Afraid Alone


bao-wei_icon.gif devon4_icon.gif

Scene Title Afraid Alone
Synopsis What is memory? What is identity? Are these things interchangeable, or are they one in the same?
Date June 24th, 2019

The towering heart of Praxia cuts a strange silhouette in a once distinctive landscape, harkening to the origin of the architecture itself. Praxia is as much an oasis as anything that came before; there is a slow hum of life in and around it, the passing of flighted vehicles dotting the sunset.

Inside, small differences. Windows that filter hot sun, hallways conditioned and shining floors, more slick art deco than indulgent. Even down in the depths in the labs and tech rooms, there is a distinctive match to the upper floors.

Down below, a floor dedicated solely to one lab. A portion, tech, another, medical. All of it is cooler than every floor above, the ventilation pulling the air upwards into the machinations of the pyramid. Less energy is used with the method, and it is a small price for its source to pay to be able to stay comfortable.

Doctor Cong's laboratory is vast, cordoned off or sectioned by walls, pathways three wide leading back and forth from one area to another. Loftier ceilings. Praxis Heavy scientists down here are all required to don extra layers, though it is not as cold to need gloves. A brisk work environment, at the very least. One area divided from the rest is its own enclosed space, typically where the chill originates; there are items alluding to the doctor himself, personal affects, and a locked, heavy metal door more akin to an industrial freezer's.

Medical is home to several patient areas, with small rooms for beds and a larger theater for tests, surgeries, the works. The rooms have names slotted to them- - or, some of them do. Some are empty.

Devon Clandaniel
Parallel Heisenberg Iteration
Proliferation #2-001
Primary: Cong
Secondary: Tnmihiyban

Devon's room is dim and quiet to the outside, a panel imitating a windowpane emitting a comfortable mimicked sunlight. Today has been nothing of note. Nurses in and out. Food left whether he takes it or not. For as much as he is imprisoned, he has not been treated horribly; as well as any other patient in any other ward. Though his memories are hazy, bits and pieces have been left, for the time being, to keep him calm and receptive. The world is familiar, and not. What is certainly familiar is the creak of door under a particular touch, metal squeaking and the air a notch colder. Trickles of frost follow Doctor Cong's jagged shape only through the door, sheafs of ice across the front of his frame reminiscent of armored plate. A small consolation for the ease of his technicians and nurses, something that gives him the quality of a more human shape.

A gaze touched with wariness greets the familiar weight pressing through the door. Surprise has long worn away, since his transfer into the facility from the submarine.

It must be visiting time.

Praxis Ziggurat

Praxia, California Safe Zone

June 24th

1:12 pm Local Time

Devon assumes he can nearly guess the time by who is opening the door. Time, however, has slowly become an irrelevant concept. The only signifiers that remind him of its passage are the meals and the doctor’s visits. His fingers curl into his palms as the first traces of the chill reach him. The skin on his arms prickle like goose flesh.

Devon careful exhales a measured breath to stave off the shiver crawling up his spine and brace himself for whatever will happen next. He has no control, no expectations of the encounters. It's like a game, in which the rules change at the whim of whatever demon possesses Doctor Cong.

Those demons are in turn at the whim of whomever Cong has had to deal with on any given day. Or, sometimes, his own. Today it's difficult to tell when he does enter the room, that half-moon of gold in his features swiveling from bed to a board in his hand, hands pointed in blackened ice; like frostbite iced over. He lumbers around the foot of the bed, pausing only to pull free a hard case from the encased ice near his waistline.

Something seems to remain human in him, in more than what is obvious. He pulls a pair of glasses out, perching them on the jut of his nose and crinkling lip at the board in his hand. Just paper, charts, writing.

"You know the stereotype, with doctors and illegible writing…" Muttered, then the eye turns up to regard Devon propped in bed.

"How have you been sleeping?"

It is a shockingly… physician question.

Wariness deepens while the doctor only goes about seemingly innocuous tasks, suspicion marked only with a slight narrowing of eyes. Devon makes no response for the idle comment. Illegible handwriting, or Bao-Wei needing reading glasses, is far from the top of his list of concerns.

