12 pm, Thursday, Hyde
10pm, Thursday, Brisbane

‘I can see why they sent you here,’ Milla said as she walked along the edge of the railing of the Hyde Agency roof, teetering unsteadily dozens of meters above the ground.

Stef stared at the girl, at the absolute lack of fear she had, and tried to calm down. She wasn’t going to fall. She wasn’t going to die. If she fell, the safety net around the building would catch her.

All the logic in the world hadn’t stopped her from prepping three emergency shifts – all locked on Milla and keyed to different velocities and angles; ensuring she’d be shifted to safety if it even appeared as though she was going to fall.

Stef put her hands back in her pockets, feeling the small red ball there, and shifted it from hand to hand – which covered Ryan’s need for her to work on being comfortable with finer shift controls; and assured her that she was still in system territory.

The second that changed, she’d just grab the recruit and pull her back to safety.

‘Why?’ she asked the recruit.

‘Well, we’re the weirdo Agency, so they send us all of the weirdos.’

‘I’m-’

Where are you going with that sentence, Spyder?

‘Oh yeah you are,’ Milla said, doing a clumsy, amateur pirouette, ‘so just admit it.’

‘I am.’

‘S’ok,’ Milla said, ‘you’re far from the wierdest that has come through. I mean, we’ve had some of those statics come through-’

‘Some of those what?’

Milla finally jumped back onto the roof, and Stef felt herself relax. She required a huge, plush couch and sat, her back leaning against the left arm; and invited Milla to sit with a wave of her arm.

‘Billy generally calls them “the best of us” with the “us” part being agents, not the everybody kind of “us”, agents who are agents but forgot to be people.’ Milla turned a few times, then sat, pressing her feet to Stef’s feet.

‘Oh yeah, them,’ Stef said, then sipped her shake, ‘not sure I’d want to meet one of them.’

‘Because they wouldn’t approve of you?’

‘Something like that.’

‘You’re lucky your Ryan’s a Billy and not a static. If he was a static, you’d still be a corpse. And probably gross.’

Stef shuffled awkwardly. ‘Billy, he’s your dad isn’t he? Ryan told me that he offered cause they’re in the same Agency reddit for narcs who pick up strays.’

Milla nodded. ‘Your another agenty adoptee like me. He…he’s my dad in every way that counts, but he’s better. He’s not my dad, he’s my Billy. I had a dad, and I loved him, so it’s weird to- To call him the same cause I don’t want him thinking he’s a replacement. I’m his daughter and he’s my Billy. And when I find the woman of my dreams, he’s gonna walk me down the aisle, unless she’s fae, then he’ll sit in the admin office with me, then dance when we have the party.’

Stef smiled. ‘I…have a father, but he’s a bag of dicks, he was never my dad. Ryan is…Ryan’s like out of a storybook, I feel like I have a family, I feel like someone gives a shit.’

Milla grabbed forward and made grabby motions. Stef lifted her shake. ‘This?’

‘No, Agent, your hand.’

Stef leaned forward and gave Milla her hand.

‘That’s what family and friends are for,’ the recruit said.

Stef stared at the hand for a moment. ‘Friends?’

Friends don’t come this easily. She doesn’t even know everything she needs to hate about me yet. She’s-

Milla nodded. ‘I mean, you haven’t run away yet, or made fun of me cause I’m weird-’

Stef felt her eyebrows raise. ‘I, um, hadn’t noticed, actually,’ she said, looking away.

Milla squeezed her hand, then leaned back against the end of the couch. ‘Sure you have. Just like I’ve noticed your weirdness. It’s okies though, I think that just gets us past a couple of the first litmus tests. You’re weird, and I like you. I’m weird, and you like me. And maybe by the end of this conversation, I can sub in “crazy” for weird, and we’ll both know it’s okay, cause we both know what we are.’

Stef let go of a long breath, and dismissed her shake. ‘Even- Even acknowledging- I’ve always had to hide it- Cause- Cause I was afraid if anyone knew that- That they’d make me stop being me, and I’d rather be broken than not me, as messed up as that is.’

‘I’ll ask again, do you know where you are?’

‘Huh?’

‘Madchester,’ Milla said, ‘is where the mad come. Come willingly. No one is brought kicking and screaming here. No one is forced into a rubber room or given drugs to kill their mind. If you’re that violent that you’re a threat to others, there are ways to deal with you…but you’d know like I do, it’s the least of us that are a threat to others.’ Milla stood, a sad look in her eyes, and walked over to the railing.

Stef followed and stood beside the recruit.

Milla gripped the railing. ‘Me? I’d never hurt anyone, but I’m pretty sure that suicide’s an inevitability for me. That’s why I like coming up here. It’s why I- I can jump here and it’s safe, and if only for a bit, it makes my brain calm down.’

Stef laid her hand over Milla’s. ‘But you’ve got-’

‘Billy’s why I haven’t yet,’ she said, ‘and he knows- I don’t want to…I just kind of accept that it’s probably going to happen one day. Until then, I’m here.’

Stef held Milla’s hand as tightly as she could as her own hand shook. ‘Do it- No I don’t mean do it. Have a- Have a failsafe.’ She turned away as tears ran down her face. She tripped a /serious, and refreshed her face, then turned back. ‘If you intend- Or- Or when you intend- You need to-’

Fuck, why isn’t /serious working?

‘You never know that you don’t want to, until you do it. So you have to have a way to stop. Jumping doesn’t give you a chance for backsies.’

Milla hugged her. ‘I’ve never had an agent know what I was talking about.’

Stef held the recruit for a moment. ‘I don’t- I don’t talk about it. But- But maybe with a friend?’

Milla pulled away and nodded. ‘One day, not today. We’ve got too much other stuff to do.’