It was colder than anyone really remembered having felt before.
Franklin immediately felt dizzy, and laid his head on the wall, face
completely white. Bobby helped him into a prone position on the bed
-- what was left of the bed -- muttering, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I
didn't mean to--"
Franklin held up a hand, and Bobby ceased.
There was a quiet second, and then into it, Domino snarled, "That
was one fucking fabulous idea." She managed to get it all out
before her teeth started chattering again, jarring her whole jaw,
but even tucking her arms up against her sides and doubling over wouldn't
keep the shivering at bay. Even so, cheeks tingling from cold and
breath chilling her lungs, she added, "Yes, this was a fine
Kitty huddled closer to her, each muscle in her body taut, tense,
quivering with the strain of preventing the chills. She answered,
"It beats being blown through two holes in the shield wall into a
fucking ocean, Dom. And I didn't see you coming up with anything else,
Franklin raised his hand gently from where he was laying under a
thin blanket. His skin had goosebumps. "Dom. Kitty. Can we just get
a minute of peace?"
The two of them snapped their jaws shut immediately, and he felt
weariness settle into his veins. The pounding in his head was keeping
a steady rhythm with the incessant banging. Off to his right, Domino
hissed, "Would someone please secure that shutter!"
He heard someone jump up and mutter as they tied down the offensive
bit of plywood more securely. Without opening his eyes, he murmured,
"All right. Who is in here with us, and where is everyone else?"
Kitty took his hand, and even that heat was welcome. Domino answered,
"Bobby, you, Kitty, Patrick, and I are accounted for." Franklin knew
that Patrick was the one that closed the shutter just now. "Nate said
that Ilsa, Alex, Nur, and whoever else, are all in the house."
On hearing Alex's name, Franklin heard Bobby say uncertainly, "He'll
Franklin could see nothing, eyes closed and an arm slung over his
face, but he could hear and feel the chaos outside their walls. Even
with the water frozen in place, people were still desperate, the holes
in the shields still gaping open like the jaws of hell looking in
on them. He could feel them in his mind, slippery and evasive.
Refusing to close. Like trickster gods-- the holes had a foot in their
door and were refusing to leave.
Domino said impatiently, "Alex is fine. Ilsa was checking on him
when it hit."
"But, with the flooding--"
"It's not a damned flood, okay! It's just--"
Franklin squeezed his eyes shut tighter. The hand holding Kitty's
clenched. Every bit of force in his mind clamped down on their homes,
their sanctuary... he begged whatever was listening for just
a little extra energy. Just enough to push himself this once more.
It slipped away from him. Lost.
He sat up, awkwardly, and gazed at Kitty. By now his cheeks were
numb, his fingers tingling. "I don't think I can close the holes."
She stared back at him, eyes level and full of alarm... face calm,
impassive. Patrick watched the two of them, and out of the corner
of his eye, Franklin saw him cross himself.
He hadn't known Patrick was Catholic.
#Nate,# Domino shouted mentally. #Nate, you flonqing bastard,
are you guys okay?#
#Fine,# and he grumbled. She could feel the shaking in his
knees. #Why the hell is it freezing?#
She slid down the wall of Bobby's teeny hut, solid wood comforting,
and immediately her muscles relaxed. Which led to them seizing up
again in violent shivering, but it was better than worrying about
Nate. #Bobby froze the water.#
#Bobby froze the -- whose idea was that?# Domino glanced at
Kitty, but didn't answer. Nate changed tactics, saying, #Dom, there
was water for hundreds of miles. I couldn't see the edge of it. I
couldn't sense the edge of it.#
Through the link, she could feel his disbelief. #I know.#
#No Bobby I knew could ever have done that much damage.# And
there was respect in his tone. A lot of respect. #But, so there's
no more flood. Why hasn't Franklin closed the walls around us yet?#
And now there was fear in his mental tone, a shiver up his spine.
Domino glanced over at Kitty and Franklin -- the boy looked so pale.
Bobby was sitting cross-legged in a corner, eyes wide and scared and
confused. Patrick was solid as ever, and she was grateful that he'd
happened to jump into their shelter. #He-- he says he can't.#
#Why not?# Real alarm. #No more storm... what else is stopping
him? He said that it was the onslaught from the outside that was blocking
up his concentration.#
#I... I don't know.# Truthfully, she'd been loathe to ask
him, looking so frail, laying in a dirty blanket and on hard concrete.