“Well enough,” he answers guardedly. He's never been sure if the answers really matter or, as with the asided explanation of glasses, it's simply filler.

Breaking his full attention from Doctor Cong, Devon drops a look toward the clipboard and notes. He knows he cannot see what's written from where he sits, but it doesn't stop him from trying. Compared to the various monitors that make little sense, the hypotheses and conclusions in the doctor’s hand remain a mystery. A beat later, his eyes lift again, anticipating the next move in the game.

"The more honest you are, the less time I spend in here." Bao-Wei knows that his presence makes most uncomfortable, at best. The cold does not help. He steps closer still, drawing a nail down the board. "I am not exactly… fine company." He doesn't clarify, and instead flips the board in his hand to face Devon.

It is not hard to see the curiosity in patients. The charts and lines, however, make little sense to Devon. A few words, here and there. Scratchy writing signed by another doctor with a complicated name.

"I know that you don't know what any of this means. So I will humor you. You have something special," The doctor continues, craggy shape blocking some of the light when he looms bedside, the details of that eye clearer as he stands closer. Flecks of shine, spiraling around the pit of black, the iris buried inside of seemingly bottomless socket. "And it is driving me positively mad."

Uninvited guests do much the same. Of which the tall and thin old man standing in the doorway to the lab is. Devon mostly sees the gleam of the lab’s lighting reflecting off of a pair of round-lensed glasses at first. But then as the weathered old man makes his way into the room, his gaunt countenance becomes more apparent. He seems wary, but not afraid. His actions are those of someone who is accustomed to working alone.

“Doctor Cong,” the thin old man says, and his voice has hint of something German or perhaps Eastern-European in the tone. It is an accent that Stefan Morrison has endeavored to mitigate for most of his life. “The Director wanted me to…” he looks to Devon, “observe. For purely educational purposes.”


“Let’s talk about honesty,” Devon begins. If they're going to be honest with each other, they should both use the same definition, right? Those thoughts don't get the chance to be shared. He cuts the sentence as soon as Doctor Cong moves, eyebrows rising as his eyes fall to the charts again. Unfortunately, the doctor is right. Though, given some time, he could possibly make sense of it. Not that it's likely to happen. He's got plenty of time, but none of his… caretakers are ever forthcoming with information.

Something special. He shakes his head at the words. It's a line he’s heard before, and how true it is remains debatable. His eyes travel off the board but instead of returning to the doctor his gaze angles off, drawn to the bright reflection just beyond Bao-Wei’s shoulders.

His caution becomes more substantial, pressing toward fear, as the light shifts with the old man’s movements and reveals an unfamiliar face. This isn't one of the normal visitors, definitely not anyone he's seen… ever. Devon chances a brief glance at Bao-Wei, barely long enough to blink, then sets his attention on the uninvited guest.

The study of the eye on Devon seems to be searching for a reaction; either to him, or the things typed out on paper. Perhaps this too is a test of some kind. The young man's shift of focus is followed, shoulder turning and profile peering past it. Cong does catch the glance his way, eye lingering on the Hound before he hooks the board on the bedside and turns.

"Educational purposes." The monster repeats, tone indecipherable, spine straightening out to his fuller height. "I am not your professor, Morrison."

Bao-Wei proceeds to leave a trail of cold tile behind when he moves to tend his way around a tray of tools. Though they chill at his touch, the grips manage to remain whole between the hooks of his fingers and the pressure of knuckle.

"And yes, you may tell him that." The words of a creature without much of a care. Cong turns his head again, plates clicking and feet scraping. He moves next to collect a series of vials, waving the tray in Morrison's direction - - come here if you want. The curl of a finger drags the tool cart along when he rejoin's Devon's side, near the majority of equipment. His presence fogs screens, though it appears he has no issue looking past it. Cong's words edge towards amusement, though as if his words become an in-joke. "This is Doctor Morrison. You were saying something about honesty? Perhaps he is a better mark than myself."

Go on, Devon. Ask him something.

It may be a small attempt at petty revenge, yes.

