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Welcome to the New Age

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Vi should have heard it go off. She should have heard the booming crack as it came into contact with the councilor’s chambers, imploding everything inside and out. She had been standing inside there nearly a day ago, hoping to create a solution to the ongoing conflict between the Underground and Topside. 

 

But even that couldn’t end in fairness. 

 

So, there it stood: a crumbling shell compared to its former glory. The surrounding area had been leveled in the explosion with nothing left standing, with puffs of green and yellow smoke drifting from the rubble into the twilight sky. 

 

Caitlyn’s mother and Jayce were no more; like candles, blown out by the lightest wind. 

 

Vi couldn’t tear her eyes away, her body tense as the scene finally registered in the midst of her shock.

 

It wasn’t until the sound of Caitlyn’s cries reached her ears did she snap out of her daze. Everything Caitlyn had believed to be safe from harm had been destroyed in a spectacular ray of blue and green, and the only thing Vi could think of doing was hold Caitlyn steady with her gauntlet free hand. 

 

It was only when Caitlyn’s frame began to sag against Vi did she realize that they had been standing there for a while, the moon shining brightly above the two, watching their every move. Gently lowering her to the ground, Vi held Caitlyn in an iron grip as sobs wracked her body, shaking her to the point of convulsion. Through the heartache, Vi refused to let go of the one person who had yet to leave her.

 

When Caitlyn shifted her head from where it lay on Vi’s shoulder, she saw a residue of paint Jinx smeared onto her cheeks, wanting nothing more than to wipe it off, hoping it would take back the memories and the pain marring Caitlyn’s face.

 

Why would Powder do this?

 

But …

 

Whoever shot that bomb was not Powder. The Powder I knew would never think about firing a weapon on unprotected civilians, let alone kidnap and hold  me hostage. What I told her was true, if she had just cut me free we would leave the Undercity, leave Piltover, the continent itself for the knowledge we’d be safe from Silco and his influence. Even if it meant leaving everything… leaving Caitlyn. 

 

But what did she do instead? She shot Silco and in her grief tipped the can that had been brewing underneath Zaun for years! Powder is indistinguishable to Jinx, Jinx is indescribable to Powder. Powder is innocent. Jinx is uncontrollable. Powder. Jinx. Powder. Jinx. Powder-

 

“Vi,” Caitlyn called out. Her voice sounded like it was miles away despite being right next to Vi’s ear. Caitlyn repeated herself again, and that time Vi could feel her breath harbor into her skin, both soothing and disquieting at the same time. This unexpectedly created an impulse in Vi to grip Caitlyn’s waist even tighter. 

 

“Yeah?” Vi replied, attempting to keep her words casual so as not to unveil the stutter she held in the back of her throat.

 

Caitlyn didn’t respond to Vi’s words for a while, and for a minute Vi thought she was just imagining her voice, longing for a sound to fill the empty space creeping into their surroundings.

 

When Caitlyn did speak up, it was a mere whisper even Vi had to turn her ear in to catch, “What are we going to do?”

 

“I’m not sure Caitlyn. I’m not sure.”

 

Years being cooped up in Stillwater and the prisoner’s mantra was the only notion Vi could conjure, ‘punch anyone that’s considered a danger to your survival, you’ll never make it a day unless you throw the first swing.’ 

 

What it made her want to do was punch every person who made this version of hell into a reality.

 

Caitlyn, however, gave some better options. “Either we remain in the Lanes to reassess and find someone who can take us to Topside, or we go now and scavenge the remains together.”

 

Or maybe escape this hell altogether? Find an unguarded airship to stowaway on, leave Piltover and the lies that lived in the cracks and crevices?

 

The idea was selfish to think about. In situations like this Vi’s thoughts would switch between fight or flight mode when it deemed necessary and the last time she chose the latter it cost Vi her sister and her freedom. Walking away now meant giving up on Caitlyn and what she still had left to fight for, her family.

 

Finally settling on a plan (not mentioning the one departing from Piltover,) both of them agreed the best mode of action was to get to the chambers as soon as possible.

