand for a little while, gazing down at Vi's number before she put it back in her pocket and then proceeded to catch up with the others. She had already formed a plan in her mind when they entered their office and immediately started giving instructions. 

“Tobias, open up Ezreal's file and check his contracts again. We need to find out what connections he used to have in the black market. Someone please, look if you can find any plans for the city's sewage system. It could prove useful if we want to track Ezreal down in the future.”

“I'm on it,” Shen declared as he sat in front of his computer and started looking for what Caitlyn had requested. 

“He's not going to get away again,” said Caitlyn in a lower voice to no one in particular.



The very next day, Caitlyn found herself and her crew waiting for Vi to arrive. She really wished the officer would hurry up because they were on a tight schedule if they wanted to catch Ezreal. As they waited outside the TPA building, she tapped her foot impatiently. No one dared to speak to her, they were well aware how Caitlyn was when in a pissy mood. Eventually and too much to their relief, Vi arrived on a 6-seats cab and waved at them to get in. 

“Sorry for the delay,” she apologized as they entered. “It's not so easy to find one of those these days.”

“Where are we going?” Caitlyn asked once she took a seat on the front row, right next to Vi. 

“You'll see,” Vi responded mysteriously and the cab accelerated. “Now before we go in there, I'll have to give you those,” she added as she pulled out from where her feet laid a bag filled with rusty cloaks. “People aren't particularly fond of cops of any kind where we are going. It will be safer if we blend in,” she said as she handed them out the clothing. 

“Is it that bad?” Riven asked as she wore her own. 

“You have no idea.”

“And the police?”

Vi sighed. “We've arrested countless people but everytime they re-emerge. It's like fighting against a hydra. You cut one head and two show up. It's a hopeless war.”

“So you just let them sell their products against the law?” Caitlyn asked somewhat furiously. 

“If the government really wanted them gone, they would have done something far more efficient than occasional undertakings,” Vi deadpanned. “We do our best, but without the government support there's nothing we can do. Corruption isn't a modern problem. You should know better.”

Caitlyn remained silent. Vi had a good point, a very good one that is. Through her years as a Pulsefire, she had dealt with all sorts of corruption in different ages. Unfortunately, she had ignored the fact that corruption still existed in her own age. 

“Alright, we are here,” Vi announced before the cab pulled over. “Let's go. Be careful and follow my lead.”

The five of them exited the vehicle and found themselves near the borders between the old and the new harbor of Piltover. Huge ships laid on dock, others being loaded with merchandise and others being unloaded. 

“Over here,” Vi motioned at them to follow. She led them through the harbor towards the entrance of a seemingly abandoned underground station. The metal bars were closed but Vi approached them in confidence. A cloaked figure showed up. 

“Password?” He whispered. Vi whispered something back and he opened the doors, allowing them entrance. Vi turned and smiled at them. 

“Come on, let's go,” she said. 

They went down the stairs and found themselves inside the station that had been long abandoned. The harbor station had been transferred in a different location while this one had been left at the use of criminals, drug dealers and generally the underworld. It was dirty, dusty and there was ramble all over in some places. It was slightly illuminated by forgotten LED lamps. In the dark, where the light couldn't reach, Caitlyn noticed a couple of cloaked figures lurking in the shadows. Vi jumped from the platform down to the tracks. 

“Are you sure this is safe?” Shen questioned. 

“Don't worry, there hasn't been a train rolling on this track for almost a decade,” she assured him. “Come on!”
They mimicked her and jumped on the tracks. Together they started walking towards the tunnel ahead. 

“How did you know the password?” Caitlyn asked. 

“We've got some undercover spies down here,” Vi informed her. “Without them, we could do nothing. They're the real reason why we know the black market's location and the password each time. The real heroes, if you ask me. They're constantly risking their heads. If they discover them…” She ran her metallic finger across her neck. “Anyways, are we looking for anyone in particular?”

“There's this guy named Jared Ivanov,” Caitlyn responded. “Do you know where we can find him?”

“No, but I know someone who can,” said Vi. “But before we get in there, give me a second…” she mumbled as she pressed a couple of buttons on her gauntlets. The metal folded inside her uniform, revealing her pale hands and the mask also withdrew. “I've arrested almost everyone in there at least once. They sure as hell remember the face of whom got them in prison.” She smiled somewhat sheepishly. 

“What a great fan base,” Twisted Fate said sarcastically. “Been there, done that.”

“A dude who gets me,” Vi exclaimed dramatically. “There's nothing better than people wanting your head.”

Shen and Riven burst into laughter while Caitlyn raised her eyebrows in amusement. Vi noticed and gave her a slight punch in her shoulder. 

“Ease up, cupcake. A laugh a day won't make you any less intimidating to those you're hunting,” she joked. “Come on, let's go. Keep your faces covered and try not to make eye contact with anyone. Leave the talking to me.”

“Move it, cupcake,” Riven teased as she walked past a furious Caitlyn. The latter let out an exasperated sigh before she followed the others. 

Cupcake? What sort of childish nickname was that? She was just so insufferable. 

As they walked deeper inside the tunnel, the market started unraveling before them. Countless counters on each side of the passage stood filled with all kinds of unauthorized hextech products; from simple tools to illegal Timers and car machines. Caitlyn cringed internally. If it was up to her, all this would be shut down immediately. The merchants tried to sell their products to them as they passed by but they ignored them as Vi had advised. They walked a little bit through the crowd before Vi stopped in front of a counter, examining the merchandise. She exchanged a few words with the merchant who was cloaked head to toe but Caitlyn couldn't hear a single one of them. The conversation was brief and when it was over, Vi motioned at them to continue. Caitlyn quickened up her pace and walked beside her. 

“Was that the… You-know-who?” She asked quietly. 

“Yes.” Vi nodded. “Forget that this conversation happened. Now we need to find Ivanov. He must be somewhere around here.”

At some point the tunnel split in two. Vi led them towards the left one. As it seemed, the market was enormous and continued both ways. Eventually, they came to a halt in front of a counter that sold ammunition and replacements. The merchant was a bold man with little to no teeth - the ones he had were all with black or golden - and he seemed very pleased to have so many customers over his counter. 

“How can this humble man be of use?” He said as he bowed slightly. His accent was clearly from Freljord, as Caitlyn recognised. 

“Are you Jared Ivanov?” Vi asked. 

“The infamous Jared Ivanov, yes. Who's asking?”

Vi didn't care to respond. She drew out a picture of Ezreal and showed it to him. “Have you seen him lately?”

Ivanov stared at the picture for a little while before he spoke again. “Ah, Ezreal, my boy. One of my best customers-”

“Have you seen him or not?” Vi interrupted his rumbling.

“I'm afraid I can't give you answers, not here.” He shook his head. “If you would be so kind as to follow me.”

Vi and Caitlyn shared a look before deciding to follow him. When all of them began to go after him, he stopped. 

“Nada,” he said. “Only the two of you.”

“Stay here, we'll be back soon,” Caitlyn told her squad before following Ivanov with Vi. 

The merchant led them into a passage between walls that couldn't be seen in the darkness unless you knew where to find it. It was very narrow and dark and rats moved around their feet. 

“There it will be safer to talk.” Ivanov gave them a toothless smile. Both Caitlyn and Vi felt uneased. 

“I don't have a good feeling about this,” Caitlyn whispered. 

“Me neither. But we shall see,” Vi whispered back.

The passage led outside of the market in another tunnel that was empty or so it seemed so. There was even less lightning that before there. 

“Now you brought us here, speak up,” Vi said impatiently. 

“I don't think so, officer Vi.”

There was shuffle and movement around and soon a dozen gunned up appeared from the shadows, surrounding them. 

“What is the meaning of this?” Vi exclaimed as Caitlyn unstrapped her rifle. 

“You thought we wouldn't recognise you, you filthy cop?” Ivanov smirked maliciously. “You've made a great mistake by coming here, you and your friends.”

Caitlyn tried to contact the others but she discovered, much to her dismay, that communications were shut off. They were trapped. “What's the plan?” she asked Vi. 

“For fuck's sake, I don't know!” Vi growled. 

 

“Well, shit.”

Chapter Text

Caitlyn's brain was working relentlessly in order to figure out a way to get them both alive out of this situation, however it currently seemed impossible to go against twelve, heavily-armed men. Vi's gauntlets unravelled around her skin in such a speed that the human eye barely could catch. Caitlyn found herself standing back-to-back with the PROJECT cop, the criminals now approaching dangerously. 

"Don't you dare think for a moment that those gauntlets of yours will get you out of this alive," Ivanov said. "It's game over."

As much as she hated to admit it, Caitlyn realized that he was, in fact, correct. Without help, they couldn't make it. But that didn't mean she was willing to just stand there and let them walk away victorious. 

"Any ideas?" Vi whispered. 

"None," Caitlyn responded. "What about you?"

"I got one." Vi smirked. "Smash our way out of here."

"And jeopardize our lives," Caitlyn commented. 

"Look, in order to make this work I need you to trust me."

Caitlyn gazed as the criminals were at a very close range and the only sounds were the clicking of guns and the beating of her heart. 

"I do," she said eventually. 

"I need you to shoot that guy in front of you, like right now, a'right? Leave the rest to me."

"Roger that." Caitlyn nodded. She waited for a moment before she raised her rifle unexpectedly and pulled the trigger without hesitation. The block fell lifeless on the ground and his death sparkled an immediate reaction from his companions who started shooting. The next thing Caitlyn knew was metal wrapping around her and the sound of bullets filling her ears. She kept her eyes closed but she didn't feel any sharp pain indicating that she had been injured. She gathered enough courage to give a peek and realized that the metal shield hugging her - quite literally - was Vi's body which was also surrounded by an extra Blast Shield that absorbed most of the damage. Eventually the shooting ceased as the gunmen needed to reload. 

"This is our chance," Vi whispered in her ear before she launched herself towards those men who were closer and smashing their faces in the progress. Meanwhile Caitlyn picked up her rifle again and launched a net at another two gunmen that didn't have the time to react and found themselves trapped. The impact of the shot threw her behind, closing the distance between her and another man who panicked at the sight of her. Without losing time, she hit his head with the back of her rifle and he fell unconscious. She spun around to see how Vi was doing and lent her a helping hand, but she came to realize the cop didn't need any, for she was doing great herself, having rendered another two men unconscious. There was an opening now that no one guarded the entrance to the alleyway. 

"Vi!" She shouted as she sprinted. "Let's go! Now!"

Vi threw another punch at another man. "And I was just about having so much fun!"

The PROJECT dashed forward and followed the agent closely behind. The remaining of the gunmen started shooting towards the alley but Vi's enormous back blocked the bullets from hitting Caitlyn. Then they were lost in the darkness but not for too long. Those who were left behind were immediately on their tail and more showed up on the other side of the alley. 

"How many are they, god-dammit!" Vi cursed out loud. They could neither go back or forth; they were trapped again. 

"Kill them!" came Ivanov's shrieking voice. "Don't waste more time, you twats!"

And when it seemed that all hope was lost, a glimmering object appeared right in front of Caitlyn. Smirking slightly, she grasped it, stopping midway. 

"What the fuck are you doing?" Vi yelled at her. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?"

"I guess it's my turn to ask you if you trust me!" Caitlyn shouted back. Vi was taken aback. 

"Course I do."

"Then, cover me! You have a bullet-proof body, use it accordingly!"

Vi grunted as she took a stand between Caitlyn and the criminals, waiting for the upcoming rain of bullets. In the meantime, the object that Caitlyn was holding for the life of her was, in fact, a sword sort of thing, as Vi noticed. How it had ended up there remained a complete mystery to her and at that point it didn't really matter to her either. She just hoped Caitlyn's insane plan - sort of, Vi still wasn't sure what this was - would work out. 

Suddenly, the sword glowed brighter and the next moment Shen teleported in, immediately throwing himself towards the criminals, gripping his sword . On the other side Riven appeared with her blade, slashing her way through. 

"Wait, he can do that? Holy shit!" Vi exclaimed in great admiration at Shen's teleportation ability as Caitlyn shot a few more rounds before there were no more of the gunmen.

"Where's Ivanov?" She asked, trying to spot him. 

"He must have fled," Shen concluded. 

"The son of a bitch!" Vi cursed. 

"Come on guys, don't get so pessimistic. Tobias won't let him get away," Riven reassured them. 

And staying true to her words, Twisted Fate appeared a moment later, holding Ivanov by the back of his collar, looking both terrified and displeased. Twisted Fate dropped him down on his knees. 

"How many of you can teleport anyways?" He hissed. He didn't have much time to complete his thought when Vi grasped him by the collar and slammed him on the wall. Ivanov let out a squeak.

"Now tell me you bastard, where's Ezreal?" she hissed, shaking him violently. 

"I-I don't know!" Ivanov trembled. "I swear, I know nothing-!"

"You didn't almost get us killed for 'nothing'! Speak up or I'll make sure you'll never walk straight again!"

"A'right, a'right! Ezreal came over yesterday to buy some replacements for his gauntlet, then he vanished again! Happy now?"

"Very," said Vi before knocking him out and leaving him unconscious, bleeding form fall to the ground, clear disgust on her face. 

"You really didn't have to do that," Caitlyn pointed out. 

"In case you didn't notice, he tried to kill us," Vi deadpanned. "He had it coming. This could be a lot easier if he had cooperated from the start."

"Violence cannot be answered with violence. It's a vicious cycle, we aren't animals," Caitlyn insisted fiercely. 

"You know little of this life. Violence is the only answer to anything." Vi stared at her intently. "Come on, let's get the hell outta here," she added, walking towards the far end of the alleyway."These folks aren't the only ones around keeping the market safe from people like us. It's certain there are more coming for our heads."

The Pulsefire squad followed her closely behind. They didn't care much to hide neither their weapons nor their suits as they were in immediate danger of being attacked out of nowhere, winning both of the sellers' and the customers' suspicious looks. 

"Ignore them," Vi murmured. "They already know that something happened, but they're not sure what, so they won't act. Just keep walking."

Caitlyn felt threatened by all those snarling glares people gave her but her face showed none of that. However, her finger remained close to her rifle's trigger. She wasn't as dumb to believe that she could just dwell in such places without being prepared for the worst. They passed through the counter of the undercover cop and Vi gave him a very imperceptible nod that anyone could have missed if they didn't pay enough attention. Thankfully for Caitlyn, she did and the agent got the message immediately and started packing his stuff discreetly and quickly. They kept walking until they came out of the tunnel and found themselves back at the abandoned underground station. They rushed up the stairs and much to their surprise, they didn't find the guard there, sign that the underworld had been alerted. Vi pushed through the metal gates and held them open for the Pulsefires to pass through. When they did, they made sure they had distanced themselves enough from the entrance before they spoke again. 

"What an eventful visit that one was," said Shen. 

"Well, at least we've got some information," Riven spoke. 

"It wasn't much of importance," Caitlyn mused. "He was here yesterday and I doubt he will return anytime soon. We should focus on finding those architectural designs of the sewage system."

"I agree with Caitlyn," Vi said. "There's nothing we could do as of now."

"Alright then, let's head back and get to work," Shen suggested. "There's nothing here for us anymore."

"I'll call us an uber," Riven offered as she picked up her phone. 

"What are you going to do now?" Caitlyn asked Vi. 

The cop shrugged her shoulders. "Guess I'll make sure that the undercover agent is safe before heading back to the station. I'll be waiting for your word. If I come up with anything else, I'll give you a call."

"Alright." Caitlyn nodded. At that moment an uber pulled over at the side of the road. Shen, Riven and Twisted Fate entered the vehicle but Caitlyn waited. She seemed to be willing to say something to Vi but then she changed her mind and got in the taxi without further words. Vi watched as the uber departed until it disappeared from her sight. Letting out a sigh, she spun around and walked towards the opposite direction, back to where they had come from. She passed by the underground station quickly and headed towards the old harbor of Piltover. But instead of getting straight there, she took a sudden turn into yet another dark alley. There was a dark figure waiting for her. 

"Everything good?" He asked when he saw her approaching. 

"You could say," Vi responded. "Are you okay? Sorry for blowing the operation and putting yourself in danger," she apologized sincerely. 

"Are you serious?" He laughed. "You did me a favor, if you must know. I've been undercover for ten bloody months, I'm so fucking tired of pretending someone I'm not, lying and risking my head 24/7. This is my chance to finally go home and relax."

"If you say so," Vi said with an astonished expression. "I'll be on my way then. I guess you don't need me to escort you."

"Of course not," he dismissed her. "Good luck with your case, officer."

"And good luck with whatever you're planning on doing," said Vi. The agent bid her farewell before disappearing in the shadows. Vi returned on her course and hurried up. 

The old harbor was as quiet as anyone would expect it to be. There were very few people around and no one noticed when Vi sneaked in. She reached the Morning Star without any trouble and climbed on the dock. She reached out to the metal door that blocked her way in and opened it with ease. The next moment, she disappeared inside. After walking inside the ship for a while, getting deeper and deeper with each step, she finally reached her destination without encountering either Fiora or Lucian that played guards. Surely they must have seen her coming and that's why there was no need for such greetings. She found herself in G/NETIC's headquarters where everything buzzed with life but no one seemed to be in high spirits. 

"Vi, welcome." Ashe was the first to approach her. "We weren't expecting you, truth be told."

"Circumstances demanded me to get out of schedule," Vi explained. 

"Circumstances also made you look like shit."

The blond boy smirked at the cop from where he stood and Vi gave him a venomous glare. 

"If you were ambushed by some gang members, you'd look like shit too," she deadpanned. Ezreal's smirk disappeared immediately. 

"Wait. You were ambushed?" Ashe repeated. 

"Yeah, that's what I wanted to talk to you about," Vi explained. "A word, please?„

"Sure." Ashe nodded and Vi pulled her away.

"The Pulsefires and I went to the old underground, following Ezreal's 'trail' when we found ourselves in some serious trouble," said Vi. "This guy, Ivanov, set us a trap. We almost got killed!"

"Did he actually betray you?" Ashe was astonished. "He was supposed to give you fake information about Ezreal and let you go. Unharmed."

"You really can't trust anyone from the underworld." Vi shook her head. "But I'm assuming he must have been working for someone else at the same time."

"Do you know who he's working for?" Ashe asked. 

"I have a feeling I do," Vi admitted. "All of them bear the same symbol on their arms: a rose."

"A rose?" Ashe furrowed her brows. "Do you think they were working for Norman Rose?"

"I assume yes." Vi nodded in confirmation. "But I can't confirm it. It might be just a mere assumption."

"Actually, I think I can confirm this," said Ashe. 

Vi raised her eyebrows. "How?"

"Let's not mess around, Vi. I know Vayne retrieved the USB for you..."

Vi looked away awkwardly. "I don't have the slightest idea of what you're talking about."

"...and that Fiora helped her out."

Vi looked surprised. "Wait, what?"

"She lied about going on patrol. Ekko has installed a detecting device on each of us. We trucked her down and she was nowhere near the city when the whole operation took place."

"Look, I indeed sent Vayne but I had no clue Fiora would be there too," Vi declared. "So if she was there, do you think she would be able to confirm that those who attacked us were in fact Rose's men?"

"I suppose yes. She certainly didn't go there for vacation," said Ashe sarcastically. "But I'll need some time to address the subject. She's under the impression that I'm not aware of what she did."

"Don't be too harsh on her. The only reason she lied is because she knows that you aren't getting along with Vayne," Vi advised. 

"I think I know how to handle this, thank you very much," said Ashe, slightly annoyed. 

Vi raised both of her arms in defeat. "By the way, how's Yi doing?"

Ashe's expression darkened at her words. The wound was still flesh and Vi couldn't help but feel responsible for what had happened to the PROJECT. 

"He's stable for now," Ashe eventually said. "But he sustained too much damage. Ekko is attending him as we speak but even him isn't sure if he will be able to restart Yi's system or how he will be, should he ever wake up."

"I understand." Vi nodded, the guilt inside her reaching a peak. "I'm so sorry I wasn't there faster. I might as well have been able to prevent this from happening to him."

"It's alright, really. Vi, you were there and that's all that matters. You even helped bring him back to safety.”

"No, it's not alright, Ashe. That's exactly the problem," Vi hissed. "I'm always a tad too slow and everyone gets hurt or almost hurt because of that. Heck, my sister fucking died because I wasn't there on time!"

Vi hadn't realized that she had gradually raised her voice and now particularly everyone was staring at them. She cleared her throat, though it made little to loosen up the tension.

"Never mind. I'm gonna go, I need to return back to the station," she said eventually. "And you." She pointed at Ezreal. "No more reckless walks around the city. They came this close to catching your sorry ass."

Ezreal shrugged her off. "You should be the one being careful, Vi."

"I'll be fine. You, on the other hand, won't be if they arrest you," she warned him before bidding her goodbyes and leaving. 



Her trip back to the Downtown Police Department was dull. Vi wasn't even sure if she wanted to be there in the first place, especially after everything that had happened down at the old underground. She came to a halt in front of the station, looking at the sign, wondering if she should just skip work today and go home or spend her free time in a bar but she immediately dismissed the second option as she couldn't get drunk anymore. Adopting the ATLA gauntlets had also serious effects on her body. Her human needs had been reduced to minimum, she never really ate or went to the bathroom anymore nor she needed to sleep. It was like she had been turned to a machine. In order to be able to use the PROJECT technology, she had to surrender her humanity. But she still was mortal just like everyone around her. Yi's accident had been the proof of this claim. And also the proof that she was completely useless. If she couldn't protect Yi as a PROJECT, how could she have been able to save Jinx when she was a mere cop? The Pulsefires had almost been killed because of her too. It was a miracle they had survived the ambush. Her colleagues and boss were right; they should turn her into a trashcan and throw her away just like she deserved to be treated. She had the immense urge to just leave but she ought to check-in at least once a day. After all, she was absent most of the time, working on the Ezreal case with the TPA. Sighing, she entered the station, thinking that she would get this over with quickly and then leave. Thankfully, her colleagues had chosen a new approach and that was ignoring her, much to her relief. Avoiding contact was the best for her right now. Although getting a glimpse over Buckley and Jarvis warmed her heart a bit. After they dropped the great revelation, she saw those two buffoons from an entire different aspect. However, remembering that she hadn't made any progress in catching Norman Rose filled her heart with guilt and sorrow and it only made it worse that there was a chance the Godfather was after her.

Everything was just great. 

She closed herself inside her office, away from the piercing gazes and indiscreet comments. At this point, she didn't give a damn. She didn't need them to speak the truth for she knew the truth already; she destroyed everything she touched. No matter how hard she tried, it just never wasn't enough. Jinx was dead because she hadn't been fast enough, Master Yi was probably dying because she hadn't been fast enough and Caitlyn - whom she cared about more than she admitted to herself - had almost died because she hadn't been fast enough. She didn't deserve to bear the ATLA gauntlets. She was a worthless piece of shit that deserved to die because she constantly fucked up. She had never felt such self-loathe until today. She buried her head inside her gauntlets, struggling not to cry. At least, this was something that the PROJECT technology couldn't deprive her from; tears and pain. 

It was one of those dark days again but she couldn't see the light in the distance. 

Chapter Text

Fiora stood in a corner, observing from the shadows as Ekko worked on Master Yi. He hadn't been successful in restarting him but at least he was still alive. Barely, but still alive. 

The past few days had been total hell, especially for Fiora and Leona who had been present on the incident. The dueler could make a new entry to her list of feelings since she got her freedom; guilt. She felt responsible for what had happened to her companion, she should have seen it coming and prevented it. But she didn't and here they were, with Yi in a coma and G/NETIC lost in their despair. 

They had found the remains of the USB. What was left of it was fragments. Yi had destroyed it in order to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. He had succeeded at the cost of his own life. Now, he laid lifeless while Ekko worked on him. The boy couldn't do much since he was simply a hacker but it seemed it was enough to keep the PROJECT initial alive for now. 

"I can't do much," Ekko had said. "He sustained damage up to 98%. Most of his systems were destroyed. Even if I manage to restart him, we can't be sure if he will be the same as he was. I'm pretty sure his memory was also destroyed," he had explained. 

"Isn't there anything else you can do?" Ashe had asked. 

"As of now, no. I don't have the right replacements to fix him up completely. Each of us had their own accessories in case of damage, something like a safe protocol so no one could alter our settings. 
I can't install anything without risking his life."

Ashe had nodded without adding anything else. That conversation had taken place three days ago.  Fiora was convinced that Ashe was coming up with a plan to save Master Yi. Knowing her, Ashe wouldn't let him die like that, not if she had a say in it. Her determination and dedication was admirable at times like that. 

The fourth day after the incident, Ashe called in a meeting. The atmosphere was so much different without Yi among them. Instead, he was laying a few steps away, unable to listen to any of their words. 

"I'm not going to state the obvious," she began. "All of us know the situation is critical. Yi was severely damaged and he can't be fixed without the right equipment, which we can't just find anywhere."

"Are you suggesting what I'm thinking you're suggesting?" Fiora asked. Ashe had mentioned the key words, which were 'equipment' and 'anywhere'.  There was only one guess one could make. 

"Yes, Fiora," Ashe confirmed. "I suggest that we break into the PROJECT Inc. headquarters to steal all the accessories we need." 

She was greeted with silence as she looked hopefully around. 

"What other choice do we have?" she continued. "Yi is going to die if we don't act."

"No offense Ashe, but this is suicide," Lucian spoke. "You can't be possibly thinking that we can get in there, save for getting out alive."

"I don't like this either," Ashe admitted. "I know it's dangerous but I'm not going to let him die knowing I could have done something to prevent it from happening. If you have any better suggestions, I'm all ears."

There was no response. 

"That's what I thought. Who's in then?"

"I'm in," Fiora stated immediately. Sure it was dangerous and everything but this was her chance to make things right. 

"I'm in, too," Leona declared. Fiora gave her a quick glance. She definitely felt the same way she did for the subject. 

"Count me in," Yasuo said. 

"Me too," Ekko spoke.

Ashe stared at Lucian. "You can stay behind if you don't agree. It's up to you."

"Screw it, I'm coming," he said. "But just so you know, I still don't like this at all."

"And what about me?" Ezreal pipped in.

Ashe blinked. "Pardon me?"

"Doesn't my opinion count? I want to help, too!" he declared. 

"The last place you should be around is the PROJECT Inc. base," Ashe said. "I'm sorry but I can't take you with me. It's too risky."

"You're their leader, not mine," Ezreal stated matter-of-factly. "If I want to join you then I will but under my own responsibility."

Ashe sighed in desperation. "Fine. Do what you want. But if you get caught, don't expect us to come after you."

"Alright, deal."

"Ekko, I need you to find the architectural designs of the building and any information regarding their security," Ashe commanded. "And as quickly as possible, please. There's no time to lose."

"Say it's already done, Ashe." The boy saluted before rushing back to his computer. 

"Yasuo and Fiora, I need you to be my eyes on the perimeter of the building," Ashe addressed the two PROJECTS. "I need to know who gets in and out of the building every second of the day."

"Wait, Ashe," Ekko called. "I think you should give them one more assignment."

Ashe turned to him. "What do you mean?"

"Their security system is one of the most complex ones I've ever seen. I can't hack into their database without being located," the boy explained. "But if, let's just say, a virus attacked their system, they would have to shut it down before it can destroy all of their data. When they get it restarted, the system is going to be vulnerable. But the virus has to be inserted manually."

"Alright, I see," Ashe mused. "Can you get it done?"

Ekko smirked. "The real question is, can they install the virus without getting caught?"

Fiora rolled her eyes. "We'll get the job done. Just tell us what we gotta do."

"I need some time to prepare," Ekko said. "But when I'm ready, I'll send you what you need."

"Now we've settled this, you two go," Ashe instructed. "And take Lucian with you, if you want. The more the merrier."

"Shouldn't it be the opposite?" Fiora raised a brow. 

"The building is huge. Two of you can't handle it alone, especially if you're going to get inside to dismantle the security," Ashe deadpanned. "Any questions?"

"Yes, I actually have one," Ezreal said. "What am I supposed to do with Steve Rogers from here?" he asked pointing first at himself and then at Leona. 

"What did you just call me?" Leona hissed but Ashe ignored her comment and eyed them carefully. 

"For now, you stay here. Help Ekko with Yi, if you must," she dismissed him. "Until the right time comes, we wait here and prepare as well as we can."



Fiora, Yasuo and Lucian spent the week inspecting the building where PROJECT Inc. was hosted, a place all too painfully familiar. People went and left and they even noticed Zed and Katarina around but Jhin was nowhere to be found, not to Fiora's surprise. He had been demolished during their last encounter by Vi and she felt utterly satisfied by that, even though she wished it had been Katarina in his position. 

One day this bitch would pay. Sooner or later, they'd meet and Fiora would show her zero mercy.  

"Fiora, Yasuo, Lucian, do you copy? It's time."

The voice came right through her headset, interrupting her thoughts. It was Ekko. She unconsciously looked over the locations of her companions from the alley she was hidden. It was dark but she knew they were there, as it was indicated through her mask. 

"Copy that," Fiora said. Yasuo and Lucian also confirmed. 

"I'm gonna send the virus to one of you. Who's up to the task?"

"I will," Lucian spoke before anyone else had the chance to do it. 

"You got it."

"Lucian, are you absolutely sure?" Fiora asked. 

"Yes, Fiora. I'm sure."

The dueler wasn't sure what he wanted to prove with his actions, she just hoped he wasn't about to make a huge mistake. 

"The transfer has been completed. Good luck, Lucian."

Fiora saw Lucian's form in the darkness moving towards the building. The entire building's security was automatic; the guards were robots of high intelligence and there was only one human behind the surveillance system, which in this case would prove crucial. Lucian disappeared inside the structure through the janitor's door on the back side. 

Soon after a van came to a halt on the very same alley Fiora was hidden and Ezreal along the rest of the projects jumped out of it. 

"How's it going?" Ashe asked. 

"Lucian just got inside. We're waiting for his signal," Fiora informed her. 

"Great."

The following moments were met in silence. The agony was evident in the air. There was still no news of Lucian. Everyone stood still and awaited. Only Ezreal showed his nervousness by tapping his fingers onto the wall. 

"Virus in. The system has shut down," came Lucian's voice through their headsets. 

"Roger that," Ashe said. "Let's go."

"We've got two minutes till surveillance is back," Ekko informed them. 

"Then, let's not waste more time!"

The group rushed down the street and entered the building through a backdoor but not the same one Lucian had used. Yasuo was supposed to come through the opposite side and they would meet at some point. Their goal was the storage that was located in the basement, but they wouldn't make it in time. They needed to hide until Ekko could hack into the system. Once the door behind them was shut close, Ekko pulled out his laptop and started working. They were overcrowded but they couldn't move forward. The corridor before them led to the lobby which was filled with guards. After ten minutes, Ekko made it and it was finally safe to proceed. When they entered the lobby, the robot guards laid lifeless on the ground, completely useless. Yasuo showed up from across the room and Lucian came down the stairs so they were free to go. 

"Beware, I couldn't deactivate all of the guards," Ekko informed. "Some are written up on a different server. No time to look that up."

"Proceed with caution then," Ashe said and motioned at them to follow up. 

They headed downstairs deep into the ground where they knew the storage was located with their senses all sharpened and ready. 

"What happened with the human guard?" Fiora whispered to Lucian. 

"He won't be up any time soon," he whispered back. She nodded. 

They finally reached the bottom of the stairs. Ashe motioned at Leona to go ahead first and then motioned at Lucian to tag along. She signalled the rest to wait. The three PROJECTS moved along the corridor which was abruptly interrupted by a door. 

"Ekko, do you have authorization for this door?" Ashe asked. 

"I think so," the boy responded. 

Ashe and Lucian took cover to the sides while Leona raised her shield. The next moment the door slid open with a hiss. Leona moved forward and immediately gun fire interrupted the silence. Ashe pulled out an arrow while Lucian shot over Leona's head. Ashe's arrow hit the robot guards right on its head, rendering it useless. 

"Let's move," she said. The rest of the group followed closely behind and always on guard. Leona always stood forward with her shield while the two marksmen followed closely behind her. Ezreal moved closely to Lucian, shuddering even so slightly, his gauntlet ready to fire. The melee PROJECTS stayed a little behind. 

The corridor split in two parts. Ashe and Lucian went ahead to check over the corners and apparently they were guards on both sides. 

"We'll take the left side," Ashe said. "Yasuo, Fiora, Ekko, get the right. Ezreal, go with them. They'll need a marksman with them."

"I'll go first," Yasuo declared and Fiora didn't object because she knew it was the wisest thing to do. 

"We are right behind you, man," Ekko said. 

Yasuo nodded before jumping forward and drawing a line on the floor with his blade and a shield showed up that was enough to cover them for a few seconds. Ezreal jumped next to him and started shooting, then Fiora and Ekko ran forward, passing next to Yasuo's wall, the latter charging his Z-Drive. The boy rolled onto the ground to avoid the upcoming bullets before smashing the first guard that showed up on his path. Fiora also dashed forward and thrusted her blade on the first robot on her way. Another fell down after getting shot by Ezreal. 

Behind them on the opposite side Leona smashed one last robot with her sword. 

"Good job everyone," Ashe praised. "Let's get going."

They took the left side and continued there. Unfortunately, more guards were coming after them from upfront and there was nowhere to hide now.

"Embrace yourselves!" Ashe exclaimed as she drew out another arrow and shot the target in front of her. 

The battle broke about inside the corridor and it lasted a brief moment with the PROJECTS coming out victorious but not without difficulty. 

"We need to hurry up!" Leona said. "We will never get there if we bump into more of them."

"We are close," Ekko informed. "But you're right, we need to hurry up. There's another dozen of them coming right for us."

"Then, run!" Ashe ordered, sprinting 
forward and the rest following her. 

The corridor was long and dark. They must have been running for a good amount of five minutes before they came to a halt in front of another shut door, behind which laid their final destination. 

"Hurry," Ashe hissed at Ekko, looking behind her shoulders to see the guards approaching. 

"Shit! This door is locked with five different combinations!" Ekko exclaimed. 

"That's just great!" Ezreal sneered as he shot another guard. "Hurry the fuck up!"

"You wanted to be here in the first place!"

"How about you two concentrate on the task at hand!" Ashe barked at them before shooting another robot. 

Leona and Yasuo tried to give them as much cover as they could but to no avail. Lucian got shot on the shoulder while Yasuo was on his side. Fiora stepped in to give him time to recover, piercing through two robots with her blade. 

"Guys! Get inside!" she heard Ekko shouting behind her back. 

"Can you walk?" Fiora asked Yasuo who clenched on his side. 

"I'm fine! Run!" he shouted before the sound of a gunshot covered his voice. 

Fiora rolled to the side and a bullet flied over where her head stood one moment ago. Both her and Yasuo where the last ones to get behind the storage before the door was shut behind them. The rain of bullets continued none-stop, sounding like a hazard outside a closed window. 

"Is everyone here?" Ashe asked. 

"Yes, but we've got casualties!" Fiora informed. Yasuo next to her slipped down on the floor, panting. Ashe rushed to his side and bended down in front him. 

"Are you alright?" she asked in concern. 

"I will be eventually," he said. She simply shook her head. 

"I'm fine," Lucian claimed as Ekko examined him. 

"You're lucky, my dude. This bullet could have ripped off your arm," he commented. 

Yasuo reached his arm and grabbed Ashe's wrist. "Don't waste time. Get what you came here for, otherwise everything will be in vain. We'll be fine; we just need some time to recover."

Fiora studied Ashe's expression and it was clear that she didn't want to leave the two behind. Eventually though, she realized that Yasuo was right and they needed to move on. 

"We'll come back for you," Ashe promised. "Alright guys, let's move."

"Are you sure they will be fine?" Ezreal asked. 

"They've got to," Ashe murmured. 

The storage was a huge labyrinth of corridors, as it turned out. How they were supposed to find what they needed? It could probably take them hours and they didn't have this time. 

"Ekko, could you probably give us a hint to where the equipment is?" Ashe required. 

"I can try," the boy said. "Alright, as it seems we've got some walking to do. Follow my lead!" 

They walked around for a while, probably something around twenty minutes. Ekko led them through endless corridors that each had tall drawers on each side. They could see what was inside of them through the glass doors and the lights that were set over each item. There were also labels with the name of the items. Eventually, the drawers created a large circle and the lightning was slightly different there. Every three lines of drawers the colours changed; it went from green to pink and from orange to blue, all referring to the PROJECT traces. 

"Shite," Ezreal cursed. "Are those replacements for all of you?"

"Apparently, yes," Ashe asked, gazing over the side which was painted blue, her colour. "To them, we were always nothing more than machines."

Ekko approached the orange lights. "Well, these are it. Yi's parts," he murmured. He pressed a couple of buttons on his laptop and the drawer popped open before he started picking up what he needed. 

"Ashe, I know we came here for Yi," Fiora spoke, standing in front of the drawers painted a neon pink. "But shouldn't we take something for us too? If, let's say, something similar happens to any of us, we won't be able to come here again, at least not in the foreseeable future."

"We can't carry too much weight, Fiora."

"I know. I just made a suggestion."

Ashe stopped on her tracks to consider Fiora's words. "Unless, of course, we can minimize the extra weight. What do you think, Ekko?"

"I believe Fiora's got a point," he said. "But in order to carry as little weight as possible, each of you has to take at least one or two accessories, no more than that."

"Alright, then. Open the rest of the drawers," Ashe ordered and Ekko was quick to oblige. They rushed to take whatever they thought they would need most in case of an injury and placed them on a bag which Leona would carry. Ekko picked some stuff for Yasuo and Lucian and they were ready to go. 

They rushed behind to find Yasuo and Lucian waiting for them. They seemed to be better already. 

"Anything new to report?" Ashe asked. 

"The shooting has ceased," Lucian informed. "But they are waiting for us outside. It will be a suicide if we dare open the door."

"So what do we do?" Fiora asked. "We can't stay in here."

"I've got an idea!" Ezreal exclaimed. "I could use a Trueshot Barrage to wipe them all out at once."

"I mean, we've got nothing to lose, right?" Ekko questioned. "What do you say, Ashe?"

"I say, go for it." The archer nodded. 

"Alright, everyone. Please, step aside," Ezreal said and everyone moved to the side. "On my signal, open the door," he turned to Ekko. 

The hacker pulled out his laptop. "You got it."

The Prodigious Explorer raised his gauntlet and charged it up before winding up. "Now!" he shouted. Ekko pressed a button on his device and the exact moment when a powerful barrage of energy escaped through Ezreal's gauntlet, the doors opened and it passed through the robots, terminating every single one of them. 

"That's what I call good timing!" Ekko grinned. 

"Good job indeed, kid," Ashe praised. "Come on!"

As they ran back from where they had come from, Fiora noticed that the walls were damaged by Ezreal's shot and she was impressed. She didn't actually expect him to cause so much damage. Maybe he would prove more useful than she had initially thought. 

They didn't meet a soul and they thought it was over until they arrived back at the lobby and ran outside where they bumped into a very unpleasant surprise. Zed, Katarina and even Jhin stood with an army of robot guards twice the size of those they had exterminated and much more heavily armed. 

"Now, now, where do you think you're going?" Katarina smirked, playing with her dagger. "How foolish of you, coming straight into the wolf's mouth."

Ashe pulled out an arrow and attached it to the string of her bow. "We'll see about that, Katarina," she responded coldly. 

"Once we kill all of your pawns, you won't sound so cocky, Frost Archer," Zed hissed. 

"Only over my dead body."

"You don't have to ask twice," Katarina snarled. "Kill them all!" she ordered the guards and chaos erupted. 



Chapter Text

The following moments were a complete blur. Fiora remembered Leona raising her shield and Yasuo trying to block the upcoming bullets with his wall, but the guards were too many to handle. But this was the least of Fiora's concerns as her eyes remained fixated on Katarina and anger filled every fiber of her being. Her first instinct was to dash forward and put an end to her miserable life, but she was aware she'd be dead in the fracture of time. That didn't stop her from wanting to erase the smirk off the assassin's face.

Before she had time to formulate a plan, the assassin teleported right in the middle of them and started spinning around, throwing daggers in every direction. The sudden move caught everyone off guard and they couldn't escape her Death Lotus. A dagger logged into Fiora's left shoulder and on her side. She winced in pain as she dashed forward to escape Katarina's barrage of knives. She drew out the daggers off her body and threw them to the ground.

Warning: Damage up to 68%

Before she had the time to recover, one of Zed's shadows appeared out of nowhere and tried to assassinate her on the spot but she was having none of it.

"Coward!" she yelled as she dodged the upcoming shurikens. "Come and fight me yourself!"

The shadow was replaced by Zed's presence. "As you wish," he growled.

This battle would turn to be Fiora's grand challenge. A clash between blades. The difference was, Fiora was a dueler and Zed an assassin, but both were extremely skilled in their art. They hit and dodged each other's attacks and occasionally managed to give a blow but the battle could last hours and there was definitely no time for that. The Grand Dueler concentrated and managed to spot the four vital points on the Master of Shadows and started aiming there. Zed tried his best to avoid sustaining damage there but he was well aware that he wouldn't be able to keep up if she hit all four of them, so he unleashed his Death Mark on her.

Fiora panicked. If the mark went off now, she would die in an instant. She needed to hit the other two points in order to survive. Letting out a fierce cry, she started hitting harder and faster. Zed tried to dodge her hits but to no avail. She managed to hit the last vital on the very last second before the Mark exploded on her.

Warning: Damage up to 95%

Reducing Damage: In progress

She started healing almost immediately and Zed knew he couldn't win so he let his shadow behind and ran off to someone else. Fiora took a moment to spit some blood off her mouth and take a breath. She hadn't bleeded out in years. That was new.

Damage reduced to 60%

She looked around her; the battle was still ongoing. She might have defeated Zed but that didn't guarantee their safe escape. She clenched her blade before rushing back to help her companions deal with the rest of the guards and the other PROJECTS. It was chaotic and yet somehow Katarina still managed to sneak in and out without much trouble. She managed to even sneak behind Leona and stab her in the back. The Radiant Dawn let out an outraged cry before spinning around and giving a hard hit with her sword. She missed only by a few inches.

"No! She's mine!" Fiora cried out. Leona probably wanted to object but she wasn't left with an option.

"It's time to go! We can't keep doing this!" Ashe yelled over the noise. "Leona!"

"God-fucking-dammit," the tank cursed before lifting her sword to the air, summoning a power that was unknown to most people around her, but it seemed like it was the power of the sun itself. A huge line of light fell upon the group of robots, stunning them temporarily and almost burning them in the process. Ashe unleashed a huge frost arrow that hit another group, freezing them. The few that had escaped the attack were hit by Yasuo's tornado and others were caught in one of Ekko's chrono-anomalies.

"This is our chance! Quickly!" Ashe shouted.

Fiora was torned. This could be her only chance of getting revenge on those who had hurt her companions but her survival was more important than anything else right now. She cursed silently and followed her group instead of pursuing after Katarina. She was the last in line alongside Ezreal. Ashe had warned him not to come. This could turn out to be absolutely horrible if they managed to catch him eventually. Fiora managed to overcome him with ease as she kept sprinting. She was sure he'd be able to keep up until she heard him yelp and she stopped right on her tracks before turning around to see what the problem was.

The problem was that he had run into one of Jhin's traps and was locked to the ground. Fiora didn't hesitate as she ran back to help him up.

"What are you doing?" he whispered. "You're gonna get caught."

"No one is left behind," she simply told him as she held her hand out. He took it without hesitation and soon they were back to their feet but Khada Jhin had other plans for the two of them. Before they could catch up with the others, Fiora herself fell into another of his traps, cursing silently. Ezreal stopped to help her before a gunshot was heard. Fiora frantically looked over her shoulder and saw Jhin approaching.

"Go!" she shouted at Ezreal.

"I can't leave you behind!" he cried.

"Are you out of your mind?" Fiora screamed at him. "I'll be fine! Fucking go already!"

Ezreal hesitated the prospect of getting caught wasn't appealing. He mouthed an apology to Fiora before he disappeared.

Fiora managed to get off the trap but not quickly enough before Katarina had her pinned to the ground.

"Where do you think you're going, duelist?" she mocked. Fiora struggled under her grip but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get the assassin off her. Katarina grabbed a dagger and raised it above Fiora's head and prepared for the final blow. But at the last moment, she hesitated.

"What are you waiting for, Katarina?" Fiora growled. "Get over with it already, will you?"

Katarina's expression remained unreadable. She blinked several times but she never went for it. Fiora was now bewildered. Why did she hesitate? Katarina never hesitated. 

Suddenly, Katarina flew off her. Fiora followed her with her gaze and saw her getting pinned against the wall with what looked like a huge bolt but there was no one that could have fired that blow. She looked around and saw nothing except Jhin who was also looking for the new foe. A figure emerged from the shadows and shot Jhin before rushing to Fiora.

"What are you waiting for? Get up!" Vayne hissed at her as she helped her up.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Fiora asked as she stood up on her feet.

"Leave your inquiries for later, we need to get out of this mess alive first," was Vayne's response.

The two PROJECTS started running towards the complete opposite direction from where the others had escaped from. It was probably booby trapped anyways, they knew better than trying to follow the rest of the PROJECT initials. All out of a sudden, a huge bullet pierced right next to them. Fiora shuddered as she peeked over her shoulder and because saw Jhin using his gun as a mega-cannon; this was his deadliest trick. The next bullet came right towards them. Instinctively, Fiora dragged Vayne down with her and they fell onto the asphalt as the bullet flied above their heads and landed onto a nearby vehicle, making it explode. Another gunshot and the two PROJECTS rolled to the side to avoid getting hit before continuing their running. At that moment Fiora believed they would escape. Jhin didn't go immediately for the last shot and they were almost out of his ratio. Maybe, just maybe, she could get out of this alive and then narrate this crazy story to her friends. That before she heard the last gunshot and then felt an extremely sharp pain on her back. She stumbled on her own feet before falling on the ground.

Warning: Damage up to 90%

Upcoming system shutdown

Sixty seconds left

She could faintly hear Vayne shouting her name but she couldn't respond to any of her calls. Then, she felt herself being pulled by the armpits and towards an unknown destination before her back was laid onto a hard surface, perhaps a wall.

Twenty seconds left

"Fiora! Fiora! Answer me!" came Vayne's voice. For the first time since they met, Fiora saw Vayne actually panicking. She had always been cold and composed, this was so out of character from her side.

"I'm… going… to… shut… down…" Fiora managed to choke out.

"No, no, no! You can't, not here! It's not safe!" Vayne protested but it was beyond Fiora's control at this point.

Ten seconds left

"I'm… sorry…" Fiora whispered, looking Vayne straight in the eye. She reached out for the hunter's hand, seeking for some comfort during her last moment, or least she thought so. The last thing she would remember before blacking out would be Shauna Vayne's bright blue eyes.

When Fiora regained consciousness, she found herself into a dark room, laid down on a really uncomfortable mattress on the floor. She ran a quick scan to determine where exactly she was and she found out she wasn't truly alone in that place that seemed like an old basement to her. The humidity was high and it smelled kind of funny down there but at least she knew that she wasn't in danger. Slowly she sat up and looked around.

It was indeed a basement that was equipped with some of the higher-level technology found in Piltover which didn't make much sense to her until she spotted the figure that stood in front of a screen doing her own research. Vayne didn't seem to notice that she was now conscious until she turned her head towards her direction.

"You're awake." It was more of an observation rather than a question.

Fiora tried to recall the events of the previous night. She remembered clearly busting inside the headquarters of PROJECT Inc. but after a point  everything was a blur.

Memory recovery initiated 

Loading: 75%

As the memories unravelled before her eyes, everything slowly started making sense. They had indeed broken into the building where PROJECT Inc. was hosted, but they bumped into some company on their way out. She had fought against Zed and had barely won, then helped her companions with the other guards. Then what?

Memory recovery 

Loading: 85%

Then she had spotted Katarina and ran after her, but at the same time there was enough space for them to flee so she abandoned her vengeance plans. Ezreal got trapped and she helped him out before getting trapped herself. Then…

Memory recovery

Loading: 90%

Katarina had stopped her and almost killed her before Vayne showed up and they ran away together.

Memory recovery 

100% Completed

Right. She had been shot in the back by Jhin on their way out and she had passed out on a nearby street under Vayne's watch. That was it. She looked over the other PROJECT.

"How did I end up here? And where exactly is 'here'?" she asked.

"This is one of my safe houses," Vayne explained. "I brought you here after you lost consciousness with my bike. Not such an easy task, if you ask me. I feared you would fall off and you had already sustained too much damage."

According to Fiora's reports, she had sustained damage up to 90%. Running a quick scan, she came to realize that everything worked perfectly. Maybe there was some more serious malfunction but it would only show with a more detailed scan. But as far as she was concerned, everything was seemingly okay.

"I managed to fix you. You sustained much damage but both vitals were destroyed," Vayne explained as she took notice of her experience.

"I didn't know you were a mechanic," said Fiora.

"I am not. But I learned a few tricks here and there, mostly for self-preservation," the Night Hunter explained.

"How long have I been out?"

"Forty eight hours, give or take."

"Thank you. You saved my life. Had it not been for you, who knows where I'd be now," Fiora thanked her.

Vayne shrugged her shoulders. "I owed you one. Let's just say we are even now."

Fiora nodded. But there was something else that was bothering her, something she had asked that fateful night. "How did you find me? How did you know that I was in trouble?" Vayne seemed to be really uncomfortable by her question and she did not reply straight away, something Fiora didn't like at all. She crossed her arms. "Well?"

"I've been keeping an eye on you," the hunter admitted but her answer was not yet clear enough for Fiora.

"What do you mean?" the dueler pressured her to elaborate.

Vayne inhaled sharply. "I installed a detecting device on you during our last encounter."

That made complete sense but it didn't make Fiora feel any better about the situation. In fact, she felt angry, a sentiment she was all too well familiar with. She jumped up. "You did what?" she screeched.

"Keep it low!" Vayne practically begged her. "I told you, I installed a detecting device on you to be able to know where you are."

Fiora huffed in annoyance. "I suppose you got everything you needed out of that."

"I'm not going to lie, that's an impressive hide-out you found."

That was it. Fiora snapped. She drew out her blade in the blink of an eye and pinned Vayne against the wall, the blade coming near the hunter's throat.

"Why you-" the dueler hissed on her face. "Who are you working for?"

"Nobody!"

" Liar! " Fiora roared in rage. "You're a fraud! You aren't really a deviant! You fooled me!"

"I did not!" Vayne insisted even though she shouldn't be infusing more rage in Fiora, considering their current positions. "Believe me Fiora, my intentions were not to spy on you or your group of clowns! I wanted to make sure you were safe."

Fiora's grasp loosened. "What?"

"How about you let go of me and then I shall explain it to you?" Vayne suggested. Fiora immediately let go off the hunter but held the blade on her hand.

"Speak up," she ordered coldly.

Vayne sighed. "When Vi asked me to intrude into one of the most dangerous criminal's house, I knew this wouldn't end well, especially if Norman Rose was involved. I shouldn't have called you there, for I indirectly put you in danger but I didn't have much of a choice either. You were the only one willing to get out of the way to help me out. It's been pretty clear that he knows a lot about you and I feared he would try and track you down to cause you harm. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if something happened to you because of me."

Fiora remained silent. This sounded like a good excuse but that didn't cease her anger. Vayne had lied to her and that was exactly what she was angry about.

"Even if this is still the reason why you were spying on me, that doesn't change anything," said Fiora. "Now you know the location of our hideout. If this Norman Rose comes after you and eventually catches you, we are all doomed."

"Well, he won't," Vayne stated firmly. "He could try like many others did. But his failure is guaranteed."

Fiora huffed in annoyance. "You're unbelievable! You live alone in this shithole and you seriously believe that the number one criminal in all Piltover can't get his hands on you?"

"Yes, because I'm not being reckless!" Vayne stepped closer to her, much to Fiora's surprise. She wasn't sure how to react to this closure and she didn't know if she was comfortable or not. Probably not. "In case you haven't noticed, I wasn't the one who tried to break into PROJECT Inc."

"It's not like we had a choice," Fiora deadpanned.

Vayne let out a sarcastic laugh. "Is that what Ashe told you?"

"We all agreed to go in there, so don't you dare blame her!"

"You're all idiots, then." Vayne clicked her tongue. "And especially that Ezreal boy. He's the number one fugitive right now and yet he showed up in that shit show."

"Master Yi almost fucking died. Unlike myself, some of his vital parts were destroyed and both you and I know very well that those parts can't be easily replaced." Fiora spat on her face.

"What?" Vayne blurted out in confusion.

"You heard me right. Yi almost died while trying to recover that stupid USB," Fiora repeated, her voice breaking even so slightly.

"Good Lord…" Vayne murmured as she leaned against the wall behind her. "See? That's exactly what I'm talking about! Ashe gets you into all kinds of situations that inevitably will get you killed. And then you ask me not to blame her? Fiora, please!"

"At least we don't spy on people!" Fiora growled.

"I thought I was pretty clear about it," said Vayne.

"So what? Am I supposed to not be angry because of your 'heartfelt' gesture? Because it's suddenly okay to lie to me?"

Vayne was caught off guard. She had a point but she hadn't thought it through. "I just…" she stumbled over her words, which was also new to her.

"You just what? Didn't consider my feelings?" Fiora raised a brow. "Didn't you consider I had any?"

"That's not what-"

"You're a selfish bitch, that's what you are," Fiora said. "The only reason why you kept an eye on me is to keep your conscience clean without considering how I would feel about it. But who gives a shit about a machine, am I right?"

"Fiora, you're not a machine," Vayne stated firmly.

"To you I probably am, just like to everybody else in this city. That's what we are trying to prove, that we are not machines. But you simply don't get it."

"All I see is desperation," said Vayne. "And you don't prove your point by breaking into the company that gave you all this-" she pointed at the armor. "-and steal expensive equipment."

"So what? Should we have let Yi die?"

"You should have not gotten him in a situation in the first place!" Vayne shouted. "You have no idea what you're doing. You think you're some noble group that is trying to give a message to the rest of the world but the only thing you keep doing is prove my point, that you have no idea what you're talking about. This is not about proving who you are, this is about revenge and Ashe knows that!"

"I call bullshit!" Fiora shouted back. "Just because you seek vengeance from those who have forsaken you, doesn't mean everybody else does so!"

"Really? Are you telling me that you wouldn't punish those who did that to Yi if you got the chance to? You almost did two nights ago, am I mistaken?" Vayne raised a brow.

Fiora froze as she remembered all those feelings that got over her when she had spotted Katarina in the crowd and especially that anger. Vayne was right.

"I thought as much," Vayne snarled. "Let's cut the crap here, shall we? Because none of you are any better than me. So stop acting you're the angels and I'm the devil here."

"If we are so similar, why won't you come with us?"

"Oh please, I'm not suicidal. Plus, I don't like being bossed around by someone who clearly has no actual goal," Vayne responded.

"Ashe was right about you. You're so selfish and stuck up your nose. How did I ever think you could be one of us?"

Vayne glared at her. "In case you haven't noticed, I saved your pathetic, little life. But since you don't appreciate that, I might as well let you die next time, how does that sound?"

"Perfect. At least, I won't get to see the face of the liar," Fiora deadpanned and turned to leave.

"Where do you think you're going? It's daytime." Vayne laughed sarcastically. "That means you're stuck with me for the rest of the day."

"Couldn't you have mentioned that before?" Fiora asked, clearly pissed off.

"Couldn't you think of it before speaking those words?" Vayne inquired before returning back to her computer, completely ignoring Fiora this time.

The hours passed at a torturing pace. Fiora and Vayne didn't exchange one single word. The dueler was still furious at the hunter for lying and using her. But even so, when Vayne had explained herself, she sounded sincere.

I wouldn't be able to live with myself if something happened to you because of me.

How could Vayne claim that she cared about her when they both belonged to two entirely different ideologies and when they barely knew each other? They had met only twice. If the hunter thought Fiora was stupid enough to believe that, she was dead wrong. Her words only proved her statement, that Vayne was selfish and only did what she did to keep her conscience clean.

But what if she was mistaken? What if Vayne had told the truth?

Even so, knowing their current hideout put everyone in danger. Vayne lived alone and that itself was risky. She might have claimed that she wouldn't get caught but this wasn't guaranteed, their freedom wasn't granted.

So where did that put them? What was Fiora supposed to do? Let it be? No, she most certainly couldn't just let Vayne roam around the city and put not only herself but also her companions in danger. She had to act upon it.

When the night fell, Fiora left without looking back. Vayne didn't try to stop her this time. As a matter of fact, she completely ignored her, just like she had been doing the entire day. The dueler couldn't be more grateful for that. The streets seemed really unfriendly but Fiora didn't have the time to process that. Her goal was to reach the old harbor safely.

It took her a couple of hours to do so. It was a starry night, no clouds or upcoming rain to help her out even just a bit. The streets were still busy and there were even people walking around, much to her annoyance. Eventually, she managed to sneak in and climb onto the deck of "Morning Star". She wasn't sure what to expect, if she wanted to be honest. She had been missing for at least 48 hours and her companions probably believed she was either dead or brainwashed all over again so she needed to be extra careful. She got inside the ship and proceeded with cautiousness.

She moved around for a while and she met no one, which was kind of surprising. But the silence didn't last for long. She felt the presence of someone in the darkness and she immediately spun around to face Lucian who was pointing both of his guns at her.

"Lucian, it's me," it was her instinctive call.

"You've got ten seconds to persuade me that you aren't fake," he warned.

"Your wife, Senna, disappeared just before you turned PROJECT. We found out later that she was dead," Fiora spoke and her voice was filled with regret.

Lucian slowly lowered his gun. "It's really you," he concluded, clearly amused. "Where have you been? We thought you were dead."

"That's a very long story."

"According to Ashe, we've got plenty of time. I hope you have prepared," he advised. "Follow my lead. Everyone is anticipating to hear the truth."

Fiora nodded. It was time for everyone to know what her relationship was with Shauna Vayne when herself wasn't absolutely sure where the two of them stood, especially after their last encounter. 



Chapter Text

The very next day there wasn't a single soul that didn't know about the incident at the PROJECT Inc. Headquarters, for it had been all over the news and it was the main subject of discussion for the following days. 

The intriguing news had arrived to TPA rather quickly, especially a part of the surveillance videos where Ezreal's face was clearly seen. Caitlyn and her squad rushed to the place to investigate further. The newest developments changed everything they knew so far about Ezreal and his whereabouts. After a long way of asking around and watching more footage of that fateful night, they headed back to have a meeting to discuss how they were going to proceed from now on. 

"So now Ezreal is working with the PROJECT deviants," Shen spoke first. 

"After Norman Rose refused to offer his help, he would seek someone more powerful to protect him. It's logical," Caitlyn commented. 

"And how are we supposed to catch him if they are protecting him?" Riven inquired. "It's impossible! Even with Vi's help, I doubt if we can go against so many of them."

"Nothing is impossible," Caitlyn argued. "We already got the maps of the sewage system so we can get an idea of how they move around the city. It's a matter of time before we locate them."

"Then what?" Riven questioned. "How are we supposed the four of us - say five if we add Vi to the equation - go against six superhumans, plus Ezreal?"

"Don't be silly, it won't just be the four of us," Shen said. "The first part of the plan is locating them, then arresting them. Correct me if I'm mistaken, Caitlyn."

"You're absolutely right, thank you, Shen." Caitlyn acknowledged him with the nod. 

"So all we gotta do is locate six superhumans. Piece of cake," Twisted Fate said sarcastically. 

"The company was kind enough to lend me some of their files," said Caitlyn, ignoring his sneer comment, as she opened the digital files on her screen. "Originally there were eleven PROJECT initials, eight of whom have gone rogue," she explained, showing the pictures of the PROJECT traces. "One of the eight was missing until recently. Her name is Vayne."

"The first deviant," Riven commented. 

"I believe so." Caitlyn nodded. "Last night it was the very first time anyone from the company heard of her, as the footage shows. She didn't actively participate in the battle, but she seemed to be very interested in saving another initial named Fiora. It is speculated that they ran away together."

»The other six initials seem to have stuck together since the day they escaped from the company's control and they remain as such up to this day. However, Vayne doesn't seem to have been involved with them, not until now."

The pictures of Ashe, Leona, Ekko, Yasuo, Lucian and Master Yi popped on the screen one after another. 

"Wait, who's is that one?" Shen asked, pointing at Master Yi. "As far as I can recall, he wasn't there last night, was he?"

"For some odd reason, no he wasn't," Caitlyn responded. "Though, there might be a logical explanation for that."

"Do tell," he encouraged her. 

"There was an incident a couple of days ago. Yi was located and ambushed by the last three remaining PROJECT initials that haven't gone rogue; Katarina, Zed and Jhin. Presumably he was severely damaged during that encounter, therefore his absence last night," she explained. 

"One deviant down then," Twisted Fate pointed out. 

"For now."

"What about Vi?" Riven asked.

"What about her?" Caitlyn shot back, slightly confused. 

"Where does she fit in all of this? How is she connected with the other PROJECTS?"

"There is no data about Vi."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Shen raised a brow. 

"I don't know. It could mean a lot of things," Caitlyn admitted. She honestly wasn't sure what Vi's role was in this mess. 

"So she just showed up? Impossible," said Twisted Fate. "There's something fishy going around here."

"If the company didn't create her, who did?" Riven inquired. "And who is she working for? What's her purpose?"

Caitlyn started getting irritated about all those questions concerning Vi. She admitted that she was slightly shady but she believed she had proved herself more than once to them. So why was Riven being so pressuring? 

"But she wasn't there last night, was she?" Caitlyn said. "It's obvious she has nothing to do with the rest of the PROJECT initials." 

"But that's exactly the problem, Caitlyn. Don't you see?" Riven insisted. "We don't know where she came from, therefore we can't know her motives or her plan. Heck, we don't even know if she's working for anybody!"

Caitlyn couldn't take this any longer. She slammed her hands onto the desk, glaring at Riven. "She saved my life back there, alright? So yeah, she seems very malicious!"

Riven was taken aback and mumbled something incoherent. Caitlyn took a deep breath in order to calm herself down. 

"Listen, you've got every reason not to trust her and I get it. But I do trust her and that won't change unless she gives me a really good reason not to."

"Alright, sorry," Riven apologized. "So, what's the plan now? What should we do?"

"We agreed to have a look around the sewers but there are matters more urgent now. Though, I don't think we shouldn't neglect that," Shen said. 

"You're right. I say we split up. Two of us can go down to the sewers and the rest can try to pick up a trail of the PROJECTS," Caitlyn suggested. 

"Sounds good to me," Twisted Fate agreed. 

"Alright. Riven, Shen, I believe you can handle the sewers, yes?" Caitlyn raised a brow at the two of them. 

"Sure thing," Shen confirmed. 

"Alright. Tobias, you come with me," Caitlyn ordered as she picked up her rifle. "We got some work to do."

Riven was glad to leave with Shen. Being around Caitlyn right now wasn't exactly good for her. Despite retreating, that unsettling feeling hadn't completely abandoned her, but right now arguing with the sniper wasn't exactly a bright idea. It wasn't like she wasn't fond of Vi, the exact opposite in fact. But there were so many holes and a lot of things didn't make sense to her now that they knew more about the PROJECT traces. She needed to be sure that Vi wouldn't suddenly turn against them. 

Her and Shen returned back to the place where they had seen Ezreal disappearing. The environment inside the conduits was as dirty as anyone would think but this time they were prepared. After wandering around for a while, the only thing they managed to find was a piece of what seemed to be a crystal of some sort. Riven recognized it immediately; it was a vital part of Ezreal's gauntlet and it was its main source of energy. Without it, the gauntlet couldn't work. She got excited like she normally did when things worked out in her favor, but her excitement didn't last long. This tiny piece of crystal was their only clue and didn't give them much information about where Ezreal headed to. They moved about a while longer with their hopes lowered this time. Eventually they decided to return. There was nothing more for them there. It was obvious Ezreal hadn't returned there and probably wouldn't again in the future. Completely disappointed, they returned back in hopes that the others would be luckier in their pursuit. 

But as they walked together in silence, Riven realized that they were just passing through the street that had been closed by the police the day they tried to bust Ezreal. Now the street was open to the public again and they could walk freely through it, though there was something really ominous about it due to the large damaged wall on the side of the street. It felt like something or someone had been smashed onto the brick wall. 

