Chapter 1 Transcription
Nine years ago. A car speeds towards a large compound surrounded by a stone wall, with a guard at the gate. Someone inside car exclaims, "WE'RE HERE!" Where "here" is turns out to be the Urquhart Clinic, as indicated by a large sign with the compound's name and logo: an open palm, the "U" making up the middle two fingers and the "C" making up the palm itself. A young boy, about eight years old, presses his face against the passenger seat window. He has short, scruffy, blonde hair and a huge grin. "Mum, look!" he says.
His mum, who is driving, glances over at him. "I see it, Vic," she says wearily. "It's hard to miss. Sit down, please."
They pull up to the guard at the gate, who puts his hand on the car roof and bends down to look into the boy's open window. He is wearing an all navy uniform, with a teal armband and a helmet that covers his eyes.
"Can I help you?" he says.
"I'm here to drop off my son," replies the mother.
"I meant the kid," the guard says shortly.
"O-oh. Victor Allen," Bethany says. Victor smiles at her innocently.
"I'm going to need to see some ID," says the guard.
Victor holds onto the lowered window and looks up at the guard as he continues speaking to his mum. "Have you brought his application?"
"Yes," Bethany replies.
"Mum, look, he's got a gun!" Victor says, pointing.
"Vic, hush," says his mum.
"Am I going to get a gun?" Victor asks, wide-eyed and smiling.
"Move on through," says the guard, and as the car begins to pull away Bethany exasperatedly says, "Victor, sit down."
They park in front of a large glass building; the reception.
Victor bounces from the car, looking up at the building. "Mum, hurry up!" he says excitedly.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Bethany says, climbing out of the car with considerably less enthusiasm. She opens up the car boot. "Hey, don't run off. Don't forget your backpack!"
They head into the reception, a grand glass foyer with lights hanging from the ceiling. Victor skips by Bethany's side, wearing his small green backpack. "Oh, wow," Bethany says. "This looks fancy, doesn't it, Vic?"
At the far end of the room is a desk with the receptionist. She is wearing a plastered-on smile and a blouse, and her sharp red hair is piled in a high bun. "Here for drop-off?" she asks before Bethany can say anything.
"That's right," Bethany replies, clutching some papers nervously. Victor is only just tall enough to peer over the counter.
"Have you brought our recommendation and a completed medical form?" the receptionist asks cheerily.
"Yes," Bethany replies.
"Has he been chipped?" the receptionist continues, her smile unchanging.
"Yes," Bethany replies again.
"I got a flamingo plaster!" Victor announces, pointing to the purple plaster on his upper left arm.
"Hush," Bethany says, nudging him slightly.
"Alright," says the receptionist. Please have a seat while I check you in." She gestures to a couch on the other side of the foyer.
We zoom out to see a wide view of the foyer. At one end the receptionist sits at her desk, still beaming, and at the other sits Victor and his mum. On one wall, a cascade of water falls down, which Victor points at excitedly. "Look, there's a waterfall!"
"...Best stay away from that," Bethany tells him.
Victor stays seated on the couch but continues to watch the waterfall, smiling.
A shadow is cast over him as someone approaches and he looks up, unsure. "Hi there!"
"My name is Emma Esser," says the woman, smiling pleasantly. She has high, sharp cheekbones and an equally sharp business suit. "I'm Urquhart's director."
She reaches her right hand out. "Are you the mother?" she asks.
"Yes, nice to meet you," Bethany says, getting up to shake her hand.
Emma puts her hands on her knees and bends down. "And you must be Victor!" she says. "Are you excited?"
"Yeah!" says Victor.
"Wonderful," says Emma, still smiling. She consults her tablet. "If you could make sure he has all his things, I'll take him inside."
"I can't come in with him?" Bethany asks worriedly, wringing her hands.
"Don't worry, we'll take very good care of him," Emma says. "It's part of my policy to give careful attention to each new child."