 

With effort, Vi managed to hoist Caitlyn to her feet, keeping in mind she was at the loss of her strength to hold her balance. On their way back into the warehouse Vi picked up the other gauntlet Sevika had stabbed. It was pointless to carry since the gauntlet’s circuits were damaged beyond repair. The only reason she carried the rugged thing was because she knew a certain hammer-wielding councilor would want them back. Especially after she borrowed them for her personal assault on Silco’s right hand woman.

 

Besides their shaky footsteps, the interior of the warehouse was barren of any sound. With her sister gone, the tea party had lost its aura of eeriness, the scenery morbid and grim. Even though color was strewn across the tabletop, on the plates and teacups, it made Vi want to recoil at the sight.

 

Coming to the side of the table where a life-sized dummy of Mylo sat, Vi caught a glance of the trinket worn by a boy she considered her brother long ago. Turning the chair she saw the doll lopsided on the table, and sitting on its head were Clagger’s goggles. 

 

Vi immediately unfastened her gauntlet and slipped the goggles off the it’s head.

 

“What are you doing with those Vi?” Caitlyn asked.

 

Her answer was immediate, “They belonged to somebody I knew. I remember- seeing one speck of dirt would have him take out this old rag he carried for the sole occasion and clean them front to back.” Adjusting the goggles so the lenses were in her fingertips. Vi brings her hand up to notice the cracked lenses shining in the candlelight. “I know he’d hate to see the lenses broken. It’d be a shame if they weren’t fixed.” 

 

Caitlyn didn’t question any further as Vi tucked the goggles into her jacket and fashioned the gauntlet back on, continuing to the exit of the warehouse.

 

She didn’t bother looking back at Silco. The man had already looked withered and decadent long before he died, death simply speeded the process.

 

Like Vander, this would be the place he took his final breath.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“We can’t cross the bridge.”

 

“Well then how do you suppose we get back to Piltover? Ekko said this passage only takes us to the middle of the bridge. We’ll have to find another way to get across!”

 

From the distance they were standing- a few hundred feet away- the citizens of Zaun were rising on their own accord, fighting against a team of Enforcers to try and enter Piltover. To secure the safety of the city, Enforcers had lined up barricades in the middle of the bridge in their best attempt to keep the Zaunites from entering the city.

 

Vi was certain gunshots were bound to ring in the air.

 

“Even if we were able to get to the Enforcers, what's going to make them believe I’m not holding you hostage?” Vi said, gesturing to the fact Caitlyn needed Vi’s help to walk without stumbling.

 

Caitlyn opened her mouth in retaliation to Vi’s statement, but any words she was about to say were forgotten as she realized what Vi was saying was true.

 

“I’m open to any suggestions that don’t kill us.”

 

The bridge was boarded with people so there was no way to travel in. No secret doors to slip through, and no disguises to hinder their appearance. If they couldn’t go in, they’d have to go under.

 

“Afraid of heights, Cupcake?” Vi asked, the corner of her lip upturning at the idea she was beginning to formulate.

 

“As long as I don’t fall.” Caitlyn countered. 

 

“Then I suggest you better hang on tight.” 

 

Caitlyn turned to peer at the smile tugging on Vi's lips, “Hang on tight to what?” Expecting an answer to her query, but hearing a suspense of silence instead, much to her annoyance. When her look of concern soon turned to a look of intimidation, Vi tried to remain unfazed by Caitlyn’s discerning face. 

 

To be honest, Caitlyn looked to be less daunting than she might have wanted to be, and it didn’t stop Vi from mentally noting that was how she acted when things didn’t go her way.

 

“You’ll see. If I tell you you’ll never say yes to it.” Vi said, picking up the pace toward the destination.

 

The moon was at its highest point when they made it, offering them the light needed for Vi to examine her plan before she put it into action. To the sides of the bridge’s main walkway, poles had been instated on each side in case someone decided to bomb the bridge again. And with the Enforcers far too occupied to watch anyone besides who was in front of them, Vi and Caitlyn were going to have no trouble sneaking under their noses. 