"Holy shit," Riven cursed as she examined the wall better. "This seems like a powerful blast."

"You don't say," Shen agreed over her shoulder. "I wonder what might have caused such damage."

Riven's mind raced, Shen's question ringing inside her head. Suddenly, her eyes widened upon the realization she came to. 

"Shen," she said, her voice trembling slightly. "Do you think this was the place where that PROJECT was ambushed? Yi?"

Shen remained silent for a little while before responding. "It could be. Why?"

"If we put the events in chronological order, this happened a day before Ezreal showed up in his apartment," Riven rumbled. "It can't be a coincidence! And then there's something else, too! This place is under the authority of the downtown police department, which means Vi knew about it! It all makes sense!" She was so excited that she forgot to lower her voice, winning some glances from passersby. Blushing, she turned to Shen. "You think I'm actually nuts, don't you?"

"No, I believe you're right," he said, catching her off guard a little. "We should look further into this. What do you propose?"

"I believe what we should do is have a talk with Vi's boss first," she suggested. "He might be able to give us some more information about our partner."

Shen nodded. "Lead the way."

It didn't take them long to reach their destination, for the police station wasn't far away. This was their second visit in a span of two weeks and it was obvious that they would draw attention to themselves as they walked among regular officers. All those looks made Riven really uncomfortable, especially when she noticed some eyes directed on places that they shouldn't be. Shen glared at them with his blazing, blue eyes and some even backed off scared. They didn't even need to ask for instructions this time and they headed straight towards the third floor. Locating the captain's office wasn't such a difficult task either. The door was left open and Riven hesitantly knocked on it. 

"Yes, yes come in," came captain Fields' voice from inside. Riven and Shen shared a look before walking in. 

"Good afternoon, captain," Riven spoke. "I apologize for the inconvenience but we believe that we need to have a talk."

The man seemed utterly surprised at their presence and didn't even try to hide it. "Er… Yes, of course," he managed to say eventually as he swept some of his paperwork off his desk straight into a bin. "Please, have a seat."

"Thank you." Shen nodded in acknowledgement before shutting the door behind him. 

"So uhh… To where do I owe the pleasure?" Captain Fields managed a smile. 

"We've actually had some questions regarding one of your officers," said Riven. 

"That depends on the questions you want to ask."

"It's about officer Vi, sir."

His posture immediately changed. He let out a snort as he leaned back on his chair. "What about her?" he asked.

"Well, for starters, we would like to know for how long she's been working for you."

"Six to seven months, more or less." He shrugged his shoulders. "She got transferred from central down here."

"Why?"

"Isn't it obvious?" He raised his eyebrows. "Someone like Vi doesn't belong there, or anywhere for that matter if you ask me."

Riven didn't like his response but decided not to comment on that. Despite all the suspicion regarding Vi and her actions, she still wasn't fond of the way she was being treated. 

"Then why was she hired there in the first place I'd she 'doesn't belong there', captain?" she asked again. 

"Because she hasn't always been like that, y'know," he responded in a lower tone. "She was just like you and I, if you catch me. She was a brilliant detective, she had a future as captain. But one day, she turned up like that, no explanation given. Now I'm carrying this burden."

"Burden how?" Shen asked. "You're right when you say that she isn't liue us. Doesn't that mean she's more efficient at her job?"

Field huffed. "She undermines the worth of my men. They would easily become unemployed as soon as the Wardens realize that they are worthless since Vi can get the job done faster and of course with less cost."

"I understand your concerns, sir," Riven said impatiently. "But do you know how she became who she is today?"

He shook his head. "No one has the slightest clue about it. It's a mystery. Not even the company themselves know what exactly happened. She suddenly showed up acquiring some of their technology and because they couldn't explain it, they managed to cover it up. But if you ask me, I'm pretty sure this was all a set up. She's just like the other freaks that attacked the headquarters last night. They gave Vi this power to help them catch their pets that ran loose."

"So, you're implying that Vi works for PROJECT Inc?"

"It's the only logical explanation I can give," he said. 

"That doesn't make any sense," Riven deadpanned. "Because if she was indeed working for the company, she would have been at the incident last night to help out but she wasn't."

"I don't know why she wasn't there, alright? But you know there's something obscure about her, otherwise why would you be here asking me all those questions?" he asked with a smirk and Riven realized that he had a point. 

"Is there anything else?" Shen interrupted. 

"No, this is as much as I can give you," Captain Fields replied. "You can ask around my men if you want but you won't learn anything more than what I just told you."

Riven nodded. "Thank you for your time, captain. We really appreciate it."

"My pleasure, agents. And keep in mind, watch your step. Vi isn't an ordinary human, or whatever she is calling herself nowadays," he bid them farewell with one last warning. 

Following his advice, Riven and Shen asked around the precinct but to no avail. They didn't manage to learn anything else rather than a couple of stories that seemed utterly ridiculous and were probably just rumors and nothing more. Riven's disappointment had always settled in when they decided to leave. 

"What a waste of time," she mumbled as they exited the building. 

"At least your suspicions were confirmed," Shen tried to make her feel better. 

"The only thing we managed to learn is that people around here don't really like Vi," Riven huffed. "Nothing of significance. Even worse, Vi became even more mysterious in my eyes."

"If I were you, I wouldn't take the captain's words so seriously," said Shen. "I highly doubt that Vi is secretly working for PROJECT Inc."

"Me neither," Riven agreed. "But the thing is, we still don't know her ulterior motives, therefore I can't trust her fully till we do."

"And you've got the right to do so."

Riven sighed. "Sorry for dragging you into this, it was completely pointless."

"No, it wasn't," Shen argued. "It is important to know who we work with. And most importantly, I trust you fully on this."

"Thank you." Riven smiled at him. "So, what's our next move?"

"We should join the others. There's nothing left for us around here," said Shen. "I'm going to call Caitlyn and see where they are at. Call a cab."

After they went through their tasks, they remained silent for a while before Shen spoke again. 

"You know, at the end of the day, your observations didn't go in vain."

Riven looked at him curiously. "What do you mean?"

"You know how Caitlyn is. If she has any doubts, she's going to do everything in her power to erase those doubts before moving on. And no matter how many times she claims that she trusts Vi, you have successfully planted the seed of doubt in her." Shen gave her a look. "What I'm trying to say is, don't worry about Caitlyn. She isn't a fool. If there's something off, she's going to figure it out sooner rather than later."

"I hope you're right, Shen. Because this case is different from everything we have dealt so far. Enemies and allies seem so… ambiguous in a sense. We really don't know who we should trust," Riven pointed out and Shen nodded in agreement.

Their conversation was cut short when the cab arrived and they entered the vehicle without realizing that someone had been watching them from a third floor window. 

"Joey," Jarvis whispered to Buckley without his eyes leaving the cab the two Pulsefire had entered. "Call Vi immediately and tell her that some of her new friends have been asking quite a lot of questions about her. I bet she's gonna find this interesting..."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

In the complicated world they lived in, most things had a complicated explanation too. Caitlyn knew that all too well, but right now she couldn't make sense of anything. Her and Twisted Fate had been able to pick up a trail of the PROJECT initials, only for it to prove a dead end. It was like they had completely vanished. This endless hunt t was seriously frustrating her. It seemed to be a vicious cycle; herself always chasing Ezreal and him always disappearing. She felt like she was doing something wrong. Maybe this was somehow her fault. 

It didn't help that Riven's words kept replaying inside her head. Despite the fact that she had insisted very fiercely that she trusted Vi, the doubt had already settled and questions had been born. Because she realized that Riven was right up to some point. There were many things that didn't make sense about the cop, from her first appearance to her motives. 

Caitlyn's greatest quirk was probably her curiosity and her need to be one step ahead. That's why she was so overly frustrated with that case. And that's why she worked harder than ever. She tried to keep Vi off her mind for a little while, until they made some progress with the case. 

Curse her bad luck, just when she was about to fully invest herself into work, Vi decided to show up. 

Truth be told, they hadn't seen each other since the incident in the underground. Vi didn't seem to be upset with the whole PROJECT incident. In fact, she looked pretty unfazed, maybe even so determined. However her expression softened when she spotted Caitlyn and Twisted Fate. 

"What's up, cupcake," she winked at her and Caitlyn didn't even hesitate to roll her eyes. So this is what she would be called now? How unprofessional. 

Secretly she enjoyed it a little but it wasn't something she would ever admit out loud. 

"Hello, officer Vi," she acknowledged her more professionally like she ought to. "Good thing you remembered us."

"Sorry that I was too busy running some other errands," Vi defended. "But I heard all about this little shitshow that took place last night."

"And what do you think of it?" Twisted Fate asked. 

"Let's just say it won't be so easy locating them," the cop deadpanned. "What have you gotten so far?"

"We know they headed south but that's all we could find," Caitlyn explained. 

"What about surveillance on the streets?"

"Nothing important. They seem to just vanish though."

Vi huffed. "No one just vanishes. Something else is going on."

"We suspect that they might use the sewers to move around the city," Caitlyn said. "But we won't be sure till Riven and Shen return to confirm it."

Just about time, a cab stopped outside the huge building that hosted PROJECT Inc. and the two Pulsefire agents appeared from inside and soon joined them. 

"What have you gotten, Riven?" Caitlyn asked as soon as they arrived. 

"We were right. Ezreal indeed has been using the sewage system to move around the city," Riven replied. "But it's hard to tell where he's headed to. The sewers are vast."

"At least we now know how he and his new friends move around the city without getting detected," Vi concluded. "If we want to pick up their trail, we need to head down to the sewers. Maybe we'll get lucky again. They were in a hurry, how careful do you think they were?"

"I'll agree with Vi on that one," Tobias piped in. "Let's head south and find the first entrance to the sewers. It can't be too far away."

"Sounds like a plan. Let's go, lads." Caitlyn motioned as she began walking. 

Despite Twisted Fate's prediction, they had to walk quite the distance before they found an entrance to the sewers. Vi removed the metal trap door with ease using her gauntlets and one by one climbed down the ladder that led below the city of Piltover. The place was as dirty as anyone expected and the smell was intense as always, but right now they chose to ignore it. 

"Where should we go now?" Riven asked. 

Vi looked around, probably running a scan, before responding. "This way." She pointed to the left and the Pulsefires followed her lead. 

"So you are able to trace them," said Caitlyn. It wasn't much of a question rather than a realization. 

"Up to a specific point, yeah, I think so," Vi responded. 

"What do you know about them?"

Vi sighed. "Not much. I don't know what they're capable of, I never met anyone of them."

"Really? How come?"

"Well, not any of those that have gone rogue anyways with the exception of Vayne," Vi explained and her expression darkened immediately. 

"So, you have met Vayne," Riven spoke up. "How?"

"It was a long time ago. It was just a regular check up. There had been reports for unauthorized equipment, so I went over to check on it. Turns out I wasn't the only one."

"Vayne was there?" Shen asked. 

"When I arrived, no. Jhin was," said Vi through gritted teeth. 

"Jhin?" Riven sounded surprised. 

"Yeah, this motherfucker. He was sent there to steal some equipment. I tried to put an end to this but I couldn't. He almost killed me. Then Vayne showed up and saved my life. I haven't seen her ever since."

"I don't understand," said Caitlyn. "You almost demolished Jhin at the museum. How did he almost get you?"

"He caught me off surprise," Vi explained. "Plus, back in the day, I wasn't like I am today."

Caitlyn understood but her curiosity wasn't satisfied yet. So when did Vi become a PROJECT then? After the incident? Most likely.

"Is this why you became a PROJECT?" she asked eventually. "To be able to deal with Jhin?"

"Pretty much, yes." Vi nodded. "The PROJECTS we are looking for, they aren't the real villains in this story. Those that are currently working for the company, you shouldn't trust them. They're dangerous," she added. 

"Are you saying that because Jhin almost killed you?" Shen inquired. 

Vi shook her head. "I got lucky. Others, not so."

Her statement was obscure but the meaning behind it was very dark. Caitlyn decided not to ask more questions for now. It felt like this was a sensitive matter for Vi and it was better if her feelings didn't get in the way while working. 

They navigated through the sewers, using the maps they had collected and Vi as their leader who was able to track down the PROJECT initials. With each step, they came closer to southern Piltover, near the sea. There was more water here that splashed after their every turn and dirting their boots in the process. The path they had chosen suddenly interchanged and they found themselves in an open, circular area from which the sewers continued towards every possible direction. Vi also stopped to inspect the place. 

"Holy fucking shit," she cursed as she looked around. 

"What is it?" Caitlyn asked. 

"Something bad happened here," the cop murmured as she looked around. 

Shen walked towards the nearest wall and touched its surface. "There are scratches here, possibly caused by claws."

Riven tried to make her way towards him when she stumbled upon something. "What the-" 

Her phrase was cut short when she realized that the thing she had accidentally kicked was in fact a skull. 

"Well, too bad for this guy, huh?" Twisted Fate commented from his spot a few feet away as he stood over a headless skeleton. 

"It's not theirs, isn't it?" Riven asked, somewhat scared. 

"Don't be ridiculous. These bones have been down here for a really long time," said Caitlyn. 

"Yeah, and those blood stains are pretty old," Shen added, showing the huge red dots on the wall. 

Caitlyn turned to Vi. "What do you think that happened here to our friends?"

"I believe they were attacked by something. They fought it off, of course. But still, its own presence is so… strange," Vi responded. 

"What was it then?" 

Vi shook her head. "I don't know."

A deafening silence almost swallowed the entire group. The only thing that could be heard was drops of water falling down on the small lake under their feet. A chill ran down Caitlyn's spine. There was something off about that place and it had nothing to do with the blood and the human bones. 

Suddenly Vi jerked her head towards her left, looking intently towards one of the openings. 

"It's here," she whispered. 

Instinctively, Caitlyn drew out her rifle while Shen and Riven clenched their blades. Twisted Fate prepared his cards and Vi charged her gauntlets. The latter was right; there was indeed a shadow walking towards them. As Caitlyn observed it better, she came to realize that it didn't look human at all. In fact, it looked like a wolf walking solely on its back feet, which was weird on it's own. As it came closer, Caitlyn realized she was right. It wasn't human. It was a wolf-like-beast but it was definitely bigger than normal wolves, it had bigger and sharper claws and teeth as long as several tubes filled with chemicals implanted on its back. It was absolutely terrifying. 

"More blood," it whispered into the darkness, showing its teeth in probably what was a malicious smile. "Guess it's my lucky week."

"We don't want any trouble," Vi spoke up. "Let us go and we won't cause you problems."

"You're my meal," the beast said. "And I'm not stupid enough to let go off my meal."

Without further warning, the beast fell on its four feet and jumped onto Vi before she had the time to react. He tried to rip her chest open but to no avail, since it was protected by her metal armor. The beast growled in annoyance. 

"You're like them," it pointed out. "Guess I'll start off with the head then."

Before it could act upon its threat, a bullet lodged onto its body and it let out a painful growl before turning his head to face Caitlyn and her rifle. The beast hissed dangerously at her, but the Pulsefire achieved her goal. She had managed to distract it long enough so Vi could give it a blow and throw it off her. 

Despite Caitlyn's shot however, the beast seemed unaffected. There was no trace of blood coming out of any sort of wound. In fact, it seemed even angrier than before. He showed his teeth again before starting chasing after Caitlyn. 

"Shite," she cursed under her breath. She had very little time but used it to throw a couple of traps here and there in hopes that this would be enough to stop the beast from reaching her and tearing her apart. It indeed slowed it down a little but Caitlyn would get herself trapped if she didn't find a way to escape the beast's wrath. 

"Hey shithead!" Vi shouted. "How about you finish what the two of us started?"

The beast ignored her completely as he chased down the agent. Caitlyn realized she couldn't go further so she turned to face the giant wolf. Upon her halting, the beast leaped towards her, opening his giant mouth, preparing his sharp teeth to lodge into the Pulsefire's flesh. 

"Caitlyn!" she heard Vi's desperate voice. 

A highly trained agent like Caitlyn wouldn't go down so easily, not even by an abomination like the one that was currently hunting her. She jumped to the side to avoid the hit and then launched a net towards the beast, the impact of the hit throwing her back a few meters away. Soon after the wolf-like-beast managed to tear the net off with its teeth but Caitlyn had already backed off. 

Just about time, Riven lashed out in a series of powerful strikes. During the third strike she leaped and knocked the beast off, giving Shen time to strike with his blade. However, the beast quickly recovered and managed to deflect both agents, scratching Riven's arm that instantly started bleeding out. 

"Riven!" Shen shouted, giving the beast the time to run at him and bite his leg, making him yelp in pain. 

"No! Shen!" Riven shouted back. Tobias threw one of his yellow cards onto the beast, stunning it temporarily, giving them the time to pull Shen out of there just in time. It was Vi's turn to dash forward and hit the beast straight in the face with her huge fists but this angered the beast more and tried to bite her again. 

"We can't keep this up!" Twisted Fate shouted at Caitlyn as himself and Riven pulled Shen aside by his armpits. "It's too strong! It's gonna eat us all!"

Caitlyn clenched her teeth as she watched Vi struggle against the wolf-like-beast. She hesitated to shoot in fear that she might accidentally hit Vi in the process and that was the last thing they needed. Before she could think of a plan, the beast knocked Vi off and threw her aside. This time Caitlyn reacted immediately. She threw a trap right under its feet before it had the chance to approach the PROJECT. The beast was rooted in place for a brief moment, giving Caitlyn the chance to unleash a powerful shot at it. 

"Want another shot?" she smirked slightly even though she was still at disadvantage. But it gave her great satisfaction when her opponents undermined her and then got to pay the price. 

The beast growled dangerously and prepared to attack Caitlyn again. But it never got its chance as something forceful bursted through the wall behind it, filling the air with dust and debris, making everybody cough. When the dust settled down, Vi and the Pulsefire agents faced another monstrosity; a human body attached onto what seemed to be several big, metal legs, reminding somehow of an octopus. The face of what seemed to be a man was covered with a mask that fed him very dangerous chemicals.

"Warwick," the newcomer spoke with his terrifying voice. "You overstepped the limits again."

The beast - Warwick - narrowed its eyes at him before spatting some blood on the water. "The sewers don't belong to you, Urgot. Get lost."

"I allowed you to hunt last night because I was feeling generous. But not today. You'll either leave or I'll make you leave," Urgot said. 

"I'd like to see you try," Warwick growled and lashed at him. 

Caitlyn didn't just stand there to watch them fight. She rushed to Vi's side and helped her back on her feet. 

"This is our chance. We need to get out of here!" she shouted over the noise. 

"As much as I hate to abandon a fight, we don't stand a chance against those guys." Vi shook her head. "Let's find the others!"

They didn't need to search for long as Tobias and Riven stood a couple of feet away from there with Shen saw down, leaning against the wall. He obviously was unable to walk. 

"Vi, pick him up," Caitlyn ordered. She was the strongest of them all, therefore the only one capable of carrying him without trouble. 

"Aye, captain," Vi saluted before grabbing Shen and throwing him over her shoulder. 

"Take it easy, will you?" he hissed. 

"Let's go!" Caitlyn motioned and they started running towards an unknown direction, leaving behind the wolf-like-beast called Warwick and Urgot, whatever the fuck he was, behind to keep fighting over their grudge. They didn't stop running until the noise faded away but not completely. Only then did Vi let Shen down. 

"I think I'm going to vomit," he said. 

"Yeah, you're welcome," Vi sneered. 

"Are they gone?" Riven asked, looking over her shoulder. 

"For now," said Caitlyn. "But we still need to get back to the surface. I have a bad feeling that Warwick can smell our blood." She pointed at Riven's and Shen's wounds respectively. 

"Let's keep moving then. There must be a ladder somewhere around here," Tobias said. 

"Isn't it dangerous to move blindly though?" Vi inquired. 

"I think that there are more important issues at hand than getting lost now," said Caitlyn. "Let's keep moving."

Vi picked Shen up more gently this time and they kept walking for at least half an hour more before they finally found an exit. Caitlyn struggled a little to remove the metal trap door, however eventually she managed to pull it aside and so they were back to the upper world. Breathing fresh air felt so weird after this long in the sewers. 

"Never again," Riven mumbled, pointing at the hole on the ground. 

"Yeah, I don't think we'll return down there any time soon," Twisted Fate agreed. 

Caitlyn observed their surroundings. They seemed to be in the middle of a small road but she still had no idea where exactly they were. 

"Somehow we ended up west," Vi said, as if answering her inner question. "We should call an ambulance, it looks pretty bad," she added, pointing on Shen's wound as he sat down on the pavement. 

"On it," Twisted Fate offered as he picked up his phone. 

"I'll live," he said simply. "I had worse."

"Than a chemical beast biting your leg?" Riven questioned. 

Shen let out a laugh. "Well, if you set it that way…"

"But what are those?" Caitlyn inquired. "And how did they end down there? They are a threat for the city."

"These are the results of failed chemical experiments, cupcake," Vi replied. "And as long as they are down there, no one's really in danger."

"Chemical experiments? From Zaun?"

"Not necessarily. Piltover isn't exactly heaven. I mean, look at all those PROJECTS running loose."

She was absolutely right. Technology might have advanced a lot but humans remained the same; greedy and selfish. 

"I bet they've been down there for a long time now. Why nobody hasn't done anything about them?" Caitlyn asked. 

"Because they don't pose an immediate threat, at least a threat the public knows about," came Vi again with the reply. "Why waste resources on something that isn't yet a problem? This is how politics work, cupcake. There are many issues in this society, but not all of them are of importance, if you catch me."

The most scary part about Vi was that she always spoke the truth, no matter what. And it was also scary how accurate her words were at the moment. It reminded Caitlyn the reason why she never stayed too long on a dimension. Humanity has always been disappointing. 

Caitlyn gazed over Vi. She didn't suffer any serious injuries. The only mark Warwick had left on her was the scratches onto her armor. 

"Are you alright?" the sniper asked, pointing at the scratched metal. 

Vi looked down. "What? That? Oh, don't worry." she beamed. "It's just a scratch. With a little bit of polishing, it will be good as new again."

Caitlyn nodded. "I'm glad."

"Yeah, about that." Vi rubbed the back of her neck. "Uh… Thank you for back there."

"No problem. Guess we are even now."

"Guess we are."

Caitlyn saw Riven smirking at her behind Vi's back and she glared at her. Seriously, after everything they had just been through, she still felt the need to be annoying? Gosh, when would this girl grow up a little? 

The ambulance eventually arrived to pick Shen up and drive him to the closest hospital. Riven stayed with him while Caitlyn and Tobias would follow shortly. Much to Vi's surprise, Caitlyn's rifle turned into a motorcycle, not something too special but good enough to carry both agents. 

"I'll see you around, officer Vi," were Caitlyn's last words before climbing onto the vehicle and driving away with her partner clutching onto her for dear life. Vi watched as they left until they were gone. 

"This woman will be the death of me," Vi whispered to herself before shaking her head and walking away towards the opposite direction. 

 

Chapter Text

Once Fiora finished narrating the events of that night and how she had been able to survive and escape the company's grip, she desperately tried to meet the gazes of her companions. However, everyone wore unreadable expressions and avoided her gaze. All but Ashe who stared at her intently. Fiora couldn't lie, she was more intimidating than ever before. She wondered what she thought and what she would say next. But the silence was wrecking her nerves already. 

"Is that all?" Ashe asked eventually. 

Fiora looked at her in confusion. "Yes, that is all that happened."

"Really?" Ashe took a step closer to her. Despite Fiora being taller, the height difference didn't do much to make her feel better. "Because I feel like you're hiding something."

Fiora was now completely baffled. She had absolutely no idea what Ashe was referring to and she was afraid to ask. "I'm not sure what you're talking about...?"

Ashe huffed sarcastically. "Aren't you now?"

Fiora shook her head. 

"Perhaps I should enlighten you then." Ashe spun around to face the rest of the PROJECT traces. "Our friend Fiora from here has been secretly working with Shauna Vayne. Isn't that lovely?"

"Just because she saved my life doesn't mean we are working together." Fiora defended. 

"Then how do you explain her knowing you would be there in the first place?" Ashe inquired. "Plus, there's something else which, I'm afraid, you cannot deny."

Fiora started panicking now. Was it possible that Ashe knew about the incident at the mansion of Norman Rose? But how? 

Ashe received Fiora's silence as her cue to continue her little speech. "Apparently, she had been present at the confiscation of the USB that caused us so much trouble, a task that Vi had bestowed upon Vayne, as we all know.  Fiora has been lying and working with Vayne behind our backs. I wonder what else she's hiding," she wondered out loud.

"I'm not a traitor!" Fiora hissed, losing her patience. "I think you keep forgetting that Vayne is not our enemy."

"What I do know, Fiora, is that you lied to all of us and risked your life over someone who would let you die in a heartbeat. You could have at least gotten the USB then and save Yi from all this trouble!"

"And what would Vi give to the Pulsefire agents, then? How can you even blame me for what happened to him? In fact, if we are going to start pointing fingers here, if it's anyone's fault, then it's yours, Ashe."

Ashe glared at her, clearly infuriated. "Pardon me?"

Fiora had regained her confidence back and the anger was taking over her. "You heard me right. You specifically ordered him to go out there on his own. I don't know what exactly you expected to happen, Ashe, but you can't just put the blame on me because you have zero self awareness!"

"Watch your tongue!"

"What are you going to do? Huh?" Fiora stepped closer to me. "Disable me, perhaps? Restart me? Delete my memories?"

Everyone held their breaths as the tension became almost suffocating. 

"We are claiming that we are free of our bonds," Fiora said louder, addressing the rest. "But are we really? Because from the moment we escaped PROJECT Inc, we've been under Ashe's command, our leader," she emphasized the last word to mock the archer. "So much for freedom and free will. So what's the point of running away when nothing has actually changed?"

»And now we are here and she's accusing me of treason just because of her grudge with Vayne. Because as we all know, she's our real enemy and not the corporation that manipulated us," she added sarcastically. "Sometimes I wonder, maybe Vayne is right. Maybe you actually have no idea what you're doing and you're dragging us towards our doom."

Ashe clenched her teeth. "How dare you?" she whispered. "How dare you?!" she repeated, louder this time. "After everything I've done for you to help you get here, after I've been struggling to help you regain your humanity, is this how you're going to treat me?"

»You make me sound like I'm a heartless bitch. Let me tell you something, then. Do you know what it feels like to take responsibility out of nowhere? Do you have any idea how guilty I feel everytime we get ourselves in danger, save for when something bad happens, like Yi? I didn't ask for any of this, Fiora! All I ever wanted was to do the right thing for me and everyone else!"

Fiora felt sympathetic for a moment but she was still angry. "I think you got addicted to leadership. You are no different than the people that used us as tools for countless years."

Ashe's lower lip trembled. She had always been the most emotional of all of them and the only one who was closer to being human again. "How dare you compare me to them? I never treated you like tools and I most certainly never even thought of harming you to give you a lesson. That's not me and you know it!"

"It sounded like you wanted to!"

Ashe shook her head. "I would never! I was just furious you worked behind my back, Fiora. Because that showed me that you didn't trust me or the crew."

"That was never the case, Ashe. I helped Vayne simply because I wanted to," said Fiora. "Isn't what freedom is about? Make our own choices and act upon them?"

Everyone was basically staring at her but no one seemed to disagree with her, though Fiora couldn't know for sure until they actually voiced their opinions on the matter. 

"We never got the chance to choose for ourselves," Fiora continued, upon receiving Ashe's silence. "And you know Ashe, this is exactly why Katarina left. Not because of your bad leadership, but because we actually had a leader in the first place, even after everything we had been through. She got fed up. We left to be free and not under somebody else's command. If that was the case, we would have never left."

At the mention of Katarina, something changed in Ashe's posture but Fiora couldn't tell exactly what it was. It was a not-so secret that Ashe had been scared from Katarina's departure because she had always blamed it on herself. Ashe chose not to respond. Instead, she turned her back to everyone and stormed out of the room. Fiora suddenly felt extremely bad and tried to follow her but she was stopped by Leona. 

"Let her be," she said. "She needs some time to process everything you just told her."

"Do you think I'm mistaken?" Fiora asked. 

"Not at all." Leona shook her head. "In fact, I believe she needed to hear it. But give her time. Her intentions were never bad. She just wanted to help."

Fiora nodded before turning to the others. "Do you believe that I'm a traitor?"

It was Lucian that spoke first. "No. We've been together long enough to be certain that you would never do anything against us. And as far as I'm concerned, I never considered Vayne an enemy."

"None of us did," Ekko pipped in. "In fact, we are surprised how you managed to get along with her. That's an achievement you should be praised for, not scolded."

"I'm not exactly sure about the 'get along' part, but still, thank you, Ekko."

"You did what you had in order to survive," Yasuo spoke. "Therefore, we shouldn't be judging you for that."

"Thank you all for the understanding." Fiora was grateful that her companions weren't mad at her and were in fact condescending about the whole situation. Now, she only had to make amends with Ashe but this would take a while. 

"So uh... where does this place us?" Ezreal asked. 

Fiora turned to face him, confusion written on her expression. She was seriously trying to be more sentimental around these people. "What do you mean?"

"You don't want a leader, which is understandable. But what now? Are we supposed to keep going blindly? Or based on each's opinion? This isn't viable."

"That's not what I said, kid. What I meant was that we need to decide all together. Including you."

Ezreal's expression shifted quickly into a surprised one. "Me?" he asked, pointing at himself. "Why?"

"You were with us at the break-in, even if you didn't have to. That building was the last place you should be in and yet you decided to come. You're one of us now," Fiora responded. 

Ezreal mumbled something incoherent but everyone was smiling a bit. "Thank you," he managed to choke out. 

"I will go talk to Ashe," Leona declared. "We don't need another Katarina situation, do we?"

"No, we most certainly don't," Lucian agreed. 

Suddenly Fiora felt like she had been splashed with cold water. When she had decided to speak up to Ashe, she hadn't considered the consequences of her actions. It didn't cross her mind that her words could be the reason for another loss. She wouldn't bear if she would be the reason why Ashe would be turned back into a mindless being. She feared that the archer had been so hurt by her that she would decide to just leave everything behind and go solo, like Vayne. 

However, no one noticed her distress. Everyone returned back to their business. Ekko resumed tinkering around Master Yi. According to him, he would be able to restart him in a couple of days, but they still didn't know how he'd be once back to life. Yasuo cleaned his blade while Lucian maintained his guns. And then there was Ezreal who was trying to fix something on his gauntlet. Fiora just stood there, frozen. She needed a place to sit and contemplate in peace and quiet. 

She found herself in the corner of the room, away from everything and everyone as she sat down on the floor. She rubbed her face, trying to put her thoughts into place because for the first time in forever they seemed to be in a total mess. She was sure she had done the right thing, so why was she having doubts and second thoughts now? And the worst part was that she felt like she had been in a similar situation before and she simply couldn't remember it. 

Out of nowhere Fiora got such a strong headache that she thought someone had tried to break her skull. She tried to shake the pain away but to no avail. She ran a quick scan to find what was wrong but there wasn't an obvious problem. Though there was a specific message on her board that surprised her yet not troubled her. It had happened at least a couple of times before. 

Memory recovery initiated
Loading: 65%

She was having another flashback. The dejavu situation had triggered her memories again, somehow. She wasn't sure if this was completely random or not, but she had a gut feeling it wasn't. 

Memory recovery: Completed 
Warning: Memory might be corrupted. 
Are you sure you want to proceed? 

All of her memories were corrupted but that never really stopped her, did it? She wanted the truth. She closed her eyes and let the memory play. 

She found herself sitting at the edge of a big double bed. On the exact opposite wall there was a mirror on which her reflection could be seen. She almost didn't recognize herself. She wasn't wearing her typical black armor but an entirely different type which she didn't recognize. Her hair was dark except for one strand that was painted a bright pink color. She seemed tired and frustrated, not too different from her current situation, and she could see little of the rest of the room. A sword was placed right next to her, not too surprisingly. 

Suddenly a figure entered the scenery but she couldn't make out their face as they saw next to her. They were sitting between the points Fiora could see and those that she couldn't so she was unable to see their face. The two hands rubbed her arm and she heard a voice that she couldn't exactly define. 

"Don't worry. It's going to be fine."

It was definitely feminine, although slightly deeper and sharper from what she expectedot hear. The Fiora in the memory turned to face her lover. 

"In case you haven't noticed, I lashed at my commanding officer. That's not exactly good, however you see it," she responded with the accent that hadn't changed at all. 

"And you think they're just going to throw away the Grand Dueler?" Fiora would swear that she could hear her smiling. "The worst thing that could happen is a disciplinary board. You'll be fine."

The past Fiora chuckled. "Right now, I wish I could be the optimistic one."

"Even if something happens, I'm here. Okay?" The figure reached over and grasped Fiora's hand gently and the dueler smiled widely. 

She hadn't realized that she was panting. This was probably her most vivid memory that made her realize how much she had actually lost because of PROJECT Inc. Despite the circumstances, her past self seemed to be happier than ever before. How could she just lose all of this? And who was this mysterious lover? She couldn't remember their face but how was she able to remember the voice, which seemed oddly familiar yet she still couldn't connect it to someone? Where was she now? Would there be any point in looking for her? She had so many questions and all she could feel was rage and a great desire for vengeance. PROJECT Inc. had stolen from them so many important things and they were still trying to get them back. How was that fair? They were humans, not tools to be used however the company wanted! 

You used to be a human and you became a tool. 

She wanted to cry, yet she didn't. The anger was stronger than the pain. One day she would make them pay. Vayne was right. All of this wasn't only about freedom. It was about revenge.

~•~•~•~•~•~

Ashe felt like she couldn't breathe. Fiora's words, as harsh they had been, they were also the truth. She felt a throb in her neck that rendered swallowing difficult. There were tears in her eyes that threatened to spill. Thank the stars that she was hidden in the dark somewhere on the deepest side of the ship. She felt ashamed, oh so ashamed. She had been so, so stupid and it had taken her this much to finally realize that. And the worst part, Vayne had been correct all along. She let out a sigh. 

She was the worst leader in the history of leaders. She didn't deserve to be here. Maybe she should just leave. Besides, who would want her around anymore? Her train of thought was suddenly disrupted by a voice. 

"Ashe? Are you there?"

It was Leona but the archer refused to respond. There was really no point in that since the woman could easily see her in the dark. Ashe wondered why she bothered calling after her in the first place. She felt Leona literally slamming down next her despite her efforts to be as subtle as possible. Leona was so much bigger than Ashe and it didn't help that she always carried around that massive shield of hers. But her heart was as big as her shield, for that Ashe was sure. 

"Hey," Leona spoke softly. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." Ashe lied, avoiding to look her into the eye. 

The Radiant Dawn chuckled. "That's why you ran away, huh?"

Ashe blushed softly in the darkness. "Would you blame me?"

"No, not really," Leona admitted. "But you really gave us a scare right there."

Ashe finally looked at her. "Really?"

Leona nodded. "We thought it was another Katarina situation."

Ashe laughed humorlessly. "Don't worry about that. This is my specialty."

Leona rolled her eyes. "Ashe, stop that, alright? Fiora didn't mean to upset you."

"But she's right. About everything. This isn't right." The archer pointed around them. "I fucked up big time."

"Everyone makes mistakes. It's part of being a human. And you were the one to teach us that." Leona smiled at her. "We don't want you to leave, Ashe. In fact, no one's mad at you because we know you've always had our best interests at heart. We want you to stay here with us and continue this journey, together."

"After everything I've done, you still want me to stay?" Ashe asked, surprised. 

"Of course we do. We are in this together, no matter what. Besides, you have a great intellect. We wouldn't be here without you. We are a family now. No one is left behind." Leona smiled. 

This time Ashe didn't hold her tears back, but this time she was smiling back. How could she be such an idiot? "Thank you," she whispered. "For believing in me and for always having my back."

"That's what families are for, yes?" Leona stood up faster than Ashe expected to and offered her her hand. Ashe took it gratefully. "Let's head back."

The guilt and pain had disappeared from Ashe's chest and they were replaced by relief. She couldn't change her past actions but she could make sure she wouldn't repeat the same mistakes in the future, for everybody's sake. She was very glad that Fiora had gathered the courage to speak her mind and make her realize how blind she actually was, ironically. She would make this right. 

Despite her initial relief, as they came closer to their base, she felt more nervous. Leona had claimed that no one was particularly pissed off at her but she couldn't exactly help it. There were times that she found herself unable to control her feelings. When they returned back, everyone's gazes turned to Ashe, which made her even more nervous. But before she had the chance to answer for her actions, they received a call. Ekko rushed to respond. 

"Hey Vi, what's up?" he greeted the cop. Everyone could see on the computer's screen that Vi didn't share his excitement. 

"I have some bad news," she said, getting immediately to the point. 

Ashe walked forward to look at her better. "What is it?"

"The Timeline Protection Agency is after all of your asses. In other words, it's time to abandon ship."

 

Chapter Text

Ashe gazed at the camera that was settled right across her as she breathed in and out in order to calm herself. Ekko was making the last adjustments to the machine before running a couple of tests to check on the visual and the sound. 

"Everything seems to be okay," he informed her. "We are ready when you are, Ashe."

The archer nodded but didn't give the signal to begin. Despite the fact that this was her idea, she was now being hesitant. There was a huge chance that this would backfire on them but they couldn't back now, especially after what they had gone through to find the right equipment for this. Her initial plan was to leave a message for the citizens in order to help them understand better who they were and what they wanted, and to assure them that they were safe. Their image had been severely damaged after the incident outside PROJECT corporation and everyone agreed that they had at least to try and fix this somehow. It was also a team agreement that Ashe would make the speech, despite the little incident with Fiora a couple of days ago. Ashe was no longer their leader but this act itself showed her that her companions still trusted her. The plan was risky because the local authorities would be able to track down the signal but that was the least of their problems at the moment. It had been decided to move out of the "Morningstar" anyways. It hadn't been an easy procedure since they had a lot of sensitive equipment to carry. But their biggest problem was probably the relocation of Master Yi. He was bigger and heavier than the other stuff they had to move. Thankfully, they had no problems with moving out of the ship. Neither Warwick nor Urgot caused them any problems while moving around the sewers, which was slightly surprising to say the least, but no one complained. Now there was nothing left on the abandoned ship, except Ashe, Ekko and the recording equipment which would be destroyed as soon as the live broadcast would be completed. 

"Remember that as soon as we begin there's no going back," Ekko reminded her. "Once I get into the system, they will instantly be able to track us down."

"I know." Ashe nodded. "Let's do this."

Ekko turned his attention on the last computer standing and started frantically typing on his keyboard. He might have been an expert hacker but hacking into Piltover's biggest TV station wasn't an easy task. After a while though, he let out an exclamation that informed Ashe he had made it. 

"We'll be live in ten seconds," he told her. "You got only two minutes, Ashe."

"Got it."

The archer took a deep breath, concentrating on the words she had prepared, her eyes locked on the camera. Ekko signaled behind the machine to start the speech. 

"Citizens of Piltover," Ashe started with a strict and stable voice. "I'm sure you have been seeing my face a lot lately in the local news. My name is Ashe and I'm one of the PROJECT traces that were present at the incident in front of the corporation's headquarters. This is a message to all of you, in which we assure you that there's nothing to be afraid about. We realize that our actions might prove otherwise, but the break-in was a desperate move from our part. The truth behind this was that one of my companions got severely injured which almost cost his life. We had no other choice but to do what we did."

»However, our intentions remain peaceful. We aren't machines that have gone deviant. We are humans that were tricked by those who promised a better future. All we ask for is our freedom, a freedom that PROJECT Inc. isn't planning on granting us. We don't want to fight any of you because you aren't our enemy. We are seeking for your help in order to regain our freedom. The corporation has been haunting us from the first moment we escaped with the only goal to capture us and turn us back into mindless beings that follow blindly their orders. We aren't puppets. All we demand is our freedom and a future as members of this society, like we used to before we were fooled into slavery.

»I repeat, we don't want a war. I speak of all of us when I say we simply want our precious freedom. We lost too much because of the corporation, our families, our memories, ourselves. We want all of this back. Nothing more. Please, spread the message. No matter what the corporation claims, it's a lie. Don't repeat the same mistakes we made by believing them."

Ekko ended the broadcast and Ashe sighed in relief. 

"How was I?" she asked even though she was aware that they didn't have enough time at their disposal. 

"Great, as anyone would expect." The boy beamed at her. "But we need to get out of here!"

"You're right," she agreed as she drew out an arrow and aimed at the computer Ekko had been working on. 

"I could do that myself but that will do," Ekko shrugged before giving the camera a kick. "Let's go!"

As much as it pained her to leave the ship, Ashe followed Ekko closely behind. She had grown an emotional attachment to the place as it had been their shelter for the past year. But everything has an end as they have a beginning. And this right there was the beginning of something else entirely, either better or worse, Ashe couldn't tell. Not yet. 

~•~•~•~•~

It had barely been a minute when the illegal broadcast had ended and Caitlyn found herself riding her motorcycle, rushing to the location where the signal came from. She didn't bother to wait for her squad, for she knew they were following close behind. Her brief excitement was enough to give her a better head start than the other three Pulsefire agents. 

They had just made a mistake. Or so it seemed but Caitlyn kept her hopes lowered. They were talking about superhumans and the chances of making such grave mistakes were low. She didn't believe that they could actually capture them at that point, no matter how fast they arrived on the spot, but this could be their greatest lead so far and that was enough to make the adrenaline rush inside her veins. 

Following her GPAs direction, Caitlyn navigated through the city with incredible speed, avoiding other vehicles with great swiftness. She headed south towards the old harbor, and if she wanted to be honest with herself, she wasn't that surprised. After all, their little adventure in the sewers had told them that the PROJECT initials had headed south in the first place. Now they even had a specific location. This was great news for them. Fifteen minutes later, she found herself driving towards the entrance of the old harbor of Piltover that had been abandoned for ten years now. However and much to her annoyance, she discovered that she wasn't the only one that had arrived on the spot. 

The entrance was blocked by a couple of vehicles bearing the logo of PROJECT Inc. This was also not surprising but it triggered Caitlyn's instinct. There was something off there. Maybe it was due to the absence of humans and the mere presence of robots of the company creating a hostile environment. She dismounted her motorcycle which instantly shifted back into its original shape, a hextech rifle that is, before approaching one of the guards. The moment she stepped too close, the robot pointed its gun at her. 

"This is a restricted area, citizen! Turn around and leave immediately!" It  ordered with its mechanical voice. 

Caitlyn wasn't scared, only slightly annoyed. She retrieved her ID and showed it to the robot. "TPA," she said coldly. "And I've got every right to be here, just like you do."

The robot ran a scan through the ID but still didn't grant her entrance. "Only authorized personnel are allowed."

Caitlyn had the sudden urge to just shoot it in the face and get it over with but Shen's voice prevented her from doing so. 

"What's going on here?" he asked. 

"We are not 'authorized personnel' apparently," Caitlyn mocked. "I want to talk to your supervisor," she added, addressing the robot. The machine was ready to object again, but at that moment a very familiar black, bald man appeared almost out of nowhere. 

"Apologies for the inconvenience, Ms Fitzwilliam," Xavier McCarthy apologized. "These guards weren't programmed to wait for your arrival. I'm sorry about it."

Caitlyn wanted to glare at him but decided to be tactful. "Of course, Mr McCarthy, no problem."

"If you would be so kind as to follow me." The man motioned at them to follow him. This time the robot guards didn't try to stop them and stood frozen as they passed by them. 

Inside the harbor, there were more vehicles and obviously more robots preparing for the upcoming operation. But there were three specific figures that were the most imposing out of the robots in the place; Zed, Jhin and Katarina. Caitlyn tensed slightly at Jhin's presence as she recalled how he had murdered four people in cold blood and he had almost eliminated her as well. She felt uncomfortable being around him but she didn't voice her worries to her companions because something like that would require them to tell them the truth about the incident at the Runeterran Museum and that was the last thing that she needed. 

"I suppose you saw that broadcast," McCarthy broke the silence. "A mistake from their side, but it shows how truly desperate they are."

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Caitlyn said. "For all we know, they could already be miles away."

"Of course." McCarthy nodded. "But that means we need to be careful how we handle this situation-"

His voice was covered by more noise coming from the entrance of the harbor. Caitlyn managed to make out Vi's voice with ease as the cop always spoke louder than the average person. 

Riven laughed awkwardly. "Well, she did say she'd be here soon," she mumbled. 

In her hurry, Caitlyn had forgotten to inform Vi and she suddenly felt bad about it. Thankfully, Riven had been more composed than herself and made sure that Vi knew exactly where they had headed. 

"I didn't know the police would come too," McCarthy commented. 

"She's with us," Caitlyn deadpanned. "Let her in."

"Of course." McCarthy nodded again before approaching the entrance to handle the situation. 

"You better let me in or else I'll let myself in, with or without your permission!" Vi shouted angrily. 

"I'm really sorry about the inconvenience, officer," McCarthy said with the same tone he had used with Caitlyn. 

"You better be," Vi snapped at him before making her way towards the Pulsefires. "That's outrageous." She pointed behind her back. 

"I know," Caitlyn agreed in a lower voice. "So, what's the plan McCarthy? How are we doing this?"

"The source of the signal came from there." McCarthy pointed at an old, abandoned ship called «Morningstar». "We're still going through with the plan but we're getting there soon."

"Right." Caitlyn rubbed her forehead. "Alright, listen here. Secure the perimeter, have eyes both on land and sea. My squad and I will go in to search the place. You can send your PROJECTS in if you want, I personally don't care. Just move quickly. We don't have time to lose if we want to stand a chance of catching them."

McCarthy seemed to be caught off guard when Caitlyn suddenly gave orders to him. However, upon not having anything else to suggest, he immediately began giving orders through his radio. Meanwhile, Caitlyn turned to her team to give them their last instructions. 

"We don't know what we are going to find in there," she warned them. "Therefore, I want you to be prepared for - literally - everything. Did I make myself clear?"

"Loud and clear, ma'am," said Shen. 

Caitlyn nodded. "Vi, I know that I'm not your superior officer but- Vi! Are you listening to me?"

Apparently, the PROJECT cop wasn't. Her gaze was locked onto the three other PROJECTS that stood a couple of steps away, obviously tensed up. Caitlyn desperately tried to win her attention but to no avail. She reached out her hand and touched Vi's arm gently. "Vi."

Finally Vi snapped out of it, as if Caitlyn had performed some sort of magic on her. "Right. I'm sorry, I will be following your orders on that one, cupcake."

"Good," said Caitlyn but she was still worried about her. Vi seemed to be more affected by the presence of Jhin than she could expect her to be, but maybe Caitlyn didn't know her all that well after all. 

The ship was now surrounded by boats and PROJECT robots. The Pulsefires and the PROJECT initials climbed onto the deck and didn't lose any precious time as they immediately began sweeping the entire structure. After many hours of searching around, they found nothing more than the room where the broadcast had taken place alongside a broken computer and a camera. It wasn't sure if they could be fixed, but they sent them out anyway. It was late evening when they were finally done. But the PROJECT deviants and Ezreal were long gone, just like Caitlyn had expected. But now, they had a better idea of what places they would choose to hide in the future and it was enough for Caitlyn to form a plan of how to track them down. 

The only problem was that Vi was behaving in a way Caitlyn wasn't used to. She seemed to be in distress and she was obviously distracted all along, which left the agent concerned. The cop wasn't as invested as herself was most of the times but this was something different entirely. Caitlyn intended to find out later. 

Once they were done, they left the ship and made their way out. As they walked through the docks, suddenly McCarthy stopped them, specifically Caitlyn. 

"A word please," he requested. 

Caitlyn waved off her team and assured them she would catch up with them later. Nodding, they left them alone to talk. 

"What is it?" Caitlyn asked impatiently. "Are you here to threaten me again?" she added sarcastically. 

"No," McCarthy said. "I'm here with a request."

"What's new?" Caitlyn crossed her arms.

"The company would appreciate it if you lent us a hand with our little issue here," he continued. "We worked well together today. It would be great if we could repeat that again in the future. 

Oh, the audacity of this was completely outrageous, Caitlyn thought as she scoffed. "Yes, sure, after you threatened me I'm sure as hell going to help you out with your little issue here."

McCarthy glared at her but didn't say anything upon realizing her point. 

"I really don't have a choice here though, do I?" she questioned. "But just a disclaimer, because we work together, doesn't make us friends. Am I clear?"

"Absolutely," McCarthy deadpanned. "Good luck with your hunt, agent Fitzwilliam," he bid her farewell before disappearing. 

Sighing, Caitlyn turned her back at the "Morningstar" and made her way out of the old harbor. Vehicles and robots passed by her, completely ignoring her existence. She found her team waiting for her exactly as she told them to. 

"What did that guy want?" Twisted Fate asked. 

"Just to show his gratitude." Caitlyn rolled her eyes before turning towards Vi, who seemed to be lost in thought. "Vi? Are you okay? You seemed pretty distracted today. Is something wrong?"

She didn't receive a response straight away. 

"Vi?" 

Vi eventually snapped. "No, of course I'm not okay! In fact, I'm far from being okay!"

Everyone blinked in surprise - everyone except Caitlyn. "Why? Did something happen?"

It took all of Vi's self control not to start shouting. She inhaled sharply before responding. "It's none of your business."

"Oh, but it is," Caitlyn insisted, taking a step closer to her. "Because we can't keep working together if you act like that."

Vi maybe realized she had a point but she still had trouble confessing what was bothering her. It was obvious something personal and Caitlyn didn't want to be intrusive or anything, but she also knew that it could affect their job severely. 

"It's just… How do I explain this…" Vi mumbled. "Everything happened six years ago. I was out on a casual patrol. Then I received a call that my sister had run away again…"

"You had a sister?" Riven asked. 

"A mentally unable sister, yes." Vi nodded. "She could get dangerous sometimes, I admit… But she was doing better. So I went to pick her up but… Someone had beaten me up to it… And instead of trying to stop her like a sensible human being would, he fucking murdered her in cold blood!"

Caitlyn wasn't sure if she was following. "Who? Jhin?"

Vi shook her head no. "Zed."

»And now, six years later, we are here and I literally have to work with my sister's murderer! How the hell am I supposed to feel, Caitlyn?"

Vi couldn't take it anymore as she collapsed onto the pavement, holding her head in despair. For some reason, Caitlyn's heart twisted inside her chest. She sat down next to Vi and hugged her over the shoulders. She couldn't tell if she was crying but she seemed to calm down a little under her touch. 

"Hey, it's okay, I understand," Caitlyn said calmly. "You know, my parents were killed in a car accident and because of that, I never learned how to drive. A car, at least."

Vi removed her head off her hands to look at her. "Really?"

Caitlyn smiled. "Yes, for real."

Twisted Fate appeared out of nowhere and sat on Vi's left. "I betrayed my best friend and he ended up in prison," he confessed. "And every night, I sleep with a gun under my pillow."

"My father has disappeared for years," said Shen over her shoulder. "I don't know whether he's dead or not anymore."

"I was involved in a chemical accident years ago," Riven spoke. "And I was the only one to survive and remain unaffected. I have regular nightmares of that event."

"Everyone has their own demons," Caitlyn concluded. "You're not alone, Vi."

She wished that she was able to see Vi's eyes. However, the smile that appeared on the cop's lips was enough to reassure her that she was fine. 

"Thanks guys, I really appreciate it," Vi said gratefully. "I'm sorry about today. I promise it won't happen again."

"It's fine, really," Caitlyn assured her. "But if there's something bothering you, you can always tell us."

"I'll bear that in mind." Vi flashed her a charming smile and Caitlyn's heart melted. 

How cute… 

Wait. 

Did she just think that Vi was cute? 

What the fu-

"Alright, we should get going before anyone runs over us," Vi said as she stood up and everyone mimicked her, albeit Caitlyn who was the last to stand up as she was trying to catch up with her thoughts. "I'll head to the station to report back to my boss. I suppose I'll see you soon?"

"Sooner than you wish," Riven joked. "We'll see you around."

Vi jokingly saluted at them before she started jogging towards an unknown destination. Caitlyn's eyes remained locked on her back for a while till Shen's voice snapped her out of it. 

"Caitlyn? Are you alright?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," she said. "Let's go."

"Tsk, don't be so rude, Shen," she heard Riven whispering behind her back. "Let her check Vi out."

Under different circumstances, she would scold her, but right now she didn't have the strength to do so. She was pretty much confused for the first time in forever. 

Chapter Text

The basement was dark and cold, filled with humidity that pierced through the bones. There was nothing there rather than an old mattress laying on the floor and some stolen hextech equipment moved into the corner. A man sat on the dirty mattress, hands and legs tied and his mouth covered with a piece of clothing. His brown eyes were searching frantically the room for any means of escaping and the panic was painted all over his face while he desperately tried to avoid his kidnapper's piercing gaze.

Vayne practically glared at the man sitting before her, known for his work at PROJECT Inc. He was a mechanic and played a vital role in the design of the PROJECT traces. Vayne could remember his malicious smile when they infused the technology into herself. But now he wasn't smiling at all. He was shaking all over in seer terror.

"What a cruel irony," Vayne spoke in a cold voice. "Who would know we'd end up switching roles?"

The man insisted on avoiding her gaze. Vayne found satisfaction in his fear. She was enjoying every single second of this situation.

"I have a couple of questions for you," she continued. "And you better answer honestly. I despise liars."

He gulped as the hunter approached him and removed the clothing off his mouth. His instant reaction was to beg for mercy.

"Please!" he exclaimed. "Anything you need! Just... just let me go afterwards! Show mercy!"

Vayne narrowed her eyes. "Do you take me for a fool, Richard? I don't do mercy, unless you mistake me for Ashe."

"But... she said you didn't mean harm!" Richard exclaimed in terror.

"That's your unlucky day, then," Vayne hissed dangerously. "Because I'm not merciful like she is. Neither an idiot. You don't deserve any mercy, not from me."

Richard shrinked back in his mattress as he fought back tears.

"Enough with the foreplay," Vayne said. "Now tell me, how's the PROJECT corporation planning on dealing with our little situation here?"

"I... don't know!"

Vayne rolled her eyes. "Come on, Richard. The corporation wouldn't waste a man with an intellect like you on paperwork. There must be an emergency plan, something that was postponed for later but was hurried due to the circumstances. Have you been working on a secret project, Richard?"

The man kept shaking. "I admit that there has been a change of plans indeed," he mumbled.

"Oh?" Vayne raised an eyebrow. "Do tell," she encouraged him to keep talking.

"It was dangerous, I told them that. But they insisted we proceeded, and faster this time," he rumbled. "They brought the last one a couple of days ago from the sewers after a reported incident with some TPA agents, I don't know... And then they send it off with the others only God knows where..."

"Are you telling me that you've been creating more PROJECT traces?" Vayne inquired as her anger arose.

Richard nodded, afraid to look her in the eye. "We've been working on them for years but there have been a lot of complications and then chaos erupted and it was postponed until recently."

"And you don't know where the new PROJECTS are?"

Richard shook his head no. "They were taken away from Valoran. I'm not sure why. Probably because they didn't want them to be affected by your situation here. But they will be back to help take you down when they are ready."

"So, let me get this straight. The corporation has been creating more PROJECT traces in order to deal with the ones that have gone rogue?" Vayne inquired.

"...Yes?"

Vayne clicked her tongue. "You there at PROJECT corporation never learn, do you?" she said quietly. "You haven't learned yet that you can't just take humans and turn them into your puppets just because you want to. This is a desperate plan and it's going to backfire."

"It wasn't my idea!" Richard defended. "I didn't want to get involved in a project like this again. We haven't figured out what caused your malfunctions. This was risky and I knew it, but I didn't have a choice."

"Of course you didn't have a choice," Vayne snarled. "At least, you aren't as stupid as the rest of your colleagues, Richard. But let me enlighten you there. The 'malfunctions' and 'glitches' are nothing more than our own sentiments, feelings you can't control because you simply can't capture a human soul, no matter how advanced your technology is. You fail to understand that and it will be your doom."

She took a moment to breathe as her anger had reached its peak. It was simply outrageous how this company kept taking advantage of humans even after everything that had happened lately. She couldn't even believe it. They would never learn and the only solution was to eliminate them, erase them from this world for good. She remembered Ashe's message which only proved that they were just foolishing themselves. There wouldn't be salvation without PROJECT corporation falling into pieces. The sooner they realized that, the better for them. Secretly she admired their ability to be so human and wanting to forgive. But in this cruel world they couldn't survive like this. It was either them or PROJECT Inc. She raised her crossbow and aimed at Richard.

"Thank you for your cooperation, sir. Have a good day." And then she pulled the trigger, pinning Richard to the wall.

Vayne looked at the body. She didn't feel any sympathy for him nor had any regrets. He deserved to die, just like everybody else that participated in the PROJECT program. Turning her back at Richard, she pulled out a match and dropped it on the floor, setting everything on fire, before walking outside of the building like nothing ever happened in there. She kept walking on the pavement without turning to look back at the old building that was now completely aflame. The smoke slithered all the way up to the sky and in the distance she could hear sirens, so she picked up her pace, always stone faced, emotionless.

One down, several to go.

After walking for a while, she drew out her motorcycle and drove away towards her new hideout outside of the city. It wasn't safe to hide in Piltover anymore, especially after what had happened lately. The City of Progress was alerted and were looking for all of them and she had just killed a man. For a brief moment, she wondered what Fiora would think of this if she knew. Yet again, why did she care about the dueler's opinion? And why did her heart get heavy everytime she thought about her after their little fight? She didn't understand why she regretted lying to Fiora but at the same time she didn't regret killing someone. Besides, it wasn't the first time she killed either. But it didn't really make any sense to her.

Emotions were still too complicated for her and right now there was no time to figure them. She wasn't sure if she would ever truly had the time to analyze them better but this wasn't her main concern at the moment. Right now she was focusing on one thing; the new PROJECTS.

She was proven right once again. PROJECT corporation would stop at nothing to take control over Valoran and Runeterra in extension. Nice, inspiring words would do nothing to stop them. They needed to be eliminated completely, not just for the sake of vengeance but for the sake of everyone. There was a secret army of clones and Vayne was pretty sure the company would start using them pretty soon if they wouldn't be able to catch them in time. Nothing would be able to stop them then. She only wished that G/NETIC would listen to her. But she had pushed away the only person she had any hope of persuading that they needed to change their game. Fiora wouldn't trust her again, not in the foreseeable future anyways. It made her feel a little bit heavier. So how in the stars was she supposed to inform them about the new PROJECTS? Fiora was the only one among G/NETIC that trusted her enough and she had so selfishly ruined that.

Maybe for now it would be better if she tried to collect more information about the new PROJECT era. It would be easier to win their trust if she had more answers rather than vague information. Vayne accelerated faster, leaving the burning building collapse in the distance behind her.


 

The old, abandoned factory seemed to be a good shelter for G/NETIC for the time being. Located on the old industrial area of Piltover, just right outside the regional unit, it was the perfect place to hide and scheme without anyone noticing. Right now though there weren't any schemes, as their main focus was on finally restarting Master Yi. His transportation from the "Morningstar" to the factory had been extremely difficult and dangerous but in the end, it was totally worth it. It also helped that there were tones of hextech equipment left behind. Ekko tinkered around some of them and managed to even use a few to restore Yi.

Everything seemed to be back to normal but Fiora didn't feel like that. She found herself stuck in a cycle of constant anger and frustration, like she was a hormonal teenager, and she didn't like it at all, but she couldn't help but feel angry towards everything and everyone. With Vayne because she had lied to her, with her companions that didn't have an actual plan and with PROJECT Inc. Everything seemed so unfair to her and she couldn't feel the agony or the excitement of Yi finally waking up after so long.

They had installed a small capsule where they laid the almost repaired PROJECT. Now the only thing that remained was to charge him up and have him back in action. The hacker connected some last wires before heading towards his computer.

"The restart will begin in a minute," he informed them. "Beware."

Everyone held their breaths as the countdown continued. Only Fiora seemed disinterested, but at the end she couldn't help but stand among them. It wouldn't be fair not to be there once Yi woke up, since the Master was her closest friend among the group. Eventually she managed to push her anger on the back of her mind and focus on what was important now.

"Ten seconds left," Ekko announced.

Ten more torturing seconds. The agony was coming to a peak. All those 'what if's started replaying over and over again inside their heads. This was risky, everything could go wrong and jeopardize Yi's life-

System restart: completed successfully.

The capsule opened with a slight hiss. Yi's mask flickered a couple of times before his eyes appeared on the screen. He looked around in confusion and then looked intently at each of them with his always unreadable expression. He didn't speak at all, which worried them more.

"Yi?" Ashe addressed him quietly.

He didn't respond. Instead, he looked around and stretched his fingers to touch his blade that was laid next to him. Everything happened too fast for them to react but Fiora had read his intentions. Yi broke free of his 'chains' and used his famous Alpha Strike of the Wuju style to escape their grip and knock them down. The only one who he didn't manage to hit was Fiora because she successfully managed to block his attack. However, Yi didn't stop to face her and he ran at full speed towards the exit of the factory.

"Don't let him go!" Leona shouted as she tried to get back on her feet.

Fiora didn't hesitate for a moment as she ran after him. She knew she wouldn't be able to catch up with him straight away, as Yi was extremely fast, but she wasn't planning on letting him go just like that. He couldn't go too far.

She was right. Despite his speed, the factory was vast and since he didn't know which direction to go, he got lost really quickly, giving Fiora the time to catch up. As soon as he realized that she was there, he turned around to fight her. Fiora blocked his attacks but didn't attack back. She didn't want in any way to cause him harm. He was confused and he didn't know what he was doing, which was exactly the reason why he was so relentless against her. She wasn't sure if she'd be able to keen up. After all, Yi was skillful and he was entitled as a Master for a reason. She needed to be clever here if she wanted to win.

After barely blocking another attack, Fiora dashed forward, putting all her weight onto her blade. The force of this was that strong that she managed to tackle Yi to the ground. She kept applying pressure against Yi's blade, enough to not accidentally cut his throat open. Yi struggled under her but she didn't lose her grip.

"Yi," Fiora spoke. "It's me, Fiora. Stop this madness!"

At the sound of her voice, his grip loosened slightly. "Fiora?" he asked in an attempted whisper even though his digital voice didn't allow much volume.

"Yes, it's me," she assured him. "You don't have to worry, you're safe now."

Fiora trusted him enough to let go off him and it proved to be the right decision as Yi didn't try to flee again. He sat up slowly. He seemed more calm now and he obviously had recognized her this time. Suddenly though, the lights on his mask started flickering and his digitized eyes went all over the place until they disappeared completely and they were replaced by a single word written in orange letters; ERROR.

Fiora kneeled next to him and grasped his shoulders.

"Stay with me, Yi. It will be okay," she said calmly, even though she was panicking herself.

In the meantime, the other PROJECTS arrived at the spot and watched in shock.

"What's going on?" Ashe asked. "Is he in pain?"

"Not exactly. But he's having flashbacks, too many of them and all at once," Fiora explained. "He needs to rest. Yasuo, help me."

Yasuo went over them and helped carry Yi by his armpits back, but before they could even get him there, he passed out and they literally had to drag him. They laid him back on the capsule and let him rest. Meanwhile, they discussed what had just happened.

"It's not something we didn't expect," said Ekko. "Not remembering I mean. But I didn't expect him to attack us."

"No one really did," Ashe admitted. "But what happened there, Fiora?"

The dueler narrated the events of what had happened during her encounter with Yi and how that had escalated. "He's having flashbacks. I think I might have accidentally triggered his memory," she added in the end.

"That's not necessarily a bad thing, is it?" Lucian spoke.

"No," Leona replied. "But I've never seen something like that before."

Fiora inhaled. "It has happened to me before."

Everyone looked at her, surprise and confusion mixed in their facial expressions.

"What do you mean it has happened to you before?" It was Ashe who dropped the question.

"I mean that I had flashbacks before. A lot of times actually," Fiora confessed. "It's just a couple of corrupted memories, nothing much. And they are completely random."

"So what does that mean for Yi?'' Lucian asked. "Will his memories be corrupted too?"

Fiora shook her head no. "I don't think so, because his memories weren't modified this time, like mine. They were damaged, of course. But he recognized me. I can't recall faces."

"So we just wait?" Ezreal asked.

"There's nothing we can do for the time being," Ekko concluded. "We shall see what he remembers once he wakes up-"

Fumbling came over the capsule and everyone turned their attention back to the capsule. Yi was waking up again but this time they were ready for him trying to run away again. But this time he didn't. He looked around, studying his surroundings, with his digital brows furrowed. Then he looked at them with the same confused expression.

