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They’re in the Boston Bugle offices when it happens.

Nate is keeping up a rattling account of what’s on the computers- the articles for the 24th of October 2077. “There’s one here on Eddie Winter,” Nate taps through, then barks a laugh, “And on baseball, yeah, sure nothing’s gonna stop a victory-”

He stops dead, like a holotape just jammed. Nick looks up quickly and Nate has gone very, very still. His eyes are huge, breathing in upticks, faster and faster.

Shit. “Watch the doors!” He calls to Piper, then jumps down along the collapsed ceiling. Nate is ashen, all the warm colour gone from his skin and he’s starting to shake and this is bad. This is a very, very bad one and damn, it’d been more than a month since the last one-

He pulls Nate away from the terminal, and that’s the final trigger. Nate starts to scream.

Nick gets him down to the floor, grabs both his hands and holds him down. “Nate.” His keeps his voice low, under the high, wild shrieks. “Nate.”

“What the-” Piper’s strafing the room, confused.

“Just shoot if anything comes in!” They cleared the offices, but Nate’s loud enough to be heard outside. “Nate.” He continues. “You’re here. Nate. Just breath. It’s okay.”

It’s not. He can just about see the terminal from the corner of his eye-

-on Friday afternoon soldiers of the United States Army’s 184th Infantry Regiment opened fire on a group of unarmed civilians-

Oh hell. Nick feels sick. “Nate.” He continues, very softly. “It’s over. It’s gone. Shh.”

“Oh God!” Nate suddenly finds words. “Oh fucking- oh fuck no-”

“Shh,” He’s stopped fighting, at least. Nick sits back and pulls Nate into a hug, holds him close and tight. He’s shaking so hard his teeth are chattering and Nick can feel his own steel bones vibrate. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” Nate pulls back, eyes wild and lost. “Nick- I- I- I did-”

“Not you.” And God- whether Jesus or Atom or the dead God under Dunwich Borers- he hopes those scientists suffered. He hopes those who made those damned pills burnt real painfully before they died. “You know it wasn’t you, pet. Look at me.”

Nate looks at him, then curls in on himself, a tiny ball to tuck up against Nick’s thorax, under his coat, curl up small and disappear. “It wasn’t you.” Nick rocks him. “That was someone else, a long time ago. You’re here now, Nateling. You’re here. You’re safe.”

Finally, he feels Nate give a tiny nod against his chest.

The worst is over. He looks up and Piper is at the terminal. She looks down at Nate, horrified.

“No.” Nick shakes his head. Not now. “Turn it off, please.”

And Piper, bless her, puts two bullets through the screen.

September 2017

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