 

Caitlyn’s eyes widened at the sea of Zaunites pushing to the middle of the bridge. A cacophony of voices bled into the sea of Enforcers who were pushing civilians out of Piltover once the barricades weren’t enough to block them out.

 

Flashbacks brought Vi to the same conflict that caused her parents to die. A child who experienced death in its most gruesome way in the form of people killing people. Vander had been one of those. Vi had seen it in his eyes as she watched him beat a man in cold blood. War and rage festered in his body and it nearly swallowed him up. Yet, he saw her and little Powder: the consequence of his actions. In contrast, Vander wiped his hands clean before it could take over, coming to terms with his reckoning as Vi and Powder cried in his arms.

 

“If what I’m believing you’re thinking is correct,” Caitlyn jestured, “the best mode of action to get across should be to take the stairs and swim-”

 

“And get eaten by one of the sea monsters? Not a chance. I’ve got a better idea.” 

 

While Vi was intimidated by the creatures that lurked in the ocean, it didn’t make her feel as conscious as it felt to be in the expanse of water. The weight of the water pushing at her chest until she couldn’t breathe any air. The feeling of having it swallow her whole. That terrified her.

 

Taking a step to the side of the bridge, they made sure to check the commotion coming from ahead in case a stranger decided to look their way. Turning to her left arm she queued the adjacent handle inside the gauntlet, igniting it back to life. 

 

“Grab on and don’t let go.” Vi instructed, gripping both hands onto a sturdy pole, shaking it for good measure.

 

“I’m sorry- grab onto what?”

 

Vi didn’t have the patience for this. “Me! Hook your arms around me!” 

 

Without thinking, she shifted Caitlyn from her right side to her back. With gauntlets to work with, she made sure one of Caitlyn’s hands was looped over her right shoulder and her other under the opposite, both hands clasping together in an embrace. One gauntlet unable to function was already going to make it harder for Vi to swing across, carrying Caitlyn on her back was going to be a task of its own. 

 

No matter the situation, we're going to reach Piltover in one piece.

 

“Are you ready for this?” Vi inquired, already aware she’d take the leap with or without Caitlyn’s word of guarantee.

 

“As ready as I’ll ever be.” Bringing her head close to touch the back of Vi’s in reassurance.

 

Vi took one step, and then another, soon dropping her and Caitlyn down the pole several feet before catapulting with her legs off the wall. 

 

Her heart- thundering in her chest- was met with the feeling close to flight, as the world felt like it was brought to a standstill. The high she was on felt boundless even with Caitlyn tightening her grip. 

 

For a second she forgot why she was flying midair, but when the weightlessness of flight came to an in between to falling, Vi found herself back in reality, latching onto the lining of metal decor stringed along the bridge. Tiny sparks left her gauntlets and she hastily tightened them around the bar to keep purchase, hanging a hundred feet in the air. 

 

Unbeknownst to her until then, Caitlyn had quickly sought to lock her legs firmly around Vi’s waist, her head glued to Vi’s shoulder.

 

“I don’t plan on going slow in case you were wondering.” Vi remarked, already imagining the look of surprise on Caitlyn’s face as she continued to swing one hand after another..

 

“Wouldn’t expect that from you.” Caitlyn said, fisting her hands tighter over Vi’s chest. For the rest of the way that was all Caitlyn muttered as they made the trek to Piltover, undetected. Soon to reach the city without much except a sliver of hope stained on their shoulders.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Piltover was a scene of smoke and peril. The dust made it hard for Vi to see where they were walking or where everyone was running. From her vantage, the sound of Enforcers urging people to get back inside rang through the air, and sirens blasting her eardrums nearly blocked out the sound of frightened civilians harrowing the streets. 

 

It’s as though Piltover’s pride had been pulled under itself to show a line of humiliation even Zaun could laugh at. This is what it looked like when all its rules and glamor were stripped, left to unmask a rudimentary playground full of kids who never considered the pain of war.

 

Vi watched Caitlyn tentatively as she saw two people carrying a third- wounded- to what looked to be a hospital. 