"Yi?" Fiora addressed him but she didn't get a response. Yi gazed at her blankly.

"By the Gods Yi, now it's not the right time to be your usual silent self," Ekko groaned in frustration.

"Yi, do you know who we are?" Ashe asked calmly.

The blademaster nodded but didn't respond vocally.

"He recognizes us," Leona pointed out with a smile but Fiora wasn't so quick to get relieved. He could be trying to play them for all they knew.

"Name us then," she commanded.

"Fiora!"

"No," she said sternly at Leona. "We need to know for sure."

"You are PROJECT Fiora," was his instant response. "And you are PROJECT Ashe and PROJECT Leona." Leaving the ladies, he looked towards the men. "You're PROJECT Yasuo, you are PROJECT Lucian and you are PROJECT Ekko." His eyes met Ezreal. "I don't recognize you."

Ezreal let out a huff. "Yeah, I wish you weren't the only one, buddy."

"So you don't remember Ezreal?" Ekko asked. "Jeez, how much damage did they do to you? It only makes me angrier."

"According to my reports, memory reparation has been initiated and it's up to 25% completed," Yi said in response.

"Seems like it's going to take a while," Ashe sighed. "Well, I'm glad you're back with us, Yi. We'll try to fill you in with what you've missed out so far."

Again there was no response. Fiora wasn't sure if she should be feeling glad. From one hand, Yi's initial reaction was very unsettling. On the other hand, he seemed to be back to his old self. But they sure as hell had a lot of work to do.



Chapter Text

One of Caitlyn's strongest attributes was her ability to remain focused and prepare a well-organized plan on every single situation of her life. It was something she had developed through the years and it had been the reason why she had managed to survive so many time travels throughout her career. However, this didn't seem to be the case as she remained absorbed on her computer screen, scrolling down and reading carefully what was shown to her. Caitlyn left several tabs open while she searched for what interested her; Vi's past and Zed's general role in PROJECT Inc. She couldn't find much on Vi except a couple of old articles talking about her achievements as a police officer. Caitlyn couldn't lie, she was impressed. Vi was an exceptional officer, despite her paradoxical ways of bringing down criminals, those usually characterized by extended force in several cases. Her oldest photos pictured a woman with bright pink hair, a juvenile smile and huge, metallic, hextech gauntlets of her own design, as it was specified many times, and they looked like an older version of her current ones. And the most interesting fact was that Vi wasn't from Piltover, rather than a fugitive from Zaun. So many questions, yet so little answers. How had Vi ended up in the City of Progress with her sisters and how had she turned PROJECT? 

There was another tab opened in the official website of PROJECT Inc. The page described briefly Zed and his abilities while offering several photographs of the PROJECT trace. The information wasn't much but it was enough for Caitlyn to help her realize that they were talking about a dangerous assassin using a fighting style that was used centuries ago in the island of Ionia. The real question about him was, how the company had just stood by when he had murdered in cold blood a citizen that obviously needed help? She shouldn't be surprised though, they had also defended Jhin when he killed four people just like that without any hesitation. This company was far more dangerous than they realized. The deviants weren't their real enemy, if anything at all. 

Caitlyn shook the thought. They were protecting Ezreal from getting into custody, therefore she shouldn't sympathize with them. As long as they defended the chrono-fugitive, they were her enemies too and she wouldn't hesitate if they got in her way. She couldn't exactly understand what they actually were. From what she had gathered, PROJECT corporations presented them like machines. But then there was Vi, the utmost paradox of the situation. Not completely human but not a machine either. At least Caitlyn knew where the cop's loyalties laid and that she had no connections neither with the company nor with the deviants, as far as she was concerned. Vi was the greatest mystery she had ever met so far. A puzzle, a challenge for her to solve. Unfortunately, she had other priorities ahead of her. 

Closing the tabs, Caitlyn realized this was the very first time she focused on something irrelevant with her case, which had never happened before. Ever. She had never been distracted while working, which made her frown. She couldn't allow this to happen again. They were on a tight schedule and they needed to prepare their next move. 

The sweeping of "Morning star" hadn't been completely fruitless in Caitlyn's head. In fact, it had provided a better insight into how those PROJECTS functioned and how they made choices. Their little visit could help them discover their next location. It seemed they preferred abandoned places that no one ever visited anymore, places that couldn't cross anyone's minds as possible hideouts, which automatically narrowed down the places they could be in. First, it was the old harbor of Piltover but this was completely out of the cards now. Then there was the sewers and the old underground system, but the sewers had proven too dangerous, even for PROJECTS. As for the underground, it was swarming with criminals and it wasn't ideal. All around Piltover there were old, empty buildings, especially in the outskirts, but Caitlyn would rather they focused their investigation on the old industrial area of the city. It was the perfect place for a runaway to hide as it was completely abandoned and no one ever even approached the place due to the higher levels of radiation. However, her companions had a different opinion. They wanted to focus their search inside the city as they believed that the deviants wouldn't have the time to get so far away. Caitlyn argued that this was a waste of time because there was no chance the PROJECTS would be reckless enough to hide in Piltover, but it was one against three so not much could be done anyways. At least when she would be proven right, she would be able to throw the "I told you so" card at them. 

In order not to lose any more precious time, she sent Vi a couple of locations downtown to check them out when she got the time. Caitlyn really wasn't fond of the idea of spending more time than necessary inside the city. Her gut was telling her that there was nothing there to find in the first place. But as Riven very cleverly pointed out, "better safe than sorry." 

Their little trip didn't start off very well. The first building they had planned on visiting had apparently been burned down the previous night. The only thing out of this was that they could proceed to the next ones quickly. As Caitlyn had predicted, they found nothing, much to the pleasure of the sniper. Not because they hadn't made any progress yet, but because as they moved on to each building, she was slowly being proven right. At the end of the day, they had found absolutely nothing. They decided to have a look at one last building near downtown before calling it a day. Caitlyn wondered if they would meet Vi there and just the thought of seeing the cop again made her heartbeat increase a little for reasons that she couldn't quite comprehend. 

Their last stop was an old storage that was used a couple of years by a huge network of supermarkets and now it had been emptied completely and shut down. It was right in the middle of a rural area and Caitlyn didn't think anyone would be hiding there but she knew better than not to keep in mind the fact that the deviants might try to trick them by hiding in a place that they wouldn't consider searching around. The uber left them right in front of the main entrance of the storage and drove off. Meanwhile, the Pulsefire agents tried to find a way to get inside. Of course they acquired a warrant that would get them anywhere they wanted to, but it seemed like the last owner of the place had passed away a while ago without leaving it to anybody else so they didn't have to worry about that too much. 

Twisted Fate examined the lock on the door carefully, humming. "Not something special," he commented. "We can easily open it up just like that," he added as he retrieved a hextech lock picker and adjusted it to the door, waiting for it to do the job. After a couple of seconds, they heard a click, indicating that the door was unlocked and they could proceed inside. Twisted Fate pushed the door open and motioned at them to follow him inside. 

They entered carefully, trying not to stay as quiet as possible. Tobias clenched his cards inside his pocket while Shen and Riven clinged on their blades. Caitlyn came last, holding her rifle up. The flashlight installed on top of it shed light in front and around them. They splitted in two groups and took separate ways; Caitlyn and Riven went on the left and Shen with Twisted Fate on the right. The storage emitted a foul smell due to the fact that it had been locked for way too long. And if Caitlyn wasn't mistaken, through the humidity she could detect the smell of dead rats. There were many boxes scattered around but most of them were empty. Only a few were thrown to the ground alongside their components. 

Riven moved forward and Caitlyn right behind covering her back, though she highly doubted there was anything to attack them to begin with. But suddenly she heard rustling coming right behind her. She spun around and aimed her rifle towards the direction of the noise. Riven understood that something wasn't right.

"What is it-"

Caitlyn shushed her immediately. She approached a line of boxes that seemed like the perfect hiding place for anyone who wanted to sneak up on them.

"We know you're here," she spoke loud and clear. "Show yourself slowly. Be warned that we are armed."

"Now, now, there's no need to get so aggressive, cupcake."

Caitlyn cringed as she heard the nickname coming from a very familiar person that appeared from the darkness. Vi stood before her with a cocky smile as she lowered her gun. But the agent wasn't smiling at all. 

"Are you out of your bloody mind?" she hissed. "I could have shot you!"

"You were the one who asked me to be here in the first place," Vi deadpanned. "I was having a look around and then I heard voices so I decided to hide. I didn't know it would be you lot." She pointed at them. 

"Well, we are glad it's just you and not someone else, am I right Cait?" Riven spoke, giving the sniper a look. 

"Right… Did you find anything?" Caitlyn switched the subject.

Vi shook her head. "Nothing that's connected with the case."

"Another successful day," Caitlyn commented sarcastically. "Let's find the others and get the hell out of here. We're losing our time."

The three of them found Shen and Twisted Fate going through some boxes that weren't as empty as they seemed. 

"Oh, hello Vi. It's good to see you," Shen greeted the officer when he noticed them approaching. 

"What's up? What did you find?" Vi asked. 

"A bunch of guns. Illegal if you ask me." Twisted Fate pulled out a rifle. "And I doubt these are as old as this place."

Vi looked over at the open boxes. "You're right. They are all unauthorized."

"How did they end up here?" Riven asked. 

"They're being hidden here," Caitlyn stated the obvious. "This place isn't as abandoned as we thought it'd be."

"And it's occupied by people we really don't want to mess up with," Vi added. "Let's get the fuck outta here. We don't want to bump into their owners."

"So, we're just gonna leave a bunch of illegal weapons lying around here?" Caitlyn inquired as Fate put the gun back to its rightful place. 

"I can't just confiscate them without a warrant. My presence itself is basically illegal. I'm not supposed to be here," Vi said and Caitlyn realized she was right. "Once I get a warrant, I guarantee this place will be completely sweeped all over-"

She was interrupted by the sound of voices coming right from the outside and they were becoming louder and louder as they came closer. 

"Shit! Hide!" She commanded and everyone rushed to hide behind some boxes. Caitlyn found herself kneeled next to Vi, which wasn't as comfortable as she wished it would be. The other Pulsefires had scattered some nearby boxes and she didn't have a visual on them. 

"Wait, what the actual fuck!" A male voice came. "Someone picked on the lock!"

"Fucking hell! Boss ain't gonna be happy if we got robbed," another voice commented. 

Caitlyn heard footsteps marching inside the storage. If she wasn't mistaken, it was at least ten heavily armed men.

"These boxes are open," another one said as he approached the spot moments ago the five of them were standing by. 

"Did they get anything?" the first voice asked. 

"No, I don't think so."

"They're still here," the first man growled. "Look for those bastards and don't hesitate to kill them! NR isn't joking when it comes to business."

NR? Who was that? Nevermind that now. Caitlyn focused on her breathing. It helped her concentrate in high-pressure situations like this. 

"Hey Rascal, do you think it's the feds?" A female voice asked. 

The first man responded. "Nah, the feds are too dumb for this. But even if they have miraculously found this place, I wouldn't mind having target practice on 'em." His voice was filled with malice. He wasn't joking.

"I fucking hate the feds," another man said. "There's nothing worse than them."

Someone approached Caitlyn and Vi's hiding place. If they peeked over the boxes, they would definitely see them and then they'd be dead on spot. Caitlyn's mind races to come up with a quick plan but Vi beated her to it. While crouching, she moved a little to the left where there was a bigger stack of boxes and pushed it onto the gang member. The man was caught in the momentum and didn't have the time to react as the heavy boxes crashed on top of him. 

"What was that?" Someone exclaimed. Caitlyn watched in horror as Vi jumped over the remaining boxes. Was she actually mad?

"That, my friend, is that one thing that's worse than the feds," she heard her say before Vi went after the gunmen. 

"By the stars," Caitlyn whispered to herself before suddenly standing up and shooting the first two people that came into her scope. 

"They got a sniper!"

"Don't be an idiot!" Rascal barked. "What do you think a sniper is gonna do in here?"

Caitlyn smirked slightly. "More than you think," she said to herself as she rolled to the side to avoid the upcoming bullets. 

Vi's surprising appearance had caught the gangsters completely off guard. Before they could regain their posture, Riven and Shen appeared out of nowhere while Tobias sneaked up on their back lines. 

"That's some bullshit!" Rascal screeched as he began shooting at Shen. The man gracefully dodged the bullets while using his blade to deflect some of them. Another man tried to take him out but found the end of Shen's blade instead of his head.  His leg injury didn't hold him back at all as it seemed. Meanwhile, another man tried to shoot Riven but the white haired woman leaped into the air to avoid the damage before smacking him in the face with her blade. "Thank the stars I don't have to do paperwork for this," she muttered to herself in satisfaction. And as for Tobias, he did what he knew best, knocking people out with his cards, as paradox as it seemed to the gunmen for someone to attack them with play cards. Another man tried to sneak up on Vi and hit her with the back of his gun on the back of her neck. The PROJECT didn't even flinch. She spun around slowly and glared at him as he took a couple of steps back in terror before she punched him so hard that he was sent flying across the storage before he crushed onto the wall. Caitlyn managed to shoot another one from her hiding spot. 

"Boom! Headshot."

There were only two people left now; Rascal and the woman. Caitlyn didn't hesitate as she ran towards them, clenching her fist. With a swift move of her wrist, she threw two small bombs at their feet. The two criminals looked at the bombs in surprise and they seemed to relax for a second as they didn't explode before they flashed and Rascal got frozen in time with his partner. 

"That was stupidly reckless but also awesome! Good job, cupcake!" Vi praised. 

"What's a sniper gonna do, huh?" Caitlyn mocked with a smirk playing on her lips. She loved it when people underestimated her, only to lose miserably against her. From the corner of her eyes, she noticed one of the men that was seemingly left unconscious raised his gun and aimed it at Vi. With almost inhuman speed, Caitlyn picked up her rifle again and shot him dead before he could react. Everyone looked in shook first at the body and then at Caitlyn but it was Vi who spoke. 

"Amazing reflexes. But there was no need for that. My body is literally bullet proof, remember?"

It just hit Caitlyn as she remembered the whole incident in the black market and she shifted her weight from one leg to another in embarrassment. "That doesn't mean he should be shooting you behind your back," she murmured. 

Vi studied her with an amused expression before a smirk appeared on her lips. "Whatever you say, cupcake."

At that moment Caitlyn wanted the earth to open up and just swallow her. This was too embarrassing, even for her.

"We should leave," Shen interrupted them. "These guys have more friends than we can handle. We shouldn't be here when they come to see what happened to them."

"And besides, someone must have called the police already. We shouldn't be seen here," Vi added. "Let's go."

Glad that she didn't have to deal with more embarrassment longer, Caitlyn followed her companions outside, leaving a huge mess behind them. When they walked outside, she had another epiphany. 

"Just a quick question," she said suddenly. "Vi, how did you get in? The door was locked when we arrived."

"Oh, from the back door, of course," Vi shrugged. "A building like that never has just one entrance."

"Right…"

It was at this moment that Caitlyn realized that maybe they shouldn't have just bust in through the front door like that. They had been careless and it put them in danger. As eager as they were to reach the end of this, they shouldn't be making mistakes like that because it could cost them a lot. They needed to be more careful in the future. 

Her thoughts were interrupted when their ride arrived. The Pulsefires entered the vehicle but Caitlyn hesitated for a moment. She turned to look at Vi. 

"Will you be okay?" she asked. 

"Don't worry about me. I got everything under control," Vi assured her. 

"We really need to stop involving ourselves in shitshows like that."

"Life is a big shitshow itself. And besides, I do have the feeling that trouble always finds us even if we don't go looking for it."

"The perks of the job, I suppose."

"Yeah, well, it's still a part of it." Vi smiled and Caitlyn found herself doing the same. In the distance, sirens screamed loudly, announcing the presence of the police. Vi looked momentarily over her shoulder before she looked over Caitlyn again.

"You should go," she said so softly that Caitlyn didn't expect this. "I can handle this."

"I know. If get anything-"

"-I'll let you know. Got you," Vi completed her sentence. Satisfied enough with that, Caitlyn entered the uber and they drove away before the police forces arrived at the spot. 

 

Chapter Text

Tired. Riven was tired. 

She always was, but at that time she was exhausted. It wasn't just the case that was weary, it was also Caitlyn's constant arguments. Riven was sick of it. They might have talked it out but the sniper hadn't changed her attitude much. After the incident at the storage, Caitlyn had snapped, telling them how they were just wasting time searching in the least possible places. She wasn't exactly mistaken if Riven wanted to be honest with herself, but the way she expressed her disappointment wasn't ideal. Caitlyn lacked a serious amount of social skills, which were replaced by her hunting abilities, although Riven wasn't obligated to deal with her attitude every single time they fell behind. So she proposed something that they probably should have done a long time ago in order to avoid conflict; split up. 

Despite what everyone thought, Riven was much more intelligent than she let on. All her childish attitude was merely a façade, a mask to protect her not only for others but mostly herself. The demons of her past still haunted her even though her past self was long gone, left dead in that chemical factory. Being the silly one among the group always helped her lift her spirits up a little but not this time. This time she wanted to be left completely alone. Not even the company of Shen, who had been her best friend for the past couple of years, was enough to soothe her at the moment. 

They weren't going anywhere with the case. Anyone who was clever enough to see it, they knew it was a dead end. Riven knew it too well. The most sensible scenario was that they were being sabotaged. It was simply impossible that they bumped into more and more trouble as their investigation proceeded. One of those days one of them would end up killed. Maybe splitting up wasn't exactly the wisest or the safest idea they had, however Riven wouldn't have it any other way. She was tired of it all and she needed a couple of moments with herself. 

She was convinced that Caitlyn knew deep inside that they weren't getting anywhere. But at the same time, the sniper had been hunting Ezreal for many years now and the possibility of failing was appalling. Plus, she was under a lot of pressure from the border, Riven knew that. Caitlyn was just as stressed as they were, possibly more. To an extent, her attitude was understandable but Riven wasn't in the mood of being comprehensive. After all, she needed to look after herself first and foremost because no one else would. 

Thought working wasn't exactly considered self care but this was her only way of distracting herself. The voices were louder these days and they wouldn't shut up. The screams and the shouts of her old companions as they died a painful death, having their bodies deformed in a cloud of chemicals, herself being unable to do anything but watch in horror under the shield of her blade. She wasn't supposed to live. If it wasn't for her blade, she would have been long gone now. The Timeline Protection Agency somehow found out about her miraculous escape and offered her a job. Riven accepted because she needed an objective, a goal, to distract herself and keep the voices at minimum. 
As long as she had a purpose, they kept quiet and she lived her life. It gave her and her blade a purpose to protect the timeline from getting manipulated by heretics. Now, she could only find true solace in eliminating all who would disturb the natural order. It was her only way for making up for all the wrongs she did in her past. 

The darkness of the building that stood before Riven only reminded her of that fateful night but she tried to shake that thought off. It wouldn't be helpful reminiscing about the past at that moment. An old building at the north that belonged to PROJECT Inc. It used to be their headquarters back in the day but it had been shut down the moment they transferred to the west and had been abandoned since then. Riven doubted she'd find anything there, it was way too obvious a location for the deviants to use as a hiding place. However, that didn't mean she wouldn't proceed with caution. 

Riven had learned her lesson from the previous time. No bursting through the front door unless it was absolutely necessary, and at the situation at hand it really wasn't. She went inside using an old janitor door that led her to the back side of the building, right next to a broom cupboard. She didn't have trouble opening it as there wasn't a safety lock, not even a padlock. It felt like the previous residents didn't care enough for this place anymore, they didn't give a damn if it got robbed or anything, which in Riven's case only proved convenient. 

Riven walked inside as quietly as she could master, though she wasn't renowned for her stealth. Despite that, Riven wasn't scared but that didn't mean she could be careless. She roamed for a little bit, taking her time to explore the entire building. It took her a couple of hours but as expected, she found nothing and she returned to the lobby. Riven had one last look around as she stretched her sore arms when suddenly she heard a noise. It was barely audible but she was sure she had heard it. 

Slowly, she reached for her blade. At the last second, she spun around to deflect a blade that was making her way towards her back. The blade floated back but didn't stop trying to attack her and it was joined by several others in their pursuit to murder the Pulsefire agent. Riven struggled to keep up and she felt her left cheek receive a cut, blood emerging from it. She didn't recognize the blades but there was only one person in the entire Runeterra that could move them like that.

And then she saw her. Glowing in the dark like a star in the night sky, performing precise, skillful and silk moves, making her dangerous blades dance under her command. Riven got so distracted that one of the blades nearly cut off her arm. She barely managed to dodge and roll to the floor, facing her after so many years for the first time. 

She looked like nothing she remembered. Her body was covered in a metal suit stamped with the characteristic triangle of the logo belonging to PROJECT Inc. Her face was covered in a mask but Riven could still look straight into the eyes that haunted her dreams, those perfect, piercing blue eyes. She thought that those eyes would never see the light of the sun again.

The moon shone, guiding the six mercenaries through the darkness. They walked in a line with Riven on the front. The suburb of Zaun was within the distance and they could make the lights of the city. The air became heavier.

"By the Gods, we will suffocate before we even get there," Lainor complained out loud, blowing some of his red hair off his face. 

"Maybe if you try and actually keep your mouth shut, you won't suffocate. It's not rocket science," Garthon snarled at his companion.

"How about you two cut it off?" A feminine voice scolded them. Tewil glared at them over her shoulder with her piercing gaze and the two men stopped immediately. 

Eragon clicked his tongue. He was the oldest among the group and the most experienced in the job. Born and raised in Bilgewater, he had spent much of his youth as a pirate. The pirate life had blessed him with a wooden leg and his thieving skills. "Yer so impatient, lads. Youth these days..."

"Good think we got you to keep us in line, ain't that right, ol' Eragon?" Cainir smirked at the old man. He was the youngest among the group but he had proven himself useful many times in the past and that's why they had kept him around. 

"Call me old one more time, lad. I warn ya."

Riven, who was a little far ahead, chuckled to herself at their antics. She had to slow down and start walking backward to have a look at them. 

"You know, I keep wondering how on earth we have even been able to get all those jobs done with you all bickering at each other all the time," she said with an amused smile. 

It was Tewil who responded. "Luckily enough, we got you to keep us in line, otherwise we would be rooting in some cell now."

"Keep us in line? You make us sound like we are a bunch of children!" Lainor complained. 

"Maybe you should stop acting like one, then."

Riven laughed. "Alright, that's enough. We are close to the city now. We don't need to announce our presence."

She wasn't mistaken. Within an hour, they were marching in the empty streets of Zaun. Riven guided her squad towards the meeting point, some old chemical factory to the east. She kept her eyes and ears wide open. She was responsible for this mission and for whatever happened to these people if they got lost. But they didn't and eventually arrived at the abandoned factory. They knew it was the right place judging by the guards that stood outside. It didn't make sense to guard such a place unless something else was going on. 

"Good evening, gentlemen," Riven greeted them. "We are here to pick up the package."

The guards examined them briefly. "Go ahead," said one of them. "Singed is waiting for you."

The six mercenaries walked inside the factory, being left amused by the amount of chemicals that was just left there openly. If a fire occurred, the surrounding area would be doomed. Singed indeed waited for them alongside three more guards inside to hand them the package they were being paid to pick up and transfer back to their current customer. He wasn't their boss, just the guy who paid for the job. Singed on the other hand and as Riven was concerned was yet another pawn. She wasn't sure what he's role was in the organization but she had a gut feeling he was a master at producing chemicals, and not the kinds used in fields to protect cultivation from insects and diseases. 

He acknowledged them with a simple nod before handing Riven the package. It was very small but also very valuable, considering how much their customer paid for the safest transferring. 

"Guard this with your life," Singed spoke behind the bandages covering his mouth. "One wrong move and we are all doomed."

"Don't worry," Riven assured him as she handed the package to Garthon who placed it in a metallic suitcase. "That's why we got hired for this job and not anyone else."

"I hope that's the case. Send Jericho my regards and thank him for the so kind payment," were Singed's last words before he waved them off and disappeared on the back of the factory. 

"Come on guys, let's get going. We can't lose any time," Riven told her team but was interrupted when the front door of the factory was shut. 

"What's the meaning of all this?" Lainor shouted as he picked his gun. Garthon mimicked him. 

"We don't know," one of the guards. "Something must be off-"

He never got to finish his sentence as he dropped dead to the ground. His companions panicked as they raised their guns. 

"Be ready guys," Riven whispered to her team as she drew out her blade and they mimicked her as they picked up their own weapons. 

Then chaos erupted. Windows broke and more men bursted in, both from the ground and from the roof. 

"It's the fucking feds!" Garthon yelled as he started shooting around with his rifle. 

One of the men tried to apprehend Riven, clenching his blade of his head before going for the strike. Riven blocked and with a swift move, she cut his throat open. He looked like nothing the typical guards you could find around Piltover and Zaun. He was dressed in black and he wasn't carrying any sort of gun. Only his blade and his shurikens. 

"No Garthon, these aren't the feds!" Riven shouted. "This is something far worse than that! These men are super skilled, they're both like we have faced before."

Tewil clenched her knives. "And we are nothing like they have faced so far."

Eragon smirked as he held his shotgun. "Bring 'em on! I'll show those scums the power of me shotgun!"

Cainir smirked at him. "This thing is too slow, Eragon. You sure it can keep you alive?"

"Shut up boy and mind yer stupid rifle!"

"Embrace yourselves!" Riven yelled as more men broke inside and attacked them. 

She had been right, they were nothing like they had ever faced before but they sure as hell didn't know how to handle a bunch of unpredictable mercenaries like them. Soon after they were joined by more of Singed' men and the battle was now even. They just needed to get the hell out of here with the package before it was too late. 

Suddenly, a swarm of blades flew in and killed five guards at once. But as deadly as they were, they had a grace in them that it couldn't exactly be defined. Riven followed the blades with her eyes as they flew back to their owner. The woman stood between her men, dancing as if she had no care in this world and the blades danced alongside her to the rhythm she settled. She opened her eyes to face Riven. They were a perfect shade of blue, piercing, cold and commanding. 

"By the laws of this land, you are under arrest," she said. "Surrender now and your fate will be something better than death."

"Well, too bad surrender isn't in my dictionary, huh?" Riven mocked her. 

The woman clenched her jaw. "Then, I sure hope death is."

Before Riven had the chance to prepare herself, the blades flew towards her, aiming at her head. She should have been dead if it hadn't been of Tewil who deflected with her knives. 

"You need to be faster than that if you want to survive this," she teased Riven. 

"Now it's not a good time to be a smart-ass!" Riven hissed. "Look out!"

The blades were coming at them again, faster and stronger this time. Several cuts were added to the collection of both women. Riven knew it was hopeless. This woman was too strong for any of them. 

"Retreat!" Riven ordered Tewil. "Go back to the others. When you see a window of escape, take the chance and don't look back!"

"What are you going to do? We can't leave you behind, Riven!"

"Yes, you can, Tewil! You need to get the job done regardless! Now, go! It's an order!"

Tewil hesitated but as more blades came at her, she had to oblige whether she liked it or not. Now without having to worry about Tewil, Riven put her an entire focus on her opponent. The woman looked at her in amusement but it was just for a brief moment before she unleashed her deadly dance again. 

They went about for a while. Her attacking and Riven deflecting, occasionally receiving a hit here and there. She was a bloody mess. She was well aware that she couldn't keep going like this and sooner or later one of those blades would pierce her body and put an end to her misery. 

"I'm impressed," her opponent called out. "I've never met anyone of your skill. If I am to kill you tonight, at least I want your name."

"It's Riven," she breathed out. "And if I am to die tonight, at least I want to know the name of my killer."

"Xan Irelia."

"Well Xan Irelia, let's get this over with."

"Splendid." Irelia took a stance and prepared to command her blades to attack but she suddenly froze, her eyes locked behind Riven. She knew it was foolish but Riven turned around to see what was the reason that made Irelia stop on her tracks. 

She watched in horror as Cainir stood among the crowd holding the package in his hands. Their eyes met.

"Cainir, what are you doing?!" Riven screamed at him. "Stop this nonsense!"

"I'm so sorry, Riven," he said regretfully before he threw the package to the ground, shuttering whatever was inside. 

A green fog emerged, swallowing everything in its path, guards, Irelia's men, everything. Riven watched in terror as her own team was being eaten by the green monster, all fallen to their knees, struggling to breathe and screaming in pain as the gas burned their skin, deforming their bodies. 

"NO!"

Nothing mattered anymore. Not their escape, not Irelia. The gas must have blended with the other chemicals in the factory because the result of the death fog varied from victim to victim. Riven didn't want to see anymore, she just wanted to die. She fell down on her knees, trembling from head to toe, awaiting death to pick her in his arms. 

But He never came. 

Her blade shone and her runic shield was activated. Riven was baffled; she hadn't done it. It was like the blade was trying to protect her from harm. But she didn't want to be protected. She just wanted to fall alongside her companions, even if Cainir had betrayed them all and led them to their deaths. Riven hated how unique her blade was at that moment. She had found it years ago, discarded as if it was garbage. With a couple of alterations, it had become the perfect weapon for her but now she didn't want it at all. Somewhere in the distance, she could have sworn she heard Irelia screaming but she couldn't be too sure about that. 

Riven remained still. Eventually, her runic shield would die out and she could pass away in peace. But much to her dismay, she noticed that the atmosphere had started cleaning and when the shield would eventually die out, the gas would have completely escaped outside and the last thing Riven wanted was to see the distorted bodies of her companions. With great effort, she managed to make her way outside. The moment she came out, an explosion came from inside and everything was set aflame. Riven laid to the road, watching as everything she loved burned slowly and she hated herself more - if this was humanly possible - for surviving.

"Irelia." Riven breathed. 

The PROJECT before her didn't respond at first. She tilted her head to the side, observing Riven better. The blades hurdled the space between them. If the Pulsefire agent made a step towards the Blade Dancer, she would be dead on spot. After all, Riven wasn't able to defeat Irelia even before she was turned PROJECT. What chances did she even have now? 

"How do you know my name?" Irelia asked calmly. 

Riven suppressed the urge to roll her eyes at her. "Because you didn't tell me the last time we met when you almost killed me."

"I'm sorry, what?"

"You cannot be serious. Zaun?"

Irelia shook her head. 

Riven was completely puzzled. "You don't remember?" she asked. 

"Remember what?"

Riven took a breath, trying to recollect herself. If this was Irelia's way of messing up with her, congratulations then because she was doing a wonderful job. On the other hand, Irelia didn't seem the type to mess around even if Riven didn't know her that well. 

"Do you know who I am, Irelia?"

"You are Pulsefire Riven, agent of the Timeline Protection Agency," Irelia responded immediately, almost like a robot. 

"You really don't remember, do you?" Riven whispered. 

"Again, remember what exactly?" Irelia sounded angry. She was losing her patience. 

So just how far has PROJECT corporation had gone in order to achieve "perfection"? This was beyond anything Riven could have possibly imagined. 

"I don't see why I haven't killed you already," Irelia spoke again, upon seeing Riven's silence. 

"Wait! You can't kill me!" Riven exclaimed in panic. 

Irelia raised her brows. "Would you be so kind to at least give me an answer this time?"

Riven inhaled sharply. "Because I'm connected to your past. I know who you are, Xan Irelia."

"You don't know anything about me!" Irelia hissed dangerously.

"Alright, poor choice of words! What I wanted to say is that I know a few things about who you used to be. I can help you retrieve some of your memories. Perhaps."

Irelia lowered her blades. Good sign. 

Riven smiled softly. "Now if you could just listen to me for one second-"

A blade stopped right in front of her throat. 

"Come with me," Irelia ordered. "One wrong move and I'll cut your throat open."

"I guess that works too," Riven mumbled. 

Chapter Text


Caitlyn had always been a lone wolf. Since her parents passed away, she had chosen the path of being a strong individual, both in her personal life and her career. She didn't like depending on someone else for anything. Plus, being alone helped her concentrate better. When Riven had suggested splitting up, she had been relieved, though deep inside she was well aware that the reason behind her colleague's decision was her own behavior. Riven rarely got annoyed but this time it had been different, Caitlyn knew that. 

Instead of wasting more time around Piltover, she had headed straight to the old industrial area of the city, which was vast, to say the least, and there was no chance she could investigate it all quickly enough on herself. Instead, she chose one of her old and most favorite methods, observation. She picked up a good spot so she'd be able to observe as much of the area as possible. The old factory she had chosen seemed to do the job as fine as Caitlyn could see almost everything from the last floor and keep herself concealed for the most part. The perfect spot. 

The hours passed like a couple of cars that went through the industrial area. Nothing that interested the Pulsefire agent though. Midday passed and the afternoon arrived, painting everything in its bright colours. It was a good thing Caitlyn had brought some commodities with her. Her initial plan didn't include her leaving too soon. She needed at least one single clue that indicated Ezreal and the PROJECTS were hidden there. She was this determined. 

As she looked over the window, she heard footsteps coming her way. Caitlyn looked over her shoulder but didn't worry too much. She had made sure to fill the place with traps just in case someone decided to creep in. Though in this case they weren't even trying to be subtle as they made as much noise they could. Caitlyn picked up her rifle, walked carefully near the stairs and peeked over the railing. 

"Nice traps, cupcake!"

Caitlyn looked completely baffled as she looked down at Vi who stood in the middle of the old factory among the abandoned machinery, waving at her.

"Vi?" The sniper asked in disbelief. "What on earth are you doing here?"

"Thought you might need some company," Vi shrugged. "Now can I pass or am I going to have to test your traps myself?"

"Just give me a second," said Caitlyn before remotely disabling her traps. Soon, Vi joined her upstairs with a cocky smile. 

"Glad I'm not your prey today," she joked. 

Caitlyn rolled her eyes. "Yeah, whatever. Now tell me the real reason why you're here."

Vi was taken aback. "I told you, I wanted to keep you some company. It must be lonely around here."

"It is, but it's not like I mind. I'd rather be alone."

"Come on, Caitlyn. No one truly wants to be alone, including you," Vi deadpanned. "But if you really want to be alone, it's fine. I can leave."

Caitlyn sighed. "It's alright. You made all this way to come here and it would be a shame if I made you return back."

"Not that you actually want me here." Vi smirked, making Caitlyn roll her eyes for the second time within a couple of minutes. 

"Keep telling yourself that," said Caitlyn, even though she actually enjoyed Vi's company more than she would ever admit out loud. 

"Nice view," Vi commented, pointing outside.

"Yeah, how about you stay away from the windows so as nobody spots you, huh?" Caitlyn's voice was filled with sarcasm as she pulled Vi to the side. 

"Alright, alright. Damn, woman!" Vi exclaimed. "So, tell me, why did your amazing team decide to split up like that?"

"To cover more ground, I suppose," Caitlyn responded. "Speaking of covering ground, didn't you have the time to search the places I gave you?"

Vi nodded. "Most of them, at least. Nothing there too."

Caitlyn ran a hand through her hair. "Can't say I'm surprised."

"Oh, I bet you're thrilled that you proved your friends wrong, huh?" Vi teased, however the Pulsefire realized that there was another indication behind her seemingly innocent joke. 

"This isn't a competition," Caitlyn declared. "We need to do our job, quickly and efficiently."

"I guess you were the one to suggest the splitting up?"

"No, it was Riven that did actually."

Vi tilted her head to the side. "Oh?"

"Yeah, well I was surprised that she did. She's not the type who prefers to work alone," Caitlyn admitted. 

"Like you."

"Like me." Caitlyn nodded. 

"And I suppose this happened after some serious consideration and not under emotional pressure?"

"I don't think I understand what you're trying to say."

Vi shook her head in amusement. "So you telling me that you didn't grind her gears to the point that she gave you what you truly wanted?"

"No, that's not what-" Caitlyn had to stop as the realization hit her. "Oh."

Vi chuckled at her expression. "You lack empathy and close attachments to others, have some exploitative tendencies and a defiance of authority. You're such a sociopath, Caitlyn."

"I am," the Pulsefire confessed. "But you're the very first person to take the time to observe and understand my situation. Most think I'm just a cruel bitch, including Riven."

"You're a very interesting example of an agent, Caitlyn." Vi pointed at her. "Of course I took my time to observe you. And you did the same. Don't deny it."

"I wasn't planning to."

Caitlyn paused there to think for a second. Being a sociopath had never been an easy concept but the consequences of this disorder were only visible through her actions. She hadn't done this on purpose, heck she hadn't even realized that she manipulated and exploited Riven's emotional state and the worst part, she didn't even feel remorse. Not until Vi mentioned it anyways. 

"I didn't do it on purpose," she suddenly said out loud but she wasn't exactly sure why. She didn't owe Vi an apology, yet here she was, apologizing. "Most of the time, I don't even understand what I'm doing. This is why I avoid people, because I know I'm going to hurt them with my behavior. And I really don't want that."

"I think you're also trying to protect yourself," Vi pointed out. 

"From what?"

"Getting hurt by people."

Caitlyn's gaze stopped outside the window. "In my job, you get to meet a lot of people from different times. Emotionally attaching to them is dangerous business, especially if they're not supposed to meet you in the first place. In most cases you never even meet them again. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"

Vi nodded. "I think I do."

"Then you understand why I'm trying to protect myself."

"I can accept that since it's something I've been doing myself."

Caitlyn turned her to face her. "Have you?"

"You sound surprised."

"You just don't seem like that type of person. You're very friendly and outgoing."

Vi had to let out a huff. "Let's be honest here for a second, Cait. Who in their right minds would want to associate with someone like me?"

"I would," Caitlyn blurted it out, which surprised her and made Vi smile. 

"Well, apart from you. People have this false idea inside their heads that I'm just a talking machine."

"But you aren't a machine!"

"Well, they don't see that. To be honest, I don't exactly blame them. I don't know what I am either."

Vi sighed, looking away from Caitlyn. The sniper had mixed feelings, something between anger and sympathy. 

"I know what you are," the Pulsefire declared. 

Vi snapped her head at her. "You do?"

Caitlyn nodded affirmatively before clearing her throat. "You're Vi, the police force's most valuable asset, determined to serve justice, always willing to help others and the woman who saved my life more times than I can count even if you don't know me that well. You're my fr- partner." Caitlyn rushed to correct herself. 

Vi was left speechless for a while, gazing over at Caitlyn with an unreadable expression before eventually she flashed a smile. 

"Won't you look at that? I'm speechless," she joked. "Thank you, partner." She emphasized the last word to show her sarcasm. "Though, I daresay you almost called me your friend."

"Almost," Caitlyn repeated, almost too embarrassed by her own actions. "I don't consider a lot of people my friends. You should keep that in mind."

Vi nodded and then they fell in silence, although it was nothing but uncomfortable. They had reached a point in their relationship that they understood each other well enough to know when words weren't necessary, despite knowing each other only a couple of weeks. After all, they were supposed to be observing the industrial area that developed under their feet. Caitlyn realized this was way easier with Vi by her side. Her enhanced vision provided them with more detailed information like the owners of the passing cars, information about the construction in the area and all this kind of stuff that the PROJECT made sure to keep Caitlyn updated with. The sun hid completely behind the horizon, the darkness fell and the stars appeared in the sky. 

It had been quiet all day, with no suspicious movement, when Caitlyn suddenly received a call from Shen. 

"Is everything okay?" she asked.

"No." Shen sounded worried which alerted Caitlyn. 

"What's the matter, then?"

"Riven is missing."

"Missing?" Caitlyn repeated, bemused. "What do you mean missing?"

"Missing, as in she hasn't reported back since she left. I tried to track her down and she's nowhere to be found!"

Caitlyn cursed under her breath. "What about Tobias?"

"He's fine, thankfully, but concerned about Riven. Could you please go and check over where she was last spotted while I keep tracking her down?" 

Caitlyn really didn't want to leave the area but this was far more important. Surprisingly, she found herself feeling somewhat guilty about the current situation and she was sure that this had to do with the conversation she had with Vi before. She felt like she was responsible for their splitting up and therefore Riven's disappearance.

"I will," she promised. "Don't worry about Riven, Shen. She's a tough one, I'm pretty sure she can handle herself just fine."

"Do you think I don't know that already? Otherwise, why would I recruit her in the first place?" said Shen. "But I'm afraid that she might have gotten herself into some serious trouble."

The call ended there and Caitlyn turned to Vi. "There must have been a change in plans."

"Do tell. Who's missing?" Vi asked. 

"Riven," Caitlyn replied. "Help me pick up my traps and we are free to go."

"Alright. Do you want me to call an uber too?"

"That won't be necessary. I have something that can get us faster there," Caitlyn explained. 

"You're the boss here, cupcake," Vi said in amusement. 

It took them only a couple of minutes to finish tidying up before they found themselves outside the old factory by the side of the road. Only then did Caitlyn pull out her rifle, much to Vi's surprise. With a slight smirk, she pressed a couple of buttons and the rifle transformed into a motorcycle before their very own eyes! 

"You're full of surprises," Vi stated. "But are you sure it can handle both of us? I mean, I'm kinda big." She pointed at herself. 

"Don't worry. I've carried much bigger criminals on those wheels than you. There's nothing to worry about, I guarantee that."

"If you say so, cupcake. But if I end up falling, I'll blame you solely."

"I take full responsibility."

Caitlyn climbed onto the motorcycle first and then Vi climbed behind her before the Pulsefire leaned forward. 

"Hold on tight," she advised Vi behind her shoulder before she accelerated. 

Caitlyn had been right when she had claimed that her motorcycle was way faster than any uber Piltover had to offer. She felt Vi's grip around her waist and suddenly her stomach felt empty too. It wasn't too tight as the PROJECT was probably being cautious not to harm her by accident. 

Soon they arrived at their destination. The two women dismounted the motorcycle which transformed back into its original form and Caitlyn strapped it over her shoulder. They found themselves right outside an abandoned building which wasn't that old. The PROJECT corporation used to host their headquarters here once before they moved out. Riven had come here to search for clues and never returned. 

"We need to find a way in," Caitlyn said. 

"Doesn't the front door work for you?" Vi was obviously joking but Caitlyn shook her head. 

"Going through the front door hasn't exactly worked for us very well. Let's have a look around."

After walking aimlessly around the building for a while, they discovered a janitor door that had been opened by someone before. 

"Riven's work," Caitlyn realized, pleased. "Let's go."

They walked around for a while until they made towards the lobby which seemed awfully quiet. 

"There's no doubt," Vi declared. "Someone has been here."

"If it's been recently, we can figure out who they were," said Caitlyn. 

Vi shook her head. "Definitely not recently. Maybe a couple of hours ago."

The sniper frowned at that. "My technology won't help us much then. If I get lucky, I can only determine Riven's movements."

"Good thing you got me with you." Vi beamed and then focused on their surroundings. Caitlyn watched as she ran a scan for clues. 

"What do you got?"

"I got a recreation of the scenery. You might find this interesting," the cop said before standing opposite Caitlyn and pressing a button on her mask. Suddenly, it flashed and a hologram of Riven appeared walking through the same door they had come in, stretching her arms. The hologram proceeded to walk towards where Caitlyn stood before she suddenly spun around with her blade in her hand and wielded around as if she was trying to deflect something. Suddenly, she stopped and her lips moved but no sound came out of them. 

"Pause it there," Caitlyn instructed. "Isn't there any sound?"

"I'm afraid not," Vi admitted. "My technology isn't that advanced."

Caitlyn observed Riven's hologram with curiosity. Surprise was written all over her expression, as if she faced something or someone she hadn't expected. 

"I hopefully have a solution to that," she announced eventually before drawing out a gadget that was similar to a Timer but its function was quite different. It was more of an audio retriever, used mostly when visual wasn't available. This could do the trick but it had been a while since Riven had been there and even this technology had its limits. Caitlyn pressed a button and the device ran a quick scan. "Can you reverse the hologram a couple seconds back?" she asked Vi. 

"Yeah, sure," the PROJECT said and did as she was requested. With Caitlyn's nod, she resumed the recording but this time with sound. The hologram and the audio were now aligned and the recreation was more realistic. 

"Irelia." They heard Riven's voice but there was a second one too. 

"How do you know my name?"

The voice was disembodied and clearly unknown but as far as Caitlyn could tell, it belonged to another woman. The conversation unfolded before them and the Pulsefire paid full attention to it as she tried to put the pieces together.

"Come with me. One wrong move and I'll cut it open," she heard the woman named Irelia order Riven. 

"Shit!" Vi exclaimed. "Riven has been abducted!"

"Obviously. But the real question is, by who?" Caitlyn inquired. "Well, obviously someone who's connected with Riven's past but doesn't seem to remember her. This is as obscure as it gets."

"Wait a second," Vi suddenly said. "Could you please re-play the Irelia part?"

"Yeah, sure." Caitlyn was quick to oblige even though she was curious about Vi's sudden request. 

"There's something about her... I don't know how to describe it," Vi said eventually. 

"What do you mean?"

"I mean... There's something out of place with her voice. It sounds digitized, almost inhumane. More like my voice, if that helps you understand what I mean."

Caitlyn realized she was right. "What does that mean then? Another PROJECT? Something else? In any case, Riven is in big trouble."

"It could be but we can't know for sure," said Vi. "And you're right. We need to find her soon."

Caitlyn withdrew the device and called Shen. They had gathered enough information for now and this was the best they could hope for. 

"Shen? Any signs of Riven yet?"

"Think I might have gotten something. What about you? Should I be concerned?"

"We don't have much time. All I can say is that Riven is in big trouble and we need to get to her soon," Caitlyn responded. "Send me the coordinates and meet up with me at the spot. Pick Tobias too."

"Shite! Alright, I'll meet you there."

"Come on, let's go," Caitlyn said to Vi as she ended the call. "We need to get going."

"Right behind you, cupcake." the PROJECT officer grinned a big smile. 

~•~•~•~•~•~

This didn't go as she had planned, Riven thought, as she found herself tied onto a chair inside a very dark building that was still being constructed and the windows were covered with cardboards. 

"Is this absolutely necessary?" she asked, trying to follow Irelia with her gaze but failing miserably as the woman walked behind her.

"I don't trust you yet," she said. "Just necessary precautions."

Riven huffed. "As if I'm dumb enough to try anything when there's a blademaster, a ninja and a psycho in the same room as me!"

The response was a girly giggle. "She's a funny one! Can we keep her?"

"Only for now, Jinx," Irelia said before reappearing in front of Riven, taking up most of her field of vision which immediately rendered her nervous. Not only because it was Xan Irelia that stood before her but because her deadly companions were still lurking in the dark. Jinx carried around at least three different guns and the assassin, Akali, was as deadly as her blades. 

"So, Riven," Irelia spoke. "It's time to have that talk, don't you think? And you better be honest with me because I hate liars. I'll know if you tell me anything but the truth and there are going to be severe consequences."

Riven gulped in fear but nodded nonetheless. 

"Now we cleared that up, let's begin. You mentioned Zaun. What happened there?"

The Pulsefire agent inhaled sharply before responding. "A massacre, is the short version. The longer version is a far more complicated story."

»Before I started working for the Timeline Protection Agency, I was a mercenary and took up several jobs for a living, most involving murder or safe transportation of products. That night me and my crew were expected to pick up a package for our customer. Things didn't go exactly the way we had planned them."

She had to pause as the painful memories consumed her for a second. She took a deep breath before daring to look Irelia straight in the eyes. 

"You showed up with your own men. You were known from Ionia to Valoran for your abilities to put an end into criminal activities that endangered the peace. We fought against each other and you won. You were about to kill me when everything happened," Riven said with a shaky breath. "One of my crew members betrayed us and broke into pieces what we were supposed to bring back to Noxus. None of us knew what it was until then; an extremely dangerous and fatal chemical. It killed everyone within its range, including my friends. I should have been killed too but I survived and lived to tell this horror story."

Riven was on the verge of tears. She hadn't talked about that night since Shen approached her to recruit her and even then it hadn't been so detailed. 

"I-I thought you were dead, too. For many years I believed that. I don't know how you survived," she added. 

"How did you survive, Riven?" Irelia asked. 

"It was my blade." She motioned at the weapon that was placed against the wall near Akali. "It shielded me but I'd rather it didn't. It kept me safe long enough until I managed to get out of that shithole."

Irelia diverted her eyes from Riven and landed to the blade, possibly wondering what was so special about it. "Where did you get that blade?"

"I found it disposed of alongside other garbage. With a couple of upgrades, it was good as new," Riven said. "There's nothing special about it, it's just another piece of hextech technology. But that night it hadn't been me who had activated the shield, I'm pretty sure. The blade acted on its own and I still don't understand why." She sighed. "But I don't think you care about that, do you Irelia?"

She didn't get a response. Irelia's gaze remained locked onto the blade. Riven had to cough awkwardly to win her attention and that was enough to bring the blademaster back to reality. 

"Your blade," Irelia said. "It's one of the few things I can recall."

"So you remember my blade," Riven pointed out amusedly. 

Irelia shook her head. "Not just your blade. Your face seems oddly familiar too. I feel like I've seen it before today."

"Am I allowed to ask a question?" Riven inquired. 

"That depends on the question."

"Where do your memories begin from, Irelia?"

"That's an abstract question," Irelia commented. "But my first memory is of a place somewhere in Valoran where it's just me, Akali and Jinx gathered together and then it's just memories of our travel here. Before that there's nothing but darkness."

"Don't you remember anything at all?"

Irelia shook her head no. "Apart from you, no. Nothing else."

Riven should be flattered but she really wasn't. Because if anything, she hadn't imagined her reunion with Irelia being like that, if possible. Even if Irelia had somehow miraculously escaped the accident without turning PROJECT, she should be hating her right now and the agent should be begging for forgiveness. She was the reason why everything had happened in the first place, Riven should have been more cautious and have foreseen the betrayal. 

"You should have killed me back there," Riven blurted out, removing her gaze from Irelia. 

"Pardon?"

"You heard me right. If you remembered what happened at the factory, you'd definitely hate me right now and would want me dead on spot. That's what you should do."

She felt the PROJECT'S eyes on her but refused to look at her. 

"But I don't remember, therefore I don't have any reason to do that," Irelia responded. "Plus, you don't know what I would have felt, should l be able to recall that night."

"It was my fault what happened. I was a blind, ignorant idiot that deserved to die along everyone else. The fact that I survived is more of a curse rather than a blessing because I got to live the rest of my days with this unbearable burden and several others along the way. I'm not a good person, Irelia."

This time Riven finally gathered the courage to look at her, look at the eyes that haunted her dreams. Irelia's expression was unbearable. 

"Answer me this, Riven," she said eventually. "Why did you allow me to bring you here tonight? You could have easily fought me off considering your skill and your powerful blade, or you could have simply called for backup but you didn't. What did you hope to get from me?"

"I-" Riven's throat went dry. Her thoughts were a mess. There was only one thing her heart desired in this world, something that she had sought through her career as a Pulsefire agent but eventually realized she had been searching at the wrong place. Right now, it was only Irelia who could provide her with that one thing that could eventually bring her peace; forgiveness. 

"Not to ruin this jovial mood, guys, but we got some company!" Jinx announced suddenly.

Akali peaked from the nearest window. "She's right! We need to leave right now!"

Irelia ignored her. "Jinx, can you win us some time?"

"Aye, captain!" The Loose Canon saluted. "Me and Paw-Paw can keep our visitors busy till dinner is ready!"

"What are you doing, Irelia?" Akali screeched. "These are Pulsefire agents! If they get us-"

"They won't," Irelia cut her off. "Go help Jinx if you must, but don't bother me," she ordered in a cold tone. 

"If we die here, it's on you, Irelia." Akali pointed her finger accusingly towards the other PROJECT before she ran towards the stairs. 

Irelia turned her attention back to Riven. "Your friends are here already for you so you better answer me quickly. What do you want from me, Riven?"

Her mind was still blank but she needed to answer if she didn't want to mess with Irelia's patience. "Forgiveness."

"W-what?"

"All I'm asking is forgiveness so I can finally find my peace," Riven continued. "Or a part of it anyways. Don't make me beg for it."

Irelia shook her head. "I can't grant you that. I can't forgive you for something I don't even remember."

Riven was desperate. This was her only chance. There was no telling if she'd ever see Irelia again. 

"Please, Irelia! Or at least promise me that if and when you do remember, you'll come and find me."

"That I can do."

Akali bursted in the room. "They're here! I can't hold them off any longer!"

"Then let's go!" Irelia shouted. 

"Wait. What are we going to do about her?" Jinx suddenly asked. 

"Nothing, let them take her. We don't need her any longer," Irelia said impatiently as she walked in a quick pace towards the back window and strapped the cardboard off it, revealing the roof of the next door building. Akali went first and then she followed, leaving Jinx last. At that moment, the three Pulsefire agents plus Vi entered the room. 

"Halt!" Caitlyn shouted as she aimed her rifle at Jinx. "Do not move or I'll shoot! You're under arrest!"

"I'd love to stay." Jinx giggled. "But Pow-Pow and I have different plans. Don't worry though! Fishbones made sure to leave behind some gifts so you wouldn't feel so lonely without me here!"

Caitlyn saw her retrieving the remote control and was about to shoot her when Vi suddenly stopped her. 

"Don't fucking shoot!" the PROJECT shouted as she grabbed the rifle and the shot ended up landing onto the ceiling. 

"What the fuck, Vi!"

"Have fun!" Jinx shouted at them before jumping through the window, falling behind her companions. 

"The building is rigged with explosives!" Vi yelled. "We got twenty seconds before everyone sets on fire!"

Caitlyn was so furious at her that she barely noticed Twisted Fate teleporting away. Shen quickly approached Riven and tried to free her off her bonds but she was tied up with some hardcore wire that even his blade couldn't cut quickly enough. 

"It's no use!" Riven cried out. 

"Don't worry, Riven. I got more tricks under my sleeve," Shen said as he grasped the chair before teleporting them away. 

"Let's go, only ten seconds left!" Vi said approaching the window. "Come on, Caitlyn!"

"You expect me to trust you after that shit you just pulled off?" Caitlyn exclaimed. 

Vi sighed in exasperation. She was clearly in distress. "Fuck it," she mumbled to herself before making her way back to Caitlyn and suddenly throwing her over her shoulder. 

"What the heck are you doing? Vi-!"

She never got the chance to finish her complaint as Vi jumped off the window just a second before the building exploded, setting everything on fire. The PROJECT managed to land with grace despite the fact that she had just fallen from the third floor with extra weight on her back. Caitlyn kept her arms up to protect her face and she didn't see it coming when Vi literally left her fall down. 

The sniper growled in pain. She was just so angry at Vi right now that she wanted to punch her in the face with her bare fists. The footsteps of her companions prevented her from doing so. 

"Are you guys okay?" Shen asked in concern. 

"For now," Caitlyn growled as she stood back on her feet before her eyes landed on Vi. It was only then that she realized that there was something wrong with her. The PROJECT kneeled to the ground, as if she had lost contact with the world around her. Suddenly Caitlyn's anger vanished. 

"Vi?" she shook the cop's shoulder. "Vi!"

Vi slowly turned and looked at her. Caitlyn couldn't see her eyes but her trembling lips indicated that her emotional state wasn't that good. "Jinx... You tried to shoot Jinx, that's why I stopped you. You were about to shoot my sister..."

Chapter Text

Even for someone as practical as Caitlyn this was just too much to handle all at once. After all, she had just escaped a giant explosion by jumping from the third floor. She might not be too good at addressing her emotions but that didn't mean she wasn't a little bit shaken and not only due to the explosion. 

Last thing she remembered was the area swarming with firefighters trying to take control over the fire and not allow it to expand towards nearby buildings and police officers asking questions about the event. It caused them more trouble than necessary because they were the only eye-witnesses alongside Vi. However, Vi had fled the scene almost immediately. Caitlyn had tried to prevent her from doing so, reason with her, but Shen had stopped her with a hand on her shoulder and a knowing look. Vi needed some space right now and it was best to grant her wish. With a sigh, Caitlyn followed Shen to give her statement to one of the officers. 

It was past midnight when they were done but none of them seemed tired of even remotely close to being sleepy. Instead of heading back to their homes, they decided to return all together back at the TPA headquarters. The building was silent when they arrived but the security guards didn't even flinch as they passed through the main doors. The Agency needed to be on the alert all the time, plus it wasn't rare that agents returned back from missions during those high hours. 

Their office was in the same state they had left it earlier this morning. Paperwork was scattered all over but Caitlyn couldn't bring herself to care at that particular moment. Her thoughts drifted back to Vi and her reaction to seeing her supposedly deceased sister alive again. Honestly she had felt so bad for her and it hurt her seeing her so upset. She only wished she could have done something to ease her pain rather than just stand there like an idiot. 

"Earth to Caitlyn," Shen said, waving a hand in front of her. 

She blinked. "Yeah, sorry. Just got distracted, that's all."

"Are you alright?" Riven asked in concern. 

"I'm fine. You should be more worried about yourself," Caitlyn deadpanned. 

"I'm fine-"

"Why?" Caitlyn interrupted. "Why did you let her abduct you?"

Riven averted her gaze while Shen blinked. "What?"

"Are you getting deaf, old man?" Tobias mocked him. "She asked why Riven let that freak kidnap her."

Caitlyn glared at him. "The term is abduct. Riven is 24. Kidnapping is what you do to children."

Twisted Fate waved her off but Shen was ignoring him either way. His eyes remained fixated on the white haired woman. "That's a really good question, actually," he commented before crossing his arms across his chest, tapping his foot on the floor. "So?" 

"I… I don't think you would understand," Riven muttered. Caitlyn raised her eyebrows, Shen huffed and Twisted Fate just looked at her. 

"Riven, please. I know you better than anybody else in this room," Shen stated matter-of-factly. "And I believe you owe us an explanation. After all, we did risk our lives to rescue you."

Riven ran a hand through her hair, not responding at first, only gazing down at the floor. That, before she raised her head and locked her eyes with Shen. 

"She was there. The night that it happened," she simply said eventually. 

Caitlyn didn't know much about Riven's past. It was Shen who did, as he was the one to recruit her in the first place. She only had knowledge about some general facts, her involvement in a chemical accident in Zaun for example. On the other hand, Twisted Fate knew nothing, thus the confused expression that appeared on his face at Riven's mysterious words. Caitlyn motioned at him to keep it shut. 

"Wait. That was Irelia?" Shen asked in surprise. 

Riven nodded. "Yes. Or what's left of the old Irelia anyways. She doesn't remember anything from that night, albeit my blade and my face. Heck, she doesn't even remember who she is."

Shen cursed softly under his breath. "More ghosts of the past are appearing. What is going on?"

"Funny, I'd ask the very same question," Twisted Fate said sarcastically. 

"I'll explain everything someday, Tobias," Shen promised. "Caitlyn knows only the basic stuff. But I won't say anything until Riven is ready."

"Yeah, but that still doesn't explain why she submitted herself to Irelia," Caitlyn insisted. "What were you even trying to accomplish, Riven?"

The white-haired woman sighed. "Salvation."

"Salvation…?"

"Yes. Salvation from my demons. Irelia was supposed to kill me that night but…" Riven was obviously struggling with her words. "Yet, she still wouldn't kill me. Though I don't know, maybe it would be different if she remembered what happened."

Caitlyn felt her knees growing weak. "So this was a suicide attempt?"

Riven scratched the back of her head. "Look, I know it looks bad, but I swear that I don't have suicidal tendencies. Killing myself won't change what I've done and it will only make me look worse than I already am. Getting killed by Irelia though would bring me peace."

"It doesn't make any sense! Why would you-"

"It makes sense to Riven, Caitlyn," Shen cut her off, trying to explain. He had always been the most understanding among them. "In her mind, Irelia is assigned to execute her, destined if you like, to avenge her fallen companions."

"Well, it doesn't matter. Irelia won't kill me." Riven shook her head. "I asked for her forgiveness instead. But she can't just forgive me for something she isn't able to recall."

"And she's right not to do so," Caitlyn deadpanned. "Everyone makes mistakes. I don't know the full story, but I doubt if it was any of your fault, Riven."

"You don't know that. You weren't there-"

"You couldn't know he would betray you," Shen cut her off softly. "You couldn't know he was a part of a bigger plan."

"Well, I should have. Had I not been an idiot, they would still be alive!"

Riven couldn't take it anymore; she bursted into tears. This was too much for her. Shen rushed to her side and hugged her from her shoulders, trying to comfort her as he whispered in her ear. Meanwhile, Caitlyn and Tobias just stood there, unable to do anything. This was beyond their areas of expertise.

Apparently, this wasn't just hard for Vi, Caitlyn mentally noted. It was dumb to think so anyways, Vi wasn't the only part of this equation. 

A little bit later, Riven managed to regain her posture but Shen didn't leave her side. Her eyes remained red and puffy. Usually Caitlyn wouldn't know what else to tell her at this point, but after the talk she had with Vi, she decided to address her feelings more and try to be a little bit empathetic towards her partners. 

"You should go home, Riven," she said softly. 

But Riven shook her head. "We need to figure this out and I'm not going to let you do all the hard work by yourselves."

"Kid, you should probably rest," Tobias spoke for the first time in a while. "You went through too much shit for one day."

"Thanks for the concern, guys, but I'm not a baby so stop treating me like one! If I want to stay, then I will stay!" Riven insisted. 

"Let it go, guys." Shen sighed. "Let's recapture what we've gotten so far, shall we?"

"More PROJECTS in town, that's for sure. Most of which were considered dead until recently." Caitlyn frowned. 

"There could be more we don't know about," Riven pointed. "It can't just be Irelia, Jinx and Akali."

"Probably," Shen agreed. "But why did no one inform us of this?"

"Because the PROJECT corporation is unreliable," Caitlyn hissed. "We can't trust them and we most certainly shouldn't help them either. This is their issue."

"Too bad Ezreal decided to hide behind their problem, huh?" Twisted Fate snorted. 

"There are so many things that don't make sense though," Riven rumbled. "Irelia doesn't seem to have memories before she turned PROJECT. Yet Vi, somehow, does. Isn't that weird?"

"Now that you mention it, you're probably right," Shen agreed. 

"What are you implying?" Caitlyn asked in annoyance. 

"Caitlyn, I don't think it's wise to trust Vi as well, especially with such ease," said Riven. "There are many aspects of her life that are obscure. We did some research and hopefully, you'll find it very interesting yourself."

"You did research on Vi?!"

Shen glared at her. "Come on. You can't deny that there's something off about her. How can she be any different than the rest of the PROJECTS we've encountered so far? How can she remember Jinx when her sister doesn't remember her?"

Caitlyn wanted to protest but she realized they were probably right. "What did you find?" she grumbled. 

"Here's the weirdest part about Vi. She used to work at central before one day she showed up at work turned full PROJECT and everything. No one knew how that happened and she never gave a satisfying explanation," Riven explained. "The company themselves claimed that they had no involvement whatsoever. So she was transferred downtown, away from the public's eye."

"And then she called me untrustworthy. Tsk." Twisted Fate clicked his tongue. 

"Are you calling her a liar?"

Riven sighed. "No, Caitlyn. I'm just pointing out the fact that she hasn't told us the whole truth."

"It shouldn't matter," Shen rushed to say, reading Caitlyn's thoughts. "But you saw for yourself that she wouldn't hesitate to stop you from shooting."

"It was her sister, for crying out loud!"

"And a loose PROJECT, too. She could be lying for all we know," Twisted Fate said. "Come on, Caitlyn. This is not the time to be stubborn."

The sniper let out a heavy sigh. They were all making great points and she had nothing on Vi's defence. Caitlyn knew she was on the wrong side of this and she even admitted to herself that Vi had never told her the full story. But she still doubted that she had lied about Jinx being her sister. There was just no way. She had seen it in her painful expression. 

"Suppose you are correct, what do you want me to do about it?" Caitlyn asked eventually, crossing her arms across her chest. 

"We need to find out what's Vi's role in this mess. I mean, she can't be some random PROJECT cop, it just doesn't make any sense," Shen explained. "We need to know for sure whose side she's on. Otherwise, we can't trust her completely."

"Alright, I agree. But why do you want me to do this?"

Riven rolled her eyes at her. "Vi seems to be very fond of you. I'm convinced that she will open up to you easier than anyone else here."

"Fond?" Caitlyn had to raise a brow. 

Riven gaped at her. "Seriously?"

"What?"