Victor is clutching the straps of his backpack, eager to set off. Bethany puts a hand on his back. "Alright, go with the nice lady. I'll see you in a week. Please be good."
"Okay, bye, Mum!" Victor says, with sparkles in his eyes. He runs after Emma, not even glancing back at Bethany, who watches him go with a hand over her heart and a worried expression.
Emma leads Victor through the building; the aqua blue of the foyer steadily gives way to a darker teal. "So you take after your dad, huh?" Emma says, making a note on her tablet.
"Uh-huh!" Victor says, skipping after her.
She looks down at him. "And now you're following in his footsteps by joining Urquhart? That's great!"
"No, he worked at Miller," Victor says proudly. "He was a--"
"Wonderful," Emma interrupts. "This is the last one for today," she says to a guard in the same blue uniform and helmet as the guard at the gate. He is wearing one blue medical glove. There is someone else with him; a boy of about fifteen or sixteen, grinning at Victor with his arms folded. He is wearing a different kind of uniform; a dark grey-blue, almost black, with a thick band of white running from the left shoulder across the chest and under the right arm. He is wearing something strange and metallic with a blue screen on both his arms. Victor stands uncertainly as Emma continues to talk to the guard.
"Yes ma'am," the guard says.
"Were there any problems with the others?" Emma asks.
"The cryo refuses to use her inhibitor," replies the guard.
"If Jeremy can't sort her out, get someone else to look after her," Emma says. "Inhibit this one first."
The guard looms over Victor, holding two strange tube-like devices. "Alright son. Hold still."
"Huh? What--" Victor says, trying to step away, but the guard grabs his arm with his gloved hand.
The guard shoves Victor's arms through the devices so he is wearing them on his forearms, like the other boy. "Ow, that hurts!" Victor grimaces.
"Stop wriggling, says the guard.
Victor's mouth wobbles as he looks down at his arms. "Don't fiddle with them, please," Emma says curtly. "I'd like to introduce you to someone." She gestures at the boy in the striped uniform with vague disinterest. The boy is standing with his hands behind his back. "This is Nathan."
"Nate," the boy corrects, but he smiles.
"He's electro-manipulative, just like you," Emma continues, ignoring him. "Nathan's going to help you get nice and settled, alright?"
Emma and the guard begin to walk away. "I'll see you later at the induction," Emma says, no longer smiling. Victor is still looking at the devices on his arms.
"Uh, but-" he says, confused. "I thought-"
Emma and the guard leave without another word. "Come on, little man," Nate says, beckoning him on. "I'll take you to your dorm."
Victor looks nervously after Emma. "Mum said I'm supposed to go with that lady." He finally looks at Nate and his expression changes. "...Why are you wearing that?"
"What, the uniform?" Nate says, raising his eyebrows and looking down at himself. "It means I'm a trainee. What's wrong with it?"
"It looks dumb," Victor says, grimacing.
Nate smirks, hands in his pockets. "Well, you're getting one too, smartass. We'd better get going."
They begin walking. There is a sign on the wall with two arrows; the arrow pointing the way the way they came says "Reception" and "Blocks A to N". They're heading in the direction of "Blocks O to Z". Nate continues: "You'll like where you're sleeping. It's a big room with lots of kids your age. It's basically one big sleepover."
Nate guides Victor around a corner. "Have you managed to use your variation yet?"
"No, I'm not very good," Victor replies.
"That's fine," Nate says, smiling. "I wasn't either at first." The deeper into the building they go, the more people they see. Victor looks at them with interest. They're all wearing similar uniforms to Nate, but with different patterns. "You'll get there once you've had a bit of training."
"From you?" Victor asks.
"Yep! My mentor said I was ready to be a mentor to someone else," Nate says as they pass an open door to a training room of some sort. Victor looks in just as someone throws a punch; their opponent sharply brings up their arm, encased in ice. The fist connects with the ice with a loud CRACK.