 

The smoke was stinging their eyes, coating their lungs in debris, but they were getting closer to the chambers. In some way Vi wanted to tell her that this wasn’t the worst of it, but if she said that she’d be sentencing Caitlyn to the notion her mother was gone. And that was the least Vi wanted her to think about.

 

So she pushed forward. Try as she might, to get Caitlyn to say something, “Is it just me or are we back in the Undercity?” Diverting their attention from the hell of their situation.

 

“Depends on where we are,” Caitlyn said, “the Lanes, or the shimmer camps,” causing a laugh to bubble from Vi’s throat. Hearing it, Caitlyn's lips peaked into a little smile, with Vi’s doing the same. “Now tell me what’s worse: being stabbed in the gut or having your leg get shot out by a bomb?”

 

“Are you kidding me, that motherfucker nearly killed me! You should be glad I’m still alive, practically carrying you around!” 

 

“You should have seen yourself!” A sudden fit of laughter bursting from Caitlyn. “Jumping off that cliff, did you really think you could do some acrobats and expect to land with grace?”

 

“I made it faster than you, Cupcake.” Vi grinned, smiling wider than she anticipated. “I could beat you even if I was stabbed twice!”

 

Caitlyn motioned her hips to sway them against Vi’s, not by a lot, but letting her know, “We’ll see about that.” 

 

Racing with Caitlyn, on the rooftops? That would be a scene to behold. Maybe it could be more than a dream?

 

Their jovial banter ceased when they reached the chambers. Any feelings that had risen then were left to burn with the embers. Gone were the chamber's pristine door Vi had once stepped through. Now there weren’t any doors to come through at all. Inside, Enforcers were storming the grounds, shouting and giving commands to medics and additional personnel at the scene.

 

When no one was glancing, Vi and Caitlyn made their way through the crowd. 

 

Hoping wasn't the right word to use, no, they were pleading to find a trace of morality among the soot. Vi and Caitlyn had no clue where to look, coming to wander aimlessly by the medics in case they were treating a council member.

 

It didn’t take long for somebody to spot them, “Stop where you’re standing and state your name!”

 

Caitlyn stood straighter at the sound of the officer standing in front of them. “My name is Caitlyn Kiramman,” she stated, “I’m an officer of-“

 

“You should know by now Kiramman,” the officer coldly announced, “Unauthorized individuals aren’t permitted to enter the site. Course it’s up to you to break the law.” 

 

“No, she’s with me! She brought me back-”

 

“I don’t want to hear your excuses, Kiramman. If you’ll excuse yourself, we’ll take the suspect into custody ourselves.” Waving a hand over, two more officers came over to seize Vi, one of them holding a pair of cuffs.

 

Vi held Caitlyn closer. “Come closer and we’ll see if you can get those things on me.” 

 

The officers were marching closer and closer. Vi didn’t want to have to use her gauntlet, not because she couldn’t take them out (because she could) but for Caitlyn's sake. She needed someone there for her and Vi couldn’t be if she was behind bars. But then again… she was never one for restraint.

 

“Try me Topsiders.”

 

Vi threw the first punch. When one officer fell down three more showed up in his place. Caitlyn brought her hand up to Vi’s shoulder to prevent the outburst from escalating, but Vi didn’t stop. Five officers standing on the offense spread out to close Vi and Caitlyn off from escaping. Raising his fists, the next officer charged at Vi. As she was about to slam him to the ground, she heard another come behind her, ducking at the last minute to watch their faces get sucker-punched by the others’. Then a third came forward to take a fighting stance, bouncing on the balls of her feet, she easily evaded Vi’s right swing by dodging to the side, unapologetically jabbing Vi in the ribs. 

 

All Vi had to do was lose her footing to have Caitlyn be snatched from her hand and pushed to the ground. Vi, becoming weaker from her day’s exertions began to punch recklessly in any direction she seemed fitting, swinging, punching, kicking, ultimately losing the fight once an officer locked their arms over her shoulders with two more ripping off her gauntlets and pinning her to the ground.

 

“Get your hands off of me!” Vi shouted.