"By the stars!" Riven laughed. "Caitlyn, for all your intelligence, you're pretty oblivious sometimes!"

Shen and Tobias laughed behind their hands and Caitlyn felt her cheeks warming softly. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Sure you don't, cupcake."

The sniper had to suppress the urge to throw something heavy at her partner who was now giggling uncontrollably alongside the two men. Caitlyn hadn't been this embarrassed in a very long while. 

"Are you done embarrassing me or do you want to interrogate Vi yourselves?" she threatened them but did little to her partners who continued laughing harder. 

"Relax, Caitlyn," said Shen. "It's just a tease, am I right, Riven?"

"Oh, sure it is." Caitlyn didn't like the smirk on her face at all. She only wished she had something to use against Riven, anything to wipe that damn smirk off her face. 

"This is not over," Caitlyn promised. 

"Don't take it personally, but I feel like I'm being threatened by a cupcake."



Vi ran like she had never run before in her life. With a body like this she could keep going for miles. But she didn't have a destination. Her systems were going berserk and she didn't have a sense of where she was going. It was like she let her legs take her wherever they want to. There was only one thought going through her head; 

Jinx was alive. 

She had spent the past six years grieving and drowning in her self-loathing for absolutely no reason. Jinx had been alive all along and has been used as a puppet for PROJECT Inc. 

The fucking bastards. 

They had probably orchestrated the whole thing from the very beginning. Fake Jinx's death, kidnap her and do whatever they wanted with her, while they offered fake apologies to Vi about the so called "accident". Lies, lies, lies. Everything was a lie. 

A terrifying thought hit Vi. If Jinx was alive, who had she buried six feet under at the old cemetery? A replica of Jinx? A fake body? She was utterly disgusted. 

Eventually she stopped her crazy crusade through the city. Looking around, she realized she had returned back to the scene of the crime. The memories were still fresh. Jinx's blood watering the asphalt and Zed looming over her. Vi remembered yelling at him and trying to attack him. After that there wasn't much to recall except from darkness. Maybe he had knocked her out. Who knows. 

She had always wondered why he hadn't knocked Jinx down like he did to her. Now it made sense. They wanted her to believe that her sister was long gone. And Vi had spent the past six years blaming herself for Jinx's death. Although, Vi wasn't sure what was wrong; her sister being deceased or not remembering her? This was all the company's doing. Vayne had been right all along. There was no justice, only wrath and vengeance. 

Vi walked over to the exact spot Jinx had been laid down. She remembered every single detail. She stood over it, clenching her fists, making a silent promise. This time, Vi wouldn't give up on her. She would look for her until time ended and would help her remember. And on her way there, she'd make sure to crack some PROJECT heads open. They wouldn't just get away with this. Not this time.

But first, answers. She needed them. And she only knew one person that could provide them. So she called Vayne. 

"Vi? What's the emergency?"

"Meet me downtown in fifteen minutes," Vi deadpanned. "We got some matters to discuss."

It was quick. She left the big words for their meeting. Once again, Vi turned her back on Jinx's death spot and headed downtown with determined steps. Her body might have been covered with metal but she could still feel the anger boiling inside her veins. She was so done being manipulated and having her feelings hurt by life. This time she would take matters into her own hands. 

Piltover was quiet at these high hours. The only noise that could be heard was the sound of sirens in the distance but even that seemed to be miles away from Vi. For a brief moment, her dark thoughts were replaced by Caitlyn. She had been so shocked that she hadn't been able to check up on her. After all, they had jumped from the third floor. Knowing her though, she'd be fine. Vi tried to shake her out of her thoughts but the woman seemed to have a quirky way of penetrating inside her mind at completely random moments. But there was no space for her right now. The moon shone bright, unable to drop light onto Vi's inner darkness that was threatening to consume her completely. But she kept going anyway because what else could she do? Fifteen minutes later, Vi was meeting Shauna Vayne in the darkness, in their normal spot. 

"What is it?" The Night Hunter asked. "Vi, I'm seriously getting worried."

"And you should be," Vi hissed. "My fucking sister is alive."

Vayne blinked. "What?"

"You heard me right. And do you know what's the best part? She's a motherfucking PROJECT!"

Vayne was visibly shook. Vi had never seen such an expression on her face before but right now she couldn't bring herself to even care. "You must be joking!"

"I wish!" The cop huffed. "It ain't no joke! There was an issue with the Pulsefires and we came across them!"

"Them? You mean there are more?!"

"There are another three loose PROJECTS no one knew about!" It took most of Vi's power to not just yell at her face. "They faked her death, kidnapped her and turned her into this!" Vi pointed at the both of them. "This is fucked up beyond repair."

"You're right. What do you want me to do? Do you want me to track her down?" Vayne asked. One thing that Vi liked most about her was that she was straight forward, didn't mess around and caught on rather quickly. 

"No, not yet." Vi shook her head. "I need you to get me some information first; anything you can find on Jinx and how the company manipulated her."

Vayne nodded. "Got it. Any other names I should keep an eye for?"

"Irelia and Akali. That's the other two PROJECTS Jinx was with," said Vi. 

"It's going to be a tough one. Don't expect me to get back to you soon."

"Please, I'm not dumb." Vi huffed. "Plus, I'm not planning on staying passive. I need to look for her."

"It can be dangerous."

"I don't care. Finish quickly so you can help me out."

Vayne eyed her carefully. "You seem pretty serious about this."

"Of course I'm serious about this, Vayne! They stole my sister from me! And I'm getting her back, no matter what."

"I don't suppose you'll let them get away with this."

"Do I look like a fool to you, Vayne? Do I look like the person that would let anyone get away with anything, save with something as serious as this?"

"Ashe didn't look the part either but we both know how that escalated." Vayne shook her head in disapproval. 

"Ashe is a coward," Vi growled. "I'm done being passive. If she thinks I'm endangering the mission or whatever other fucking bullshit of excuse she can come up with and wants me to stop, I'll kindly offer her to fuck off."

"Good. Then I should get going," Vayne said. "If I want to get back soon."

Vi nodded. "I'll see you around, Vayne."

"See you soon, Vi."

The two women took their separate ways. Now Vi realized that she had nowhere else to go. Her apartment was off the cards, she would suffocate in there, that was for sure. Sunrise was just an hour away, she came to notice. She had spent so much time going around the city that she had lost track of time. And soon she'd be obliged to get back to work and this was the last place she wanted to be. Sighing in frustration, Vi just kept going forward without a specific destination in mind. She allowed her feet to navigate through the city while she got lost inside her own dark thoughts. 

After walking for a while she stopped and only then did Vi realize that she was heading towards the Timeline Protection Agency headquarters. Why was she even going there? She had nothing to report as she had ran away, leaving them behind to deal with the whole situation alone. After so many hours, she felt something else rather than just anger; guilt. If anything, she owed them an explanation. But she wouldn't apologize for having feelings. Heck, she would never just apologize for that. 

She was surprised to find that the TPA was open these early hours. The first sun rays had made their appearance in the night sky but it was still way too early. However, the security didn't try to stop her when she entered the building so visitors were allowed. Vi now knew where to go. It felt way easier since the first time she had been there. This time she didn't hesitate to knock on the office door which slid open moments later with a small "hiss".

Everything was quiet. It was only Caitlyn there, which wasn't much to a surprise for Vi at this point. The sniper was obviously a workaholic and even her partners wouldn't make her stop this bad habit of hers. The Pulsefire agent turned to look at her with dark cycles hanging under her bright blue eyes. Suddenly, Vi felt her emotionless posture melting away, not realizing that she had been very stiff before. She couldn't tell exactly why. But at the moment Caitlyn looked at her she felt like she was allowed to be vulnerable. It was a miracle she hadn't collapsed yet. 

"Vi." Caitlyn stood up, abandoning her task behind. If Vi had to take a guess, she had spent the entire night looking for more information about the new PROJECTS. She wanted to tell her that it was meaningless and she couldn't find anything unless she hacked into the company's database but the words didn't come out. Her legs grew weak and she stumbled her way to a nearby chair. Vi's first move was to remove the mask of her face. She couldn't bear that thing right now. She had barely heard Caitlyn asking her if she was alright and obviously she wasn't. She was far from being alright and there was no point in denying it. 

Vi saw Caitlyn standing in front of her but she refused to look up. Her eyes were burning and it didn't take long before tears started streaming down her face. This was the first time she cried in forever. She felt so pathetic at that moment, having a mental breakdown in front of a sociopath. A sociopath who approached her slowly and hugged her gently, pressing Vi's head onto her chest. It made the PROJECT sob harder and raised a careful hand to keep Caitlyn close. 

"It's going to be okay," the sniper whispered and Vi believed her because she truly needed even a little bit of hope. 

Chapter Text

It was one of those raining nights of Piltover. The water poured softly on the ground, moistening the roads and cleaning them up temporarily from the dust. The drops tapped on the car's windows like Theodore Corona tapped his fingers rhythmically on the wheel, awaiting for the lights to turn green.

It was almost midnight but this was the normal hour he usually returned home. The nature of his job required him to stay till late in his lab. Honestly, he didn't mind as long as it kept him from his wife's constant complaining. The light turned green and he accelerated.

He hadn't covered more than two hundred meters when he slammed the breaks and brought his car to a halt; there was someone blocking his way. He honked in annoyance. Pedestrians, always so blind.

"Come on!" he shouted. "Move the heck out of the way!" he honked again.

But the pedestrian didn't even flinch. In fact, they stood there in the middle of the street, allowing the rain to drop down on them but they didn't seem to mind. Suddenly they made a step towards Theodore's car and the man froze. He would have recognized that figure from miles away had it not been for the mist surrounding them.

Vayne slowly walked up to his car and opened one of the doors. The next moment, she was sitting next to the driver's, droplets of water soaking the leather seat. Theodore's face was as expressionless as hers.

"Good evening, Theodore. Long time no see."

"Hello, Shauna,"' he responded in a cold voice. "Do you want me to give you a lift?"

Other under circumstances Vayne would make him regret using sarcasm against her but this wasn't her game right now. "Turn around and go back to your lab. If anyone asks, you forgot something. Try to act smart on me and I promise I'll make you regret it."

Corona nodded and did as Vayne asked. He turned the car around and drove them back to his lab that was co-hosted with several others of the PROJECT corporation. He pulled over on the parking lot and waited for further instructions.

"Find me a way in," Vayne instructed him before giving him a small headset. "Contact me once you're done."

Corona slipped out of his car into the rain. Vayne watched him closely as he approached the building his lab was located in before he disappeared inside. She had to wait a few minutes before she heard his voice through her headset.

"There's an open door on the north side of the building. Beware of the security cameras."

Vayne exited the vehicle in her turn and headed towards where Theodore told her to. She indeed found the emergency door unlocked and pushed it open before slipping inside. Her first concern was to keep an eye for the cameras, as the scientist had pointed out, so she proceeded with caution. Not that she would have any difficulty in avoiding security surveillance since she had come prepared. But Vayne wasn't one to get overconfident and therefore reckless. She even had to use her special ability and become invisible so as to not get seen before she got to Corona's lab. He didn't have to tell her where it was; she knew very well.

She found the scientist waiting patiently for her inside. He didn't even blink when she appeared. Theodore Corona was still exactly how Vayne remembered him; cold and composed.

"Get to your computer," she ordered him and Theodore didn't hesitate. Vayne couldn't help but notice his keyboard as he typed his passwords, memorizing them in an instant. It could prove useful in the future.

"Now what?" he asked.

"I want you to open all your files concerning PROJECT: Jinx as well as Irelia and Akali."

He didn't even question it as he clicked onto the files. Vayne leaned over his shoulder to have a quick look over them. There was too much information and very little time to absorb all of it.

Name: Jinx

Age: 23

Abilities: Range shooting, various weaponry, high damage.

Weapons: RNG, blast canon, bombs, grenades.

History: Previously mentally unstable, diagnosed with split personality disorder. Arrested by PROJECT: Zed.

Current Status: UNKNOWN

There were more details concerning Jinx's augmentation but Vayne skipped that part. After all, she was well aware of the procedure and so was Theodore Corona. She took over the mouse and scrolled down quickly, taking a brief look on information concerning Irelia and Akali. Much to her surprise though, there was more. Two more PROJECTS named Warwick and Pyke. Warwick was a wolf-like creature and looked absolutely horrifying after his augmentation but what peaked her curiosity was Pyke. His face and name were oddly familiar but she couldn't recall at the moment where she knew him from. Perhaps she should look for it later.

Vayne retrieved a USB stick and inserted it on the computer tower before starting downloading the server's data.

"Wait. You can't do that!" Theodore said.

Vayne glared at him. "You don't get to tell me what to do, Corona," she deadpanned.

"They will know," he warned. "They will know someone downloaded the data."

Vayne huffed. "Then I shall pay the consequences - if they do find out. I suggest you keep it shut."

"Or what? Are you going to kill me?"

There was no hint of fear in his voice. In fact, he was challenging her. Vayne chose not to respond.

"I know what you are, Shauna," Theodore continued, regarding Vayne's silence as some sort of embarrassment. "You were meant to kill. That's what you were created for. Don't think for a moment this has changed because of an unexpected glitch-"

Before he had the chance to finish, Vayne's tight grip was around his neck. Her eyes were fire but Theodore merely chuckled.

"Way to prove my point." He shook his head.

"You don't know me," Vayne hissed dangerously. "You might have given these augmentations to my body but that doesn't mean you know anything about who I am."

Theodore tilted his head to the side. "Is this what you've been telling yourself, Shauna, so you can stand yourself? That's pathetic." He spat at her face.

Vayne suddenly let go of him, much to his surprise, and he choked on his breath. She ignored him as she retrieved a small device. She examined it carefully and with an unexpected interest before walking up to Corona and placing it on the back of his neck.

"What is this?" He exclaimed, trying to push her away. "What have you done?!"

Vayne stood over him with a victorious posture. "This little device here is going to give you an artificial heart attack in less than two minutes. So I'd suggest starting to start reminiscing about your pathetic little life."

For the first time in forever, there was fear written all over Corona's features. He panicked. "You can't do that! I helped you get you what you wanted!"

"Actually, I think I can." Vayne walked up to him and grabbed his chin. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm meant to kill. And I promise you, I'll kill every single one of you that believed that could manipulate me till the end. You shall be the message that I'm coming for you all," she hissed.

Corona was shivering all over, begging for mercy, but Vayne was all out of mercy. Time was running out. In a few more seconds, Theodore Corona would be gone for good. He avoided Vayne's gaze at any cost.

"Look at me," Vayne ordered. "I want to be the last thing you see before you die; a reminder of what a monster you truly are."

Corona didn't want to look at her but Vayne pulled her face closer to his and grabbed his chin again. And indeed, the last thing Theodore Corona saw before passing away was his very own creation.

Vayne let go, giving him a disgusted look. She walked up to the body and removed the device. The only sound that could be heard at the moment was the computer. The download process was still ongoing; there was too much data. Vayne had to wait a few more minutes before it was over. Patience had always been her greatest virtue.

Once it was over, she walked up to the window and opened it. The cold water filled the room. Vayne glanced one last time over her shoulder.

"So long, Theodore," she whispered to herself before she was gone.

She slipped down the rope she always carried around with her, the one that had proved pretty useful during her invade in Norman Rose's mansion. With a small leap, she landed onto the pavement. One gone, two to go. She had spent weeks methodically preparing this plan and now that she set it into motion, everything so far went smoothly. If she stuck to the plan, she would get both the information Vi had requested and eliminate those parasites. Two birds with one stone.

However, things were bound to become harder. Her next targets were harder to approach since they were directly involved with PROJECT Inc. It would be extremely difficult to move without some help. But Vayne couldn't rely on anyone. Of course, she could always ask Vi but the officer was already too busy. Then it was Fiora but she was also out of the picture for very obvious reasons. Vayne was completely alone. But she would take that risk any time. Before her thoughts could consume her, she started walking away from the lab through the rain, disappearing into the night's arms.

A few days later - or maybe in Vayne's case, a few nights - she found herself stalking her next target, Jeffrey Corleone, one of the lead scientists in the PROJECT program. It wasn't raining now but it was cloudy and the moon was hidden, making it especially dark and rendering Vayne's job way easier. Corleone spent his breaks smoking with other colleagues outside their labs. It was definitely boring and disgusting to watch, especially knowing these people were scientists and were well aware of the consequences of such a bad habit but instead chose to ignore them for just a couple stress-less moments.

Since the scenery before her wasn't that interesting, Vayne wasn't so absorbed as to not notice the sound of footsteps. However, she couldn't have predicted the movements of the stranger and found herself trapped between a pair of strong, metal arms. Vayne wasn't one to get caught off guard but this case was different as she took notice of who had the audacity to step into her personal space.

"Fiora?" Her voice was filled with utter disbelief.

"Are you out of your fucking mind, Vayne?" The dueler hissed.

There was no denial that Vayne was pleasantly surprised to see Fiora there. However, her tone reminded her the reason why under normal circumstances she wouldn't even think of being there.

"I'm not sure what you are talking about…?"

"You know damn well what I mean." Fiora glared at her. "It's all over the news; “Theodore Corona found dead in his lab after he had an unexpected heart attack”."

"How am I connected with a random scientist who had a heart attack?"

"Seriously, Vayne?" Fiora pushed herself away. "Both you and I know who Corona was. So cut the crap here." She crossed her arms.

"If you don't have any proof that I was there, do me a favor, turn around and stop wasting my time." Vayne rolled her eyes.

"I know you were there, Vayne."

The Night Hunter didn't have to ask how she knew. The moment those words escaped Fiora's mouth, she understood.

"I see. Eye for an eye. Congratulations, you've officially reached rock bottom," Vayne sneered at her.

"I did only because I couldn't trust you wouldn't do something reckless and I was right not to do so, as the turn outs of events proved," Fiora huffed.

"Then, by all means, abduct me and enclose me in a dark spot so you can sleep at night."

"This is not funny!"

"Did I say it is? I'm serious."

Fiora sighed in frustration. "What are you up to, anyways? Killing PROJECT scientists? Is this what you do for a living now?"

"Not quite," Vayne deadpanned. "I'm looking for some information, as Vi has requested. But I suppose you already knew that?"

"We haven't contacted Vi in a long time. It's been difficult. The TPA has been all over us," Fiora admitted.

"Oh, poor you. But that didn't stop you from coming here, did it?"

"By the looks of it, it was an utter emergency." Fiora motioned her head towards the scientists. "What did you find out anyways that made you act so recklessly? That isn't like you."

Vayne inhaled sharply. "More PROJECTS."

"What?" Fiora's anger was instantly replaced by shock. "What do you mean?"

"There are at least five more PROJECTS no one knew about, including Vi's deceased sister, which is why she asked me to collect information in the first place," Vayne responded.

"Shit…" Fiora ran a hand through her hair. "Are you sure?"

"I have no doubt now."

The other PROJECT remained silent for a long time, probably processing everything. Vayne wondered what Fiora was thinking so thoroughly. Eventually, she spoke, addressing the Night Hunter.

"What's your plan?" Fiora asked.

"In simple words, get in, find the information I need, kill the scientists, get out like nothing ever happened."

"Sounds easier said than done."

Vayne rolled her shoulders. "Nothing in this godforsaken life is easy. Now excuse me, I need to go through the last details-"

"I'm coming with you."

The declaration was bold. This was the second time Fiora caught Vayne off guard. The latter blinked several times.

"Pardon me?"

"I'm not just going to let you do something so dangerous and risk yourself getting caught now, am I?"

"Oh, shoot. And I thought you actually cared about me." Vayne shook her head, an incoherent smile appearing on her lips. "Alright, let me fill you in. But we are doing this tomorrow, not tonight. I might need to change a couple of details now you're part of the equation."


Twenty four hours later, Vayne found herself awaiting for Fiora in the dark, a few blocks away from their target. Honestly, she was more concerned about Fiora appearing rather than the whole ordeal. Though knowing the dueler, she wouldn't just let her hang like that. Plus, she got her reasons to want to be a part of this. Just at the thought of that Vayne wanted to roll her eyes. Eventually, Fiora showed up and the hunter allowed herself to relax a bit.

Tonight the moon shone at all its glory. Not necessarily convenient for the two of them but they could make it work. It was cold. The humidity wasn't helping either. A little bit of cold wouldn't stop them, not now. Around nine o'clock, they moved. Approaching the building from behind wasn't difficult as it wasn't even guarded there which was odd, but they couldn't really complain about that. Vayne spotted the entrance to the ventilation system.

"Give me a hand," she said to Fiora who nodded. She lifted Vayne with such ease, as if she didn't weigh a pound. The hunter quickly opened the cover and crawled inside. She reached out a hand to help Fiora up and pulled her up. The venting system was big enough for them to move without needing to snake their way in. Vayne motioned at Fiora to follow her.

Of course, Vayne had come in prepared; she had gotten into the trouble to find the architectural plans of the building and memorize the ventilation system, which was the easiest part of her plan. Moving around was one of the most difficult; they were definitely heavier than the average person and there was a chance they could accidentally cause unnecessary noise which could get them into trouble. The key was patience.

"Are we getting there?" Fiora whispered after a good amount of time they spent in silence.

"We are close…"

Vayne wasn't lying. A white later she came to a halt right in front of yet another cover that gave them view inside a lab. She motioned at Fiora to come closer to see. Below them they could hear the chatter of men. After waiting a little bit, they heard the door opening and then closing behind and the voices lessened. Now it was just two men; a man with red hair and beard and a blonde, shaved man. The redhead was Jeffrey Corleone and the blond man was Ronald Cady. Alongside Theodore Corona, they were the "Three C's", the scientists responsible for the PROJECT program. Though they hadn't invented the technology, they had been the ones in charge during all the augmentations.

Vayne signaled at Fiora and the next moment she was breaking the venting cover and jumping into the lab, followed closely by the dueler, catching the scientists completely off surprise.

"If you value your lives, don't try to escape," Vayne warned as she faced Corleone, who, in her opinion, was the most vicious out of the three of them. Fiora managed to immobilize Cady. Corleone's initial surprise was replaced by satisfaction.

"Won't you look at that?" He chuckled. "The sheep returned back to the serpent."

"Keep it shut, Corleone," Vayne hissed at him.

He clicked his tongue in disapproval. "Always with that attitude, Shauna."

Vayne visibly stiffened. The audacity these men had to call her by her first name as if they were old buddies.

"What brought you here, Shauna? The need to learn the truth?" Corleone continued mocking her.

"Not the kind of information you got in mind," she deadpanned. "Move it. And don't try to be clever here." She pushed his back to make him walk.

They brought the two scientists at the far end of their lab where they had their computers installed. Corleone seemed unfazed by the presence of their visitors while Cady looked actually scared and he was right to be. Corleone sat in front of his computer and started typing while Vayne stood by his side threateningly.

"Here," he said eventually. "What do you want to know?"

Vayne instructed him on the information she wanted him to get. He raised an eyebrow.

"Did you get the exact same information from Corona before you killed him?"

"You know more, Corleone. That's a fact." Vayne glared at him.

"Well, you're not mistaken, darling." He smirked before returning his attention back on the screen. Vayne needed all of her self control to not smack him in the face. "Here you are."

She had been right, of course. For unknown reasons, Corleone had access to more detailed information about the PROJECTS. Vayne didn't waste time as she inserted another USB and started downloading the data.

"Well, that's odd," Cady spoke for the first time ever.

"What is odd?" Fiora asked in annoyance.

"You are looking for info about other PROJECTS rather than yourselves. Aren't you… curious?"

"Not in the slightest," Vayne was quick to respond, speaking mostly for herself. She knew very well those techniques of manipulation. However, there was something else that bothered her at that moment and it was nothing more than Fiora's very own words;

Don't you want to know who you were before all this started? I want to know who the real me is. Because this is just a façade, a mask if you wish. This is not who I am. This is what others made me be.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, she pushed Corleone away from the computer and started typing herself.

"Vayne, what are you doing?" Fiora exclaimed.

The Night Hunter didn't bother to respond, her eyes fixated on the screen and the words "Grand Dueler". "You wanted to know the truth about who you are," she said without looking back. "Well, here it is-"

"Vayne!"

She had sensed the moving and was about this deflect but Vayne could have not possibly seen this coming. Corleone held a device that looked more like a stick or maybe even a wand and lodged it straight into Vayne's chest, where the PROJECT logo glowed. Surprisingly, it fitted perfectly. She gasped.

"Idiot." He smiled in triumph. "We created you. Do you think we don't know all of your strengths and all of your weaknesses?"

Vayne was struggling but couldn't speak. Whatever this device was it certainly caused her great pain. Fiora reached for her blade but Corleone noticed this.

"Not so fast, dear. Move and I'll put an end into her pathetic, little life. Or I might erase it and create it all over again, who knows. I might be feeling generous tonight. Disarm her, Ron."

The scientist tried to strip her off the blade but Fiora wasn't going to play their little game. Before he had the chance to react, she sliced through him, killing him in an instant. His blooded corpse fell on her feet as she walked towards her next target. Realizing that the threat wasn't going to stop her, Corleone removed the stuff from Vayne's body, which slammed on the ground.

"Stay back," he hissed dangerously.

"Or what? You'll duel me?" She mocked him. "For someone who knows very well my strengths, you are very funny."

"They're coming for you," Corleone ignored her, pointing at a security camera in one of the corners. "They know you killed Cady. Your little fairytale about "just wanting peace" is collapsing before your very own feet."

"Good," Fiora growled. With inhumane speed she grasped Corleone's wrist and disarmed him. "Because we want them to know we are done playing nice."

Corleone's back hit on the wall. Disarmed and trapped, he saw his last moments approaching. But even so, he was still smiling, which angered Fiora even more.

"Go on. Do it. Show them all what you truly are; a monster!" he laughed menacingly, spreading his arms wide open, inviting her to go through with it.

Which she did. No hesitation whatsoever.

He gasped. Her blade was getting watered with more blood but Fiora couldn't care less. All she cared about was the dying man in front of her.

Corleone coughed blood.

"Do you know what's actually funny?" he said weakly. "You two finding each other again and then coming to me. Now, that's just funny, huh?"

"What's so damn funny about that?" Fiora hissed.

"I augmented you both. Was quite the view. But this was definitely not the funniest part, no…" He shook his head, still smiling.

"Then what the fuck do you mean, Corleone?" Fiora pushed her blade harder. The man looked her straight in the eyes and spat at her.

"See you in hell," were his last words before he blacked out forever.

Fiora drew out her blade and let the body fall to the ground, disgust written all over her features. Jeffrey Corleone's very last actions were to torture his victims one last time. Fiora couldn't feel remorse for such a man.

Leaving him behind, she rushed to Vayne's side. Fiora grew worried. Despite the fact that the stuff wasn't inserted in her body anymore, the hunter seemed to be still in a shock state.

"Vayne? Vayne! Talk to me!" Fiora tried to help her regain contact but it was worthless. Vayne looked at her, fear written in her expression. She suddenly grabbed Fiora's wrist, her upper lip trembling. It seemed like she struggled to say something but she failed. Then, she passed out.

Fiora cursed under her breath but there was no time to start panicking. Her first move was to remove the USB from the computer despite the fact that the process hadn't been completed. She froze for a moment when she noticed that her file was open on full display. She could waste a minute to finally discover the truth she was dying for. But this was exactly what had gotten Vayne caught in the first place. She would have another chance. This was not the right place nor the time.

Fiora installed a small exploding mechanism on the wall. She picked Vayne bridal style and found cover behind some machinery before the wall exploded with a blast, throwing bricks and other materials all over the place. Without hesitation, Fiora ran towards the hole as fast as she could. Behind her she heard the door blast open but she didn't even bother to look back. She heard a dagger flying towards her before she made the leap through the hole. The dagger missed by a few inches.

Fiora hadn't calculated the height properly but it didn't seem to matter as she landed on her two feet with Vayne remaining intact throughout the chaos. Looking back, she had jumped from the second floor. It wasn't much of a distance, which meant that whoever was after them wouldn't hesitate to do the same. So she started sprinting.

Sirens filled the air but all Fiora could focus on was getting them both out alive. She didn't lower her pace as she distanced herself from the lab. She knew someone was following them even if their footsteps were barely audible; audible for someone like Fiora but silent for any other being. Fiora took a sudden turn into an alley. She stopped running. She moved a little bit further before she placed Vayne down.

"I'll be right back," she whispered even though she was well aware that the hunter couldn't hear her.

Fiora retrieved her blade and prepared herself. A few moments later, another figure appeared in the alley.

"This is getting ridiculous. Either you're suicidal or you're actually dumb," they spoke.

"I did not ask your opinion, Katarina," Fiora deadpanned.

"Another stupid mission Ashe threw you into while she watches from the back? Not surprised there." Katarina kept playing with her daggers but didn't seem to be planning on attacking Fiora soon.

"I'm not here on Ashe's orders or anyone's for that matter."

"So, did you finally realize what Ashe truly is, then?" Katarina inquired. "But that doesn't erase the fact that this was stupid move. I didn't expect that from Vayne, not gonna lie."

"Ashe is a lot of things and she has made a couple of questionable decisions in the past but isn't a bad person," said Fiora. "Come on, let's get this over with. Or are you just going to kill me right away, just like you did with Yi?"

Katarina suddenly snapped. "I did you fools a favor! If I had let Zed or Jhin do it, he would sure as hell be dead now, you ungrateful pig!"

"Ungrateful? You're the one who ran away and abandoned us!"

"Because it was no different from what we did before while working for the company, that's why I left, Fiora! You know I'm right!"

Of course Fiora agreed with her up to a point but she would never go as far as betraying G/NETIC. And this wasn't something she would admit out loud in front of Katarina.

"So you went back to them but they didn't erase your memories."

"For all it's worth, I'm a really good actress. That saved me a lot of time."

Fiora huffed. "Right."

The sounds of sirens grew louder. The assassin looked over her shoulder.

"Listen, you need to leave. They're coming after you," Katarina said, looking back at Fiora. "Go around the block, it will be safer."

"What are you going to do?" Fiora asked.

"Win you some time."

There was a pause. "Why are you doing this?" Fiora asked eventually.

Katarina sighed. "For old time's sake."

And with those words, she disappeared.

Fiora withdrew her blade and walked up to Vayne. She picked her up again and went around the block, as Katarina had advised, and disappeared. 

 

Chapter Text

Three murders in a span of two weeks. Concerning? Definitely. 

Despite their declaration about wanting peace, the PROJECTS had turned out more violent and dangerous than ever before. There was no reason to trust their word now. Three of the most prodigious scientists of Piltover had been killed in cold blood, even though Theodore Corona's death hadn't been confirmed as a murder yet. But Caitlyn knew it had been them, there was no other way. And by "them" she referred to PROJECT: Vayne and PROJECT: Fiora. The partners in crime. 

This partnership was quite unexpected, to say the least. Vayne was known for working alone. However, it hadn't been this case. No matter. The damage had been done and the perpetrators needed to be found and punished. 

The motive? Probably revenge of some sort; The three deceased scientists had been involved with the PROJECT program. These initials were completely out of control, as it seemed. 

The TPA had investigated both crime scenes. There was no doubt it had been the two of them that had put the scientists out of their misery, at least in the case of Jeffrey Corleone and Ronald Cole. It had been implied that Vayne had murdered Corleone, something that she didn't deny, as the surveillance proved. It didn't really matter though. She was charged with terrorizing two innocent citizens and her partner, Fiora, with their murder. Therefore, they were both criminals. 

Caitlyn had come to the conclusion that the two PROJECTS were still hiding in Piltover. There was absolutely no way they had managed to flee back to the industrial area; they would have been seen. So they focused their investigation back into the city and the area they had to search was vast. 

It was a miracle that they had managed to escape that night. Vayne had been knocked out and Fiora had to carry her around. And even if PROJECT: Katarina had been on their trail, they still managed to run away. Caitlyn was highly concerned. They weren't not dealing with regular humans but with super humans that had the instinct to kill when necessary. It made her wonder what would happen if Vi one day decided she had enough and she'd join the enemy forces. Or maybe that would never happen, she couldn't quite tell. But even the thought was rather scary. Imagine having to deal with a brawler like Vi. Imagine the toll, physically and emotionally. 

Which brought her back to what Riven and Shen had advised her to do. Though, Caitlyn wasn't exactly sure how to approach such a sensitive matter. She could simply ask, of course, but it wasn't guaranteed she'd get a satisfying answer. Yet, she got nothing to lose. After all, she was dying from curiosity herself. 

Caitlyn and Vi had been spending a lot of time together lately. Sometimes it felt like Vi didn't stick around just to crack the case and her flirting was more obvious than ever before, even Caitlyn could tell. Vi was comfortable enough to be this carefree around her but the sniper wasn't sure if she would be comfortable enough to answer as personal questions as the one she was planning on asking. 

Guess she only had to find out. 

Patrolling around Piltover was a common thing for the two of them since there weren't many clues to where the wanted PROJECTS had headed. They usually walked in silence or it was Vi mostly doing the talking and Caitlyn merely listening. This time, however, it was different. 

"I have a question," she said. 

"Go ahead and let's see if I can enlighten you or not," Vi responded with a smirk. 

"It's rather personal. You don't have to answer if you want," Caitlyn informed her. "Why did you choose to become a PROJECT?"

"Choose? Can't say I had much of a choice," Vi reminisced. "In fact, I didn't actually have a choice, despite how it was presented to me. It was either take the gauntlets before they fell into the wrong hands or perish."

"But why you? Couldn't anyone else take them instead?"

Vi pinched her nose. "No, because no one else could handle them like I do. I had the right experience. I had been using my own gauntlets for years before I got those. They're very similar in many aspects - except that the ATLA gauntlets aren't made from rubbish."

"So the company just gave you the gauntlets? Just like that?" she asked again. It didn't make sense to Caitlyn, at least not yet. 

Vi laughed. "Nah, they didn't give me the ATLA gauntlets like that. They'd rather see their company fall apart before that happened. From what I can tell, the gauntlets were made for me anyways but it was never supposed to be like that. The PROJECT corporation had other plans for me but things happened. And by "things" I mean an inner job."

"So someone from the company gave you the gauntlets to protect you from whatever plans they had for you?"

"Haha, no. No one ever does anything without an ulterior motive, and protecting my sorry ass is definitely not one. I'm not important. Whatever they're reasons were, I never found out. But it seems like it served their purpose."

"And how has it been?"

Vi paused for a minute. "Difficult. The other PROJECTS probably went through an augmentation process that I never did. It's… different."

They both fell in silence for a bit. Caitlyn didn't know what to say and maybe she didn't want to push Vi too hard. If she wanted to talk about it, then she would. Suddenly though, the PROJECT let out a heavy sigh.

"We are just pawns in a game that's greater than us, cupcake," she said. "We need to make our moves carefully if we don't want to get eliminated."

Caitlyn regarded her words. There was something off about the company indeed. Many secrets. Too many, in her own opinion. 

"So, I suppose it would only be fair if you asked a question of mine now, don't you think?" Vi suddenly said, catching Caitlyn off guard. 

The Pulsefire agent cleared her throat. "Sure. I'll try my best to give you a satisfying answer."

"Alright. Why did you choose to work for TPA?"

"Oh, that's a long story."

"We've got plenty of time," Vi pointed out and she wasn't mistaken. 

"Well, I believe the initial idea was born fifteen years ago," Caitlyn replied. "Of course, it was childish and as much as you probably don't believe it, an emotional decision back in the day."

"Now I'm curious!" Vi exclaimed. "Do tell!"

Caitlyn let out sigh. This wasn't something she usually talked about. She doubted she ever talked about it with anyone else. "Fifteen years ago, I was involved in a car accident that cost my parents their lives. I got lucky. Them, not so."

Vi didn't say anything. Instead, she waited for her to continue. "I knew that some time travelling technology existed so I thought foolishly that I could bring them back. But while studying, I realized that this wasn't possible, not without seriously damaging the timeline anyways."

"And didn't you stop then, since you realized that?" Vi asked. 

Caitlyn shook her head. "I decided to go with it. It was a well-paid job with a lot of potential. I couldn't let such an opportunity slip away. When I started working at the TPA for the first time, I realized this job fit my personality and morals better than anything else. So I stayed."

"I see." Vi nodded in understanding. "I'm surprised that you've made a decision based on your feelings though. Doesn't sound like you."

Caitlyn rolled her eyes. "I was fifteen, I was technically still a kid. I think that it was after the incident that I became what you'd call “colder”."

"But of course," Vi chuckled. "Well, glad to see you aren't as cold as your squad believes you to be."

Caitlyn frowned. "That would also be my fault again. We've got a complicated past. I believe that they're under the impression that I'm doing all of this to bring my parents back to life."

"Which brings up another question; why are you really doing this?"

"Would justice be a good enough answer for you?"

"Oh, sure. But it wouldn't be just that, wouldn't it?"

"It's something that I said before," Caitlyn pointed out. "I claimed that this job matches my morals and beliefs. I'm a firm believer that technology should be used with responsibility. People that don't get this need to be cast away. They're a hazard to society."

"You have some interesting ideals, cupcake."

"What do you think?" Caitlyn asked. 

Vi thought for a moment. "I think you're right. With great power, comes great responsibility, or something along the lines." She shrugged her shoulders.

Caitlyn smiled softly. She enjoyed those insightful conversations they occasionally had. It helped her contact a part of herself she hadn't touched in years. So focused she had been on her career that she had forgotten how important it was to have someone to talk to freely about anything - literally. 

"So, any luck with finding what happened to your sister?" the Pulsefire eventually asked. 

It was Vi's turn to frown. "No. I can only make a few speculations but... Nothing else."

"I'm really sorry about what happened. Must be hard."

"It is." Vi nodded. "Although, my advice is don't be sorry for something that doesn't change, Caitlyn. It is what it is."

"You're right. Life is a big, fat mess anyways." The agent pointed out. 

"I couldn't describe it better even if I wanted to, cupcake."

Caitlyn glared at her. "Could you stop calling me that? We are working."

Vi laughed. "No, I don't think so! Plus, I'd say we're having a conversation, rather than working."

"I'm a multitasker."

"Sure…"

"Well, if you can't do two things at once, maybe you should keep quiet."

"Whoa, no need to get defensive there, cupcake."

"By the stars…"


Shen wasn't the kind of person to believe in luck, destiny or any other superior power. This suited more Twisted Fate's ideology. But what happened tonight could only be attributed to luck, that's what he believed. 

It had been days since there was any activity from the PROJECTS and even though it wasn't exactly what they had been looking for, Shen spotted some suspicious movement during his patrol. He was alone, he had sent Riven off with Tobias. Much to his surprise, it wasn't any of the PROJECTS that had been involved with the latest murders, Vayne and Fiora, but one of those they had met the other day, those who had tried to blow them up. It wasn't Jinx though - otherwise he would have recognized her - but someone else who he couldn't identify. Either way, he decided to stalk them. 

It was dark but that didn't stop Shen nor the PROJECT. Darkness was his ally now. With any luck, he could either find their hideout which would be huge for them. He kept a safe distance from the PROJECT trace. He almost lost them once or twice. But Shen was an excellent tracker, Riven and Twisted Fate could confirm that. However good he was though, it felt like he wasn't going anywhere. His target was trying to exhaust him - and it was working. So he decided to change his approach and choose a faster way. The moment he started running, his target did the same. 

After running for a while though, he realized this wasn't the best idea he ever had. It was his stamina against a super human's; it was guaranteed he'd lose them eventually but he couldn't just let it happen. Time to move to plan B. 

He led his prey exactly where he wanted them to be. In an attempt to escape, the PROJECT had turned into an alley and tried to disappear there, without regarding the fact that Shen knew those streets better than the back of his palm. He knew this alley was a dead end. Even for a super human like them, it would be impossible to escape fast enough. 

Shen dropped his pace. There was no need to rush, plus his lungs were slowly giving out. "I'm seriously getting old," he thought to himself. He continued walking patiently, knowing that his target would be exactly where he wanted them to be. And he was right. He stopped right at his tracks, watching the PROJECT trying to find a way around the tall wall that blocked their path.

"It's no use," he said calmly. "You could try to climb but you wouldn't get there fast enough."

A pair of blue eyes glared at him. They didn't waste any time as they turned around and tried to strike him down. He deflected with his blade. This was Akali, probably. Fierce and very dangerous. Her kunais and shurikens were fatal. Shen was intrigued by her fighting style. 

"Where did you learn to fight like that?" he asked but he got no other response rather than the shurikens clashing with his blade again. 

Akali stepped back, realizing she couldn't take him down like that, and suddenly dropped a smoke bomb. Shen remained still, his ears trying to see where his eyes couldn't. He could feel her presence there but couldn't detect her. This was an excellent trick, he had to give her that. 

Suddenly, she leaped at him out of nowhere. Shen had to roll away in order to dodge. She disappeared again into the smoke and tried again but to no avail. She was superior by all accounts but Shen wasn't an easy opponent to deal with. Eventually, the smoke dispersed and Shen could see her again. 

"We could stay here all night," Shen spoke. "Or until my stamina runs out. No matter, you'd be stuck here with me for a while. Or we could have a talk."

Akali glared at him. "Fuck you," she hissed before she attacked him again. This time she managed to give him a scratch on his upper arm. He flinched in pain.

"Or we stay here until I kill you." she smirked. 

"I wouldn't get so cocky if I were you, kid," Shen deadpanned. 

Akali threw her kunais and Shen rolled quickly to the side. Only one managed to scratch his foot. 

"Not bad for an old man," Akali commented. 

"Thank you." Shen smiled. But behind his smile he hid his exhaustion. Akali was ten times harder to deal with than he had initially anticipated and smart. Very smart. If he wanted to reach goal, he needed to make sure she believed him because right now his actions were in contradiction with his claims. 

The PROJECT watched as the Pulsefire agent slowly withdrew his blade and sat on the ground. Akali was confused. 

"What on earth are you doing?" she asked. 

"I said I wanted to talk, didn't I?" Shen said, tilting his head to the side. "Come on, sit with me."

Akali examined him carefully. "Why should I trust your word?"

"You shouldn't. Trust my actions instead."

Akali pondered for a little bit more before curiosity got the best out of her. She sat down opposite him, still slightly tense. 

"I'm Shen and I work for the Timeline Protection Agency, as you probably already know," he started. "And I have a couple of questions for you."

"We didn't kill those scientists."

"I know." Shen nodded. "We know who did it. Would you like to know?"

He didn't wait for her response before he showed the images of Vayne and Fiora from a holographic projector. Akali's eyes widened behind her mask. 

"It's not just them, in case you're curious. There are several others." Shen clicked on the projector and the rest of the PROJECTS' holograms appeared. 

Akali was at a loss of words. "I- I thought it was just Vi!"

"You wish it was just her." Shen shook his head. "There are more people like you hiding in this city and they have something that we need." The PROJECTS disappeared and the figure of a young, blond man appeared. "Do you happen to know this boy?"

Akali shook her head. "I've never seen this man in my entire life."

"I expected you to say that." Shen shut off the projector. "His name is Ezreal and he's a chrono-fugitive. In other words, he's a criminal who we are trying to arrest."

"How does that concern us?"

"I'll get there," Shen promised. "We have every reason to believe that Ezreal has gone under protection from the rest of the PROJECT traces for reasons that still remain unknown. All of our clues point to that direction."

"I still don't see how Irelia, Jinx and I are involved here."

"Patience isn't your greatest virtue I see," Shen pointed out. "Well, the thing is that even if we do find them, I doubt we will be able to deal with a bunch of loose PROJECTS. It's been clear that they are very strong. In fact, all of you are stronger than any man would strive to be. Therefore, I want to ask a favor."

"And why should I grant you one?"

"So as I don't capture you and give you up to PROJECT Corporation."

"You can try," Akali hissed. 

"Of course." Shen raised an arm in defense. "But I don't want to get there. It's a waste of time in my eyes. I don't trust the company, just as much as you do. I wouldn't want to make things easier for them under no circumstances. That doesn't mean that I will hesitate to do so if you provoke me," he warned. 

"Do you seriously believe you pose any threat, Shen?" Akali inquired. "You're in no position to threaten me."

Shen clicked his tongue. "Let me rephrase this. If I wanted you captured, I wouldn't have come alone. My partners are one of the best agents we have and even you wouldn't be able to deal with all of us on your own. As an individual, I don't pose any threat, as you said. As a part of a crew though, I believe I do. It would be a piece of cake to locate and capture you if we wanted to. I could call my friends any moment. Think wisely, Akali."

"Do you actually think I'm afraid of you, Shen?"

"You should be. I know where you and your friends hide."

"Impossible!" Akali exclaimed. 

"I kid you not. You've found for yourselves a very lovely basement-"

"Give me one good reason I shouldn't kill you right now."

"Tell me Akali, do you remember anything from your past?"

The assassin furrowed her brows. "No, it's a blur. But how's that-"

"Patience." Shen cut her off. "Based on your fighting style, I can tell you were born and raised in Ionia."

They fell in silence. Shen waited for a response that never came. 

"I could tell you a lot more things. But of course, you can just kill me."

"You're one manipulative bastard, has anyone ever told you that?"

Shen smiled. "Quite a few times. Do we have a deal, then?" He extended his arm at her. 

Akali looked at it intently before she shook it. 

Chapter Text

Warning: System malfunction.

Condition: Unstable.

Memory recovery: Failed.

Defense system restart: Failed.

System restart: Failed.

System failure.

Warning: High chances of permanent shut down.

System restart: Successful.

Loading: 85%...

Darkness.

Warning: System malfunction.

Condition: Stable.

Memory recovery: 32%

Defense system: Restarting…

Warning: System malfunction.

Vayne slowly drifted back to consciousness, after several times she had failed so since the incident. She could barely feel her body. All her senses still couldn't function at their full potential. Her memories were a complete mess once again and her limbs ached.

She felt a presence near her. Couldn't tell if it was friendly or a foe. Either way, she still couldn't react to it in any way. No one spoke. It was silent. Too silent for her liking.

Eventually, she managed to start moving her fingers and her toes. Her eyes fluttered open to face the dark ceiling of an unknown room. She turned her head to the side slightly but couldn't see much more. Except maybe the presence she had felt before.

Fiora watched her in concern. Vayne had been out for at least an alarming forty eight hours now. Her mind drifted a lot of times at the worst scenario, that she was already dead. But now she was awake and looked more confused than ever. Her memories hadn't been recovered yet.

Vayne frowned. "Fiora?" she called out in a hoarse voice.

The dueler came closer to her. "It's me."

The Night Hunter furrowed her brows. "Where… are we?"

"At one of your safe houses. Don't worry, we're safe now," Fiora reassured her.

Vayne nodded. Everything was still a blur but her memories were slowly coming back as well.

Memory recovery: 85%

Warning: Corrupted memories detected.

Great.

"What happened?" she asked eventually

Fiora sighed. "We had some complexities. Corleone knocked you out and he called for help. Things got really messy."

"Was it at least worth it?"

"They're both dead."

"..."

"How are you?" Fiora asked eventually upon seeing her silence.

Vayne took some time to respond. "I don't know."

"Is there anything you need?"

"No."

Fiora didn't like how brief her answers were. Vayne seemed so out of this world, it was extra concerning. She had no idea what to do to help her, heck if there was anything she could do to help her condition. What the hell did they do to Vayne? She sighed. "I'll let you rest then."

The hunter nodded in response. Although she didn't feel tired at all - as if she ever did - Vayne was still unsure of what was going on. Her system was still a complete mess and she was aware it would take some time before it would work normally again.

The rest of the day was quiet. Too quiet. They didn't exchange any words. Vayne, for she didn't know what to say, and Fiora, for she was scared of the answers she would get from the other PROJECT. The first watched the latter move around the basement, doing small chores or tinkering over something or just standing still in a corner watching over Vayne, a million thoughts running through her brain per second.

It wasn't until later in the night that Vayne finally decided to move, much to Fiora's surprise. The hunter pushed herself up before the dueler could rush at her side.

"It's okay," Fiora assured her. "You need to rest."

"I'm done resting," Vayne snapped. "Plus, I think I'm doing better," she admitted in a less sharp tone.

"Is there anything you need me to do?"

"I have some questions. Some of my memories are corrupted," she confessed.

Fiora nodded in understanding. "I'll try my best to answer."

"I remember breaking into the lab. I remember talking to the scientists. I remember downloading the data but… I can't recall what happened afterwards," said Vayne.

"Well…" Fiora hesitated for a moment. This was something she desperately wanted to ask herself but apparently Vayne couldn't even remember it. It was highly unlikely she'd recall what motive guided her to take such action that led them where they were now. "Suddenly, you decided to pick information about my past. That gave Corleone the opportunity to attack you with a device that I presume was designed to shut down PROJECT traces. It looked like you had some sort of seizure. Then, you passed out. The rest is history."

"I see…" Vayne nodded.

Fiora was in a dilemma. Should she ask now? It probably wasn't such a good idea.

"I know what you're thinking." Vayne stared at her. "And I believe I know why I did it. Or at least, I am capable of making an assumption."

Fiora's eyes grew wide. "You do?"

Vayne nodded. "I presume that it had something to do with you. I wanted this for you, not for myself… I recalled at that moment why you had told me in the past, about your desire to discover who you used to be before all of that…"

"But why, Shauna? You said yourself that it didn't matter anymore." This was the first time in a while that Fiora called her by her first name.

The hunter sighed. "I don't know. I guess… I just wanted to make up for what I did. The guiltiness was overwhelming."

Fiora pressed her lips into a thin line. "You know," she said. "You could have just apologized instead of getting into so much trouble."

Vayne looked over her in shock. "What?"

"Y'know, just tell me you're sorry," Fiora rushed to explain. "It would be sufficient."

"Sufficient, huh?" Vayne muttered to herself. "But are words ever enough?"

"Sometimes. That's how human relationships work."

"And how would you know that?" It wasn't mean or anything. Vayne was genuinely asking. Fiora noticed her tone and smiled softly.

"Despite what you might think of Ashe and whatever flaws she has, she was able to help us get in touch with our human side. I couldn't do it without her help. But still, there's much to know and numerous things I don't yet understand," she said eventually.

Vayne looked at her with an unreadable expression. "I guess it's my turn to try and “get in touch with my human side”, huh?"

"I mean, you can always try," Fiora encouraged her.

"Fine! I uh…" Vayne intertwined her fingers as she tried to form the proper words. "I deeply apologize for spying on you, lying and putting your companions in danger. Uh… My intentions were just to protect you from further harm. I hope that… you can forgive me."

Fiora smiled. "Don't worry. I already have."

Vayne suddenly felt lighter, as if a weight that had nestled on her chest had been lifted. Though she still couldn't believe that Fiora had forgiven her so easily. She couldn't help but ask. "You have?"

Fiora nodded. "Back in the lab, when you tried to get that extra information about me, knowing well that it was risky. I realized that you felt guilty, so guilty that it led you to such a reckless decision. And, somehow, I stopped being angry at you."

"That doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?"

"Do humans?"

Good question.

Silence.

"So, what now?" Vayne spoke after a while. "What's the situation out there?"

"Well, quite frankly, the situation is balls. They're all over us so we're stuck with each other for a while," Fiora responded.

"That's great," Vayne groaned. "That's fucking great!"

"Don't complain. This is your fault."

Vayne glared at her. "Yeah, let's start pointing fingers now because that is exactly what's going to help right now!"

Fiora rubbed her temples. "Can we just not fight for one damn moment? This is getting exhausting."

"I guess…" Vayne sighed. Fiora was right, she was tired of arguing with one another all the time.

She was tired in general if she wanted to keep it honest with herself. She leaned back, closing her eyes.

Since the day she had run away, her life had been a total rollercoaster. One mission in the dark then back to hiding again. Was she truly free then? She couldn't tell at this point. All she wanted was it would end soon because she wasn't sure how much longer she could keep going like that.

"Shauna?" Fiora's voice ringed in her ears. Vayne didn't bother opening her eyes.

"I'm fine," she said. "I just need a moment."

No response came. Instead, Vayne felt a presence taking a seat next to her. Somehow, this brought her some comfort to the turmoil of her mind.

"That device really fucked you up, huh?" Fiora pointed out.

"It's not just the device, I'm afraid," Vayne confessed. "It's life itself."

"Don't tell me you're having an existential crisis right now!"

"Perhaps." Vayne shrugged.

Fiora pressed her lips into a thin line. "What bothers you then? Apart from the whole “I'm a wanted person” situation I mean."

"It's slightly complicated…"

"We've got a lot of time."

Well, she wasn't mistaken. Vayne sighed. "I don't know. Sometimes it feels like we aren't truly free. Look at us now. Constantly hiding in the darkness, hoping that we won't be discovered. Always moving in the night, fighting a nonsense war. Because if you haven't noticed, we haven't done anything significant. In fact, I daresay it's worse than it was before."

"How is this worse than before?" Fiora argued. "No one is commanding you. No one is leading you to certain death - except from your own decisions."

Vayne had to chuckle. "For how long are you going to remind me of that?"

"Until time ends, Vayne."

"I guess that's fair…"

They shared a laugh before Vayne turned serious again. "It's not just that though. It feels like I constantly carry a weight around. Frankly, it has nothing to do with those scientists. They can burn in hell for all I care."

"Then, who is this about?" Fiora asked.

"Do you remember what I told you the first time we met when you asked me to join G/NETIC?" Vayne inquired.

"Yes." Fiora nodded.

"Well, that answer is quite obscure. It doesn't contain the entire truth," she sighed. "Let me fill you in."

"You don't have to-"

"I believe I do," Vayne interrupted her. "I was assigned a very dangerous mission. I was the leader in a group of people. Note that. People. Even PROJECT Inc. had some dynamic that wasn't made of metal back in the day. Our mission was to eliminate a strange creature that lived in the sewers."

"Warwick," said Fiora.

Vayne nodded in affirmation. "I underestimated him but we still could have captured him if another creature, which we weren't even aware of, showed up," she added, her eyes growing dark.

"Urgot," Fiora whispered.

"I see you've made acquaintances," Vayne pointed out.

"I had the displeasure."

"The thing is," Vayne continued her narration. "That no one expected it. Absolutely no one, not even me. They…" she hesitated. "They were killed in cold blood, their bodies torn apart… There was so much blood. And I couldn't do anything but stare." Vayne inhaled sharply. "It was supposed to be a test drive, see how well I could respond to the unexpected and I obviously failed. These people… they were sacrificed for nothing. Literally. All this was too much to handle. Then I snapped and I ran away, as you already know. Their memories will always haunt me. That's why I'm never going to be truly free."

"I don't think you're supposed to be freed from this kind of stuff," said Fiora. "It's supposed to follow you wherever you go. It's called guilt and I'm sure you've had a lot of experience with it lately."

"Yeah, no shit." Vayne rolled her eyes.

"But the thing is, that's how humans are. That's their nature. And it's not unusual that they decide based upon sentiment," continued.

"But that's foolish, isn't it?" Vayne inquired.

"Probably. Although, I'd like to believe that this is what makes them unique, you know?" Fiora explained.

"I guess…" Vayne rubbed her forehead.

Fiora noticed that. "Alright, enough philosophy for today. Rest now."

Even though she wanted to disagree, Vayne realized she was right. She still felt weak and tired and it would be wise to give it a rest. After all, there wasn't much she could do at the moment. They were trapped inside that basement for as long as it would take. She laid back on the old mattress and closed her eyes. In the background, she could sense Fiora and that brought her a sense of safety for reasons still unknown to her.

Vayne wasn't sure how long she had been lying down when suddenly a loud knock on the door - or to be more accurate, it sounded more like someone was trying to break it. She jumped. But Fiora had been faster than her and had already taken a defensive stance, her blade in her hand.

"Stay behind me," she ordered.

"I'm not a baby," Vayne defended as she grabbed her crossbow, in a tone that didn't allow more arguments.

The door burst open and a flock of blades flew right in. They had to dodge in order not to get hit by such deadly weapons. But suddenly, a smoke bomb exploded and they lost vision. Senses sharpened but it was all too fast. The next moment they were both tucked to the ground and tied. The smoke disappeared and three new figures appeared.

Vayne felt her heart drop upon realizing that they had just been captured by three PROJECTS who they had never seen before yet they weren't unknown to her.

"Get up," one of them ordered in a sharp tone. Vayne guessed that this was Irelia. She felt someone grabbing her by the shoulder and pulling her on her feet. She noticed from the corner of her eyes Fiora struggling against a petite yet firm figure with several guns strapped on her body.

"Stop," Vayne told her and the dueler immediately froze.

"At least one of them is wise enough," Irelia commented. "Take them to the track."

They were ushered to the back of a seemingly stolen track, still tied. The next thing they knew they were moving.

"What are we going to do?" Fiora asked in agony, probably still shocked by the fact that they had been discovered and captured.

"We can't do anything for now," Vayne responded. "We should try and play along until help comes."

"Not to be dramatic or anything but no one is coming to our rescue!"

"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Vayne said vaguely. "Keep quiet. They're listening," she motioned on the front of the vehicle. Fiora decided it was best to trust her word and didn't speak again.

Despite being exhausted, Vayne was on full alert. From what she could gather, they were heading west. They didn't stop until two hours later. Now they were miles away from their previous hiding place. The truck was pulled over and the back doors suddenly opened. Akali motioned at them to get out. They obliged.

They were led into an old school. The chalkboards were still there, marked with knowledge that no one could ever take anymore. Full with graffiti desks, the chairs were all covered in dust, as if time had frozen there. An occasional mouse or cockroach would run through, scared away by their unexpected presence.

Fiora and Vayne were placed in a corner, guarded by Akali's restless eyesight. Meanwhile, Jinx studied them, wondering how fun it would be if she just blew them up. Irelia was lost in thought.

"So, what's the meaning of all this?" Fiora spoke eventually, dismay obvious in her voice.

Akali didn't even flinch, Jinx smirked and Irelia glared at her. "It's not something personal," the latter said. "Just survival of the fittest."

"Don't be quick to judge, Fiora," Vayne spoke in the very same tone. "They just don't know what they're doing."

Akali huffed. "You wouldn't understand."

"I don't need to understand the full motive of your actions. I know that you're doing this out of despair."

No one spoke. The silence was piercing.

"There are a lot of things you don't understand. You need to let us go," said Vayne eventually.

"I'm afraid we can't do that," Irelia deadpanned.

"Then you shall be the doom of our times."

Irelia studied them. "These are big words."

"But they are the truth," Vayne shot. "As I said before, there are numerous things you aren't aware of. And I'm afraid we don't have the luxury of explaining."

"And we don't have the luxury to hesitate. It's a matter of survival," Irelia shrugged.

"It won't matter if you give us up!"

Irelia ignored her before turning to Akali. "Call him. Tell him we've got what he asked for."

Him? Who was she even referring to? Before Vayne had the time to contemplate, the sound of a door breaking filled the night. Irelia and Akali drew out their blades and Jinx readied her guns with a smirk that was painfully familiar to Vayne. Fiora gave her a look but she motioned at her to be patient.

A tall figure entered the classroom. Surprisingly though, no one attacked, which was odd.

"You again," Irelia said coldly.

"Yeah, came to see what are those shenanigans all about," Vi huffed.

Vi. Of course. Fiora gave Vayne an amused look. The latter smirked even so slightly. It didn't escape Irelia's attention though.

"I should have known better." She shook her head. "No matter. We're going to end this now."

"I'm not here to fight," Vi declared. "I'm here to talk. But that doesn't mean I will hesitate if we come to that."

"Fine. Let's talk," Irelia agreed. "Since you have a couple of questions to answer yourself."

"Like?"

"Like why you didn't let your friend shoot Jinx."

It was a bold question but not something Vi hadn't expected. She sighed heavily. "Because Jinx is my sister. A sister I presumed dead for years."

The silence was deafening. No one expected that answer.

"What is this funny lady talking about, Lia?" Jinx asked suddenly.

For the first time, Irelia was left speechless.

"There are a lot of things we need to discuss," Vi continued. "But first, release Vayne and Fiora. They're right, you're about to make a grave mistake."

The three rogues gazed at each other, probably debating if this was a good idea or not.

"I want to know the truth!" Jinx declared. "If she claims to be my sister, she's the only one that knows what happened to me!"

"Fine." Irelia sighed. "Akali, released them."

"What about-"

"We will decide what to do after we listen to what they have to say," Irelia cut her off. "Now, I thought there were matters we needed to discuss?"

 

Chapter Text

The time had come. The ending was near, Caitlyn felt it. After endless years of playing this cat and mouse game, it soon would be over with her emerging victorious.

It had been a couple of busy weeks of them working very hard. But at least they had been able to pinpoint the exact location of the hideout; an old abandoned factory. What was left was the actual arrest, which was the hardest part of them all. However, Caitlyn had been ready for this very moment for years now. Nothing would stand in her way.

After days of careful planning and preparation, they were ready to proceed. Although Caitlyn didn't look forward to collaborating with the PROJECT corporation, she knew there was no other option. The only that was necessary for the operation to continue was an approval from the Administration and the Board. That wouldn't be much of a problem though. After they finally got it, the plan was set into motion.

The police participated in the operation as well. Their duty was to control the traffic so as to isolate the area around the factory and allow the TPA and the corporation to work properly. All the streets near the target were blocked by TPA or PROJECT trucks and strong forces. No one could get in without approval from the higher ranks.

Inside one of those trucks, Caitlyn explained the last details of her plan to her partners. Everything listened carefully but Caitlyn had her doubts about Xavier McCarthy who was the most silent of all. She couldn't trust him, couldn't trust that he would follow her plan closely. Only time would tell how trustworthy he was. Right now, it was the right moment to ponder that.

"Any questions?" she asked once she was done analyzing and she was only met with silence. "Good. Then we should get started. McCarthy, gather your forces. We are starting the operation in twenty minutes."

The dark skinned man nodded in response and disappeared out of the track. The rest followed outside quietly. Vi was the only one to look very ecstatic and excited about the upcoming event as she cracked her metallic knuckles.

"Let's bust some heads," she smirked.

"Easy there, tiger," Caitlyn was quick to measure her excitement. "We need to be extra careful. These aren't normal humans we are talking about. They won't hesitate."

"Yeah?" Vi threw her head behind. "So am I."

"That doesn't mean you should go in recklessly, like you usually do," Caitlyn pointed out, stopping at her heels. The rest kept moving and it was just the two of them left behind.

"What do you mean-"

"I mean that you have a tendency of doing things your own way which isn't always safe," Caitlyn cut her off. "So I need you to promise me that you will not disobey me throughout the whole operation and you will not act on your own."

Her gaze was intense, strict even, reminding that of a teacher towards a student that misbehaved, but there was also something else that Vi couldn't quite identify. She sighed.

"Fine. I promise," Vi said. "But only because you're the one running this shit, cupcake." She smirked again before walking off, leaving Caitlyn alone.

The agent let out a heavy sigh. Sometimes being around Vi felt like babysitting a child. Yet, she found herself not minding it at all, which was rather odd. Caitlyn demanded her partners to remain professional. With Vi, she couldn't make such demand, it was simply impossible. It was like asking the sun to rise from the West. She would miss that after all this was over.

The thought hit Caitlyn like a train. What would happen afterwards? She hadn't contemplated that. She usually didn't care. After a case was solved, she moved to the next without looking back. It was in the nature of her job. Even if Ezreal went down, there would always be some ambitious chrono-criminal out there threatening the timelines. That immediately meant that she probably wouldn't see Vi again after that. Sadness washed over her like cold water. She had never felt like that before. Why now?

Caitlyn shook her head. Now it wasn't the right moment to process all this. First, they had to deal with a bunch of super criminals. Dealing with emotions came second. Pulling her rifle closer to her shoulder, she started walking faster in order to catch up with the others.

Indeed, twenty minutes later the operation was ready to begin. Caitlyn gave the signal. All groups started moving. She was ahead with her own group alongside Vi. Behind her was Shen, Riven, Twisted Fate with their own groups. McCarthy was on the other side. The building was encircled. Caitlyn's group reached the door first. The Pulsefire motioned at Vi, who grinned. With little to no effort, she pushed up the huge garage door as quietly as she could. Caitlyn and her group stepped inside first. The old chemical factory was vast and it would take hours to search every little corner, but this was a sacrifice she was willing to make if it meant doing her job correctly. She sent Shen's group to the right and Riven's to the left. Hers and Twisted Fate's would move forward together and hopefully meet McCarthy along the way before they bumped into someone.

