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House of Bricks

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They called it the old bridge, the previous connecting tissue between Piltover and Zaun that was more of a long ramp, with shadow on one side and light on the other. It had been the only real way for folks in the undercity to cross into Piltover beyond the usual free climbing shenanigans that most preferred anyway. It had once been heavily patrolled by enforcers with demands for permits, reasons for visits, names of people you were going to see. If you were suspicious, the enforcers could detain you for a long time, checking your story over with as much manpower as they needed.

 

When the second purge resulted in Zaun independence, the two cities came to a joint decision to build a second bridge and retire the old one, it being too unkempt and in need of too many repairs after the constant fighting to bother fixing it. Piltover paid for the supplies, design, and construction, while Zaun installed overseers and labourers to work around the clock. The joint bridge was called the Alliance Bridge, and it was a fancy four lane highway with no permit checks, a symbol of the freedom of movement it allowed for.

 

The old bridge remained dormant, and eventually, crumbling iron and flaking rust resulted in travel upon it being banned, the Piltover side being raised permanently, the Zaun side being closed for travel. Zaun being Zaun, however, it didn’t take long for citizens to move in on the potential real estate, the bridge becoming flooded with ramshackle houses made of scrap wood and leftover masonry. Rusted out cars left abandoned on the bridge during the battle and never recovered made for quick shelter from the rain, or makeshift baths if left open. 

 

Vi, Claggor and Mylo walked shoulder to shoulder along the bridge, weaving between cars and houses, eyes locked dead ahead. Around them, Zaunites battened down hatches, slammed doors, closed windows - the people here knew a fight brewing far too well by the set in the combatant’s jaw.

 

Eventually, they found themselves in a ring of rusted out cars in front of a large wooden building, firelit torches illuminating the rusty, groaning metal they all stood upon. Claggor reached into his satchel, pulled out two handfuls of items and placed them in Mylo and Vi’s hands as the door to the building burst open, and figures began pouring out.

 

They stood on the edge of the ring of vehicles - Mylo opting to lean against a rusty trunk, fold his arms over his chest, Claggor standing still and tall, Vi placing her left hand on her hip, cocking it, her foot tapping with anxiety, dread.

 

One by one, the nine figures began to spread out on the other half of the ring, armed with blunt instruments - two hockey sticks taped together, an iron bar on a chain, a crowbar.

 

Vi’s brass knuckles were brandished on the hands of a thin, spindly looking dark skinned woman with purple eyes, her head already bulging out in the way that only long exposure to Shimmer could do. Vi’s eyes tracked the knuckles, looked up at the woman’s face, a smile curling Vi’s lips, sharpening, growing.

 

“There’s our girl,” Mylo murmured when he saw his friend’s grin, shaking his head, “these guys are fucked.”

 

The last to step out of the door was Sevika, who looked the three of them over with disdain, rising to her full height. Behind her, she dragged Caitlyn forwards, threw her onto the dusty pavement.

 

“What’s left of the Vandals,” Sevika said, sneering, shaking her head, “though not what I expected. I figured Owl Boy would be here instead of the troll doll.”

 

She jutted her chin in Mylo’s direction, and he snorted. “Not with the lacklustre muscle you brought for me. I didn’t even have to bust up my fine china.”

 

Sevika grinned wide, looked over Claggor. “You, I expected. This should be a lot of fun.”

 

Claggor didn’t respond, too busy dancing his gaze over each combatant, eyebrows pulled low, calculating.

 

Finally, Sevika looked at Vi, who hadn’t looked away from Caitlyn’s prone form. The two were staring at one another, drinking each other in, relief and anger filling both of them. Sevika snorted, shaking her head.

 

“Wow,” she said, and laughed - a harsh, metallic sound. “You didn’t just fuck her, Vi. You caught feelings for the mark. If it weren’t funny it’d be sad.”

 

Vi’s gaze locked on Caitlyn’s, and slowly moved up. After a moment, Caitlyn followed what she was looking at.