Stefan’s laugh at his being the mark for honesty is as bitter as it is wet. Coughing into a closed fist, Stefan smiles over at Bao-Wei and slowly shakes his head, coming up to Devon’s bedside. He seems undeterred by Doctor Cong’s frigid bedside manner. “The old pigeon wants these charts,” Stefan notes, eyeing the old paper charts at the foot of Devon’s bed. They survive exposure to Bao-Wei so much better than digital devices do.

“Has he experienced any headaches since it was released?” Stefan asks, rifling through the paperwork as he affords a cursory look up to Bao-Wei. “Fatigue, nausea, double vision?” He could read all of it in the chart, but it's like he wants Bao-Wei’s company. Stefan could ask Devon too, but seems disinclined to do so. “Dreams?” Stefan continues, regarding Bao-Wei over the frames of his glasses.

Was he saying anything about honesty? Devon abandons that line of conversation entirely. His attention stays on the newcomer, behind a mask meant to hide his thoughts and his figurative cards. He believes it’s a poker face, something showing a lack of concern amongst a lack of trust and a small ember of anger. The apparent apathy hopefully works in his favor as the questions come rolling from Stefan’s mouth.

He can’t help but wonder why anyone would be concerned. Which also prompts the unasked question if laboratory rats feel much the same way. The fact that he’s being spoken of as though he weren’t there or couldn’t answer for himself gives validation to the question. Is he little more than a science experiment now?

The little nugget of anger smolders.

Devon offers nothing of himself as far as answering to his condition. If he’s not being directly asked then he doesn’t need to speak up. Another time he might throw down with words, demand that he be regarded as someone and not something. Time has worn at that edge, taught him reticence is sometimes more productive than rancor.

"Of course he does. Too afraid to come himself?" There is something in Cong's voice that echoes some sort of pleasure in making people averse to confronting him. Stefan doesn't seem to outwardly have that issue, at least from an outsider's point of view. The prickly icy fingers pry a set of nodes from a case, wireless but thick little things, black and tacky when he presses them against Devon's head. Restraints keep him from fussing, as usual.

"I've not recorded much beyond standard REM cycles. If there are serious dream states you would have to consult someone with a far different ability." Bao-Wei lifts fingers in a brief snap, flicking a shard of ice from the surface in a very pointed gesture. He's not a telepath. "Physically, reacting well." Devon is a young, healthy person, so it's not shocking that effects are slow to take.

A claw flips the switch on a nearby monitor, waves blinking and fluttering into shape on the readout.

"I've been monitoring for neurological reactions at differing stages. There are a few interesting readings of note that the old bird should find enlightening."

Rubbing one hand at his neck, Stefan eyes Devon, then looks back to Bao-Wei. “The old pigeon is under house arrest, actually.” He shrugs, though, in a helpless gesture. Nobody tells me anything either. “But who am I to gossip, hmm?” Setting down Devon’s chart, Stefan looks from Bao-Wei to their young patient, looking him up and down with brows furrowed and head tilted to the side subtly.

“Honestly, it’s remarkable,” Stefan says quietly. “I wonder how similar the other one is?” He lazily looks back at Bao-Wei, then back to Devon, continuing to talk about him as if he isn’t there. “Has he experienced any double-vision? I’m quite curious how this all works…”

Devon’s focus on Stefan breaks when Bao-Wei’s hands come near his face. Trying to avoid them is futile, and he may be resigned to captivity, but that resignation only extends so far. His lips pull back as though he may try to take a bite out of the ice-monster hands — so far its only been a threat and never acted upon — and he shrinks away from the nodes. He can't escape their placement, no matter how he tries.

Once he's abandoned again, at least given a small measure of space, he rub the back of his head against the thin mattress. Maybe static charge will disrupt whatever read outs he's producing?

His eyes slide between the pair while they speak. He's listening, trying to glean any information that he might find useful.

Other one?” Devon’s voice cuts into the old man’s musings. “What's that supposed to mean? What…” What? There's no certain place to really toe hold into his queries. So he stops and stares at Stefan, silently demanding further explanation in spite of how unlikely it is to gain one.