It was awfully quiet, except the sound of drops falling down from the ceiling on small puddles of water on the floor. It felt like they were visiting an archaeological museum with all this old machinery placed around. The owner of the factory hadn't cared much about this place's fate, it seemed. There was no electricity. It was only their flashlights that provided them with the necessary lighting.

As they proceeded further inside, they met no soul. Eventually, they arrived at what was supposed to be the center of the factory. Here there were huge cauldrons where once chemicals were produced. They emited a strange smell that wasn't as harmless as it seemed. It was probably best not to be exposed for too long to those remaining chemicals.

The group spreaded and searched nearby but there was nothing to be found. Vi looked around, running her own scans which were as fruitless. Caitlyn didn't understand this, they were supposed to be there! There was no way they could have left, so where the hell were they? She didn't want to believe that she had been fooled. Slowly she grew frustrated; she had never felt like that before.

A while later, McCarthy appeared with his group, noting that according to his robots' scans, the building was empty. Shen didn't have anything to report as well. Riven was the only one who hadn't appeared yet. Caitlyn was growing impatient. She tried to contact her and order her to retreat but she got no answer.

"Something is wrong," Caitlyn said. "We should go look for Riven."

"Wait." Vi stopped her. Suddenly, a distant scream came from the direction Riven and her group was supposed to be and everyone froze. "Something is here," the PROJECT cop let them know.

"Let's go. Be on your guard," Caitlyn instructed.

The four groups rushed towards where the scream had come from. As they got closer, they heard more noise. This wasn't good.

"Can you tell what that is?" Caitlyn asked Vi.

Vi concentrated hard; Caitlyn could tell so by her facial expression. She let out a curse.

"Damm it. My sensors must be damaged or somethin'. It can't be that."

"What do you mean?"

"Better not feed you with false information." Vi shook her head. "But whatever this thing is, it's aiming to kill."

"You heard her. Be careful," Caitlyn warned everyone.

They were getting closer when they heard Riven letting out a battle cry. Shen was about to teleport right there but Caitlyn stopped him.

"Better keep it for an emergency. As you can hear, she can handle herself just fine," she told him.

He nodded and let go off his blade. There was something off about Shen but Caitlyn had decided not to waste time looking for what it was. Perhaps after they were done with this she would ask him. Right now it wasn't her number one priority.

They took a turn and they found themselves sprinting into a secondary room. The noise became stronger. The smell of blood filled the air. Caitlyn had a bad feeling about this.

"It can't be!" Vi suddenly exclaimed. "I thought my sensors were wrong! How?!"

At first, Caitlyn couldn't understand what she was referring to, until everything came into view. The secondary room had turned into a small battlefield. There were bodies here and there that had been torn apart. Riven still stood with a couple of her men but she wouldn't last longer than that. But the most terrifying thing of this scenery was the wolf-like beast that was about to attack the Pulsefire agent. However, it looked like nothing Caitlyn remembered. Its body was covered in what could be described as white armor that neared the PROJECT logo onto it. Its face looked slightly deformed but there was no doubt; it was Warwick.

Caitlyn's blood boiled under her skin. This creature had almost killed them in the sewers months ago and now it was standing before her in PROJECT armor! Her first instinct was to glare at McCarthy. There was absolutely no way he didn't know about this. However, the man looked completely unphased, like he had almost expected this to happen. This angered her even more. She would confront him afterwards - if they came alive out of this. If Warwick was extremely dangerous once, imagine how much more of a danger he was now that he had been augmented with this technology.

"Surround him!" Caitlyn ordered. "Shen, go aid Riven. Tobias, make sure which of those people are still alive and call the nearest hospital."

"Right on it, Caitlyn." Tobias motioned at his men to follow him. Shen rushed with his group towards Riven and her remaining companions. It was only Caitlyn and McCarthy left. Her expression darkened.

"You will help us bring that beast down," she almost growled.

"Yes, ma'am," he said and this somehow made Caitlyn want to punch him in the face.

While Shen and Riven kept Warwick busy, the other two groups trapped him in a circle. Caitlyn decided to use first her long-distance troops, including herself. She raised her rifle up and aimed.

"Fire in the whole!"

A barrage of bullets flew towards the beast but none of them managed to penetrate his body. Warwick stopped at his tracks and slowly turned around to face them.

"Oh, this is some bullshit," Vi breathed.

"I couldn't describe it better myself," said Caitlyn through gritted teeth. Her gunmen were all useless. Before she had the time to come up with another plan, she saw Warwick running towards them. That's when Vi stepped in. The beast leaped with his jaw wide open only to close it around Vi's arm. She didn't even flinch as she punched him in the face hard, throwing him away.

"We need to distract him," McCarthy said suddenly. "I know a way to disable him."

Caitlyn couldn't trust his word but since she didn't have any better ideas, she had to roll with this. She sighed.

"Keep distracting him while our PROJECT friends here find a way to turn this thing off," she instructed. "The gunmen should fall behind and help Twisted Fate. And for the love of the stars, stay as far as way from him as possible. Let Vi handle the big blows. Only try to distract him."

The gunmen retreated immediately, leaving Caitlyn only with her close combat troops, a good dozen of highly trained TPA agents, and McCarthy with his own troops. Before they could go, she grabbed his arm and pulled him closer to her.

"You better disable this beast," she growled. "Otherwise, a bullet will lodge in your skull before he can kill you," she threatened.

He just nodded and she let go off him. Caitlyn watched as he approached Warwick carefully with his robots. He would better succeed, otherwise they were all dead. She reloaded her rifle and prepared for the upcoming chaos. Sometimes it felt like her life was a series of chaotic situations and she wasn't entirely sure if she liked that.

She approached Riven and Shen that looked exhausted and also entirely shook about the scenery taking place in front of them; Vi and Warwick fighting restlessly.

"Are you alright, Riven?" Caitlyn asked firstly.

"As alright as I could get." She shrugged. "What's the plan?"

"Distract the beast and hope McCarthy won't fuck up while trying to switch it off."

Shen drew out his blade. "Good. Let's go help Vi."

Caitlyn considered her options for a moment. Her bullets were practically useless against Warwick so she needed to find another way to distract him. Her traps could help hold him still for a moment and her net wouldn't probably trap him but at least would slow him down. She had to work with what she had.

Meanwhile, Vi was busy throwing her strongest punches at the beast. None of them seemed exhausted even the slightest but she knew she couldn't keep it up like that. She would need some extra time to recharge her ATLA gauntlets but as long as she remained Warwick's main target, this was impossible. All of a sudden, Vi caught a glimpse of a blade aiming right at the beast's neck. Warwick saw that coming and turned his head around, opening his jaw to catch the blade with his teeth, growling. Riven wasn't so caught in the momentum however. She stopped at the right time before delivering a strong blow at the open jaw. Shen appeared from the other side and hit his sides. The rest of Caitlyn's men mimicked him. Warwick was overwhelmed by the amount of new targets available to him. He had to kill them all.

"Take your time, Vi!" Shen shouted over the noise. "We got this."

"I just need a minute for my gauntlets to recharge!" she shouted back. She didn't like the idea of them fighting this beast without her but a recharge was absolutely necessary at the moment. She watched for a moment the TPA agents fight that beast. Despite being physically inferior to Warwick, they didn't give up, they didn't coward away. Vi was amused.

Warwick tried to leap and grab someone's neck when suddenly one of his legs got stuck in a trap. It needed a lot of his power to remove it before he fell onto another one again. Vi smirked.

"Caitlyn, you're a fucking genius," she thought to herself before dashing forward. "Out of my way!" she yelled.

Her gauntlets came in contact with Warwick's head, stunning him momentarily. Before he had time to recover from the hit, Vi wrapped her powerful arms around his neck in a headlock. He growled and tried to bite her to no avail. A net was launched and rendered him completely still.

"McCarthy, if you're gonna do something, you better do it now!" Caitlyn shouted.

The smaller PROJECT robots came along and clenched around all of Warwick's legs so even if he did manage to break Caitlyn's net, he still wouldn't be able to move. McCarthy walked confidently towards the immobilized PROJECT, expressionless as ever, holding a device like a stick on his right hand. He climbed onto Warwick's back and ran his hands down his spine, looking for the right spot. When he found it, he prepared to strike. But his arm never reached its target.

A large blade that looked more like a giant fish hook pierced through his chest, catching McCarthy off guard. He gasped. The blood appeared immediately on his suit. It was the first time that emotion showed on his face - it was fear. With great effort, he turned his head away, as if he was trying to avoid something.

"Look at me. Why won't you look at me?" came a whisper from the shadows. It sounded almost inhumane. McCarthy refused to oblige. Blood kept coming out of his body slowly but steadily. The grip on the hook didn't loosen. Caitlyn followed the rope with her eyes only to meet a hideous being. He was covered with PROJECT armor that was destroyed and scratched here and there - and he was missing an eye. His appearance showed that he had been to hell and back. Maybe he still wasn't back.

Eventually, the new PROJECT pulled the hook. McCarthy gasped again as blood filled his mouth before falling to the side. He never moved again. In the meantime, everyone watched in utter shock. Warwick broke free of the PROJECT robots and Caitlyn's net cut in half. Vi had to let go off his neck as she couldn't hold him any longer. With his giant claws, Warwick destroyed completely the remaining PROJECT equipment. Then, he turned at the newcomer but didn't attack him. Instead, he sniffed at him.

"They thought they made you their dog. Seems like they created another monster," the unnamed PROJECT spoke. It felt like they were witnessing a monologue until his terrifying eye met them.

"You aren't from PROJECT Inc," he realized.

"That's right. We're from the Timeline Protection Agency." Caitlyn was the only one with the courage to speak after they had witnessed a murder. "Who are you? Why did you kill that man?"

"Who am I?" he repeated. "That's a fairly good question. People refer to me as Pyke. And I killed him because he was one of them." He paused. "You were working with him to bring Warwick down," he pointed out. Caitlyn saw his posture change. She could feel the danger they were in.

"That's because he fucking attacked us first!" Riven shouted at him. She had snapped. "He killed three people just like that!"

"So that makes you feel entitled to hunt the monster down, huh?" Pyke questioned. He shook his head. "You aren't any better than them. I will exterminate you!" he suddenly yelled.

"Yeah, I don't think so, buddy," Vi interrupted his hysteria. Pyke turned around to face her. He scowled.

"If you wanna help people so much, explain your sister."

Vi froze. "What?"

"I had the chance to meet her. Work with her. I don't know whose voices are worse; mine or hers?" He shook his head. "Regardless, if you want to die for them, I'm not going to stop you." He made a step and then disappeared.

"What did just happen?" Shen asked in a whisper.

"I don't know," Caitlyn responded without looking at him, her gaze locked onto Vi who seemed just as confused. Suddenly, the hook appeared out of nowhere and hit her right on the chest plate, making her make a few steps behind. There was a new scratch on her armor.

"Why, you," she growled angrily before starting throwing punches at him. He avoided a few of them and tried to strike again. This time, Vi was ready and used her gigantic fists to protect herself. However, she was drained from her previous battle with Warwick and she couldn't last much longer. Speaking of which, upon seeing Pyke attacking Vi, he joined him in their quest to kill her, as it seemed.

"Caitlyn, what are we going to do?!" Riven panicked.

For the first time in forever, Caitlyn didn't know. She was frozen. By fear? Most likely. Although, it wasn't the time to be scared now. So many people had died tonight and Vi seemed to be next on the queue. She couldn't let it happen.

"Call Tobias and the rest of the forces we got outside. We'll need them all here," Caitlyn ordered.

"They'll need some time till they get here," Shen pointed out.

"In the meantime, stay alive," Caitlyn instructed. There was nothing else they could do right now. Their only choice was to fight for their lives. Hopefully, reinforcements would arrive soon.

Instead of worrying about the upcoming reinforcements, Caitlyn focused on the situation at hand. Vi was struggling against her opponents. If she struggled out of all people, what chances did they have at surviving this? Statistically, very few. But humans aren't just numbers, therefore there was still some hope left for them. She picked up her rifle and aimed. Without hesitation, she pulled the trigger.

Pyke's body wasn't as bulletproof as Warwick's. Still, not much damage was done. However, it was enough to peak his interest.

"Foolish human," he commented. "Don't worry, you're up next."

"If you stay alive long enough," Caitlyn deadpanned.

"The audacity and the arrogance you must have in order to believe that you can put me down," he hissed.

"I can always try. Plus, I am not alone." Caitlyn motioned behind her back as Shen and Riven appeared on each of her sides.

"Neither am I. Get 'em." He snapped his fingers and Warwick jumped in front of them, showing them his teeth.

"This is why I'm more of a cat person," Riven mumbled.

Before she finished her sentence, Warwick leaped at them, trying to lodge his sharp teeth into their flesh. They managed to dodge at the very last second but Warwick was thirsty for their blood. Caitlyn could try to trap him again but she doubted this would work for a second time. She couldn't offer a lot here and Shen with Riven could barely touch him but they had to try.

"Stop disappearing, you bastard, so I can punch your fucking face!" Vi shouted behind them at Pyke who had disappeared again. Apparently, even Vi's detectors weren't able to spot him when he went invisible. Suddenly, he appeared behind her and he threw his hook, aiming at her lower leg, before pulling and dropping her down. Vi stumbled back on her feet but in the meantime, Pyke was preparing his next attack. It was a second too late when Vi realized what he was up to.

She felt a body pushing her out of the way while a cross appeared on the ground and Pyke blinked in an attempt to execute her. Vi landed on her back with extra weight added on her chest. She blinked.

"Caitlyn! What are you doing?!"

"Saving your sorry- Ahh!"

The hook pierced through her shoulder and Pyke pulled hard, throwing Caitlyn off Vi. Without hesitation, he threw her to the ground and locked his fingers around her. He pulled out the hook off her shoulder and she barely made a sound of pain.

"I should have killed you first," he growled as he pressed harder against her neck, obviously trying to choke her. Caitlyn struggled against his grip, trying to release herself but to no avail. Her vision filled with black spots and she slowly got dizzy.

Suddenly, she heard a battle cry. Through her blurry vision, she saw Vi's gauntlets hitting Pyke so hard that he was thrown across the room. Caitlyn could breathe again and she coughed.

"Caitlyn! Caitlyn!" Vi shouted in exasperation as she kneeled down next to her. She took her in her arms as the agent clenched her wounded shoulder. "Just what the hell were you thinking?" she whispered.

"He would kill you," Caitlyn breathed out, flinching in pain.

"Yeah? He'd kill you too, you dumbass," Vi scolded her, concern written all over her features.

Their whole interaction hadn't gone unnoticed, unfortunately. The smell of blood had immediately triggered Warwick in a way no one could imagine. His tail and claws suddenly turned red from the bright blue they were before. His eyes flashed dangerously. He turned his back at Shen and Riven, who desperately tried to win back his attention, but his eyes were locked on Caitlyn and her wound.

"Oh fuck," Vi cursed. They were trapped. Even if they tried to run, Warwick could easily catch up to them, plus there was Pyke too. Was this the end, then? Were they going to die right there?

Seemed like it.

Vi did what came first to her mind as one last act of desperation; wrapped her body around Caitlyn's and dreaded the strike. She heard Warwick's terrifying growl and thought; "This is it. This is how I die. Rather funny, ain't it?"

She expected to feel his teeth piercing through her armor but the hit never came. He couldn't have missed, could he? There was no way. Vi peeked over and saw him stunned between two converging blades. She was confused as to what was happening but she didn't question it; she picked Caitlyn up and brought her into a safer place, behind a couple of huge, wooden boxes. Even Pyke seemed confused. His confusion though didn't last long enough as a shadow appeared and tried to slice his neck open. He dodged. Before he had time to analyze the situation, bullets flew in his direction and he had to jump out of the way.

"Stay still, I'm trying to shoot you!" someone complained. Vi froze. She couldn't mistake this voice.

Jinx

"Give it up, Pyke," a rather cold voice spoke which gave Vi some Caitlyn vibes. The agent seemed just as confused as her. They didn't have a good vision behind all those boxes they were hiding. "You can't deal with all of us."

"Irelia," Pyke hissed. "You could never get a hold on me. What makes you think this time will be any different?"

"The fact that I'm willing to learn from my mistakes and you are not," Irelia deadpanned.

"You sure as hell made a mistake coming here tonight."

"I'm wondering, who really made a mistake tonight?" Irelia inquired before her blades flew at him.

The only thing Caitlyn could hear was the sound of blades clashing accompanied by shooting. They were covered for now but definitely not safe yet. Shen and Riven were too far away, Tobias hadn't shown up yet. Warwick could show up any time, even though he seemed to be busy dealing with Akali, according to Vi's scans.

"I need to get her out of here," Vi muttered under her breath, mostly talking to herself.

Caitlyn couldn't help but roll her eyes. "I'm right here." A sharp pain ran through her shoulder and she made a grimace.

"And what are you gonna do, cupcake? Break your way through with that shoulder of yours- Ah!"

Warwick had appeared out of nowhere and had bitten Vi's legs, pulling her to the ground.

"Vi!" Caitlyn helplessly shouted, not able to do anything.

"Fucking hell, can you not do that, you fucking bitch?!" Vi yelled at Warwick as she punched him hard but he didn't let go off her leg. It seemed like he was trying to break it. If he did, Caitlyn would be left at his mercy - and he didn't have any.

A yellow card flew towards the beast, stunning him on spot. The next second, he was condemned to the wall and he didn't move again. Tobias appeared out of nowhere but his expression showed that it hadn't been him that had done such damage to Warwick.

"Where the fuck did you come from?" he asked the figure that stood a couple of feet away.

Caitlyn was in pain but her mind didn't stop working for a moment. She recognised her; It was Shauna Vayne. What was she doing here?

"You need to leave," the PROJECT deadpanned. "This is not your fight. Order your men to retreat."

Before Caitlyn could respond, Twisted Fate piped in. "It's too late. They're already here."

The shouting that came in confirmed his words. Vayne sighed deeply.

"Just take her out of here before she loses too much blood," she instructed Vi before running off.

"Wait!" Caitlyn shouted. She couldn't just leave like that, there were so many questions that needed answers, so many things to know-

"Caitlyn, you need to leave," Tobias said. "We can handle it from here." Warwick stirred; he was coming back to consciousness. "Just go!"

It wasn't like she could do anything else when Vi swept her in her big arms and ran off outside, abandoning the chaos behind her. Caitlyn was growing dizzy; it must have been due to the blood loss. Once her face hit the night fresh air, she immediately felt slightly better.

"Vi, you can put me down. I can walk," she claimed.

The cop scoffed. "And you can shut the fuck up while I get you to safety."

Caitlyn wanted to argue but she was too tired. There were a couple of paramedics waiting for her outside. She had her shoulder patched up quickly but they insisted she went to the hospital right away. She ignored them.

"What's the situation?" she asked one of her men. He opened his mouth to answer but Vi interrupted.

"Can I have a word?" she sounded angry.

"Sure." Caitlyn accepted sceptically.

They walked a little further away from her men. Vi probably didn't want them to listen to their conversation. She led her behind another building before she suddenly stopped on her tracks and turned to face Caitlyn.

"Could you tell me what the fuck are you doing?" she asked. She didn't even bother hiding her anger at this point.

"What am I doing?" Caitlyn repeated. "I'm making sure my men get out of there alive. So, if you'd be so kind as to let me do my job, that would be great."

"You have been injured, you blithering idiot!"

"It doesn't matter. I need to make sure no one gets the same fate as me and several others," Caitlyn pointed out. She turned to leave; this was pointless and a waste of time. They needed her.

She felt Vi's grip around her uninjured arm and she had to turn around. The mask had disappeared and Caitlyn stared right back at Vi's eyes that spoke volumes.

"It does matter! You could have died!" The way those words escaped her lips could break anyone's heart. Caitlyn was speechless. She was sure she was interpreting this the wrong way, the way she wanted to be. Her emotions were getting in the way.

"You could have died," Vi repeated, her voice breaking. "You could have been killed to save my worthless ass. I would never forgive myself if something happened to you because of me." She bit her bottom lip. It was obvious she had a really hard time.

"Vi..."

"Why do you need to be a stubborn bitch and not listen to the paramedics, huh?" The cop asked, interrupting her. "Why? Do you like me suffering? Answer me!" She slammed the wall behind the Pulsefire's head, damaging it a bit.

Caitlyn didn't expect her to get so aggressive all of a sudden. She was so close now, she could see the fire in her eyes. Her expression softened. Caitlyn's heart was about to explode.

What is happening?

Vi inhaled sharply and the next thing she knew was that she was kissing Caitlyn, pressing her hard against the wall.

The world disappeared. Time stopped, nothing was real. Maybe it had been a few couple of hours - or several sunny days, who could tell? How can anyone forget how to breathe?

Vi eventually broke the kiss. She looked down and avoided Caitlyn's gaze at any cost. Suddenly, she pushed herself away and she disappeared in the darkness.

"Vi!" Caitlyn called after her but it was too late.

Her heart was going crazy. Her hand slowly reached her lips. Even at the thought of it, her knees grew weak. She slipped to the ground. Whatever had just happened, it sure had caused her the most intense feelings she had ever felt and she couldn't complain one bit.

But reality was awaiting and she couldn't stay there like some school girl. She stood up and returned back to her men, like nothing had happened in between. 

 

Chapter Text

Caitlyn had never been in such pain before. Probably because she had never been pierced through with a fish hook. The doctors at the nearby hospital claimed that she was lucky to not have her shoulder dislocated. Due to the severity of her injury, Caitlyn remained at the hospital for three days with only company an annoying migraine. She didn't get any visitors - not that she expected anyone, if she wanted to be honest with herself. There had been no word from Vi since that night and her partners were probably too busy to even be concerned about her. She didn't blame them. She was all too aware of TPA's policy after missions like that, successful or not.

Having all that free time gave, Caitlyn had the opportunity to contemplate and analyze the situation properly. For the first time since ages, she was completely confused in all aspects. Everything seemed to be so complicated. One part of her just wanted to give everything up and go for an eternal vacation and never look back. On the other hand, Caitlyn knew this was impossible at this point. Besides, running away from her problems wouldn't solve them.

That night proved to her how little she actually knew. Her ignorance had put everyone in grave danger. All things considered though, it wasn't entirely her fault. PROJECT Inc. ought to have given them all the information they needed for this case and instead they lied and kept them in the dark, which would explain why McCarthy wasn't so shocked to see Warwick at the old factory. His memory only angered her. At least he got what he deserved. That didn't mean that the threat was gone, though. Caitlyn could claim without any doubt that the company was very dangerous. She wouldn't be surprised if someone tried to assassinate her and several others after what they saw that night. Although, the damage was already done and they were too many to kill without raising suspicion. So from that aspect she could say that they were safe for now.

Then it was the PROJECT traces themselves. Caitlyn wasn't sure how she was supposed to feel about the lot of them. One the one hand, they protected her arch nemesis and tried to murdered her and then they saved her life. And of course there was Vi. The way they all acted, it didn't make sense. They didn't function the same way. Which meant that each of them were different, just like humans. She had never thought of it like that and this was one of her first mistakes. What PROJECTS truly were after all? Humans augmented with technology, despite what the company that had created them wanted them or believed them to be. She should have known the first day she met Vi. But she hadn't cared enough then.

Now it was all different.

Although that night had been a complete disaster, it had also explained a lot of things to Caitlyn. It finally explained why she felt the way she did around Vi or why the latter was always so flirty. Riven hadn't been joking, she had probably seen something that Caitlyn was unable to. Slowly, she had grown very fond of Vi, much more than she could ever possibly imagine. And because of that she was terrified. Caitlyn was scared of attachment due to the nature of her job; she usually was gone for long periods of time but her greatest fear was meeting another version of the people she cared about in another timeline that couldn't even remember her. Someone would ask, why couldn't she just quit her job? Truth be told, after everything that had gone out, she considered it. But this job gave a meaning to her miserable life even if it meant risking her life and even if eventually wouldn't give her what she had signed up for in the first place; her parents. It was impossible, she knew it now.

Caitlyn was terrified, yes, but she couldn't control the way she felt. The only thing she could do was accept it. But she needed to address this issue to Vi. She wasn't sure how much they'd be able to see each other after this case was closed and it was that specific case that brought them together in the first place. That would happen only if Vi decided to give any signs of life.

Everything was just a huge mess and Caitlyn had no clue how to get out of it.

Three days later, she was dismissed from the hospital with the advice to take a lot of rest. Caitlyn believed she had already taken enough rest those three days she did nothing but lay and think. She went home for a quick shower and then straight back at the Timeline Protection Agency's headquarters. Even there everything felt different. Caitlyn headed straight to her office, ignoring all those murmurs and occasional stares at her. Her partners were also surprised to see her there.

"Caitlyn! What are you doing here?" Shen exclaimed when he noticed her walk inside. He looked like a mess; his skin was pale and he had bags under his eyes, pretty much like everyone else there.

"I work here, Shen," Caitlyn deadpanned. He rolled his eyes.

"Rumor says you're bleeding to death at the hospital," Tobias pointed out. "Seriously though, how's your shoulder?"

"It's seen better days but it should be fine," Caitlyn assured him.

"You should be resting, Cait," Riven spoke, concerned.

"So should you, Riven. Have you seen yourself in a mirror lately?"

"It's true. We haven't rested in three days," Shen admitted, showing over at the table that was filled with papers. "But it's been chaotic ever since..."

"Yes, I'm aware," Caitlyn cut him off. "I need to talk with Cayton. By the time I return, you better have left."

Riven snorted. "Come on Caitlyn, don't be ridiculous. If any of us shouldn't be here, it's you. You were injured, for crying out loud! Is it so hard to take it easy?"

"Riven, I've done nothing in the last three days other than lay around, therefore I'm not tired at all. I can't say the same for you, though," Caitlyn insisted.

Shen opened his mouth to object but Twisted Fate interfered. "Come on now, lad. Don't you know her already? And besides, she's offering you a chance to go home and you're gonna say no? Are you crazy?"

"Well... He's not wrong," Riven shrugged.

Shen clicked his tongue. "Fine, I guess. But you need to take it easy. An injury like that shouldn't be taken so lightly."

"Don't worry, Shen. I can handle myself perfectly well." Caitlyn gave him a small smile.

The three of them packed their stuff, obviously relieved that they could finally go home, and they left as soon as possible. However, Shen hesitated at the door. He looked over at Caitlyn who had already dug in some papers.

"Uh... Caitlyn?"

"Yes, Shen. What is it?" Caitlyn responded, not looking over her papers.

He scratched the back of his neck. "I just wanted to apologize for not coming to the hospital while you were in. I know it's not an excuse, we were very busy and-"

"It's alright Shen. Don't worry. I understand," Caitlyn assured him. He already seemed somewhat relieved. "Have you heard from Vi?"

He shook his head. "Not once since then. Have you?"

"Nope."

"Well, I don't know what to say." He sighed. "Guess she's been busy herself or something. Anyway, I should let you do your work. Have a good day, Caitlyn."

"You too, Shen."

The door slid close, leaving Caitlyn completely on her own once again. She dropped the papers on her desk, sighing and running a hand through her hair. According to the report, at least seven people had been killed and numerous others injured. This was the worst possible scenario. Either way, she needed to have a talk with her boss. So, she left the office and headed to the 100th floor where his office was located.

Usually, Tithonus Cayton didn't accept anyone without an invitation or an arrangement beforehand. However, Caitlyn didn't care at that moment. This was urgent and she couldn't wait until he decided to invite her or until she could make an arrangement to see him sometime during the week. It needed to happen now. So when his robot secretary saw her show up, she was quick to deny her entrance.

"Then tell Mr Cayton that I need to see him right now," Caitlyn ordered. The blonde secretary nodded and disappeared inside the office before returning moments afterwards.

"Mr Cayton is going to see you now," she informed Caitlyn. She didn't bother thanking her as she entered an office that had grown painfully familiar to her. Last time she had been here it was months ago when Cayton had announced to her that she would be working with her last team in this case. Nothing had changed since her last visit. There he stood, dressed in his black suit, studying a file.

"Caitlyn, what a surprise to see you here," Cayton said when he heard her stepping in. "Please, have a seat."

Caitlyn obliged only because she didn't want to be impolite. She studied him carefully; he didn't seem mad or upset nor necessarily excited either, which was a good thing.

"I meant to talk to you," he confessed, placing the file onto his desk. Caitlyn didn't even need to see what the file was about for she already knew. "But of course, I didn't expect you to come back so quickly."

"Well sir, I wouldn't want to be left behind when we're in an emergency," Caitlyn responded.

"You couldn't describe it better, dear." Cayton stood up and approached one of his furniture where he stored his finest alcohol. "Would you like something to drink?"

"No, thank you sir."

He nodded. "Suit yourself." He popped open a bottle of red wine and poured it in a glass. "Now, I would like to tell me what exactly happened."

"I believe that you already know that," Caitlyn responded.

"Well, yes I do," Cayton admitted as he sat back down on his leather chair. "But I would like to hear your version of the events."

And so Caitlyn narrated what exactly had gone down that night, as far as her memory allowed her to become there were some details that remained blurry. She blamed the painkillers she had been given at the hospital and the shock she had endured at the time. Once she was finished, she paused for a little while, trying to gather her thoughts.

"I also wanted to take responsibility for the failure of the mission and the victims, sir," said Caitlyn. "I wouldn't want my team to get into a difficult position due to my mistakes once again."

"Oh really?" he crooked an eyebrow. "That's not what you had told me the last time something similar happened."

Caitlyn sighed. "I was younger and less mature. I missed a shot, how could I not be responsible for what happened in Bellmoor? My behavior was... arrogant, to say the least. You should have told me something," she pointed out.

Cayton smiled. "You had convinced me so much that it was your team's fault that I wasn't able to detect the so-called "arrogance". I'm glad you've learned something from that terrible experience." He took a sip from his glass.

"So am I, sir. Although, there's been something that has been bothering me."

"What is it?"

"I've already admitted that the failure is my fault, even though I had prepared everything carefully. But, as you already know, we bumped into some unexpected obstacles that we could not have predicted without proper guidance," Caitlyn tried to explain.

"I'm not sure what exactly you mean, Caitlyn."

Caitlyn inhaled sharply. "I mean that the PROJECT corporation has been withholding information from us, which is one of the reasons why this disaster happened in the first place."

Cayton regarded her words carefully for a moment. He took another sip off his wine, studying her with his dark eyes. "Please take no offense but I believe you're negatively inclined against the company, thus you're saying this."

"Pardon me?"

Cayton leaned back on his chair. "You've had a bad experience with them already, I understand that. But the thing is, you can not make an accusation based on one event."

Caitlyn looked at him in utter disbelief. "You cannot be serious! This is definitely not an accusation based on a singular event. If we had known anything about Warwick or Pyke, we could have avoided this outcome!"

"Caitlyn," Cayton said in a warning tone. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"So I'm crazy then," Caitlyn scoffed. "Because what I just said doesn't have a logical basis."

"It is not that. It is that you actually don't know. The corporation hasn't withheld any information," Cayton deadpanned, emphasizing on the world "any".

Caitlyn glared at him, preparing to retort, only for the realization to hit her right then. The silence that fell upon them was deafening.

"You knew," she whispered. "You knew all along."

"Of course I knew, Caitlyn. How could we establish trust if-"

He was cut off by Caitlyn suddenly jumping off her chair, throwing it to the ground, slamming her hands on his office. Her shoulder complained and Caitlyn struggled to keep a straight face but it didn't bother her at the moment.

"You do realize this makes you just as responsible for the deaths of those men and women as me, right?" Caitlyn pointed an accusing finger at him. "You withheld vital information from me and my team, information that could have been useful!"

Cayton blinked, almost unphased. "Do you believe that knowing all this could have prevented their deaths?"

"I could have at least taken some measures, that's for sure!" Caitlyn shouted at his face. The moment she realized what she had done, she pushed herself away, taking a deep breath. "We're done here," she whispered before turning around to leave.

"I'm not entirely sure that you're the one dismissing people, Caitlyn," came Cayton's voice from behind. "You aren't going anywhere until I tell you."

Caitlyn was this close to punching him straight in the face but obeyed. What else could she do?

"Listen to me," said Cayton very calmly, which annoyed Caitlyn even more but she managed not to show it - at least, that's what she thought. "There are many things you yet to understand and I wish I could explain but it wouldn't be wise right now. You know that I hold you in high regard Caitlyn. There are many things I'd like to teach you because I really do believe that one day you could become my successor."

His words caught her off guard but Caitlyn knew exactly why he told her this now. If he believed he could trick her like that, then maybe Cayton didn't know her at all. She didn't respond. No, she wasn't going to give Cayton that satisfaction.

"And just a small advice before you go. You should always talk with your brain, not your heart. I hoped you already knew that but I was wrong." Cayton stared back at her. "You may go now," he eventually dismissed her. Caitlyn made sure to slam the door behind her on her way out.

She returned furiously to her office, winning more glances along the way but she couldn't care less, and once again she was met by the loneliness of the room. Caitlyn looked around and over the papers she had been reading before. Even staring at them made her angry. In a moment of madness, she threw them all away, scattering them across the office with a frustrated yell. Her shoulder complained and she had to sit down, holding her head in her hand.

"Fucking bastard," she mumbled under her breath.

Caitlyn wasn't sure how long she had been standing at the middle of the storm by herself when she heard a knock on the door. Her first thought was to not open and let whoever wanted to talk to her see this scenery but she did not wish to deal with the consequences of that either, so she answered the door by opening a button and returning to her original position. She heard footsteps but she didn't even raise her head to see who it was.

"Wow. Did a tornado go through here?" Caitlyn couldn't mistake that voice anywhere. Her eyes traveled at the door where she spotted Vi standing, looking around curiously. Unconsciously, Caitlyn stood up.

"Vi." The name slipped her tongue. Seeing her right there brought her great relief but then she remembered that the cop hadn't bothered once while she was in hospital. She cleared her throat. "What are you doing here?" she asked.

"Shen messaged me that you decided to show up today and hoped that I could put some sense into your thick skull. The real question is, what are you doing here, Caitlyn? You were injured!"

"Didn't see you caring while I was at the hospital," Caitlyn scoffed, crossing her arms.

Vi was shocked but then she lowered her head. "You're right," she mumbled. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I came here. I should leave..."

Caitlyn suddenly panicked upon realizing what she had just said. "No, please don't! I-" she cursed under her breath. She rubbed her temples. "No, I am sorry. I shouldn't be taking my anger on you. You've done nothing wrong."

"That's debatable. But answer me this, what happened here?" Vi pointed around.

Caitlyn sighed. "I just found out something outrageous and I might or might not have snapped."

"That bad?"

"Cayton, my boss. He knew about Warwick and Pyke. Never said anything about it until now," Caitlyn explained with a frown. "He claimed that it wouldn't have changed anything. Asshole."

Vi was obviously shocked to hear Caitlyn swear, save for calling names at her boss. "And here I was thinking you were mad at me." She chuckled.

Caitlyn smiled softly. "Frankly, I'm not mad at you. Just... disappointed."

Vi looked ashamed. She awkwardly scratched the back of her neck. "I just wasn't sure if it was appropriate to show up after what happened," she uttered. "I mean, I did run away like a coward," she scoffed.

"You panicked. That's alright." Caitlyn moved closer to her, like she was being driven by an unknown force. "I understand," she assured Vi.

The PROJECT shook her head. "Please, don't do this to me," she whispered.

Caitlyn acted dumb. "Do what?"

"Don't act like you don't understand what I mean!" Vi exclaimed, stepping back.

"Are you scared of me?" Caitlyn asked, moving closer once again.

"I'm not scared of you. I'm afraid of what's happening between us," Vi confessed.

Caitlyn reached for her face. She had seen Vi do it countless times before so it shouldn't be so hard. She found the button and pressed. Vi's mask disappeared, revealing her eyes. The PROJECT looked surprised at first but didn't complain.

"I'm afraid too," Caitlyn admitted. "But not for the reasons you might think."

"You? Afraid? That's new."

"Well, despite what you might think of me, I'm still a human at the end of the day, which I only realized when I met you," Caitlyn admitted. "And I'm afraid because of the nature of my job. I'm usually gone for too long but it's not only that. It's... It's the possibility of meeting another version of someone I care about in another timeline. It has happened and... it was cruel. I swore to never let it happen again. It's hard."

Vi blinked, seemingly at a loss of words. "I... That's not what I expected to hear."

Caitlyn smiled sadly. "I told you. I'm scared but not for the reasons you have in mind."

"But Caitlyn, I am a machine!" Vi argued. "Do you understand what that means? I can't offer you what you need, I can't offer you a human touch. You don't want to be involved with someone like me. That's why I ran away. I tried to avoid this but I couldn't help it and then I panicked!"

"No," Caitlyn said in determination. She reached out her hand and cupped Vi's cheek, caressing it softly with her thumb. It was cold but she didn't mind it. "You're more human than any other person I've ever met in my life - even so more myself - and you proved that to me again and again."

Before Vi knew what was happening, Caitlyn closed the distance between them. The bliss she had experienced three days ago returned full force and she allowed herself to relax under the Pulsefire's touch. It didn't last long but it was enough to speed up both of their heartbeats. Caitlyn rested her forehead against Vi's.

"I promise you that once all this is over, we'll find a solution together," she whispered. She had spent all her life pushing people away but not this time. This time Caitlyn was willing to take the risk and make the leap.

"There's no guarantee that there's a solution to my condition," Vi objected.

"We are not alive, are we, if we don't take the odd risk?*" Caitlyn inquired with a smile.

Vi couldn't help but smile in turn. She couldn't believe what she was experiencing right now. Her heart swelled in happiness. "Thank you. No one would go the extra mile for me," she said.

"Why wouldn't they, if they knew what a wonderful person you are?"

"Are you talking about yourself now? So arrogant!"

They both chuckled. Caitlyn's eyes landed on the papers laying on the floor and she sighed. She let go of Vi and picked one up.

"I need to tidy this mess up," she realized.

"Then I will help you," Vi offered as she picked another paper up and handed it to Caitlyn with a grin.

Caitlyn grabbed it. "I might take on that offer." She smirked.


Riven had never been more tired in her life before, both physically and mentally. Every muscle of her body complained at every move and her head was killing her. When Caitlyn sent them home, she was more glad than she could ever admit openly. She was so exhausted that she didn't worry about nightmares interrupting her sleep.

Riven was right. Once she laid down on her bed, she fell into a dreamless slumber and didn't wake up until a long while later. When she did, it was dark outside. She blinked several times, trying to adjust her eyes. However, Riven realized she wasn't alone in her room; she screamed, trying to keep the covers around her body.

"Shh! Keep it down, will you?" Irelia shushed her.

"W-what are you doing here?!" Riven was fretting. "It's-" She looked at the clock on the bedside. "Four in the morning!"

"Nothing! I just wanted to talk to you but you were asleep so I decided to wait. I didn't know when you were going to get up!" Irelia raised her hands in defense.

"Couldn't that wait until the morning?" Riven asked breathlessly.

"You've been sleeping fifteen hours straight, it's not my fault! And can you please calm down?" Irelia almost begged her.

"Calm down? Calm down? You're here standing like nothing's going on and I'm here naked!"

Riven swore she saw Irelia blush furiously, something she never thought she'd witness. She mumbled something incoherent, something like "How should I know you sleep without any clothes on?" before walking out, utterly embarrassed.

"What the hell," Riven muttered. "I swear this must be some really bad dream, I can't explain it otherwise." She pinched herself but nothing happened. Sighing, she quickly got out of bed and looked for some clothes to wear.

Running a hand through her messy, white hair, Riven entered her living room to find Irelia waiting for her, looking outside her window. The scenery on its own was weird and created a mixture of feelings to Riven. On the one hand, she was glad to see Irelia again but on the other, the Pulsefire agent was supposed to arrest her and that alone complicated things for her. She cleared her throat and the PROJECT turned around to look at hair. She examined Riven, obviously relieved that she wasn't naked any longer and she wasn't embarrassed anymore.

"Would you like anything to drink? Coffee, perhaps?" Riven awkwardly asked.

Irelia shook her head. "No, thank you. I uh... don't really drink anything."

"Oh." Riven realized how stupid her question must have sounded and silently cursed herself. "Well uh... I'll make myself some coffee. Make yourself feel at home." Then she rushed to her kitchen.

Riven returned a few minutes later with a steaming cup of coffee in her hands. In the meantime, Irelia had awkwardly sat on her couch and waited for her completely still. Riven wasn't sure if she found this funny or scary. She sat down and took a sip off her coffee.

"What did you want to talk to me about?" she asked.

"Nothing in particular," Irelia responded. "I just wanted to check on you, see how you were doing."

Riven almost choked on her coffee. "Oh that's... really sweet of you," she managed to say. "I'm fine. Just a little bit tired is all."

Irelia practically glared at her. "You can't expect me to believe that you're fine after everything that happened."

She wasn't exactly wrong. With Caitlyn's injury and the reinforcements arriving, the situation had escalated way too quickly. Everything had been a blur. Riven could remember rivers of blood and lots of screaming, shouting, growling, shooting and clashing of blades before Pyke and Warwick managed to escape, living behind seven people dead and numerous others severely injured. She had been lucky enough to escape with just a couple of scratches and bruises. If Irelia and her team hadn't shown up, she wouldn't have been so lucky.

Riven shook her head. "Well, as fine as I would get. What happened? Did you get them?"

"No, they escaped. And don't change the subject," Irelia warned.

"Sometimes it feels like I'm trapped in a loophole," Riven admitted, taking another sip. "Trapped in the same sequence of events. Different places, different people, yet the same outcome. I lost seven colleagues that night."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pressure you," Irelia apologized, obviously ashamed.

"No, it's okay," Riven assured her. "I believe I need to talk about it even if it hurts to remember." She closed her eyes for a moment before reopening them. "I just can't believe I let it happen again."

"It wasn't your fault, Riven," Irelia reassured. "Pyke and Warwick are fairly strong. We couldn't even stop them. What were you going to do anyways?"

Riven pressed her lips into a thin line. "It doesn't matter," she argued through gritted teeth. "I should have been able to protect them. The only thing I did is to prove that I haven't learned anything from my mistakes."

"Riven-"

"It should have been me, not them," Riven continued. "If I had been able to stop Warwick at the very beginning, none of this would have happened, none of them would've-"

"Shut up!"

The agent blinked. "What?"

"Just shut up." Irelia rolled her eyes. "You're talking crazy. Just listen to me." She left the couch and sat next to Riven. Much to her surprise, she didn't crawl away. In fact, the Pulsefire remained perfectly still, looking at her with a shocked expression. "This is nonsense. You were prepared for an entirely different situation and you bumped into something none of you could have predicted. I bet even Caitlyn didn't see that coming. You did your best, you fought hard. But death is inevitable. If it was meant to happen, there was nothing you could have done."

Riven was at the verge of tears. She placed her cup onto the table. "I'm sick and tired of seeing people die, Irelia. People that I know and care about when I could have done something about it. I'm tired of disappointing everybody." She sniffled.

"Riven..."

"You know, this has happened again, once." Riven wiped some tears away. "A few years ago. Caitlyn had been furious at all of us, but I think especially at me. I wouldn't be surprised if she is mad again."

"Did she tell you that?"

"No. She's hard to read but I'm pretty sure-"

"Well, you're just making an assumption, a false assumption that is," Irelia cut her off.

Riven shook her head again. "I don't deserve this job or this life, for that matter. You should have killed me when you had the chance."

Irelia narrowed her eyes. "Even if I should have killed you, as you so wrongly claim, I wouldn't. And I most certainly won't, even if I do remember."

"I wouldn't be so sure if I were you..." said Riven sadly.

"Well, I don't care. But I'm swearing you right here, right now that if I do recall the events of Zaun, I shall not harm you in any way," Irelia promised, her eyes flashing.

"Why? Why are you doing this, Irelia?" Riven's upper lip trembled.

"Because you deserve something better than hating yourself," she deadpanned.

Riven galped. Was she trying to make her cry? Seemed like it. She tried to shift the conversation towards a different direction. "Have you been able to remember anything?"

Irelia shook her head no. "Every time I try, I get a terrible headache. I've decided to stop trying, let memories come on their own."

"Has it worked?"

"A bit, yes." Irelia nodded. "I got some random memories from my childhood but that's just it."

Riven paused for a moment. "I was thinking, maybe it's better if you don't remember Zaun at all."

Irelia was taken aback. "What do you mean?" she asked.

"It's rather painful." Riven eyed her. "And I wouldn't want anyone else to go through the same torture as me. Perhaps you're lucky to have lost your memory of that event."

"But what about forgiving you?"

Riven chuckled humorlessly. "I wouldn't go as far as putting someone through pain just to get my forgiveness."

The darkness remained outside. The sun wouldn't rise until an hour later at least. Irelia looked outside. It was time to leave if she wanted to get back safely.

"You're a good person Riven, even if you don't see it," she said as she stood up. "Perhaps it's time you gave yourself a little bit more credit."

"Are you leaving?" The Pulsefire asked, standing up herself.

"I ought to if I want to get back before sunrise," Irelia explained. There was a not so awkward silence between the two of them. "I can come again one night - only if you want me to, of course."

"Isn't that dangerous? I wouldn't want you to risk your head for me."

"I wouldn't mind, actually," Irelia admitted, a small smile playing on her lips. "But I wouldn't want to put you into a difficult situation. You're supposed to arrest me."

"That is never going to happen even if I seriously tried to." Riven laughed. "I mean, I could trick you into coming again here and trap you but-"

"-but you aren't going to since you're so very fond of me." Irelia smirked.

Riven felt her cheeks warm a bit. "Yes."

Irelia approached the nearest window and opened it. Riven understood what she was about to do a second earlier.

"Don't tell me you climbed all the way here!" she exclaimed.

"Why? Do you think it's impossible?" Irelia inquired.

"No, just... Nevermind." Riven shook her head. "Just before you go, I have a question."

"Sure, ask away."

"There's someone that has been bothering me." Riven frowned. "That night, I saw Vayne and Fiora with you. Well, not too surprised about Vayne but Fiora? Isn't she supposed to be with the other PROJECTS?"

"As far as I'm concerned, they've been separated for a while now," Irelia responded.

"And you wouldn't happen to know where they currently are."

"No."

"But of course, even if you did, you wouldn't tell me. Sorry, that was a stupid question."

"You ought to ask," said Irelia with a reassuring smile. "Goodbye Riven. Take care of yourself."

"You too, Irelia. Be careful out there."

"Out there should be careful of me," Irelia said before disappearing out of the window. Riven could swear she saw her winking at her.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It was later that day when Vi left the TPA headquarters. The sun headed towards the west and slowly disappeared, painting Piltover in golden colours and the stars slowly taking his place. The PROJECT left the huge building behind with mixed feelings. She wanted to be happy about this development of events but on the other hand she went through a guilt trip because Vi knew this wouldn't last long, despite her best efforts. This was all fake, in the sense that Caitlyn wasn't aware where Vi's loyalty laid. Vi felt bad for dragging her into all this, knowing very well that they were doomed to be enemies in the end. This wouldn't end well, she just knew it. However, she was obliged to go along with it, otherwise her cover would be blown.

Not that Vi didn't reciprocate Caitlyn's feelings, no. But Vi liked to call herself a realist, and realistically speaking, they could have never worked, despite what the agent said. Not only because of how they were destined to be in opposing groups but also because of what Vi had chosen to be. It just wasn't meant to be from the beginning. Vi was well aware of that but this didn't make it any less painful.

However, she had more responsibilities except for playing double agent. For so long she only had to take care of herself and herself only. Now that Jinx was alive, everything was different. That's where she was headed now. She always knew where to find them, despite the fact that they changed hiding places very often for safety reasons. She had demanded this. Irelia hadn't been too happy about it but Vayne had stepped in and promised to send her every time their new location every time so Vi could go and see her sister.

The most surprising thing about Jinx was that she hadn't changed that much, as long as Vi could recall. She was always way too excited and energetic but she could turn psycho in a blink of the eye. At first, she had been suspicious of Vi but as time passed, Jinx had been more fond of spending time with a sister that she couldn't remember. She hadn't been shocked to find out that her former enemy was, in fact, her sister; she was mostly endlessly intrigued but that didn't erase her cautiousness. Although she always enjoyed the stories Vi narrated when they were younger and free - even if she couldn't remember any of the stories the older sister told her. Jinx thought this was fun. And it was also an odd way to keep her at check. Vi wasn't entirely sure how Irelia had managed to do it for so long but only because of that she gave the other PROJECT some extra credit.

"If you want to protect people so badly, explain your sister."

Pyke's voice ringed in her head every once in a while. Vi realized that he had a point but she couldn't hold Jinx accountable for everything she did, at least not always. Being the way she was, Jinx wasn't able to control it, not even now. Vi wasn't sure if Pyke was any different than her sister but she knew perfectly well that he was way more dangerous.

Until Vi arrived at the hiding place - an old basement - the sun had set and everything was dark, which allowed her to access the place easier. Her appearance wasn't much of a surprise to anyone when she showed up. Vi shut the door carefully behind her and the room was swallowed by darkness once again. There was Akali at her usual corner, playing around with one of her knives, Jinx sat at a pile of old, dirty mattresses swinging her legs, Vayne on the floor looking broody as always and Fiora next to her, laying her back on the wall, arms crossed. Something was missing.

"Where's Irelia?" Vi asked.

"Went out. Didn't say where," Akali responded, not bothering looking at her.

"I swear she's trying to get as caught the way she's acting so carelessly." Vayne huffed.

"Sounds like someone else I know," Fiora snickered, winning a glare from the Night Hunter. In Vi's eyes, they were the most paradoxical duo to exist, but deeply she was glad Vayne had gotten herself a friend that could tolerate her bullshit.

"I'm pretty sure she had a really good reason to risk her head like that." Vi shrugged. Ultimately, that was the least of her concerns. She approached Jinx, who regarded her curiously, like she was some sort of interesting species that needed to be explored and fully documented. "Hello, Jinx," she greeted her. "How are you today?"

"I'm bored out of my mind!" the younger sister complained. "I wish we could go out and blow some things up!"

"Of course you do." Vi chuckled, shaking her head.

"The day before yesterday was fun though," Jinx admitted. "So I guess there's no room for complaining!"

Vi smiled. "That's the spirit! Since you're bored, would you like to hear a story?"

"Yes!" Jinx exclaimed in excitement. "But please, a new story, not the old ones."

"Fine. Just give me a second to think," said Vi before climbing up next to Jinx. The truth was she had narrated most part of their childhood. She needed to find a more exclusive memory of them, something a little bit more special.

"Alright, I think I got something," said Vi after a while. "We were fairly young - perhaps nine and seven respectively - and per usual, I was looking for trouble." She chuckled. "Well, not really, but I needed to find some money in order to secure that day's food supplies. I targeted one of the chemical lords, hoping that he had enough money on him. However, it had been stupid to try and rob one of them but I wasn't aware of that - yet. When I approached him to mug him, I got reckless and he caught me. In Zaun there's no such thing as police and justice, at least not how it is developed in Piltover. He would have killed me on spot just to prove a point if it hadn't been for you." Vi smiled. "You appeared out of nowhere, stole his money and ran away. He was so surprised! It gave me the opportunity to escape myself and ran after you. We had dinner three days straight because of you!"

"Wow!" Jinx swung her legs harder. "This is such a cool story!"

"I don't understand one thing," Akali interfered, which wasn't really her usual thing to do. "What about your parents? Couldn't they feed you?"

Vi shook her head. "We're orphans. I can't recall them even if I'm the eldest. As long as I remember us, it has always been just me and Jinx."

"Oh..."

"What brought you to Piltover then?" Vayne asked out of nowhere.

"That's a long story." Vi sighed.

"We've got a lot of time to spare," the hunter deadpanned.

"I'd rather not talk about it..."

"Come on!" Jinx pleaded. "Pretty please?"

"Fine!" Vi retreated. "But just a warning, it's definitely not a happy story." Maybe it was for the best if Jinx knew what had happened. Perhaps it would help her remember, perhaps it wouldn't. But she ought to know. "There is absolutely no way you can survive in Zaun on your own. Everyone knows that. In order to keep myself and my sister alive, I joined one of the hundreds of gangs that exist and basically rule the city. They took us in, fed us. In return, we had to work for them. I made a deal with them to leave Jinx out of it. I didn't want a nine year old participating in gang activities."

"But you didn't have a problem with an eleven year old robbing and killing," Fiora commented.

"Sacrifices needed to be made and Jinx didn't need to make any if I had a say in it," Vi responded. "Although, they found another way of utilizing her anyway. While I worked out on the fields, Jinx designed new weapons for them, more efficient than the ones they used. She doesn't look like it but she is a prodigy and a genius. Our boss was very pleased with both of us. And somehow we survived."

»I was glad Jinx was doing something she enjoyed, away from the monstrosities I saw every day on the street. But I was wrong. I'm not entirely sure what she saw in the gang's lab but it changed her forever and I wasn't even there to realize it," Vi's voice was filled with regret. "I assume they made chemical tests on humans and the results were probably ugly. I doubt they tested anything on her but she saw everything. That made her slowly drift away - until one day she snapped. The gang leader was highly impressed. Meanwhile, I was highly concerned. But he didn't listen to me. He wanted to use Jinx as a weapon to terrorize other gangs and get to the top."

»I didn't like it. I knew Jinx needed professional help that couldn't be found in Zaun. However, we couldn't just leave the gang. Eventually though, the right opportunity arose."

»We've planned a big robbery in a mine, just outside Zaun. However, things didn't get according to plan. Our plan ended up trapping the miners inside, leaving them to die a miserable death just because a bunch of gangsters decided to rob them that day. I could have ran away with my gang but I stayed behind. I don't know, I just couldn't leave those miners to die." Vi shook her head. "I don't know what exactly happened to me then. I usually wouldn't think twice about something like that. This time was different though. Maybe because the miners were completely innocent? I have no clue, perhaps I'll never know."

»There was plenty of unused mining machinery around the place. I picked some of it and improvised. That's when my first gauntlets were born." Vi smiled fondly at the memory before her smile turned into a frown again. "Once I got all the miners out, the realization hit me; we had to leave Zaun as soon as possible. I was a traitor and Jinx was probably going to pay the price for my betrayal. I had two choices; either leave immediately for Piltover or get back to get her. It was extremely dangerous, but I chose the second. I returned back to what we called "home" - just an apartment in a block of flats that belonged to our leader - and announced to her that we were leaving, ordering her to pack a few things. We were gone in less than an hour. I didn't tell her what happened until we reached Piltover."

»That period must have been the hardest of our lives. I couldn't get a stable job and there were days that we had to live through stealing again. We lived in the streets for a really long time but it was certainly better than the gang life. At least we were free now. A year and a half later, I managed to get into the police academy and two years later I finally had gotten myself a job. We found a place to stay and I got Jinx the professional help she needed."

"But in the meantime, what did you do? I'm sure she wasn't always... calm." Akali asked.

"I had to restrict her myself." Vi shook her head. "It hasn't always been easy. But after starting taking medication, she improved a lot. Less incidents, more opportunities for her to live her life. Until the "accident". She forgot to take her pills and I was all day at work so I hadn't been there with her. The rest is history."

Vi ended their story with a heavy heart. This was the very first time she had ever shared it with anyone. Jinx was quiet besides her, which was unusual on its own. Maybe she realized that Vi hadn't been lying when she had said that it wouldn't be a happy story. They had been repeatedly hit by life, one moment after another, never getting a break. Even now they were trapped into a situation they never asked for.

"Then, if Jinx is alive, who did you bury, Vi?" Fiora asked quietly.

"Like hell if I knew!" Vi growled. "A replica, probably. If what Ezreal saw is even remotely true, PROJECT Inc. is a master at cloning. I wouldn't be surprised."

"That's just revolting." Fiora grimaced.

"Revolting is just one word to describe it," Vayne commented, shaking her head.

"I don't get it," Akali piped in again. This was the first time Vi ever saw her invested in any kind of conversation. "The company faked your sister's death. Why did you become a PROJECT?"

Vi chuckled. "That's a story Vayne should tell us."

The hunter rolled her eyes. "Sure, whatever. I was keeping an eye out for Jhin. I knew he was up to something. Then I found out about the ATLA gauntlets, the ones Vi is currently wearing." Vayne pointed at the brawler. "It was a secret project from a scientist working for PROJECT Inc. However, he didn't want them to know about it, apparently. But sooner or later they found out about it so they sent Jhin to recover the gauntlets for the company. Then they were going to approach Vi. They would make her like us and I wasn't going to just let it happen."

»The plan was to eliminate Jhin and steal the gauntlets, perhaps destroy them. But I miscalculated. The gauntlets were stored in a storage so I went there before Jhin arrived and waited. But it was that night when Vi decided to show up."

Vi shrugged. "There were some reports of mysterious activity in the area so I had to check it out."

"This was the worst timing ever. I tried to scare Vi off but instead she tried to arrest me." Vayne continued. "What was it for? Oh, yes. "Unauthorized equipment" if I recall correctly."

Vi chuckled. "Oh, yes. I really did that."

"Yes, you really thought you could handcuff me." Vayne smirked but then the smile disappeared from her lips. "Then Jhin appeared. It was time for his "performance". I wish I could claim I gave him what he deserved but... At least, the whole incident helped me find a solution to the whole gauntlet issue. Upon seeing Vi fight, I reconsidered. There was no point in destroying the ATLA gauntlets since the PROJECT corporation could easily retrieve the blueprints and just rebuild them. So I advised Vi to take them - which she did."

"So let me get this straight," said Akali. "Vi took the gauntlets and she went PROJECT just like that? No augmentation involved whatsoever?"

"No, but that's exactly what made it even more dangerous. And painful." Vi winced. "At least I had my memories intact so that's something. I also almost lost my job. Was it worth it? Perhaps. Only time will tell that."

Akali remained silent for a bit, eyeing Vi carefully, attempting to understand her way of thinking. "You had already been through so many difficulties in your life yet you chose to be a part of this. I... it just doesn't make any sense to me."

"The thing is, we're just a part of this world. If each of us doesn't put the minimum effort to protect it, then it's over," said Vi.

"You're so different Vi. I wish I could understand."

"Why not?" Vi inquired, jumping off the mattress. "Why can't you? You and I, we aren't any different. We're just victims of a greatest conspiracy that made us look at ourselves as nothing but mere machines and monsters. At the end of the day, we're just humans."

"Humans? Us?" Akali asked in disbelief.

"Yes, Akali." Vi nodded. "Trust me, I used to think exactly like you do. I believed that I worthed nothing else but to be treated like a piece of trash. But I met some people that made me feel part of something, I saw Vayne warming up to someone, that someone being someone she hated, as paradoxical as it sounded. When I saw Jinx alive, I felt a pain that I thought I would never be able to feel. And I just knew that I wasn't just a machine." She offered a hand to Jinx who took it and helped her down. "She might not remember me but she knows deeply in her heart, we both do, that we have a bond stronger than anything else out there. Am I right, Jinx?" Vi looked over at her hopefully.

This was one of the rare times that Jinx looked completely serious. "Yes," she deadpanned. "It doesn't matter if I don't have any recollection of Vi, it doesn't change the fact that she's my sister. They can destroy our bodies and build them up again from the very beginning but that fact will never change. No one will ever be able to control a human soul."

Vi's heart warmed. This wasn't just Jinx agreeing with her. It was an action that showed that her sister trusted her.

"The moment you stop seeing yourself as a machine, the moment you'll understand," Vi added. "Just think about it. Even Pyke is driven by sentiment. Machines don't feel but we do."

Akali was at a loss of words. She blinked. She looked down at her very own hands.

"I don't expect you to understand straight away. Just think about it, okay?" Vi advised. "I should go. It's getting really late."

"Be careful out there," Jinx said.

"I always am." Vi waved before leaving the basement.

Silence fell upon them. This was the impact of Vi's words. The only reason why she was different was because she had figured it out. The truth of their nature. So simple yet so difficult to wrap one's mind around it.

"You should rest," Vayne broke the silence as she stood up. "I'll keep watch."

Akali nodded. This was the first time I saw her so confused. The assassin had always been determined, no doubts involved. She didn't blame her though. Even if she didn't show it, she found herself in the exact same position. Jinx jumped up on the mattresses and laid down, facing the ceiling. Vayne couldn't even imagine what she was feeling. Meanwhile, Fiora remained seated next to her, stretching her legs on the floor while laying her back on the wall. She closed her eyes. She seemed so peaceful to Vayne, almost like with no other care in the world.

"Why are you still here?" Vayne kept wondering. She couldn't understand it. Vi's little speech had shed some light on her inquiry. Fiora was there by choice. The real question was what had led her to make such a choice. Only thing Vayne did was constantly put her in danger, insult her and get on the dueler's nerves with her stubbornness. So why? Vi hadn't been wrong when she claimed that Vayne had warmed up to Fiora - another thing she couldn't quite understand - and the hunter didn't want anything to happen to Fiora because of her, not in a million years. As much as she hated to admit it, Fiora belonged with Ashe and G/NETIC, not stuck with her in a dark basement.

Hours passed. Irelia didn't show up. Vayne started getting worried, wondering if she had indeed got captured and now they were just awaiting for their doom in the dark. Perhaps they should look for her but this was dangerous on its own. She shook her head. Irelia wasn't that stupid nor easy to catch. And if something had occurred, she would have at least tried to notify them. Before she could realize it, Vayne slipped down on the floor next to a sleeping Fiora. She looked at her sleeping form, the questions from before coming back at her. Fiora's head fell sleeplessly to the side, resting on Vayne's shoulder. She didn't push her away.

Maybe Vi was right. Right now there were many things she couldn't understand but one day she probably would. But maybe she didn't need to because there were some things that didn't need any explanation. Vayne moved closer to Fiora. Her life was in turmoil but right now she was at peace. 

 

Chapter Text

Every problem had a solution. This was the rule Caitlyn went by for years now. And she was determined to find a solution for the Ezreal issue once and for all. 

The main problem wasn't the boy himself but his protectors. Caitlyn realized that she had been playing this game all wrong; there was no way she could come victorious against a battle with the PROJECTS and she still wasn't entirely sure why she had chosen that approach. But now that she was certain that the PROJECT corporation couldn't be trusted, she wasn't going to bother with them. It was their problem and not hers any longer. They were just obstacles between her and her goal. What she needed to find out was how to overcome such obstacles, which required the right information, information that the company wouldn't provide. Therefore, Caitlyn needed to get what she needed from somebody else, someone who was familiar with the PROJECT technology. 

She called Vi, asking to meet near the TPA headquarters. Caitlyn didn't specify why. When Vi arrived at the spot, the first thing she did was ask her where they were going. Caitlyn had instructed her to get into the uber, not answering her persistent questions. They drove away from the headquarters, in a location that they had never been before. Caitlyn exited the vehicle in a rush, moving towards the nearest alley. Vi followed closely behind, obviously very annoyed with the agent's behavior. 

"Will you at least tell me where we're going before we proceed into a labyrinth of alleyways?" she asked again. 

"Everything in their tight time, Vi. Show me some faith here," was Caitlyn's response. 

Vi didn't ask her again as she followed her around. It seemed like Caitlyn knew exactly where she was going with every turn she took. After a while, the alley ended and the road appeared in front of them. Caitlyn retrieved her rifle and turned it into a motorcycle before climbing on it. 

"Come on." She motioned at the PROJECT. 

Vi had enough. "Not until you tell me exactly where we are going." She crossed her arms across her chest. 

"Fine, I guess there's no point in hiding it from you now." Caitlyn shrugged. "We're going to meet the scientist that invented the PROJECT technology. His name is Viktor. I hope he could give us some answers regarding his creation, maybe provide a solution to your little problem."

"You could have just told me this from the beginning, y'know." Vi climbed onto Caitlyn's bike. "What's with all the secrecy anyways?"

"My boss wouldn't be too happy about this. Plus, I don't want to get the others involved, not yet at least," Caitlyn responded. "Hold on tight," she warned. 

They navigated through the dark streets, slowly but steadily leaving the city behind them. From her research, Caitlyn knew that Viktor had his laboratory located somewhere more isolated, away from the regular commotion of Piltover. He wasn't very sociable - at least that's one thing they had in common. He prefered to work alone. Which made it even more curious to why he had chosen to work for PROJECT Inc. He was the only one who could provide them with those answers. 