 

Powder was stationed along the highest point of the bridge, hidden in shadow. Carefully, the slight girl raised her hands to cover her eyes, then her ears, in a large, exaggerated movement.

 

Caitlyn’s eyes slid closed, her body curling in on itself as she tried as best she could to plug her ears.

 

Looking now at Sevika, Vi said, “just give her back. Zaun’s bled enough, Sevika. Whoever’s paying you can’t be worth all of this.”

 

“I told you,” Sevika tutted, and Powder, from high above, pulled five canisters from her bag, nodded across the high bridge struts at Ekko, who crouched on his board, ready.

 

“This stopped being about getting paid when I learned you were Vandals. It’s about what’s right.”

 

“Silco,” Vi gritted, through a wide, lip splitting grin, “doesn’t deserve a statue. Silco brought pain and misery to everything he touched, and if he hadn’t died here that day he would’ve continued to bring pain and misery. Men like him don’t back down.”

 

“Zaun was his dream , you stupid fuck.”

 

“Men like him don’t back down, Sevika. Men like him don’t give up power when they’re presented with it. It would’ve only been a matter of time before he made another move, collected more.”

 

“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

 

“Don’t I?” Vi challenged, “You ever seen an enforcer back down from a position of power? Ever seen an academy graduate not use his station? Men like him don’t just collect a set amount of power and say oh, gee, that’s enough, I’ll go home to my simple life now . Men like him grab it where they can find it at any cost -  your cost, mine, anyone but his.”

 

“You shut the fuck up ,” Sevika growled, and that piston in her arm, glowing purple, raised and lowered, Shimmer flooding her system, flashing her pupils, stretching in her veins as she pulsed, jerked forwards, snarled. Her breathing came sharp and fast in the firelight, chest heaving with the effort.

 

“Fuck Silco,” Vi said, reaching her left hand over her back and sliding it into her gauntlet. It hissed as she activated it, metal plates shifting and twisting as she curled her fingers - all four touching metallic palm. She grinned down at it.

 

“Fuck Silco and everything he stood for.”

 

“You’re all runts,” Sevika panted, talking past her now, the rage consuming her, “and you never learned your place among wolves. We’re the wolves now, and we’re going to show you what it means to be a wolf.”

 

Sevika moved forwards, and Vi sliced the air with her gauntlet.

 

Mylo and Claggor had already subtly put in their earplugs during the conversation, and Mylo rushed forwards to shove a pair of headphones over Vi’s ears as five canisters fell from the top of the bridge struts. Sevika glanced up as they fell, jerked her gaze back towards the three Vandals, to find each were wearing tinted dark sunglasses, wearing smug smiles.

 

Sevika barely had time to cover her eyes when the canisters detonated in light and ringing sound.

 

A whoosh filled the air, and Ekko was speeding forwards, bent low over his board, gaining speed rapidly. In a flash, he had his arms around Caitlyn, hauled her up, zipped away as Sevika’s blade came crashing towards the asphalt and metal where Caitlyn had lain, a squeal of steel and rock as the blade bit deep.

 

Sevika looked upwards, and a gauntleted fist slammed into her chin, sending her flying back through the wooden wall of the house in a vicious uppercut. Vi’s face was contorted in rage, all except that sharp smile.

 

“Huff and puff, bitch ,” Vi snarled, and all hell broke loose.

 

Claggor immediately brought the bat down onto one assailant’s knee, kicking it immediately afterwards with a sickening crunch as the knee caved sideways and the ganger fell forwards. A heavily pockmarked man leapt at Claggor in reprisal, and Claggor blocked two quick jabs with a knife before spinning pockmark around and grabbing him in a headlock, raining punches into his face as a yordle leapt onto his back, tried to get an iron bar around his thick neck.