#He hasn't improved much.#
Through Nate's eyes, she could see most of the denizens of the Oasis
huddled in their kitchen and in their living room, crowding together
for warmth. He answered, #We need him.#
#I know.# She drew her knees to her chest more tightly. #Fuck,
it's cold. I can't even move around. God knows what it feels
like outside with the wind.#
#This isn't good, Dom.#
She glanced back at Franklin. His eyes were closed again. Kitty looked
up at her, lips drawn in a tight line to keep her teeth from chattering.
Little icicles glistened in her hair. #I know it's not good, Nate.
We'd better do something fast.#
Domino stood up, keeping a tight reign on her limbs to stop them
from shaking. Neither of them said, 'before we all freeze to death.'
"You can't fix things?"
"Kitty," and his voice was tired even to his own ears -- and it was
strange to be talking to Kitty like that -- "It's not quite that simple.
Things, when everything is normal around here, are easy to maintain.
But we're talking about thousands and thousands and thousands of kilos
of extra mass. Solid mass."
She nodded. "I remember some of my physics classes. What if Bobby
raises the temperature..."
He shook his head, and coughed. "No, that won't work either."
Kitty squeezed his hand in reassurance, but her face fell. "You're
right. Things would just start gushing again, and we'd be awash in
water, not ice. And there's water for thousands of miles. We're surrounded
by an ocean -- there might even be water above our sky for
all we know." She chewed on her lip, which was going a little blue.
She added thoughtfully, "What if we evaporated it all?"
Domino squatted by them both, and raised an eyebrow, having heard
the last line of their conversation. "Evaporate it? How do you propose
to do that?" Kitty blinked, face tense, and kept chewing her lip.
Domino's eyes widened a little, but she called out to Nate, #How's
Alex holding up?#
Nate paused to ask Ilsa out loud, and answered, #Not good. She
thinks that the cancer is spreading.#
#Do you think he'd be able to be any use to us?#
#Yes,# he answered immediately, #As a member of the Twelve.
You can't be thinking what--#
#It might work. We can't all fucking freeze. Franklin said we
need the water gone.#
Domino could feel his gaze, taking in Alex and his injuries, sizing
him up. She heard him think, #He's Franklin's age.#
She stared down at Franklin. "Franklin. What if Alex evaporated the
ice with his powers?"
His eyes were closed. Franklin felt the storms outside, hammering
to get in. It was taking all his concentration to keep more little
cracks from opening -- concentrating the whole break into two holes
at opposite ends of the Oasis, even, was getting to be too much. If
any more cracks appeared, water might start pouring in again from
somewhere else, on top of their ice. He could feel the hungry worlds,
just trying to flow in.
Domino waited. It might have been her imagination, but a vein at
Franklin's temple was throbbing. She said, "Then we build an ark.
If Alex could do it, could you close the shields?"
Franklin felt his head pound, and the rest of his body slowly going
numb. There wasn't really any other way; he could feel something --
someone? -- his mind whispered rebelliously, but no, that was just
Nate's paranoia. It would be madness to even try.
But he nodded.
"You can't seriously think that we're going to risk Franklin outside
with those lines still unstable--"
"Domino!" Franklin bit his lip. "I'm fine. We're going to have to
get everyone in the same place, and if we wait too long..." He trailed
off, and beside him, Bobby rasped, his breathing shallow.
Domino looked at Patrick, and answered curtly, "Fine. You, Patrick,
Bobby and Kitty go straight to the house; I'll see if anyone's still
outside, and join you."
He was quiet. "Don't take too long."
She chuckled, which ended up in a cough. "Don't worry. I don't intend
Domino looked up, and could see the line on that side of the wall,
the frozen telltale high water mark where one ocean stopped and their
Oasis began. Bobby had done a good job -- even without shields at
all, the water wasn't budging. The foam of waves had frozen in place.
She followed the graceful line of rushing liquid, frozen, and could
see exactly how the water had pushed its way through Franklin's protection,
had found a dry place, and rushed in.
