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Made it! Thank you so much!

I Am Nobody's Friend

"That's the last one we need to hit," Sophie said. "The whole system is destabilized, but we need to take out the projector now. Come on up, Jane."

I felt the G-force rip at my consciousness as she changed directions to fly upward. How did she manage this kind of flying without passing out or puking? I was carefully not looking not looking out through her eyes unless I had to, because I was afraid of agoraphobia or acrophobia or everything-phobia.

Oh my god, how was space going to feel?

"Hal, you shithead," I whispered over the coffin. He'd been fucking around with some of the other women on the team ever since I just couldn't do that to Dottie any more. We hadn't spoken since. Now he'd keeled over and we would never...

The chill went straight through us and snapped me out of being swamped.

"I'm turning off Blinken's power now," Jane said. "I think that will help."

"Thanks," I said. I didn't actually think it would.

My body was shivering, I could feel it, even though it was physically warm and snugged up against Floribunda. Sophie was cursing with my mouth, trying desperately to type.

PSA: Space is fucking cold.

The headline—Lady Justice Declared Dead—shredded between my shaking fingers. They'd never let me go look for her, never let me try to find the body, and when I'd finally worked up the courage to disobey them, I couldn't find the original base to search, someone had obliterated it.

Never again. Never fucking again. I would damn well do what I knew was right.

"Right there!" Sophie said, mentally drawing a circle with an arrow pointing at the center on a mental schematic of the spaceship for Jane. "Hit it right there!"

"Trying to find that," Jane said. "Fucking assholes parked in the shadow, of course, and I can't fucking remember who had see-in-the-dark vision."

Sophie scrambled for an exterior view of the ship, but failed. I held onto Jane's mind and let Sophie look out her eyes.

Jesus, every time Jane blinked, she shattered the ice over her eyeballs. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

"There!" Sophie said, spotting it, and I steered Jane.

The acceleration dropped my stomach into my toes, even though it wasn't in that body. The impact of both Jane's fists reverberated through my arms. Something exploded around us. Something rocked the ship.

"She's not killing us all here, right?" I asked Sophie.

"No, she just took the projector offline," Sophie said with a mental sigh of relief. "It's over."

Jane snapped, "Where are the ones responsible?"

The tone chilled me more than space did.

"The aliens?" Sophie asked.

"The humans," Jane snarled.

Sophie gave her a mental map of the ship, drawn from the computer files.

I swung through the corridors with Jane, hanging on for dear life. I heard someone scream as she tore his power out of him, then another, then another.

She was taking the powers of the telepaths.

I had to look out her eyes to keep from getting sick this time.

The Liberty Girls was a stupid, stupid, STUPID marketing ploy from the fucking Gold Stars Corporation. It was stupidest when I held one girl—16 years old, bulletproof, could fly a little—in my arms as she fucking bled to death after one of the Gladiators put a spear through her throat. An accident, he claimed, just before I shattered every bone in his body…

Jane hovered at a stop, having torn through the ten foot thick bulkhead into the West's quarters.

Mark West looked up from his desk, where he'd been sitting with his head in his hands.

Sara West stared at her a long moment, surprised with a toddler in her arms. She stood up, handing the toddler to a girlchild of about 8, then pushed as many of her children behind her as she could.

I think that saved her life, honestly.

"I am Jane Liberty, Defender of Earth," Jane intoned, floating a foot above the floor, looming.

"Oh my god, she did the line," Sophie squeed to me.

"Fangirl in your own head," I snapped.

I felt Jane's upper lip curl into a sneer. "You disgust me. I've spent my life walking a goddamn tightrope, trying to make life better for the most people I could. And you just spent a year of your life doing the opposite, on a huge scale. At least when I killed people I hated, I did it honestly." I felt her power reach out. "I'm shutting you down, you pathetic little girl."

Sara's eyes got big and what little color she had in her face drained out. She wrapped her arms around herself, tried to keep her feet, but collapsed in a heap. She didn't make a sound as she went down.