Victor looks worriedly up at Nate as he continues talking. "You're the first kid I'll have trained. If this goes well, I might be promoted to an actual team member, so try to help me out, yeah?"
Victor glances away, looking upset.
Nate finally notices something is up. "You alright?"
"My arms hurt," Victor says.
Nate puts a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Let me have a look," he says. "They always strap these things on too tight." He loosens the devices on Victor's outstretched arms. "There. How's that?"
"I don't like it. I wanna take them off," Victor says.
Nate puts his hands on his hips and puffs his chest out pompously. "Sorry, little man. You've gotta keep 'em on. Just like me. They're inhibitors. Keeps you from sparking out on us. These things are state-of-the-art." Victor scowls.
"They're too heavy!" Victor complains, throwing his hands in the air. "You'll get used to it," Nate replies.
They stop by a door and Nate looks reassuringly down at Victor. "Everything seems a bit scary now but it'll all be fine soon."
"Ready to see your dorm?" he asks, opening the door.
"...Okay," Victor says reluctantly.
For a moment the light from inside surprises Victor.
We zoom in as his face brightens and a smile grows across his face. His eyes are filled with sparkles.
Present day. We stay zoomed in on his face. His smile and optimism: gone. Victor is all grown up and doesn't look happy about it; his hair is longer and even scruffier, he has deep, dark bags under his eyes, and his nose is broken. He looks pretty miserable.
Victor sits on the floor in a dark room, his back to a door. He's wearing jeans and a blue hoodie. His head is leaning against his fist, propped up on his knee. "Rabbit, come on," he says, apparently speaking to thin air. "I'm so bored. Just one book."
He looks at the door, waiting for an answer.
"Rabbit!" he shouts. We zoom out to see more of the room; the floor is tiled, and there is a disgusting sink in one corner, green with mould. Despite there being a bed - unmade - Victor has elected to sit on the floor.
A loudspeaker crackles to life: "No. You already have a book."
"I finished that days ago!" Victor protests. I'm going to die of boredom in here."
"You're not getting anything else," comes the reply. "Just sit there and shut up."
"Hrmmnmnmmn... you shut up..." Victor grumbles.
Suddenly the door swings open and his eyes widen in surprise.
"Finally," he says smugly, leaving the room. There is an old keypad on the outside of the door. His eyes are closed as he speaks. "No need to apologise, I can find my own way back to the-"
Victor throws his hands up in surprise, his face full of fear as he sees the person standing in front of him, even though she's much shorter than he is. "-Ahahahaha, Rachel!" he says nervously.
"Enjoying yourself?" Rachel asks with a deadpan expression. She has a dark top on and glasses, and her shoulder-length hair is pulled back into a messy ponytail. She does not look pleased.
"Isolation is supposed to boring," she says. Victor clutches his arm and refuses to meet her gaze. "If you want to read, don't get yourself put there in the first place."
"Yeah, sorry," Victor says. "I thought you were Rab... Lapin."
"It doesn't matter. You're coming out today," says Rachel. "Nate's here to see you."
We see Victor from behind and can't see his expression. "Please be joking," he says.
Rachel folds her arms; she has an ID card of some kind pinned to her shirt. "He's waiting in the visitor's hall. You can go back to the units when you're done," she says.
"Do you know why he's here?" Victor asks with a crestfallen expression, tucking his hands into his hoodie pocket.
"You'll have to ask him yourself," Rachel says, already walking away. "Let's go."
"And don't forget to call your parents afterwards," she adds.
"Ugh... fine..." Victor mumbles, rubbing his forehead.
They come to a small security barrier with a card reader. An old man wearing a cap and reading a newspaper sits at a small desk next to it. Rachel scans her ID card and her information appears on the computer on the desk; her name, her photo, and a small green circle. "See you later, Lapin," Rachel says.
Victor follows Rachel through the gate and his information appears too, though instead of a circle, two triangles appear; the top yellow, and the bottom red. Victor makes an "I'm watching you" gesture at Lapin, who just keeps reading his newspaper. "Ms Hofstee," he says calmly.