It was a waterfall, frozen in place; only the rock face behind their
flow was just more water, more rushing water. Water running over the
edge of a bucket, without the bucket.
Domino turned away. Along near the beehives, at the other end of
the Oasis, the water was much lower. She tread carefully down the
slope of ice, and looked down. At the other end, it was less than
a foot thick before she spied ground; this hole led onto some ocean
that dipped sharply away, a cliff of ice, and where their ground sat,
there was only empty space. She looked down, and thought about touching
the side of the ground, to see whether the layer of dirt and the layer
of ice met.
It was probably too cold to touch, anyway. She didn't.
The rest of the shields, where there were any, were transparent,
sickly thin. Domino wandered slowly back towards the house, which
had sustained most of the damage, and carefully avoided stepping on
any of the debris. Here and there, things stuck out of the ice, blue-sheened
prison holding them in place like tacky paper-weights, like epoxy
and glue. Rich's spear was trapped under the awning of the house,
and Domino's chest tightened to see it.
The ridge of the awning stuck up, and she poked at it with her toe--
it didn't budge. Trapped.
She didn't go into the gardens. There wasn't anything there, anyway,
nothing left to see. Against the skyline in the distance, the horizon
visible through Franklin's shields, she could see the beginnings of
sunrise, to the left of her, and black night to the right. It didn't
seem right, but then, nothing did.
Franklin held the mug of hot water in his hands, breathing on his
fingers. They were all huddled together, trying to keep warm, but
it wasn't working. Nate was hovering over him, eyes cloudy. Domino
finally came back, and she said in a grim voice. "Have to be soon,
Nate's face fell. Franklin stared out the window, and then rubbed
his head self-consciously.
Domino was talking quietly to Nate. Franklin didn't care.
Alex had to take a look at things for himself. He stepped out of
the house, and onto the porch. Surveying the surrounding area, the
icy-blue calm of everything around them, the stillness and the glittering
ice, he shivered. At least a foot of chill blue was beneath them,
possibly two. He couldn't see the ground through the thickness.
"A little like glass."
He turned to stare at Amy -- hunter, if he remembered correctly.
A swimmer in high school, Nate had said, and smiled. Alex replied,
She added, "I used to think ice bergs were beautiful."
Alex looked around again. There was a table, its legs disappearing
into the ice. He was reminded of a paperweight that his foster father
used to keep on his desk at home, with a few bees trapped in an orange
haze of amber.
He'd thought it neat as a boy, once. He didn't anymore. But there
was nothing to see out here, and Amy's gentle hand on his arm was
pulling him back inside. He hopped, awkwardly, back to where everyone
else was gathered. They looked up as he entered.
Nate, carefully neutral in his tone, said, "Alex, we need to talk..."
Alex nodded, and then felt foolish. He answered, "I know what you
And he stood up, a determined look on his face. Amy tilted her head,
and then grasped his arm. He said, "Amy, what--"
"You need help." She smiled. "I'm going to give it."
He searched her eyes -- they were clear. He nodded again, and they
stood up together, Amy supporting his frame. Nate stood also, looking
a bit alarmed. "Alex, are you sure--"
"Hey," and his voice didn't crack. "No one gets to be immortal."
Amy examined his face carefully... and nodded.
Lorna came in, just then, and whimpered, hand pressed to her lips.
Bishop took her by the arm and led her out.
"Is she going to be okay?" Bobby asked.
Kitty pursed her lips. "No."
And no one else said anything, because Alex deserved the chance to
be a hero, if he could, since none of the rest of them could do anything.
No one moved, until Bobby wrapped his skinny arms around Alex's neck
and started to cry. Bobby held on tight, murmuring things in Alex's
ear that no one could hear, tears streaming down and warming up Alex's
skin. Alex kissed the top of Bobby's head, and said quietly, "It's
not your fault, no, it's not. It's not." Bobby held on tighter.
It hit a nerve, and soon everyone was sniffling, except Kitty, who
stared off at the jagged horizon, penning them in for thousands of
miles, and Franklin, who was too tired to get up the energy for tears.
It was almost peaceful out amongst the frozen wastelands. Alex watched
his breath puff out in little curls, sharp, quiet. His throat was
Nothing was moving for what looked like a thousand miles. Amy stood
beside him, one arm wrapped around his waist firmly, unobtrusively
supporting his body so he didn't collapse. It wasn't that it was that
hard walking over the slippery surface. It was just so miserably cold.