House arrest seems a new development. Golden eye lifts from study of a readout to Morrison, gauging the response with a taste of salt.

"You can say what you please about him." Cong isn't partial. His posture straightens only enough to lift a hand to adjust the monitor more towards the other researcher. Silent offer for that educational purpose. A crackle of ice forms up the side of his face, crawling out along the surface with a subconscious twitch of mouth. Control is never a perfect art, and in his case- - will never be. Pieces erupt in a scattering of prickly frost as he reins it in.

Another twitch of facial features comes when Devon interjects. Doctor Cong angles his head, eye flickering. The sharp look travels between Devon and Stefan, then from Stefan to the monitor's rise of activity. Go on, then. Enlighten.

One of Stefan’s brows rise as he watches Bao-Wei, then the monitor, and back again. Clearing his throat, the wiry doctor adjusts his glasses and turns to look over at Devon. “This may come as something of a shock to you, but,” he spreads his hands to gesture around the lab, “you are not a solipsism any longer. You have achieved, ah, plurality.”

Stefan rests one hand on the railing at Devon’s bedside, offering a look to Bao-Wei before turning his attention back to Devon intently. “When you died,” he's very emphatic about, “there was some measure of debate over how best to resuscitate you. Not debate over whether to, but merely the how. Ultimately,” Stefan glances at the monitor, then back, “it was decided that we would utilize the regenerative blood of Adam Monroe for such purposes. When introduced to recently dead cells it… reprogram them to return to their last known active state. But given your… condition was rather,” Stefan grimaces and eyes Bao-Wei for a moment, then looks back to Devon, “given that you were in multiple parts Doctor Cong proposed a unique experiment.”

Stefan leans in, looking at Devon over the frames of his glasses. “Worms can regenerate from being cut in half. We wondered, what would happen if we applied the same principle to your disparate remains. As it turns out, the results were less than spectacular on both accounts,” he admits with another quick look at the monitor, “but thanks to Joy’s help we got you the rest of the way.”

Leaning back, Stefan raises his thin brows and smiles excitedly. “The half of you that had less of your cerebral tissue had less cohesive memories. We had to… patch them up as best as we could. Unfortunately, while Doctor Elijah Carpenter’s very useful ability lives on in Ms. Joy, her application of it is less nuanced. But we’re experimenting in several new frontiers right now, Mr. Clendaniel. Not just replication.” The admiration that Stefan has for Bao-Wei’s work is clear. To Bao-Wei, it's also unsettlingly familiar of another former colleague. Dmitri Gregor.

The icy profile is more interested in the screen than the conversation going on feet away; the lukewarm light glitters through the surface layer of ice, shining on the iris behind part of it. He allows Morrison his exposition.

"Not a copy. Nor a copy of a copy." comes the idle rumble from Doctor Cong, who has angled away in favor of keeping an encroaching sheaf of ice from attention. His eye peers over the jut of a shoulder, watchful. On Morrison, rather than Devon. "Congratulations on your new twin brother." Something, somewhere, somehow, deep in there- - it makes him laugh.

The sound is not quite human, too deep and too hollow, bookended by the hiss of air and a derisive grind of teeth that does not line up with what they hear. Incidentally much like a badly dubbed film.

Familiarity is just that.

Stefan Morrison is not and never will be Dmitri Gregor.

For all the madness, genius. For all the genius, desperation.

Desperation passed onto his elder, tangible now for years.

“Plurality.” The achieved part is ignored. Devon hasn't achieved anything except death and some strange version of rebirth. It wasn't even really his achievement, but the works of scientists and Adam Monroe. He tries to follow Stefan’s explanation through the shock of revelation. There's another him, somewhere, grown like worms created through a sick brand of mitosis.

His eyes slide to Bao-Wei when the monster laughs, then away again. It's unnerving.

He shakes his head. His own understanding doesn't rattle into anything that makes sense in the stunted motion. None of this is making any sense.

“Go back.” Devon's tone falls somewhere between a request and an order. “Start over. Start at… You came in asking about double vision and dreams?”