They leave the building and enter a grotty courtyard. The place does not seem particularly well-kept.
Three kids are hanging out on the roof of another building, two of them talking and one in the middle looking down at the courtyard with interest. The one on the far left has her hair pulled into two bright pink bunches, one in the front and one in the back; the one in the middle has a mousey brown undercut; and the one on the right has short, curly, dark brown hair. "I don't know," the girl with pink hair is saying. "It just sounds like noise to me. It's pointless."
"It's not pointless," the boy with curly hair argues. It's atmospheric. Listen to the whole album."
"No, it's rubbish."
"HEY!" the one in the middle shouts, waving. All three of the kids are wearing grey t-shirts, but the one who shouted is wearing a green vest over theirs. "Victor! You're out already?" they call out, cupping their hands around their mouth.
"Man, shut up!" hisses the girl, shooting daggers at the middle kid. The boy on the far right ducks down to try to hide.
Rachel glares up at them. "What the- how did you get up there?!"
"Jo lifted us!" the middle kid calls out happily.
The girl with pink hair shakes them. "Sid, shut up!" she says.
A bright red background. Rachel is furious. "Get down here right now! You two are in so much trouble!"
"Three!" Sid says, raising the boy's arm up so Rachel can see.
"Why," the boy demands.
"Oh my god," mutters the girl, covering her face.
"You go to the hall," Rachel orders, pointing. "I have to deal with this.
"I'm gone," Victor says, immediately holding his hands up and marching away. He glances back over his shoulder as Rachel continues to yell up to the three on the roof.
He enters the building opposite the one they just left. The place looks old and rundown; it's very different to the fancy glass of the Urquhart Clinic. A sign points him towards the Visiting Hall - another sign, almost falling off the wall, says "PLEASE WEAR UNIFORMS". He talks to a younger security guard at a desk, who checks his information on a computer again, and then pauses in the doorway to the hall. The room is full of tables and chairs, but only one chair is occupied.
It's Nathan. He's sitting looking at his phone with his feet up on the table. He's wearing almost the exact same uniform he was wearing when he was younger, except this one has white bands around the arms. His head is shaved into a close undercut and he has a terrible goatee. He doesn't have the chunky inhibitors anymore; instead, he's wearing thick, metallic bracelets around his wrists. He doesn't look happy to be there.
Victor approaches Nate's table, clutching his right arm. Nate doesn't even look up and just continues texting. His phone makes loud "BIP" noises as he types.
"Hey, Nate!" Victor says loudly, trying to smile. He wave awkwardly. Nate doesn't look up. BIP. BIP.
Victor rubs the back of his neck. BIP. "Thought you weren't coming til next week... heh..."
Nate continues texting with a pissed off look on his face. BIP. BIP.
"Nate?" Victor says.
Nate finally speaks: "You still wearing that damn hoodie?"
"Uh-" Victor starts, but Nate points at the other chair.
"Gonna sit down or what?"
"Oh. Yeah," Victor says.
Nate returns to his phone as Victor sits, hands in his hoodie pocket again. "Where's Rachel?" Nate asks.
"Dealing with... something," Victor replies.
Nate turns off his phone and turns to look properly at Victor, unimpressed.
"So," he says, leaning on folded arms. "You wanna explain yourself?"
Victor laughs uncomfortably. "What?"
Nate frowns. As he speaks, his new inhibitors begin to light up with a quiet, blue glow. "Look, I don't have time for this. Dragging my ass down to this dump takes up a huge chunk of time that I can't really spare. I'm needed at Urquhart. So when I actually make the effort to see you, I expect to at least hear about some improvements, and not about how you managed to get stuck in iso. Again. This is the third time this year. Rachel already gave me the details on this particular disaster, but I'm dying to hear what excuse you've come up with."