 

Mylo slammed his bottle-cap adorned fists into the chest of shimmer addict with the brass knuckles, and was rewarded for his efforts with brass grazing his temple, shearing some skin off with the force of it. He fell backwards against a sedan’s hood, kicked out with both feet when Knuckles tried to close the distance, then rolled backwards to the car’s roof when an iron chain slammed down where he was an instant ago. Mylo let out a manic little laugh, hopped to his feet, leapt over another swing with the chain and dove onto the chain-wielder’s shoulders, digging his thumbs into the assailant’s eyes.

 

“Ride ‘em, Cowboy!” Mylo hollered over the sound of Powder’s pistol firing beanbags hard and fast, smoking two assailants in a whuff of light and sound. Hockey Sticks closed the distance towards her, swinging up in an arc and she bent her body to the side, dodging the attack, sidestepping another as she shook out her pistol, loaded it. She dropped into an effortless split as Hockey Sticks swung horizontally, ruffling her long blue braids with the wind disturbance, only to find the pistol pointed up at his chin.

 

“Hmm,” Powder said, pulling the trigger, the beanbag slamming his jaw shut, his teeth severing his tongue as he careened backwards. Then, Powder shook her pistol out again, began to load it as a crowbar suddenly slammed down on her shoulder, making her grunt in pain as she rolled away, Crowbar giving chase.

 

Ekko took Caitlyn to a little wooden platform high in the air, amidst the struts of the bridge. He cut her bonds, pressed a ready-made poultice to her shoulder, checked her face.

 

“Who-” Caitlyn wheezed, still shaking off the effects of the makeshift flashbangs.

 

“Oh. Hi, I’m Ekko. I’m a friend of Vi’s,” he said, the owl mask distorting his voice and making him sound huge, nasty.

 

“Oh,” Caitlyn breathed and Ekko reached behind him and tossed a familiar looking briefcase onto the platform.

 

“When you’re ready,” the distortion continued, “we could probably use a hand.”

 

With that, he zipped back down towards the fray. The yordle on Claggor’s back had finally gotten the thin metal rod around his neck, was starting to tug, Claggor’s strength starting to wane, when a cudgel slammed into the yordle’s temple and Claggor sucked in a decent breath to squeeze down on his captive and subdue them. Claggor nodded at Ekko in thanks, the smaller man offering a salute as he wheeled to go help Mylo.

 

From Caitlyn’s position, she could see the four of them, moving as a unit, as if no time had passed at all. Mylo steering an enemy directly into Ekko’s cudgel, then leaping to intercept a combatant that was lunging towards Claggor. Claggor kicking Crowbar in the stomach as he chased Powder, grabbing him and throwing him into Knuckles as Knuckles leapt to catch onto Ekko’s board. Ekko swinging the board around to catch Chain’s fingers in his hover fans as Chain tried to grab onto Mylo’s hair, holding him still long enough for Powder and Mylo to both roundhouse kick him into the barricade of the bridge, sending him collapsing to the asphalt.

 

They fought brilliantly, skillfully, trading assailants back and forth, ensuring nobody had more than they could handle. And still, it was nine versus four, and Caitlyn could see they’d lose.

 

That is, until she finished building the rifle, took aim.

 

Mylo was being held against a car hood on two sides as Knuckles reared back to punch him in the eyebrow when a gunshot erupted outwards, and Knuckles’ brass knuckles arced into the air, the hand they were attached to suddenly gone at the wrist. She screamed, twisted enough for Mylo to rear his feet up and kick her away, using the motion to contort his body and get a foot on one of his restrainers.

 

Claggor was brought to his knees by a powerful blow by Crowbar, and another shot slammed through his elbow, making his arm fall limp. Claggor punched Crowbar in the dick without missing a beat, nodding vaguely upwards in thanks.

 

Caitlyn cocked the gun, sending a spent shell arcing through the air, and sighted up once again, but was distracted as Vi came crashing back out of a wall of the wooden house, left gauntlet scraping the road, palm out, as she flipped and recovered her feet. Vi dusted off her jacket of wooden splinters as a brass and metal arm grabbed hold of the wall, Sevika stepping out of the freshly made entrance, eyes fully purple now, veins throbbing. She was growing in size, muscles being created on her large frame, making her impossibly taller, impossibly broader.

