!DISCLAIMER!

It should go without saying that I also do not own any of the work of Andy Warhol, or Tim Burton- an artist, and a director respectively who are not my creation (in case that was accidentally implied in any way.) I might as well say just to be safe that I also don't own Campbell's soup Co. and that I don't own the previously mentioned Doc Marten/Doc Marten Triumph 1914,(used in Ch.3-as Priest's boots) Sig Sauer, Berretta, Smith and Wesson, Mossberg, or Winchester (used in ch.1-as some of Cassie's guns.). The setting, story and characters of The Deserters were created by me, however. Absolutely no copyright violation was intended. Better safe than sorry.

Ch.6-Friends In Weird Places

[9.10.2072- 9 AM]

Priest tried, with increasing half-suppressed frustration, to explain her meticulous idea to Logan. From where I was- across the room pretending to be having trouble with my rifle to avoid Danny- it seemed like Logan caught on faster than either of us, but was even more of a skeptic, stubbornly coming up with some other explanation for just about everything she told him.

They'd been at it a while, verbally wrestling back and forth, all of the points they made either equally valid or weak.

His jacket was thrown over the back of the couch, leaving him in his blood-stained t-shirt. For reasons I couldn't begin to guess without being ridiculous, Priest kept her long black trench coat on despite the comfortable warmth of the room.

Logan was the first to give up in the form of rolling his eyes and saying, "Look, this is fuckin' pointless. I'm not gonna buy it no matter what you say."

Priest dug her nails into the palm of her hand as she glared violently at him.

"Calm down. He's on our side for the time being," I reminded her quietly.

She glanced at me for a second, then took a deep, calming breath. "What exactly do you still not 'buy'?" she managed.

Logan shrugged. "The whole damn thing- it's too pieced together."

He strode for the door, pausing to snatch his jacket back up and sling it over his shoulder in one movement. "I might have less trouble believing you if you actually had some proof. Let me know when you get that sorted out," he said just before he shut the door behind him.

"I can tell he'll be a great addition," I said pleasantly. "He's just so trusting and cooperative."

Priest shot me the exasperated 'Not helping' look I was so used to seeing.

"Y'know..." Danny drawled, contributing for the first time. "The more I think about it and the more I hear you break it down, the more it sounds like a bunch of grand, flyin' leaps to conclusions." He slowly pulled himself up out of the armchair he occupied. "Sorry to say it, but I'm with him. You know where to find me." With that, he replaced the hat he'd politely taken off upon entering and followed in Logan's footsteps, leaving Priest and I alone.

Gee, you really know how to win a girl over, Todd, I thought, remembering his earlier interest in me.

Priest sighed heavily. "Somehow I knew this would happen," she said as she collapsed into the newly vacated chair, staring angrily at the ceiling as though it had wronged her somehow.

"Men," I said with mock disgust, unable to keep from smirking. She glanced over at me before continuing to despise the ceiling.

"You are still here. Are you not planning to leave as well?" she asked bitterly.

I shrugged. "Sure, it's a jump- or rather a series of jumps- but it still makes sense to me."

Priest glanced at me for a second, slighly confused expression a reminder of my need to elaborate.

"There are some people back east that...don't like me too much- who would be willing to go to extremes for me to miraculously turn up dead," I explained. "Most of them have some form of political pull." The others were just anti-military, anti-violence, anti-female, anti-redhead, anti-people-with-names-that-start-with-the-letter- 'C', anti-etcetera types.

I could think of one person in particular who would go beyond the typical efforts to get me out of the way, someone I managed to evade for six years, someone I knew was bound to turn up eventually.

"So, I'm with you," I concluded simply.

Priest shrugged. "There is a meeting arranged with my client very soon. It will most likely be nothing more than a trap, but if we're prepared for it, we may be able to find concrete evidence with him...or them." She looked over at me doubtfully. "Even with our combined skill-set, the two of us alone will hardly be capable of accomplishing much. We will need someone to help us- at least temporarily."

She spoke the truth. I bit my lip as the room grew quiet. Apparently having settled their differences, Priest and the ceiling shared the same blank look.

Thinking of people with relationships with inanimate objects gave me an idea. An ever-so slightly evil smile slowly spread across my lips.

"I think we should pay a visit to my favorite psychopath."

I couldn't imagine why Priest gave me such a wierded out look.

[9.10.2072- 10 AM]

Gia was the only person I could think of that would help us on such a short notice.

Priest and Jett followed me to an obscure house a few blocks away from mine. The large Victorian building looked a bit like had been built by Tim Burton and attacked by Andy Warhol. It's gnarled shape would've been foreboding if not it's bright, vivid paint decorating the outer walls, giving it a more whimsical, benign look. The sizable lawn was decorated by a spiral stair case that led up to nothing.

Just as the war was beginning to start, a lot of people began to do the things they'd always wanted to do. They'd seen it as their last chance. They were never going to leave the continent and had no way of knowing their chances to even survive. Why not became a very common phrase. From what I understood, homes as huge and dreamlike as this weren't uncommon.

Priest was visibly wary, as was just about every remotely sane person was when they encountered the place- which admittedly looked a lot like something one would see on an Acid trip. "Cassandra…" she said slowly.

This time I had her in the dark, and I wasn't about to fill her in on my theory. "Look, there's no time to explain now- just trust me," I said, smirking as I deliberately mimicked what she'd said to Danny and I a few days before.

