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"Give it here."

Lyf sighs, and pulls the black box from their pocket. La Cognizi reaches her hand through the bars, and Lyf places the cube in her outstretched palm. She turns it over once, smiling at it, then promptly tosses it across the cell at Alexandria. Lyf flinches, but Alexandria catches it with ease. The box spins in her hands, the moving parts flowing like liquid as she manipulates them with deft fingers, the slight pearlescent sheen rippling across the surface.

"These old data cubes really are something," Alexandria muses as she works. "Wonder why they went out of fashion..."

"I mean, we have computers for that now. Much more efficient storage."

"Mm, if you say so. I think they're perfectly elegant."

"I had to go digging through storage to find a reader for the thing."

"Oh, that's the boring way. You see this port here? If you insert the right frequency of laser, the whole box works like a projector and you can have up to three data streams playing at once. All the moving bits here let you calibrate it. A wonderful bit of engineering."

"Hm."

"Raph, do we have a laser?"

That catches Lyf's attention.

"You know you're not supposed to have—"

"I can make one if Marius lets me borrow a bit from his arm."

"No, I'm good, thanks," Von Raum scowls, still pouting slightly. He'd sat down quickly on his cot after Lyf had shot down his attempt at song, arms crossed and still holding on tightly to the bow of his violin in the red metal of his fingers.

La Cognizi and Alexandria share a conspiratorial look. La Cognizi stands upright from her position against the wall, and bounds over to Von Raum, leaning over to whisper something in his ear. Something crosses his expression, his mouth twitching, and he glances through the bars towards Lyf.

"Fine, alright."

La Cognizi beams, and Von Raum puts down his bow and holds out his metal arm, while she starts fiddling with the mechanisms.

"Please don't build a laser while I'm right here," Lyf pleads, pinching the bridge of their nose.

"We won't tell if you don't!" Von Raum grins, flinching as La Cognizi pops open a panel and pulls out a tiny wrench and screwdriver from whatever pocket dimension the three of them seem to keep all their possessions in. Lyf has all but given up trying to figure out how to stop them.

"That's not—"

"Oh come now Inspector," Alexandria speaks up, "I'm fixing your data cube for you, the least you can do is let me show you how to use it properly."

"... Fine."

Apparently, every camera the department had ever tried to install in the bandits' cell had broken down, in one way or another. They personally blame Alexandria (it's always the quiet ones that get up to the most trouble), though it could be any combination of them and their... talents. In any case, it does mean they won't be getting in any trouble for whatever the prisoners get up to, as long as all the evidence is gone by the time they leave.

By this time, Alexandria has stopped manipulating the cube, simply letting it sit in her palms as her eyes gaze vacantly off into space.

"What are you doing, exactly?" They ask.

"Downloading all the files, running them through a cleaner, and re-uploading them."

"... Right."

It's not the first time she's made mention of a mechanical brain, though this is the first time Lyf has seen any sort of evidence for it. They hadn't thought that the black box came with any sort of wireless connection though. Then again, apparently it's also a projector, so what do they know.

"Is that a good idea?" La Cognizi asks, pulling two small pieces of metal from Von Raum's arm with a triumphant grin. "You know where it's been."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Lyf asks, crossing their arms.

Out of the corner of their eye, they spy Von Raum reaching for his violin.

"If you touch that violin I will break it."

Von Raum lowers his hand.

"You'll see once the recordings are cleared up!" La Cognizi responds cheerfully. "It's quite a story."

"I'm sure," Lyf deadpans.

"There's a 93% chance I will suffer no permanent damage," Alexandria comments. "And I can handle a little corruption if it means I get these recordings raw. Jonny will hate it."

La Cognizi shrugs, and returns her focus to the scraps in her hands. Von Raum flicks his wrist a few times, his arm now free from La Cognizi's grasp, and works on closing the open panel.

Lyf is pretty sure they've heard them mention a Jonny before, and makes a mental note to check through their files later.

"Do you have a pen?" La Cognizi pipes up, her bright blue eyes fixed on Lyf with a sudden intensity that makes them momentarily uncomfortable.

"Why?"

"I need something for the casing, and it's that or Marius' finger."

"Hey!"

Lyf mentally runs through the list of "things the prisoners are not allowed to have," and is fairly certain pens are not on the list, though there's hardly a point when musical instruments, anything as advanced as a laser, and something that looks suspiciously like a micro welder—yep, they're going to pretend they didn't see that—are also on the list and clearly already present.

They're also fairly certain Alexandria's weird computer brain counts as something not allowed, though there's very little they can actually do about that. Actually, come to think of it, there's a good chance their superiors don't actually know about that part. They'd never seen a reason to bring it up before, and they get the feeling the prisoners are a lot more open with them than they are with the actual guards.