His lungs felt tight with it. The cancer was the only thing that felt
hot in his entire body; that couldn't be normal, had to be some fuzzy
side effect from their surroundings. From the energy.
He couldn't see the Oasis anymore, not even an indistinct blob of
shimmer on the faint horizon. They'd been walking for about an hour,
maybe two. He let another puff of breath out.
Somehow it felt like a hunting trip, or a fishing trip. The calm
expanse of frozen sea looked a little like Alaska, maybe, if Alaska
shifted slightly into a nightmare, transforming from a simply hostile
climate, impenetrable, cold, thick... to this, this climate that so
obviously went on for-fucking-ever.
Amy squeezed his waist gently. "Are you feeling all right?"
He sucked a breath in around the scarves they'd bundled around his
neck, felt it bite his lungs, nip, deep in his chest. "I'm fine, but
I don't think I can go on much longer." Stick to the facts, the truth,
the practicality of the situation. This was going to be it.
Amy nodded. Her eyes had sympathy. "I think we're far enough away
from -- everyone, right here. It should be all right."
He nodded faintly, and pulled away from her. His hands were wrapped
up in harsh wool, too, woolen mittens. His feet stumbled a little
as he made one full circle, swiveling his head this way and that,
getting a little dizzy at the lack of reference points. They'd had
to pick the dimmest, flattest terrain. --Not even terrain. Lack of
Amy watched him. He looked at her, hair glittering with the little
chunks of ice in it. She didn't seem to mind the cold. Alex nodded
to himself. "Okay. Okay, this is it, then, if we're far enough away."
Amy's eyes widened a bit, and swallowed. She answered, "Do you need
me, to..." She waved a hand, indicating his clothing, his jacket.
He started pulling his gloves off clumsily, cursing under his breath
as the material stuck, finally ripping it off with his teeth and exposing
his lips to the biting cold. "Jesus," he muttered. "Bobby must have
just about reached zero Kelvin, here."
Amy grinned a little. "He's very powerful."
Alex's teeth chattered a bit. "Yeah." He looked up at Amy. "I'm okay,
here, now that I have my fingers... you, um." He tried to pull his
scarf off, fingers already going numb. "You'd better get out of here,
if you can. I have to do this quickly, before I get too cold."
She touched his shoulder, quick, and said, "Good luck."
He watched her take off in a run. He could imagine her boots, that
long stride crunching the smooth glassy surface. Alex was glad he
could look down at his shoes, and not see any fish, nothing but more
and more and more water.
His cheeks hurt, breathing hurt. Alex muttered, "Okay, time to get
going, Summers." He ripped off the jacket, and tossed it to the ground,
and then the layers underneath it, exposing the armor underneath.
He rubbed his hands together, closed his eyes, and prayed. His lips
were cracked and bleeding from the harsh air swirling around him.
Amy barely felt the breath pounding into her, out of her. The skin
on her arms was standing straight up; she could feel something stirring
in her bones. The Change, and Amy grunted. Kept running.
She'd lived this long; they weren't going to give up on her now.
Nate closed his eyes. He could feel, in his bones, the heat approaching,
slowly at first, but then with more force. Domino had his hand clutched
in her own, and she asked privately, #Are you sure you can protect
#Probably. We Summers' are immune to each other, at least I hope.#
She grimaced. #That's not very reassuring.#
He tightened his shields, expanded them to the breaking point all
around the house and what of the Oasis he could manage. If that wouldn't
work, guilt would keep him going. He wasn't going to fuck this up.
#It's as good as I can do.#
He wasn't going to fuck this up any more, he amended mentally.
Domino squeezed his hand.
People were looking around at each other, hearing the rush of pure
plasma approaching. Nate gritted his teeth--- shoring up his mental
defenses, tightening the protection around the house. He heard Bobby's
little intake of breath, didn't look at him. Nate shored up his mental
defenses again, extended his mind. He could sense Domino's fear, and
Bobby's ragged pain. Nate winced. He could feel the whole Oasis holding
And out there, miles away, he could feel Alex Summers' intense need
-- for warmth.
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