89.1 \ 281

“They look like they’re getting ready.” Flyers were coming out of a garage within the facility and positioning near laboratory exits. Esen stood at the fenceline, discussing the movements inside with two others from the Remainder. The protesters behind and around them were comfortably arranged in the loose chaos of the first phase.

“They’ve probably found some of the zerite phronium tags on our squoosh ammo. They’re not attached to any clear purpose, so it’s not an obvious threat, but the facility protocol is extremely sensitive.” Quietly, lab staff crossed the short distances from door to vehicle almost unnoticeably, like finishing a quick errand. “Yeah, they definitely found them. We still have more to send over the fence. They’ll want to prioritize evacuation. I don’t think they’ll be able to gather them all before they clear out. Having any extras around should help our defenses.”

Some of the flyers started leaving, soaring off unhindered. “This is it,” muttered Esen, “it won’t be long until we face control confrontation.”

“They want the staff out before the situation blows up.” They couldn’t see all the exits from where they were, but one of them was keeping count of how many flyers were leaving. There were some call-and-response chants running through the crowd, keeping people focused, connected, and courageous.

A boltball launcher squeezed through the crowd toward them, with one carrier and one attendant with ammo inside his coat. “We got whistlers,” said the ammo bearer. “Want to shoot one over?”

“Yes, I do,” said Esen.

“Okay, check this out. This isn’t backyard stock anymore,” said the carrier. He hoisted it toward the trajectory, and an adjunct assemblage of small interconnected modular construction blocks whirred into activity, Vedani stuff. This squoosh launcher could create its own tailwind, sending the boltball farther, with more accuracy. She was shown the hold, the trigger, and the trajectory. The fence was so high, this could not be a good place. Esen noticed the little embedded glint of precious material in the projectile as they loaded. She shot, and a serene smile spread across her face as it cleared. The launcher pair patted her on the back and continued threading along through the crowd. She turned her head, keeping one eye to the inside of the fence, and the other to the outer edge of their horde – feeling, like this moment, suspended between.

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