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the new day's strange demands

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Nina concentrated as she tried to remember the correct handshapes for the letters.

"No, no, you've got too many fingers over the thumb," Kat corrected her. "That's M; you only use two fingers for N. See?" Kat's fingers nimbly formed the letters.

Nina sighed, abandoning the signing to write: not fair - you only read the book once!

Kat grinned when she read it. "You'll get the hang of it. Try spelling my name now. You too," she said to Rachel, who imitated Kat silently.

Cameron glanced at the three women in Rachel's office before continuing down the hallway. He paused in the doorway to Rosen's office, listening to the conversation.

"—clear the streets. Even a motorcycle can't get through them right now," said Bill.

Rosen nodded. "Then that'll be the plan for tomorrow. You shove the vehicles out of the way to clear a path towards Manhattan."

"What about all the bodies?" Cameron asked, pulling up a chair next to Bill. "Even leaving some in cars to rot, that doesn't take care of the pedestrians everywhere."

"I think we may need to build a crematorium of some kind, maybe adapt a building nearby. Perhaps you can start looking into what might be suitable," Rosen suggested.

"We need to be working on getting to Tyler," Cameron countered.

"We are," Rosen said, meeting his eyes. "Before I put us all on a plane flown by Kat, I want her to have some experience in a flight simulator. The trouble is that the simulators aren't in Queens."

Bill continued, "There are too many crashed vehicles to clear a path for anything big, but a motorcycle—"

"—I could drive her there, yeah, I get it," said Cameron. "Do we have an estimate on when we can go? Tyler's running out of food in the house."

Rosen shook his head slightly. "It'll be at least another week, I'm afraid. You'll have to instruct him on where he can find more. Maybe there are neighbors nearby that would have had some, for instance."

"I don't want him attracting the wrong kind of attention, steal his supplies or worse."

"If you're worried about that, you could have him set an alarm and get up at three or four a.m.," said Rosen. "Unless someone had a job that required them to be up at those hours, most people will be asleep, even those who would prowl around at midnight."

"I'll go give him another quick call, then," Cameron said, exiting the room.

"We need to have a team meeting regarding tomorrow. Would you tell the others that we're meeting in the conference room in ten minutes?" Rosen asked Bill.

Bill nodded, leaving Rosen with his thoughts. He strode down the hallway, stopping at Gary's door first. "Rosen wants us all to meet in the conference room in ten minutes, Gary."

"It's nearly eight o'clock, Bill. We meet in the mornings. Or afternoons, if a new case comes."

Bill sighed. "I know, but remember, we don't have jobs anymore, so we don't have morning meetings or cases. We have to work together to make sure we can survive. So as part of that, we're having a meeting in ten minutes. I'll see you then." He left Gary to frown over the changes.

A peal of laughter rang out from Rachel's room. Bill didn't have to look in to know it was Kat. "You just signed 'I'm horny', not 'I'm hungry'," she said in between giggles. "Only do it twice, no more!" Kat looked up, regaining control of herself as Bill came into view.

He rested a hand on the doorjamb. "Rosen says conference room in about ten minutes."

"Heading there now, then," Kat replied for the rest. She got up from the couch, newly moved back into the room that afternoon by the others while she studied flight manuals and watched training videos.

Nina stood up from her position on the edge of Rachel's bed and reached down for Rachel's hands. She pulled Rachel up, squeezing her hands briefly before they followed Bill.

Cameron rounded the corner at the end of the hallway as they reached the conference room. "We having a meeting?" he asked.

Nina nodded and entered the conference room, sitting in the chair next to Rachel. Bill seated himself across from Rachel, and Kat went to sit next to him.

Cameron was pulling out the chair on the other side of Kat when Rachel suddenly tilted her head a little. "There are people in the hallway by the stairs."

"What? How did they get in?" asked Bill.

"I let them in," came Gary's voice from the doorway.

The room exploded with questions and exclamations, until Rachel held a hand up. "It's Skylar and Zoe," she said once everyone had quieted somewhat. "I can hear them talking."

"Who?" asked Kat, but no one answered her, as they turned to watch the doorway in silence. It seemed like an eternity until Skylar rounded the corner. Zoe clung tightly to one of Skylar's hands, and ducked behind her mother's leg when she saw the others watching.

"The world ends and you're all still at the office," Skylar said with a wry grin.

"Safety in numbers," Bill said simply.

"We can all live here," said Gary. "We even have real beds now."

Skylar's gaze rested on Nina. "Cat got your tongue?"

"Nina has her tongue in her mouth. Why would a cat have it?" Gary asked.

"It's an expression, Gary," Bill said. "She's asking why Nina isn't talking."

"Oh, that's because the lights made it so she pushes everyone when she talks," Gary explained. "So she has to write everything down, or learn sign language. But they only started learning today."

Skylar's eyebrows went up. "Sign language, huh? I bet Zoe would pick that up quickly. Right?" she asked, glancing down at the young girl wrapped around her leg. Zoe only turned her head further away from them, and Skylar sighed.

"Why don't you guys have a seat on the couch?" Bill offered.

"Are you hungry?" Rachel asked.

"Starved," Skylar admitted. "I found food here and there, but it was hard to bring any of it with us, and today I just wanted to get here." She pried Zoe off her leg and scooped her up in her arms, sinking into the couch gratefully. "I knew we'd be safe if we could find you guys."

"I could heat up a plate of something for each of you if you'd like," Rachel offered.

"That sounds great. What do you think, Digit?" Zoe's head stayed buried against her mother's body. Skylar rubbed Zoe's back. "Maybe just a small plate for her?" she suggested.