Stefan warily eyes Bao-Wei for a moment, then looks back to Devon and drums his fingers over the bed rail. “You aren’t here in this laboratory because we’re concerned about your health, Mr. Clendaniel. You’re here because we’d like to perform prolonged fidelity tests in a controlled environment on someone who has been a part of both the Hydra and Heisenberg programs… “

Moving away from the bedside, Stefan rubs his forefingers and thumb together. “A long explanation short, your mind and that of your plurality are quantum-entangled. With the proper concentration and focus you can see and experience what he is seeing and experiencing. Though, he will have no idea you’re doing that and without foreknowledge of your, ah, shared condition he’ll never be able to look the other way through the link.” Or so Stefan says with a helpless shrug.

“So, the transactional nature of our arrangement is as such. You assist us in observing the long-term repercussions of your condition, and we provide you with a continuity of life.” Stefan looks over at Bao-Wei, then back to Devon. “All told that seems rather fair.”

Something about the way that Cong's sound lingers in the cavern of his frame sticks in the air, frosted in more than breath. He steps away, to the side, heels dragging and features jerking in a twitch as another spiral of ice climbs the angle of his head.

He ducks around to clutch at another set of papers, fingertips poking holes in the binding like sharp knives. Listening, grimacing against the slow crawl of ice and the pulling of his mouth as it cracks further apart. Perhaps it may be time for a break, given his stifled desire to bust out of his own control. It is so much easier to not contain it.

"All told," When he looks back to the pair, Bao-Wei's features have split up the jaw, eye gleaming and ice pricking around labcoat. He stashes the glasses before they snap apart, tucking them against his chest before another layer forms. "Fair." A chuff of amusement. "You can live vicariously through him."

See his friends. Family. Emily. In a manner of speaking.

"We get what we want, maybe you do too." A false hope, but a voiced one; Cong is not reserved enough to deny that just maybe this will end well, but at least it can end quietly.

Hydra and Heisenberg? Devon's brows draw together as he searches for any recollection of those names. Likely somewhere in the midst of everything he'd recalled of Adam Monroe, which isn't much.

There isn't much time allowed for pondering that, as Stefan plows on. His frown deepens, gaze shifting from one doctor — scientist — to the other.

“The trade off to being alive is…” He doesn't buy the idea of simply being studied. Hopefully that's a card he keeps well hidden. “What are the long term repercussions? What, exactly, are you expecting to gain from all of this?”

“What any good scientist hopes to get,” Stefan says with a quirk of one brow, “Informa— ” The sound of the lab doors noisily opening cut Stefan off, and the blonde man in a dark tailored suit who strides into the room is unmistakably Adam Monroe. The way he arrives is without any fanfare, without any accompaniment, just a man bursting through the lab room doors with a purposeful and swift stride. Bao-Wei has rarely seen him so animate. At least in this manner.


Doctor Morrison,” Adam is direct and to the point, not even so much as giving Devon the time of day, “you and I need to have a rather urgent talk in private.” Adam flicks a look over at Bao-Wei, his attention then sweeping past Devon and back to Stefan. “Now.”

Stefan straightens when he meets Adam’s eyes, looking at Devon as though somehow the dynamic of the room no longer afforded him any leverage over the young-man-come-lab-experiment. Stefan takes off his glasses, removing a handkerchief from his pocket to clean the lenses, and nods silently to Adam. It’s Stefan’s cowed response that elicits a look from Adam to Bao-Wei.

“I’m moving Doctor Allen,” Adam says as an entire aside to Bao-Wei, “I hope you didn’t get too accustomed to having her around. But— things have been pushed up.” He looks back to Stefan, simmering just so. “Many things.”

The documents that Bao-Wei looks to be gathering are stowed away inside of the body of a plastic clipboard, the surface frosting as he sets it aside on the table at Devon's feet. Movement to head towards the door is arrested when they open, and he remains a statue watching Adam sweep his way inside, studious as Stefan is ordered along.

A puzzling hiss of air leaves the bellows of Cong's chest when he earns the glance, golden eye narrowing at Morrison. Something from him as clearly set off something else. But, Bao-Wei remains not so privy, at least not at the moment. Later, then.