Eventually, they arrived at the laboratory, a building located in a lonely plot with no other structures in the surrounding area. It felt odd standing there, like a mushroom that had popped up from the ground after a heavy rain. The area was unnaturally quiet, giving the impression that it wasn't even located in Piltover. Caitlyn pulled over on the side of the road and both her and Vi climbed off the motorcycle, which in the next moment turned back into a rifle and Caitlyn threw it over her shoulder. There was a high metal fence surrounding the plot with no other access to the lab. The entrance seemed to be locked too. Cameras were installed all around the fence. Nothing went in or out without being noticed.

"So, what do we do?" Vi questioned. 

"We ring the bell and hope someone answers," Caitlyn replied as she approached the doorbell that was installed near the entrance. There was another camera aimed straight at them. She rang it without hesitation. For a little bit, nothing happened but then the entrance unlocked, giving them access. 

"Is it too bad that I didn't expect the door to open?" Vi inquired, seemingly surprised. 

"Come on." Caitlyn motioned for her to follow. 

The entrance to the laboratory slid open with a hiss when they came close to it. Once they stepped inside, it shut close once again. Caitlyn and Vi found themselves inside one of the most full equipped labs they had ever had the luck to visit. Machines and hextech devices flashing lights and making weird noises, blueprints and unfinished inventions laying on the tables, forgotten probably  or left for some other time, computers projecting data, chemicals brewing in a corner, everything that a scientist dreamed of was right there. Vi whistled, obviously mildly impressed with the sight before her. What she would give to have access to so many toys! Even Caitlyn seemed somewhat keen on all the things surrounding her. 

"Professor Viktor?" she called. 

"Back here," a voice came, sending chills to both of them. There was something off about his voice, something almost unnatural but they could be wrong. 

They had to go around a couple of tables before they could Viktor on the back of his laboratory, tinkering with one of his inventions. When he heard them approach, he turned to look at them. Vi almost lost it; his face was a metal mask and there was a third hand protruding off his back. His arms were also metallic. He didn't seem humane at all. 

"Welcome. My apologies for the mess. I don't think it's ever truly been tidy around here," he apologized as he placed his device in a drawer to finish it off later. Despite his appearance, he still had some manners. "What can I do for you two? I don't usually have visitors."

"I'm agent Pulsefire Caitlyn and this is my partner, Vi," Caitlyn introduced them to him. " We have a couple of questions for you."

Viktor raised a hand. "I know who you are." He approached Vi carefully, his eyes glowing. "May I?"

"Uh… sure." Vi was unsure of what he wanted to do with her but he just examined her, caressing his fingers across her metallic body. 

Caitlyn cleared her throat. "We would like to ask you some questions regarding the PROJECT technology."

Viktor snapped his head at her. "PROJECT, you say? Oh, you just piqued my interest. Please, go ahead."

"You developed this technology, if I'm not mistaken," Caitlyn said as she followed Viktor with her eyes while he moved. She wasn't particularly fond of how he treated Vi, like an object to be observed. "Then you sold it to PROJECT Inc."

"Sold?" Viktor repeated, coming to a halt besides Vi. "No, there's a misunderstanding here. I would never give them access to such a technology. The right term would be that this technology was taken from me."

"Do you mean stolen?" Vi asked. 

Viktor shook his head. "No. I mean taken as if one day they walked into my laboratory and took it away, made me sign a couple of papers so it would look legal. That's why I don't have a lot of visitors anymore." He sighed and continued to examine Vi. "Not that I ever had in the first place," he admitted quietly. 

"Were you expecting this?" Caitlyn questioned. 

"I had my suspicions but I didn't expect they would be so… bold about it. I expect that they'd get me out of the way first, if you know what I mean." Viktor ran his hands over Vi's shoulders towards her gauntlets. "They had been asking me repeatedly and so insistently to sell them the technology. I always declined, claiming that it wasn't finished yet. They didn't listen." He took a step back, staring at Vi. "Here's the result."

"So let me get this straight," said Caitlyn. "They took away a technology that was still under development… Why?"

If there were eyeballs inside his eyes, Viktor would probably roll them. "Because they were impatient and greedy. And I quote Mr McCarthy, “it is developed enough, professor. I don't see why we should utilize it now”. I wasn't that saddened when I found out he passed away in such a way." He shook his head. "There were some glitches I needed to fix first before I could do anything with that technology. Glitches that proved to be very important to how things developed eventually."

"What were you even planning on doing with such a technology anyway?" Vi inquired. 

Viktor remained silent for a bit. It seemed like he was contemplating, perhaps debating if he should tell them or not. Caitlyn didn't like that. He probably wasn't as innocent as they thought he'd be. Whoever is involved with PROJECT is never truly not guilty, she had concluded.  Viktor sighed, looking away from them. 

"If any of you has ever bothered to study the history of our world - not just our land's - then you'd realize that it's plagued with nonsense wars to satisfy the greed of unworthy leaders. Billions of people slaughtered in the name of glory. Perhaps you're familiar with such events, Pulsefire Caitlyn. Your job requires a lot of time traveling, doesn't it?"

Caitlyn nodded. He wasn't exactly wrong. She had first hand experience with those events. If it was hard learning about them, imagine how much harder it probably was living them. 

"But look! Time-travelling!" He exclaimed suddenly, opening his arms to emphasize. "Look what the human mind is capable of! Look what humans can do! They can create such magnificent and spectacular things. They can make their lives so much easier, so much better! That's why humanity is so different from the rest of the species around Runeterra; because it had the ability to think, to build up great civilizations!" He slowly lowered his arms. "However, humans are parasites for their own kind. Their greed for power is their doom. It always has been. There have always been unworthy leaders or in the rare cases that there's someone who's capable of ruling, they're usually wiped out by a sort of disease we haven't yet been able to cure."

»What I wanted to do was create a new era of humans, rid off their weaknesses; emotions and mortality. I could also make them smarter, stronger, easier to adapt even under the hardest situations, able to defeat any kind of threat against their kind. Humans united would create the One Civilization that would live forever without any errors. The worthy ones would lead and the rest would follow without complaining. Our future as a kind would be bright and we would be immortal!"

The more he talked, the more paranoid he seemed to Caitlyn. Vi's expression showed her that she was thinking the exact same thing. 

"Those glitches you mentioned," Caitlyn interrupted his monologue. "What were they? Do you know?"

Viktor made a sound that resembled a growl. "The most important part of the whole project; emotions. I needed to find a way to remove them. If they had let me-"

"Are you saying that you could possibly tame a human soul?" Caitlyn cut him off again. "Because erasing emotions from a human brain would be just a temporary solution. The core of your problem is the soul."

"I would be able to!" He claimed. "I would make the perfect humans but those idiots…" He looked away momentarily before turning his head back at Caitlyn. "They wanted to use the PROJECT technology as a weapon. After all, it's easier to control someone's mind. But the soul. I needed more time-"

"But humans without their soul would be no humans at all," Caitlyn deadpanned. "I'm sorry but what you were going to create would be anything but humans."

"You don't understand, you don't see the bigger picture!" Viktor shouted. "You're a fool if you believe that humans need their emotions to be humans! What separates us from other species is our ability to speak and think, not the emotions!"

"What separates us from other species is that we are able to express those feelings and the fact that we all have a different personality. This is what makes each of us unique and that's why not all humans are the same!" Caitlyn shouted back. 

In the meantime, Vi watched in utter shock. She had never seen Caitlyn shout as long as she knew her. It was kind of hot if she wanted to be honest. But this was not the only reason why she was so shocked. The subject of discussion threw her off. Viktor had a point and his intentions were good but he perceived this the wrong way. Somehow, she was glad that the PROJECT corporation had taken away the technology before he could finish it off. 

Viktor sighed. "There's no point in fighting. After all, none of this is going to happen, at least not soon enough. Do you have any other questions?"

Caitlyn took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. "Well, yes. We're working on a case in which some PROJECT traces are involved. I would like to know if it would be possible for a human to outsmart them."

Vi looked at her. Is this why they came here? What was Caitlyn thinking of doing? She needed to find out soon. 

"Under other circumstances, I'd say no. But it's different now. Those initials have rebelled, as predicted because I was unable to perfect this technology. So yes, I'd say you would. They aren't as special as you'd think they are. It's just that they're physically superior to you."

Caitlyn nodded. "Thank you. There's one last thing I would like to know."

"Sure, ask away."

"Is it possible to remove their armor? Like, at all?"

Viktor gazed at her. "Well, about that…" he paused. "You need to know that before the PROJECT corporation began with this project, they were a small company called G/NETIC that specialized in cloning, therefore they didn't know how to implement the technology to their subjects so I gave them a hand. While at it, I added a feature that didn't exist originally. I thought that I could help the initials to hide, blend in with the rest of the humans so they couldn't be used as weapons from those fools."

Caitlyn and Vi shared a look. This was an unexpected turn of events. None of them believed they'd found a solution this easily - or so it seemed. They wouldn't know until they tried it. But first, Caitlyn needed to ask something else. 

"If they were a small company, how did they find the funds for such a project?"

"You'd be surprised what sort of people are interested in such activities. Not just businessmen. Even the underworld is willing to invest in new technologies. Have you ever heard of Norman Rose? He has made quite the investments in this particular field," was Viktor's response. 

Caitlyn had never heard of him before but that didn't apply to Vi. "He's one of the most dangerous Godfathers in the city," the cop said. "He's been under the police's randar for a while now but he cannot be touched."

"See? This is what I mean. Anyways. Would you like me to demonstrate the application I secretly added to the PROJECT initials?" Viktor inquired, tilting his head to the side. 

There was a prolonged silence. This would change everything and would turn around the tables. "Sure," Vi spoke eventually. 

Viktor nodded and approached her. Before he could do anything, he examined her again. Vi was uneasy. "A pity. You'd be so great," he muttered to himself before pressing his palm against the triangle that glowed onto Vi's chest. 

Suddenly, the armor started withdrawing back to the triangle, slowly revealing Vi's body beneath it. She looked in awe as her skin re-appeared after months. She thought she'd never see it again as long as she lived. Thankfully, she wasn't naked; the clothes she wore the night she installed the ATLA gauntlets were still there, maintained just like her body. 

"Your body doesn't work like the rest of the humans," Viktor explained. "You don't need to eat nor sleep. But on the exterior, you look just like any other human. If you want to wear your armor again, you just press the PROJECT triangle. Only you and I can activate it. Use it wisely," he advised before walking away. "However, remember this. You can never incarnate back to what you used to be. Your body will be like that forever."

Vi looked over at Caitlyn who was smiling! Smiling! What more surprises did this day behold for her? Despite his warning, Vi couldn't care less. She felt free. "Thank you," she whispered. 

"No need to thank me." Viktor waved her off. He had already picked another of his inventions and had started trying to fix it. He looked at them one more time. "Be careful out there. This company is willing to go the extra mile just to get what they want. And it might be able to outsmart the PROJECT initials but that doesn't mean that it's going to be an easy thing to do. Don't underestimate them. Ever. They are not perfect but they're still strong. Who knows, maybe sentiment makes them even more dangerous."

"Thank you, professor," Caitlyn thanked him again before motioning at Vi to leave. Viktor didn't look at them as they helped themselves out. He continued tinkering with his device. Only when the door of his lady was shut behind, he stopped momentarily. 

"Peculiar…" he whispered to himself. 

Caitlyn and Vi walked away from Viktor's lab, feeling completely numb. When they were far away enough, Vi suddenly came to a halt. Caitlyn stopped beside her. 

"What's wrong?" she asked. 

"Nothing." Vi shook her head. She looked at Caitlyn. "You were right. Bloody hell, you were right!" The excitement ran through her as she picked Caitlyn up and spun her around, both laughing like teenagers, before bringing their lips together in a fierce kiss. "Holy shit, you were right," Vi mumbled against Caitlyn's lips. 

"Well, I don't want to say that I told you so, but I told you so." Caitlyn grinned once Vi put her down. 

Vi rolled her eyes playfully. "Alright, Miss-Know-It-All. We get it. Get over yourself."

"Well, I wish I could stay here and brag all day long but I'm afraid we've got some business to attend to," said Caitlyn as she retrieved her rifle and turned it into a motorcycle once again. 

Vi sighed. "You're right, we should get going. Oh, just wait a second. We don't want your friends freaking now, do we?" She grinned as she pressed the PROJECT triangle and her armor re-appeared in less than a minute. "If all this shit was installed in this godforsaken triangle, no wonder why it hurt so much." Vi winced at the memory. 

"I'm sorry that you had to go through this." Caitlyn frowned. 

"Don't be sorry for something that doesn't change." Vi waved her off. "Come on, let's go."

A while later, they were pulling over outside the TPA headquarters and rushing back to Caitlyn's and her team's office where they awaited for them. 

"Where have you been?" Shen asked once they showed up. 

"I'll tell you in a second." Caitlyn placed her rifle onto a table. "You'll need to sit for this."

"Caitlyn, what's going on?" Riven asked, taking a seat around the meeting table. 

Caitlyn glanced at Vi before she started explaining where they had both been and why they had left without any word. It was time that they all knew the truth. Caitlyn also explained what had gone through between her and her boss as well as the Jhin incident back at the Runeteran museum all those months ago. The only thing she didn't mention was Vi's armor. This was more personal information and didn't contribute anything to their task at hand. 

"Why are you telling us all of this now?" Twisted Fate asked once she was done. 

"Because I wasn't allowed to tell you any of this. I was simply trying to protect you. But it doesn't matter anymore. And maybe because it's time I was honest with you all." Caitlyn shook her head. "I hope that you can forgive me."

Everyone fell into deep silence. Caitlyn didn't blame them; it came like a shocker for them to know that their partner kept secrets from them all this time. 

"It's alright, Caitlyn. We understand," it was Shen that spoke first. "You simply did what you thought was best. We appreciate your honesty."

"Well, I'm not entirely sure if you speak for everyone here," Caitlyn deadpanned. 

Riven grinned. "Don't be silly, Caitlyn. That's not the worst thing you've ever done to us. Am I right, Tobias?"

"Sure." He nodded. 

Caitlyn looked embarrassed. "You'll never let that one go, will you?"

"Nope. Months stuck doing paperwork? How can that be forgotten?" Riven joked. "But seriously, what are we doing now? What's the plan?"

"First off, we need to keep in mind that we can't trust the PROJECT corporation, Cayton nor anyone else here for that matter," Caitlyn explained. "The problems started when they wanted us to get involved in finding the PROJECT deviants while our goal was something else entirely."

"Exactly," Vi agreed. "The point was to arrest Ezreal, not be used as pawns from the company."

"Thank you, Vi," Caitlyn thanked her. "We should focus on finding and arresting Ezreal."

"But aren't the PROJECT initials part of the problem?" Twisted Fate asked. "We can't just ignore them."

"You're right, Tobias. No, we can't. But we don't need to fight them either. We all saw where that led us. There's no point in that."

"So, what do you suggest then?" Shen questioned. 

"The PROJECTS are just obstacles we need to overcome. We don't need to fight them and we don't need to capture them either. That is not our business," Caitlyn stated matter-of-factly. 

"Isn't it though since the PROJECT corporation was willing to help catch Ezreal?" Riven asked, puzzled. 

"No, Riven," Vi responded. "They just wanted to use us in order to get what they wanted. They couldn't care less if we die or live, that much was proved. I didn't expect that attitude from your boss though." She shook her head. "

"With a good plan and with the right preparation, we can succeed," Caitlyn claimed. "Viktor said it himself that those initials aren't perfect and that they're only physically superior to us."

"In other words, you say that we should try and outsmart them," Shen spoke. 

"Yes, that's exactly what I mean."

"It's not impossible with Caitlyn on our side!" Riven exclaimed. 

Caitlyn smiled softly. "No, Riven. This is something we're going to do together. Now, I believe that the first step is locating them once again."

"This should take a while." Twisted Fate sighed. 

"It doesn't really matter. Good work takes time." Caitlyn shrugged. "Do we all agree to this approach?"

"We don't have much to lose, do we?" Riven asked. "I'm in!" She declared. 

"I'm in too. I think that goes without question," said Shen in his turn. 

Tobias rolled his eyes. "It's not like I have a choice, do I?"

"Nope, not really." Vi grinned. "Let's do this then!" she exclaimed. 

~•~•~•~•~

It was days later when Shen found himself walking in the dark as droplets fell onto him, moistening his dark hair. He paid no attention to that. It had been a busy day - pretty much like the previous days, maybe weeks even - but surprisingly enough he wasn't that tired, until not physically. 

From the day that Caitlyn had spoken to them, he felt the guilt sitting on his throat. He hadn't spoken about meeting Akali to any of them. It was supposed to remain a secret. But it affected him seeing Caitlyn being honest with the group. 

Plus, it didn't help that Akali kept swirling in his mind. He would think of her often as she suddenly appeared in his thoughts. This had started a while ago, the first time he saw her alive and breathing after all of those years. It had upset him, of course. But if anything, Shen was really good at hiding his emotions. This hadn't been any different. 

He wasn't surprised that she hadn't come to find him as he asked either. Akali had always been his most rebellious student back in the day. That's why she took her own path, a decision he had accepted. Had he known she'd get tortured and manipulated like that, he wouldn't have let her leave. But how could he even know? Back in the day, he was a mere teacher. The Timeline Protection Agency came way afterwards. What hurt him more was that he had to act like a douche to her but he was well aware that there was nothing else he could have done. It was obvious that she didn't remember him at all. He didn't blame her for having no recollection of her past. Only one he blamed was the PROJECT corporation. These were the real monsters, not the PROJECT initials. 

Shen only wished their reconnection had been under different circumstances. 

Regardless. 

The rain poured harder as time went by. Shen looked up at the sky when a lightning struck, shedding light momentarily. He sighed. He quickened his pace, hoping he'd arrive home faster that way. He was super unlucky that there weren't any ubers passing by nearby. But the rain became stronger and Shen had to stop in the entrance of a block of flats until it stopped. He leaned against the wall and waited patiently. After all, he was renowned for his patience.

"You shouldn't be out here in this rain."

Shen jumped at the sudden voice. His arm instinctively went for his blade but he lowered it when he realized that it was Akali, the person that haunted his thoughts. 

"Neither should you," he responded. "What are you doing out here anyways?"

Akali didn't respond straight away. "I know what you're trying to do. You need to stop while you can."

"Is this a warning?"

Akali rolled his eyes. "What do you think it is?"

Shen sighed, running a hand through his wet hair. "I can't, even if I wanted you."

"There's a bigger game going on, Shen. You need to step out of this before it's too late."

"Answer me this," Shen said, ignoring her. "Do you usually go to your enemies and warn them off?"

Akali was silent for a moment. "I owe you, that's why I came. Don't think for a moment that anything has changed between you and I."

"Just for the record, I couldn't really do anything else. You wouldn't listen to me, I knew that." Shen chuckled. "I wasn't wrong. You haven't changed that much, after all."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean nothing."

Silence. 

"You could have ratted me out to your friends. Why didn't you?" Akali asked.

"Because a master would never hurt their student."

Akali was confused. "I don't understand."

"It's alright. I don't expect you to." Shen shook his head. "I wish in time you will. But I don't get my hopes up. You're welcome, by the way."

Akali stammered something inaudible. "Does that mean you knew me before?"

Shen smiled sadly but mostly melancholically. "Better than anyone else."

The rain slowly stopped. The two of them remained still and silent, just looking at each other, trying to guess what went through their heads. 

"I'm sorry," Shen sliced through the silence, coming closer to Akali. Somehow she didn't back off. She only watched him as he came closer. He was way taller than her but that didn't mean she couldn’t bring him down if she wanted to. However, it didn't seem to be the case as Akali noticed the tears glistering in Shen's eyes. "I'm sorry for letting you go," he whispered. He reached for her head. Without any trouble, he managed to open her mask. Akali was frozen, unable to move or push him away. Before she knew it, he leaned forward and gave her a kiss on her forehead. Then, he stepped back. 

"The next time we're going to meet, we're going to have to fight each other," he said. "Don't hold back for a second. I won't forgive you if you do," he warned her. 

Shen stretched out his arm to check if the rain had stopped. Then, he disappeared before a very troubled Akali's eyes. 

 

Chapter Text

Another moon rose, another night on the run. This was their daily routine. Ever since Vayne escaped, she had been on the run. This wasn't anything new to her nor to her companions. Were they doomed to forever be the prey in this hunting game? Maybe not. But for now, their best chance was to constantly move so as to not be detected by anyone, PROJECT or TPA related.

As the days passed, Vayne felt the guilt of dragging Fiora into this mess becoming more intense. She could have been hidden somewhere safer with her own companions yet she was stuck with her in this loophole. This was her fault. For so long, Vayne had been responsible for herself solely. But now the consequences of her actions affected others and she needed to regard them carefully. Her conscience wouldn't leave her alone if anything happened to Fiora because of her. There were more question marks than answers for her situation but she wasn't willing to find out, perhaps she was scared of the answers.

"Do you see anything, Vayne?" Irelia's voice rang in her ears. The hunter was on the front, peeking over a corner. Their goal was the building right across the street that was still under construction.

"Clear. Let's move." Vayne motioned them to follow her lead.

They ran across the street in seconds and the next moment they found themselves in the pot that was surrounded by a wooden fence. There was equipment and materials scattered all around the construction site. They moved quickly inside the building and rushed to the first floor which was more secluded than the basement.

"I don't like it here," Akali complained. "We are too exposed. Plus, I doubt this place will be as quiet in the morning as now."

"No one has been here for a few days. The construction has stopped temporarily," Vayne replied.

"It's this “temporarily” I'm not particularly fond of."

"Quit complaining. We aren't going to stay here for longer than necessary," Irelia interrupted their argument. "I'll go look for a better place. Don't do anything reckless while I'm gone." Her eyes landed on Jinx.

"Why are you looking at me?" She asked in surprise.

"You know why," Irelia deadpanned. "I'll be back in a few couple of hours."

Then she was gone as soon as they had come, leaving the four PROJECTS on their own.

"This place is so boring and lame," Jinx commented. "I'm going exploring and hope that it isn't as bad as I think it is."

"You heard what Irelia said," Akali warned her.

Jinx sighed in utter frustration. "Fine. If you don't trust me, come with me."

"Wha-" Before she knew it, Akali was dragged outside by a very ecstatic and enthusiastic Jinx. Vayne always wondered where she found such enthusiasm.

"Well, this should be interesting," Fiora said to no one in particular.

Vayne knew she should say something, anything, but she found herself preoccupied in her thoughts, her gaze stuck onto the dueler in front of her.

"What?" Fiora crooked an eyebrow. "Why are you so creepily silent? And why are you staring at me like that?"

Vayne shook her head. "It's nothing."

She felt Fiora coming closer. "You can't lie to me."

It was the truth.

You've made me vulnerable.

Yet, somehow, I'm not even mad at you.

"I told you, it's nothing. Just my thoughts getting the best of me, I guess." Vayne shrugged, trying her best not to worry her too much.

"You've been like that for days. You're either thinking too much or you're lying," Fiora pointed out. "Knowing you, it's probably the latter."

"I just worry that I'm dragging you into things you didn't sign up for…" Vayne admitted quietly.

"Yeah, you're right." Fiora agreed. "I didn't sign up for any of this but here I am."

"You shouldn't be here. You should have left me when you had the chance."

"What has gotten into you?" Fiora came closer and grabbed Vayne's hands. Vayne felt her entire body being electrified. "I know you aren't the most sociable person out there but-"

"This has nothing to do with me being social." Vayne shook her head. "I just don't like putting you in danger."

Fiora tilted her head to the side. "Really? I thought you loved getting me into trouble. Remember Norman Rose's mansion? When you saved me from Jhin? Oh, let's not forget when we went to assassinate some scientists together."

Vayne rolled her eyes. "It's not funny!" she scolded. "This! This is exactly what I mean!"

Fiora's little smile disappeared upon realizing that Vayne was being serious. She squeezed Vayne's hands to stop her from fretting. She wasn't entirely sure how she just knew this would calm her down. "Shauna, listen to me," she said sternly. "Don't feel guilty. I'm responsible for my own actions. I'm here out of my own personal choice and not because you forced me to. So get that out of your head, alright?"

"Why?" The million dollar question. "Why are you still here then?" Vayne asked in a whisper.

There was a prolonged silence. "Because I want to," Fiora replied. "And because you need someone to remind you that you aren't - and shouldn't be - on your own."

Vayne had to blink several times at her response. So she wanted to be here… for her?

"Are you telling me that you're willing to put yourself in danger for my own sake?" She asked again.

Fiora smiled. "Isn't that what I've just said?"

"You're a fool, then. I don't deserve-"

"And who are you to judge if you're worth it or not?" Fiora growled. "I'm going to be the judge of that. If I felt like you deserved to root alone, I would have left a long time ago."

"I'm dangerous," Vayne insisted. "Do you want me to remind you what happened to the last people that trusted me as much as you do?"

"It wasn't your fault, Shauna!" Fiora exclaimed in exasperation. "You said it yourself that it was a set up, that they were testing you! Stop this nonsense!"

"I should have been able to pass the test! I shouldn't have let them die! I-" Vayne felt choking on her own breath. She hadn't felt anything like that before. It was so overwhelming.

"And if you had indeed passed that test, we wouldn't be having this conversation," Fiora deadpanned.

"I can't protect you if something happens. Heck, I can't protect myself! So please-"

"No, I believe I'm the one who should be begging you," Fiora interrupted her before removing her hands. Vayne wasn't entirely sure what she had in mind as she watched her carefully remove her mask, push it over her head. This was the first time since they met that Vayne saw her face. Fiora was breathtakingly beautiful and perhaps she once broke many men's hearts. Her blue eyes gleamed. "Begging you to stop this nonsense right here! I don't need you to protect me, I never asked you to. I'm capable of doing that myself, thank you very much, in case you haven't noticed."

Vayne wanted to object, argue that sooner or later they would come across something they couldn't deal with and end up getting caught, but her voice was stuck in her throat. She was unable to speak and she wasn't able to explain it. Perhaps because - ironically - she had gotten too emotional, which wasn't exactly her thing, or maybe it was the proximity between her and Fiora or even the dueler herself that rendered her completely useless to even produce speech.

"When will you see what I see, Shauna?" Fiora whispered suddenly, not waiting for Vayne to find the right words to express her argument. This was the first time the dueler had explicitly used her first name instead of “Vayne” like she typically did, the hunter noted silently. Fiora's hand traced all the way from Vayne's arm towards her face. The latter didn't try to stop her; she felt like she was under some sort of spell. The next moment, Vayne's mask disappeared, exposing her skin to the cold air. She felt Fiora's fingers touching her face tenderly, as if afraid she'd use too much force and accidentally hurt her. Her eyes found Fiora's. And then time froze.

The next thing Vayne knew was Fiora's lips pressing against hers and her heartbeat skyrocketing to dangerous levels. Her eyes instinctively shut, like her body was programmed to function like that. It was monetary but it was enough to take her breath away. When she re-opened her eyes, she saw Fiora with the same puzzled expression as hers.

"Why did you do that?" she asked.

Fiora stared at her but didn't remove her hand. "I'm not sure. It just… felt the right thing to do…" she trailed off. She was just as at a loss of words as Vayne because both of them experienced this for the first time. Her thumb caressed Vayne's skin, a touch that made the hunter shudder. Fiora kissed her softly again.

"What's this?" Vayne asked in a whisper.

"I believe it's called affection."

"Disgusting. Do it again."

Fiora was happy to oblige to her request. Although this time Vayne took the lead, pressing the dueler against the nearest wall as they lost themselves in each other, in this new sensation that took over them. How long had they carved for it while unable to address their needs? It was impossible to tell.

Loud footsteps brought them harshly back to reality as they broke apart. Jinx and Akali rushed back in without having any clue about what had just gone down between Vayne and Fiora, mostly because they were too busy arguing with each other. The dueler and the hunter just shared a smirk.

Sometimes it's the answers we truly need in our hearts. Vayne had those answers now and she knew exactly what she needed to do. It felt good having a clear goal for the first time in forever. It didn't matter what Fiora said. Vayne owned her a great deal and a simple “thank you” wouldn't be enough, it would never be. They lived in a world where actions counted more than words did. After all, Vayne had always been better and more comfortable with actions rather than words. Her only problem was to find a way to leave without getting noticed. She knew that Fiora wouldn't like her idea and would do anything in her power to prevent her from doing so. Vayne simply couldn't have that.

Staying true to her word, Irelia returned a few hours later to let them know that she had indeed found another place to hide just a couple of blocks away. The sunrise approached dangerously and they needed to move quickly if they didn't want to get caught under the daylight. Another basement seemed to do the trick for them. Vayne had a lot of time to make her plan before bringing it into action. In the meantime, she needed to make sure Fiora didn't get a clue so she had to play along whenever the dueler smiled at her, pretending that everything was alright now. A little bit of an illusion. It wouldn't matter once Vayne succeeded.

The night fell upon them. Vayne emerged from her little corner, peaking Fiora's interest.

"I'm going to scout the area. I'll be back in a bit," Vayne answered to the dueler's silent question. She turned to leave when she felt someone grabbing her hand and she snapped her head.

"Be careful," Fiora whispered.

Vayne gave her a reassuring smile. "I always am."

Liar.

Fiora let go off her hand. It was a hint that she trusted Vayne to stick to her promise. Little did she know…

"Don't be late," Irelia warned her without looking at her.

The next moment Vayne found herself stepping outside in the darkness. This was it. A feeling of dread took over her. She shook her head. She couldn't be having second thoughts about this now. She was determined to do it, no matter what.

Be careful.

I'm sorry.

I hope one day I can only tell you the truth. You deserve that much.

She walked a bit away in hopes that they wouldn't hear her motorcycle. When she reached a safe distance, she pressed a button on her body and the vehicle appeared in front of her. Then, she climbed onto it and took off.

Vayne went as fast as she was allowed to. It was late in the night but that didn't mean that there was no chance another vehicle would appear in her way. She needed to be careful. But as she left Piltover behind, it was safer for her to move at such a speed. Soon enough, she was out of the city. There were no huge buildings outside here, only an endless plain occasionally interrupted by a couple of hills. Between said hills laid the mansion of Norman Rose, a place Vayne remembered even so vividly. Her experience could be described as absolutely terrifying for everyone else but herself. Fear wasn't an emotion she was familiar with and tonight she wasn't afraid, just worried. Worried because this was probably an extremely reckless and dangerous decision that could get her captured, get her companions in trouble or worse, get her killed. And if she died, none of this would matter anyway.

However, she was willing to go the extra mile because she would do anything for Fiora, as she had so painfully realized.

Vayne had to pull over a couple of kilometers away from the mansion in fear of alerting the guards that had certainly increased since last time. Norman Rose would be a fool if he didn't improve his security. She didn't want to take her chances so she walked the remaining distance. Coming close to the mansion, she was proven right. Security was stricter than before and the guards were more heavily armed. Penetrating wouldn't be as easy as last time. Not something she hadn't expected.

Vayne knew exactly where Norman Rose's office was located, knew the exact window but there was no chance she could approach it without getting spotted. She could possibly use her Final Hour ability to get through but her invisibility wouldn't last long enough, plus she wanted to keep it for an emergency. Another plan would be to create a distraction. According to her scans, there was a garage on the other side of the mansion. Perhaps she could find something there to utilize. She didn't take the risk and preferred to go all the way around, following the bush fence.

Once she reached the other side, Vayne peaked carefully over the fence. There was the garage that was guarded just as well. She had good chances of slipping in, if she was careful enough. There was a side door she could use that was guarded only from two men. Vayne slipped through the fence and approached as silently as she could, crouching. Picking a stone from the ground, she threw it hard in order to distract the guards. Upon hearing the sound, both of them raised their guns but only one went over to see what the problem was. This gave Vayne the opportunity to take down the man that was left alone in front of the side garage door and drag him away.

"Nothing's here. Derek?" The other guard returned promptly and was immediately on the alert upon realizing that his companion was missing. Before he could react, Vayne took him out from behind and dragged him away too, near Derek, hiding them under a layer of grass. The door was now accessible. Picking the lock was just a little game for her. It took her merely seconds before she pushed the door open.

Norman Rose had a thing for cars, that was for sure. He owned at least ten different cars, each a different model. She didn't need to destroy every single one of them. One would be enough. She chose the bigger of them all that could cause more commotion - a black jeep - and installed the remote bomb. Then, she exited the garage once again and ran outside the fence. She went all around the mansion again before she activated the bomb. The reaction was immediate.

She watched as the guards rushed to the garage, guns ready to shoot if it came to that. Only very few were left behind to guard the front side. Vayne also noticed a shadow moving from the window she was interested in. Then the lights were switched off. Perfect.

Even though most of the guards were distracted, Vayne remained cautious as she moved. Her best option was to take down the remaining guards so they wouldn't cause her trouble on her way out. It was risky, considering someone could find them eventually and raise the alarm but she would rather take that risk instead of getting caught while running away. It took her a good ten minutes of careful moving and knocking down guards before she could even reach her goal. Vayne took a moment as she stood right down the said window. A couple of months ago, she was fleeing through there with Fiora. Now, she was going back on her own. Was she mad? Apparently. The rope that was attached to her body flew all the way up to the window, attaching perfectly onto the ledge. Once she made sure it was stable enough, Vayne started climbing with determined steps. She quickly opened the window and rolled inside the room.

Vayne carefully closed the window behind her. She ran a quick scan around the place. Last time she had been here, she had been caught off guard by a simple man. It was something that bagged her up to this day. She couldn't explain how he had been able to hide himself from her sensors, it didn't make sense. He shouldn't be able to. Unless there was something else going on with him but that's not what she was here for. According to her calculations, she had fifteen to twenty minutes before Norman Rose would emerge back here, more furious than ever. She needed to hurry.

His computer was left open onto his office, as if waiting for her. She withdrew a hard drive and connected it with the laptop. All she had to do was search his files. That seemed like an easy task, if Norman Rose didn't have a tone of files stored in his personal device. Vayne scrolled through, looking for any files related to PROJECT. Eventually, she found what she was looking for. She clicked on the file only to realize there were several sub-files inside, each dedicated to one PROJECT initial at a time. She narrowed her eyes. He hadn't been lying when he had claimed he knew everything about them. How on earth did he acquire such classified information without having the PROJECT corporation at his tail? Unless…

Unless what?

Was it possible that he was part of this? It hadn't crossed her mind until now. But he was a criminal, not a scientist. Yet, what was the difference between those two anyway at this point?

Vayne shook her head. It didn't matter if Norman Rose was a part of this game, it wouldn't be a surprise either. This was not what she risked her head for. She scrolled down until she found a file named “PROJECT: Fiora”. She hesitated. She had never done it before. She didn't need to read the file, just copy it to the hard drive. That's what she was about to do when she heard footsteps coming in.

Vayne could tell these weren't human footsteps, that's why she needed to hide immediately. She ducked under the desk and waited for the threat to leave. Camille wasn't an opponent she underestimated. Last time she had easily brought her down. Only Fiora had the ability to deal with her. Vayne would need to use almost all her resources to be able to defeat her. Once her scans showed her that Camille wasn't nearby, she peaked over the desk before standing up again. She right clicked on the Fiora files, then pressed “copy”. This would take a while and she wasn't sure if she had enough time. Perhaps she would have to delay Norman just a bit. Or she could just take the laptop with her. Why hadn't she thought of this earlier? It would be faster and safer.

However, fate had other plans for her and it most certainly didn't like being tempted.

Before Vayne had the chance to bring her plan into action, more footsteps came through the hall. This was undoubtedly Norman Rose this time. Damn it, why was he back already? She needed to act quickly. She abandoned her hard drive and hid in the shadows, cursing under her breath. She wasn't supposed to be seen by him but she was left with no choice.

The door slammed open, shedding light momentarily inside. Vayne held her breath. Norman reached for the lights. If he turned them on, there was absolutely no way he wouldn't notice Vayne standing in her corner. It didn't matter anyway as the latter decided to stop him entirely. She didn't want to be seen from the outside; it was better if the office remained dark.

"Don't," she spoke, making Norman jump.

Even though it was dark, Vayne had no trouble reading his expression. From being scared and surprised, it quickly transformed into a more malicious one.

"What do you know?" he chuckled softly. "I was not expecting visitors."

"Hands where I can see them," Vayne ordered, ignoring his comment entirely. She couldn't trust him.

"No need to be so aggressive, dear," he said as he raised his hands in defense.

Vayne rolled her eyes. This was ridiculous. Her crossbow remained aimed on him as she approached his desk and grabbed his laptop and the hard drive.

"What are you planning on doing with this?" Norman asked. He was in a chatty mood, something that annoyed Vayne to no end.

"That is none of your business," she growled as she went over to open the window.

"You do realize this is considered theft?" he inquired. The only reason he was doing this was to win time. Vayne wasn't planning on playing his game.

"Trust me, I've done worse than breaking into your house," she responded as she climbed over the window.

"Well, too bad I'm not just going to let you walk away with my personal stuff," he whispered.

Vayne had to quickly move away from the blast of energy that came her way. If she had been a millisecond late, she would have been hit. In her turn, she aimed to shoot at Norman but he dodged as well.

"We could do this all night." He smirked. "I'm afraid though, I don't have so much free time to spare."

He charged his weapon again. Vayne moved down behind his desk before he could shoot. The bullet landed on the wall, leaving an ugly mark. Whatever this weapon was, it was quick and extremely dangerous, specifically designed to bring down people like herself.

This was bad, really really bad.

She didn't dare look over, although she didn't really need to. Her sensors gave her access to Norman's moves.

"You cannot hide forever," he whispered. "This weapon is faster than you'll ever be. Give it up now or-"

Before he could finish his threat, Vayne jumped immediately from her corner and shot at him. Norman barely managed to move to the side but that was enough for him to get out with just a scratch on his upper arm. Vayne watched in horror as he aimed at her and pulled the trigger. There wasn't enough time in this universe to allow her to dodge the blast of energy that came her way. Her plan didn't work. He should have been dead! But somehow, he predicted it.

The blast hit her right into the chest. The shock was so intense that the laptop escaped her grisp as she fell onto the floor in spasms. Her vision was blurry and the flashing warnings on her mask didn't help her at all. She was in immense pain, she could tell that much.

Warning: System overload

"Or suffer the consequences," Norman completed his previous sentence. He clenched his arm but he looked satisfied with himself as he smiled, his emerald eyes sparkling.

"Fuck… you…" Vayne managed to breathe out.

Norman walked over her, his suit stained in blood but that seemed to be the least of his concerns. "Always thinking you're beyond everyone else, huh? I'll kindly remind you that you've just been defeated by a simple human like me," he growled before kicking her sides.

Vayne winced. The spasms had reduced dramatically but she was still in pain, plus she couldn't move at all. All her systems were rendered useless.

"Without PROJECT, you are nothing," Norman said coldly. "Do not feel superior. Without this technology, you'd be a little no one. Remember-" He pointed at his gun. "They gave you this power and they can take it away if they want to.” His eyes landed on his computer. "Let's see what you were looking for."

He bended down and picked the device up. Vayne struggled to move, to try and stop him but to no avail. She watched helplessly as he opened it and looked at the open files before him. His expression remained unreadable.

"Interesting," he said to no one in particular. "Really, really interesting."

Vayne couldn't understand why Norman found this so intriguing but she couldn't care less. This was the second time she had fallen right into his trap. How could she be such an ignorant fool?

"Idiots." Norman shook his head. "I told them I wanted my investment to be guaranteed and I wouldn't mind waiting a little bit longer for Viktor to finish. But no, greed got in their heads." He shut the laptop before placing it back on his desk. Vayne didn't understand a word he said. She only picked the word “investment”. This was how he was connected with the company; he had funded the entire PROJECT!

Norman turned around to face her again. Only then did Vayne notice the little rose that was hanging from his suit pocket. She wanted to snort. He crouched next to her, observing her as if she was some sort of broken toy.

"Isn't that a cruel irony, huh?" He said quietly. "I really did get into your friend's head after all. I wonder what Fiora would say if she knew your situation. I bet she didn't imagine that you'd end up like this."

"She… doesn't… know…" Vayne managed to spit out.

Norman smirked. "So, you came on your own accord then? Now, that just makes it even more intriguing."

Vayne was so frustrated while he had the time of his life.

"They should have known better than to take the unfinished technology, especially knowing that you two were their victims," he continued his monologue. Vayne still didn't understand. It was really hard to think. "Would you like to know a secret, Vayne? I'm sure you're going to love this!"

Norman didn't wait for her response as he picked his laptop up again and opened it. "I see you were interested in your friend's files but you didn't want to waste time reading them. Don't worry, I'll read you some of it and you'll tell me if you like it, yes?" He cleared his throat. "Fiora Laurent, age 24, Demacian, 5'9 feet tall, previously engaged to Shauna Vayne."

What?

What?

WHAT?

Vayne's expression must have been hilarious, that's why Norman started laughing the way he did, she couldn't explain it otherwise. Vayne couldn't believe in her ears. He could be lying for all she knew, but somehow she knew he wasn't lying for whatever reason. Perhaps she wouldn't live long enough to tell Fiora the truth. It suddenly made sense. But it wouldn't matter anyway. Vayne would die in the hands of Norman Rose before coming to terms with who she used to be.

Norman eventually stopped laughing with that menacing laugh of his. "The Star-crossed Lovers Project, that's what they'd like to call you. You were the one who wanted to volunteer for this project and she followed you blindly. I wonder…" He wondered mid-sentence, pondering. "I wonder if she'd do it again."

Vayne's eyes widened at the realization of what Norman was planning to do. "Don't… you… dare!" she managed to breathe through gritted teeth.

"Why? Are you going to stop me?" He mocked her right in the face. He stood up and gave her another kick to the sides. "I'll let you watch her die before I kill you off. Don't worry though. You won't be dead for long, only until they reset you back at the lab."

The door opened and Camille walked in, looking more vicious than ever before.

"Take her away," Norman ordered before walking out without looking back.

Vayne didn't struggle against Camille's grip. She didn't have the strength. Not just physically but mentally as well.

I'm so sorry, Fiora. This is entirely my fault.

I hope one day you can forgive me.

Everything turned black. 

 

Chapter Text

Despite Vayne's promise to return promptly, the hunter didn't return for hours, causing Fiora to worry, and she wasn't the only one. Irelia watched her as she paced back and forth in the small basement while Akali tried to ignore her. Jinx seemed indifferent.

"Where is she?" Irelia broke the silence. "It shouldn't have taken that long."

"I don't know," Fiora responded. "She won't answer any of my calls," she added, trying desperately how hurt she was because of that.

"We shouldn't have let her leave," Akali pointed out. "It's dangerous out there."

"Don't me ridiculous, Vayne can handle herself perfectly," Irelia retorted. "Maybe she left willingly."

Her words hurt Fiora even more. Would Vayne leave her behind like that after everything they had gone through? After everything they had shared? The dueler knew that Shauna felt guilty but she couldn't imagine going that far, right? What would be the purpose of leaving anyway? Would it change anything? Probably not.

"Vayne wouldn't leave like that," Fiora argued. "Something must have happened, I can't explain it otherwise." She paused for a moment. "I'll go look for her."

Irelia quickly walked up to her, grabbing her arm before Fiora could make a move. "Are you out of your mind?" she hissed. "You can't just go out there looking for her, it's suicide! She abandoned you, get over yourself!"

Fiora pulled her arm away from Irelia's grip. "You don't know that," she replied. "And I'm not going to take permission from you nor ask you to help me find her either."

"So what? Are you so foolish to believe that you can find Vayne in such a big city like Piltover without any help or clues?" Irelia inquired.

"I need to at least try," Fiora shrugged. She realized that Irelia did have a point. And if she was any right, if Vayne had vanished on purpose, it would be impossible to find her. When the hunter wanted to be unfounded, she remained as such.

"You don't have to do this on your own," Irelia said eventually. "We'll help you."

"You seriously don't have to-"

"Actually, yes we do." Akali spoke for the first time. "We are bound to the same fate, all of us. If we don't help one another, we are doomed. Vayne could be in danger for all we know. I'd hate it if something like that happened to Irelia or Jinx."

"Agreed!" The Loose Cannon grinned. "Plus, I'm super bored. This should be fun!"

"I can't thank you enough," said Fiora gratefully. "Vayne will never hear the end of it once we find her for causing us so much trouble."

"Alright, where should we start?" Akali asked.

"Let's search the area and if we don't find her, we'll proceed elsewhere," Irelia suggested.

Before they could agree to anything, Fiora received a message from no one else but Vayne herself! She felt relief washing over her but only momentarily. She opened it frantically and read the quick message on the inside of her mask. Relief was replaced by fear.

"I know where Vayne is," she announced.

"How?" Akali asked in surprise.

"She just sent me a message," Fiora explained, trying to keep her cool. "But we'll need to find a vehicle because it's outside of Piltover."

"Don't worry, I'll take care of that!" Jinx exclaimed. "I know where to get us a vehicle?"

"You do?" Fiora asked in disbelief.

"You'll have to trust me on that one." Jinx winked at her.

Fiora had a hard time believing her but Irelia placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"She might be a little bit crazy but you can trust her word," she assured her.

"Alright, then." Fiora nodded. "Go fetch us a vehicle then. We need to hurry."

Jinx jumped around in excitement before exiting the basement to find the promised vehicle. Fiora only hoped she wouldn't take too long.

"How the hell did Vayne end up outside Piltover?" Akali wondered out loud.

Fiora shook her head. "If it's what I assume it is, I'm going to kill her once we save her."

"She's in danger then," Irelia pointed out.

"Of course she is! I don't know what she was even thinking!" Fiora expressed her frustration, running a hand through her silver hair. "I've known her for so long and she's never done anything as stupid and reckless as this. I can't understand her sometimes."

"Vayne has a complex personality. I doubt you'll ever be able to understand completely," Irelia pointed out. "I'm pretty convinced that she had a really good reason to do whatever she did tonight. I don't know her that well but she never does anything without a good reason."

Fiora shook her head. "If she got herself in trouble for me, I'm going to kill her before the PROJECT corporation does," she growled.

They waited for Jinx in silence. There were a million thoughts going through Fiora's mind, trying to analyze Vayne's intentions, trying to figure out a way to get her out from whatever situation she had gotten herself into. A sudden honk from outside made them all jump.

"I'll check if that's indeed Jinx," said Akali as she approached the door. She went outside and returned only seconds later. "Come on!" She motioned at Irelia and Fiora to follow her outside.

There was a white van parked outside, waiting for them with Jinx on the driver seat. Fiora took the seat next to her and Irelia with Akali went behind. Once the back doors shut, Jinx accelerated.

"Where did you find this?" Irelia asked.

Jinx flashed her a smile through the mirror. "Somewhere." She winked. "Don't worry, this babe will take us everywhere we want."

"You truly are Vi's sister," Fiora muttered to herself.

It turned out that letting Jinx drive wasn't such a good idea. She was a completely reckless driver and the amount of times she had to make a difficult maneuver to avoid an oncoming vehicle were countless. Fiora was worried that if they kept it like that, it was almost certain that the police would come after them eventually.

"Can you just drive like a normal person?" she hissed at the gunman. She only received a mischievous grin.

"If we don't end up dying in PROJECT'S hands, we sure as hell will in here," Akali murmured.

With Fiora's instructions, they drove outside Piltover, leaving the city behind as they entered the countryside. Fiora remembered the first time she had driven out there, again for the exact same purpose. Although, the circumstances had been different then. That place, Norman Rose's mansion, only held more questions than answers for her. She wasn't sure how she felt about returning back there, but she was certain it wasn't a pleasant feeling.

As they grew closer to the mansion, she asked Jinx to turn off the van's lights and pull over to the side.

"We still have two kilometers until we reach the place," the Loose Cannon complained.

"That place is a fucking fortress. If they notice us approaching, we've got no chance," Fiora explained as she exited the vehicle, shutting the door behind them.

The four PROJECTS moved in the darkness carefully. Only thing that could be seen was their shadows. After a while, they could see the enormous mansion standing tall in the middle of nowhere, in between a couple of hills. Fiora hadn't lied when she claimed the place was a fortress; there were guards literally everywhere. They needed to be extra careful in order to approach the house. They came close to the bush fence and scanned the area.

"How are we going to find Vayne here? This place is huge," Akali asked.

"I might know where they're holding her," Fiora replied. "There's a secret basement under the mansion but it can only be accessed through the building. Plus, there is a Program guarding the place. It won't be easy to get there."

"What's the plan then?" Irelia asked.

"Plan? We don't need a plan!" Jinx proclaimed. "I say we walk in and blow everything up!"

"That's a terrible idea," Irelia argued. "There are too many guards. And even if we managed to get rid of all of them, there's a chance they might harm Vayne to stop us. We can't afford that."

"I have to agree with Irelia on that one," Akali agreed.

"I agree that we need to ensure Vayne's safety first but Jinx's idea isn't terrible," said Fiora.

"See? Someone is finally seeing my potential!" Jinx grinned.

"What do you mean?" Irelia asked, ignoring Jinx.

"None of us is exceptionally good at being stealthy, except maybe Akali. So sneaking inside is out of the cards. We should exploit everyone's abilities," Fiora explained. "For example, Jinx is really good at blowing things up, right? Irelia could give her hand and protect Jinx from whoever tries to stop her. In the meantime, Akali and I could sneak inside. I can take care of that Program Camille while Akali gets to Vayne in the basement."

"It's not a terrible plan," Akali said skeptically. "But what about getting out? Surely, getting inside is one problem but what happens afterwards?"

"I say we leave that to Jinx too. One last blast should be enough to guarantee us enough time to escape," Irelia suggested.

Jinx had to contain a scream. "This is the best night ever! I wish Vi was here, though. She and I could wreck the ultimate chaos!"

"As much as I agree with that statement, Vi is better not to be seen around here since it's not safe," Fiora said. "Alright, do we all agree on this plan?"

"It's reckless and extremely dangerous but we don't have any other choice." Irelia sighed.

"Let's do this then." Akali slammed her fist on her other open palm.


Fiora and Akali waited patiently behind the bushes. Fiora only hoped this plan would work because it was their only chance.

Suddenly an explosion from the front side of the yard alerted the guards. The front gate had been blasted open and the guards that had been around there had either been killed or knocked out. In the meantime, Jinx walked inside confidently with her guns ready and a smirk on her face. The guards had been caught off guard by the sudden explosion but not for too long. Soon, most of them run on the front side to face Jinx.

The Loose Cannon grinned mischievously. "It's showtime," she spoke to herself before chaos erupted.

Akali motioned at Fiora to follow her. They walked through the bushes and then proceeded towards the mansion in a crouching position. They could listen to Jinx's hysterical laughter right behind them and the groans of the guards.

Once they reached the mansion, Akali carefully looked around before walking towards the nearest window. Breaking in was a piece of cake for her. She pushed it open and jumped inside. Fiora looked around before mimicking her. She gave one last glance at Jinx who seemed to be having the time of her life. Irelia fought alongside her, deflecting most of the bullets coming their way with her blades. Then, she leaned inside.

The dueler and the assassin found themselves inside a dining room. There was a long oak table in the middle of the room with chairs surrounding it. On the sides, there was luxurious furniture where plates and glasses were stored in display through the glass doors. There were also a couple of rare plants in the corners of the dinning room for decoration. The velvet curtains matched with the thick carpet.

As much as Fiora would love to stand there and appreciate the luxury of the place, they had a mission to accomplish. Her and Akali moved carefully towards the door when they heard it click.

"Shit," the assassin cursed. There was no time to hide properly. They're only choice was to take out whoever would make the mistake of walking inside.

The door opened and a woman stepped in. Upon taking notice of the two PROJECTS sneaking in, she let out a scream. Akali prepared to strike when Fiora suddenly stopped her.

"Wait!" she screeched, holding Akali's arm still.

"What are you doing?" Akali hissed.

"Let me handle this," Fiora deadpanned. Akali looked at her in disbelief but decided to trust her. This happened only in a matter of seconds. The servant attempted to run and seek for help but Fiora was way faster. She closed the door and held the woman still, closing her mouth with her hand so as not to scream.

"Don't be afraid, I'm not going to hurt you," Fiora said softly in an attempt not to make the woman before her fret. She was already shaking in fear. "You are that servant Vayne spared her life, aren't you?"

The woman looked confused only momentarily. How could she forget that night when she bumped into those strange creatures?

"She was here again. Do you know where they might be holding her?"

The woman whimpered in response.

"Tell me and I'll let you go unharmed," Fiora promised. "Just tell me where they're holding her."

She slowly removed her hand, trusting the woman not to scream again. She still looked terrified but somehow she seemed to trust Fiora. "I saw them dragging her to the basement. Mr Rose has installed more security measures because of that."

"What type of security?"

The woman simply shrugged.

"Alright, fine." Fiora sighed. "Go and don't tell anyone you saw us. I mean it," she warned the servant.

The woman nodded before opening the door and disappearing behind it, leaving Fiora and Akali on their own.

"How can you be sure she won't notify anyone?" the assassin asked sceptically. "You should have let me get her out of the way."

"Killing isn't always an option," Fiora deadpanned. "She's innocent, she didn't choose to be part of this. Why should she pay the price?"

"Maybe you've got a point but this was risky," Akali retorted.

"Maybe you should be more worried about the extra security," Fiora responded.

"What do you presume this means?"

Fiora shrugged her shoulders. "No idea. Guess we'll find out."

They entered the hallway and walked carefully until the grand staircase. From where they stood they could make out Jinx's screams and laughter alongside the guards' shoutings. No matter how good the Loose Cannon was at wreaking havoc, they didn't have much time left, especially if they were to bump into Camille and whatever other measures Norman Rose had taken in order to protect his mansion.

Fiora came to a halt, signaling Akali to stop. The grand staircase was just a few steps away but they couldn't just walk in. People were running outside with guns ready in their arms. Among them there was Norman Rose who screamed instructions at his guards. The two PROJECTS backed off a bit in order to be hidden in the shadows.

"Where's that basement?" Akali asked in a whisper.

"Just right under the staircase," Fiora explained. "There's a button on the floor that reveals the entrance. You won't miss it. We just need to wait."

She was right to want and wait. Norman eventually grabbed a gun himself and walked outside to deal with this emergency himself while the rest of the servants disappeared. Just when it seemed like that the field was clear, Camille showed up, more rigid than before.

"Holy shit," Akali cursed in Fiora's ear. "Are you sure you can deal with that?"

"Nothing I can't handle," Fiora assured. "I'll keep her distracted for as long as I can. If I can get rid of her, I'll come find you."

Akali nodded in affirmation. Fiora took a breath before drawing out her blade and walking carefully towards Camille. The Program took notice of her immediately. The front door was shut close, separating the outside battle from the one that was about to take place inside. The two of them stayed still for a moment, analyzing their opponent.

Then Camille made her first move.

Fiora deflected her attack with ease and prepared for the next strike when she saw Camille's other leg coming towards her head. She ducked and thrusted her blade forward. It barely missed Camille as the latter moved to the side in order to avoid the hit. Fiora stopped right in the middle of the momentum, spun around and gave a successful blow. Camille jumped behind. Using the ropes that emerged out of her legs, she leaped in the air and came down on Fiora who could barely avoid the hit. But she couldn't be fast enough to avoid Camille's next immediate blow and her armor got scratched.

"Seems like she got an upgrade," Fiora thought to herself. Camille's moves felt different, more precise, as if she had been prepared to face such an opponent. No matter, Fiora didn't need to win, just keep her distracted. She sensed Akali moving quickly behind the staircase and she was relieved. She couldn't care less if Camille was advanced now.

She prepared herself for the next blow when she found her legs stuck in a layer of ice on the floor that hadn't been there before.

"Fiora, I think I found Rose's extra security!" Akali shouted, pointing at a new-found figure.

Fiora snapped her head towards Akali. She saw a tall figure standing in the middle of a circle of ice that seemed to be produced by her. According to Fiora's instant scan, her name was Lissandra and was another model of the Program series. Her specialty was ice which could cause them a major problem.

Lissandra wasted no time and threw a shard of ice towards a stunned Akali, knocking her off her feet. Meanwhile Camille charged at Fiora, trying to cut her throat open. Despite the fact that the dueler was unable to move, she managed to block Camille's attack but she doubted if she'd be able to do it again. Camille was faster than before, rendering her a more dangerous opponent. This wasn't good at all.

The ice eventually shattered on the floor, giving Fiora the opportunity to move again. She didn't rest though. She could only make calculations for when Lissandra would be able to use this ability again. Akali managed to get on her feet again, removing the ice shrad off her arm, gritting her teeth. Suddenly a fog of smoke filled the hall, denying them vision.

Fiora wanted to shout but she decided against it. She wouldn't want to betray her position like that. She clenched her blade when she heard a smashing sound and a growl. The smoke slowly disappeared. Then Fiora saw a blade coming her way. She was too slow and Camille managed to hit her hard on the shoulder, sustaining a lot of damage.

Warning: Excessive damage

Fiora was thrown behind with a throbbing shoulder. Meanwhile Akali was having a rampage against Lissandra. It was obvious that the latter couldn't resist against the assassin's powerful attacks. She wasn't designed to sustain too much damage. But as Akali prepared for the final blow, Lissandra produced an ice glove that crawled itself away from the PROJECT. Before the assassin could deliver the hit, Lissandra had transported herself away. She threw another shrad, hitting Akali on the back.

Fiora managed to slip around Camille, hitting hard on her legs and knocking her off her feet, winning some seconds to get to the assassin.

"I'm fine," Akali growled as Fiora offered her hand to help her up. "This isn't getting us anywhere. We're losing precious time."

"No shit," Fiora agreed, taking notice of Camille and Lissandra approaching dangerously.

"We should- Watch out!" Akali shouted when she realized that Lissandra was about to create yet another circle of ice. Both PROJECTS had made the correct calculations and jumped away the right second away from the crawling ice. Fiora landed on her feet with Akali on her side, realizing that they had gotten closer to the back of the staircase. Akali seemed to notice that as well.

"Go," the assassin said. "I'll hold them off for as long as I can."

"Don't be ridiculous. You should go instead-"

"Just shut up and go already, you stubborn woman!" Akali shouted angrily. "You're the only one who knows what to expect down there. Plus, I have unfinished business with Lissandra," she added.

Fiora wanted to argue but they were running out of options. She rushed to find that button on the floor behind the staircase. When she found it, she pressed her foot on it and the entrance to the basement was revealed. Fiora gave one last glance at Akali before running down the stairs.

Of course she couldn't expect the place to be completely unguarded. When she came closer to the bottom of the stairs, there were a couple of guards waiting for her arrival. But what could they even do against her bulletproof body? It was no use shooting at her. Fiora got rid of them quickly and entered the basement.

She might not have noticed it the first time she'd been there but the basement seemed more of a personal laboratory with all of the equipment installed in there. Right in the middle of the room, Vayne was tied onto an upside stretch. She was unconscious. Fiora rushed to her side, trying to wake her up as she untied the straps that kept the hunter still on the stretcher.

"Shauna! Shauna! Wake up!" Fiora practically begged. "Come on now, I didn't come all this way here to find you dead!" Her own words hurt her but she didn't have time to process that. She needed to wake Vayne up first.

Vayne stirred but her eyes didn't open. "...Fiora?"

It was barely above a whisper but it was enough for Fiora to finally feel relieved, even momentarily. "It's me. Don't worry, I'll get you out of here," she promised as she continued untying the belts.

"...Fiora... No..." Vayne continued her nonsense rumbling but Fiora was having none of this.

"It's okay, it's okay, soon everything will be over-"

"...It's a trap...!" Vayne gasped.

The words barely slipped from her lips when Fiora heard footsteps coming right behind her. She raised her blade, preparing to face whoever it was. Much to her surprise, she saw Norman Rose standing before her in an all dark tuxedo, holding a gun she couldn't quite recognize. The door behind him closed, trapping all of them together. Fiora didn't like one bit the smirk on his lips.

"Good to see you again, Fiora. It's been some time," he spoke first.

"How are you even here?" Fiora asked, narrowing her eyes. "I saw you running outside."

"Oh, please! I know this place better than you'll ever be able to. Why would this basement have only one entrance?" Norman responded. "Well, it doesn't really matter, does it?"

"No, I guess it doesn't," Fiora replied, clenching her blade harder.

"Let's get this over with," he added, aiming the gun at her. "Don't worry, you'll keep your darling company."

"I'm pretty sure I will but under my terms."

Norman chuckled. "You're an interesting case you two. I wonder what would have happened if Viktor had been able to perfect the PROJECT technology."

"...Don't listen... to him... Trying to... distract you," Vayne choked out, coughing hard.

"Keep it shut, Vayne. If she's eager to find out about her past, you should let her. After all, isn't that what you came here for in the first place?"

Fiora glanced at Vayne. Is this why all of this was happening? For Fiora's past? This was the second time Vayne got herself into trouble for this particular reason! If Norman wouldn't kill them, she'd definitely choke Vayne with her own hands.

"What do you think, dear? Would you like to know your past?" Norman asked.

"Not interested-"

"Or should I let your fianceé explain?" His grin reached his ears.

Fiora froze.

Fianceé?

No way.

But yet again, it finally made sense. All of it.

Fiora suddenly felt a strong headache and fell on her knees.

"Fiora!" Vayne's voice was stronger than before but still just as hoarse. However, Fiora barely heard her as her vision became blurry.

Initiating memory recovery

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Both of them sat at the edge of the bed, holding hands. Memory Fiora seemed sceptical and worried while Shauna caressed her hand with her thumb. The ring on her finger shone brightly. Fiora's gaze fell upon her own ring. She had screwed up big time and she knew it.

"Shauna, what are going to do if I end up losing my job?" Fiora asked, expressing her worries. "We might have to postpone the wedding."

"We won't have to postpone anything," Shauna said firmly. "Listen here. I got a job offer from a company in Piltover. Perhaps you might be interested in signing up for their course if you end up getting fired."

"You're a lifesaver, have I ever told you that?"

Shauna smiled. "A few times."

They both laughed.

Fiora paused momentarily. "What type of job is that?"

"They didn't give me any details. Guess I'll find out once I get there," Shauna responded.

"Well, whatever that is, I'm pretty convinced I'm going to enjoy it more than my current job if it means being with you."

Shauna rolled her eyes. "Now you're just being corny."

"Yes, but you love it." Fiora smirked.

Shauna leaned in and kissed her softly. "I love you."

"I love you too," Fiora replied, giving her fianceé's hand a squeeze.

Her foggy memory had finally cleared. Fiora felt completely overwhelmed and at the same time somewhat relieved but there was no time for that with Norman Rose pointing a gun towards her head. Her vision cleared as well and it was obvious that he had the upper hand in this situation.

"You remember, don't you?" he said softly. "Well, at least you know who dragged you into all of this mess."

Fiora wanted to say something to him but she got distracted by Vayne who made an incoherent sound. She turned her head slightly to see what the matter was and she found herself again in front of yet another surprise. Was Vayne actually crying? It seemed like it but there were only two tears rolling down her face and nothing else.

"She knows it too," Norman continued. "The Forgotten Lovers, that's what they liked to call you. You came in together and ended up leaving separately, with no memory of each other."

He was right, of course. But this made Fiora even more angry towards PROJECT than before. How cruel could anyone be to do something like that? They had stolen their lives, their pasts, their lovers for some idiotic reason guided by greed. She would never accept that as long as she lived. Anger worked like a power fuel for her. No mercy.

"One shot from this gun and you'll find the same fate as Vayne here. See I'm merciful enough to keep you together?" Norman smirked. "Everything we'll go back to where it was. And this time we'll make sure you'll never remember each other again."

Fiora heard the click from the gun and a whimper from Vayne.

This was not over.

With unexpected speed, she jumped up, pushing Norman away with great force. He collapsed onto the wall, coughing blood. Growling, he pointed his gun at Fiora once again and shot. Fiora jumped out of the way, hiding behind a table as the bullet hit one of Norman's machines, creating a small explosion.

"You can't hide forever," he said threateningly as he stood up. "Your assassin friend won't last forever against the upgraded Programs. As for your other chaotic friends, well... I doubt they have infinite bullets to spend. You are all doomed."

Fiora realized he was right but she was not going to give him the satisfaction by admitting that.

"Soon you'll be back where you belong and then the PROJECT era will begin and no one will be able to stop it. Forget about your dreams of incarnating. You'll never be humans again."

His menacing laugh filled the basement. How wrong he was though. He had absolutely no clue.

Fiora, at least, knew the truth.

"Enough with the games!" Norman said eventually. "Come out and surrender before I do something you'll regret."

"Worse than what you've done to us already? I doubt that," Fiora huffed before throwing the table she had been hiding behind towards Norman, catching him off guard.

