Wallace scratches at his arm bandage again, only to be stopped by Sutar. Their argument right after amuses Roy and Donovan seated off on the side of the tent.
“Leave the wound and the dressing alone. Let yourself heal,” Sutar urges.
“Easy for you to say,” Wallace argues. The fabric of the gauze and the tape holding it down irritate his sensitive skin. Physical discomfort is his greatest foe, and unfortunately for Wallace, a lot leaves him with physical discomfort. The wound on his arm is bad enough but made worse by what his next choice is. “Just know the minute I’m home and away from you, it’s coming off.”
Sutar sighs gustily, resting her head on her hands. “Just try to keep the wound dry and clean when you do.”
Wallace nods slowly, his angst expiring quickly. He points and asks, “What are you gonna do about your case?”
Sutar hums and raises her hands. The skin on her left is stained with a spring-green dot on the knuckle of her index finger. Her right hand is entirely changed down to below her wrist save her ring finger. “I don’t have a clue.”
“At least you’ll have plenty of time to figure it out.”
“Meaning?” Sutar asks.
“You live in a hospital, right? No safer place to experiment.”
“Oh,” Sutar says, “yeah…”
“Wait, what?” Donovan asks, and Wallace sees that the boys have caught onto his meaning.
“You’re not coming back?” Roy queries.
Wallace blows air out in a mocking manner. “Not on my life or yours. I’m going home and…working.” Even though he feels confident in his statement, he dreads what’s to come with his power plant lifestyle. Using his powers has never been easy or comfortable, but pressing his palms to conductive plates is a far cry from the prospect of being hunted down.
“You too, Su?” Donovan says.
“I…” She looks to the side.
Donovan huffs and leans back. “I’m in no position to talk. I’m not so sure myself. It’s a hard sale now.” He cuts a look to Roy. “You too, right?”
Roy shuts his eyes a moment, breathing shallowly through his nose. “It all boils down to our security. A lot of the people trying to kill us had powers. Aside from the professors, we didn’t have anyone with powers to defend us. Plus, there was the double-agent thing. We all saw killers in FHA guard uniforms. Yet and still, our professors kept us safe at all costs. Both our professors are on death’s door and I’d feel bad leaving after that…but my return depends on if they can convince me I’ll be safe.”
Donovan shrugs. “That settles it, then. If you come back, I’ll come back. Sutar?”
She lowers her spring-green hands. “I know I didn’t express this well enough before but all three of you came to save me. I’m not gonna stay away if you guys don’t.”
Wallace fidgets when all their eyes fall on him. He knows his truth and how sure he is to stick to it, but right now his words could undo the rising spirit his friends exhibit.
Far be it for me to rain on their parade.
“If they convince me I’ll be safe, I’ll come back, as well.”
Wallace relaxes when Roy and Donovan accept his answer. However, he knows even before glancing at Sutar that she hasn’t. The two of them have argued over occupations so long that she knows if he’s scared enough to work that there is no returning for him. He appreciates that she doesn’t announce that news to the boys. Still, he recognizes the fact she’s not spouting innumerable medical theories about her hands changing color is just as telling.
None of us will be the same again.
Wallace pulls his phone from his pocket when it chimes, expecting it to be his parents. He raises an eyebrow. “Guys, you gotta look at this!”
“These wounds are nothing I can’t handle!” Lauron declares. Every other knuckle is decorated with bandages. The bridge of her nose sports two. Her left cheek is dressed with a three sided-bandage. Under her clothing rests a collection for the wounds on her torso, thighs, and arms.
“Should you really be proud of that?” Valine asks.
Valine rolls her eyes and Sticker giggles, though both cast worried looks from the bedside after.
“You guys should’ve seen the hot streak I was on! Until Stark and the others showed up, I was kind of the MVP of everything!”
“Wasn’t Cwen there?”