Regardless. There's enough plausible deniability that they can get away with giving La Cognizi a pen. They've usually got a couple on hand. She makes quick work of it, and soon is holding a pen-shaped object that clicks on to reveal a pointed orange beam.

"Excellent," she smiles.

"Let's see," Alexandria calls out, blinking a few times as her eyes lose their vacant, glassy look.

"Just to clarify," Lyf speaks up, "This is a laser pointer sort of laser, and not a melting metal sort of laser?"

"Oh I'd need more equipment for that."

Lyf waits for a moment, but La Cognizi does not look like she will be elaborating further. They settle for a tired shake of their head—what have they gotten themself into—and watch as La Cognizi flips the laser pen across the cell towards Alexandria. It lands neatly in her lap, and she clicks it on, examining the narrow beam of light for a moment before giving a small satisfied nod.

"Right."

She grabs the blanket from her cot, and, placing it down onto the floor in the middle of the cell, sits herself on top of it. After a quick glance, Von Raum and La Cognizi follow suit, forming a sort of semi-circle. Alexandria gives the black box another couple of twists, then balances one corner of it on the tip of the pen.

"Care to join us, Inspector?" She asks, looking up at them.

"W-what?"

La Cognizi pats the space on the ground between her and Von Raum invitingly. Von Raum glares at her.

"Come on," she teases. "We don't bite."

"Incorrect," Alexandria interrupts. "Last I recall—"

"Not relevant, Ivy."

Lyf takes a deep breath, exhaling sharply through their nose. There are lines they will not cross, and entering the prisoners' cell to sit in a circle and watch a video is one of them.

"I don't have the key," they offer as a convenient excuse. Which, is true, they don't. They don't have that sort of clearance down here, despite the higher ups' willingness to let them talk with the prisoners in the first place.

Von Raum looks at Lyf, then at La Cognizi, then at the cell door, and shifts his weight as if to stand, and—wait, no, no

"Do not pick the lock. Do not tell me you can pick the lock. Just... don't."

Von Raum smirks, settles back down, and raises his arms in a shrug.

"Suit yourself."

The prisoners are still looking at them expectantly, and so with a heavy sigh, Lyf steps up to the bars, and sits themself down on the floor in front of them. They keep their back perfectly straight, lace their fingers together in their lap, and raise an eyebrow at the cell occupants.

Alexandria seems satisfied with this, and clicks on the laser pointer.

Oh.

The dimly lit prison cell is immediately filled with a shifting wash of rainbow hues, spilling from the interlocking pieces of the black box; the light from the cube splits into three distinct beams, each projecting a kaleidoscope of colours that scatters against a different wall of the cell.

It's... beautiful. Lyf finds themself entranced by the light, tracing patterns in the static, eyes wide and drifting along. As they watch, each beam of shifting hues slowly resolve themselves into a surprisingly crisp image of Odin, which they recognise from the beginning of her launching speech. The colours aren't quite right, like someone layered random spots of colour over a slightly desaturated image, and there's a few dark spots still, but the quality is significantly better than what they'd been able to salvage from the corrupted box by themself.

They spend a few minutes staring into the cell, watching the three identical projections of Odin. There's no audio—they likely do need the reader for that—but her aging face is bright with passion and rainbow light as she rambles about her precious train.

The projections vanish as Odin finishes her speech, and Lyf blinks a few times in surprise, realising that Alexandria had turned off the laser pointer and is now holding it and the black box in separate hands. She turns the cube over a few times, admiring the surface.

"Like I said. Quite elegant."

She meets their gaze, and Lyf schools their face back into a carefully neutral expression; or, at least something less openly entranced.

"Yes, quite."

They stand then, smoothing down the rumpled fabric of their uniform, distinctly not looking back at the prisoners until they are a reasonable step away from the bars. When they look back again, Alexandria has returned to her cot, Von Raum is standing against the back wall examining his violin (though thankfully not playing the damn thing), and La Cognizi is approaching the bars, the black box in her hand and the laser pointer tucked behind her ear.

She passes the black box through the bars; then, as if an afterthought, passes them the laser pointer as well.

"Here. You might as well keep it."

"Oh. Thank you?"

"Don't mention it. Good luck!"

She bounds back over to Alexandria, and it's clear they've shared all they're going to. Lyf pockets the data cube and the laser, thoughts already drifting to the corrupted footage and the mysteries they'll finally be able to unlock now that the box is fixed.

"Hey wait that's got a part of my arm!" They catch Marius complaining as they leave the secure room.

"You can replace it when we get back to Aurora..."

The door closes, and the hall is quiet.

It's not until they're halfway back to the office that Lyf realises how odd it is that La Cognizi had said "good luck" instead of "goodbye."