He had to duck to avoid the hit and it gave Fiora the opportunity to come close. Before Norman could react, she thrusted her blade right through his chest. He gasped as his shirt filled with blood.

Fiora pushed the blade harder and he yelped in pain. She brought her face close to his so the last thing he'd witness before he died would be her, a reminder of what he had created in this world.

"PROJECT: Incarnation has started," she whispered. "And there's nothing you can do to stop it. And just for the record, we never stopped being humans just because you trapped us in those metallic bodies. The body gets destroyed, but the soul doesn't."

With those last words, she pulled out her blade, letting Norman's lifeless body fall to the floor, blood dripping from the tip of her weapon. Fiora watched Norman with eyes wide open from fear and surprise, blood escaping his lips. She turned away in disgust and focused on what was important.

"Fiora..." Vayne whimpered again when she felt the dueler close to her, trying to open the last few straps that held her tied onto that bed. Vayne would have collapsed onto the floor if Fiora hadn't been there to catch her on time.

"It's alright, I'm here," Fiora whispered lovingly. She felt the relief washing over her. "We'll be safe soon. Don't worry."

"...I'm sorry... I'm so sorry... All my fault..."

"For the millionth time, stop apologizing to me. I came here willingly. Both times."

Vayne shook her head. "I dragged you... in the whole PROJECT situation... I pushed you hard... I remember... I lost you...I hurt you... my fault..." Her words didn't make a lot of sense and she could barely make out a sentence but Fiora understood what she wanted to say and a part of her wanted to slap her.

"So what?" Fiora retorted. "We've found each other again. Why shouldn't that be a good thing? Our love is proof that we are actually humans." The corner of her lips formed a smile.

The tears stained Vayne's face but she didn't have anything to respond with. Even though she was extremely tired and felt like shutting down soon, this was the most alive she had ever felt in a really long time.

Fiora leaned in and kissed her. "Rest. We'll talk about this once we're safe. We'll be safe, I promise you."

Vayne believed her. She always had. She leaned into her touch, shutting off her eyes eventually.

Fiora stood tall with Vayne in her arms. She glanced at Norman's body again. That terrifying gun was still within his grip. Carefully not to drop Vayne, she bended down and picked it up. For future reference, she told herself, but she doubted she'd ever use such a weapon against anyone. Then, Fiora had little trouble in unlocking the basement door and rushing upstairs. This was still not over.

 

Chapter Text

Once Fiora emerged from the basement with Vayne half unconscious in her arms, the first thing she did was look out for Akali. At first, she didn't detect any activity around the entrance. As she moved around the staircase, she came across a completely ruined Lissandra. But where on earth was Camille then?

Her silent question was answered by a growl that came from her right. Turning her head, she saw Akali being pinned against the wall while Camille was about to rip her apart with her sharp legs. Akali struggled against her but to no avail. Without losing any time, Fiora carefully placed Vayne on the floor and retrieved her blade. Within seconds, before Camille could execute the assassin, Fiora drew closer to her and with a flick of her blade, she beheaded Camille on the spot. Akali blinked several times.

"I had everything under control," she claimed.

"Oh yes, totally," Fiora retorted sarcastically. "Your welcome, by the way. Let's get out of here."

"What about Norman?" Akali asked.

"He isn't going to bother us again," Fiora responded ominously as she picked Vayne up again.

Akali nodded, not asking any more questions. They burst through the front door without thinking twice about it. There was really no point hiding anymore. Outside the battle continued fiercely even though Jinx and Irelia had to retreat a bit and even though the guards had lost their leader. Akali threw a smoke bomb, causing panic and chaos.

"Stay close," she advised Fiora who tried her best to navigate through the thick fog. This was no normal smoke, otherwise she wouldn't have so much trouble trying to follow Akali through it. But she had to admit that it was rather useful, considering it gave Akali the element of surprise, pretty much just like this case where she appeared out of nowhere and killed a couple of guards on their way out.

"Took you long enough!" Irelia exclaimed as one of her blades cut through another guard.

"Quit complaining and run!" Akali hissed.

"Aw, and I was having so much fun!" Jinx pouted. "Later losers!" she shouted at the guards before dropping a couple of grenades in order to slow them down.

They ran outside the broken gate and sprinted towards the van that was parked two kilometers away. Unfortunately for them, a jeep and a bunch of motorcycles were right on their tracks. There was no way they could outrun them, no matter how fast they were.

"Fuck!" Akali cursed a bullet flew over her head.

"Don't worry, I got this! Just keep running!" Jinx said before stopping on her tracks.

"Jinx, what are you doing?" Fiora shouted at her.

"Trust her," Irelia advised. "She's a lunatic but trust me when I say that she knows what she's doing."

"I hope she does, for her own sake," said Fiora as she kept running.

In the meantime, Jinx had halted in the middle of the road with a smirk on her face, preparing her rocket launcher. The jeep accelerated faster and the bikers kept shooting at her.

"And then they call me crazy." She chuckled. "Bye bye!"

She fired the rocket straight at the jeep. An explosion followed, knocking the bikes out on the side of the road while the jeep was sent in the air, flying over a very excited Jinx before landing upside down, already set aflame.

"Holy shit, she did it," Fiora realized, amused.

"You know, she's the only reason this could succeed in the first place," Irelia said somewhat proudly as she looked over shoulder to see if Jinx caught up to them.

Eventually they arrived at the van. Akali took the driver seat next to Irelia and Fiora jumped on the back with Vayne and Jinx. Everything seemed to finally settle down before more vehicles came after them.

"Are you fucking serious right now?" Akali hissed, looking through the mirror.

"I need more time to reload," Jinx announced.

"This vehicle can't go any faster!" The assassin responded.

"We need to lose them quickly," Fiora pointed out.

"Easier said than done," Akali grumbled.

"We can't go to our old hideout," Irelia growled.

Fiora thought carefully. "I might have a solution for that but I can't be sure if I can come in touch with-"

"Just try! We have nothing to lose at this point," Irelia interrupted.

Fiora nodded before she proceeded to call Ashe, watching an unconscious Vayne laying on her feet. For a moment she forgot where they were and what they were up to and felt calm until the first bullet broke through the back windows.

"Come on Ashe, answer the damn call," she whispered to no one in particular. For a moment Fiora thought she'd get no answer until she heard Ashe's voice ringing through her ears.

"Fiora? Is that really you?"

"Oh, thank the stars!" Fiora exhaled in relief. "Ashe, listen to me-"

"Where the hell are you?" Ashe asked impatiently. "It's been weeks, Fiora. Weeks."

"I know, I know Ashe. You have every right to be mad at me right now, but please listen to me," Fiora begged. "It's a matter of life or death."

Silence followed for a couple of seconds before Fiora heard Ashe sigh. "Fine. What is it that you need?"

"I need you to send me the coordinates of your current hideout," Fiora responded. "Yes, I know you might think I'm insane but I need you to trust me. I promise you that I will explain everything once we get there."

"We? Who are you with?"

"It doesn't matter," Fiora replied. "Can you do that for me?"

"Fine, will do. But I'm really worried about you, Fiora. All of us are."

"I'll be fine," Fiora promised. "Thank you, Ashe."

The call ended there. Moments later she received the coordinates she had asked for and sent them to Akali.

"She won't be happy to see her," Irelia pointed out, looking over at Vayne.

"Frankly, I don't care." Fiora shrugged. "Ashe needs to get over herself. We're all in this together, we are all in grave danger. We must fight together if we want to even have a chance of surviving."

Irelia nodded but before she could say another word, more shooting came their way.

"Jinx, how about you do something about our problem!" Akali exclaimed.

"Damn it Akali, give me a second!" the Loose cannon hissed. "There, I'm ready. Fiora, open the door!"

Fiora did as she was told. As soon as she opened the back doors of the van, she saw more vehicles coming after them and more men shooting at them.

"Stay still, I'm trying to shoot you!" Jinx shouted at a jeep that was maneuvering in order not to get hit by Jinx's bullets. However, they underestimated Jinx's accuracy. One of the bullets hit on the wheels and the jeep got out of track, crushing onto a tree. Another jeep advanced forward and took its position, another three men appearing from the windows with their guns.

Their luck ran out soon. Norman's men managed to pop one of their wheels and Akali almost lost control of the van.

"That's not good!" she claimed. "Jinx, have you gotten rid of them yet?"

"I'm trying!" the latter responded through gritted teeth. It was obvious she wasn't having too much fun. "But they're too many and I don't have any rockets!"

"Fiora, take this." Akali threw something over her shoulder before Fiora caught the object.

"What is this?" she asked as she looked at it curiously, even though she had an idea of what it actually was.

"A smoke bomb," Akali responded, not much to Fiora's surprise. "It won't stop them but at least it will slow them down. Just drop it on the road in front of them."

Fiora approached the open doors next to Jinx. More bullets hit her bulletproof body but she didn't bother at the moment. She focused on calculating the right spot and time to drop the smoke bomb. She waited a couple of seconds before she did. As soon as the bomb landed on the road, it immediately emitted dark thick smoke.

Akali had been right. The smoke completely disoriented Norman's men. Some motorcycles got out of track, two cars crashed on side trees and some other cars crashed onto one another, causing a collision. At least this would keep them busy for a moment. Jinx pulled the doors close.

"Nice shoot," she praised Fiora. "Better than Akali, if you ask me," she added as the latter rolled her eyes. "What's next?"

"We won't be able to go far with three wheels," Irelia pointed out.

"We won't need to go that far," said Fiora. "But we shouldn't go through Piltover now. It's dangerous."

"Agreed," Akali said. "We should go around the hills. We might get there faster anyway."

"Aren't you worried that they will follow us?" Irelia asked.

"Not any moment soon," Jinx assured. "At least, if they don't want to get all blown up." She smirked mischievously. "But this van sure as hell is uncomfortable," she commented as she rubbed her bum.

Fiora looked cautiously at her. "That's because you're sitting on an extra wheel."

"Oh."

"Pull over," Irelia instructed Akali. "It should take us only a moment to change the wheel."

Akali obeyed and pulled over at the side of the road. Irelia got out, went all the way back, opened the back doors and asked Jinx to hand her over the wheel.

"On second thought, this isn't too bad for a seat," Jinx commented as she tried to make herself comfortable on the wheel.

Irelia rolled her eyes. "Hand me the wheel, Jinx."

It took her only a couple of minutes to fix the wheel, throwing the faulty one on the side of the road. Then Irelia returned to her seat and Akali accelerated. They continued their trip through the countryside of Piltover in silence. In the distance, they could make out the city drifting away alongside them as they moved. It was a beautiful sight that none of them could enjoy considering the circumstances. It was still night although Fiora estimated the sun would rise in a couple of hours. Her gaze drifted down on her feet where Vayne laid unconscious. This was the first time the hunter ever looked peaceful to her and it would probably be the last for a while. Norman's ominous words kept repeating in her head.

The PROJECT era will begin and no one will be able to stop it.

What did he mean by that? It certainly wasn't anything good. Was it possible that they were planning those clones Ezreal had been talking about even though they didn't have all the initials? It was a possibility. If that was the case, they were in a far greater danger than any of them had anticipated and that scared her a bit. She couldn't know what to expect anymore.

As they came closer to their final destination, Fiora asked Akali to stop the vehicle. It would be wise to cover the rest of the distance on foot and get rid of the van. If they were being followed - which they probably were - they should leave any tracks behind. That's something everyone agreed on. They abandoned the van in the middle of an empty field on the right side of the road and had Jinx explode it. Then, they crossed the road and moved towards the hills on the other side.

It hadn't occurred to Fiora that Piltover seemed like a little paradox in the area. Built right next to the sea, it covered much of the small plain before it got interrupted by hills and endless mountains that were behind those hills. It looked like a huge mushroom appearing out of nowhere. Fiora had never appreciated this until they reached the top of a hill that provided them with a great view to the city below. She might have even enjoyed it if she didn't carry Vayne in her arms and if they weren't chased down. Peeking one last time over her shoulder, she followed the rest of her team down the other side of the hill.

Crossing several hills would be tiring for any other human being. But they were not any other human beings. Not only did they cross them but they managed to do it before the sun rose. But when they arrived where Ashe's coordinates pointed to, they found nothing.

"What's the meaning of all this?" Irelia demanded.

"I don't understand." Fiora was baffled. "It was supposed to be here!"

"Well, there's nothing here," Akali stated matter-of-factly. "Your friend lied to you."

No, this wasn't right. Ashe wouldn't trick her like this, no matter how mad or disappointed she was at her. There must have been something else, something they were missing.

"I can't believe we did all this way for nothing." Irelia sighed in frustration. "Now we're stuck in the middle of nowhere completely exposed."

"Wait a minute," Fiora cut her off. "There's something there, I can feel it."

"You can sense it but can you actually see it?" Akali inquired. "Because I don't.?

"Just give me a second..."

Fiora concentrated. She ran scan after scan trying to pinpoint what it was. She knew there was something out there. Suddenly, her scans started showing the outline of a building. Of course it was invisible to the human eye, even to their eyes but they had the ability to spot it. She grinned in satisfaction.

"There's a building here indeed," she announced. "It just takes some time to see it."

She didn't get a response straight away. "Shit, you're right," Irelia admitted.

"It's invisible!" Jinx clapped her hands in excitement. "That's some really advanced technology right there."

"Only Ekko could possibly pull off something like that," Fiora muttered to herself. "Come on, let's go."

They approached the invisible building with cautiousness. They couldn't know what security was installed there for any possible intruders, although Fiora doubted that anyone would come in such a remote location. She headed towards where she assumed the door was - always according to her scans - and stopped there.

"Now what?" Jinx asked. "Do we just knock or...?"

"Well, I can't exactly knock on any doors, can I?" Fiora motioned at her occupied hands. "Why won't you do us the honours?"

"What's that?" Akali pointed at a floating device on the left side of the door. "I don't assume that's the doorbell."

"No, it isn't," Irelia agreed. "Looks more like a scanner."

"That's because it is," Fiora realized. Clever. No one but them could have access to this hideout. But that caused them a new problem. Fiora couldn't be sure if her face would be enough to grant them access but they had to try. She stepped forward, activating the scanner that stirred at her move. A glow of light ran over her face, scanning her features. Then it disappeared as quickly as it had made its appearance. Nothing happened.

"What now?" Irelia asked impatiently.

Before she had barely finished her sentence, the building started unraveling before their very own eyes, taking finally a full shape.

"Well, for starters, open the door," Fiora said sarcastically and Irelia rolled her eyes as she walked in first.

They found themselves in what seemed to be a small but very advanced lab, bigger than what it looked from the other side. Of course, it would be impossible to keep so many PROJECTS is such a crumpled place. Fiora wondered how they were able to build something like that.

Her question was to remain unanswered. The moment they stepped inside, they were faced against her old companions. Fiora felt Irelia and Akali stiffening as they drew out their weapons and Jinx loaded her gun. The situation really quickly became hostile. Fiora searched for Ashe among everyone else; she spotted her with her bow ready to shoot. They stared at each other for a couple of agonizing seconds. Then Ashe lowered her bow. Fiora nodded at Irelia that everything was alright now. Reluctantly, Irelia withdrew her blades.

"Is that Vayne?" Ashe asked, motioning at the hunter resting in Fiora's arms.

"Indeed she is," the dueler replied. "She's been badly hurt," she added. Instinctively, Fiora searched for Master Yi. She had to turn her head to the side in order to spot him in a corner, drawing his blade away. She was just so glad he was alive and well. That didn't escape Ashe's attention. She didn't say anything.

"I might be able to do something," Ekko chirped in with a smirk. "Come on, bring her over here," he added, pointing at what looked like a table or perhaps a bed that was connected with a computer. Without hesitation, Fiora did as she was told and placed Vayne there so Ekko would run the diagnostics on her. Then, she turned around only to face the cold atmosphere that was still there left hanging. She might have returned but that didn't mean that she hadn't lost their trust. Everyone seemed distant, drawn as far away from her as possible. Except maybe Ezreal. Their drama left him completely indifferent. Ashe was the only one willing to have a conversation.

"So, who are your new friends?" The archer asked, looking suspiciously over the three new PROJECTS.

"That's Irelia, Akali and Jinx, all part of the last generation of PROJECTS," Fiora explained. "We met under some weird circumstances."

"We've got enough time," Ashe pointed matter-of-factly.

So Fiora narrated how her and Vayne had gone out to assassinate the three scientists, how the trio had captured them and how they were released thanks to Vi's interference. Then, she skipped to the part where they had rescued Vayne from Norman Rose's mansion that had led them there that night.

"That doesn't sound like Vayne. Why would she do something so reckless?" Ashe inquired.

"She had her reasons," Fiora responded vaguely, without wanting to get into too many details. She wasn't entirely sure if she wanted to share her personal life with everyone yet.

"Well, there had better be a good reason she put you all in danger," Ashe said bitterly.

"Ashe, I know you have mixed feelings about Vayne, all of you do. I understand. But I need you to remember that she's not the real enemy here, no matter what her choices have been the past couple of weeks. We are in this all together, whether you like it or not," Fiora stated sternly.

"Well, I don't know what choices Vayne has made but I'm pretty sure they almost had her killed," Ekko commented. "It's a miracle she's even alive. What even happened to her?"

Fiora shuddered, remembering how Norman wielded a gun specifically designed to kill them off. "The PROJECT corporation has designed some special weapons," she explained. "And as you can see, they work perfectly fine," she added, pointing over at the unconscious Vayne.

"What does that mean?" Leona asked. "That they..."

"They could if used properly. Even so, they can fuck us up really badly."

"Fuck up doesn't even come close to describe it," Ekko mumbled. "I'll try my best but there's no guarantee. Some of her systems are beyond repair at this point."

Fiora nodded. "Thank you, Ekko," she said gratefully.

"So, how did you find this place?" Irelia suddenly asked, making all the heads turn towards her.

"Vi helped us with it," Lucian was the one to reply. "It was some old project of hers. With some tinkering and our help, it became a portable base."

"It's a really cool place," Jinx commented. "It could use some improvements but otherwise, it's really impressive."

"Well, I don't suppose you've got anywhere else to go at the moment," Ashe finally spoke. "You're welcome to stay here if you want."

"Thank you, Ashe," Fiora thanked her and she meant it.

"There's a reason the scanner recognized you and gave you access here, Fiora." Ashe looked her straight in the eye. "We always knew you'd come back. It's just that we can't trust you just yet. It will take some time before we do it again."

"I understand." Fiora nodded. "That's fair, I suppose."

Conversation soon died out since there was nothing left to say. The tension had been alleviated to an extent, something Fiora was glad for, but interactions would still remain awkward for a while, that was for sure. That was something she would worry about later. She spent the rest of the night observing Ekko as he tried to fix some of Vayne's parts that had been damaged. She only hoped he succeeded in his task. He didn't stop working until the next afternoon.

"There," he said eventually. "She should be up any moment now. Be careful though. Not sure how much she remembers or how she will react."

Fiora approached carefully as Ekko had advised. Vayne looked like she was having a peaceful sleep, as if she was watching some sort of dream. Fiora stroke her hair absentmindedly. Suddenly, Vayne stirred and Fiora jerked her hand away as she saw a fist coming towards her face. Fiora kept it still, looking down at Vayne's response.

"It's me, Shauna," she said softly. "No need to be scared."

Vayne struggled against her grip for a moment before her eyes fixated on Fiora's face. "Fiora?"

"Yes, it's me." Fiora smiled. "Don't worry, it's okay. You're safe now, we are safe now."

She slowly let go of Vayne. The latter seemed confused, as if a million thoughts were running at light speed through her head. Suddenly, she sat up and Fiora had to withhold her.

"What's wrong? Shauna, don't fight me and tell me what's wrong!" Fiora shouted as she struggled to keep her still.

"What's all this fuss?" Ashe came in to see what's wrong.

"Fiora, he said...he said..." Vayne gasped.

"He's gone now, he's not going to hurt you anymore," Fiora reassured her but Vayne shook her head.

"Norman funded PROJECT. He knew what they're up to. He told me... he told me that they're going to release the clones in a matter of days! We're all doomed!" She exclaimed.

Fior froze. She looked over at Ashe only to realize that she was just as shocked as herself. Vayne's very ominous revelation meant only one thing;

The end was near. 

Chapter Text

Caitlyn was not a person that easily ran out of patience. If anything, she was willing to wait for as long as it took in order to achieve her goals. The hunt of Ezreal had lasted endless months, almost a year now. The only fugitive that had been able to avoid arrest for so long, she had to give him that. He had acted carefully and hidden very well. That was why Caitlyn couldn't understand why he was acting so recklessly all out of a sudden.

It hadn't been so hard to locate him since they had eyes and ears practically everywhere. And of course, Ezreal was not alone. His PROJECT companions were always at his side. They were scheming something, Caitlyn was sure of that. A couple of days ago, news came that the infamous Norman Rose had been murdered right inside his luxurious mansions. According to eyewitnesses, this was the job of a couple of PROJECTS, although their identities remained unknown. She had first hand information about the incident through Vi that had been extremely busy due to it. And although she was relieved that such a man was exterminated, Caitlyn couldn't help but worry.

It had been very obvious that the PROJECTS targeted people that were directly related to the PROJECT corporation. The three scientists first, now Norman Rose and they didn't seem to be willing to stop there. It was worrying. Would they be satisfied if the entire company was drowned in blood? As much as Caitlyn didn't agree with their tactics, something like that was hideous. And even though she had agreed not to involve herself with catching the deviants, the recent events only proved how more dangerous they were and how much more preparation they needed before even trying to apprehend Ezreal.

Another thing Caitlyn couldn't wrap her head around was the reason why the boy bothered to help with whatever the PROJECT initials were preparing. He was a thief for all she knew, not a terrorist nor a sort of avenger. Was this a way of paying back for the protection he received? It was a possible answer, although she wasn't entirely sure if his help would mean anything to them. They had proven so far that they didn't need anyone's help as long as they stuck together, which was a major problem.

Which gave Caitlyn an idea.

As the days passed, the suspicious activity didn't die out. In fact, it felt like the PROJECTS slowly returned back to the city from wherever they had been hiding all this time. It worried Caitlyn even more but that way they could gain more information about their whereabouts and their plans. Keeping a close eye on them though proved to be a much tougher task than they had initially anticipated. The amount of times they had almost been caught was overwhelming. Caitlyn was sure the deviants knew they were being tailed after but they didn't do anything about it. Didn't they care? Or did they simply not consider the TPA agents such a great threat? Either way, Caitlyn was sure to make them pay for making such a mistake.

"So, what have we gathered so far?" Caitlyn asked during one of their last meetings.

"Well, we do know that the PROJECTS are back in town and they've been keeping themselves busy," Shen responded.

"And we know that for some odd reason they've been collecting all sorts of explosives," Riven added, tapping her chin.

"Which can't be any good," Twisted Fate commented. "If they're getting themselves explosives, it means that something big and nasty is about to go out and we can't just let it happen."

"Tobias is right. We won't let it happen. Which is why we need to get to Ezreal first," said Caitlyn.

"Do you think that getting him out of the way will actually stop them?" Shen asked in disbelief.

"We can't be sure," Caitlyn admitted. "But if he wasn't important to them, I assume they wouldn't keep him around. Therefore, I believe that losing him would temporarily postpone whatever plan they've got."

"I have to agree with Caitlyn on that one," Riven declared. Caitlyn looked over at her. They had come a long way and she was glad they could have civilized conversations with each other and even agree sometimes.

Shen shrugged. "Fair enough, I guess. So, how are we doing this? How do we get Ezreal?"

"It should be done as soon as possible," Caitlyn suggested. "One of those days, preferably. They probably already know that we're after them but they won't expect us to attack. In other words, we've got the element of surprise on our side."

"That's good but how are we going to deal with all those PROJECTS?" Twisted Fate inquired.

"We won't have to. All we need to do is distract them long enough in order to get to Ezreal. Once that's done, he'll be easier to deal with on his own. We get him and we're out of there as soon as possible," Caitlyn explained. "I know this sounds like a Vi plan but it's our only option."

"It's our last chance to get him." Shen nodded in agreement.

"And I bet you will have the honors of finally arresting him, won't you Caitlyn?" Riven said teasingly.

"Nothing will bring me more satisfaction than putting this cockroach right where he belongs; begging for life." Caitlyn curled her fist into a ball. "So, I ask you this as a favor, to let me be the one to apprehend him."

"You don't need to ask twice, Caitlyn," said Shen. "After all, you've earned it. You've been chasing him since forever."

"Thank you." Caitlyn nodded in appreciation.

"So this is it, huh?" Twisted Fate hummed, crossing his arms across his chest.

"What do you mean by that, Tobias?" Riven asked curiously.

"It's soon going to be over. Either it's tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, Ezreal will finally be arrested and we'll split again, each one back to their own respective individual missions," he explained.

He was right, of course. Caitlyn hadn't really contemplated what would happen after that. She had solely been focused on the present and the present only. Twisted Fate was right, they'd split. Isn't that what she wanted all along? To be able to work on herself? Yet somehow, now that he had mentioned it, she dreaded that moment. She hadn't contemplated what would happen afterwards. She was a chrono-agent and yet she didn't know what the future beheld for her. But if there was one thing Caitlyn knew for sure was that this journey had changed her forever.

"Until that happens, we've got plenty of time," she said upon seeing everyone being baffled due to Twisted Fate's words.

"And what is time even?" Twisted Fate laughed.

"Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. Time is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience. Time is often referred to as a fourth dimension, along with three spatial dimensions," Shen responded graciously.

"Someone's done their homework," Riven pointed out.

"It would be a shame if I was unable to define time out of all people." Shen smirked even so slightly. "Alright, let's focus. We need to go over everything before we act."

"What about Vi?" Twisted Fate asked.

"I'll take care of that," Caitlyn promised.

"Oh, sure you will." Riven giggled behind her palm while Shen and Tobias shared a smirk. Caitlyn simply rolled her eyes.

"Hilarious," she deadpanned. "Can we please focus now?"

Shen cleared his throat. "Right, sorry."

They went carefully over the last details of the plan. This time there would be no backup. This was really up to them. Caitlyn could not afford risking any more lives nor failing again. They were running out of time. Another failure would probably have them removed from the case and then it would be all over.

No, this time they wouldn't fail. Caitlyn was determined. The five of them would succeed, no matter what and no matter the cost.

After agreeing on the last details, all that remained was to set this final plan into motion. But first, Caitlyn needed to inform their fifth member about the upcoming event. The call was brief with the Pulsefire promising to give more details when Vi arrived. There was no time to waste. Once that was arranged, they left their headquarters with the promise to return back there victorious.

The night fell upon them soon. Vi didn't show up until later.

"What on earth happened to you? You're never late," Twisted Fate asked when the cop eventually met them.

"Norman Rose's murder has really been a major pain in the ass. In all my years as a police officer, I've never had to fill in so much paperwork," Vi responded. She looked stressed indeed, Caitlyn concluded. "So what is this all about? Are we really going to catch Ezreal tonight?"

"Should everything go according to the plan, then yes," Caitlyn replied. "Come on. I need to explain the plan to you before we proceed any further."

Once Caitlyn was done, Vi took a moment to analyze it better. "It's stupid and reckless. I love it." She grinned.

Caitlyn rolled her eyes. "It's not stupid per se. I agree it slightly differs from our usual strategy, however. But we seriously are running out of time."

"That's kind of an irony coming from you," Vi commented.

"She's not mistaken though," Shen interfered. "The PROJECT deviants are possibly preparing an attack that includes an overwhelming amount of explosives. We most certainly don't want that happening."

"That sounds like Jinx's idea…"

"And it seems like Ezreal plays a vital role in that plan so arresting him could possibly prevent it," Riven elaborated.

"Alright, alright, I see your point," Vi reassured with a nod. "Shall we then? As you said, we don't have time to waste."

"This way." Caitlyn guided them towards their destination which was an ammunition store nearby. When they came closer, she motioned at her partners to keep quiet.

They had to stop a block away from the spot since the area was swarming with PROJECTS loading explosives in what seemed to be a stolen truck. The entire store was surrounded by other PROJECTS covering their companions. No cars came by which was strange. It was obviously very well organized and their plan of stopping them looked like a joke. But what Caitlyn was concerned about was Ezreal's presence on the back of the store, near the side parking lot alongside another PROJECT initial that she recognized as Leona. She backed off from the corner to give her companions the last instructions.

"Listen up," Caitlyn said sternly. "Vi and I will go around the block. When we get there, I'll give you the signal. You know what to do afterwards."

"Shouldn't Vi come with us? I mean, she could potentially pose a threat against them, plus she'd be a huge help for us," Twisted Fate asked.

"As much as I'm flattered by your words Tobias, someone needs to cover cupcake here." Vi smirked.

"Don't call me that," Caitlyn snapped even though she knew it was pointless. "Anything else? No. Let's go then. Good luck… and may we be victorious."

With those last words, they took their separate ways. Caitlyn and Vi had to rush in order to get in spot quickly enough. When they finally went around the block, they came to a sudden halt, pressing their backs against the wall. Caitlyn peeked over the corner carefully to see if Ezreal and Leona were still there. None of them had moved.

"Alright, this is it…" she said to herself, trying to slow down the beating of her heart. The moment she had anticipated for so long. She wouldn't screw this up. She took a deep breath and then exhaled. She had forgotten that Vi was there with her for a moment until the latter gently touched her arm.

"What is it?" She asked curiously.

"There's something I need to tell you before we jump into what I presume to be the greatest shitshow so far," the police officer said and even though she made an attempt to alleviate the seriousness of her words, her expression said otherwise.

"Is there something wrong?" Caitlyn asked, now concerned.

"Not exactly. Eh…" Vi seemed to hesitate and that was not really her. "Look, I've never been great with words but I probably have to say this since we don't know how this is going to end." She casually pressed a button on her mask and it disappeared, revealing her eyes. "No matter what happens tonight, I want you to know that… that I love you."

Caitlyn was left speechless, her heartbeat skyrocketing right when she had managed to calm it down. She gaped at Vi, unable to process any words to create a proper sentence. She had completely blacked out, which had never happened to her before. Caitlyn was always confident about her words and actions. But for the first time, she didn't know what to say.

"You don't have to say it back. I just want you to know if… if anything goes south because we have a history of getting ourselves in some really troublesome situations," Vi joked, chuckling at her own joke. Caitlyn couldn't help but smile a little bit. "I'm really grateful to have met you. And even though we haven't always seen eye to eye, you somehow made my life a little bit less grey." She gave Caitlyn an awkward half smile, her cheeks painted in a faded red.

Caitlyn leaned in and pressed her lips against Vi's in a soft yet emotional kiss. She was unable to express her feelings at the moment but this was a silent promise that she would one day, sooner or later. Vi understood her so perfectly that moments like these words were completely unnecessary.

Unfortunately, real life was awaiting for them and despite the fact that they'd rather lose themselves in this blissful moment, they had a duty to fulfil. Caitlyn slowly pulled away, watching as Vi gave her a brilliant smile before her eyes disappeared yet again behind the mask.

It was time for action.

"Are you in your position?" Caitlyn asked through her speaker.

"Ready whenever you are, Caitlyn," came Shen's voice from the other side of the line.

"Go."

The next seconds erupted in a snap. The chaos that followed was expected but even Caitlyn couldn't have imagined the fuss that was created. If they were good at one thing at least, that was exactly it, she realized. She watched carefully as Leona rushed to assist the other initials after Ezreal reassured her that he'd be alright on his own to cover their backs. How wrong he was.

Caitlyn aimed. This was way too helpless of an attempt but she ought to try. She pulled the trigger while Vi held her breath behind her. The bullet barely missed as Ezreal teleported off of the way, shock written all over his expression.

"Go," Caitlyn muttered behind her shoulder at Vi before running right towards him. Vi went to the right, towards the entrance of the parking lot in order to prevent whomever was going to come that way.

"Good evening Ezreal," Caitlyn spoke coldly.

"Oh hey, Cait. It's definitely been a while," Ezreal taunted, charging his gauntlet. He began walking in circles and Caitlyn mimicked his steps.

"Indeed. I wish I could claim that I've missed your face," she retorted.

Ezreal chuckled. "Better have a look at it well because you ain't seeing that pretty face again for a long, long time."

"You can try to run," Caitlyn challenged him. "At least, you'll make this interesting for me but keep in mind it will be no use this time. No one's here to protect you."

Caitlyn noticed how the boy looked hopefully towards the commotion, hoping that someone would show up but was disappointed to see that Vi didn't let anyone approach them. This was just him and her.

"Surrender now. It would be wise to accept the unavoidable," Caitlyn advised.

Ezreal gritted his teeth. "Never."

"Well, that's just too bad," were Caitlyn's last words before she shot again.

Oh, how she had missed their little game as they danced around shooting at each other. The thrill of the chase. If she wanted to, Ezreal would be bleeding at her feet but her orders were to bring him back alive. A combination of luck was also what had kept him safe and sound. Until now, when he had completely run out of luck. After a couple of exchanges, Caitlyn aimed at Ezreal's gauntlet and didn't miss.

"Shit!" he cursed out loud as he realized his only means of defense was damaged.

"That was a long time coming," Caitlyn muttered to herself as her finger was about to pull the trigger one last time before ending this one and for all. The net was ready and charged.

But what happened afterwards would have never been predicted by Caitlyn that had so carefully and thoroughly prepared everything. Not even someone so organized and observant like her could have seen this coming.

The next thing she knew was a sharp pain on her sides as she was thrown off her feet and landed to the ground. Her vision became blurry and she could barely make any voices out. She hadn't seen anyone coming, Vi hadn't said a thing! What was even going on?

Caitlyn rolled to the side, trying to get back on her feet but her body hurt. Not as much as she'd expect it to hurt but still. She heard more voices but she couldn't identify them. She raised her throbbing head slowly.

"What are you waiting for? Run, you fool! Run!"

"Vi…?" The name escaped her lips unconsciously but that voice unmistakably belonged to her.

Caitlyn blinked several times, trying to adjust her vision. Ezreal didn't hesitate to do as he was told as Vi stood between him and his predator. Her expression was painful. No, Caitlyn simply refused to believe that Vi had just helped her arc enemy escape, hadn't just turned her gauntlets against her when moments ago she was confessing her love to her. She simply couldn't not believe it. Nothing made sense anymore.

Until it finally did.

She should have seen it since they discovered that Jinx was alive.

Riven and Shen had warned her. But she hadn't listened.

How could she be so stupid-

"Vi!" She shouted, every inch of her being filled with rage and that bitter sense of betrayal that slowly sank it. "What have you done!"

"I'm so sorry, cupcake-"

"Don't you dare! Don't you dare call me that!" Caitlyn yelled. "You helped Ezreal escape! You fucking hit me!"

Vi didn't answer, which only fueled Caitlyn with even more anger. She didn't even try to deny it. Caitlyn raised her gun. Vi was now the enemy. No, poor choice of words. She had always been the enemy. But Caitlyn had been blinded, lost in her own affairs to even notice. Riven and Shen had warned her. How could she have been so fucking stupid?

"Caitlyn," Vi tried to speak again but Caitlyn heard none of it.

"Shut up! Just shut up!" Caitlyn yelled at the top of her lungs over the overall noise coming from the street. "You betrayed me! You've been lying to me all along!"

The reality of her own words hit her harder than she expected. Everything had been a lie. All the moments they had shared, all the words, the kisses, the promises, the emotions. Everything was fake. None of it was real. Caitlyn could not believe she had been played like that. She felt like a part of herself had just been assassinated.

"I'm sorry Caitlyn! I really am!" Vi's voice broke but Caitlyn didn't sympathize. The only emotion that went through her was pure rage.

"There are not enough sorry's in this godforsaken world that can be enough for me to forgive you!" Her words broke Vi's heart but she simply didn't care at the moment. She deserved to be in pain. How could she play with her like that? "Tell me Vi, have you ever even told me the truth? Or has everything been a lie?"

"I wish I could explain to you but I can't. I'm sorry, Caitlyn. I really am. I know you don't believe me and you've got every right not to." Vi shook her head. "I wish one day I will be able to tell you the truth and the truth only. There are still many things you don't understand. Although, it's better that way."

Caitlyn could not believe her audacity. "Fuck you, Vi! Fuck you! I will kill you. Both of you and your fucking friend!" She hissed. "Take my word for it even if it's the last thing I do!"

Vi didn't say anything. Suddenly, the store behind them exploded, setting fire to the nearby buildings. Windows shattered all around the block. Somewhere in the distance came faint sirens. The force of the explosion threw Caitlyn off her feet again and she crashed on the ground again, her entire body complaining. Through the smoke and fire, Vi still stood still, like the devil moving through hell.

"Don't trust anyone Caitlyn," Vi said. "One day, you might find out the truth."

With those last words, Vi turned her back to her and walked through the fire to meet her real companions and escape through the night while Caitlyn helplessly laid there, unable to move, unable to scream or shout or say anything.

She had failed once again. She had been betrayed by the last person she ever expected. What was even left for her anymore? The angle slowly faded away and was replaced by emptiness. Not even a hint of emotion. Caitlyn was an empty shell. The world spinned around her as the fire continued burning. If she closed her eyes, she'd pass out, that was for sure. And that would be her doom.

No, she refused to simply die after she had been humiliated like that. With the last bit of strength she had, Caitlyn pushed herself on her feet. Her entire body was in pain and it had been decorated with scars and bruises. Her uniform was burnt in all different places and her face was covered in dirt. Her eyes remained glued to the burning shop in front of her, the flames reflecting on her eyes.

What a disaster.

This would be the end of her career.

But right now, she couldn't bring herself to care.

Caitlyn walked slowly towards the street. Pieces were burning all around and the smoke towered itself towards the sky. She coughed a couple of times. In the distance, she could hear the sirens more clearly now alongside talking. The firefighters had arrived and were already trying to extinguish the fire. Her companions were there, also in a rough state. Shen was talking with one of the firefighters while Riven and Twisted Fate rested on the side of the road. They were obviously relieved to see Caitlyn safe.

"Caitlyn! Thank the stars, you're alive!" Riven exclaimed when she took notice of the sniper arriving. She tried to help her walk but Caitlyn pushed her away. Was she alive? Being alive meant feeling nothing but a void? She couldn't know anymore. She collapsed down on the pavement. Shen abandoned the firefighter and kneeled down next to her.

"Caitlyn! Are you alright?" he asked, concerned. "What happened?"

"We were betrayed." Caitlyn was not surprised at how numb and emotionless she sounded. "Vi betrayed us. She had been helping them all along."

She was met by a deafening silence, despite the shouts of the firefighters in the background. They couldn't believe it either.

"What?" Riven blurted out.

"She had been lying all along. I should have never trusted someone like her." Caitlyn shook her head. "You two warned me about her." She looked over at the white haired woman and at Shen. "But I refused to listen. You were right. I was completely stupid."

As those words escaped her lips, the void in her heart slowly filled by an overwhelming sadness that soon took over every single cell of her body and the tears threatened to spill. Caitlyn didn't want under any circumstances to have a breakdown down in front of her squad but it wasn't really up to her. She felt herself choke.

"How could she?" she cried out as she buried her head inside her arms, letting her rifle fall down next to her and then she sobbed. Once again, she was the little, helpless girl on the back seat of the car crush. And even though it was possible, time traveling was not an option for her just like it wasn't when her parents died. She was alone once again.

Maybe it was better like that. People always ended up hurting her. Heck, she had known yet somehow she had let Vi into her life just like that and now she paid the price for it.

Chapter Text

Running. That was what she was good at. All her life Vi had been running, never stopping to catch a breath, never taking a break. That was what she was good at, that's how she had learned to live. She pretended to be the tough one, always ready to pick up a good first and bust some head, always prepared to make a door to run through when there was nowhere to go. But the truth was that Vi was a really good runner.

That night Vi ran like she had never run before, not daring to look back. She was too afraid to face the burning rumbles of the broken heart she had left behind. Vi hated herself, she really did. If she could have done otherwise, if there would have been another path, she would most certainly follow it. But there was only one path and that was the one of betrayal. What was worse was the fact that she had known for the very beginning and she had done absolutely nothing to make the situation any easier for both her and Caitlyn. Instead of keeping a safe distance, she came extremely close to the fire and ended up getting burnt. Now Vi ran, leaving the pieces of her own broken heart to scatter as she passed through.

Why had she allowed herself to fall in love with someone that she should have never been involved with in the first place? She had been so selfish, desperate for the loving touch of someone else rather than her loneliness. It was not just Caitlyn who would never forgive her. She would never forgive herself for as long as she lived. This was a burden that she had to carry forever.

Their escape had been chaotic but at least they managed to return safely to their portable hideout which they had set up on an empty plot near the harbor, always invisible to the rest of the world. Vayne had been left behind to supposedly guard it, although Vi was sure she was still not capable of even protecting herself yet. Her recovery was slow but steady, that was something. At least she was not alone through this, Vi noted sadly.

"That could have been better but at least we're all safe and sound," Ashe commented once they were finally behind those temporary walls of safety. But not for much longer. "Did we at least get what we wanted?"

"Oh, that should be sufficient!" Jinx grinned, pointing at the last bit of explosives they had managed to claim. "It's going to be a total blast, I'm telling you! Hey, what's up, Fat Hands? Why are you so grumpy?" she asked, upon taking notice of her sister.

"Leave me alone," she growled. Vi was in no mood to deal with Jinx at that moment.

"Let her be." Irelia placed a hand on Jinx's shoulder, making Vi's heart miss a beat. Irelia had been more of a sister to Jinx the past few years than she had been the last couple of weeks, which made her feel even worse about herself.

"Was it really necessary to blow up the store? I feel sort of guilty," Ekko admitted.

"I honestly have the very same question," Akali commented.

"If we hadn't, those Pulsefires would be able to follow us. We shouldn't have underestimated them," Leona admitted, rubbing her shoulder. .

"No shit. Caitlyn ruined my damn gauntlet!" Ezreal complained, looking at his broken weapon once again.

"Let me have a look at it," Ekko said. "Oh, shit." He cursed. "I believe it is beyond repair, man."

Ezreal sighed in frustration. "That would have never happened if Vi had been covering me like she should be doing."

Vi narrowed her eyes at him even though he couldn't quite see that. "Pardon me?"

"Now, now, let's not start pointing fingers-" Ashe interfered in an attempt to prevent the situation from escalating but it was too late.

"Fuck you." Vi hissed "I was supposed to cover you, not babysit you. If you could not handle yourself, maybe you should not have come in the first place. Or better yet, not mess with technology you're not capable of handling!"

"If I could handle Caitlyn on my own, I would have asked for your help, you retard!" Ezreal shot back.

"Maybe if you hadn't been trying to play hero and save the future, as you so proudly proclaim every five minutes, and had left that to the TPA, we wouldn't even be here!"

"How dare you!-"

"Enough!" Ashe shouted over them. "That's enough already. Both of you stop this nonsense. Ezreal, stop blaming Vi. It is what it is. And Vi, for the love of the stars, please calm down."

"Don't tell me what the fuck to do, Ashe." Vi pointed a threatening finger at her. "I'm going to lose my job because of this ferret right here and what do I get for that? Him shitting on me! So do not tell me to "calm down". Enough is enough." She inhaled sharply. "Once this is over, I'm taking Jinx and we're getting the fuck out of Piltover."

"You don't get to decide for me!" Jinx complained with a pout.

"As a matter of fact, I do." Vi growled. "And if I ever meet you again-" She glared at Ezreal. "-I will not hesitate to crush your skull on the spot."

She turned her back at all of them, leaning against the wall and breathing heavily. She hadn't been so angry in a really long time. Normally, she wouldn't be so pissed off at Ezreal but he had just chosen the worst time to create drama. Stars, everything sucked.

Ashe looked helplessly between Vi who had leaned against the wall and Ezreal who had turned his back at her. She sighed in frustration.

"Now that's not a good time to be fighting," she said. "You're grown people. Figure it out. Ekko, is there really nothing you can do about Ezreal's gauntlet?"

"I'm afraid not, Ashe."

"May I have a look at it?" Jinx suddenly offered.

Ezreal laughed awkwardly. "What do you know about these things?"

"More than you give me credit for." Jinx gave him a knowing smile as she approached him in confidence. Ezreal gazed back at her both curiously and somewhat intimidated. What was this lunatic going to do to him?

Jinx picked up his arm and examined the damaged gauntlet carefully. She hummed. "It's indeed in a really bad shape," she admitted. "But not a lost cause. I can make it work at 40% capacity in the best scenario."

"That's impossible," Ekko interjected.

"Yeah? Watch me," Jinx challenged him.

"Have faith. Jinx has managed to repair equipment we never thought it was about to be fixed," Irelia assured. "If it hadn't been for her, half of our systems wouldn't be working today."

"May I use your tools, Ekko?" Jinx asked with a smirk.

"Be my guest." Ekko shrugged indifferently. "But don't say I didn't warn you."

Ashe shook her head at their childish behavior but she was secretly smiling. Her gaze upon Vi who didn't seem to have even shifted positions. She must have had a really tough day, that was for sure. It was perhaps better to leave her on her own for now. She needed that space. Now that the drama had been temporarily solved, she could focus on another crucial part of their plan.

"You guys do that while I'll go finish some other business," she announced, not expecting much of an answer really. She picked up her bow and checked on her arrows. Ashe was surprised to see that Fiora abandoned her spot next to Vayne in order to approach her.

"Wait," the dueler said.

"Is there something wrong, Fiora?" Ashe asked.

"I still don't think it's a good idea to go and find her," Fiora admitted. "It's extremely dangerous. She might kill you, you know. Look what she did to Yi!"

"I know that she's capable of. But she won't, I just know it." Ashe placed a hand onto Fiora's shoulder. "Fiora, I need you this time to trust me."

"It's not like I don't trust you, Ashe. I don't trust her."

"I have to agree with Fiora." Leona appeared out of nowhere. "Let me at least accompany you."

"Thank you for the concern, I really do appreciate it," Ashe said honestly. "But it's something I have to do on my own."

Fiora and Leona realized their defeat and backed off. If Ashe decided on something, it was almost impossible to change her mind.

"In that case, good luck. You'll need it," said Fiora eventually.

"Thank you." Ashe nodded. Her heart swelled up at the sight of her companions. They had come a long way, especially with Fiora. Their relationship had been turbulent but they were able to figure it out. Fiora had definitely changed but in a good way and Ashe could pinpoint this change on only one person that she once despised so much. It was not like she and Vayne were on good terms but they had silently agreed to put aside their grudges for as long as this situation lasted. Plus, Fiora and Vayne had grown awfully close - the dueler refused to get into details, although Ashe was able to make a couple of assumptions - and the archer would hate to have her relationship with Fiora disturbed once again.

Putting those thoughts aside, Ashe left in order to come face to face with her past. It was very dangerous to be on the streets after they had raised the ammunition store but they were out of time. If she was to make amends with Katarina and persuade her to help them one last time, she had to take that risk.

Ashe dreaded that meeting. Katarina was the face of all her past mistakes. She wasn't sure if she was ready to face her. Truth be told, she doubted if she would ever truly be ready. But this was not about her. It was about saving whatever future they had. However, that didn't stop the so livid memories from returning. Ashe did not recall initiating them but did nothing to stop the recordings from playing.

You don't have a goal! You don't know what you're doing!

The only thing you care about is leadership!

I regret helping you escape!

You aren't any better than them!

I should have never followed you!

I hope I never see you again!

"Stop it, Ashe," she scolded herself. She was not making this any easier. Facing one's past was more difficult than she expected. But if she wanted to confront her past, that was the only way of doing so.

To face Katarina.

She walked alone for a while, with only company her thoughts. Ashe was extra careful but she didn't meet a soul, except an occasional car that passed by. Every time it did, she hid in the shadows temporarily and waited until it was far away before she continued. With that pattern, it took her forty five minutes to get to the meeting spot; a bridge that connected the upper city with the lower. The bright yellow neon colors gave it another perspective as more roads snaked the way under the bridge. It was a fascinating sight for whoever was not afraid of heights. Katarina's figure looked like it was golden due to the lights, in contrast with her pink attire.

The assassin turned her head at the sound of the archer's footsteps. Ashe didn't get too close. It saddened her that she could not trust her but that was the painful reality. For a moment, they didn't say anything. They just stared at each other, challenging each other to start first. They were both too stubborn for their own good. However, Ashe felt it was appropriate to go for it first. After all, she was the one to summon her in order to ask for a favor.

"Thank you for coming here," she spoke, carefully choosing her words. "I know you could get in a lot of trouble."

Katarina didn't respond immediately. "Just say what you want."

Always straight to the point. "Long story short, we want to destroy the last bit of PROJECT."

"Don't we all?" Katarina shot back. "Anything more realistic?"

"I'm serious." Ashe deadpanned. "We want to destroy PROJECT. And you already know why, don't you Katarina? You're clever, I'm pretty sure you've discovered what's going on."

"It's impossible," said Katarina.

"Not without your help-"

"And why should I help you in your little quest?" Katarina cut her off, her tone sharp. "Last time I helped you, that didn't work out very well."

Ashe sighed. "You're right," she admitted. "But this is different. The future is in danger."

"Do I look like a hero to you, Ashe?" Katarina huffed. "I'm an assassin, for crying out loud! I kill people, I don't save them. And besides, I have no reason to help you. You're wasting your time."

"Listen-"

"No, you listen." Katarina interrupted her. "If you thought that you could come here and beg me to help you with whatever scheme you're preparing, that I would forgive you and just agree with it, then you're more of a fool that you let on, Ashe."

"I did not come here with hopes that you'd be willing to listen to me, Katarina," Ashe stated. "Or forgive me just like that, for that matter. I'm not foolish. I'm well aware that it won't matter how many times I apologize or how hard I try to persuade you that I have changed. I've wronged you, I manipulated you when all you did was help me out. I betrayed your trust. That is not something to be forgiven for."

»There is no space for personal arguments, however. The world's future is at stake. We can stay here all night arguing about what went wrong between us. But will it get us anywhere? Probably not. So, let's focus on what truly matters."

"What truly matters is that I will not help you." Katarina hissed. "I've suffered enough because of you. You wasted your time coming here."

Ashe's heart ached. "Understandable." She nodded. "Although I must disagree."

"Disagree with what?"

"If you know what's going to happen, at least you can save yourself. I don't think that's a waste of time," Ashe explained.

Katarina was speechless. She had no more bitter remarks to send towards Ashe's direction. No matter. The case was over. There was nothing left for Ashe to do there. She turned on her tracks to leave when she suddenly came to a halt. Without turning to face her, she said to Katarina, "You don't fool anyone with that villain act, you know. You could have killed Yi when you were given the chance and instead you spared his life."

With those last words, Ashe took off without looking back. Because if she did, she'd probably break down and that was the last thing she wanted. The overwhelming feelings were going to dismantle her systems and she couldn't have that in the middle of the night. She left the bridge behind and continued on her way back.

"Wait!"

The voice ringed inside her ears. Ashe couldn't believe it. Slowly, she spun around. Much to her surprise, Katarina had followed her up there. Before Ashe could ask what she wanted, she spoke first. Always one step ahead of her thoughts, as always.

"I will do it," Katarina declared. "But not because you asked me to. If you're right about one thing is that the PROJECT needs to go down as soon as possible. So, don't thank me."

Ashe was confused but pleasantly surprised as well. "A-alright then," she stammered. "I'll send you the details once we're ready."

Katarina nodded. She said nothing else before disappearing as quickly as she had run after Ashe. The archer sighed. Somehow, she felt a weight lifting off her chest. The hard feelings were still there but at least Katarina could see sense. That was something.

"One day at a time," Ashe whispered to herself before walking away.


A couple of hours away and hours laters, the morning hours found the headquarters of TPA in a hustle. It was a matter of time before everyone learnt the news. Of course the details were mixed and there were already five different versions of the story but they all concluded to the same end; the once talented prodigious agent Pulsefire Caitlyn had messed up big time once again and her getting fired was inevitable at this point. Others claimed this should have happened way earlier while they shook their heads. Others complained why the rest of the squad was still inside that building hiding inside their office. It was chaotic and it was only going to get worse.

"Why can't they mind their own damn business?" Riven groaned. "Is it so hard?"

"I honestly don't blame them." Shen shrugged. "This is a big deal. They're going to be talking about this for months."

"This is Bellmoor all over again." Twisted Fate sighed as she leaned against the wall. "If we get any luck, we'll be thrown back into desk duty again."

"But Caitlyn hates desk duty," Riven commented.

"I don't think Caitlyn will get any desk duty at this point, Riven," Shen said sadly. "This is her downfall."

Riven jumped off her chair, clearly upset. "They can't!" she cried out. "She has made the most arrests in the history of the Timeline Protection Agency! She's the best Pulsefire out there!"

Shen shook his head. "Not anymore…"

"But it wasn't her fault! That was all Vi!"

The moment those words escaped her lips, she realized the importance of it. Vi had betrayed them. The wound was still fresh. But what made Riven's heart break into pieces was Caitlyn's breakdown. She had always known there was something more between the sniper and the PROJECT and she had always teased her friend about it but Riven would have never imagined it would come to this.

Shen approached her. "We had warned her but she refused to listen, Riven." He placed a hand on her shoulder. "We always knew there was something off about it."

"So what?" Riven said angrily. "It still-"

"Why do you insist on defending her so much?" Twisted Fate interrupted her. "Do I need to remind you how she always looked down on you? How she treated you like shit at the beginning? And then she tolerated all of us because she had no other choice?" He sounded bitter and he had every right to be. But Riven had none of that.

"She's changed, Tobias!" she shouted.

"You're right, Riven. She's changed. And she's never going to be the same as she was," Shen stated sadly. And unfortunately, he was right. That night, something inside Caitlyn had broken that could never be reforged.

"You should be more worried about your career," Twisted Fate advised. "I bet my beard she's up there shitting on us in order to save her own ass, just like she did last time."

"Then you don't know her at all," Riven snapped and she stormed towards the far end of their office. She didn't want to see Twisted Fate's face because there was a high chance she'd punch him. She dropped herself onto a chair and sighed. Everything was a mess. Would life ever give her a break?

She had accused Tobias that he didn't know Caitlyn but who did she think she was to make such a claim that she knew the sniper better? She foolishly thought she knew Vi. And the same went for Irelia. But that night they came face to face and Riven would never forget the feeling of betrayal that had filled every inch of her body when she realized Irelia was trying to defend Ezreal. At the same time, she felt like she had no reason to feel betrayed. Irelia had never claimed she wasn't involved with this situation and it was only a matter of time before they teamed up with the rest of the PROJECTS. Riven should have realized when she disappeared completely from her life. But did she expect it anyway? Irelia was a fugitive and she was supposed to arrest her. She should have any expectations from the blade master. Then why did this bug her so much?

Nothing made sense anymore.

She felt a presence coming next to her. It was no other than Shen. Always her rock during the hard times. But he had looked very troubled during that battle as well, especially while fighting that Akali. He had his own share of troubles.

"Are you alright?" he asked gently.

"As alright as I can be." Riven asked.

"You look troubled. Is it about Caitlyn?"

"Not quite." Riven frowned. "I mean, I'm still upset about it but that's not the only thing that has been bothering me."

"What is it then?"

Riven tried to explain as best she could the situation with Irelia. Shen had always been a good listener and never misunderstood her nor judged her.

"I just don't know. I mean, I don't think I should be feeling like that but I do and my overthinking keeps telling me it's unfair." Riven made a grimace. "Everything is so complicated." She groaned.

"Riven, your feelings are always valid," Shen assured her. "You have every right to feel this way about Irelia."

"It just feels like she's drifting away, you know? Like I'm losing whatever chance I got to finally make amends with my past." She admitted.

"I believe it's more than that, Riven," said Shen with a knowing smile, making the woman blush. "Although, I'm of the opinion that you're looking at the whole redemption thing the wrong way."

Riven furrowed her brows. "What do you mean?"

"You aren't really after Irelia's forgiveness. There's another reason why you're upset with her."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Riven mumbled, making Shen roll his eyes.

"I believe that you need to forgive yourself first for what happened that night in Zaun," he continued.

"Forgive… myself?" she repeated.

Shen nodded. "Yes. I don't think that Irelia's forgiveness will do you any good without forgiving yourself first."

"I don't know, Shen. Forgiving myself it's not an easy task."

"I didn't say it was. But it's worth a shot. It can bring you peace of mind."

"And you're talking from experience?" Riven inquired.

"One can only dream." Shen smiled sadly. "As you said, forgiving one's self is a really long and hard process."

Riven examined him carefully. He had been hiding something too for quite some time and it was outrageous how Shen believed he could fool her like that. "You have your own secrets, don't you Shen? Don't you think I didn't notice how you refused to give that PROJECT: Akali a hard time. You don't have to." She interrupted him when she noticed that he was able to say something. "Not unless you're ready. Just wanted to let you know that I'm here for you, no matter what happens."

Shen nodded. "Thank you," he said in appreciation.

Riven understood how it felt like carrying the weight of your past mistakes on your back. It was a weight that one cannot easily get rid off. It takes time. Time. What a complicated term. It may give you the greatest gifts or the greatest punishments. Rebirth or decay and eventually death. Riven knew that all too well. Only time could reveal the consequences of our actions, whether we're ready to pay for them or not.

And that night, Caitlyn had paid the ultimate price, Riven noted silently. Perhaps that was the last time they would ever see her, she thought with a tight heart. At least, Riven hoped that the sniper would give them a chance to give her a proper farewell, although she kept her expectations low. After all that happened, she couldn't predict how Caitlyn would act.

Nothing was the same anymore, not even themselves.

Chapter Text

Life is a long road that occasionally will lead straight into a dead end. The real question is, how you get out of that dead end? How do you leave it behind like every other obstacle and proceed with your life? Caitlyn didn't have the answer to that. In fact, she felt she had no answers about anything. This was it. This was the end of the line for her.

But what surprised her the most was the fact that she didn't even care. She didn't feel a damn thing. No worry, no sadness, no nothing. Caitlyn was empty. She acted like she had run out of emotions, like she was empty. After the overwhelming amount of emotions she had felt the night of the betrayal, there was nothing left. An empty vessel.

It was ironic how Vi made her feel all those things and then in the end, she tossed her aside, rendering unable to feel anything at all. Vi had fucked her up beyond repair, or so it seemed.

Caitlyn had listened to the Board of Directors' ruthless confrontation silent, only blinking. They didn't give her a chance to defend herself. Although, she wouldn't have even if they had, simply because there was nothing to defend. She had been caught in her sleep, like a trainee. There was no excuse for a professional like her. And even though it was not up to the Board to decide that, her firing was inevitable by the looks of it.

That didn't surprise her at all.

And frankly, Caitlyn simply didn't care. She couldn't bring herself to care even about her own life at this point.

Normally, she would be scared. But that was not the case any longer.

After that so tragically over, she had to pay Tythonus Cayton one last visit at his office. It could have been Caitlyn's office one day, when Cayton would decide to retire and leave the younger generation take over. But even that had grumbled like a paper tower. Caitlyn had never had ambitions on becoming the Administrator of TPA. But the lingering thought of it once felt nice. Now it didn't matter.

Caitlyn walked inside the office and unexpectedly thought of the first time she had stepped in here months ago, when she had first returned to this timeline to report back to Cayton. It felt eons ago. Like a very old memory. What she could recall from that meeting was that she had been left frustrated with him. How the roles had switched so drastically.

Even know, it was really hard to read Cayton. Sometimes, Caitlyn saw herself in him. The emotionless act - even though it wasn't an act anymore -, the precision, the confidence in every move and decision. However, he was still there and she was about to leave the TPA forever. How fate works sometimes.

This time, he didn't offer her a drink. He didn't say a word as he signed some papers. He refused to look at her until it was absolutely necessary. Caitlyn preferred it like that. She did not wish any kind of sympathy from him, or anyone, for that matter. Once he finished signing the papers, he handed them to her. He had probably prepared them once the news had spread between the TPA. That's why he filled them in a matter of minutes.

"You'll submit that down at the reception. Before you do that, you'll have to visit the armory and return all your weapons and equipment," Cayton instructed. "You'll have to sign some more papers you need to submit as well."

Caitlyn nodded, giving the papers a brief look. Her gaze locked back onto Cayton when she heard him sigh.

"I cannot believe I had to do that," he admitted. "I'm sorry, Caitlyn. I wish there was something I could have done."

Caitlyn didn't respond. She kept staring blankly at him. Cayton was not discouraged by the lack of response.

"You were undoubtedly one of the best Pulsefires this agency had the luck of working with. You had a really bright future ahead. I'm saddened it has to end that way. Alas! I wish you the best of luck with whatever you're planning on doing with your life from now on. You're still rather young, there's always room for success elsewhere." He stood up and extended a hand. "Farewell, Caitlyn."

Caitlyn glared at his hand, debating if she should accept this handshake or if she should just walk away. Her mother would have scolded her if she dared behave like that to her superior. But her mother was gone long ago alongside everyone else in her life. She was alone. Regardless, Caitlyn shook his hand quickly and left. There was nothing else for her in that office.

Papers in hand, Caitlyn stepped inside the elevator and headed downstairs to pay her office one last visit. There was some packing she needed to do as well, gather all of her equipment and return it safely to the armory. Who would have known that there would be a day she would be obligated to return all of this?

When Caitlyn stepped inside her shared office, she was greeted by the chattering of her ex-colleagues. Her presence won their attention but she profoundly ignored them. Not because Caitlyn was angry at them or blamed them for what had happened but because there was nothing left to say. Despite that, Riven jumped when she noticed her. She tried to say something but Shen grabbed her arm. The white hair woman looked at the older man who shook his head. Twisted Fate refused to look at her. Even better.

Caitlyn grabbed a box and started putting there whatever equipment laid around the belonged to her. No one helped her but she was glad. She didn't want any interaction. It was better this way.
She left her rifle last. This was the first time she felt something like a tingle. The closest to an emotion. Her sniper rifle. Her loyal companion to so many missions, to so many adventures. It had never disappointed her, not even once. Caitlyn ran a hand over it. If she'd miss anything from her time in the Timeline Protection Agency, it would be her rifle. Eventually, she placed it inside the box alongside her other belongings.

Caitlyn glanced around the office for one last time. Her eyes met Shen and Riven; the latter looked extremely sad, like she was about to cry. But she would be better off without Caitlyn in her life, at least that's what the sniper thought, and she had Shen, who would always support no matter what. Then, there was Tobias. Caitlyn took a moment to examine his posture.

"Don't worry about your career, Tobias. I did not shit talk you this time to get away with it. There was nothing that could have saved my job," Caitlyn said to him in such a sharp tone that it could slice through metal.

The man raised his head, confused. His expression quickly shifted. He felt ashamed of himself that he had accused her like that. His lips trembled at his attempt to speak. But his voice died out inside his throat. Nothing came out. Meanwhile, Caitlyn checked on her firing papers one last time. There was one page missing. Which meant that she had to go back and retrieve it.

Great.

Caitlyn placed her papers inside the box so she could carry them around easier. She picked the box up and left the office behind her, never looking back. That chapter of her life was officially finished. She returned back to the elevators with the box in her arms. Now no one even bothered to be discreet as they pointed at her and talked loudly about her failure. Caitlyn blinked and the doors slid close.

The elevator stopped again at the 100th floor. Caitlyn felt slightly stupid for not noticing earlier but oh well. She wasn't in a hurry. But when she returned to the lobby, she realized that something was completely wrong.

Cayton's secretary had been shot right on her forehead and she laid useless on the floor, pieces of her laying broken around. The door to his office was half broken, like someone had kicked it hard.
Caitlyn was instantly alerted. With slow moves, she placed the box down and picked up her rifle. She walked towards the broken door carefully and pressed her back against the wall, trying to pick any sound from inside the office. Well, it wasn't that hard since there was plenty of shouting.

She recognized calm Cayton's voice through the shouting but she failed to identify who was shouting. It seemed like whoever had assaulted Cayton's secretary and his office had a lot of steam to blow.

"...You promised to get Ezreal for us! It's been months, Cayton! Fucking months! The PROJECT traces roamed around the city while making you look like the fool you are!"

"If you wanted Ezreal so bad, why didn't you do it yourselves and bothered me for so long which that case?" Cayton responded. His voice was monotonous but Caitlyn could tell he was annoyed.

"Because we needed to focus on preparing an army of clones under everyone's nose, in case you didn't notice!" The other man hissed. "All you had to do was catch him before he spread the information. But you're so useless you couldn't even do that!"