He leans back in his chair, having finished his rant. "So. Explain."
"It was an accident," Victor says, immediately on the defensive.
"Try again," Nate says.
"It wasn't my fault," says Victor.
"Man, I'm so sick of hearing this shit," Nate says.
"There were a lot of mixed signals going on!" Victor says angrily. "They tell you to electrify something and then get mad when it blows up. What did they think was gonna happen?" He jabs his hand into the air to underline his point.
Nate looks away. "Right, whatever."
"Why are you here, anyway?" Victor demands.
Nate waves the question away. "I had some big news to share, but I don't even know if it's applicable anymore. I'm going to have to talk to your supervisors about it."
"Right..." Victor says, unconvinced. Nate takes his phone out again and looks at it. "How's Jezza?" Victor asks.
"Just gone dormant," Nate replies, reading a text. "Left Urquhart about a month ago."
"Oh," Victor says.
Nate grins as he types something into his phone. "Whatever, he's twenty-seven," he says distractedly. "I was surprised he even lasted this long."
He stands up and jerks his thumb behind him. "Right, they're calling me back to work," he says.
Victor glowers. "You're not going to tell me the news?" he says.
Nate turns his back on him. "I've got to find out if you getting yourself into deeper shit is going to mess it up. See you later, little man."
Nate makes his exit, leaving Victor sitting alone in the visitor's hall. The grungey brown of the walls fades into an acidic green as the scene transitions. Someone shouts, "Oh, for crying out loud!"
We're now in sort of living room, with a staircase leading up to another floor. The walls are bright green and the carpet a dirty beige. There is a bright pink bookshelf with a few books scattered on it and a small pink TV stand with a large television. A PS1 is plugged into it. There is an old beige couch with two kids sitting on it - a short girl with a small snub nose, round cheeks, a gap in her front teeth, and curly red hair down to the middle of her back, and a boy with a sharp jaw, a mole on his right cheek, and short, dark brown hair. They're both wearing grey shirts, and we can see that the boy's has two small triangles over the upper right part of his chest; the top is pink and the bottom is red. The girl is playing a game on the playstation - or at least, trying to. She scowls at the screen, holding the controller out of reach of the boy.
"Cameron, stop it!" she says.
"Stop what? Stop tickling you?" Cameron says, grinning, trying to grab the controller off her. There is also a purple armchair, where the curly-haired boy from earlier is sitting reading a book. We can now see that he's wearing some kind of hearing aids.
The two on the couch continue to bicker. "Cut it out, you jerk! You made me die!" the girl howls.
"Is the tickling bothering you? Just say so, come on," says Cameron.
"Guys, please. Some of us are trying to read," says the boy in the armchair.
They don't seem to hear him. "I hate you so much!" "You just have to let me know!" He closes his book and touches his hearing aid, an annoyed but resigned look on his face. We can now see that he has two triangles on his shirt too; the top orange, the bottom green. There is a click from behind him.
The boy in the armchair turns to see Victor coming into the room. "Oh, hey, welcome back," he tries to say, but he's drowned out by a scream.
"Noooo, stop it!" the girl on the couch shrieks as Cameron tickles her. The controller goes flying.
"I can't hear you, speak up!" Cameron says.
"HI, CAMERON," Victor says loudly.
The girl smiles but Cameron shoots him a look. "Oh good, Chuckles is home," he says.
Cameron gets up and stretches. "I'm going to head back to mine," he tells the girl.
"Aww, are you sure?" she says, disappointed.
"Yeah, it's cool," he says. "I'll see you later."
They kiss. There's little hearts in the air and everything.
Victor holds the door open for Cameron, an airquotes "smile" on his face. "Bye, Grumpy," Cameron says.
Victor slams the door shut. "What the hell was he doing here?" he demands.
The girl lounges on the couch, arms hanging over the armrest, a dreamy look on her face. "Uh, making out with me. And you lose five points for slamming the door."