"Fair enough," she conceded after a moment. "I just hope this person truly can help us."

I smiled reassuringly. "If anyone can, it's her."

With a lingering amount of visible reluctance, she and the much more content Jett followed me up to the porch.

It didn't take long for Gia to answer the door. At twenty-two years old, she was one year younger than me and at least an inch shorter than my five-six. She had evidently dyed her hair blue-ish black since the last time I saw her, but it was still shaggy and shoulder-length. Her lightly tanned freindly but a bit psychotic-looking face matached the look in her medium brown eyes.

"Hey, Gia," I said with an easy smile.

She squeaked gleefully. "Cassie!" she cried as she tackle-hugged me.

I was forced a step back, narrowly avoiding behind knocked on my ass.

"Cassie's here, guys! Haven't seen her in two months and four days!" she announced to no one in particular before releasing me so suddenly that I nearly lost balance and fell backwards.

I wasn't Gia's general presence or the lingering effect of the building, but Priest was obviously hopelessly confused. She stood several feet back, looking like she really didn't know what to do with herself.

An overly-dramatic gasp came from Gia's direction. She covered her face with her hands. "Who are you?" she asked in a tiny voice, peering between her fingers at Priest.

"This is Hailey Priest," I said, nodding at her. Before she could correct me, I added, "But don't call her 'Hailey.' Priest, this is Gia Tien."

"'Gia...Tien?' As in...the French execution devise? Is that your real name?" Priest asked.

A pause. That was a very common question- second, I think, only to 'what is wrong with you?'

Gia put on her best poker face. "Is Priest yours?" she asked her in a conspiratory whisper.

"Maybe," the assassin replied without emotion.

Gia pointed at her. "Then maybe," she concluded.

She threw her arms out on either side like a kid pretending to be an airplane and ran inside. "Come, come!" she urged before she disappeared through the door.

I could feel Priest staring at me.

"What?" I demanded as more of a rhetorical question than a practical one. "Yes, she's really...abnormal, but I swear to you, she's like a mad genius."

It was clear my promise didn't curb her skepticism, but she shrugged with disbelieving acknowledgement, which, to me, still counted as acknowledgement.

[INSIDE]

On the way to wherever Gia was leading us, I noticed several new odd additions to the walls- including a stranger's framed birth certificate and Gia's own death certificate. We passed many rooms of assorted purposes- my favorite of which had always been the one dedicated entirely to old movie props and original premier posters.

The room we ended up in gave the impression it was decorated by a drag queen- possibly by exploding within. The walls were painted a glittery and gaudy turquoise. Hanging near the tacky mostly-pleather furniture were pictures of famous drag queens and transvestites- the largest and most fabulous of which was of her husband, Billie.

She flopped down on a startlingly red chair. "How may I help you?" she asked like a sales representative.

Priest sat somewhat uncomfortably beside me on a long, plastic-y hot pink couch when our hostess gestured for us to sit. Jett settled primly on the floor at her feet, looking alert and ready as usual.

"We need your help with something combat-related," I told Gia.

"I have a gun!" Gia announced enthusiastically.

Priest helped me fill her in. Gia was able to infer quite a bit by herself; that and her trust in me as someone she'd known for years as opposed to the brief time Danny, Priest, Logan, and I had been acquainted made it the fastest explanation yet.

"Priest thinks there will be a trap waiting when she goes to announce her raving success to her client," I explained afterwards. "And since the guys so heroically left us….that's where you come in."

"Ooooh, fun!" Gia cheered. "When do we go?"

Priest shrugged. "As soon as possible."

Gia stood up and pirouetted out of the room, only to immediately turn around and barely catch herself on the door frame. "I shall be back!" she said before bolting off again.

[9.10.2072- 11 AM]

Apparently, Priest had never been to our destination before. After she pointed it out on a map from Billie's collection, Gia received what seemed like encoded directions from her husband- including more than a few inside jokes whose true meanings were known only to the couple.

She and Priest walked ahead of me. The two conversed casually in essentially every language but English. Every once in a while, Gia would ask Priest something in a different language, and they would either switch to it, or Priest would deny her and they would carry on in the original tongue. Listening to them, I learned that Priest spoke fluent German and Portuguese and very choppy Finnish.

On a more impressive level, Gia a slew of languages- at least one from each continent. She also made it well-known that she thought she also spoke Braille, and Hieroglyphics. Where she got the time to learn over eight languages was entirely beyond me"Do you ever feel left out sometimes?" I asked Jett, who was trailing beside me, playing with the occasional insect. Almost seeming to understand me, the dog snorted out what sounded like a disdainful scoff. She nudged my hand and allowed me to pet her ears. I made a new friend too. If it made me insane, I'd just fit in better.

Author's note;

Sorry it's kinda short and there's a long disclaimer. Honestly, I'm not that satisfied with this chapter…I scrapped and re-wrote it about eight times, but even in this final version, I think it's uneventful and possibly a bit over-done- even after I toned it down...I'd rather I never wrote in the character Gia, but it's a bit late to go back and get rid of her.

Special thanks to RachaelIssmo who reviews quite often and appears to be Cassie's biggest fan so far. Thanks, of course to everyone else who reads and reviews and all that fun stuff, too!