Catalysis, Part IV


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Scene Title Catalysis, Part IV
Synopsis Change is inevitable.
Date January 15, 2021

It’s been a while since everyone had been at the Lanthorn at once. The more the years press on, the more the identity of the “Lighthouse Kids” begins to fade into memory.

For Brynn Ferguson, so much of that life has been her found family. But finding them in this particular moment is like playing a game of Where’s Waldo. Lance is one of the few constants in her life, though his own career arc has him away more than home. Maybe that’s part of the way people grow up, maybe that’s what’s meant by saying children lose their magic when they become adults. They lose those bonds forged in childhood, whether through choice or adversity.

Sitting on the couch with a book in her lap, Brynn’s mind wanders to different days. Not necessarily better ones, though. The life she has now—the life they all have now—is so vastly improved from the one before. But at times, like these, it feels as though it is missing something so simple, and yet so critical.

But like the title of the Thomas Wolfe novel in her lap says: You can never go home again.

The Lanthorn

January 15th
4:04 pm

The sound of keys in the door sets Doodle upright with perked ears, which jostles Brynn from her thoughts. Lance’s arrival is earlier than usual for a Friday, but he wasn’t working today. His clothes aren’t work clothes and the mud on his sneakers says as much. That Lance just spent the last three hours in a vacant lot with Peter Petrelli absorbing sounds and then releasing them like an unclenched muscle is an entirely separate conversation.

By the time he comes through to the main room, Brynn's gray eyes are on the door. Her smile is gentle and Doodle's tail is wagging. Clearly she got warning ahead of time that it was a Friendly. Hi. You're off today? She didn't know that — wasn't in the common areas when he left this morning. Not like he has to explain it her, though. She's not his keeper, just his sister and housemate.

There is a canvas off to the side where it looks like she was starting a painting and then stopped with only a few strokes of color. There's no indication what it might have been intended to be.

Hi! No, I was practicing my new sound thing. So I don’t blow up again. If it were possible to be rueful through sign language, Lance would manage it. There’s a smile for her all the same, especially as he sees the painting.

He steps along over to take a look at it, then glances to her, Painting?

Oh! Lord yes, he needs to not knock down walls plzkthx. Brynn nods her acknowledgement of what he was up to. When he asks about the painting, though, her smile fades to a pensive expression. Trying to. Having a hard time, she admits, glancing toward the empty canvas.

When I get the colors on there, they don't look like what's in my head anymore. They look… bleached out. Faded. Without tone, the aching void is only evident in a brief flash of her expression, usually easily hidden by the fact that people are watching her hands.

It perhaps explains why she's worked in nothing but charcoal and ink for months.

There’s no mention of his new mentor, probably because he’s not sure how to explain it just yet. Lance grimaces a little at her signing, looking to the canvas and back again. He reaches out with one hand, giving her shoulder a squeeze.

Have they figured anything out yet? It’s way above my clearance level so I never hear anything, he admits, Miss Miller went over to Manhattan for some reason to look for something, and I’ve seen her back in the office, but I don’t know if she found anything.

Not that I've found out, is Brynn's reply. All that people have been able to figure out so far is that there are n-a-n-i-t-e-s, she spells the word out because the only sign she could even attempt to make up was 'mechanical bugs', in some people's blood but not in others. There's something going on in our brains that they can't scan. And Miss Nicole and Mr. Miller have done insane things trying to figure stuff out — like, she electrocuted herself and he did brain surgery on himself or something. And a bunch of others had those strokes. which she's scared to death will happen to her and Jac and the others too at some point.

Honestly, it's all rather alarming and basically, to her mind, they are no further along now than when it happened. She's trying to simply get used to being without her ability, trying to find her way through a world that feels like it's covered by a dingy filter.

She drags a hand through her dark hair and asks, Are you getting a better handle on your ability? It's always good to hear good news!

“She did wh— “ Lance is startled enough by the word about Nicole to speak aloud, and then he grimaces, head shaking tightly. No wonder I haven’t seen much of her. Fuck. Maybe we need to find someone else who can help.

Then he flashes a quick smile, Yeah. It’s like— exercising a muscle? Store sound, release sound.

Brynn grimaces slightly. Honestly, Lance… I don't think they're going to find anything. It's been months. She smiles at him, through and adds with delight, You couldn't ever do that before. Not like that! That's great. And it is! She's really proud of him for learning to use it.