“I saved Cwen’s life! That automatically puts me above her in the rankings. Nuria got the chance to hit the ring leader, so I’ll give her some props, but I lost my trophy to Stark. She knocked that rain witch unconscious!”
Valine winces uncomfortably. “I don’t know. I think you’re treating what just happened…like, I don’t know…some game. People died, Lauron.”
“If that’s your way of asking if I killed anyone, then no, I didn’t.” Lauron snorts. “I did take someone’s arm off, though.”
Sticker doesn’t giggle this time, instead trying not to barf. Valine shuts her eyes tight for a moment, trying to deny seeing that image.
Lauron silences her laughter once their sour moods become apparent. Part of the reason she went on her tirade was to keep attention on her and away from Valine and Sticker. She didn’t anticipate Evic to fight but she figured with a sword he could at least defend himself. She knows Valine and Sticker are not fighters, so she endeavored to keep them away from all that.
Maybe talking about what I did defeats the purpose.
Lauron hops off her bed. “Let’s get outta here.” She marches off, her classmates shambling behind at a sluggish pace, even after she recovers her broadsword from Captain Venesi. Lauron feels like biting her tongue when she forces herself to match their pace, and they move slower the closer to the S’nue dorm they get. When Lauron opens the door, she cannot hold back her haste any longer and dashes straight to her room. She wants to dive onto her bed first thing…but stops in the busted doorframe.
Her room is in shambles. All the clothes she bought earlier at Jupiter Mall are ripped and shredded. The dresser and curtains are destroyed. Her bed and the chains that weighed it down are smashed to pieces. Only a few scraps still float. Lauron’s unable to breathe as she takes it all in.
When she backs up into the hallway, she witnesses the vandalism she blitzed past moments ago. The wreckage that befell the rest of the campus made its way here. Valine and Sticker climb the steps, and while unharmed physically, Lauron finally glimpses the depth of their shock, her own reaching their levels.
“Our rooms are the same,” Sticker mentions.
“H-How did you guys–”
“We hid in Evic’s room. They ignored it, thankfully.”
Then…I did nothing…to help them. It was a fluke. I was never the…MVP.
Lauron yells and throws her broadsword into her room. Every vein in her arms and face pops and wriggles on the surface. She peers up at the ceiling, her glare full of visceral, volatile wrath. Her eyes are too hot to cry. Her breathing is shrill, on the verge of hyperventilating. She releases it all with a scream so raw, that for those few seconds, nothing else can be heard. Finally, Lauron just sits in her doorway, crosses her legs, and looks into her room.
As her classmates sit at her sides, Lauron addresses everything she feels in short order.
Valine, Sticker, and Evic are alive- good! Cwen’s alive- great! Guards died- sucks! Stark- badass! The Pure- assholes, all of them! I’ll be ready next time! But for now…
Lauron leans back onto her hands, content to spend this time with her classmates. They wait in blissful silence together until Valine and Sticker receive word that their parents have arrived. Lauron hates seeing them go, now the last inhabitant of all S’nue House. She turns away from the door when it opens from the outside.
Evic steps inside, suitcase in hand.
“Ah, there you are. They said you left the triage tent.”
“Just say what you came to say. I’m ready to be alone.”
“Very well. I wanted to say thank you. You saved my life. I know you and I aren’t–”
“Stop right there. I don’t need your gratitude. I didn’t save your life for that. I saved you because you’re my classmate, someone I’ve decided to be under my protection. Anyone who needs thanks from those they save is no true protector. So, keep it to yourself. Be safe getting home.”
Evic inclines his head slowly, accepting her speech. “Same to you.”
Lauron looks back just as the tip of his longsword goes out the door and an idea strikes her. She thinks once more of her feelings as she races to her room.
My classmates and professors are alive! People protecting me were killed! Stark’s a terror to them! It’s my turn, now!
Lauron stomps into her doorway and holds out her hand. Her broadsword flies to her and she catches it by the plain-looking scabbard.
They’ll regret this move more than they know!