In the corner of her eye she could see Caitlyn attempt to stand up by herself with no aid, “Don't arrest her, she's with me,” she yelled, “Stop! She’s with me,” before collapsing again.

 

Then a familiar voice spoke up, “I command you to release her, '' he said, “let her go, I’ll handle the perpetrator myself.”

 

“But Mr. Kiramman, we have to take her into questioning.”

 

“And send her to Stillwater with little evidence of crime? I don’t think so. So I’m telling you again, release her. ” 

 

The officers were stunned at Tobias’ words. Vi recounted the first time she saw him and remembered he was more mild-mannered and gentle compared to his brazen and opinionated wife Cassandra. His blatant request must have come as a shock to the officers, who were now unclipping Vi from the cuffs without further inquiries.

 

“Caitlyn are you alright?” Tobias uttered once the officers left, hugging his daughter with fervency, afraid that in a heartbeat she could disappear if he let her go. “We heard noise from your bathroom- we went to check to see if you were alright a-and you were gone! We went to the police station to initiate a search warrant for you, but your mom- she was called to an urgent meeting at the chambers. I stayed in case they found you and- and then it went off.” His breath shuddered at the last sentence. “With your mom still missing I- I thought I lost you too.”

 

“Don’t worry dad, I’m here now and we’re going to find her.” Caitlyn promised her father, her eyes gleaming with newfound tears.

 

Tobias looked at Vi's as he helped his daughter to her feet, “I apologize immensely for that inconvenience. They had no right to do that to you Vi. Thank you for bringing Caitlyn back, from the bottom of my heart.”

 

Vi shrugged off the praise. Forgiveness could wait. “There’s no need to thank me.” She said as she rubbed her wrists where the cuffs had been. “What we need to do now is find Councilor Kiramman and the others.” 

 

With the help of her father, Caitlyn got back on her feet. “Well let’s find them then.” 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The night drew on. Flashlights flickered left to right across the vast scape of rubble in search of survivors. Time itself seemed to drag by the shirt, slow and monotonously, as Vi, Caitlyn, and Tobias scanned the extent of the aftermath to see if Cassandra, Jayce, and the other councilors were still alive. 

 

The hours proved to be jaundice as councilors materialized from the collapsed stone. One who had golden blonde hair was scavenged from the site, he was later declared dead from a broken neck. Another one with a high neck collar came out with multiple broken bones, once the medics determined his cause of death was from internal damage, they carried the first and the latter councilor aside to a designated tent, producing white clothes to cover their bodies. 

 

The next one they found wasn’t a councilor, but was announced as the co-creator of Hex-Tech himself: Viktor. The medics said his heart was beating at an alarming rate, they said with his current state of health the explosion should have resided him to a quick death, but his heart said otherwise.

 

Two more councilors were produced, both dead at the scene. One more, who had plates of golden armor lining her dark skin, had miraculously made it out with minor cuts and bruises from the explosion. With Viktor, both of them were rushed to the hospital.

 

“This is hopeless.” Tobias mumbled, pinching his fingers to the bridge of his nose in vexation. 

 

“Don’t say that dad,” Caitlyn denoted. “She’s here, I know she is, we have to keep searching.” 

 

Suddenly a voice called out, “Get me a lift!” Causing Vi to watch intently as two men towed in a lift. Squaring it with a ledge they pushed the rubble out of the way to grab someone underneath.

 

Vi was best to believe it was councilor Kiramman when she heard Caitlyn whisper, “Mom,” under her breath.

 

As if string was attached to their wrists, the party of three began to feel as though they were being pulled inattentively into making their way toward the unconscious person. Once there, medics paid little attention as they hovered over the figure with packs of wraps and bandages at their sides, ripping them open, and administering them to the patient. Vi could barely identify who it was, their face misshapen with blood and wounds. 

 

It wasn’t until she recognized the hair and tanned skin did Vi mutter who it was:

“Councilor Talis.”

 

Caitlyn, who had been standing next to Vi, put a hand over her mouth. “My god,” she gasped, “he survived that fall; and he’s still alive?” 

 

A medic, who had overheard their conversation, checked his pulse. “Yes Ms. Kiramman, he is.”

