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(Contains: strong language)
                 Far and Away

The lights on the runway barely lit the plane's cabin, even as the moon shined down from the sky. Samantha Carter leaned back, resting her yellow-tabby head against the seat. Beside her, a black and white hybrid with rather long fur sat silent, though moving her body as is she were dancing, holding a small orange MP3 player in her right hand and sporting a thick pair of high-end headphones attached to a small amplifier.
     Samantha stared for a moment at Pepper, watching what she could only imagine was her daughter celebrating their departure from Japan. Tapping her on the shoulder, she watched as Pepper grudgingly removed her cans and glared at her. "What?"
     "Enjoy your vacation?"
     Pepper smirked. "Yeah, sure, it was fine. Of course, I'd much rather have gone to Tahiti, or Buenos Aires, or the Bahamas. You know, someplace that isn't absolutely freezing in December." Then, her smirk faded into a grimace. "Of course, I'd hardly call being forced to give a keynote speech on behalf of your company a 'vacation.'"
     Samantha sighed and shook her head. "You know, you are the one who came up with the concept. Really--no one ever even thought to stack the cores to make room for more cache."
     "That's because without your new architecture, it wasn't possible," Pepper said. "All I did was say, 'Hey, with a design like that you could shrink the die and stack the cores, and then you could pile on the memory.' You came up with the cooling solution, you made the idea practical, and you solved the issue with leakage. It's your design." Pepper leaned back in her seat. "'Sides, I really don't give a damn about the company anyway. I'd much rather have finished up the semester at school."
     Samantha sighed. Since childhood, she had been a preppy,  mean little girl, and she willingly carried the traits over into her adult life. She had earned the nickname "Wicked Bitch of the East" among those who only vaguely knew her, while those in her family sarcastically referred to her as "Princess," a rather snide nickname that she savored. She knew Pepper had a nasty streak herself, and loved to buy high end electronics, though unlike her mother, her nasty streak was much more sadistic than sarcastic and rude, a trait which had gotten her kicked out of quite a few preschools and daycares at a young age.
     Of course, Princess may have been smart, but Pepper was incredibly intelligent. With an IQ of 176, her daughter breezed through school, completing high school at only 16 years old. Now 20, Pepper was already well on her way to earning her PhD, having already secured a masters in Biochemistry; in all likelihood, she'd be an established scientist by the time she was thirty.
     "You know, you're adorable when you're bitchy," Princess said, rubbing the top of her daughter's head. Pepper recoiled in disgust. "Awe, don't like me anymore?"
     "I don't like doing affectionate displays in public," Pepper said. She lifted her cans back over her ears and pressed play on her mp3 player.

                           * * *

With his hand wrapped in Steven's jacket, Roderigo used his fist to break through the rubble above. A thin layer of soot fell down as the ceiling crumbled. Through the dust an debris, they could see daylight--they were at the top of the collapse.
     "Should've stayed in the car," Steven said, wrapping his hand in his sleeve to help clear the rubble.
     "We should've," Roderigo said, "but we didn't, and we're alive." He removed one last chunk of concrete, securing a hole large enough for them to climb through. "I guess I panicked as much as you guys did." He reached down for Yvonne. In the light, he could see a large gash on her head--her face and shirt were soaked in blood. "Can you stand?"
     "I'm fine," Yvonne said, reaching out for his hand. Roderigo helped support her as she climbed onto the rubble above, using his hands to give her leg one final push. Afterward, Steven pulled himself up, and finally Roderigo climbed free onto the ground above.
     "Jesus Christ." Roderigo turned to see what had Steven so shocked--surrounding them was the remains of three crumbled bridges and most of the ground connecting them. Steven moaned, his eyes staring into rubble.
     "Are you hurt?"
     "No," Steven mumbled "My Aklys...."
     "You can buy a new one," Roderigo said. Above them, they could hear helicopters swarming, both news choppers eager for the best footage and the EMT's searching for survivors. Partially obscuring them was a thick cloud of smoke and dust. "It's not like there aren't more."
     Picking up a small chunk of glass from a car mirror, Roderigo positioned it toward the sky, attempting to catch a glare. It worked quickly--one of the rescue choppers began immediately tightening their circle, and then descending.
     Beside him, Yvonne stumbled, her body swaying. Steven quickly steadied her. "I'm fine," she said. "Just a bit woozy."
     "You probably have a concussion," Roderigo said.
     Steven repeated, "We should've stayed in the car."
     Rather than landing, the chopper dropped several EMT's and a lifeline. Roderigo suspected as much, and on his orders they took Yvonne first. The EMT quickly secured her to the line, and she was lifted, slowly, into the chopper's cabin. They watched as the pilot said something over the radio, and in the near-distance they watched two other choppers turn their way; no doubt, one for each of them.
     The second chopper took Steven in the same way as the first, strapping him to a vest and lifting him into the cabin. Roderigo politely declined the vest, mentioning that they felt cramped, and instead grabbed onto the line and rode up alongside the EMT.
     Once in the cabin, he noticed the deep gash in his right arm; the EMT quickly cleaned it out with saline as he took his seat.
     "What hospital?" the pilot asked.
     "I'm not from the area," he said, motioning to the chopper beside them, "so leave that to Steven."
     "He your brother?"" the EMT said.
     "I'm flattered," Roderigo said. "No, he's my nephew. I'm twenty-four years older than him."
     "You're shitting me," the EMT said. "How old are you?"
     "Forty-nine."
     "You don't look it." With the wound clean, the EMT began to examine it. "You're gonna need stitches. If you want, we can do them here. The hospitals are going to be flooded, and critical patients will have priority."
     "Sure." As the EMT began to numb the wound, he gazed down at the devastation below him. "Probably not, actually," he thought. "I doubt there will be very many survivors."
Chapter VII
Chapter V

Fun fact: in the original novel the collapse was on Blue Ridge Boulevard. I just made it smaller and scale and moved a few miles to the west.

Roderigo looks young for his age, because he's loosely based off my mom. The conversation with the EMT is a typical conversation that pops up when we meet new people--she is assumed to be in her mid 30's, and that I am her younger brother.
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