 

Vi never stopped smiling as she jerked to the left, then right, sprinting towards Sevika, left gauntlet curled. She ducked under Sevika’s punch, grabbed her midsection with the gauntlet, and ejected all of the steam buildup in the metal glove to give her more momentum as she tossed Sevika back into the house and out the other side, racing to catch up with her quarry.

 

“Yo, sniper!” called Powder, as her hands wrapped around an iron rod being pushed against her neck, “Little help!”

 

A gunshot sounded, and Iron Bar squealed, a hole in his foot. Powder kicked him off of her, loaded a fresh beanbag, and shook her head as she pointed the pistol down at him.

 

“Almost,” she sighed, and pulled the trigger, knocking Iron Bar out cold.

 

On the other side of the house, Vi ducked under another clumsy slow punch of Sevika’s and unleashed two quick shots with her left hand in Sevika’s contorting ribs, making her grunt out in a voice tinged heavily with Shimmer phlegm. The blade on the metal arm swished out and Vi ducked, a chunk of her pink locks being sliced off and falling earthward even as she countered with a right elbow to Sevika’s jaw, sending pulsing pain through her right arm as she followed up with another left. Sevika stumbled back a few steps, ever closer to the middle of the bridge, the Piltover side drawn up, nothing but ocean beneath them.

 

Sevika lunged, and Vi sidestepped, slamming her gauntlet into Sevika’s knee to drop her down, kicking her chest. It was like kicking brick, no give at all, and Vi turned it into a leap to gain space.

 

Sevika predicted this, grabbing Vi’s ankle and attempting to throw her, but Vi ejected more steam from the gauntlet, allowing her to flip and right herself in midair, skidding across the ground in booted feet, gauntlet pressed to the asphalt. Her eyes jerked upwards, chest expanding, contracting in quick, uneven breaths. Sevika was half-transformed, nearly completely mutated by the Shimmer coursing through her. Maybe with two gauntlets and not beat to shit, Vi could’ve taken her.

 

But Vi wasn’t damaging her. She was just shrugging everything off.

 

“Vandals,” Sevika grunted, but didn’t seem capable of speech beyond that hate-dripped word. The piston on her arm raised, full of purple liquid, and lowered, more Shimmer coursing through her as she screamed out - sounding more and more monstrous, unhinged.

 

“VANDALS,” Sevika roared, and charged towards Vi. Vi stood, crouched low, pulled the gauntlet back, and closed all the vents, building steam rapidly, needle on the dial slowly pulsing towards red.

 

As Sevika neared, Vi unleashed the built up steam and thrust her fist forwards, sending her careening towards Sevika in a desperate uppercut. She caught the larger woman on the chin, sending her into the air, head cocked backwards, eyes wide. Vi leapt after her, raised the gauntlet above her head, and slammed her back down to earth, Sevika’s body crashing through the asphalt and metal, a crater forming around her.

 

Vi landed, panting, her gauntlet needle falling down to zero, quivering there. She wiped her mouth on the shoulder of her jacket, turned to head back towards the rest of the Vandals, the sounds of fighting still reaching her.

 

From behind her, she heard the piston raise and lower, and froze. Rocks and metal crumbled and groaned, and she slowly turned to see Sevika, purple and black, standing easily nine feet tall, light blue drool slowly rolling down her chin.

 

Vi exhaled slowly, raised her gauntlet, and Sevika roared, lunging towards her. Vi managed to block two of the strikes before a third caught her low and on the inside of her thigh, sending her teetering to the right. A clawed hand raked across her gauntlet, twisting her around as a fist slammed into her midsection, sending her skidding ass over teakettle over the asphalt.

