Chapter II

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Many choices preluded the dawn of silence. But giving control to a camera – that was the first mistake.

- History of the Times (Volume I) [banned]

When Larkin stepped on the bus to go home, it was crowded like always, filled with idiots shoving each other and cramming in until there was no room left to breathe. Larkin waded through the warm bodies and gripped a pole that was already shared by five people. His hand brushed against someone else's and he recoiled, letting go just as the bus started up again. He pitched forward and was caught by a large man, who just laughed. Larkin sighed and clung to one of the hanging loops, and allowed himself to sway to the bus's rhythms, forcing himself to relax as he was inevitably bumped by other people. He wished he could bring Yin with him on the bus. The stretcher dog could command personal space in a way that even Larkin's uniform couldn't. He considered pulling his gun out just to scare the teens who stood chanting a nursery rhyme behind his head, but the certain death penalty for that wasn't quite worth it.

In front of him, a slender girl with golden-blonde hair and sharp collar bones was scribbling feverishly in a brown journalism notebook. She had one arm wrapped around a pole, holding the notebook in one hand and a pen in the other. Larkin watched her with interest; she was absorbed in her book, writing in hurried, yet elegant movements. Despite the other people pressing in upon her, she kept writing, notebook clutched to her chest, head bent and hair falling down, like she was trying to hide whatever she was writing. Suspicion and curiosity churned in Larkin's stomach. Many journalists had attempted to use their notebooks for free-writing in the past. What if this girl was one of them? No. No, there was no way she would be stupid enough to write illegally on a crowded bus.

She looked up sharply, making eye contact with Larkin. She visibly swallowed and turned away from him, nudging a pink bag at her feet between her legs and pulling the notebook even closer to her body. Definitely weird strange. Larkin could order for her to hand the notebook over to him so he could search it. He wasn't really authorized to do that, but to the public, the Lost Group was all the same anyway. But where would that bring him? A scene on a bus and a terrified girl. And what if he was wrong? He would just humiliate himself. It wasn't worth it. He forced his gaze away and out the window, watching as the bus sped down a long path filled with waterfalls. They were man-made waterfalls,he knew, though most people thought they were natural. They spilled down the hill that flanked the road and gushed under bridges towards the heart of Cott. He could see that girl's arm moving in the corner of his eye.

Eventually, the bus began to empty as it hit a few major stops. Once it entered the less populated area of urban Cott, Larkin managed to grab a seat in the middle of the bus. Free to embody his own space again, Larkin leaned back and closed his eyes. He was more than ready to get off this damn bus and go home. Thoughts of the man from earlier filled his mind, the deep red splashed across the white tiles, the pleas for remembrance. He hoped the records were right and the man lived alone; Larkin couldn't imagine coming home to find that. He'd called a clean-up crew, but they were constantly being overwhelmed with bodies. It was possible they might not arrive for several days.

As the bus approached his stop, Larkin pulled the yellow cord to signal the driver, and then stepped out into the aisle. He brushed past a couple people still standing up, but did a double take when he noticed a pink bag lying tipped on the floor, wedged between a seat and the box for one of the wheels. It was that girl's. The contents were all over the ground; pens, gum, a bracelet, a field guide about birds. He started tossing the stuff back into the bag to hand to the driver and hopefully return it, but when the pages of the field guide flipped open, he noticed the writing scribbled in the margins. Feeling guilty, yet privileged because of his occupation, he stuck the field guide in the bag and brought it home.

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