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Mirror from the forum. It can also be read here.

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CHAPTER 1

Quinn awoke with a start. Sitting up in bed, she sighed softly. Another nightmare, she thought. She had been having awful nightmares since the incident happened. She didn’t know if they had any significance or not, but they were all very bizarre. She got out of bed, walking into the main room.

A glowing spirit was drifting around the room, carrying materials to make breakfast. As much as this should have scared her, she didn’t mind. This was Papa Louie’s ghost. He had died toward the beginning of the incident, but remained as a ghost, to protect those that remained alive and uncorrupted; Quinn was one of these lucky few. Louie glanced over to Quinn, and smiled.

“Ah, Quinn, you’re awake. Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning…” Quinn replied softly, sounding somber as usual. She didn’t remember the last time she had responded to something with genuine happiness. She was depressed and hopeless, wondering if happiness was even something she could feel anymore.

Louie chuckled. “Oh, stop it, Quinn.”

Sighing, Quinn moved her hair out of her face. “I can’t...I’ve been stuck with this feeling for a long time.” She adjusted her slightly cracked glasses, before looking outside. The landscape was barren, as she already knew. A few damaged buildings were peppered across the land, but there were no real signs of life, other than corrupt citizens wandering around. The building Quinn lived in was somewhat run-down, but was generally in the best quality of any building in the city. This gave Quinn some comfort. As hopeless as she always felt, she felt at least somewhat safe in there. The damaged world scared her. She felt like it was out to get her. Even so, she knew she would have to leave to gather resources again. She bid Louie goodbye, before walking out. She immediately felt a wave of fear and anxiety wash over her the second she left the building. It most definitely was not safe out here. She shivered, looking everywhere to make sure there was no one dangerous in the vicinity. Nervously, she walked ahead, knowing she was in danger and very well may die that day...

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CHAPTER 2

Crack.

Quinn jumped, and turned her head toward the source of the sound. Something, or possibly someone, had broken a branch under their foot. She could feel herself shaking. The possibility of someone approaching her now horrified her. Standing frozen in place, she hoped that it was someone who wasn’t as dangerous as certain people…and a girl with well-brushed, but still frizzy, ginger-orange hair poked her head out from the brush.

Oh, thank god, Quinn thought. It’s just Xandra. Sighing in relief, she stepped forward a little, noticing that Xandra had her hand clamped over her side, a clear signal of injury. She frowned. Of the people that were still at least decently safe, Xandra was one person she couldn’t lose. She felt safe around her.

“Are...are you alright?” Quinn asked.

“...I’ll be fine. Don’t worry ‘bout it,” Xandra replied. Quinn shook her head in disappointment. Typical Xandra, she thought. Always denying help. Xandra took a few more steps forward, and accidentally brushed against a branch, putting pressure on her hand. She grimaced, flinching in pain and jumping away from the branch. Gripping the wound tighter than before, she looked up to Quinn, but continued to deny assistance.

“You need help!” Quinn yelled annoyedly.

Xandra jumped. She thought she'd heard something in the brush behind her. They both looked in the direction of the perceived sound, but saw nothing. Then...dead silence. Both of them knew yelling was a huge mistake. They looked around, frightened, until the silence told them that all was still well. Quinn sighed nervously. “Come on, let’s get you to my place. I have some gauze we could cover the wound with,” she then said. Xandra nodded, and the two walked off, not noticing small, glowing blue lights flickering in the brush.

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CHAPTER 3

Wendy giggled. She had certainly done a good job of hiding herself away. Xandra and Quinn hadn't even noticed her, even if her cloaking device didn't cover up the flickering blue lights on her metallic "skin". Pressing a few buttons on her arm, she turned the cloak off. Watching the duo walk away, she smiled. It was certainly nice to see a few people that hadn't changed much physically. Glancing around her, she wondered if it was safe to return to her territory. She never bothered to expand it, but she protected it viciously.

Standing up, she walked away, going in the direction of the run-down, damaged Greasy Gear Garage, where she had set up her base. She sighed whenever she saw the dulled, peeling paint on the sides of the building. She could still remember what it was like for Akari and Rico to stop by for repair. She never got any customers anymore. She had no idea what had happened to Rico, and as far as she knew, Akari had died a long time ago. Of course, due to the forces in action all over the place, anyone could come back to life at any time, so she wasn't really sure.

Entering the building, she noticed a figure moving at the back of the room. She couldn't tell who it was, but just knowing something else was in the building with her angered her. She waved her arms, attempting to scare it away. It looked at her, and she noticed two orange glints on its forehead. She recognized them immediately.

"A...Akari?", she said, almost whispering.

The figure stepped into the light, revealing itself as Akari. One of her goggles' lenses had shattered, and she was bleeding from the side of her head, as if she had broken her skull. She had lacerations and abrasions across her skin, visible through holes in her tattered clothing. Noticeably, she was very pale, and her eyes were glazed and yellow.

"...n-no...no, you can't...you can't still be alive...", Wendy whispered, with a strain in her voice indicating she was on the brink of tears.

Akari smirked slightly. "But I am...anyway."