Sy opened a bleary eye. Voices echoed up from down the hall. Despite having slept like the dead, she barely felt rested at all. Yet the shadows on the wall indicated early evening already. The sun had been on the rise when she’d finally fallen asleep, and she’d been out of it the entire day. Still, it felt like she’d only just nodded off. She groaned and turned away from the window, trying to continue her marathon of sleep.

Cody, however, seemed to have different ideas. “Just a minute, young lady!” The hulking doctor came into the room and sat down on the step stool by the bed. “I would like to know how you are currently feeling! The nanites tell me much, but not your state of being, you know!”

Sy moaned: “Tired. Not nauseous. Jus’ need mo’ sleep.”

Cody nodded. “And you will have it. The medicine to cease coagulation is still required, but it seems you are on the rise. Sleep is helpful now, so do not feel burdened about your sandman marathon, young lady! But your friends wish to keep you into the loop, as they say. Do you think you can manage a short visit before you resume your rest? If you do not, I will send them off at once!”

She nodded slowly. “Yeh. Wanna see ‘em too.”

“Splendid!” Cody said as he clapped his hands together. “I shall leave you to it. When you are done, the nanites will give you a small dose of melatonin to help you resume your sleep.” He got up from the stool and walked out of the room, passing Romeo and Piper as they walked in. “Five minutes!” he reminded them sternly. “She needs her rest!”

“Hey! Nice hair cut. We have to stop meeting like this.” Romeo said cheerfully in Piper’s wake.

“Romeo had one just like it when he got out of boot.” Piper added helpfully with a smile of her own. “It worked for him too. You still look beautiful, Sy.” She paused for a moment, shifting her eyes quickly before returning to the spoken out loud conversation. “And we brought you some hard candy.”

“Thanks, guys,” Sy said, smiling weakly. “Sorry fo’ not gettin’ up from the pillow. An’ I’ll get to the candy later, I think… Don’ wanna choke on one, fallin’ asleep with it. Anyone else got hurt? What’s the situation with the water?”

"Bad," Piper replied, taking a seat on the end of the bed. "Real bad, the whole reservoir is contaminated. A few of us are sick from the exposure, but outside got hit hard. OSEC is on it round the clock, relief trucks, shelters, medical aid, and cleaning crews, they're doing everything they can to contain it and protect the district."

Sy turned her face into the pillow and let out a muffled, frustrated growl. When she turned back, there was as much fury on her face as her lack of energy allowed. "What… the fuck… are the corps doing… to stop this sick… murdering… fuck?" She had to take deep breaths between words, but the effect was that rage stressed everything she said. It was clear she did not know how to handle the amount of anger she was feeling, with no energy to express it. "Are they in fuckin' cahoots with Logos or somethin'?"

“No one’s taken credit yet. Not even Logos.” Piper soothed. "And OSEC is doing… almost everything they can."

“Right now it’s all speculation but sooner or later someone will take credit. Even so no matter what the objective of the Spire remains the same.” Romeo softly reminded. “Fact is, at the end of the day OSEC is a private police force afforded to the citizens of Oracle by the Corps.” He explained.

“As much as I know every pair in the Spire would love to go on a Foxhunt for The New Way … it just isn’t our place or function.” Romeo said with a sigh.

"Logos ain't taken credit?" Sy sounded genuinely surprised. "Ain't like him…" She looked at Romeo. "Didn' mean you," she said and the ghost of a smile passed by her lips. "’S more to OSEC than Spire. Corps got more than OSEC. But nothin'." Her speech began to slur a little with the effort of staying awake.

“We can talk about the inner politics of the Spire and speculate on the evils of the New Way later? When you get some more recovery time.” Romeo offered, seeing Sy clearly needed more rest.

“No, don’ go yet,” Sy said. “That was like, 2 minutes!” She smiled a little. “Cody won’ kill us for just a li’l longer.” She was silent for a moment, her eyes focusing on Piper. A look of concern came over her face. “Pipe… You sick too? Y’look white as a sheet.”

“Only of MRE’s.” Piper assured her with a smile, squeezing the bed-ridden girl’s hand. “When Romeo and I were out, there was a vision, I just need to sort it out. You need to worry about you, and getting better, and staying out of this med bay. We don’t have a frequent flyer program.”

“Is the best way to hang with Cody,” Sy smiled weakly. “You get visions? What you see?”

“Not all the time. I saw Zulu, but he was running away from me.” Piper replied.“Sometimes outside the Spire they just happen. It’s another reason we don’t go out without an Alpha, someone to watch you and bring you back to yourself if needed. When there’s just a lot of information at once, even for us, your mind makes you see something you understand better. Sometimes you can try to make sense of it. Sometimes, you can’t.”

Sy’s eyes went wide at the mention of Zulu. She sighed. “Seein’ ghosts… Not my type of fun…” She closed her eyes for a moment, a small wave of vertigo overcoming her. It passed and she pressed on. “Who else in Spire got sick? Roach? Tragedy?” She was thinking about their arms and clothes splattered in the red water from carrying her to the infirmary.

“He wasn’t a ghost. He was a vision. Ghosts aren’t real.” “Manner o’speakin’,” Sy whispered. Piper squeezed Sy’s hand and looked to Romeo. Sy wasn’t doing well, and she worried she was making it worse, but Neos never really perfected the art of lying. Why would they, when everyone knew the truth anyway, and when there was no greater trust than a Neo to their Alpha. “A few of the younger Neos are sick. Rhys. Calix. Roach and Tragedy are fine though, Alphas are made of pretty stern stuff.” She said proudly, eyeing her Alpha. “But they have asked how you were.”

“Facts of life here in the Spire.” Romeo shrugged to show how normal this all was. The vision, not the red death in the pipes. That was new. But Alpha being made of stern stuff? Ya damn right!

"I gotta buy 'em a present when I get outta here. Let ‘em know I’m okay," Sy said. "They saved me. You two as well. I can’t thank you enough.” She smiled gratefully and closed her eyes. A moment later, her breath began to slow and deepen, the smile drooping from her lips.

Piper gently squeezed Sy’s hand one more time, then nodded towards the door. Alpha and Neo tiptoed out of the room to let Sy get her rest.

(crosspost Blitzen, Winters, GardensTale)

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