A r c h i e
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Archie’s ride back on the bus with William and Sloan had been anything but nice. He had to sit between them for fear they’d touch by accident. It was obvious to Sloan that Archie wasn’t a fan. Mostly because Archie never hid how he felt about people. And it was usually that he just didn’t like people, period. Sure, maybe the way they had met could have had some sort of negative impact on how he felt about her currently. In his eyes, there was no need for her to be here. She was not useful to their cause, but William had started to turn their organized group into a home for positive gene testing orphans with no where else to hide. They weren’t making good decisions, but William was mostly in charge. Archie never wanted the attention of a leader and his people skills, as you now know, weren’t made for it either.
Walking into his room, he caught sight of one of his books opened on his desk with pages ripped littering his desk. Which if he remembered correctly, and he usually did, he had not left like that. He walked over to his desk and looked around for what else was out of place and found most of his pencils were gone too. He bit his tongue and walked back, across the large room to his bed and he lay over his blankets. He stared up at the ceiling and counted to ten slowly. He knew right away who had been messing around in his room taking things that didn’t belong to them. Nick.
That brat did not know the definition of privacy, or personal belongings, or locked doors. Though storming into Nick’s room and telling him off would only make the kid happy that he had bothered Archie. So he lay, and counted, and calmed down. Deciding he’d get to him soon. Probably mess around with his dreams and make him dream of something horrible. Brat.
The ceiling was dirt and rock. The walls were dirt and rock, but makeshift walls covered the dirt for the most part. Unevenly. His bedroom, along with all the others’ bedrooms were underground. Deep underground. The rooms that were closer to the surface were the offices, meeting rooms, the supply room and dining hall. They were also the ones that were better kept. Modernized and clean- if you didn’t account for William’s vines wrapping themselves around literally everything. And flowers growing out of the cracks in the walls. But then, it gave their home more charm.
In Old-Montrose, the subway systems had been disconnected and were all offline. The blast had collapsed tunnels and turned subway lines into death traps. This made the perfect hideout. The subways were their home, and for a few years now- the place they formed the rebellion.
He crossed his arms behind his head and closed his eyes. He knew sleep would not come, because sleep rarely came to him, but he could rest his eyes. A few minutes later, in the total silence around him he heard a...crackling? He opened one eye and looked towards his door. A thick green stem was growing and wrapping itself around the doorknob. Archie watched it lazily and in seconds, a sunflower bloomed, growing larger and eventually opening fully. Bright and yellow. Quickly bringing light to his room. Archie propped himself up on his elbows and sighed. William always made him feel better, and he was due for a visit anyway. He’d have to explain what happened today at some point. He slid out of bed and walked over to the door, unwrapping the flower from the knob so he could open it. He opened the door and walked towards his desk to fetch some scissors.
“You know William, you are always welcome to knock.”
His friend walked in and closed the door behind him, he was already smiling- did he ever stop?
“Archie, if I knocked, you might assume I was Nick and then you may never open the door,” William said as he walked to Archie’s bed and sat on the edge. He removed his slip on shoes easily and then sat cross legged on the bed. It was natural of Will to make himself at home everywhere, and had it been anyone else Archie would have minded but William was almost like his own brother, an older brother he loved and looked up to, and sometimes scolded because William knew how to get into trouble faster than anyone he had ever met… except maybe Nick.
“If only Nick ever knocked…” Archie said thinking back to his missing pencils and his book. He found his scissors and cut the stem of the flower and threw it into the mason jar where the remaining pencils were and threw the rest of the stem in the garbage.
“You don’t have to be so rough with it,” William said sadly, looking at the trashbin for a second before looking back up at Archie who was making his way back to the bed, though he chose to sit in an armchair nearby instead.
“So Sloan, are you going to talk or do I need to ask?” Archie said crossing his arms and waiting expectantly, though really, it was usually the same deal with every new member to their tiny but growing group. And after hearing William talk, he realized that yes, it was like every other recruit. She had been given the talk by William about why they did what they did, why they were underground and what their mission was. She was offered free stay in the tunnels with them and as long as she gave back to their community, the community would give back to her anytime she needed. She was currently getting a tour from Nick as was customary, because what else was he good for?
“What about burning you, has it happened to her before?” Fear for William’s well being was most of the reason for the question. Archie had little interest in what Sloan could or couldn’t do- as long as she didn’t bother him or in this case, hurt William again.
“She mentioned something similar when she was a kid and would play with her cousin, but that was nothing in comparison to what happened earlier today, she said. She describes what she can do as a form of pollution. It’s not well developed, but she seems to be able to create and manipulate soot with just her hands. She thinks it’s pretty useless, but if she trains at it I’m sure it can be quite powerful, though, completely against what I do. She’ll have to train in an isolated tunnel. It’s quite unhealthy to be around mass production of soot.” William looked slightly worried.
“It does seems like she’s quite capable of controlling it- so I don’t think we’ll have any troubles with her accidentally contaminating us daily. She killed off a good portion of my wildlife in the testing room actually. And I’m not sure I would be able to last long around one of her episodes, I actually had to leave the room a couple times to catch my breath. It seems we are fine around each other as long as there is no contact and she’s not using her ability in any way. Probably would help if I was medicated.”
This did little to make Archie feel better- if anything it did the opposite. She was dangerous to Will more heavily than everyone else. If she behaved and truly cared about what they stood for, he didn’t foresee any problems. Not yet anyway. Pollution was Will’s kryptonite. Although the world was polluted, concentrated intoxicating polluted environments were the worst on him. Thankfully with his injections, he could withstand much more than normal and it was what he used before going into the city when they had to. It only lasted six hours though, which is why they stressed about the time when they were out. Well, more like Archie stressed out.
“I don’t know Will, is she really necessary. Why are we bringing in teenagers? Have you forgotten what the goal is?” Before Archie finished speaking he knew the last question had been unnecessary, and heartless. Will knew better than anyone what their goal was. He tried to save the conversation realizing Will still hadn’t spoken,
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that, I just wondered why bring in more people when we can act.”
William looked down at his hands, he was upset. It was obvious, but Archie sat quiet, hoping he heard his apology and moved on from it. When William looked up, his face was sad and thoughtful.
Archie felt like an idiot, he was so careless sometimes. Although William usually was unphased by anything Archie said, this was never a subject to joke about. Archie continued, now finally meeting William’s eyes.
“Will, we are going to get her out. I promise, I’m sorry, I know you haven’t forgotten it was heartless of me to say that, please.”
William gave a short nod and you could tell he was trying to move on from the comment.
“Sloan is not a teenager Arch, she’s only two years younger than you. She does look younger though, I’ll give you that.”
“She can’t be twenty-three. Also, she’s so… I don’t know… I don’t like her.” Archie concluded.
“You don’t like anyone.”
“I like you.” Archie said crossing his arms
William sighed, “I like you too brother. Please, be nice to her,” he added at the end. William stood back up and slipped his shoes on. “I’m going to check on Nick and Sloan. Do you want to tag along?”
“No thank you, Nick’s the last person I want to see. He keeps taking my things. Is there a remedy you can create to make him stop eating?” Archie asked, though it was not the first time.
William laughed as he made his way out of Archie’s room. He poked his head back in for a few seconds afterwards, “Put water in that jar,” he said motioning towards the sunflower before he disappeared once more.