[Quinn] Ten: "Desperate Times" [Quinn] Ten: "Desperate Times"

Are you out there?
Can you hear me?
Can you see me in the dark?

I don't believe it's all for nothing
It's not just written in the sand
Sometimes I thought you felt too much
And you crossed into the shadowland

And the river was overflowing
And the sky was fiery red
You gotta play the hand that's dealt ya
That's what the old man always said

"Fallen Angel" - Robbie Robertson

So, what do you plan to do?" Luke inquired solemnly as they stood in the hall, preparing to go their separate ways. The scene in the morgue had unsettled them both, and there was none of the normal good-natured ribbing that had marked their last few meetings.

Quinn shrugged, looking somewhat resigned. "Guess I'll go try and get through to my dad again." She didn't look optimistic. "I don't know how to convince Locke and Connie that the Trump just isn't working."

They parted ways in silence, both deep in their own thoughts.

Her door was still bare of anything that marked it as hers. She pushed it open and checked the corners of the room out of long habit. Empty. That ritual completed, she stepped inside. She hadn't spent much time here, she mused distractedly as she settled into the chair with a groan, muscles aching a bit - a fact that reminded her she hadn't slept since catching Julia, what was it, a day and a half ago? She wasn't sure anymore, the stretch of time spent in Jade's fast shadow had thrown off her internal clock.

Well, if she wasn't going to get a nap anytime soon, she could at least get out of her armor. She undid the straps on the vambraces, and with a quick motion, fluid from years of practice, slipped out of the chain shirt, which she uncharacteristically dumped in a heap on the floor. Her rumpled tunic followed.

Someone had kindly left a filled washbasin since she'd last been here. The water was chill, but she hardly noticed. Feeling somewhat more human, she pulled a clean tunic out of her pack and shrugged into it, then ran a hand through her dampened hair to settle it into place. She glanced longingly at the bed as she once again took up residence in the chair.

Her Trumps were settled comfortably against the outside of her right thigh, tucked into the top cuff of her boot. She fished out her father's distinctive Unicorn/Rose-backed card and flipped it over, wearily preparing herself for another unsuccessful attempt at trans-Universe communication.

Instead, she almost dropped the card. A large crack ran diagonally across the smiling face, hundreds of smaller fissure lines marring the smooth finish of the Trump, like a shattered mirror. Frantically she thought back to the last time she'd tried to Trump Corwin. Before the incident with Julia stealing Merlin's body at least. Close to two days then.

And she'd never even felt a thing.

Or had she? The unconnected images she'd seen in Rebma suddenly had the possibility of making some sense. If Connie's ramblings about the Patterns being linked was true, then maybe Working that Knowing in such close proximity to the Rebma Pattern had picked up images from the other two universes...

Panic grabbed her as her instinctive urge to do *something* came crashing up against the fact that she had no idea what she could do. Who would? Random she quickly discarded. Gerard was off with Jade, Bleys occupied with Ygg...

Caine. Not one of those her father had named as trustworthy, but he had been gallant and kind enough to her.

His image wavered into view in front of her. "Quinn?" He seemed somewhat surprised as he took in her pale countenance.

In answer, she held up the shattered Trump.

"Maybe you should come through." He held out a hand.

She stepped through onto a heaving deck. He caught her arm to help her keep her balance and set her in a chair. "May I?" he gestured toward the Trump clutched in her hand.

She gave it up wordlessly, green eyes watching him intently as he scrutinized the broken image on the card. Eventually he looked up to meet her gaze. "I don't know what to say. I can't really tell anything."

Her shoulders slumped slightly at the expected answer. "I know. I guess I panicked."

He watched her with some concern. "He's been in rough spots before, you know. And he's made it through okay."

She nodded half-heartedly. "I'm sorry for bothering you with this."

He dismissed that with a wave. "We're both held up by the storm," he explained, gesturing out the portal, where in the distance a Chaos fleet could be seen floundering in the heavy waves.

"What are you going to do?"

She sighed heavily. "Vialle wants us to move up the current plan. Nathaniel's dead."

"I had heard."

"After that, I'll go find him." She didn't have to say who she meant.

He gave her a long look. "Are you sure that's wise?"

She stood, pulling her Trump of the Castle. "Do I have any other choice?"

When she returned to Amber, she went in search of Luke. She found him in a study, midway through a sketch of Simon.

He looked up when she entered. "Any luck?"

"No." She dropped the Trump of Corwin on the desk in front of him.

He inhaled sharply. He had a clue what that meant, since she'd shown him the similarly shattered Trump of Merlin. "I'm sorry."

She bit her lip, not knowing how to respond without bursting into tears. She hadn't cried since she was, oh, about eight, but she suddenly had an almost overwhelming urge to curl up and bawl. And what good is that going to do, Quinn?

Instead, she shrugged silently and settled herself against a windowsill, letting Luke go back to his work.

He completed the sketch a short time later, and held it up. "Simon?" Pause. "Oh." Pause. "Well, you'd best come here. Quinn has some depressing news." He reached through the Trump, pulling Simon, Locke and Jessica into the room.

Quinn gestured to the shattered Trump on the desk. "Random's our only choice, now." She hoped they'd leave it at that. She really didn't feel like explaining in more detail.

"Not really," Locke replied enigmatically.

She didn't put much effort into the ensuing discussion, waving listlessly when Jessica left the room, and listening to Simon and Locke argue with only half her attention.

"...but Dworkin said Chaos won in one of the universes. If that was Eric's what does it mean?"

Chaos won... The words dragged her full attention to the conversation. "What?"

Simon looked at her. "Huh?"

"What did you just say?"

"Dworkin told us that Chaos had won in one of the universes."

What little color there was in her face drained away, and she felt as though her heart had fallen to her feet. Oh, God, Dad... "I think I know which one."

In a hollow voice, she explained the war in RoseAmber. "When Dad's universe was created, there were counterparts of his siblings here, including Brand, whose double leads Chaos. And when I left, the battle wasn't going well."

The argument continued, and she found herself hard pressed to keep her temper at a couple of points. She succeeded admirably until Locke disparaged the idea of moving up the timetable on destroying Eric's Pattern. "I don't think it's prudent." He said calmly.

"Why not?"

She didn't really listen to his answer, since she already knew that she wouldn't agree with what he said. "I'd like to get this out of the way, because after that, I'm walking his Pattern and going to find him." An uncharacteristic note of harshness rang in her voice.

Locke watched her dispassionately for a moment. "A leader should never be ruled by emotion," he stated matter-of factly, his eyes locked with hers.

"Why are you telling me this?" she snapped.

"Just a bit of wisdom. Do with it what you like."

She bit back a number of less than polite responses. Ruled by emotion indeed. If that were the case, she'd be in RoseAmber by now.

But she wasn't. And despite the fact that she knew she couldn't leave before the mess with Eric's Pattern was resolved, it didn't help the feeling that she was abandoning Corwin to whatever had befallen him.

And that thought almost broke her heart.

"Like the falling leaves and the shiftingpast
Sometimes the treasured things are not the things that last
And we know where we stand, between fear and desire
With one fistraised in anger, with one foot in the fire."
--Shriekback, "Dust and Shadows"