 

She lay there for a moment as Sevika roared, her gauntlet’s steam gauge shattered. Useless. Vi pressed the release lever, pulled her hand out of it. It had gotten her far enough tonight, but would go no further. She pressed her knuckles into the asphalt, rose to her feet, but not quick enough - a fleshy, muscular hand gripped her hair, and in a sickeningly familiar position, she was lifted, Sevika’s brass and metal arm raised, a sneering smile twisting monstrous lips.

 

A crack of thunder, and the piston on Sevika’s metal shoulder shattered, sending her squealing backwards, Vi dropped to her knees as Sevika desperately tried to cover the rapidly depleting shimmer, alternating between pressing her hand to it and licking her hand, needing more.

 

Roughly, Vi gained her feet, gauntlet behind her, exhaling slowly. Caitlyn, no doubt. Buying her time. But she couldn’t run - she had to finish this here, or Sevika would come back. She’d keep coming until she was put down. But Vi was already exhausted, the it the only thing left in her tank, pushing her onwards, while the rest of her body just wanted to sleep -

 

A splash of puddle to her left.

 

The scuff of a boot to her right.

 

A low hum to her left.

 

A pop of gum to her right.

 

“Alright,” Vi said, and the rest of the Vandals stood behind her, a walking V on the bridge where they’d won their freedom, “get her limbs.”

 

The five of them drove Sevika back. The monster would reach for Claggor and Mylo would dig a knife into her side, force her attention on him as Powder fired shot after shot of nails and screws into her face and eyes, forcing her to go stumbling back. The monster would reach for Ekko and Claggor would pull on its thigh as Vi punched it in the chest, making it howl as it staggered back again. The monster kept trying, reaching, one arm useless and leaking Shimmer as the Vandals attacked, attacked, attacked.

 

Finally, with an exchange of nods, Mylo dove to the ground, clamping his entire body around Sevika’s right leg. Claggor blocked a wild swing, pinned her left leg with his arms. Ekko ducked a grab attempt, wrapped a thin rope to attach Sevika’s good arm to his board, and cranked the throttle to spread it out, immobilise it. Powder grabbed the brass and metal, pulled it over her shoulder, heaved until all four limbs were locked in place.

 

Sevika glanced around at them, one at a time, and glared at Vi, her countenance darkening as Vi began to run forwards, straight for her, right fist cocked back.

 

“Vandals,” Sevika snarled, and the last thing she saw before the world went black was Vi getting suddenly closer as her unconscious body was thrown from the bridge.

 

Everyone let go as Vi’s fist connected, stood as one as they watched Sevika getting smaller and smaller, swallowed up by the poisonous black. They watched until they saw a dark fin rise from the water, slowly sink in the spot Sevika disappeared. They watched until there was no sign of anything else.

 

Then, Vi clapped Claggor on the back, touched Powder’s face, shook Mylo’s hand, hugged Ekko. Together, they walked back to the ring of cars.

 


 

It wasn’t over by a longshot, as the sound of fighting and gunfire and the roaring of shimmer monsters were bound to attract an amount of attention. Zaunite enforcers arrived to the scene with questions and disdain, but when they learned that former sheriff Vi was among the ranks, alongside the other ex Vandals and a Piltie councillor’s daughter, they quickly called in the big guns, and woke sheriff Garren from a dead sleep at 1am to come to the old bridge.

 

Garren was a large man, and he was dressed in full plate armour, a shiny sword on his back. He wore a cape, too - a fancy gold and blue thing, a full regalia of the Zaunite emblem. He watched the Vandals and Caitlyn from a distance, shoulder to shoulder with Vi, bandage around her wounds from pushing Sevika into the Piltover sea.

 

“It’s a tall tale,” he said, turning to her. Vi kept her gaze on her companions, nodding absently, eyes flat.

 

“If anyone else told me this, I’d say it’s something out of a novel. One of those Zaun-Noire stories or something.”

 

Vi shrugged. “It’s real.”

 

“I believe you.”