For a moment, she doesn't seem to know what to say to him. And then she shrugs to herself and offers him the sketchbook that is next to her on the couch. I was drawing things for Kasha. She's still real upset about Aunt Abby. it's still pen and ink work, but she's drawn pictures for the little girl of Doodlebug doing cute things and of Hailey's animals in moments of fun.

There is… one guy we could maybe talk to, Lance says, but his entire body language is uncertain, That old guy we met. When we got washed away? He might be able to help figure this out.

The sketchbook is taken in hand, and he flips it open, smiling faintly. He sets it down finally, signing back, Thank you for that.

She looks a little surprised. For what? Brynn isn't sure what she's done to be thanked. But she does wrinkle up her nose and grimace. You mean the guy who looked like a walking scarecrow? Yikes, Lance.

She remembers that meeting. And he did save them. But he was creepy as all hell, too.

And while Lance was determined to find out what was going on, his motivations were about to become much more immediate, and much more personal.

It starts with Lance noticing a red dot in the fabric of Brynn’s jeans. Perfectly circular, small. But the rest comes like a hurricane. One moment Brynn is still, and then next her back has arched as though she were being electrocuted. For Brynn the pain isn’t like electricity, but a shrieking sound reverberating in her skull. A tinnitus whine of unprecedented volume wracks Brynn, sending her collapsing to the floor and convulsing. Her arms and legs kick, blood runs out of her nostrils and smears across her lips and teeth.

Unable to control herself, Brynn finds her vision swimming, her head clouded against the tide of pain. A blind spot forms in her right eye, blackens her vision and follows her point of focus around the room. Laughter erupts all around her, echoing sounds of phantasmal voices of people that aren’t there. The walls bleed—no, turn—red and then cycle through a rainbow of colors only she can see.

For looking out for Kasha. And the old guy, yes. I looked him up, he, uh, he’s Gabriel’s dad? We’ve told you about him, I think his ability might— Lance’s hands stop in mid-motion as he notices that drop of blood on her jeans, his gaze jerking upwards to her face. More blood there as she spasms, as she drops.

Oh no.

“Brynn?!” Not that she can hear him. He drops down to a knee, reaching out — pulling back, eyes wide, panicky as he tries to keep himself calm. He looked up what to do if someone has a stroke after the others. What was it? C’mon, Lance, remember! He’s fumbling for his phone at the same time.

There is no sound from her initially, but almost as soon as the first twitch hits, Doodlebug is whining and pawing at her. As Brynn hits the floor doing the Jitterbug, a high-pitched almost whine is coming from her too. She tries to grab for her head, but all she manages to really do is flail a bit. The wash of color through her narrowed field of view is maybe even more scary than the sound echoing about through her whole head.

A high-pitched tinnitus whine roars through Brynn’s head, reverberates through her skull and accompanies a stabbing pain that lances behind her right eye and inside her right ear. Brynn curls up reflexively and the pain in her right ear continues to build. Eyes wrenched shut, Brynn can see the shifting colors of a prism flashing behind her eyes.

Her involuntary scream rings through the apartment as pressure builds within her head, a sensation of something growing, expanding, ready to burst. When the pain finally becomes unbearable, when the pressure reaches its maximum, there is an audible pop that Brynn feels inside of her skull followed by an immediate cessation of pressure and pain accompanied by a roaring sound in her right ear as pinkish-clear fluid drains out and into her hand cupped over it.

But more horrifying is what comes next.

She can hear.

“Oh no, oh fuck…” That’s it. Make sure she’s on her side, make sure her head’s elevated— Lance reaches out to try and position her, reaching for a pillow on the couch that doesn’t match the other upholstery, though as there’s that sudden flood of fluid down over her fingers he panics and drops it. “Brynn— fuck, fuck, oh no— ”

911. 911. Tapping the number in with shaky fingers, his voice a bit high when it’s answered, “H-hi my— my friend is— I think she’s having a stroke, we’re at the Lanthorn, at— ” He rattles off the address, “Her nose is bleeding, I— blood or something just came out of her ear— ”

Doodlebug is frantic, nosing at her and getting in Lance's way a little. The abrupt cessation of pain leaves Brynn panting on the floor, her right hand still clamped over her ear. She can't uncurl from the protective fetal position she pulled into against the pain, and she can't seem to get her eyelids open either. She can hear what's being said but she has no frame of reference for what she's hearing — it's nothing to her but a jumble of noise with no context.

She has no idea the hiccuping, breathless sobs are her own.

Not until she recognizes Lance’s.

And everything goes dark.

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