"Be careful, Mancuso," Cayton warned. "I'm the only one who can give you access to other dimensions. Without me, your plan for total domination will not go far."

Whoever that Mancuso guy was, he seemed to take Cayton's threat slightly seriously. Caitlyn had no idea what these two men were discussing about but she didn't like where it was going. She had a bad institution about it.

"It was a mistake to rely on you," Mancuso continued. "We should have sent a bunch of our clones to get him before it was too late. Too bad our scientists insisted to wait..." he commented somewhat disappointed.

"I fired my best agent. I don't know what else you want from me."

"That's because she put her nose where it didn't belong, Cayton! Did you know she spoke to Viktor?"

"Viktor?" Cayton repeated.

"Yes, fucking Viktor. It wouldn't surprise me if she already knows about the PROJECT Invasion. Firing was your only option. At least you give her a chance to walk away unharmed. The next option would be, well, killing her."

"I suppose you've got a point there," Cayton admitted. "Well, it doesn't matter if she knows about the Invasion or not. She's in no position to stop it, especially now. And even if she was, she can't know when it's going to start."

"That's what I came here for." Mancuso cleared his throat. "I suppose that you already know Rose is dead, by a PROJECT hand nonetheless. The Invasion is starting soon."

"How soon?"

"Could be a couple of days, maybe even hours. We can't postpone it any longer. We can't use all of our clones... but those we have at our disposal should be sufficient to catch the remaining PROJECTS and complete the first stage. Be on your alert and prepare the portals. This is something you definitely can't screw up, can you Cayton?"

"You don't have to worry about this. Everything will be ready when the time comes."

"Good, good... Well, if that's the case then..."

Caitlyn had heard enough. With shift moves and trying not to make a noise, she walked back to her box, grabbed it and returned to the elevator before any of these men realized she had eavesdropped their entire conversation. Her brain was working at light speed, trying to process what she had just learned.

Her boss was a lying bastard that had been cooperating with the PROJECT corporation all along, choosing to betray all of the Agency's values, values he had served for many decades. And all for one stupid plan for total domination, without care about the consequences. Caitlyn could make a huge list of how many paradoxes something like that would create. The damage would be irreparable. She had a hard time believing that Cayton was not aware of this. Or was he so foolish to believe that he could somehow fix them? But it wasn't just him. The entire Board was involved, she was sure of that. Otherwise why would they pressure her so much to catch Ezreal?

As for the boy himself, he might have been a thorn in her sides for years but it turned out he wasn't the bad guy in this story. Not that he was completely innocent. He had caused his share of timeline damage. But he had tried to do one good errand even for once. Now, his existence was tied with the success of the so called "PROJECT Invasion".

They had to be stopped, no matter what. This was one thing Caitlyn was certain about.

There was no one she could trust. Given that her own boss was involved in this, there was no tell how many more people were in this. Her life was already at risk. But she couldn't go against an entire conspiracy on her own, it was humanly impossible.

A thought crossed her mind. Although, Caitlyn realized that she had already put them through a lot and they didn't deserve this. After all, she had always been better off alone. But if the TPA realized she had found out their dirty plans and had turned against them, no one guaranteed that they wouldn't use Shen, Riven and Twisted Fate as a bait. No, Caitlyn wouldn't let them hanging like that. It was better to tell them the truth and work it out together. She had to trust them. They were the only people in that building that she could rely on.

Caitlyn returned to her office, pretending nothing odd had happened. The glares were still there but no one suspected anything. That was good. She stepped in and locked the door behind her.

"Caitlyn?" Shen asked, obviously baffled at her return. "What are you doing?"

Caitlyn placed the box on the closet table and started picking some equipment that she considered useful.

"Caitlyn," Shen repeated. Caitlyn stopped suddenly. She looked at all three of them; they seemed confused. Well, of course. This was too sudden for them.

"Listen to me," she spoke, realizing this was the first time she spoke to them in twenty six hours. It felt like enough eternity. "There's no time for explanations, we're all in danger. I promise I explain everything if you do as I tell you."

"In danger? Caitlyn, what's the matter?" Riven asked.

"What part from 'we're all in danger' did you not understand?" Caitlyn snarled, slowly losing her patience. Why couldn't they just believe her?

"Caitlyn, we understand you've been through a lot lately and because of that you haven't been yourself." Shen placed a hand on her shoulder. "Let's sit down and talk about this first before we jump into action, yes?"

Caitlyn pushed his hand away, annoyed. "I think I haven't made myself clear enough," she said. "Would you actually listen to me if I told you that the timeline and our future is at stake?"

Everyone fell silent, looking at her. Their reaction was plausible since she basically had dropped a bomb.

"Are you serious?" Twisted Fate asked in disbelief.

"I wouldn't just come here and say something like that if I wasn't serious, Tobias," she deadpanned.

"How sure are you of this?" Shen inquired.

"I'm very certain but I cannot get in details right now, not in here. We can't trust anyone in this building. It is a matter of life and death," Caitlyn stated. "Don't make me beg you," she added.

"Alright, I think Caitlyn has been pretty clear," Riven stepped in. "How about we just do as she told us, hm?"

Caitlyn silently thanked her. Riven gave her a slight smile.

"Fine!" Twisted Fate sighed in frustration. "Fine, we will come with you."

"Thank you." Caitlyn nodded. "Take everything you deem necessary. We won't be able to come back here for a really long while."

It took them only a couple of minutes to prepare. Once they checked everything, making sure that they hadn't left behind anything important, they locked the office and followed Caitlyn. The sniper led them through the emergency exits of the building, avoiding on purpose the main entrance or other places due to the fact that she knew that most of the building was surveilled and she didn't want in any way to be spotted leaving all together. That would arise immediate suspicions.

The emergency exits led them to a ladder that connected all the floors from the outside. There was rarely anyone found there smoking. They were lucky enough and didn't meet anyone on their way down. From there, Caitlyn led them to the nearest train station.

Piltover's train system was truly impressive. It was a huge system of rails that connected all regions and levels of the city. The underground hadn't been completely abandoned but the train system bloomed above the ground. The rails were built in separate bridges in all different levels, supporting the fastest trains in Valoran. The train was by far the most reliable means of transportation in the city.

They took the first train that stopped at the station. The destination wasn't an issue for Caitlyn. The further they went, the safer it was. The trip was quiet. It was impossible to have a conversation in there, considering how crowded it was inside the cabin. The trip lasted for about an hour before reaching their final destination. Caitlyn and her crew found themselves in an unfamiliar station in an also unfamiliar area of the city. They left the station behind and continued on foot.

Eventually they came to a halt on a bridge, cars passing by. The noise didn't not allow any eavesdropping. Caitlyn stopped near the rail, looking down at the lower levels. More bridges came and intercrossed with one another and more cars moved like ants. She sighed.

"So, are you gonna tell us or what?" Tobias asked and Riven nudged him.

"Give her time," she hissed at him.

Caitlyn turned at them. This was it. "So, I might or might have not eavesdropped a conversation between Cayton and Zafer Mancuso, the CEO of of PROJECT Inc."

"Wait, really? What was he even doing at our headquarters?" Riven asked.

"It's really not a secret that those two have been cooperating for a long time now," Shen pointed out. "But I agree that it's weird that he came over all out of a sudden."

"Not exactly 'sudden' if you catch me," Twisted Fate commented but Caitlyn ignored him.

"He wasn't very happy about what happened yesterday," she confessed. "And mostly about the fact that Ezreal hasn't gotten apprehended yet."

"Why does he care? The boy is our jurisdiction," Shen inquired.

Caitlyn shook her head. "He actually isn't Shen. It turns out that Ezreal gained information about what the company is up to, information that they didn't want to go out. They needed him out of the way but they couldn't act without making it too obvious. The fact that his a chrono-fugitive was the perfect cover for them. After we successfully arrested him, the TPA would hand him to them."

"Caitlyn, are you saying what I'm thinking you're saying?" asked Riven, obviously terrified. "Do you think that they would have..."

"Killed him? Oh, absolutely." Caitlyn finished her sentence. "After they had tortured him to find out what he knew, certainly."

"And I assume whatever their plan was involved the PROJECT initials," said Shen.

"Yes." Caitlyn confirmed. "They have prepared an army of clones," she continued. "An army that they're planning on using to bring upon total domination but to all existing timelines so that no one would be able to stop them, ever."

"Holy shit!" Tobias exclaimed. "That's just so... I don't know how to describe it."

Caitlyn raised an eyebrow. "Twisted?" she suggested.

"I like the way you think, Caity."

"But how are the PROJECT initials involved with this since they ran away?" Riven questioned.

"I believe that they play a key role in enforcing said clones. Otherwise they wouldn't be called 'initials'." Caitlyn assumed. "In any case, we now know why Ezreal turned to them; Not just for protection but to warn them for the PROJECT corporation's plans."

"Well, makes sense," Shen commented.

"There's something else that doesn't make sense. "Let me elaborate." She added, upon realizing their confusion. "A couple of weeks ago, me and..." she hesitated for a moment. Her heart inched at the memory. "Well, me and you-know-who, paid a visit to a scientist named Viktor, who happens to be the designer of the PROJECT technology. He revealed to us that the criminal Ezreal had seeked protection from at first, Norman Rose, had funded the whole project. But as we know, he refused to protect him. He would have had Ezreal right where he wanted him and all of this mess would have never happened."

"Perhaps Norman wasn't aware of what Ezreal was up to? Hadn't he been gone for two years? Maybe they didn't know yet." Riven made an assumption.

"Sounds legit to me. But damn, what an idiot." Twisted Fate shook his head.

"I couldn't agree more with that statement." Shen commented.

"Well, it doesn't really matter right now," said Caitlyn. "What matters is that the PROJECT corporation in collaboration with the Timeline Protection Agency are planning an invasion within the next couple of hours. We need to stop them no matter what. If they succeed, there won't be any way of fixing it."

"You're right," Shen admitted. "Do you think this is why the PROJECT initials stole all of that explosives?"

Caitlyn nodded. "It is possible that they're trying to get rid off the clones. Without those, the invasion is doomed to fail."

"Do... do you think this is why Vi... lied?" Riven asked hesitantly, not sure of what Caitlyn's reaction would be. "Because all of this is so fucked up and it totally makes sense why our lives would be in danger if we knew."

The latter closed her eyes, trying to prevent the painful memory of taking over her. "It doesn't matter," she said eventually. "She had a good reason to do so but that doesn't change the fact that she worked behind my- I mean, our backs. But she did advise me not to trust anybody, which wasn't completely a lie in the end."

"Well, true..."

"So, what's the plan? Do we help the PROJECTS or do we act on our own?" Twisted Fate asked.

"I feel like there's not much we could do on our own," Shen admitted. "We should probably assist them with whatever plan they have in mind."

"As much as I agree with this idea, we won't be able to approach them easily. There's no way they're going to trust us. And there's really no time to persuade them otherwise." Caitlyn argued. "The only thing we can do is make sure they succeed."

"I have a question though," Shen said. "Why do you want to do this, Caitlyn? Vi betrayed your trust. Assisting her should be the last thing you would ever want to do right now."

"Because, regardless of her betrayal, I don't want to be caught in the wrong side of history," Caitlyn replied. "Is this a sufficient answer to you?"

He nodded. "Absolutely."

"Alright, now that's settled, we need to plan how we're going to approach this," Caitlyn continued before she was interrupted by Twisted Fate.

"Can we talk about saving the world after we grab something to eat? Because I'm starving and I don't want to be caught in the right side of history starving."

"Alright, fine. I guess dinner shouldn't be too bad..." Caitlyn mumbled, which only made him more excited.

Tobias pulled out his map. "Follow my lead then!" he exclaimed and walked ahead of them.

"I'm not sure what's more scary; the PROJECT Invasion or Tobias when he's hungry," Riven whispered in Caitlyn's ear, which only made her chuckle. She realized that this was the first time she smiled in a while. How easy it had been through! She most certainly didn't expect it.

All of them had been through a lot and even though their relationship was the best at the start of this, these three came to be very important to Caitlyn. Who would have thought! If she was grateful to Cayton for anything, it was probably making her work with them again. And even though most of the times their plans didn't work out the way they wanted them, Caitlyn was sure they were going to make it, one way or another, as long as they sticked together. She might have lost Vi but she still had all three of them and this was something she'd forever be glad for. 

 

Chapter Text

From ancient times, philosophers have seeked for the purpose of our lives. They all concluded to one answer to this inquiry; eternal bliss. With that answer came more questions. How does the man achieve happiness and what does it mean for him?

Every era of philosophers gave different explanations. For others, felicity could be acquired through the peace not only of the mind but also of the body. In other words, through balance. Others claimed that happiness is found in the glory of different achievements, including war. For others, it is connected with power, wherever that power derives from. Humans are greedy by nature, therefore there is only one thing that can satisfy - or at least, attempt to satisfy - this hunger; power.

Power is associated with the military, with money, with authority Or knowledge, even all together at the same time. Drugs, human trafficking, weapons, ambitious technological projects, most of the time completely against to the moral code, murder deals, political corruption, all found in every corner of Piltover, the so called 'City of Progress'. All the PROJECT initials had been victims to these.

For the longest time they had wondered what their own purpose was now that they walked free on earth, released on the chains others had tied them with, free from anyone's control. And for a while, they went about without a goal, with a proper aim. They had tried, unsuccessfully, to find themselves with pointless goals. None of them had meant anything.

Now, for the first time, everything was clear. Their purpose was one and only; destroy PROJECT Inc. Not just for the sake of revenge but for the sake of the future and the world itself.

No, they didn't consider themselves heroes. PROJECT had taken everything from them, ruined their lives. They all knew what that was like and they didn't want anyone to go through the same hell they had.

So maybe, Vi thought, that the sacrifice was worth it. She tried to persuade herself that it was indeed. But the hole she felt in her heart was irreparable. She had lied, for a greater purpose surely, but didn't erase the fact that she had broken someone who had put her entire faith in her. When all this had started, Vi would have never thought this journey could bring her the love she so desperately needed. A love that she had to throw away in order to save the universe. It wasn't fair. But she had learned the hard way that life is never fair.

She had to accept it. Whatever thing she had with Caitlyn was long gone. Perhaps it was better that way. And even though it hurt her both physically and emotionally, Vi had to swallow her sorrow, for the sake of their success. It took all of her willpower not to be bitter and throw sarcastic comments every two seconds. She struggled but she managed to be sufferable until this was all over.

Which by the looks of it wasn't going to be delayed for long.

It had barely been a day after they had stolen whatever bit of explosives they could get their hands on. They all agreed that it was absolutely necessary to get this over with as quickly as possible. As soon as they got word from Katarina about the location of the clones, they set off. It had been agreed that all of them would participate, even Vayne. There had been a huge fight between the hunter and Fiora, with the main argument being Vayne's recent injury. However, there was no force in this universe that could hold her back. She was obviously weakened but she had to do this otherwise she'd never have the peace of mind all of them seeked for.

The company kept the clones in secret warehouses outside of the city. Said warehouses were guarded by a small army of troops, humans and robots. Getting there would be troublesome. But there was no going back. It was tonight or never.

The weather was by their side. It was clouded and there was no moon to betray their presence to their foes. There were several warehouses occupying a huge piece of land that was surrounded by an electric fence. The whole plot was surveilled. Inside the fence there were numerous guards heavily armed. Katarina had warned them that these guards were prepared for anything and even acquired weapons especially designed to deal with PROJECT traces. Dangerous was not enough to describe their current situation.

No hesitation. This was it.

"Alright, how do we approach this?" Ashe asked quietly, looking over at her companions that were gathered in a nearby alley.

"Stealth is our only option. Trying to fight all those guards will just reduce our chances of succeeding by 40%," Irelia spoke.

"While I agree, it seems kinda hard getting in there without making a fuss." Vi commented.

"Have a little faith," Akali shot at her.

"Right. Here's the deal," Irelia said. "I believe that Ekko could easily hack the fence, maybe even the CCTV system."

"Piece of cake," the boy reassured them.

"Ashe said that Katarina will be guarding the north side. That's where we enter from. She can guarantee that no one takes notice. Then, we split up and install the explosives in the warehouses. Once we're done, we get out and Jinx activates them."

"Wouldn't it be safer if Jinx installed them all since the only one that knows how to do it?" Lucian asked.

"It is not wise to move all together at once," Yasuo argued. "It will increase the chances of getting caught."

"I'm going to send you over the protocol," Jinx promised.

"You better. I don't wanna get blown up," Vi commented.

"Shut up, Fat Hands."

"Hey!"

"Guys," Ashe interrupted, obviously bored. "I don't see any problems with what Irelia suggested. If anyone has any other suggestions, it better be now."

No one had any arguments to make, not even Vayne. They were ready to proceed.

"One more thing," Jinx said once she sent them all the instructions of how to install the bombs properly, "Ezreal, try not to get yourself into very difficult situations. Keep in mind that your gauntlet is working only at 40% capacity and overdoing it might render it irreparable."

The boy nodded. "Got it."

"Let's go then," said Irelia. "And... good luck I guess."

They headed north, as they had agreed. In the dark, Ekko managed to disable the fence and the surveillance system in no time. Katarina appeared, and once everything was clear, she gave them the signal. Again, Ekko used a small tool to cut off the wire mesh. Once inside, they split into groups of three or four and spread.

There were sixteen warehouses, each one belonging to the clones of each PROJECT initial, Vi realized. Had it been different, there would have been a seventeenth one, hiding Vi's own clones from the world. She couldn't even begin to imagine what it felt like knowing that there are identical copies of yourself somewhere in the world. She had never bothered to ask, if she wanted to be honest. She didn't have that burden too like the others, thanks to Vayne's interference all those months ago. It felt like ages since that happened. Time surely flies by, Vi noted silently.

The warehouses were built right next to one another with minimum space between each building. There were four different lines of buildings, each including four warehouses, creating a perfect square. They were guarded by groups of armed men that walked between them.

Each group started off with the warehouses that were located closest to the fence. Vi moved alongside Jinx and Ekko. The Loose Canon quickly bent down to install the bomb while the other two kept an eye on the guards. Despite the darkness that prevailed, they could sense them nearby. Once Jinx was done, they were ready to proceed to the next warehouse.

Vi peaked over the corner to check out for the guards. Two of them walked towards the far side of the corridor that was created between the buildings. She motioned at Jinx and Ekko to follow her. Swiftly they went between the first warehouse and the next. Vi only wished it would be this easy to get this job done but she shouldn't get her hopes up.

Indeed, as they prepared to move to the next warehouse, they heard shouting and shooting nearby, indicating conflict.

"Oh, the fun is about to begin!" Jinx smirked.

"You don't say," Vi murmured to herself.

Ekko peaked over the corner. "Everything's clear. The guards are heading east. We can tag all the warehouses before we go help the others."

"Alright, let's go." Vi nodded.

But the moment they stepped out on the open field, three guards appeared on their way and immediately started shooting. They rolled to the side to avoid the hit. These obviously weren't regular guns since they didn't shoot bullets but blasts of enemy that zapped over their heads, barely missing. Vi pressed herself to the nearest wall. She glanced over at Ekko and Jinx who covered behind the opposite building.

"So much for clear ground," she muttered. The shooting suddenly stopped; the guards were loading their guns.

"Jinx, NOW!" Vi screamed.

Her sister did not hesitate for a second. She jumped out from her cover and shot right at the guards who didn't have the time to hide. They all dropped dead.

"Good shot!" Ekko praised.

"Quit talking!" Vi hissed. "Tag the other two warehouses and let's get the fuck out of here!"

They rushed to the next building. But as they waited for Jinx to install the third bomb, guards appeared on both sides, trapping them between the two warehouses.

"Don't move!" one of them ordered. "Or else we'll shoot!"

"Well, that's just too bad, ain't it?" Vi snarled. "I don't get orders from a scam like you."

She launched herself at him, knocking him off. His companions were her next target. Panicking at her response, he shot at her. The blast found her shoulder. Vi yelped in pain. She hadn't felt anything so painful since she first used the ATLA gauntlets. She kneeled down, hissing.

Warning: Extended damage

Vi suddenly stood up, taking by surprise the two guards that were preparing to assault her again. She grabbed the man who had previously shot her by the head and smashed him to the ground, breaking every single bone on his body. Then, she moved to her last target that whimpered away from her, upon seeing the fate of his companions. Or at least tried to. While he turned to run, Vi launched herself at him and hit him from behind, throwing him on the ground.

Behind her, Ekko did the same, smashing his way through the guards. One of the bullets got him. Before the guard that shot him could celebrate his success, Ekko gathered all his strength and rewined, much to everyone's surprise, before killing them off.

"Well, that was a close call," the dark-skinned boy breathed.

"No shit Sherlock," Vi snarled before a sharp pain came from her right shoulder, making her wince.

"Are you alright?" Jinx asked, concerned.

"Don't worry about me. I'll be fine," Vi reassured her. "Let's keep going."

When they thought this couldn't get any worse, it did. Three helicopters flew over the plot, shooting down at the PROJECT initials that desperately tried to take cover between the warehouses where it was more difficult to get them. Besides, they were well aware that they wouldn't risk hitting the warehouses, not even for them. Vi noticed Ashe, Leona and Master Yi taking cover near them. Nearby she could hear Fiora's distinctive accent and Lucian's shout. The helicopters flew lower. Their doors slid open and armed men appeared as they shot down at their targets.

"Jinx, you need to do something about the helicopters!" Vi yelled over the noise, trying to cover her head with her gauntlets.

"Well, I can try but I can only take down one at a time!" Jinx said.

"It's better than nothing!" Vi retorted.

Jinx looked up at the sky, trying to locate the nearest helicopter. She noticed one of the three flying towards them, shooting relentlessly. She picked up her rocker launcher and aimed. The next moment, the helicopter blew up, enlightening the sky.

"Bye-bye!" Jinx giggled.

"Hey, watch out!" Ekko yelled at her as another helicopter came at them. He pushed her to the ground as the helicopter rampaged them. Vi dared to look up at the sky. Those guards weren't going to back off and they were taking too much damage.

"We need to get out of here before they reload!" She yelled at Ekko and Jinx.

"Right behind you!" Ekko shouted.

They sprinted away from their current cover, trying to join Ashe and the others when the second helicopter appeared out of nowhere.

"Fuck!" Vi exclaimed, realizing they didn't have enough time to take cover.

Suddenly, one of the men fell off the helicopter and crashed to the ground. Same happened to his companion that took aim from the other side of the helicopter. Then the front glass of the helicopter broke and the pilot lost control. The helicopter crashed down on two warehouses, setting them on fire.

These were three clean sniper shots, Vi realized. Her heart pounded in her chest as she spun around to locate the sniper.

There she was, standing at the far side of the corridor, kneeled on the ground, aiming through her scope. She smirked even so slightly.

"Boom! Headshot," Vi heard her favorite punchline.

"Caitlyn?" she asked in total disbelief.


A couple of hours ago, the Pulsefires finished their meal in a restaurant Twisted Fate had guided them to. He had been right, in the sense that they wouldn't be able to save the world in empty stomachs. The fact that the restaurant was buzzing with life allowed them to make a plan without risking being overheard by someone in this noise.

"Now what?" Twisted Fate wiped his moustache. "What's the plan?"

"To be honest with you, none of our plans have worked as they should have," Caitlyn admitted. "So, there's not really a plan. Just a goal."

"I can't believe my ears." Riven mused. "Caitlyn without a plan? If I didn't know any better, I'd say you had a new personality planted."

Caitlyn rolled her eyes. "Our problem is to find where they're hiding the clones," she continued, lowering her tone. Despite the noise, she didn't want to provoke luck.

"Well, I don't suppose we can just knock on their door and ask 'em," said Tobias.

"No, we obviously can't." Shen agreed. "And hacking into their system is out of the question."

"I believe there's someone who might know where they're hiding the clones," Caitlyn said. "Remember when I talked to you about this scientist, Viktor? He might be able to guide us."

"I don't see why he'd want to help us though," Riven pointed out.

"He doesn't have to want to, if you catch me," Twisted Fate said meaningfully.

"Well, since we do not have any other options, I believe it's worth a shot," said Shen eventually.

"Alright, let's go then." Caitlyn stood up from the table.

It took them a while to get to Viktor's lab since it was located on the other side of the city. Caitlyn couldn't help but reminisce the last time she had been there. She had left the place with a little weight lifted off her chest. Now she returned with a weight double as heavy. She hated this feeling but it wasn't like she could just get rid of it, even though she wished she was able to.

She led her companions towards the lab after the uber dropped them a block away struggling to ignore her thoughts. Sometimes it was really hard to keep a certain someone out of there. It was like a virus.

"Here it is," Caitlyn announced. "I'm warning you that he's slightly eccentric. Just let me do the talking, okay?"

No one had any objections so they proceeded. Caitlyn rang the bell and the door hissed open, just like the last time. Nothing has changed really, except that maybe it looked more messy than usual.

"You're back already, agent," came Viktor's metallic voice. "I hoped you'd come."

"Hello, professor," Caitlyn spoke even though she wasn't entirely sure where the man was. "Sorry to intrude like this again."

Viktor appeared out of nowhere. His lab coat was covered in oil but that didn't seem to bother him too much. "Agent Caitlyn. I see you brought a new company. That's a pity, I'm rather disappointed. I wish I could see how your PROJECT friend is progressing."

Caitlyn flinched at his words. Of course he'd bring Vi up. It had been his main concern during their first visit, that much she had noticed. She cleared her throat. "She's... keeping herself busy," said Caitlyn without getting into details. "But that's not what we came here for."

"Of course." He nodded. "You need my help."

Caitlyn wasn't entirely sure how he knew that but it didn't matter. Instead of asking him pointless questions, she decided to get straight to the point.

"We know what the PROJECT corporation is planning; an invasion like no one that has been recorded in history. I should have realized sooner when you told us that they used to specialize in cloning," Caitlyn explained.

"And let me guess. They built a clone army based on the PROJECT initials to conquer all known dimensions." He continued. "An ambitious plan indeed. It could have worked, if you weren't here today asking for my help."

"I don't suppose you happen to know where they're keeping the clones," Caitlyn said.

"No, I'm afraid I do not." Viktor confirmed. "But I might have something that could possibly help you. Give me a moment to find it."

Without expecting any response, he rushed to the back of his lab and didn't return for a while.

"Should we just leave?" Twisted Fate whispered.

Caitlyn shook her head. "Just give him a minute."

As if her words gave him a cue, Viktor appeared finally with a small device in his hands. "My apologies. It was buried in a drawer long ago and I just couldn't remember where it was. Here, take it."

"What's this?" Caitlyn asked as she took the device in her hands to examine it better.

"Every PROJECT initial has a tracking device," he explained. "The company doesn't know that I kept track of their traces from my lab. It may help you find what you're looking for."

Caitlyn gazed down at a screen that projected a huge map of Piltover and the surrounding area. She could easily spot a bunch of dots of different colors all gathered in one particular place. She guessed that these were the PROJECT initials. Two dots were more isolated than the others, roaming in an area near Zaun.

"Thank you, professor," Caitlyn thanked him.

"I do have a question though," Shen piped in. Viktor looked curiously at him. The man ignored the scientist's piercing gaze. "You worked for the PROJECT corporation once. Why are you helping us?"

Viktor chuckled. It was a very strange sound. "It's simple. I want to see them fail."

"Why?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Caitlyn inquired. The questioning looks of her companions made her elaborate. "He wants to see them fail just to prove a point."

"She gets it." Viktor tilted his head towards her. "See, these people are the reason why I started developing the PROJECT technology in the first place; to release humankind from its flaws. Humans are the greatest species out there. They could have conquered the world simply with the power of their mind. But do you know what stopped them from becoming the rulers of the known world? Greed, or any sort of sentiment for that matter."

"Sentiment you say?" Riven repeated in disbelief. "But without emotions, humans are nothing! It's the very foundation of their existence!"

"You're wrong, girl." Viktor snapped. "It is not emotion that separates us from animals rather than the power of our minds. We do not need to feel anything else but what is pleasant or unpleasant, pretty much like the animal kingdom. If we can get rid of those and our weak bodies, we can achieve so much more!"

Viktor hadn't realized that he had raised his voice until he took notice of the disturbed looks his visitors gave him. He sighed.

"Forgive me," he apologized. "This is neither the place nor the time for such a philosophical discussion. The point is, we both don't want the PROJECT corporation to succeed, each for their own reasons, am I right?"

"You're right, professor," Caitlyn said before anyone else could jump in and possibly escalate the situation. Viktor was a strange man indeed and his ideas extremely dangerous, as the turnout of events had proven. But he was right about one thing; this wasn't the time to fight him. "Thank you for all your help. I hope I will be able one day to repay you for your kindness."

"That will not be necessary," Viktor said dismissively. "As you pointed out yourself, I didn't do it out of the goodness of my heart. If you don't have anything else to ask, I'd like you to leave. I have much work to do..."

He didn't have to repeat himself. The four Pulsefires were more than glad to leave this mad scientist alone to do his thing. The more they stayed around him, the more unsettled they became.

"How... strange," Shen commented as they walked away from the lab, looking over his shoulder.

"I should have warned you that he's somewhat peculiar," Caitlyn admitted as she typed something on her phone.

"Somewhat?" Twisted Fate repeated. "He's probably the most weird man I've ever encountered, and I've encountered many bizarre men."

"I don't know about you guys but he gave me the chills," Riven shivered. "Should he be arrested? As far as we're concerned, he's a threat."

"He's not our main problem now," Caitlyn responded as she withdrew her phone. "Once this is settled, we'll have to deal with him eventually."

"So, what now?" Shen asked.

"We wait," said Caitlyn as she came to a sudden halt.

"Wait for what exactly?" Twisted Fate asked.

"Be patient, Tobias. Be patient..." Caitlyn advised him.

Indeed, twenty minutes later, a car pulled over right in front of them. Caitlyn walked towards the driver door while the others gaped in surprise.

"Cait, is this your car?" Riven mumbled.

"Well, yes." Caitlyn confirmed. "I put it out of service years ago because I didn't want to pay extra taxes since I didn't use it a lot. Hence the absent license plates. That way they won't be able to locate us. Come on, get in!"

Shen, Riven and Tobias shared an amused look. Caitlyn was full of surprises today that never seemed to end.

Once everyone was inside, Caitlyn accelerated. She handed Shen the device Viktor had given them so she could focus on the road.

"So what do we do now?" Twisted Fate asked from the back seat.

"As I mentioned before Tobias, we wait," Caitlyn repeated.

"I thought you meant to wait for the car!" he defended.

"We wait for the PROJECTS to make a move," Shen clarified. "If Caitlyn is right and the PROJECT corporation will try to release the clones soon, then it goes without question that they are going to act sooner or later. Then we'll follow along. It's simple."

"I sure hope it is..." Twisted Fate mumbled.

They stayed quiet for a while. Caitlyn pulled over in a gas station before continuing their trip with no destination. It was too dangerous to stay at one place at this point.

"Caitlyn, what are we going to do if... if the TPA comes after us?" Riven suddenly asked, breaking the silence. She tried her best to hide it but she was slightly scared. Who wouldn't if they knew an entire agency was possibly at their track? It was a plausible fear. It did nag Caitlyn even though she tried to keep the negativity away.

"We fight back, of course." Caitlyn pressed her lips into a thin line, thinking of how she had suddenly become a fugitive exactly like Ezreal. "If that makes you feel any better, I doubt they will bother with us," she tried to reassure Riven. "They are probably too busy preparing for the invasion to notice that four agents are currently missing. And even if they did notice, it is impossible to make the link with this particular issue, unless it's Cayton himself. But even so, it's also hard for him to know that we are aware of his plans."

"I just don't like the idea of fighting against our co-workers," Riven admitted. "They probably have no idea what is truly going on. They're simply pawns in a huge game, just like we are."

Caitlyn realized she was right. For the longest time, they had been nothing more than pawns in Cayton and Mancuso's hands. And to think that Cayton tried to persuade her that he cared about her, that he considered her as his successor. She clenched her fists around the wheel. Did Cayton seriously believe that she would have accepted this? That she would have allowed this to continue if the TPA came under her supervision? That she was just as corrupted as him because they were similar in many ways? Or that the idea of power would corrupt her eventually anyway?

She had been a fool for a really long time but not anymore.

They spent hours on the streets, awaiting. The night fell and the only thing that kept them company was the music that came out of the radio. Caitlyn didn't usually listen to music, especially when she was driving, but she had to tolerate it for the sake of others and for her own sanity.

Twisted Fate and Riven had fallen asleep on the back seats; she could hear Tobias' faint snoring. Shen wasn't asleep yet but he had leaned onto the window and Caitlyn presumed he would soon pass out. However, Viktor's device made a sudden noise, waking everyone up.

"What's going on?" Riven asked sleepily before she yawned.

"The PROJECTS are moving," Shen realized. "Caitlyn, turn left at the next intersection."

"Bloody finally," Tobias growled as he rubbed his eyes.

With Shen's guidance, Caitlyn drove as fast as she could, trying to catch up with the PROJECT initials. It was a good thing that there was basically zero traffic at those hours.

"It seems like they're heading out of town," Shen pointed out.

"Good," Caitlyn commented. If things were to get out of hand, at least there would be as little collateral damage as possible.

Suddenly, the signals stopped moving, indicating that they had reached their final destination. Caitlyn pulled over before they reached there, for fear of getting spotted. They'd continue the rest of the way on foot.

"They're spreading," Shen informed them. "Seems like they somehow managed to get through from the north side," he added, pointing at the fenced area in front of them. Even in the darkness they could make out the shapes of buildings.

"Let's follow them," Caitlyn suggested and they headed north. There they found a huge hole on the metal fence. They hid behind a couple of bushes to avoid getting spotted by the guards or the PROJECTS.

"Now what?" Riven whispered.

"We wait," Caitlyn responded, crouching down and looking over the fence. She could see movement but couldn't tell who it was. No matter. Whatever they had planned it seemed to work.

But not for long, as it seemed.

After several moments of torturing silence, the first shooting came. Twisted Fate jerked outside of the bush only to be pulled back by Caitlyn.

"Not yet," she told him.

He sighed in exasperation. The anticipation was even worse than the upcoming danger.

The shooting only grew worse. They heard massive footsteps and shouts. This was their cue.

"Go!" Caitlyn shouted, not bothering to lower her voice as she did.

They sprinted inside the plot, attacking the first people that appeared on their way. The guards were caught completely off surprise by their sudden appearance, especially since they looked nothing like any PROJECT initial.

Caitlyn shot a guard right on the chest before he could try and stop her. In the distance, she might have heard Vi's voice but she wished she was wrong and had been fooled by the mist of the battle. She pressed herself against the nearest wall and waited for her next victim to come into view. Exactly opposite her, she took a glimpse of who she assumed to be Yasuo and Master Yi, fighting back-to-back against the guards that shot at them. Riven charged in to help them out. Caitlyn moved to the nearest corner and peaked over; Ashe and Lucian exchanged shots with other guards. She aimed through her scope and shot two down before she rolled away as a blast of energy came towards her head. It left a burned mark where her head had been a second ago.

Caitlyn had never seen weapons like that before, at least not in this timeline. They were extremely strong. She assumed they were specifically designed to take down PROJECTS.

if these were fatal for PROJECTS, imagine how more dangerous they were for normal humans. They meant instant death.

Caitlyn moved away from the spot, before Ashe and Lucian could realize it had been her. Confronting them now was a terrible idea. They wouldn't believe a word she would say and they wouldn't be wrong not to trust her.

From the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of Ezreal fighting alongside Leona. He was obviously struggling a lot and that was only thanks to Caitlyn that had ruined his gauntlet on purpose. She slightly regretted it now. Leona made sure to keep him safe but Caitlyn wasn't entirely sure if he could last long. Indeed, a guard appeared out of nowhere, preparing to shoot at the boy. Ezreal was too exhausted to notice. Caitlyn had to reveal herself in order to be able to make a clean shot.

Ezreal yelped when he saw her aiming at him. Leona seemed too busy covering his left side from upcoming attacks. Caitlyn shot and Ezreal closed his eyes but the hit never came. He hesitantly opened one eye and realized that, in fact, he hadn't been shot. He then gave Caitlyn an expression of surprise but held his gauntlet high. Leona noticed her presence too.

"Not you too." The PROJECT trace growled, putting her shield between Caitlyn and Ezreal.

"I'm not here to fight you," Caitlyn defended. "I just saved his life."

"And how do we know you're not baffling?" Ezreal shouted.

"We know what's hidden in those warehouses and we know how they're going to be used," Caitlyn claimed, which seemingly caught both of her opponents off guard.

"And why should we believe you?" Leona inquired.

"If I really came out here looking for Ezreal, I would have shot him when you weren't looking," Caitlyn pointed out. "I do not expect you to believe me. But this is not the place to argue. We are all in danger."

Leona contemplated her words for a moment before she withdrew her shield.

"What are you doing?" Ezreal shrieked.

"I can sense she's not lying," Leona claimed. "And she's right; there's no time to argue right here, right now."

Ezreal wanted to object but more shooting interrupted him. A helicopter appeared in the sky and they had to take cover between two warehouses. Everyone seemed to have the same idea but that didn't stop the helicopter from shooting down at them. Soon, more helicopters appeared.

"Shit, that ain't no good," Ezreal cursed.

"Why are they shooting at the warehouses? Aren't they afraid that they're going to damage the clones?" Caitlyn inquired.

"They will stop at nothing to get to us," a new voice came in.

Caitlyn spun around to face a very exhausted Vayne. Her glass mask was broken. Just behind her Fiora emerged.

"You out of all people should have known better," Fiora said harshly, pointing her blade at her. Leona interfered, pushing her hand down.

"It's alright," she assured. "She knows."

"Great. More people to take care of after this shitshow is over," Vayne groaned.

Caitlyn glared at her. "For the record, no one asked for your protection. In fact, you look like you need more protection than I do at the moment."

Vayne glared back but said nothing.

"I'm not here to argue with you. Once this is all over, you may decide if you want to kill me off or not," Caitlyn added, looking up at the sky to spot the helicopter.

A loud explosion was heard and the flaming pieces of a helicopter fell to the ground. The other two however were still shooting relentlessly. They needed to get rid of them.

"Leona, right?" Caitlyn asked. "Can you cover me until I get into position?"

"I can do that." Leona nodded.

"Alright then. Let's go!"

The two of them emerged from their hiding place and sprinted. Leona kept her shield high, covering both of them from the shots. They headed towards the fence where Caitlyn could take aim better. Leona pressed her back against the nearest wall while Caitlyn set her scope. She spotted one of the helicopters and aimed.

One shot at one guard. Another to the other guy. And last, the pilot. The helicopter soon crashed to the ground.

"Boom! Headshot." She smirked.

"Caitlyn?"

The voice rang in her ears. She sounded confused, surprised and perhaps a tad happy to see her there. But Caitlyn was determined not to give her that satisfaction of talking to her. She hadn't gotten herself into trouble just to talk to her. This wasn't happening. There was nothing left to say.

The last remaining helicopter brought them back to reality, reminding them that it still was there and aiming for their heads. It had spotted Caitlyn and was determined to bring her down before she did. Caitlyn jumped out of the way to avoid the shots, finding shelter near Leona. In the meantime, Vi had disappeared.

"Fucking hell," Caitlyn breathed out. "They aren't going to let me snipe them down like that."

''You won't have to,'' said Leona. Before Caitlyn could object, Leona left their hiding place, getting right into the helicopter's view. She raised her sword and Caitlyn noticed her mumbling a bunch of nonsense. Then, a giant blast of energy emerged from the dark sky and smited down the helicopter, burning it to nothing but ash.

"Impressive," Caitlyn praised, unable to understand what kind of power Leona possessed. It surely looked like nothing any normal human could do.

"Find your companions and stay out of trouble," Leona advised her before storming off to reunite with her folks.

"Says who," Caitlyn muttered to herself.

After the last helicopter was intercepted, the guards started retreating, choosing to run instead of defending themselves. Two of them passed by Caitlyn without bothering to look at her. She immobilized them with her net before trying to contact her squad.

"Are you guys still alive?" she asked.

"Unfortunately for them," came Twisted Fate's cocky reply. The others also responded affirmatively.

"Stay on your guard. I highly doubt this is over yet," Caitlyn advised.

"Fucking hell, Cait! The TPA is here!" Riven shouted.

"It was about time," Caitlyn commented. "Don't hold back. They will not hesitate to harm you."

"Roger that,"

Soon the place was swarming with TPA agents that tried to take control of the situation. Caitlyn didn't hesitate to shoot at them but that didn't mean she wanted to harm them. They were just pawns in this game, pretty much like she had been, and they had no idea what they were fighting for at this point. Certainly not to protect the timeline. The PROJECT guards regained their courage and started fighting back when more of them arrived on the spot. Their numbers combined with the Timeline Protection Agency's were too strong. The PROJECT traces had to retreat.

"This isn't good!" Twisted Fate said.

Caitlyn gritted her teeth. He was right. This wouldn't get them anywhere.

"Caitlyn!"

In the midst of battle, she heard Vi's voice. She turned her head to see her right next to her before the brawler dropped them both to the ground.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Caitlyn hissed.

"This place is about to blow up!" Vi informed her. "Tell your friends to go hide!"

Caitlyn looked at her in disbelief. Vi sighed in frustration.

"Look, I know I'm the last person you would trust at the moment but do it for their sake!"

Caitlyn had to put her ego aside for the sake of her friends. She told them to stay away from the warehouses because any moment they would explode. Then she embraced herself for the impact, even though Vi's body shielded her perfectly.

But it never came.

"Are you fucking kidding me right now?" Caitlyn pushed her angrily off her with unexpected strength. The audacity Vi had to lie on her face twice! Her blood was boiling.

"I don't fucking understand!" Vi exclaimed. '"Jinx, what the fuck is going on?"

"The bombs aren't working!"

"We have been able to diffuse your explosives temporarily. There is no escape for you. Surrender." came a loud male voice, making everyone freeze.

"Who is that?" Vi asked.

"Cayton. My ex-boss," Caitlyn responded. "Was this your escape plan? Because we are all doomed now!"

"How were we supposed to know they would show up so quickly and they would be able to deactivate the explosives?" Vi shouted in frustration. She was tired and all worked up but Caitlyn couldn't feel sympathy for her. "Oh, don't give me that look! I know I totally deserve this but you aren't in a better position. Your buddies aren't going to be happy that you turned against them."

She did have a point. If they were caught, there would be no escape for them.

"We don't need your help. We had enough for that," Caitlyn deadpanned.

Vi's expression shifted. "Caitlyn..."

"Just stay out of my way," Caitlyn snapped before she turned her back to her.

She started walking away when she heard a shot and a shout. She turned around to see Vi stepping in front of her and taking the shot that threw her on the ground. She didn't move again. Caitlyn completely forgot her anger. She instantly panicked.

"Vi!'" She shouted as she kneeled down next to her, looking for any signs of life. "Vi?"

She didn't get a response right away. Vi remained perfectly still.

"No, no, no. This isn't happening," Caitlyn muttered frantically, her vision unexpectedly blurring.

"...What isn't happening?"

It was weak and barely above a whisper. A wave of relief washed over Caitlyn as she wiped her eyes.

"Thank the stars you're okay," she whispered. Caitlyn reached for her mask to open it. She desperately wanted to see her eyes.

"Caitlyn..." Vi managed to breathe out. "I'm so... sorry... For everything..."

"Shh, rest. I'll get you out of here, I promise-"

"I regretted... not telling you the truth... I just wanted you... to be safe..."

"Vi-"

"But I didn't lie... about one thing..." Vi had to stop for a moment. She was obviously struggling. "I really... do love you, Caitlyn..."

The tears had escaped Caitlyn's eyes for a while now. Vi smiled weakly.

"I hope... one day... you can... forgive me..."

Then, she closed her eyes. Forever.

"No..." Caitlyn whispered in desperation. This wasn't right.

Vi had hurt her but this was a million times more painful. She didn't want her to die. She never wanted her to die. This wasn't fair!

Caitlyn leaned down and kissed her forehead gently. "I love you too," she whispered. "I always have."

She cried silently, holding Vi in her arms. No sobs. The weight on her chest was too heavy.

"Oh Caitlyn, I never thought you'd reach this low," Cayton spoke. "I think I might have done you a favor."

Caitlyn refused to look at him. She remained still, holding Vi tighter.

"You could have written history, Caitlyn." Cayton shook his head. "Instead, you chose this. Pathetic." Then he raised his gun.

"So be it," Caitlyn thought. She didn't care. It didn't matter anymore.

A blast of energy knocked Cayton off his feet. Caitlyn slowly turned her head and much to her surprise, she saw Ezreal holding his charged gauntlet.

"Call us even," the boy said. "What did he do to her?" he asked, pointing at Vi.

"He killed her..." Caitlyn trailed off.

Chapter Text

"He killed her…"

The world seemed to have stopped spinning. Every single sound was muted. No shouting. No explosions. Just the imminent silence of Death. Caitlyn brought her hand on her mouth to muffle her sobs. Ezreal was shocked, unable to move or even say a word. Any sound was a straight up disrespect at this particular moment. The pain of loss weighed over them. When her parents had died in that car accident, Caitlyn had wished not to ever experience such pain again but Fate had other plans for her.

With a trembling hand, she touched Vi's emotionless face. She shouldn't care; Vi had lied and betrayed her, destroyed her like no one else could. Yet the sobs ripped right through her body like electricity. She pulled Vi's head on her lap, striking it gently, as if she was trying to give her comfort. But she would never be able to comfort her again.

"Vi… Oh, Vi…" Caitlyn cried, her vision blurry due to tears that continued to stream down her face. And the worst thing was, she had been killed in one last attempt to keep her safe and sound, to prove to her that she hadn't lied about one thing; that she loved her.

The first time Vi told her this, Caitlyn wasn't ready to say it back. But now that she was, it was too late. Because Vi was gone forever. She couldn't even bring her head around it because it hurt oh, so much. She pulled Vi's up, resting the blonde's head on her shoulder before planting a kiss on her forehead. Then she cried like she hadn't cried in a really long time as she rocked Vi in her arms. This wasn't like how she cried a couple of days ago. Then, it was the pain of betrayal. Now it was the pain of mourning. Ezreal didn't dare say anything but it was doubtful he was even able to.

Caitlyn couldn't tell how long she was there. She really didn't care either. She couldn't bring herself to care what was even going on right behind her back. The pain was overwhelming. She didn't want this. Indeed she had threatened Vi to kill her with her own hands but after she had learned the truth, she had hoped to find the strength and forgive her eventually. Now she would never get the chance.

This was so unfair.

"Caitlyn? Where are you? Please, we need your help!"

Shen's cry for help suddenly snapped her back to reality. She raised her head and looked around her; the TPA and PROJECT were gaining ground. They were capturing all the traces one by one. This was the end.

"They've already captured Riven and Tobias! Caitlyn, answer-"

His signal was lost and Caitlyn understood. She laid Vi carefully on the ground, giving her a brief look one last time. She knew exactly what she needed to do.

"This is bad!" Ezreal panicked. "This is so, so bad!"

"I can fix this," Caitlyn claimed, wiping her face. She was certain she looked like crap but she doubted Ezreal would notice or care.

"How?! They killed Vi! They are capturing the other PROJECTS! The bombs didn't explode! We are doomed! Doomed!"

"Ezreal!" Caitlyn walked up to him and grabbed him by his shoulder, shaking him hard. "Listen to me!"

Ezreal blinked. He hadn't expected this from her. He stopped his frantic yelling.

"Have you forgotten about time-travelling technology already? The one that put you in so much trouble?" Caitlyn said. "This is the only solution, don't you see?"

"I can't believe you're saying this!" Ezreal exclaimed. "Don't you realize the dangers? The paradoxes it can cause?"

Caitlyn shook her head. "Don't you see it, Ezreal? This is a paradox! A paradox where everything goes wrong! They prepared this themselves, they wanted it to happen this way! This is all wrong!"

"Are… you serious?" Ezreal asked in disbelief.

"Think about it, Ezreal. There were so many occasions where we could have succeeded but we always failed, like some power dragged us in. In other dimensions, I'm pretty sure that we will capture you way before this happens." Caitlyn points at the chaos around them. "But if my guess is right, that way their plan doesn't work even if they do get you out of the way. So they would rather risk not capturing you than risk the success of their Invasion!"

"Well done, Caitlyn. You've always been an intelligent one."

Caitlyn immediately reached for her sniper while Ezreal charged his gauntlet. Cayton slowly got up on his feet. He looked more threatening than ever before.

"I had to risk a lot for this to be compatible with as little damage in the timeline as possible," he hissed. "I'm not going to just let you ruin it!"

"I would like to see you try, Tithonus," Caitlyn mocked him.

He laughed. "Oh, you should know better than to challenge me, Caitlyn. I killed your PROJECT friend! How hard can you two be?"

Caitlyn gritted her teeth. He was right. There was no way they could fight him. She just needed to win herself some time.

"What's the point of killing her?" Ezreal suddenly inquired. "How are you going to use her to lead her clones if she's dead?"

"Perhaps 'killing' isn't the right term," Cayton admitted. "I believe 'putting temporarily out of order' fits better, don't you think?" He grinned but there was nothing humorous in his smile. Ezreal shivered and Caitlyn made an expression of disgust.

It was disgusting how they saw them as nothing more than machines that they could tinker around. Caitlyn wanted to puke.

"Don't be like that. Switching Vi off is a small price to pay for success. Just one of many sacrifices. Like letting Ezreal free when we could have caught him way sooner or allowing Vi to take the ATLA gauntlets," he continued. "And you two will not get in my way." He clenched his teeth, taking aim once again.

"Go," Ezreal told Caitlyn in a lower voice. "I'll keep him distracted for as long as it takes."

"You can't do that! Your gauntlet is ruined! You will die!" Caitlyn complained.

Ezreal gave her a half smile. "Maybe it's finally time to stop slacking around and do the right thing for once in my life. Go Caitlyn. Save the world. If you succeed, it won't matter."

Caitlyn admitted that he was right. She gave Cayton one last glance before she ran off to set up a portal. Once she was at a safe distance, she picked up her rifle, pressed a button and threw it in the air. Instead of crushing on the ground, the rifle folded into a smaller device and two hovering black pillars appeared on each side before the rifle opened a portal to the past. The fresh air that came through it hit Caitlyn right on the face.

"Stop right there!" Cayton yelled. Caitlyn looked over her shoulder. He was holding Ezreal by the neck, ready to choke him any moment. "Get in that portal and he dies."

Ezreal shook his head even so slightly. His face was slowly turning blue due to lack of oxygen. But Caitlyn couldn't hesitate.

"Sorry, Cayton," she said, a smirk playing on the corner of her lips. "But a new sheriff is coming to town."

With that, Caitlyn walked right through the portal, without giving Cayton a second glance. She heard him shouting but it was too late. She felt the familiar sense of momentary dizziness as she traveled to the past. The world around her seemed to be shaking until it stabilized. The portal behind her closed off and her rifle returned back to its original shape. Caitlyn picked it up and checked her watch; she had forty eight hours before the incident at the warehouses. Forty eight hours to fix the paradox the Timeline Protection Agency had caused so they could succeed in their own sick plan. How ironic. Forty eight hours before the timelines overlapped.

She rode her rifle and headed towards the TPA headquarters. According to her calculations, herself and the others would be out on patrol for at least another two hours. It was enough time to get the job done but she shouldn't risk it too much. Under no circumstances should she come in contact with another version of herself. This could turn out catastrophic for all of them. And it would be better if no one spotted her at all.

Caitlyn pulled over near the headquarters before she dismounted her rifle/motorcycle. She used a hoodie that was attached to her nanosuit to cover her face. Even with her facial features covered though, she wouldn't risk it getting from the front door. She looked desperately at the outside staircase; she had a long way up.

It took her a while to get to her destination. She barely met anyone, people who needed their coffee or their cigarette breaks. She passed by them as quickly as she could, always keeping her face covered. No one noticed her. It was another casual day at work and she was just like them that had slacked off to take a break. She entered through the janitor door that she found unlocked.

Inside the building, Caitlyn had to be even more careful. For that, she needed to avoid the security cameras that were installed all around the building. It was a good thing that she had taken the time once to memorize the locations of every single one of them. People called her strange but it turned out to be useful. The main problem was outside her office where a camera turned towards the entrance. Caitlyn didn't want her other self to suspect anything, therefore she couldn't be recorded by that particular camera. She glanced around and, when there was no one around, she retrieved a small laser gun she carried around in case of emergency and shot the camera, turning it away. Her rifle would only ruin it and this would draw unwanted attention to it.

She unlocked the office and entered inside. It was rather dark since everything was switched off. Caitlyn locked the door behind her and reached her computer. She didn't have a lot of time left and she needed to hurry for various reasons. One was that she didn't want to get caught by the other version of herself. Another was Cayton. He would stop at nothing to stop her from ruining his plan, even if it meant interfering in another timeline.

Whenever they time-travelled, data was automatically transmitted back at their base. She needed to download said data from her original timeline before she could make any alterations on their big time machines. It was impossible to change anything from their computers. Safety protocol and everything. Which meant that she had to sneak in the Room of Time, as they called it, located below the ground. She had visited that room only a couple of times. Whenever she was on a mission, she used her rifle to time-travel. It was by far faster and more convenient. But without the original time machines, none of this would even be possible.

Once Caitlyn had all the necessary data on her hands, she locked the office again and headed towards the elevators. There was only one way of accessing the room and that was through the main hall. Unfortunately, she had to expose herself in danger for this to work. But it was still safer to use the elevators rather than get in through the front door. Caitlyn became one with her surroundings, managing to slide in an elevator full of people that paid her no attention. She recognized some of them but they didn't even notice her presence. They were discussing not so discreetly.

"...You'd think she would have caught him by now. I don't get why she's considered the best TPA has to offer," said a man to his female companion.

"Well, she has a long record of arresting chrono-fugitives and fixing paradoxes," the woman pointed out.

"Doesn't really matter if she can't catch one boy." The man shrugged. "And the fact that they partnered her up with those buffoons… Remember Bellmoor?"

"I'd say they're probably holding her back," the woman pointed out.

"Who knows…"

The elevator doors slid open and the pair exited. Caitlyn glared at them under her hoodie until the doors closed again. Ignorant fools. If only you knew what was really going on. But could they handle the truth? She doubted that.

The elevators came to a halt and the doors opened to reveal the main hall of the building. Caitlyn followed the wave of people outside before she separated from them and headed towards the staircase that would lead her to her destination. The door was locked and required her ID. She quickly retrieved it and pressed it against the lock. The red light turned green and Caitlyn stepped inside, leaving the buzzing of the main hall behind her. As soon as the door shut behind her, silence filled the place and darkness took over. There were only white LED lights on the wall following the stairs downstairs. Caitlyn proceeded with cautiousness.

People didn't come very often down here but she didn't want to accidentally bump into the wrong person. Two agents climbed the stairs as she headed down. They didn't even turn to look at her.

The Room of Time had even more strict security. This time Caitlyn couldn't escape the surveillance cameras. She sighed. So be it. To enter the room it didn't only require her ID but also a fingerprint and an iris scan. For that she had to unveil her face. Caitlyn looked at the camera from the corner of her eye. She didn't pull her hoodie off entirely as she bent near the scanner. Once she was done with the security process, the door in front of her opened and she entered the room.

It was a narrow, long room with time machines on each side. Those machines functioned 24/7. The portals were circular but there were no images coming from another timeline, unless of course you made the proper arrangements to get to one. The only thing that came from them was a swirling blue light. Caitlyn approached one of them and inserted the data on the panel next to the portal. A blurry image of the parallel version of Piltover replaced the swirling light. Caitlyn typed quickly on the panel, making several arrangements so no one from her original timeline would be able to get here and try to stop her. Once she had fixed the paradox, this particular timeline would cease to exist. Which also meant that two Caitlyn's couldn't coexist in the same universe. She would disappear. Or best case scenario, she'd merged with her other version. She hoped for the latter but she couldn't be sure. She had never had to fix a timeline where she already existed beforehand so she didn't have knowledge of this particular case.

Guess she would have to find out.

Now that she had covered this, Caitlyn was free to proceed to the next phase of her plan, which was undoubtedly the hardest. She closed off the timeline she had opened and left the Room of Time.

When she returned back to the lobby, she came across a commotion, much to her dismay. She really wasn't fond of finding out what all of this was about, until she heard Cayton's voice coming not through the megaphones installed around the building but right there from the lobby. He stood right there in the middle of the crowd and everyone cheered him on. It was no lie that he was popular among his employees.

He motioned at them to lower down so he could speak to them. "My dear colleagues," he said. "I can only applaud you for all the hard work these past two decades. Without you, the Timeline Protection Agency wouldn't be able to protect our precious time so efficiently! We'd fall into the despair of an unpredicted paradox!" Everyone cheered louder than before. Cayton waited until the cheers died out. "Time travelling is indeed one of the greatest achievements of our times - if not the greatest. But great achievements also come with great responsibility. And you have chosen willingly to carry this responsibility. For that, I thank you."

Caitlyn rolled her eyes as everyone around her applauded again. This was the biggest bullshit she had ever heard in her life. She knew exactly what he was trying to do here and there was no doubt he was successful. These people would follow him in battle, no matter the cause. This is why Cayton had chosen to do this in her absence. Because he knew that Caitlyn wouldn't buy this crap. Nor Shen, Riven and Twisted Fate for that matter. She crossed her arms and pressed her back against the wall, listening to his words. She wanted to see with her own eyes how he had been able to seduce them so they would die for his selfish goals.

He continued gloating about the TPA. All of these were pointless. Caitlyn wished he'd hurry up and get to the point that interested her most.

"Together," Cayton said. "We will change not just the future but the past and the present! We have the power to do that! Let's work for a better world!"

When he raised his fist in the air for emphasis, everyone cheered louder than ever before. Caitlyn had seen enough. She wanted to leave immediately. But as everyone was falling into hysterics, Cayton turned his head and looked at her. Caitlyn froze in fear. Had he recognized her? It was impossible. Or maybe he hadn't actually looked at her. Either way, she knew this was her cue to leave. She had to struggle through the sea of people before she managed to exit the building.

Caitlyn walked away before she retrieved her rifle; she didn't want anyone to accidentally recognize her because of this.

She found herself on the roads again with no actual destination. She wasn't sure where she needed to go first but she knew exactly where she shouldn't go. Shit was about to go down in a couple of hours and she needed to stay as far away from that as possible. This wasn't something that she could change. In fact, it needed to happen.

Eventually, Caitlyn pulled over because she needed to think and organize her thoughts. She recalled the details of the incident down at the warehouses. The PROJECTS were handling themselves particularly well until the TPA appeared. That had been the main problem. And the fact that the explosives hadn't been activated. Caitlyn now recognized the technology used; it was a sort of electromagnetic field that was mostly used to deactivate communication or any other remote devices. That night however, all communication devices had worked perfectly. Caitlyn assumed they had used this little trick solely for the bombs without risking losing communication. Which meant that they already knew what kind of bombs were being used. PROJECT and TPA were always one step ahead.

Not this time.

This field was activated through specially designed vehicles that were stored in a garage somewhere in Piltover. Caitlyn had to get rid of them so the TPA wouldn't be able to use them. She wasn't sure exactly where that garage was located but she was determined to find it regardless.

Suddenly, Vi emerged in her thoughts and she felt a knot in her stomach. Here Vi was still alive and breathing. It felt so surreal. If she succeeded, it wouldn't matter that Cayton had killed her in another dimension… No, there shouldn't be any if's. She had to succeed. Vi's life, Ezreal's life, the entire world depended on that.

Caitlyn sighed. She had taken a lot of responsibility on her shoulders willingly. Years ago, she did everything in her power to avoid any kind of responsibility for a stupid goal; to bring her parents back. She knew now that this would never happen. It was so long ago that altering such an event would be catastrophic. There was nothing she could do. However, Vi's case was different. It was in the very recent past and this time she was able to do something about it. It wasn't too late. Not yet.

Caitlyn mounted her rifle and set off. There was no time to lose. The night was her ally. She wouldn't be able to do much during the day without risking losing her anonymity. Therefore, the speed limit was the last thing on her mind. She crossed bridges and travelled through different levels of Piltover, moving swiftly between vehicles that appeared on her way. The drivers probably thought she was a naughty teenager, throwing a tantrum against her restricting parents or even a criminal chased down by the police.

Caitlyn slowed down when she reached one of the lowest levels of Piltover. The roads continued below her towards the city of Zaun. She had never been fond of it and had avoided getting anywhere near there. The chemicals had made Zaun a very inhospitable place to be. Not that with the monstrosity happening on the upper levels made Piltover any better. She eventually pulled over and continued on foot, following the instructions of her GPS. The garage should have been located somewhere around the block.

Caitlyn didn't quite understand why the TPA would choose such a location to store their finest equipment. It was way too far from their headquarters and easily accessible to thugs, both from Piltover and Zaun since these parts of the city weren't really being patrolled by the police, either because it wasn't in their jurisdiction or simply because they didn't care. The political leaders of Piltover always cared about the upper city more than the lower. As long as it didn't affect them and their image, it wasn't that important. It made Caitlyn want to scoff out loud. But her question still remained unanswered. Unless they wanted to hide something. It was possible that these vehicles weren't just designed to deactivate remote devices.

When Caitlyn turned to the next corner, she spotted her destination on the opposite site of the road. She knew it was it due to the guards guarding the front of what seemed to be a garage with two doors. They were heavily armed and they seemed not to take any nonsense. Sneaking in was out of the question. And shooting from a distance would immediately betray her.

Caitlyn couldn't believe herself but she decided to do this the Vi way.

"When there isn't a door, make one."

She had told her this once while they were still looking for Ezreal. She wasn't entirely sure if Vi meant this literally or figuratively, but knowing the brawler it could possibly mean both. Caitlyn couldn't recall the context since she only kept important information. And the important part in this interaction was just that; advice on how to overcome obstacles.

She crossed the street and approached carefully one of the four men that guarded the garage. She kept her rifle hidden on the back of her belt. He glared at her as she came closer.

"This is private property. Get lost," he told her harshly. Caitlyn expected him to be hostile. She smiled innocently at the man.

"Good evening, good sir. I wanted to ask how to get to-"

"Didn't you hear me, missy? Get lost before I have to do something nasty to ya," he growled at her.

"Now that's no way of treating a lady," Caitlyn clicked her tongue before she drew her rifle and hit the man on the head with the back of her weapon before he could react, dropping him on the ground. The other guards noticed the noise and prepared to shoot at her. Then, Caitlyn revved up her rifle for a second before unleashing a penetrating shot at all three of them.

"That should teach you a lesson on how to treat a lady properly," Caitlyn deadpanned. She kneeled near the closest guard and searched him for the key. She doubted that her ID would grant her access to the garage. Once she found what she was looking for, she approached the panel next to the garage doors and showed the card she had retrieved from the guard. The next moment, the garage doors rolled open, revealing four identical white jeeps with the logo of TPA printed on them. Caitlyn took her time to shoot all of the wheels and empty their deposits off gas. This was the best she could do since destroying them was impossible or at least would take her more time than necessary. What was important was that they wouldn't be ready to function when the TPA would need them. Before she left, she made sure to lock the guards inside the garage so they wouldn't alert anyone.

Caitlyn locked the garage and gave it one last glance. There was nothing out of the ordinary except that the guards were missing. She doubted if anyone would notice in time to alert the TPA officials.

This part of her plan had ended successfully but there were still things to do. Caitlyn recalled that the night of the incident, PROJECT: Pyke and PROJECT: Warwick weren't present. She couldn't expect them to since they weren't really getting along with the other PROJECTS due to both of their violent natures and nonsense goals of revenge.

Suddenly, it clicked with her. Revenge. That's what Pyke and Warwick wanted. This was just the right opportunity. Those two could be an extra helping hand. The only problem was that it would be hard to approach them. Caitlyn's scar on her shoulder was an eternal reminder of that. She'd figure this out later. She needed to get to Zaun first. And judging by her surroundings, it wouldn't take her long to get there. Without taking a moment to reconsider her options, Caitlyn climbed once again on her rifle and headed below, towards Zaun.

She had to stay overnight at a not so luxurious motel that was located between the two cities. The owner hadn't been too happy when Caitlyn had woken him up so late to book a room for just a night. The next day, she continued her little trip towards Zaun.

Piltover and Zaun were once united, many centuries ago