 

They sat in comfortable silence for a while, watching the enforcers question each of the Vandals, each Vandal adopting their trademark reluctance to discuss things with authorities. Mylo kept flitting around to each round of questioning, quick with the are you detaining my client and you don’t have to answer that ’s.

 

“We have evidence back at the room under the mattress. Maggie can show you.”

 

“A councillor met with Sevika,” Garren said, and Vi’s eyebrow raised in question, “Caitlyn confirmed it. Councillor Amara. Councillors Talis and Medarda had the enforcers waiting for her when she got back from meeting her. She cracked in twenty nine minutes, apparently.”

 

Vi shook her head, turned back to look at Caitlyn. She looked so small, pale, fresh stab wound still blooming red against her bandage, bruises dotting her legs. She’d been seen to by paramedics, given a large fluffy blanket that made her seem younger, fragile. Vi’s palms itched.

 

“You know,” Garren said, “I’ll never be as good as you were.”

 

Vi’s eyes cut to him, surprised.

 

“You were a born leader, Vi,” Garren said, warmth in his tone, “and the policies you’ve laid out have curbed violence in our city by a massive amount. Investigative work, due process, everyone’s right to an attorney. You created a force that cares about its people because you did.”

 

Vi felt a lump in her throat, and looked back at Caitlyn, drawing strength. Mylo was now with her, one hand pointed towards the enforcer that tried to ask her something, his face insistent, demanding as Caitlyn looked tired, vaguely relieved. Caitlyn met her eyes, and gave her a soft smile.

 

Vi smiled back, glanced at the ground.

 

“What I’m saying is,” Garren continued, nudging her shoulder with his pauldron, “it wouldn’t hurt for you to check in now and again, make sure we’re on the straight and narrow.”

 

“I’m not the law,” Vi said, and Garren shook his head.

 

“No, but you care about what the law should and shouldn’t do. You’d be a civilian advisor, see what we’re doing wrong, correct it. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think you were the right person for the job.”

 

Caitlyn was watching her now, lip clenched between her teeth, seeming to fight off a smile as Mylo was parroting the enforcer’s words with a low, dumb sounding voice. The enforcer threw up his hands and left Caitlyn alone, leaving Mylo free to drift over to where Claggor was answering a female officer’s questions with one word answers.

 

“I’ll think about it,” Vi said, and hopped off of the hood. Garren rose too, nodding at her as he clapped his gauntlets together, started barking orders. Vi’s feet were on auto pilot, and suddenly she was standing directly in front of Caitlyn, left hand reaching out to touch Caitlyn’s right.

 

They smiled at each other, eyes filling as they squeezed tight, forging a connection in iron.

 

“All I kept thinking,” Caitlyn said, “was how I hadn’t kissed you yet.”

 

Vi smirked. “We can do that, if you want.”

 

Caitlyn hummed, her free hand reaching up, cupping Vi’s jaw, sliding over her cheek, pressing her fingertips into her hair. She tugged lightly, and Vi leaned downwards.

 

Their lips met softly, tentatively, chastely. Until Vi pressed her hands on either side of Caitlyn’s hips and leaned forwards, until Caitlyn wrapped both arms around Vi’s neck and tugged, until there was nothing but Vi standing between Caitlyn’s spread thighs and the slow, soft, wet meeting of their lips, over and over and over. They stood there, amidst the chaos of the enforcers hauling cuffed people into cars and her friends’ rapidly excited tones of voice recapping the battle, and lost themselves in one another.

 

Caitlyn broke the kiss, leaning back, tongue running along her top lip, eyebrows raised in question.

 

“There,” she said, “ now Sevika can capture me.”

 

Vi shook her head, lips twisting in a smile. “Too soon.”

 

Caitlyn smiled back, then straightened her expression, looking back towards the nearly demolished wooden house, eyes darting back to Vi’s.

 

“Look,” Caitlyn began, “I know that I might bring back some memories, and I’m not saying it has to be now and I’m very willing to wait, but I think-”

 

“Do you want to get dinner with me?” Vi interrupted.