Victor protests. "What? No way, I was perfectly charming."
The girl brings her hands up. "Dunno what your definition of 'charming' is, but you were rude and you lose points. I can't believe I have to do this point system just for you to be nice to my boyfriend."
Victor raises his own hands, mimicking her. "He's an arse, that's why," he says.
He shoos her away and she scoots along the couch, avoiding his hands. "And what are you doing here?" he says to the boy in the armchair. "Weren't you on the roof just now?"
"Oh, yeah. Rachel shouted at us for a bit and then sent us to our room," the boy replies.
"Why aren't you in your room then?" Victor asks.
"I wanted to socialise," the boy says pleasantly.
Victor gives him a look but the girl, now sitting cross-legged on the couch, brightens up. "If you want to socialise, quit reading and play multiplayer with me," she says.
"I'll play," says Victor, but she taps her chin.
"Hmm. Let me think about that. No."
"Julia, I've been in iso for two days," Victor says.
The boy points his book at Victor. "Yeah, because you blew up a computer."
Victor clenches his hands. "It was just some measuring equipment," he says, frustrated. "It was an accident."
Julia picks the controller back up as Victor seethes. "How did you get out of iso so early, anyway?" she asks.
"Nate came to see me," says Victor.
As soon as Julia hears this her eyes turn into hearts and she freezes. She leans in close to Victor, who recoils. "Nate was here? Did he ask about me?" she says, eyes wide.
"Uh, no?" Victor says, curled up against the armrest. "He wasn't here to talk to his fans."
Julia closes her eyes and cups her cheeks in her hands, sighing dreamily. "He's sooooo cute."
"Don't let Cameron hear you say that," the boy in the armchair smirks, but Julia snaps, "I'll say what I want, David."
Victor ignores what his friends are saying; he's entered Complain Mode and nothing will stop him. "Anyway," he starts, "all he said was that he had something big to tell me, then decided not to tell me that something and left to go save the world, or whatever it is he does. Which is just, you know, perfect timing. I'm trying my best here, but he just has to turn up out of the blue at the worst possible moment and shout at me for not doing better. He doesn't even do any mentoring. He just sits there and texts and makes sarcastic comments. I don't even know why he bothers visiting. He probably just likes seeing how much of a failure I've turned out to be."
The three sit in silence for a moment as a dark cloud hangs over the room. Julia looks away, David looks at Victor with concern, and Victor just glares straight ahead.
"Is he done complaining yet?" David asks, returning to his book.
"I don't know," replies Julia. "His mouth's shut, so hopefully. I liked it better when he was gone." Victor turns his glare towards her.
"Same," says David.
Julia perks up. "Let's ask Rachel to put him back in iso."
"Ha ha," Victor barks as David smirks. "You're both terrible."
Julia nudges Victor with her elbow. "Have you called your mum yet?" she asks.
"Ugh," Victor grumbles. "No."
He gets up but David says, "If you're going to use the phone, I'll head upstairs. The noise gives me a headache."
Julia has spun around so that she's lying upside down on the couch, feet over the back of it. "Why haven't you seen Noor about a new hearing aid yet?" she says.
David touches his fingers to his ear again worriedly. "I don't want her to know these ones are already broken," he replies.
"What is it with you two and breaking stuff? I've hardly tapped into my fund," Julia says, dangling her head over the edge of the couch.
Victor reaches for the phone on the wall. It has a black band of rubber around it. "Yeah, well, you only have to spend money on peg legs, you bloody pirate," David says.
"I was about to offer to fix them for you, but you can forget it now," sniffs Julia.
"Wow, can you guys shut up?" Victor says, looking back at them. "I'm calling."
"Back five minutes and he's already bossing us about," Julia announces, still upside down on the couch.
David walks up the stairs as Victor uses the phone. It's mounted on the wall by the TV, next to a map of the world. "Hey, can I make an outside call?" Victor says. "My home number. Thanks."