"Right." Voice croaking, it settles into a more disconnected vibration. "She was good with the patients," Doctor Cong angles a look to Devon, then out the door. "Suffice to say, an area I do not excel. But we'll live."

"I need to go." A hand drags scores down the ice of his face, flaking it apart. "We both know how a lack of rest gets to me." Evident by the depth of his voice and the shift of his frame. Bao-Wei does not give Adam the chance to deny him anything, instead stepping away and towards the door to the labs. "Tnmihiyban will be in for the records. Your copies are there."

Devon's eyes narrow just slightly as the whirlwind of Adam’s arrival changes the figurative temperature of the room. Focus slides from Stefan to nothing specific. He’s definitely listening, perhaps without understanding better than half of what's being said around him.

Attention narrows on Doctor Cong as the familiar, disconcerting sounds of ice and monster begin taking over. “Sure,” he counters quietly. They'll live. Sarcasm gives his tone a lift.

“You know it isn't going to work the way you hope.” Devon boldly calls after Morrison and Monroe. “Someone’s going to figure it out. It's only a matter of time.” He hopes.

It's been a long time and people back home believe he's dead.

When Stefan pauses to look back to look back at Devon, it’s like Adam only notices the young man then. Before Stefan can say anything, Adam shakes his head in the doctor’s peripheral vision, then levels his attention on the patient.

“They always find out,” Adam says with certainty. “They’ll leap into the dragon’s mouth to save a prince or princess each and every time, irrespective of the consequences of their actions.” He looks to Bao-Wei, then back to Devon. “Some things are inevitable, Devon. Once you accept that…”

Adam turns to the door out of the lab, Doctor Morrison on his heels.

“…it’ll be easier when the inevitable comes.”

Emily wants to reach for him, to leave entirely, to hold his face and tell him it'll be fine, to hug him and let him know not to let his stresses bottle up until they get like that. Above all, have some sort of response aside from what she does, which is tip her head in the beginnings of a small nod and then set her head in the crook of her arm, mouth and nose covered over.

She at least completes the lean, shoulder against his by the end, her gaze unfocused and elsewhere.

"I'm scared every day, Dev. I'm scared of what we find, or what will come for you. I'm scared of what might happen if we don't dig with every ounce of effort you and me and everyone around us can put into it." It's not the most comforting thing to say, but it's all she can manage at the moment. "I know you— I know it was an accident." Insomuch as something like that can be an accident. "And I'm sorry that things won't get better, that the stresses won't go away."

Finally, she looks back his way, still shoulder-to-shoulder. "You know I'm here for you, right?"

“Me too,” Devon admits, on the heels of Emily's statement. He tries to mask it, to not let it weigh on him, with some success. In small ways those fears sometimes show around others, a slight hesitation or a look that might be a little out of place. In private, when he's alone, is when they manifest most strongly. Worries about this life being a dream, of who may be hunting for him, of losing everything he has keeps him up at night.

“Some days I want to quit and hope it blows over. I'm tired of waiting and not knowing.”

Moving his arms from his knees, Dev folds his legs to sit criss-cross. He then curls an arm around Emily's back, the other around her shoulders. “I'm here for you too,” he returns as he hugs her. “We can be afraid together.” Even with the truth in his words, it's said with a hint of lightness in his tone, an effort to ease the tension a bit more.

Emily leans into the embrace even if she doesn't wrap her arms back around him at first. Maybe that's enough, after all. Then she finds herself shifting, hands to the ground as she lifts herself up and settles into his lap to wrap her arms around his shoulders fiercely, hands on the back of his head and splayed across his back. "I'm here," she repeats, even though she's just said it. It just feels right to stress it in that moment.

It’s hard for Devon to understand what just happened. The sudden juxtaposition of being here and then being with Emily and not in control of his actions or his words, a helpless rider behind his own eyes. It felt like a flashback — or a memory — but not one of his own experiences.

His stomach turns into knots. He’s sweating, pupils dilated.

What was it Adam said about the inevitable?

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