 

“Then my mom has to be around here!” Caitlyn exclaimed, her eyes lingering across the ruins hungrily.

 

Vi was growing hesitant. The councilor’s who had made it out alive were badly injured and were close to death, who’s to say when they found Cassandra it would be too late to save her? 

 

Gently ushering Caitlyn so she was leaning into her father, Vi announced. “Stay here with Jayce while I cover more areas and see what I can find.” Her fingertips delicately brushing Caitlyn’s palm. She couldn’t tell if the feeling coming from that touch was of silent affirmation or was it just the feeling someone would get when touching each other in a tender, non-violent way? 

 

She drowned out the thought when she turned away from Caitlyn, quickening her pace. This wasn’t the place to be thinking about such conjectures.

 

The expanse of decay looked like it dragged for miles on end. How was Vi supposed to find Caitlyn’s mom buried underneath this mess? 

 

Hands in her jacket pockets, fiddling with Claggor’s goggles, Vi walked sporadically down the trails previously cleared by excavators, turning her head from one side to side, not wanting to miss a single indication.

 

For Caitlyn’s sake and for her father’s, please, let her be alive.

 

That indication came in the form of a gloved hand sticking out from a pile of stone, smoldered and ashened.Vi halted in her tracks.

 

Please, please don’t let it be. 

 

Wasting no time she got on her knees and dug through the pile of stone and brick. 

 

Please, please, please! 

 

Soot clouded her throat. 

 

Please, please, it’s all I ask for. 

 

Dirt was caking beneath her nails, one possibly broken and bleeding. 

 

I can’t do this again!

 

When most of it was heaved off to reveal Cassandra’s body, the same face Vi’s mom had plastered in the wake of her death displayed was on Cassandra’s. Her eyes were glossed over, her hair was out of its neat updo, and sunken cheeks were what was left of the councilor’s former self.

 

Another life wasted.  

 

Balling her hands into fists, Vi allowed fury to course through her body until she was shaking uncontrollably. She wanted to yell, scream, shout, do something to release this pain. She couldn’t do this again, she couldn’t lose another parent, even though it wasn’t her own. 

 

And Caitlyn… Caitlyn couldn’t do this on her own. She needed someone close by who could stand by her when the pain was too immeasurable to hold on her own.

 

Brushing the dirt off her hands she delicately closed Cassandra’s eyes, thinking it was the least she could do. 

 

The walk back was a blur, moving in slow motion while also moving exponentially fast at the same time. Vi stopped when she noticed Caitlyn’s stature a few yards away, next to Jayce as he was being lifted to a mobile hospital bed. 

 

It’d be easier if I left. I’m the reason her mom is dead, so how is staying going to make it any easier for her to cope?

 

“She deserves better,” Vi surmised, “Better than I could ever give her.” Just as she said those words, Caitlyn spotted Vi and immediately called out to her. “But she must see something that I can’t, I don’t know what, but it could be worth it to find out.” A deep breath in, then out. 

 

Approaching Caitlyn, she stood within a few inches from her, staring at the dirt on her boots to avoid eye contact. She didn't know how to tell her. Caitlyn looked with bewilderment at Vi's gesture before asking what was wrong, and without speaking, Vi grabbed her hand, her skin providing little comfort for her nerves as she brought her to her mom. 

 

Upon arriving at Cassandra’s grave Caitlyn fell to her knees in shock. Her second plague of cries hurt Vi just the same as the first and more, like a knife stabbing her chest again and again with a gaping hole left for her to stitch back together. 

 

In the wake of Cassandra’s body being exhumed from the wreckage Tobias ordered for her remains to be sanctioned at the Kiramman estate until a funeral could be arranged. 

 

For the rest of the night, Vi spent it by Caitlyn’s side, her hand on Caitlyn’s shoulder, rubbing it in kind. There were no words she could have said to make this loss less painful for her to hear.

 

And as the sun was ascending above Piltover, Vi made a conscious decision, a promise to uphold. One she should’ve made that fateful night to her sister and to Vander.

 

Starting today, I’m not going to run.