Victor waits for someone to pick up. The panel background is pink and each successive panel gets steadily darker.
Someone answers and he frowns. "Oh... hey. It's Victor," he says."
He rubs his temple and screws his eyes shut. "Yeah, well, can you put Mum on?"
He gets angrier. "Because I need to talk to her!"
He raises his shoulders. "I'd rather tell her myself."
He turns to face the wall. "Then can you get her to call me back?"
The darkest background. He rubs his neck and looks at the floor, not angry anymore, just uncomfortable. "Fine. I blew up some equipment and got put into isolation for a couple of days. You'll probably get a bill soon. Sorry."
He hangs up. Julia has slithered off the couch and is now lying on the floor with her feet on the seat.
He shoves his hands in his hoodie pocket. "That went well," Julia says brightly.
"Better than usual," Victor agrees.
Julia props herself up on her elbow and looks seriously up at Victor. "Alright here. You can have a quick shot at the game." She swivels around so that she's sitting cross-legged on the floor, holding the controller. "We were just joking, by the way, but you really do need to cheer up."
"I know, sorry," says Victor.
She holds the controller out to him as he sits down. "I accept your apology," she says. "Now beat this level for me."
Victor takes the controller and smiles gratefully at her.
Scene change. It's dark; Nate is driving a van through the city, the headlights leaving a streak in the darkness. The van has the Urquhart Clinic logo on it; a palm, outstretched. He's wearing a jacket with the same pattern as his uniform and he's staring straight ahead, brow furrowed.
The van pulls up to the scene of a fire. Its headlights illuminate a firetruck, two firefighters aiming a hose at a billowing column of smoke, and a person in an outfit similar to Nate's.
The person glances back. It's a tall, young woman with long eyelashes and thick, brown hair, tied back. She's wearing a white mouth mask to protect herself from breathing in the smoke. Where Nate's uniform has a diagonal band across the chest, hers has a vertical column, starting from the top of her high collar and ending halfway down her top. She's outlined in the flashing blue lights of the firetruck.
"Finally," she says as Nate gets out the car. The van's licence plate is UQ135.
"I was at the Earl Estate," Nate says. "What did I miss?"
The woman points at the remains of the fire. "Someone set fire to half the Miller compound early this morning. They're putting the last of it out now. All the trainees have been evacuated to Urquhart and Larner."
"Miller trainees at Larner? Christ," says Nate. He puts a cigarette between his lips and holds up his fingers. A thin arc of electricity lights the cigarette. "Variant?" he says, unconcerned.
"We think so," says the woman, watching him closely. "There's-"
"Fine," Nate interrupts. "Get me a Miller officer and the fire captain."
Nate begins to wander away. The young woman squints at him, then runs after him. "Holly's already talking to them. Nate-"
"Alright," says Nate. "Get her to see if there were any problems with their pyros. I wouldn't be surprised."
The woman stops at his side. "Nate," she says.
The cigarette dangles from Nate's mouth as he surveys the scene. "This looks like a trainee-gone-wrong situation. Why were we even called out for this?"
"Nathan!" the woman shouts.
He plucks the cigarette out his mouth and whirls around. "What?!" he snaps.
The woman points. They glare at each other. Nate breaks eye contact to look towards where she is pointing.
We see the backs of Nate and his companion as they look at the entrance to one of the buildings. There are two strands of police tape that say "POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS" blocking the way. The glass of the automatic doors are cracked and bashed in; there are the vague shapes of people inside. But that isn't what she was pointing out. Above the doorway, clumsily burned into the brick, is the word "CHALICE". A large "Y" symbol, like a three-armed spoke, is also burned into the wall, right on top of this word; the spoke shooting downwards has cracked the building's sign in half. One half remains on the wall, stating "MILLER IN VARIATION", and the other half is lying on the ground beneath it, saying "STITUTE FOR AL TRAINING". Nate takes this all in. "Oh," he says. "Shit."
End of chapter.