 

Caitlyn’s expression lit up, nodding. “Yeah. Yes. Yes, I think I would love that.”

 

“Cool,”  Vi said, lamely, and Caitlyn laughed, kissed at the corner of her mouth.

 

“Cool,” Caitlyn hummed, and the it within Vi was silent, still, tucked back into her skin.

 


 

Vi’s shoulders ached. Not an uncommon thing when you worked with self righteous assholes, came home every day and bitched to Caitlyn about how some enforcers only wanted to stomp heads and shoot guns and be entitled to be a little rough instead of, you know, protecting the city. The day’s stress sat upon her shoulders as she made her way into the Last Drop with lead shoulders, swaying a little with the motion.

 

People noticed her now - the two couples in the booths lit up a little, nodding towards her. The three men sitting in stools along the lengthy part of the L shaped bartop said a form of oh, that’s Vi to one another as she made her way to the short end, seated atop it, dropping a leatherbound journal to the countertop with a muffled fwap .

 

“One of these days,” Vander said as he made his way over to her, a full beer already in his grasp, “you’ll show up here without the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

 

“At least it isn’t rock dust gumming up your mahogany,” Vi fired back, grinning.

 

Vander frowned, leaning on the bar across from her, the three years since he’d dressed her wounds in that hotel room showing in peaks of white amongst the salt and pepper, hair on top thinning out.

 

“You look weird in suits.”

 

“I wear the fuck out of suits,” Vi corrected, popping her collar obnoxiously. She scooped up her beer, drank a lusty, full sip, let out a heavy sigh of satisfaction.

 

“I remember the girl who was allergic to sleeves, the unfriendly lesbian who sat herself at this bar and would drink alone for an hour before leaving like a ghost.”

 

“The times,” Vi said, “they are a-changing.”

 

And they had. After a long recovery period of six months, Vi had accepted Garren’s job offer, put in her notice in the quarry, and started working as a civilian liaison to the enforcers. She didn’t need to wear the uniform, finding it still constricting and full of the smell of blood and the feel of flesh on her teeth, but she was around enforcers for forty hours a week, consulting, training, advising. She found their respect wasn’t hard won, once they knew who she was, what she’d done. She had to do media appearances every now and then, but it was a small part to play to feel as though she was making a difference.

 

Caitlyn’s story about being kidnapped won her a Pulitzer, once she’d come to grips with the psychological trauma of it. It had been two years of having a bad night weekly, where she’d be sure that Sevika was outside the door, that she could still see and hear the flashbang, feel the blade in her shoulder. The two of them spent a lot of time curled in bed together, whispering, baring souls. It was a quick journey to love when your first time meeting involved so much pain and violence.

 

Being with Caitlyn also meant seeing more of Jayce, which Vi… tolerated. The two of them were at each others’ throats more often than not, but Vi could see the nobility in him more, now, even if she’d always reserve a place in her heart for him as man-child. Then again, Mylo could have his moments too, and Caitlyn said nary a bad word about him.

 

Vi took another sip of her beer, and her cell phone vibrated, a text from Caitlyn. Curiously, she opened it, seeing it was an image, and her eyes widened, beer choking in her throat as she pulled her phone screen closer to her face, tilted her head.

 

“Problem?” Vander asked, and Vi looked at him, pressed the lock button on her phone, downed her beer.

 

“Yeah. Yes, urgent problem. Uh, back at home. I need to go home and take care of this… urgent problem.”

 

Vander’s eyebrows raised, and Vi shook herself, giving him a two finger wave and scooping up her book.

 

“Anything I can help with?” Vander called as Vi started to leave.

 

Vi turned back, smiled.

 

“It’s about a woman.”

 


 

This little piggie had a house made of bricks,

Hand over hand over hand over fist,

This little piggie had a house made of bricks,

Huff and puff, bitch, you ain’t blowing down shit.

Despot, House of Bricks