Mark was standing, but just stared at the crumpled shape of his wife.

Jane looked at him and said, "She'll live. I'd like to end you, but there are children here. I'll leave your punishment to someone else."

She looked back at the little knot of kids—5 of them, I think?—and thought to Sophie and me, "All of them inherited it. Especially the baby. Take care of that. I don't have time now."

Sophie said, "Jane, I need you to come here, if you're done."

Bernie was really invested in it being Hal's, so I let her think that, though I knew it was hers all along, from some time when she'd been a boy with me. Because it was hers, I wanted it. I wanted it so much. But I just wasn't made to be a mother—War is a terrible, awful, abusive mother—and my body knew it. It never happened again after that one ended.

We were there so fast I felt like my eyes were the spinning things in a one-armed bandit. It was really fucking weird, looking at myself: I recognized my own long-chinned, dark brown face and my big boobs and hips, my muscular forearms and hands, the comfortable clothes I'd put on that morning. But I didn't recognize that manic grin, or the wide eager eyes, on my face. No wonder Floribunda was so freaked out. I was freaking out.

In my body's voice, Sophie's brusque, syncopated words came out: "I need you to put some extra power into that conduit right there." My finger, pointing at the corner.

My perception swung around—the cognitive dissonance was too much and I reverted to my own body for vision—and watched frail, birdlike Jane Liberty float over to the corner. I could see her face was pale, that she was panting a little, that there was a fine sheen of sweat over her whole face. She was really fucking good at clamping down on some things, I guess, despite the dementia. She put her hand on the indicated spot and dumped a huge quantity of electricity into it.

"Now, Renata, you need to find the opening!" Sophie said to me.

"Opening?" I said—I had not been privy to this part of Sophie's thought process.

"My mother," she said with a surge of raw anguish. I reached out to that psychic space I'd been exploring for years—to which Jane had first introduced me, I remembered.

The opening had been nearby all along, right in the damn ship, right here and all it needed was some extra juice to the magic psychic generator become obvious.

I ripped that fucker open, projecting into it as hard as I could: RUTH.

Jane caught them, somehow, despite how shitty she looked, as the Gold Stars all tumbled out of the dimensional pocket. She did let Ruth hit the ground, but I understood—she was more likely to hurt the metal floor than herself.

"Okay," Jane said through gritted teeth. "Okay, they can handle it now." She looked into my eyes. "Renata, I need you to get me back to Larentia's house."

Sophie's control slipped and I said, with my own mouth, "Jane, you look like hell, let's get Ruth to get you to—"

Inside our shared head, Jane said, "RENATA. NOW." In the reverberating aftermath, she added a sheepish and pathetic, "Please."

Sophie pointed us out the nearest airlock, where Jane waited impatiently for the atmosphere to cycle before rocketing into Earth's atmosphere. Where I'd been too cold before, I was cooking now, like the world's worst hot flash. We fireballed downward on a direct course for Professor Canis' house.

"Oh, Mama," I sobbed, holding her hand gently, so, so gently.

"Be good, Jane," she whispered on the thin stream of air that would move in and out of her lungs. I couldn't see her face any more, all I could see was the thing, that horrible thing the doctors couldn't take from her, that I couldn't cure, that she wouldn't let me try to cure. "Always. Just. Be good."

I wasn't, Mama. I'm sorry.

The house had just come into view when Jane said, "I'm all right now, Renata."

"Jane, let me help yo—"

Then I was back in my body on the ship, thrown in with the force of someone who could move planets, her voice shouting, "GET OUT, YOU FOOL."

"Jesus," I said to Ruth as she clambered to her feet nearby. "Oh, Jesus."

Date: 2014-06-11 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)


Date: 2014-06-11 09:54 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
WOW indeed. Jane!

Date: 2014-06-12 05:04 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Yow!! I'm glad we won the contest.


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