"I'll be right back with it, then," said Rachel, getting up.

Rosen waited for Rachel to pass by him before coming in to join the rest. He stopped in front of the couch. "Skylar, what a wonderful surprise! It's good to see you. And you too, Zoe," he said. "I'm glad you two made it here safely."

Skylar smiled in thanks. "You don't mind us crashing your party?"

"Skylar, you and Zoe are welcome to stay with us as long as you like. We may not work for the government anymore, and we may not have jobs with salaries, but we're still a team, and we decide who's part of that. If you think that you're ready to give up the independent life and join us…" he trailed off, eyebrows raised in a question.

"I'll consider it," she admitted, a little reluctantly. She glanced down at the child in her arms.

"There's no obligation. We're glad to have you with us for even a short while." Rosen turned to face everyone else. "Meanwhile, we have a short meeting to hold before everyone can go get some sleep," he said, taking his seat at the head of the table. "The last few days the rest of you have done an excellent job in planning and preparing for our survival here. Now we have a new goal: to get to Las Vegas to pick up Cameron's son, Tyler. Kat, you've already started working on learning to be a pilot. I'd like you to continue studying everything you can tomorrow. That includes how to refuel and any other basic maintenance that may need doing."

"Yay me," said Kat with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

Rosen smiled and continued, "Gary, I'd like you to work on getting a flight simulator program set up on one of the computers here, if possible. It won't substitute for hands-on experience in a real simulator, but it'll help prepare for that. Bill, I've already asked you to start working on shoving vehicles out of the way to clear a path down the streets. Now, you're sure you won't suffer any ill effects from triggering your ability?"

Bill shook his head. "The one good thing the lights did was stop my heart racing after I'm amped for a few minutes. I can stay amped up for hours now if need be."

"All right. I'd like Rachel to continue as the cook. Nina, you can be her assistant tomorrow. If you need any more supplies, let one of us know."

Nina nodded.

"Cameron, I'd like you to scout out the buildings around to see if one of them might be suitable for putting an incinerator of some sort in. We're going to need as many bodies off the street as possible. Skylar, would you be willing to help him with that? We'd like to not burn down the neighborhood if possible."

"That depends," she said with a pointed glance down at Zoe.

Rosen nodded. "Of course. Let us know if there's anything you'd like us to get. There are basic supplies stored in this building, but there's a lot we don't have yet." He looked around at the group. "I think that's all for now."

"I'm going to bed, then," said Kat, heading for her room. She took one last curious glance at Skylar and Zoe, then decided that proper introductions could wait until both parties were a little less tired.

"Dr. Rosen, what do I do with my laundry?" Gary asked. "The laundry people are probably dead too."

"Doesn't the gym in the basement provide towels? It probably has machines for washing and drying them," said Bill.

Rosen turned to Nina. "Would you look into that tomorrow, then? See if we can get some sort of laundry system set up, maybe a bin to dump the dirty clothing into."

Rachel returned at that moment with two plates on a tray. "I'll just put these at the table," she told Skylar.

"Let's go eat, Didge, it's hot food." Skylar coaxed Zoe off her lap long enough to sit at the table, but Zoe only took one bite before hiding her face again. "She's exhausted; it's been a long day," Skylar said.

"It's fine," Rachel told her. "We can clear out of here so maybe she'll eat when it's quieter."

Bill and Cameron took the hint and left. Rosen got up. "Let's go, Gary. The meeting's over. We'll find you something to put your laundry in tomorrow."

"OK," echoed Gary's voice as he walked out.

Nina held up her pad of paper to Rachel: couch is too small for them—they can take my bed if you don't mind me joining you again?

Rachel nodded with some relief. Nina had been there for her every night, and she wasn't quite ready to be alone anyway. "We'll be in my office while you eat, Skylar. When you're done, come find us, and I'll show you where you two can sleep tonight."

"Thanks," Skylar said between mouthfuls.

True to Rachel's prediction, Zoe rediscovered her appetite once it was just her and her mother. Skylar had to admit that the thought of eating food she didn't have to cook was very appealing; Rosen's offer was becoming more tempting by the minute.

When they finished eating, Skylar picked up the tray with the dishes. "Let's go find them again, Didge, so they can show us where to sleep." Zoe grasped the hem of Skylar's shirt but didn't cling as tightly this time.

"What do you want me to do with the dishes?" Skylar asked when she got to Rachel's doorway.

"Oh, I'll take them to the kitchen," Rachel answered. "Go ahead and show them," she told Nina.

Nina beckoned them to follow her down the hall. You can stay in my bed. I haven't slept there yet; set up just today, she wrote. I'll be with Rachel.

Skylar raised her eyebrows. "Moved on from the jock?"

Nina pressed her lips together firmly as she scribbled the reply. Rachel lost her boyfriend and family to this.

Skylar's face softened. "It didn't do you any favors either," she commented.

Nina smiled a little sadly. Sleep well.

"You too."

Nina left Skylar and her daughter after collecting a few items for the night. Before long she was in bed, the first real bed in days; the feeling was pure bliss. Rachel's head rested on Nina's shoulder, and Nina rubbed Rachel's back gently.

"I wonder how long they'll stay," Rachel mumbled.

Nina smiled and formed a letter with her other hand. She moved the hand to where Rachel could feel it and slowly spelled out the letters, hoping she had remembered them correctly.

"S-L-T, no, E-E-K? No, P. Sleep. OK, I will," Rachel answered. "Thank you," she whispered after a moment. The hand forming the handshapes changed to hold one of hers, and she drifted off to sleep with Nina's heartbeat in her ear.